The book of Revelation has fascinated people—both Christians and non-Christians—for 2000 years. And it’s no wonder! With astonishing images of dragons and angels, wars and disasters, the book claims to open up to us what God has planned for the last days of history. The title of the book is actually “The Apocalypse,” which doesn’t mean “end of the world” or “great disaster,” but rather simply “the revelation.” In other words, in this book God revealed his plans to his people through a man named John.
Revelation was written in about A.D. 95, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. John, one of the disciples of Jesus, had been exiled to the prison island of Patmos because of his preaching about Jesus, when on one particular Lord’s Day the risen Jesus revealed these things to him.
What John saw was mind-blowing. With history soon coming to a crashing end, God’s people would be pressed to the point of destruction until Jesus the Christ returned to do at least three things: end evil for good, save His people, and make a new world for them. For people under persecution and immense pressure to compromise their faith, Revelation is an enormously encouraging book. Its message? “Hold on! It may all seem out of control, but history is firmly in the hand of God, and it’s Jesus who rules over all!” Just as that message encouraged the earliest Christians, so it encourages us as we strive to hold firm, press on, and remain faithful to our King, even in the face of mounting pressure from the world around us.
The book of Revelation presents in highly figurative and emotive language the final triumph of God, the consummation of history, and the restoration of all things under God’s righteous rule.
In interpreting and applying Revelation, here are some themes to keep in mind:
- A spiritual war is raging, and God’s people suffer as special targets of the enemy’s wrath.
- Evil often seems to win, and evil will go from bad to worse until the final climax.
- Jesus has triumphed, and He will win the battle against evil. Jesus is coming back, and He will bring this present evil age to a close.
- All opposition to God will be defeated, judged, and eternally punished.
- There will be a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells. In that place, there will be no sickness, sorrow, sin, or death, but only infinite and eternal joy.
Here are some additional considerations as you read Revelation:
- Remember that Christians have disagreed for thousands of years about exactly what Revelation means. This is not surprising, since the end of the story hasn’t happened yet. Trust that it will all be clear in hindsight.
- Because there are a variety of views on how to understand Revelation, hold your interpretations with humility, and don’t build basic doctrines on the debatable features of Revelation.
- Remember that the language of Revelation seems to be highly symbolic and figurative on purpose. That’s how John reported what he saw.
- Recognize that there seems to be repetitive cycles in Revelation, and they may be different ways of saying the same thing rather than the presentation of a strict “first this, then that” sequence.
- Above all else, remember the purpose of all biblical teaching about the end times is to encourage and comfort the afflicted, and to warn the unconcerned and self-satisfied. All applications from Revelation should fit into one of these two categories.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Email the verse to yourself