From Patmos with Love :: By Jonathan Brentner

Believers who do not know how to defend the book of Revelation can become easy prey for those who seek to rob them of its message of comfort and hope.

Why do I make such a seemingly outrageous claim?

It’s because even some pastors of Bible-believing churches relegate much of the book of Revelation to allegory. While they preserve the prophetic nature of some things, they taint the book with uncertainty through their allegorical interpretations.

The treatment of Revelation gets far worse. In order to further disparage the book’s significance for today, some erroneously claim John wrote it exclusively for believers in the first century AD. Other false teachers assert that Jesus fulfilled all of its prophecies in AD 70 when he returned to earth at that time.

Was John’s work in recording what the Lord revealed to him on the barren island of Patmos a labor of love that remains a source of much needed hope and comfort for us today? Or, did he intend for us to regard the judgments and future events as symbolism with no certain future fulfillment?

The second option is not only wrong, it’s quite dangerous. All the heresies today regarding the end times spring from an allegorical interpretation of the book of Revelation, all of them.

Because false teaching abounds today, it’s essential that we know how to both recognize the errors and defend the literal interpretation of the book of Revelation. We need to know . . .

John Penned the Book of Revelation around AD 95

Irenaeus, in his book Against Heresies, stated that John wrote the book of Revelation late in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). If anyone in the early church would know the date of the writing, it would be this prominent theologian of the second century AD.

Irenaeus’ training in the faith came from Polycarp, the longtime bishop of the church in Smyrna whom the apostle John mentored in the faith and likely appointed to lead the church in Smyrna. This signifies that Irenaeus received his information regarding the date of the writing of Revelation from the head pastor at Smyrna at the time the book arrived in the city.

Many other early church leaders also designate the reign of the Emperor Domitian as the time John wrote Revelation. Such testimony comes from Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Origen, and Jerome.

When John wrote in AD 95, he saw the second coming as a future event; and it still is! Do not let others deceive you into believing Jesus returned in AD 70 or that the book only applies to the first century AD.

John Wrote as an Eyewitness

John wrote the book of Revelation as an eyewitness. Notice the command Jesus gave to His apostle, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches . . .” (Rev. 1:11).

True to his appointed task, John emphasizes over and over again that he is writing about future events he saw and recording words he heard.

John starts the book of Revelation stating his purpose to provide an eyewitness account. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw” (1:1-2).

John repeatedly confirms he is writing as an eyewitness. In the book of Revelation, he uses the word “saw” 44 times along with the word “looked” another 12 times. In thirty places John used the word “heard” to indicate he was writing down what he heard.

In eight places the apostle writes “I looked and behold” as a way to emphasize he is writing about actual events taking place before his eyes.

Notice the words John uses as he describes the first seal judgment (emphasis mine), “Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer’” (6:1-2).

Yes, people have written allegory as fictional occurrences depicting hidden messages regarding the future. John, on the other hand, insists that he is recording future events he saw with his eyes and words he heard with his ears. The only way the apostle could have been any clearer regarding the seal judgments is if he had introduced them with these words, “Pay attention; I am not writing allegory; these things will happen.”

John wrote the book of Revelation just as he did his Gospel; he recorded events as an eyewitness of what he saw and heard. In one case he recorded past events and words; in the other he recorded future events and words the Lord unveiled before his eyes.

John Tells us He is Writing Prophecy

The book of Revelation tells us that it is prophecy (emphasis mine):

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy” (1:3).

“And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place” (22:6).

“Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (22:7).

“Do not seal up the words of prophecy of this book” (22:10).

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book” (22:18).

The book of Revelation is prophecy; the testimony of both Jesus and John confirm this. What does it matter that we refer to it in this way? Biblical prophecy always results in literal fulfillment, always.

Jesus precisely fulfilled all the prophecies related to His first coming. If Jesus literally fulfilled all these prophecies, what makes anyone think it will be different with His Second Coming? The book of Revelation cannot be all allegory and prophecy at the same time; this breaks the clear pattern of how the Lord fulfilled prophecy in the past. He always does so literally, according to the words of prophecy.

Biblical prophecy always results in a literal fulfillment, always. Whether the Old Testament prophets predicted events regarding other nations or Jesus’ first coming to earth, the fulfillment of their words was always literal, never allegorical. Why would the Lord change how He fulfilled prophecy with His second coming? Yet so many today ask us to believe He no longer fulfills prophecy literally as He has always done in the past.

The emphasis on words that we see in the book of Revelation confirms that it follows the prophetic pattern of prophecy throughout Scripture.

Words Matter in the Book of Revelation

If John intended the future happenings in Revelation to convey hidden meanings rather than prophecies with literal fulfillments, why is there such an emphasis on words in the book? John did not record allegorical events; he wrote of future events that beg for a literal fulfillment. Notice his emphasis on words:

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy” (1:3).

“Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (22:7).

“Do not seal up the words of prophecy of this book” (22:10).

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll” (22:18-19).

Those who reduce the judgments of Revelation and Jesus’ thousand-year reign to allegory do so at the expense of the words of the book. Why would the Lord have inspired His apostle to place such an emphasis on words if much of the book was symbols with hidden meanings?

Words matter in Scripture whether its prophecy or Paul’s revelation of the Gospel in the book of Romans!

Taken at face value, the message from Patmos is one of love and reassurance. God remains sovereign over all history, past, present, and future. We need not allow the headlines of our day to cause us to despair; Jesus is coming soon, He will judge the ungodly, and we will spend a glorious eternity with Him.

Does the book of Revelation have something to say to us today? Absolutely! Be on guard; do not accept interpretations that taint its glorious message with allegory.

Jonathan Brentner

Website: Our Journey Home

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