John 14:6, Matthew 18:1-8, Philippians 2:5-11, Revelation 1:1-3
Summary: This message centers on the best method of interpreting Revelation and how it presents to us the things that have been seen, the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.
The book of Revelation has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented by many people. This last book of the Bible has been avoided because many seem to believe that it cannot be understood and that reading, studying, and preaching from it somehow tends to lead to confusion. As I mentioned in a previous message, that is just so much fluff and icing and is also a sad comment on the state of Biblical literacy in these last days.
Like any book of the Bible, if one takes the time to read and carefully study it, one will discover that it is NOT that hard to comprehend. The book will only be unclear to the unbeliever (Luke 8:10; 1 Corinthians 2:4). The diligent student of the book (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15) will soon discover the fact that Jesus Christ is more clearly revealed here than He is anywhere else in the Word of God.
This is not a book to be avoided but to be read and studied. I mentioned in the previous messages the importance of proper interpretation of the Scriptures and that the best method is to read the contents of the Bible as actual, literal events of history and how God directs the affairs of His creation. This applies to our study of Revelation as well.
Over the years, there have been four “schools of thought” of interpretation. The first is known as the PRETERIST, which sees the events recorded in Revelation as being a historical record of the events of the first century – that the majority of what was recorded in Revelation applied to the prophesied destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD, and that Christ made a type of “return” in judgment upon the people of Israel.
Preterists see the emperor Nero (54-68 AD) as the personification of the “Beast” mentioned in Revelation 13. The problem is that this method of interpretation does not consider the record of the different judgments to come upon the earth, the two witnesses, and the worldwide witness of the return of Jesus Christ to earth and establishing His rule from Jerusalem. Preterists tend to ignore the overall prophetic nature of the book (Revelation 1:3; 22:7,10,18-19).
Other interpretations include the IDEALIST and HISTORICIST, the former being the liberal view, which sees the book of Revelation as nothing more than a collection of allegories and stories designed to depict the struggle between good and evil. The idealist does not see the events of Revelation as real historical events but as mere myths and fables. The latter view considers Revelation to be a sweeping overview of church history from the time of the apostles to the present day. Most of the events in the book are past events. Those who hold to this school of interpretation often engage in “spiritualizing” the text and view it as pure allegory, ignoring the book’s prophetic claims.
The last and best interpretation is known as the FUTURIST. This view looks at the book of Revelation and sees most of the events as being future in nature. The futurist sees Revelation as a book of prophecy yet to be fulfilled. Futurism takes a literal approach to interpretation, allowing all of what is written to be viewed as actual events. All that Revelation teaches us, from the time of the Rapture of the church (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to set up both His millennial and eternal kingdom (Revelation 20-22) are seen as real, actual, future events. The Futurist interpretation of Revelation is the only school of thought that allows the book to be considered as it is written and for the clearly stated purpose for which it was written.
Almost all biblical researchers affirm that Revelation was written around AD 95 by the apostle John, the last living eyewitness of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1,4, 9, 22:8). It was written during a dark time in the history of the early church. The Christians were suffering terribly under the oppressive yoke and persecution of the Roman Empire. Revelation was written to be a source of hope, comfort, and encouragement to them as they underwent varied struggles and hardships and to let them know that the plans of God would eventually play out. They were made to understand that God has a plan and that it included the destruction of Satan, sin, and this wicked world, the redemption of God’s own people, and the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Within the first three verses of Revelation, we are given a firm, solid foundation to its content and purpose. We begin with the PERSON of Revelation (1:1a). This book centers on the person and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the theme of the Bible. Everything written down points or refers to Him in one form or another. When Jesus was here the first time, He was “veiled,” not recognized by a lot of people as God Incarnate (Phil. 2:5-8). The apostle Paul wrote that if the powers of the world had known who Jesus was, they would not have put Him to death (1 Corinthians 2:8).
We read in Matthew 17:1-8 where Jesus revealed His glory to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. No one else was privy to this brief display of heavenly glory, but when He returns, we shall see Him in all His glory and power. The last time the world saw Jesus, they saw Him as a poor carpenter and itinerant preacher from a backwater town in Galilee, put to death for dangerous teachings and claims that He was the rightful king, which was a threat to the rule of Caesar.
Revelation is the promise from God that the world has not seen the last of the Lord Jesus. When He returns, it will be for His crown as Sovereign of all Creation, splendid in glory, honor, power, might, and who will rule this world with an iron fist as absolute Monarch. He will not be voted out of office, nor will His edicts be overturned. His word will be final, true, and perfect (Phil. 2:9-11).
Verse 1 reveals the PURPOSE for which this book was written, “to show to His servants those things which must shortly come to pass.” Revelation is a gift to the people of God in order that we might be able to understand His master plan for the future. This is a “foretelling” of revealing truths and events before they occur. These opening verses tell us that these things “will shortly come to pass,” even though they were written over two thousand years ago. The point is that what God gave to John concerning the end of days will happen, and when they do, it will be in rapid fashion.
Despite the scoffers and skeptics who trash and ridicule the teaching of the Lord’s return (2 Peter 3:1-9), the promise of His return is a certainty and a promise that will be fulfilled. It is also referred to by Paul as the “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:11-15), all of which was made a reality by the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. His death was the perfect and final sacrifice for the sins we have committed against God over the course of history (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4-6, 64:6; John 19:30; Acts 4:12; Romans 5:6-11, 6:23). When we place our faith in Him for salvation (Romans 10:9-10), He brings us into the fellowship of the brethren and the presence of Almighty God in the power of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 21:1-7).
Verses 2 and 3 tell us that John is the PENMAN chosen by the Lord Jesus to present this promise of His return and victory (Matthew 4:22; John 13:23, 15:15, 19:26-27, 35; 21:42; 1 John 1:2, 4:14). John was a young man when Jesus called him to service, but sixty years had passed. John was now an old man, the last living eyewitness of the Lord Jesus. He had been spared a martyr’s death, unlike his fellow apostles, who had been dead for thirty years or more, having given their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
Over the years, he traveled with Luke, Timothy, and the next generation of believers, teaching them about Jesus and warning churches about false doctrines and those who spread heretical teachings designed to compromise the message of Christ. Now, he was exiled to the penal island of Patmos on the orders of the emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) Was this to be the end of his years of service to Jesus? Not hardly.
It was on the lonely island of Patmos where he would have an encounter with the glorified Christ, one on one, to write down what he saw concerning the future, and that whoever read this book would be given a great PROMISE of blessing. Any promise from God is something for which we should give Him honor, glory, and praise. Revelation gives us that promise.
With that said, let the adventure begin.