Apokalupsis – an uncovering, a disclosing of what has previously been hidden. Not an allegory with hidden meanings only decipherable by a select few; not intended to confuse or frighten, is God-breathed scripture given by a loving and gracious God to his people for their good. Just as Genesis first canonical book written and one that deals with beginnings, so Revelation last book written and deals with last things. First book sets the stage: answers big questions – who am I, where did I come from, what happened, why am I like I am, what is my purpose here. Last book summarizes and finalizes the story, answers the remaining big questions – where am I going and how do I get there from here.
Like other books – written to a particular audience in a given setting for a specific purpose. Also has larger significance – written to the church at large for her edification, that’s where we fit. the two purposes parallel and complement without competing. The book shares elements of form (type of literature) with other portions of Scripture and has a central message or theme.
Perhaps greatest difficulty with Revelation is properly understanding symbols and their significance. Like any other book of the Bible, Revelation must be interpreted in light of the other 65 books. Meaning for symbols should be sought in Scripture – 404 verses in Revelation, over 400 allusions in 278 verses to Old Testament plus number of New Testament references. That means the better we understand the rest of the Bible, the better we’ll understand Revelation. Yes, there is application in history and present circumstances; but interpretation must be based on Scripture, all of it.
A. The setting 2 Pet 3:3-10
scoffers in the last days
Bible in one hand, newspaper in the other – newspaper is the authority, Bible interpreted in light of current events. God promised thus and so; doesn’t look that way to me; what’s up with that? Guess God didn’t mean what he said, can’t deliver on his promise.
He promised blessing to the church, why is she suffering? He promised he would crush the head of the serpent, why is there so much evil in the world? He promised resurrected bodies with awesome new qualities, so why are we still dealing with sickness and aging and death? Peter gave short answer, John instrumental in providing fuller explanation.
God isn’t powerless, he’s patient. He made all things so he certainly has the power to re-make all things. Just because he seems to have delayed, does not mean he is forgetful or inactive. We must not expect God to act on our schedule; we are creatures bound by time and space, God is not. His delay has a purpose, more than simply killing time – he is patiently working out his redemptive plan one converted sinner at a time until the moment when the church is full. When last sinner has come to repentance, at a time we cannot predict or anticipate, Christ will return with no advance notice to bring this present world order to an end.
B. The form
epistle (1:4, 11: 22:21)
circular letter written to seven churches – expected to be read and heard publicly. Since numbers are significant, 7 number of completion, 7 churches likely representative of The Church. By writing to them, Christ was delivering a message to his church throughout entire age. Nature of individual churches such that any church in any place or time would have something in common with one or more of them and thus profit from Christ’s instruction.
This view emphasizes the apocalyptic (prophetic of devastation or ultimate doom; having to do with a cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil. Ed.) nature of the book. Riddlebarger
The reason for the apocalyptic style is likely to make it vivid enough to remember by those undergoing persecution and to whom it is primarily intended. The use of symbolic imagery also makes it meaningful to all generations because it does not tie the symbols to any one specific event in church history. Taylor
visions with symbols depicting struggle between Christ and Satan
looking at same scene from different perspective/angle
spans the sweep of history from John’s day to “the Day of the Lord”
This view …understands the various visions throughout Revelation as depictions of the struggle which takes place during the entire period of time between the first and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Each vision is describing the same period of time but from a different perspective or vantage point, each vision with a different theological theme or emphasis. As Dennis Johnson from Westminster Seminary California puts it, each of these visions is like looking at the same scene from a different camera angle. This means that we must not see Revelation as depicting strictly future or historical events. Nor does Revelation exhaustively map out the history of the church age. Instead, we must see the visions and symbols in them as pictures of the on-going struggle between Christ and Satan and his agents, the beast and the dragon, a struggle which Christ will inevitably win on behalf of his people. This is the way apocalyptic literature works. Riddlebarger
not exhaustive treatment of church history or particular period within the church age
covers events that were future to John, some past and others yet future for us
C. The purpose
to reveal Christ
to show the big picture of redemptive history
describe how pieces fit together into comprehensive whole, tying up ends left loose in previous Scriptures – e.g., enabling careful reader to distinguish between 1st & 2nd advent as prophesied in OT
to explain why Satan hates the church
Satan has read the Bible, too! Knows the church is the special object of God’s love, knows his doom is sure, rages against God and the church anyway. Revelation also gives insight into strategies Satan uses in his war against us.
to encourage the church in her Gospel witness
the nations must hear the Gospel, God ensures the message will bear fruit. The world is watching the church, how will she respond to suffering and persecution; God will use that to stimulate opportunities for witness. Also, Satan’s effectiveness in mobilizing the world against the church limited by God’s sovereign authority.
to comfort those experiencing suffering and persecution
Not only do we have God’s word that Christ has won, victorious over sin AND death; Revelation shows us that he will have final victory over ALL his enemies. Suffering and persecution while difficult is only temporary. It has a purpose, God is watching, those who persevere will be rewarded.
D. The message
Summarizing verse: Rev. 17:14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. ESV
The Lamb is indeed on the throne, ruling over his creation and the events which occur on earth. He will ultimately and gloriously prevail, accompanied by those who are faithful to him. They will be and remain faithful when they understand the truths portrayed in Revelation, able to understand who is really in charge, who should receive their loyalty, what their assigned task is during the interval between his advents.
E. The reward
blessing for reading and hearing and obeying
Christ is revealed in its contents – to see him and be encouraged by him is an obvious source of blessing. To receive the message the Father gave about and through the Son is to receive great blessing. To be obedient to the message and receive the reward completes the blessing.
For the Revelation is a thoroughly practical book, meant to bear upon our daily life, to guide the Church, to warn kings and kingdoms, to lift us out of the region of the visible into that of the invisible! Bonar
Much is promised specifically in letters to the churches “to him who overcomes”, who perseveres and remains faithful to the end. May God give us the determination and understanding to read and apply the great truths found in Revelation. In so doing may we gain greater adoration for our Lord Jesus who is unveiled to us that we may see him in his present and future glory.
Rather, Revelation is given to us to show us the big picture of redemptive history. In other words, Revelation is like the box-top to a puzzle. Having seen the whole picture, it is certainly much easier to understand how the individual pieces fit together. …The visions contained here demonstrate that God is directing all of human history toward its appointed goal, which is the second coming of Jesus Christ.
A second thing we should take with us from our study of the Book of Revelation is that in these visions we are given the explanation as to why Satan hates the church and rages against it. We are also told about Satan’s various methods of attack upon the people of God.
A third point of application is that throughout the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ speaks to us about his church’s witness to the watching world. Christ’s church must make every effort to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. The missionary enterprise will be a great success, and we are called to support it. God will continue to bind the efforts of Satan to organize the nations against Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
A final point of application is that the Book of Revelation is filled with comfort for God’s suffering and persecuted people. …In the opening chapter of this book, John tells us that the Risen Christ holds in his hand the keys of death and of Hades. This means that Jesus is Lord over all things, including death. Because of sin, death is our greatest enemy but Jesus Christ has conquered it. Riddlebarger