Week 13 (April 2-7): Revelation 7-22

Reading Plan for Days 85 – 90:

Sunday, 4/02: Rev. 7-9
Monday, 4/03: Rev. 10-12
Tuesday, 4/04: Rev. 13-15
Wednesday, 4/05: Rev. 16-18
Thursday, 4/06:  Rev. 19-20
Friday, 4/07:  Rev. 21-22

Final Comments on Revelation

At the risk of repetition (with my sermon 4/2 or the discussion guides for our small groups), let me share that I cannot make sense of Revelation for you. I cannot explain it to you. In fact, I’d suggest that if someone tells you they know what Revelation is all about, you might want to avoid that person!

Among “the New Testament writings, Revelation is unique in its genre, its purpose, and its method of communicating its message”(Gregg, 9). It was, and remains, enigmatic; Revelation is the most obscure and controversial book in the Bible. During the official canonization of the New Testament, it was fiercely debated whether Revelation should even be included! Beyond that:

  • Justin Martyr, writing in the second century, shared how he thought Revelation should be read, “but on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.”
  • Martin Luther, during the Reformation, assigned Revelation a secondary status compared to the rest of the New Testament, declaring it “neither apostolic nor prophetic” (NIV, 1127).
  • Swiss Reformer Huldrich Zwingli denied Revelation was Scriptural at all.
  • Revelation is the only New Testament book for which John Calvin did not write a commentary.
  • John Wesley wisely wrote of it, “I by no means pretend to understand or explain all that is contained in this mysterious book. I only offer what help I can to the serious inquirer…”

I can share that there have generally been four primary ways that Revelation has been interpreted by Christians through the centuries:

  1. The Futurist approach suggests that the majority of Revelation’s prophecies have not yet occurred, and will occur in the relatively brief time before the second coming of Christ. This is the view that enjoyed a revival in the 19th century, and is widely held by evangelicals today.
  2. The Historicist approach suggests that the prophecies of Revelation began to be fulfilled in John’s day, and may or may not be ongoing. This approach suggests that Revelation can be used as a lens for history, making connections between its content and events and leaders past and present.
  3. The Preterist approach suggests that the prophecy of Revelation was intended for the people of John’s day and time, and either described contemporary situations or were fulfilled in our past.
  4. The Idealist or Spiritual approach suggests that Revelation is basically a poetic, symbolic, spiritual text that describes the spiritual journey and the ongoing battle between good and evil.

However you read and interpret this enigmatic but incredibly image-rich text, I pray you will find inspiration and guidance.

And let me end with a quick word of my own take-away from Revelation. Someone once wisely summarized it for me as, “in the end, God wins.” Revelation gives me hope in God, that despite those times when the world gets turned upside-down and inside-out, God is still present with us; and whatever may be, evil doesn’t get the last word.

This is greatly illustrated by how Revelation book-ends all of Scripture. If you remember, Genesis 1:1 begins with the Spirit of God hovering over the waters – the sea being a recurrent motif in other cultures’ cosmologies for the powers of chaos. In Revelation 21:1, when John visions the new heaven and earth, there is no sea. The powers of chaos are done away with, all together! In addition, where Genesis 2:9 tells us that the Tree of Life was at the center of the garden that human kind was eventually cast out from; Revelation 22:2 tells us of the restoration of that tree at the center of the city of God.

So, in the end, the powers of chaos and evil are eliminated; and God is manifestly present with God’s people. Amen to that!

Blessed reading to you this week! Please post any comments, insights, or questions you might have in the comments section below.

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