The book of Revelation. That wonderful and glorious puzzle.
John’s book of the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ is among the most magnificent works ever written. The subject matter is among the most profound one could ever read and consider. It is the one book of the Bible that promises a rich blessing to those that read and keep the words in it.
Despite these words, it is also one of the least read of the books in the Bible, surpassed perhaps only in the number of people ignorant of its contents by perhaps The Song of Solomon. And that’s a real shame! The reasons are many, but perhaps the most popular reason is that, “it is too confusing, too mysterious, and full of dark symbols and unknowable allegories.” We even know of churches in the region that refuse to teach the Revelation because it will cause too much controversy.
In fact, we hold that the Revelation is one of the easiest books to read and understand, and most rewarding, if you first know the other sixty-five books of the Bible and especially the Old Testament, from which John draws his metaphors. The second thing is you must follow (or maintain, as in the rest of scripture) a consistent, normal, contextual, historical-grammatical method of interpretation and don’t fall for the idea that there is such a kind of writing as “apocalyptic genre” which requires a different method of interpretation. Nonsense! The Revelation was written in a normal fashion by John and is intended to be understood.
It does contain symbolic language, like Daniel does, in that it has horned beasts, a dragon, a woman riding a beast, etc. But once you understand how John deploys those symbols, the interpretation becomes straightforward. They’re meaningful symbols of something he sees in the future that is real.
It also helps to understand that John, in his vision, is taken into the future, and he’s taken “upstairs” to view things in heaven and/or from heaven’s perspective, and then “downstairs” to view things on the earth or from earth’s perspective. The camera moves up and downstairs from time to time.
Following this straightforward, plain method of non-exotic interpretation you’ll find that The Revelation of John follows this basic framework: After an introduction/prolegomena in chapter 1, chapters 2-3 cover Jesus Christ addressing letters to 7 churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time of John’s writing (around 96 AD). These are intended to encourage, rebuke, strengthen and in some case threaten those churches. In other words, chapter 2-3 are past tense from our perspective, but many extremely valuable lessons can be learned as to what our Lord is looking for in our churches.
Chapter 4 begins with a major break in time: meta tauta – after these things. This indicates that the vision shifts forward in time and we now know by experience that since the events after chapter 3 have not taken place in human history, that they are yet future from us. How long? We are simply not told and we mustn’t speculate or date-set! The remainder of the book up until chapter 20 deal substantially with heaven meeting out judgment on the earth and its rebellious inhabitants, and includes the arrival and work of the false-Messiah who goes by different names and titles. These events unfold over a seven year period called the Great Tribulation, which is comprised of two 3 1/2 year periods joined together. These events are unwrapped for us in this pattern:
These events are unwrapped for us in this pattern: A scroll with 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls.
A scroll with seven seals on it comprising sequential judgments on the earth inhabitants and the earth corrupted by them, broken open one at a t time, the last seal then opens up seven trumpets, the last trumpet then brings in seven bowls of the worst judgments, culminating in the Second Coming of Jesus and us with Him.
It should be noted that this period is substantially about God disciplining His people Israel, using the wickedness of the Beast to drive Israel back into the Land and winnow her down according to OT prophesy, and then rescuing the remnant of Israel upon Christ’s return and in response to their heartfelt cry, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” God’s dealing with the gentile nations in these chapters is in relation to Israel and God’s promises to her. She is the epicenter.
Chapter 19 is the revelation of Daniel’s Son of Man in His glorious return to earth. This is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to rule and reign on the earth, in Jerusalem, on the throne of David to keep the Davidic Covenant. Believers, those who have been saved by grace return with Christ, in their glorified bodies, to rule and reign with Him. Chapter 20 is a transition chapter and includes the period of the millennial kingdom of Christ, during which Satan is bound in the abyss for that thousand years. Chapter 20 ends with the resurrection of the wicked dead of all ages to stand before the Great White Throne of God where their works are evaluated to determine the degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire forever. Satan and the False prophet are earlier cast in there.
Chapters 21-22 are about the consummation of the ages of this present earth, and the introduction of the New Heavens and the New Earth and the New Jerusalem which joins the two and which will be the eternal abode of redeemed mankind with God.
We join the apostolic age church in interpreting the Revelation this way.
Taking this normal interpretive view then, and considering all of the revelation of the scriptures, we necessarily arrive at the Revelation being futurist: a future pretribulation snatching up of church age saints (the rapture of the church), an unknown but very brief period follows, and then the beginning of the seven years of tribulation, culminated in the Second Coming of Christ (not to be confused with the rapture of the church), followed by the judgment of gentile nations, binding of Satan, and the establishment of the millennial kingdom, followed by the final Great White Throne for unbelievers, followed by the eternal state where Christ hands the earthly kingdom to the Father.
We join the apostolic age church in interpreting the Revelation this way, just as John intended and as he handed it off to the apostolic fathers. Normally! From chapter 4 on… future. No fancy stuff, no allegory or deep mysterious meanings. Easy. We reject as human rationalism or mysticism all interpretive methods that preterize, allegorize, de-millennialize, idealize or historicize John’s straight-up futurist book.
This is the future of the human race, for good or ill, and at the end of it for those who have received the gift of eternal life by faith alone in Christ alone, our glorious eternal home!
Enjoy the journey with us! Maranatha!