Approaching the Book of Revelation

“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.” Revelation 1:12

The Book of Revelation.

The name of this book alone probably brings certain images and questions to your mind. You might be imagining destruction from the tribulation, scrolls and seals, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or maybe even Kirk Cameron. Or you might be asking–what’s the deal with the crazy imagery? Is premillennialism, amillennialism, or postmillennialism correct? Am I a bad Christian if I don’t know what those words mean? Is this a book to confuse us? To divide us? To tell me EXACTLY what the future holds?

All of these images and questions are relevant. Relevancy isn’t the issue though. The issue comes when we allow what frightens or confuses us to keep us from studying certain parts of Scripture. It’d be foolish to say everything in the Bible is easy to understand. However, it’d also be foolish to not press into God’s Word and see what truth and beauty is hidden in the uncomfortable.

Understanding the Bible requires diligence and hard work. And that’s exactly why we are going to spend the next year going through Revelation chapter by chapter, verse by verse at Bellevue. We believe that God did not end the Bible with a question mark, but that He ended it with an exclamation point that proclaims “A Better Day is Coming!”

Since this is the beginning of the joyful work that’s before us, this first week can be thought of as a job orientation of sorts. It’s time to find out why we’re assigned this job and how to do it. In this first sermon of the series, Pastor Steve preached through the first three verses of Revelation. Through that text, he laid the foundation for the rest of the series by explaining a few of the reasons why Revelation should be studied and how Revelation should be studied.

Why Revelation Should be Studied

We live in an age of abundant entertainment. There is no shortage of videos, books, apps, and movies that vie for our attention. Limited quantity no longer restrains our thirst for entertainment. The only restraint is the time limit (and the quantity of streaming subscriptions we can actually afford). So, when we’re considering how to spend our time, we’re subconsciously asking, “What is worthy of my time?” Applied to this year-long sermon series, that question may be rephrased as, “Why is Revelation worthy of so much of my time?” While I don’t have the time nor space to go into why this mindset is a dangerous reflection of our secular age, I do want to share two of the main reasons why we’re studying Revelation in 2020.

The Book of Revelation is a Divine Revelation

The first two verses of Revelation describe the path this revelation took–a path that confirms its divine authority–before eventually being written down by John.

“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 toHis servant John, who bore witness to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” Revelation 1:12

Now, to trace that path for ourselves, we start by seeing God gave this revelation to Jesus. And as a quick clarification, in this context, a revelation can be understood as something that was previously not understood but was then revealed in the form of a new insight. So, Jesus takes this “new insight” and passes it on to His angel. This angel then fulfills its duty as a messenger of God by delivering the revelation to John while he was exiled on the island of Patmos. Finally, the last step is when John it wrote down, so it could be passed on to late first-century Christians who were enduring persecution. And we have it now today in the Bible.

Following this path may feel tedious, but it’s extremely important because it establishes the divine authority of Revelation. This book–along with the rest of the Bible–contains the Word of God. We don’t have to wait for God to speak to us. He already has. God, in His sovereignty, ensured this revelation passed down accurately to John, first-century Christians, and eventually us. And if God saw this revelation as worthy of being communicated, it is undoubtedly worthy of our time and efforts to understand it well.

The Book of Revelation is a Christ-Centered Revelation

Everything within the Bible points to Christ. On a large scale, the entire grand narrative of Scripture is centered on Jesus and the redemption and reconciliation made possible by His incarnation, death on the cross, and resurrection from the grave. That big picture claim is supported by passages all throughout the Bible, such as Hebrews 12:2 describing Jesus as “the founder and perfecter of our faith” and Colossians 1:1520, part of which says, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, in Heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.”

The focus of Revelation is no different. Revelation is a Christ-centered book. The first words of chapter 1 describe the book as “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” But Jesus’ role in the book does not stop there. He is the Hero of Revelation. Throughout the next 22 chapters, we will see that Jesus has risen from the dead, He reigns on the throne, He has redeemed mankind through His blood, and that He will return again. And if we believe those things to be true, then we should constantly desire to be in communion with Christ. We should long to know Him more. The book of Revelation, then, can be seen an opportunity to explore the depths of the God who created us, loves us, and redeemed us. And who wouldn’t want to read a book like that?

How Revelation Should be Studied

Having the desire to read Revelation is a great starting point. But that’s exactly what it is–a starting point. From there, the work begins of seeking to understand what this revelation delivered to John means. In order to do so, there are a couple of ways we should approach the book that will help us further down the road.

Revelation Describes the End Times

We must remember that the genre of a book matters greatly. If you’re reading a book or essay and fail to recognize its genre, you’re going to have a hard time identifying the author’s message. When it comes to the Bible, recognizing the variety of genres used throughout is essential. Poetry demands to be treated differently than historical accounts. And in reading Revelation, if we don’t recognize it as an end times revelation written in the form of apocalyptic literature, then we will miss much of what it has to say. As we go, we will continue to discover evidence that Revelation speaks about the end times. The first bit of evidence comes at the end of verse 3.

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

Read in light of the whole book, it’s clear that “the time” is referring to the end times and the phrase “is near” reveals the end times are approaching. To be prepared for how Revelation flows as it speaks on the coming end times, here’s an outline of the book:

  • The Exalted Christ–Revelation 1
  • The Church of Jesus Christ–Revelation 23
  • The Rapture and the Saints in Heaven–Revelation 45
  • The Great Tribulation–Revelation 618
  • The Return of Christ–Revelation 19
  • The Millennial Reign of Christ–Revelation 20:16
  • The Final Judgement–Revelation 20:715
  • The New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem–Revelation 2122

Revelation Should be Read, Heard, and Obeyed

A final aspect worth noting here at the end of this orientation–we should do more than read and hear Revelation. While those are both important, Revelation exhorts us to obey it.

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”

At first, this may be confusing. How can I obey a book about the end times if the end times aren’t here? And that’s a great question. It’s such a good question that time and work will be required to answer it. But take heart, as we go through Revelation, you will undoubtedly identify ways you can live on Earth in light of what’s to come. When those instructions come, be prepared to obey. Together, we will learn how to live in response to the better day that’s coming.