Revelation series

May 8, 2011

Starting next Sunday, our congregation is beginning a Bible class series on the book of Revelation. I will be co-teaching this series with another one of our elders. So it seems like a great opportunity to write another blog commentary like I have done for a number of other books.

I’m pretty excited about this opportunity. Over the years, in my experience, teachers and preachers in our churches have generally avoided the book as a whole. Yes there have been plenty of sermons about the seven letters to the churches in chapters 2 and 3. And there has been no shortage of sermons about the great multitude praising the Lamb in chapter 7, and especially of the thrilling picture of the new heaven and the new earth in chapters 21-22. But what about the dragon? The two beasts? The harlot and Babylon? What about the 1260 days, and the 1000 years? And most importantly, what was the message of the book as a whole, and what did God intend to accomplish through that message?

I think the main reason the book is avoided is that the religious world is pretty confused about it. There are at least five very different views about what the book means. Each of the views has numerous variations. How can someone come to a clear understanding of such a book? And how can someone dare to teach such a book, given the stern warnings at the end?

Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.
Rev 22:19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

But God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33.) God has a message to be delivered. God gave the message to Jesus, who gave it an angel, who delivered it to John. (Rev 1:1) John wrote it down for the seven churches in the province of Asia. (Rev 1:4) The message was delivered, and as always, God’s word accomplished the purpose for which it was sent. (Isa 55:11) Jesus promised blessings to those who read, hear, and keep the words of the message:

Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Rev 22:7 “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

So we need to read the book, and we need to understand it so that we can keep the words of the prophecy. It’s time to apply ourselves to understanding Revelation.

We will be teaching this from the perspective of the original audience of the message. What did it mean to the seven churches who first received the prophecy? How would they have understood the symbolic language of the book? What need was it addressing? And what message should we take from the book as we read it nearly 2000 years later?

The book of Revelation itself contains strong evidence about how to interpret its mysteries. We will begin by talking about the symbolic, apocalyptic style. We will show that Revelation identifies the dragon, the two beasts, and the harlot. And we will deduce from internal evidence what is meant by the 1260 days and the 1000 years.

Once we have established that evidence as a framework for the book, we will go through the book in sequence, understanding the scroll, the seals, and the trumpets within that framework.

We will be drawing heavily from the book “Unlocking Revelation: Seven Simple Keys” by Dr. Stafford North. After reviewing a variety of books and commentaries on the subject, we chose to follow the approach of this book in our class, as the clearest and most methodical approach we found to understanding Revelation.  We won’t be doing a detailed comparative analysis of all of the competing theories about Revelation in our class, and I’m not interested in extended debate on that subject in this blog series. Instead I will be presenting the book as I believe it would have been understood by its original audience.

May we all receive the blessings promised to those who read, hear, and keep the words of this Revelation!

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