"Should We Study the Book of Revelation?"
"I doubt there is a book in the Bible with more conflicting views and opinions by commentators. Yet, some people are more dogmatic about their opinions on this book than they are the books of the Bible that are easily understood." - Carl Johnson
So, should we study the book of Revelation? Or do we take the easy way out and say, "We can't understand it anyway, so why worry about it?"
DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to understand all of the book of Revelation. There are multiple interpretations and the very nature of Apocalyptic writing makes it extremely difficult to understand. However, I will do my best to make some sense of the mystery of this book.
PREMISE #1: People are curious, and if the Church does not teach Revelation folks will find someone else who will - and it will probably be skewed.
PREMISE #2: Most current interpretations of Revelation have been sensationalized, and support the false doctrine of pre-millennialism.
With these two premises in mind, it seems rational that the Church should teach Revelation, and thus fulfill the need to declare the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
3 Popular Types of Interpretation:
None of the events have been fulfilled yet
Most of the events were fulfilled in the first century
Symbols represent history throughout the ages
Let us now offer a third premise that I believe is very important to the understanding of Revelation.
PREMISE #3: Any message in the Bible has to have meaning to its intended audience.
Who was the audience of Revelation, and what were they facing? This is the basis of another vein of preterist interpretation - historical background. I personally believe this is the most viable of all methods of interpretation. The symbols, while impossible to nail down completely in our day and time, had to have meaning to the 1st century Christians. Furthermore, the amount of references and allusions to the Old Testament is quite staggering! Without a Biblical background, the reader would be completely lost when attempting to decipher the symbols. That being said, my studies have employed a fourth type of interpretation.
The events described were meant for the 1st century Christians of Asia Minor, and a strong working knowledge of the Bible is necessary to understand the symbols. Also, we must consider the historical time frame to properly understand the context.
PURPOSE OF REVELATION: To give comfort and hope to a group of tired, persecuted, oppressed, and scared group of Christians.
(Revelation 1:1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John"
"Shortly" is from the Greek word "tachus", also used in the following verse:
(2 Timothy 4:9) Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me
It appears to me that John expected the things in his vision to happen very quickly - comfort was needed immediately for a group of persecuted Christians who feared that their religion was about to be vanquished. Keep that in mind for future lessons when we begin to look at possible interpretations of the symbols in the book.
MESSAGE OF REVELATION: God will win in the end!!
"Neglected, misunderstood, and grossly perverted, the book of Revelation stands quite alone in the New Testament" - Ray Summers, author of "Worthy is the Lamb"
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Bryan Morrison is a congregational teacher at the 19th Street Church of Christ.