The Apocalypse, the Greek name for the Book of Revelation, carries an ominous tone for some strange reason. It could be the way sensationalists handle the last book of the New Testament. Unfortunately, this leads to the aura of darkness instead of light. Ironically, Revelation is the book of the Bible with an explicit promise to bless the hearer and the reader (Rev 1:3). With the many and various interpretations of this book, it has succinctly been summarized with the pithy, “Jesus wins,” interpretation. Avoiding elaborate schemes of eschatology and epigrammatic summaries, we should consider the value of reading Revelation, for its rich and diverse biblical doctrines. Let us consider some of the teachings found in this infamously avoided book of the Bible.
First, we have some of the highest Christology in the whole of Scripture (Rev 1, 4, 5, 19). The study of the doctrine of Christ is crucial to the Christian faith because of the distorted Jesus-figures promoted by false cults and religions. The Apostle John is the trustworthy messenger, with a message from Almighty God and Jesus, garnered from a heavenly vision on the island of Patmos, in the south Aegean Sea (Rev 1:9).
Jesus is presented as resurrected from the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5). He is the Savior of His people, who has made them into a kingdom of priests (Rev 1:5–6). Jesus is glorified, as the eternal One, who will return to the battle for the earth on the final day (Rev 1:7; 19:11–21).
The vision of Jesus in Revelation is a far cry from today’s post-modern, white, liberal, hipster Jesus (Rev 1:13–18). He is also different from the black African, Escalade driving, zoot-suit wearing, gold-laden prosperity Jesus. The scenes from the throne room of heaven have every creature bowing down to Jesus in worship (Rev 4:9–11; 5:9–14). Clearly, the attitude toward Jesus is far different in heaven than upon the earth.
It is this affront to the exalted Christ, which invites the judgment of God upon the people of the earth (Rev 6–18), culminating in the second advent of the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David and of Jesse, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 5:5; 19:16). This is warrior Jesus. Few ever speak of Him in this manner. The Bible does, and our response to the warrior King is to humble ourselves in submission to Him (1 Pet 5:6). This is something the nations refuse to do (Ps 2; Rev 6–18), and the churches struggle with, in working out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12; Rev 2–3).
Second, Revelation has two chapters of exemplary ecclesiology (Rev 2–3). The study of the doctrine of the church is greatly enhanced when one opens the Apocalypse. We observe an imperfect church on earth (Rev 2–3) and a perfect church in the glory of heaven (Rev 4–5; 21–22). In the seven addresses to the seven churches of Asia (Western Turkey), Jesus engages His people, His bride, whom He loves (Eph 5:25). There is a formula to each address: Jesus receives a descriptive identification; the church receives a commendation; the church receives a reproof for correction; the church receives an encouragement to hear; and finally, the church receives the promise of future blessing for obedience.
Christians quickly see the timeless nature of the problems in these churches. There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9), or in the church of God. The hope derived from these messages supersedes the correction. There is hope for God’s people, who overcome the tribulations in this world and the trials in the church.
Third, the reader moves from a view of Christ (Rev 1), to a view of the church (Rev 2–3), and he is suddenly brought into the throne room of God (Rev 4–5). It is a place of worship. Much to the chagrin of atheists and pagans, the One being worshipped is the Lord Jesus Christ, at the center of the throne of God (Rev 7:17).
The title for Jesus is important in these chapters. “Lamb” is the author’s preferred identifier (Rev 5:6, 8, 12, 13; 6:1, 16; 7:9, 10, 14, 17). No doubt this title is to honor Jesus, the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29), who came into the world to die on the Cross, as a substitute sacrifice for elect sinners, atoned for and forgiven by His blood (Mt 26:28; Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:18–19; Rev 1:5).
The reader is confronted with the intertwining of notions of God and Christ. They both seem to be worshiped. “Our Lord and God” is worshiped (Rev 4:11), and so is the Lamb (Rev 5:8–10). God’s people are only permitted to worship God, and here are God’s people worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is further proof for the deity of Christ, which is an unmistakable motif in the whole book.
Fourth, from chapters 6–18 we have the unfolding judgments of God against rebel nations (Ps 2). Jesus is the subject of the Book of Revelation, which is why avoiding the book is a subtle temptation of Satan, who is ever blinding the minds of people, from understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4). We open the Apocalypse to give sight to people to see Jesus. He is presented in every chapter we have considered thus far (Rev 1–5). He is the worthy Lamb in Revelation 6, who alone can open the seals, on the book of God’s just judgment against His enemies.
As the seal judgments unfold, we see the dichotomous experiences of two groups of people. God’s people are persecuted by Satan (Jn 8:44) and the children of the devil (1 Jn 3:10); while these same enemies endure the punishing wrath of God. The world is enduring suffering like never before, and like it never will again.
The seal judgments give way to the trumpet judgments. Despite the wrath of God being poured out, people refuse to repent. God is faithful to send witnesses (Rev 11). The war in heaven comes to the earth (Rev 12), and manifests with political and military intrigue (Rev 13–14). The earth is scourged with wrath, the city of man crumbles under the flurry of bowl judgments (Rev 16–18). Men lament the destruction of what they have built.
God appears to be a big bully kicking down the sandcastle of man; but heaven has a far different evaluation (Rev 19:16). God is praised for His true and righteous judgments (19:2). God’s people are encouraged to celebrate the vengeance of God, poured out on the injustice of men, who refuse to acknowledge His reign. God’s people celebrate His salvation; while unrepentant, sinful people curse Him for His just judgments.
Fifth, Revelation shows us the end of the enemies of God and His people (Rev 19–20). Unregenerate men think they live in an ever-improving world. With deluded minds, they ignore the tragic carnage and despoiling deeds left as their legacy. Meanwhile, God’s people see the futility of it all (Ecclesiastes). In essence, the cry of God’s people is, “How long, O Lord?”
Christians eagerly await the return of Christ (sometimes, too eagerly!). We wait for justice. We wait for God to rectify what is wrong. The Christian has been given eyes to see the hopeless state and trajectory of the world. This is a blessing and a lament. We want the truth about the futility of our human existence here in this world, but we also need the hope for our future, which is not to be compared with our present suffering (Rom 8:18).
The sixteen judgments (seal, trumpet, and bowl) are penultimate. In the final judgment, Satan and every form and spirit of anti-Christ is sent to hell and the lake of fire prepared for them (Rev 20). The enemies of God and Christ have been put under His foot (Ps 110:5–6). The earth is torched in final judgment (2 Pet 3:10–12).
On that day, Christians may rightly utter the words, “It is finished.” This is a proper echo of Jesus’ proclamation from the Cross. The payment for sins is complete. Christ died for His people on the Cross, a blood-sacrifice payment for their sins (Rom 5:8; 1 Pet 1:19; 2:24). The payment for the sins of the reprobate has been turned over to the collection agency of eternal hell and the lake of fire. The accounting books are closed. Everything is now paid-in-full and reconciled with perfection. The end of the taxing season has come, and it is time for a celebration.
Sixth and finally, a glimpse of our eternal home in heaven closes the Book of Revelation (Rev 21–22). The Bible offers other glimpses of heaven (Is 65–66), and other visitor accounts (2 Cor 12); but nothing illumines like the end chapters of the Apocalypse. Heaven is depicted with symbolic imagery. It is diverse with precious stones. This is symbolic of enduring strength and value. It is secure with open gates. It is prosperous with abundant food and luxurious abodes. Day reigns, and night is no more. God and Christ are fully manifested as the light of this new world, and in it there is no darkness at all.
The study of the doctrine of heaven is a glorious encouragement to the reader and listener. It is a fitting finish. The people of this city truly live happily ever after. The prophecies of the eternal kingdom of God have been fulfilled. The King of heaven has created a new heavens and a new earth. The perfection of paradise is realized. Eden was only a type of Zion. No snakes are allowed in this garden city of New Jerusalem. No temptations. No sins. No tears. No night. No troubles. No worries. God’s people have fully entered into God’s Sabbath rest, in both resurrected body and regenerated soul (Jn 5:28–29; 1 Cor 15).
In summary, we have considered the Apocalypse, the sixty-sixth book of the Bible. We have found it to be enlightening, with regard to Christ and His people on earth and in heaven. We have seen the fearful judgments of God, so popularly promulgated by blood moon howlers, and we have seen that Jesus does indeed win.
In conclusion, we must encourage others to search the Scriptures for themselves, including the Book of Revelation, in order to receive the promise of blessing. A reader or listener of Revelation will be strengthened in his or her Christian faith. God is on His throne, and all things are ordered according to His eternal decree and enacted under His exacting providence.
The Holy Spirit, sent to the church to regenerate, reprove, and edify, is the One who has inspired our view of Christ in the Apocalypse (2 Tim 3:16). He is the One who teaches us the wisdom of Revelation (Jn 14:26), so that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). Here is the best reason for why you should read the Book of Revelation. Pick up the Book and learn of Christ, who reigns, forevermore. Come and learn of Him, and you will join the prayer of His bride and His Spirit, who implore Him to come again, soon. Are you ready for this?
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 3, 2021