Summary: Introductory message in a series on Revelation focusing on the theme and purpose of the book.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ”
Jesus is Coming!
Introduction & Background
The subject of future events attracts a great deal of attention. Prophecy conferences draw significant curious crowds. Many promise to uncover the latest new and exciting insights. More than a few assert that they along have the inside track concerning the end times.
I agree that the Bible urges us to be aware of the events of the last days and to look for Christ’s coming, but never to the neglect of present effective living. In fact, most passages that provide significant details concerning His return also strongly stress how we should be living now in light of the nearness of Jesus’ return. I will focus our attention on the practical and personal application rather than the sensational.
We will cover many of the background issues as they come up in the text itself but there are a few preliminary items I want to introduce as we begin our journey.
CHARACTER of the Book
John’s writing is very unique. It is different than his gospel and any of his three letters. Some go so far as cast doubt that John even wrote it. The uniqueness of the book can be clearly understood by its unique subject matter. It bears the characteristics of apocalyptic literature dating from 200BC.
Apocalyptic literature makes extensive use of graphic and symbolic word pictures to reveal coming events. It announces God’s promised severe and sudden judgment.
Revelation also bears some characteristics of prophetic literature that is similar to apocalyptic but somewhat more subtle.
John’s writing also has similarities with that of a personal letter or epistle.
Revelation alludes to the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book. (250-500)
Of the 404 verses, 278 contain some reference to the Old Testament.
There are a number of approaches scholars take to understanding this book of the bible.
The method of approach to the book determines how you interpret its content.
Symbolic Interpretation (Idealist)
This approach maintains that Revelation is not prophetic at all but purely symbolic. It is symbolic of the cosmic conflict of spiritual principles. The content then is “divorced from the realm of history and placed exclusively in the realm of ideas.” (Walk Thru the Bible page 512)
Limited Historical Interpretation (Preterist)
This approach also denies any prophetic aspect by limiting the book to the events to only first century in which it was written. The content symbolically describes the persecution of the church during the Roman period and its eventual judgment and disintegration.
Extended Historical Interpretation (Historicist)
This view approaches Revelation as an “allegorical panorama of the history of the (Western) church from the first century to the Second Advent of Jesus.” (Walk Thru the Bible page 512)
The Prophetic Interpretation (Futurist)
This view recognizes definite connection to the first century conflict but also believes the bulk of the writing is direct prophetic revelation concerning the events slated to unfold just prior to the return of Jesus in power and glory.
Proponents of the first three views tend to interpret symbolically rather than literally and are postmillennial (Jesus returns after the millennium which is not a literal 1000 years but the rule of Christ in our hearts that has already started) or amillennial (no literal millennium at all).
The prophetic view anticipates a literal fulfillment of the symbolism at a future time and is premillennial (Jesus returns to begin a literal 1000 year reign on the earth).
Although the graphic events of Revelation are often used in evangelism to scare people into the kingdom, it was not written for that purpose. It was written to encourage Christians struggling to maintain their faith in a hostile environment. Revelation records the prophetic words of Jesus and His encouragement to keep faithful to the end in light of His imminent return. Revelation reveals the final chapter in the culmination of God’s redemptive plan.
It is the revelation or unveiling of “what soon must take place.” It focuses on the Lamb of God occupying His promised rightful place on the throne. It details the ultimate tribulation and the ultimate utopia. It describes final judgment for those who oppose Christ and eternal bliss for those who embrace Him. It promises a special blessing for those who read, hear and heed the message of the book.
•It is my desire that we discover that blessing in our journey together.
•It is my desire that we develop a grander view of Christ than is presented in the Gospels.
•It is my desire that our hearts are stirred to more faithful service in the present in light of the imminent (soon) dramatic return of Jesus.
•It is my desire we be fully armed and equipped to faithfully endure whatever persecution or tribulation we may be called to face in the future.