Summary: Revelation is God’s answer to the question asked of the martyred saints in chapter 6, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" It is heaven’s answer to the age old question, “What on ea
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
How Long, O Lord?
Overview of Revelation—Revelation 1:1-8
A woman went to the doctor’s office, where she was seen by one of the new doctors, but after about 4 minutes in the examination room, she burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him her story. After listening, he had her sit down and told her to go relax in another room. The older doctor marched down hallway to the back where the first doctor was and demanded, "What’s the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 63 years old. She has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?" The new doctor continued to write on his clipboard. Without looking up, he said, "Does she still have the hiccups?"
Revelation might be a good cure for the hiccups, too. At first reading, it looks pretty scary. Ultimately, however, Revelation is not about curing your hiccups, but giving you hope—here, now, and forever.
We’ve been a long time getting to this book. We started our journey though the Bible over four and half years ago (on January 13, 2002, to be precise). That night my message was “The Whole Bible in Thirty Minutes.” We’ve spent the last fifty-four months working our way through the Bible. We spent two years in the Old Testament and the last two and half in the New Testament. As with some of the other New Testament books, we spend more than one night in Revelation. I will overview it this evening. I will try to give you the big picture. Then for at least several more weeks, I will come back and zero in on some of the particulars of the book.
First, the obvious. Revelation is not your ordinary book of the Bible. Reading it proves that. Many of you have probably dabbled around in Revelation. It is filled with graphic pictures and images—multi-headed beasts, sword wielding angels, fire-breathing dragons, gardens, palaces, thrones, streets of gold and pearly gates. The uniqueness of the book led Martin Luther to argue that Revelation didn’t belong in the Bible. He thought its images and symbols were not sufficiently Christian.
One doesn’t have to read long to realize that a lot of this is more than meets the eye. Many of these images are symbols for something bigger than themselves. Symbolic or poetic does not mean unreal or make believe. Rather, it is a way of writing and talking that tries to paint pictures with words. Scholars call this kind of writing apocalyptic literature. It was part poetry, part science fiction. Parts of the Old Testament books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah provide examples of a similar style. In fact Revelation owes much to these books.
Some of this appears violent and bloody; others unbelievably beautiful. A lot of moderns are turned off by the bloody pictures of judgment and the horrible depictions of hell toward the end of the book. We want to believe that everyone is good and that everyone gets saved in the end. That would be make-believe. Revelation is about the truth.