Summary: A jigsaw puzzle gives us some insight about how to approach the Book of Revelation
Mary and I really like putting together jigsaw puzzles. And I’m finding that many of the things that we’ve learned during the process of assembling those puzzles are really helpful when we look at the Book of Revelation:
Lessons from a jigsaw puzzle:
1. The box art is critical.
Recently we purchased a set of five different puzzles that all came in the same box – mainly because it was a lot cheaper that buying separate puzzles and I’m a cheapskate. But the problem that we ran into was that the box art for several of the smaller puzzles was so small that it made it difficult for us to identify where some of the pieces went. That experience pointed out just how critical of a role that the box art plays. So as we proceed with our study of Revelation, we need to constantly be reminded of the box art, which we identified last week as these words of Jesus:
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:13 (ESV)
2. The individual pieces only have meaning in the context of the whole picture
I have here several pieces from one of our puzzles. But it is doubtful that any of you could identify what the entire puzzle will look like just from examining these pieces. Nor could you determine where the pieces fit within the entire puzzle. The same thing is true with the Book of Revelation. If we try to take individual pieces by themselves and try to draw conclusions about what they mean and where they fit in, we are likely to error.
3. Each piece has its purpose and place in the big picture
When you begin to put together a puzzle, where do you begin? With the corner pieces and the edges, right? That is because those pieces establish the boundaries and all the other pieces then have to fit within those boundaries. And then as you proceed to assemble the puzzle, each piece has a specific place where it goes based where it fits within the overall picture and its unique shape.
One of the most difficult puzzles we ever worked on was one where there were a number of pieces that were of a similar color and shape to each other. So when we put some of those pieces in the wrong place because they seemed to fit there, we couldn’t figure out how to put the rest of the puzzle together.
All the pieces in the Book of Revelation have a specific purpose and place. But just like with a box full of jigsaw puzzle pieces, they aren’t always arranged in a way that makes it clear exactly where they fit. Some of the pieces establish the boundaries while others fill in some of the details. So one of our most difficult tasks is going to be to determine the proper purpose and place of each piece.
4. The meaning is found in the whole picture, not in the individual pieces
Let’s face it, the individual pieces of a puzzle don’t tell us a whole lot. It’s only when we put all those pieces together and step back and take in the whole picture that we can fully appreciate the puzzle. My greatest fear as we approach the Book of Revelation is not so much that I may get some of the details wrong or that we won’t be able to fully understand them, but rather that we’ll fail to keep the big picture in mind. We must avoid at all costs the tendency to get so wrapped up in the pieces that we miss the big picture of God Himself – His holiness, His power and might, His sovereignty, His love, His grace, His righteousness and all of His other attributes that are on display.
So with these things in mind, let’s read the opening verses of the book of Revelation:
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.