Thursday, February 25, 2010

Introduction To The Book of Revelation

The New Testament book of Revelation is undoubtedly the most controversial and misunderstood book in the Bible (and please notice, there is no "s" on the end of the word "Revelation").  There have been more...exotic...ideas found and taught from this work than probably all of the rest of the Bible combined.  I'm not going to bother going through them all--or any of them, for that matter.  But I will say this:  the most popular interpretation of the book is the premillennial interpretation, which holds that there will be a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth, that He will come back "before" the millennial reign of peace.  In all kindness, let me say that that interpretation of the book of Revelation is flat, dead wrong.  I will demonstrate why as we procede through our study. 

Revelation is a closed book to many people, but it's called "Revelation" for a reason, and something that is "revealed" is not hidden.  Chapter 1:3 says, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it."  A blessing would not be pronounced upon the readers and hearers if they could not understand it. And if we are to "keep those things which are written in it," we are in dire straits if comprehension is impossible.  The book was meant to be a blessing to God's people--the verse above says so--and believe me, when properly understood, Revelation is one of the most beautiful and comforting texts in all the Bible.  It's just a tragedy that the book has been twisted out of shape so badly that most people are almost unalterably confused by it.

Part of the problem with understanding Revelation is that it is of a genre of literature called "apocalyptic," which was very popular in John's day, but wholly unknown to us.  Since John's readers were familiar with it, they understood his meanings.  One of the first things I will do in these posts is explain apocalyptic literature; that will help significantly.

Like every other Biblical book, if we are going to get as full an understanding as possible of Revelation, we must know something of the historical context in which it was written.  You simply cannot divorce ANY book from its historical circumstances, and many have done that with Revelation.  It is, in all honesty, an absolutely fatal error.  I'll discuss that as well.

These background studies are important and I'll start into them in my next post.  Just to whet your appetite a little, we will discover in our study of Revelation that there is no such creature as "The Antichrist," no literal Battle of Armageddon (unless it's going to be led by three frogs), and no 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth.  The great lesson we will learn is that what was lost in Genesis 3--access to the tree of life--will be restored in Revelation 22, IF we will be "faithful unto death" (Rev. 2:10).