The Book of Revelation and Jesus

There is a lot of confusion about the Book of Revelation. Interpretations run the gamut. As with most things in the Bible, a straight-forward reading in context makes more sense. Here’s a simple breakdown addressing 5 high-level key questions.  

RevelationA young friend once told me that she would never read the Book of Revelation because “it scared her.” I asked her if she had ever tried. She said that it was “too hard for anyone to really understand anyway.”

This prompted a discussion about a Biblical view of Revelation that she had never heard. She left with a renewed sense of faith, wondering why this wasn’t taught in churches.

Good question.

Here is a breakdown of our discussion that answers 5 key questions that must be addressed in any review of the Book of Revelation:

1. Who was the Audience for the Revelation?
The vision (revelation) from Jesus Christ was given to the apostle John as a message to the early Christian churches at that time:

  • The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Rev 1:1-3)

The Christians in these early church communities were made up of both Jews and Gentiles who were now following “the New Way.” This letter of “the revelation” was passed around to the other Christian churches throughout the Roman empire as were most of Paul’s letters – copied and distributed for general instruction and encouragement to the early Church.

2. What was the Message of the Vision?
There is first a sense of urgency in a reproach and challenge to each of 7 churches in the province of Asia forewarning them of coming tribulation and judgment. The message was that a horrific calamity and God’s coming judgment was at hand. Jesus was “coming in the clouds” in final judgment against the Whore of Babylon, an ongoing Old Testament Hebrew reference to Israel’s disobedience. The vision is laden with Old Testament imagery and symbolic language aligned with the warnings from the Old Testament prophets. The judgment and final destruction and end of the [Jewish] age  would come against the great city Jerusalem who had rejected the Messiah even in their own midst (“Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”) 40 years or a generation earlier.

3. When were these Events Happening?
This was happening soon. Timing references are throughout: the events “must shortly take place” (1:1)“for the time is near” (1:3)“I am coming to you quickly” (2:16)“I am coming quickly” (2:11)“The third woe is coming quickly” (11:14)“The things which must shortly take place” (22:6), etc.

Jesus himself predicted the great judgment event in Luke 19 and Matthew 24 when speaking to his disciples in reference to Jerusalem:

  • As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
  • “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’  spoken of through the prophet Daniel [Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11] — let the reader understand — then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountainsLet no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! (Matthew 24:15-19)
  • Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:34)

In fact, within a generation (40 years), there was a three and a half year Roman-Jewish war that culminated in A.D. 70 with the Romans finally crushing the Jews, destroying the Jewish Temple, and leaving the city of Jerusalem desolate. Even secular historian Josephus commented: “the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they are compared to these of the Jews [at the destruction of Jerusalem], are not so considerable as they were” (Wars of the Jews, Preface, 4).

Over 1 million Jews were killed in the city as it was decimated. Because of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 24, the early Jewish Christians escaped Jerusalem when the Roman armies began to surround the city in siege.

4. How did this get so Misinterpreted?
John Nelson Darby developed an interpretation of Revelation called Dispensationalism in 1830 in England. His teaching was later made famous in America by Cyrus Scofield’s Scofield Reference Bible published in 1909 with this theory printed throughout the Bible as commentary; the first time commentary was allowed to be published with the Holy Scripture text. This reference Bible became the standard textbook in the 20th century for growing American seminaries (Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Theological Seminary, Talbot Seminary, Biola College, to name a few).

Consequently, many senior pastors in America have been educated and trained in common dispensational teaching elements like the Rapture, the 7-year Tribulation, the distinction of Israel and the Church, Temple rebuilding, the Anti-Christ, a literal 1000-year reignArmageddon, etc. Varying iterations have been further popularized in books by Hal Lindsey (Late Great Planet Earth), and Tim LaHaye (Left Behind series).

This is why the evangelical church is still divided on the topic. Over 40% of Americans believe that Jesus will return by the year 2050 (Pew Research). Many Christians still hold onto semblances of dispensational thinking with didactic and strident teachings about the “end times.”

5. What does it Mean for Me?
Don’t let the Book of Revelation scare you or let any information presented here in this post shake your faith. The Book of Revelation lays out a judgment-heavy indictment and punishment on apostate Israel. And with the destruction of the temple, priesthood, and animal sacrificial system, the Old Covenant age came to an end – the New Covenant was realized in all its fullness. The New Israel (the Christian Church made up of both Jews and Gentiles) was ushered in as the Kingdom Jesus spoke about, empowered with His Spirit (coming at Pentecost), though still operating in tandem with a worldly evil that is not yet removed. Such is our broken world, though now with a Redeemer, awaiting a final end and judgment (someday) and then a new heaven and a new earth (35 years or 3000+ years from now). In the meantime, there’s no escaping our full living here and now as lights in this Kingdom under His authority for as long as He desires.

It’s nothing more complex than that.

Do you know the source of your doctrinal beliefs?
_______________________________
“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.” – Matthew 24:3-4



Categories: Abundant Living, Church, Devotion, Discipleship, End Times, Evidence, Faith, Israel, Jesus, Prophecy, Purpose, The Church, Theology

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. There are several verses in Revelations that did not come to pass by A.D. 70
    Rev. 6:7-8 (the fourth seal). Although 1 million Jews died, 1/4 of the earth did not die through starvation and the use of force.
    Rev 6:9 (the fifth seal). The souls slain for the word and their testimony are Jews who converted to Christianity, and non-Jews who converted to Christianity. We need supporting evidence the 1 millions Jews who died were all Christians who died for professing their faith in Jesus.
    Rev 6:10-11. If Revelations has already been fulfilled, God would have already judged the earth and avenged the death of the 1 million Jews. We need examples of this judgment.
    Rev. 6:12 Did the sun become black as sackcloth in A.D. 70?
    Rev. 6:14 were mountains and islands moved in A.D. 70?
    Rev. 6:15-16 Did kings, rich people, and leaders hide in caves and ask rocks to fall on them to hide from God?
    Rev 8:7-9:4 Did a third of the trees burn? Have a third of all ships been destroyed? Have locusts been released who only attack those without the seal of God in their foreheads?

    There are many more like this in Revelations. Then there are other New Testament scriptures that discuss the “last days” before the end. Each day, we seem to be moving increasingly in the direction of fulfilling them, such as:

    Mat. 24:9-14
    Mat. 24:32-44
    Mat. 24:48-51
    2 Peter 3:1-18
    2 Timothy 3:1-9
    James 5:1-8

    Luke 21:7-19 even says when you hear of wars and commotion, don’t jump to the conclusion that the “last days” prophecy is fulfilled. It says in the true last days, you will be persecuted and brought before synagogues as well as to prison, and that even friends will turn against you.

    Apostate Israel has already been judged when their Messiah appeared before them and they rejected Him. The New Israel (as you call it) was created in the early church days when Christianity spread to the Gentiles, long before A.D. 70.

    In the true days before the end, even the most ardent followers of God will find it hard not to be deceived. (Mat. 24:23-24, Mk. 13:19-20).

    Finally, Luke 18:6-8, Mat 24:40-45, 1 Cor 12:14-25, and Rev. 2:19 reminds us that in the last days God will avenge the cry of the saints who cry out to Him, with a special emphasis on those considered to be “the least of these”, because God takes their offense personally. The Lord looks favorably when we bring honor to one another, and not ourselves. The last shall be first and the first shall be last, to prevent any schism in the body. This will be the fulfillment of end time prophecy.

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    • Thanks, Harry. Yes, lots of further details that can and will be addressed in future posts. Trying to build the case in bite-sized chunks that lay a foundation for shifting mindsets. I will though highlight a key point I make in this post that is tied to many of your questions: “The vision is laden with Old Testament imagery and symbolic language aligned with the warnings from the Old Testament prophets.” All prophetic imagery must be studied in light of Old Testament prophetic words, images, and references. Mixing the literal with the symbolic and metaphorical will lead to odd and wooden interpretations. God is very consistent throughout the Bible.

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  2. Thanks, Mike! I was unaware of the information you shared about the timing of dispensationalism and the Scofield Bible.

    I hope you and the family are doing well in your new God-given home. I miss Debbie!

    Marcia

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  3. Interesting interpretation of the Revelation centered on a transition from the Old to the New order, and linked to the historical events in the 1st century in Judea.

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  4. Hey Michael – Going through a very in-depth study integrating the Genesis-to-Revelation narrative, doctrine and apologetics for believers to live as thriving disciples of Christ. Particularly interesting is the study of the relationship between God and the Jewish people (and as it relates to this article) how much of the events described in Daniel, Thessalonians, Matthew, Revelation, etc is geared in a way that His chosen people (the Jews) would be fulfilling the purpose He originally designed for: to be his ‘priests’ here on earth. It’s been fascinating – check it out at https://interlocked.online/ and let me know what you think sometime. Blessings my friend!

    Like

  5. Hey Michael – Going through a very in-depth study integrating the Genesis-to-Revelation narrative, doctrine and apologetics for believers to live as thriving disciples of Christ. Particularly interesting is the study of the relationship between God and the Jewish people (and as it relates to this article) how much of the events described in Daniel, Thessalonians, Matthew, Revelation, etc is geared in a way that His chosen people (the Jews) would be fulfilling the purpose He originally designed for: to be his ‘priests’ here on earth. It’s been fascinating – check it out at https://interlocked.online/ and let me know what you think sometime. Blessings my friend!

    Like

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