Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching for a while, and I'm working through Revelation here. My YouTube videos are currently short studies in Matthew, and at present I'm posting videos on Revelation as well. Both appear on the blog, which is turning into a Vlog. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Revelation is not so hard, part 2

Any time we look at the structure of a Bible book, we have to first identify what that book is--in other words, what kind of book it is. Some of the Bible is narrative.  Some is argumentative (logical); some is revelatory, as in the prophets; some is worship; other parts of the Bible are "Wisdom literature"--a book that tells us how to live.  Finally, there is the kind of material that is composed of visions, things that the prophets saw, and which they try to tell us.  One of the most famous, and most difficult, is Ezekiel's vision of the throne of God, with its Cherubim and wheels, and so forth.  The book of Revelation is a series of connected visions--connected by one major purpose--to show us how God will defeat Satan and all evil, establish His Kingdom on earth, and eventually unite earth and heaven. These are the things that John saw. He's not making these things up.  God took him to the future and showed him.  How did that work? We don't know. We DO know that John saw lots of details that he could only describe as "it was like this;" for example, locusts that have the faces of lions and have scorpions' tails; unclean spirits like frogs.  A giant dragon. A star that falls to the earth.  A burning mountain.  Rivers of blood. The sun disappearing.
It's quite clear that this time in the future is unique.  Nothing like this has happened before, and it will not happen again.

However, this is not what makes Revelation appear difficult to understand.  What makes it seem tough to understand is that we feel compelled to explain things that haven't happened yet, and to speculate when we simply don't know. Since nobody will ever completely agree about these things until they happen, Revelation seems like a locked book, with entire cults built on "their" interpretation of it.
So the first thing to do is to see where Revelation starts, and then where it ends.
Revelation starts at the end of the first century.
It ends with the "new heavens and new earth" that God will establish.  That's where this is all headed. Lots of questions remain about what happens in between.
However, the structure of the book is really pretty transparent, so the next thing to do is find the major outline points.
Revelation centers around the opening of a seven sealed scroll, with the "opener" being the "Lamb of God" (one of John's names for Jesus). If you're a Bible marker, I'd suggest that you go through the book of Revelation and place a mark at each place where the Lamb opens a seal.  That will give you the basic structure.  There's lots more--but the seals, and what happens when He opens them,  are the superstructure of the book.  In the coming posts, I'll help you ferret out the rest of the structure, and see what's happening throughout the book.
Remember, a great deal of the mischief that's been done in the interpretation of this book has been done because the people who study it have attempted to do one of two things:

  1. Impose their own views on the book, so that it says what they want it to say.  Usually, this imposition has taken the form of, "Who gets to go into heaven?" (Paradise), and the answer is always, "Only people who follow ME..." (or, MY church or cult). Recent history is rife with people deciding that their leader has "the special knowledge" that enables him to interpret Revelation, and lead only his followers to heaven. Sometimes this issues in a relatively harmless delusion, other times it results in a disaster where people die in some spectacular fashion, and sometimes it comes about that people are convinced of the day of Jesus' return, sell everything, go to a mountain and wait, and get terribly disappointed when God doesn't follow their directions.
  2. Try to understand more than we can understand right now.  These things will become apparent when they happen, and when God wants us to understand them, and not before.  
Having said that, we can know quite a bit about Revelation by looking at some other passages, and comparing them with the structure of Revelation to see how everything fits.  We just have to be careful that we don't use our hammers to drive the square pegs of everything else in the Bible into the round holes of Revelation.

A final word to consider:
The purpose  of Revelation is to show you the things which must shortly come to pass, but the overriding purpose of all the Bible is to bring you into real contact with God.  God's greatest desire is for you to meet Him as your Friend and Lord.  The message of Revelation is that God controls the future.  You should be in that future, with Him forever. You can be.