How to Approach the Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation is often viewed through the lens of apocalyptic allegory – as if only a select few can understand its hidden meanings, and that only with a special decoder ring or end-time chart.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ is actually a letter. The aged Apostle John had been banished to the Island of Patmos for his proclamation of Jesus Christ. While there he received a vision(s) from God, revealing many things regarding “what was” (the past), “what is” (the present), and “what is to come” (the future).
John, a father in the faith, an elder, an apostle to seven different city-churches, began his letter by declaring this to be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” – not the unveiling and “decoding” of the end of time and earth, but the unveiling of the Person and authority of Jesus himself.
John describes Jesus as “walking among the lamp stands” and then explains that to be a picture of Jesus walking among the seven churches, knowing them intimately, and desiring to speak to them personally.
Then John, serving as a scribe and mouthpiece for Jesus, declares to each church a personalized message from the Head of the Church. Each pastor (John refers to them as “angels” or messengers) had the privilege to see the entire letter, including the parts that were personalized to the other churches.
A significant hinge point of John’s letter occurs in Revelation 5:
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (Revelation 5:1-6 NKJV)
In his vision John was taken back in time. The aged apostle suddenly found himself looking at a familiar memory from an altogether foreign perspective. It was the day of death. The day that John had stood at the foot of the cross, holding Mary as they watched her Son give his final breath, declaring, “It is finished.” John had never mourned as he did the day his Savior died.
Whereas the young John had looked upon the cross from earth’s perspective (John 19:26-27), the elder John was about to see the same event from the vantage point of Heaven (Revelation 5).
God the Father was seated on His throne, a scroll in his right hand. On the scroll was His last will and testament. God’s will for the earth had not yet been realized. Death and disease, sin and strongholds were rampant, and mankind was bound. God’s will was sealed up and could not be opened and released on the earth. No one was worthy to open and enact God’s will for mankind.
Just then a most powerful occurrence took place on earth. God’s Son, who had taken on the form of a man, had given His life for mankind.
Through his tears John looked across Heaven’s throne room and saw Jesus. Immediately John’s mind was flooded with memories of the brutality of the crucifixion, and the horror of Jesus’ nearly unrecognizable body hanging on the cross. John’s memories were limited to his earthly perspective, but now he was seeing what Heaven saw that day.
Standing there in the midst of the throne room was Jesus – the Lamb who had just been sacrificed, whose blood had atoned for man’s sin.
John watched as Jesus approached His Father.
Heaven fell silent as His scarred hands reached out for the scroll. The Father was pleased.
With the breaking of each of the seven seals came the realization that Jesus had been found worthy. God’s will for mankind could finally be realized. Redemption and healing were immediately released, as well as judgment for every demonic being who had held earth captive for so long.
A will is just a piece of paper until the testator dies. Then it’s words become reality. God’s last will and testament could finally be read, and would finally be released, all because God was willing to die.
The rest of John’s letter describes the depth of God’s love for man and the gravity of judgment awaiting the kingdom of darkness. He tells of the salvation, redemption, patience, and ultimate victory of the saints, while also warning of the impending catastrophe on rebelliousness and lawlessness. All the earth will be weighed on the scales of justice, and righteousness will prevail.
John’s letter must never be viewed so narrowly as to accommodate our end-time charts; he penned his Revelation of Jesus Christ so we could recognize and worship Jesus, the Head and Builder of the church, and the Savior of all mankind.