Do you love the book of Revelation—or do you avoid it whenever possible? We seem to have a love/hate relationship with John’s writings, and it’s easy to see why. He’s confusing. The book is full of scary events. It’s controversial; many of us have strong opinions about what it all means, and we often don’t agree.
I admit, I wouldn’t read Revelation except that God tells us to. It’s the only book in the Bible you get a bribe reward for reading—“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. 1:3)
Most of the time, I don’t give the book of Revelation much thought. However, in just the last week it’s come up four times in various conversations and articles. Plus, the Holy Spirit seems to be prompting me in this direction. I just finished reading through the Gospels, and was trying to decide what to read next. I guess this is it.
I’ve participated in formal studies of Revelation several times in the many years I’ve been a believer. I’ve read Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson’s book, The Late, Great Planet Earth, along with most of the Left Behind series. While the specifics differ, especially since Lindsey and Carlson wrote over 40 years ago, they more or less agree on the generalities… Christians get raptured, life gets really hard, Satan looks like he’s winning, but Jesus comes back and claims His throne, beginning a millennial reign of justice and righteousness.
That was the only version I knew about until a Bible study I was in looked at three different interpretations. One was as described. Another claimed that believers would endure the Tribulation with the rest of the world, and then be raptured. And a third took the view that the whole thing already happened thousands of years ago, shortly after Jesus’ death. Whoa. Really?
Turns out that was only the beginning. It seems that everyone has their own idea. The John who wrote this book is—or is not—the same John who wrote the gospel and the three epistles that bear his name. (Some modern scholars believe there were three Johns—the apostle, the evangelist, and the one seeing visions.)
The vivid scenarios in John’s vision apply to all of history, or just the first century, or the future, or won’t actually happen—it’s simply an allegory of good and evil. Some believe that the earlier events foreshadow events still to come.
One couple was totally convinced that Revelation is a rehash of the Old Testament Jewish festivals. Are they right? I have no idea.
I learned that Revelation wasn’t always included in the New Testament. Even today, in spite of the verse I quoted above, the Eastern Orthodox Church exempts it from their yearly Scripture readings. So much for special blessings.
In short, this book was more controversial than I ever imagined.
I finally gave up and consigned the whole issue to “Questions I’ll Ask When I Get There.” (I have a lot of questions on that list!) It seemed more important to focus on present day issues, matters of character and holiness, getting to know God better and becoming more sensitive to His voice.
And now that voice wants me to read Revelation again. I’m praying for some Holy Spirit insight as I read. If I learn anything new, I’ll be sure to share.
Meanwhile, what’s your view? Are you a pre-, mid-, post-, or no-tribulation person? Is the world heading for an apocalyptic end? How sure are you of your interpretation?