Introduction to the Book of Revelation, PI

Have you ever wondered what the book of Revelation is all about?

Minus the nonsense and feeble theories we theologians (not to mention the sensationalists) seem to come up with, what is its purpose for you now concerning how you live and lead your life? Revelation is a much debated and often misunderstood book. It seems foreboding and unattainable to some, while being over-simplified and twisted by others. But, it does have honest, truthful, and literal meanings for us now. And, simply put, we can know about Revelation, as it is about God’s power and purpose and how His plan will come about in our lives now and in a time to come.

Revelation is and has been the most controversial and difficult to understand book of the Bible. It has met its readers and redactors with suspensions, fears, and apprehension, as well as with excitement that fascinates and at the same time both confounds and awes us.

Why is this so? Revelation is unique; it is not Gospel, nor is it instruction and doctrine, although it contains all of these. It is poetic with seemly vague and elusive imagery that has sustained suffering Christians in all generations with consolation, encouragement, and hope as well as warnings of how things are and of things that are to come. Revelation and its truth are as precious and timeless as the rest of Scripture, if not even more so (Rev.1:9; 22:16).

This is a very difficult book to interpret and many gifted scholars over the centuries have taken very different views of it. This has cased divisions and conflicts that were needless and without purpose that, ironically, only served to give glory to the devil‘s ways while distracting us from its main purpose. To escalate this, many current sensationalists like to reinterpret Revelation to fit the latest news headlines and their own whims. Thus, I do not take my venture into Revelation lightly. In fact, having studied this book intensely for over 25 years in addition to all my degrees, readings, research, and experience has not prepared me for this quest. To think otherwise would be significantly arrogant. I approach this study as a fellow learner and as a humble student as I would with any of God’s beloved books.

My intention here is to stimulate your thinking and provide you with an honest and open look in to the book of Revelation from an Exegetical and Inductive perspective. I seek to honor the science and art of careful biblical interpretation and analysis. We will discover that John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has given us something that is very important and clear for us to understand today, not just in the future.

That means I will seek to come to the text without preconceived, theological agendas or personal, eschatological viewpoints.

Rather, I will be carefully researching word meanings and historical examination as well as context and comparing with other passages in Daniel, Ezekiel, and the teaching of our Lord from the Gospels. Besides, you may discover that Revelation has a deeper purpose for us today on how to watch, build, manage, and do our churches better! Thus, I will not sate the usual viewpoints and trends of the day, try to argue my view, or twist Scripture to fit my theological education or denominational agendas. Rather, my aim is to challenge the current thinking by seeking facts and honestly examining what God’s inerrant Word says in context and in truth.

Thus, my other intention is to challenge myself and perhaps your thinking, too, concerning end time events and theories and to seek sound reason and Scripture, not myths, traditions, or popular theorems.

However, I want to state up front that whatever theory to which you or I subscribe is not as important as our love for the Lord and our desire for authentic spiritual growth. These are the things that are truly and eternally important! Arguing over conjecture or spurious, elusive doctrine does not bring glory to Christ; it only proves Satan!

Warning: a lot of Christian writers love to embellish on this subject and give their own version of what will happen. But, the scores of books that have been written in the last hundred years have not panned out in their theories. It is “their” theories, not ones based on fact or careful study of Scripture. The Bible clearly tells us we do not have access to that information, for no one will know the time… (Mark 13:14-37).

My Journey in Eschatology

I firmly believed in the classic dispensational view, a rapture, a seven year tribulation and Millennial reign of Christ. It was fact to me without question and a hill I would die upon—until someone challenged my on it. My very own high school youth group to whom I was teaching Revelation, kept asking me where is that? I do not see it! This does not make sense. And I could not answer their questions. I knew how to study the Bible but I was not using my own tools for Revelation or Matthew chapter twenty-four. Instead, I was relying on my prized possession a 1940’s edition of The Scofield Study Bible I received from one of my mentors, my favorite commentaries, one by Dr. John Walvoord and the other by Frank Gaebelein, not to mention I had also mostly memorized Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth. But I could not defend my positions biblically; I could only quote those who held that view. I just assumed I just did not get it and they did. So I decided to just read the Book of Revelation without reading my views into it, as many of us naturally do. I kept doing this for over ten years. During the same time, I had a run-in with one of my seminary professors about the Rapture who said none of this was biblical. I thought he was crazy; how could it not be biblical? What about all the great people who teach this, such as Ironside, Wiersbe, and Walter Martin to name a few, plus my mentor Ray Steadman who introduced me to Scofield and Darby.

So, I engaged this subject wholeheartedly; I wanted to see for myself. I read all the passages and the books, yet I could not find anything in the Bible where we could get a Rapture view or any declension of that view, or any of the classic dispensational views I thought were fact. In fact, I could not find the popular ideas of others, taught by so many people as dogmatic and even essential doctrine. The passages that are used to support a rapture and a seven year tribulation said nothing to this.

People who I would consider great exegetes and godly men were teaching this; I asked why. Why were they producing so much of these particulars of nonsense?

Perhaps they were just like all of us; maybe they made mistakes at logic or interpretation, or did not do their homework well. Or, maybe they did what I did, just relied on others and my favorite teachers and take it as that. I couldn’t get what many poplar sensationalists were saying either. What most Christians now believe and what I believed at one time was not there in the Bible’s evidence bag. I could not find a seven-year tribulation, an antichrist as a particular person, or a rapture or the Millennial reign that most pastors preach on and the plot lines of many popular Christian Books. I found that you have to read these things into the Bible because it just is not there; all the passages that were claimed were taken out of their context and twisted, and meanings subscribed to them that were not there originally or in reality.

I was upset, mad, and confused that I had missed the point. So I decided to make this a Schaeffer Institute project and then spent over ten years of careful exegetical and inductive analysis of Revelation, Matthew chapter 24 and many other Eschatological passages before I would write on this publicly as I am now. I sought what they clearly said, not what I was taught they said, or what I wanted them to say or what was popular in my theological tradition. Then I took the four main theories and laid them out side by side next to an exegetical and inductive work into the Book of Revelation. I was careful not to read into it any presumptions, leaving it up to you, the reader, to make your own conclusion—the reason it took ten years.

Yes, this was tough and cost me a lot of sleepless nights and struggles and over fifteen years to look at what I thought I already knew so well. This brought me to what real Biblical Eschatology is, to end times from what the Bible clearly speaks on.

More fads of End Times

Another fad we tend to chase is trends on how to lead and manage His Church. Most of these are like chasing the harlot while ignoring the beckoning of Christ and His Way. We seek to water down His Holy Word to attract people—just as the devil manipulates people to trick them to his ways. All the while, we are called to disciple, teach, and worship Christ as Lord…and do it His Way. People have lost all of their positions, left churches in disgust when it did not happen, and have left a blight in Christianity.

This is out-of-control eschatological thinking, and can be a real threat to the peace and stability of our nation and world.

Being a harlot in Revelation means we are engaged in and promoting apostasy! What about factions, gossip, and pride? These are the things that God hates the most and cause the greatest destruction to any given church—something even Satan himself could never do. Point? We are the real enemy of enmity, our sins building and conniving and converging upon one another as we chase our theories and ignore Christ and His supremacy, precepts, and call. When we fight amongst ourselves and chase trends that are contrary to Christ, His call, and His commands, we are the antichrist of John’s Epistles! Just look up the word antichrist in a concordance, and read the passages associated to it! By the way, it is not in Revelation (Rev. 2:18-29; 14:6-13; 17:1-18; 18:1-24; 19:1-10; 1 John 2:17-23; 4:3; 2 John 1: 6-8)!

God is calling you and me—those who lead and pastor churches, who influence people in the church, who sit on committees, teach, or like to flee from manipulating and gossiping or making up sensationalism behind the scenes—to wake up and SEEK HIM, not ourselves or ideas or plans or trends!

The Apocalypse?

What is the Apocalypse? The end of all things?! This must mean scary, foreboding, calamity beyond measure; right? Well most people think so; Hollywood and its “B” movies think so as do many TV preachers. But is that a reality from in the Bible?

Let’s take a look at the word that started it all, Revelation; it is from the Greek title word “apokalypsis,” where we get the term “The Apocalypse.” This means the “discourser of events,” as opposed to something secret or hidden. It is meant to inspire and encourage those in sufferings to have hope and faith in Christ and to keep loyal to Him and not bow to evil or ones situation. Thus, even though Revelation is symbolic in places, it is not hidden to us when we take an honest look and compare it to other Scriptures rather than trends, false teachers, sensationalists or newspapers. This is also something not to be feared; rather it is to instill in us hope and encouragement. It also means an uncovering, an unveiling or, as we have it in the English, a Revelation. The other title that has been used is “The Apocalypse,” this is the English rendering of the Greek.

Thus, the Apocalypse and the Book of Revelation is a book of hope and disclosure of John’s seven visions to his seven churches and God’s exhortations; hence, this is why sometimes it is rendered in the plural, Revelations. It is all about showing us God’s love and hope—not about a detailed account of what will happen; it is not meant to scare us but to inspire us (Judges 6:11-23; Dan. 7:16; 10:5-21).

Correct Eschatology is also about Prophecy that points toward God’s revelation, and which contains visions of future events. What is this to be for us? To have wild theorems that lead us nowhere except away from His Truth? No! Most people get this very wrong. Biblical Eschatology is seeing End Times as all about God helping us fortify our faith and remain faithful (Isa. 1:1; Jer. 1:1; Hosea 1:1; Rev. 19:10; 22:7-19).

The purpose and intent of Biblical Eschatology is to excite us about the promises of our Lord Christ and challenge us to get ready by our perseverance of faith in Him. We are to long for Him, but not only that; we are to know Him and seek Him with prayer, study, and fellowship so we will grow in Him. If not, we may be the ones on the outside of His love and care—both now and for eternity.

Even though it has upset a lot of people because many just do not get it, remember this point: Revelation itself is not just about eschatology; it is about doing life right, being loyal to Christ, and growing in faith. This is what is most important and effectual. It is a manifesto on encouragement and a challenge to live a life of “true spirituality” so we will know what to do in all times and in all situations, whether it be in tribulations or in times of triumph. This is what correct Eschatology always points to, not our fanciful theories that only distract us and the people whom we lead from effective church leadership and effectual spiritual growth.

What Will Happen?

Jesus is coming back and it will be beyond spectacular that no words can fully describe! By the way, I think Darby did a great job showing this excitement in eschatological passages even though he has made many exegetical errors. But, the practice of Biblical Eschatology is not just about what will happen in the future, but also what is happening now with the practice of our faith and how we lead our churches. We are called to open our eyes to His wonder and worship Him only¾not our ways or trends, and not our pride or feelings. Eschatology also applies more about His Church and that we run it His way, worshipping Him alone. Church and worship are not about what we feel we need or desire; rather, they are about Christ and what He intends. God does not give us an eschatology that is always nice and neat, all wrapped up in a stage-by-stage, play-by-play plan. Eschatological passages such as in Revelation give us a carrot on a stick, as God tells us everything is going to be OK, and here is My plan. Do not worry or fret over the details, just rely and trust on Me, I will be there!

Did you know that this Rapture is a “theory” that is only a hundred years old, and comes from people who expounded lots of false doctrine as well? Did you know that none of the most brilliant theological minds who ever lived—Augustine, Kempis, Calvin, Luther, and Spurgeon, to name a few—ever taught this?! Perhaps the information is true but we were not ready for it; perhaps it is all fantasy, allegory turned it into theology, which is a very dangerous and false practice!

Let us take a look into a common misunderstanding about the rapture. The phrase often associated with this from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 is caught up. This is a metaphor for meeting, as in catching up with your party (i.e. your group). Meeting in the air was a way to say dignitaries from a city, as a great honor, are meeting with emissaries from another city to escort them to a meeting. Sometimes this meant meeting half way like diplomats or generals of opposing armies in a neutral zone. It meant gathering people to join and/or meet with Jesus when He comes back as a “royal coming” (Matt. 24:27-31; Acts 17:7). This does not mean we get to fly up into the air. It may happen, but this passage as well as others that people use to support this theory, in context, clearly states otherwise. The application can denote that the assembled Church will come together to meet with Jesus physically or in some supernatural way that is yet undesignated. This does not diminish the excitement and wonder when Christ will come back and we get to meet with Him—far more excitement and hope than any convoluted theory could ever give! (I will have more on this in the article the Last Days Accordingly to Jesus and The Rapture, coming soon.)

Biblical, exegetical Eschatology shows us that Christ brings Heaven to us! He brings peace and a future to us who do not deserve it. Because of Him, we have hope and a future and most of all, we have Him—both now and forevermore! What is better than that?! There is nothing that could be a greater motivator and comfort than knowing for certain who Christ is, what He has done, and what place He has for you and me! Now, let us live our lives as if that were true—because it is true. And, keep in mind these powerful passages as well as John 14 in mind, as love and obedience are connected in Him!

Matthew chapter 24 verse 44 tells us,

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

The call of being ready is to know and be prepared by faith, to grow in our spiritual maturity, to develop godly character, and to be infused by the Spirit and His resulting Fruit. Simply put, it is for this reason that Christ is coming; and, in the meantime, we partake in the building of His Kingdom with the bricks of our faith, each one interlocking with another. How are your bricks being formed and baked?

Why are some Christians so greatly interested in chasing fads and so little interested in effectual truth?

Most in the literal camp are the futurists and dispensationalists who do not always do a good job at looking to context or word meanings or genres, which are essential for accurate Bible interpretation. In contrast, many in the non-literalist camp miss the point of the passages all together. Remember, a rapture, if or when or how it will come about, or even if it does not, an antichrist as a particular person coming to power, a seven-year tribulation and when and how it will take place, a Beast, whomever that is, and other such theories are man’s theories read into the text, and not necessarily taken from the text. What do we need to know? God does not always give us explanations to live by; He gives us His promises and His empowerment! God is most concerned with what these images represent—the “living water” from John 7:37-39. Christ is our substance, hope, and life that we are to live for now and that we will have forevermore. This is what makes us ready!

Do not be caught up with the “hype” of speculations; rather, be caught up with Christ. Do not ignore the veracity of Eschatology and Revelation. His Word is explicit; He tells us what we need to know and that is that. It is a tragedy to chase what is fleeting and miss His wonders and Truth! We have nothing to add to His Word and nothing to improve about it; rather, it is we who need to be approved.