Chapter 1 of
"Revelation: Its Ongoing Relevancy and Fulfillment"
Initial considerations for the
study of Revelation
The Great Value of Revelation
for anyone who reads, hears, and obeys it.
Many, many people who read Revelation, though it be only a small portion, are of the opinion that the book is simply too difficult to understand, even completely indecipherable in the parts that are highly metaphorical. In their reading or studying, they quickly become discouraged when they confront so many exotic rhetorical figures. Then we hear exclamations such as:
“Reading or studying that book is a waste of time!”
“I looked at 2 or 3 videos on Revelation, also read a few articles, and it seems like hardly any two commentators, teachers, or preachers agree on the interpretation of the book.”
To be sure, the book merits being placed in the category of “things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction,” as Peter says about some things in Paul’s letters, and I think of Romans, chapters 3, 9, and 11, about as “hard to understand” as some parts of Revelation. Nevertheless, from Revelation 1:3 forward the importance and value of the book for the reader, hearer, and doer are stated and emphasized repeatedly, and, therefore, it is definitely to be inferred that understanding it is not totally impossible. Let us consider:
1. Revelation 1:3. “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…” Did you pay careful attention? Reading the words of this prophecy, hearing them, and taking them to heart brings blessings!
But how can those blessings be received if almost all the book is, according to the evaluation of many, a mystery wrapped in an enigma?
How can one “take to heart what is written” in Revelation if most of the book is incomprehensible?
What logic would there be in God’s giving the Revelation “to show his servants what
must soon take place” if the “what” cannot be understood? This is not to say the most minute detail would have to be fully and perfectly understood, but, surely at least the broad strokes of the prophecies. And more than just the 7 letters to the 7 churches in the province of Asia for the “what” is about that which “must soon take place,” even for those 7 churches.
2. Revelation 22:7 and 9. “BLESSED is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
Instructively, the angel that showed the apostle John “what must soon take place” identifies himself, saying: “I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll.” Revelation 22:9. So then, at least some of God’s angels know the content of Revelation for they participated in revealing it to John and it is inferred that they themselves also act in harmony with it. They “keep” what is in it for them to “keep.” They obey God in the execution of its fulfillment. Recapitulating: How can human beings, or even the angels, keep the words if they cannot understand them?
3. Revelation 22:16. Revelation was given by God as a “testimony… for the churches.” However, if this “testimony” is not understandable, with what logic would it be given “for the churches?”
4. Revelation 19:10. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This means, I understand, that “prophecy,” and, by inference, its real and faithful fulfillment, figure notably in the “testimony” that Jesus gives “for the churches,” and, also, as orientation and warning for every person who does not know and follow the God of “this prophecy.”
However, this “testimony of Jesus” would only bring confusion, even ridicule, if it is found to be totally, or almost totally incomprehensible. It would produce the same effect as speaking in a “strange tongue,” without an interpreter, in the presence of people who did not understand it. “…will they not say that you are out of your mind?” Of course, they will! 1 Corinthians 14:9-11, 27-28
That foolish error is exactly what some were committing in Corinth, Greece in the first century. Repeating it on a grand scale around the world today millions of “charismatic and Pentecostal Christians,” who are reproached and ridiculed with the same exclamation: “You are out of your minds!” And so, even mature, authentic Christians, together with their “sound doctrine,” are also summarily rejected by non-Christians who have no knowledge of that pure “doctrine of Christ.” 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1; 2 John 1:9-11
Non-Christians around the world, about 75% of the population, may also add “Revelation” to their reasons for not changing if Christians themselves go around saying: “Revelation is indecipherable. A waste of time to read and study it. Of almost no value.” To which the non-Christian responds: “What! Do you talk that way about one of your sacred writings? And you want me to take you Christians seriously?”
Click here for an in-depth study on the declaration: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Conclusion. In the light of these texts, it appears to me not only reasonable and beneficial but also absolutely necessary to scrutinize the book of Revelation assiduously and patiently. Farther still, to do it as a duty implicitly imposed by God, the giver of “this prophecy.”
It is due to this conviction that I have been striving for a long time to fulfill what I perceive as “my personal duty to understand, to the highest degree possible, the prophecies and visions of the book,” without neglecting other vital areas of spiritual knowledge.
Esteemed friend, I would respectfully encourage you to do the same.
Personally, I have been able to confirm that Revelation really is, at least it has become so for me, a very rich and varied
treasure. Examining it slowly, reading it over and over, objectively, laying aside preconceived notions, even traditional interpretations, exploring, visualizing, going deeper, learning, acquiring ever more knowledge of secular and religious history, making it mine, and not just what others have said it to be… all this, and more, including much prayer for understanding, redounds in extremely valuable blessings, among them: That of certifying the veracity of the book.
And this very certification is attained when we witness the unquestionable fulfillment of the prophecies projected for the times in which we live, as well as verify the astonishing fulfillment of the prophecies and visions given for previous periods of the Christian Age (Common Age) such as the Medieval Age and the Reformation.
It is precisely in this context that Revelation is, effectively, “the prophetic message… completely reliable.” Or “…a more sure word of prophecy,” as some translations render 2 Peter 1:19.