You can find a one-year Bible reading plan here.
Revelation is an apocalypse, meaning an unveiling. The curtain is drawn back to show us eternal truths from a heavenly perspective. The unveiling is performed by Jesus, and it is about him. Revelation is also written in an apocalyptic style. This doesn’t mean it is only a story about the end of the world. Apocalyptic writing, like that in the book of Daniel, includes symbolism, dreams or visions, angelic interpreters, symbolic numbers, forecasts of the end times, and an expectation that this world will have to pass away to make room for a better future. So, from the beginning, we must remember that many of the images in Revelation are symbolic.
The book is also prophetic, proclaiming God’s word of truth about the present and the days to come. Finally, it is a letter written to be circulated among specific churches and then to the church at large. Any interpretation of the book must account for the fact that the letter had to mean something to the first century churches that first received it. Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy written as a circular letter, and we modern readers need to keep all three of these characteristics in mind as we interpret the book (see Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham).
Rather than obsessing over a schedule of future events, I urge you to read the book and hear it as a dramatic performance. Focus on the big picture first before diving into the details. Some of those big picture items that you should notice include:
- The heavenly perspective of the book. We are moved through space to an out of this world vantage point in order to give us God’s view of the world.
- The eternal perspective of the book. We see present events from the vantage point of the end of time when God judges the world and creates a new heaven and earth.
- The divinity of Jesus Christ, who shares with God the qualities of being Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and end.
- The victory of believers who overcome the world, not by escaping from it, but by witnessing to Jesus Christ through their suffering and death.
- The true nature of the world system (exemplified by Rome and symbolized by Babylon) which must be rejected because it is opposed to what is righteous and just.
The imagery of Revelation may be its most important quality. It creates a cohesive world or universe that we can picture and remember. It contrasts and ridicules the propaganda image put forward by the world system and in its place creates a map and story that paves the way for beleaguered believers to overcome. Though most of us would have a hard time detailing the words of Revelation, many of us both within and without the faith community will have no trouble recalling the images of the book. God on the throne, the four horsemen, the scroll being opened, the judgments poured out, the dragon, the two witnesses, Jesus riding to victory on a white horse, and so on. I think of these images as an inoculation that has prepared every generation to withstand the false promises of the world system. This vaccine for the imagination was most important to the early church which faced widespread persecution, but it remains vital for the church facing violence around the world today. As always, the twin dangers are to assimilate with the world system or to withdraw from it, but Revelation reveals the overcomer’s way: remain engaged despite the danger and win the world through the martyr’s witness.
About this blog
During 2020 I have posted weekly writings covering the material you would read during each week as you proceed from Genesis to Revelation in one year. And so for this week I have covered I John – Revelation 22. For your convenience here are the previous posts covering this week’s reading, but all the posts for each day’s reading are archived here on the Bible in a Year blog.
This concludes another year of reading and blogging through the Bible. I will be taking a break from this project, but you may continue to return here whenever you wish to read the archived posts that will give you a summary of each week and each day’s reading. May God’s word dwell in you richly!
Supporting the missionaries: 2 John, 3 John
Heaven and Earth: Revelation 4-8
Witnesses on earth; war in heaven: Revelation 11-12
The Mark of the Beast: Revelation 13
Babylon is fallen – the Lord Almighty reigns: Revelation 19