End-Times Briefing 11: an intro’ to the Book of Revelation

It’s now time to expand upon Briefing 3’s listing of Signs from the Gospel accounts and Paul’s letters by considering ‘The Apocalypse’, as in the annexures to Neil Mackereth’s paper dated 21st May: Simplicity.  First, recall Apostle John’s opening remarks on its awesome origin, along with benediction (Young’s Literal Translation – in Greek here):

A revelation of Jesus Christ, that God gave to him, to shew to his servants what things it behoveth to come to pass quickly; and he did signify [it], having sent through his messenger to his servant John, who did testify the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, as many things also as he did see. Happy is he who is reading, and those hearing, the words of the prophecy, and keeping the things written in it — for the time is nigh!

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION

The challenge in introducing Revelation to a new audience, or to infrequent readers of the book, is twofold: how do we make sense of this strange book; and how do we overcome longstanding antipathy to it, which, unfortunately, is often reinforced by those who should be explaining its message. I want to describe what apocalyptic literature is and to provide a basic overview of what Revelation is about.

The Bible, at its opening, quickly moves to the fall of man and the success of Satan. Then follows God’s sovereign selection of His chosen people Israel, the story of their triumphs, failures, trials and tribulations up to the first coming of Christ.  The New Testament describes Jesus’ life and role as Redeemer King, His death, resurrection and ascension to heaven.  At the close of the Bible, Jesus returns, Satan is overthrown and his followers are defeated.  Without the Book of Revelation, the story would be incomplete.

First, I believe it is essential to consider what the writer’s mindset might have been, if we are to have any hope of untangling and understanding the book’s mysteries.

The Hebrew Mindset

Those who first taught me Bible truths encouraged me to read the Bible with integrity, in context and with a Hebrew mindset. I felt confident about the context and integrity aspects but, in the past, rather glossed over the “mindset” factor.

Recently, whilst meditating on the concept of divine control, I had a distinct feeling that I should address the mindset question far more rigorously. As I have come to understand it, there are three main types of mindset, and each will lead to a different world view:

  1. Barbarian: Tyrannical “strong man” rule based on control by fear. Typically, a ruthless dictator using extreme force to subjugate. Examples of the Barbarian mindset include ISIS, the Taliban, the Church during the Inquisition, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, North Korea and so on.
  2. Greek: Man-centric democratic rule based on the concept that human reason reigns supreme and that the application of intellect and logic can bring about a utopian liberal society. Ours is the pride, power and glory, there is no need for God. Knowledge is power and anything that cannot be comprehended is ignored. Examples include USA, UK, most European countries and communist nations.
  3. Hebrew: God-centric (Theocracy) based on acknowledgement of God’s existence and His absolute power and authority. A biblical way of thinking and acting that is Holy Spirit lead. Standards based on the Torah which guides moral values of right and wrong, holy and unholy. Examples here are more difficult. Historically, the Jewish nation had a Hebrew mindset. However, the new Israel, post 1948, is much more secular. There are undoubtably people groups and individuals who have a Hebrew mindset; but no nation.

The various mindsets do not necessarily operate in isolation. Barbarian groups may work within a democracy and vice versa.  Also, to state the obvious, Bible believing committed Christians may live in democracies or in totalitarian states.

Why is it important?

If we don’t put God at the centre in our Christian walk and our Bible study, we will live on the fringes of what is available to us (Proverbs 3:5,13; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 1; 1 John 5: 13-15; etc.).

When considering the Book of Revelation, we need to overcome centuries of ‘Greek World-View’ interpretations and analyses that seek to apply logic and to deny or ignore any supernatural implications. Recently, it was made clear to me that the word ‘theological’ is a one-word oxymoron (contradiction in terms) implying that God can be explained by some logical process. We can learn a huge amount by a systematic approach to the study of theology, but the mystery remains and there comes a point where only faith and God-given spiritual discernment can help us.

God is in control and is shaking the foundations of our man-made democratic systems and liberal world view. I am convinced that churches which adopt the Greek mindset, and only operate in what they understand, will not see miracles. That is not to say that individuals with a Hebrew mindset within those churches won’t see miracles. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear will recognise that the weaknesses of democracy are being exposed.

BACK TO REVELATION

The word Revelation is synonymous with the word ‘Apocalypse’, which means unveiling or revealing. The Book of Revelation is so called because it reveals the glory of Jesus, and unveils God’s End-Time plan. Because of its “end of the world” association, the meaning of the word apocalypse has come to be used as a descriptive noun that denotes damage or destruction on a catastrophic scale.

John wrote the book of Revelation during the era of apocalypticism. This rather daunting word is more about how we view things than being a clearly definable literary style or type. There are historic plays and dramatic writings of the period, between 200 BC to 200 AD, that share some common literary themes with Revelation. Apocalypticism involves a view of reality where there is a disclosing, unveiling, or revealing of something that was previously hidden or secret. Put another way, when John was writing, an apocalypse would have been understood as a public disclosure of something that had previously been kept secret.

In a dream or trance-like state, John is transported to heaven and is given a conducted tour of God’s headquarters. There he gains some insights into the workings of heavenly realms and God’s operations room, and their interaction with the worldly realm. He sees and is briefed on various aspects of God’s End-Times plan, including some classified information which he is told he is not to reveal. For most of his tour he has an angelic guide who explains the meaning of the events and visions that John is witnessing.

The idea of an angelic mentor is not unique to Revelation. The books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah have apocalyptic passages where angels provide commentary (Ezekiel 40:3–4, 43:6–27; Daniel 7:15–28, 8:15–27, 10:10–21; Zechariah 1:9–2:13, 4:1–6:15).

Further to this point, for a full appreciation of End-Times prophecy it is necessary to study a wide range of Old Testament prophetic books and New Testament scriptures. Revelation draws together many threads of End-Times prophetic writing. For example, the description of the antichrist given in Daniel 9 is developed more fully in Revelation 13.  Similarly, the apocalyptical threads in Daniel 7-12, Isaiah 24-27, Ezekiel 37-41 and Zechariah 9-12 are all drawn together in Revelation.  In other words, I don’t think that Revelation can be studied in isolation. Some theologians go so far as to suggest that the whole Bible could be studied (reverse-studied!) from Revelation: to which I would comment; such an undertaking would not be for the faint-hearted!

Apocalyptic works seek to inform the reader about aspects of an End-Times drama. The grand climax of the Bible is imminent — that is to say, it could happen at any moment. As the prologue of Revelation explains, “The time is near” (1:3). The Bible explains that two absolute powers or principles operate in the universe. A fundamental divide exists between good and evil. In the book of Revelation (and the whole Bible), God himself is the ultimate source of all that is good; Satan and his followers refuse to submit to God and are the ultimate source of evil. This ethical dichotomy underlies the conflict within the book of Revelation.

Neil Mackereth, 21 May 2020

Next, we look at Neil’s overview of The Book of Revelation >>

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