Briefing 11’s Introduction to the Book of Revelation draws to a close by its author, Neil Mackereth, stating “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…” He reminds us, “The Bible explains that two absolute powers or principles operate in the universe…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”.:
OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
The Prologue provides essential information for understanding the meaning and structure of the Book of Revelation. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Rev. 1:1–2).
Apostle John conveys to his first-century readers the unveiling of Jesus. It’s something like the showing of a video of a Monarch and his court. The Book of Revelation is written for Christians who understand the language of a faith unique to Christian experience. But given the complexity of the metaphors and images, even “insiders” have difficulty understanding Revelation. However, anyone can grasp the basic message: Jesus is going to return to earth, overthrow Satan’s evil empire, reward his faithful followers, punish those who reject his Lordship, and create a new heaven and a new earth.
From the very start, it is abundantly clear that God holds the Book of Revelation to be of paramount importance.
Revelation continues with 7 letters dictated by Jesus to John for distribution to the churches at: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. The letters, which summarise positive and negative aspects of these representative churches, have stood the test of time. They were written over 1,900 years ago but signpost conditions and circumstances that continue to exist in churches today.
The pattern of the letters is fairly consistent. Each is addressed to a specific church, followed by a particular characteristic of Jesus. Then comes positive comments (none for Sardis or Laodicea) and negative comments (none for Smyrna or Philadelphia), and advice to each. The letters close with an entreaty that the readers will open their ears and hear, and with a promise to ‘overcomers’, which is different for each church.
These letters are relatively straightforward and understandable (which is not to say that we shouldn’t look for help to “unpack” their full meaning!).
From chapter 4 onwards we move into an altogether more challenging series of visions that are filled with symbolism, allegories, metaphors, imagery and other such figures of speech and apocryphal language: to try to interpret the Book literally would be to miss its meaning. Some scholars argue that there are seven visions each of which is linked to a matching day in the seven days of creation in Genesis (ie. that the order of events links the beginning with the end).
The timing and sequence of events can be difficult to follow. This is in part because the very act of writing things down gives them an order that may not be intended. Some of the actions recorded are clearly happening simultaneously.
I have the impression that John (Jesus’ scribe) is seeing visions on a huge scale (like vast paintings) and trying to scribble down what catches his eye, without necessarily having time to arrange and classify the information. It is clear that there are two or three sections that are digressions or parentheses from the central narrative.
Furthermore, the unusual style, which is not in character with John’s other writings, may have remained ‘unedited’ because of the very strong warning against alteration given in Rev. 22: 18-19. These verses show us again that Revelation is both unique and of huge significance: no other book of the Bible has such a ‘health warning’!
In simple terms, Revelation shows that:
- Things on earth are not right and the Church is not as it should be (Rev. 2 & 3);
- Things in heaven are right: God is on His throne and Jesus is the overseer and leader for the End-Time plan and action (Rev. 4 & 5);
- The world will suffer great tribulation for 3½ years, under the unholy trinity of Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet (Rev. 6-18);
- Jesus will return as King of kings and Lord of lords, defeat the armies of the unholy trinity and establish His rule on the earth for a thousand years. The Day of Judgement will be at the end of the millennium rule, followed by the ushering in of the new heaven, new Earth and new Jerusalem (Rev. 19-22).
Neil Mackereth 21 May 2020