Revelation is one of the hardest books in the Bible to understand. It’s full of strange images and at times just doesn’t seem to make sense. The book has so many references to the rest of the Bible that in many ways it need not have been written at all. Neither Martin Luther nor John Calvin liked the book. Calvin even refused to write a commentary on it. Some people dismiss the book entirely, for others the complexity of Revelation turns them off reading it, thinking ‘it is just too difficult’ and so they never open it up. Then there are also people who can’t read it enough. These people are almost so captivated in trying to work everything in the book out that they neglect reading other parts of the Bible. All three of these approaches to Revelation are not healthy. They lead to an imbalance by either ignoring the book or ignoring the rest of the Bible. How should we approach the book in ways that lead us to worship God more?
The Left Behind book series was released when I was a teenager. I loved reading the books. I bought each one as they were brought out, each time beginning the entire series again. I enjoyed the stories and was caught up in the characters. This wasn’t a bad thing except that I was more enthusiastic about reading them than the Bible. Further I believed everything the books were saying. This effectively meant that for me the book of Revelation was a plan for what would happen when Jesus came back. It was simply an outline, a puzzle that could be arranged. Now I don’t believe that this was the best way to approach Revelation.
Let the main thing be the main thing.
There are different viewpoints people use to understand Revelation. I might look at these in another blog, but no matter which viewpoint you take the main point of the book is still the same. The book does not exist to give ‘those in the know’ the ability to know when Jesus will return. Jesus says no one knows when this will be. If this is why you read Revelation, you need to give up. You will not know.
The main picture of the book is to show believers that Jesus, the crucified but risen Son of God, is sitting on the throne of Heaven and reigning. Whether Revelation is understood in past, present or future terms, it is fairly bad reading. The images are of natural disasters, illnesses, wars, martyrdom and suffering. The good thing is that not only is Jesus in control but he is returning to set all things right again! How encouraging is this!
When our focus is trying to work out every minute detail we miss the whole point. We all experience struggle but Revelation gives us hope because it shows us that Jesus is in control. This may not make it easier but we can endure knowing that one day he will right all wrongs and make all things new.