We ascertain rather easily that the book of Revelation differs from the other books of the Bible. While the book compares in part to a few Old Testament books, it does not compare with them as a whole. Many ask, "What is the book of Revelation?"
We respond to the above question by saying, "It is the last book of the Bible." Man placed it at the end of the canon but this is its proper place for several important reasons. First, the Apocalypse reviews the entire scope of God's eternal purpose. Though none are quoted, from three to four hundred references are identifiable from Genesis through Malachi. Additionally, through the mind's eye, we can visualize the entire New Testament system. This would not be possible unless all of God's word had been revealed (cf.Revelation 5:1,7).
Second, the Revelation pictorially reveals things which would shortly be fulfilled (1:1; 22:7). The historical fulfillment of these events would signal the finishing of the mystery of God declared to God's servants the prophets (10:7). The mystery of God concealed in the Old Testament Prophets is now revealed by the Holy Spirit (cf.Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:3-5; 1 Peter 1:10-12). The last book of the Bible revealed specific historical events which, when carried out, proved the finishing or completion of God's mystery. This demonstrates that the book of Revelation is a very important book and occupies its rightful place in the Bible. A third reason will become apparent later.
This book is the "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (1:1). The expression, "The Revelation," is from the Greek word apokalupsis. This is why we sometimes refer it as the Apocalypse. This word means "an uncovering." The book of Revelation, then, is an uncovering or unveiling of some things by Jesus Christ which were shortly to come to pass. This tells us two things of importance about this book. First, it is different from the other books of the New Testament revealed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus revealed this book to John through His angel (cf.2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). It is one of a kind. Second, the book of Revelation contains important clues identifying those historical events. They are prophetically and pictorially portrayed. The book of Revelation does not hide information. It rather reveals important data.
We may further say that the book of Revelation is the testimony of Jesus. John said he bore "record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw" (1:2). While this statement may well characterize John's teaching through the years, it has special meaning in relationship to this book. The message of Jesus Christ was revealed to John by His angel (1:1). With the message fully revealed to John, Jesus said to him, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches" (22:16). Later John said, "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (22:20). The Apocalypse, then, is a message from Jesus, who was at God's right hand, through His angel to John and, subsequently, to all of His servants (5:7).
Angels often conveyed messages from Jesus to His servants. We have examples of angels working with the apostles (Acts 5:19-20), Philip (Acts 8:26), Cornelius (Acts 10:3-6,22), Peter (Acts 12:7-11), and Paul (Acts 27:23) to reveal important information and instructions to them. While these angels testified for Jesus, they did not reveal doctrinal truth. The Holy Spirit revealed the truth which makes men free from sin (John 16:13). Angels could reveal nothing that did not harmonize with the truth preached through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians were instructed to reject all teaching revealed by angels which was not in harmony with that teaching revealed by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 1:6-8). The book of Revelation, though it is the testimony of Jesus revealed by an angel, contains no revelation of new spiritual truth. All spiritual truth was revealed before John wrote the Apocalypse.
John wrote, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy" (1:3). Jesus said, "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (22:7). The angel said to John, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (19:10). Prophecy "signifies the speaking forth of the mind and counsel of God" (Vine). Some prophecy, though not all, foretells future history. Jesus instructed John; "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" (1:19). The prophecy contained past, present, and future things at the time revealed. Some of those things were to be hereafter (1:19; 4:1). They were shortly "to come to pass" (1:1), or to "be done" (22:6).
The historical events prophetically revealed where signified (1:1) or symbolized unto John. Clues to the application of the message are enveloped in the pictorial scenes. These historical events were about to happen. John said, "for the time is at hand" (1:3; 22:10).
The prophetic nature of Revelation has made it a playground for speculators. Thousands of books exist theorizing its meaning, and many false doctrines rest upon these theories. All of us have heard amazingly interesting discussions of the Mark of the Beast, The Battle of Armageddon, The Millennial Reign of Christ, The 144,000, The Great Whore, and others. The story changes with each exponent. Knowing the nature of the book and man, God warned lest man fall into this trap. It is written, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (22:18-19). Unless one is positively sure the Bible supports his conclusions, he would be wise to leave this book alone.
Speculation usually results in contradiction. Theories abound which contradict the rest of the Bible. The theory of Premillennialism, based primarily upon Revelation 20, contradicts almost every book of the Bible. While brethren generally have sought to be careful in their exegesis of the book, seeking to harmonize it with the rest of the Bible, many different views have evolved. All studies of the book should be accompanied by reverence and awe of the Lord who revealed it, and by constant prayer (James 1:5-6). God intended that the book be read, understood, and kept (1:3).
Many brethren fear studying the book of Revelation. Some flinch when the book is mentioned. Others are totally turned off to it. The difficult language of the book with the many confused and contradictory explanations are the reasons. I would like to see this change. Let us awaken to the reality that our Lord Jesus Christ saw fit to give us this book with the promise that blessings come to those who acquaint themselves with it (1:3). I believe our fear of the book has kept us from understanding its marvelous message.
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This page was last updated on Thursday, May 28, 1998.