If you’ve read any part of the book of Revelation, you know it has a lot of symbols and figurative language. It also describes literal, future historical events. So how do we approach such an epic saga? Here are the necessary tools.
1. We take a passage literally unless it doesn’t make sense that way. Example: the sharp sword coming out of Christ’ mouth in Rev. 19:15.
2. We can’t determine the meaning of the symbols or figurative language based solely on what we think they mean. That would mean anything goes, and that’s not God’s style.
3. So when God uses a symbol, He must provide the meaning of it. The interpretation is either stated in the passage (or near it), or it comes from the other books of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. An example of the interpretation nearby is the meaning of the 7 lampstands in Revelation 1:13 and 20. An example of the interpretation from the Old Testament is the meaning of the Woman with the stars and moon over her head in Revelation 12. Check out Genesis 37:9.
4. The Revelation is actually a series of visions. And it is not one continuous chain of events from start to finish. To read it that way only leads to confusion and wrong interpretations, such as multiple raptures. Some parts are continuous. But a major section (chapters 11-19) offers instant replays of the key events.
5. It begins with an Introduction (chapters 1-5) that sets the stage and brings us up to speed on end-time events from Heaven’s perspective. Chapters 6 and 7 provide a sequential overview of the Church Age (Days 5 and 6 in God’s prophetic Week). Chapters 8 and 9 provide a sequential overview of the first 3½ years of the 7th Day that is known as the Wrath of that Day. Chapter 10 is a divine break in the saga, where John receives the little book so that he can prophesy again. Chapter 11 begins a series of mini-visions that are instant replays of the Wrath. The wrath is actually the 3½-year war against the Beast (the Antichrist).
6. The mini-visions in chapters 11-19 offer different “camera angles” or perspectives of the events, including the participants, battle strategies and tactics, and how the war ends. These allow us to make the right “call” concerning each pivotal play on the “field.”
7. Chapter 20 describes the rest of Christ’s 1,000-year reign over the earth from Heaven, including Satan’s final rebellion, the separation of the sheep and goats, and the final judgment. Chapters 21-22 describe what happens after the Last Day, including the marriage supper of the Lamb in a new heavens and new earth. They also describe the Perfect Day of Eternity Future, and conclude with an admonition to watch and earnestly expect our Lord’s return.
Each section of the Revelation has a specific purpose. It is not only a revelation from Jesus Christ; it also reveals Him, who is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). It takes all that was prophesied in the past by the prophets and combines it into a meaningful whole concerning what will take place at the end. It confirms everything previously written, and adds and expands on it.
It reveals Christ as the King of kings, the Head of the Church, and the Bridegroom united with His Bride as One New Man appointed to judge the earth in righteousness. So forget about strumming harps on fluffy clouds or roaming the streets of gold for lack of anything better to do. Our earthly assignment will be done, but then we step into our next assignment. Stay tuned for what lies ahead!
God is the creator of both the physical (natural) realm and the spiritual (supernatural) realm. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).
The unseen realm is why there are mysteries in God’s Word. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).
Hebrews 1:1-4 tells us that the mystery of His will was revealed to us through Christ’s first coming. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets [the Old Testament times or the early Days], has in these last days [New Testament or the Church Age] spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Ephesians 1:9 adds that God “made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” The mystery doesn’t pertain to God Himself, but to His plans and purposes for mankind, and particularly the Bridegroom and His Bride.
Why does this matter to us today? Because the Bride plays a pivotal role in the culmination of the mystery of God’s will. It’s laid out primarily in the book of Revelation. The last book of our Bible begins with these words: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw” (vs. 1-2).
In other words, this is Jesus’ direct revelation to us, His servants, about the rest of the mystery. That’s why verse 3 adds: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
The book covers the final signs of this age that we are living in, and then explains the Last Day of God’s prophetic Week. You may know this 1,000-year time period as Christ’s millennial reign. The book highlights the first 3½ years of that 7th Day, also known as the Day of the Lord.
Sadly, many Christians avoid this final revelation of the mystery of God’s will because, well, it seems so mysterious. It doesn’t have to be that way. As Isaiah 40:3-5 declares, it’s time to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. It’s time to make a clear, straight highway, where the low and high places are leveled out, the crooked or twisted places are made straight, and the rough places made smooth. It’s time for the Body of Christ to see clearly the time of the end together.
So we’re starting a new series on the final book. In our next blog, we will give you the broad overview of how the book unfolds. That in itself should clear up a lot of the confusion. We’ll also give you some traveler’s trip to guide you along the journey. We can’t wait to get started!
As the only Ever-Existing One, God created the heavens and the earth (Col. 1:16). He created the spiritual or supernatural realm, and He created the physical or natural realm. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. He is the Supreme One, the ultimate Ruler over all that exists.
The creation story tells us that mankind was brought into this world to fulfill a specific purpose. This grand cosmic plan is the great theme of the Bible. It is called the mystery of His will. The mystery doesn’t pertain to God Himself, but to His plans and purposes for us. The mystery that was hidden in times past (the Old Testament) has now been made known to us through the New Covenant established by Jesus (Eph. 1:9).
Since God made us in His image and likeness, we also have a will. Having a will gives us the ability to choose, particularly to choose to love and to worship. Our will doesn’t take away from the fact that God is sovereign. It simply means that in His sovereign wisdom, God has chosen to give us a will so that we can choose to love Him.
Choices always have consequences. Because God is just, as well as loving, He must respect our choices. This means He cannot override the consequences of our choices. By “cannot,” I mean will not, because God will not break His own truths.
The power of choice was on visual display in the Garden of Eden. God set two special trees there: the Tree of Life (in God) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (apart from God). We all know where that led. Instead of choosing God’s best, Adam and Eve settled for good and evil, and a lesser garden existence.
Their choice to rebel and sin against God brought serious consequences to this world: death, decay, destruction, deception, pain, sickness, and suffering. Suffering comes from three places: (1) our own wrong choices; (2) the wrong choices of others that impact us; and (3) the accumulated effect of sin on this earth, seen in natural disasters and catastrophes.
This means that we can’t always have a choice in what happens to us. But we do always have a choice as to how we deal with what happens to us. We can react (re-act) in kind, getting angry and seeking revenge. Or we can respond (re-spond) according to the Spirit, with wisdom, a heavenly perspective, and the fruit of the Spirit.
Reacting in kind puts us in bondage to the lies and hatred of the world. This eventually leads to bitterness, destruction, and death. Reacting by the Spirit releases grace and sows seeds of truth. Of course, the individuals involved can choose to reject that grace and truth. But the seeds have been sown. We’ve done our part.
Jesus said that His followers are not of this world, even though we are still in it. Because we have the Spirit within us, we can choose to walk by the Spirit or walk by the flesh (the natural ways of this fallen world). The first choice comes from the Tree of Life; the second choice comes from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This is the reality of every choice that comes before us in these times. God longs that we choose Life.
Isaiah prophesied two absolutely vital truths of our faith. Both have to do with Christ’s coming to the earth. As for Jesus’ first coming? “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...” In other words, the gospel that we are saved by grace through faith. As for His second coming? “…and the Day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2). In other words, to execute justice against evil.
Surprisingly, Isaiah goes on to prophesy that this vengeance would bring comfort, joy, and praise. How can this be? Those words aren’t what we normally associate with vengeance. That’s because we look at that word from our earthly perspective—from mankind’s imperfect anger and justice. God’s love is perfect. Mankind’s love is conditional. God’s justice is perfect. Mankind’s justice is inconsistent.
God has an appointed time for His vengeance. It is set for the first 3½ years of the Day of the Lord. And it is known as the Wrath of that Day. The purpose of God’s wrath is to incarcerate Satan and his evil forces, and seal up sin once and for all. In the process, the rebellious, counterfeit one-world order shall be destroyed.
No longer will believers have to endure the suffering and injustice that comes via sin and rebellion. Instead, faith, hope, and love will endure. The world will be made right again. Well, actually, it will be made new. Like earth, version 2.0!
If you or someone you know has a problem with the idea of God’s wrath, Alisa Childers, in her book, Another Gospel?, offers this insight from Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf. After witnessing the horrors of the Bosnian war, he saw the comfort in God’s wrath. “Though I used to complain about the indecency of the ideas of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”
Sin, rebellion, and evil are ugly. Every single instance results in someone being hurt, robbed, killed, or destroyed (John 10:10). As Childers’ points out, “those who denounce God’s wrath are often the very same people who complain that He allows suffering and evil in the world. Yet Scripture tells us of a God who not only gives us an answer for the problem of evil but literally becomes the answer.”
The historical record is clear on what evil brings. With each passing year, the consequences of evil escalate, like a super virus feeding on itself. Could any of us have imagined the lengths to which evil would go in these last couple of years?
This is why it is time to understand the importance of the Wrath of that Day. God is in control. We need not fear. He’s given us Christ’s armor to stand firm in His truth and provision. He’s given us His word, such as Psalm 91 and Mark 16 to protect us. He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. We need to know and act on the anointing of God within us to draw people to Christ—the answer to the evil and injustice in this world. Our focus needs to be on individuals, not the nations. God already has the nations in His hands.