So often I hear that people are scared to, or worried about, reading the Book of Revelation. It’s this monolith at the end of the Bible that people stay away from because it’s too hard, too mysterious, too difficult to understand. Yet the book itself says otherwise.
Believers cannot afford to ignore the immense truth this book contains. In fact, we’re commanded not to; Revelation 22:10 says, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” ~John MacArthur
It’s actually one of the easiest books to understand.
By the way, the book is called “Revelation” singular. It’s not “Revelations.”
Daniel is dense. Pound for pound, Zechariah has twice as much prophecy than Revelation. Some of the minor prophets are hard to understand because of the time frames and the history. Romans is heavily philosophical. If I was to pick a book that is hard to understand, I’d choose any of those over and above Revelation. Revelation is actually one of the easiest book in the Bible to understand.
How can I say this?
1. It is the ONLY book in the Bible in which the reader is promised a blessing if he or she reads it. The. Only. Book. That’s something worth paying attention to. The promise is stated at the beginning and at the end of the book.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3).
How can we keep what is written in it, if we do not read it?
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7).
Did Jesus promise a blessing, and in a cosmic ‘gotcha’, then make it intellectually or spiritually too difficult to understand? Or is it because it’s one book that proclaims Jesus in His full glory, promises a great ending for His people, and wants us to look ahead for the encouragement?
2. It has its own built-in study guide. Despite the chaos it reveals, it is actually a very orderly book. I’m not kidding.
The first three chapters are greetings and letters to churches, which we would do well to study. To each church, Jesus identifies himself in a different way, revealing a certain aspect of Himself that matches the warning or commendation He gives to the church. It also shows how intimately He is involved with His church as its Head and its Priest.
In Chapter 4 the scene shifts to heaven. In Chapter 5 we’re still in heaven, but now heaven is readying for the “things to come”, meaning, the global judgment.
Chapter 6-18 are those judgments. Again, it’s orderly. A series of three (perhaps four, if the Seven Thunders are judgments) each containing 7 judgments are unleashed, one after the other. The time frame is fairly chronological. It’s also rapid. The events take place mostly within three and a half years (7 total) so reading this main portion of Revelation can be compared to reading the Gospel of Mark. Mark reports quickly, covers a great time frame in short order, and uses muscular language and a rapid pace. It’s the same with this portion of Revelation.
The judgments, in addition to being judgments, are also working to UNcreate the world. Compare Genesis 1-2 with Revelation 6. Genesis shows the creation, Revelation is the UNcreation. As the LORD deals with sin, He is also preparing the world for its upcoming regeneration (“The New Earth.”). Mainly the story proceeds chronologically with an occasional glimpse back to heaven or a parenthetical comment.
Chapter 19-22 is the wrap-up- the new heavens and new earth, New Jerusalem, the Marriage Supper, the final strings to tie up, the last encouragement.
As for the symbolism, scripture interprets scripture. The symbols are not a lot harder to interpret than other analogies and symbols in the Bible. Jesus being the vine (we know He is not ACTUALLY a vine). Or when the angels pour out the bowls of wrath, we are reminded of Jesus drinking the cup of wrath. The dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads is a similar kind of symbol to the ram with long horns of Daniel 8, which is interpreted for Daniel right in the same chapter.
I’m not saying everything about Revelation is easy. It still takes study. What I’m saying is that is is not harder than any other book of the Bible and in some ways it is easier. Please do not be intimidated by it.
On sale now at Grace To You through June 25 is a booklet for $1.50 called A Jet Tour Through Revelation. It is adapted from a sermon MacArthur gave a while ago. Even when the sale is done the booklet only costs $2.00. Of course, you can listen to the sermon for free at any time. The booklet-
-helps take the mystery out of a portion of Scripture many people consider too difficult to understand. Yet, the book of Revelation promises blessing to those who read its words and heed them. This Jet Tour booklet will help you make sense of the symbols, imagery, and significance of this amazing prewritten history. It will increase your appetite for heaven—or give you a needed dose of concern about your eternal future and point you to Christ, who alone can save you from the wrath He will one day bring.
One of my favorite books on Revelation is another of MacArthur’s -“Because the Time is Near”. This book is also on sale now for $8.25. I found it not only to be clear, non-academic and useful in laymen’s terms, so encouraging. Yes, the Book of Revelation is encouraging. Seeing all that wrath poured out is hard on the heart, but it is also encouraging knowing Jesus took that same wrath for His people. This in turn inspires a profound relief and love for His work on the cross. It’s one thing to know about the cup of wrath He endured, it is another to understand it. Revelation helps you understand sin and wrath, and by contrast, grace. In this way, reading Revelation helps you love Jesus even more.
Far from being a dense, mysterious, non-understandable book, I have always found it to be encouraging, amazing, and inspiring. It shows Jesus as He is now, in full glory, power, and beauty. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible, Genesis being the other!
Please don’t be intimidated by Revelation, just start reading it. You will be blessed. That is a promise from Jesus.