By Elizabeth Prata
People think the Bible is the Bible, except for that weird book at the end, Revelation. Admittedly, Revelation (not ‘Revelations) is a highly symbolic book in places. But it isn’t totally filled with symbolism as people think. People avoid the book anyway, which is a shame…because:
In Revelation 1:3, right off the bat, it begins with a blessing!
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.
If you read the book, you receive a blessing. If you hear what is in the book, you receive a blessing. If you keep what is in the book, you receive a blessing. Keep means to guard what is in the book or heed what is in the book. That means, be involved with what is in the book of Revelation. It’s not an outlier, it’s integral to God’s plan, so much so, He blesses those who take time to learn its message.
For all the chaos the book depicts, it’s actually very orderly. Rather than obscuring the truth, the book itself is a revealing of it! Take comfort in that. The very word apokalupsis used 18 times means an unveiling or a revealing. Then it begins with an announcement of blessing. It continues by three times using the phrase “who was, who Is, and who is to come” referring to Jesus but also the chronology of the book. It’s chronological throughout.
Its theme is Jesus Christ, as He is now in heaven. It is a message from Jesus but it is also a message about Jesus. In this way, it is thrilling to see the revealed glimpses of Him as He goes about His work in heaven, resurrected and in complete power and majesty. For that alone the book is worth reading.
I’d said in the title of this essay that the book of Revelation is not an outlier. There are many prophetic passages in the entire Bible, and once you read the Bible (including the Old Testament) you begin to see just how many. Zechariah, pound-for-pound, contains almost as many prophetic passages as does Revelation, and is a mini-apocalypse of its own.
As Roy Gingrich explains of Zechariah’s prophecies,
“they all have a double fulfillment—They had a near and a partial fulfillment in or soon after Zechariah’s day and they will have a distant and a complete fulfillment in “The Day of the Lord”; (5) they all require the services of an angelic interpreter—This is a feature of apocalyptic visions; and (6) they for the most part follow the same pattern—A symbol is presented, a question is asked, and an interpretation is given.) Gingrich, R. E. (1999). The Books of Haggai and Zechariah (p. 17).
As you read Zechariah 1:8 you will notice that there are 4 horses of various colors with riders going out among the earth, just as there are in Revelation 6. You will notice that the visions all deal with Jesus and His plans for Israel, as does Revelation (which also includes wrath upon unbelievers). Zechariah has the pattern of showing the initiative is from Jesus, He calls His people to repentance (in Zechariah, He calls the Israelites to repentance, in Revelation he calls 5 of His 7 churches to repentance), He delivers visions to his designated agent (to Zechariah, to John), visions which include symbols, and then visions & symbols are explained. If the vision isn’t explained immediately within the book, its symbol is explained elsewhere in the Bible. That is why it’s important to read the Old Testament as well as the New. You see this pattern with the book of Daniel as well.
Don’t be afraid to read Revelation. The ‘weird’ parts don’t even begin until chapter 6. If you’ve ever hiked in snow and been the person to break the trail, you know that the next time you walk that trail it’s easier because the snow has been beaten down. It’s the same with reading prophetic passages. The first time it might not make as much sense, but you pray and the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit in you flattens the trail so going over that path the next time is easier. Then easier, and so on. Pray, think, read, pray some more, and like any book of the Bible, Revelation or the prophetic passages in the OT books, will be “revealed” to you. See what I did there?