How the book of Revelation can surprise you.
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death,” said Revelations 21:8.
The words spoken here are intimidating. The fear of Revelation is ingrained into our culture, from references to the number 666 to Armageddon. It is universally known as a book about the apocalypse.
However, Revelation is more than that. The theme of hope can be seen, too, which is something people do not readily think of when considering the fiery judgment of the world. The book is full of rich symbolism and helps one better understand the nature of God.
“The context of Revelation was written to Christians who were undergoing persecution. The focus isn’t how or when Jesus is going to come back, but that he is in the midst of all circumstances. All of this is still under his sovereignty and it really gives us hope,” said Michael Medeiros, college pastor at Cornerstone Bible Church.
Revelation goes beyond beasts or final battles. The definition of apocalyptic literature brings the joy found in the book to light.
According to PBS, “The word ‘apocalypse’ refers to a genre of literature like the Book of Revelation itself. They are pieces of literature that start by revealing something or seeing visions or having individuals be taken up into heaven where they can see what’s going on from that vantage point.”
Outside of secular interpretation, apocalyptic literature is associated with prophecy. It is something that cannot always be understood. Revelation reveals the belief that Jesus is coming back. Life is finite — one day all evil will end and a new heaven and earth will be created.
“People misunderstand apocalyptic literature all the time. People seek to bend it to their own biases. Even some of Jesus’ words in Matthew and in Daniel. Some people just don’t apply good hermeneutics. Not every symbol can be interpreted and understood, people will think within their finite view and cultural context,” said Medeiros.
This is how Revelation is taken out of context. It is about the end of the earth, but there is also so much more to it. It is about victory over evil and the hope to be found within that. The symbols are so bizarre it can be confusing at times; however, not everything can be understood.
PBS said, “Things that are typically associated with end-time prophecies and typical language actually are not found in Revelation at all. … Notably, there’s no reference whatsoever to the Antichrist.”
People are often surprised by what the book is about, seeing as many have been led astray by culture. For example, “The Left Behind” series had a profound impact on what people believed to be in Revelation.
Revelation 1:3 said, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”
John, the author of Revelation and a disciple of Jesus, is blessing those who read the book. It is meant to bring hope to those who put their faith in Christ.
In our current context with COVID-19, it seems as though one cannot help but think of end times. However, every generation must have felt this way at one point in time, with the Depression, World Wars I and II and 9/11.
“The tie into what is happening is that God is our center and he will weather the storm. We don’t deserve anything and he is gracious. Easter and Good Friday should remind us of that,” said Medeiros.
So, the next time you open Revelation, remember that the book was written to bring hope to Christians who were being persecuted; therefore, Revelation conveys the promise that all will be put right. We can find joy in that.