The Apocalypse

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

I was reading an article by someone who was trying to explain The Revelation given to John (the Apocalypse). The first century Christians were under going intense persecution, thus the Revelation was given so that they would have encouragement and comfort.

Things Which Must Shortly Take Place

The New King James says in verse 1, “things which must shortly take place.” However, the New American Standard puts it this way, “things which must soon take place.” This same writer tells us the marginal notes in his Bible say shortly means “quickly” or “swiftly.” I would agree. Yet, he then tells us “shortly” must be interpreted considering verse 10 (the Lord’s day) meaning the day the Lord extracts judgment. Thus, he deduces when the end comes, it will come so rapidly it will astonish people and leave them frightened. Yet, how is this possible when over and over the New Testament writers indicate the time of Jesus return is not revealed (Matthew 24:36; 25:13; 2 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10)?

In the Old Testament, the idea of God’s judgment is put forth many times (Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15 and others), but we also find the same term used to indicate the day the Lord had set forth for other reasons (Isaiah 58:13, etc.). So to simply intimate this must be the case here also is to disregard the context of the letter. First of all, we are looking at the New Testament, not the Old Testament.

However, in the New Testament, it sometime used the same way. However, the expression “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10) is found only in this place and is hen kyriakē hēmera. The “day of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 2:2) is expressed as ē hēmera tou Kyriou. Almost all commentators agree John is speaking of the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) which would make it a day of worship not a day of destruction. In light of this we must look to the context of the book.

How to Interpret the Book

There are many other views as to the interpretation of the book. Some think that the book reveals all of history from the beginning to the end of time. Others think it reveals the future for the church–the rise of the Papacy, Mohammedanism, the Reformation, etc. Still others say that these are not actual historical events but are symbolical of temporal and physical forces at work. Some, in the light of this, say that the book was fulfilled in John’s day and could have no meaning for us. Besides all these, there are Millennial groups which have formulated their own various doctrines from the book. All of this makes it very difficult for people to find the meaning of the book.

John's Vision

To rightly interpret the book, we should seek to find the meaning the book had in the day of its origin. In other words, “What did it mean to the Christians of John’s day?” The things in it “must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1,3; 22:6,10). Revelation 1:4 says, “John, to the seven churches that are in Asia…” Furthermore, we should seek to determine its meaning for all ages and especially for our own age. Thus, “What does the book mean to us today?” It is a blessing for all readers (Revelation 1:3), and it is for “everyone who hears” (Revelation 22:18). It is written to “his servants” (Revelation 1:1). Therefore, in our study of the book we should seek to understand how its principles applied then and observe how they will apply in similar situations now.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear the early Christians were looking for the return of the Lord during their time (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). To them that would have been the “end times.” Christians at the time when the book was written were being beheaded and slain for the word of God and the testimony which they held ( Revelation 2:13; 6:9-11; 7:13-17; 13:7-8; 16:6-7; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2; 20:4). This means the book was written in the atmosphere of intense and widespread persecution.

The Main Theme

The victory of Christ is revealed throughout the book (Revelation 1:18; 5:9; 6:2; 11:15; 14:1,14; 17:14; 19:15). Christ conquers death, hades, the dragon, the beast, the false prophet, and those who worship the beast. The book also pictures the victory that the saints have through Christ–as having washed their robes (Revelation 7:14; 22:14), as having come out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14), as standing upon their feet and not dead (Revelation 11:11), as victorious over the beast (Revelation 15:2), as reigning on earth and with Christ (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:4).

Therefore, the book was given to bring comfort for the church and to encourage the saints in time of great tribulation–for example, God sees their tears (Revelation 7:17); their prayers shall rule (Revelation 8:3-4); glory surpasses all suffering on earth (Revelation 14:13; 20:4); the avenging of their blood (Revelation 6:9-11; 19:2); assurance of victory (Revelation 15:2).

It should be understood the book met a need at the time of its writing and it dealt with an historical situation in which spiritual forces were at work. Further, its message will apply to all generations. In the book we see the conflict between God and Satan. God’s forces are Christ and the church, while Satan’s forces are evil government and false religion. God and His righteousness will triumph. Satan is destined to destruction; he and all his helpers will be defeated. Christ is victorious and His saints can be victorious through Him. This idea is set forth gloriously and completely in Revelation 17:14: “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (NASV). This is the main theme of the book.

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

By Joe R. Price

Scripture says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

To “rightly divide” means to cut a straight course or “cut along a straight path” (BDAG, 722), “to make straight and smooth” (Thayer, 453). Like taking a road that goes straight to its destination without a detour, we must avoid striving “about words to no profit” that ruins the hearers (2 Tim. 2:14, 16). Instead, we are to be diligent workers of God who properly use His word so that it carries us, without shame, straight to our destination of God’s approval.

The way we choose to handle the Bible is exactly the way we choose to treat God. After all, in these last days God speaks to us “in His Son” through His apostles and prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-4; Jno. 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We go to the inspired Scripture to hear, believe, and obey God (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Here are some practical ways to “cut a straight course” when we use God’s word.

1. Do not read into the Scriptures what you have already decided to believe and do. That is, do not come to the Bible with your mind already made up. Handling the Bible this way is called eisegesis, “the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas” (Merriam-Webster). It is twisting God’s word to say what we want it to say. Doing this results in our destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). We can do this in any number of ways. We can force definitions upon words that are incorrect (like forcing the instrument of music into the word “psallo”). We can discount and exclude additional passages of Scripture because they fail to sustain our predisposed view (like minimizing James 2:24 and the role of “works” in justification). If we intend to let the Bible guide us to God’s approval, then we must follow its truth wherever it takes us, not the other way around. And, that may mean giving up a false view and practice.

2. Take everything Scripture says on a topic to have a full understanding of God’s will. Picking and choosing some passages while refusing others that address the same subject is not rightly dividing the word of truth. All truth must be considered in order to know and abide in the truth that frees us from sin (Jno. 8:31-32). Careful, deliberate Bible study avoids rash conclusions while considering all God’s word has to say (Psa. 119:160). We can properly claim to declare the “whole counsel of God” only when we allow all of it to inform and shape our faith, and therefore, what we declare (Acts 20:27).

3. Be ready to accept correction from the Scriptures. When a map shows we are off course we will never get to where we want to go unless we change course. So it is with our study and use of the Bible. We must accept its corrections so we will arrive at our intended destination – God’s approval. We must study the Bible for our own spiritual growth and improvement. When we do that, change will be in order. We must be ready to radically change ourselves and our lives when the Scriptures show we are off course (2 Tim. 3:16). If we will not do so, then we have abandoned any real expectation of God’s approval for the sake of personal vindication. “Let God be true and every man a liar” persuades us that God’s word is always right, and nothing else will satisfy us (Rom. 3:4). Why? Because our goal is heaven. To get there, we must handle God’s word correctly (2 Tim. 2:15).