How To Read Revelation

How To Read Revelation

The Bible is a big book.  It starts with the words "In the beginning" (Genesis 1:1) and ends with "Amen" (Revelation 22:21).  That seems appropriate, sort of like Once Upon a Time and The End.  

Yet some parts of the Bible are unclear, whether you read them once or 100 times. Nevertheless, I am grateful the preponderance of the Bible is very understandable.

Lately I've waded into one of the most confusing books in the Bible ... and my heart has experienced great delight in reading it: the book of Revelation.  Some context:

Finding my roots
  1. It's interesting how the Bible begins in a garden with the tree of life (Genesis 2:9) and ends in a garden-like city with the tree of life (Revelation 22:2).
  2. Revelation is apocryphal literature, with confusing images portending the end of time.
  3. A few images: a scroll with seven seals, angels ominously blowing trumpets, plagues, mutant locusts, fire, hail, mountains collapsing, earthquakes, the keys of death, lampstands, a throne surrounded by a sea of glass and 24 crowned elders, strange numbers like 144,000 and 666, a red dragon with seven heads, seven bowls of wrath, a beast ruling 3 ½ years, a Conqueror on a white horse, a wedding, and a city of gold.
  4. These images consume some people.  They just have to figure it all out.  They need a one-for-one correspondence between the image and its concrete meaning.  For example, the mark of the beast must mean a computer chip embedded in everyone's forehead.  I take a different tack.
  5. I've always thought it best to focus on what I can understand, and then whatever I can't understand after much effort I chalk up to mystery.  There are some things God has revealed rather cryptically, and He has His own reasons for that.  And I think that's fantastic!  I don't need to know everything.  I need to know Him.  I am satisfied with what He's made clear and look forward to the day He explains the rest.  Or chooses not to.

Here is what I can more easily figure out and rejoice in:

A happy baby
  1. Revelation speaks exactly 30 times of a person who is a Lamb (and a few more times by inference – I counted them all).  In 6:16 he's referred to as a Lamb who has wrath.  In 7:17 he's referred to as a Lamb who will be a shepherd.  And in 5:6 he's referred to as a Lamb who's been slain but now stands (alive).  I don't typically think of a Lamb exhibiting wrath, becoming a shepherd, or getting up from the dead.  Doesn't this Lamb sound like someone you know?
  2. The descriptions of Jesus (in chapters 1:12-18 and 19:11-16) are staggering.  Glorious.  Triumphant.  I'm not sure how to marshall the necessary words to state how supreme and transcendent He is portrayed in these verses.  Look at them.
  3. Jesus is King.  Currently, his kingdom is the "already but not yet" kingdom that all believers are a part of.  Yet, a better day is ahead when it becomes the "now and forever Kingdom of the Lamb!"  The consummation of all things cannot be stopped.  An unending era of God's Kingdom will eradicate all sin and evil – O! how I long for that day!  The Great Resolution of the story.  The Coronation of righteousness and the Righteous One!  Come Lord Jesus, come.
King of the jungle