Tag Archives: Book of Revelation

How to Read the Book of Revelation

A Book Like No Other

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.

Rev. 1:1

Apocalyptic writing tells a symbolic story by which eternal insight is given by an angel to a visionary prophet. This heavenly perspective explains God’s eternal purposes to a church that is struggling on earth with persecution, oppression, trials, and sorrow. Apocalyptic literature uses powerful images to prick the imagination and draw the reader into God’s eternal perspective on the events of this world.

First, seventy per cent of the symbols’ meaning are drawn from the original context of  the Old Testament’s use of that symbol. Second, John’s symbols are also pulled from the contemporary Roman world using pagan images to illustrate sources of evil in the world. Third in our culture, we tend to think of symbols as meaning something less than real or true.

John’s symbols are intended to convey deep theological meaning while simultaneously impacting our spirits and emotions. We tend to read a text “literally” as opposed to reading it “symbolically” as if a literal interpretation makes the text more true. In the Bible, symbols are understood to be just as “true” as other more historical or literary passages.

Before Apocalyptic literature can be applied to our day, the text must be read in the light of its original context. In other words, the writing must make sense to the readers of the first century before it speaks to a reader in the twenty-first century.

Apocalyptic literature was written not only to inform the church, but to impact believers’ emotions and encourage their spirits as well. We need to read the Book of Revelation with our hearts as well as our minds. Apocalyptic literature is designed to uplift our emotions by strengthening our wills with the truth of God’s sovereign grace and the power of his redeeming Cross.

What then is the Book of Revelation’s message?

1. That God is awesomely majestic, as well as sovereign in all our troubles.

2. That Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb ultimately brings complete deliverance for those who trust in him.

3. That God’s judgments on the world are often to serve notice on the world that God will avenge his people.

4. That regardless of how things appear in the short run, “sin does not go unpunished,” and God will judge.

5. That God can accomplish his purposes through a small and persecuted remnant; he is not dependent on what the world values as power.

6. That worship leads us from grief over our sufferings to God’s eternal purposes seen from a heavenly perspective.

7. That proclaiming Christ invited persecution, the normal state of committed believers in this age.

8. That Christ is worth dying for.

9. That a radical contrast exists between the God’s kingdom (exemplified in the bride, the new Jerusalem) and the world’s values (exemplified in the prostitute, Babylon).

10. That the hope God has prepared for us exceeds our present sufferings.

11. That God’s plan and church ultimately include representatives of all peoples.

Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIVAC (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 41.

SaveSave

Can Christians Receive the Mark of the Beast?

Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die. He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666 (Rev. 13:15-18 NLT).

Many believers walk in an inordinate amount of fear concerning the mark of the Beast. Their fear is deep, pervasive, and emotionally debilitating. Over the years, numerous questions have come up in my pastoral ministry as to the characteristics of the mark of the Beast mentioned in Rev. 13. Believers are anxious that they might be forced against their will to receive this dreaded mark. Is it possible for Christians to receive the mark of the Beast? Is the mark of the beast a tattoo, or a computer chip, or a bar code, etc.? Some despicable use of current computer technology? Should Christians fear the Second Coming of Christ because of the mark?

First, the context (Rev. 13:11-14:5) of the passage speaks of a mark of the beast and a seal of the Lamb. If you receive a tattoo or a computer chip for following the Beast, then in turn, you must also be given a tattoo or computer chip for following the Lamb. Present day End Times teaching emphasises the negative mark, Beast, not the positive seal, Lamb. What is true for the mark of the beast must also be true for the mark of the Lamb.

Second, the symbols in Revelation should be interpreted first by their counterpart in the Old Testament. The “mark” comes from Ezekiel 9:4-6, where an angel is instructed not to kill those who have the mark. The mark is invisible to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, it is seen and known only by God and the angels. The mark is indicative of the individual’s heartfelt allegiance to God. Notice that the “mark” is the Hebrew letter “taw” which is roughly the shape of a cross.

Third, the beast in the Book of Revelation is the city of Rome and her empire (Rev. 17:7-9), the “seven hills” would have been known in the first century as the “City of the Seven Hills,” Rome. Therefore, the beast, Caesar, is asking for lordship over the lives of all the Empire’s inhabitants. True believers refuse Rome’s domination for Christ is Lord over their lives. Several Caesars expected to be worshipped as a god, yet the early church only recognized Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world (Phil. 2:10-11; 3:20).

Last, the Roman Empire was so oppressive that only those who worship Caesar as divine were allowed to do business in the empire (Rev. 13:16-17). One’s allegiance is obvious by the way one worships, dresses, serves, and lives. You could not do business in Roman trade guilds if a citizen did not declare Caesar as Lord and eat food sacrificed to idols. Similarly, believers under communist rule in the Soviet Union suffered penalties during the dark days of the Cold War if they did not declare their loyalty to the State and their acceptance of atheism. The visible mark of Christian believers is the distinctive manner in which they live the life of love (John 13:35, 1 John, Epistle to Diognetus).

By way of application, the Beast today is any governmental authority who sets themselves up, over, and against faith in God and love of Christ. The Beast is any civil government that persecutes Christians and attempts to destroy the church. The Beast is idolatry and love of all worldly things: economic control, unbridled sex, and thirst for power. The love of the Beast and the seal of the Lamb are heart issues, therefore, unseen by men, except by their outward behavior.

Conclusion: The mark is invisible, seen only by God, nothing to be feared by believers, and indicative of one’s true allegiance: the systems of the world, Beast, or the Lordship of Jesus, the Lamb.

Like the other markings in Revelation, it seems to be symbolic (see comments on Rev. 3:12; 7:3; cf. 14:1; 17:5; 19:12; 22:4); some Jewish texts speak of a symbolic mark of destruction on the forehead of the wicked (Psalms of Solomon 15:9) in contrast to the mark of the righteous (15:6). Some interpreters have nevertheless seen a tangible expression of allegiance to the world system; in at least the last two major imperial persecutions of Christians, both in the third century, certificates were issued to those who had fulfilled the mandated rite of emperor worship. But the text may simply imply a figurative slave brand identifying to whom a person belongs — God or the world. Participation in idolatry appeared to be almost an economic necessity in many cities in Asia Minor (see comment on 2:18-29), and John warns that commercial discrimination would grow more severe, alongside the graver danger of martyrdom.

Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

On Reading the Book of Revelation (Updated)

Apocalyptic Literature

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 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.

Rev.1:1-3

Apocalyptic writing tells a symbolic story by which eternal insight is given by an angel to a visionary prophet. This heavenly perspective explains God’s eternal purposes to a church that is struggling on earth with persecution, oppression, trials, and sorrow. Apocalyptic literature uses powerful images to prick the imagination and draw the reader into God’s eternal perspective on the events of this world.

First, seventy per cent of the symbols’ meaning are drawn from the original context of  the Old Testament’s use of that symbol. Second, John’s symbols are also pulled from the contemporary Roman world using pagan images to illustrate sources of evil in the world. Third in our culture, we tend to think of symbols as meaning something less than real or true. John’s symbols are intended to convey deep theological meaning while simultaneously impacting our spirits and emotions. We tend to read a text “literally” as opposed to reading it “symbolically” as if a literal interpretation makes the text more true. In the Bible, symbols are understood to be just as “true” as other more historical or literary passages.

Before Apocalyptic literature can be applied to our day, the text must be read in the light of its original context. In other words, the writing must make sense to the readers of the first century before it speaks to a reader in the twenty-first century.

Apocalyptic literature was written not only to inform the church, but to impact believers’ emotions and encourage their spirits as well. We need to read the Book of Revelation with our hearts as well as our minds. Apocalyptic literature is designed to uplift our emotions by strengthening our wills with the truth of God’s sovereign grace and the power of his redeeming Cross.

What then is the Book of Revelation’s message?

1. That God is awesomely majestic, as well as sovereign in all our troubles.

2. That Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb ultimately brings complete deliverance for those who trust in him.

3. That God’s judgements on the world are often to serve notice on the world that God will avenge his people.

4. That regardless of how things appear in the short run, “sin does not go unpunished,” and God will judge.

5. That God can accomplish his purposes through a small and persecuted remnant; he is not dependent on what the world values as power.

6. That worship leads us from grief over our sufferings to God’s eternal purposes seen from a heavenly perspective.

7. That proclaiming Christ invited persecution, the normal state of committed believers in this age.

8. That Christ is worth dying for.

9. That a radical contrast exists between the God’s kingdom (exemplified in the bride, the new Jerusalem) and the world’s values (exemplified in the prostitute, Babylon).

10. That the hope God has prepared for us exceeds our present sufferings.

11. That God’s plan and church ultimately include representatives of all peoples.

Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIVAC(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 41.