Revelation: Getting Started

“OK class, can I see a show of hands please how many of you think that the book of Revelation is just about the end of the world?

“Wow, almost everyone; hands down. OK, now, how many of you really have no clue what it says?

“Gee, so many of you who raised your hands before are raising them again! Alright, let’s try one more: How many of you think Revelation is so hard that nobody really can be sure what it’s all about?

“Oh come on class, look how many of you have voted three times!”

I’ve tried this little exercise at least three times in the past, and this is the typical result; Revelation is about the end of the world, most of us aren’t quite sure what it says about the end of the world, and most of us think it’s so hard to understand that we’ll never really know. One time I added another question to the list: How many think it’s about The Antichrist? As you might guess, almost all hands went up. When I added that question, I was teaching an upper division Bible College class, so naturally I asked the students to tell me which verses they find the term “Antichrist” in. I grabbed the marker, and stood at the board ready to record their answers… Several of them chuckled as the others grabbed their concordances and looked it up; I’ll never forget the shock of those who discovered for the first time that the word is not to be found in Revelation.

When I was kid, I read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey; actually I read it several times, I could quote it freely… I became quite the little Late Great Planet Earth scholar. It was so exciting, it was so thrilling, and it was so scary! Then it really came home to me: About the time I would be getting out of college, the world would end… I would never have a life, for just as my life would begin, the world would be over!

Well this struck me as being quite unfair, since I was a lad of high ambition and big plans!  I wanted to be pilot, and if that didn’t work out, I wanted to be a history professor… or maybe president of the United States. If I worked it right, maybe I could be two out of the three. This isn’t fair!

It all makes me laugh now as I look back…

Here I sit at my keyboard, an old man, and this world is still chugging along. In the many decades that have passed since I was a boy, I’ve come to understand that the Revelation is not about the end of the world, although the end of the world comes up a few times. It turns out that Revelation is much more than the tale of the end of things, for it turns out that Revelation is about the life we are living in the here and now, which would seem to make a great deal of sense. Haven’t you ever wondered why God would give a series of visions to the Apostle John in 90 something AD, about events that would only happen thousands of years in the future, and ask him to report it to the church in his time? When did our God become a God of disorder and confusion?

Our God is a God of order; He brings order out of chaos as He holds the whole of Creation together, so why would He create chaos for the early church when it was already suffering the trials of persecution? Oh great, tell these poor brothers the world is about to come to an end; scare the heck of them… or give them false hope! Maybe I’m crazy, but that doesn’t sound like God to me. Of course, we aren’t living in the late first century AD, we are here now, so it makes more sense that an entire book of the Bible was written just for us, after all, we are the special ones. Sounds pretty bad when you just come right out and say it that way…

Here’s what I propose: Let’s begin by dropping the preconception that Revelation must be about the end of the world, and prepare for our review of its contents by saying that maybe it is about the end of the world, and maybe it isn’t and then see what we can find. If we can agree to do that, I would say that this post has done its job. If we can’t, then this series of posts may irritate you…

Next time, let’s discuss how best to approach the text in terms of methodology; see you then!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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26 Responses to Revelation: Getting Started

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    How about hope? And real-world struggle? Then and now … and in the future?

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. I wrote a small book called “Revelation: A Love Letter From God.” To me it is about all the times God protected his people in the past, so he will do it now. Once the symbolism, especially of the numbers, is understood, the whole book is easy to understand. So, Don, go for it!

  3. Greg says:

    I don’t comment too often (but I’m trying to change that – in a good way) but wanted to say I like the opening here and am excited to see the rest. I also really enjoyed the “church” posts leading up to this study.

  4. photojaq says:

    Can’t wait to get started. I was an early reader of The Late Great Planet Earth too. Also, Bible Study Fellowsip International is beginning the study of Revelation this fall – what a perfect study to get us ready for that! Thanks.

  5. Pingback: Revelation: Getting Started | A disciple's study

  6. Wally Fry says:

    Heck, even I know the Book is about far more than the end of the world. Or course that may be because I am in the middle of studying and writing about the letters to the seven churches of Asia. Talk about some relevance for right now! But, sure looking forward to this study, Don.

  7. This is gonna be good.

  8. I think Revelation is one of those “misunderstood” books that people become scared about because they don’t delve into the scriptures but rather, take them on face value.
    Revelation is one of my favourite books (although eschatology has become a passion of mine)
    Thank you for this post. I hope that it will make people stop and think about what God is trying to truly get across to us and the messages behind it.
    God Bless, Rebecca

  9. Citizen Tom says:

    Revelation is a curious book. It is well organized. The book is broken into clear, distinct sections. Often, when a symbol is use, the book clearing explains what the symbol means. Moreover, much of the book contains allusions to the Old Testament. Nevertheless, scholars argue over what the book means. The more I have studied the matter the more amazed I am by all the differing interpretations.

    Why the argument? Don’t we argue about everything? Isn’t prophecy easy to argue about? Until the prophecy in Revelation is fulfilled, we have no way to prove what it means.

    Hence instead of banging my head against a wall of prophetic inscrutability, I look for the present day application.

    What is the overall theme of the book? What did Jesus want Christians suffering in His name to know? I think it relates to what you said. Jesus wants those will to give their lives to Him to know that He loves us, He is in control, and He has a place in the life to come waiting for each of us.

    Good start, I think. Look forward to your exposition.

  10. Rebeca Jones says:

    Don, I don’t comment often enough, but let me say I am always blessed and often challenged by your words. I am super excited to walk through Revelation with you, as I would be one of the few who didn’t raise my hand on your opening questions. Any of them.

    My husband and I attend an ultra-dispensational fellowship, yet have been, over the course of many years, seeing scripture very differently than our peers. We hide in our doctrinal closet, hoping no one will discover our heresy…the belief that Revelation is not about the end times etc.

    I can’t wait to get your take on all this. Thank you for doing this, Don! Grace and peace to you.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Oh my, hiding in the closet… sorry to hear that. Rebeca, I hope this study will be an inspiration to both you and your husband; I’m pleased that you will be coming along with us on this trip!

  11. bcaudle77 says:

    catching up and cant wait! btw I didn’t raise a hand at any of your questions because I didn’t understand any of them.

  12. Elaine says:

    I see I have a lot to learn in this series on Revelation! I raised my hand all three times!

  13. Reblogged this on Fertiileground's Blog and commented:
    Let’s look at Revelations thru the eyes of this present age

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