Why should Christians read the book of Revelation? And not only read it, but study it and meditate on it? The simple answer is the obvious one – it is part of the Bible and therefore should be read.
But maybe the most significant point to make is why we have to ask the question in the first place. Why is it that so many Christians run from Revelation and from the topic of eschatology in general so fast that you would think the four horsemen of chapter 6 were following them!?
A big part of the reason is a direct result of prevalent and problematic hermeneutics. Certain popular views on the end times interpret the Bible from the latest news events in the middle-east. When the predictions don’t pan out, new ones are made, without any apology for the previous errors. When these kind of practices continue for decades, it is no wonder people walk away and give up.
The answer to this problem is not to stop reading Revelation. The answer is to start reading it differently – in fact, to start reading it the way it was intended to be read.
In its 404 verses, Revelation contains over 500 allusions to the Old Testament. There are more allusions to the Old Testament in Revelation than in all other books of the New Testament combined. To understand Revelation, we need to read it with the Old Testament open.
When we do this, all the symbolism, from ferocious creatures to heavenly beings, pretty quickly makes sense. And once that happens, we are in a position to get everything out of Revelation we were intended to get.
Here are four reasons why we should read Revelation:
We should read Revelation because it gives a powerful perspective on the fact that faithfulness to God, though costly now, brings an eternal reward beyond compare.
Revelation calls us to present faithfulness in light of a far greater eternal reward, even when that costs us. Equally, it warns us that compromise with the world system may bring brief pleasure but entails eternal disaster. Of the seven churches in Asia, which by way of Biblical symbolism represent the church through the ages, only two were in good shape. Two were about to die and the other three were somewhere in between. It’s probably little different today. Revelation addresses us directly in the same way it addressed Christians then. Be bold in your witness, do not compromise or cut corners on truth, and God will keep you safe spiritually in the midst of a corrupt world.
We follow the Lamb who was slain. Our outward suffering for the gospel will only serve to enrich us by drawing us closer to Christ. Yet the slain Lamb has begun his reign. In due time, he will call us up into our heavenly reward in light of which the sufferings of this present age amount to nothing. We should read Revelation because, thus understood, it brings a powerful call to purity and a strong warning against compromise in the church.
We should read Revelation because it gives us confidence in the sovereignty of God.
God is pictured as the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. This depicts God as Lord of all history, the beginning, the end and everything in between. We can have confidence in the fact that a sovereign God is ruling over all of history, even when things are hard and it seems we are gaining little ground. The crucified Lamb has assumed his place of rulership over the cosmos. The devil is allowed only as much leeway as God permits, and is heading toward his eternal doom. We are on the winning side.
We should read Revelation because it gives us a template for worship.
The portrayal of worship in the heavenly temple is meant to stir us to model our earthly worship after the same pattern. Much of contemporary worship centers on the feelings and emotions of the worshippers, yet is ultimately unsatisfying. Worship must be focused on God and the Lamb. When we do this, our whole being is caught up in praise. Worship causes us to fashion our lives around service
to the God who alone deserves it.
We should read Revelation because it provides a unique perspective on the purposes of God in human history.
In so doing, it highlights the storyline of the Bible by completing the narrative Genesis begins. In one sense, the Bible is all about the loss and the restoration of the presence of God, and the apparent destruction and ultimate fulfillment of the purposes of God. The Bible begins and ends in a garden temple, but only in the latter temple is the presence of evil forever banished. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden with the mandate to be fruitful and multiply, and to extend his kingdom rule to the ends of the earth.
They failed in their commission. God gave Israel a mandate to be a light to the nations. Israel likewise failed. God then sent Christ to die and to be raised and seated at his right hand. And through Christ, the second great commission (the first being to Adam in the garden) comes to push out the boundaries of the kingdom and to succeed where both Adam and Israel failed.
When the gospel has thus come to every nation, the end will come and Christ will return to usher in his eternal kingdom. In the meantime, in this age between Christ’s coming and his return, we are caught up in this great mandate, the fulfillment of which we will all see in the new Jerusalem.
Try reading Revelation in light of these four reasons, and see what fresh vision comes to you for the fulfilment of God’s purposes in your own life.
You might be surprised!