by Mark McClellan
The book of Revelation was divinely inspired in the First Century, but it presents a powerful, vibrant and essential message for the present, as it reveals the future.
While no other book in the Bible has been as difficult to interpret, no other book in the Bible is so compelling and fascinating. There are lions, lambs and locusts, alongside of angels and Armegeddon. We read of Babylon and the Beast, the Dragon and doom.
There is a unique promise to bless those who read and obey its message. This book reveals both a vital message for the church today and an unusual glimpse at the future and eternity. We offer this package of articles with the hope that you will read Revelation again with diligent study, humble obedience and faith. The writers are all experienced expositors of the Book of Revelation. They will present differing views on the understanding of the book, but if you read closely, you will discover an amazing unity on its central message.
The writers represent differing views on the “Millennium” revealed in 20:1-6. As each presents his view on the millennium, we can see his approach to the interpretation of the book of Revelation.
How does the reader understand the symbols that are encountered throughout Revelation? More subtle, but still important, is how to understand the multiple allusions to the Old Testament in Revelation.
The writers will also state their position concerning the people of Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament. While each writer will affirm the importance of both, they will differ on how to understand their relationship in this book (as well as in the rest of the Bible). Regardless of differences, they agree that salvation is by grace through faith.
The Book of Revelation is about the Lord Jesus Christ. Its message: He is coming, coming again, personally. The Book of Revelation is about the nature of the one true and living God. He is sovereign, that is Almighty, and in complete and ultimate control over all of creation and history. He is holy and so also are His justice and judgment. There is both Heaven and Hell. The opposition to God, His kingdom, and His people is powerful. There is intense persecution and suffering, “tribulation,” in no small measure orchestrated by none other than the Devil, who is neither a myth nor a metaphor. Nonetheless, he will be vanquished.
Revelation is a part of the history of what God has done, is doing and will do. The truth and promise of Revelation are rooted in history. We are given genuine hope for life beyond death. This will be particularly insightful in the article about the “preterist” approach. The relationship of Revelation to other books and passages of the Bible also demonstrates strong and consistent support for the full divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. You will read insights into the nature of this book, whether it is apocalyptic or prophetic, or both. Prophecy and its fulfillment are a part of the Bible’s own demonstration of divine inspiration.
The seven churches of the early chapters speak to the church today about the allure of worldliness and the lack of selflessness, apathy, consumerism and the loss of our first love, a life lived completely for the Lord Jesus. These churches (which are real historical churches) provide us with models we should follow and models we must reject. We will find a great deal of practical counsel for the church today.
As the four visions are revealed, we see the challenges of the world in which we must proclaim the Gospel. We see the spiritual power of the Gospel and the opposition that emerges from the world around us. It can hardly be overstated that this book presents to us the absolute necessity of perseverance and faithfulness. Prayerfully read and study this book again and find what the Holy Spirit is saying.
Throughout the book, one theme must not be forgotten—mission. The Kingdom of God and its consummation, eternity and God’s glory are seen in places like chapter 5, where angelic beings and people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation are worshipping God before His throne. This glimpse into Heaven presupposes the faithful proclamation of the Gospel throughout history (14:6). We must not ignore the commitment and sacrifice that is required of the believer and the church to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel of Christ and fulfill the Great Commission. The book ends with a fourth vision, new Heaven and a new Earth, a new creation. God will restore all things. “God wins!”
I want to thank our writers Alan Bandy, Craig Blaising, Ben Merkle, Wade Burleson and Anthony Jordan. They have helped and inspired us.
• Back toward the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy, by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
• How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.
Mark McClellan is professor of theology and missions and dean of the Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service at Oklahoma Baptist University.