How Should We Respond to the Book of Revelation?

Jesus hasn’t given us the book of Revelation to provide raw material for constructing a last-days’ timeline, nor to arm us with ammunition for arguing with other Christians. We’re enmeshed in a greater conflict with eternal consequences, threatened by venomous, vicious, aggressive, deceptive foes. In this battlefield crisis, we must respond to what Christ reveals about himself, ourselves, and our enemies in ways that align with our Lord’s purposes. Here are three responses introduced in Revelation 1:1—9:

Hear and keep

The first of Revelation’s seven blessings combines reading and hearing with keeping “what is written in” this prophecy (1:3). “Keeping” blends recollection with obedient action, extending over time. Followers of Jesus “keep” the commandments of God (12:17; 14:12). But Revelation contains more than commands to be obeyed. Its larger purpose is to open the eyes of our hearts to a wider panorama, a deeper perspective on reality itself. John’s visions take us behind the scenes to glimpse unseen forces whose conflict is reflected in the events of history and our daily experience. We are blessed as we “keep” what we hear also in the way that Mary kept, “treasured,” all that the angels had told shepherds about her newborn son, “pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Remember, reflect, let Revelation reconfigure your horizons, and reorder your affections.

Endure and stay pure

The enemy’s objective is to undermine our lifelong allegiance to Jesus through intimidation, bullying us into cowardly renunciation; through deception, leading us into theological confusion; and through seduction, luring us into pleasurable complacency. Over against these assaults, Jesus calls us to endure and to stay pure. We’re partners with John in endurance under affliction (1:9). Persecuted churches like those in Smyrna and Philadelphia hear Jesus’ encouragement to endure. Jesus redeemed us to consecrate us as priests, to serve God his Father (1:5-6; 5:10). Purity is imperative for those privileged to stand and serve in the presence of the holy God (3:4; 7:13-17). Compromised churches like those in Sardis and Laodicea need Jesus’ rebuke and summons to stay pure. All churches need to hear what the Spirit is saying to each church (2:7, 11, 17, etc.), to recognize Satan’s strategies that target us in our time and place, and to resist every assault in the strength of the Lamb.

Worship

The ultimate key to our survival and triumph in this spiritual warfare isn’t a discerning recognition of our aggressive opponent, as important as that is. More important is a clear, heart-absorbing gaze at the glory of Christ our champion. Revelation’s sobering scenes of disaster on earth are punctuated by radiant portraits of heavenly worship. God is the ruler, seated in glorious majesty, controlling everything everywhere in his creation, and receiving ceaseless adoration from innumerable admirers surrounding his throne. Revelation opens not only with blessings on God’s beleaguered people (1:3-5), but also with a doxology, an announcement of the glory of Christ: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1:5-6). This is the first of many invitations to worship interspersed throughout the book. (Lesson 3 lists the songs of praise to God and the Lamb throughout the book of Revelation.) As we work through John’s visions, we’ll pause and ponder how these worship scenes and songs lift our hearts’ eyes from all-too-visible troubles that beset the church on all sides, to focus our gaze on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:1-3).


This is an excerpt from Revelation, a Core Bible study that aims to help reorient you to the wonderful hope we have in our conquering King. Check it out here.

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Dennis E. Johnson

Dennis E. Johnson is the professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary in California. He is the author of several books including Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, and Walking with Jesus through His Word: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures. 

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