Every time something big happens in the news, especially if it involves the Middle East, it seems a new set of books, reinterpreting the book of Revelation, is published. It is, therefore, no surprise when the reader begins to get the impression that the book of Revelation is a very dark, mysterious book that is difficult, if not downright impossible, to understand.
Revelation is about Jesus.
The basic message of the Scriptures is clear to anyone who can read them. This does not mean that every part of Scripture is equally clear. Some passages are, indeed, difficult to understand and it helps to have the consensus of the Church through the centuries to correctly interpret them. But the basic message of what man’s condition is, who Jesus is and what He’s done for us, and how I can be saved, is perfectly clear.
The Scriptures are about Christ. This is no less true of Revelation than it is of any other book of the Bible. This is not to say that everything in Revelation is as plain as the Gospel of John, nor do I claim to understand everything in it perfectly. After all, the book of Revelation is part of the genre known as apocalyptic literature, that is to say, it is full of symbolism. But Revelation, like the rest of Scripture, is about Christ, and any interpretation that ends up with something else as central has not only missed the entire message of the book but, to put it simply, is wrong. By, “about Christ,” I mean that it is about his person (he is both fully God and fully man), and his work (his life, death, and resurrection) on our behalf, and not merely about his second coming.
Revelation is about all of history.
Revelation is a beautiful vision of God’s reign over history that will reach its apex at the second coming of Christ. The reality is that Revelation is a book about all of history, not just the end times. It is also a book for the church of all times and all places, not just a guide to humanity’s last years. It was relevant and applicable to the original seven churches to whom it was addressed, it has remained relevant to the present day, and it will continue to be so until Christ returns.
The central theme that holds these visions together is that they demonstrate God’s rule over all creation and history. These visions all point to the climax of God’s plan of redemption, the return of Christ, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth.
Adapted from Richard Gilbert, “Christ & The Book of Revelation” Modern Reformation, Mar/April 1993. (Also at Core Chris-
Adapted from the Core Christianity Bible Study, How to Read the Bible.