I really get worried when I hear a pastor or teacher start talking about the book of Revelation.
Like a tense, sick to my stomach feeling. It comes over my spirit and I don’t know what to do about it.
It isn’t like I am opposed to people talking about or preaching from the book of Revelation. This is one of 66 books in the Bible. It is just as much the inspired Word of God as Genesis, or Psalms or the Gospels. The truths that are written in this last book of the Bible are just as true as truths found in Proverbs or Philippians.
The Book of Revelation is a weird book.
Just a really weird book in general, not just a weird book in the Bible. I’m hard pressed to think of any book in all of literature that compares with all the weird stuff that is going on in the book of Revelation.
And it seems that whenever someone, a pastor, a teacher, a bible study leader decides that they are going to talk about what is in Revelation, it isn’t only weirdness that comes out.A whole lot of scariness, impending doom and horror comes out.
If I had never read that book of Revelation myself, if I only took what I have heard as the content of Revelation, I would think that it was an ancient Stephen King novel. Horror upon horror. Wrath upon wrath. Plague upon plague. Death upon death. God becomes this violence warmonger and decides to unleash everything in his arsenal, everything he has on the evil sinners of the world. And the apostle John was able to see it all in a vision, and recorded it to scare all of humanity.
Really, what kind of book is that? Is that what God wanted when John wrote these visions of the future down? To scare everyone, to instill fear in their heart and souls?
I don’t think so.
I think that a lot, not necessarily all, but a lot of preachers, teachers and bible study leaders have gotten it wrong when it comes to talking about the truths found in the book of Revelation.
And I have two suggestions for everyone to consider before they decide to go and preach, teach or study from the book of Revelation.
Let me clarify something first, so that you don’t think that I’m some kind of quack.
There are things written in Revelation that are frightening.
Just read the description of the Seven Plagues that are poured out on the Earth or look at these verses about the Beast that comes forth from the waters.
“Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority (Revelation 13:1-2 NASB).”
That is some seriously scary stuff right there. A reader of these, or other verses, would be right to be scared. But is that all that Revelation is?
No, as much as it is portrayed as being a horror, Revelation is not just verse upon verse of terrifying monsters.
There is so much more.
I was sitting in an airport with one of my good friends, and we were discussing theology, the Bible as we usually do. The topic at hand was how we miss a lot of things in Scripture.
We, as English reading and writing people, miss so much of the nuances and subtle references of Scripture that ancient peoples would have picked up on immediately.
For example, Adam, the first man, was made out of dirt. The Hebrew word for man is “adam”, while the Hebrew word for dirt is “adamah”.
So, the “adam” was made out of “adamah”.
It’s a clever play on words, even by today’s standards.
While my friend agreed with me, he said that we sometimes miss even more than that. Sometimes we miss things that are hidden in ancient languages or words. But, sometimes we miss the important statements of Scripture, written in a language that we understand, that impact a whole verse, a whole chapter, even the whole book.
Such is the case with Revelation, he stated. Take this, Revelation 1, verse 1. In one translation, it says that whoever hears these words of prophecy is blessed. Another, says for the reader to take heart when these words are read.
The purpose of Revelation is to bless you, to encourage your heart.
These aren’t words of doom and gloom. These are happy words. To take heart is to be encouraged. And that is how John starts everything. Revelation, the whole book, was written as an encouragement to people. This was and is supposed to be an uplifting book. Not a horror or a nightmare inducing piece of Scripture. This was and is supposed to make your spirit soar and rejoice, to uplift the heart, for you to be blessed.
Have you ever thought of that? Have you ever heard that preached? Or taught? Or studied from that vantage point?
I hadn’t, not until my friend pointed it out.
When it finally sank into my mind and heart, I knew, something was wrong with the way the majority of Christians read the book of Revelation.
People need to be told. They are missing out on something amazing, and being left with something horrific in its place. That should not be the case. The God that is Love doesn’t work in the ways of fear (1 John 4:18).
That was my first suggestion, Revelation was written to encourage, not discourage, to uplift, not destroy. So preach, teach and study it as such.
Onto my second suggestion.
As the conversation between the two of us moved from Revelation to a million other biblical topics, a part of my mind was still thinking about what else we might be doing wrong when it comes to Revelation.
I had recently listened to a pastor preach through the seven letters to the early Church. And there was one image that wasn’t mentioned in the sermon, but seemed to hit me with great importance and significance.
If it has been a while since you’ve read it, Revelation is a book filled with imagery. John records the myriad of things that he sees, from the New Jerusalem city to the 24 elders bowing and worshiping the LORD, to the angels and most importantly, GOD.
After the letters to the seven churches, John records the appearance of God. He describes God has having a rainbow before Him. Depending on your translation, there is a rainbow covering or surrounding the throne of God, or covering and surrounding the face of God.
A rainbow, not a big deal. Not as strikingly important or impressive as fire in His eyes, a sword for a tongue or a blood stained cloak. But it was interesting to me that John saw and recorded that God was covered in a rainbow.
What did that mean I wondered? The pastor didn’t mention it, the appearance of God was not the focal point of the sermon, so why should she?
Because the images, because the pictures that are written down hold so much value and significance, it would blow you away if you knew.
When I remembered the rainbow, I immediately interrupted my friend and told him about my revelation, how vitally important these images, these pictures and descriptions were.
At first he didn’t understand the significance of the rainbow. “What does that have to do with anything?” was his response.
“Everything”, I replied. When you read John’s description of this omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God, there is a sense of real fear and worry that this God could and will smite you for your sins. But being clothed, covered in a rainbow, that changes things.
The rainbow first appears in Scripture after the Great Flood, in Genesis. After Noah, his family and all the animals get out of the ark, God puts a rainbow in the sky to remind humanity that God will not flood the earth again. God will be gracious to us, even in our sin, even when we rebel against Him.
God will be gracious to you. God is gracious to you.
Now, put that image of an all powerful, all present, all knowing God on a judgment seat in heaven and cover him in grace and mercy. What was once a terrifying image, something that would haunt your nightmares, becomes something beautiful, something lovely, something that you want to remember and hold onto.
The image of a God that has set grace as the standard by which He does all things, the image of God being clothed, embodying grace for you and me at all times doesn’t terrify. It encourages. It does what the book of Revelation was meant to do, encourage, uplift.
But it only does that if you are paying attention to the images, the subtle descriptions of Scripture. I told my friend, “You could almost say that you shouldn’t preach from Revelation unless you are an artist, or an art enthusiast. You need to take in the grand scope of Revelation, appreciate it as a whole. But you need to stop and look at every little brush stroke, because in those small little detailed brush strokes, there is great beauty as well.”
My second suggestion when going to preach or teach from the book of Revelation, go in with an artist’s heart. Look at the whole book as a piece of art, look at all the fine details. There you will see the untold beauty that God intended when He shared those visions with the apostle John.
But what do you think?
What should we be doing to preach, teach and study the book of Revelation correctly?
And what shouldn’t we do with regards to Revelation?
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.Like, share, +1 and all that good stuff.
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