In a previous post, I wrote about the benefits of reading the book of Revelation and included a few tips that can help us get past some of the difficult spots. I thought it might be useful now to add seven principles for reading Revelation taken from the book I mentioned, The Triumph of the Lamb, by Dennis Johnson. These are found in chapter one, entitled “A Strategy for Seeing.”
Revelation is given to reveal. “Our starting point should be confidence that God has given this book not to confuse, terrify, or divide His people but to give us light, to reveal to us the invisible forces and the secrets of His invincible plan that makes sense of visible events and movements experienced by his church in the world.”
Revelation is a book to be seen. “Revelation is a book of symbols in motion. What John has seen in prophetic vision is the true character of events, individuals, forces, and trends, the appearance of which is quite different on the physical…observable plane.”
Revelation makes sense only in light of the Old Testament. Paraphrasing Dr. Johnson, Revelation draws together numerous themes from the Old Testament prophets, especially Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. This is one of the things I love about Revelation: it shows us that God’s plan from creation until the end of time is secure and unshakeable. God will complete all He promised!
Revelation is for a church under attack. “Its purpose, to reveal ‘things which must soon take place,’ is not to satisfy idle eschatological curiosity…but to fortify Jesus’ followers in steadfast hope and holy living.” In another place, Dr. Johnson paraphrases the message of Revelation to us, Jesus’ bride as “endure and stay pure.”
Revelation concerns “what must soon take place.” (See Revelation 1:1, 19; 4:1, and 22:6.) Again paraphrasing Dr. Johnson, this point is helpful because it reminds us “Revelation gave first-century Christians insight into the purposes of God in their time. We can at least conclude, therefore, that interpretations of the visions that lie completely beyond the original readers’ frame of reference are suspect.”
The victory belongs to God and to His Christ. “Though the enemies’ might is portrayed in all its hideousness, Revelation’s last word is not about the destructive power of the ‘prince of darkness grim’ but rather about the joyful celebration of those redeemed by Jesus, the Lord’s Messiah. This hope motivates the suffering church to endure tribulation and the tempted church to remain a pure bride for her Groom.”
May God use this part of His Word to make us a more faithful church for Jesus, our great Champion!