This week, we will start with one more chapter from the Epistle to the Hebrews, then we will finish the year with four chapters from the Book of Revelation. We cannot do justice to the latter in just four days of reading, but we can get an overview of how the book brings an ending to the story of the Bible we began in Genesis this year. This book is intimidating to many people, and it certainly can be challenging. It is also one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted books of the Bible. But it is not as difficult to read or to understand if one keeps in mind the context in which it was written.
The Angel Appears to John. The book of Revelation. 13th century manuscript. British Library, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
John wrote this epistle (yes Revelation is a letter) to Christians in the first century about first century times; and it was intended to strengthen their faith and hope during times that were extremely difficult – and promised to become even more so. There was much Apocalyptic literature around in those times, and people were used to such imagery and symbolism. But those same two things have led many scholars to come away with misguided ideas – such as the supposition that Jesus failed at a first attempt to establish an earthly kingdom, and is going to do it successfully (for a thousand years?) in the future. The very idea of the Lord failing at anything is ludicrous, and shows a total misunderstanding of what the kingdom is in the first place. Also, where many commentators and scholars go awry is in trying to give prophetic (and often even literal) meaning to every single detail. Others want part of a passage full of imagery to be literal, and part to be figurative, so they can “pigeon-hole” it into the prophetic word they wish it to be.
For those interested in a more in-depth reading of Revelation, we would like to recommend a very well-written and informative book that aids in understanding Apocalyptic literature contained in such books of the Bible as Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, and yes, Revelation in particular. The name of the book is “Understanding Apocalyptic Literature (A Guide to the Book of Revelation)” by Mark Roberts. It is an easy read – less than 100 pages; and this writer benefited enormously from reading it before tackling Revelation during last year’s full Bible reading schedule. It is well worth the very low price (5.99 at the time of this writing), and can be purchased at this link.
It is helpful first to understand what Apocalyptic literature is. The word Apocalypse is associated today with an “end of time” situation, the end of the world in particular. But that is a view of the term that has been perverted over time. Translated literally from Greek, it is “a disclosure of knowledge, hidden from humanity in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception.”
Page 289r: The Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seals, Revelation 6:9-16 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is tremendous value to the Book of Revelation for us today, as with all of God’s word. But we must remember that as Revelation 1:1, and other passages of the book state, it was to show “the things that must soon take place.” It does not predict things like the tragedy of 9-11, or even good things like the establishment of the United Nations, as some have claimed. “Revelation does not address life in our times because that was of no interest or help to its original audiences… It promises God’s action soon” (Roberts, 2011).
So what understanding should one have after reading the Book of Revelation? If you come away with the assurance that, although there is great evil in the world and it wants to thwart and utterly defeat the followers of Jesus Christ, that there is more to be hopeful for than just this earthly life, and that in the end, Jesus will be triumphant, then you have understood the message of the book as it was intended.
Roberts, Mark. “Understanding Apocalyptic Literature” A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Temple Terrace, Florida: Florida College Press, 2011.
Each weekend, I am now posting a small PDF of one week of chapter summaries (on the website’s “Summaries” page), current to the beginning of the previous week. I have posted the summary for Week 50 (December Week 2) of the schedule I am following. This short PDF document contains condensed comments about 1 Peter 1, 1 Peter 2, and Hebrews 3, 4, and 5, with hyperlinks to the ESV version of each chapter for listening or reading, and joins the summaries for other weeks already posted there.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.