Reading Revelation

Earlier yesterday morning I had some spare time and so I sat and read my Bible for a little less than an hour.  In that time I was able to read about two thirds of Revelation in one uninterrupted sitting.  Reading Revelation like this gave me a new appreciation for the book: I started making connections I had not made before, and I gained a deeper appreciation for things I already knew.  I would like to share a few (disconnected) points that I gained from this time of extended reading.

1.  In my experience, people often approach Revelation (and end time prophecy in general) with the wrong focus.  So many people read Revelation in an attempt to figure what the seven seals symbolize (Rev 6) or who the 144,000 Jews might be (Rev 7) or what the two beasts represent (Rev 13).  They try to figure out the last events of human history or identify the antichrist.  But simply put, this is exactly the wrong way to read Revelation; because the focus of Revelation isn’t even really about those things.

The Greek word for “Revelation” in the very first verse is ἀποκάλυψις, which implies an “unveiling” or “uncovering” of something: bringing something hidden into view.  When we read Revelation, we need to keep in mind that it is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”.  The book was written in order to unveil Jesus.  The book’s express purpose is not to reveal the antichrist or the political forces at the end of the world.  The book was written to pull the curtain back from God’s eternal intentions: the book’s purpose is to reveal Jesus.  Instead of looking for “the next prophecy fulfillment” of our time, we should be looking for Jesus Christ when we read Revelation.  When we stop looking at Revelation as a prophetic checklist for doomsday, and start looking at it as a glorious unveiling of the Lord, then we are able to see this prophecy for what it really is.

The very first chapter of Revelation talks about how Jesus washed us in his own blood and made kings and priests to God and how he will come in the clouds again.  We see him as a priest in front of a golden candlestick.  He has hair of wool and eyes of fire and feet like fine brass.  He has a voice like a roaring waters and a face like the shining sun.  Each message to the seven churches highlights a different aspect of his person (Rev 2-3).  He is called the Lion of Judah and the Root of David, even though we see him as a Lamb slain; and he is the only one worthy to take the book (Rev 5).  One day the kingdoms of the world will belong to the Lord and his Christ (Rev 11); even at his birth, he was “a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12).  He rides a white horse with the titles Faithful and True; he judges and makes war, with fire in his eyes and many crowns on his head and clothing dipped in blood.  He has a name that only he knows, yet his name is called the Word of God (Rev 19).  He is the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star (Rev 21).  Jesus is he whom Revelation unveils; the book was written to reveal him.

2.  Sanctuary symbolism, using the tabernacle/temple as literary anchors, is very frequent in Revelation.  We see Jesus as a priest in front of a candlestick (Rev 1:12-20).  The church at Pergamos is told that they could “eat of the hidden manna” (Rev 2:17), which refers to the pot of manna inside the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament (Ex 16:33-34, Heb 9:4).  The saints of Philadelphia that they can become “pillar[s] in the temple of my God” (Rev 3:12).  There is a golden incense altar before God’s throne (Rev 8:3-4), which matches the golden incense altar before the mercy seat in the temple (Ex 40:20-21, 26-27).  When the seventh angel sounds, the temple in heaven is opened and we see the ark of the covenant (Rev 11:19).  I think understanding Revelation will become much easier when we start picking up on these connections back to the Old Testament temple.  Apparently, the tabernacle/temple is connected to a prophetic unveiling of Jesus.

3.  I don’t even pretend to know why yet, but for whatever reason the number 1,260 is a recurring theme in Revelation 11-13.  In Rev 11 the Gentiles trample Jerusalem for 42 months ( = 1260 days) (v2), and the “two witnesses” prophesy for 1260 days (v3). In Rev 12 “the woman” hides in the wilderness for 1260 days (v6), or “a time, and times, and half a time” (=3.5years =1260 days) (v14). In Rev 13 “the beast” has power for 42 months ( =1260 days).  I personally believe that all of these events go on for the same 1,260 day period; and I am inclined to think that 1,260 days is a symbolic way of referring to 1,260 years.  I will continue to investigate this topic, and if the Lord shows me anything decisive I will be sure to share it.

I hope these points from Revelation are a blessing.  So many people I know avoid this book…as if reading it will cause them to experience the destruction it depicts!  I don’t think we have to be so scared of these prophecies—whether understanding what they mean or experiencing them as they are fulfilled.  Above all, we need to keep Jesus at the center as we read Revelation; because it is, after all, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”.

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