…it is sad that so many Christians avoid Revelation because of its difficult and mysterious nature. It is even sadder, perhaps, that so many use this book as a springboard for speculation about the Bible’s relationship to current events. This is a book about the risen and exalted Christ. Revelation is not a guide for interpreting the evening news. Instead, Revelation depicts Jesus Christ’s victory over all his enemies as the final chapters of redemptive history draw to a close. Therefore, we should not be afraid of what is in this book. Nor should we handle this material irresponsibly by attempting to connect it to recent headlines, as though John predicted every war, earthquake, and global crisis which could possibly befall the human race. John does not do this.
What John does do is describe the on-going struggle between Christ and Satan until our Lord returns to judge the world, raise the dead, and make all things new. While John may not predict specific future events in exacting detail, he does provide us with a theological explanation of all the wars and rumors of wars, the earthquakes and famines, and those signs of his coming which Jesus called the birth pains of the end (Cf. Matthew 24:8).
Throughout the Book of Revelation John tells the glorious story of our Lord’s victory over all of his enemies. He does so using symbols and visions typical of apocalyptic literature. In apocalyptic writings, the author uses vivid symbols to depict a cosmic struggle between good and evil. In Revelation, the specific struggle is the on-going conflict between Christ and his already defeated foe Satan, during that period of time between Christ’s first advent and his second coming. In other words, John describes a struggle which goes on this very day, even as we go about our spiritual duties and earthly calling.
As we saw last time, Daniel calls the age in which we live “the great tribulation,” while other New Testament writers speak of the age which begins with the coming of Jesus Christ as the “last days.” This means that what John sets forth in the Book of Revelation specifically concerns Christ’s church, and therefore, each one of us who are members of that church through faith in Jesus. Let us be clear from the outset, that the symbols and images found in apocalyptic literature are not to be taken literally. Rather, they are word pictures which point the reader to the story behind the story. In the Book of Revelation these symbols are drawn directly from the Old Testament and are set against the backdrop of the Roman empire in the first century. If we want to know why John uses certain numbers, say a “thousand years,” or “seven,” we look to the Old Testament. If we want to correctly understand why John speaks of lampstands, or dragons, why he mentions particular cities and so on, we look to the Old Testament. All this means that the Book of Revelation is God’s commentary upon those redemptive historical themes which have been introduced earlier in the redemptive drama (the Old Testament), but which have not yet been brought to fruition at the time John was given this vision.
Therefore, Revelation is that one book in which God wraps up all of the loose ends of the story. This book gives Christ’s church a heavenly perspective upon our present earthly struggles. Ultimately, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. It is against the principalities and powers who manifest themselves in flesh and blood (cf. Ephesians 6:12).