Some people add to the words of this apocalyptic-prophecy-epistle and sell a lot of books. Others take away from the words of this book and avoid it altogether. If they only knew that the purpose of Revelation is to reveal the glorious reign of King Jesus (Rev 1). This book presents his plan in numbered sets that parallel and progressively intensifies the spiritual conflict between God’s people and the forces of evil until Christ returns to usher in the Age to Come.
We began with Jesus’s message to his Church (Rev 2-3). What was the Spirit saying to the seven churches in the first century? What he says to the Body of Christ in every generation! King Jesus always stands in the midst of his Church to expose threats from within and dangers from without, calling us to overcome adversity, heresy, and compromise.
When we entered John’s first vision, we got a glimpse of the present reality of heaven (Rev 4). God’s throne room is command central; and the Court of heaven is in session! A scroll appeared as the earth’s title deed and the only one worthy to open it and carry out God’s action plan for the world was the risen King (Rev 5). By opening the scroll, King Jesus takes responsibility to cleanse the cosmos of evil in preparation for the new earth. To open that scroll meant releasing righteous judgments to set things right.
We watched the risen Jesus open the seals, which permitted four “horses” to persecute Christians (Rev 6). We learned that the faithful are refined through those who try to destroy them. The Lord seals us—not from suffering—but in order that we persevere through suffering and death by the power of his Spirit (Rev 7). The trumpets use cosmic disturbance language to describe Christ’s response to those bent on persecuting us (Rev 8-9). Yes, a heightened sense of God’s glory emerges in persecution. We receive the promised inheritance through the triumph of suffering love—which lays the basis for judgment on those rejecting our testimony (Rev 10).
We came to realize that God’s temple is both heavenly and earthly; there are believers in heaven and on earth (Rev 11). Those on earth may be trampled by severe persecution (while the world parties), but Christ will return, and our resurrected bodies will complete our witness.
At this point, Revelation 12 must “start over” with a fabulous presentation of the Christmas story from a cosmic perspective. That’s when we saw a dragon in the nativity (Rev 12)! Satan is the real mastermind behind persecution. He tries to silence God’s people because he must stand in constant denial of the reality of his decisive defeat that is constantly intruding to refute his delusions. That is why Satan hates us. Our lives remind him of what Christ has done. Forgive sin and the dragon has no material to work with.
We saw Satan enlisting three helpers to persecute us: the politically oppressive antichrist, the “false prophet” of propaganda that incites people to “make an image for the beast” by reflecting its likeness (Rev 13), and the “Babylonian prostitute” that aligns corrupt politicians with private corporations to dominate the world market (Rev 17-18). While believers enjoy heaven, seven bowls will pour out to punish the persecutors of God’s people on earth (Rev 14-16). By the end of chapter 19, Jesus returns to vindicate his people and judge those who have mocked him. No more antichrist. No more propaganda. No more injustice and corruption (Rev 19).
Once again, Revelation must “start over” with the “binding” of Satan at the cross (Rev 20). We found out that Satan is “bound” in the sense that he cannot deceive the nations into wiping out the Church from the face of the earth (code word “Armageddon”). The “thousand years” is not about the length of time; it’s about the fulfillment of God’s promises at the opportune time (fullness of time). “Blessed is the one who shares in the first resurrection”—in Christ’s resurrection! Because we are inseparably united to Jesus, we will share in his resurrection the moment we die.
We must have a physically resurrected body that can sustain the full weight of God’s unveiled glory when heaven and earth merge (Rev 21-22). That’s why we celebrate Easter! But we do have a past. Will we remember the pain? God’s taken care of that, too. The tree of life will “heal the nations” so that we can “see” everything differently. Our history will not be eradicated but redeemed.