A group of Bible college students had finished playing basketball in the gym. They noticed a cleaner in the corner reading a book. “What are you reading?”,
“What part of the Bible?”
Thinking they could help the poor soul, they asked “Do you understand what you are reading?” “Yes” – they were astonished, “What does it mean?”
“Jesus is going to win!”
As we go through the book of Revelation, remember that; and that God has promised to bless us as we read it. Don’t become preoccupied with isolated details. Rather become engrossed in the overall story. Praise the Lord, cheer for the saints, detest the beasts and long for the final victory.
There are four schools of thought on how to understand Revelation:
- Preterism – it all happens by the end of the Roman Empire
- Futurist – it will happen in a final crisis at the end
- Historicist – it describes the whole of church history
- Idealist – it shows a repeated pattern.
A combination of all the views is probably the best way to understand it – the imagery is multi-faceted. There’s much more detail in Verne Poythress’ excellent book “The Returning King“.
A big mistake people make is to use the mantra “Interpret everything literally if possible” – it misunderstands what kind of book it is completely and you end up with exegesis by historic events, with authors like Hal Lindsey changing details of what it means after every Middle East crisis!
History is moving towards the second coming. That is the key event. When we read Revelation with that in mind, we find descriptions of the second coming 7 times – there are 7 cycles of judgement, each leading to the second coming. A final 8th vision shows the New Jerusalem – what it will all be like after the second coming. So, rather than Revelation being a chronological time line of the end, for a Left Behind book series (and terrible movie), we have a progressive parallelism, a series of parallel visions of the period leading up to the second coming looked at from different vantage points and with increasing intensity. Remember Jesus wins!
When times are tough – looking at God’s character and glory is the best thing.
John is taken to the heavenly throne room. Someone is sitting on the throne, who isn’t described – God’s greatness always exceeds our grasp. The jewels show us His wealth, beauty and glory. God is surrounded by successive circles of servants – four living creatures, 24 elders and myriads of angels. God is at the centre of everything!
There is much worship –
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come!
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
Why 24 elders? 1 Chronicles 24 shows that the Aaronic priesthood had 24 divisions. Priests served God on earth. Added to that the church was founded on 12 apostles who correspond to the 12 tribes, so there is much to be said for it to represent the people of God from the old and new covenants.
Seven lamps alludes to Zechariah 4:2,6 and 7 and represents fullness – the fullness of the Spirit. The light of the Spirit is on all the churches.
The sea of glass – the ancients were fearful of the sea (rightly! It is pretty powerful and unpredictable). A sea of glass represents the waters utterly subdued under God’s power and victory over evil (remember the Red Sea parted and then fell on the Egyptian enemy in Exodus)
Four living creatures – these are reminiscent of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1 and 10 and the seraphim of Isaiah 6 – they are the heavenly original of which the four earthly winds are an image. Their eyes seeing in all directions show us the all-seeing eyes of God. The lion, an ox, a man and an eagle reflect something of the glory of God in different ways – the lion the fiercest wild animal, the ox the strongest domesticated animal, the eagle the most majestic of birds and man the ruler over animals.
All of them worship Jesus, who was and is and is to come! Jesus who wins!
Just reading this passage makes my heart sing – meditate, marinate on it and worship!