Revelation Challenge: What do we keep?

The “blessing” is in reading, hearing and keeping the words of Revelation. (1:3) In what sense can we keep this book?

We can keep in mind the challenges of the struggle, the call to bear witness, the need to persevere and so forth.  There are a number of direct challenges to the reader. The attached worksheet is for an adult class, the idea is to collect these and see what we find that we can keep.

6.Final Class

Revelation 12 – Variations on a Theme

From a class worksheet on how various viewpoints view Revelation 12.  However, one popular “futurist” made at least 3 contemporary applications of Revelation 12 to believers today.  Go figgure!

How To Read Revelation

1.  “PreteritView (means “past tense”)  holds that all the events of Revelation have to do with the time from about 90 AD to 135 when Jerusalem was destroyed.


2.  Historical View – this sees that the 7 churches and the other 7’s (Seals, Trumpets, Bowls, Visions) cover the whole history of the church from the time of John until the end of time.  These “7’s” basically repeat the same time period from a different perspective.  This is usually associated with the Amillennial position, which says that the Millennium (Revelation 20) is a symbol of the Church age.


3.  Futurist View – this holds that everything from chapter 4 to 22 has to do with the future.  Specifically it all has to do with the Great Tribulation, which is the 7 year period of the Anti-Christ.  The first half of which (3 ½ years or 42 months or 1260 days) is peaceful, but the second half is the time of persecution and wrath.  This is generally held by the Dispensational Position (e.g. Schofield Bible, Dallas Seminary, Moody Bible Inst., Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, “Left Behind” books.)  This is the most popular Evangelical position.  It sees that the church is not present in these times, but has been raptured to heaven.  Generally the seals, trumpets and bowls as well as the other visions are seen as going in chronological order, end to end from Chapter 4 to 22.


4.  Idealist View – This view holds that the visions are mostly symbolic.  They do not have specific historical fulfillments, but express symbolically the themes that all Christians face such as the need to persevere, the victory of Christ, persecution and judgment.


5.  Hybrid Positions

  • Historical Premillennial – in this view some of Revelation 4 to 22 pertains to the church age.  Some hold that the church is raptured part way through the 7 years (Mid Tribulation, or Pre Wrath). Others hold that the church is preserved through the tribulation but dues not experience God’s wrath, only the persecution of Men.  Generally the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls are seen as progressing to the last days, but that they overlap.
  • Some of This and some of That;  Some commentators see that there may have been an initial fulfillment in the day of the early church, and during the church age but that there will be a final fulfillment in the last days.  Nero, Domitian and other persecutors act like previews of a later and greater period of trouble.


Applied to Revelation 12


1. The persecution under Rome in 70 and 135 are described in vivid terms.

2.  The persecution of Israel and the Church is described in symbolic terms.

3.  This is the story of Israel.  Verse 1-5 have to do with the Birth of the Messiah to Israel, and the rest are the events of the Great Tribulation, with Israel, the Dragon and the tribulation believers described in the events.  I.e. v. 6 to 12 is in the future.

4 and 5.    this is the story of Israel (up to v. 5) and the church from the time of John down to the Return of Christ.  Satan first tried to destroy Christ, then his church.

Diced & Defined or Read & Received – Revelation

I admit it.  those charts about Revelation leave me cold.  Those, “what exactly is this?’ and “how do these fit together on a time line?” questions are unanswerable.  If this was that John meant to tell us, he did not do a good job.  Just pick up 3 commetators at random and read from any part of Revelation and see that they will not agree.

Is there something wrong with the Dice & Define approach.  That is, where we dice up the book into its various parts and then set out to define (Is that Nero, Domitian or the Devil?) each part.

The Blessing is for Reading and Receiving this book (1:3).  There is only one possible place where there is some kind of puzzle – after speaking of “666” it says, “let the reader understand.” (Rev. 13:18).  Again, lots of luck with finding 3 commentators that agree on the meaning of that.  I am quite sure that having a license plate with 666 or finding it in your address will not be the issue.

Better to read Revelation as a whole and receive the charge it contains: persevere, be on watch for the deception of evil, embrace the future victory, more is going on that what we see, Christ is Lord, make sure you are in “the Lambs book of life.”  Evil has a repetitive quality, the bad guy might be a little of Nero and a lot of Anti Christ, but they share the same outline and methods.

Read it out loud. Repeat as necessary.

Symbolism in Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus speaks of life in terms of food and clothing in this passage.  Against those who worry about food, he speaks of the birds who are provided for by God.  Against those who worry about clothes, he speaks of the flowers that are clothed for a short time in glorious color.  There is an interesting set of linkages, a sort of tapestry structure to this passage that you can see here.



We have these links – Life and body/ food and clothing in verse 25.

All these things are the material concerns “worries” of food, drink and clothing.

He ends with not worrying but seeking the Kingdom and Righteousness

Can we equate the Kingdom as “life” – is not life more than food? it is being part of the kingdom of God.

Can we equate righteousness with “body/clothing”.  Guilt brought nakedness and shame (Genesis 3) and redemptions brings white robes (Revelation 7:14; Isaiah 61:3)

So life is found in the entrance into the kingdom of God and righteousness is given to us freely as the Father gives flowers to the grass of the field.

Or am I getting carried away?

The structure makes me think there is something to this.

Eschew Homogeneity – Revelation 7:9

  After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

Revelation 7:9

There was a time when church growth consultants were saying that it is necessary for churches to be mono-cultural so people will feel comfortable, so the church can grow.  We also were supposed to need one parking place for every 1.75 attenders.  This whole “homogenous unit principle” has been largely debunked by the evidence.  But well before the bean counters got into the fray, we should have read the book to see what the church is supposed to be.

I take Revelation 7 as a picture of the church in the struggle (the 144,000 is to me a symbolic number – 12 x 12 x 10 cubed. ) followed by a picture of the church after the battle before the throne of God.  the tribulation includes the times of the church that have seen all the distress of the Four Horsemen (Rev 6:1ff). but it also includes the “Great Tribulation” of the last days, when evil flows undiluted through the earth.

At any rate, the church is not a euro-centric entity, nor is it mono-cultural, nor is it made up of one social class, nor of one education level.  So if we want to have a little taste of heaven when we worship, we should eschew homogeneity.

Look at the Birds – Matthew 6:26

“Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away barns, and yet your heavenly father fees them.  Are you much more valuable than they?”

Our pastor’s group had a day of prayer and so I went off with my bible and sketchbook and was reading in Matthew 6:25-34. This place is a camp on a lake near Madison and it is next to a rather large marsh of cat tails.  So i managed to observe quite a number of birds and in fact saw no little bird barns, looms or combines.

Jesus made extensive use of the natural world, the “2nd book” of revelation in his teaching.  We often to go these places to find inspiration or escape as well.  Though I have quite a number of creatures in my urban back yard, including the rabbits who enjoy my attempts at gardening.

Here is the list of birds I saw that day:   Canadian Geese, Red-wing Black Birds, Mallard and Teal Ducks, Cardinals, Coots, Sand hill Cranes, swallows, brown and tree sparrows, purple finches (they are not purple but red/scarlet) and chickadees.  Coots are duck like birds which are black with white bills; that was a new bird to me.

I also saw some kind of water snake in the marsh, so I decided not to go swimming.

So I went back to make a watercolor sketch.  There are ducks, sandhills and a blackbird if you look closely.

Rules for Reading Revelation – Four from Stott, One from Me

Here are  4 rules for interpretation that I found in John Stott’s book, The Incredible Christ.  I have added one more of my own.

1.   “The symbols are to be understood not visualized.”  By this Stott explains.  If you imagine robes that are washed in the blood of the lamb literally, it is a strange thing.  We do not usually use blood to wash clothes.  It is clearly to be understood that we are washed from our sins from the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.  When Jesus has a sword in his mouth, that is hard to visualize, but when we understand that to mean that his word has power, then it is clear.

2.  “Revelation addresses the past, the present and the future.”  There are a variety of ways people interpret the book. Some try to fit all that happens into the 1st Century world of the early church.  Others say that everything from chapter 4 to the end is all about the last 7 years of human history before the Kingdom of God.  But we need to read the book as a reflection of the past (for example the victory of Christ in the Cross.)  We need to see it in the present, not only in the letters to the churches, but in other parts of the book.  And we do know that the book marches toward the final end of history, through troubles, wars and plagues until there is the judgment of God leading to a new Heaven and a New earth as well as an eternal Hell.

Prophecy has in view of a future victory of God.

             Prophecy shows how this victory colors our present.


3.  “Revelation celebrates the Victory of God.”  This vision was sent to encourage us in times of trouble.

4.  “Revelation focuses on Jesus Christ.”  The main idea is not When these things will happen, but Who has won the victory.

5.  This is my rule:  “Be patient with other’s opinions and be cautious about your own.”  I have seen Christians go to war over interpretation of Revelation.  We can talk and discuss, but we need to be patient with each other.  This book is for our encouragement, not for our division as a body.