Exploring the Book of Revelation: Why are we doing this?
Why have we asked some of the most respected scholars in Southern Baptist life to address the topic of the various approaches to interpretation of the book of Revelation and end times?
Read these next words slowly and absorb them: “Blessed is the one who reads and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near!” (Rev. 1:3) I can think of no better reason to challenge you to read and seek to understand this fascinating, yet powerful, book inspired by the Holy Spirit than this charge and promise from Scripture itself.
Pastors and people in the pew have often shied away from the Revelation, in part because it is a genre of Scripture that is unusual to us. The letters of Paul are straightforward and the Gospels have a comfortable, narrative style. The Revelation, however, seems mysterious and veiled, which is exactly as it was intended. Yet I am confident that the imagery and picture graphic text had much clarity to those who read it during the time the book was written.
Having read the different approaches scholars take to interpreting this book, you may declare, “They don’t agree, so how can they expect a layperson to understand the text?” One of our aims in presenting the various views is to challenge laity and pastors to take time to struggle with grasping the message of this book. We have tried to present the interpretations in language all of us can understand. In addition, we suggested some books that will help you to study this wonderful book more deeply.
The Revelation is an integral part of the grand gospel story. As you have read the different scholars, I believe there are some conclusions we can draw. First, the Revelation was a Spirit-inspired tract to encourage believers facing trials and persecution. To those living under oppression today, this book is very important.
Second, like many other parts of Scripture, the Revelation had clear meaning to those who read it when the book was written, and yet has a prophetic meaning also. Even interpreters who give little credence to the prophetic side of interpretation admit the book does have powerful end time truth.
Third, one need not get caught up in determining the detail of every image. Instead, I encourage you to struggle with details, but do not miss the forest for the trees.
Revelation is panoramic and gives us the big view of the ultimate victory of Christ and His bride—don’t miss it. The simple truth is that our awesome Lord of Lords and King of Kings wins in the end, as do His people. Those who refuse Christ will ultimately face utter and dramatic defeat for eternity. The Sovereign Lord of the universe sits enthroned. He is large and in charge. Our present and future are in His hands. We have nothing to fear.
I am convinced if you read the book with a broader view while wrestling with the specifics of the imagery, you will be blessed. We are winners! That view is declared by all the interpretative approaches.
This is our second Messenger Insight. I hope you find these helpful and challenging. Our next topic will be the traditions and central theology of Christmas. Where did these traditions come from? Is the virgin birth that big a deal? Is the virgin birth essential to salvation?
I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by the Messenger Insight studies.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Messenger Insight Articles from Exploring the Book of Revelation