The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has been a mystery to most people since it was written. The book contains strange images and frightening scenes of death and destruction, suffering and wailing. Many wise theologians have struggled with the Book of Revelation. Bible scholar William Barclay writes:
The Book of the Revelation has suffered an unfortunate fate.
On the whole it has either been abandoned by the readers of
the Bible as being almost completely unintelligible, or it has
become the happy hunting ground of religious eccentrics, who
seek to construct from it a king of celestial time-table of events
to come. The obscurity of the Revelation has been felt by
scholars in all ages. Jerome [who translated the Bible into
Latin] complained that the Revelation contained as many
riddles as it does words. Luther would have banished it from
the pages of the New Testament. He cited Revelation 1:3 and
22:18 where threats are made against the man who breaks the
commandments of this book, and promises to the man who
keeps them and demanded how any man could possibly keep
the commandments of a book which no man has even been
able to understand. Still another scholar said that the
Revelation either finds a man mad or leaves him so (Barclay,
Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 1).
However, the Book of Revelation also contains some of the most beautiful and hopeful passages in the Bible. We often read Revelation 21:1-5 at funerals as it reminds us that death and grief are temporary. Eternal life in God’s presence is what awaits us.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no
more.2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming
down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for
her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See,
I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these
words are trustworthy and true.”
“These words are trustworthy and true.” They are. Not everything in Revelation is easily understood, but we do have some wise guides who can make things clearer. And we know that this book of the Bible is about Jesus Christ, the One who loves us, the One who saved us, the One who rules over all. That is good news.
You are welcome to join us on Sunday mornings at 9:00 over
Zoom as we explore this fascinating book.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an 1887 painting by Viktor
Vasnetsov. From left to right are Death, Famine, War, and Conquest;
the Lamb is at the top. From Wikipedia
Note that the Lamb – Jesus Christ – is at the top. Death, Famine, War and Conquest have their day, and sometimes it seems like they rule our world. But the Lamb is over all. We know how history
ends, and it is a good ending, the “new heaven and new earth.” That is the primary message of the Revelation