Monday, November 16, 2009

Revelations: The Other Purpose To All Ages

Traditionally, the book of Revelations has been held as the one book in The Holy Bible that presents the vivid picture of the Second Coming of Christ and other end time events that will one day take place; and in every manner, that is undoubtedly one message the book gives us. However, through various widely held traditional views and no thanks to Hollywood movies and prophetic book writers, many of us have been ingrained with the mindset that Revelations is only a book that relates to the end of times; and in part, has generated many other prophetic and symbolic beliefs that find no Biblical backing. Needless to say, if this is all we see Revelations as, then we will miss a crucial underlining message that speaks to all ages, not just to those in the end times.

Revelations is perhaps the most unique and most incredible book to read in The Bible; but at the same time, truly the hardest to understand. To even grasp some understanding -- in my opinion -- requires an in-depth study of how it relates to the Old Testament, historical events, and to much surprise, Greek mythology (the quite “colorful-not of this world,” symbolism does relate to the authors knowledge of ancient Greek mythology). Furthermore, Revelations should not be taken, as so many have pursued, as a collection of puzzles to connect to discover the symbolic mysteries that lie within -- Revelations was never meant for that and there is little, if any, spiritual profit in doing such things.

Throughout the centuries, there have been many ways some have attempted to interpret Revelation; some relate it to only future events while some relate it to only the first century, and some see it as a continuation through history until the end of time. These are the most popular noted interpretations held, which I might say are maybe considerable; however, my purpose in this blog is not to draw out the best interpretation or bring out a new one, but rather exemplify a message in Revelation that relates to all Christians in every era.

As the name indicates, the book of Revelations reveals things that would otherwise be unknown. Traditionally, the view has been held that the apostle John (one of the original disciples) was that writer of this book mainly due to certain geographic reasons and other writing style reasons. However, throughout the book nothing is made certain to indicate this view, as the writer only introduces himself as “John, a bond servant…” (Revelations 1:1). Nevertheless, the pros seem to out weight the cons in presenting the apostle John as the most likely of authors.

This revelation was originated in God and came from Jesus Christ then given to John sometime around the end of the first century (90s AD). John then passed this revelation on to a group of seven churches in the western part of Asia Minor with the purpose to shed light on things that would soon happen (Revelations 1:11).

By the late part of the first century, the churches in Asia Minor were already well established, presumably, based on the first missionary journeys recorded in Acts chapters 16-19. In Revelations chapters 2 & 3, we see the specific letters to these seven actual churches (personally speaking, there is nothing Biblically that I find that imply these churches are symbolic of seven church ages), which clues us in to what the conditions where during this time surrounding the region as a whole. These were, indeed, troubling times for the church, as persecution was strong towards the Christians.

From the very beginning of the first century church, persecution was a real and present danger to the Christians, but mainly, from the Jews. However, as time went on the Roman government officials added to the persecution where thousands upon thousands of Christians were either imprisoned, thrown into slavery, tortured, and killed because of their faith in Christ (John’s exile to a prison on the Island of Patmos is one example of this Roman persecution). The peek of all this persecution came around the 60s (AD) under the Roman Emperor Nero, and continued through the 90s (AD) during the time of Emperor Domitian.

These were, of course, testing times for all Christians -- persecution was at its height and oppression towards the Christians increased. More and more people were turning against the Christians, as the government enforced Emperor Worship. To make matters worse, false teachers started to stir up trouble within the churches by suggesting Christians to go along with pagan religions that practiced idol worship and other immoral sins. (Revelations 2:10, 13-14, 20; 6:9-11). Needless to say, the battles Christians were facing then were coming from every angle.

Many Christians, as a result, were becoming very discouraged and confused, and even some were renouncing their faith, as it seemed that the return of their King Jesus Christ was not coming as they expected to save them from such persecution. It seemed the real power was in the hands of the Emperor, and not Almighty God.

However, through John, Jesus reassured His persecuted followers that He was still very much in control, for He never left them with any false hope of a quick return; but rather, He prepared them for a greater endurance to come. Jesus revealed to them the extent of more troubles to come and the eternal reward that awaited for those who stay firm for Him. Jesus’ message to them, and all of us who follow, was that in God’s time, He will certainly return to judge the evil doers, save His people, and bring all His people into His rest of eternal peace and joy (Revelations 1:5; 12:10-11; 19:15-16; 21:1-4; 22:7).

There is no doubt that Revelations had a meaning to the Christians in the late first century, as it has meaning to all Christians since, and will have meaning to those in the end of all age to come. The symbolic pictures in the book are taken mainly from life under Roman rule, as John knew it; but the principles are for every Christian anywhere and anytime. Throughout the ages, Christians have been faced with persecution, anti-Christs, and false prophets; and we must be careful not to limit this book to our own favorite interpretation or try to strum up connections of modern-day events to these prophesies.

The book of Revelation does give us the accounts to what is going to happen at the end of ages; however, is not just a book of symbolic prophesies for end times nor should we bother or debate over it. Was it not our Lord Jesus who told us to be concerned for today and not tomorrow? If all we see is “end times” we will overlook that Revelations was also given to strengthen, guide, encourage, and give hope to all Christians (past, present, and future) who will be going into the mist of oppression, persecution, and even, death for the name of Christ Jesus; so that they may see the relevance of John’s revelation to their own experiences.

The other purpose of Revelations is the blessed message of HOPE OF SALVATION during times of hardship and persecution from the first century Christian to the present century Christians, and to the future century Christians. In every age, Christians have triumphed over the forces of the anti-Christ through Christ’s victory on the cross (Revelations 12:11); and the final victory over the final anti-Christ will be when Jesus Christ returns to banish all evil and save His people for all eternity.


ebbs said...

Wonderfully executed analysis Forward thought, bravo! You have shown me a new way of interpreting the book of revelations. Many Christians today (including myself) are seeing end time signs almost everywhere you look. After reading your post I am reminded of how important it is to leave any worry I might have about end times to God. The Bible tells us that we will not know the hour of his return so regardless of any signs we see or think we see the key thing is to live every moment like God would want us to, putting our faith and trust in him. Agian, great post. Happy thanksgiving to you and yours by the way :)

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