The apocalyptic book of Revelations opens with a divine promise, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy.”(A) For the Almighty to make this promise to each person of each era to receive a blessing, its message must not only be timeless & timely, but flexibly applicable to many applications. Its interpretation is not a singularity. Its blessings are for all. Therefore it was quite proper for German Christians to apply REV 13 to their own situation to resist Hitler. So if the shoe (scriptural application) fits, then wear it…except when it is being applied improperly.
WAS THAT DISASTER GOD’S JUDGEMENT? “God is not mocked, whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap!” (B) In some situations it is easy to see the judgment of God. When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, obviously God had turned His back on the Jewish people. At other times, it is easy to be mistaken, like Job’s friends were. Jesus’ disciples asked him about a man born blind, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Yahshua answered: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”(C) People like to blame, but we have to be careful about calling someone’s disaster “God’s judgment” for their sin. On Christmas Day, 1908 one of the major journals of Messina, Italy mocked God, & dared God to make Himself known by sending an earthquake. 3 days later (12/28/’08), an earthquake hit Messina & killed 84,000 people. The person or persons who wrote that article mocking God, if they lived, were undoubtedly duly impressed…but was it divine judgment because they mocked Him, or another cause? So flexibility in application, doesn’t mean any application is proper.
THE MIND OF GOD. Prophecy is of divine origin, albeit translated into human language, and so we must recognize that it is thoughts from the Spirit of God, not the personal imaginations of some visionary. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”(D) Therefore, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”(E) So we need to understand what God is sharing with us. This does not mean that a prophecy can only have one application, the Word of God itself applies different applications to a single prophecy numerous times. What it does mean is we need to treat the images with reverence, not flippantly thinking any application is proper. In the case of pictures shown in the book of Revelations, what is being taught is that God used images intentionally to set up patterns of images that can be properly applied in different contexts. The repetition is similar to all the types & shadows of history. So Moses is a type of Christ. Pharaoh is a type of Anti Christ. Egypt is a type of the world. The passage through the Red Sea is a type of baptism. Escape from Egypt is a type of salvation from slavery. Moses begins with signs & seals. So before the people are liberated God sends 9 plagues of judgment. Similar patterns reoccur in the book of Revelations.
TOUR THRU REVELATION’S ART GALLERY OF APOCALYPTIC IMAGES. The images that John received in his vision on the island of Patmos shook him up. So Christ tells him, “Do not be afraid.”(F) This is similar to Daniel when he saw pictures of the future; Daniel wrote, “And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days…I became dumb…”(G) Both prophets were unnerved by their vision experiences. What God showed them had serious meaning. And both apocalyptic visions used stock images found in a genre of apocalyptic literature that includes: the Apocalypses of Ezra, Peter, Paul, the Sibylline Oracles, Jubilees, & the Similitudes of Enoch. Over half the verses in Revelations refer back to the Hebrew Scriptures (aka OT). So John’s vision echoes past visions—BUT it’s the differences that catch one’s attention. They are similar, but different; so his vision sees 4 horses (H) like Zechariah (I). And he sees a New Jerusalem, a New Heaven & Earth (J) like Isaiah (K). He sees Beasts (L) like Daniel (M). John’s vision is heralded as a “revelation” (“apokalypsis” in Greek), that means a revealing of that which is hidden, but by the time many readers get through this unveiling, they are more bewildered than informed. Definitely, Revelations is an unusual book. I believe part of the reason the descriptive & predictive symbols of God’s playbook mystify more than clarify is that people are Biblically illiterate & additionally, they mistakenly think that there is only one interpretation/application for a given image. For instance, what is the Mark of the Beast?? If we understand that anyone, anywhere is promised a blessing from the book, then we can open our mind that it uses apocalyptic images intentionally so that they can be applied to the believer’s own context. The Mark of the Beast in China may be different than the USA.
THE WAY OUT OF TRAPS or GOD IS IN EVERY CONTEXT. Indeed, every generation has found its own applications of Revelation’s prophecies. So the Anabaptist prophet Melchior Hoffman (1495-1543), who studied prophecy, felt the Turkish army was Gog & Magog. In recent months, other students of prophecy are also equating the Turkish army with Gog, rather than Russia. As the images will flexibly apply to different eras, I am flexible in listening to new applications, IF they fit today’s World. The lessons are primarily spiritual, not carnal…so the spiritual significance is the most relevant important message. Is the Word of God to be a spiritual guide or a guide to the future? Some mistakenly think the Bible is a crystal ball. The significance of Christ in the future is NOT the future itself. Or to reframe this thought a different way, history has indeed been His story.(N) We know God holds the future, so we have only to stay close to Him. “For me to live is Christ…”(O) Where are we going? Christ says, “I am the end.”(P) When the way forward seems blocked, and we feel double-binded & trapped—like the Word of God says, the end times will be a time of “distress of nations, with perplexity; men’s hearts failing them for fear” (Q)—the word “perplexity” meaning a double-binded trap—we need to remember that the end of all this is Christ!! “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”(R) So Daniel asked what will be the end of these things? (S) And we learn finally in the last books of REV that Christ is “the end”—the focal pt. & reason for history!
PREDICTIVE SYMBOLS. Let’s look at some predictive symbols: 7 seals, 7 trumpets & 7 bowls. (There are four other 7’s: 7 churches, 7 signs, 7 judgments, 7 extra visions, for a total of seven 7’s.) What are seals, trumpets and bowls spiritually?? They all have spiritual meaning in terms of God’s temples, incl. the temple of the Holy Spirit=your baptized (anointed) body. God places His seal on believers, which is also the Holy Spirit’s anointing.(T) The trumpet had multiple worship functions incl. to announce liberation & restoration on the Day of Atonement.(U) Bowls were used in the temple also.(V) In the visions, each of these religious items is used 7 times: 7 seals are opened (W), 7 trumpet blasts(X), & 7 bowls are poured (Y). While those who are trying to make time lines like to teach that these are successive periods of time, a close look shows each set of seals, trumpet blasts, & bowls are different aspects of a single time period ending with the end of history & the start of a new creation—the New Heavens & New Earth. So the final trumpet signals the end of time, as we know it. At the 7th bowl it says, ’’It is done.”(Z) God proclaims towards the end (REV 21:4,5), “Behold I make all things new.” And so the summation of the entire book is two simple words, “Christ wins!” In the end, Christ wins! And with that I will conclude this teaching from the book of Revelations.
(A) REV 1:3 (B) GAL 6:7 (C) JN 9:2-3 (D) 2 PTR1:21, 3:2 (E) 2 PTR 1:20 (F) REV 1:17 (G) DAN 8:27, 10:15 (H) REV 6:1-8 (I) ZECH 6:1-3 (J)REV chapt. 21-22 (K) ISA chapt. 65-66 (L) For instance REV 13:1-2 (M) DAN 7 (N) cf. REV 19 & 20 (O) PHIL 1:21 (P) REV 21:6, 22:13 (Q) LK 21:25-26 (R) ROM 15:4 (S) DAN 12:8 (T) 2 COR 1:22, EPH 1:13-14, 4:30 (U) LEV 23:23-25, 25:9, 1 CHRON 15:28, 2 CHRON 15:12-13, & ISA 27:13 (V) ZECH 9:15, NUM 7:13,19 (W) REV 6:1-8:1 (X) REV 8:2-11:19 (Y) REV 16:1-21 (Z) REV 16:17