Firstly, let me apologise for the delay between posts – trying to prepare teachings whilst looking after a toddler is hard work and I had to put the post series on hold until the teachings were finished!
Let’s start with a quick recap of the four main steps in the Inductive Method of Bible study:
- Pray – the Spirit is our Teacher and Guide.
- Observe – only looking at what the text says – do not jump to any conclusions here.
- Interpretation – ask about the meaning to those to whom the book was originally written. Here we ask why questions; we do not ask about ourselves or our society in this step.
- Application – application is the goal of Bible study, leading to transformed lives and societies, but it is the last step in the method. Jumping to application prematurely can lead to incorrect doctrine.
Bear these steps in mind as we get into the text.
Try getting into the method a little for yourself:
- Pray. Open up to Revelation in your Bible and ask God to give you discernment in understanding its message to the original readers, and the application for your life today.
- Observe. Then practise some observation skills. You have already read through the book out-loud, hopefully in one sitting. You could now read through it again in a different translation, to renew the text in your mind as we open it up.
Observe: Another great observation tool to help you really “see” what is going on in the text is to use colouring. I can be hard to start drawing on your Bible if it is new to you, so you can always print out a copy of the book from online and colour that to start with. Two great starts with colour coding Revelation are: the character, nature or names used for God (I colour mine yellow); and “who” words, for example: “church in Ephesus,” “servants,” “beast from the sea,” and so on (I draw a purple triangle for my colour code).
Setting the stage
Revelation can be seen as a drama play being acted out before us. Just like a play (for those of you who did drama at school), it can be helpful to break the book into different “Acts”, each Act having different “Scenes”. This is how I am going to walk through the book. Remember that I mentioned in a previous post that Apocalyptic literature is usually highly structured. There are different ways of studying it, but this is a way that I have found really helpful to see its structure. It is the one that is used in YWAM’s School of Biblical Studies.
So in the coming posts we are going to go through the book like a play, breaking it into 7 Acts, plus Jesus’ words to the 7 churches.
The book starts with Jesus giving words of encouragement and reproof to the 7 churches. We then see God give the OR the same picture of the world’s coming judgement, but from three different angles:
- The 7 seals: man judging man
- The 7 trumpets: creation judging man
- The 7 bowls: God judging man
These all move us towards the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.
The book is not random in its progression -> it has a purpose. The same message is proclaimed throughout the book: “God wins, God wins, God wins . . . and so do we as His saints!”
Into the text
Remember who was the true author of this Revelation.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, (Revelation 1:1).
In this book John in not the author! God is the author. When we consider why the author wrote something – we are asking about God’s reason!
Remember also what we saw of the original readers of this book. God gave this revelation to his hurting, fearful, persecuted church. They were asking “Where’s God in our circumstances? Is he worth holding on to?” As we get to God’s message to each of the 7 churches, we will see that some of them are choosing to compromise in their faith for a comfortable life now.
This revelation came as a message direct from God especially for them in the trials. This isn’t another epistle from an apostle. This is an epistle (letter) for them that came directly from God and His Son! This is a letter that they are going to understand. This is a letter that they would have found hope and joy and comfort in.
It is also such a beautiful thing that God entrusted John with this message when we remember what he had been through in his life. John knew persecution: he was literally thrown in a boiling pot of oil. He understood what it meant to watch the death of loved ones: he saw Jesus die and was the only apostle not to die the death of a martyr. He knew hardship: having been sent into exile on the Island of Patmos. And He had seen the Christ’s flock suffer through trials and tribulations.
The purpose of a prologue is to establish the context and give background details for the main story. So what is in the prologue of Revelation? If you turn to Rev 1:5-8 you will see the focus is JESUS: Who He is; what He did for them; and that He is coming soon. We learn from the prologue that this Revelation is going to be about JESUS.
What else do we see of Jesus from the start that would be so critical to the OR?
Jesus suffered! The words that are translated in most texts as “faithful witness” can also can be translated as “faithful martyr”. Jesus went through what they are going through, and he endured faithfully, becoming the firstborn of the dead. He was killed, but now He rules over all. If Jesus suffered, they will suffer (John15:18), but God will show them their hope through the rest of the book: that they will also conquer with Him.
We also see the Trinity again, right from the start. Consider 1:4-5 and see who sends the original readers greetings.
him who is and who was and who is to come, (Father)
seven spirits who are before his throne, (Holy Spirit; the number 7 is symbolic of perfection, and Isaiah 11:2 with the 7 characteristics of God usually being interpreted as the Spirit further supports this interpretation.)
and from Jesus Christ (Son)
Then in 1:8 we see clear evidence of the divinity of Christ. Reading from 1:5, no one would deny v7 refers to Jesus . . . so when you follow with:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)
Rev 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
You can’t deny the connection of these verses to Jesus being God, and being eternal.
So if you were the original readers, facing financial, social and physical persecution for your faith, would it be worth enduring, and even dying for Jesus?
YES – He is everything; He is completely sovereign so they have nothing to fear. They can faithfully endure knowing Him who suffered first to bring them eternal life. The book of Revelation is all about enduring seasons of trial, persecution and suffering in order to win Christ and to enter into His eternal rest.
Let us also think of what Christ is worth to us so that we can grow to declare as Paul does in Philippians:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11).
Next post we will look at the message of God to the 7 churches.