The Joy of Reading Revelation
Seven Reasons to Study the Apocalypse
Let’s be honest: Revelation can be an intimidating book. Because of that, some of us have avoided Revelation, deeming it to be too difficult to interpret and understand, too controversial, or too scary. Perhaps we’ve ignored it because we have assumed the book is only about the future, with nothing “practical” for us today.
The truth is, while the apocalyptic prophecy of Revelation presents some challenges to us as modern readers, it also provides gifts of insight and understanding to those who are willing to engage with it. Revelation is a letter written to gird us for faithful allegiance to Christ as we wait for his return. And that is encouragement we all need!
“I want to invite you to study Revelation for the joy of it.”
I want to invite you to study Revelation for the joy of it. And since Revelation is full of sevens (seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, and many more sevens), it seems appropriate to provide seven reasons Revelation is a joy to study.
1. Revelation is a message from God sent to us.
It is amazing that the God who made the world has condescended to speak to us in human language. In the Bible, the God of the universe tells us what we most need to know. And there is something special about the way his message in the book of Revelation is delivered to us. At the outset, we’re given its specific chain of delivery:
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, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1–2)
What John wrote down in the book of Revelation came from God the Father, to Jesus Christ, to his angel, to John, who then wrote it down — first for the seven churches who originally received it, and also for all who were then or would become partners in the “the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” (Revelation 1:9). God has a message for you in the book of Revelation that you don’t want to miss!
2. Revelation opens our eyes to see the risen and glorified Christ.
Most of our mental pictures of Jesus have been shaped by the Gospels. In our mind’s eye, we see him as a baby in a manger, standing on the hillside teaching, hanging on the cross. But in the book of Revelation, John is given a vision of Jesus as he is, right now, today. As John was suffering imprisonment on the island called Patmos, he heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him, felt Jesus reach out and touch him, and saw Jesus in all his resurrected, ascended glory (Revelation 1:9–20).
We don’t want our understanding of Jesus to be confined to the years of his earthly humanity — glorious as those Gospel pictures are. The Jesus we call out to and commune with day by day is the risen and glorified Jesus. Seeing him as he is now, through John’s vivid record of his vision, builds our trust in him, heightens our attention to him, and expands our joy in him.
3. Revelation provides a picture of Jesus’s presence with us.
In Revelation 1, John sees Jesus “in the midst of the lampstands” (verse 13). We’re told that the lampstands represent the churches (verse 20). When those who first received this letter gathered to hear it read to them, it must have deeply encouraged them that Jesus was not standing off at a distance while his followers suffered for him. He was right there with them, walking in the midst of them, keeping their fire for the gospel burning, correcting them, watching over them, strengthening them.
We need these same reminders, don’t we? What a joy to have this picture Revelation provides of Jesus standing in the midst of his people. In the midst of suffering for our allegiance to him, as we face temptation to be unfaithful to him, we can be assured that he is with us, providing what we need for patient endurance.
4. Revelation enables us to see this world from heaven’s perspective.
In Revelation 4:1, John records being invited to “come up” into heaven and to come into an open door to see something. In a visionary state, John peers into the heavenly throne room of God and sees the thunderous worship taking place around the throne. But from this vantage point, he is also enabled to see what is taking place on earth from heaven’s perspective.
We sometimes foolishly assume we have all the data we need to evaluate what is happening in our world. But we don’t. Our perspectives are limited by our humanity and our earthly vantage point. But as we take in what John recorded about what he saw, we find that we are better able to see the true nature of our present reality. This is perspective we need. Rather than seeing this world’s offerings as attractive, from heaven’s perspective we can see how ugly and unsatisfying they are. Rather than seeing the persecution of faithful believers as tragic defeat, we’re able to see it as glorious victory.
5. Revelation assures us that God will deal with the evil in this world.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). He delivers us day by day, and Revelation shows us that one day he will deliver us in an ultimate and final way. His pouring out of wrath will be the answer to our prayers. You and I don’t want to live forever in a world tainted by evil, rebellion, idolatry, and immorality. And we won’t have to. The day is coming when God will cleanse away all the ugliness and evil from his creation, making it fit for us to live in as our forever home.
6. Revelation shows us what our eternal future will be like.
Sometimes the notion of “heaven” or “eternity” can seem so vague. We want details. And while the Bible might not give us all the details we’d like, the final chapters of Revelation uniquely provide us with beautiful images that give us a sense of our eternal future.
As we take in the book’s imagery of marriage, we can smile, sensing the intimacy we’re going to enjoy in face-to-face communion with God. As we read through its imagery of a city, we find ourselves anticipating the richness of being part of a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Its imagery of a temple causes us to imagine what it will be like to bask forever in the radiant glory of God. And as we take in the imagery of a garden, we exhale as we anticipate what it will be like to live in an atmosphere of healing, wholeness, and complete satisfaction for all eternity. Can you almost feel the joy of this marriage, this city, this temple, this garden?
7. Revelation promises blessedness.
When we think of beatitudes, most of us likely think of the “Blessed are . . .” statements from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–12). But did you know that Revelation has its own beatitudes? Within its pages are seven statements about the person who is blessed. As we survey Revelation’s seven beatitudes, it becomes immediately obvious that the blessedness God promises is nothing like the modern social-media version of #blessed.
Who will be blessed, according to Revelation? Those who hear and keep what is written in the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:3; 22:7). Those who refuse to compromise with the world (Revelation 19:9). Those who die in the Lord (Revelation 14:13). Those who stay awake, watching for the return of Christ (Revelation 16:15). Those who reign with Christ (Revelation 20:6). Those who have had their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb and have the right to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 22:14).
“Revelation sets before us true and lasting rather than false and fleeting blessedness.”
Revelation sets before us true and lasting rather than false and fleeting blessedness. This is the blessedness around which we want to orient our lives. This is the blessedness of eternal Sabbath rest that Adam failed to lead humanity into. We can be sure that Jesus, the last Adam, will not fail to lead us into it. Revelation shows us how he will do it. Anticipation of this blessedness is what fills us with genuine joy now.
My friend, don’t be intimidated by the book of Revelation. Don’t ignore it. Dive into it. Explore it. Have your perspective changed by it. Find joy in it. Experience the blessedness promised in it.