Friday, June 21, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 1, Introduction

Welcome to our new Bible study of the book of Revelation! It's a very exciting book because it's about the glorious future of the church and about the fulfillment of God's beautiful promises to Israel. There's no reason why we should fear the book of Revelation or why we should avoid the study of it. We are going to dispel the myth that it's too difficult to understand, and we are going to see why we don't need to be afraid of the vivid imagery contained in this book. Yes, troubled times will come upon the earth during the years known as the Great Tribulation, but we are going to see why anyone who has trusted in Christ need not live in fear of those dark days. 

Before we embark on our voyage through the thrilling book of Revelation, we must discuss the premillenial interpretation from which this study will be taught. It's important to fix certain things in our minds from the very beginning so we don't become confused as we go along. I am going to present the book of Revelation in what I consider to be the most mainstream point of view among Bible scholars, which is that from Chapter 4 on the book deals entirely with future events. There have been some scholars who tried to claim that this book represents historical events which have already taken place. If we attempt to make this book fit with the past we will soon run into serious trouble. There are things in Revelation which simply won't fit into historical events. Trying to do so may be what has caused some scholars to conclude that Revelation is full of bizarre symbolism impossible to be understood. Nothing could be further from the truth! Revelation is an orderly and very understandable book when we study it in the proper context which is known as the "premillenial" or "futurist" context. If all the events of Revelation are past, then where was the rapture of the church? The Second Coming of Christ? The millennial kingdom? And where would that leave us? To quote Dr. Thomas Ice, "If all was fulfilled in the past, then we have no future." (from The End Times Controversy, page 429

I believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture of the church and I feel that there is a great deal of Scriptural evidence to back it up. The word "rapture" derives from the Latin "rapio" which means to be "caught up". The Apostle Paul clearly explains the doctrine of the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4 when he says that when the Lord Jesus comes in the clouds and calls for us, we will be "caught up" to be with Him forever. This is why no one who is in Christ need fear any of the things we find in the book of Revelation. We will not be on the earth during the terrible days of the Great Tribulation because we will be with our Lord in heaven. As we move through our study we will take a look at the compelling evidence for believing that this is true.

In order to do a comprehensive study of the book of Revelation, we must study it together with the Old Testament book of Daniel. In Daniel's day, the prophecies of the end times were sealed. Following the prophetic revelations made to Daniel while in exile in Babylon, the Lord said, "But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end." (Daniel 12:4a) The book of Revelation unseals the book of Daniel. When the Lord tells John of things to come, He says, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near." (Revelation 22:10)

In Daniel's day the end times were far off. It was impossible for Daniel to understand the prophecies of the end times prior to Christ's redemptive death on the cross. But by the time John writes the book of Revelation, the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and John is able to understand the visions he is given of the end times. Ever since Jesus ascended to heaven we have been essentially in the times of the end. The clock of this world is winding down. This is why John says in the first sentence of Revelation, "The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place." (Revelation 1:1a) The book is unsealed because it must soon take place. 

When Daniel asked to know more about the times and the seasons of the end, he was told, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end." (Daniel 12:9) Daniel and the people of his day didn't need to worry about these things because they would not take place in their lifetime. But now, in the church age, the prophecies of Daniel are relevant for the times we live in. The day is at hand. "Behold, I am coming soon!" the Lord Jesus says in Revelation 22:7. 

The book of Revelation is relevant for the whole world in our times. The premillenial viewpoint is really the only viewpoint from which this entire book of prophecy makes any literal sense and I am firmly convinced that it was intended to be taken literally. What would be the use of a prophecy we can make no sense of and make no use of? The Lord gave this message to John so the church could benefit from it. Jesus wanted to "show His servants what must soon take place". Not only that, but we are promised a blessing for studying this book. "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (Revelation 1:3) Our Lord guarantees us a blessing for reading this book! How can we turn down an offer like that?