The Absolute Necessity of the Book of Revelation

Recently I was speaking with a young friend of mine concerning the state of his local church. He told me that he was frustrated with the lukewarm spiritual atmosphere of the church, including the youth group. “Why is it,” he asked me, “that we never hear any teaching from the book of Revelation?” It was no surprise to me that neglect of this amazing and powerful prophecy was linked with a dull and ineffective church.
Why is this prophetic panorama of Jesus’ victorious return so neglected, feared, and ignored by His church? I have found that there is often a direct correlation between the health of a local church and the level of focus that is placed on The Revelation. This is usually the case with individual believers as well. Show me an on-fire believer who is filled with love for Jesus, and in almost every case there will be an excitement about understanding what scripture says about the end times, and with The Revelation in particular. Begin talking about the end time prophecies in many churches and the tension is immediately noticeable. This is tragic on a number of levels.

Studying The Revelation is vital because it shapes how we view heaven, how we see ourselves in light of the rewards it offers for those who are faithful witnesses, and most importantly it reveals Jesus as King, Bridegroom, and Judge. Most of the modern church only knows Him as Savior, but The Revelation (literally “the unveiling”) shows us the risen Christ in His glory, returning for His Bride and unleashing judgment on the wicked and their leaders. In this book, Jesus emphasizes His most important attributes to the end-time church. What we believe and understand about Jesus and the end-times is critical because it directly effects how we live now. The Day of the Lord and Jesus’ 1000 year kingdom is one of the most emphasized subjects throughout the Old and New Testaments. We cannot afford to take a passive approach to this topic with the idea that it will all just work out somehow; Jesus is looking for those with burning hearts to partner with Him in these pivotal times.

The Revelation is the only book in the bible that includes a special blessing upon those who read and those who hear the words of the prophecy. (Rev. 1:3) And yet, the majority of the Western church avoids it! I believe that there are several reasons for this attitude, and these hindrances must be corrected and overcome. The time is too short, the peril is too desperate, and the rewards are too great for this wonderful unveiling of the returning King to be kept out of our churches any longer. Let us examine the main reasons why the church shrinks back from “eating the scroll” of Revelation.

1. Fear

I believe that fear is the primary hindrance to receiving the blessings that God wants to give us through this book. This fear is expressed in a variety of ways. Christians are afraid that The Revelation is too complicated to grasp. Pastors don’t teach it, fearing they might look bad if there are parts they don’t understand or get wrong. Worse yet, they are afraid of offending church members who may hold differing views than what is being taught. People are afraid of the symbols used in the book, although most of them are explained for us and the rest can be found throughout the Old Testament. And too many Christians fear being labeled as kooks for studying the end times. (This is unfortunately reinforced by those who set dates for the “end of the world”, bringing the legitimate study of end-time prophecy into disrepute among non-believers.)

I always tell those who want to understand The Revelation to begin by getting the big picture in each chapter. Although we may not fully understand all the details of this weighty book, it is relatively easy to get the main message from each chapter. For instance, you may not understand who the 24 elders are in chapters four and five, but you can know they are important figures who show us an example of whole-hearted worship that we can model in our own worship. This is just one of dozens examples where we can be impacted in a powerful way by the main theme of a chapter without necessarily understanding all the details. And God has promised that those who seek will find, so the more we endeavor to know this book, the more we will be shown.

I want to address this notion that the book is so difficult to understand that no one can correctly interpret it. God is not the author of confusion; He did not send this book to us so that we could argue about a dozen different interpretations and then walk away frustrated. I would suggest that most of the difficulty lies in the practice of coming to The Revelation with preconceived ideas about the end times, and then trying to make the book fit our view. I would further suggest that if you came to the book of Revelation having no knowledge whatsoever of prophecy or of end time doctrine, you would be able to read it and come away with an accurate overview of God’s plan for the end of the age. To put it another way, if you or I had never heard of a pre-tribulation rapture (as one example), I believe that we would read The Revelation and conclude with certainty that there is a time of great pressure ahead for all of God’s people. It is our bias and presuppositions which make The Revelation seem complicated; we insist on twisting the scripture to support what we think we already know and we end up with contradictions and arguments. When we take this book at face value for what it actually says, it is not confusing at all… just sobering. And it fits perfectly with what the entire Bible teaches about events at the end of the age.

Before leaving the subject of fearfulness, it must be pointed out that faithful shepherds over God’s house must make the effort to learn the message of The Revelation and teach it to their flocks. Anything less is an irresponsible breach of our duty and we will have to give an account to God for the omission. We must gain a thorough understanding of the end time prophecies and instruct the church to prepare and to live whole-heartedly in light of them. We must not shrink back because we may offend those who reject sound doctrine. It is sobering that God lists fearfulness ahead of other evils that we would consider to be far worse:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

2. Satanic Resistance

Satan hates the book of Revelation. He hates everything about it. He hates the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and is returning to forcibly take back the earth from satanic possession. He hates that God has revealed His plan for His Son to return as King, and Satan hates that the nations will accept Jesus as Lord while he is imprisoned. He hates that God blesses those who read and hear the prophecy and he especially hates the fire and passion that this book unleashes in the hearts of those who live by its message. Is there any wonder that that so much resistance is given to understanding The Revelation? Hollywood churns out ridiculous perversions of this message while church leaders (and entire denominations) pretend that it doesn’t exist. But the tide is turning! The Holy Spirit is emphasizing the truths of this book like no other time in church history, and just like the prophet Daniel was promised, the prophecies are being unveiled and understanding is being given at the time of the end. Let’s agree that anything the Devil wants to keep cloaked in confusion is worth searching out and shouting from the rooftops.

3. Ignorance of the Message

The Revelation is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. It is not the unveiling of the antichrist, the unveiling of the rapture, or the unveiling of all the other sub-topics that frequently take front and center when this prophecy is discussed. Many who have kept their distance from The Revelation think that it is primarily about plagues, the antichrist, and strange symbols like horns and creatures full of eyes. It is so important for the church to understand that this book is the unveiling of Jesus Christ! The four gospels reveal Him as the miracle-working servant-teacher who died for our sins and then rose from the dead. But in the book of Revelation He is revealed as the glorious conquering king who is returning with the burning heart of a bridegroom to execute judgment on everything that hinders love.

The first five chapters alone are a divine gold mine of information about the nature of the resurrected Son of Man, the indescribable beauty of the throne room of Heaven, and the worthiness of Jesus to take over the government of the earth. Chapters two and three tell us what is important to Jesus concerning the church and the eternal rewards that are promised to those who overcome. The power of this book to change the lives of those who read and live its message cannot be understated. Without The Revelation we really don’t fully understand who Jesus is, and we live life with a pre-resurrection image of Him. This will lead to living with a dull spirit now, and many being offended in Him when He doesn’t meet their expectations at His second coming. Understanding who Jesus is and avoiding being offended in Him will be of major importance during the final decades of this age.

4. Conflict with the Message

I believe that a fourth reason The Revelation is avoided by many in the Western church is that its message conflicts with deeply entrenched mindsets held by most Christians. For example, The Revelation clearly and unambiguously teaches that Jesus is returning to earth to establish a 1000 year kingdom, and that at the end of this kingdom the current heaven and earth will be purged with fire, revealing a new heaven and a new earth. At this time, the Father comes down and makes His abode with men. (Rev. 21:3) And yet, the vast majority of Western church members think they are going to live forever in a “mansion” in Heaven and have no paradigm for ruling on the earth with Christ. They have an escapist, rather than a redemptive, mindset that contrasts sharply with the theme of Revelation.

Here is another example: How many Christians believe that Jesus could come at any minute? In my experience a great many Christians believe this, and yet The Revelation (and many other important end time prophecies such as Daniel’s vision of the seventy weeks) makes it clear that it is not possible for Jesus to return until specific key events take place.

A third illustration of this conflict between modern “churchianity” and the book of Revelation can be seen in the seven letters to the seven churches that Jesus Himself dictated to John in chapters two and three. You would think that what Jesus, the Head of the Church, thinks about church would be of the highest importance to every pastor and leader. Jesus emphasized intimacy over programs, advocated identifying false leaders, commended faithfulness and labor, rebuked the policy of separating the church into “clergy and laity”, condemned immorality and compromise, and said that lukewarm churches made Him vomit. In His final direct communication to the churches in scripture, there is not one mention from the mouth of our Lord about church growth, facilities, budget, or programs. What do we see emphasized in most churches today? Growth, budget, facilities, and programs. Our churches are filled with lukewarm members who are fed irrelevant messages having little to do with their desperate spiritual condition. Is it any wonder that The Revelation is left out of the sermon rotation?

The Revelation was written in part to prepare the Church for persecution and martyrdom. The Western church knows very little of either of these, and in her immaturity she bristles at anything that sounds negative. The New Testament includes many warnings and admonitions that seldom get any mention in the modern church. James calls friendship with the world “spiritual adultery” and warns the rich members of the deception their money is causing. Jesus instructs disciples to strive to enter at the straight gait and avoid the wide path that leads to destruction. He tells us that there will be “few” who find the narrow way. These and countless other themes are almost never preached in American churches because they are offensive to the flesh, the natural mind, and the American culture. The Revelation conflicts profoundly with the comfortable Laodicean mindset that permeates the Western church and robs her of a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus.

The Revelation: The most Exciting Book in the New Testament

There are multiple reasons for making the study of The Revelation a priority. It is only by going deep in this book that we have a true understanding of the nature of Jesus, Who unveils Himself to be far more than just our savior. It is only through the book of Revelation that we can have clarity on many important Old Testament end-time prophecies. For example, The Revelation fills in enormous details concerning Daniel’s prophetic writings, including the foundational prophecy of the seventy weeks. The book of Revelation give us great hope by showing us electrifying glimpses of the victory of the Church during the tribulation, and of the glory of Jesus as He returns to judge the earth and establish His global government out of Jerusalem. Through a right understanding of this book we can know that the rewards of suffering and even martyrdom are real and have eternal impact. Through the reading of this book and the keeping of its sayings, we qualify ourselves for God’s special blessing. And perhaps of greatest immediate importance, making the book of Revelation a part of your regular study and meditation will lead to having a burning heart of passion for the Bridegroom.

What we think about the Lord’s return will greatly shape how we live now. Far from being an esoteric and impractical book filled with unknowable symbols, The Revelation is a call to whole-heartedness, love, prayer, and martyrdom. It contains the most glorious imagery of the epic battle for the nations of the earth and for Jerusalem that will take place at the end of this age, and it is the greatest anchor of hope during shaking and tribulation. Reading, studying, and keeping the sayings of this book will change your life and fill you with new fascination for God and His beauty.

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book. (Rev. 22:7)