Join for our live streamed Sunday School (9:30am) and Worship Service (10:30am). You can view them HERE.

Interpreting Revelation (handout)

July 30, 2023 | by: Jack Lash | 0 comments

Posted in: Sermons

I. Introduction
A. Often one’s interpretation of Scripture is not just based on what’s there in the text, but also on the presuppositions one brings to his examination of the text. That’s certainly true of Revelation.
B. So, I would like to explain the presuppositions I bring with me when approaching this book.
C. Some think this book was written primarily for the final generation before the end comes.
D. Some think it was written for the generation which was alive in the first century when it was originally written.
E. But I don’t take either of these approaches. I think the book of Revelation, like the rest of the Bible, was written first and foremost for all those who believe in Jesus and are called to follow Him. I think this book is for us, to help us understand our lives, the world around us, the redemption of God in Christ, and the glorious future being prepared for those who hold their faith to the end.
II. There are three reasons to conclude that the book of Revelation, along with all the rest of the Bible, is to be taken personally, as written for us who are the followers of Christ.
A. The sovereignty of God
1. God is sovereign. He knows the end from the beginning.
2. I believe that the sovereign God engineered the exact culture He wanted the Scripture-writers to live in – and to write just what they wrote – for all believers in the NT age.
3. The One who inspired the NT writers knew us, and knew what we were going to be facing, and engineered the NT to be just what we need.
4. I don’t agree with many NT scholars who view the New Testament (NT) books as merely written to first century Christians and therefore only give us an example of how the gospel looks in that one specific cultural context.
5. So, though it’s usually very important to understand what a passage of Scripture meant to its original readers, the ultimate purpose of every passage of Scripture is to help all those who believe in Jesus in every society and generation on earth since the time of Christ.
6. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2Timothy 3:16-17. And that includes the book of Revelation.
B. The second reason I think we ought to interpret Revelation as being written to help us in our present lives is that this is consistent with the pattern of how Jesus and His apostles handled and interpreted the Old Testament (OT).
1. Jesus and His apostles frequently interacted with the OT Scriptures. And they were constantly interpreting Scripture to refer to what was happening in the coming of Christ and to those who believed in His name.
2. God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation was ultimately about believers in Christ. The Israelites being told to look to the bronze serpent which Moses made and lifted up in the wilderness was ultimately about people looking to Jesus. Celebrating the Passover was ultimately about believers in Jesus celebrating His sacrifice upon the cross.
3. It seems to me that Jesus and His apostles ought to be models for us of how to interpret Scripture.
4. But believe it or not, it is not uncommon to hear Bible scholars actually claim that Jesus and the NT writers took unwarranted liberties with the OT.
a. Jesus and His apostles understood the OT better than the greatest Bible scholar today, not less.
b. Woe to the one who has more trust in his own ability to discern the proper meaning of the OT than in Jesus’!
C. The third reason for the conclusion that all Scripture (including the book of Revelation) is written for those who believe in Christ is that this is what the NT clearly teaches.
1. In 1Cor.10:6, 11 Paul says that the things in the OT “happened for us” and were “written down for us” “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” “so that we might not desire evil as they did.”
a. So, the people of the NT age are the main ones all this is directed to.
2. Peter talks about this in 1Peter 1:10-12, “Concerning this salvation (in Christ), the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
a. It was not just about the people who lived at the time of the prophets, it’s about those of us who live in the age of the gospel.
III. Conclusion
A. All these things apply to the book of Revelation as well as to the rest of Scripture. It seems to me that the book should be taken not as written primarily for one or two generations, not primarily for John’s generation or the final generation, but for all the generations between its writing and the return of Christ.
B. We are the ones “upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” We’re the ones who have been blessed with this amazing information.
1. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:16-17, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
2. According to Jesus, we’re even more blessed than John the Baptist, who knew Jesus personally. “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11
C. So, in my opinion, we should not read this book as a prophecy of what later happened in 70AD, not as how the final generation should interpret their newspapers. We should read this book as if it’s for us, Christ’s followers, as if it’s designed first and foremost to help us understand the world in which we live, to help us understand what is behind the chaos, the conflict, the calamity, to teach us about the God who is above it all, working out His good purposes, and preparing a glorious new heavens and earth for His beloved ones, to reprove and correct us, and to train us in righteousness, that we may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Timothy 3:16-17)