What comes to your mind when you think of the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible? Many things are possible. Perhaps you think of all the imagery that is described in it, such as dragons, beasts, angels, or horses. Or maybe you think of all the numbers and lengths of time, such as 1,000 years, 42 months, the mark of the beast, which is 666, or the 144,000 of Israel, or the seven churches, seven bowls of God’s wrath, seven seals, seven trumpets, and much more.
Revelation is full of all kinds of things that have left Christians scratching their heads for 2,000 years, and questions over what should be interpreted as literal or figurative, when certain events will happen (or have happened, and currently happening), and even how what is described in the book applies to believers today have divided the Church and sparked numerous debates. Despite all of this, however, there is one thing regarding Revelation that every Christian of the past two centuries has been able to agree and stand together on, and that is that Jesus will come back to earth one day to judge the living and the dead. That’s as far as our agreement on eschatology (the study of last things) has gotten.
Much of this, the divisiveness, different interpretations, and confusion with the book has left many faithful and strong Christians (myself included at times) discouraged, and as a result, Revelation has been largely left out of both our personal Bible study, as well as Sunday morning sermons. Think about it, can you recall the last time you read through the book of Revelation, let alone done a deep-dive study on it? How about the last time you heard a sermon in Revelation chapters 6-19? I point out these chapters in particular because they are where most of the more difficult things are covered.
I had been thinking about all of this recently, and so I challenged myself to sit down and read through Revelation. It took me a few days, but I read through it, study Bible and online commentaries at my side, and I was pleasantly surprised not by how easy it was the understand everything and resolve every question I had (trust me, I still have many questions left unanswered), but by some of the incredible, rich truths scattered throughout the book. For the rest of this post, I would like to look at a few of these, as well as briefly expound and comment on them.
First, to begin the book of Revelation, we see some wonderful descriptions of Jesus.
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come. (1:4)
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. (1:5)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (1:8)
“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to Death and Hades.” (1:18)
In three of these verses, we see Christ’s eternal nature; he never had a beginning, and he will never have an end. And though he died, he rose again and has the power over death itself. Along with this, we are given a sweet picture of the gospel, as John describes Jesus as loving us and freeing us from our own sins by his blood. What great love, that God incarnate would lay down his own life to save sinners!
Next, we see multiple beautiful pictures of biblical, blood-bought diversity. I add those two qualifiers, biblical and blood-bought, because of the many negative connotations that the word “diversity” carries in modern America. But in Revelation, we see this diversity, but on a level that is more glorious than the world could ever imagine.
And [the four living creatures and the 24 elders] sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you [Jesus] to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (5:9)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:9-10)
How incredible will this be! What a joy it will be to be among that “great multitude that no one could number” from every people group on the planet, glorifying and singing the praises of the One who brought us into his eternal kingdom!
Speaking of which, Christ’s eternal kingdom, the New Heaven and New Earth, is described in breathtaking fashion in the last two chapters. Here is a brief sample.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (21:3-4)
And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp out sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (22:5)
It greatly saddens me that many Christians today seem to get their view of their eternal state, the New Earth, more from pop-culture than they do the Bible. As movies and cartoons suggest, we will not be disembodied spirits, floating around, bouncing on the clouds, playing harps, and being bored out of our minds for all eternity. That is not how the Bible describes our life to come! A whole other post could be dedicated to discussing this topic, but suffice it to say that we will have real, physical bodies, living in a real, physical place. All of it will just be purified and made new, without any sin or defect! (21:5)
And the songs that we will sing and the praise we will give once we get there!
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (5:12)
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (4:11)
Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (15:3-4)
And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. (14:2-5)
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” (19:6-8)
14:2-5 particularly stuck out to me as I was reading through Revelation. For one, notice that no one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. We won’t get caught up in who that 144,00 actually is, let alone if that number itself is symbolic, but the song that they are singing is an exclusive one. This is a song that will only be sung by those whom Christ has purchased with his very own blood, and they will all be singing it together, pouring out their praise to him.
Second, notice the purity of the redeemed. “It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins…and in their mouth was no lie found, for they are blameless.” If you are a Christian, you ought to be bewildered by these statements. Me? Blameless? I have sinned every day of my life and will continue to until I die. I have defiled myself with sins day in, and day out, constantly having to go back to the throne of God to ask for forgiveness. Yet it is those whom Christ has redeemed and cleansed that will one day stand before him completely pure and blameless, because he has made them so.
Finally, notice that the redeemed love Jesus. “It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Yet here is a very hard fact: Many people today claim to be redeemed, to be a part of the family of God, yet they do not love Jesus above all other things. He is simply an afterthought in their lives that they tack on to satisfy their critics. He’s just a Bible verse in their Instagram bio and nothing more. To them, he’s only worth going to church on Sunday mornings, then living the rest of the week in complete disregard for the holiness he called them to. These people do not love Jesus. How then will they love Heaven, because that’s where Jesus will be?
The final set of verses I want to point out from Revelation describe the final defeat of Satan and his allies, and the final triumph of Christ.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (12:9-11)
They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called chosen and faithful. (17:14)
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (20:7-10)
This has just been a sample of some of the great riches that lie at the heart of Revelation. They are meant not to discourage or confuse us, but to energize us and call us to persevere in our faith. So my challenge to you today is simple: Take some time, however long it may take, and read through the book of Revelation. Don’t get bogged down by all the questions and uncertainty you may have, but stay focused on what’s clear, and be compelled to love Jesus more because of it.