My most recent assignment for a post-graduate course I’m taking on the book of Revelation was to write a short synopsis of how the book practically applies to my life. We’ve been through the book several times over these last few months, studying historical interpretive approaches, aspects of apocalyptic literature, and detailed dynamics of the text itself. I really enjoyed this assignment, because it reminded me that no matter how in-depth we dig on an academic level into the text of Scripture, we must always submit our lives to it and allow it to change us.
Here it is:
The book of Revelation is applicable on a number of levels. The apocalyptic and prophetic nature of the book can be intimidating territory upon which to tread, but the responsible interpreter must pursue practical application of the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. From the outset of the book the reader is encouraged to mine the depths of Revelation, with the assurance that those who “keep what it written” in the book will experience the blessing of God (Revelation 1:3). The letter also carries with it a warning at the close of the book, where the reader is warned to neither add nor takeaway from the prophecies contained in the book (22:18-19). In both instances the reader is clearly called to approach the book earnestly and responsibly, taking into account the gravitas of the words contained therein. Powerful points of application are apparent as I examine what the book says about Jesus Christ, God, the kingdom of God, and the calling of every follower of Jesus.
The book opens in chapter 1 by clearly emphasizing that its subject is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” As a follower of Jesus I am encouraged, humbled, and inspired by the clear testimony of the character and power of Jesus. These opening words reveal that in Jesus I am called, saved, set free, and given the power to endure. This Jesus is the “first and the last,” “the living one,” “the faithful witness,” “the firstborn of the dead,” and “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” By focusing on Jesus and by finding my hope, joy, and truth in Jesus, I can be assured of his plan no matter what I face in life.
As I look to Jesus I am drawn into worship of God. Some see the phrase “worship God” as the central thrust of the entire book of Revelation. Whether this is completely accurate or not, worshipping God is certainly a clarion call of the book (19:10, 22:9). This God I am called to worship is revealed through chapters 4-5 as the sovereign God over all creation. He is the God who is worthy of worship and who has a definitive plan for his creation. He both has the right and possesses the wisdom to judge the world and to culminate its future toward his glorious ends. As I see the revelation of this God I develop a hopeful perspective, knowing that I can trust him to bring about his will in all situations.
The sovereign God revealed in Revelation clearly has a plan that he is unfolding. The successive periods of judgment (seals, trumpets, bowls) reveal that God is progressing the world toward the end he sees fit, exercising judgment and purging his creation. As God works this out, “the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ” (11:15), and God is leading this transformation intentionally and carefully. Though we face evil and the reality of Satan in our world, we can be assured that God is bringing about Satan’s demise and the end of evil (20:1-15). Therefore, when I see evil, I am led to persevere rather than despair, as I know that God will judge evil and ultimately banish Satan. This leads to hope and perseverance as I look forward to the day when God will redeem it all, including me.
As I see the revelation of Jesus Christ, God’s character, and God’s kingdom, I am drawn into a mindset of faithfulness. From the admonitions to the seven churches (chapters 2-3), to the continual call to “faithful endurance” (12:11, 13:10, 16:15), I am left realizing that I am not called to figure it all out, but I am called to overcome evil in my own life and to live faithfully. Revelation teaches me that how I live matters. Through Jesus I can walk with integrity, truthfulness, and an eternal perspective. I can answer the call to live with expectancy and intentionality, as I can hear Jesus telling me “stay awake!” (16:15), “for I am coming soon” (22:20).