I have a good friend who belongs to another faith community that holds a high regard for the teachings of Christ. I really appreciate his and their commitment to living out the life of Jesus. I was curious one day, however, about what their views were on the book of Revelation. After giving it a little thought, he responded by saying, “Well, we just approach it with humility and admit we don’t understand it.”
That seemed to be the extent of the denomination’s dealings with the last book of the Bible – which is fine; I have been there for most of my life. I have kept the book at arm’s length for the most part, intimidated by its apparently cryptic nature and its seemingly fear-inducing end-time scenarios.
I think most people have had this attitude as well. We kind of subtly think: There’s the Old Testament, there’s the Gospels, there’s the epistles, and then there’s Revelation – which we must avoid if we are going to get closer to Jesus and give people a pleasant picture of Him. No sane person would ever think that Revelation is healthy and edifying.
I had a “revelation” the other day, however, as I was studying this book in preparation for my first-ever series on it. The very first three Greek words should give us pause: Apokalupsis Iesou Xristou – “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Many have rightfully started recognizing that the book is, in fact, primarily about Jesus. This is a well and fine and commendable discovery. But the title goes beyond that beautiful truth. The Greek word apokalupsis denotes not just a “revelation,” but an uncovering of truth that has been previously hidden, often times correcting a misunderstanding. As Ranko Stefanovic says, “The term denotes a disclosure of something that was previously concealed, hidden, or secret” (Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 53).
This is critical and cannot be underscored enough. What this means is that the book of Revelation offers us insight into Jesus that no other book is able to give. Thus, if we are to come into a fuller, richer, and more loving understanding and walk with Christ, we must read and understand the book of Revelation. To put it simply: Know Revelation, know Jesus. No Revelation, no Jesus. We cannot simply expose ourselves to the four Gospels and Paul’s epistles and expect to arrive at the fullness of who Jesus is. We need the book of Revelation – with all its dragons, beasts, earthquakes, seals, and trumpets. Yes, these things some how, some way round out and reveal who Jesus is as no other book can.
This is why the Protestant maxim tota scriptura is every bit as important as sola scriptura. Just as our sole source of authority is the Bible, so we believe that all of the Bible is authoritative and a revelation of who Christ is. So we must plumb every inch of the Bible – from Leviticus to Daniel to Matthew to Revelation – for the truth of Jesus, realizing that it is all about Him.
All this isn’t to say that we should just continue with a fear-based prophetic message that is so often presented. It is simply to say that if we are truly going to be all about Jesus, we must be all about every inch of the Bible that reveals Him.