Tribulation (Revelation 1:9-11)

 Revelation Bible Study.  Tribulation (Revelation 1:9-11)

As we approach Revelation 1:9, John is beginning his explanation as to why he is writing this book. John is going to let his readers know that he did not sit down and decide to write a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Rather, John was instructed to write these words. John begins his explanation for writing in verse 9 of the first chapter.

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John, Your Partner (1:9)

John does not begin this letter by announcing his credentials. John could say, “I, John, the apostle of the Lord.” John identifies himself as their brother and their partner. John is joining himself with the Christian readers in three areas. John is a sharer in the suffering, in the kingdom, and in the patient endurance.

John’s sharing in the tribulation seems to be explained in the rest of the verse. John was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. This is all that is told to us. It is believed that the island of Patmos was used by the Roman Empire as a place of exile, but there is little evidence of anyone being banished there. So we must be careful not to make too much of John’s condition while on the island of Patmos. John appears to be telling his readers that he is on Patmos because he is suffering on account of the word of God and testimony of Jesus. John’s preaching of the word of God concerning Jesus has landed him in trouble. This persecution could have been brought about by the Jews or by the Romans. We read through the book of Acts that the Jews were trying to use the Roman authorities against Christians (see Jews take Jesus to Pilate for trial, Jews take Christians for judgment with the city authorities in Thessalonica, Jews take Paul to the Roman tribunal in Corinth). We also read Paul and Silas getting into difficulties with Roman authorities in Philippi because, “They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:21). John could be on Patmos because of the Romans directly dealing with him or because of the instigation of the Jews. Either way, John is telling the Christians that I am with you in the suffering. We are together in this.

Not only does John share in the suffering, but he shares in the kingdom with them. You are suffering but you are in Christ’s kingdom. It is hard to feel that truth of being in the kingdom of Christ when we are suffering. John says that he is suffering with us and we are partners and partakers in the eternal kingdom. John also shares with his audience their steadfastness. John has not given up but continues to serve the Lord in the face of suffering.

In The Spirit (1:10)

What happens to John was extraordinary and special. It is the Lord’s day. By the second century, “the Lord’s day” was the customary way of referring to Sunday. Sunday was the day when Christians gather for worship and for partaking the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). It was Sunday when our Lord Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:1). It was on Sunday when Jesus made his appearance to his disciples (John 20:19). Sunday is the Lord’s day.

John is in the Spirit. This is the way the scriptures speak of someone having a divine vision. One example is in Ezekiel. “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones.” (Ezekiel 37:1 ESV) Ezekiel did not physically transport to a valley because he was in exile in Babylon. The scriptures are telling us that Ezekiel is in a visionary state. So also with John. John is in the Spirit which tells us that the divine vision has begun.

Command To Write (1:10-11)

Finally, John is commanded to write what he sees in this vision in a book and send it to the seven churches. Notice the power with which the command comes. John hears a loud voice like a trumpet. We read this event happening at Mount Sinai in the giving of the ten commandments (Exodus 19). This is the voice of the Lord, speaking with authority and power. We are partners and sharers in the kingdom. Suffering and persecution may come upon us at any time. Christians participate now in Christ’s rule over the earth, as well as in the future. We are called to be steadfast during his reign.

Blessing.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

May God bless you all and ‘The Church of the Christian Nation’, Amen.

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The CCN Bible Study….

Here we are again Brothers and Sisters, once more we join together to study the word of God, this series of studies is devoted to the book of Revelation.  As always, we welcome any comments you may have and certainly welcome any discussion you may wish to initiate on this most important subject in Biblical understanding. May God bless each and all of us who undertake this ‘Bible Study’ in the name of Christ Jesus and may he be with us throughout our reading and ultimately grant us His understanding of His Scripture. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

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Revelation.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The first three verses of the book of Revelation contain the preface. These verses told us the interpretative grid we need to apply to the book to appropriately understand it. (1) This book is the revelation. It is the unveiling of things that were previously concealed. (2) The book is written in symbols. The angel signified the book and the first three verses point out that these things are seen, not heard. Symbols and signs represent a historical, literal fulfillment. Since the book is written in symbols, we need to understand what the symbols represent and not be caught up with the symbol itself. (3) The time in near. These are things “that must soon take place.” Therefore we must look for the message of the book of Revelation to directly impact its first century audience. (4) The book is revealing things that were about to happen shortly to the first century audience. It is not describing thing before when the book was written. It is a book of prophecy and it is speaking of things to come.

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First Century Letter Format (1:4-6)

Verse 4 begins the book and you will notice that it begins in a typical first century Greco-Roman letter format. The author of the letter (not of the Revelation, which is from Jesus Christ) is John. The letter is written to the seven churches that are in Asia. Recall what we learned from the preface of the book of Revelation. The book is written in symbols. Therefore, we must read the book as written in signs and symbols unless something in the text demands a literal interpretation. Most understand the seven churches symbolically. That is, each of the seven churches represent a possible condition of any local church. The conditions of the seven churches of Asia are quite applicable today and we learn about how a local church ought to be and ought not to be. However, there is a very strong reason as to why we must understand that this letter was written to seven literal churches. The reason is that the churches are named in verse 11 as well as in chapters 2-3. The naming of the churches is the flag in the context that tells us that these are not symbolic seven churches, but actual churches in Asia Minor.

The salutation is the next part of a first century letter. This letter is no different. “Grace to you and peace….” Nearly every letter has a salutation with the words, “Grace and peace.” Paul most often use this kind of salutation. Grace and peace is always given from God. The same is true in the book of Revelation. The one “who is and who was and who is coming” refers to God the Father. We also see this salutation from Jesus Christ in verse 5. The question then is who are “the seven spirits who are before his throne.” It is important to note the location of “the seven spirits” in this salutation. “The seven spirits” are sandwiched between God the Father and Jesus Christ. This is the first reason to understand “the seven spirits” to refer to the Holy Spirit. The second reason to understand “the seven spirits” as the Holy Spirit is because every salutation and blessing has a divine source. Salutations are not from created beings, but from the divine.

Why is the Holy Spirit called “the seven spirits” in Revelation? The most satisfying answer is to connect the reader to the similar description given in Zechariah 4:1-10. The book of Revelation is immediately using images from Old Testament prophecies to show that this book is interacting with those symbols. Revelation uses language that is found in previous prophecies so that the readers can connect the message of Revelation to the prophecy in the Old Testament. Zechariah 4 will be referred to in Revelation a couple times, and we will examine Zechariah 4 in more detail at that time. It is enough at this point to observe that the Spirit of God has the number seven tied to it in Zechariah 4:2 and 4:10. Seven has the symbolic meaning of perfection. Therefore, the salutation to the churches is from God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ.

Seeing Jesus (1:5)

John proceeds to give a number of descriptions of Jesus. He is called the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. These three descriptions are found in Psalm 89. Psalm 89:37 describes the Messianic offspring of David as a faithful witness. In Psalm 89:27 the Messianic offspring of David is described as the firstborn and the highest of the kings of the earth. All three images reveal Jesus as the Davidic king who rules on the throne. As the faithful witness, Jesus rule will endure forever as the sun (Psalm 89:36-37). Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection. His resurrection proves his authority and proves he is ruling from his throne. Ruler of the kings of the earth shows Jesus’ absolute power over all rulers, kings, and kingdoms. Revelation refers to Psalm 89 to show the fulfillment of the promises made to David regarding the eternal kingdom. Jesus is on that throne. By quoting Psalm 89 the book of Revelation is setting up the conflict between the exalted Christ and the earthly rulers. Even more to the point, Jesus is still in charge and is still ruling even though there are other rulers who will cause the people of God to suffer.

The Work of Christ (1:5-6)

The end of verse 5 and all of verse 6 is a statement of praise and glory to Jesus for what he has done. Jesus has loved us. Loving us is the reason that he died. Even during our difficult times and suffering, Jesus still loves us. He has freed us from our sins by his blood. These benefits are derived through his blood, that is, in his death on the cross. If Jesus is the king, which the previous verse asserted, then we are citizens in his kingdom. The readers are not citizens in the Roman Empire, not citizens in Judaism, but are citizens in the kingdom of Christ. Jesus has provided a new family relationship by which all believers have a priestly ministry to God. We are subjects in Christ’s kingdom with direct priestly access to God.

Coming With the Clouds (1:7)

Verse 7 comes from two places in the scriptures. Daniel 7:13-14 is the most likely reference that Revelation is alluded to.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14 ESV)

The point in Daniel is the same point is the enthronement of Jesus as the king who has kingdom. All people are to serve Jesus. But we cannot miss that the imagery of coming in clouds is consistent used of judgment. Jesus is enthroned and will come in the clouds of judgment against his enemies. Notice the following passages that use this language.

Behold, he comes up like clouds; his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles— woe to us, for we are ruined! (Jeremiah 4:13 ESV)

For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. (Ezekiel 30:3 ESV)

A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…. (Zephaniah 1:15 ESV)

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30 ESV)

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64 ESV)

These usages show that the phrase “coming in the clouds” is not a sign of the end of the world, but a symbol of national judgement. Christ has authority implying that those against him are worthy of judgement.

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The rest of Revelation 1:7 is alludes to Zechariah 12:10-13:1. The meaning in Zechariah 12 is very important to understanding what the book of Revelation means. Notice that Zechariah 12:10 says that God is going to pour out a spirit of grace and mercy on the Jews. The Jews are mourning because they have pierced the Messiah. The picture is weeping for repentance because they have pierced the Messiah. God is going to pour out mercy and grace so that they can repent. Zechariah 13:1 clarifies that God is going to open a fountain to cleanse them from their sins and uncleanness. When we read the phrase, “those who pierced him,” we must understand that the scriptures is pointing to the Jewish nation. They will seek repentance and God will give that opportunity.

Turn to Matthew 24:30 and notice the image from Zechariah 12 is used here also. Notice in Matthew 24:1-3 that Jesus is discussing the coming judgment against the Jewish nation as seen in the destruction of Jerusalem. Matthew 24:29 reveals that judgment is coming. When the scriptures read, “The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light,” it is a reference to the judgment of a nation. That nation will not longer see the sun, moon, and stars. It will be “lights out” for the nation. Matthew 24:30 sounds just like Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7. The Jews have pierced the Messiah and he is coming in the clouds (judgment) with power and great glory. Verse 31 reiterates the message of Zechariah 12:10-14. There will be an opportunity for repentance. Repent now before this judgment comes and you will avoid the coming doom. The elect will be gathered because they are the repentant.

Come back to Revelation 1:7. Notice that all the language is the same except for one small phrase. Revelation adds something that Zechariah 12 and Matthew 24 did not have. The added phrase is, “Every eye will see him.” Let’s put all the pieces together now so that we can understand what Revelation 1:7 is teaching. “He is coming in the clouds” refers to Christ on the throne ruling in authority and he is coming in judgment. “Every eye will see him” means that no one is excluded from this judgment. Everyone is being brought under Christ’s coming judgment. I think we would be right to say that judgment is coming against the Roman Empire as it rebels against the authority of Christ. The Romans are included in this judgment. “Even those who pierced him” refers to the Jewish nation both in Zechariah 12 and Matthew 24. So also here in Revelation. The whole world is coming under judgment. The Roman Empire will be judged. But not only will they be judged, but even the Jewish nation. They also will be judged. “And all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” is the final phrase. Remember that the mourning in Zechariah 12 was mourning for repentance. The purpose of these judgments is to bring about the repentance of the nations. Christ is seeking for the Jews and Gentiles to repent and become part of the kingdom of Christ.

The call to repentance is a key concept in the book of Revelation that must not be missed. The book of Revelation twice points out how the judgements did not bring about the repentance God desired.

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The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20–21 ESV)

They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. (Revelation 16:9–11 ESV)

These pictures set the table for what is coming in the book. Judgments have come with the intention to bring repentance. The repentance does not come as God desired. Therefore the nations must be fully judged for its rejection of Jesus as King of Kings.

The paragraph concludes with a description of the Lord God as the Alpha and Omega. Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. Jesus is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and everything in between. Jesus is ruling. Jesus is in control. He is the “I AM.” He is the Lord Almighty. Despite all that is going on in the world God maintains control and authority over all the earthly powers and forces. Jesus declares that he is the Almighty Lord of armies, the unchangeable God. He will accomplish all his will, fulfil all his word, and execute all his judgements.

Until next time…. May God go with you, Via Con Dios. Amen.

The CCN Bible Study….

Announcing the return of the CCN Bible Study.

Brothers and sisters, it has taken some time, but I believe this new International website is now ready to resume our very popular Bible Study series. I thought we would kick this off today with another run at REVELATION and run the series for as long as it takes. As always, we welcome any comments you may have and certainly welcome any discussion you may wish to initiate on this most important subject in Biblical understanding.

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May God bless each and all of us who undertake this ‘Bible Study’ in the name of Christ Jesus and may he be with us throughout our reading and ultimately grant us His understanding of His Scripture. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

Revelation.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1)

“‘Revelation’ (apokalypsis) means to expose in full view what was formerly hidden, veiled, or secret” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). This is a significant beginning to our study. The book of Revelation is revealing something that previously was concealed. Revelation is not code. Revelation is not hidden language. To suggest such violates the very name of the book. This is the book of unveiling. This is the book of revealing, not concealing. This information also set up our filter for our interpretation method. This book is explaining things that were previously hidden. While we do not know for certain yet, our most likely source would be Old Testament prophecies that were shrouded in mystery that the book is going to make plain. It is noted by all scholars that Revelation borrows heavily from the images of the Old Testament. Therefore, our interpretative model should be that the book of Revelation is an explanation of those Old Testament images. When we read language in Revelation that is found in the Old Testament, we need to go back to the origin of the image and understand it in its proper context. Then we can see how the book of Revelation is shedding light or revealing information about that prophecy. It is not “Revelations,” but “Revelation.” One unveiling of the things hidden in the past.

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Many will remark that this book is about Jesus. There are two ways to understand “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” One way is that the revelation is about Jesus. The other way is that the revelation is from Jesus. When we read the sentence it becomes clear that this is the revelation from Jesus, not about him. Verse 1 is awkward if it means, “The revelation about Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants….” God gave Jesus the revelation about Jesus? It makes far more sense to understand verse 1 to say, “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants….” God gave this revelation to Jesus who gave it to his servants. The end of the book of Revelation makes the point again that this revelation is from Jesus. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches” (Revelation 22:16). The TNIV and NLT translate verse 1 as “The revelation from Jesus Christ” because this is the way the verse makes the most sense. The point is that this unveiling is coming from God the Father. We will see this image made clearer in Revelation 4.

Time Markers (1:1,3)

There are two time markers in this preface. The first is found in verse 1, “To show his servants the things that must soon take place.” The second time marker is in verse 3, “For the time is near.” Carefully read those time markers. Verse 1 says that the revelation concerns things that must soon take place. The time is near for the events that are contained in the revelation and that is why those who read, hear, and keep the words are blessed. The point cannot be ignored. The things in the book are happening soon.

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Define “soon” to you? If someone told you that these things are going to happen soon, how long do you think it will be? Would you think that it would be 2000 years later? Do you think it would be 300 years later? 100 years later? No, these things do not fit. Scholars are beginning to rightly reject the popular futurist view that the book of Revelation has not occurred yet because of these time markers.

“Therefore, John’s book is a prophetic work which concerns the imminent and inaugurated fulfillment of OT prophecies about the kingdom in Jesus Christ” (Beale, New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC), 183).

Those who want the book of Revelation to be about things that have not been fulfilled yet even today in the year 2010 try a number of ways to get around these clear time markers. Tim LaHaye, who is one of the most well known futurist advocates for the book of Revelation (popular as co-author of the Left Behind novels), makes no comment in his commentary, Revelation Unveiled,about these time markers. One method to keep a futurist view is to ignore these verses and just keep moving on.

Robert L. Thomas, defends a futurist view by arguing, “God is not limited by considerations of time in the same way man is” (Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (WEC), 56). This point is absolutely correct. God is not bound by time in the same way that people are. However, this does not solve the problem. Remember, Revelation is supposed to be the unveiling, not the concealing. Revelation is not supposed to add to the confusion, but explain the concealed. Further, God is bound by time when he speaks to humans and reveals to them that something “must soon take place” and “the time is near.” God is not bound by time, but he is bound by his word when he speaks to humanity. If he tells humans that something must happen soon and the time is near, then it must be soon to us and near to us, otherwise God is false and is unable to communicate with his creation.

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Beale states the point even stronger. Beale states, “Things must soon take place,” “…connotes neither the speedy manner in which the Daniel prophecy is to be fulfilled nor the mere possibility that it could be fulfilled at any time, but the definite, imminent time of fulfillment, which likely has already begun in the present” (Beale, NIGTC, 181-2).

The argument of those who take the book of Revelation as still in the future is that, “Things must soon take place” can also mean “things must suddenly take place.” That is, the preface is not saying that the things contained in Revelation will happen soon, but whenever these things do happen, they will happen suddenly. There are many problems with this position. This does not deal with verse 3, “The time is near.” Even if verse 1 does mean, “Things must suddenly take place,” there is no way to get around that God said the time is near.

Robert L. Thomas, a futurist, states well the problem with taking verse 1 to mean “suddenly.” “A major thrust of Revelation is its emphasis upon the shortness of time before the fulfillment. In the midst of persecution God’s people do not have long to wait for relief to come. To say that the relief will come ‘suddenly’ offers no encouragement, but to say that it will come ‘soon’ does” (WEC, 55). One of the themes of Revelation is relief from suffering will come soon. If not, the book of Revelation becomes an untrue and hopeless book since the martyrs will told a little while longer till they were vindicated. Hundreds or thousands of years will not work. Not only will the futurist position not work in light of these words, but I submit to you that seeing only the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD will also not work. If the book of Revelation is only about the demise of the Roman Empire, that would not happen for nearly 400 years or more. Four hundred years is not soon and is not near. If I were to tell you that Christ would come in judgement and relieve you of your suffering more than 400 years from now, would you have relief? No, not at all. The time marker is not only a problem for the futurist position but it is also a problem for those who see only the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD as the message of the book of Revelation.

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Therefore, the book of Revelation is not about the rise of the Roman Catholic church. The book of Revelation is not about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The book of Revelation is not about the European Union. The book of Revelation is not a book about current events. We must not read the newspapers and try to plug what is happening today as the fulfilment of the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation was relevant to the first century Christians who heard its message. Notice in verse 3 that those Christians in the first century who read, heard, and kept what is written in it would be blessed. If chapters 4-22 are yet to come still, then there is no blessing for those Christians who received this letter. This does not mean that there is nothing for us to learn. We learn from every book in the Bible even though there was an original audience to whom the book was written. We do not read Romans and discard its value because it was written to the Christians in the city of Rome in the first century. There is still great value, lessons, and applications for us. The book of Revelation is the same. Though written to the seven churches of Asia, there is still great value, lessons, and applications for us.

Signified (1:1)

John signals to his audience how the book of Revelation is to be read. Notice that God gave Jesus this revelation “to show,” not to tell, his servants the things that must soon take place. The ESV Study Bible states, “The terms, ‘revelation,’ ‘show,’ ‘made it known,’ and ‘he saw’ prepare the reader and hearers for symbolic visions….” Many translations read in verse 1, “He made it known.” The HCSB and NKJV read, “He…signified it by his angel.” Our English word “signified” gets at the idea appropriately. He “sign-i-fied” the revelation, that is, he put it into signs and symbols.

Grant Osborne says the Greek word, “Yields the idea of making known by means of symbols” (Baker Exegetical Commentary, 55). Robert Thomas also states, “…in nonbiblical literature, it [this Greek word] already had a usage related to symbolic divine communications with men” (WEC, 56). This tells us we must adapt how we study this book. When we communicate with one another, we assume that we are speaking literally, unless something in our language demands us to take it symbolically. We study the scriptures the same way. We take the words of God literally and straightforward unless something in the text demands an idiomatic or figurative interpretation. When Jesus started talking about planks and logs in our eyes, we know that Jesus is speaking figuratively, using imagery to teach a principle. With the book of Revelation, the preface has told us to reverse our method. The book has been put into symbols and signs. Therefore we should read the book as symbols unless something in the text demands otherwise.

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Now, let me make an important point. Just because Revelation is full of symbols does not mean that there is not a literal or historical fulfillment. The images represent a literal or historical event. The book of Revelation is not fanciful myths and stories. The symbol represents something actual and real. The red, octagonal stop sign represents the literal act of stopping one’s car. The point is that we should read Revelation seeking the meaning behind the images. We cannot take the numbers, locusts, scorpions, dragons, beasts and other images found in the book at face value. They represent something and our goal as readers is to determine the meaning of those symbols. We take the book as symbols representing something unless something clearly shows us that the image is not symbolic.

This Prophecy (1:3)

We need to observe one other point. While the book of Revelation is a letter to the seven churches of Asia, we must also recognize that it is prophetic in nature. Verse 3 describes this book as, “The words of this prophecy.” This book communicates the inspired messages of God and it is showing its first century audience the things that are about to come soon. This is important for us as we try to interpret Revelation’s symbols into a historical context. The things that the book reveals do not have to be happening at the moment the book is written. The book is speaking of things about to happen soon. This alleviates some of the issues concerning dating when the book of Revelation was written. The images are not necessarily describing current events (that is, when the book was written) but are describing images about to happen soon (after the book was written). Therefore, being exact as to the date of the book is not as important because the Revelation is about things to come soon after the writing of the book.

Considerations.

How exciting to read the book of Revelation which will unfold and unveil the prophecies concealed in the past! We stand at a fortunate time to look back and see the completion of God’s plan and are also blessed when he read, hear, and keep the things written in this prophetic book. The book of Revelation is a message of encouragement and hope during difficult times. Our faith will be bolstered by studying the messages contained in this book. Let us hear the words of this book, read the words of this book, and keep what is written in this book and be blessed in doing so.

Until next time…. May God go with you, Via Con Dios. Amen.