The Book of Revelations isn’t Really that Scary!
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place.
When I first took on the task of reading the Bible cover to cover, I started with the New Testament. My reasoning for starting there was because of Jesus and my personal belief that the books of the Old Testament point to the arrival of Jesus. As such, I would have a better understanding of the Old Testament after I read the New Testament.
However, when I got to the book or Revelations, I was very nervous and skipped over the book and proceeded to the Old Testament. I always had felt and heard that Revelations was dark and scary. So I put it off to last.
Now I am not the only one who felt this way. Even though it was one of the first books to be included in the New Testament by the early organizers of the Bible, the book was not universally accepted. Even today, there are some in the Eastern church that don’t consider the book to be worthy and don’t include the book in their version of the Bible.
Early Protestant reformers, Luther and Calvin did not think Revelations should be in the Bible. Even when you look at Calvin’s comprehensive commentary’s on the Bible you will find Revelations missing. Both believed the book was not God-inspired.
After reading the book on my first reading of the complete Bible and studying it at Theological school, I changed my views. I came to view Revelations as a wonderful story of the battle between good and evil, that Jesus ultimately wins.
The imagery of the battle between good and evil in Revelations is vivid and very colorful. In part this is what makes the book scary. When you read Revelations you discover very dark characters like Death riding on a pale horse, followed by Hades. Even the angels at one point scorch a third of the earth. Humans even retreat into caves. A cosmic battle between good and evil vividly shown.
Even near the end of the book, the reader is warned to not take anything away from this book. If they do, they will lose their share of the tree of life.
Some really harsh and vivid language. But there is a backdrop to why this type of language was used. While the letter is intended to be the revelation of Jesus to the author, John, as it states in the very first line of Revelations, it was written to give confidence to the general Christian population of the late first century, who were enduring persecution by the Roman Empire.
Specifically, in a concealed way the book is about Rome as the evil empire and Christians as being protected by Jesus. Concealed in not specifically calling out Rome, instead using scary and dark characters to represent evil. This was done to prevent the book from being banished. But as we have seen consistently throughout the New Testament, these writings about current events led to the creation of Biblical masterpieces that can be brought forward in time. Their messages just as relevant to the 21st century as they are to the 1st century. God-breathed words, through God created events that created stories and messages that are timeless.
Also, included are letters to seven churches. These letters give guidance to these churches as how to become better Christians. Instructions on how to move closer to Jesus. When you read these letters, you can identify weaknesses in these churches that are not much different than today. Still relevant criticisms that must urgently be addressed.
The book also uses extensive numerology to tell its story of good and evil. The number seven, which for the reader means God or heavenly things, is mentioned well over one hundred times, explicitly or implicitly. The “Beast” or evil is expressed with “666.” This contrast was used for the hearers of the story in the 1st century to further draw out the battle between good and evil. In the 1st century, because so few could read, they received the Bible orally and numerology helped reinforce memory.
There is also a sense of immediacy in the book. And you get this from the first line, where it says, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. While this call to action was spoken in the first century, it is really an eternal call to respond quickly to evil. And many have misunderstood this to only apply to the time of its writing. We are now in the 21st century and the battle between good and evil still exists, so its sense of urgency is for all time. In other words, whenever we are engaged or witness good or evil, we must quickly side with good in our actions and deeds. To do nothing is the same as siding with evil.
A final note in the book that occurs in the final chapter, Jesus declares himself to be the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. In all things Jesus is the Lord. And in all things Jesus will be involved. And not only that Jesus will resolve evil promptly.
This statement is reassuring for those desirous of doing good and a caution for those committing evil. In that the Alpha and Omega, Jesus, will always prevail.
So while the imagery and words of Revelation are vivid and would rival anything produced by Marvel comics, it is simply a very strong revelation by Jesus for us to always and with urgency resist evil. And when evil occurs or happens to us, to know and have a strong faith that Jesus will always win.
I am now happy to be able to say, that with this knowledge, I can venture into Revelations and not become alarmed. Revelations is a vivid message from Jesus to get our attention to resist evil urgently, for both us as individuals and the church at large.
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Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman