Revelation is a book of the Bible that I have found confusing and difficult to understand. Throughout my life I have attended Bible studies, read books and listened to a host of people give their viewpoint on the meaning of the book.
Several years ago, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins wrote a series of novels called “Left Behind.” The books are the authors’ interpretation of Revelation. They write of a seven-year conflict between the Tribulation Force (people who have converted to Christianity after what they call the “rapture”) and the New World Order led by the Antichrist. The series was adapted into four movies. I never read the books, but I did see a couple of the movies.
There are as many different interpretations of what the book of Revelation means as there are different church backgrounds. Some of the different ways of looking at the book are:
This line of reasoning says we should view the book from a historical context and try to understand it as being written to the people of John’s day. We try to understand the political and religious times and how the readers then would understand John’s words.
This approach says many of the events of the book seem to have taken place in the first century. This gives us an outline of history of the church in the past and a glimpse of what may yet happen in the church until Christ returns.
Believers in this group (which is where LaHaye and Jenkins fall) believe the books tells us of future events which will take place at the “end of time.”
This group teaches that Revelation does not pertain to any particular time (past, present or future) but is simply a story of the constant struggle between good and evil.
My church background was of the “futurist” viewpoint. I must confess, however, that listening to all the teachers who seemed so sure of what they believed only added to my confusion. I had to ask “how could they be so sure what all the images in the book really stood for?” Most of what they said seemed to me to be simply their opinion without any definite proof of their “theories.”
Yet it was almost considered heresy to suggest that these teachers who claimed to have perfect knowledge of the meaning of Revelation should be questioned. My solution was to just avoid any Bible study on the book of Revelation.
Years have passed and our local church offered a study on Revelation. I decided to give Revelation another chance.
The lesson was on chapters 2 and 3 which tell of John recording a message from Jesus Christ to the seven churches.
I was prepared for the usual explanation. 1) these churches represent different stages of church history. Each of these stages can be traced to specific times in the history of the church. This point of view says we are in the stage of the last church, Laodicea. 2) these churches represent different types of churches that would be throughout time. Of course, those who take this point of view always see their own church as one of the two churches that had no criticism from Jesus and other churches as one of those that received strong criticism.
What a surprise as I found a new take on these chapters.
Church is not a building, not an organization, not a denomination. The church is made up of those who believe in Jesus Christ. I am the church.
What I need to take from these two chapters is not some eschatological, deep mystery meaning. I need to look at the praise and the criticism each church received and ask myself how I stand up to that.
- Have I lost my first love? Am I as excited about God’s Word and His church as I once was?
- Have I remained true to God’s Word? Am I compromising my beliefs to fit with my culture?
- Have I become lukewarm to the things of God? Have I lost my sense of what is valuable and pleasing to God?
- Do I need to strengthen my faith?
I am not sure where this study will lead but I am approaching it to learn any lessons that will help me be the “church” I need to be and not worry about the “mysteries” found here.