Prophecy with a Purpose
The book of Revelation is not a fantasy; it is a true account of the things which must take place. It came directly from the living Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1) and was written down by John (Revelation 1:9). At key points, Jesus speaks personally to John (Revelation 1:18-19) commanding him to write all he sees in a series of visions. The letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2:1-3:22) seem to be personally dictated by Jesus, but in most of the book John is escorted by divinely authorised angels who show and explain the visions (Revelation 1:1-3). It is not a private letter: it is intended to be read publicly. It brings blessing to everyone who takes it to heart (Revelation 1:3).
The prophecy is trustworthy because it is true; and its truth is guaranteed by the Lord Jesus who is The Truth (John 14:6). Everything shown in Revelation will happen in a real and physical way. Because the future contains some events we have not yet experienced, the Lord helped John to describe the visions in ways we can best understand. However, the reality will be even starker, grander and more awesome than we might ever imagine (1 Corinthians 13:12). At the beginning and end of the book, the prophecy is identified as what 'must soon take place' (Revelation 1:1; 22:6). So, these are not interesting suggestions of what God might be thinking. They are what God will bring about on this world and into eternity; the plagues on the unbelieving world and persecution to refine the church … then the dreadful (for unbelievers) and glorious (for believers) judgement as the doors of the two eternity-destinations swing open.
Neither should we think that we can shrug off these visions because it is written by John in his prison exile, because the same Lord who spoke and showed the future, also inspired the prophets (1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:21), including John (Revelation 1:9-11). It should not be surprising that the Lord has cross-referenced the material in Revelation with the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and other Old Testament writings. They were all inspired by the same Lord and their messages mesh together as one. For those who (wrongly) think that the Old Testament is grim and the New is loving - the wrath of God against rebellious people in Revelation is even more fierce than in the Old Testament. That is part of the intrinsic beauty of Scripture: because God is unchanging He reveals Himself consistently through the ages, and is the same today (Hebrews 13:8).
The purpose of all these Scriptures is to ensure that we understand the importance of living for Jesus in these Last Days (1 Timothy 1:18-19), despite pressure from the world to deny Christ and temptation to modify what God has said - to make life and death seem more comfortable. The Lord is coming soon. Let us be ready (Matthew 24:44; 25:13). It will be a challenge to keep on trusting; tough times are ahead. But if we are confident in the outcome of our faith in Jesus we will be motivated and enabled to keep on pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6). Preachers and their congregations alike should invest more time in Revelation, as the world careers ever closer to the events it describes, and Jesus comes again. This prophecy is to keep God's people holy and watchful, faithful and strong, abandoning idols and worshipping Jesus alone. Is that you?
© Dr Paul Adams