I want to ask a few questions that will help us unlock this book so that it makes a lot more sense. We’ll start moving through the text again tomorrow, but today three questions:
What is the outline for Revelation?
What do I do with different interpretations of Revelation?
And why should I believe Revelation?
Got that: outline, different interpretations, and why believe.
We begin in chapter 1 at verse 19. Mark this verse! Verse 19 gives us a simple outline for the entire book. It’s really interesting and super useful for understanding Revelation. Listen to it carefully. Jesus says to John:
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (Revelation 1:19).
Notice there are three things to write down: past, present, and future. First, write what you have seen – past tense. That’s chapter 1: John saw Jesus.
Second, write what is now. Now refers to the present age, the current time period. In chapters 2 and 3, we will see a picture of the present, the church. There we’ll see an overview of the church age, and what Jesus thinks of the church, good and bad.
Third, write what will take place later. That means future. That means end times, and chapter 4 to the end of the book are end times prophecy. The Greek phrase used here for later is meta touta, and chapter four begins with the exact same phrase: meta touta. So chapter 4 kicks off the end times.
Now, question number two: What do I do with different interpretations of Revelation? Different teachers will give you different meanings. See prophecies are like movie previews. They give you hints and peaks, and everyone tries to guess the details, but the only one who knows the whole story is the Author.
People disagree about the Bible, and that’s okay. But what I want to know is what God has to say. If the Bible is God’s Word, then the interpretation that matters most is God’s. Focus on what the Bible says above what any teacher tells you it says, including me. And keep your focus on the main lessons.
So what about Revelation? The basic disagreement is this. Some say Revelation is an allegory – like a myth with a moral. Others say it is about events that will really happen – or happened already, past tense. As for me, I believe it’s about real events – symbolic language, but symbolic of real things – that will happen in the future. But please know that I respect those who disagree, and respect your right to disagree too.
So what should you do when your teachers disagree? Same thing you should always do – listen, understand, and decide what you believe.
Now one last question: If Revelation is about the future, why should I believe it?
Lots of people have predicted the end of the world, and were wrong! And lots of them tied their predictions to Revelation. So with all those false predictions that used Revelation, why would I still believe?
Think of it like this. What do most counterfeit hundred dollar bills have in common? They all try to look like the real thing. See there’s a reason why so many fakes start with the Bible to make their crazy claims. And there’s a reason why so many sane, rational, intelligent people believe the Bible. Because the Bible has predicted the future accurately. Hundreds of times.