The book of Revelation must be, hands down, the most controversial book of the Bible. In here, the exiled apostle John – last of the apostles – receives an apocalypsis, a revelation from Jesus Christ concerning a period of time that we refer to as “last days” – a term that never appears in Revelation, but is mentioned three times elsewhere in the New Testament (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; James 5:3).
The structure of the book is both simple and complex. It consists of two big parts: Chapters 1-3 include seven letters from Christ to seven churches located around what is now modern Turkey. Chapters 4-22 describe in a series of visions a sequence of events that represent the events that will precede the end of the world as we know it. In a whirlwind of vivid imagery, the last days are played out from the point of view of the spiritual world. Unprecedented natural disasters, diseases, collapse of the environment, global economy, cultural elements, world governments and societies mix with some clearly supernatural events and castigate the world as it suffers under the final manifestation of God’s wrath and judgment.
Frightening stuff. It’s no small wonder that Hollywood has made a multitude of (ridiculous for the most part) movies based on weird interpretations of Revelation as it has catered to our faddy obsession with the end of the world from time to time (I would love to see a film just going through Revelation visually. It would make the Exorcist look like a Disney kiddie flick).
But as many Christians, I love Revelation with a passion. Not because I am a vindictive self-righteous maniac, but because without it we’d have a very hard time being comforted as we go through our daily Christian walk.
Revelation is not simply an account of the last days. It is also the closing of the scriptural canon; the last piece of God’s revelation to humans, both chronologically (last book of the Bible) and thematically (end of this world and into the eternal state).
Now, there’s a ton of things to talk about in Revelation: Interpretations of the visions, the antichrist’s identity, views on the millennial kingdom and a whole host of other things that are often treated in various formats ranging from solid Bible commentaries to idiotic movie plots.
But we won’t.
What I want to do in the next few posts is look at the end of Revelation; specifically chapters 20-22. The reason is simply that they talk about a time in which we will exist a lot longer (forever) than our fleeting lives. They talk about your and my final destination, be that with or without Christ. They describe the wrapping up of all human history, in which the elements of our lives here on earth will suddenly fit with the big picture puzzle (also why a study of Revelation follows organically after Ecclesiastes). They describe the unimaginable horror of hell and the unimaginable glory of heaven.
And it is also my perennial humble opinion that we rarely teach, preach or discuss these chapters, especially 21-22. Why not? Christ deemed it necessary for us to know about these things in detail and I think the main reason is to give us something even more tangible than His promise in the gospels (cf. John 14:2), which can easily become remote and far-away in times of distress, persecution or in the midst of everyday routine and mundanity.
We need to know about this when we wonder about the apparent futility and randomness of our lives here on earth. We need to know that where we’re headed for is real – to rightly terrify us and to rightly comfort us.