Over the past 8 months or so, I have been systematically working my way through Charles Swindoll's New Testament Insights series. In these volumes, Swindoll takes us book by book through the New Testament and provides his wisdom and practical interpretation of the word of God. Now I have just finished his most recent volume, Insights on Revelation. Revelation represents the final book of the New Testament, final in the sense that it appears sequentially as the last book of the Bible and final in the sense that it is believed to have been written last, circa AD 95, likely by the apostle John.
Quite a few years ago, I worked through Revelation from beginning to end. My lingering memory from that self-guided tour was that it read like the ramblings of a hippy on an acid trip. If you have ever been through it, you know just how utterly bizzare the language is. But now, in reading this detailed study with an experienced guide stepping me through verse by verse, I came away with much more understanding of God's plan for the end times during what is referred to as the Apocalypse.
The central purpose of Revelation is to provide a road map and fair warning of how God will bring the believers to His heaven and judge the unrepentant. The period of judgment and destruction of all opposing God, both human and spiritual beings, will be finite but severe beyond imagination. The last part of John's prophetic narrative describes the final battle between the armies of light and the forces of darkness. It describes God's ultimate victory and eternal kingdom.
The book of Revelations includes more than 300 references to 24 other books of the Bible as it connects pieces of prophesy mentioned or alluded to in other places. This writing makes heavy use of symbolism, visions, and all sorts of peculiar imagery. One thing that is clear is that the vision of the future that John witnessed most certainly overwhelmed him and the language that he used is a reflection of trying to wrap words around the essentially indescribable.
It is interesting that the prologue of Revelation directly states that those who read these words will be blessed. Yet while I think that the big picture of the end time is reasonably clear, the details and their interpretation are murky and mysterious. I would love to better understand why all the theatrics and pagentry are necessary. They must serve some important purpose. Why doesn't God just snap his fingers at the appropriate time and be done with it? So, while I have a much better and deeper understanding of the prophesies of the end times and the Apocalypse, I seem to have ended up with a much longer list of questions and uncertainties than I had when I began my study.