Studying Revelation (Free Study Guide)

This week I wanted to quickly draw your attention to another free eBook, because we all love books. This one is a helpful study guide on the book of Revelation by Vern Poythress.

If you have ever been interested in studying the book of Revelation in its historical and original context this is a fantastic little book. For all the fictional novels and hyper-dispensationalism that has taken over the fields of modern day eschatology, this little book helps us to see the original context and unpack how it would have been received and encouraging to the original audience, and as such how we too can find comfort in the truth of God.

The book can be found at the link below:

https://frame-poythress.org/new-resource-on-ebooks-page/

Here is a brief overview of the book of Revelation in regards to how Poythress will approach the book and help us to see its importance on the Christian life.

The Purpose of Revelation

Many people either fear the Book of Revelation or have an unhealthy interest in it. But God designed this book for a very different purpose. Revelation is meant to produce in you comfort, courage, hope, and praise. Do you believe that?

Look at the very beginning of Revelation. Rev. 1:3 says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” God knew that many people would feel timid about this book—that many would say to themselves, “I can’t understand it.” So he gave you special encouragement to read it. Make a point of reading it once or more during the next few months.

In the verse I just quoted (1:3) we already receive a hint about the contents of Revelation. God tells us to “keep what is written in it.” Revelation does not give us information just to tickle our fancy. We are meant to “keep” it, to take things to heart. We ought to be transformed by what we read, to become more faithful servants of Christ. The Book of Revelation is a very practical book.

Note also what it says in 1:1: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” To whom is the Book of Revelation written? Not to PhDs, to experts, to prophecy fans, to a narrow inner circle of specialists. God writes it to “his servants”—the servants of Jesus Christ. If you are a follower of Christ, this book is for you. You can understand it, because God knows how to communicate to you. In addition, let me say the obvious. The Book of Revelation is a revelation, “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). “Revelation” means an unveiling, a disclosure, a display of who God is and what he promises to do. The Book is not a concealment, a puzzle, a riddle, as some people think. It is not a puzzle book but a picture book. Its message is so clear that a child can grasp it and be encouraged.

1. What is the purpose of Revelation?

2. In what way is it accessible to ordinary readers?

3. How might reading it be an encouragement?

 

Additional free books by Both Vern Poythress & John Fram can be found at their Website: https://frame-poythress.org/ebooks

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The Finale of History

You may be as wishful as you’d like to be, but the matter of final judgment isn’t a matter of opinion. It will come. 

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

Paul in his famous sermon at the Areopagus in Athens, concludes by saying, “The times of ignorance (v23) God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Paul’s sermon conclusion told us as much when he said God has given us assurance that He will judge the world in righteousness by a man He appointed. What’s the assurance we have and who is the man? The Man is Jesus Christ and the assurance is His resurrection from the dead. 

What will occur at the judgment?

Christ will Judge

Jesus speaks of His judgment as something the Father has given to Him. John 5:26-28, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” For this reason Paul, when giving Timothy the charge to preach the Word in and out of season, speaks of Jesus as the “Judge of the living and the dead” in 2 Timothy 4:1. We shouldn’t also miss the implied meaning in Paul’s statement of the “judgment seat of Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:10, that Christ is the One who judges.

All Mankind will be Judged

It will be a rude awakening for those who believe the judgment of God is only a metaphorical or a matter for the present moment, for all mankind will be judged. Hebrews 9:27 says “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” This judgment will be so thorough that we’ll have to give an account for every idle word we’ve ever spoken (Matt. 12:36). Luke 12:2-3 similarly shows us, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” It is a common belief that only the unbelievers will be judged at the final judgment, but Scripture tells us all mankind, believer and unbeliever alike, will be judged. Romans 2:6-10, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.”

For the unbeliever, the wrath of God has already been poured out on them in various measures in life because they have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). They have lived foolishly, trusting in their own selves rather than in God and the gospel of His Son. So their end will be the total culmination of the wrath they received in part during their life. For the believer, there is no wrath and fury but instead no condemnation (Rom. 8:1) because they have lived wisely, trusting in God and in the gospel of His Son. So too, their end will be the total culmination of the grace they received in part during their life.

The Saints will Judge

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul lays out his argument about how to ought to deal kindly and graciously when we wrong one another. In v2-3 he makes an interesting statement when he says, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” Here Paul uses the careful and considerate judgment we ought to use with one another with the judgment we will use in the final judgment. This does mean that believers will have some measure of judgment over the world where careful consideration must be employed. But I think it also speaks of our union with Christ. When He judges the world and all in it we will in part join with Him in that judgment and feel a sense of agreement and approval when it takes place. But its not only the world that we’ll join in judging, it’s angels too. Referring to our judging angels in 2 Peter 2:4 we find that God “…did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…” Jude agrees in v6 where he says angels, “…did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, He (God) has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” Why does God allow these things to take place on angels? Jude 5 gives us the answer when he says God destroys those who do not believe.

All of these things are good and profitable for us to consider because an awareness of what will take place at the final judgment moves us to live lives that are pleasing to God in the present. The final judgment will be the finale of history, we must prepare accordingly.

From the Archives: How Should We Interpret the Book of Revelation?

How many of you have ever been out of the country? I have, and every time I go abroad I always look forward to one moment: walking out of the airport in the new country for the first time. Any of you know what I mean? It’s a different country, with different sights, different sounds, different smells, and an overall different feel. On one hand it feels a bit alien and strange to walk into such an unknown place, but on the other hand there’s an adventurous feel when you walk into a foreign and mysterious culture. It can be a bit of sensory overload and can feel risky at times, but I quite enjoy it.

Well, we’re about to feel the same kind of excitement and uneasiness because today I am blogging about the book of Revelation.  You may feel a bit of sensory overload and it may even feel risky at times, but I assure you the book of Revelation is in the Bible to encourage us and I would even add that this book shows us the glory of Christ more than any other in the Bible.

The book of Revelation feels foreign to us mainly because it is filled with symbolism, figurative language, and prophetic apocalyptic imagery that most of us don’t really know what to do with. Now, to feel this way is ok, but to avoid Revelation because we don’t understand it is to fall into error.  As a good guide would do, today I want to give you a roadmap or a foundational principle that will help you navigate through this book. This basic foundational principle comes to us from rightly answering the question: how do we approach the book of Revelation?

Answer, we should approach it literally.

Some of you just took a sigh of relief.  But wait.  When I mean we should approach Revelation literally I mean we should approach Revelation according to its genre of literature. Let me explain.

We should NOT approach Revelation in the same manner we approach Genesis and Exodus. Genesis and Exodus both are included in the genre of historical narrative, which means these books give us a sequential timeline or chronological account of historical events. I think many people approach Revelation in the same manner, and though Revelation shouldn’t be thought of as history, it is commonly approached as a sequential timeline or chronological account of events that are going to take place in the future. We can’t do this because Revelation isn’t narrative, it’s in the apocalyptic genre. Just as there are different ways to interpret the genre of poetry and historical narrative in the Bible, there are different ways to interpret apocalyptic literature. The same rules do not apply.

So if we’re not to approach the book of Revelation as a future chain of sequential or chronological events, how then should we approach it?

Understanding that apocalyptic literature doesn’t play by the same rules, we should approach Revelation expecting it to be filled with symbolic imagery, metaphor, and figurative language because those things are characteristic of the apocalyptic genre in the Bible. Something fascinating in this regard is that out of all the books in the New Testament, the one book with most OT allusions, quotes, references, and imagery is the book of Revelation. This means it is filled with symbolic fulfillment that goes all the way back to Genesis 1. We should also approach Revelation expecting it to have relevance and deep meaning for BOTH the present audience of the apostle John, and the universal Church throughout all of history.

So you can see the cards in my hand, my view on Revelation is that throughout its 22 chapters, the apostle John re-tells the same story 7 different times with increasing intensity every time. You can call this a progressive parallelism, or a progressive recapitulation.  G.K. Beale calls is the Historical-Redemptive Approach, while others call it the ‘Iterest’ approach.

The Sacrifice of Self for the Joy of All Peoples

Reality #4: The Worship of All Peoples (5:8-14)

See how the rest of this chapter unfolds from v8-14.

When Jesus took the scroll the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before Him, with their golden bowls of incense, and then what happened? They sang a new song with these words, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every TRIBE and LANGUAGE and PEOPLE and NATION, and You have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Later on after this all the hosts of heaven and earth sang two more songs singing these words in v12 and v13, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

These new songs the living creatures, the elders, the myriads of angels, and all those on and under the earth are singing is a song of praise to the Lion-Lamb Christ who acted in redemption, purchasing for God…what? A universal Church made up of all peoples. Notice the new song being sung isn’t about the glory of America, or English-speaking peoples, rather it’s about the glory of Christ who has redeemed men and women from all peoples and all tribes and all languages and tongues.

Therefore…

Since this is what the gospel does – saves men and women from all peoples – don’t you think every individual local church should reflect this and endeavor to be multi-ethnic? I’m serious about this: heaven will be universal, we will one day join in singing these songs…songs about peoples from very different backgrounds coming together under the one banner of the saving grace of the gospel.

Since the local church ought to give us a glimpse or foretaste of the greater church to come there’s something wrong with a church unwilling to join up (or even merge together) with other churches, there’s something wrong with a church unwilling to go on a mission trip, there’s even something wrong with a white church content to remain all white, or a black church content to remain all black, or a Hispanic church content to remain all Hispanic, or an Asian church content to remain all Asian. If we’re really about the business of the Kingdom of God we’ll make multi-ethnicity in our personal lives and in our church a priority.

You know what this means for us when we really get down to it?

First, we must think about the Church the way God thinks about His Church.

So many people are planting churches and becoming members of churches that seek to be effective and strong by targeting a certain segment of like minded people who are culturally and economically similar. These churches shoot themselves in the foot by having a church growth agenda that doesn’t match with the Church universal. We must think about our local churches in the way God thinks about them.

Second, we must understand who we are in Christ.

Theologian Justav Gonzalez writes this, “The multi-ethnic vision is sweet but there is a bitter side to it. There is a bitter side to having to declare the vision of many peoples, many tribes, many nations, and many languages. This bitter side involves not just adding a bit of color or folklore into our traditional worship services, it includes radical changes in the way we understand ourselves.” This is not about tolerance, it’s about who we are in Christ. Though different, when we become new creations in Christ, we become one in Christ. And if we love one another in Christ, we’ll see someone as ‘Christian’ before we see them as ‘white’ ‘black’ ‘hispanic’ or ‘asian.’

Third and lastly, we must sacrifice self.

1 Cor. 9:19-23 says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became mas one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Sacrificing self means we must reject all racial supremacist statements like ‘white lives matter’ or ‘black lives matter’ or ‘Asian lives matter.’ When it comes to the gospel and living the Christian life, ‘all lives matter.’ For we all came from and fell in the first Adam, and men and women from all peoples can be raised to new life in the Last Adam. Paul says “I have made myself a slave to all men, that I might win more of them…I do this for the sake of the gospel…”

I’m not asking you to ignore ethnic difference, we should celebrate and even love our distinct heritages, but we should love Jesus more.

This is really what Jesus did for us isn’t? He wasn’t like us, yet He became One of us so that we would be saved. We must do the same, sacrificing ourselves for the joy of all peoples.

Our Unworthiness & Christ’s Worthiness

Today I’ll cover the next 2 massive realities given to us in Revelation 4-5.

Reality #2: The Dilemma of Worthiness (5:1-4)

The scene in chapter 4 continues uninterrupted in 5:1, where we see the One sitting on the throne who is worthy of all worship, holding a sealed scroll in His right hand. Opinions abound as to what this scroll is or contains, some say it’s the Old Testament, others say it’s God’s providential agenda or will for all of history. I believe the scroll to be the God’s plan of redemption and judgment, I’ll explain why in a moment.

In v2 we hear a mighty angel loudly ask the question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” v3-4 introduce us to the dilemma. No one comes forward in response to the angels question, there is only silence. That none of God’s creatures were found worthy to open the scroll and break its seals demonstrates their inability to execute the contents of the scroll.

Sensing that his own hope and the hope of the entire Church now stood in dire peril, John recognizes the dilemma of unworthiness and starts to weep because, as v4 says, no one was found worthy to open or look into the scroll.

Reality #3: The Work of Christ (5:5-7)

But that’s not the end of the story. One of the elder’s approaches John and calms his fear, answering the dilemma of the unworthiness of God’s creatures. The elder tells John in v5, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then John hoping against hope in his anxiety sees Him, “…between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.”

This ‘Lion-Lamb’ John saw is Jesus Christ, who though slain in His crucifixion, is standing in His resurrected glory, and walking to His Father’s throne to take the scroll.

Now we can return to why I believe the scroll to be God’s plan of redemption and judgment. When the scroll first came into view no one was found worthy to break it seals and open it, and then we see that Christ is the only One found worthy to open it. Why is it that Christ is the only One worthy to open the scroll? The reasons are given in v5, because He is the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, who has what? Conquered (!) by being both the spotless Lamb of God slain for sinners and the resurrected Son of God standing in Lion-like victory. The work of this Lionhearted and Lamblike Christ makes Him the only One worthy to break the scroll open.

We are now in a position to see the catholic, or universal nature of the Church.

What is the result of the angelic hosts of heaven when they see Christ, the Lion-Lamb, take the scroll? It is reality #4, which I’ll post tomorrow.

The Holiness of God on His Throne

Revelation 4-5 put 4 of the largest Biblical realities on display for us, that when taken together show us not only the universal nature of the Church, they show us the true nature of the gospel:

Reality #1: The Holiness of God (4:1-11)

We learn from 4:1 that John is now having another vision, and in this vision he sees an open door in heaven, and hears a voice speaking to him like a trumpet. The voice says, ‘Come up here and I will show what must take place after this.’ Remember John is still on the island of Patmos at this point, he hasn’t been physically taken to heaven, but while on the island John receives a vision of heaven. v2 sets the stage, John immediately says he was ‘in the Spirit’ (just as he was in 1:10) and John sees a throne standing in heaven with One seated on the throne. This is none other than the Lord, God Almighty seated on His throne in glory. Now, John has seen an earthly temple before, he was probably even familiar with the layout of Solomon’s temple, but now for the first time in his life John witnesses, not the earthly copy, but the heavenly original and what he sees in the throne room of heaven is stunning.

v3 says God’s appearance was like the precious gems jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was an emerald rainbow. Further around the throne v4 says there were 24 thrones, on which sat 24 elders who were all clothed in white, with golden crowns on their heads. Further still John says in v5 that thunder, lightning, and absolute power are streaming out from the throne.

These images make us think back to Mt. Sinai and other places like it where God revealed Himself to His people with powerful displays of His Kingly authority and sovereign rule. You can imagine what John was feeling like at this point – he probably felt something like a terrified wonder entering his heart and exploding through all his senses. v5 continues describing the presence of the Holy Spirit saying it was like seven torches of fire burning and the seven spirits of God. John then sees a sea before the throne. Not a stormy or wild sea, but a calm sea; a sea of glass, like crystal that appears to have no shore. As if John isn’t already overwhelmed he see’s more still. v6b-8a mention living creatures around the throne, full of eyes around and within, the 1st like a lion, the 2nd like an ox, the 3rd like a man, and the 4th like an eagle in flight. Similar to Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah 6 these creatures have six wings and day and night they never cease to proclaim: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.”

v9 states that each time these living creatures proclaim the holiness of God, giving glory and honor to Him who is seated on the throne who lives forever and ever, that the 24 elders fall down before God, cast their crowns down, and worship Him saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”

So see the vision John is beholding here.

God, in His matchless holiness and Kingly authority seated on His throne, while there seems to be the whole host of heaven around the throne worshipping Him with refrain after refrain, responding to one another in their worship and never-ceasing in such delightfully fearful activity. This is all about God. It isn’t about anything else. God, simply based on who He is, demands such worship.

This is the vision of John, and for John this must have been highly encouraging. I say this because in Revelation what happens before chapter 4? In chapters 2-3 we have the letters to the churches, most of which are messed up and enormously sinful. What a contrast this is between the sin in the Church and the pure vibrancy of worship happening around the throne. That the vision of the throne room in 4-5 is placed directly after the letters to the seven churches is meant to show us that chapters 4-5 serve as a correction or an antidote to the problems we see in chapters 2-3.

Is this not also encouraging to us? In the midst of all the sin that happens within the Church, where is God? Sitting on His throne, dwelling in endless praise, ruling with authority. Take heart, you who are suffering – take heart, you who struggle and fight with overwhelming sin – take heart, you who grieve over the condition of the world and those in it – God is on the His throne, He is still in control.

The question that comes into view next leads us to the next reality we see in these two chapters – how could we ever approach such a holy God?

Enter Revelation 5 where we see the dilemma of worthiness, the work of Christ, and the worship of all peoples. I’ll cover these in my next few posts.

How Should We Approach the Book of Revelation?

How many of you have ever been out of the country? I have, and every time I go abroad I always look forward to one moment: walking out of the airport in the new country for the first time. Any of you know what I mean? It’s a different country, with different sights, different sounds, different smells, and an overall different feel. On one hand it feels a bit alien and strange to walk into such an unknown place, but on the other hand there’s an adventurous feel when you walk into a foreign and mysterious culture. It can be a bit of sensory overload and can feel risky at times, but I quite enjoy it.

Well, we’re about to feel the same kind of excitement and uneasiness because today I am blogging about the book of Revelation.  You may feel a bit of sensory overload and it may even feel risky at times, but I assure you the book of Revelation is in the Bible to encourage us and I would even add that this book shows us the glory of Christ more than any other in the Bible.

The book of Revelation feels foreign to us mainly because it is filled with symbolism, figurative language, and prophetic apocalyptic imagery that most of us don’t really know what to do with. Now, to feel this way is ok, but to avoid Revelation because we don’t understand it is to fall into error.  As a good guide would do, today I want to give you a roadmap or a foundational principle that will help you navigate through this book. This basic foundational principle comes to us from rightly answering the question: how do we approach the book of Revelation?

Answer, we should approach it literally.

Some of you just took a sigh of relief.  But wait.  When I mean we should approach Revelation literally I mean we should approach Revelation according to its genre of literature. Let me explain.

We should NOT approach Revelation in the same manner we approach Genesis and Exodus. Genesis and Exodus both are included in the genre of historical narrative, which means these books give us a sequential timeline or chronological account of historical events. I think many people approach Revelation in the same manner, and though Revelation shouldn’t be thought of as history, it is commonly approached as a sequential timeline or chronological account of events that are going to take place in the future. We can’t do this because Revelation isn’t narrative, it’s in the apocalyptic genre. Just as there are different ways to interpret the genre of poetry and historical narrative in the Bible, there are different ways to interpret apocalyptic literature. The same rules do not apply.

So if we’re not to approach the book of Revelation as a future chain of sequential or chronological events, how then should we approach it?

Understanding that apocalyptic literature doesn’t play by the same rules, we should approach Revelation expecting it to be filled with symbolic imagery, metaphor, and figurative language because those things are characteristic of the apocalyptic genre in the Bible. Something fascinating in this regard is that out of all the books in the New Testament, the one book with most OT allusions, quotes, references, and imagery is the book of Revelation. This means it is filled with symbolic fulfillment that goes all the way back to Genesis 1. We should also approach Revelation expecting it to have relevance and deep meaning for BOTH the present audience of the apostle John, and the universal Church throughout all of history.

So you can see the cards in my hand, my view on Revelation is that throughout its 22 chapters, the apostle John re-tells the same story 7 different times with increasing intensity every time. You can call this a progressive parallelism, or a progressive recapitulation.  G.K. Beale calls is the Historical-Redemptive Approach, while others call it the ‘Iterest’ approach.