Last Updated on :
The Book of Revelations
Does It Matter?
In recent years a number of different interpretations of the book of Revelation have been offered to the Christadelphian community as "alternatives" to the traditional understanding set out in standard works such as Brother John Thomas' Eureka. There are some brethren who feel that this constitutes a serious departure from the Faith, whilst others believe that resistance to the new theories is unwarranted dogmatism over non-essentials.
This situation prompts many to ask about the importance of the Revelation. Does it matter which interpretation we accept?
When considering this question we must be careful to avoid jumping to conclusions that are based upon sentiment rather than revealed truth: The Bible must surely be our guide.
As to the question of the importance of Revelation, it is helpful to first be clear in our minds just what it is we are talking about. What is the book of Revelation? It is a portion of God's word (for "God gave" it - Chap. 1: 1). It is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ;" it is "what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias" (2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). It is the "testimony of Jesus" (Chap. 1:2; 19: 10; c/p Diaglott). It is what "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you ... in the ecclesias" (Chap. 22:16).
With this scriptural definition now in mind, we ask: Is it important for us to correctly understand what the Spirit is saying to the ecclesias? DOES IT MATTER whether or not ecclesias rightly interpret Jesus' testimony to them? How could anyone possibly say that it doesn't matter what the Spirit is saying to us?
The book of Revelation is a message specifically given to ecclesias in the Gentile world. We appeal to the reader to consider the following reasons for its importance and why we claim that a right understanding of its message is essential.
The Power Of Prophecy
Let us first appreciate the power of the prophetic word. In Hebrews 11:7 it is written:
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house..."
As we know from the Genesis record, Noah was warned by God about the coming judgment upon that guilty world - he was warned in advance about the flood, much as we today are warned in the book of Revelation about the coming of Armageddon. Note Noah's response to the prophecy he received: he was "moved" says the scripture. There was power in that message; there was a force which moved Noah to make preparation. Seeing the reality of the future and having faith in that prophecy, he took action.
The book of Revelation provides a similar motivating power for Christ's brethren and sisters today - if they have faith in it. The vision of those things which are shortly coming to pass will MOVE them; it will form an attitude which is in harmony with the mind of the Spirit - like Noah of old they will condemn the world (Heb. 11:7), so becoming heirs of that righteousness which is by a faith based upon understanding. In this way they "take heed" to the "sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1: 19) and are moved to keep "the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (Rev. 22:7).
We Must "Hear" and "Keep"
Jesus has said "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27), and they will surely hear his testimony in the book of Revelation. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias" - this we read many times. So we should ask ourselves whether we really do have an ear for the voice of Christ in the Apocalypse? Are we interested in what he has to say to us?
Jesus links hearing with doing: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." And so in the Apocalypse he says, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein . . . " (Chap. 1:3).
The book of Revelation, as well as showing things to come, has certain specific commandments which should be obeyed. Only where there is understanding can a person be among those "which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 12:17).
Commandments of Christ
The commands of Christ, as they appear in the Apocalypse, bear a significant relationship to one another. The message always concerns the maintenance of doctrines and values. Let us remember that these commands are as much directed to Christ's servants today as they were to the seven original ecclesias; they are prophetic:
"REMEMBER therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works . . ."
"Be thou FAITHFUL (unto death) . . ."
To those tolerating the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes: "Repent."
"... that which ye have already hold fast till I come . . ."
"Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain . . ."
"REMEMBER therefore how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast, and repent . . ."
"hold that fast which thou hast . . ."
These are commands of Christ - and they are just as much commands as those which we find in the Sermon on the Mount.
Another Apocalyptic Commandment
Revelation 14:9-10 is worthy of our thoughtful attention:
"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:"
Here is a command which, if disobeyed, carries a severe penalty. In view of this, where is the argument which suggests that it is not essential for us to identify this beast, his image, or his mark? It must be obvious, surely, that the servants of Jesus Christ have to be able to identify beast, image, and mark, if they are to avoid transgression. This is emphasized for us in Chapter 20:4, where those who witness for Christ and for the word of God, "which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands" are said to live and reign with Christ for a thousand years (i.e.: they will be accepted into the Kingdom).
There is also the commandment - which does have application for us, c/p 2 Cor. 6:17,18 - to maintain a separation from a system which is called "Babylon":
"Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues . . ." Rev. 18:4.
If we are to maintain a separation from this system we must be able to identify it.
Now, whether the beast is Roman (as Christadelphians have believed for over 100 years), or whether it is Israelitish (as some are now claiming); whether it represents a system already in evidence, or one that is yet to arise, become questions of considerable importance if we seriously intend to keep the sayings of the prophecy of this book (Chap. 22:7). A correct interpretation of these things becomes essential.
In Revelation 1:3 we are introduced to the fact that there is a blessing upon those who read, hear, and keep those things written in the Apocalypse. What is this blessing? Is it something that we can afford to be without?
The blessing is in-built into the true interpretation of the book of Revelation so that only those who "know accurately" (Greek: ana-ginosko) and keep (or watch) can receive it. As in Chapter 16:15 where we find it written "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments . . ." Only those who understand correctly, or accurately, can watch; the blessing is limited to them.
The blessing of Chapter 1:3 is repeated in Chapter 22:7.
"Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book."
We have already seen what some of the "sayings" or commandments are in the prophecy. What is the blessing that results from keeping them?
The blessing that results from being able to identify "Babylon", the beast, his image, and his mark, is clear enough. There is a blessing now, as well as
Such was Brother John Thomas' understanding of this blessing. In Eureka vol. 1, page 116, under the section entitled The Blessed he writes:
"The Apocalypse was given to this end - that the servants of the Deity, who are keeping their garments, might be able to discern the signs of the times preceding the Apocalypse of Christ; and the real nature of things extant in their several generations. No believer understanding this prophecy could be seduced into fellowship with the clerical institutions of the world; because he would see them all in their native deformity and sin."
Such is the blessing attendant upon those who hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to the ecclesias. They are protected against the deceptive power of the adversary. This is in harmony with what Jesus says elsewhere:
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." John 10:27,28.
Why is it that no man can pluck these sheep out of their master's hand? It is because "the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."
All Books/Booklets, Editorials, and Articles are FREE and can be downloaded without permission.