Revelation: The Power of True Prophesy

About 2,000 years ago, a fisherman banished to a lonely island because he believed his friend had been resurrected from the dead and was God, wrote down visions he said he’d seen of his friend and what would happen at the end of the world.

These visions have been called Revelation. Not “revelations”, but Revelation–the final prophesy of the Bible, the final book of God’s Word, the final Scripture we have.  2,000 years have gone by, and though some people have tried–and some people have tried mightily–no further words have ever been added to the Holy Bible.

What we read today is what John the fisherman wrote down about 2,000 years ago–only in English of course (for me).  For my friends in Bangladesh, the Words have been translated to Bengali.  For my friends in South America, Spanish.  For my friend in Togo, French.  And for my friend in India, well, she can read English, too, but they’re also in Hindi.  The words of Revelation have been translated into languages around the world–and the translation process is far from halted as more and more people groups are reached with God’s Word in their own language.

I don’t know any other book of prophesy that has had close to that kind of success.  This isn’t because Revelation is one of the best fiction books ever written.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m reading what I think is a nonfiction book, and I find out it’s actually fiction, I don’t want to reread it and give it to others to read.

I also don’t know any other book of prophesy that has been so deliberately misused.  It’s undeniable–lots of people are out to make a profit on the book of Revelation.  Fortune-telling makes money, and there are a heap of people in the world who want to use anything they can to try to forecast their way into peoples’ wallets.  The tragedy is, if these people actually understood the book they were trying to prophesy about, they would never try to twist the words in Revelation to build their income empire.  Instead, they would flee from all scams and get right with God asap–now, pronto!

One of the most common misunderstandings about Revelation is people (and some who are not con artists) look for an exact date for when Jesus will return.  But if they were to actually find that date, they would be contradicting the words of Jesus Himself, who says:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32, NIV)

Can I possibly think that I can know something Jesus Himself chooses not to know?  Not a chance.  (Jesus is not less God because He did not know the date, because He chose not to know the date.  I don’t know whether He still chooses not to know or not, now that He is ascended to Heaven.)

If I read Revelation in humility and not thinking I can solve the mysteries of God by my own “brilliant” brain (ha ha ha), I know there is no way I can “crack the code” of Revelation.  For one thing, I can’t even fully understand Jesus’ Words in the Sermon on the Mount, or when He told the parable of the lost sheep, or when He forgave the soldiers who were mocking Him and spitting on Him.  How on earth could I say that I fully understand God?  It’s not just that I’m mortal.  I’m a mess.  And it’s more than that, too.

How can I say I can relate to the love of God?  No way.  I can’t do that.  I wouldn’t send my child to die for a group of hateful, ugly people (I’m talking about all of us here) who would be the ones to kill Him.  I wouldn’t create a master plan that would mean I would wait thousands of years for just the right time and then come to earth to be tortured.  Understand that?  Oh, there’s no way.

I can’t understand the wrath of God, either.  I don’t know how deep sin runs.  I’m used to sin.  I’m in sin.  I don’t get how destructive or everlasting it really is.  I can’t forecast the consequences.  I can’t get my brain around Hell.

Steven Curtis Chapman says it: “God is God and I am not.”[1]  What would make me think I could master any of the Words of God, when He is my Master?

Sometimes when I see the efforts of people to try to explain or depict Revelation, I want to cringe.  Our best understanding is just weak.  That’s all there is to it.  One of the writers of the New Testament, a man who spoke to Jesus Himself, recognized how far apart we are from the Lord Jesus’ understanding of things:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

Other people go a whole other route.  They want to stay away from Revelation altogether.  Revelation seems so hard, so intricate, so overwhelming, that they would rather stay out of end times.  This is usually where I’ve found myself.

But this is a problem, too.

Revelation stresses again and again to listen, listen, listen.  God doesn’t command us to listen because we can’t understand.  Even though I feel like I probably have only a speck of understanding in Revelation, I do have a speck.

I get that the coming Judgment is going to be the most catastrophic thing that has ever happened or will ever happen to us.  I understand that the word terror doesn’t even begin to explain what’s going to happen to people who will face God without Jesus as their intercessor.  I understand that bad times are coming (and have come) for those who believe in Jesus.  I understand there’s going to be the worst battle ever, and that people who call themselves Christians but don’t really love the Christ they claim to know are going to fall away–and Christians who hold true are going to be in for the night before the dawn.

I get that there’s going to be an epic battle that’s going to make every epic battle that’s ever been portrayed in a movie melt away in comparison.  And I know that Heaven is going to be unimaginably, unfathomably, unforeseeably, mortally unspeakably, forever unmistakably great.

But it is just as the Scriptures say,

  “What God has planned

   for people who love him

   is more than eyes have seen

   or ears have heard.

   It has never even

   entered our minds!” (1 Corinthians 2:9. CEV)

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Acknowledgement: The idea that Revelation is the Revelation and not “revelations” is something I never realized or thought about before hearing from a childhood pastor, Doug.

[1] “God is God”, Steven Curtis Chapman

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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Recalculating

I’ve had a Garmin GPS for the happier years of my driving life.  I remember when they were still vogue, but not inaccessibly expensive anymore, and for some reason my mother immediately bought me one.  It was almost as if she didn’t want to be called 150 times a day to give directions anymore.

One of the first things I learned about my Garmin was what happens when you make a mistake.  The Garmin would say something like, “In point two miles, turn left” . . . and I, having not a spectacularly acute sense of distance (although I pride myself in being able to measure with a ruler–inches or centimeters), would sometimes turn too soon or occasionally not soon enough.

There would be that pause from my Garmin machine and then,

“Recalculating . . Recalculating . . . . In point four miles turn left.”

I came to learn that recalculating meant I hadn’t followed the original plan, but the GPS was finding a new way for me.

There have been a few times when I have changed my mind about where I wanted to go, and so ignored my GPS, leaving it on.  The GPS will say over and over,

Recalculating.  Recalculating . . .

And keep finding new roads that lead back to the place I’d selected to go.

But, eventually, if I’d go too far in the opposite direction the GPS would say,

“When possible, make a U-turn.”

Over and over again, until I made the U-turn or turned the GPS off.

Then came the time when I bought a different brand of GPS.  I discovered that rather than saying Recalculating, it sat silently during wrong turns and then recalculated automatically.

In theory, this sounded less intrusive and more relaxing.  But what I found was that I didn’t always know when I had missed a turn, and because I didn’t, and the GPS would silently figure out another route around, I could easily go on without realizing I’d lengthened my route.

I couldn’t learn routes to places in this way and, more than this, I was left wondering, Did I make the right turn?  Or the wrong turn and not even know it?

And what if I just drove on and on making wrong turns?  At what point would the GPS intervene and tell me rather than silently figuring out how to get me to my destination . . . ?

I took that GPS back and got a Garmin again.  I realized I needed to hear,

Recalculating.

Only then would I learn efficient itinerary to the places I wanted to go.

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I have a confession to make.  Sometimes when I read the Bible, I don’t want to hear that I need to recalculate my life.  I want to just go on with the attitude, “What wrong turn?  Let’s pretend I didn’t make one.”

The problem is, if the Bible doesn’t teach me about the gravity of my sin, I would never know what’s at stake.  We’re not talking about going a few miles out of the way.  We’re talking about my eternal destination!  And if I’m a follower of Christ, I don’t want to waste my life doubling back from dead end alleys, serpentining through streets, heading off on highways to the middle of nowhere.  No!  There are too many drivers out there who need to know they can be rerouted to Heaven for me to be meandering about.

When I take a wrong turn, I need to know it immediately.  God’s Word, His Spirit, convicts me of my sins, so that I can turn away and get back on God’s path immediately.

God can and will recalculate my route when I confess my sin, directing me back to the right path, but it will never be the same as if I had gone on the right path in the first place.  This is why I must keep my listening ears on for God’s directions.  There is no time to waste in telling others about Jesus.  And I need to be on the right path as I tell others how about the perfect navigator, Jesus Christ.

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3, ESV)

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Photograph by Miguel B., profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/mig/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Why would I believe in a young earth?

2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 15:4, and 2 Peter 1:20-21 give no allowance for a "somewhat useful" Scripture. I must decide either 1) every word of the Word is true or 2) God is a liar or 3) people have made God up.

If the God of the Bible is perfect, His guidebook is perfect.  The Word is not just an authored book, the Word is a manifestation of the Author (see John 1:1-5).

For me to believe the God of the Bible is who He says He is, I must believe His Word is perfect.  The Word sets up an incredible claim: either every word God inspired specially chosen people through the ages to write is infallible, or the entire message is lost in imperfection.

I believe, with everything I am, that the Word is infallible.  I could not think otherwise because God has opened my eyes to read and my ears to hear the language of God, set down perfectly and immovably in the 66 books of Scripture.

This foundation is much broader than only a belief in a young earth.  This foundation is the starting point for why I accept every claim in Scripture [1].

There are Christians who genuinely believe the Word of God is infallible, but they believe God used millions or billions of years to create the Universe rather than the 6 days the Bible clearly outlines in Genesis 1.

To harmonize these two beliefs, they have to add time in between days of before the first day or believe the days as symbolic.  They also must believe the order of events is symbolic if they believe in the Big Bang.

Unless the Christian believes God used millions or billions of years for some processes but created Adam from dust[2], Adam is believed to be an evolved ape-like creature who God “finished” or merely “adopted and breathed into” rather than created from dust as Scripture says.

Outside the Garden of Eden, the world was already full of the skeletons of animals who have struggled to survive and failed.  To harmonize this with the Bible would have to mean death of animals is

very good (Genesis 1:31).

Ape-like creatures, who would one day become human, also suffered and died.  But God did not show care or concern for them until one day He “adopted” two [3]?

If instead of being the first two humans, Adam and Eve were two of many apes-like creatures evolving (as some progressive creationists now believe), why did the curse fall on all of humanity?  And what is the consequence of sin if there was already suffering and death[4]?

But most deadly of all, if the first Adam was symbolic . . . why do we believe the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, is an actual Person?  To believe in a symbolic Christ is to destroy the entire Bible, the purpose of faith, the atoning power of Jesus, and to condemn us all–every single one of us—to the sinner’s Hell where we belong.

Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:47, NLT)

Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death resulted from sin, therefore everyone dies, because everyone has sinned.  Certainly sin was in the world before the law was given, but no record of sin is kept when there is no law.  Nevertheless, death ruled from the time of Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin in the same way Adam did when he disobeyed.  He is a foreshadowing of the one who would come.

But God’s free gift is not like Adam’s offense.  For if many people died as the result of one man’s offense, how much more have God’s grace and the free gift given through the kindness of one man, Jesus the Messiah, been showered on many people!  Nor can the free gift be compared to what came through the man who sinned.  For the sentence that followed one man’s offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift brought justification, even after many offenses.  For if, through one man, death ruled because of that man’s offense, how much more will those who receive such overflowing grace and the gift of righteousness rule in life because of one man, Jesus the Messiah! (Romans 5:12-17, ISV)

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17, NLT)

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[1] I am ashamed to even use the word “claim” to describe the Truth.  God has given us the freedom to choose to accept His Word or not, and this is what I am trying to express.  The reality is that whether or not I accept the claims of Scripture, they will always be truth.  Regardless of whether I accept the claim of gravity, if I jump off a cliff it’s not going to go well for me.  To an infinitely greater extent, what I conclude about God’s Word has no impact on its validity but instead on the state of my soul.

[2] This doesn’t satisfy the evolutionist, who insists man came from ape-like creatures, or explain why God would describe each day as a day but only day 6 (or certain days) to be literal.

[3] If Adam and Eve evolved from ape-like creatures, then Eve’s creation must be symbolic as well, for she could hardly have been made from Adam’s rib if evolution is true.

[4] If the only consequence of Adam’s sin was Hell, then the rest of creation did not actually suffer any more than it already was.  But Romans 8:22 says,

We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.

Romans 8:18-23 is a crystal-clear explanation of the connection between the fall of creation, suffering, death, and our sin.  My prayer is you will take the time to read this passage, and explore what the Bible says about the curse (e.g., Genesis 3) for yourself.  Biblecc.com and Biblegateway.com are easy ways to look up Scripture.

Photograph by Savio Sebastian, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/savioseb/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Is the Bible an incomplete collection of books?

If you asked me to be the authority on, say, medicine of the 21st century, and I had to compile one book that would have all the critical and necessary information within it, we would be in serious trouble, because I don’t come from a medical background.  I could try to pull books together, but my lack of knowledge would create a very feeble anthology, I’m afraid.

But even if you asked me to create a compilation on children’s literature, which I love, I don’t know how well the anthology would be received.  I have strong opinions about which children’s books are classics and which are clutter, but you might not agree with me at all.  In addition, I would place books of deep sentimental value very high on the list, books which might have little literary quality at all.

So when I think of the Bible as an anthology, questions can create great clouds of doubt in my mind, like

  • How do I know the best books were chosen?
  • How do I know good books weren’t left out?
  • How do I know bad books weren’t added?
  • How do I know there wasn’t a conspiracy involved in the choosing of books?
  • How do I know bad ethics weren’t involved in choosing the books?

There seems to me to be three and a half approaches to answering these questions:

1.          To use outside sources to help verify or help refute the books in the Bible.

2.          To use logic.

3.          To use the Bible to answer questions about the Bible.

3 ½.  To make up stuff that sounds ‘cool’ or ‘right’.

#1 Outside Sources

  • Which outside sources will I use?
  • How will I know those sources are any better than the sources already contained in the Bible?
  • How many outside sources do I need to verify or refute the sources inside the Bible?

#2 Logic

  • Whose logic am I going to listen to: the Christian, the atheist, or another religious perspective?
  • Whose logic am I not going to listen to?  Pick 2: the Christian, the atheist, other religious perspectives

#3 Inside Information

  • How can I prove my point if my point is proved before I can prove it?  If I believe the Bible is true and right from the get-go, how will I prove the Bible is true and right, if that’s the source I’m using to make my claim?

#3½ Making Up Stuff

  • Am I doing this to falsely persuade people, gain popularity, appear cool, or because I simply don’t want to know the truth?
  • How long do I think this lie is going to last?

So . . what will I choose?

Using Outside Sources to Verify the Bible

If I tell you reasons from outside sources to believe in the Bible, you’re going to know that, since I am a Christian, I picked outside sources I believed in.

This is not to say there is not outstanding historical evidence for belief in the Bible.   But if a person doesn’t believe the Bible, (s)he’s probably not going to believe any historical evidence for the Bible, either.

Using Logic to Verify the Bible

The foundation of how we use logic is because we believe our universe is orderly.  Otherwise, logic is useless.  The concept of communication is useless in a chaotic universe, because I can’t trust what I’m saying, what language means to the other person, who I am, or that the words coming out of my mouth are anything more meaningful than chemical responses in a chance brain.

Even so, though, if I tell you logical reasons why you should believe in the Bible, you’re going to know that, since I am a Christian, I’m telling you based on my way of thinking.

This is not to say there are not outstanding logical arguments for belief in the Bible.  But if a person doesn’t believe the Bible, (s)he’s probably not going to believe any logical arguments for the Bible, either.

Making Up Stuff to Verify the Bible?

I could go the ½ route and make up nonsense, but not only would that be absolutely useless, because there is real evidence for the truth of the Bible, but also contrary to the Bible’s teachings about honesty.  All I would be doing is verifying my lack of understanding about the Bible.

Using Inside Information to Verify the Bible

The best way for you to know the Bible is authentic is not through me at all, but rather to experience the Bible for yourself.  The evidence for the source is the source.

Is this a weak line of evidence?  Not at all.  Do we believe in gravity primarily because we have researched outside sources, heard a logical explanation,  or because when we jump we come back down?

I believe in the Bible because I believe the Bible.

I have experienced the Bible’s promise of eternal forgiveness and salvation for those who trust in Jesus Christ.  God gives anyone who believes in Him the gift of His Spirit, and His Spirit causes these people to believe the Bible.

This is impossible to understand until you call on Jesus for help, because Jesus is the only bridge between human understanding and God’s understanding.  Only Jesus can give us belief in Him.

Jesus is the only one who can complete us.  Only then do we discover that it is not the Bible missing any pieces, but ourselves missing the piece we need to understand the Bible: Jesus!

Only through Jesus will you ever believe an extraordinary God wrote the Bible through ordinary people, that He guided the gathering of His Words into the greatest collection of all time.  Only then will you see that the Bible is not a controversial anthology but a map to the heart of God.

As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.  (Luke 18:25-43, NASB)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16a, NIV)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.