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)


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.