Basic Facts from… The REVELATION (Part 2)

Basic Facts from… The REVELATION (Part 2)

The basic purpose of the Revelation is to provide comfort and consolation to Christians facing or experiencing persecution because of their faith.

To the modern (western-culture) reader, this may not seem obvious because the symbols and figures the Holy Spirit employs seem so “strange” to us – we don’t typically relate to images or recognize parallels as readily as we grasp plain, straightforward statements. (People in “eastern” cultures, however, often do not struggle in this way since they are often much more accustomed to identifying with parables and comparisons.) The Revelation was written in figurative language so that the message of hope and endurance it presents could be understood by Christians who were being persecuted for the “crime” of being Christians, while this message would not be obvious to unbelievers. The persecuted believers – whose spiritual “roots” connected them to (uninspired) Jewish apocalyptic writings of that period – could recognize the essential message and draw hope from it even as their tormentors would discard it as merely a fanciful story. In addition, the old testament books of Ezekiel and Daniel from which John drew so many of the symbols in the Revelation provided enlarged the foundation for their understanding, since they could look back in history and see the interpretation of those symbols in their historical settings.

There are several “messages” in the Revelation that are clearly intended to strengthen and encourage Christians as they confront challenges to their faith:

  • God does see their tears, 7:17 and 21:4
  • Their prayers “rule” the world, 8:3-4
  • Their death is precious in God’s sight, 14:13 and 20:4
  • Their final victory is assured, 15:2
  • Their blood will be avenged, 6:9 and 8:3
  • Christ rules forever, 5:7-8
  • Christ is coming again to receive His own, chapters 21-22.

Much of the symbolism in the Revelation is built around the number seven, which symbolic literature represents the concept of completeness, fulness, or “totality.” This number is a figure that has deep roots in the old testament, where we read of the Sabbath (seventh day – Genesis 2, cf. Exodus 16), Israel’s priests sprinkling the blood of sacrifices seven times (Leviticus 4:6 & 17, 16:14 & 19, etc.), Israel circling Jericho’s walls seven times (Joshua 6:4), and Naaman being told to dip seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5). In the Revelation we find…

  • Seven letters to the seven churches, chapters 2-3
  • Seven seals and seven trumpets, chapters 4-11
  • Seven vials, chapters 15-16
  • Seven candlesticks, 1:12-20
  • Seven stars, 1:16-20
  • Seven angels, 1:20
  • Seven spirits, 1:4
  • A lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, 5:6
  • Seven lamps, 4:5
  • Seven thunders, 10:3-4
  • A red dragon with seven heads and seven crowns, 12:1
  • A leopard-like beast with seven heads, 13:1
  • A scarlet-colored beast with seven heads, 17:3-7
  • Seven mountains, 17:9
  • Seven kings, 17:10
  • And seven “beatitudes” (statements of blessing – 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, & 22:14).

The numbers three and twelve are also significant in Revelation (as are multiples or divisors of these numbers, such as 3, 4, and 6). Three is generally understood as a representation of Deity (three persons of the Godhead), and twelve is usually read as a symbol of all of God’s people (as of the twelve tribes of Israel).


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