I have been enjoying immensely my study in Revelation. An idealistic interpretation of the book, which sees it not as some kind of timeline of events whether past or future, but rather an uncovering of spiritual truths that underlie the outward realities we see with our eyes, means that the book is an extremely relevant one.
It is so unfortunate to me that particular fantastical readings of the book, which try to construct a timeline of future events, a timeline that flatly contradicts a good bunch of the rest of Scripture, has become so popular over the last century and a half or so.
The first result of this is that the people who believe this interpretation are robbed of the book, by making it apply to something other than their present lives. Many of the parts of the book (most of chapter 12, for example) are made irrelevant to anyone who would ever read them. It supposedly applies only to Israel halfway through the tribulation. If that’s the case, then nobody who believed it now (Christians) would find it at all relevant to anything that will ever happen to them (they’ll be raptured before it occurs) and nobody to whom it applies (Jews who will be converted) will believe it now (since they won’t be converted until halfway through the tribulation).
The second consequence of this is if anything worse than the first. The rest of the church, so turned off by dispensationalist interpretations and confused by those interpretations, simply throw their hands up in frustration and say “nobody can understand this book”. And thus the book is taken away from them as well.
But the book is immensely important. It shows us the true nature of the struggle we’re in right now, and the importance of standing firm in that struggle. This has relevance in all kinds of areas of our lives, just one of which I go into here. The real struggle is a fight over the integrity of our faith, and enduring in that faith even unto death, even in the face of every kind of pressure, every kind of incitement, deception and coercion to give in to the beast and accept his mark. I am afraid that way too many Christians, lulled into thinking this is a fight that will only happen after the church is raptured, or thinking that there isn’t any real fight at all, are being overrun by the enemy without even realizing it.
In science, in politics, in business, in psychology, in personal morality, in ecclesiology, in a thousand different ways, the church is giving in to the philosophy and the ideas of the world. The Bible refers to this as being ashamed of the gospel, as receiving the mark of the beast, as tolerating the Nicolaitans among us, as bringing the idols into the temple, as loving your life, loving the world. The result of this is always the same- judgment from God and death. We have to turn back. The church will never die, but the church in America can die. If you think that’s impossible just remember that North Africa was once one of the centers of orthodox Christianity (Augustine came from there). Now it’s a spiritual desert.
One really good way to start turning back would be for us to recapture the truth of Revelation in our churches and to take its message seriously.