When asked, most Christians will admit they haven’t read the book of Revelation. And those who have, usually say they will never read it again. Forgetting that it was written for our blessing (Revelation 1:3), many Christians are fearful of Revelation. It is a Bible book many of us avoid, due to its apocalyptic imagery and sometimes confusing structure. But there is another reason many Christians are wary of Revelation. It is the countless attempts to link events recorded in the book with those in human history. A recent example of this is the association between the number of the beast and the COVID-19 vaccine. This has led to Christians actively—even aggressively—discouraging the vaccination. On the other hand, it has created deep anxiety among those who already have the vaccine. Either way, the result is fear.
Forgetting that it was written for our blessing (1:3), many Christians are fearful of Revelation.
In this article I will attempt to encourage believers to read Revelation. I will do this by distinguishing the fear many feel towards the book and the kind of fear we should have as a result of reading it. Then I will show that one of the messages in Revelation is reassurance, as we learn about God’s love. Thus we will see that contrast with its reception, Revelation is a great blessing to the Church—in all ages and whatever its situation. Revelation is God’s word for believers, even if it appears strange at first.
Christian, Fear God
There is a fear that God promotes in the Bible and there is a fear that he criticises. As Jesus said to John, “Fear not, I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17). Yet, another fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). This fear of God leads to devotion and worship. Similarly, in Revelation, we read: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come…worship him” (Revelation 14:7). This right kind of fear is relation based. It is reverence. It brings to mind all that it means for God to be God. Therefore, instead of distancing one from God, it draws us closer to God. Just like little children revere and honour their parents, taking refuge in them, Christians fear God.
One of the purposes for Revelation is to stir reverential worship.
This is the kind of fear that Revelation inspires and celebrates. We read: “From the throne came a voice saying, ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great’” (Revelation 19:5). In other words, Revelation addresses those who fear God. It exhorts them to praise him. Thus one of the purposes for Revelation is to stir reverential worship among those who read it. For John asks: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:3-4). These righteous acts, disclosed in Revelation, are designed to cause worship among all peoples.
Rest in God’s Love
After reading Revelation, Christians should be stirred up to praise and worship God. Unfortunately this is often not the case. Instead, many Christians distance themselves from the book. Thus a completely different type of fear arises. But this will only be the case if we lose sight of the book’s purpose. For it was written to those who enjoy a personal relationship with God, those redeemed through Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:4-6).
In fact, the redeeming love of God for us radiates throughout the book. God promises a day the faithful will live with him, when he will wipe away our tears. On that day death, the greatest cause of pain, will be no more. Read the next quotation carefully. “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Revelation reminds believers that they are blessed, secure in God’s love.
The goal of Revelation is not that readers will live in terror of coming persecution, reading signs of the end of the age everywhere. It was written to point believers back to God’s promises and forward to their glorious culmination in Christ. Thus it stokes perseverance, whatever may come. Consider Revelation 14:13, “’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them.’” Following an entire chapter that anticipates persecution (Revelation 13), John reminds believers that they are blessed, secure in God’s love and Christ’s victory. And because they are certain of the end they can endure in the present.
Live with God’s Perspective and Promises
God is the one who has the final say in all the events recorded in Revelation. He reveals all of them for us, for our blessing. So towards the opening of the book we read: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). Despite its scary imagery and emphasis on God’s judgment, Revelation can be a blessing to all who read and understand it. For example, God will defeat the terrifying beast in chapter 13 (Revelation 19:20).God will avenge all the suffering his people face on earth (Revelation 6:10).
The assurance of God’s just judgment is an encouragement for suffering Christians.
The assurance of God’s just judgment is an encouragement for suffering Christians. We read: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). This call to endurance is based on the sure knowledge that God will judge all who reject and oppose him, together with his people. Believers already know the End, the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8). If we must lose our lives in the process of endurance, we know that our end is eternal life and rest. This perspective, grounded in God’s great promises, empowers perseverance and faith—whatever comes our way.