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An Approach to the Language of Revelation

Apocalyptic language is written to reveal a message; the word "apocalyptic" itself means to reveal. Hence, this is how we get the word "revelation." However, only those with eyes to see can understand the apocalyptic message, for apocalyptic language conveys a message that is to be visualized. Of course we must hear the message, but more importantly we must see the picture the message is painting in our minds with words. The message is disclosed as we behold the images. For those who fail to see the picture the message conveys, the message will remain obscure.

As we read the words of Revelation we must see what John sees before we can hear what John is saying. The majority of the message of Revelation is visual. Most of the New Testament is written for those who have ears to hear, but Revelation is written for those who have eyes to see. The message appeals to reason, but it appeals to reason through the use of visual images described in Spirit breathed words. The words are used to simply paint vivid pictures upon the canvas of our minds.

Apocalyptic language was used in times of persecution to convey a message to God’s people. The world would have difficulty understanding the message. It was a means of God revealing his judgment upon their enemies without making their enemies aware of what he was saying. If their enemies had understood the message, persecution would have only increased.

In Revelation John pens the words describing what he has seen, but it is clear that it is a vision he has received from Christ. John is commanded to put down in words what he has been allowed to see.

Revelation 1:10-11
On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea." (NIV)

John uses words to paint scenes conveying the grandeur of the Christian's victorious hope that mere words alone cannot describe. John is caught up in the Spirit and sees our earthly existence from heaven's vantage. When we read the book to visualize what John is saying the message becomes vivid in our minds. Revelation is the only book that allows us to see our struggles from heaven's vantage point.

Don't forget that John wrote the book so that we can understand it. John writes, "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (Revelation 1:3 NIV)

The book was written to prepare God's people for the onslaught of persecution, which came against the church at the close of the first century. Revelation is a book for all time, for if we can see what God was doing for Christians during the Roman persecution. The book helps us understand some practical lessons today.

Practical Lessons from Revelation

This book shows God is the sovereign ruler of the world and his purpose will be done.

This book looks at history from the throne of God.

This book tries to show us history will come out as God planned it.

The book breathes with optimism.

The book breathes with victory.

The book shows us the character of our victory.

We are taught that Christ is very close to us.

It shows us that Christ shares the victory with us.

There is a strong appeal to persecuted churches as people live righteously in spite of persecution, not because of persecution.

The call of the book is to heroic living.

It is a book of encouragement.

It is a book of patience.

It is a book of steadfastness.

The book says that when the church is loyal to Christ, it will be opposed. It is only in compromise that there is no opposition.


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