Sound Doctrine - Titus 2:1

"The Revelation" Simplified

Bryan Matthew Dockens

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ" is, many would agree, the most intimidating book in all of scripture. Yet, like the rest of God's inspired word to man (Ephesians 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17), it certainly deserves attention, for it is written, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it" (Revelation 1:3). How can any reader gain this blessing when the book is so difficult to decipher? Set forth in the very first verse of the book is a key that will clarify much misunderstanding.

This book identifies itself as "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants - things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 1:1). Written prior to the close of the first century of our common era, the Revelation depicts events which were to be imminently fulfilled, not the final day of judgment. The urgency expressed in this first verse is a persistent theme. The reader is advised before the introduction is complete that "the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). These words are meaningless if two millennia have since passed and the prophecy remains unfulfilled.

The final chapter contains similar statements. "The Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 22:6). John was instructed by the angel, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand" (Revelation 22:10).

The command against sealing the book stands in direct contrast to what the prophet Daniel was told when he recorded a similar vision six centuries earlier: "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4). When Daniel chronicled his dream, its fulfillment remained afar off, but when John transcribed the Revelation, its fulfillment was to "shortly take place". Therefore, there was great urgency in sharing its contents.

The pressing urgency repeated throughout the Revelation is not at all consistent with the notion that the events foretold remain unrealized even today. However, this urgency does harmonize with remarks offered by Jesus during His earthly existence regarding the pending destruction of Jerusalem. He proclaimed, "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:34-38). Furthermore, He declared, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34).

Christ's words here correspond with the contents of the Revelation in that a great city, figuratively identified as ancient Babylon, would be violently overthrown (Revelation 18:21), because "in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth" (Revelation 18:24; cf. 16:6). The subject of the book is specifically identified as "where also our Lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8).

The Lord said that Jerusalem's destruction would fulfill the prophecy of Daniel (Matthew 24:15; cf. Daniel 12:11), which prophecy was repeated in the Revelation. The events of Daniel's vision would take place over a period of three and a half units of time (Daniel 12:7), or 1,290 days (Daniel 12:11), which is three and a half years. Likewise, the events of the Revelation would transpire over a period of three and a half units of time (Revelation 12:14), or forty-two months (Revelation 11:2; 13:5), which is three and a half years. Thus, the Revelation mirrors the vision of Daniel, which Jesus said would be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem before His generation passed away. For historical reference, it is worth noting that three and a half years was the length of time Jerusalem was under siege by the armies of Rome beginning in A.D. 70.

The internal evidence points decidedly to a short-term fulfillment. Moreover, the contents of the book match other books that describe events fulfilled in the first century. Finally, we know assuredly that the Revelation does not depict the final day of judgment because several scriptures state plainly that such information is beyond human knowledge. The Savior said, "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming" (Matthew 24:35-39, 42). Both the apostles Paul and Peter compared Christ's coming and the earth's destruction to "a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:4; 2 Peter 3:10). Burglars don't call ahead to announce their coming and neither will Jesus. Nothing in the Revelation or any other scripture should be interpreted to contradict this plain truth.

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