An Outline of the Book of Revelation

Interpreting the Book of Revelation

Jeffrey R. SHARP

In this article the author seeks to answer the question: is it possible to understand the book of Revelation? The interpretation of the book down through the centuries has challenged, baffled, infuriated, and excited interpreters. But how is the book best understood? Is it even a Christian book after all? What about all the strange symbols and imagery? How is the modern reader to make sense of this last book in the Christian canon? The article first looks at the contributions which have been made by critical scholarship to the understanding of the book's genre, historical background, and message. The author then turns to a chapter by chapter summary of the message and movement of the book seeking to enter into the thought world and symbolic world of the author and his audience. The book of Revelation is “apocalyptic-prophetic” and, if properly understood, speaks to today's readers with the same urgency and power as it did to the tried and tested readers in the first century. The book's ultimate message is one of comfort and hope in the midst of trying times. When the believer is tempted to give up he/she is consoled and inspired with a vision of God's triumph and presence. For Christians living at the beginning of the 21st century who are facing the strains and trials, the questions and challenges of living faithfully and meaningfully in a rapidly changing world, the book conveys a powerful message. Many of the questions which confronted the early Christians also confront the modern church. The book challenges all systems (political, economic, cultural, ideological) which promise so much, but dehumanize human beings and destroy the values of the Kingdom of God. The book challenges us to ask ourselves whether or not we really believe that God is sovereign over God's creation. Do we really believe that the risen Christ, the living Lord walks among his churches and is really concerned with the problems and issues we face in our daily lives? The book of Revelation offers a resounding “Yes” to these and other important questions as it reminds us that all of life is to be lived in the hope and prayer that “the Lord is coming soon!”

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