Leigh Young is author of the book “Lessons from the Letters: Living the Abundant Life.” She has written and taught Bible curriculum for two-year-olds, third grade Bible classes, Confirmation classes, and adult Bible series. She currently owns and manages investments in real estate and in the stock market. She began her public service in the advocacy arena, focusing her efforts on women’s and children’s issues. For more information, visit www.lessonsfromtheletters.com.
Many Christians, even those who are devoted to reading the Word, are hesitant to study the last book of the Bible. To many, the book of Revelation seems mysterious and difficult to understand. Reading it is challenging, as sometimes the murky waters of symbolism are scary and unclear. For that reason, Revelation is often left untouched and unread.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul explains to his young protégé the importance of all Scripture.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Tm 3:14-18)
Paul’s advice is pertinent for us today as well. If you are one of those hesitant readers, start by jumping in and exploring the opening three chapters of the book. In the early chapters, Jesus, through the pen of the Apostle John, writes letters to seven churches. Here are five reasons these letters are important for us to understand:
The letters in the book of Revelation reveal great truths.
At the very moment Jesus died on the cross, the curtain or veil which had separated the holy place from the holy of holies (Exodus 26:33) was split in two. “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split” (Mt. 27:50-51). The passive tense of the text and the denotation that the curtain was torn from the top to the bottom imply that God himself tore the curtain. This veil which had separated man from God for generations was now revealing the path to God through the death of Jesus. The barrier between sinful people and a perfect God was removed by the atoning sacrifice of God’s own son, and the plan for salvation was “unveiled.” The Greek word for “Revelation” actually means “unveiling” or “uncovering.” The legal terms, “testifies” and “testimonies,” are used to heighten the veracity of the words. & quot;The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rv 1:1-2 italics inserted). In the letters of Revelation, Jesus continues to unveil and reveal great truths.
The letters in the book of Revelation are reliable because they were written by Jesus.
The Urban Dictionary defines the term, “consider the source” in this way, “another way of saying that any information received from a certain source can’t be taken seriously because that source has been wrong before or lacks credibility.”
We listen to a variety of voices and consider them authorities. We buy self-help books to see what the “experts” advise. We refer to social media to compare ourselves to others. We buy products based on other people’s reviews. As we are following the advice and example of others, we should always “consider the source” and its credibility.
These letters were written by Jesus. He is our Creator. John writes in his gospel, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Who better to give advice to the creation than the Creator?
The letters in the book of Revelation address a comprehensive range of issues.
Numbers are important in the Bible. Jesus wrote seven letters for a reason. The number seven represents completeness and perfection. Three (the number of divinity) plus four (the number of the earth) equals seven. When the divinity of the Lord permeates the four corners of the earth, there will be perfection. This precision materializes in a variety of ways including the seven days of creation, seven notes on a musical scale, and seven days of the week. The seven letters imply completeness. The churches represent a full range of characteristics and challenges.
The letters of Revelation deal with issues which are still relevant today.
The letters address issues that are as applicable today as they were to the early believers 2000 years ago. Some of the issues addressed are remaining pure in a sexually-promiscuous culture, working hard for the church while losing the love of Christ, managing unexpected tragedies, blocking Jesus out of certain areas of life, controlling bad influences permeating our lives. Christians today are still dealing with these problems.
The book of Revelation comes with a promise of blessing.
Revelation is the only book of the Bible which comes with a pledge of blessing for those who read it. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud 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.” (Rv 1:3) Three things are required to obtain the blessing: reading it, hearing it, and taking it to heart or living out the message. At the end of the book, the blessing is repeated in this way. “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.” (Rv 22:7) An encounter with the book of Revelation and living according to its instruction should cause us to look a bit more like Jesus.
Jesus analyzed seven groups of believers and wrote to them to exhort and encourage them. These new Christians were pioneers of our faith. They were people who were making a great effort to follow the Lord in a difficult environment. With His omniscient vision, Christ pointed out their strengths and their weaknesses. He wrote to seven churches because seven is the number of completion signifying that these traits, characteristics, and advice encompass all believers. Now, the torch is passed to us. It is our turn. We are now the Christians trying to live like Christ in an often ungodly environment. Christ is showing us the way to the abundant life through these letters.
Try not to think about what might have been. That was then; we have taken different roads. We can’t go back again. There’s no use giving in.