There’s an intersection near my house that’s known for peddling. Sometimes there are puppies for sale, other times it’s rugs. But sometimes it’s prophecy. Signs warning me about “the mark of the beast” and the end of the world accompany a man in an old truck selling a book that promises to keep me safe in these tumultuous end times. The book of Revelation can prompt very strange behavior.
Of all the books in the Bible, none produces such a plethora of interpretations and conclusions as Revelation. Maybe this is part of the reason we tend to avoid studying it. I mean, what are we to do with a book that speaks of locusts with scorpion tails (9:10) and a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns (12:3)? Yet no other book begins with such a direct encouragement to the reader:
“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”(1:3).
Maybe we avoid studying Revelation because it makes us feel obligated to figure out which camp we land in: Are we post-mill, pre-mill, or a-mill? Because we don’t feel ready to come to such weighty conclusions, we stay away. Many assume that by studying Revelation they will need to come to some final conclusion about where they stand on this big, confusing thing called eschatology (the study of end times). And since many of us are just trying to make it to the end of the day with a somewhat clean house and half our to-do list checked, we figure we just don’t have time for that.
But Revelation is part of the God-breathed Scriptures, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, equipping us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16)! Therefore we need to study it. The question is, how do we tackle such an intimidating book?