Why read the book of Revelation?

Why read the book of Revelation?

Why Read Revelation?

Reading and heeding Revelation brings blessing: “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).[1]

So, why read? Why care?

Because it is what is. And it tells us how to live. It tells us what to value and why.

We, essentially, are walking through life with wool over our eyes. The reality is we can’t see. We don’t always know what’s what. Satan is a great deceiver and he’s the god of this world.

Revelation is a jolt. It’s is a wake-up call. Revelation is a blind person seeing for the first time.

Revelation reveals the truth that on every forehead there is a name. We are all either aligned and carry the allegiance of Satan or Jesus our savior. We’re all ultimately marching to Satan or the Savior’s beat. We don’t always see it as it is, but Revelation says it as it is. Again, Revelation is an unveiling.

That’s what the book of Revelation is. But, what does the book of Revelation do?

What does the Book of Revelation do?

Wrestling with the book of Revelation…

1) wakes us up to the wonder & makes the unseen, seen

Have you ever said, “I’ve never seen it like that before?” That’s what the book of Revelation does.

Revelation gives us a picture of reality. A new perspective by which to see the world. John tells about all he “saw.” Revelation offers “a divine perspective on what is true, valuable and lasting.”[2]

And when we see things from the perspective of heaven it breaks the earthbound delusion of the beast’s propaganda.[3] We need to see what John saw. We need the book of Revelation to open our eyes to the unseen realities.

C.S. Lewis said, “What is concrete but immaterial can be kept in view only by painful effort.”[4] If Christians are to “resist the powerful allurements of Babylon, they [need] an alternative and greater attraction.”[5]

Revelation, as Brian Tabb has said, “reorients believers’ view of their present situation and challenges them to live by faith in the light of God’s sovereign rule over all things, which is more real and lasting than the reality they see with their eyes.”[6]

The revelation of Jesus is showing us something (v. 1). It’s showing us something we didn’t see before and we don’t see it without Jesus’ revelation. The book of Revelation is like smelling salts.

Its pictures are powerful painted to show us the point. Sin is bad but we don’t always see it as it is. I can tell you that sin is bad. I can tell you that it takes you longer, deeper, and destroys more than you’d expect and that’s true.

Sin is bad and serious. That truth, however, often fall on deaf ears. But if I tell you the story of Sméagol who turns into Gollum and ends in lava that picture is more poignant and communicates at a different level. Revelation paints a powerful picture of the awful reality of sin.

Revelation was given to John and he passed on to the churches and to us. They needed it then and we need it now. We need to see the true picture of reality.

“Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world… The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.”[7]

We too need to see what John saw. We too need to be awakened to the wonder of it all.

Revelation helps us see that since the present world will be dissolved we should not live for this world but the next. And thus have morals shaped by the next Kingdom and not this evil one (2 Pet. 3:11; 1 Cor. 7:26, 29).

Revelation helps us see the unseen and Revelation…

2) reveals what will soon happen

Revelation tells “the things that must soon take place” (v. 1). Revelation and eschatology (the teaching on end times) are not mainly about charts and predictions. I agree with John Frame that “it is a pity that the church’s teaching on eschatology, the last days, has been concerned mostly with arguments about the order of events. In Scripture itself, the primary thrust of eschatology is ethical.”[8] Of course, that should not be a cop-out for studying the book of Revelation or eschatology though.

It is wise to be well-informed as to the major views of Christ’s return. We, however, should not be dogmatic about how and when exactly it will happen. Jesus Himself seems to clearly indicate this (cf. e.g. Mk. 13:32).

We should be dogmatic though that it will happen and will be glorious. And that it should motivate us as we seek to live faithful lives as exiles waiting for our blessed hope. We also are to constantly remind ourselves of His nearing return and of the feast we shall share with Him (cf. Matt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25; Lk. 22:16; 1 Cor.11:26; Rev. 19:9).[9]

The main point of the prophecy is that Jesus wins and all those who trust Him will dwell with God forevermore in perfect peace. The serpent that destroyed, in the beginning, will be destroyed in the end.

“The ancient serpent whose murderous lie seduced the woman and plunged the world into floods of misery (Gen. 3:1) is seen again, waging war against the woman, her son, and her other children—but this time his doom is sure and his time is short (Rev. 12; 20).”[10]

Thanos said, “I am inevitable.” We, however, know what’s actually inevitable. We know who wins.

Revelation shows us what will happen soon and Revelation…

3) helps us see the glory of the gospel 

Revelation reveals the true identity of Jesus the Jewish carpenter (e.g. Rev. 1:5-8). He’s not just a lamb, He’s a lion. He roars and devours.

We need to remember, that the end of the story, and the main point of the Revelation, is to show that God through Jesus the Christ is victorious! This truth encouraged John who was exiled on Patmos and all the churches that were being persecuted to whom the letter went. If we read the letter, especially in that context, we will respond, not so much with a certain view of how everything will happen, but by saying, “Come Lord Jesus, come”! And that is the more powerful takeaway from the book.

“What is true in heaven now will be true on earth as well. God will reassert himself as ‘King of the nations’ and will execute judgments on the beast and all rival sovereigns who usurp his praise and oppress his people (15:3; 16:5–7). Therefore, readers must heed the angel’s repeated exhortation to John: ‘Worship God’ (19:10; 22:9).”[11]

The correct response to Revelation’s “dramatic presentation of Jesus is joyous worship and steadfast loyalty fuelled by confident hope in his regal return.”[12]

As The ESV Study Bible says,

“Revelation unveils the unseen spiritual war in which the church is engaged: the cosmic conflict between God and his Christ on the one hand, and Satan and his evil allies (both demonic and human) on the other. In this conflict, Jesus the Lamb has already won the decisive victory through his sacrificial death, but his church continues to be assaulted by the dragon, in its death-throes, through persecution, false teaching, and the allure of material affluence and cultural approval. By revealing the spiritual realities lying behind the church’s trials and temptations during the time between Christ’s first and second comings, and by dramatically affirming the certainty of Christ’s triumph in the new heaven and earth, the visions granted to John both warn the church and fortify it to endure suffering and to stay pure from the defiling enticements of the present world order.”

Revelation shows us that no one can ruin the One who reigns. No one can liquidate the Lord. No one can silence the Sovereign. No one can cancel the King.

That’s reality.

And soon all will see!

I want us all to see the truth now, and live in light of it now.


[1] There are actually seven blessings, the number for completeness, listed in the book of Revelation (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14).

[2] Tabb, All Things New.

[3] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 91.

[4] C.S. Lewis, Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1963), 114.

[5] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 129. “One of the functions of revelation was to purge and to refurbish the Christian imagination… Revelation offers a different way of perceiving the world” (Ibid., 159).

[6] Brian Tabb, All Things New.

[7] Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 17. “One of the key themes of the book is that things are not what they seem. The church in Smyrna appears poor but is rich… What appears to the naked eye, on the plane of human history, to be weak, helpless, hunted, poor, defeated congregations of Jesus’ faithful servants prove to be the true overcomers who participate in the triumph of the Lion who conquered as a slain Lamb. What appear to be the invincible forces controlling history—the military-political-religious-economic complex that is Rome and its less lustrous successors—is a system sown with the seeds of its self-destruction” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, 9).

[8] Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, 13.

[9] “We are called to be a people of memory, who are shaped by a tradition that is millennia older than the last Billboard chart. And we are called also called to be a people of expectation, praying for and looking forward to a coming kingdom that will break in upon our present as a thief in the night” (James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 159).

[10] John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 277.

[11] Tabb, All Things New.

[12] Tabb, All Things New.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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