The Book of Revelation Is Not Just about the Future

The “Revelation of Jesus Christ” portrays the paradoxical present rule of Jesus Christ as King of all the kings of the world, his ultimate triumph, and the salvation of his people through tribulation.

Revelation delivers to the distressed churches of Asia Minor and to the church in all ages, the triumphant assurance that behind the scenes of history and despite the vicissitudes of history, the kingdom of God is in power, and Jesus Christ the King of all kings is on his Father’s throne executing his sovereign judgment over the world. Though to the fleshly eye the events of history may often seem to say the opposite, though the church of Jesus Christ might seem despised and defeated, it is Jesus Christ who rules the kings of the earth, and his purposes are patiently being worked out here below.

 

This post is adapted from the chapter entitled “Revelation” by Charles E. Hill in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, edited by Michael J. Kruger.

The Denouement of Scripture

The “Revelation of Jesus Christ” portrays in dramatic fashion the paradoxical present rule of Jesus Christ as King of all the kings of the world, his ultimate triumph, and the salvation of his people through tribulation. As monumental as this is, it is not all. In the course of reexperiencing the visions John saw on Patmos, John’s audience witnesses not only the salvation of man, God’s image, but also the reclamation of the heavens, the earth, and the subterranean regions (i.e., the sea, the abyss, hades, fountains of water), the domains of man’s dominion as originally given in Genesis 1–3. Revelation presents to us a great Serpent, a woman who brings forth a male child who is to rule the earth, and a final restoration of the tree of life. The symbolism of the book ranges through the entire Old Testament canonical Scriptures and drives us back to the very beginning for some of its most elemental imagery.

Thus Revelation presents to God’s people the grand denouement, the conclusion, the tying-up of the great drama of salvation begun in the first three chapters of the Bible. It reveals how the seed of the woman crushes the head of the Serpent and completes the new creation. Its canonical order as the last book in our Bible, then, is entirely appropriate. Genesis and Revelation are not only literally but also thematically the bookends of the Bible.

Revelation is not just about the future. It is also about the past and very much about the present—perhaps primarily about the present. For it was written to be read and heard in the present age (Rev. 1:3; 21:7); it provides an essential component for the church’s understanding of life in this world between the two comings of Christ.

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