Imagine you’re going off to college. Your parents have included a letter in your luggage that you discover once you have arrived and begin unpacking. The letter contains counsel to you at this stage of your life, telling you what to expect and how to conduct yourself. It assures you of their love and paints a picture of what your future could be like.
Our Lord Jesus has given such a letter to His Church. It begins with this salutation: “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne” (Rev. 1:4), and closes with this benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).
Within the letter are seven letters to seven churches of Asia Minor. These churches were actual, geographically-located communities of faith. Each letter addresses issues relevant to the congregation addressed. Yet together the seven letters form a single message from Jesus to His church throughout the world and throughout the age. Each of the individual letters concludes with an eye to all the churches: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Like the parents’ letter to their child away at college, Jesus speaks to His church while He is away from us. He is away but not absent. He has not left us as orphans but has come to us by His Spirit. The Spirit leads us into all truth, enables our perseverance, and seals those who belong to Christ.
The book of Revelation equips us for our journey in this present evil age (Gal. 1:4) while we wait for our Lord’s return. Just as college holds many dangers through worldviews counter to the Christian faith and temptations to indulge in self-serving ways, so this world is fraught with peril. Revelation serves to strengthen faith by showing us our risen, reigning, returning Lord. It alerts us to danger and urges us in overcoming. It highlights certain basics, essentials to maintaining a vibrant walk and witness against opposition.
Sadly, our Lord’s letter is neglected, not necessarily because it is unread but because the purpose of our Lord for it is unrecognized. It is not given to help us predict the future but to prepare Christ’s disciples for the challenges they face day in and day out. We are given His assurance of blessing for hearing, reading, and keeping it (Rev. 1:3). Revelation is something to be kept, kept in mind for perspective and its admonitions brought to bear for the believer’s pilgrimage. It echoes the words of our Lord Jesus at the close of His Sermon on the Mount to hear His words and do them (see Matt. 7:21-27).
Revelation is also neglected because it can sound strange to our ear. It contains images and scenes that confuse us. We are inclined to ask Jesus to speak plainly and not in figures of speech, much like His disciples wanted in their time with Him in the upper room (John 16:25-33). Yet the message of our Lord Jesus to us is made all the more vivid through the way it is communicated, just as a picture is worth a thousand words, and even more so because the book unfolds as dramatic video rather than stills from a picture album.
It is to the detriment of Christ’s church and delight of Christ’s enemy that Revelation remains neglected. We must recover the letter and not as a matter of curiosity but of necessity in keeping with our Lord’s purpose for it.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thess. 2:16–17).
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.