It used to be said that Christians were “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” That critique no longer holds; in fact, it has been reversed. Far from being “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good,” Christians today, it seems, are “too earthly minded to be any heavenly good.”
Though the Scriptures exhort us to “set our minds on things above”,1 we spend little time thinking upon the things of heaven. When we do consider the subject, we tend to think of it as something that lies entirely in the future, forgetting that the apostle calls us to set our minds on things above now, in the present!
Tragically, the very book of Scripture which most poignantly sets our minds on things above, is also the least understood book of Scripture. What the church needs is a good dose of the book of Revelation.
Before we begin an in-depth look at the book, however, it is fitting to set the parameters in which the book must be understood.2 Of paramount importance is the fact that The Revelation of Jesus Christ is history. There are three types of literature in the New Testament: gospel, such as the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; epistles, such as those of Paul and Peter; and church history, such as the book of Acts. John is the only New Testament author to write all three types of literature. He writes a gospel: The Gospel According to John. He writes letters: The Three Epistles of John. And he writes church history: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ is church history. It is not merely the history of those events that transpired shortly after the death of Christ. Nor is it only the history of those events that will transpire just before the return of Christ. Revelation is the history of the church as she lives in the world between Christ’s first coming and His second coming – between Christ’s incarnation and His return.
Revelation records that history in seven sections: chapters 1–3, 4–7, 8–11, 12–14, 15–16, 17–19, and 2022. These seven sections parallel one another.3 That is to say, each of the seven sections spans the same time period: the time be tween Christ’s incarnation and His return. Chapters 1-3 span the timeperiod between Christ’s incarnation and His return. Chapters 4-7 span the time period between Christ’s incarnation and His return. Chapters 8-11 span the time period between Christ’s incarnation and His return. This pattern continues through each of the seven sections. The seven sections, then, parallel one another, so that you are reading the same history seven times over.
Not only do these seven sections parallel one another, they are also progressive in nature.4 That is to say, as you move from section one (chapters 1–3) to section two (chapters 4–7), there is progress. As you move from section two (chapters 4–7) to section three (chapters 8–11), there is progress. This pattern continues through each of the seven sections. The imagery becomes more intense, the details more vivid, the curses more terrifying, the blessings far greater. There is an intensification in each of the sections over against that which was recorded in the sections before (the seals of chapters 15–16 are more intense than the trumpets of chapters 8–11; the trumpets of chapters 8–11 are more intense than the seals of chapters 4–7).
You begin to understand, then, the genius – the sheer genius – of the book! Revelation, in recording the history of the church as she lives in the world between the incarnation of Christ and His return, records your history! Where do you live, after all? You live in the world, between the incarnation of Christ and His return! You live in the very time period described in the book of Revelation. The history recorded here is your history. The story recorded here is your story. You are involved in the drama. You are not mere spectators sitting in the stands watching the events unfold before your eyes. You are participants in the arena! This is truly your history and your story!
Thus, the book of Revelation is not the property of the Premillennialists, who tragically reduce the book of Revelation to events that are entirely in the future (thereby rendering the book useless for the church today!). Such views must be left behind! Nor is the book of Revelation to be left in the hands of the Postmillennialists, who tragically reduce the book of Revelation to events that transpired in the year 70 AD, with the fall of Jerusalem (thereby rendering the book useless for the church today!). Such views are Jewish dreams!5
The book of Revelation belongs in the hands of the Amillennialists, who understand that the book of Revelation is describing the Millennium (not some literal 1,000 year reign of Christ in the literal nation of Israel, in the literal city of Jerusalem, in a literal temple): that time period between Christ’s incarnation and His return.6 The Millennium is now! You are in it!7 Dear Church of Jesus Christ, this is your history!
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, then, in describing for us the history of the church as she lives in the world between Christ’s first coming and His second coming, summons us to look above! Revelation does not summon us backwards to the year 70 AD. Nor does Revelation summon us forward to the unknown date of Christ’s return.8
Revelation summons us to look above. Revelation sets our minds on heaven, for in Christ Jesus, our redemption is accomplished – already now! Our victory is secure – already now! Our goal is certain – already now! In setting our minds on things above, The Revelation of Jesus Christ comforts us with the truth that already now “our lives are hid with Christ in God.”9 For the Church of Jesus Christ, living in the world between His first coming and His return, there is no other comfort!
- Colossians 3:1–4.
- At the outset of this series, I wish to express my profound indebtedness to the late Rev. Charles G. Dennison, pastor of the Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sewickly, PA, for many of the insights on the book of Revelation; also to the late Dr. William Hendriksen, for his overview of Revelation in his masterful commentary, More Than Conquerors.
- Cf. Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1967. pp. 16–22.
- Ibid., pp. 34–36.
- Second Helvetic Confession, Article
- Cf. Revelation 20:1–10.
- As one bumper sticker put it: “Honk if you are enjoying the millennium!”
- Though Revelation does point us forward to the coming of Christ, even ending on that note (Revelation 22:20), this is not its primary focus.
- Colossians 3:1–4.
Rev. Brian Vos is the Pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Caledonia, Michigan. He is also the President of the Board of Reformed Fellowship.