Prophecy or History?

Even a few sentences in, we can tell the Book of Revelation is unlike anything else in the Christian Testament. But the truth is, there is really nothing like it in the Hebrew Scriptures either, although there are many references to various prophetic imagery and events from the Hebrew scriptures.


Typically, this sort of document would be called an Apocalypse, which literally means, “uncovering” or “revealing,” and which references the complete and final destruction of the world, leading to a new world. The uncovering or revealing is the parting of the curtain to show the heavenly or divine perspective of what is happening now and what will come.

But the Book of Revelation is so much more, for it is a letter containing seven more letters. And at regular intervals throughout the whole of this epic document we are given to understand that it is also prophecy—we must pay it heed.

But how? As spiritual allegory? As predictions of actual future events? As prophecy already fulfilled long ago, yet with truths still relevant for today?

Answering these questions is all part of the adventure as we read these ancient pages together.

Matthias Gerung, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

From the blog

Revelation 15: Holy Smoke

As John watched, smoke filled the heavenly Holy of Holies, preventing anyone from entering in. For John, this would have brought to mind God’s instruction to Moses that God later portrayed in all reality. #Revelation15 #HolySmoke #Shekinah

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Revelation 8: The Second Trumpet

How interpreters have imagined this scene is in large part influenced by their point of view. Taken simply as a scene, it is horrific. Is it metaphorical? Is it commentary on a situation? Is it prophecy to be literally fulfilled? Is it a warning that may not come to pass if heeded?

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Revelation 8: The Power of Prayer

The tremendous power in the prayers of the holy ones was also revealed to John. You and I think of that power as reaching up to God and the Lord responding in divine might. But this time, John watched as these sacred prayers were thrown forcefully back to earth in a startling reversal of how…

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Revelation 7: The 144,000

The specificity of the number 144,000 intrigues our modern minds, and features fundamentally for at least one modern day group, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Is this number literal or symbolic? Why go through each tribe? What is being revealed, exactly?

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Revelation 6: The Sixth Seal

So far, everything John saw concerned a single planet. The four horsemen traversed the globe, and the martyrs called out for God’s judgment of those living on earth.

But now the entire cosmos seems to be coming unglued, and the imagery, as fantastic as it is, was vividly familiar to John’s audience.

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Revelation 6: The Fourth Seal

Before John’s surely horrified eyes, a ghastly figure appeared as the fourth living creature called forth the specter of Death. The horse was pallid with the sickly hue of plague, and the ominous dark shadows of Hades settled around Death’s form, resting above its steed.

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Revelation 4: Resplendent

This is what John gazed upon in awe and wonder. The elders, consecrated before God, representative of the whole Church, robed in the white garments of righteousness, and crowned with the glory of eternal life, having been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

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Revelation 3: Laodicea, A Final Word

For those who will respond to Jesus’s chastening—who open the door to Jesus’s gentle knock—then Jesus would come in to dine together with them, certainly a reference both to God’s invitation in the Torah to feast with God, and to the love feasts of the early church, celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

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Revelation 2: Pergamos

if the Ephesian Christians had subtly replaced their love for God and each other with a love for righteousness and right doctrine, the Pergamenian Christians had subtly allowed the erosion of right doctrine in their own midst, while they still held to their faith and trust in Christ.

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Revelation 1: The Keys of Death and Hades

The impact of John’s vision was powerful, even overwhelming. His senses could hardly take it all in, every aspect was at maximum capacity—flashes of fire and lightning, the thunderous roar of waterfalls, the blinding glow of white light, the heat and gleam of burnished bronze.

But now, with Jesus’s gentle touch and quiet reassurance, this…

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About Me

My passion for the Bible began when I was eight or nine years old, somewhere in there, when on occasion my dad would take me to synagogue, where he sang. I remember watching the men in synagogue pray the words of scripture, murmuring and weeping, lovingly touching and kissing the Torah, and I wished I could read what they were reading.

Imagine, then, my wonder when I was given a Bible of my own! Read more

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[Image above: Matthias Gerung, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]