I hope you have read all of the Revelation articles. If you have, there is no need to repeat all the points. If you haven’t, I suggest you read those articles before you continue to read this article.
So, if the predictions in Revelation were completely fulfilled by 70 AD (and I believe they were), then what value is this book to us? What lessons does this book hold for us? Why should we study this book at all?
To start with, if the predictions of this book were completely fulfilled by 70 AD (and I believe that they were), then this confirms Jesus, John, and the Old Testament prophets to be true prophets of God. This also confirms the Bible to be the word of God, not men. The Old Testament prophets predicted the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. An example would be Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” in Daniel 9 and 12 that Jesus said would be fulfilled within His generation, and it was. Jesus said in Luke 21: 22 “because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled”. He was speaking of all things written in the Old Testament.
Many say that the prediction of Israel being restored to their land was fulfilled in 1948 when Israel was given statehood in the Holy Land. But Jesus said that all things that were written in the Old Testament were fulfilled by 70 AD. I think I will take Jesus’ interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies rather than that of modern day scholars. The truth is that the predictions about Israel being restored to their land were indeed fulfilled in a spiritual, not literal, sense when God redeemed the remnant of Israel who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Paul made this point in Romans 9:6 “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”, and 9:27 “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved”. I know that we are told that we should take the literal interpretation of the fulfillment of OT prophecies, but most of those prophecies were given in figurative language and were never intended to be interpreted literally. For example, several prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel predicted that David would be king, prince, and shepherd in the Messianic kingdom. I think almost all scholars would agree this is fulfilled in Jesus as the King of Kings and our shepherd. But then those same scholars would say that Israel being restored to their land, which is predicted in the same chapter (Ezekiel 37 for example) as the David predictions, has to be fulfilled literally. They also say it was fulfilled in 1948 by an a nation of Jews who do not accept Jesus to be the Messiah, for the most part, when Paul said the promises were fulfilled by the remnant and not the whole nation. Paul also said that those promises were fulfilled at the very time he wrote Romans 9.
In this same line of thought, Jesus predicted several times the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, for example). His apostles predicted the same thing, and that the 2nd coming of Jesus was “at hand”, “near” (James 5:8, for example). Peter predicted that the “end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7). Paul predicted that the resurrection (as predicted in Daniel 12:2) would be fulfilled while some of those whom he was writing to at Corinth would still be alive (1 Corinthians 15:51). Hebrews 9:37 predicts that Jesus would come “in a very little while, and would not delay”. As most admit, the early Christians expected an imminent 2nd coming of Jesus within their generation, within their lifetime, and the reason they expected that is because Jesus and the apostles predicted it. All the New Testament books were written by 70 AD, and all closed their letters with some prediction of 70 AD. None mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as an event that had been fulfilled already. Surely they would have done so so as to confirm that Jesus and the apostles were true prophets if indeed 70 AD had already occurred.
And then John gets this final vision of 70 AD in the book of Revelation. “Things shortly to come to pass”, “near”, and he even tells us that he wrote the book in the reign of Nero, the 6th emperor of Rome (Revelation 17:10), and Nero died in 68 AD. He tells us that the harlot woman Israel, also called the great city where the Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8), i.e. Jerusalem, would be burned with fire by the sea beast Rome (Revelation 17:16). He tells us that the theme of the book is the “avenging of the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints. Rome never killed any OT prophets, but Jerusalem surely did! Jesus had predicted (Matthew 23:35,26) that the guilt of all the shed blood of all the prophets would be avenged on the generation of Jews living at the time He spoke.
So Revelation is a fitting conclusion to all the Old and New Testament prophecies. It even concludes with a new Jerusalem, the church bride of Christ, coming down to replace the old Jerusalem which the book predicted would be shortly destroyed. It is as if, almost 40 years after Jesus predicted AD 70 would happen, John picks up on the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction that was about to come true in just a few years. Some early church fathers weren’t sure that the book of Revelation was inspired because they did not understand the spiritual fulfillment of predictions in the book. Others accepted it because John an apostle wrote it (few doubted that), but still didn’t understand the book, and, like Iraneaus in the late 2nd century, still expected Jesus to return to establish a physical kingdom on earth (chiliasm, as it was called). That same false understanding has led to many failed predictions of Revelation being fulfilled at some time during the last 2,000 years since the book was written (whether it be premillennial or postmillennial). Instead, it is as if the Spirit is giving us a book that wraps up the full plan on redemption, that helps us understand God’s plan, that shows the Bible to be the word of God, and yet men’s false understanding of the book has led many to doubt the word of God and prophecies of the Bible.
Wow! That alone would be enough reason for us to study the book. But are there any other reasons? Another reason might be tied to the theme of the avenging of the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints. The souls under the altar in the opening of the 5th seal (Revelation 6:9-11) were asking “how long before the Lord would avenge their blood”. These were probably those prophet martyrs of the Old Testament, and could include the early church martyrs killed by the non-Christian Jews (like Saul of Tarsus, who would become the apostle Paul). The book of Revelation is not an essay on the problem of evil and suffering, i.e. how could a loving, all powerful God, allow evil and suffering. How could such a God allow His people to be martyred as they were? God even tells those martyrs that He was going to allow more martyrs to die in the next “little while” (Rev 6:11). Why would God sit back and allow more martyrs to die when He could have stopped it? Revelation doesn’t answer that question. But it does assure the readers of two things. One is that He will one day avenge their blood and punish those who killed them (i.e. the wicked Jewish nation). Secondly is that all martyrs will be cared for and rewarded by being around the throne of God and the Lamb, and that all their tears will be wiped away in eternal life after death. Isn’t that enough for us when we think about the problem of evil and suffering? The souls under the altar just needed to trust God, and so do we. We are not persecuted for our faith in the U.S. as Christians are in many countries, so this point might not be as pertinent to us as it is to them. But don’t you know that a family in another country today who has had their husband, father, and brother killed by radical Muslims can find comfort in this point? Don’t you know that martyrs burned at the stake for their faith over the last 2,000 years took comfort in this point? John makes this point in some of the messages to the 7 churches in chapters 2 and 3. He says they will be persecuted and suffer for their faith, but that they will be rewarded if they endure, even to the point of death if necessary. They would then read the rest of the letter and find comfort.
In another article on this blog, I pointed out that the messages to the 7 churches also had a relevance to us today. That is another great reason to study Revelation. Maybe, as the article points out, “7” was a symbolic number of churches chosen to represent all churches of all ages since 70 AD in general. There were several type of churches and stages of faithfulness, or lack thereof, in those messages to the 7 churches in chapters 2 and 3. Even if someone didn’t understand the predictions of Revelation, he/she might see his/her church to be the same type of church as the lukewarm church at Laodicea, or the doctrinally correct but love lacking church at Ephesus, or one of the other churches. Reading those messages to the 7 churches might spur me or my church to repentance, or strengthen our faith if facing persecution, or excite us about new challenges and opportunities that God might give us (the church at Philadelphia). It might spur us to examine some of our tolerance of false teachers and teachings, and liberalism that encourages Christians to openly live in sin while claiming the grace of God (like the Nicolatians that some of the churches tolerated). That is so relevant today as we find churches tolerating same sex marriage and homosexuality. Can you imagine the message the Spirit would give to such a church today if He were to speak through a prophet? But He doesn’t need to condemn such teaching through a prophet today. He condemned it in the messages to the 7 churches, and that condemnation still stands 2,000 years later.
Another reason for studying the book is the picture of the spiritual blessings of the church, Jesus’ bride, as found in chapter 22. No more curse of sin, drinking of the water of life, seeing God by faith, bearing fruit continuously, etc. John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, but he also wrote Paradise Restored. Man lost Paradise in the Garden of Eden due to sin, but Revelation 22 gives a picture of that Paradise restored spiritually in the church that Jesus built and that has existed for 2,000 years. That church is commissioned to bring in converts from all the nations to enjoy the spiritual blessings therein. Those who say that chapters 21 and 22 haven’t been fulfilled yet are leaving believers in a state of limbo, still waiting for God to restore Paradise. Or they may say that it will be restored in a restored physical earth in the future, which is simply not what the Bible teaches. They say that Romans 8:18 teaches that the earth and creation will be restored physically some day, but that same verse says that this glory was “about to be” (the Greek word mello which always means “about to” of time or distance) revealed. Revelation 22 is such a great way for the Spirit to conclude the canon of the Bible, and should be an encouragement to us here and now, something all believers since 70 AD can experience and enjoy.
One final reason to study the book might be the fate of the dragon (Satan), the sea beast (Rome), and the earth beast (the Jewish false prophets and messiahs). After God had finished using them to accomplish His purpose, which was to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD and to avenge the blood of the apostles, prophets, and saints, He cast them into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. This was to happen shortly after the writing of the book. We might wonder Rome could destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD and yet be itself be cast into that lake. This is truly a spiritual fulfillment. Do you remember the princes of Persia and Greece who were hindering God’s plan being revealed to Daniel (Daniel 10)? Do you remember that Jesus said that Satan was the prince of this world because he controls the rulers of this world for the most part? Paul said that part of Jesus’ mission was to destroy all the evil powers that be, and that would include the rulers of all evil kingdoms of all time. Rome was not physically destroyed in 70 AD, but Satan’s prince who ruled it was judged and the kingdom of Christ was elevated above all kingdoms. Revelation 11:15 “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His [j]Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” This was the fulfillment of the great prediction of the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13 being anointed as the eternal king of kings over God’s eternal kingdom, the church, that was to be established in the days of the Roman Empire. You know, the one Jesus referred to when He predicted that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, to be established while some he was speaking to would be still alive (Mark 9:1).
And what about Satan being cast into the lake of fire, destroyed forever? This could simply mean that Satan’s power would be destroyed in the life of a believer once God completed the plan of redemption in 70 AD. The last enemy was death, and death had power through sin and the Law. In 70 AD, God removed all doubt about the Law of Moses and the old covenant. God was finished with that old system and had replaced it with a new system. It is not coincidental that the temple has never been rebuilt, nor that animal sacrifices and the priesthood of the Levites ended at 70 AD. Satan’s power to kill, using the Law, ended at 70 AD. But there might be an even more amazing meaning to Satan’s eternal fate. It might just be that Satan is annihilated forever, no longer free to roam the earth. That surely coincides with the fact that we don’t have demonic possession as was common in the early years of the church before 70 AD, though some would claim such still exists. But, you might ask, don’t we still have sin? How could that be if Satan and his angels have been annihilated or at least cast in to the lake of fire forever, no longer free to tempt us? James answers that question. He says that sin comes from within, from our lusts (James 1). We don’t need Satan to have sin and evil. The seed of sin has been planted by Satan and will tempt humans to sin as long as the earth exists. Plus, surely we don’t believe that Satan is some omnipresent being who personally is tempting billions of people on earth to sin all at the same time, do we? Some might think I have really lost it to make this last point, but it could be valid.
I hope this last concluding article to Revelation study has been beneficial. Thank you for reading it and I hope that all my articles will help you understand and appreciate the book of Revelation. It is still relevant!!!!!!