“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
During the year that will forever be known as the year that Covid shut down much of the world, 2020, I spent the entire year reading and re-reading the book of Revelation. I read it about 15 times. Even with the almost apocalyptic events taking place around the world, I never came to the conclusion that I was seeing the "end times," at least not in the same way I had heard about it growing up.
I was always told things would get worse and worse progressively until there was a "rapture" that would take place prior to a 7 year period called the tribulation. God would spare his people from going through this difficult time that was described in the book of Revelation. According to the fictional "Left Behind" movies our clothes would be left neatly folded on the ground where the people of God once stood as they met Jesus in the air (God is no slob after all). Then, after those 7 years Jesus would return to set up His millennial kingdom and eventually the new heavens and the new earth. Yes, I know I skipped a few things. Many people had charts and graphs showing exactly how all of this would happen. I had read the book of Revelation, but it was confusing, so I just focused on the rest of Scripture until last year.
Over the years I had come to realize there were some things that just didn't sit right with me. Especially as I read the words of Jesus in places like Mt. 24. It seemed that the wars and rumors of wars were to be standard fair, not that they would get worse. In fact, Jesus says all of those things are just preliminary and normal things (Mt. 24:6). That passage, among others, specifically says no one knows the time and seems to be suggesting that we should not be trying to figure it out. So, for the most part I just stayed away from studying the end times until this last year when I dove into the deep end and learned some unexpected things.
First, I had suspected that there was much more to the book of Revelation than a bunch of end times speculation. It turns out I was right and I had been missing out on much of the more important themes found in Revelation that were applicable in the first and second centuries as well as today. If your reading Revelation trying to figure out the end times, you're doing it wrong.
Second, the common message in Revelation, Mt. 24, and really the rest of Scripture is not, "God will prevent you from suffering," instead it is, "God will be with you as you endure and persevere." This message is strong in the book of Revelation. It also does not square with a pre-tribulation rapture...just something to think about.
Third, I couldn't find a single mention of a 7 year period of tribulation. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of "7s" in the book: 7 churches, 7 bowls, 7 seals, etc. There are also some "3 1/2" mentions. Yes, I realize that two of those makes a 7. However, for something as significant as the tribulation I found it odd that there wasn't one direct mention of a 7 year tribulation. Nor is there a mention in Mt. 24 that the great tribulation will be 7 years. Yes, there are the weeks of Daniel and some might argue that the various "7s" in Revelation are descriptions of the 7 year tribulation...fair enough. But, maybe there is something else going on in those descriptions that might even be more important. I think there is.
While it is undeniable that the book of Revelation gives insight into what the future holds, it does so to encourage and motivate the people of God throughout the centuries to endure, persevere, and remain faithful. If you miss those themes, you have missed the message of the great and important book.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.