Troublesome Topic: Spiritual Lessons from Revelation

Here I will briefly highlight what I consider the most important spiritual themes that I see in Revelation.


The most prominent theme in Revelation is quite likely the need for purity. Purity is a constant emphasis throughout the entire vision. Purity is expressed in a variety of powerful ways. The images for purity are often layered for a double, triple, or quadruple emphasis.

Guard the Access Points

            In the vision of the temple (chapter 21) there is a clear and powerful emphasis on guarding the access points to our lives. This is communicated through a repeated mention of gates. By access points I mean anything that influences us spiritually, mentally, or emotionally. We have many such influences in our cultures; some are positive, and some are negative. The questions are:

1. how much time are we giving to each influence?

2. how much priority do we give to messages of each influence?

3. are the influences that impact us the most following the consistent teachings of the Bible?


Notice that the two key Biblical teachings about the end of the age (perseverance and imminence) are perfectly balanced in Revelation. Perseverance and imminence, though seemingly in conflict with each other, are perfectly balanced in both the message of the scroll and the response to it. John responded saying, as it were, “I will persevere a little longer because your coming is imminent.”

To those in persecution it does not matter how God defines “soon.” People in persecution are in that situation because they have taken a stand; they have proven the lordship of Christ in their lives. They do not question their Lord. If He says to persevere, they will; if He says He will return soon, they rejoice in that knowledge and leave the details up to Him. Because they have that attitude, the concepts of perseverance and imminence are not contradictory. They don’t have trouble trusting; they have already learned to trust, and because they have learned to trust, they don’t need to figure things out.

Many of us lack balance in our lives. We need balance in the use of our time, our energy, and our finances. We find it hard to balance family responsibilities with other responsibilities. We also need to practice a balance of perseverance and hope in our lives just like the early martyrs did.

Complete Obedience

Some would say that the rapture has to happen at some point in time, so why not try and figure it out? I ask you, does that authorize us to go against the admonition of Jesus and try to figure it all out? How is it that we have come to this place where the common teaching about prophecy is so confusing? Why do so many predictions turn out to be false? It is precisely because we have done exactly what we were told not to do; we have tried to figure out the timing of things. God’s word is not confusing, we are the ones who have made it confusing. We have created confusion because of our disobedience.

We need to be willing to obey what our Lord has said despite our own desires and human tendencies. This is true in every area of our lives. We should place more emphasis on being obedient than on satisfying our curiosity.


The need for patience should be obvious. We are told in the Gospels not to be alarmed but rather to be patient. Patience is so key that it is the primary emphasis in two of the four “herein is” statements in Revelation 13:10 and Revelation 14:12. The Greek often word used for “be patient” literally means “to remain under,” and may best be translated as “be steadfast” come what may. Therefore, in the New Testament, the English terms “patience” and “perseverance” are often interchangeable. The need for perseverance fits perfectly with the intent of this vision, namely, to encourage believers facing strong opposition or persecution.


Some will tell me that my interpretation of Revelation is overly simplistic. I will respond by saying “thank you,” and by pointing out that the original audience would have had a very simplistic understanding of it too. I would rather stand with the original audience than with the experts of today. We should rejoice that the message of this vision is both simple and powerful.

Simplicity should be desired not only in our understanding of the book of Revelation, but in many aspects of our lives. We live in a culture that is characterized by busyness, confusion, and an overwhelming volume of information. Things like silence and solitude (time alone with God) are almost unknown in our society—to our own detriment.


I believe the letters to all the churches at the beginning of the vision apply to us today as much as ever. Jesus told three of the seven churches to repent, He told one to wake up, and repentance is implied in yet another letter. Only two of the churches did not receive a rebuke. I believe we are most similar to those churches that received a rebuke, not the two that received only encouragement.

We tend to think that repentance is for the unbelievers, not for us who believe. But Revelation shows us otherwise.

God’s Partial Judgments are Demonstrations of His Mercy

We see several instances in Revelation where there are partial judgments, or punishments cut short. These serve to give the wicked one last chance to repent. God is a merciful God and even in punishment there is often an element of mercy. We should be a reflection of Jesus and show mercy and grace to those who are oppressing us or pressuring us.

We Are Under One Power Or the Other

Revelation also teaches us that we can never have true power for ourselves. We are either under the control of God and exercise authority as His agents, or we are under the control of Satan, exercising a false authority which he will snatch from us at any moment. As humans we do not like to give up control, but the reality is that the more we strive for self-determination, the more we become enslaved to someone else.

Take note of how often the imagery of the throne, or the one sitting on the throne, is used. It is one of the most common images in all of Revelation. This shows that the issue of authority, and the exercise thereof, is extremely important.  Whose authority are you under, and whom do you obey?

God will be Proven to be a Just Judge

 God is a just judge, but sometimes it does not look like it to us. When we see things going on that horrify us, we wonder why God does not act. We hear about those who are opposed to Jesus cutting off the heads of His followers, destroying entire towns and enslaving thousands of women and girls for their beastly sex trade, and we wonder how long it will take before God finally proves himself victorious over sinful men. But we are looking at it the wrong way. Contrary to what happens in some other situations, in this one we are looking at the big picture and God is looking at the individuals. Even now He is being victorious in the lives of individuals who remain faithful to Him by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. His mercy is proving warranted as even the bloodthirsty cut-throats are given a few more chances to repent. His tactics are being justified as some cold-blooded killers reject their former lives and turn to Jesus as their savior and Lord. Speaking of His gracious offer of mercy to such terrible people sounds wrong to us, but I imagine that many of the very ones who are being persecuted by them would agree with my statement that God is doing this in order to grant the wicked just a little bit longer to repent, and they would agree with God in His decision to do so.

But we must remember that all this is usually done on an individual basis; God often intervenes in the lives of individuals, but only rarely intervenes for entire groups of people at one time. In the Bible we see stories of both types of intervention. But we must remember that those events took place over many generations.

This issue of God being proven to be a just judge is a prominent theme in Revelation. In part that is what the separation between the just and the unjust will serve to accomplish. Persecution has a tendency to separate those who are truly committed to following God and those who are not. Due to this separation, it will be obvious who is on God’s side, and no one will be able to question His judgment.

The imagery of “bowls” is also used repeatedly in Revelation as a picture of the accumulation of evidence which is then used to punish or reward. As God judges or rewards individuals in this life, the evidence they have built up stands on its own. Like the saying goes, “If you were put on trial for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” God is very patient with us, but when He judges, His judgments will be proven just and right based on a genuine relationship with Jesus (recorded in the Lamb’s book of life) and the evidence of our lives and actions. Likewise, whenever He judges the souls of those that are brought up from the place of the dead, His punishment or reward will be well-founded and His decision unquestionable.

Even when it seems like God is inactive and silent, even when His justice seems from our perspective to be long delayed, we should watch for what He might be doing in other people’s lives. We must never, ever doubt that God will indeed be proven to be the just judge, and His mercy will be proven warranted.