Revelation is probably not the first book that comes to mind to read as we prepare for Christmas during this Advent season. However, I want to share with you four reasons why it should be at the top of your to-read-list in December. Check out the end of the article to see some recommendations on books to get you started with Revelation.
1. Advent Means Coming
The season of Advent comprises the four Sunday’s that lead up to Christmas. It is a season of expectation. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means coming. The Latin word is itself a translation of the Greek word parousia which also means coming. In Jesus’ day, it was an expression that was used for the arrival or visit of a king or emperor. They often minted Advent coins to commemorate the occasion. When the Greek parousia is used in respect to Jesus in the New Testament (17 times), it refers to his second coming. Therefore, Advent is the perfect season to read Revelation since it culminates with Jesus’ second coming and the renewal of all things.
2. The Seasons of Advent and Christmas Are About Jesus
This time of year should focus our attention on Jesus the King who has come to earth incarnate. However, there is much about the season that can do the exact opposite—distracting us from He who should be the center of the season. The opening words of Revelation give a glimpse of what the book is really about—“The revelation (revealing, unveiling) of Jesus Christ…” (Revelation 1:1a) The Greek word that is translated revelation is apokalypsis. It means revelation, revealing, unveiling, disclosure. It has the connotation of pulling up the curtain to see the stage. What was not seen is suddenly seen. The book of Revelation is, first and foremost, about revealing Jesus and who He is. What better way to refocus our attention this season than to read the book that declares its purpose as revealing Jesus.
3. Revelation Tells the Nativity Story…In a Really Different Way
Revelation 12 tells of Jesus’ birth from a heavenly perspective. As we mentioned above, the book of Revelation pulls back the curtain so we can see Jesus. In chapter 12, we see the curtain pulled back so that we can catch a glimpse of what was going on in the birth of Jesus. We have a woman (dressed with the sun, moon, and stars) who is pregnant and about to give birth. We have a great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. The dragon is looking to devour the child that is about to be born. The third person that is introduced is the son who is born. One who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Revelation 12:5, This is a reference to Psalm 2:9 which is a Messianic Psalm, therefore, we are signaled that the son is Jesus). War breaks out between Michael and his angels and the dragon, who is now identified as Satan, and his angels. A loud voice is heard in heaven saying: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.” (Revelation 12:10a) Now that is a very different nativity story. I don’t personally own a red dragon to include in my nativity scenes, do you? Reflecting on the twelfth chapter of Revelation can help us to read the traditional nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke with fresh eyes. It helps us to refocus our attention on Jesus.
4. We See the Greatest Gift of All
Consider these words from Revelation 21:1-4
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Wow! What a gift! God’s continuous, ongoing presence and no more tears, death, mourning, crying, or pain. I’m ready for that gift, how about you? Actually, Revelation 21 and 22 contain many wonderful promises that are amazing gifts. You don’t even have to understand all of the imagery to be able to see that God has awesome things in store to give us.
Books to help you get into Revelation.
I have many books and commentaries that deal with Revelation and the themes it contains. None of them agree on all points. Reading them is like carrying on a conversation with many amazing minds and hearing the debate. Allow me to suggest a few that can get you started. Click on the highlighted link to see the book on Amazon where you can read a sample and check out others’ reviews of these resources.
This commentary is very light as commentaries go, however, it is a good introductory commentary to get you started. N.T. Wright will help to begin opening up some of the mysterious imagery through modern illustrations to bring Revelation to life.
Eugene Peterson takes a slightly different approach than the normal commentary format. Instead of going chapter by chapter and verse by verse, he approaches Revelation thematically. With the imagery of “Famous Last Words,” Peterson shows how Revelation is the last word on 11 different themes: Scripture, Christ, Church, Worship, Evil, Prayer, Witness, Politics, Judgment, Salvation, and Heaven.
This is not a commentary on Revelation per se. In this book, John Eldredge is interested in unpacking the ides of the renewal of all things. He winds through many passages of scripture from the Psalms and Old Testament Prophets to the Gospels and Epistles as well as Revelation. Eldredge has a wonderful ability to speak in story and uses many modern-day illustrations—especially from epic movies—to help convey his point. A reading of “All Things New” will introduce you to Revelation and the theme of the renewal of all things in such a way that you will want to come back for more.
If you are interested in studying Revelation in a small group or Bible study, this is an excellent resource. The two volumes together offer a good commentary on Revelation in an easy to engage format that is not lacking in depth or insight. I had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Muhlholland’s teaching while at Asbury Theological Seminary in his “New Testament History and Criticism” class. He is the only professor in my seven years of post-high school education who I ever saw receive a standing ovation at the end of one of his lectures. I can’t recommend his material highly enough.