In the summer of 1998, New Line Cinema took the largest gamble in film history when company’s executives gave filmmaker Peter Jackson $130 million dollars to make three back-to-back movies. If the first one flopped, it would spell disaster for the other two. To the great relief of New Line accountants, however, the first film was a huge success, convincing the production company to commit additional money to the remaining films. The total budget for the three movies was somewhere close to $330 million. But the return on their investment—in box office sales alone—was nearly $3 billion!
You probably know the films I’m talking about: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those three films—The Fellowship of the Ring,The Two Towers, and The Return of the King—introduced us to world populated by Hobbits, orcs, elves, dwarves, ring wraiths, and wizards. But before Peter Jackson brought the fictional Middle Earth to life on the screen, J. R. R. Tolkien brought it to life on the page.
The Lord of the Rings, whether you watch the films or read the books, in many ways is a modern-day metaphor for the book of Revelation—both are filled with dark lands and dark lords. Epic battles between good and evil and against overwhelming odds fill the pages of Tolkien’s mythical Middle Earth and John’s real earth. The climax in both books is the return of the long-awaited king and the triumph of good.
It’s tempting to jump into the details of Revelation. But just as Tolkien provided a map for his readers, to keep them oriented as they traveled through the labyrinth of Middle Earth, we need an overview and outline of Revelation to help us distinguish fact from fiction.
Fortunately for us, the book of Revelation comes with a built-in three-point outline in Revelation 1:19: “Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.”
What had John seen? He had seen the risen and exalted Christ who commissioned John to write the book of Revelation. That is chapter 1, a focus on the past and the things he had seen. The present for John involved writing the messages received from Christ to the seven churches. This is chapters 2–3, a focus on the things “which are.” Then we see the future events found in chapters 4–22. These are the events everyone becomes curious about.
The only legitimate reason for studying the book of Revelation is because you want to hear and heed God’s Word, just as John said in Revelation 1:3. If we are willing to do that, we will find all the encouragement we need to live our lives victoriously. In this sense, Revelation is one of the most encouraging books in the Bible. Within its pages we see our Savior finally vindicated before the world. As Bible scholar Thomas Constable says, “Revelation is really a very simple book. It boils down to this: Jesus wins!” And if Jesus wins, we win.
John says at the very beginning of this book that he was writing “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1). Merrill Tenney said, “Jesus Christ is not incidental to the action. He is its chief subject.” So, it is important to study Jesus in regards to Revelation. What does this book reveal—or uncover—about Jesus? It reveals truths about His person, His power, and His purpose.
The book of Revelation unveils who Jesus is by clarifying three truths about His essential character.
First, Jesus is the same human who was born on earth at His first coming (Revelation 1:13). He is the same man on whose chest John reclined at the Last Supper. He is the “son of man” who possessed all the qualities of humanness, yet without sin.
Second, Jesus is divine, possessing the same essence of divinity with the Father and will share the heavenly throne with the Father (Revelation 22:1, 3).
Third, Jesus is the eternal God. Jesus says to John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8), referring to Isaiah 41:4 and back to when God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, saying “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14).
While we might have power of various kinds, Jesus has all kinds of power and all power of all kinds. He has inherent power within Himself through which He is able to control other beings and forces, like believers, unbelievers, Satan, the beast, and human armies.
But He also has effectual power, meaning He has the authority to accomplish anything He desires. In other words, He can effect any change He wants. He can teardown anything that currently exists (individuals, governmental and religious systems, even the starry heavens and the earth).
He can also build up anything that doesn’t currently exist (glorified bodies through resurrection), new systems (whether government, economic, or religious), and new cities (the New Jerusalem), as well as the “new heavens” and the “new earth.”
The book of Revelation also unveils two purposes Christ has for the future.
First, His immediate purpose is to defeat and destroy Satan and sin. In the present Church Age and during the Tribulation, as He deals with believers in the seven churches (chapters 2–3), He will purify a people who will “be a kingdom of priests” (1:6). During the Tribulation He will judge those who have not believed in Him by pouring out His wrath on His enemies for refusing His grace (chapters 4–18).
Second, His ultimate purpose is to dwell among His people and experience intimate fellowship with them forever. The accomplishment of this begins in the Millennial Kingdom (20:6). But it will be finally and perfectly accomplished in eternity, in the new earth (22:3–5). Since the beginning of time, this has been God’s ultimate purpose—to be Father to His people (Jeremiah 30:22; 31:33; 32:38).
Revelation is a book that offers hope and encouragement for all who hear and heed its words. For a day is coming when, as Tolkien said, the “darkness will pass” and “a new day will shine out the clearer”—that is the day when the King of returns and “makes all things new” (Revelation 21:5).