You’ve missed the point if your chief item of concern in the first two chapters of the Bible has to do with how long it took God to create all things. You’ve missed the point if you think the Ten Commandments were intended as a roadmap to salvation. You’ve missed the point if all you think the crucifixion of Jesus is about is that it’s your “Get Out of Hell” free card. You’ve missed the point of baptism if you believe the amount of water used is what determines whether one is truly saved or not.
It’s called majoring on minors and those who did it best were known as scribes and Pharisees. Watch how Jesus ridicules their unwillingness to see the forest for the trees.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)
That, my friend, is what it is to major on minors which results in failure to grasp or even see [blind guides] the “weightier matters.” Gnats and camels. That is a pretty colorful way to help people see the problem.
Unfortunately, I believe one of the most important books of the Bible (which also happens to be one of the most popular today) is totally misunderstood because molehills have been turned into mountains while the far “weightier” matters barely get noticed. I’m talking, of course, about the book of Revelation.
What do you think of today when the Revelation comes up in a discussion? If you’ve been influenced by our religious culture you probably immediately think of the Left Behind book series (and movies). Next will be the Rapture, the Antichrist, the beast, the false prophet, the rider on the white horse, the white throne judgment, and the lake of fire. And let’s not forget the seals, trumpets, and bowls along with the infamous number of the beast (666), the resurrection of the two witnesses and blood that flows to the horses bridles along with monstrous locusts from the bottomless pit and oh yeah, Armageddon.
If that’s all that interests you concerning the book of Revelation…you’ve missed the point.
Dwarfing the images of bloodshed and hell on Earth are the stupendous images John repeatedly gives us of the glorified Christ, the throne of Almighty God, and the absolute perfect display of worship in heaven (not to mention our eternal destination: New Jerusalem)! It is absolutely astonishing that these images which appear rhythmically throughout the Revelation have taken a back seat to the gore of violence and evil as well as the ignominy of the Antichrist. It’s like sharing what you know of Jesus from the gospels with someone who hasn’t heard of Him without ever mentioning love. If your witness doesn’t include God’s love, you’ve completely missed the point.
Revelation begins with John’s vision of the glorified Jesus. You can quickly tell that he’s struggling desperately to convey what his eyes (either spiritual or physical; perhaps even both) are seeing.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me…one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength (Revelation 1:12-16).
And we’re more interested in the Antichrist and his false prophet?
The entirety of chapters four and five involve God seated on His glorious throne surrounded by angels, crowned elders on thrones, and some kind of super angelic beings that John simply calls “living creatures” (Seraphim? Cherubim?). All sing an eternal song honoring God’s holiness, His eternal being, and His omnipotence. John writes of an emerald green rainbow, blinding flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, a wounded lamb, a lion, and a deafening cacophony perfectly singing
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!
But we’re more fascinated by the number 666 and the beast rising out of the sea?
John takes us back to God’s throne in chapter 7 where more perfect worship is described and again in chapter 11 where the aged apostle startlingly writes,
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail (Revelation 11:19).
Did you catch that? The temple in heaven upon which Solomon’s temple was but a sad and imperfect model was both seen and opened! We’re talking about getting a glimpse of things that no living human eye has ever seen, and yet we seem to be more intrigued by the bottomless pit and what comes out of it?
We are returned to heaven again in chapter 15 where we are told of a sea of glass mingled with fire and more singing (the song of Moses as well as the song of the Lamb). Chapter 19 is famous for the return of Christ and the battle of Armageddon but the ten verses that precede that event brings us back in front of the heavenly elders and living creatures once again, singing praises and hallelujahs as well as the vaunted marriage supper of the Lamb.
The final two chapters of Revelation (21-22) reveal our final destination. The glory of God will be on display for all to see. That’s right we are told we will finally (and without interference of any kind) “see his face” (Revelation 22:4).
How in the world have we turned the book of Revelation into nothing more than an apocalyptic car chase? (That’s hyperbole for those who are itching to leave a snarky comment)
When Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees about majoring on tithing while minoring on justice, mercy, and faithfulness, He wasn’t conveying that tithing was outdated and irrelevant. Remember, about tithing and other matters of the religious law He said, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others [weightier matters].” I am saying the same thing applies to the book of Revelation. Nothing in the apocalypse of John is irrelevant or trivial. But for goodness sake, let’s not omit the weightier matters of the last book of the Bible.
Heaven takes precedence over the bottomless pit and the lake of fire. The glorified Jesus, the slain Lamb, and the Lion of Judah far outweigh in importance the Antichrist and the false prophet. The astounding chorus of crowned elders, angels, and unnamed heavenly beings is infinitely more interesting and relevant to my future than the number of the beast and the armies of the kings of the Earth arrayed against the returning Christ and His heavenly armies. The New Jerusalem perfectly built by Jesus for His bride and descending out of heaven for an eternal dwelling place is miles and miles above seals, trumpets, and bowls in importance. The promise of seeing the face of God Almighty is enormously more important to me than figuring out who the Antichrist is and whether or not he is already here. The river of the water of life emanating from the midst of the throne of God is of immensely greater significance than the rivers, lakes, and seas that turn into blood during the Great Tribulation.
If you want an all-new perspective on the book of Revelation, then try reading it with an eye looking for “the weightier matters.” I simply cannot understand how John pulls open the curtain just a tad behind which lies the mysteries, glories, and realities of “that than which none greater can be conceived” [ St. Anselm] and all many of us seem to care about is end-time anarchy, the Antichrist, and Armageddon.
If you read it the way it was intended, the Revelation is not a roadmap to the last days as much as it is a promise; a guarantee that no matter what hell on Earth we may have to endure, it will not be the last word. Essentially, the book of Revelation is a really big expansion on this one sentence from the book of Romans:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).
That “glory that is to be revealed” is partially found in the book of Revelation. But if you are more interested in falling stars, horrific earthquakes, and 1,260 days you’ve become just like the scribes and Pharisees fussing about doing works on the Sabbath while the Lord of the Sabbath is standing right in front of you. It’s time to put the molehills of what happens on Earth during the Great Tribulation in their proper perspective and start seeing the mountain of God’s glory that has been staring us in the face since John penned the words of Revelation on Patmos some two millennia ago.