Does God care about us?
Does He know what we are going through?
Is He watching us?
What does He think?
These are all questions the first readers of Revelation would have been asking. They are the same questions the readers of Zechariah were asking five hundred years before. Interestingly, God chose to answer the questions in both cases in much the same way.
The Revelation was a message given by God to the apostle John – the last surviving apostle at the end of the first century era. John wrote it down as instructed, and sent it to seven Christian congregations in Asia Minor.
Revelation is not just a letter. It is art. It contains a message conveyed by a panorama of images designed to grab the imagination and underscore the power and grandeur of God. Jesus, the author of the message appears as a man dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair are white like snow, and his eyes like blazing fire. His feet are like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was sounds like a mighty rushing stream. In his right hand he holds stars and out of his mouth proceeds a sword. His face shone like the sun.
And that’s the purpose of the signs: to get your attention.
Revelation has four parts:
1) The first part (chapters 1-3) is the direct address to the seven churches of Asia. To each, Jesus declares that He does know what is going on. He knows their situation, their troubles and their weaknesses. In this, the most important part of the book, he gives direction for living so that, when the end comes – and the book emphasizes an end is coming – they will be ready.
2) The second part (chapters 4-11) underscores why living according to the direction of Jesus is important. It opens with a magnificent scene in heaven. Jesus is the exalted “lamb of God” (chapters 4-5). He knows his people are at odds with the world, and oppressed by it (chapter 6), but he is not going to bring their troubles to an end yet. He takes special pains to protect his people (chapter 7) before he brings trouble on the earth to try and get humanity to change their ways and turn to him (chapters 8-9 – note especially 9:20-21). Ultimately, however, even God’s patience will grow thin, and the Lord will bring all things to an end. The world will always trample on the people of God until the Lord brings the earth to a final and cataclysmic end (chapters 10-11).
3) The third part functions very much as the second part, though giving a few more details. It opens with a magnificent scene in heaven (chapter 12). Jesus knows his people are at odds with the world, and oppressed by it (chapters 12-13), but he is not going to bring their troubles to an end yet. He takes special pains to protect his people (chapter 14) before he brings trouble on the earth to try and get people to change their ways and turn to him (chapters 14-16 – note especially 16:10-11). Ultimately, however, even God’s patience grows thin, and the Lord will bring all things to an end. The world will always trample on the people of God until the Lord brings the earth to a final and cataclysmic end (chapter 16).
4) The fourth part gives us a close up view of the coming end. The troubles of mankind are caused by a world run by Satan (chapters 17-18) – whose end, and whose minions’ end, is assured and described by God (chapters 19-20). The section closes with a description of the final home of the faithful, and the assurance of God that the message given is faithful and true (chapters 21-22).