Revelation as Literary Vision
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Book of Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy-a kind of writing found in many of the prophetic books as well as sections of the New Covenant, in which a supernatural revelation is given through fantastic, symbolic visions.  Revelation reads like a waking dream-compare the dreams and visions of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. Revelation uses these symbols to show that in the end, with the return of Messiah Yeshua in fulfillment of the Scriptures, God will be triumphant over all evil in the world.  Meanwhile, He is calling His people to stay alert and ready to come out of the world, to be with Him.

Though the author only states that his name is John, many (though not all) scholars are convinced that he is the apostle John who also wrote the fourth gospel and the letters of 1, 2, and 3 John-sharing themes such as the Lamb, the Word and the glory, eternity, and divinity of Yeshua. He writes from an island called Patmos, where he was sent into exile at a time of persecution against believers sometime in the late first century. The audience for Revelation included seven communities in the Roman province of Asia, which today is called Asia Minor or Turkey.

The book begins with letters to each of these seven communities, commending them for their faithfulness and rebuking them where they fall short, and encouraging them to continue living for the Lord. The rest of the book consists of symbolic visions and unusual symbols that stir the reader's imagination.

These visions were written to encourage believers to remain faithful in the face of persecution. The message is that God's kingdom will be victorious over all evil in the world. Revelation begins and ends with the promise of Yeshua's return. Through Messiah, God rules over everything that happens-past, present and future. Those who belong to Him (rather than to the world system of Babylon) can rejoice in the glorious wedding feast of the Lamb. Hallelujah!  V'eemru? (And let us say?)

That was the introduction to Revelation from the Tree of Live Bible.

The complete New Covenant (or New Testament) of the Tree of Life Bible was sent to our publisher, Destiny Image, who will copy edit and print it, for publication and distribution this summer.

I am serving as the Literary Editor-before I was a Rabbi or a Professor of Computer Science, I studied English Language & Literature, at Penn State, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-I even passed Ph.D. qualifiers, when I accepted Yeshua as my Lord, and he turned my whole life around.  Yet I still have a love for the Bible as I first encountered it-as literature-magnificent poetry, rich story telling, pithy proverbs and parables, psalms soaring above the clouds with God and down into the depths of despair, powerful prophecies and awesome apocalypse.

I hope you enjoyed the readings from Revelation that I selected for our worship service. The two responsive readings, from Revelation 4:8-11 and 15:3-5 were songs of adoration for the Lamb -weren't they glorious?

In today's message, in which I hope to introduce Revelation-if you all want more, I can start a series studying the book in more detail-I want to emphasize that this book is literary rather than literal.

There is a tendency among some expositors of Revelation to treat it as if as a literal future history, sort of a Book of Chronicles written in advance.  The problem is that it doesn't read like Chronicles or any other historical account, with its astounding images of angels blowing shofars in heaven, locusts wearing crowns, with the faces and hair of women, the teeth of lions and the stinging tails of scorpions, a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads and crowns on the horns, looking something like a combination of a leopard, a lion and a bear, and finally a city coming down from heaven that is also adorned for her husband. 

Awesome imagery-but you won't find much like it in your history books. 

So the future historians try to help us out by boiling the imagery down to a timeline of events, so their readers can know exactly what to expect next. But the spectacular, strange scenes are essential to Revelation-we need to see them as they are. We need to experience their impact on our souls, as John did when they unfolded before him- in the Ruach

On the other hand, there are other expositors who say that Revelation is just symbolic, and make little attempt to interpret the symbols. But that ignores what John plainly says in Revelation 1:1: "The revelation of Yeshua the Messiah, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John."

The revelation does claim to reveal "the things that must soon take place."

Revelation may not literal like a historical chronicle, but it does reveal the future.  And if they are difficult to interpret, Yeshua has made them known by sending His angel, just as He did for Daniel and Zechariah.  He has much He wants us to know about our future with Him-it's just that he has chosen to reveal it to us in an intense and amazing vision.

Again, here's the first line of our introduction: The Book of Revelation is an apocalyptic prophecy- a kind of writing found in many of the prophetic books as well as sections of the New Covenant, in which a supernatural revelation is given through fantastic, symbolic visions. 

In an earlier version of the introduction, which another member of our translation team wrote, there was repeated emphasis on the strangeness of the symbols. But that's the nature of visions from heaven. When I was praying about this message, the Ruach asked me to talk about visions I have had. I said to Him, Lord, I only recall one open vision-when I first saw you on the cross, and you opened your mouth and roared. But He said, think again; you've had many others-and then I remembered some of my dreams.

I've shared a few of them in sermons.  How many of you remember the dream about being in a concentration camp, a tribunal of other Messianic Jewish leaders banished me back into the camp, or the dream about a delicious bowl of tzimmes (sweet potatoes, carrots, and prunes in a sweet sauce, in a silver dish)-I shared that dream last Rosh Hashanah. When I had these dreams, the images seemed strange-I could actually smell the tzimmes in that dream, yet why tzimmes?  Pamela had never even made me tzimmes-she has since then, once! Yet when I sought the Lord about them, the Ruach HaKodesh provided an interpretation.

The dreams of Joseph and Pharaoh, or Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, also seemed strange. But as Joseph and Daniel understood, the interpretation is with Spirit of God, who searches our hearts.

So our introduction says: Revelation reads like a waking dream-compare the dreams and visions of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. For example, in Zechariah 1:8: "During the night I had a vision- and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses." In one night, Zechariah has eight visions! These were apparently not dreams, but waking visions, because at one point Zechariah dozes off, and Zechariah 4:1 says "the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep." Waking visions may be more intense and memorable than dreams, because you don't need to wake up to remember them-just don't doze off like Zechariah almost did!

But the imagery of a waking vision Is similar-strange and intense, yet it seems even stranger when you reflect on it afterward, in your everyday consciousness. The intense strangeness has a purpose-arresting our attention, stirring our senses. V'eemru?

John begins his vision in Rev 1:10, "I was in the Ruach on the Day of the Lord, and I heard behind me a voice as loud as a shofar." Being in the Ruach echoes the experiences of earlier prophets. For example, Ezekiel 8:3, "The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem." Or Ezekiel 37:1, "The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones." Like Ezekiel or Zechariah or Daniel, John has a revelatory vision in the Ruach.

The resemblance to those earlier prophets is significant: everything John sees alludes to visions that the Ruach had given to earlier prophets, from Moses to Malachi. I included well over 200 footnotes in Revelations-and these are only to the Hebrew bible-there are also many parallels in the last days revelations of Yeshua and the other shlichim or apostles.

John says, "I was in the Ruach on the Day of the Lord." That's different from how most Christian translations render it. For example, the New American Standard says, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day" and the NIV says, "On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit." Anyone notice the difference?  What's especially important about the difference? "The Lord's Day" has come to mean Sunday, the common day of worship in Christian churches. But it's not clear whether Sunday worship was widespread when John had his vision-the earliest references to Sunday worship that I know about are from the early second century.

Moreover, the phrase "the Day of the Lord" alludes to apocalyptic visions from Isaiah to Malachi:

Isaiah 13:6, "Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty."

Ezekiel 30:3, "For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near- a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations."

Joel 2:1, ""Blow the shofar in Tziyon! Sound an alarm on my holy mountain!" Let all living in the land tremble, for the Day of ADONAI is coming! It's upon us!"

Obadiah 1:15, ""The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head."

Zephaniah 1:14, ""The great day of the LORD is near- near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there."

In other words, John was caught up in the Ruach to see the Day of the Lord-the Day when Hashem will judge the nations who despised Him and His chosen people-just as earlier prophets had been. V'eemru?

During our service, we also read Revelation 1:5-7, "Messiah Yeshua is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood 6 and made us a kingdom, kohanim to His God and Father-to Him be glory and power forever! Amen! "Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of Him. Yes, amen!" These verses, coming before the actual beginning of John's vision, which we read in verse 9, summarize the Revelation.

It's all about Messiah Yeshua-He is the faithful witness, the one who gives the Revelation-it's not John's revelation, but Yeshua's revelation to John, and to us.  V'eemru?

He is the firstborn of the dead-so we can be confident that He will come again.  V'eemru?

He is the ruler of the kings-as it says in Ps 2:7-8, "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession." 

In that day, the Son of God will reign over the nations. V'eemru?

He loves us, so much that he has freed us from our sins by His blood, and made a kingdom of cohanim.

And then John sees Him-just as Daniel and Zechariah had also seen Mashiach in their visions.

First Daniel 7:13, "As I kept watching the night visions, I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man." So Yeshua also describes Himself as the Son of Man coming with the clouds in the revelation of Matthew 24:30, "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky," And second, Zech. 12:10, "I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him."

Yeshua also alludes to this verse in Matthew 24:30, "and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." Ultimately, from Yeshua's point of view, that's what the Revelation is all about-the Messiah of Israel is coming back for His people, and everything He does to shake the world is to draw His people back, so that in that day would receive the Spirit of grace and supplication, and mourn from their hearts when they recognize who He truly is, when He returns on the clouds of heaven. V'eemru?

That's the big picture.  (Perhaps I will share more details about this picture in another message-would you like that?) God makes a distinction, between those marked by a beast and those marked by the Lamb.  He makes that distinction on the basis of how each person responds to Messiah and His message. The message is that God's kingdom will be victorious over all evil in the world. Revelation begins and ends with the promise of Yeshua's return. Through Messiah, God rules over everything that happens-past, present and future. Those who belong to Him (rather than to the world system of Babylon) can rejoice in the glorious wedding feast of the Lamb.

So, I urge you all, as we draw nearer to the Day of the Lord, to put your trust completely in Him.

If you have put your trust in Him, then do not fear the tribulations of the world. For you have been sealed by the Spirit of God and you are destined for a glorious wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride.If you have not put trust in Him yet, are you are not sure if you are ready for the Day of the Lord, then I urge you, not to wait another day, but to put your trust in Him today. For that day will come suddenly to those who keep ignoring the signs of the times. Do not be like Pharaoh who kept hardening his heart to the message, and then God hardened his heart, because he could no longer turn back to God.

You are here today.  Put your trust completely in Messiah Yeshua today.  V'eemru?

The worship team may come forward..

Let's pray..