The term “biblical prophecy” has been a buzz word in evangelical Christian circles for some time now. If you tune your TV to any of the religious channels chances are you will run across a teaching on the “end times” and biblical prophecy. The Christian book stores are not hurting for books on biblical prophecy in their stores. The last book in the bible is what comes to mind when we think of biblical prophecy, John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ has fascinated Christian for generations and will continue to do so. There is a mystery to the book that just seems to fascinate us; or is there?
For modern day readers a mystery is always exciting. The thrill of reading the pages in anticipation of figuring out the end is attractive for so many. What if there is no mystery in Revelation? What if there is no mystery in biblical prophecy? These are not conclusions, but just simple questions that if we explore them enough perhaps we’ll get an answer to help us better understand the last book of the Christian Canon.
We know that a key characteristic of the Book of Revelation is indeed prophetical. This is indicated to us in the first few verses of the book.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
Prophecy runs all throughout the biblical text. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretold of the Messiah 700 years before the birth of Christ. Prophecy certainly has a place within the Christian journey and study. However, the further we study prophecy the more we may understand that prophecy may not simply be about foretelling what is to come. The prophets of God had a key task of speaking the truth and character of God into the current situation of the day. The prophet was also to reveal the results or consequences of the actions of the people of God. The messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 include condemnations of sin, calls for repentance and words of encouragement.
Here in verse 3 John speaks nothing of discovering a mystery or a secret knowledge within his letter. He encourages the readers to HEAR what is written and to KEEP what is written. This is what true prophecy is all about; hearing what God is saying and putting it into action. Upon this foundation we can engage this great book.
The test of a true prophet it not whether what they say comes true. The litmus test for the prophet is whether or not what they say points people to Christ. In Revelation 19:10 we are reminded that the witness of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. In Deuteronomy 13:1-3 we are told concerning prophets:
If prophets or those who divine by dreams appear among you and promise you omens or portents, 2 and the omens or the portents declared by them take place, and they say, “Let us follow other gods” (whom you have not known) “and let us serve them,” 3 you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
John’s Revelation is indeed prophecy, but not because there is a code to be unlocked or a mystery to be told. John’s Revelation is prophecy simply because it literally points us to Christ, and for some, points us back to Christ. For the original readers, the 7 churches, John’s prophecy points to Christ in at time of great trial and tribulation.
I want my life to be a life of prophecy…I life that points people to Christ.