For the past three months, I've been preaching from the Book of Revelation. Most of these sermons have focused on the letters to the seven churches of Asia in chapters two and three, and I will finish the series up soon with two or three sermons from chapters four and five. But I plan to return to Revelation. Though terribly misunderstood today, it is a fascinating book intended for the encouragement of the church. Here are some helpful quotes about the Book of Revelation as a whole, followed by some of the resources I've found most helpful in understanding the whole book.
And why was the book of Revelation written? It was not written primarily, let me assure you, in order that people might be able to work out the date of the end of the world! That is a very grievous misunderstanding of that book. The book of Revelation was written in order that God’s people who were passing through terrible persecutions and terrible adversity might be able to go on rejoicing. It is a book that showed them the ultimate victory of the Lord over Satan and all the other forces of evil. They were to rejoice. It was written for men and women who had been in trouble, and it was meant to help them, not only people who would live 2,000 years later. And so it has been a help to Christian people in every age and every generation. If your understanding of the book of Revelation does not help you rejoice, you are misunderstanding it. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, True Happiness, p. 88).
Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world. Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of cleverly engineered ‘miracles’ (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples – all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendor of pagan religion. In this context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from . . . heaven . . . The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be. (Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p. 17)
The visions of the book are presented as an ‘uncovering of hidden truths,’ namely the hidden reality of God’s sovereign control of the future, of how he is going to bring an end to the seeming success of the forces of evil in the present age. (Grant Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 53)
And now he [John] was again to receive the Word and the Witness, a genuine message from God, which in due course was to be read aloud in Church meetings like other inspired scripture. It would in a sense be nothing new; simply a recapitulation of the Christian faith he possessed already. But it was to be the last time that God would repeat the patterns of truth, and he was to do so with devastating power and in unforgettable splendor. (Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, The Bible Speaks Today, p. 31)
The Book of Revelation is about the gospel. The gospel is its central theme. Above all it is speaking of the coming kingdom of God through the victory of Christ at Calvary. (Graeme Goldsworthy, The Gospel in Revelation, in The Goldsworthy Trilogy, p. 205)
I do not read the Revelation to get additional information about the life of faith in Christ. I have read it all before in law and prophet, in gospel and epistle. Everything in the Revelation can be found in the previous sixty-five books of the Bible. The Revelation adds nothing of substance to what we already know. The truth of the gospel is already complete, revealed in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new to say on the subject. But there is a new way to say it. I read the revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination. (Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination, p. xi-xii)
Finally, the most helpful resources I've found in studying Revelation (and these are also quoted and linked above) are:
Richard Baukham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation
Grant Osborne, Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination
Graeme Goldsworthy, The Gospel in Revelation