Seeing Behind the Surface of the Everyday

What is the main message of the book of Revelation?

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I think the main message of the book of Revelation could be summed up in Paul's words, in 2 Corinthians, where he talks about the importance of our walking by faith and not by sight. The whole point of the book of Revelation is to help the church to see, in a sense, behind the surface of everyday occurrences, of everyday events, to recognize that though there are very obviously visibly strong and formidable enemies of the church, that Christ has already defeated them. In fact, paradox is a key element in the book of Revelation. Things are not what they seem. In Revelation 5, we read about Jesus as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah who has conquered," and then what John sees when he looks to see this Lion, this conquering Lion, is a Lamb standing as though slain. It is by his death that Christ has redeemed people from all the peoples of the world. By the same token, in Revelation 12, John is told in the vision that Satan, the Dragon, the Accuser, has been cast out of heaven, and the accuser of the brothers has been defeated by the brothers because they have not loved their lives even to the point of death. In other words, the martyrs have conquered the Dragon. Their death looked like defeat, but it was really victory. And so the point of the book of Revelation is that we are to live by what Christ has shown us through the eyes of John, by the Word of God — Christ is called the Word of God there, as he is in John's gospel — what Christ has shown us of the realities. And in that light, then, we should endure persecution with courage, with hope. And we need to remain pure from the defilements that the surrounding pagan culture would try to insert into our lives.

Answer by Dr. Dennis E. Johnson

Dr. Dennis Johnson is professor emeritus of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California, where he taught from 1982 to 2018. He previously pastored Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and East Los Angeles, California. Dr. Johnson was Associate Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Escondido. He served as moderator of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly and Presbytery of Southern California, moderator of the South Coast Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church in America, member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Committee on Christian Education, and Trustee of Covenant College.