This is the last week of my religion class, so I am finishing my study of the book of Revelation. The more that I study it, the more I know that I need to study it at a deeper level.
I found an article by Gerald R. Lund titled “Seeing the Book of Revelation As a Book of Revelation” to be enlightening. He begins his article with an explanation about why so many people find the “imagery and symbolism” of the book of Revelation to be “strange and its message unclear.” He believes that this is the reason why so many Christians do not read it.
The title of the book in Greek is Apocalypsis, from which we get its other common name, the Apocalypse. Apocalypsis is formed from two Greek words – apo, a preposition denoting separation or removal, and kalypto, a verb meaning to cover, hide, or veil. Apocalypsis, then, literally means removal of the veil or covering. Hence its title in English, the book of Revelation (or the uncovering or unveiling.)
While many might find the title to be ironic, arguing that few books are more hidden or veiled, it is an appropriate one, for it truly reveals many things.
Lund teaches that the book of Revelation “reveals many things.” However, we must be in tune with the Spirit in order to understand the book. In this, understanding the book of Revelation is similar to understanding the book of Isaiah. Lund’s article gives four “keys” to seeing the book of Revelation as a book of revelation: 1) Study, ponder, and pray about its message. 2) Use latter-day revelation to expand our understanding of the book. 3) Explore its symbolic imagery. 4) Study its chronological structure.
In order to really understand the book of Revelation, one must comprehend that it follows the vision of Nephi in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In response to Nephi’s desire to understand his father’s vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi receives his own vision and writes about it in 1 Nephi 11-14. Nephi is shown in vision John, the beloved apostle of Jesus Christ. Nephi is told that John has been commissioned to see and “write concerning the end of the world. Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true” (1 Nephi 14:20-22). Nephi apparently has a similar vision as that of John, but he is forbidden to write what he sees. Therefore, Nephi’s vision takes him from the birth of Christ to our time, and John’s vision tells us about the end of the world. These visions are contained in the scriptures and are put there to help us prepare to meet the returning Savior.
In a talk entitled “Understanding the Book of Revelation,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asks and answers several questions. The following statement is in response to this question: “Are we expected to understand the book of Revelation?”
Certainly. Why else did the Lord reveal it? The common notion that it deals with beasts and plagues and mysterious symbolisms that cannot be understood is just not true. It is so far overstated that it gives an entirely erroneous feeling about this portion of revealed truth. Most of the book – and it is no problem to count the verses so included – is clear and plain and should be understood by the Lord’s people. Certain parts are not clear and are not understood by us - which, however, does not mean that we could not understand them if we would grow in faith as we should.
The Lord expects us to seek wisdom, to ponder his revealed truths, and to gain a knowledge of them by the power of his Spirit. Otherwise he would not have revealed them to us. He has withheld the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon from us because it is beyond our present ability to comprehend. We have not made that spiritual progression which qualifies us to understand its doctrines. But he has not withheld the Book of Revelation, because it is not beyond our capacity to comprehend; if we apply ourselves with full purpose of heart, we can catch the vision of what the ancient Revelator recorded. The apostles in Palestine did not know about the Nephites because they did not seek such knowledge. (See 3 Nephi 15:11-24.) We would have many additional revelations and know many added truths if we used the faith that is in our power to exercise.
According to Elder McConkie, we were given the book of Revelation because we have the ability to comprehend it, and we can understand it as well as many other revelations and truths if we would exercise more faith. I found many interesting truths while combing through Revelation. One such truth is that the book contains more than descriptions of beasts and tales of evil and war. I rejoiced when I read of the rejoicing that will take place at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Numerous scriptures teach that Israel’s covenant relationship with God is likened to a marriage. (See Isaiah 54; Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 16, 23; Hosea 2, and Matthew 23.) The Lord makes this comparison because the marriage relationship is the one that requires the most loyalty, sacrifice, commitment, and long suffering.
When the scriptures refer to the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” it is a symbolic reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom who comes to claim His bride, which is His Church. His Church is composed of saints who are watching for His return. The bride will be adorned “in fine linen” that is made “clean and white” through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:8; see also 7:14; 19:14). The only people who will be invited to the wedding celebration are those who are righteous.
Our task is to exercise our faith in order to understand the revelations that have been given to us. When we gain this understanding and live our lives in obedience to the teachings of Christ, we will receive more revelations and greater understanding. By growing in faith and understanding, we can become righteous enough to be invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb of God, even Jesus Christ, when He returns.