The book of Revelation is arguably one of the most difficult books of the Bible to understand. It is full of visions and prophecies that seem mysterious and oftentimes quite frightening. Pastors and theologians debate the various ways to interpret this book, leading many people in the church to conclude that there is no way they will ever figure out what Revelation is trying teach.
The book of Revelation has not always been the object of wonder and fear. During the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, in fact, Revelation was a popular book, and one that many Reformers looked to for comfort and hope. Heinrich Bullinger (1504–75), the successor to the great Swiss Reformer Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) in Zurich, preached a series from the book of Revelation that totaled 101 sermons. Bullinger believed that the book of Revelation contained an important message for Protestants, particularly during a time of great persecution. The city of Zurich was a popular destination for Protestant refugees who came from all over Europe seeking a place of safety and security. In the midst of such upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, Bullinger believed the message of the book of Revelation was one of hope and comfort for the church.
Revelation 1:8 reads, “ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and was and who is to come, the Almighty.’ ” This description of our God as “the Alpha and Omega” sets the context for the entire book, for God is the beginning and the end. The rest of the book will present a sweeping vision of the history and fate of the church, which includes periods of persecution and struggle. Yet, through all of this, God is the beginning and the end, the One “who is and who was and who is to come.” In other words, He is sovereign over all things. Nothing happens outside of God’s sovereignty, and in the end, our Almighty God will accomplish His good purposes for His glory and for our blessing.
There are many Christians today who resonate with what the Reformers felt in the sixteenth century. Perhaps you read the news about what is happening in America and around the world, and it leads you to fear and distress. The speed and severity of cultural changes in America leading to greater secularism are alarming. Intense persecution against Christians continues in a number of places in the world.
Consequently, the book of Revelation is as needed for the church today as it was for the Reformers. We should read and study this book. It contains a wonderful encouragement because our God is the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and was and is to come. He is the Almighty. Knowing and believing this about God is truly a source of hope and comfort for Christians in every age until Jesus Christ returns.