Interacting with “The End”, Part 3: Snapshots of Revelation

A Review of Craig Groeschel’s “the End”: Part 3


In the past month or so I have reviewed two of Craig Groeschel’s in his 3 part series titled “The End.” In the spirit of completeness I’d like to take a look at his final message “Snapshots of Revelation.” As the title indicates, in this message Groeschel takes 40 minutes and gives his audience a jet tour of the book of Revelation. This is actually a very difficult thing to do, and personally I would not attempt it unless I was doing a series on the entire book and wanted to begin with a brief overview. Revelation is the type of book that requires a lot of introduction to give people an idea of the type of literature being dealt with. Having said that, Groeschel does a good job of summarizing it and getting at the heart of the message, which I agree with him on. Still, there are some differences in the details and so lets take a look at his message and see where we might differ.

After a brief introduction, Groeschel divides his message into 5 sections and themes:

1) Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Chapters 1-3): Jesus is coming soon

2) Jesus is the Lamb of God (Chapters 4-5): He is worthy to open the scroll

3) Jesus is the Righteous Judge (Chapters 6-18): Jesus righteously judges the earth

4) Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19): Jesus returns with his church

5) Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride (Chapter 21): Jesus takes us, the church, to the heavenly city

There are many ways to divide up the book of Revelation, and this broad outline does a good job of hitting some of the main themes of the book. So, lets move through the outline.

First, Groeschel makes some introductory comments about Revelation. He talks about how it is “really creepy and scary” and so people avoid it. Actually, however, he then correctly asserts that this book will “build your faith…and if you’re a follower of Jesus you should get excited about what God is showing you through the book of Revelation.” The problem is that people “don’t know how to read it.” This is exactly right! Revelation does have some images and symbols we simply are not used to. It is a type of literature called “apocalyptic” that was common in that day, but is foreign to what we are familiar with today. Groeschel rightly states that when it comes down to it, Revelation is about Jesus Christ, and as we read it we should always be asking the question, “what does this say about Jesus?” Groeschel does this in each of his sections, and thus gets the main theme of each right.

1) Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Chapters 1-3): Jesus is coming soon

Here Groeschel points us to Revelation 1:7:

But then he goes on to say that “this is not the first return of Jesus when he comes back like a thief…the first time he comes for his church, this time he comes with his church…” My question is, why is this not the same coming as described in 2 Thessalonians 4? Let’s compare the two texts:

So, if we look at both of these texts, it would seem they are speaking of the same event. It is the Lord Jesus who is coming in both. 2 Thessalonians describes a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, the trumpet of God. Also, each speak of the Lord coming on the clouds. In 1 Thessalonians believers are caught up in the clouds to meet him, while in Revelation 1 he is coming on the clouds. Should we, therefore, take these as two separate comings, or as discussed in a previous post, see these events as describing the same coming, with 1 Thessalonians focusing on the perspective of the believer and Revelation describing the perspective from heaven. It seems that at that final trumpet, we will meet the Lord in the clouds and return with him to judge the nations. Every eye will see him, every ear will hear and all who have rebelled against him will mourn. It is much more likely that this is the case, and no reason from either of these two texts to take them as separate events.

But what about the language of a thief? 1 Thessalonians goes on to say:

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,[b] you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children[c] of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

So what does Paul intend to say when he uses the metaphor of a thief? The text tells us: “When people are saying ‘there is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman.” It is the suddenness of Christ’s coming that make it like a thief, not its secretness. It is sudden destruction that will come upon the ungodly like a their. It is as the labor pains that suddenly come upon a pregnant woman (Is 66:7; Jer 6:24; 22:23; 50:43; Mic 4:9). But it will not surprise believers, for they are prepared because they have trusted in Christ. It will not be a time of destruction for them, but a time of blessing. Paul makes this very point in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-9

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[b] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because ourtestimony to you was believed.

Therefore, it is unlikely that 1Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 1 represent two separate comings of Christ, but rather two perspectives on his final coming.

2) Jesus is the Lamb of God (Chapters 4-5): He is worthy to open the scroll

Pastor Craig does a good job summarizing section two, and I agree with him for the most part. Jesus Christ is the slain lamb of God, who alone is worthy to open the scroll which symbolizes God’s purposes for humanity as revealed in the remainder of the Revelation. We press on.

3) Jesus is the Righteous Judge (Chapters 6-18): Jesus righteously judges the earth

Again, Groeschel’s main point here I can agree with. Jesus always judges rightly, and on the day of judgment no one will be able to say, “that’s not fair.” However, it is with Groeschel’s “bonus thoughts” that we depart ways. Basically, he interprets chapter 6-18 as entirely future, prophesying things that have not yet happened even in our time, things we are perhaps seeing right now. His thoughts are in bold, and my responses follow:

Temple Rebuilt (Rev. 11.1-2) – Groeschel takes the mention of the temple in Revelation 11:1-2 to prove that the temple will one day be rebuilt. The passage says:

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. 

I won’t spend a lot of time defending a particular interpretation of each of these issues, but rather I want to simply show that there are other interpretations which fit better what I believe these passages to mean; however, the question that should be asked, according to Pastor Craig’s own advice when it comes to the symbolic nature of Revelation, is could not Revelation mention a temple symbolically that did not actually exist literally? Of course, and that seems to be the case here. The question then that should be asked is, ‘what does this symbol mean?’ Just as in chapter 1, we are told that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches, so here we must decide what the temple represents. My answer, without a lengthy defense, is that the part of the temple that is measured is the true church, those who have trusted in Christ. The measuring indicates that they are protected from God’s wrath to be poured out in judgment. The ‘court of the Gentiles’ or outer section which is not measured, represents they heathen who have not trusted Christ. No such protection will be provided for them. They will be trampled.

Anti-Christ (Rev. 13 and 14-16)

Mark of the Beast

Anti-Christ killed and raised to life (13.3-4)

The anti-Christ is actually not named in Revelation, rather it is the beast from the sea. Again, I would simply ask what this beast would represent to John’s readers? And what would his mark represent? And what would it meant to John’s readers that he suffered what seemed to be a mortal wound (13:3-4)? All of these images would be utterly meaningless to John’s readers if this person were yet future, and if his mark was a microchip. A much more likely reading is that the beast represents none other than the pagan city of Rome and its emperor, who commanded worship as a god and who was responsible for the persecution John’s readers were enduring. By extension any nation and world leader who would set itself up against God could l be called the beast of Revelation. John himself said that he was “partner” with his readers in “the tribulation.” Surely the suffering talked about throughout the book refers to this same tribulation John and his readers were enduring.

Two Witnesses (Rev. 11)

Killed and raised to life

Shut up the heavens

issue any plague they want

Fire from mouth (“really cool trick”); “don’t mess with two witnesses”

Groeschel then discusses the two witnesses. He takes them literally, and all their powers literally as well. Again, we should ask similar questions. Why should all of these things be taken literally in a very symbolic book? In fact, later Pastor Craig will talk about the sword coming from the mouth of God as a symbolic representation of the word of God. I believe the symbolism here represents the same as that of the measured temple. The two witnesses, i.e. God’s true church, will be protected during the time of God’s wrath.

 Anti Christ raised up to assassinate world leaders; one world government (Rev 17.12-13; Dan. 7.24)

The Anti Christ is defeated at the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16.16-19)

Again, I would just advice a careful reading of the text to see if there is anything about a future one world government in Revelation 17. The beast is indeed defeated at the final battle, as are all nations and peoples who have opposed Christ. These are a few of the issues in Groeschel’s interpretation of Revelation that don’t seem to fit the context or overall point of the book.

4) Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Chapter 19): Jesus returns with his church

“He is not a candidate who we elect in and out of office. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and when you read Revelation and see who Jesus is, it will build your faith.” Amen, Pastor Groeschel!

5) Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride (Chapter 21): Jesus takes us, the church, to the heavenly city

Pastor Groeschel ends very well. I say again, most of what he says I agree with and we can partner in the cause of the gospel because we hold these gospel truths. Christ is coming soon and this is a cause of joy and hope for all believers. These other issues we can debate and discuss, but praise God we need and should not divide over them.

Still, I believe that as Christians we must strive each day to be faithful to all of God’s word, including the unfamiliar texts of Revelation. These issues are not unimportant and they may well affect how we read Scripture and understand the gospel of the kingdom.

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2 comments on “Interacting with “The End”, Part 3: Snapshots of Revelation

  1. revelationunveiled says:

    See: If you desire to see the Truth you have to read all the posts from first to last in order. If not you will only see Babylon (confusion) the Great.

  2. […] Interacting with “The End”, Part 3: Snapshots of Revelation […]

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