Mentioning the book of Revelation elicits all kinds of reactions—confusion, curiosity, fascination, and fear, just to name a few. I grew up in the Left Behind era, and as a child I wore a dog tag meant to inform anyone who found it among a pile of personless clothing that I had been taken to heaven in the rapture.
Revelation with its focus on the end times was prominent in evangelical pop culture. Perhaps as a result what comes to mind when you think of Revelation is terrifying creatures emerging from the sea, numerous government leaders deemed the antichrist, or countless theories about what exactly the mark of the beast is. You might think a book about the future doesn’t have much bearing on the challenges you face today. Or maybe you love the glorious picture of the new creation in Revelation 21 but have some trepidation about exploring the rest of this controversial letter.
Enter Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Revelation. In this book, Bible teacher and author Nancy Guthrie takes what can seem like an intimidating, confusing, and even terrifying New Testament book and helps us see it for the accessible, practical, and encouraging letter to suffering believers it was meant to be.
Over 12 chapters, Blessed covers the full text of the book of Revelation, exploring its call to patient endurance as God’s sovereign plans for judgment and salvation are worked out in the world. In this book, Guthrie shows how Revelation is less about when Jesus will return and more about who we are to be, what we are to do, and what we can expect to endure as we wait for Jesus to return to establish his kingdom in the new creation.
With a friendly and engaging tone, Blessed takes the fear, intimidation, and confusion away from studying Revelation, providing a solid and accessible resource that individuals and small groups can use to study this important yet often avoided book.
Promise of Revelation
The title of this book references a promise that appears in Revelation 1:3, which reads, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” Blessed walks through Revelation verse by verse, skipping a few short passages, with the goal to “cut through the confusion and help you to see the beauty, the hope and help, that is uniquely presented in this book” (23). Each chapter’s commentary concludes with practical answers to the question of what it means to “hear” and “keep” what’s written in the passages and so experience the promised blessing.
Blessed is practical, not only in each chapter’s closing sections but throughout the book as a whole. Guthrie explains that “Revelation is actually less about when Jesus will return and more about what we are to do, who we are to be, and what we can expect to endure as we wait for Jesus to return to establish his kingdom,” and this focus is evident in her writing. I recommend reading this book slowly, taking adequate time to reflect and pray, as each paragraph contains new practical implications.
‘Revelation is actually less about when Jesus will return and more about what we are to do, who we are to be, and what we can expect to endure as we wait for Jesus to return to establish his kingdom.’
The application-heavy content, however, doesn’t mean it’s light on interpretation. The book reads like a commentary crossed with a book on Christian living, presenting rich biblical interpretation alongside practical implications for the sake of spiritual growth. Guthrie is quick to explain the meaning of the text, and so I highly suggest working through her Bible study questions that correspond with the chapters of the book before reading for a richer study experience. This book is edifying for individual study, but would also be remarkable to work through as a group.
Armageddon, Millennium, and the Mark of the Beast
If you’re looking for a book that pits the varying interpretive approaches of Revelation against one another or analyzes the popular theories about the apocalyptic roles of politicians, pop stars, or even energy drinks, this isn’t it. While some may find this disappointing, what this book has to offer is far greater—real hope as we navigate a fallen world and anticipate Christ’s second coming.
What this book has to offer is far greater than popular theories about the apocalypse—real hope as we navigate a fallen world and anticipate Christ’s second coming.
Guthrie establishes in her introduction that while her views may be evident in some places, her goal is not to argue against certain viewpoints but to present “what is clear and cannot be ignored” (13). Guthrie typically presents her conclusions without showing us the trail of interpretive bread crumbs left behind in the study process, and without presenting alternative interpretations, so readers should keep in mind that well-respected commentators hold alternate interpretations.
Anyone acquainted with Guthrie’s love of biblical theology, however, wouldn’t be surprised to find that she supports her interpretations extensively with other passages of Scripture. Guthrie pulls from both the Old Testament and the New to deepen our understanding of the culmination of God’s story of redemption with all the gusto we’ve grown accustomed to from Guthrie. Those familiar with her oral teaching will be able to hear the enthusiastic intonation of her voice breaking through the paper and ink.
As Guthrie implies, the discerning reader can draw fairly confident conclusions about her hermeneutical perspective. She interprets the images in Revelation as symbolic, noting the influence of earlier biblical passages in our understanding of the text, as well as how they corresponded to the realities of first-century believers. The symbols are “not a system of codes waiting to be matched for meaning with people and events in our current day. Rather, they have theological and spiritual meaning pertinent to the first readers [that] . . . must inform how we interpret their meaning for us today” (19). To interpret these images symbolically is not to minimize the truth of the text, but to interpret according to its genre, recognizing that John spoke in metaphor and analogy to describe unseen realities in terms we can somewhat understand.
Many debates center around Revelation 20’s mention of a 1,000-year period of time in which Satan is bound and Christ reigns. Guthrie seems to take an amillennial approach, which understands this period not as a literal millennium, but as a complete era inaugurated in Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension and continuing through its consummation at his second coming.
And what about that notoriously controversial mark of the beast (Rev. 13:16–17; 16:2; 19:20)? Guthrie views it not as a physical mark, such as a microchip, tattoo, or vaccine, but as a spiritual one that distinguishes those whose loyalty is to Christ from those who have pledged their allegiance elsewhere. Likewise, she sees Armageddon not as a physical battle, but as a spiritual one culminating in Christ’s final judgment and victory of Satan.
New Enthusiasm for Revelation
As I read Blessed, I was encouraged and convicted. I grieved and I rejoiced. I kept waiting for the moment when I would feel overwhelmed by the strange imagery or discouraged and lost in the weeds of the prophecy, but that moment never came. I finished this book with a renewed love for Revelation and the understanding that while Revelation’s genre is unique among the New Testament letters, its message isn’t. This book frees us from the need to decipher some esoteric code and allows us to experience the promised blessing of Revelation. Guthrie helps reframe our view and remove the fear of Revelation. Her presentation is Christocentric to its core. For readers of Blessed, Revelation’s pages may become just as worn as those of Philippians or the Psalms.
Jesus leaves us with words of hope and urgency at the end of Revelation: “Surely I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). In these last days, many of us avoid the very book whose purpose is to encourage, strengthen, and instruct us as we endure through them. After all, living with a mind for eternity is about much more than trendy novels and dog tags—it shapes the whole of our lives. The time is near, so let us read Revelation, hear its words, and keep them with faith and joy. Surely we will be blessed.