Plow and plod through the 22 chapters of Revelation, the final and most confounding book of the Bible, and Pastor Jonathan MacKinney expects mysteries will remain mysteries and deep questions about end times will go unanswered.
“Whole books have been written just on the question of how to approach this book,” says the pastor of Chandler Bible Church, who has taken his own stab at it by writing “Revelation Plain and Simple.” He wants to demystify the book about end times, featuring such famous fixtures as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the seven-headed beast of Satan, a lake of fire, the seven seals and the turning of the moon to blood.
The Revelation of St. John, or the Revelation of Jesus Christ, can be viewed as a macabre, disjointed stream of events, a litany of symbolism and sights that have spawned scholarly careers in eschatology and filled the rooms of libraries. But MacKinney likens Revelation to a Tom Clancy novel with characters, incredible conflicts and the sense “you just have to hang on for dear life.”
The Apostle John offers that he was on the island of Patmos when amazing things were revealed to him about “what is now and what will take place later” (Rev. 1:19).
“The biggest myth is that it can’t be understood by everybody,” says MacKinney, who drew from a series of 42 sermons on Revelations in 2004-05 to compile the book that is rich in personal, contemporary stories to illustrate complex passages of the controversial book. Some pastors intentionally avoid tackling Revelation. “I was scared of the book like many guys are,” he says. And because it is so full of cryptic events, open to so many interpretations, it is often left out of pastors’ sermon plans.
He doesn’t embrace what’s called dispensationalism, which has been described as a belief that the church is a “parenthesis in God’s dealings with the Jews,” with gentiles given favor over the Jews. The idea says that God’s continued favor of the Jews will be revealed after the “Church Age” (or dispensation), “when the Jews will be restored to their land and will own Jesus as their Messiah.”
MacKinney does not believe Revelation is laid out in chronological order, or in the concept of the “pre-tribulation rapture that all believers will be removed from the Earth before the time of troubles.”
“The Book of Revelation reveals more to us than the details of future events,” writes the 53-year-old pastor. “It reveals the character and the nature of God in time for us to respond to that character and nature.”
MacKinney worked from original Greek text and the New International Version translation.
Saying he has been a believer since age 5 and a believer that the Bible is inerrant, MacKinney has been fascinated by how often people look at world events and try to match them with accounts of Revelation. “I’ve had people telling me that Russia was this or that the Antichrist was (former Egyptian President) Anwar Sadat or (ex-U.S. Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger.”
He recalls his Christian high school teacher confidently telling how Jesus’ return “is just around the corner.” Other say it will be Dec. 21, 2012, when the Mayan calendar is believed to run its course, he says.
“I have no idea what goes on next year,” he says, adding that he is convinced, however, that once bona fide events foretold in Revelation take place, “it will be clear.”
His book’s cover features a drawing of the face of Christ encased in a diamond. “The Book of Revelation is really the revelation of who Jesus is, what God is — his character, his mercy, his grace, his righteousness and his awesome power.”
MacKinney calls the book the “constant revelation of God,” where people today have an “escape hatch” from judgment — Jesus Christ. “You may have to die because of that faith, but I guarantee you that at the end, it is really good.”
People should stop being afraid of the book written against the backdrop of the Roman persecution of Christians beginning with the Emperor Nero, he said. “I am no longer afraid of it because it is a message, a message of tremendous comfort for people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, even if they are going to kill you.”
“Revelation Plain and Simple”
by Jonathan MacKinney
485 pages, Xulon Press, $23.99
Signing 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 28 at Amazing Grace Christian Store, 8830 S. Kyrene Road, Tempe.