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Revelation: Achieving the Kingdom Goal

At Some Pastors and Teachers we want to resource pastors with great content. Highlighting important books is one way to do this. The following is an excerpt from Patrick Schreiner’s The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 121-123.

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Revelation tells the story of a fallen tree burning in an eternal flame. The image is an apocalyptic vision of a destroyed kingdom juxtaposed with a victorious kingdom. In a similar way, Percy Shelley, in her sonnet “Ozymandias,” writes about a traveler seeing a statue in ruin and resting in the desert. The head of this figurine is described as,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command.

On the pedestal of the statue are the words,

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 1Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Verse and Prose, vol. 1 (London: Reeves & Turner, 1880), 376.

Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. Shelley’s poem speaks to the inevitable decline of all leaders and empires in contrast to their pretentions for greatness. The book of Revelation also juxtaposes the pride of the kingdoms of mankind with their eventual “colossal wreck, boundless and bare.” 2Ibid. Each kingdom that sets itself up against God’s kingdom will be left shattered. Only one kingdom will remain.

The canon of Scripture culminates with the cry of an archangel. 3Or as Barker writes, “It is significant that the Bible begins (Genesis 1-2) and ends (Revelation 19-22) with royal motifs.” Kenneth L. Barker, “The Scope and Center of Old and New Testament Theology and Hope,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 306. Revelation describes an apocalyptic battle between the city of Babylon and the city of God. The kingdom was launched in Genesis, challenged from the very beginning, and then consummated in Revelation. From the garden, through Abraham and David, to Jesus, to the church, we are desperate to know how the story will end. Will the people of God be rescued? Will their King return? Will their cities be rebuilt? What will happen to the enemies of the King? Will the crucified and ascended King reveal himself again?

While the King planted his foot on the earth in the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament made evident that all is not as it should be. The revelation to John on the island of Patmos concludes the story in a series of visions. The visions come in the form of letters to churches, bizarre narratives, and musical poetry, all with an apocalyptic focus—that is, pulling back the curtain of history. John’s vista is filled with dragons, beasts, blood, scorpions, and war.

Although modern readers regularly get confused by this writing style, “the goal of apocalyptic literature is not prediction, but unmasking—unveiling the realities around us for what they really are.” 4James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 92. Apocalyptic literature is thus a way of seeing; a way of discerning God’s invading power in human events both presently and typologically in the future. Revelation is a book about the past, present, and future. It is an encouragement to Christians of all ages who wonder how the King will complete this kingdom story promised to Adam, Abraham, and David. John reveals the supernatural nature of this battle that has been waging between the seed of mankind and the seed of the Serpent from the time of Adam and Eve. The dragon and the woman are at war.

To use another image, the tree that is attempting to grow and fill the earth will meet the opposition of axes, fire, and rock, but God Almighty guarantees he will build a protective hedge around this tree so that it will fill the entire earth. Revelation continues the trio of kingdom themes that were inaugurated in the creation of the world, arguing that the kingdom goal is now achieved. John does so by revealing what is behind the scenes from multiple viewpoints (what some call “progressive recapitulation”). Therefore, we will also identify the consummation of the kingdom through recapitulating descriptions. The power of God and the Lamb is manifested in the judgment of the kingdom’s enemies. The people of the King are shielded and protected. The place of the kingdom is cleansed and prepared so that they might live with him forever and ever. Before this can happen, the dragon must be slain by the Lamb.

References   [ + ]

1. Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Verse and Prose, vol. 1 (London: Reeves & Turner, 1880), 376.
2. Ibid.
3. Or as Barker writes, “It is significant that the Bible begins (Genesis 1-2) and ends (Revelation 19-22) with royal motifs.” Kenneth L. Barker, “The Scope and Center of Old and New Testament Theology and Hope,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 306.
4. James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 92.
Filed under: Excerpt, Features, Theology
Patrick Schreiner

Patrick Schreiner (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is assistant professor of New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. In addition to The Kingdom of God, he is the author of The Body of Jesus (T&T Clark, 2014) and various articles and essays.

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