The biblical book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse, has certainly come in for a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation for most of the past two thousand years—even the title is often misquoted as “Revelations.” From the idea of Armageddon being the end of the world to the claim that the book is primarily historical, misconceptions and myths abound.
Let’s think about seven such myths of Revelation and show where they go astray from a biblical point of view.
Myth #1: The book of Revelation is just the creative work of a spiritually minded man named John.
Fact: The opening chapters plainly show us that the book’s contents are given to Jesus Christ by His Father and only then conveyed to John by an angel. Here’s the first verse: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly [quickly] take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1). In other words, the Father delivers the information so that Jesus can reveal or unveil the future to His servants. The Greek word translated “revelation” is apocalypsis, from which we get apocalypse and apocalyptic.
Myth #2: Jesus Christ is portrayed by the first of the well-known four apocalyptic horsemen—the rider of the white horse in Revelation 6.
Fact: The rider of the white horse in chapter 6 is not to be confused with Christ, who appears on a white horse in chapter 19. There are very obvious differences between the two, not least of which is that Revelation 6:2 unveils a false messiah who brings false teaching. This negative identification fits well with the other three horsemen, who represent the effects of war, scarcity and disease epidemics.
Myth #3: The book shows only the final events due to occur before the end of this world.
Fact: The book provides a running commentary on human affairs for the past 2,000 years. From the Four Horsemen’s ride across two millennia of global history to the cycle of decline and resurrection of the Roman imperial model, Revelation gives context to the ongoing role of the Roman/Babylonian system in human society through to its ultimate defeat by Christ.
Myth #4: Armageddon represents the final catastrophic end of mankind.
Fact: Revelation makes clear that Armageddon is a staging area for armies. It takes its name from the Hebrew Har Megiddo, a high spot overlooking the Megiddo Valley (or Valley of Jezreel) in northern Israel, where world armies gather before fighting against Christ in Jerusalem (Revelation 16:14, 16).
Myth #5: The resurrection and judgment of the dead is a single event.
Fact: Revelation shows that there are two resurrections separated by a thousand years and even implies a third. Chapter 20:1–4 explains that those who follow Christ in this lifetime are included in the first resurrection into God’s kingdom to be established on the earth at Christ’s return: “This is the first resurrection” (verse 5). This will last one thousand years, after which most who have lived will come back to life: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (verse 5).
Myth #6: There is an ever-burning hellfire for the wicked.
Fact: Revelation shows that the unrepentant wicked will die forever. The second death of chapter 21 is just that—death—not life forever in torment. An eternal place of torment is an idea that comes from early Greek philosophy. Dante perpetuated the image in his work Inferno.
Myth #7: God the Father will only ever live in heaven.
Fact: Revelation shows that ultimately God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son will make the renewed earth the center of their kingdom—literally heaven on earth: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
For more on the landscape of Revelation, its truths, and the errors in interpretation some have spread, see our special report “Myths of Revelation.”