Revelation is full of astonished, awestruck folks. First, there's John who can't believe he's meeting Jesus live and in person—not to mention God, the angels, the armies of Heaven, a seven-headed Dragon… well, you get the idea. Then there's everyone else who head over heels admires and reveres God and his every holy move. Though it's clear that everyone is totally in love with the Big Guy, there's also probably a little good old fashioned awe-inspiring fear in there. Hey, you watch a deity unleash plagues of destruction and tell us you wouldn't be shaking in your boots.
At its heart, Revelation is really just an old fashioned epic of good vs. evil. On one side, you've got the bad guys, complete with multiple heads and bad intentions. On the other side, God himself and all his homies. It's clear from the beginning that good is going to win this one—after all, that's the whole point of an apocalypse. But evil is still going to give it a go. Sorry, guys. Nice try. Enjoy your consolation prize—an eternity in the Lake of Fire.
Judge not… unless of course you're the Creator of the Universe. Then, by all means, judge away. According to Revelation, only God has the power to decide whose actions are righteous and who's are damnable. Don't worry, though. He gives everyone a fighting chance. Survive a few plagues, repent, and you might avoid an eternity in the Lake of Fire. But act now, because destruction is coming soon.
"Vengeance is mine; I will repay," saith the Lord (Romans 12:19). And, boy, he was not kidding. Revelation is pretty much one big long revenge fantasy. John really wants to get back at Rome and its people for the evils they've perpetrated on God and his people. In a way, it's totally understandable why people who were members of an oppressed minority would crave some payback. On the other hand, to forgive is divine, guys. You might want to try it sometime.
In the 1st century, being Christian was like being part of a really small, really unpopular club. The social pressure to conform must have been immense, and many Christians were probably close to throwing in the towel. That's where Revelation comes in. The book wants to encourage Christians to keep going even in the face of adversity—and death, don't forget death. John's visions convey all the rewards that wait for those who make it, along with the horrors for those that don't. Gulp.
The horror! The horror!
Revelation sure is a blood and gore fest. So why all the violence? Well, there's the revenge angle—the punishment has to fit the crime, after all. And these crimes against God and his people are pretty bad. God also tends not to do things halfway. Would the Lake of Fire have had half as much impact if its inhabitants were simply shuttled there by bus and then dropped off to burn for all eternity? We don't think so.