Reflecting on Revelation – Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

When I think of the book of Revelation, I generally think two things. The movie, A Thief in the Night (I really should consider therapy) and the promise of God’s Kingdom being ultimately revealed regardless of what happens (or doesn’t happen) in this world. I know it’s completely horrific that I should include these two together and if I believed that God was offended buy such trivialities, I would certainly confess but part of my point is mentioning the absurdity.

First a word on “A Thief In the Night.” Don’t watch it unless you simply like weird horror movies. Don’t show it to your little kids (my parents are still a little upset that the church we were a part of encouraged them to “bring the kids.” I am among thousands who were traumatized. Not because of the end of the world stuff, I had seen tons of that as a kid. I was horrified that people said this was all going to happen. Thank God for my parents who said, “Umm, well no.” “Are you sure Dad? They said it in church!” “Well, no one can be sure … but this is silly.” “It’s definitely scary ….” The only good thing of this is that I have some good material when I’m in a room of post-fundamentalists.

It’s not just the “Left-Behinders” who are obsessed with doomsday scenarios and complete destruction. Whether it be a movie, or a televangelist, we always have someone trying to scare us into something. Whether it be into repentance or into buying energy-efficient light bulbs so i don’t wake up one morning and find a polar bear attacking the kids’ swing set, fear is used as a devise to solicit a certain response. Which by the way, fear is never a Christian motivator for repentance.

I’m sure there is anthropological study that attempts to explain why we as a species can be fascinated/consumed/obsessed by doomsday scenarios. Global killers, angry aliens, end of the word theories, cosmic catastrophes, whatever you want to call it – How is the world is going to end? (If it were, my money is on nukes but that’s another story.)

So all that said, I got to this part of the sermon series with a bit of anxiety. I wasn’t even the one preaching but I am currently creating content for our small groups that are following the series. It may not be the end of the world but my mind feared some of these discussions that might have happened in people’s living rooms after the classic line, “The signs are clear, look at what’s going on in the Middle East …” In re-listening to the messages and looking back over the discussion questions prepared, I have to say at the very least, my children are going to have a different experience. You can listen to these messages here.

The book of Revelation is a tough one on a number of levels. The title “Revelation” literally translates to the Greek word “apokalypsis,” and primarily means, “unveiling”. This is where the English gets the words “apocalypse” and “apocalyptic.” In fact, John is writing in a genre that is called “apocalyptic literature” which was common in the First Century. It it’s helpful, think of it as “ancient science fiction” for that audience.

My hermeneutics (fancy word for interpretation if you’re not a nerd) would tell you that it is impossible to read the book of Revelation literally. That statement usually raises questions among those raised in certain churches and usually encourages those in others. We should remember that the Church includes many hermeneutical traditions over the centuries. Though I may be trying to push back against the mess left behind by the Left Behind series, my real concern is that the book of Revelation be read, studied, celebrated as a beautiful text of inspired Scripture.

Jesus is returning, He is going to redeem all things, evil will be vanquished, death will be no more, His perfect world awaits and in this book John is telling the early church to persevere, because Christ is right there with them. One of my favorite images in Revelation is in 1:18-20
“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Jesus among the churches regardless of what threatens them whether it be Caesar, Nero, Domitian or the sword of Rome. Jesus among the churches regardless of “a meteor the size of Texas“, the Mayan calendar, A.I., or even the threat of nukes. The Lord is with us now and forever, the promise of God’s Kingdom being ultimately revealed. That’s the big picture of what we should think of when we think of the book of Revelation.

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