Posted by: Terry | January 4, 2014

Encouragement not confusion

There is satisfaction and wonder in the book of Revelation as I cease looking for predictions and details for the future. Accepting that precision and certainty are not always possible when faced with the overwhelming magnitude and complexity of the visions, frees one to be touched with the message that God is God, he has a plan, and he will prevail. This book was not written to slack our curiosity, but to glorify God by establishing our faith.

This letter was written to Believers who were under persecution within 50 years of Jesus death and resurrection. There would have been people reading this who might have heard Jesus preach and seen miracles he performed, even some who had witnessed his death. Their commitment to the Messiah placed them in a growing community that was increasingly offensive to the Roman government and to the Jewish order. Their questions and uncertainties led to the need for comfort and explanation provided by Christ through the pen of John.

It would be natural to wonder if it was all worth it, why did it work out this way? They were most likely more concerned about the immediate future than obsessed with the far distant future as we are. For most of Israel’s history they looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, he came, they accepted that, yet the world for them was a much different place than what they anticipated.

“The revelation from Jesus Christ…” (Rev. 1.1) so begins the preface. Revelation: unveiling or uncovering something. This is what we all need, but especially what these persecuted early church folks needed. It is what we need today, for as brilliant as we like to think we are at analyzing there is a lot in this world that just makes no sense at all. We need some outside information if we are going to put it together.

So my first illumination after deciding to stop looking for a time-line to draw on the wall, or attempting to force the events of the book into the news of the day, was to instead look for clarification as to what is going on in the world, our world, my world. Since there are similarities between the first century and the 21st century the message might have application today.

“What must soon take place…” (Rev. 1.1) Ok so when is soon? Masses of rhetoric and pages of writing have been expended on this very phrase. How one relates to this will influence much of how they approach the rest of the book. The simple definition of the word used by John is “quickly or soon.” That means not long from now. So to turn this one usage into “suddenly or unexpectedly,” followed by explanations about how the visions in the book did not relate to when it was written, is more of an imposition of a cherished pre-determined schema than an obvious and simple reading of the text.

Those listening would have initially expected that at least some of what they were hearing would take place in the not distant future; that it somehow applied to their current situation.

“Blessed be the one who reads…” Rev 1.3 This book is first of all designed to bless, not confuse. To bless it must be assumed that those hearing it were expected to understand what they were hearing. AND they were to do that without the benefit of concordances, commentaries, etc.  They were promised a blessing from just listening to it.

The lesson here is that we must resist the temptation to complicate-by-over- analysis. The big message must be the most important message, not miniscule parsing of each detail.

The rooms in a good art museum are large, one reason is to allow you to step away from the painting and get the whole picture, that is the way art is to be viewed. While focusing on each brush stroke may be interesting and even instructive, unless you step back and view the piece as a complete unit you will miss the beauty. A piece of art may be the sum of many details, but it is the complete picture that the artist is attempting to present.

I was encouraged to read Revelation through in one sitting, then to listen to it read aloud, without the text in front of me. Each time I have done so there has been a new awareness, a different participation in the promised blessing. So just read it, just listen to it; do it over and over until it begins to touch you as it touched those in the early church.

Before we can address the detail, we must fill our minds with the broad themes – God vs. Satan, the persecution and faithfulness of the church, judgment and blessing, hope and comfort, the glory of God, the Kingdom of the Messiah… Then the details will fall much more naturally into place.

Revelation 1.4-8 What strikes me about this section is that John wrote this AFTER he had seen all of the visions. That is significant because we get a glimpse here of the affect those visions had on him, and possible insight into what affect they should have on us.

Look first at his description of God, the Son, and the Spirit. “Who is, and who was, and who is to come.” God gave Moses his name, “I AM,” the eternal existing one. Moses saw a bit of the glory of God. But John was transported to the very throne room of God where he was impressed with the eternal nature of God. He saw the multifold and perfect dimension of the Sprit with the Father, and he saw the Messiah alive not dead, now king over all the kings of the earth.

Our involvement with The Revelation should produce the same wonder and awe in us; if it does not then we must consider that we have missed the point.

Secondly John confirms his understanding and appreciation of the work of God and the Christ. He sees the motivation of love from God, the freedom from sins by the blood of Christ. He is clear that we are part of this kingdom and are called to be priests that serve God today.

More than a time line, the message of Revelation explains in a fresh way that God is working out the redemption and reconciliation of the earth and its inhabitants. The Old Testament gives us the historical accounts of God working to prepare the way for the Messiah, The Gospels and Acts tell us of the coming of the Messiah and how the early church was formed, the epistles explain details as to how it all fits together. Revelation steps back and places it all in the context of eternity, for we see here connection with time before creation all the way to time in eternity future. Though written after most all of the other books, it gives us a context for the entire Book.

Our listening to The Revelation should lead us to a deeper comprehension of all that God has done, is doing, and will do. It should lead us to exclaim the doxology of Paul

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3.20-21)

Thirdly John encapsulates his hope for the future. This one who had been given more details about the current and future work of God than any other of the Apostles reduces it all down to

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”

and “every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him”;

and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”

So shall it be! Amen

Whatever our personal conclusions about the many details of the culmination of the world, and we will always have differences as the specifics are open to varied inferences, like John we must be in agreement on these things.

Jesus is coming back, and all will see him; both those who long for his coming and those who persecuted him will see him. Some will mourn out of awareness of all that he suffered on their behalf, some will mourn out of the fear of impending judgment.

“So shall it be.” Of this I am certain, and of this I am convinced. Whatever our discussions of the details, our hearing of The Revelation must bring us comfort and agreement on his certain return and his culmination of all things.

What message did the first century church need to hear? That God is God, who sent the Messiah. They needed the reminder that they were rescued from the dominion of darkness and transported into the kingdom of the Son. They needed the certainty that he was returning to set it all right and bring all things to a conclusion. In that message they would find comfort and a blessing.

Is that not exactly what we need today in this world we live in? If our interaction with The Revelation produces less, it is not the failure of the book nor of the one who revealed it, it is our failure to let it work as it was intended.

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