Revelation has always been an interesting book to me. I remember as a kid reading Jerry Jenkin’s Left Behind series, and feeling the existential horror of killer bees and earthquakes and guillotines and oceans turning to blood. In fact, if most of us think of the book of Revelation, we may think of dark images such as these. There are many pictures that are frightening in those pages.
But in addition to some strong word pictures, Revelation is also one of the most contested and controversial books in the Bible. In fact, entire denominations fracture based on interpretations of Revelation. We divide these ideas by complicated names: pre-millenial dispensationalism, amillennialism, praeterism, mid-trib, post-trib, historic pre-millenialism to name a few. And while having ideas and theories about how the end times will happen is not wrong, we must admit that there is much we do not understand about Revelation. There is much that the author, John, did not understand. Revelation is an amalgamation of narrative, poetry, epistle (letter), and prophecy.
Revelation is not written to stimulate our curiosity; it was written to make us watchful.
We forget that amidst the prophetic, Revelation was written to real people.
People with real lives, facing troubling times. Christians were being killed in the streets and fighting in the colosseums in front of hungry crowds for believing in Jesus. It was written to provide hope that in the midst of the terror and tumultuous seasons, God was going to bring peace. That evil would not be without judgment. Revelation does not teach that we will go live in heaven in the sky somewhere after our time on earth at the end of time, but that in the final act of restoration, Jesus will establish His kingdom here. Evil will be vanquished.
But Revelation was also written to people in seven churches in seven cities who allowed the same darkness that God would vanquish into their churches and lives. And Christ, calls these people out of darkness and into light. To crush the sin patterns rather than live in them. It was a call to live as harbingers of change in their community, so that in the midst of a dark time, they would be beacons of light to bring the wayward home.
Amidst the chaos and the apocalyptic, Revelation is also practical. It is a call for us to examine ourselves. To see sin patterns and lay ourselves before Him who is worthy and let Him break strongholds in our lives that we too may be lighthouses in our communities.
Over these next several weeks, we will be diving into the letters to these seven churches. We will be taking the time to examine ourselves, to locate the areas in our lives that Christ calls us to change so that we may be hope in a desperate world. We pray that you will join us for the journey!