Saturday, October 5, 2013

Introduction to Revelation

It is Time for a Pep Talk

I cannot believe that in 19 more pages of my Bible, we will be DONE with the Bible Book Club (sniff, sniff). This is no insignificant 19 pages. I have looked forward to it and dreaded it all in one breath. On the one hand, it is a really important book, and we have been told in Revelation 1:3 that we are blessed if we read it:

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, 
and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. 

I studied it in-depth once. The first time through, my Precept Bible Study had me illustrate Revelation 4-21 on a sort of timeline. That was instructive, but it also left me with more questions than answers. The next time through it, the Bible study had me look at all the symbolism, and that gave me a headache!  As you know, prophecy is a weakness of mine. (I struggled mightily through Daniel.) I have backed out of tough theological corners here in the Bible Book Club by saying that we would discuss this or that when we got to the book of Revelation. Well, here we are, and I tremble in anticipation.

I wrote the above yesterday morning. In the afternoon, I listened to Revelation as I walked to an International Furniture Giveaway that my community does every fall for the international students on the OSU campus.  These verses sang out to me:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 
And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”  
(Revelation 7:9-12)
That is when God reminded me what Revelation is really all about: WORSHIP! What an awesome thought to think of people from all over the earth worshiping God!

When I arrived at the furniture giveaway, I had a visual glimpse of what this verse might look like (minus the white robes and palm branches). Different languages were spoken everywhere I turned. What a picture, and what potential for God to receive worship and glory!

As to add punctuation to the worship theme, I went to my bookcase this morning for something else and God said, "Read this."  He led me to the introduction to Revelation in The Message by Eugene Peterson:

The Bible ends with a flourish: vision and song, doom and deliverance, terror and triumph. The rush of color and sound, image and energy, leaves us reeling. But if we persist through the initial confusion and read on, we begin to pick up the rhythms, realize the connections, and find ourselves enlisted as participants in a multi-dimensional act of Christian worship

John of Patmos, a pastor of the late first century, has worship on his mind, is preeminently concerned with worship. The vision, which is The Revelation, comes to him while he is at worship on a certain Sunday on the Mediterranean island of Patmos. He is responsible for a circuit of churches on the mainland whose primary task is worship. Worship shapes the human community in response to the living God. If worship is neglected or perverted, our communities fall into chaos or under tyranny.

Our times are not propitious for worship. The times never are. The world is hostile to worship. The Devil hates worship. As The Revelation makes clear, worship must be carried out under conditions decidedly uncongenial to it. Some Christians even get killed because they worship.
John's Revelation is not easy reading. Besides being a pastor, John is a poet, fond of metaphor and symbol, image and allusion, passionate in his desire to bring us into the presence of Jesus believing and adoring. But the demands he makes on our intelligence and imagination are well rewarded, for in keeping company with John, our worship of God will almost certainly deepen in urgency and joy.  (The Message Remix, p. 2245)
Don't you love that? What a confirmation that the Revelation does not need to be scary or confusing but a means by which we can deepen in our worship! So, that is my prayer for you as you work hard to dig deeply into this very important book. 

Onward and upward on the homestretch!

The New Testament opens with the first coming of Christ in the four Gospels and closes with the second coming of Christ in Revelation. 

This letter is written in "apocalyptic" form which is a type of Jewish literature that uses symbolic imagery to communicate hope for those in persecution. The events are also not always in chronological order. 

Date Written: About A.D. 95 when the Roman authorities exiled John on the Island of Patmos. 

According to several early church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius), John was sent to this island as a prisoner following his effective pastorate at Ephesus. Victorinus, the first commentator on the Book of Revelation, stated that John worked as a prisoner in the mines on this small island. When the Emperor Domitian died in A.D. 96, his successor Nerva let John return to Ephesus. During John’s bleak days on Patmos, God gave him the tremendous revelation embodied in this final book of the Bible. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 930)

Audience: The seven churches in Asia who were experiencing persecution under Emperor Domitian (A.D. 90-95). It is also for believers everywhere.
Following the map above, the letters were read and passed on the "Roman Road" going clockwise starting in Ephesus and ending in Laodicea. 

Outline by Chapters

  1. Introduction: "Things You Have Seen" (1)
  2. Letters to the Seven Churches: "Things That Are" (2-3)
  3. Message to the Church: "Things That Will Take Place Later" (4-22)

Different Views of End Times

There are many different views about how the end times play out with the prefixes of a-, pre-, mid-, and post- thrown out there. I will try to briefly present the views but will bring the focus back to worship every time.

Our "end-times" view (eschatology) does not define who we are as followers of Christ. What defines us is our belief (what I talked about in Jude) that propels us forward in love, and that is what really matters! We can all agree that Jesus is coming again, and we know that God wins in the end! The when and where will have to play out, and I pray we are worshipping Him in the process.
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