Discoveries in Revelation
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. (Revelation 12:13, NIV)
Since last autumn we’ve been reading the book of Revelation in our Sunday services at St Andrew the Great. For me, it’s been a journey of several discoveries. Here are some.
(1) Revelation is a book that can be understood. At first sight Revelation seems so strange: weird images pile on each other in quick succession. Reading it carefully has helped me to see in more depth how carefully it’s structured, and that the key to the imagery lies in the rest of the Bible. It is as if Revelation is encouraging us to look up those passages so that we grasp its full meaning. Nothing is wasted. For instance, the lurid imagery of judgment in chapters 15 and 16 is not just there to warn us, but is carefully structured to assure us of the absolutely just nature of God’s judgment.
(2) Revelation reminds us that we are engaged in a very great spiritual battle (the one I posted about last week). Chapters 12, 13, 19 and 20 tell us that there is a real devil, who raises up the twin beasts of the authoritarian state and false ideologies to attack the church. The language is lurid to alert us to the reality of the threat. This means that in this world, we can expect to experience the heat of that battle - with false teaching in the churches and a measure of opposition and unpopularity. This has been particularly helpful to me. In the autumn I started telling myself that when such difficulties come, they are “Revelation normal”.
(3) Revelation puts huge emphasis on the saving death of Jesus. 29 times in the book, He’s called the Lamb, connecting Him with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb of old. In chapter 6 we are shown how the fulfilment of God’s plans for the world depends on the Lamb. In chapter 7 we meet a great multitude that no-one can count who are able to stand before God because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In chapter 12 we hear the wonderful news that the devil has no ability to bring accusations against God’s people, for we are forgiven. In chapters 20 and 21 we discover that the only way to be safe on judgment day and to be able to enjoy the glorious future God has for us is to have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. The book is full of the cross!
(4) Revelation assumes that God’s people will be active in spreading the gospel. I noticed again and again the word testimony. Again and again (chapters 1, 6, 11, 12, 17, 20), Revelation sees this as the normal activity of the church. If we ever had any doubt about that, read these chapters!
(5) God is on the throne. I remember happily, back in October, being strengthened by chapter 4, with its view into heaven. There is the Lord God Almighty, at the centre of the scene, in unsurpassed splendour and unchallenged might. Yes, a great battle rages. But we need be in no doubt Who has supreme control, and Who will win. This is the ultimate reality!
We are due to finish our collective journey of discovery this Sunday at 10am.