Here in just a few short weeks we will begin studying the book of Revelation on Sunday mornings. Usually the book of Revelation is only studied much like many study the book of Job. We read the 1st couple of chapters, we flip over to the last couple of chapters and read those as well.
When we study God’s word like this we end up missing a lot of important information. Honestly, can you really get the best understanding of how to put together your stereo by looking at only the 1st couple of steps and looking at the last couple of steps? Can you get a grasp on mathematics by reading the 1st two lessons and the last two lessons in a text book? Likewise just learning about the 7 churches of Asia and learning about the new heavens and the new earth do not give us a complete picture of what the book of Revelation is about.
Yes, I know that the study of Revelation can be challenging. The book is apocalyptic in nature. This means that it is filled with imagery in a culture and a language that existed nearly 2000 years ago. This means that unless we understand their language, their culture, their figures of speech, it can be very difficult to get a hand on what John meant when he spoke of the sea beast or the 7 seals which were broken, or the 7 bowls which we poured out. It was written much like other biblical apocalyptic literature. Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah all have their elements found with the pages of John’s Revelation. Which means if we do not have a good understanding of what those books mean, chances are, we are going to struggle with what John’s Revelation means. The book is also filled with numbers. There are 7 churches, 7 bowls, 7 seals. The mark of the beast is 666. 7 years split into two equal parts. If you do not understand numerology, especially biblical numerology you are not going to understand this message from God. However, the mature Christian will not shrink back from these challenges. Rather, he/she will spend time in the word learning what God’s last message to mankind was.
I say all this not to frightening you into not studying, but rather to help you understand what it take to read this last book. God gave it to us for a reason. It is not so that the bible, especially the New Testament, looks a little bigger. It was given so that it could be understood. It was given so that it could edify us. It was written so that we can be properly prepared for the coming of the Great Day of the Lord.
Despite all the interpretations of this remarkable book, we can know for certain is the central theme. This book was written to remind us that God wins. There are going to be times when it does not look like God is in control. In the 1st century two eras fit that mold. Beginning in the early 60s all the way to AD 70, the worship of God (via Christianity and Judaism) was threatened. When the temple was destroyed in AD 70 the Jewish world was turned upside down upon itself. I can imagine that many Jews felt as if God had abandoned them. How could God once again allow his house to be torn down. It was not like as it was before when Israel was worshipping false gods and sacrificing their children unto those false gods. They strictly held to the worship of God according to the Mosaic Law. Even those that had put on Christ in baptism watched their heritage destroyed. Cesar Nero in the early 60s also persecuted Christians in Rome. In Rome alone Peter and Paul both were put to death. In fact, by the time the temple was destroyed only one apostle was still alive, John. Certainly it appeared that Christians were suffering at the hands of wicked men. The other era in which it did not look like God was in control was just before the turn of the century. Cesar Domitian was in control at this time. It marked the 1st time Rome was putting to death Christians outside the city of Rome. Asia, specifically, was hit hard by this new threat to Christianity. Christians who refused to worship Cesar found that they could not buy food, had their homes confiscated, and even at times were put to death (Rev. 2:13). It is in these times of uncertainty that the book of Revelation was written (some contend Pre-AD 70 others during the AD 90s). God encouraged his saints by letting them know that when Christ returns he will bring with him justice. His saints will be rewarded, and those that rejected the mercy of God, those that persecuted Christians, and those that lived peaceful lives despite their wickedness will be punished in eternal hellfire. The message of Revelation is simple… “God wins.”
In times of distress, like 9-11, the Oklahoma bombings, Hurricane Katrina, when it looks like no one is in control. When it appears that the righteous are suffering right along with the wicked we need to turn to the book of Revelation and remember its message… “God wins.” -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
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Volume 3 Issue 41 September 9, 2012