Today, David began a new series looking at the book of Revelation, beginning in Revelation 1:1-8.
David began by asking: What comes to mind when the book of Revelation is mentioned? Often, reading Revelation may scare, confuse or intrigue us. Trying to understand Revelation can, on one hand, cause an obsessive preoccupation with the book and, on the other, general avoidance. However, David highlighted three important points:
- Revelation is scripture and therefore useful to us personally and in community.
- Revelation is essential in terms of our worship, discipleship, engagement with the world and future.
- Revelation is about Jesus. No other book of the Bible shows Jesus as clearly and as compellingly.
Therefore, if asked, “Why read Revelation?” The answer would be, “to know Christ better and to follow him better”. Jesus should be our starting, ongoing and end point as we read.
A. To know Christ better
In Revelation, Jesus is portrayed in four ways:
- The Faithful Witness – remaining true despite adversity. Christians are also called to be faithful witnesses despite hardship or trials.
- The Present One – Jesus is not remote, but walks among communities of his followers, speaking words of comfort and challenge through the Spirit.
- The Lamb – who was slain and now reigns with God in heaven.
- The Coming One – We have been living in the end times since the first coming of Jesus. He will return soon to reign in the new heaven and earth. Attempting to calculate the precise timing of his return is foolish; Jesus himself said that no one knows the time. What really matters is knowing Jesus and living each day in the reality and hope of his coming.
B. To follow Christ better
We must remember three things as we read Revelation: it is a letter, a prophecy and an apocalypse.
Revelation was written in the first century by the apostle John to a group of churches who were facing many issues, challenges and pressures. While not initially written to us, Revelation was written for us and understanding the original context in which it was written will prevent us from applying it incorrectly.
At that time, the Roman empire was growing and exerting a godless influence at every level of society. There was the temptation to spiritual complacency or of abandoning the faith altogether.
This letter was therefore written to encourage, comfort and inspire. Christians needed to hear that God was in control, they had a glorious future, their enemy was defeated and therefore they should remain faithful – even until death.
Secondly, Revelation is a book of prophecy. Its primary purpose is not mainly to predict the future, but also to bring a word from God to His people – to comfort, challenge and promote true worship. A blessing is promised on those who read aloud the words of this prophecy and on those who listen, taking it to heart:
Finally, Revelation is an apocalypse (i.e. an unveiling), using visions, symbols and ancient myths to convey its message. The language of the book is primarily pictorial and symbolic – like the language of poetry.
David concluded with the words of comfort, help and hope found in verses 4-8. Despite our feelings and external trials:
- God is the source of grace and peace.
- God is the One ‘who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty’. He is eternal and all powerful.
- Jesus is the firstborn from the dead: death is not the end for the Christian!
- Jesus is the ruler of kings on earth: one day every knee will bow before him.
- Jesus loves us and has set us free from sin and death.
- Jesus is coming: our future is secure.
- We are never alone: the sevenfold (i.e. perfect) Spirit is with us, bringing grace and peace.
This should lead us to worship and recommit to God, trusting Him with the present and the future.
- Reflect: What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Revelation’
- Pray: May we read and embrace the life-changing Word of God.
- Challenge: Read Revelation aloud this week!