This is the first Sunday of my Lent 2015 sermon series called Revealed: What Once was Lost can Now be Found. The main goal of this series is to take a look at the book of Revelation, and not read it like we’ve been told to, but to read it for what is actually there. It should be a book of hope and promise, not one of judgment and despair.
You can find a handout that has where I’m going with the series, and a set of “rules” to help you read it.
You can download the mp3 version here
The book of Revelation shouldn’t ever be used to condemn or scare people into faith. That was never its intent. The intent of Revelation is:
It [apocalyptic literature] is always a call for faithfulness in the midst of persecution for the cause of God in evil times.
–James Efird in Revelation Today p.27 (Kindle Edition)
You’ll also notice that I’ve used another term in there–Apocalyptic Literature. Revelation was a part of this genre, and that’s important to know.
This was a style of writing that was popular for about 300 years, and Revelation was written (mid 90’s AD) towards the end of that period. That means it was both after all the events of the New Testament, and it was drawing on a very rich style of writing that the people hearing it at the time would have understood.
Like the same way that we go to see action movies, or romantic comedies, or comic book movies, we understand a lot of what is going to take place before we ever see any of it. That’s because we’re very familiar with the style. John, the writer of Revelation, understood this. Which means that Revelation was meant to be informative and communicate easily with the folks who were listening to it!
This means that we can understand what’s going on, but we have to let go of a lot of the stuff we’ve added to it over the years. One of the ways that we get at that is to remember just where it is that Revelation falls in Scripture. It comes at the very end of things, which sounds obvious, but its important. It means that Revelation has to make sense with the rest of scripture. It has to fit in with the direction that Scripture is taking. This is a point that I didn’t emphasize enough in my sermon.
What happens in scripture, is that we move from creation to consummation. We go from the fall to the exact opposite of the fall, where Satan is bound and sin is no more. When we focus on the end of the world, judgment, and condemnation, then we are missing the point of where Revelation is in scripture.
Revelation is good news for people who are struggling, hurting, and feeling persecuted. It helps us to survive through the times when we don’t know what to do, and we haven’t done anything wrong, but are still hurting.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
–Revelation 21:1-2 (CEB)
This is the hope of Revelation. The first folks to hear it would have known this. They would have known that the good guys win. Just like when we go to movies, we expect that the good guys will win. GOD WINS! That’s one of the most important messages that we can take out of Revelation. When the new city comes down, that is the fulfillment of God’s creation. That is the time when we have chosen, and chosen completely, God over everything else. Then, and only then, does creation find that it is whole and complete. This is what we are living for. This is the goodness of what is still to come. This is what can bring us hope in the hardest of times.
Go through this season of Lent, and let go of the things that are keeping us from seeing the fullness of God’s creation. But take hope that God is there, and will always be there, and that even though it may be hard now, he will win and the world will be forever changed because of it.