Monday, July 17
The final book of the Bible is known as the Book of Revelation. It is also known as the Apocalypse. Apocalypse mean “unveiling”. It has the idea of that which was hidden has now been unveiled or brought out into the open to be seen. There are other passages in the Bible that contain apocalyptic material (parts of the book of Daniel and Ezekiel are two) but this is the only book of the Bible that is fully apocalyptic.
Revelation can be a little confusing (ok, a lot confusing). A big part of this confusion comes from the challenge of pinning down the proper timeline. It contains material that was past, present and future to the writer, John, who wrote toward the end of the first century. The angel who gave this revelation to John said: “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”(Rev. 1:19). There are different “schools of interpretation” that see Revelation as mostly focusing on John’s time period (end of first century in the Roman empire), others see it as being fulfilled progressively over the past 2000 years of the Church, and others see it as still to be fulfilled in the future. This is compounded by the use of symbol and imagery that fill the visions of Revelation. A lot of time can be spent trying to discuss and debate these issues, but for our purposes I’d like to focus on basic principles found in Revelation that can be of value to our lives as followers of Jesus today.
In chapters 1-3 a focus is on letters written to seven Churches throughout Asia. John is writing to them as a pastor who at the time was living in isolation on an island in the Mediterranean sea. He can’t be physically present with his churches, but he is with them in spirit and wants to encourage and instruct them, to help them stay strong during a time when many believers were suffering persecution by the Roman empire. Imagine what it would be like to try to encourage Christians today living in places like Pakistan, or Egypt, or Sudan or Syria, where Christians were being killed because of their allegiance of Jesus Christ rather than to Mohammed. What kinds of encouragement would Christians whose family members, friends and fellow believers were dying for their faith need to help them not lose faith?
In the Roman Empire during John’s time of writing it was required by law for citizens to declare allegiance to Caesar by publicly declaring Caesar to be Lord. Jewish people were largely exempt from making such declarations (but not always). Often Christians came under the umbrella of the Jewish exemption, but now always. Thousands of Christians died as a result of religious persecution during the early Roman empire. John writes to offer encouragement to keep faithful to their commitment to God and to Jesus Christ in the midst of such persecution. The challenges we face today may not be the same type that first century Christians faced, yet we still have challenges, struggles and temptations.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation contain words of exhortation and correction to the various Churches to which John is writing. Each Church had many good things happening for which they were praised, but several also had not so good things going on for which they needed to be corrected. One of the common themes of each letter to each Church was a call to repentance. To repent means to turn around or change direction. To the Church at Ephesus, John said that you have “lost your first love.” They were just going through the motions of their faith, without the passion. Perhaps you can relate to that. Anyone who has been a Christian for a while has to be aware the danger of “just going through the motions” and losing their passion for God. John is trying to get them fired up again. John says: “repent” and do the things you did at first. Most Christians, start out enthusiastic… they read the Bible a lot, they pray a lot, they tell their friends about God and their faith a lot, and they consciously seek to get closer to God and do things to please God. But over time, they lose the passion, lose the drive… become complacent. John says- get back to the love and passion you first had for Jesus.
Maybe this is you. If it is… let it be a wake up call. If this isn’t you, then keep reading through Revelation 2 and 3. Look at what is said to each of the seven churches. Is there anything that rings a bell? Is there anything there that applies to you? I’m guessing there is. Read it… and then repent.