| WEEK 52|
BEFORE WE START, LET ME JUST STOP FOR A MOMENT…..
I just realized that I typed “Week 52”. There are only 52 weeks in a year. There are only 52 weeks in our Coast-to-Coast journey through the Bible. We’ve just about reached the end. Wait a minute, I’m feeling a little light headed and the room is spinning around. Let me just sit back down and catch my breath…..I can hardly believe it! This week seemed so far away back in January when we first started reading together. Honestly, there were days when we thought we’d never make it this far. But here we are. Thank you for joining me on this trip. It has been a blessing beyond compare, and we will never be the same again. Now I have to pull myself together, because we are not quite
finished yet. For some us the strangest part of the journey is still ahead: The Book of Revelation.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A lot of people are afraid of the Book of Revelation. Others may not be afraid of it, but they are annoyed that it seems so difficult to understand. It is filled with strange visions of the apostle John. You remember him. He followed Jesus with his brother James. He was one of the first disciples, who also wrote a Gospel and three letters as
well. He, like many others, had been arrested for his work advancing Christ. He is placed in exile on the island of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. He was alone most of the time and only had limited contact with the outside world through letters. One Sunday morning, while John was worshipping alone, the Holy Spirit stepped in and took over. What resulted was a series of strange visions of the end of the world and what lies beyond. This is where most of us get scared. We don’t want to see the end of the world. We fear the destruction of everything we know and have become accustomed to. The end of the world is bad news if everything you love and have invested in is disappearing with it. It is good news for those who have been kicked around by the world and are waiting for God to vindicate their struggle. I want to give you a few important keys to keep in mind as you read this wonderful book.
This is a book of GOOD NEWS!
The first believers who heard this letter read to them out loud in worship were suffering greatly for Christ. Rome, increasingly violent and corrupt, had all the power. Even though Jesus had died and risen, the world had continued to get worse. The prophets of old called for the world to repent and change its ways. God sent the
prophets for reform, to fix what was broken in society. But what if the world cannot be fixed? Sometimes things can get so bad, the only thing to do is throw it away and start over with something new. For those who already hold citizenship in heaven, the new creation to come, that’s good news. The old must go to make room for the new that is
hoped for. It wasn’t for Christ’s followers to destroy. This was not a call to spread anarchy and rebellion. God will do the changing. Our command was to endure until the end. The world will get worse before it gets better, but in the end, God wins.
Revelation is a book of STRANGE SYMBOLS We must remember that Revelation is a series of visions, or dreams that reveal the eternal heavenly world around us. Dreams are rarely realistic. Approach them with that in mind. Have you ever tried to describe a vivid dream you’ve had to someone else? It sure seems strange to those who haven’t experienced it themselves. Here are three ways to approach these strange and fantastic creatures and events.
This means that these visions are actual pictures of actual events that have happened or will happen in the future. This leads to a lot of guesswork of how each of these things is fulfilled in the real world. It is guesswork because no one really knows for sure. Some Christians spend a lot of time with the newspaper checking off visions of
Revelation that are being fulfilled. We can get into trouble being too literal, since it also doesn’t take into account descriptive and colorful language. If I say, “I am torn in two” does that mean that I am literally torn into two pieces? Give it a little wiggle room. Prophets are artists and poets, not scientists, historians, and mathematicians.
Many of these images are drawn from John’s culture around him. Like modern day political cartoons these images are rooted in real life images that the reader would recognize instantly, just as we would recognize a donkey and elephant as representing two American political parties. If you have the patience to wade through enough
commentary and historical scholarship, you can get a lot of ideas about how these images may have been derived and what they may have communicated to its first readers. But if you’d rather not spend that much time in the library, see the next idea.
I am not saying the Bible is a fairy tale, or something that is not true. But you have to admit; fairy tales contain some weird stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense in the real world either. But we can simply read it and let the story unfold. Every fairy tale has a bottom line, a point to the story. What I am saying is, we can read Revelation like a fairy
tale. If you don’t want to struggle to identify the reality behind every symbol, then just let the strange characters wash over you like a breaking wave at the ocean. Let the story sweep you up as it unfolds, and ask yourself by the end, what’s the bottom line? The bottom line is, good struggles against evil. Evil seems to be getting more powerful and nice guys seem to finish last. It may be tempting to switch sides. In the end, God wins. We may be tempted to give in along the way, but God expects us to hang in there and endure to the end. Some Christians believe that the end times will begin when faithful Christians are stolen out of the world being spared the suffering to come as a reward. While there are scriptures that speak of a mysterious gathering up of God’s faithful in some unexpected moment, you will not find that in Revelation. The bottom line of this message is: hang tough. Endure to the end, even to the point of death. We are not spared from suffering but are strengthened through it. Right will win. Evil will lose. Satan and Death will be destroyed. The dead will be raised. We have chosen the right side. Eternity will begin and all will be set right.
Revelation is not ONLY about the FUTURE!
Revelation is not just about events that WILL happen somewhere near the end of time. Revelation is about things that have always been true. There is a reason why every generation since Christ has firmly believed that the end was near. Every generation has experienced corruption, power, violence, warfare, famine, diseases and natural
disasters. Every generation senses that somehow the past was brighter than the future. The letters from Jesus to the Seven Churches in the opening chapters are equally directed to His Church in every age. They are words of comfort in difficult times as well as challenges to walk a better life for Him. God is struggling in every generation so that mercy and goodness shall prevail over violence and greed. But make no mistake; there will be a last generation. Judgment is coming. Then all will be made right and something brand new will begin. The story that we begin a year ago will
finally come full circle.
Enjoy your reading during this last week of our trip together. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’ve shared the following information from last week’s Travel Guide to help you get ready for the year ahead with God!
WHAT’S NEXT IN THE YEAR TO COME?
It is time for all of us to decide what we will do in the new year. How shall you continue to read in God’s Holy Word every day? That is the goal. Are you currently participating in a Bible Study? If not, have you thought about joining one? Have you thought about starting one? Remember, whatever you decide to do, it helps to have a plan. We did not journey through the entire Bible without a plan. You won’t drive from Coast to Coast by just meandering from town to town. Be specific. Focus on what you hope to do in the Word. IF you need the structure of a schedule to follow, you can easily find one to suit your needs. Ask your Bible Study teacher, or pastor for recommendations. If you have access to the internet, you can search for “Bible Reading Plans” and you will be overwhelmed with the variety you have to choose from.
Keep reading and I’ll see you in the Bible!!
Dec 25 2 John-Jude Brief Letters of Encouragement and Faithfulness
Dec 26 Revelation 1-3 Vision of Risen Christ
Dec 27 Revelation 4-8 Heavenly Worship, Visions of Destruction
Dec 28 Revelation 9-12 Visions of the Future Struggle
Dec 29 Revelation 13-16 Judgment on Earth
Dec 30 Revelation 17-19 Rejoicing in Heaven
Dec 31 Revelation 20-22 The New Creation