As I mentioned in the intro to this year’s reading, we are going to go deeper in our examination of the scripture this year, spending more time with an individual passage, and specifically spending some time in what is often called the Worlds of the Text. You can learn more about these “worlds” by clicking here. In short, every text has three “worlds.”
The world behind the text – what is happening in the greater world when it is written? What is the context? What are the things that the original audience would “get” that those of us in the 21st century may not understand? Seeing what is happening in context adds a much deeper meaning.
The world of the text – what is actually written on the page. What is happening? What is going on? What style of writing is this (Psalm, Gospel, etc.)? This is where we pay attention to what is actually right in front of us.
The world in front of the text – what does this text mean to me? What relevance does this text have for life today? How does that text affect the daily living of my life?
Today we will look at the world behind the text of Revelation 21: 1-5
Today I wanted to take a moment to look deeper at what is happening in Revelation. One of the most important things that we can do to understand scripture properly is to understand the context of what is happening. And there is probably no book in the bible that is harder to understand, or where context matters more than Revelation. There are so many things that are important to know about Revelation – first is Revelation, not Revelations, there is no “s” in the title. It’s the Revelation to John, and it is a direct vision that he has of Jesus Christ. If you have a “red letter” Bible, you’ll see that large portions of it are in red – as they are directly attributed to Jesus.
This is an apocalyptic letter, a letter written to seven churches (and to all of us) that point to God’s plan of deliverance to His people. Yes, there are many parts of this book that talk about Jesus’ return. That is part of what is so confusing about what is happening in Revelation. Is it all about Jesus’ return? Part of it? Where does it shift from history and present for the original audience to the future for all of us? For instance, there are parts that we know that are past (Chapter 12, the war in heaven) and parts that we know are future. There is much debate on this, and Christians can rightly disagree on this, this is a conversation among family, and disagreements here (pre-millennial, post-millennial this such as this) are not what my friend Tim Rigby calls “kingdom issues.”
This is what is so important to know about the world behind the text. In this moment, the church is being persecuted. John (perhaps the Apostle, perhaps and other Elder in the church) has been sent to the prison island of Patmos. He receives a revelation from the Lord. What is that revelation? Jesus sees. Jesus is aware. Jesus will take care of His church. He will bring judgment to those that oppress His church. He is not blind to the suffering of His people. He will come in and save His people.
Do not worry about the world. Jesus will save His people. Be strong. Don’t be afraid. The Lord will save.
Think that may have any relevance for us today?
I think when we look at Revelation with that context, it has more hope for us then we try to use it figure out the exact moment of Christ’s return. It tells us this. Trust. Hope. God has this. Do not be afraid.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at what’s happening in the text.
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