On Sundays at St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church, we are going through a series entitled “Long Story Short” where we look at the Bible as Bookshelf. Each Monday through this series, I’ll lay out for what you the basic details about the shelf we looked at. And just a reminder you can listen to my podcast of this sermon here or stream it below:
Yesterday at St. Matthew’s we finished up our Long Story Short series by looking at the last book of the Bible, Revelation. As I told my people yesterday, if you don’t remember anything about this, remember that it is Revelation, not Revelation(s). There is no “s” in the title. It is singular, not plural.
Revelation is a certain type of literature called “apocalyptic.” It is not the only book of apocalypse in scripture, but it is the only book that is mainly apocalyptic. There are other books that are partially apocalyptic, Daniel 7-12, other parts of the prophets, and some of Jesus’ teaching about the second coming.
There are two things to be understood about apocalyptic literature. First, they are written to a people that are (Revelation) or will be (the Gospels) facing persecution. Let’s look at Revelation, for instance. This is a vision given to John is while he is on the isle of Patmos. This is a Roman prison colony. They would send prisoners there to die. We don’t know if this was the Apostle John or another John who is known as the Revelator, but whomever he was, he was sent away by Rome to an island to die because he was a Christian. As I said in my sermon, Rome is blowing the doors off the church right now. Christians are being used as human torches, fed to lions for entertainment.
And as an aside, let us never, ever, in the west say that any minor inconvenience we have is persecution. These Christians being fed to lions were persecuted. Christians today in Iran, China, and Ukraine are being persecuted. We are slightly inconvenienced. Someone not saying Merry Christmas to you, or a mean Facebook comment is not persecution. Back to Revelation.
This book was written in code for an oppressed Church. That is where we get ourselves in trouble when we try to figure out the code. The code Revelation uses is the Old Testament.
While the Old Testament is not directly quoted, it is alluded to over and over within this book. To a non-Jewish audience, it would not make sense. And today we struggle to understand the code.
Another reason why we struggle to understand is because it jumps in time. Some of it is past (Chapter 12 – the birth of Jesus) some of it is present (for them) some of it is future (for them). Where does the shift come from? That’s where we always have trouble figuring that out. People have had so much trouble trying to guess. Remember The Late, Great Planet Earth and books such as that? They are always wrong. If Jesus didn’t know, neither will we.
So, what can we learn from this book? It is a book of hope. It tells this beaten poor church that it may look bad, and it may even be bad for a bit longer. But God sees. God is not blind. God will intercede for His church, on His time. Not on our time, but on His time. And the gates of Hell will not triumph against Christ and His church. Do not fear, do not be afraid.
THERE IS NO THREAT TO THE GOSPEL. Never let anyone tell you that there is. Nothing can stand against God. He wills. Those of us in Christ will be part of that victory. What do we fear? Why are we afraid? Whom shall we fear? No thing and no one.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this. Do we really believe that Jesus is who He says He is? If He is, then why am I afraid. As I tell people, I have a problem. I actually believe this stuff.
We see that Revelation is a book of great hope, not of fear. May we never lose that hope.
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