Expectations. We all have them. In fact, your initial response to this post is significantly shaped by what you bring to your reading, even before you see the first word. In order to make sense of our world, we automatically fit what we see and hear into our current understanding of the world, the universe and even God. Most of the time, this works for us. Occasionally, however, it is important to recognize that our perspective influences our interpretation. For example, take the Book of Revelation. If Revelation is approached as a book primarily about future events which we will never experience, then we will not take its message as seriously. It seems to have no direct bearing on today’s choices. But what if Revelation is a word from God for you now? How does this change your expectations when you read?
To begin with, Revelation is written to people who already profess Christ as Lord: 1st century Christians living in Asia Minor. This was a current word for them, not simply a message to unbelievers thousands of years later. In fact, it is still a message for today—just as the letters of Paul both address issues in the early church and continue to speak to Christians today.
Next, Revelation, like the rest of the New Testament, assumes that suffering tribulation is part of being a Christian. From John’s introduction of himself as a “fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus” (1:9) until Christ comes again at the end of Revelation, believers are kept through suffering, but not necessarily from suffering. Just as in the Old Testament, Noah is kept through the judgment of a worldwide flood, Elijah is kept through the regional drought which preceded the showdown between the Lord and the prophets of Baal, and Jerusalem is kept through the devastating Assyrian campaign through Palestine—a conflict which was triggered by Hezekiah’s faithfulness to God and resistance to Assyrian hegemony. Then, as now, taking a stand for what is right often results in opposition. Thus, the entire book of Revelation urges the saints to testify to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus, even if it means dying. Christians are urged to remain faithful to Jesus no matter what happens, to repent if they’ve compromised, and to remember that Christ is coming back to reward the faithful and to judge those opposed to God. As we await Christ’s return, the message of Revelation continues to be applicable. It is still a word for the church, and it is still a word for today. The question is, are we listening?
Action: The entire book of Revelation can be read in about two hours. Set aside time this week to read the entire prophetic vision from beginning to end. What does it seem to be saying as a whole?
Next: Living from the future.