When I was a pastor, one of the most common requests I heard was, “When are you going to preach on Revelation?” So I made two promises to the congregation: I will preach on it before I quit. And I will preach on it when I've figured out what it's all about!
Now, I don't yet have all of Revelation completely figured out. It is in many ways a strange and mysterious book. But in these times of worldwide upheaval and economic uncertainty, I believe it is worth examining in some depth. And so I want to share some insights I believe will help you hold on more closely to Christ in our trying times.
First, we recall that Revelation was written, like much of the New Testament, as a letter. The apostle John was writing to the seven churches then in Asia Minor, or what's now modern-day Turkey. These churches were experiencing tremendous persecution. And they had been led to believe that Jesus Christ would return again soon.
That was their hope. But days had turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and decades had gone by. The hope of Christ's return was beginning to wane. The believers were threatened by and suffering from persecution. And what they needed was a reminder about what was really going on in the world.
So John wrote to them, but in a way that seems very unusual to us in the 21st century. His words were full of graphic imagery and symbolism, which was typical of a style called “apocalyptic,” prevalent among Jewish people of that time. And he wrote prophetically, conveying God's message to them about the present time, but also with predictions of the future.
So what did God say through John to these discouraged believers, wondering where Jesus was and why things were so hard for them? His message was: Little beleaguered churches, suffering Christians, frightened, puzzled people whose hope is waning—listen! All history is under God's control. Nothing is happening without God's plans being carried out.
Of course, because Revelation is prophetic, as 21st century Christians, we can take heed to its message as well. While here in America we are not suffering horrific persecution as the early Church did, we still need to remember that there is a battle between good and evil going on in the world, and we are caught up in the middle of it.
That's why, as we experience setbacks and discouragements, it is vital that we remember that Jesus Christ will return. He is central to all God's plans, He is in the place of ultimate cosmic authority, and He is the focal point of the grand purposes of God. Furthermore, evil will finally be judged and there will be a cataclysmic confrontation between God and the forces of evil. Evil will not be allowed to run rampant in our world and destroy all of God's creation.
However, between now and Christ's return, there will be plenty of trouble for you and me as Christ's followers. And so, amidst our struggles and pain, our questions and concerns, God's word to you and me through His revelation to John is this: “Dear Christian, stand firm, be faithful, and endure to the end, for I am on your side. And you will ultimately have the victory!”
Learn more about the End Times.