God wins

We are currently working through Revelation in our evening services at Trinity CRC. Revelation is the last book of the Bible, penned by the apostle John as he received a remarkable vision from Jesus himself. For many people it is a “closed” book, very difficult to read and understand. That’s both sad and ironic, considering how the word revelation itself comes from the word revealGraphic found at crosswalk.comand God very much wants to reveal things to us as we read Revelation!

I admit that Revelation is not always the easiest part of the Bible to read. But it’s not as terribly complicated as you might think. The message of Revelation can be summarized in two hope-filled words: “God wins!” Knowing that God currently reigns and will reign forever, his people confidently follow him and serve others. Granted, this is not easy, and Revelation acknowledges that in its vivid descriptions of the forces that distract us from purposeful living grounded in Christ and guided by the Bible. Thankfully, Revelation also shows how God is stronger than all those bad influences combined. What’s more, he is always present with his people, even in the toughest times.

One author who’s helped me understand Revelation a bit better is theologian and preacher Fleming Rutledge. I love this part from her book The Bible and The New York Times:

The book of Revelation has taken a bad rap. Once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t all that difficult. It shouldn’t be left to the David Koresh’s of the world. Almost all reputable interpreters today recognize that Revelation is poetry and liturgy. It is not a Rand McNally map of heaven. It is not a timetable for the end of the world. It is not a “Bible Code.” It is by no means as weird as we have been led to believe. It is full of encouragement, hope, and comfort, especially for oppressed people. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was fighting the good fight against apartheid all those decades, he used to say, “Don’t give up! Don’t get discouraged! I’ve read the end of the book! We win!” The celestial vision arises out of the Revelation of Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God who reigns in heaven and who has drawn back the curtain just for a moment to allow us a glimpse of God’s future. (page 17)

In Christ, we win in the end, no matter how bleak things might sometimes look. My mistakes, brokenness, and sin – even my death – will not have the last word. God will. Personally, that fills me with a lot of hope and gives me purpose today. The next time you have an open Bible in front of you, find some of that hope and purpose for yourself in Revelation.

I wrote this column for this week’s Rock Valley Bee.
I’ve shared the quote from Fleming Rutledge
before.

Of pans, posts, and other apocalyptic prefixes

Our 9:30am discussions on Revelation over the past several months have brought us all the way to Revelation 20.  That’s where we read about the millennium, the 1000 years of Christ’s reign.  It’s a controversial section of Revelation with numerous competing interpretations.

After re-examining the arguments for and against premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism in preparation for this past Sunday’s discussion, I was reminded of Christians who refer to themselves as pan-millennialists, confident that it will all pan out in the end!  =)  When pressed for my serious opinion, I say that I identify most closely with the amillennial camp; however, I think the pan-millennialist position is worth more than just a punch line to a joke.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of the sequence of events before and during Jesus’ second coming, His followers will be happy beyond words to finally be in His presence for all eternity.  Is someone really going to try sitting down the King of kings and Friend of sinners to say, “Look, Jesus, this all appears to be very premillennial, and anyone with proper doctrine knows postmillennialism is the way things are supposed to happen, so can we please start over and do this right?”  (Feel free to mix and match any of the prevailing perspectives in place of pre- and postmillennial in that quote.)  Recognizing the absurdity of this calls for greater humility in our millennial conversations.

Something ironic about present-day debates (and fights) on various millennial perspectives is that they are based primarily on just a few verses in Revelation 20.  Scripture nowhere else speaks specifically of a millennial reign of Christ.  Yet entire theological systems are built on these few verses, providing people with divisive labels for who’s truly biblical and spiritual (us) and who isn’t (them).  And in that we find further irony: Christians believe Jesus is Lord and King, and that He’s going to return one day.  Each millennial perspective holds this as the truth.  That means what we agree on is an awful lot bigger than the details over which we disagree.  Recognizing the unity between “us” and “them” calls for greater charity in our millennial conversations.

I love how Darrell W. Johnson concludes his discussion on Revelation 20 in Discipleship on the Edge saying how the most important number to consider is not necessarily one thousand, but rather the number one:

“When we woke up this morning, we were one day closer to the day when Jesus will finally [and ultimately] have His way!” (p. 345)

How is that going to inspire and change your life today?