GRACE NOTES: Revelation
Have you ever been confused by the Bible?
Ever been scared by something you’ve seen or read there? At the beginning of the year here as we think about improving our lives and getting into and staying in good habits ( hopefully they’ve lasted more than three weeks), I pray that many of you have committed to read more of your Bible this year. But as you do, are there things that confuse you? Are there things that you’re not sure what they mean?
With all that God has given us in His Word, I’m sure that there’s something in there that would fit that description for each of us, no matter how many times we’ve read that book.
But today, I want us to look at a book of the Bible that I think is more feared and more misunderstood than any other. It’s that book all the way at the end, the last book of the Bible written, the Revelation of John.
Have you heard of the book? You know, that’s the one that has the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the bowls of wrath, the dragon and the plagues and the beast, the “ End Times” and all that.
What’s your impression of it? It seems to me that for too many of us, our impression is wrong. That stuff is scary, and if that’s what we think of when we think of this book, we’re missing the mark.
Read the purpose for which Jesus tells John he gave him this book to write down in Revelation’s first verses: “ Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it.” He says that we are blessed, happy, better off when we read this. How about that? Revelation was not written to scare us, but to comfort us. It was given to the apostle John when he was an old, old man in exile on the island of Patmos. It was for John to share with the believers who were being persecuted by the Roman government at the time ( that’s why John was in exile). Jesus tells John this vision he sees is explaining to him “ what is now and what will take place later” ( Rev. 1: 19).
Jesus had to show John “ what is now” because so often we don’t see what is really going on. We just see what is visible to us. God is much bigger than that. So Jesus showed John a series of visions describing the fearsome things that were going on now ( the false teachings, Satan’s attacks on the believers and on the church, government persecution and even internal strife).
But notice that in each of these visions – he also shows the victory that Christ and His Church have over all that junk. And the same thing goes for when he describes what is to come. Yes, it will look like the sinfulness of the earth is getting worse, but God is in control and has the final victory. That’s why there are so many pictures of the throne and the praises of angels and the victory of the lamb and all the rest.
Of course, there’s no way to cover all of Revelation’s comfort in this short column, but I want to invite you to read it in the way it was intended ( as John explains in the first chapter) and see it as it really is, a book of comfort and joy. See in it the victory of Jesus over our sin and shame and the peace of His eternal promises of our heavenly home.
Come join us for our Bible Study series on this book Sundays at 9: 15 a. m. May God bless you as you get in His Word this year and see the strength and joy it gives you!
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www. abidinggrace. com.