I grew up in the 1970s and early 80s, a time of social and international change and turmoil. I was pretty sheltered from all of it, but a little white-haired lady in our church fed me on a steady diet of ‘christian’ teaching books and tapes, mostly focused on the end-times, that were suddenly upon us.
This was the time of Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth and Larry Norman’s I wish we’d all be ready. I was expecting Jesus to return any moment. Before I finished Uni or got married or any of that stuff, Jesus was going to return and whisk us away to safety in heaven, where we’d get a front row seat to the terrible cataclysm of the great tribulation and the battle of Armageddon. I was watching the signs. Apparently they were everywhere.
Most of you are too young to remember this time. But you might have come across Tim Lahaye’s book and mini-series, Left Behind. Same thing.
This is what you get when you read certain sections of the bible – the Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Mark 13 and Matt 24-25 – without doing any digging into genre, occasion or purpose; who wrote it, to whom and why. How would the original audience have understood it? This is what we call exegesis. I didn’t know much about it back then. And if Hal Lindsay or Tim Lahaye knew about it, they certainly didn’t waste any time doing it.
The Revelation is a fascinating book and a very appropriate way to bring the biblical story to a conclusion. For the most part, I’ve left it alone since the early 80s when I had a bit of an obsession. I decided there were other parts of the book that are far less controversial and much plainer. Wimber called it ‘the main and the plain’.
I’ve spent the intervening 40 years working on these bits (not done yet). But over the Christmas break, I felt challenged (by the Lord, I think) to take another look and see what the Revelation is saying to us.
Let’s face it, the times are certainly pretty apocalyptic. Drought, fires, floods, pestilence/pandemic and now war. Looks a bit like all four horsemen have arrived together. And some of our national leaders have been behaving in decidedly beastly ways.
I wonder what it all means.
I wonder what your experience is with the book of Revelation. Are you one of those obsessives who have an unhealthy fascination with the book? Have you put it in the ‘too hard’ basket? ‘Its weird. I don’t know what it means.’ Or are you one of those who left it alone, essentially deleting it from your personal canon?
All of these positions are mistaken. Revelation is in the book because God has something to say to us in it. So I propose to work our way through the book of Revelation. I don’t intend to do a verse-by-verse exposition like we might with Romans or John. Rather, I propose to give you a way in; to have a look at the whole book, to discern its structure and to find a way in to understanding the fantastic pictures and strange scary monsters that emerge from John’s technicolour visions.
I hope that you will join me in reading through the Revelation of Jesus and John the seer recorded for us. Let’s see if we can figure out together, what he is saying.
I hope you will join us.