As I prepare to do a thoroughgoing study of the Book of Revelation this summer, my own personal study and reading is causing me to come to one inescapable conclusion:
Many who read the Book of Revelation for the specific dates and times have a very poor grasp on history. (I wish I could say that conclusion was original. It’s been said so many times that people don’t hear it anymore).
In fact, one excellent writer has concluded that this view of history’s impact on the present is “escapist,” because the basic assumption is that the signs of Christ’s Second Coming happen so much more frequently than they did in the past and they want to be delivered from it NOW…or at least on the date and time they seem to have calculated from the numbers of Daniel and Revelation. (Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly–RECOMMENDED).
Of course, the notion that things are so much worse now is an assumption and it lacks any real basis in historical fact. Worse yet, it seems to miss the entire point of what the Bible says about this world since the Fall into sin. I don’t see it doing any good for those who hold these assumptions. Those who stare too deeply into the sun called Revelation always have a telling look of worry on their faces. Escaping all this, it seems to me, seems like a denial of the very life God gave us to live. Do you want to be ready for death and resurrection? Then live joyfully in the daily resurrection of your Baptism today! Why worry?
Maybe Billy Joel got it best when he sang, “The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” (He’s no historian, but most academic historians know just how true that statement is). I have talked to many people who lament the end of the “good old days.” Problem is, there were no golden ages in history, which is an idea that is betrayed every time someone mentions “the good old days.” All ages bear the mark of sin and so many of the signs of Christ’s Second Coming have always afflicted the world. They weren’t less frequent in prior ages and, in many ways, some of those ages had it much worse than we do today. (Imagine, if you will, living at the outset of the Black Plague and your neighbors are dropping like flies all around you. To many, it looked like a rapture of sorts. But it turned out not to be. Still, I think I’m glad to live in the 21st century rather than the 14th. Lord, have mercy).
If you want to read Revelation for specific dates and times and signs, then know that well-meaning Christians have been doing so for 2000 years and none of them have been right yet. I’m not rejoicing in that fact or making light of it. I have said many times from the pulpit that I believe I will see the resurrection before I die. That’s an article of my faith. Still, all these things belong under the simple petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Far be it from me to tell you just when I think it will happen, or to guess at who the Antichrist really is. In other words, if I am right or wrong on this matters not in the least as long as God’s Will is done.
Jesus Himself said: But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Matt. 24:36) Jesus looks for His return with the rest of us, but nowhere does He seem to be worried about it. Eager? YES. Worried? NO! (A thousand times, NO)! So why worry?
When our historical method is poor, we look at the present without context. We don’t learn the lessons history has to teach us. Our vision becomes blurry as romantic notions about the past cause us to yearn for its return and want to escape from what’s going on right now. The world doesn’t need Christians who are more willing to die than to live, (unless that dying is the daily dying to sin of our Baptisms).
But none of this, it seems to me, is what Revelation is all about. One simple question to refocus us: What is it in specific we Christians are supposed to be looking for? Dates? Times? Signs? Wonders? Disasters? Political Conspiracies? Back in the 1980s, the sign to look for was nuclear armageddon brought on by the Soviet Union. Now it’s something else (Islam, Obama, insert favorite whipping boy here).
Or maybe we were supposed to be looking for Christ all along? Could it all be that simple? Looking through the signs to the Christ who is coming?
Rev. 1:1a: The revelation of Jesus Christ…
He is the Alpha and Omega and He came into the world because of the tribulation brought on by sin. We look for Christ. He gives us hope and joy as we wait for His return. Staring too long into the sun of other data which only distracts can damage the eyes. Jesus gave the Revelation to focus 1st century congregations under persecution on Him and His salvation, His resurrection. He is the revealer…and He is the revealed. It’s all about Him.
And He’s got your back! It is finished! Not partially, not almost. Done. Finished. Accomplished. Remember? People were rising from the graves that very day! Who says the kingdom hasn’t already broken through?
It’s about hope. A hope for all seasons, even seasons in the past which were much worse than our current season. So why worry? 🙂
Luke 21 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
As near as His Word…As near as His Body and Blood for you…As near as the daily dying and rising of our Baptisms…
A Church built on Christ is a Church standing on resurrection is a Church which always has HOPE!
So again I ask, Why worry?
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Blessings…and no worries. You’ve got so much to live for, enjoy, and hope for.