From the June 2014 St. John’s Prairie Preacher newsletter:
Rev. 21 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
John’s concluding words of the book of Revelation are a fairly typical early Christian farewell, “the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.” These words sum up the last words the apostle John wanted the readers of Revelation to hear. They were to pray fervently for Jesus to come (v.20) and to live in the grace that only Jesus offers. It ends on a peaceful and hopeful note.
But if this is the final word of Revelation, then why are so many people today scared to death of the book and its contents? Are they not hearing these final words?
The answer, sadly, is “Yes.” Too many modern readers of the book of Revelation are only hearing in it what they want to hear and what they want to hear is the vindication of their deeply held beliefs about the fact that the world is dying at an ever-increasing rate. I don’t disagree with that belief, but is this belief more important to many today than the salvation of Jesus, about whom the book is actually written? Are we looking for clues to something we will never fully understand and robbing ourselves of the hope and peace that come from the central message of this book? Are many people today cheating themselves of a full and complete joy and hope in the Lamb of God who was slain by reading Revelation for data rather than for hope?
What is the central message of Revelation? Too many will answer that it is about the end times, or the classic battle between good and evil. These are definitely themes and topics in the book, but these themes are in service to the first verse of the book, which tells us exactly what the book is all about. It’s “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is the revealer. He is the revealed. It’s about Him. All the other stuff needs to be understood in service to that one simple truth.
But if Revelation is about Jesus, what sort of Jesus does it proclaim? Again, many make the mistake of suggesting that the Jesus of Revelation is merely a judge of good and evil. This understanding betrays the fact that the most prominent term for Jesus in the book of Revelation, appearing 28 times (7×4) is the term “Lamb.” The Jesus of Revelation is mainly the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He’s the same Jesus the rest of the Bible teaches. And if you read Revelation 5 carefully, you’ll realize that John is being told already at the end of the 1st century that the war between good and evil has already been won by the Lamb who was slain. It’s not waiting to be won at a later date. Jesus said, “It is finished.” He didn’t say, “it is almost finished.”
Which means that the first readers of Revelation took a ton of hope out of it for their situation in Asia Minor in the late first century A.D. It wasn’t a hope that was waiting for a later date. It was a hope for them at that time. It was already being fulfilled. Christ’s kingdom is where Christ’s people are gathered around His Word and it’s not a kingdom of power. The seven churches for which the vision of Revelation was given were the kingdom of God on earth. Their weakness to the world’s power was still God’s power at work in them (2 Cor. 12:9) and the weakest of these congregations were given the greatest commendations by Jesus in Rev. 2-3 (Philadelphia and Sardis). Jesus isn’t about worldly power and kingdom, as some of the mistaken notions about this book suggest. His kingdom isn’t built on worldly rule at all. We look forward to the new heavens and new earth where the Lamb will reign, not the worldly king, or emperor, or judge. The Lamb.
The Church today looks weak and it is struggling. Revelation is for us as much as it was for those beaten and battered churches in Asia Minor 1900+ years ago. The grace of the Lord is with us! Jesus is coming again soon! Deliverance is coming. We know it because the victory has already been won. And while we have life and breath, while we have forgiveness and eternal life already now, while we have Christ in His Word and Sacraments…we always have hope.
Join us this summer every Sunday as we read through the book of Revelation. It’s St. John’s “Summer Of Hope.”
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with YOU always!
Your partner in the tribulation and kingdom,