Summer Revelation Study, Week 1

How many  of us have a positive idea of Revelation? How many of us turn to Revelation in daily devotion or when we’re looking for an uplifting word?

  • Revelation scares people
    • at seven years old I already knew that this story about monsters and dragons and war was different than others because this one might happen at any moment.
    • The Social Security office still allows people to change numbers that have 666
    • Several years ago a man in Norfolk VA cut off his hand because he thought he saw the mark of the beast
    • DH Lawrence called it “the most detestable book in the Bible”
    • Martin Luther believed it should be removed from the canon because “Christ is not known or taught” – atonement issue that we’ll get to
  • Revelation inspires some people in a negative way – David Koresh saw himself as the one opening the scrolls

 

If the attitudes about it are so negative why study it?

  1. It’s in the culture
    • Game of Thrones had a seen where a pale horse rides through a devastated city
    • New X-men Movie this week – the last one had Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen
    • Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen
    • Left Behind books
    • Why all that matters: People are interested in the book and ff we don’t understand it then the wrong understandings are going to take hold
  2. Shows us the world as God intends it – people love to focus on the middle of this book where all the crazy stuff happens and ignore the end, where we see a world made right
    • Also challenges us to be part of making it right and to give up the ways we are part of it being made wrong
  3. Luther is Wrong – Christ is not just known, Christ permeates the book and is put in his rightful place
    • Part of Luther’s problem (and ours) is that evil seems awfully strong in this book. That’s true, but what we’re also gonna see is that evil doesn’t have as much power in this book as we might think
      • John believes, maybe more than any other writer, in God’s power and sovereignty
        • Evil is given a certain amount of power in this book, but other than maybe the point of creation in Genesis God’s power is never more emphasized than in Revelation – The armies of evil gather and are defeated by a single word
          • Mother Pollard – church elder in Birmingham, participated in the bus boycott. She was in her 80’s at that point and after several days of walking Martin Luther King took her aside and said “mother Pollard, no one is gonna think any less of you if you need to take the bus.” She said “my feet is tired, but my soul is rested, God’s gonna take care of us.”
            • Fast forward 5 years, the night before he’s assasinated King preaches the sermon “I’ve been to the mountain top” and says “I have been tortured without and tormented within by the raging fires of tribulation … I have been forced to muster what strength and courage I have to withstand howling winds of pain and jostling storms of adversity. But as the years have unfolded the eloquently simple words of Mother Pollard have come back again and again to give light and peace and guidance to my troubled soul, ‘God’s gonna take care of you.'”
              • That’s what this book is about. God’s gonna be with you. And if we let it scare us and let it be about dragons and horsemen and numbers and all that we lose that power.
                • This is my father’s world, o let me ne’er forget, that though the wrong seem oft so strong God is the ruler yet

Who, What, When, Where, Why

  • What – prophetic-apcolyptic literature
    • What does that mean – “A genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world” – Society of Biblical Literature
      • Narrative – story
      • In which cosmic secrets are revealed to humanity
      • About how the supernatural impacts the natural in an ultimately positive way
        • Explains how what you’re going through now is part of a bigger story and gives hope for how that story ends
  • Why – what were they going through?
    • Persecution. Large scale persecution
      • Most persecution in the NT is local – the harvest was bad, blame the Christians
        • When things are going well in Rome the empire doesn’t care what you do
          • Two things start to happen by the end of the 1st Century
            1. Rome starts to decline – empire is too big, the emperors aren’t great
            2. Emperor worship begins to take hold – they need something to unify them as a people, so they settle on a universal worship of the emperor
              • When the Christians don’t go along with this bad things happen, because now your faith is an affront to the whole empire not just your town
                • Is it illegal to sit during the National Anthem? No but people don’t like it and the backlash isn’t good
                • Revelation offers hope for those who are dying for their faith – how many of us could say Revelation makes us hopeful?
  • Who – Dependent on When
    • Some period of Great Persecution
      • Two main ideas
        1. Nero – ruled 54-68, burned Rome and blamed Christians, some persecution but not wide spread
        2. Domitian – 81-96, when we start to see wide spread persecution, emperor worship has taken off, 6th emperor to be declared divine
          • 17:10 – “five have fallen, one is and another has not yet come…”
    • Tradition – John, the Beloved disciple, written while in exile on Patmos

Time and Symbols

  • Time
    • People have always marked time, every people has marked time differently
      • In Greek there is Chronos – a standard measure of time, and Kairos – a significant event or an appointed time, a moment of action.
        • In Revelation things take place at the right Kairos, not the right Chronos
          • You can’t track it using the numbers
        • The movement through the book is not necessarily the movement through time. Some things that we read have already happened (in John’s perspective), some things are happening as writes the, and some things are visions of the future.
          • The book is not pure prophecy/prediction
  • Symbols
    • We use symbols – picture of an elephant and a donkey fighting in a newspaper doesn’t shock us
    • Scripture uses symbols
      • Jesus is the bread of life – what does that mean
      • One must be born again – we act like Nicodemus is an idiot for not getting it and then we read Revelation and start trying to come up with explanations for why the army of evil won’t use guns
        • Jesus as lamb – anywhere else in scripture we would say “oh, he’s like a lamb because that’s what is sacrificed.” In revelation we’re looking for an actual an actual lamb with 7 horns and 7 heads. And again we miss the message because we’ve made it so outrageous that we can’t understand it.
          • Symbols are symbols, they point us toward things

1:1-8

  • Verses 5 and 6 – the one who loves us and freed us from our sins by the power of his blood
    • There is power, power, wonder working power…
    • Freed –  Greek word for loosing, used to describe the process of releasing prisoners of war after a ransom
      • What we’re gonna see on display in revelation – satan holds humanity hostage through/because of sin. The death of Christ breaks that hold. And after that there’s nothing he can threaten us with, because that hold that leads to death is no more.
        • That’s what this book is about. The enemy can’t hurt you, not really, because Christ’s victory is won

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