Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Long--Awaited Return; Book of Revelation

This Sunday (August 24) I begin a study of the book of Revelation.  It is the last, perhaps the most famous, and definitely the most controversial book of the Bible.  Although it quotes from and references other biblical books, it is not like anything else in Scripture.  Although there were many other apocalyptic writings in the ancient world, Revelation is unlike anything in the history of literature.  In a time when our popular culture ignores the Bible or scoffs at it, there is still a fascination with this book.  Images from it are burned into our collective consciousness. Think about how often you hear terms that come from this book in everyday life: Armageddon, The Antichrist, 666, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Rapture.  There is a TV series on one of the premium cable networks right now about what might happen on Earth after a rapture-like event, and a movie version of the Left Behind book series is on tap to be released soon.  Clearly, people are still interested in what this book has to say.

In my opinion, Revelation is the most abused and misused book in the Bible. Irresponsible teaching on this book has caused the Church and the name of Christ no end of embarrassment.  So let me say this up front: I will not be predicting the date of Christ’s return.  I will not try to guess which nations are represented by the seven heads of the beast, or who the Antichrist is or will be.  If you’re hoping that after this sermon series you will understand completely all the events that are going to take place before the Return of Jesus, you will be disappointed. Think about it: When Jesus came into the world the first time, people had been expecting His coming for centuries. God had put predictions about the coming Messiah in nearly every book of the Old Testament, and God’s people had memorized, studied and turned inside-out every one of those predictions. Their constant hope was that they would live to see those promises fulfilled. And when He finally came, no one—not one single person—predicted how it would go.  No one thought He would be born in poverty; no one thought He would be a man of peace and reconciliation. No one thought He would be hated by His own people. No one thought He would be crucified for our sins. It was all there in the promises, but no one saw it.  Now, if those people couldn’t anticipate it perfectly, what gives us the idea that we will?  My guess is that after Jesus returns, we’ll be like His first apostles, looking back at the promises we know so well and saying, “Oh, so THAT’S what that meant!”

So why should we study this, if it’s impossible for us to completely, perfectly figure it out? That's an easy one: Because God put it in His Word.  More than that, He promised to bless those who read it (Revelation 1:3, the only such promise in the entire Bible).  Please pray for me as I enter this series.  I believe this book was meant to bring us hope, encouragement and a sense of urgency about our own purpose in life.  I pray I can communicate that effectively.  And take time to read the book for yourself over these next seven weeks.  I am excited to see what God will do in our lives as we explore this book!

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