Tag Archives: Revelation

The Great Affair

When I was first starting full time ministry, Leslie and I were mentoring a handful of young adults just a few years younger than us. We met a couple of times a week to pray and just talk through life together, it was one of those things that you take for granted but realize later what a holy moment you are being prepared for. After about a year of this, we got a call from one of these young adults. They had just found out that their father had been cheating on their mother…a lot. He had thrown away a marriage of 25+ years for a few passing moments. Paul says the wages of sin are death, and it was in the next few hours that I got a glimpse into what that meant.

I remember vividly the next few hours, sitting in a room with this little betrayed family, hearing moans that can only come by the worst kinds of hurt. I remember the confusion and pain and groans that came over the next days and weeks. And I remember thinking about how much more sense Scripture was making in light of all this.

The way that Bible primarily talks about sin, is quite different than the way we talk about it. We use metaphors like gulfs and bridges, but the Bible doesn’t talk about sin in terms of location that much, instead it talks about sin in terms of relationship. That is, sin, for the people of God, is like adultery. In fact, some of the most provocative language in the entire Bible is from the prophets trying to make sure we know just how seriously God sees this, and how offensive our adultery really is.

So when we first started looking at the book of Revelation, we noticed that one of the things that Jesus was saying to the churches was that they had forgotten their first love. From the outside looking in, they were successful, faithful churches. They were doing and saying all the right things, maybe they had just forgotten who they were doing it for. Continue reading The Great Affair

The Song of Moses

So last time we were in Revelation we were talking about the War in Heaven, the war that operates different than the wars of earth. Because this is a war that wins not by taking lives, but by laying down lives. And it is the only war that works.

Now, what’s especially interesting about Revelation is that this book uses the Exodus story as much as any book in the New Testament. It talks a lot about the Exodus story and God’s delivering the Israelites from slavery. But it talks about it in both the future and the present tense. As if the story of the Exodus was not just something that has happened, but is happening. And it will happen, not just for Israel, but for the entire world.

I’ve talked before about how significant the plagues of the Exodus were. How they were God undoing creation on the Pharaoh.

But what is really interesting about Revelation is that it doesn’t refer to the 10 plagues, it only refers to 7. And that’s not a new thing. From the time of the Psalmist, the Israelites started referring to the plagues of the Exodus as 7 (remember to a Jewish person a number is a symbol as well) and this was the way they were saying that God’s judgment on the evil systems of Egypt was perfect.

So John, in his gospel, actually picks up on this theme. He tells the story of Jesus with an agenda. He even admits at the end of his book that Jesus had done many more things, and that if they were all written down the world couldn’t contain them. So John is just going to tell us what we need to know for life with Jesus. He’s only going to tell us certain things that Jesus did. Signs, things that point backward and forward.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus does 7 miracles. And John is very careful that we know in the first few chapters that He is counting them. But what’s interesting is the signs that  John uses to tell us about. Just like the plagues there are 7, and according to some scholars they are eerily similar to the Plagues of the Exodus story.

So John starts off with Jesus turning water not into blood, but wine. Continue reading The Song of Moses

The War in Heaven

So the last time we talked about Revelation, we were in Chapter 11 and talking about the way God triumphs over the Beast, but then in the very next chapter we find out that there is a war in Heaven itself…between Michael the Angel, and the Dragon.

Now it’s at this point that you would think that Keana Reeves would show up. But the story gets more bizarre than a Hollywood script could cover.

We read about how the Dragon is faced off with not just Michael but with a woman great with child. And right as this woman is about to give birth the Dragon goes into for the kill. Now on a lot of levels, I think that this is the Christmas story, just on a Cosmic level. The woman is going to give birth to a great ruler, he’s going to face immediate danger and he’s going to have to run away to the wilderness to escape.

But remember John is also using the Exodus story as a backdrop for a lot of what he’s doing in Revelation. And that’s a story that has a very similar plot to the Christmas story, just with a whole lot more people. God brings His people out of slavery in Egypt and saves them through the Wilderness. But he doesn’t just save them so they can sit around and talk about how great it is to not have to build pyramids anymore. He saves them to partner with him in the world. He doesn’t just save them from slavery…He saves them for service. Continue reading The War in Heaven

The Wounds of Triumph

So in the first chapter of the book of Job, the main character of the book (Job) loses everything. His family is killed, his crops and resources and houses are destroyed, it’s the worst chapter of loss in the whole Bible. And then along comes Job’s friends. They have a certain view of God that may sound familiar to some of us. God blesses those who are good, and curses those who are bad. Everyone knows that…so Job ‘s friend want him to fess up. What exactly have you been doing to deserve this?

But God will have none of it. He let’s the so called friends talk trash for a while, but in the end He has the final word and it is nothing like those who pretended to speak on his behalf.

So we’ve been talking about Revelation for a few blog posts, and last week Revelation was talking about the surprising Lamb of God bringing victory. But that’s only half the surprise. The other side of it is how the Lamb does it.

In Revelation 11, there is a series of bizarre symbols that John sees. He’s told to go measure the Temple in Heaven, as if John in the Bob Vila of the Apocalypse. And while John is busy working on renovations he sees the outer courts of the Temple, and 2 witnesses. They are protected by Heaven, and no one can mess with them while they are preaching about God’s power. God will send plagues and fire from heaven on their behalf. He will turn waters into blood at their commands.

And then God doesn’t protect them anymore.

They are attacked by the beast (in a time when beast meant something to Christians…think Roman Coliseum) They are killed gruesomely and their bodies lay in the public square for everyone to see. They will be a spectacle for everyone to see and to mock. These fools thought that God could protect them, but they turned about do dead wrong. But then…

God gives new life to their very dead bodes. It says, “The breath of life from God entered them and they stood on their feet and terror struck those who saw them.”

I love that image. Here are the bullies standing over their victims. This is what happens when you mess with Rome, or try to change the status quo. You pick on someone with a bigger stick and their bound to use it on you. That’s the way that the world works. Or at least the way it used to. Because now it seems the tables have turned. Because they are struck with terror and the martyrs are struck with resurrection.

And then the very next thing Revelation talks about is this:  Continue reading The Wounds of Triumph

The Victory of the Lamb

One of the surprising things about the book of Revelation is what doesn’t surprise us. Maybe it’s because we have been too busy paying attention the cryptic numbers, or the dragons and the locusts, but one of the things that is central to the book of Revelation is the thing that should actually shock us the most. And we just read over it like it doesn’t matter.

This is what I’m talking about.

All through Revelation, John talks about victory. Now the word victory for the little churches that he’s writing would have been a loaded term. It was after all more than just a result or an idea. It was a god. Literally, they god’s name was the Roman god Nike. The Romans worshipped victory. She was portrayed as a winged goddess, and her image was on the shield of Roman soldiers. There were statues of Nike with her foot on the globe (a symbol of total world domination). Her image was often on coins reminding people in the marketplace that Rome was victorious.

On the arch of Titus, from 81 A.D., gives us a look into how they used Nike to tell their story. It was right after the Romans had crushed the Jewish people and for their propaganda they set up an Arch (which makes us rethink St. Louis). On one side, it showed the battle that they won, and on the other side of the arch, it showed the goddess Nike putting a triumphal wreath around Titus’ head. They had a theology of military victory (that everyone would have known about), that was reinforced with every victory parade, every time you bought or sold with Roman money, or whenever you went into town. You would see Nike.

Nike was a winged symbol that showed everyone who saw her that Romans always win.

Take that Michael Jordan.  Continue reading The Victory of the Lamb

The Anger of the Lamb

So last week we talked about how Revelation really starts picking up steam. John finds a scroll, and find that it contains the the plans for God’s redemption of the world. But no one is worthy to open it…until the Lamb appears. The Lamb is the only one worthy of carrying out God’s total redemption project, so it sounds like things are turning around. Evil has met it’s match. The Lamb opens the scroll to read the redemptive plans of God. But….

Things get worse before they get better.

Once the scroll is opened a series of horses begin to start riding by. Which is not what we expected. One scholar says that the difference between Revelation and other books in the New Testament, is like the difference between reading words and reading music. We have to realize that this is a different kind of communication, and that the audience would have been able to read the sheet music. These horses stand for something. They are the symbols of the world’s oppression, violence and injustice and tyranny. The horses are white and red and black.

Which explains all those weird Skittle commercials.

And these principalities and powers wreak havoc on the world. The world is falling apart, and the things that have caused suffering from Genesis 3 on seem to run loose unchecked.

So the Saints in Heaven ask the question that is on all of our lips, even if we don’t know it. They ask, “How Long O LORD?” How long are things going to be like this? How long will Hell wreak havoc on the world? How long will babies die of AIDS, or the young of cancer? How long will war and death and tyranny carry the day? How long will the resources that can feed the many, be hoarded by the few?

If you’ve got any kind of heart, these questions have probably crossed your mind as well. They should. They are the question of Heaven.

And the answer, of course, is not the one we want. Like 2 Peter before, Jesus’ answer in Revelation is that God is patient. He knows that the ultimate enemy isn’t one with flesh and blood, and so he patiently waits and hopes to redeem the tyrant as well as the tyrannized. But there’s one more thing that Revelation tells us.

In Verse 16, we find out that the evil of the world finally beings to realize what will happen, and  they are terrified of the Anger of the Lamb.

I love that phrase. The Anger of the Lamb. Continue reading The Anger of the Lamb

Who is Worthy?

When I was a kid, my dad took me to a “men’s business meeting” at the church that we were attending. At one point, my dad had proposed that we help a widow who was needing some assistance with her utilities. Sounds like standard churchy stuff to do right? But one of the other men at this meeting had some beef with this widow. And he started to become visibly agitated by the suggestion. Anyone paying attention could have picked up on the obvious social cues. Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t paying attention.

After a few minutes of dad rehashing the reasoning, this guy stood up and took off his jacket and said, “You wanna fight Cletis? (yes, that’s my dad’s name) Because’ I was golden glove in high school, and I reckon I could still take you.”

So in the book of Revelation, after Jesus writes to the 7 churches, John turns his attention to the vision he had given about what life was like in the Heavens. He sees a throne and a scroll, and a sea of glass. Now, sea in the Bible and specifically in the book of Revelation is the symbol for evil. The Jewish world knew the sea was the abyss, that was after all the place where the beasts came out in the book of Daniel.The sea was  But despite the presence of evil, God is on the throne and His purposes have not been undone. That’s what the sea means.  But what about the scroll?

N.T. Wright thinks that the best guess is that the scroll contains God’s secret mysterious plan to undo and overthrow the evil in the world. Somebody’s got to do something about the sea (cancer, AIDS, poverty, injustice). But who is worthy to do that?

In other words, John’s problem is our problem? Continue reading Who is Worthy?