Revelation 12-18: At war

Almost there! We’re almost to the end my friends.

Unfortunately, this second to last reading gives us little in the way of a peaceful ending, and may leave you with more questions than it does answers.

We must remember that the book of Revelation is among the style of writing known as Apocalyptic literature, a style of writing used to describe the book of Daniel as well as sections of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zechariah. Basically, apocalyptic writing refers to moments when God has chosen to reveal parts of the future to the author. We can make a couple of major mistakes when we read apocalyptic writings. First, we can forget that God has chosen to reveal only part of the picture to us. The very nature of these writings are mysterious and cryptic. Many people over many centuries have tried to interpret and fully understand everything that God has recorded in the apocalyptic sections of the Bible. The truth is, we are not meant to look at these sections in that way.

Second, we can forget that these writings were written in specific times for a specific audience. So while Daniel and Revelation speak about the end of all things as God revealed it, the imagery, titles, and settings of those writings were culturally influenced. Without an understanding of what was going on when these books were written, it can be very easy to jump to conclusions about what they mean.

Finally, we have to remember that these books are not intended to scare us. In fact, most of the apocalyptic sections I mentioned above were written during periods of persecution or difficulty, first for the nation of Israel and then for the early church. They were given by God as a means of encouraging believers to stay on track, to keep strong in their faith because they understood that God was in control of what was happening.

I hope you noticed as you have been reading that there are many sections where worship of God is the focus, and indeed the worship of God is a major component of the entire book. My New Testament professor at EBC did his doctoral thesis on worship in the book of Revelation, and he believes that the book is intended (at least in part) to be a manual for worship for the church. That is certainly a different perspective to think about.

One final comment specific to today’s reading. We have to recognize that the one thing that Revelation seems to make clear about the end times is that it will be a time of difficulty for the church. There will be Christian persecution the likes of which we have not seen since the days of the Roman Empire. The entire middle section of the book (chapters 4-20) describe the church at war. Whether you believe that “current” Christians will be taken to heaven pre- or post- tribulation doesn’t matter, either way there will be Christians on the earth during that time and they will be at war with the Antichrist and his minions.

We have known a lot of years of peace in North America. We as Christians have known a lot of years of plenty and comfort and contentment. I fear that those years have lulled us into a false sense of security and even belonging; that this is our home. We must remember that Paul makes it very clear to us that our citizenship is not here on earth but that it resides in heaven. We must be clear that we are strangers and foreigners in this land. I believe that is why Paul refers to our bodies repeatedly as “tents”, a reminder that these are only temporary dwellings for us.

If these chapters from Revelation scare you, challenge you, worry you, I would say that’s probably good. There is darkness ahead. But don’t lose sight of the fact that God’s victory is assured.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Revelation 19-22

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