Yesterday the bible study wound up – it was a nine month inquiry into Revelation; surely this has been a serendipitous use of my time. We went from apprehension about studying what we feared might be too complex or confusing, “end-times,” to being comforted, encouraged and edified no matter how quickly or slowly Christ the LORD returns. In this book, we learned how lost the lost are, and how secure the saved are, for our hope is anchored in HIS character.
His words resound: “Do not be afraid.”
The group Bible study may be done – but I feel like I haven’t wholly grasped it. Revelation is different from any other book in Scripture – to some its message appears hidden or frightening, or inscrutable. But to those who will read and hear, it is filled with [seven] blessings – blessings that meet every need of all the churches to whom John wrote. Its message is so simple a child can understand – as all the children’s leaders so faithfully taught little ones aged 2-5! These kids got it!
Yet, I struggle to take it all in.
When I look back on what has happened since we began the study: a terrorist attack on September 11, “Sandy,” Newtown Connecticut, wounds, trials and illnesses within our church, and families, ending with another attack at the Boston Marathon, and a tragedy in West, Texas. And now, this morning’s news of murder and mayhem in Boston washes over my heart: What in the world is going on?
Weren’t you paying attention?
The bottom line is people who hate God, hate people and want to kill them – for they have believed a lie fomented by God’s enemy and his servants. Christians believe that enemy was defeated at Calvary -- just as the Allied Normandy Invasion in June 1944 broke the back of the Axis. But battles abound – just as they did throughout the months leading up to August of 1945. And until He returns, we all are on a battlefield.
The horrors have caught many Americans of-guard for we have not endured what other Christians and cultures around the world have endured.
In Revelation 2-3, Christ reveals to John the extent of the battles, internal and external. “Intimidation and persecution” are hallmarks of the spiritual reality that Christ will see us through in the time before His return. Christ’s promises to those who overcome what He knows we struggle with have never been more precious and essential. The hope and help that God revealed to John on Patmos is as much as a comfort to us today as it was to John. His promises are trustworthy and true. The point of Revelation is as a movie or picture book of what Matthew meant in his Gospel, 16:18,when he quoted the Lord Jesus Christ: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Whew . . .
His promises for reward and retribution in Revelation echo the prophets. Like many their messages, this is filled with condemnation and comfort. It is a picture of the sum of all consequences of individual choices. We see the result of having things our way. And we see God’s retribution in His time for His people.
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! (Hebrew 10:31)
Therefore – when information overloads my mind, and horror engulfs my breaking heart, Habakkuk [still] helps:
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3, esp. 17)
God I believe -- help THOU my unbelief.