[NOTE: I’ll probably post 4x a week for this series – Mon, Tues, Thurs, & Fri.]
Reflecting on the text
“Are you crazy?”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m not so sure you want to do that.”
This is a small sampling of the responses I received when I told friends our church was going to study the book of Revelation together.
Maybe you feel the same way.
I’ll be honest with you, there have been a few nights over the past couple of months when I have actually been kept from sleeping by the nagging notion that we might, in fact, be loony.
But there is one thing that has kept me not only sane, but excited about what we are getting into.
It’s worth it.
The book of Revelation, I mean. It’s worth it. I promise.
I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but once we see that Revelation has more to do with real life in this world than escaping to the next; once we see that this magnificent, creative, explosive book has more to say about how big God is than how current events might fulfill so-called ‘prophecies’; once we see that John cares more about why the world began than how it will end, I think we will all agree that exploring this book has been worth it.
My guess is that many of us are still at least a little bit timid.
This is good. We should be.
It has been said that “no other book can have aroused such equally passionate love and hatred” as Revelation. People tend either to have an unhealthy fascination with the book, or to ignore it altogether.
It isn’t difficult to see why.
For one thing, no other biblical book so engages our imagination while simultaneously frustrating our attempts to understand it.
No other book has been the subject of so many drastically different interpretations. As G. K. Chesterton once said, “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”
What is more, some of these interpretations aren’t as innocent as we might at first assume. Many mistaken readings of Revelation have led to horrible things: faulty accusations being leveled at certain parts of God’s church, ungodly political agendas being sanctioned as “Christian,” and violent ideas about God being perpetuated in the name of loyalty to Scripture.
These are some of the errors we are going to try and correct. As you might imagine, we have our work cut out for us.
There’s something we have to understand from the start: Understanding Revelation requires hard work and humility.
Living what we learn
If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it is that understanding this book won’t be particularly easy (in reality it’s not all that harder than many other biblical books, but the difficulty is more obvious).
That’s why we’re going to work together, and that’s why we have to commit to each other to give it all we’ve got.
With that in mind, here’s my promise to you: I will do everything I can to clearly explain the book of Revelation. I will read everything I can get my hands on, look at the text from as many perspectives as possible, and think through your questions as thoroughly as I am able.
On the other hand, I need to ask for your commitment to exploring this book. I realize that some of you will naturally have more interest in “figuring it out” than others, and that many of you simply don’t have enough time to dig as deeply as you would like. That’s okay. Seriously. All I ask is that you do the best you can.
Can I be brutally honest with you for a minute? One of the hardest things about studying the book of Revelation is that most everyone thinks that they already have it figured out.
The fact is that many of you have been taught many things about this book. Some of these things are good; some are bad. And you’re going to have to decide whether you’re willing to let your assumptions be called into question.
I’m not asking you to blindly accept what I say. Please don’t. I’m asking you not to assume that I am wrong just because I’m saying something different than what you have previously been taught. I’m asking that you allow me to challenge your thinking.
If in the end you disagree with me, that’s okay. After all, we both have much, much more to learn about this fascinating book.
For now, let’s stop talking and start reading.
My first request is, I admit, kind of crazy. I want you challenge you to read the whole book of Revelation in one sitting. (It would actually be even better if you were able to get the Bible on CD and listen to it.)
We need to get a feel for what this book is saying, and one of the best ways to get us thinking is to hear the thing as a whole.
When you are able to sit down and read or listen to it (splitting it into a few sections is fine if that’s better), I want you to write down a few things you notice. What themes recur throughout the work? What do you think of the imagery of the book? What questions do you have about the book?
Lifting the Veil 001 // Intro