Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Book of Revelations: The Forgotten Message


About a year ago, prompted by something I read, I took on the pursuit to do a personal study of the Book of Revelations. Well, throughout my study in Revelations, to my surprise, Revelations was turning out to be nothing my “Hollywood,” “Left Behind” influenced mind thought it was--a new theme, a new message, and a new purpose to Revelations started to transpire.

Really, it was all something exciting; as if I stumbled on to something that has never been seen before--but wait--what I was seeing was nothing new, but something old and really forgotten. What I stumbled on was the very thing that Hollywood, book writers, and modern day “end timers” have destroyed--the very purpose and meaning of the Book of Revelations.

So, in light of the recent popularity of “end times” these days by those who claim to somehow see symbolic prophesies in Revelations coming to a front today, I have decided to go back to my notes, organize them, and right a blog myself to unravel the forgotten message of what the Book of Revelations truly means and the purpose for it. Now, some who are reading this might already know what I am leading to, and I say “Great, glad you are in the minority with me.”

However, I am really writing this for those out there who, like me once, never bothered to dive into Revelations because of the “hard to understand” nature of the book, so we just accepted whatever said or heard that made the most sense. Furthermore, I am writing this to those who only see Revelations as a collections of puzzles to amuse themselves in their spare time to connect and discover the symbolic “mysteries” that lie within--sorry to burst your bubble, Revelations was never meant for that and there is little, if any, spiritual profit in doing such things.

Background of Revelations

As the name indicates, the Book of Revelations reveals things that would otherwise be unknown. Traditionally, the view has been held that the apostle John was that writer of this book because of certain geographic reasons and other writing style reasons. However, throughout the book nothing is made certain to indicate this view, as the writer only introduces himself as “John, a bond servant…” (Revelations 1:1)

This revelation was originated in God and came from Jesus Christ given to John sometime around the mid AD 90s. John then passed this revelation on to a group of churches in the western part of Asia Minor with purpose to shed light on things that would soon happen (Revelations 1:11).

By the late part of the first century, the churches in this region were already well established, based on the first missionary journeys recorded in Acts chapters 16-19--mid first century. In Revelations chapter 2-3, we see specific letters to these churches, which clues us in to what were the conditions during this time surrounding the region (Asia Minor) as a whole. These were trouble time for the church, as persecution was strong towards the Christians.

Really, from the beginning of the first century the church had experienced persecution, but mainly, from the Jews. However, as time went on the Roman government officials added to the persecution where thousands upon thousands of Christians were either imprisoned, tortured, killed, or became slaves because of their faith in Christ--John being an example as he was exiled to a prison on the Island of Patmos, just off the coast of Ephesus. The peek of all this hanis persecution came around the AD 60s under the Roman Emperor Nero and continued through the AD 90s during the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian--this is all key in understanding the purpose of Revelations.

Testing Times for the Christians

These were indeed testing times for all Christians--persecution was at its height and oppression towards the Christians increased. More and more people were turning against the Christians, as the government enforced Emperor worship. To make things worse, false teachers started to stir up trouble within the churches by suggesting Christians to go along with pagan religions, which practiced idol worship and other immoral sins. (Revelations 2:10, 13-14, 20; 6:9-11)

Many Christians, as a result of all of this were becoming discouraged and confused, and even some were renouncing their faith, as it seemed that the return of their King Jesus Christ was not coming as they expected to save them from such persecution. The real power seemed be in the hands of evil ones, the Emperor, and not Almighty God.

However, through John, Jesus reassured His persecuted followers that He was still very much in control, as He did not leave them with a false hope of a quick return, but rather, He prepared them for a greater endurance. He revealed to them through John the extent of more troubles to come and the eternal reward that awaited for those who stay firm for Him. Jesus’ message to them, and all of us who follow, was that in God’s time, He will certainly return to judge the evil doers, save His people, and bring all His people into His rest of eternal peace and joy. (Revelations 1:5; 12:10-11; 19:15-16; 21:1-4; 22:7)

The Conclusion--The Forgotten Message

There have been various ways people have tried to interpret the Book of Revelations--some interpret it to only future aspects, some interpret that is solely for those of the first century, and some interpret as a continuation through history from first century until the end of time. These are the most popular noted interpretations held, which I may say maybe considerable, but some interpretations I have heard are just pure silliness and imaginations gone wild.

There is no doubt that Revelations had a meaning to the Christians in the late first century, as it has meaning to all Christians since then and as it will have meaning to those in the end of all ages. The symbolic pictures in the book are taken mainly from life under Roman rule as John knew it, but the principles are for every Christian anytime and anywhere. In every era and nation, the Christians have been faced with persecution, anti-christs, and false prophets. Therefore, we must be careful not to limit this book to our own favorite interpretation or even try to strum up connections of modern-day events to these prophesies.

The Book of Revelation is not merely a book of symbolic prophesies for the “end times” to come nor should we bother or debate over it--our Lord Jesus told us to be concerned for today and not tomorrow. So, if all we see is “end times” prophesies we will overlook that the Book of Revelations was given to strengthen, to guide, and to encourage Christians who were, who are, and who will be going into the mist of suffering persecution for Christ, so that they may see the relevance of John’s revelation to their own experiences.

The True Message of Revelations is HOPE--from the first century to the present, Christians have triumphed over the forces of the anti-christ through Christ’s victory on the cross (Revelations 12:11). However, the ultimate victory will be when Jesus Christ returns to banish evil and save His people.

Now, after you have read this, I would like to encourage you to visit my dear friend JL McKinney's blog post "Rapture: Discussed Here" where he brings out a profound conclusion about the Second Coming of Christ in Jesus' own words--just click>>Here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Beyond the Surface

Our inner being, the part of us that know one else can see. Often we can "pull the wool" over us and portray something to others that is really not true, hoping that others will not catch what is really going on inside. Well, I think Christians can be the guiltiest of all in pulling the wool due to the standard others expect from Christians or what others expect to see at our church. Oh, how easy it is to fool someone on the outside, but there is One we can never fool and that is God. I Samuel 16:7, "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I think this verse is clear on what God looks at and is concerned about. We can look whatever way we want, dress the way we want, or act the way we want, but it all does not matter to God, God is looking at how our heart, our inward intentions--the stuff that men cannot see. I was reading a book one time and it said something very true and very profound, "It's not what you do that make you what you are, it is what you are that makes you what you do." Romans 7:22-23, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; (23) but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." Paul the apostle is clearly going beyond the outer surface of his exterior body and going inward to what really matters--Paul delights in God inwardly, but a battle is always waging between his old carnal spirit and his new glorious spirit in Christ. We all face this as Christians, Yes, it would be great if our old born-in carnal spirit would just go away when we accept Jesus Christ, but we are still only human and our sin nature is still there, but we can delight in the fact that our Savior Jesus can help us tame and control our carnal spirit--Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."

Looking on outward appearances, usually, brings along criticism. Remember the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Well, we like to say we live by that, but so often, we do not. I have worked with the public for the past 12 years, which unfortunately has given me the bad habit of looking at outward appearances to measure ones persona. It is a hard habit to correct sometimes, but we all do it, it is just plan human nature--what more of a person can we see than their outward appearance. Though the old saying promotes that judging is wrong, The Bible makes is clear as well--Matthew 7:1-2, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. (2)For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." I have noticed that somewhere along the way churches are paying more attention to an outward appearance than the inward being. This, of course, is not true in all cases, but it is true too often. The church I grew up in was a very "traditional style" church--still is. The music did not go beyond the piano or organ and the dress standard was set very high--wearing "Sunday's best" was the code no matter what day it was. I am not kidding you, if a woman showed up to a service with pants on another woman in the church would tell her "Next time wear a dress" and if a guy wore jeans a thousand stares would tell him "don't do it again." A friend of mine who is proud of his long hair and his "Santa Claus" beard told me a story of when he was visiting a church, the pastor and him were talking and the pastor told him point blank that the Lord would one day convict him to cut his hair and his beard. It is sad, but it seems that in some churches broken customs are seen as sin. When we restrict ourselves to religious customs, we are no better than the Jews during the time of Christ. Christian, whether you dress up or not for church what is your inward intention--to serve man or to serve God. If we get caught up on what we wear because of rules by men, it can damage our service to God. In addition, we have to remember that when we become critical of others, we can lose sight of the real joy of the Lord in our life--Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (24) since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."