The Book of Revelation has always been a puzzle to its readers. Though I may do a series of posts on it some day, it’s not my intent here to enter into a discussion of the meaning of the book, or of how to interpret it.
The book is often divided into three parts, based on our Lord’s instruction to John in 1:19, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are, and those that are to take place after this” (ESV).
Using the same three divisions, but keeping in mind that the book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” not just from Him, but about Him, I divide the book like this:
1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Reader, ch. 1
2. The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Churches, chs. 2, 3.
3. The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the World, chs. 4 – 22.
I was struck one day by the significance, if you will, of the first chapter. Though I’ve been thinking about doing a post on this for some time, it was brought to a head, so to speak, by an exchange I recently had with a fellow-blogger about “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” Her point was that Jesus was indeed gentle and mild. And she’s right.
He was gentle to the downtrodden, the outcast, the tax-collectors and publicans, folks on the bottom rung of the ladder – or not even near it. He stopped a funeral procession in its tracks and turned unbearable grief into unspeakable joy. He could hold His own and then some with the scholars of His day, but spoke so that the common people heard Him gladly, Mark 12:37 (NKJV). He fed thousands of people with a boy’s lunch, and saved the day at a wedding. He prayed for the men who drove the spikes into His hands and feet.
We never read that He laughed. We do read that He wept. At the same time, we mustn’t think that He was a sourpuss. We read in John 15:11 that He was concerned that His joy might abide in His disciples.
So the Lord was like sunshine on a warm Summer day.
Oh, but He could also be lightning and thunder! Hear His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves, Matthew 23:15. He called them fools and blind, v. 17. He berated them for loading people with heavy burdens of rigid legalism, but never giving them anything to help them carry those burdens, v. 4. He called them serpents, brood of vipers! and asked them how they thought they could escape the condemnation of hell? v.33.
This didn’t serve to make Him popular with these religious leaders! As a result of His rebuking them on another occasion, Luke 11:53 records, the scribes and Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently…. There was no such thing for Him as “dialogue” with the enemies of truth.
Our culture pretty much ignores this side of our Lord. He had no time for those who actively opposed His ministry and preaching. And Scripture says that when He comes again, He will do so in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. When was the last time you heard a sermon on that text?
The people to whom John wrote his book needed to know they served a Christ Who was greater than what they were going to go through. They needed to know that what they were suffering, and were going to suffer, wasn’t just some “accident of history.” They needed to know that when Satan did his worst, he was still a defeated foe and that his would not be the final word.
We need this today, as well. We live in terrible times. I was going to write “unprecedented times,” but that’s not true. The rivers of Christian blood shed down through the years bear eloquent testimony to that fact. Other times have been much worse than these times, but I think we’re getting there.
There may yet come a time when Christians – indeed, in parts of the world the news tells us that it’s already here – when Christians are led like sheep to the slaughter, Psalm 44:22; Romans 8:36.
We’re going to need to be settled as more than just a nice thing to believe, or good verses to memorize, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:38-39.
When we’re kneeling, waiting for the sword to sever our head from our body….