Revelation 1: “Introduction”

Welcome to Revelation!

Our long awaited journey through the New Testament has arrived at its final book! And boy what a book it is. The Book of Revelation is steeped in mystery and confusion for years. Is it a book covering the past, the present, or the future? The simple answer is, yes! The complex answer to this question will play out in the pages ahead. Buckle your seatbelts, cause here we go!

Orienting Data for the Revelation

Content: a Christian prophecy cast in apocalyptic style and imagery and finally put in letter form, dealing primarily with tribulation (suffering) and salvation for God’s people and God’s wrath (judgment) on the Roman Empire.

Author: a man named John (1:1, 4, 9), well known to the recipients, traditionally identified as the apostle, the son of Zebedee (Matt 10:2).

Date: ca. a.d. 95 (according to Irenaeus [ca. 180])

Recipients: churches in the Roman province of Asia, who show a mix of fidelity and internal weaknesses.

Occasion: the early Christians’ refusal to participate in the cult of the emperor (who was acclaimed “lord” and “savior”) was putting them on a collision course with the state; John saw prophetically that it would get worse before it got better and that the churches were poorly prepared for what was about to take place, so he writes both to warn and encourage them and to announce God’s judgments against Rome.

Emphases: despite appearances to the contrary, God is in absolute control of history; although God’s people are destined for suffering in the present, God’s sure salvation belongs to them; God’s judgment will come on those responsible for the church’s suffering; in the end (Rev 21–22) God will restore what was lost or distorted at the beginning (Gen 1–3).


Overview of the Revelation

The cult of the emperor flourished in the province of Asia more than elsewhere in the empire; the result was that by the end of the first Christian century, the church in all its weaknesses was headed for a showdown with the state in all its splendor and might. By the Spirit, John sees that the martyrdom of Antipas (2:13) and John’s own exile (1:9) are but a small foretaste of the great havoc that the state will wreak on the church before it is all over (see 1:9;2:10; 3:10; 6:9–11; 7:14; 12:11, 17).

As a Christian prophet, John also sees this conflict in the larger context of the holy war—the ultimate cosmic conflict between God (and his Christ) and Satan (see 12:1–9)—in which God wins eternal salvation for his people. The people’s present role is to “triumph over [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, … not lov[ing] their lives so much as to shrink from death” (12:11). As God has already defeated the dragon through the death and resurrection of Christ (the Messiah is caught up to heaven, 12:5), so he will judge the state for her crimes against his people.


Specific Advice for Reading the Revelation

You may easily find yourself in the company of most contemporary Christians, for whom the Revelation is difficult to read, mostly because we are so unfamiliar with John’s medium of communication—apocalyptic literature with its bizarre imagery. Thus, along with knowing about the historical context and the way John works out his overall design (noted above), two other items will greatly aid your reading of this marvelous book—(1) to take seriously John’s own designation of his book as “the words of this prophecy” (1:3) and (2) to have some sense of how apocalyptic imagery works, even if many of the details remain a bit obscure.

By calling his work “the words of this prophecy,” John is deliberately following in the train of the great prophets of the Old Testament, in several ways: (1) He speaks as one who knows himself to be under the inspiration of the Spirit (1:10; 2:7; etc.). (2) He positions himself between some recent past events and what is about to happen in the near future. (3) He sets all forms of earthly salvation and judgment against the backdrop of God’s final end-time judgments so that the fall of Rome is to be seen not as the end itself but against the backdrop of the final events of the end.

1 John 2: “Jesus Our Advocate”

I don’t know about you, but I hate jury duty. I’m not sure I’ve never met someone who said they love jury duty. I’m sure those people are out there; I just haven’t met any of them. There was a time a few years ago that I was selected to sit on a Grand Jury for a federal case regarding the distribution possession of child pornography. I tried multiple times, and multiple ways, to get thrown off the case, but each time the judge would find a reason I had to stay. I can remember hearing the judge say that the “burden of proof is on the prosecution.” Meaning the prosecution has to “prove” beyond a reasonable doubt that the “defendant” is guilty of the crimes committed. This system helps reinforce the judicial tenant in America; “innocent until proven guilty.” But what about God’s judicial system?

God’s Judicial System

Just like most courts of law around the world, God’s judicial system is set up in a similar fashion. We learn through Hebrews 12 that God is the Righteous Judge over all things. It’s in Revelation 12:10 that we learn there is an accuser, and they stand before God day and night accusing our brothers and sisters in Christ. But what we also learn from our reading today that in God’s judicial system, there’s also an advocate.

1 John 2:1-2 (NLT) My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

In the American judicial system, you are “innocent until proven guilty.” However, in God’s judicial system you’re guilty regardless of how innocent you think you are. Because of sin, you’ve been pronounced with the penalty of death (Romans 6:23), but because of Christ’s love, we’ve been pardoned of our sin. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

When we go back and read from the beginning of God’s Word, for forgiveness to be experienced in a person’s life, something has to die. In the case of 1 John 2:1-2, what we find is Jesus advocating on our behalf that He indeed died for the crime that we committed. It reminds me of the powerful scene from the movie, “Brokedown Palace.”

Brokedown Palace

Alice (Claire Danes) and her friend Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) go to Bangkok to celebrate their high school graduation. In the middle of the trip, an attractive Australian man befriends them and convinces the two girls to go with him to Hong Kong. Just when they’re about to board the plane, the two girls are arrested for drug smuggling and sentenced to 33 years in a terrible prison known as Brokedown Palace.

What you need to know before watching this clip is that the two girls were setup and are completely innocent.

Like Jesus, Alice made the ultimate sacrifice for her friend. I can’t help but picture Jesus advocating with his Father over the sentence of guilty that we rightly deserve!

Here’s the most important piece of information for you to consider today: Yes, Jesus advocates for us; even for the sins of the entire world (2:2), but forgiveness will only be for those who “know” him.

1 John 2:3-6 (NLT) And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

 

 

John 21: “Restorer of the Repentant.”

 One of the most compelling portraits in John’s gallery has to be the last one on the wall. Just as you’re about to leave the gallery you’re met with an image of forgiveness that just simply blows you away! Jesus didn’t just restore Peter, He gave Peter the opportunity to repent!

After Jesus’ resurrection, there were a lot of stories going around about the tomb being empty. The two Mary’s saw it, and Peter, knowing he had messed up, was really interested to see if it was true. Well, Peter saw the empty tomb but was still upset that Jesus was gone and that he never did get a chance to say he was sorry for denying him three times. In our reading today we find a bunch of disciples together sitting on the beach just hanging out talking about their experience with Jesus. Fed up with reliving the past Peter looked at them says, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them sitting there were like, “well, were going with you.” If you’re going with me, he says, then you better get going…come on!

In our reading today we find a bunch of disciples together sitting on the beach just hanging out talking about their experience with Jesus. Fed up with reliving the past Peter looked at them says, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them sitting there were like, “well, were going with you.” If you’re going with me, he says, then you better get going…come on!

I believe Peter was both scared and lost at this moment. He knew that when he denied Christ that he crossed lines he shouldn’t have crossed. In fact, I think when Peter thinks back to the denial, he would say that there was so much going on that he really didn’t deny Christ, he was just tired and under pressure.

Not sure if Jesus was really going to come back, Peter must have been thinking, you know what, just leave me down here on my own, but I’ll wait for it.

At this point, while Peter is trying to get life back to normal and cover up how he feels, his heart is screaming inside saying, please, please, please, come back and sing to me. Sing to me Lord, the song of your life.

All the activity on the boat couldn’t stop Peter from stopping what he was doing and looking out over the water, with tears in his eyes he realizes how bad he wants it. He realizes all that he denied. He wants it now, now, to me, he thinks as he pounds his fist on the railing of the boat. To me…Then it hits him!

Coldplay – In My Place

In fact, it hits him so hard, he falls to his knees. It was in my place, in my place, were lines that I couldn’t change…I was lost, I was lost. So Peter now turns to us and asks: How long must you wait for it? How long must you pay for it?

This is Peter’s song, but not just Peter’s song, it’s our song! It’s the song that we sing when we realize that we too have denied Christ.

John 20:1-20 (NLT)

What an incredible image! What an incredible promise! Peter was given his second chance and there was no way he was going to mess this up. Can you image the way Peter felt before this day? He knew he messed up; he knew he failed his Rabbi, and he wasn’t sure he was going to get an opportunity to make it right.

Jesus restored Peter and he desires to restore you today, but that will only happen of your heart is repentant.

John 14: “Consoler”

When my son was younger, he used to love jumping off things, which forced me to catch him. It was a bit of game at times, but one that was quite scary for me!

Once when I was walking down the steps with Parker behind me, he yelled out, “Hey Dad! Catch me!” I turned around to see Parker mid-flight hurdling towards me off the steps. I immediately channeled my inner circus clown and caught him just before we both crashed to the ground. While he was laughing, and I was both scared and angry, I asked him, “Parker, what in the world were you thinking?” He said, “you’re my dad, I knew you’d catch me!” Although I appreciated his level of trust in me, we needed to have a conversation about safety.

In my experience, trust isn’t only given; it’s earned. In fact, there are many times throughout our day that we are left with the choice to either trust or not trust. Think about how much trust you put in the person who’s driving in the opposite lane on a two lane highway?

In John 14, John paints the portrait of Jesus as, “the Consoler.” It’s here we find Jesus meeting with his disciples in the upper room after the Last Supper. He’s explaining to them what’s about to happen, and how ultimately they need to trust him. The words are simple, but complex all at the same time.

John 14:1 (NLT) “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

There’s an indication from John that our hearts are troubled on account that we don’t trust God. If you think about it, there’s a lot of truth to that understanding. I believe the more we trust God, the less our heart will be troubled. I pray that for you today as well!

 

1 Peter 4: “Reaching a Learned Helpless World”

Chapter 4 1 Peter is for sure not a warm and fuzzy chapter to read. But let’s not forget the context of Peter’s writing and who he’s writing too.

We know that Peter is writing from Rome around A.D. 64, just 3 years before he would be crucified upside down by the ruthless Caesar Nero. So he writes this letter to new believers who heard him speak at Pentecost and went back to start churches in their towns (which were all located in Asia Minor, present day Turkey).

Think about this: It would be like going to a Billy Graham Crusade, being changed by the message, and going home to start pastoring a church! Oh and by the way, you don’t know it yet, but this new faith you signed up for will likely cause you and your family to be tortured and ultimately killed. Any takers? But this is the power of God’s transformational story in the world. It is worth dying for! It always has, and always will!

1 Peter 4:7-9 (NLT) 7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. 

So far, here’s the call to action:

  • Be earnest and disciplined… in your prayers.
  • Show deep love for each other… for love covers a multitude of sins.
  • Cheerfully share your home (the NIV adds, “without grumbling”)

1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV) 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

This is good news! Number one, God has gifted each of us in our own unique way, and we are to use those gifts as stewards, or managers, of His grace, which by the way can take many forms.

Look at the rhythm of Paul’s writing here:

  •  If anyone… they should…
  • If anyone… they should…
  • So that…
  • To Him…

Now let’s put some meat on this now:

  • If anyone speaks… they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
  • If anyone serves… they should do so with the strength God provides
  • So that… in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
  • To Him… be the glory and power for ever and ever

Learned Helplessness

In the 1960’s psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven Maier stumbled upon what later would be defined as “Learned Helplessness.” Learned helplessness was observed in dogs that were classically conditioned to expect a low voltage electric shock after hearing a tone. Later the dogs were placed in a shuttle box that contained two chambers separated by a low barrier. The floor on one side was electrified, but the floor on the other side was not. It would have taken little effort for the dog to cross over to the safety of the other side.

The dogs who were previously subjected to “classical conditioning” made no attempt to escape, even when the opportunity was so easy and obvious. They were so helpless they just laid on the floor receiving shock after shock. But there is hope. Later in the experiment a second dog was introduced who had never been conditioned to expect a shock after hearing a tone.

The Result:

The two dogs were on same side, the tone is played and the shock administered to the floor of the box. The conditioned dogs sits there while the other dog takes off, probably thinking to themselves, “I’m outta here.” What do you think the conditioned dog did? The conditioned dog saw the other dog run for safety and followed after him.

The dog who for so long had learned helplessness was now safe because of the actions of another dog. All the conditioned dog needed was for someone to show them the way.

The Challenge

1 Peter 4 is filled with the challenge to do something with what God gave you! Sometimes I hear people say, “I’m not sure why God gave me this gift, it feels like a curse…” The best thing to realize about God’s gifts is that he didn’t give them to you, He gave them for you.  

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others…”