Revelation 1. We are coming to the end of The Essential 100 readings that summarize the epic story we call the Bible. The epic hero, God, and the epic villain, Satan, unfold a story that began with creation, was complicated at the Fall, and gave a hint of hope in the formation of a nation through Abraham. Slowly the plot has unfolded as God has worked in subtle and seemingly insignificant ways with ordinary flawed people like you and me. The hero seems determined not to be defeated.
The story culminates at the cross with the death of Jesus Christ and the hope for a promised Messiah seems lost. But hark, on the third day the tomb is found empty and it would appear that God has walked through death demonstrating to those who follow him that he is the true epic hero able to save. The story does not end, though. The few followers of Jesus who experience the resurrection spread the news and a new kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, begins to form in the shape of the Christian church. This is not a top down story like assembling a Lego set but a grassroots emersion seen in changed lives, letters written from prison, triumph over persecution and through theological debates. Our epic hero is still working.
The last book of the Bible, The Revelation, is the most read book of prophecy talking about the future. Its meaning is debated and its symbolism is not straight-forward. Revelation 1 gives the basics. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1) written down by the Apostle John, now age 90 in exile on the isle of Patmos. John writes about the near future and then about the far future, which is far more symbolic. John sees a vision of the glorified Jesus who is dictating the book to him. His worship experience confirms that God is present and John sees keys in his hand. Jesus holds the keys of death and Hell. When Jesus comes again he will come not to save but to judge and bring justice.
We are going to read themes about the final unfolding battles between good and evil and there will be hints about what heaven will be like. Many have tried to untangle the symbolism but most of us wait in faith. Interestingly, we are promised a blessing for reading.
As you think of a future where justice is restored, where you would live being able to directly experience the presence of God, and where you will be reunited with those you love, how do you envision it? I usually end up with more questions than answers for it is beyond me even as the symbols are. I love C.S. Lewis’ book 6 in Tales of Narnia, The Last Battle, when he describes the children arriving in heaven and yelling to each other, “Higher up and higher in!” as they race to a better reality than today. May we be encouraged as we look at the themes of Revelation this week. Open our ears, Lord. Open our eyes, Lord. Open our hearts, Lord. We want that blessing. Amen!