Genre of Revelation 

Revelation has been used as a tool for many conspiracy/fear theories and modern day prophecies. Discuss this statement.

Revelations is an apocalyptic writing. A first century book, written out of the situation of the early Christians, and for these persecuted people. The Roman Empire was continuing its wicked way; oppression and wrong abounded; the cult of the emperor flourished, as did idolatry generally. The Christian minority found itself the object of suspicion, sometimes persecution. Some were killed for their faith. It was never intended to be used as a crossword puzzle for a relaxed church 2000 years later.

Revelation tells us about the redemptive Story we are all part of and the Great Storyteller who reveals Himself in Rev. 22:13 as the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Discuss the importance of understanding genre when studying the Bible. 

What Revelation tells us about our Story 

  1. Troubled Times

    Apocalyptic writing embodies a tension between history and eschatology. History is eschatologically interpreted; in Revelation, evil at the hands of Rome is 'realised eschatology'. But Revelation is 'prophecy' and goes beyond contemporary apocalyptic (like that of the prophets) writing in some respects. Although John shares the apocalyptist's pessimism concerning the present age, he sees much further: history is the scene of God's redemptive activity. Whereas the apocalyptists looked forward to the coming of God's Messiah, John asserts that he has come, and has suffered, but is now King of kings and Lord of lords.

    Jesus has come, and will come again. When he does the story as we know it will come to conclusion. We are the people who live in the tension of the ‘now-and-not-yet’, and troubled times are part of this story. (John 16:33).

    In this lifetime you will have glimpses of paradise and glimpses of hell – there will be times of peace and there will be troubled times. Revelation tells us this story so we can prepare, and understand that despite the times and the circumstances that face us, God is still God, Christ has overcome, and God still loves and favours us (not dependant on circumstances).

    Why is it important to properly understand our story? And the effects of living in troubled times?

  2. Life after Death

    Revelation also points to life beyond the story as we know it – Rev. 21:1-3.

    The people of God need a sound theology of life after death and heaven – a theology not based on someone’s ideas or theories, but grounded in the astute study of God’s word.

  3. Defeat of Evil

    Revelation tells the story of defeat of evil – Rev. 20:7-10; Rev. 21:3-4

    Revelation tells the story of the fullness of redemption coming to a climax where there will be no more evil – when the enemy of God’s people, known as Satan, the deceiver, the accuser, the list goes on, will no longer reign and there will be peace. And the evil that has connected with our own fallen nature no longer operates – how amazing that must be.

  4. Reign and Judgement

    Revelation tells a story of Christ’s reign and also judgment – Rev. 1:7, 12-18; 20:12.

    For the Christian the return of Christ to this earth is a strengthening hope. For the enemies of God it is a threat of judgment. Divine glory and human grief will be combined.

    But now we live in the in-between times – the time between when the great story began, and when it will finish like we know it. We are the people of the transition journey. 

What other things does Revelation tell us about our Story?

So How do we Live in the Face of this In-Between Story? 

  1. Attentive

    The example of Sardis: Rev. 3:1-3

    The church at Sardis was pronounced as being "dead" (3:1). It appeared to be alive – had "a reputation of being alive" – looked spiritually vibrant on the outside – but was spiritually lifeless. The church was Christian in name only. This recalls Christ’s scathing rebuke of the Pharisees who "look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean" (Matthew 23:27).

    Says G.R. Beasley-Murray: "The appearance [of the Sardis church] is that of a beautifully adorned corpse in a funeral parlour, and the Lord is not deceived" (Revelation, p. 95).

    Sardis, like the people in the OT had become inattentive to the issues of justice, mercy and compassion – they lived a religious life but did not realise that their proclaimed faith had to be acted upon in action – they had become paralysed or dead.

    That might explain its calm and sedated outward appearance. George Eldon Ladd defined the Sardis church as, "A picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power" (A Commentary on the Revelation of John, p. 56).

    The warning stands for us today – faith without works is dead. We can sing the songs, believe the right doctrine, say the name of Jesus, rebuke the devil – but if we possess an arrogant attitude, are rude to our neighbour, blind to the needs of others, inattentive to the cries of our community we are simply playing a game. Jesus calls us to live attentive and obedient lives.

    Discuss and use personal examples about the difference between living life attentively or apathetically?

  2. With Confidence and Authority

    In these now-and-not-yet times we live with confidence and authority that is carried with a spirit of humility, compassion and love. Rev. 2:26-28.

    This authority does not mean that your life will be forever triumphant – there will be many seasons of darkness, many valleys of grief, many journeys through fire and flood – but rather it is the ability to stand in the midst of these times because we trust Christ – who He is and we are in Him. Our trust is not in our own ability to stand, but we can stand because Jesus, whom we choose to believe, has already overcome.

  3. With Perseverance

    The commendation of perseverance features throughout the book of Revelation: Rev. 2:2; Rev. 2:19.

    That word perseverance comes from the Greek word ‘hupomeno’ and it means to abide, to be patient, with special emphasis on suffering – basically it is perseverance or patience in suffering.

    The book of Revelation prepares the in-betweeners to be prepared for suffering, and commends those who are patient and persevere even amidst hardship. Again, that is why a ‘theology’ that rejects suffering is no theology at all – it is a deadly idealism that worships a ‘god’ that is not really found in the Bible!
    1 Peter 4:12-13
    Perseverance is the perfume of faith. To have faith means to persevere even when you do not see the promises fulfilled in your lifetime Perseverance is the pit-bull inside you that has bitten into God and will not let go – it is what Job cries out “Though He slay me, yet will I serve him.”

    Discuss the effects of having a theology that does not understand or include suffering?

  4. With Hope

    Ultimately we must recognise the hope that we have in Christ: the hope for life after death, the hope for the end of suffering, pain and death. The hope that gives meaning and influences life now.

    The last chapter of the story: Rev. 22:1-5

    Hope – it is what makes us trudge on through the dark valleys.
    Hope – it is the sunrise we carry in our hearts when everything else is in pitch darkness. Hope is the sustenance of pilgrims.
    Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Discuss the importance of hope – pray for one another.
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