Revelation 1 CSB | Trey VanCamp | June 4, 2023
No other book has been twisted or tamed more than Revelation. It’s important to remember that:
- As a theologian, St. John intends for us to read Revelation Christologically, not chronologically.
- As a pastor, St. John intends for us to read Revelation with a focus on discipleship, not on decipherment.
- As a poet, St. John intends for us to read Revelation literarily, not literally.
We believe studying Revelation will awaken and deepen our discipleship and refocus our attention on Jesus.
Open your Bibles to Revelation. Uh, revelation. We’re starting a new series today. I’ve just been so excited about. We’ve been talking about how do we, how are we formed by scripture? And so we thought, what greater book, just to wrestle with the principles that we learned. Remember, we learned authority.
Story. Eat it, obey it. And so now those four tools, if you weren’t here the last four weeks, just go to formed by jesus.com. Rudy used those four tools to understand the most confusing book of the Bible. And so we’re gonna start in Revelation one. Now, last week, my wife and I, we finally found a babysitter to go see Guardians of the Galaxy Three.
Anybody else see that movie? We got collapse. Okay, awesome. So I was very excited about this film. Uh, I had one set of friends, literally walked out of the movie early. So I was like, wow, it’s that bad. And then another group of friends said, no, it’s the best movie since endgame. So I took it upon myself to figure out which one, which group to hang out with and which group to just shun for the rest of my life, right?
And so we went, we found a babysitter. And so it was actually my mom who’s with us today, which is rare. So love you, mom. I text her, I said, Hey, can you watch my kids? I wanna watch Guardians tonight. She said, yes. But it needs to be soon cuz I have a early morning. And so we looked up online, it was four 30 when I checked Fat Cats at five o’clock.
I said, we will be there in five minutes. So we sped, we got the kids in, I don’t even know if they had everything on, but we threw ’em in the car, dropped ’em off. I, while I was driving, Jordan was finding seats. It was the whole thing. Anybody done this before, right? And so we got there. I was like, we have enough time.
I gotta get the loaded nachos, get the loaded nachos at fat cats. It’s worth it. And so we get the loaded nachos, we pull in, there’s one preview left. I’m like, look at this. We are killing the game. And so I’m enjoying it. I literally am saying thank you, God, that we made it on time. And I prayed this movie is good, not bad, like my other friends, all this stuff.
And so we were watching it. I was excited about the preview. And my wife, God bless her, happy 10 years, babe. She ruins the movie for me because she whispers. She said, Trey, again, we’re in the front row because it’s sold out, right? This is where we’re at. So I’m a little bothered cuz it’s just so big, but whatever she says, Trey, look at that soda splatter.
I didn’t see it. The whole preview. See it? I’m not kidding you. I saw nothing. And then I said, babe, you just ruined the whole movie for me. Literally, I, I, I, I’m convinced I would’ve gotten the whole movie without seeing it. But now the movie starts and I’m staring at this soda splatter. I’m thinking through the story of whose teenage kid did this, which parent parenting these days, you know, the whole thing.
And I’m figuring out, we’ve gotta fix this. I look behind me, no one else is mad. I’m like, look at this. I want everyone else to be ruined. I’m like, look at the soda splatter. You know? So instead I’m a Baptist so I don’t yell. So I go out and I meet the manager. I’m like, I don’t care about the intro to this movie cuz I can’t even see the movie.
All I see is this gigantic, probably Diet Coke splatter everywhere. And so I talk to the manager. And I’m like, can you just come in? It’s in theater eight. And so we go to theater eight and she goes, yeah, that’s a bummer. Well enjoy the show. And I’m like, how can I enjoy the show? Do you see the soda splatter?
And so the whole first hour, I’m looking back there, people are in tears. There’s stuff that happens. You should stay the whole time. And I’m angry, you know, I’m thinking I got my nachos. I’m a little happy about that, but I have no idea where the story is. I have no idea who’s about to die or whatever. Cuz I literally, I’m not joking, staring at the soda splatter.
That’s all I can think about. And so we were about an hour in, I was fuming and I looked to my wife and was like, you know what, beyond the soda splatter, the motion when you’re that close, right? Especially Gardens Galaxy movie is, there’s just so much going on. I feel like I can’t see. And so I started looking behind and there was a handicapped seat that was open and I thought, Lord, please, you know, it’s not good to steal, especially handicapped seat, but if I’m gonna give it 10 more minutes, and so.
You can verify this whole story. This is all true. So I look at my clock. If there’s nobody sitting there in 10 minutes, I’m gonna go, Jordan’s a rule follower. She said, no, we can’t do it. That’s a sin. I said, I don’t care. We gotta enjoy this movie somehow. So finally 10 minutes goes by, nobody goes there. So we go sit back there and friends.
A miracle happened. I couldn’t see the soda splatter. It was insane. It was a 10 foot difference. I’m like, no wonder why these people have been crying the whole time. Literally, I, I went to my wife, I said, this is a miracle. I can’t see the splatter anymore. She goes, I can’t even, so then I spent the rest of the movie trying to find the splatter.
Didn’t even know what the movie was about. Right? But I’m like, this is amazing. I’m no longer motion sick. I don’t see the soda splatter. And then Jordan whispers. Yeah, but it’s colder over here. Can we go back? I’m like, happy 10 years, babe. Anyways, we’re reading Revelation. And what’s gonna be happening is a lot of us have heard stories about Revelation.
We’ve had, like metaphorically speaking, soda splatters all over this book. What happens is people make it about something that it’s not, and it’s so captivating and compelling. It’s all we think about. And so I think there’s a great chance many of us in this room, if you’ve ever even tried to study the Bible of Rev, the book of Revelation, you kind of know there’s something off about it a, and it’s distracting and you don’t get how it fits with the rest of the scriptures.
And so what we wanna do is really take a big step back, not focus on all the details and get lost in the weeds so we’re not doing throughout this whole series verse by verse. Although today we’re doing all of chapter one, we’re gonna take a 30,000 foot view and see what is this book of Revelation all about?
And maybe just maybe we learned it wrong the first time. So here’s our aim. By the way, the notes are firstname.lastname@example.org. Just hit that next steps button on your phone if you’d like to take notes that way, cuz there’s a lot of notes today. But our aim is to read Revelation in such a way that we are formed by Jesus together for others.
This is our vision for our church. This is everything we do, and we believe that’s a good framework to apply to Revelation. We need to be formed by Jesus, by reading the book of Revelation. You and I will become like Jesus. We will begin to think more like Jesus. We will act, look more, act more like Jesus.
And that’s a pretty bold claim because if you know people who love revelation, sometimes they don’t act like Jesus at all. Amen. Have you met those people? They’re just crazy and everything’s the end of the world. But also we wanna do this together. As you look at this story, it’s incredible. You learn there is a war happening and we gotta do it together.
We cannot fight the Christian fight alone. It is not worth living alone. And so we hope even through this series, you guys begin to look across the aisle and you begin to hang out, even just after church and go to lunch together. Like we think Revelation might empower you to do that. And then lastly, it’s for others.
For too long, people have used this book to despise their neighbor. No revelation should make you love your neighbor even more. For way too long, people have used revelation to withdraw from society, not at all. This book makes you go into Babylon, makes you go into Rome, makes you go into the streets where Jesus isn’t named, and we proclaim him with a spirit of love and a spirit of truth.
And so that’s our prayer that we faithfully read and obey this book in such a way that we no longer despise our neighbors or withdraw from society, but we faithfully contribute to the kingdom of God in a really compelling and christocentric way. Let’s pray. Father, we just asked for your blessing on this whole series this summer.
God just direct us. Maybe if we need to study it more, maybe we just listen to your promptings. But Holy Spirit, I just ask you that you would use this text the way you’ve always intended it to be, and that’s drawing people to yourself and your majesty. That’s uniting the church and that’s reaching the lost God form us.
Do what only you can do. In Jesus’ name, I pray everybody says amen. You guys ready for Revelation three people? I’m encouraged. Now, there are so many ways to start a study on Revelation. I want us to focus on chapter one to start, and I want us to look at the author of this book. Okay? Now, the Holy Spirit inspired this book, but we learned through our scripture series.
There’s also a human on the other side of it, so we have to know a lot about this human. So in Revelation, we’re gonna see how John writes as a theologian, a pastor, and a poet. My argument for today is if you take out even one of those components of him, you’ll misunderstand the entire book. We’ll look out throughout this whole summer, if you take out the theology here, this is what leads to this.
If you take out the pastoral heartbeat here, it’s what leads to that. If you forget, this is poetry and not always literal. You’re just gonna lead to this, that, and the other. Okay? And so we really need to be faithful here in seeing, okay, he’s a theologian, he’s a pastor, and he’s a poet. Let me dive in by first starting how John serves as a theologian who really recounts the character and victory of Jesus.
Let’s look at verse one, chapter one, revelation I’m reading from the Christian Standard Bible, the revelation of Jesus Christ. Notice right away, this isn’t a revelation of John, it’s a revelation of Jesus. One commentator said, this is a revelation of Jesus by Jesus and about Jesus. So this is already theology.
It’s talking about Jesus. Look, the revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. We should see that as a sense of urgency. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant. John, I love the humility here. This can be of Apostle John or the awesome poet, poetic John.
No, he’s just a servant. Verse two, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatever he saw. Again, it’s the Holy Spirit. Inspiring this, John is just the messenger. Verse three, blessed. Remember this word, blessed from our scripture series. This can also be translated happy, right?
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. Here’s some of the language we talked about in Joshua one and Psalm one, right? And blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy. What did we learn last week though? There’s a difference between hearing and then also doing. That’s why he says and keep what is written in it, because the time is near.
We talked about keeping in the Sabbath series. See how this is all tying together? Keeping is this idea of like observing a holiday. It’s like, Hey, we have certain rhythms we do because it’s Christmas, right? Or whatever. And so it’s saying now, as you read this book, organize your Whole Life to Obey, to keep, to to honor what you’re about to read.
It’s a wonderful introduction to a wonderful book. Okay, verse four, John, to the seven churches in Asia, grace in peace to you from the one who is, who was and who is to come. And from the seven spirits before his throne. When you read Revelation and you see things like Seven Spirits, Don’t freak out, just keep reading cuz sometimes it answers it itself.
And at the end of chapter one, we’ll see the answer by who all these people are. But notice the seven churches in Asia. Next week we’re gonna do a deeper dive on who those churches are. There’s a lot of arguments. Does that represent the future church or does it just represent the first century? Come next week and you’ll find out.
Okay, so it’s to the church though. It’s to us, verse five. And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, which faithful witness just means he’s the ultimate prophet. He testifies to the truth. Jesus is truth. The firstborn from the dead. This is implying his resurrection, but also firstborn saying, when you and I believe, what’s the Easter message, we too will be resurrected.
So Jesus was the first, but he’s implying, remember because we believe in him will also be from the devil rise again and the ruler of the kings of the earth. That just means, and there’s no one like him. He is supreme. He’s the king of kings and Lord of lords. Okay, lot of theology. My favorite line is here to him who loves us.
Jesus loves you and has set us free from our sins by his blood. Now so far, is there any new information and revelation? No. It’s recounting the gospel. It’s recounting what the other 65 books of the Bible are saying Here, hear me clear. Jesus loves you so much that he died for you to pay the penalty of your sin.
When you receive his blood, say, yes, I need that payment. You are set free. You are set free from sin, the power of sin over your life. It no longer defines who you are. It’s no longer, uh, we believe sin. The wages of sin is death, right? It’s eternal judgment, but in, in Christ and his blood. We’re set free from that judgment.
We’re set free from Satan. Satan no longer has a powerful hold on you. Demons no longer have complete possession of you. No, because of the blood. Of Jesus. We’re also set free, uh, and saved from condemnation. When we come here today, we pray you didn’t feel guilty if you were a believer in Christ. If you did, you could just nail that guilt on the cross and say, I am free.
I am righteous in the ice of God, and I am coming here. I don’t need to earn anything. I am loved. And all I’m called to do is to walk in that love. This is amazing theology, by the way. This word loves, implies, keeps on loving. It’s written in a way. So in other words, read it this way. Um, where am I, uh, to him who keeps on loving us and has set us free from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom priest to his God and father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.
Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him. Even those who pierced him and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. So it is to be Amen. Stick with me. I am the alpha and the omega says the Lord God. The one who was who? Sorry? The one who is, who was, and who is to come the Almighty.
That will be a phrase you’ll see throughout this book. It’s how he ends. It’s, in other words, alpha and omega is the Greek alphabet. So it’s like he’s saying, Jesus is saying, I am the A to Z, right? In 2213, Jesus adds, I’m the beginning and the end. I love that because this word beginning and Greek is arche, which is where you and I get the phrase archetype.
So Jesus is the archetype of humanity. He is the perfect full perfection. He is who we are basing everything off of. And then the end is that Greek word telos, which if you’ve been here for a few years, we like mentioning this words. It means the purpose. It’s the end goal, it’s the destiny. And so throughout this book, you’re gonna hear Jesus is the foundation.
He’s the destiny. He’s the beginning. He’s the end. He’s the first. He’s the last, he’s the final. Amen. What does that mean? Everything’s about Jesus. If you read Revelation, And you even use words like God and faith and the countries and this, but you don’t mention the person and work of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, our victor, the one who was one in our place.
You have missed revelation. You will go off and do crazy things and I imagine you’ve seen those crazy interpretations before. Write this down as a theologian, John intends for us to read Revelation Christologically, not chronologically. This was mind blown moment for me. Stick with me. Christologically.
What does that mean? It’s saying it’s all about Jesus, right? Look for Jesus in every chapter of the text cuz he’s there. It’s about his victory over sin, Satan condemnation, death itself. So then it’s also saying, what does this say about the bride, the his church, the people who he saved, right? Read it.
Christologically. Now why do I compare christological with chronological? Right. Here’s what happens when you see Revelation one as like, okay, the, the time has begun. The, the sequence of events have started, and then you go all the way to 22, which 22 rightly is the end. What you will do is you’ll read passages out of order.
You, you’ll miss the whole point. Uh, let me give you an example. Revelation 12, we actually preached it last Christmas Eve. If you were here, we talked about how really there should be a dragon at the nativity scene. Anybody remember that? Uh, I’m encouraged. I don’t remember my sermons either. It’s fine. Uh, so anyways, you have this dragon.
Now, if you think it’s chronological, you’ll go to Revelation 12 and think there is no way John is talking about what happened in zero ad. He’s talking about what happens in 2024, right? Because you’re just convinced, no, this stuff already happened, so therefore the next thing. And so what you’ll do is if you read it chronologically, Passages like Revelation 12.
It’s a beautiful picture of, uh, some people believe it’s a picture of Eve that then morphs into the picture of Mary who is pregnant with this baby boy Jesus, who will save us. And the dragon is the devil who tries to kill him, but he, she runs away. And then many people believe he, she morphs from Eve to Mary to the church.
It’s crazy. It’s a recapturing of all history. But if you read it chronologically, you’ll just think Revelation 12 has something to do with the modern day leader of a or whatever, and you’ll miss it. So remember this, you can’t really go wrong if you keep remembering where is Christ in this text. One commentator Daryl Johnson, who’s been really helpful for me in this study, he says, don’t read Revelation as what happens next, but instead, what does John see next?
So John, he doesn’t, it’s not chronological, it’s just the angels like, okay, you’re ready for this vision. Okay, now you’re ready for that one. But that doesn’t mean that comes right after that. You guys with me. This will unlock the way you read Revelation. Okay, hold on to that. Think more christological than you are thinking.
Chronological still with me. This is, I’m nerding out today and I’m loving it and I hope you are too. Okay. So John serves the church by being a theologian, speaking about the massive implications of what Jesus has done on the cross and the resurrection and how Jesus is ruling and reigning today. And he will one day completely rule and we get to be a part of the party if we are humble enough to receive it.
But John’s also a pastor and he pastors a church, seven churches. And those churches have issues and those issues have issues and he has grace and truth, but he wants the people to embody Christ. And so he has a pastor’s heart. Look at verse nine. Remember this is John in his really old age, he says, I John, your brother and partner in the affliction.
I think a good example of pastoral ministry is that, uh, We’re brothers and sisters, right? We’re in this together. We are servants. Pastors are here to serve. It’s more about the servanthood than the status. And so John is setting that example, but it says, partner in the affliction. Let me give you some context of what’s happening in Revelation in the writing that it is being written in.
John is not writing from an ivory tower. He’s actually really old. Jesus prophesied. He’d be the only one who wouldn’t die a martyr’s death. And this is what happens. So in the Book of Acts persecution, if you read that book, really begins to ramp up, especially around 65 ad under Emperor Nero. What’s amazing about this, even though persecution ramps up, you have like the Apostle Peter saying, pray for Niro, honor the emperor.
Right? But what happens under Emperor Vespasian, he eventually destroys Jerusalem in 70 a D. Ransack the temple. It was a crazy year, uh, in the late sixties because Peter was crucified upside down. Most people believe, and in that same exact year, some most believed the same exact day. The Apostle Paul who wrote two thirds of the New Testament was beheaded.
Can you imagine the freakout, Peter and Paul, like the pillars of this new early church have both been killed by the Empire and now what? So John writes in that anxiety in 92 ad things got even worse under Emperor Emperor donation. What he did is pretty fascinating. He changed the name of the Roman Empire to be called The Eternal Empire.
I want to ask you, how did that work for him? It’s not doing so well. Right? Four of our people from our church visited it’s a museum more than it’s an eternal empire at this point. Also, he required talk about insecure. He required everybody to call him Everlasting King. Talk about an unbearable husband, right?
Go me over. Lein King, right? So what he would do is he built all these temples throughout Rome in his honor, and he didn’t care what you believed or what you did, but he required that you would on a regular basis, go to his temple, take a pinch of incense, throw it on the fire, and just say, Caesar is Lord.
What do Christians do? We know. Jesus says, no, I am the only Lord. Jesus is Lord. And so a lot of other people, other religions, he was saying how, whatever religion you want, but add this on top. And Christians have always been unique, whereas we’re saying, no, he’s the only way, the only truth, the only life. We can’t add or subtract.
We have to follow Christ and Christ alone. And we gotta be careful of doing that today. We’ll look at that in the coming weeks, how we have really fallen into secretism in major ways. But John, we have to know this. John, he wanted to honor Caesar. He, he wasn’t rude, he was about it, but he just refused to worship Caesar.
And as a result what happens to him, he is exiled to Patmos this island of isolation and they thought if, if we kill him, the church will grow even more. Because that was what happened with Peter and with Paul and throughout the rest of history, you’ll see when Lar, when Christians get killed, we grow even faster.
So, okay, let’s not do that. Let’s just tuck him away and he’ll just die in relative obscurity and instead the angel of Lord comes and gives him this brilliant revelation. But we have to remember when he reads partner in the infliction, his writing to a church who knows persecution. Their brother might have been killed for their faith or their sister.
You will look at that next week. This is really, really hard times. It’s not because their Facebook post got censored and nobody liked it. Right? That’s not persecution. This is like straight up. My cousin is dead. You have to remember that. So he’s a partner in the affliction. He’s also suffering, uh, keep going.
And, and, and the affliction in the kingdom and endurance that are in Jesus was on the island called Pat Mo because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet saying, right on a scroll, what you see and send it to the seven churches, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Tyra Sardis, Philadelphia, and Leia.
Okay, look, we have to remember this is a persecuted pastor writing to a persecuted church. Very important. And John has a pastor’s heart and what he’s about to do come next week, he’s gonna encourage the church, he’s gotta rebuke the church, and then he is gonna motivate the church to keep going. But write this down.
As a pastor, John intends for us to read Revelation with a focus on discipleship, not. On Decipherment. What do I mean by that? Just look up YouTube. There’s some crazy revelation videos. Okay. And I really wanted to make a fake one as an ad for people to come to church and then be like, kidding. But here’s what it really means.
But I, I can’t lie, but if you guys wanna sign that off, I’ll do it anyway. So Revelation you have, like I’ve seen on YouTube, decipherment, they act like it’s the national treasure where the Bible really, like if you put lemon on it and do a candle and look at like, there’s gonna be something else there.
And we treat revelation likelike like it’s some special code and it’s really not. What happened? So one time I, I watched a video, this was uh, one of my first YouTube videos I ever watched after the cat video and the Charlie bit me one, I saw a video about Revelation and pointing to Revelation, actually prophesied the Twin Towers falling.
Have you guys ever heard of that, that you’ve seen that in Revelation? I’m alone a lot. It’s fine. Everything’s good. So these twin towers are falling and they pointed to like this number system. And I remember as like a 14 year old going like, whoa, like maybe that’s true. You know? So let me just say, with the heart of grace and mercy and patience, I, everything I’m saying that it’s not, there was once a day.
I thought that’s what it was, right? And so there’s grace for you. Let me know. Like let me please know. I’m not trying to mock you if you believe some of these things, I’m just trying to change you anyway. So that’s probably not it. It’s not about the Twin Towers. Okay, that was a tragic event. Leave it at that.
But don’t do some weird decipher job and figure that out a another one. Few weeks ago, I had someone tell me, they’re like, oh no. I was like, what’s going on? He’s like the new king of England. He became the king six months, six weeks and six days after his mom died. 6, 6, 6. Look at the Bible, and I’m like, that’s also seven months, two weeks and six days.
But you make it sound crazy by saying, six months, six weeks and six, you can make all this stuff sound crazy. What happens when you do that? You forget the whole point of the book. You get caught up. Is this person 6 66 Is that, and you miss out on discipleship? See, decipherment draws our eyes off of discipleship.
We can get so deciphering the code that we forget to be people of love. We forget to say we’re gonna suffer for the goodness of the gospel. We forget to see the many seductions of Babylon. We, we forget to look at the images and the animals that are conveying empires and temptations and evils.
Temptations like apathy, envy, lust, power, riches, self glorification are all warned against in this book. And yet we can read Revelation and not once repent of any of those things cuz we’re so caught up in the world. Leaders of today figuring out on our house. We got those strings moving everywhere, right?
Connecting everything. There is a better way to spend your energy. And throughout this series, we’re gonna look at, this book is a manual for discipleship to be faithful in a world that’s not faithful. And it’s so encouraging. So John’s the theologian. John is a pastor, but it’s so crucial we don’t forget this last part.
John serves as a poet who really recaptures our imagination to keep pressing on in the good fight. Verse 12, then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I churned, I saw seven golden lamp stands. Now hold on cuz verse 20 is gonna just explain who those lamp stands are. Spoiler alert, the lamp stands are the church.
What I love about that is lamp stands can look different. They can be dirty. They can be clean. But what we do know, the only reason a lampstand has its power is because of a light. And friends. The only way the church has its power is when we put Jesus first. Jesus in the middle, Jesus last, Jesus everything.
He is the one who gives us our source. And among the lampstands was one like the son of man dressed in a robe and with a golden sash wrapped around his chest. The hair of his head was wide as wool, wide as snow and his eyes like a fiery flame. Please remember, This is poetry. Like a son of man is referencing the book of Daniel pointing to the coming Messiah dressed in a robe, shows his royalty and his victory wide AST snow, right?
That shows his purity, his righteousness, eyes like a fiery flame. That’s just cool, you know, it’s pretty amazing. Look at verse 15. His feet were like fine bronze as it’s fired in a furnace. And his voice, like the sound of cascading or others say rushing waters. Now, if it really sounds like rushing waters, can you even hear anything?
I’ve been thinking through that all week. How do you hear something if it’s, you know, it’s like rushing waters. The point is poetry. He’s saying it’s powerful. It’s awe-inspiring. You’re taken back by his voice. He had seven stars in his right hand. A sharp double edged sword came from his mouth and his face was shining like the sun at full strength.
Now can this be true? Sure. I, well, can Jesus have lit like a sword coming out of his mouth? That’d be bolder. I think it’d be cool. But a deeper poetic imagery says, man, when he speaks, it divides bone and marrow. He has the truth and you can’t hide from him. He is the truth, and he almost set you free. Verse 17, when I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man.
He laid his right hand on me and said, don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the living one. I was dead. But look, I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. How is this possible? Because of the cross in resurrection. This is what Jesus looks like today in verse 19.
Therefore, write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand of the seven golden lampstand is this. Oh, good. The seven stars I was so confused about are the angels of the seven churches. And the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.
Write this down As a poet, John intends for us to read Revelation. Literally, not literally. Revelation literally means apocalypses in the Greek, which is where you and I get the word apocalyptic or apocalypse. Now, what this means at its most literal definition, apocalypse means a revealing, it’s kind of like the matrix when you watch it and you’re like, oh my gosh, I thought I understood the world, but now I really see the world, right?
Or people talk about taking a pill. I don’t know if it’s red or blue or whatever. I’m not a part of that community, but you know, if you take that now, you see everything for what it is he’s saying. When you read Revelation, it’s got different imagery, but it makes you see reality for what it really is, and it’s crazier than you think.
So in this apocalyptic literature, it’s common to use animals to represent people, to use beasts, to represent empires. It’s very common to use colors associated with certain things, and numbers are significant, and we’ll talk about that throughout the summer. Knowing the literature helps us tremendously.
Hear me? I don’t think the locusts are Apache helicopters that’s trying to read it. Literally, it’s commuting. Say, uh, communicating something even more profound. Revelation 71, when it talks about the angels are on the four corners of the earth, it’s not making a scientific statement about the shape of the earth.
It is showing the totality of his rule and reign, right? So if we read it so literal, we’ll miss out on even better truths. Again. Will Jesus be coming with a sword in his mouth? I kind of hope so, but if not, I’m not turned out. I get it. It’s communicating something better. I think the best modern day translation, they would’ve understood it today.
We just don’t today to uh, to do a Gardens of the Galaxy reference. We’re like, DRS. Where we just don’t get metaphors, right? And so you say stuff and we just take it all literal. See the tieback from the intro? That’s good preaching. All right. Now what happens? The best modern day version is political cartoons.
Okay, we all know, like I saw a political cartoon the other day of an elephant and a donkey. Now do we think, oh my gosh, there’s an elephant running around in the Times Square. Oh no, there’s donkeys in Washington DC Anyways, so it’s like, oh, it’s Democrats and Republicans. Oh, I, we know that. Take a look at this next image on this slide.
I took this from Darryl Johnson’s book, discipleship on the Edge. I find it really helpful. You’ll see here, for those listening to the audio experience, you have an American flag and it’s starting to, to uh, unravel. You have this string going so you only have about half the flag going and it’s unraveling more and more.
And on the bottom, this was written in 1999, so the clarity’s probably not even great On the screen it says our moral decay. Now is this cartoon written for you to freak out cuz there is a flag out there somewhere that is losing its string. No, we look at that one image and go, yeah, yeah. Our moral fabric, our DNA of our society, we’re pull, we’re peeling everything back, and if we continue to have no morals at all, we’re gonna lose everything.
We read Revelation, oh no, there’s a flag somewhere that’s losing its string, when really there’s a much more profound image that we can capture. See, imagination has the power to capture us in a way that information can’t. So in many ways, revelation says, okay, you’ve heard the gospel over and over. Maybe you’re inoculated to it.
Let me show it to you a different way so it can open up your heart. Eugene Peterson for the win. This is another book I recommend. It’s called Reverse Thunder. It’s an incredible book. I’m using it as a resource In our study of revelation, he said the following, he says, everything in the revelation. By the way, it’s not revelations.
God bless your heart. Don’t do that. Okay? Everything in the revelation can be found in the previous 65 books of the Bible. The revelation adds nothing of substance to what we already know. The truth of the gospel is already complete revealed in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new to say on the subject, but there is a new way to say it.
I read the revelation not to get more information, but to revive my imagination. Familiarity dolls my perceptions. Hurry, scatters my attention. Ambition fogs my intelligence. Selfishness restricts my range. Anxiety robs me of appetite. Envy distracts me from what is good and blessed right before me. So St.
John’s apocalyptic vision brings me to my senses, body and soul. It’s a wake up call folks, if you’re like me, you’ve heard your whole life that Jesus is king. God loves you. This book wakes you up to go. You don’t even know the implications of what that means. It is so profound. Scott McKnight another helpful commentator for this series of ours.
He said, good readers of Revelation will read it more like the Lord of the Rings than like Paul’s letter to the Romans. I knew it. Deacon Dave. I knew it. Now, don’t let that scare you. Right? That’s not us saying this is fiction. Not at all. But God writes in ways sometimes that’s poetic. We have to remember that.
And this doesn’t rob us, or true. That doesn’t make you ignore things. And in fact, I think when you read it, literally there’s a literal change of your life when you read it. Literally, it just, you’re just scared all the time. Okay? There’s a powerful way to read this. And so we hope that you and I begin to do that.
I’m reading fiction. I’m going on a vacation right after this on a 10 year anniversary trip to Cabo, and I’m bringing a fiction book. Why? Because I hate reading fiction. I hate, maybe I fiction’s are bad cuz then you’re saying revelation’s fiction. I’m not saying that, but I hate reading stories and novels and adventures.
I just want, give me poll letters. Give me X, Y, and Z. What do I do? However, I have learned. Engaging in this story has a way of shaping you more than just the facts. This is why as a kid, I was told the story right, of the boy who cried wolf. That was more effective to me than to say, Hey, don’t lie. Right?
Hearing the story and the warning and the tale has a way of taking it from the head to the heart, and in Revelation there’s this poetic imagery so that it sinks in deep. So why Revelation right now? It’s not because I’m looking at the political leaders of the day. I got this crazy map in my office and I’m like, we have six months.
You know, that’s not where I’m at. It’s more like five, but hear me, we are studying revelation because we need to be awakened from our slumber. The reality is the sin is more pervasive and destruction than any of us would like to admit. Hatred is on the rise. It is the method of Babylon, and it pains me to say the church has used that as a chief strategy as well.
With that, we may say no to the sins of Babylon, which we’re actually saying yes to more and more, but a lot of us are saying yes to the strategies of Babylon strategies of pride. Huberus told you so tribalism and this book offers a new way. And so I’m just praying like when we come every week to our church and we’re in a middle school and to the glory of God, but you can begin to forget like we’re doing kingdom work here.
Like your soul is precious. You are made for eternity and, and Jesus died for you and, and your neighbor needs to hear the Lord. I was thinking this week on my drive home, I was talking to Jordan about her life before Christ and I thought, I love my wife so much, but if, if she didn’t hear the gospel, if someone didn’t, if my dad didn’t invite her dad to church, if I didn’t share the gospel to her, where would she be right now?
Our, our imaginations are, we need to be awakened. This is significant. What we’re doing here is significant. How we spend our money and how we don’t, how we view other people, how we talk, man, there is eternity on the line, and I am just praying that revelation rewires our affections and, and revives our imagination so that we can go deeper into discipleship, that we can be more serious about the word, and we truly become a people of love, joy, and peace, and a world full of hatred, division and chaos.
It’s significant and it starts with us. Let’s pray.