Revelation Part One: Dive
BEAUTY NOT THE BEAST
I remember the words like it was yesterday, it was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard. I had been teaching at C3 Night College for a couple of years and the Principal of the College was on the phone. This was not usual so I knew something was happening. As he uttered the words, I didn’t realise the impact these simple words would have on my life, it would take me down a path I had been avoiding for years, a path that was too scary to mention. The words that he said were “Katie we want you to teach Angels, Demons and End Times in our Day College.” I remember the horror, are you kidding me, that means I have to read the book of Revelation and not just read it but understand it? That is the book I avoid at all cost, it is judgemental, freaky, overwhelmingly weird and let’s be honest it gives me nightmares!! I held my terror within my mind and said with faith and confidence “Of course, thank you so much for asking me, I would be honoured.”
The book of Revelation is an incredible book and a book that most people avoid. Why do you think that is? Think about it in your own life, if you were to read only one book in the Bible to encourage you to worship God and to lift you up, which one would you choose? I bet you are thinking Psalms – with it’s incredible poetry, or Acts – the birthing of the Church or the Gospels with the story of Jesus’ life, or perhaps Genesis with the incredible life stories of Joseph, Abraham and the men and women of faith. What would you say to me if I told you that now after six years of studying this incredible book, I would choose to read the book of Revelation for encouragement, hope and to understand true worship? You would probably say she’s gone crazy! Well in the next 10 minutes I hope to change your mind about the book of Revelation and the incredible demonstration of worship and hope found within its pages.
Now, remember, probably like you, for me, the book of Revelation was something I totally avoided, I had never read it, never wanted to, saw the movie – hated it and so therein my Bible had only 65 books. And I was happy with that. Revelation was not included. But then I started to venture into the book to not only read it but to study it and that is when I fell in love.
So, let me ask you? What is the first thing that jumps to your mind when I say the book of Revelation – for most people they say ‘the beast’, ‘the Anti-Christ’, ‘the judgment of God’, ‘destruction of the earth’ and ‘fire and brimstone’. It’s a book of horrors!! But is it? It’s time this book was taken out of Satan’s hands and put back into the hand of Jesus and the hope to which he is calling us. Satan has clouded this book with so much mystery, judgement, terror and fear that it has stopped being the book of hope and glory that it was originally intended to be. Revelation was a book that was meant to be read from beginning to end in one sitting, it was meant to be experienced emotionally and spiritually. You are supposed to have an emotional reaction as you hear all the incredible things going on in this text. Actually if you are up for a challenge try sitting and reading this book in one hit - it takes a while but you will get a complete picture of the incredible story of hope found within its pages.
John wrote this book as an encouragement to the Church, how do I know that? Because in Revelations 1: 3 (remember the first section of the letters give the purpose and intention of the book) it says “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” You are supposed to be blessed by these words, not terrified, you are supposed to be motivated to change your life and do what it says.
It’s time to focus on the Beauty, not the Beast! I am passionate that if we can stop fixating on the beast and see the beauty in this book we will find some incredible revelations hidden within it’s pages.
Now with this in mind I want you to look at Chapter 4 of the book of Revelation, stop now, open your Bible and read just chapter 4. And come back to me.
Now you have read it, let me ask you one question, what is the most predominant thing that jumps out at you in this chapter? For me when I first read this chapter I thought what the heck are these creatures with eyes all over them and their different faces and six wings? Again, like most people, I focused on the beast (these are in fact angels) and I missed the whole point of the chapter. The key to understanding Revelation is to stop focusing on the weird, symbolic components and to start to see the incredible beauty of worship, the revelation of God seated in heavenly places, Christ, focus on the hope in the midst of trials and the beautiful hope of the new heaven and new earth found at the end of the book.
So let’s go back to Chapter 4, to really understand what John is trying to say when he portrays this incredible throne with these unusual beings and the 24 elders worshipping the Sovereign Lord, we need to do a little historical background of the chapter and put the chapter into the context of its original readers, the 1st Century Christians.
If you lived in 90AD with Domitian declaring himself a god and you have just been told that you now have to worship him, how would you feel? You have been given an ultimatum, obey the governing body that is over you or face death. Now you are not sure if this is all worth it, you are scared, confused, it’s 60 years since Jesus has been on the earth and your faith is wavering. Then a letter comes to your Church from John. It is opened and read, the first thing you hear are personal letters, prophetic words for your Church, and then….a glimpse of heaven and this magnificent God enthroned high above all powers and principalities is declared for your imagination to take hold of and run with. You hear the word of hope! Earth and Domitian pale into insignificance compared to your God. You would feel a sense of relief, faith, hope and life. That is why the book of Revelation starts and ends with visions of Jesus (look at Revelation 1:9-20 and Revelation 19: 11 – 21) and seven times strategically placed throughout the text “The Throne of God” is mentioned. God and Jesus are supposed to be the main focus of the hope found in this book.
The original audience of the book of Revelation were facing a decision that we can relate to, to a certain extent today. The decision they were facing was - who do I worship? Which world am I giving all my time and life too? For them their choice was, do I choose the Roman Empire with it’s incredible grandeur and political power or do I choose to follow Christ? Do I go the way everyone else is going and just follow the crowd or do I make a stand to worship God alone and choose Christ even if that means being ostracized, persecuted or even martyred for the witness of Christ? That is something that we need to ask ourselves today as we read this incredible text.
Worship is one of the predominant themes in the book of Revelation. Zondervan Bible Commentary states ‘By worshipping God and the Lamb, we as Christians, in essence, deny worship to the devil’s ‘beasts’, who arise in each generation’. In Luke 4:5-8 Jesus overcame the devil’s temptation with this declaration, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”’.
In every generation, we face things that call out for our worship and we need to choose to take a stand and not worship with everyone around us but follow Christ. For the 1st Century Christians it was aligned to the Roman Empire, for us today it could be following our friends, getting involved in drugs, holding our integrity in business situations, or even choosing to go to church when it would be easier to stay at home or go to the beach. As we choose God in every situation, we are giving God our worship, we are saying ‘it is in you alone that I am dependant; it is to you alone that I submit, my life is in your hands’.
Revelation is a book that portrays beasts, weird creatures, dragons, and incredible imagery that can seem confusing but when you choose to look beyond the beasts and find the beauty in the book you will see the incredible dimensions of worship, the revelations of Jesus Christ and his deity, heaven, the throne room of God and the final victory over evil. This book is a book of hope, this book is about the Kingdom of God coming to earth. You will be blessed when you read it. So, rebuke that spirit of fear that stops you encountering this book and jump in. If you need some help with reading it then read it as you listen to an audio Bible, this is a great way to hear it as a full story and really engage with the book on a whole different level.
But don't forget see the beauty in the book of Revelation, not the beast!