Revelation Part Two: Dive
KEEP IT IN CONTEXT PEOPLE!
If you were going to write a book and you were writing the last chapter, how would you finish it? You had journeyed through the birth of your main character and the audience had watched as his life had gone through some horrific trials, he had been in situations that he needed help and at the right time someone came to rescue him – the audience cheered, he had been in some moments where he had failed and had to walk through dark periods of abandonment – the audience cried, and now after the final redemptive plan had been outplayed and the audience is left feeling like this incredible victory is finally working out in the characters life and his final destiny was coming to pass – you kill him, hell, fire, damnation, no hope, no life, just fear, terror - a feeling of complete ‘what a waste of my time’ comes across the audience. They are in shock! Other than Stephen King or Quentin Tarantino, you wouldn’t do that. So why would you expect God to?
Look at the Bible story so far, God has written the great story of redemption that starts in Genesis and journeys its way throughout the whole Bible. Our story begins in a perfect and beautiful place, the Garden of Eden, where mankind walked with God in his presence with nothing separating them. Then, as God, you watch the terrible moment the enemy leads your precious people astray. So God puts into place the story of redemption through the people of God, the Israelites and Jerusalem the Holy City. You watch as things come against your hero, they rebel and get exiled but you see God restore them, they have enemies – the Babylonians, but throughout the text, this beautiful love story of the Bride journeys from tragedy to triumph. And then “Prince Charming” arrives on the scene in a chapter called the New Testament. He comes with salvation in his path, victory over the enemy and a destiny to be bestowed upon his beautiful bride, the Church. But this Prince has not just come for the salvation of a single people group like in the previous chapters, this Prince has a big heart and a big plan in mind, he has now included all people, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, into the people he is going to save. The book continues as his children are picking up the cause and taking his message of salvation to the ends of the earth. But still this Prince wants his Kingdom back, his plan is not just to save the Bride but to save the earth that he and his Father once ruled over. How will this end, will everything he worked for happen, will the earth be restored back to the original intention, or will the enemy that corrupted this place in the beginning rule? Will the Bride be saved or will she be destroyed? Will she rise up in the midst of suffering and trial and fight beside her Prince or will she succumb to the enemies that surround her? How will this epic tale end?
And here we come to the book of Revelation, the final chapter in the story of the Bible. Most people read Revelation as an add on, they think it’s weird and the writing is different so they assume we need to completely detach it from the rest of the Bible and put it into it’s own category. Some even feel we need to go through and make up a new set of rules to apply to this book, we need to work through it like a mind map and figure out all the clues so that the ‘real story’ comes to the forefront. NO!! This is not how you read Revelation. So let’s put the book of Revelation back into the Bible – stop ripping it out and turning it into something weird!
As you read Revelation you have to remember that this book was written to an oral society, most people in that society couldn’t read, why is that important? It is important because as you read Revelation the book is supposed to remain as one whole piece, you are supposed to read and experience it all at once. Now I know today in our society we don’t have the time, memory or attention span to read this book in one sitting but that was how this book (and all the letters of the New Testament) were experienced in the 1st Century. And it wasn’t just read as some boring, monotone piece it would have been read in an animated way - that is why we encourage you to get a good audio reading of the book and listen to it as you read it just so you can experience what they did in the 1st Century. Also if you ever get a chance and you are up for the challenge try and read it in one sitting with an audio Bible or a soundtrack in your ears. You will love it, the message will come through loud and clear!
The book of Revelation was meant to be the climax of all prophecies contained within the Bible. It is meant to be the Disney Ending – where everything turns around and the King takes back his Kingdom from the enemy. It is meant to be the Exclamation mark of the whole book.
Now I hear you say, Katie how do I know this? Well, let me show you in the book, why I believe it is the final climactic ending to the incredible story of redemption and restoration back to Genesis 1.
Firstly, the characters contained in the story of the Bible are found in the final act of Revelation. It’s the big finale of the movie, where everyone comes back and we get to see the final story of restoration and redemption for each character.
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all there. Jerusalem comes back as the New Jerusalem – restored, the creation of Genesis is restored as New Creation, Heaven is New Heaven, earth is New Earth. The enemy of the whole Bible is encapsulated in the city of Babylon, the Bride is there, the Tree of Life and the River and lots and lots of angels. This is the grand finale. Do you remember in the last Seinfeld episode where they brought back every character into the Courtroom, the soup guy, the clown, everyone was there? That is what John is doing in Revelation in a prophetic declaration of God’s incredible plan for the future.
The other reason I know it is meant to be the final climax is that John includes over 400+ references to the Old Testament in this book. Now as you know by now having journeyed with us here at TYB, the use of words and literary devices in the books are not to be overlooked. They help us to understand the audience, author, message and intent for the book. So, if you were the 1st Century reader and you had someone reading the book to you, you would have heard the use of the Old Testament references over and over again as an anchor and final climactic ending to everything you had read in the Old Testament. This is God’s final conclusion to his thesis paper and he is summarising everything he has previously written, presented and done.
In a great book called Climax of Prophecy, Richard Bauckham has collected some weighty academic papers in relation to this very point. He states “John was writing what he understood to be a work of prophetic scripture, the climax of prophetic revelation, which gathered up the prophetic meaning of the Old Testament scriptures and disclosed the way in which it was being and was to be fulfilled in the last days.”
Bauckham shows how Revelation 10:7 is a reference to Old Testament prophecy as well as having allusions to Amos 3:7. John’s own prophetic commissioning (10:8-11) is modeled on that of Ezekiel (Ezek 2:9 – 3:3). John’s oracle against Babylon (18:1-19:8) echoes every one of the oracles against Babylon in the Old Testament prophets, as well as two against Tyre. (Babylon: Isa 13:1-14:23, 21:1-10, 47; Jer 25:12-38; 50-1, Tyre: Isa 23; Ezek 26-28) John’s major Old Testament source is the book of Daniel. Not to mention the strong Old Testament reference to the serpent or the dragon (Gen 3:14-15; Isa 27:1), the plagues of Egypt in Exodus, the fall of Jericho to the army of Joshua, the army of locusts found in the prophecy of Joel and the Sinai theophany.
John is prophetic and incredibly creative, his visions are out of this world and beyond, at times what our earthly imaginations can handle, but he is grounded in the Old Testament, the continuation and final climax of all God is doing. This is why I love this book. Sometimes when people have a prophetic gift they get so weird that the gift becomes scary and a little judgmental. They, at times exalt their own personal visions over the Word of God and assume that it will have the same power to heal and save. But not John, he has grounded this incredible prophetic declaration of the end of all things, in scripture. His prophecies are anchored and saturated with the Word of God. You are going to love this book, so keep reading and see the incredible climactic ending of the whole story of the Bible.
The original audience would have been so encouraged by this ‘sneak peak’ into the victorious future. Living in the 1st Century, everything looked really bad, the story looked like it was not going to end well. They were unsure that God’s plan was going to happen because on this earth it didn’t look great, but God gives them a solid vision of the future and it’s not an if or maybe, it is THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN. They would have been crying. Revelation was telling them despite what they were facing on this earth, God is in control and his final redemptive plan has already been written and guaranteed so keep going. This would have given them hope to believe that the promises in the Bible are yes and amen, because despite what I see God has already written the ending. They would have had confidence to keep facing the trials on this earth because God is seated in heavenly places and his plan will ultimately come to pass, he is not madly pacing to see if this is going to work out. No! He is seated assured that it is finished, and now the plans of God are going to be outworked on the world stage for all to see! He is the Alpha and Omega (A to Z), he is the beginning and the end, keep this book within the whole Bible story and you will see the incredible redemptive plan of God and hope for your future.
Be confident today that God’s plans are assured and he turns everything around for good. In your life, in your family, in your business, he is faithful. The whole Bible comes to a final exclamation – God is good, God is faithful and God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.