The book of Revelation…it’s interesting reading material for this time of year.
It’s the middle of December, and we are getting into the heart of the Advent Season. For my own family, I’m leading my children through a reminder of the main story of scripture: which starts in the Garden, joins Abraham in his journey, will follow the Israelites out of Egypt, and culminate with Jesus. In a culture that is increasingly post-Christian, with Biblical illiteracy growing by the day, it seems that this would be the best time of year to speak of the birth narratives. To remember Gabriel coming to Mary. To follow the journey to Bethlehem. To sing with the Angels in the fields as they greet the shepherds. To celebrate in the coming of the King.
And yet I keep finding myself being drawn to the book of Revelation. I find myself immersed in the visions of John. These strange and crazy visions of different colored horses, dragons chasing women and babies, seven headed beasts with seven horns, and finally a beautiful city coming down out of the clouds. I find myself gaining hope and strength in these stories, a gentle reminder of perspective.
Typically at this time of year we think of hope coming in the form of a tiny child. Emmanuel, born in a stable, that comes to make things right. The true Prince of Peace coming into the world to inaugurate a new Kingdom, a new way of living. And that tiny child does bring hope. As I consider the world around me; as I watch evil continue to grow and as I live in a culture turning more and more against Christianity I find hope in the tiny child. I’m reminded that the only thing that can make things right is for Jesus to come. And I wait in anticipation of that coming.
But I also find hope in Revelation, in keeping all things in perspective. Admittedly the book of Revelation is difficult to explain. It’s literary genre is apocalyptic; with almost every piece of information being symbolic for something else. It’s such an unfamiliar genre that many readers don’t know what to do with it. And yet the entire book is centered around a very short yet very important premise that can be summed up in ten words:
There are two sides, God’s side wins, so choose wisely
That’s the heart of the book. All of the visions (the letters to the churches, the unraveling of the scroll, the casting of the beast into the sea) are all elaborations on that one simple point. In the cosmic battle between God and everything else, God wins. Even though things are difficult now. Even though it appears evil may be winning. Even though God’s way of self-sacrifice, loving everyone, forgiveness and mercy and grace don’t always appear to be powerful forces for change, they are. Ultimately God will win. And so as you are picking sides, will you follow God and make him Lord or not? Choose wisely.
John gives us this vision so that we can keep everything in perspective. As we are living life filled with its ups and downs we need to keep things in perspective. When the Christian life and ethic get difficult we need to remember it works, God’s side wins. When it would be easier to take the short cut at work even though it’s illegal, when it becomes easier to blame others than accept responsibility, when we find ourselves wanting to hate instead of love, hold grudges instead of forgive, we need to remind ourselves that God’s way wins. It’s worth it to stick it out to the end.
And so, as we tell the stories of the virgin birth, of a child born in a manger, of angels and wise men and shepherds, let’s not forget to tell the end of the story. Yes, Jesus comes and he brings hope. Yes, Jesus inaugurates the Kingdom. God’s reign and rule are breaking in. But not only are they breaking in…they will succeed. God’s Kingdom will come fully. God’s reign will be complete. And even though the end of the story hasn’t fully been written, the outcome is already determined. The Beast will be cast into the abyss, the New Heaven and New Earth will be created. God is supreme.
It’s the story of Revelation, and an important reminder at all times. When you know the outcome it’s much easier to find joy and hope in the moment. Perspective is vital.