“No other part of the Bible has proven such a happy hunting ground for all sorts of bizarre and dangerous interpretations”
The book of Revelation is not an immediate ‘go-to’ place when you are thinking about making disciples. Generally it is either viewed with fear and suspicion, so that most of us functionally remove it from our Bible canon because we don’t understand it, or it is scrutinized with baffling over-emphasis, such that it is portrayed as some sort of road map for escaping from this world.
Clearly there are some core elements we should all be able to agree on. Jesus IS coming back, and that is a day which we should pray for. However, we don’t pray for it out of some notion of withdrawal from this world, but rather because we long to see the fullness of the Kingdom of God come about, the not yet of what Jesus ushered in during His time on earth being made fully present and active across the whole of creation.
None of us know when this will be — there is no secret code in Hebrew or Aramaic hidden in the book of Revelation! — which means we should live each day as if it is the last, being faithful as disciples in this broken and fallen world.
Nevertheless, there is a lot about the book of Revelation that is mysterious and beguiling. Theologian NT Wright talked about first reading it during his teens, and feeling that he’d discovered a thing of explosive beauty and power hidden inside the New Testament, [Tweet “”A thunderstorm that is there to inspire and awe us”—how Revelation makes disciples”]
To me it seems that we are to use both sides of our brain to read and understand the book of Revelation — both our rational logic and also our artistic intuition, giving us a mixture of depictions and symbols that point to something incredibly significant. There is a judgment coming, evil and death will be eradicated, our God will make all things right and all things new, and in the meantime we live by faith, seeking breakthroughs into the present day of that coming power and presence of God.
Thus, like a piece of great poetry, the book of Revelation points to the truth in ways that are not always literal but are always authentic to the Gospel as we read it in the rest of the New Testament. It is, therefore, no coincidence that Jesus is repeatedly depicted as the Lamb of God, or wearing a blood dipped robe, as it is through the weakness of the cross that all power and victory belong to Him, including when He comes again.
Thus Revelation is not about avoiding this world, but instead is a call to engage and enrich it, playing our part in joining God in His great work of driving back the enemy and the forces of darkness, and enforcing the victory that Jesus won on the cross. We help to bring a foretaste of that final victory, when Eden will be restored, the Garden will be transformed into a city of gardens as we join God in our assigned task of helping steward and develop this amazing creation.
To go further into this topic, please watch my teaching below — it includes an overview of the book, along with more input (and groovy diagrams!) on different ways to interpret it, especially in light of the rest of Scripture.
And finally, in case you are wondering, the answer to Revelation Bingo is this: the five squares NOT in the book of Revelation (although some are in other parts of Bible) are: President Obama (who is nowhere in the Bible!), the Rapture, the Antichrist, the Battle of Armageddon, and the Time of Jesus’ Return. In the talk I explain why I think I’m right on those things – obviously, realizing some will disagree!
But the big point is this: whatever the details of your theology around the Second Coming of Jesus, let’s make sure we use Revelation as it was intended to be used: as a means of developing faithful and committed disciples of Jesus who represent Him well in this world, offering in His power and authority foretastes of eternity wherever they go.
How do you use Revelation to develop disciples?
Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences (but let’s focus on disciple-making rather than all the nuances of particular aspects of eschatological theology!)
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