Revelation 1: 1-3
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 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.
From the days not long after Jesus returned to heaven, up to the present time, Christians and others have attempted to predict when, how and where the world will end. More than any other book of the Bible, passages from Revelation are quoted as proof texts that their predictions are true.
I remember in my teenage years, not long after coming to faith in Jesus, attending a meeting where an "expert" had huge charts and timelines with various dates and world events. He explained to us how the EU (or EEC as it was at that time) was the new world order, and bar codes were the mark of the beast (so when you’re buying your Tayto Crisps you’re being duped by Satan), and how we all needed to be careful that we are not misled by the Antichrist who would have 666 somewhere on his head.
Then there were the Christian movies like ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ where, with really scary music playing in the background, all the Christians just disappeared and their pagan friends were left wondering where they’d all gone.
As we begin this study of the book of Revelation today I’m so conscious that there’s one of two camps we can fall into.
One is that we read it and get so confused and bogged down with all the symbolism and imagery that we quickly give up and go back to reading the Gospels and the Psalms. And this is a difficult book at times, especially when it talks about scrolls and beasts and dragons and seals and Babylon and that sort of thing.
The other extreme we can fall into is that we get too caught up in seeking to literally understand what every single word and symbol means. We can end up trying and use it all as a bit of a divine puzzle or code which we have to solve so that we will be able to watch the BBC news with Revelation open and clearly see every bit being fulfilled.
As we go through the book I want us to try to see how the first readers 2000 years ago to whom the book was originally written would have understood it in their own situation and the events which they saw around them. And then I also hope we can apply it to our lives as Christians today and find strength and encouragement and hope in its pages. We won't be studying every single verse of the book, or every chapter for that matter, but we will take certain key passages and seek to see what God would maybe want to say to us through them.
So please do join me for this journey through the only book of the Bible which God explicitly promises to bless those who will take time to read its words.