Revelation is here.
Since I was a child I have heard people point to global events, government policies, political decisions, cultural changes, along with other shifts in society and attribute them to the impending Armageddon and the fulfillment of the events of the book of Revelation. The beasts, dragon, seals, scrolls, trumpets, and all the other images used seem to have been freely given to anyone we deem evil.
As soon as we can identify a person, government, or ideology as an enemy we can fuel our pride, arrogance, fear, and anger with Bible verses taken out of context to prove our point. We extract words from scripture to justify our own raw emotions, thoughts, opinions, and biases. How often have we seen the words of God used without the love, grace, and compassion they came from. How often do we prescribe the judgement of God on others without a sober-minded, gracious, and humble understanding of how deserving we are of the same judgement. To be clear, I completely agree with the theology and reality of judgement, but I also find joy, peace, and hope in the theology and reality of salvation and mission.
Throughout my life I have heard many who claim to have “cracked the Revelation Code.” They figured it out! 2,000 years after John wrote to those 7 churches dealing with a sociological and spiritual nightmare of their own, they have finally identified the monsters of destruction in the book of Revelation in current day events and leaders. Jesus’ bride has become sadly proficient at assigning God’s favor where we want it and his curses where we disagree. Revelation is a revealing… an eye opening to what we could not see.
Too many of us assume we’ve spiritually matured past addressing the wooden plank in our own eye before pointing out the dust in someone else’s. Jesus aims directly at the way we view the world and people around us, our eyes. Our perspective is central to the issue. What comes into our thinking has a tendency to inform what comes out. While we maintain a steady diet of news media, social media, and opinions of others that only affirm our perspective… we never stop to wonder if their commentary metastasized into the board hanging out of our eye that is now obstructing our perspective to see the world as we should. The obstructing lumber in our range of vision removes the humility, grace, and love for our neighbor. Then when we disagree it medicates us with pride, arrogance, and a need to get out our self-assured opinions.
Revelation is here. Maybe not the part that comes with the 7th seal, 7th bowl, or 7th trumpet… though we are closer to it now than when John wrote the letter. In John’s letter from Patmos to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea he gives a strong revelation to help the church see who we really are. There are certainly some faithful saints so hard at work bringing the Kingdom of God into the darkest corners of their neighborhoods, cities, and world. People so devoted to the reconciling work of the souls all around them that they don’t have time to influence, react, post, or comment on every event that happens around the world. But then there are others.
John writes a pointed warning in Revelation that we tend to not be as concerned about, but would do us well with hearing. It’s a challenge to the rest of the church who rather than devoting themselves fully to Jesus, his church, and his mission are so caught up in the events of the world all around us that we end up becoming just like it. In Revelation there is a warning to the church who are so attracted to power, prestige, privilege, and profit that we lose our witness and love for Christ. We can become so infatuated with government leadership (pay attention to the usage of crowns) that we neglect the supremacy and reign of King Jesus. We end up being less holy (set apart, different), and more like the world around us. It’s hard to reach a world that we are too much like with a Jesus we barely resemble.
And the revelation is here. We can see it. Too many people who claim Christ as their King have been more vocally oppositional, angry, opinionated, anxious, worried, and fearful towards who is sitting and/or will sit in the oval office than they are with who sits on the Throne. Rather than seeing my Christian friends on facebook sharing joyfully about God’s goodness, blessing, hope, healing, love, and forgiveness they are the keyboard warriors fighting over who gets a political throne. Have we forgotten we are on an ambassador’s mission for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. More time is spent being discipled by other’s opinions, perspectives, articles, video clips, and influence rather than in the Word of God, learning to obey all the commands Jesus gave.
The events over the past year leading up to what happened Jan 6th at the US Capitol building and leading into whatever craziness is coming are all a culmination of a misplaced hope, fight, and focus on the wrong throne. Various parts of the American church body have given more attention to the declaration of independence, the american dream, and the oval office rather than they have given Christ that is the head of the church. We storm the capitol with votes, opinions, and voted officials in expectation they will preserve and protect a culture we prefer. Jesus doesn’t send the saved, healed, and redeemed to Rome… he sends them back to their neighborhoods.
The country doesn’t get better when teachers are leading prayer in the schools. It gets better when parents are leading their own kids in prayer and example at home. With at-home learning, I doubt the same proponents have reintroduced prayer into their home-classrooms. We don’t get better when laws favor our preferences, we get better when our example reflects Christ. We don’t get better when we send a different millionaire to Washington, we get better when we start washing feet and loving our neighbors. We get better when Jesus is on the throne of His Kingdom of which we are citizens.
Scripture is clear that we are to respect and pray for those in authoritative roles (specifically mentioning national leaders). As Paul was writing this he was under some of the most tyrannical Roman Emperors in history. This command is not optional. It doesn’t matter if they are your candidate or not. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the administration. Respect and prayer are required from you for them as you follow Jesus. Not because of who the president of your country, governor of your state, or mayor of your city is… but because as citizen’s of the Kingdom of God, that is what your King requires of you.
In borrowed words: I love America, just not like that. Following Jesus has been a journey of leaving where I’m comfortable in order to follow Jesus wherever he leads. To die to my old way of life, and to walk this new life with Him. To not have my identity formed by my earthly citizenship, but my heavenly one. To not pursue what I want or think is best, but for God’s will to be done in me. I haven’t mastered the art of following Jesus, far from it. But I have hopefully gotten better at catching myself when I drift from Him to pursue anything else. We need to get better at catching ourselves drift from him.
I hope those waving Jesus’ name at the capitol would become as convinced His name’s meaning is ascribed to only him. Jesus… Yeshua… to rescue, to deliver, to save. Only Him. I hope those calling for justice would become as passionate for the God who calls us to it. I hope those demanding truth throw the same passion towards Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. Not as a cheap way of giving a neutral position in polarizing times, but as a powerful way of proclaiming that only Christ is worthy of the attention we have given to everything else recently.
Revelation is here. Things have certainly been revealed in us over these past few months. I pray as we work to get the plank out of our eye and turn our eyes to Him, we will be as passionate about putting our old self to death and putting on our new self. Our eyes will turn to the poor, destitute, broken, and hurting in our cities. It’s time we stop putting our hopes, expectations, and worth in people, positions, and places that aren’t worthy of it. As Proverbs 4 says “Let your eyes look directly ahead And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, And all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right or to the left; Turn your foot from evil.”
If the past year has revealed our planks, I’m praying this next year reveals Christ in us, the hope of glory. In the same way, we would let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. May our lives reveal to anyone around us that we are faithfully his despite what happens in government and culture around us. And they would see his love and mercy because they have seen Him in us. That’s the revelation I pray we can give.