Tangled in the Weeds

The day to day in our country can be so confusing: poverty, cancer, financial crisis, people yelling at each other on television. In college, it's compounded by the day to day of: where you're going to work when you graduate coupled with the constant stress about GPA, who you'll marry, which internship to take, and trying to grapple with how your every day will affect the rest of your life. These things are so pressing that It's easy to get so tangled up in the weeds that we can't see the bigger picture. Who can bother with "what God is up to" in our lives when everything requires so much work?

Sometimes I think our view of the Bible can be similar. We get so bogged down in the details that it's hard to see what everything is all about. Can you think of a better example than the book of Revelation? It seems to be a book that takes so much work to understand, and then we feel like we'll get it wrong anyways, that we tend to focus on other areas of the Bible. Maybe talking about some of the major themes might ease the stress of engaging this wonderful letter written to a struggling church. The book of Revelation presents glorious realities that are valuable to the everyday Christian life. Here are a few good reasons to dive into the Bible's most challenging book:

1. Revelation unveils our hope in Jesus (Rev. 1:18)

The Book of Revelation was written to believers in the first century who were suffering immense persecution at the hands of the Roman government. While there is some debate about the emperor reigning at the time John wrote this book, both potential possibilities (Nero or Domitian) were brutal, cruel, and hostile to the first century believers. For instance, the emperor Nero publicly burned Christians as evening torch lights. This type of harrowing cruelty was shattering the confidence of these young believers in the first century. Revelation was written to reveal glorious hope to these young believers.

The primary point of Revelation, therefore, is not to spark academic debate about confusing future events. The primary point of Revelation is to provide hope to heavy-laden hearts.

Revelation was written to remind these struggling believers that Jesus "held the keys to Death and Hades" (Revelation 1:18), and that someday he would bring their suffering to a full and final end (Revelation 21:4). Through the book of Revelation, Jesus reminds his people that Nero does not have the final word; death does not have the final word; sin does not have the final word. Revelation reminds believers that even in the most dire of circumstances, Jesus alone has the final word.

2. Revelation helps us understand the power of a Christ-honoring (godly) life (Rev. 1:9-11)

While much of Revelation reads like a picture book, chapters 2-3 read much like the other parts of the New Testament. In it, Jesus speaks to seven churches across the Mediterranean world.

For example, one church had fallen into patterns of worldliness--more specifically, they tolerated sexual sin. To translate their problems into modern terms: the magazine articles they read, the websites they clicked on, the Spotify playlists they streamed, and the Netflix shows they watched reeked of the smell of the world--not of Christ. They approved of things he hated, and their compromise grieved the Lord Jesus.

Revelation 2-3 speak directly and piercingly to readers today. We need the instruction Revelation gives us on these important subjects. Just like these churches Jesus spoke to in these chapters, we might be unknowingly grieving the Lord Jesus as well and desperately in need of his correction.

3. Revelation comforts us that Jesus is going to make everything right (Revelation 1:17)

These first century believers were tempted to doubt whether God was really on their side. They were tempted to think "is God really for us?" "Does he see how bad we are hurting? Is he turning a blind eye to our suffering and this injustice?"

Revelation revealed to them (and to us) that Jesus sees the suffering of his people. He sees all the injustice that has taken place--past, present, and future--across our fallen world. Revelation reminds us that God is keeping score. He is the just judge. Revelation points to a day when the Returning King will fully punish every evildoer in his just wrath (Revelation 19:15).

4. Revelation assures us that Jesus controls everything

If we had lived in the first century, we would have been tempted to believe that Nero was king. He ruled Rome, and Rome ruled the world...or so it seemed. Revelation assures us that in God's appointed time, many Neros will step on the stage of human history, but at God's appointed time they will also step off the stage of human history. Revelation assures us that Jesus--not Nero or Domitian--is the "Alpha and the Omega"; Jesus is the one "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" (1:8). He is the one who is to receive honor, glory, and praise for he "created all things, and by [his] will they existed and were created" (4:11). Just like the book of Daniel, Revelation shows us that human leaders and human empires come crumbling down at the hands of the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13; Revelation 1:13). Throughout the entirety of the book, Jesus is shown to be the one who has all authority, all power, all control over all the levers of human history. He has no rival. And no emperor, no dictator, no president or prime minister can thwart his purpose and plan.

5. Revelation reminds us that Jesus is the merciful Lamb

Revelation gloriously portrays Jesus all throughout the book. He is consistently pictured, however, in reference to his shed blood (Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 12:11; 19:3). The shadow of the cross looms over the entire book of Revelation. Revelation 5 perhaps displays this reality most gloriously:

"Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth."
(Revelation 5:9-10)

Revelation reminds us that Jesus is full of mercy. He loves his people. He is the Lamb who identifies with those who have been slain at the hands of wicked people--for he himself was slain at the hands of wicked people.

Revelation reminds us that only the blood of Christ cleanses us of sin (Revelation 7:14)

Revelation echoes the rest of the Bible in communicating that all who turn from their sin and trust in the slain Lamb will be eternally reconciled to God. They will be forever cleansed of sin (Revelation 7:14), they will forever experience the fullness of joy (Revelation 21:4), and they will forever see his face (Revelation 22:4).

Clarity in the Weeds

Don't be afraid to crack open the (seemingly) most intimidating book of the Bible. Revelation can remind us that in the midst of feeling tangled in the weeds, details, and worries of life that: Your hope is in Jesus. Your Godly life matters. Jesus will judge the evil in the world and make everything the way it should be. Jesus controls everything in your life and in the world. Lastly, remember that this king who is on the throne is merciful. He was the Lamb who was slain in order to bring you back to him. When life is unclear Revelation offers you rest in the midst of a difficult world.

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