by Rev. John H. Farmer
Finding myself in the Book of Revelation
Often, I am amused by the struggling faithful who express a confusing level of Biblical understanding because they have crashed upon the shores of Revelation. They say, “Preacher, I just don’t understand it.”
The first thing that crosses my mind is why don’t they get back into a more understandable area and strive to assess those teachings upon their everyday lives? Rarely would I actually say that to anyone, however.
Let’s take a few minutes and allow me to add yet another voice to the fray—about the book of Revelation. One needs to remember that while it was a revelation to the apostle John, during his imprisonment on the Isle of Patmos, it survived in a circulating collection of letters that eventually became our New Testament, read all along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Many of us experience our most important daily chore: a visit to our mail box. Some set their daily clocks by the event—what time is all the mail sorted? What’s in the daily post anyway? Love letters, bills (yuk), good news, vote seekers, bad news? Might we find a love letter? Might we finally get that check from promised sweepstakes?
Remember this, the book of Revelation is a collection of seven contiguous letters. The message, interpreted through John’s one revelation from heaven; which is from Jesus to the folks in Asia. Each is a specific message to a particular church. They were written years and years ago; yet retain a freshness. If that is, we press beyond the sophomoric statements of misunderstanding. So, what if we don’t understand all the images at first? Our life circumstances have conditioned us to instant this and that. The Book of Revelation must be filtered through our lives and allowed to settle upon us. Received, distilled and applied is the way I most think about how the Book relates to me.
Though written to identified congregations, the seven letters speak directly to our deepest needs, fears and hopes. At the end of each letter there is a plea for the receiver to hear the words of God. We are asked to take the words of truth to heart. By doing so we appropriate the wishes of God, through Christ, as our personal life-changing experiences.
So, reach into the mail box and pull out a letter. At some level in our lives it will apply directly to us. The letter is from God’s only Son. He speaks in powerful, colorful, visual images, to get us to understand how important is the letter. All seven are from the Risen Lord.
The first is to the Church in Ephesus. It is a message for the distracted.
Next follows a letter to the Church in Smyrna. It is for those who are suffering.
Third follows a letter to the Church at Pergamum. There are words to those who compromise.
Fourth we read a letter to the Church in Thyatira. There is advice for those who are corrupt.
Fifth we read a letter to the Church in Sardis. It contains words of advice and warning to us when we are lifeless.
Next to the last comes a letter to the Church in Philadelphia. They are guilty of being faithful. Say, are we so inclined?
The seventh letter is for the Church in Laodicea. They are suffering from a malignant case of luke warmness. The red-hot passion of Christ’s searing death upon a cross has cooled to barely tepid.
As we dash about our daily letter opening we will most often rush to the end of the letter, if it fails to have a noticeable letterhead. Who is it from, we ask? Once we have established the author we are free to mount the words. God sent us the Book of Revelation.
I am told that there are billions of pieces of so-called “junk mail” which support the budget of our postal service, along with other specific rates such as first-class, air-mail and so forth. Well, you know, there is a lot of junk lying around in our hearts and minds as well. Maybe it is time to clean out the box?
Nestled into the corner of the first chapter (Rev. 1:17-19) Jesus said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive forever! I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” John did just that. The rest is left to us.
Each letter was written for all of us; in various epochs of life; to those of us who are so labeled in each letter. These are letters about personality, situations, and lifestyle. They are for our instruction, rebuke, encouragement and hope. Read them for their content, do not be confused by their images. They are Holy. We are called to be.