Last week I kicked off a new teaching series at Stonecreek Church. We’re calling it “The End” and we’ll spend the next few months walking our way through the Book of Revelation. If you’d like to listen to the audio files, you can check the website here.
I can’t think of another portion of the Bible that is the subject of as much confusion and curiosity as Revelation. Also, I don’t know of another portion of the Bible that people are so willing to completely ignore. We tend to lean in one of two directions: obsession or avoidance.
And I get it.
Some people really believe that John’s writings there at the end of the Bible contain some kind of secret code — some insider information that can help us solve the jigsaw puzzle and map out an outline of the end times. They create all sorts of charts and graphs and study guides to help people connect the dots between this ancient text and contemporary headlines.
There are people who are convinced that Jesus is going to return in our lifetime. These people often believe that Revelation holds the key to figuring out when and where and how. Take William Miller, for example. He wrote:
Desolating earthquakes, sweeping fires, distressing poverty, political profligacy, private bankruptcy and widespread immorality which abound in these last days, obviously indicate that the Lord is returning immediately.
Of course, he wrote that in 1843.
Jesus said lots of things that are confusing. Up is down. The first will be last. Love your enemies. This bread is my body. Drink my blood. I understand. Those are strange statements, and it takes some discernment to figure out what he meant.
But every once in a while, Jesus said something that was so startlingly clear even a child could understand it. In Mark 13, Jesus makes such a statement, when he says:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come (vv. 32-33).
Jesus says even he doesn’t know when he will return. Only the Father knows that. Jesus does not say, “No one knows when the second coming will take place, so I want you to spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure it out.” No, in fact, he says the opposite. It’s not for us to know when. It’s our task to get busy and stay alert.
And that means we have to quit obsessing over the Book of Revelation as if it were a way to crack this code and create a timeline of the endtimes.
On the other hand….
There are some who would rather just avoid the book altogether. And I understand that, too. There are beasts in this book. And blood. And bowls. There are people eating scrolls and bottomless pits and dragons. There’s the great whore of Babylon and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. War. Famine. Death.
Maybe we should just stick with, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
No, the answer is neither obsession nor avoidance. The answer is to take Revelation back from the wackos and the weirdos. The answer is to approach this study with openness and humility remembering that all Scripture is useful for making us into the men and women God wants us to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So, here we begin our journey through The End.