My initial response was no, but eventually I decided that it would be a wonderful thing for us to study for two reasons. First, it is a great book to study because it might be one of the most misunderstood books in the New Testament, possibly the entire Bible. Second, it proved to be a great opportunity to help the youth learn how to study a book of the Bible. My challenge to them was to not get discouraged about wondering what the symbolic meaning of the third scroll or the second woe meant, but rather to read Revelation with an open mind asking God to speak His truths to us through this letter. It is a wonderful opportunity, as a community of believers, to study God’s word and begin to ascertain what truths God would have for us.
I have been delightfully shocked at our study of Revelation. We challenged ourselves to study Revelation with an open mind and without preconceived ideas about what something should mean (which is a tremendously difficult thing to do). An overarching theme that has been emerging in our study of Revelation is that of worship. The writer of the letter, John, describes these magnificent scenes of worship throughout his vision of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Verses 15 through 19 in chapter 11 give us another glimpse of a worship scene in heaven. Some commentators suggest that the book of Revelation can be broken into two parts: chapters 1 through 11 and chapters 12 to 22. So we see at the end of chapter 11, the climax of the first part of this letter from John. We find another magnificent worship scene. Verse 15 tells us what they were saying about God in this scene. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” God’s kingdom, the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, has become one with the kingdom of the world. And God will reign forever and ever. We could pause here and marvel at this simple fact. Ultimately, God will have the final say and He will conquer evil. We know the ending of the story of good versus evil. God wins! It’s hard to believe this when times are hard in life. But we can take comfort in the fact that ultimately God will deliver us from the evil one! The next thing we see in this passage is the twenty-four elders falling on their faces and worshipping God. Whatever our interpretation of the twenty-four elders, when was the last time we saw anyone in our churches falling on their face and worshipping God? These elders worshipped and gave thanks to God. The elders could prostate themselves because God has taken his great power and He has begun to reign. The ending of chapter 11 also gives us a glimpse of the temple of God in heaven. John saw the ark of the covenant (Indiana Jones and his crew really could have benefitted from a quick read of Revelation), flashes of lighting and sounds and thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. I think, taking from other commentators, that the sights and sounds simply show the grandness of God. John is explaining how great God is. I think the ark of the covenant, seen by John, simply serves to remind the readers of God’s original promise to Abraham to make his people a great nation (Genesis 12). So, here at the climax of the first half of John’s letter is a beautiful scene of worship. I think we can glean two truths from this meaty passage in Revelation.
1. Worship of God needs to be at the forefront of our walk with Christ.
How does your personal walk with Christ look like in regards to worship? How are we reflecting in our lives and thanking God and worshipping Him for what He has done in our lives? What percentage of your time spent with God is time spent in worship? Are you only worshipping God for four songs once a week? Time and time again, in Revelation specifically, worship is an integral part of the scenes that are shown. John gives us multiple scenes of Christ followers worshipping God. I believe the text gives us these scenes for Christ followers today. How do you spend your time worshipping God? What does your church look like in regard to worship?
2. The Kingdom of Heaven is near!
Jesus was saying, when he came to this earth, that the kingdom of heaven is near! (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15) John furthers this idea in this revelation. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” One of the big challenges is to try and decipher what John intended to say. This is difficult because Revelation has many interpretations. Thanks to popular books and movies, our understanding of Revelation may be a bit distorted, in my opinion. In my understanding of Scripture, and thanks to chapter 21 of Revelation, I believe heaven and earth will become one. I believe that heaven is simply a place where God is reigning without sin. Just like the Garden of Eden before the original sin, the new heaven and new earth will be a place where God reigns without any evil. God will have conquered evil once and for all! For us today, I think we can take comfort in the fact that ultimately God will have the final say. This is tough comfort during the trials of life, but the battle has been won! Our faith is in God who conquered evil and sin!
Where does this leave us today? As followers of Christ we are given two great truths from this text that can guide our daily living. Worship should be apart of our daily lives. And we can worship God because He has conquered evil. God gives us a way to make our relationship right with Him. We messed it up, and continue to mess it up every day, because of sin. We will always be prone to sin in our lives. God gave us a way to mend that relationship through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, was crucified, died, and rose from death. Jesus Christ lived the life that we can never live! Truly finding faith in God because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross should really cause us to do one thing: worship! My hope is that we are not bogged down because of the vivid imagery of Revelation or even the Bible, but that we take concrete steps in our daily life to worship God because of His victory over sin in Jesus Christ. Revelation has very relevant and applicable truths for Christ followers today. I pray that we would not be intimated by this wonderful letter penned by John, but rather lead our fellowships in understanding the truths that God has for us in this beautiful letter to believers in persecution!
We are all on a journey in life. We all have a story to tell. Jesus is a big part of my life and I’m striving to understand Him better every day. Revelation is vastly complicated. I do not intend to take the exegesis of Revelation lightly. However, I fear sometimes we can’t see the forest because of the trees in our understanding of Scripture. God’s word is relevant to us all today. God’s word is more available to us today than ever before. I pray that we would seek to know Him better each and every day and that our worship of Him would continue to grow!