In our adult Bible classes, our church is studying the Book of Revelation. It’s a whirlwind tour. I was supposed to teach chapters 2 and 3 yesterday. I wrote a book on those chapters, and I’m supposed to present it in 30 minutes? I got 6 out of 7 churches done. Not too bad.
One thing that I appreciate about the Bible is that no matter how many times I’ve studied a passage, I can always find something new. Or I come to recognize new connections between passages.
In preparing these lessons, I tried to put myself in the place of the Asian Christians who were the first to receive this book. They found themselves under increasing pressure to conform to the worship around them. John had been banished to Patmos. Some people had been imprisoned. Now Antipas has been killed.
Their principle question would have been: how do we respond? I don’t think they were looking for theology or philosophical debates. They wanted to know what they were supposed to do.
One option was to fight. The Old Testament contains more than enough stories to show that numbers don’t matter when it comes to God’s people. If He wants them to fight and win, they will win, no matter the odds. Maybe John would write them and tell them that it was time to rise up and strike down their oppressors, like the Jews in the Book of Esther.
Another option was to flee. Jesus told the Jerusalem church to flee the city when the Roman armies approached. History tells us that many Christians were saved because of that. Maybe John would write and tell them to leave Asia to the punishment of God; there were times when God gave such instructions.
It’s possible that John’s message took them by surprise. Don’t fight. Don’t flee. Just be faithful and wait for God to act.
That’s not a message that sits well in our culture. We want to act and do. Give me a hammer, give me a shovel, give me a gun. “God helps those that help themselves.” (It’s not in the Bible, but we often think it should be)
Patiently. Prayerfully. Faithfully.
And let God bring about justice, in His own time.
I daresay that requires much more courage than fighting or fleeing. Wait for God to act.
I’m sure the Book of Revelation was of great encouragement to the church, but it also presented a daunting challenge. But who ever said discipleship was easy?