BSF leaders at a retreat in downtown Dallas. Honestly, I was a little reluctant and was dreading continuing to pray that my heart would be changed and I would be blessed throughout the experience. It was a blessing and I was changed. I had a wonderful roommate and although the teaching wasn't quite what I was expected, it was a good perspective.
As Stephen drove me down to the hotel we discussed what we thought might be the topic. My sister, Candace who had been to one of these before mentioned that they had studied the book of Daniel-prophesy. For some reason I had a strong feeling that we would study Revelation, but wondered how they would cover and interpret all the wrath and symbolism knowing that there are about 4-5 different takes on the events of the "Day of the Lord."
Turns out, I was right. The study was Revelation. It's so timely. For several months, I have just been feeling like Jesus could return at any moment and Psalm 122 has been ingrained in my mind and I just can't get "I Was Glad" by Hubert Parry out of my head. But the line I keep singing over and over is verse 6: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." I have studied Revelation before at Church Music Summer School in 2000 and I have read all the "Left Behind" books and listened to the majority of John Harrigan's MP3 on Eschatology, but the main theme of the book that we studied this week was different and a bit refreshing to say the least. I know several of you are interested to hear, so hear you go...the shortened version! If you are a BSF-er you will understand that the capital sentences are the main truths in the teaching.
Revelation is Greek for apokalupsis, also meaning unveiling or disclosure, in this case it is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. It was written by John the apostle while on the island of Patmos somewhere between 65 and 95 AD for the encouragement of Christians and specifically for 7 churches in Asia minor as indicated in the letters to them in chapters 2-3.
The first focus in chapter 1 that BSF took was to see the attributes of Jesus and what that can renew in our hearts. Not only do we we get to look backwards at what Jesus did for us on the cross, but we also see what He is going to do (v. 5-7). But, how much more wonderful is it that we see a picture of Christ and all His glory: long white robe, gold sash, head and hair white as snow, eyes like flames of fire, feet polished bronze, voice like mighty ocean waves, a double edged sword from his mouth, and a face like the sun in all it's brilliance. Not only is this seen in Revelation, but pieces can be found in Isaiah 6:1-4, Matthew 17:1-2, Daniel 10:4-6. Stirring most of all is the intimate touch Jesus gave John as comfort telling him, "Don't be afraid..." and to "write down" all that he sees to give hope to the nations. This FRESH REVELATION OF JESUS RENEWS A JOYFUL COMMITMENT OF A LIFE OF MINISTRY.
Chapters 2-3 are letters to the churches of Asia Minor. Each one is a pattern stating Jesus is the author by use of the attributes from chapter 1 with each attribute being what that church needed. He gives a joyful word of praise or a searching word of blame, asks them to listen and then to overcome. Each of these letters speak to us personally today as Jesus blesses us, warns us and calls us to repentance. A FRESH REVELATION OF JESUS BEGINS WITH REPENTANCE. This repentance is not just saying "I'm sorry," but instead, "I am through."
Chapters 4-19 were covered extremely quickly and not in much detail. It's typically the section that everyone wants to understand more about, but what I found helpful was that GOD WILL EXECUTE HIS ETERNAL PLAN. Only one person is worthy to open the scroll containing the eternal plan--Jesus who at first is seen as the Lion (of Judah) and then as the slaughtered Lamb. There is a picture of this worship of Him. Jesus is the only one to be worshipped that is worthy "to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing." How does my worship need to be transformed?
What follows the worship is the wrath of God, or the tribulation. When we view the wrath of God from heaven's perspective, we will understand the justice of God. THE WRATH OF GOD IS JUST AND RIGHT. How does the world look from the throne? We have severely disappointed. God grieves for His world. But, the wrath that I deserve falls on Jesus because I believe in Him and accept His free gift of life. The whole world doesn't believe and therefore, deserves this wrath. And, as a follower of Christ I will not be free of suffering. There is suffering for proclaiming the Good News, but we will be vindicated, comforted, protected and honored! God's people must patiently endure persecution and remain faithful.
At this point in chapter 20, BSF and I take a stand on Millennialism, believing in Historical Pre-Millennialism. The promises of Israel as a nation will not be superseded by the church and will be fulfilled. During the millennial Kingdom Satan will have no influence and we definitely haven't seen this happen yet! There is still pain, death sorrow and crying in this broken world. We have not yet reached the millennial Kingdom.
During the time of final judgement after the 1,000 year reign, all will be "judged according to what they had done" and "all were judged according to their deeds." This is not the "good works" you did in your life although those are great things done by the glory of God, not on your own doing. But, instead, the most important deed is the acceptance of Christ as a sacrifice for your sin. Those in Jesus may not be martyred, but will be persecuted, ridiculed and isolated. The thing is to not feel more for your own self, than someone else's eternal destiny! THE TRUTH ABOUT FINAL JUDGEMENT PROVIDES A GREAT MOTIVE FOR EVANGELISM.
Chapter 22 is just beautiful. God provides us with a view of heaven, but more importantly gives: a blessing, the Book, an invitation and shows His glory. The blessing is the life you have through Jesus Christ (v. 7 & 14). The Book is trustworthy and true (v. 6-7 & 18-19). The invitation is extended to anyone who desires to seek Christ (v.17). And, the glory is amazing! (v. 12, 16, 20).
NOW IS THE TIME FOR TELLING OTHERS OF OUR SAVIOR'S LOVE AND GRACE.
The truths revealed through the Bible give us all we need. God's wrath is real and terrible, but just and right. We are called to invite people to faith from death to life in Jesus Christ. The Good News is to be proclaimed to all who have ears, but not all will listen. The door of grace is open, but not all will walk through. Suffering and persecution are the path to glory. Hope and rewards are certain and extraordinary. God's people will receive crowns all by God's grace and we will lay them down at His feet.
So, the question for YOU today is have you accepted God's gift of grace through Jesus Christ? If not, ask Him right now! If so, retirement is not in God's economy--work for God' eternity by proclaim His Good News!