“I, John, your brother who shares with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit[b] on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
Most of us steer away from the Book of Revelations because we are either scared of it, or we don’t know what to do with it. If you have ever read any of the Left Behind books, or certain evangelical theologians, you know that lots of people have suggested that it is all about the end of the world.
And anytime a natural disaster strikes, or a war breaks out – there are religious folks who will wonder if the time John wrote about in Revelations is nearing.
But John wasn’t writing to us or to people in the future. He was writing to his own communities of faith. John’s churches were made up of a persecuted minority; a mix of Jew and Gentile, all following the way of Jesus while living under the occupation of Rome. They are on the margins of the Empire. They are poor. And they are being religiously persecuted by Rome.
Long story short – their lives weren’t going so great.
And the letter of Revelation is a letter written from a pastor to his congregations in a time of tremendous challenge and suffering.
John’s vision that he writes about is apocalyptic in one sense. But it was not an end-times prediction. Apocalypse means “unveiling” and John was inviting his congregations to consider that God was unveiling something… doing something new… in a really difficult time.
It wasn’t the end of the world. It was the end of an era. And he was inviting God’s people to look forward in hope, because they were on the precipice of something huge.
Given all that we have been through over the last two years – a global pandemic, economic instability, environmental concerns, violence, and war (not to mention all the things that altered or shattered our personal lives) – we actually could probably use a letter like this.
It reminds us that the One who is called the first and the last, who was dead and is now alive, who holds the keys to our greatest heights and our darkest depths – is in fact with us. God has been all along and is bringing us into a new season, even if we cannot yet see or understand it yet.
Revelation is a reminder to all those with ears to hear that the Lord of resurrection hope isn’t done with us. And we can trust that new life is on the way. In fact, it is already here.