Whenever I think of the book of Revelation, I think of the time I spent working in a Christian Bookstore. As part of my job, I’d spend quiet times in the store restocking books section by section…I soon (as was my boss’s plan) became familiar with the books we stocked in each section and could help customers find what they were looking far. I soon became particularly fascinated with the section titled “Prophecy”.
It was a sort of “catch-all” section encompassing, current events, politics, history, and (of course) commentaries and interpretations of the Book of Revelation. This made for an eclectic mix that blended books titled “A Scholar’s Approach to Revelation” with “2000 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming Back in 2000” (Which, by the way, was restocked and titled “2001 Reasons Why Jesus Is Coming Back in 2001” the next year). I specifically remember thumbing through books that tried to identify and warn against the Anti-Christ…one book claimed Disney, another the British Royal Family, still another a company called Lucent Technologies. I remember being both fascinated and troubled by the section. It was incredibly popular, but I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. Most of the books in that section seemed obsessed with a worldview of chaos and evil and suggested a hesitant or combative approach to the world.
And so, several years later, when a Bible Study group at my first congregation suggested that we study the Book of Revelation, my immediate response was pure reflex: “I’m not touching that book with a ten foot pole.” But they kept asking and wore me down until I eventually, hesitantly said yes…and I am incredibly glad that they did. The subsequent study of Revelation together opened our eyes to a book of amazing comfort and hope. While it does use powerful symbolism and imagery to show the power of evil, it also uses imagery just as powerful to describe God’s plan and hope that rises above the chaos. A seminary professor of mine once told my class: “There are two types of people who read Revelation: Those who don’t read it at all, and those who reads it waaaaay too much.” That study opened my eyes to a third possibility…seeing the book as a beautiful assurance of God’s ever-present hope.
And so, Northminster, that’s why I love Revelation and love teaching Revelation. I think we’ve let the book be captive to fear far too long…and, together, we can work to claim it’s message of a hopeful church in the midst of an often chaotic world. On Thursday evenings (starting on January 17th), I’m going to lead a class to going through Revelation, looking at the symbolism, history, and context behind this fascinating book. I hope that together we can talk about the challenges and hurdles of understanding the text and find what I believe was the true purpose of the book…comfort, assurance, and purpose that overcomes the challenges that we face.
Please talk to me if you have any questions. We’ll start at 7:00 in the multipurpose room. Childcare will be provided. I hope you can join us!
In Christ,
New Year Revelation