By Steve Gregg
I can finally say something that for many years I honestly couldn’t: I am glad we are doing a sermon series in Revelation. As a young Christian, I spent a lot of time around folks who were always trying to decipher Revelation to discover who was who, what was what, and when was when, especially by constantly comparing Scripture to current events. I saw first hand the damage that comes from that obsession. This ranged from individuals stockpiling survival rations, to an entire church telling their extended famIlies goodbye as they met one night in Gainesville to await the Rapture at the time they had predicted. My wife Kim and I drove by the church that evening and wondered aloud what the next day would look like for them if the Rapture didn’t happen. I specifically remember waking up the next morning and thinking there was going to be a lot of crow on the menu that day.
Two things are helpful for us to remember as we go through our study of Revelation to keep a proper perspective. One is that Revelation was meant to be a source of encouragement for the church in every age, not just in the final time before Christ returns. It asks larger questions about where we place our ultimate loyalty and in whom we find our final hope: in the power and promises of Rome (Babylon) or in Lord Jesus. For those trusting in the latter, there is promise after promise of being overcomers who will be present with Christ as He reigns.
The second helpful thing to remember is an admonition from Peter in 1 Peter 4:7-11:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The task for Christ followers, even if we sense His return could be near, is not to seek secret knowledge or to decipher a mystery, but to be a people of prayer, (marked by self-control and sober-mindedness), love and hospitality (which in the Greek means “love of the stranger”) and gracious service in word and deed. How utterly different that looks than what I experienced as a young believer: instead of giving into panic, we’re to have sober-minded conversations with our Father; instead of being gripped by fear and dread, we’re to model love, welcoming in others, even strangers; instead of hoarding our resources for self preservation, we are to give ourselves to selfless service. It’s always helpful for me to ask myself, which one looks more like Jesus? Which one do you want to be doing when He comes back?