The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. …
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
Revelations 1: 1-3, 7
I've shared with you that I was raised with little to no emphasis on faith. Growing up and in my twenties, I had never opened a bible. I had never read a word from God’s story. Interestingly, it was my father who opened the door for me to find God. One day, to his three grown children, he mentioned “the Patriarchs, you know, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…” We three had no idea who or what he was talking about, “I fear I may have failed you in some way,” was his pained response. In my mid-thirties, I had a hole of emptiness in my soul. It was in truth a hunger for God. I desperately needed a parent who would know me and love me. I dove into bible studies. I had the privilege to really study Revelation before my son was diagnosed with cancer. It was a two year study that included in great detail the major prophets, Daniel and Ezekiel, along with Jesus Christ’s description of the end times found in Matthew:
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”… Matthew 24: 1-3
His reply: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Matthew 24: 36
Every bible lesson I have ever done always references John’s cosmic, supernatural visions in his Book of Revelation. The times we have led Revelation studies in a high school church youth setting, I always somewhat jokingly warn the students that we will have to finish it once we start. In the very end of the entire Christian bible, in the last chapter of Revelation, Eden is restored and John, caught up in the Spirit, and directed by Christ, gives strict instruction to us:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. Revelations 22: 18-19
During our last Revelation study, one evening I brought in a jigsaw puzzle. I asked the group, “What is the first thing you do to put a puzzle together?” First you choose a puzzle that you like, one that is interesting to you. Next, you empty the box on a large table. Then what do you do? You turn over all the pieces so that the right sides are up. And next? You separate the edge pieces, find the four corners and build the frame of the puzzle. Next? Of course, you start to build the middle, the main picture. No one works on the clouds, sky, grass, outer pieces until the rest is done. But those last pieces are critical to the puzzle. Missing pieces are very frustrating. You will get down on your hands and knees to search for those pieces.
This bible study is arranged somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle. Our lessons began with pieces of the main picture in the middle of the puzzle, with the beginning of God’s story of Jesus, the Son of Man, born in the flesh in a manger, but carrying the Son of God, Christ, to the broken earth. The gospels, the good news, God’s word, which is the Word, was delivered to the beloved but perverted creation in the perfect fullness of time. The story of Jesus and his life is the middle of the puzzle. It’s the picture that draws us to the puzzle.
Those pieces that surround the middle are the stories of the Old Testament. These stories are confusing in their connections but they are critical to the integrity of the finished picture. These pieces connect the middle picture to the edges, to the frame. These Old Testament stories are the prophecies of Christ’s gospel.
And the frame of our puzzle? The Book of Revelation! John’s visions are so rich, so metaphorical, so frightening and yet so beautiful. The Book of Revelations is awful and awesome. It is what holds God’s story together. It is full of visions that we struggle to grasp of the mysteries of the beginning, the present and the ending; what is, was, and will be. Revelation tells the Story of our Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” ...The kingdom of God is like a puzzle…
Reading Revelation can be scary. God can be frightening. When I lead discussion about Christ’s promised Second Coming, the final chapter in God’s perfect story, I offer three possibilities for our future:
1. There is no God and so we, the world, exist only for our lifetimes. We can find no reason for the capriciousness of life and no answers to any of our most painful questions. In my case, a beautiful young boy who should have grown into a man suffered and died from a relentless disease and left his parents and his younger siblings crushed and asking, “Why? What is the meaning of life?”
2. God does exist but Satan wins the battle between good and evil. The creation is trapped in perpetual sin and degradation. A beautiful young boy just on the cusp of adulthood died from cancer and his family shattered from his brutal suffering and absence.
3. God, the Holy Trinity, finishes the work they set out to do. We have a promise of eternal life, something that we all long for deep in our inner being. My son is taken home to live with the holy family and we, his earthly family, wait in hope and eager expectation for our reunion with him and the rest of our family, the Holy Trinity.
But the Book of Revelation is extremely difficult to understand. It follows no discernible pattern of time and place. What you have to understand is that you need to have some knowledge of everything that preceded it; you need to know the stories and progression of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. It is a labyrinth, another metaphor. ...The kingdom of God is like a maze…another parable.
Here’s another yet a third metaphor that I use when I tried to walk our high school kids through John’s visions. Think of a telescope that can expand and retract both as to time and space. Remember, God, the Trinity, exists outside of time. Time was created for us, their creation, so that we can struggle with God and so overcome Satan and sin. Therefore, any time frame that we find in the Book of Revelation must be viewed through the Trinity’s supernatural eyes. Time vacillates throughout Revelation such that the past, present and future weave in and out with little to no warning. And remember that seeing through God’s eyes stretches our eyes; our supernatural is really the natural in the cosmic realms of God’s kingdom.
Also difficult is the concept of space; John struggles to record what he is witnessing as it telescopes close and far, from the earth to the heavens. And John witnessed so much that he had never seen before and so has difficulty expressing what he sees in human words. One more thing, Revelation tells and retells the events of God’s end times from different points of view as well; it seems to repeat the events in different aspects. It is a difficult book to read and understand. There is much that scholars disagree about regarding its interpretation. ...The kingdom of God is like a telescope…
So many Christians are afraid to read Revelations. But listen, John testifies as to: the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it …
I cannot attempt to cover all of Revelation nor can I explain much of it. I’m hopeful that you may be better equipped to read it and bring pieces of the puzzle into light in the context of the Old and New Testaments’ awful and awesome prophecy. There is a plan that has been set into motion and we are all part of this plan whether we realize it or not because we are all made in God’s image…
Did you have a parent in your life who really knew you? Did she or he love you deeply?
What does the word awful mean? What two root words you can find in the one word awful?
What does awesome mean? What root words are in it?
Can something be awful and awesome?
How do you view time? Has you view of time changed with time?
What does the word mystery mean? What are some earthly mysteries? What is a spiritual mystery? Are they the same?
Have you ever been part of a plan that you didn’t want to be part of?
Can anyone avoid being part of God’s plan?
The 29:11 Story
Take a moment to look at the last sequence of beads that ends each 29:11 Story. Find the four beads of the Church-age: our earth separated from God’s heavens by sin. But find the cream colored bead of the church, waiting to become the bride, waiting for her rapture up to her bridegroom, Christ.
The Trinity's end times begins with the rainbow bead that is God on His throne, Christ’s Second Coming, and the Holy Spirit carrying John to witness and testify. The next bead will look like our Church-age body of believers and like Mary Magdalene. It is the seven churches in Revelation, with their seven spirits and their seven lamp stands. Now you will find a large and beautiful angel bead, clear and light-filled. This bead is myriads of angels, too numerous to count, all set on fulfilling the Trinity’s plan to rid us of Satan. But first, the bronze bead of the 144,000 young Jewish men, as the Trinity redeems its beloved nation of Israel that had turned her back on the Son and Father and who had grieved the Holy Spirit.
Finally, it is time for Satan, the old red dragon, that matches the red bead of the apple found in the beginning of the Story. Next to Satan’s red bead is his prostitute, Babylon, who has lead the entire creation astray. Her red bead matches the Tower of Babel, another story of the creation being tempted away from its creator. She and Satan will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, an orange bead that matches God’s wrath in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The next bead, the third Holy Spirit, brings home a beautiful white, pure, and holy Bride of Christ. With sin done, through the ransom paid by the blood of the Lamb, and with the testimony of the saints, God prepares a new green earth and a new blue heaven in the New Jerusalem, the city of peace, for us to dwell with them. The last bead, is a purple one that matches the 29:11 Story’s first bead, the Holy Trinity.
Now, hold the two ends of the 29:11 Story together, Genesis and Revelation, and look with wonder at the colors. Do you see the double rainbow? Isn’t that beautiful?
The Book of Revelations is both awful and awesome. Let me explain. The day my son, William died, was a painful and poignant example. His school is very close to our house. It was May and the teachers were lovely about allowing his Posse group of friends to visit him whenever they had time during the school days. That early afternoon, I was consoling one of his best friends downstairs and I heard William call from upstairs. I hurried up there and William said, “Mom, I just had a gitchy feeling.” I asked him, “What does that mean?” He said, “Something huge is going to happen today. I don’t know if it’s going to be horrible or wonderful, but it’s going to be huge.” Awful and awesome.
William’s dear friend, our minister, Hal, read from Revelation at his funeral:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
My story is one of the pieces to this puzzle. So is yours…
What surprised you today?
What new connections in the Bible did you make today?
What questions do you want to explore further about today's study?
Read Matthew 24. All these are the beginning of birth pains. What does this remind you of?
Read again Romans 8. What parables and metaphors can you find?
Read Revelation in its entirety. Don’t be worried. You have actually already read all of Revelation through the lessons. Let’s read and try to grasp the order of John’s book.