It is very likely that at the time of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, he was the last living apostle of Christ. In his final days, he was banished to the Greek island of Patmos for his preaching and prophesying, both viewed as ways of stirring up unwanted rebellion in the Roman Empire. It is here that he is delivered a vision of final days before the return of Christ. Of the men that followed Jesus, John may have had the least cruel fate. According to scripture or historical accounts, all had been killed – stoned, clubbed, crucified, beheaded, and speared – preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, doing everything in their power to fulfill their commission (Acts 1:4-8) and reach the ends of the earth before the return of their friend and Savior. The disciples preached the Kingdom of God as something that would be seen by the generation they spoke to or the coming one. There was an extraordinary emergency to their message. And yet, 2000 years or so later, here we are.
I am reminded of my internal adolescent rebuttal when hearing Christ was coming soon — “If Jesus Christ has not come in the last 100 generations, why should I think that he will come in mine?” Through our reading this week, we will unpack the message of John and, like many before us, apply his words to the time and place that we live in. We live in interesting times, but so have many generations before us. They each had their own political unrest, plagues, and natural phenomenon. With all the challenges of this year included, to live in the United States as a Christian is still pretty easy by comparison to many places in the world today, and most definitely effortless compared to the challenges faced by apostles of Christ. For many of us, our ease of living has led us to share (or not) a complacent gospel. This was already happening in the days of John; a symptom shared by many of the churches in Revelation 2 & 3. As you read this week, consider the following to renew your sense of urgency to the Gospel message and reinstate Christ’s Kingdom as the centerpiece of your daily purpose:
1. You are always a single breath away from the Kingdom of God. No person knows the day or hour of his/her death. We must live our life to be found in Christ, not wait for signs of his return and scramble our way to grace. The thing is, if you’re waiting for signs before you live out the Gospel, you will be distracted, diverted, or disconnected (Matt 25:1-13, Parable of the Ten Virgins). “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” – James 4:13,14
2. No one, except the Father, knows the day or the hour Christ returns. The days before Christ arrival will be as in the days of Noah (Matt 24:38) – people will be married, there will be parties, children will be born, parents will send their teens to college, couples will be building their dream homes, and many will be working hard to retire early (v.40-42). Despite the best efforts of John to deliver his prophecy, many will be caught unaware of the harbingers of Christ’s return. Because of this, it is imperative we deliver the Gospel message wherever our feet are on the daily. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:36,37
3. Many of the dramatic events that unfold in Revelation will happen within a single generation. God has been working on His salvation plan since the foundations of the world (Col 1:16) with the culmination being (spoilers ahead) the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. According to the words of Jesus and the vision of John there are compounding and intensifying events as seals are opened and the wrath of God being poured out. Natural wonders, dramatic plagues, famines, wars, and a global political climate will feed off one another and spur along the intervention and return of Christ. If this year has taught us one thing, it is how fast the world can change with some of these elements aligned; however, the ignition point for the return of Christ is already set. There will be a fire that follows and it will consume quickly; the temperature need only rise a bit more. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things <Matt 24:14-33> take place.” – Matthew 24:34
“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.” Revelation 1:3
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 1-3
Tomorrow we continue Revelation with chapters 4-8.