BACKGROUND (Start with this today): Revelation was written by the apostle John while he was in exile on the tiny Mediterranean prison-island of Patmos. The authorities had tried to execute John a bunch of times including dipping him into a giant pot of boiling oil – but he just wouldn’t die so they shipped him to Patmos. He was there during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian – who occasionally persecuted the Christian church and killed Christians – and he wrote Revelation around the 90s AD.
Why did he write it? God gave him a vision and told him to write it down and send it to the 7 churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. So, when it comes to genre, we can say that Revelation is definitely an epistle – or a letter – written to those churches. But it is more than just a letter. It is also prophecy and apocalypse. Prophecy is the writing or speaking of a vision given by God (either about predicting the future or calling people to change their ways and live for him). Revelation clearly fits this genre because the whole thing is a vision that God gave John – which both predicts the future and encourages people to change their ways and live for God. And what’s really cool is that Revelation is absolutely steeped in Old Testament prophecy. It can’t even be rightly understood outside of the OT prophetic context it was written in. John knew the OT by heart, and most of his audience did too, and he constantly reflected the prophecies of the OT in Revelation.
And Revelation is an Apocalypse – which simply means that it is a book about the end of all things. So, it is an apocalyptic-prophetic epistle, and it was written to a church that was experiencing persecution for their faith. It was written, as a gift from God to them, to encourage them to persevere even in the most difficult of circumstances because the battle has already been won and God’s ultimate victory and the creation of a new and perfect world without any pain or suffering is assured. This is the message that is continually delivered throughout Revelation: Despite your present sufferings, God is ultimately in control and he will win…he has already won! And that idea of God already winning is a really interesting one because John doesn’t just write as though the end is coming some day. He writes as though the end is already here. When Jesus died on the cross he defeated death and the Devil and that was the beginning of the end – and we can live in the reality of that victory even now – and when he returns that will be the end of the end. So, we should persevere and hold onto hope and not conform to this world.
There are any number of different ideas about how to interpret Revelation – literally, symbolically, allegorically…the list goes on and on. But the big idea is clear no matter how you read it: Persevere because God has already won! As we walk through the book devotionally please feel free to ask any and all questions that hit you as you read – there will be plenty – and I’ll get back to you in the comments.
READ: Revelation 1-2
THINK: Muynak was once a thriving fishing port on the Aral Sea. But today Muynak sits on the edge of a bitter, salty desert. Sand dunes are strewn with the rusted, hollow hulls of a fishing fleet that once sailed high above on the surface of Central Asia’s fountain of life.
Things began changing around 1960 when Soviet government planners began diverting the Aral’s water source to irrigate the world’s largest cotton belt. No one, however, envisioned the environmental disaster that would result. Weather has become more extreme, the growing season has been shortened by 2 months, and 80 percent of the region’s farmland has been ruined by salt storms that sweep in off the dry seabed.
What happened at Muynak parallels the history of the church of Ephesus. Once a thriving spiritual community, the Ephesian believers diverted their attention from Jesus to all of the works they were doing in His name. They lost sight of what was most important in their relationship with Christ: their love for Him. It is so easy for us to do the same. It is so easy to get caught up in checking the boxes of faith – the “do’s” and “don’ts” of Christianity – that we forget that ultimately it’s about being in love with Jesus. We need to remember to love Jesus. It’s easy when we remember how much he loves us!
PRAY: Ask God to help you recognize and repent of whatever it is in your life that diverts your attention away from loving him. Ask him to flood the desert of your soul with his living water.