We are concluding our seven week sermon series on the bible. During these seven weeks, we have moved through the bible starting with Creation, and ending this Sunday with the Book of Revelation. Whew! It's been an informational series, and a chance to take a look at our bible as a story, one that takes us through a history of many peoples as they work to understand what it means to be a People of God.
The Book of Revelation is a book a lot of people talk about. With its eye-popping imagery it captures the imagination. Ultimately, though, this is a book of hope written at a time of desperate crisis. Its imagery helps the writer talk about the trauma of the events of the world at the time.
And trauma it was, just fifteen years earlier the Roman empire had marched through Galilee and onto Jerusalem killing, maiming, and enslaving whole cities, and razing the city of Jerusalem to the ground. The scope of this tragedy is hard to imagine. Those who tried to counter this evil were persecuted with the most humiliating tortures the Roman Empire could imagine.
No wonder the Book of Revelation uses such powerful and frightening images! It was a very frightening time. This book is not about a future Rapture. It is about human beings struggling to understand how such a calamity could happen. Despite it all, they knew they were God's people. And in this story we see God embrace those who gave their lives to spread the word of hope and save the lives of others. We see God say 'enough is enough' and, with a judgment that reveals truth, shine the light of truth on what was really going on. The forces of evil are thrown down, though they will not disappear without causing as much suffering as they can. But they are in fact defeated, and a new age is born.
This is a book written and read by those who fought the evils of their time. It is their book, not ours. And we honor them when we, in reading it, recognize the ongoing struggle to do what is right even in the most difficult of circumstances. For ultimately, this book is one of hope. It is an assurance that God is paying attention to both human courage and human cruelty, and God will not allow cruelty to prevail.
For more on the Book of Revelation and what it means, see the article Jesus is Lord.