This sermon addresses the meaning of “the end is near.” Many explanations that the church has offered have caused great confusion because the book of Revelation has been used as a predictor of the very end of time. However, such explanations misunderstand the genre that Revelation is. When we read this book as apocalyptic literature, we can interpret the symbols rightly and see how it can serve to encourage the church to be faithful to Christ in the midst of spiritual warfare.
This sermon addresses “the end” with a specific focus on the return or appearing of Jesus. This can be a horrifying thought for many because so many have understood Jesus’ coming as a fear-filled event. However, is this actually reflective of the truth?
“Revelation” (apokálypsis) means unveiling, but it also refers to a type of literature, a “genre.” This kind of literature resembles the Book of Revelation in certain key respects. First, it is dualistic, where history is construed as a cosmic battle between God and his heavenly and earthly armies on the one side, and Satan and his cosmic and earthly armies on the other. Second, apocalyptic books communicate an immanent end of current world order, an expectation for God to break into the world at any moment, and bring an end to the old world order to usher in a new world order. Thirdly, it is symbolic, as it uses graphic symbols and images.
Revelation speaks about literal events to literal people, but John does so in symbolic ways that apply to all people in all situations. John talks about these events as taking place “soon.” This is another characteristic of this form of literature. There is an expectation that Jesus will appear “soon” and that we must be prepared now. We also see this throughout the New Testament. John spoke about these “soon to take place” events in a way that unveils patterns that are true throughout history.
This book exposes the current experience that occurs for those who live between the time of the cross and the end of time. On the cross, Christ won the victory in principle, but that victory has not yet been realized. At the end of time, Christ will return and bring about total victory and defeat all evil. The victory of Jesus has occurred, but it has not yet been fully manifested. That will occur at the end. In the in-between time, we participate in the battle of the cross while at the same time we receive aspects of the victory that will be fully revealed. In the suffering of the church—specifically the persecution of the church at the end of the first century—the people of God are participating in the suffering of Jesus. But in this participation, they were receiving the victory of the end time.
Revelation unveils and celebrates the final manifestation of Jesus’ conflict with and victory over Satan and Babylon at the end of the age. To the original audience it meant that they must be prepared to participate in the conflict of Jesus with Satan and Babylon. They must be prepared to suffer out of love the way Jesus suffered, and reject the violent ways of Babylon and fight the way that Jesus fought.
When we take on this “the end is near” mindset, it produces a lot of Kingdom fruit. It infuses our walk with Christ with a sense of extra urgency and importance. Wealth, comfort and conveniences of the world are less appealing. We don’t worry about our legacy. And it makes the good news actually good!
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