WARNING! I might rant a bit here, but you will see why… Anyone who follows my Facebook pages will know that I am a great fan of Open Doors and the amazing work they do. Thanks to them and other outstanding organisations like them, the plight of Christians being imprisoned, tortured and murdered comes to our attention, or at least to some of us, and with our support they are able to do something about it.
Of course there are all sorts of theories about the end times and how to interpret the book of Revelation, but in my opinion, they are in some places, being allowed to do some real damage in the Body of Christ. To explain what I mean let me give the briefest of introductions to the most misunderstood book in the Bible.
Essentially Revelation is an epistle/apocalyptic writing; after being introduced to the risen Jesus we have seven letters to seven real churches, followed by the most mind blowing set of events anyone could imagine. The problem we have today is that no one writes in the apocalyptic genre anymore, whereas for the first readers of John’s work, they were familiar with the stye.
Beware of Monsters
Apocalyptic writing is always full of monsters, numbers, disasters and mystery, but in a way that the people of the time, or at least in the know, would clearly understand. The imagery John uses is for the most part from the Old Testament, about 250 separate examples woven into a mind blowing message for the churches who were about to experience the wrath of the empire in a way previously not known.
Perhaps the nearest approximation for this style would be a full on fantasy movie, with dragons and aliens, fairies and dwarves, (think Lord Of The Rings meets Independence Day) that told a story that wasn’t actually the main story. With cleverly crafted scenes and mind blowing CGI the director would send a message that was less about the intricate details or the scenes themselves, but instead about something very contemporary and totally relevant to his audience both now and in the future. This is what John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did with the book of Revelation.
A Message For Today
Once we understand the style we realise that there isn’t actually a literal 144,000 special ones (sorry JW’s), there are no literal monsters or stars falling to earth, and what’s more Barak Obama isn’t really the anti-christ. What there is however, is a specific warning to the churches of that time of what was about to happen, and a clear message to us in the 21st century (as well as all the others) about persecution, the cause of it, what God feels about it, what God will do and how in spite of all the suffering, things will eventually end very well indeed.
Okay, so what? how is this affecting suffering Christians around the world? Good question, for which I have two propositions.
Are We Missing What Is Already Happening?
Firstly, many of us in the West are a little bit intoxicated on a coming tribulation and whether we are pre, mid or post trib’ rapturists; all of which to my mind misses the point entirely. In our obsession with the supposedly coming seven year tribulation many have missed the fact that Christians have suffered throughout history and are being martyred to this very day; in fact, just today I received a prayer request from Christians concerned that they are going to be beheaded. The harsh reality is that people are already suffering; slavery is a boom market, little girls are being kidnapped for the sex trade, I have seen footage of believers being hacked to death with machete’s; suffering isn’t coming sometime down the road, IT’S ALREADY HERE! Just not in our neighbourhood.
My second gripe is with the anti-Catholics; now don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of a lot of Catholic doctrine, for example I think the infallibility of the Pope is, shall we say, not true and bordering on the ridiculous (beware protestants, we have our own versions). Having said that, the current Pope has a heart for the poor, He is gentle, and He puts what he says into action. Recently he met with some well know charismatic leaders as an attempt at Christian unity, good idea say I, but not according to some. Apparently we are to believe that the Catholic church is going to consume all but the ‘select of the elect’ and we are all going to turn from Jesus in a mass, anti-christ inspired deception; that is of course if you completely misunderstand the book of Revelation.
Antichrist Is Already here
The reality is of course, the spirit of anti-christ is in the world, it has manifested through the Caesars, British Kings, Popes, dictators, presidents, business leaders, scientists, educators, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and so on; and it will continue to do so. However, what we know from the book of Revelation is that God prevails, the church grows, evil is frustrated and will at the appearing of Jesus be utterly destroyed; and it is on this that we must rest our hope.
I suppose my plea is that we don’t become so blinded by our obsessions of the future, whatever our eschatology, that we miss what is happening today. What’s more, when your theology leads you to write off millions of people who genuinely believe that Jesus is the Messiah, as lost, your theology is seriously wrong.
When your theology stops you loving others, it’s wrong tweet
Go well my friends 😀
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