Unless you have been under a rock for the last month, one of the revolving themes in culture this year are predictions regarding 2012 being end of life as we know it. Various television channels, movies, blog posts, and even respectable news outlets are giving attention to the phenomenon.
As pastors, those who teach the word of God and lead faith communities, we need to be in engaged in conversation within the wider arena. If the end truly belongs to anyone, it belongs to the church of Jesus Christ. The core truth of Christianity thrusts itself towards the idea of a singular event, called the eschaton, in which the good and righteous will prevail and God recreates this earth. This truth stands as the anchoring hope of the Church, and no book deals with this truth more expansively than the book of Revelation.
Strangely, we treat Revelation as a fringe text of Scripture at best. It is highly unlikely that Revelation makes regular appearances in most churches, but Revelation is a book that should be owned and proclaimed by the local church. The Church needs Revelation. Moreover, the world needs Revelation as expressed by the Church. But as the Church we need to understand Revelation amidst the years of neglect and misuse.
But how are we to reclaim Revelation in the church?
As teachers and worship leaders, we must understand it just as we would the prophets, psalms, gospels or epistles. It is Holy Scripture, written to draw us closer to God by giving us an example of the story of salvation. Revelation was meant to jar folks in the first century and it continues in its apocalyptic task today. It writes a different story, a story we tell and embody each week when we worship. Every week, and especially in a time where “the end” is being mentioned across the globe, we need to take this story telling seriously.
Here are two entry points we can utilize to better tell this story using Revelation:
1. Reclaiming Revelation requires we realize it was written to specific people.
Revelation was not written in a vacuum; it was written with a specific audience in mind. We need to understand the specific context of the text, its images and narratives, when we teach it in the church. We also have to remember it carries a timeless message within its pages. Like the rest of scripture, it influences those original “hear-ers”, those who have existed in our past, the folks hearing it now and the communities that will hear it in the future. Revelation must be interpreted not for a specific generation, but for the Church in this world and the next.
2. Reclaiming Revelation requires we read it primarily as a text about worship.
Revelation is about how the people of God devote themselves fully to the slain lamb. Revelation can’t be quickly introduced into our worship. Suddenly filling our services with these images would frighten the average churchgoer; that is why we must tell this story slowly and steadily in our services. The power of extended seasons of song, scripture, prayers and word build the new world of Christ around us, slowly.
There are plenty of great resources out there to aid you in this journey. One of my favorite, and it is absolutely free, are Robert Mulholland’s lectures on Revelation, NT 666. You can find it for free in the Seedbed section of iTunes University.
As leaders, we must confront the false “end of the world” stories in the Church that lead to fear and death. The story of the new creation has been lost in the shuffle of doomsday tales, and we have forgotten that the Church has always owned it. We must reclaim Revelation in the church, telling and enacting the picture of the new creation that will be ushered in at the advent of Christ. Let us take the book back!