On January 10, 2016 I began to preach through the Apocalypse. After forty-four sermons last night, July 2, 2017, I finished preaching the book.
For some time I debated on preaching the Apocalypse and felt that I would need about a year to prepare, read, and think. Twenty-two chapters of symbolic language, coupled with the various interpretative methods, makes this book notoriously difficult to interpret. Nonetheless, I felt that it would be a good exercise for myself as a pastor and my congregation.
Here are seven (let the reader understand) reflections from my time spent in the Apocalypse.
1. The book is not as difficult as I initially expected.
To be sure, the Apocalypse is difficult. The book is loaded with heavy symbolism and employs this symbolism to describe the unholy trinity (chps. 12-13) and the Christ (1:12-20; 5:5-7; etc.). Yet, these symbols find their fulfillment in various Old Testament passages. John expects his readers to be familiar with those images, which is suggested by how little he explains their meaning.
2. Many people bypass the seven churches in chapters 2-3 to get to the narrative.
We spent seven weeks on these churches, and it was a profitable time for our church. The Apocalypse was written for these churches to provide encouragement to remain steadfast against the opposition they faced from outside (Rome) and within (internal false teaching). Furthermore, there is the common refrain “to the one who overcomes” (Τῷ νικῶντι) that is revisited in the book, as well as the rewards given to the one who overcomes (cf. 2:7 and 22:2)
3. The one introduced in chapter 4 as “the one who sits upon the throne” is also the one to initiate the judgments upon the world.
There are many verbs in the passive that can be understood as the “divine passive,” which simply means that a certain action is done by God. There are several, but one that has resonated with me is from 13:5. The beast from the sea was given (ἐδόθη) a mouth to utter blasphemous words against God. I think the point of that is to remind the reader that even the unholy trinity is not beyond the sovereign control of the one who sits upon the throne. Continue reading