I’m old enough to remember when Epcot Center was opened at Disney World. There was massive publicity surrounding the grand opening. They declared it “the dawning of the 21st Century!” This was 1984.
Now the torture was, that we were pretty poor back then and going to see the future was impossible. (Though I do have a friend today, who was there back then.) But in 1991, I was a young adult who hadn’t yet gotten my life together much and some friends and I decided to go to Disney World and get jobs. So that year, I was a server at a restaurant right across from Epcot.
A lot had changed in the world from the 80’s to the early 90’s and I remember going through Epcot and thinking, “this doesn’t look much like today which would be the future back then.”
More than a decade later, in 2004, I got to go back to Disney, this time with my wife on a vacation. Now, we literally were in the 21st Century and looking at the core of Epcot and it’s vision of the future, it seemed a bit “dated.” More like, yesterday’s vision of a future that hadn’t really happened like the imagineers had thought.
This is exactly the problem we have as we approach the book of Revelation. With it’s visions of scrolls, bowls, dragons and horsemen, it seems a bit… dated. Like God’s vision of a future that didn’t happen. (Or did it? Or is it? Or will it?)
The advantage that Disney has is the ability to revise its vision of the future. They can polish up, replace and update. We don’t get that same opportunity with God’s Word. Actually, the book has some pretty serious things to say about those to attempt to do that.
We could say then that God’s Story and specifically, the book of Revelation has a credibility problem. I suggest that there are three “Erosions” of the credibility that are important to consider as we open this series:
(Failed) Prediction. Every so often, a spiritual leader or movement begins that believes to have defined the days, dates and mode of the apocalypse. And so far, they’ve all failed (at least as of Sept 17th, 2012). Generally, the bulk of Christian followers don’t want to affirm what these biblical prognosticators say, but every time they’re wrong, at little part of us can begin to question the whole thing.
Progress. iPhone 5 was recently released promising a much more satisfying mobile experience. And guess what? iPhone 6 is coming next year. Everything is always getting better, faster and more powerful. We are growing more and more dependent on technology to improve our lives. We’re used to having our relationships filtered through technology (texting, Facebook, etc) but according to the overlords (er…) engineers, we also beginning to have relationships WITH our devices. (See :15-17 of the iPhone 5 video) The pace of technology and our dependance on it, is a significant erosion on our sense of biblical credibility.
Personal Pain. We’re in a time when our lives are much more complex and with higher expectations for health, comfort and lifestyle. Yet more and more of us are hurting with chronic sickness, emotional distress and debt. We carry much of our personal struggles against the promises of scripture for peace, love and Kingdom. Often, when we focus more on our pain than the larger Story that God is telling over and through us, we can become less confident with His Word and begin to doubt that He is good enough to care.
So, with all this going on… I ask:
Is God failing?
Is He failing to stay relevant?
Is He failing to provide us a credible story to live out in a world that more and more rejects as foolish and even dangerous?
Is He failing to deliver on His promises?
(This is) The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John. (Revelation 1:1)
See.. There it is! Already in :1 of Chapter 1, we run into that problem of credibility. If these are the things that must “soon” take place, when was that exactly? Because, we have no reports of seven-headed dragons appearing or the infamous rapture of 144k, seems like we’re still waiting for this “soon.” How “soon” is now, anyway?
We also see in :1 the this word came to the Apostle John. We find out later that John was in exile (confined to an island) during a massive persecution of those who were unwilling to accept Domitian as their Lord. That means that before he had received the vision, John had first-hand experience with the erosion of credibility:
Many had predicted that Jesus would return within a “generation.” But he had not, yet. John dealt with the sense of (Failed) Prediction.
The Roman culture was on the move, building the empire with a flourishing economy. John’s faith was getting pushed under the weight of Progress.
John had been arrested for preaching about Jesus and sent to live on a barren rock (presumably, he was too old to execute). A bulk of Christians (his friends) were being killed or were compromising. This is why there are so many calls in the New Testament letters to “keep in the faith” and “not fall away.” John knew quite a bit about Pain.
But it’s here in this place of needing to hear from God that He will speak. But are we willing to listen? Do we want to know God’s Story for our lives? Do we want fresh revelation to fall over our hearts? Do we want to begin to have the things of this world grow strangely dim, as our minds and hearts are filled with a new hope for God’s unfailing love that will soon engulf the entire world?
Revelation 1:3 offers something to those of us who want that fresh sense of hope. It’s this:
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
I know I want that blessing in my life. I’m actually in NEED of that blessing. Are you?
Walk with us through this series as we open up the book of Revelation.
Let’s read it aloud together.
Listen to it together.
And learn what it means to keep it, together.