Hope and comfort

I finished this week's "Opening the Bible" blog entry for i.ucc. It begins with some opening verses from Revelation. I think I see this book differently than many. Check out "Hope and comfort."

The book of the Bible that scares people. The book of the Bible that brings murmers of "that's freaky" or "that gives me the chills" whenever you mention it.

We can thank the 'Left Behind' book and movie series, along with the 1970's "Thief in the Night" movies for The scariness that usually comes with discussions of this book of the Bible.

Revelation: The book of the Bible that is so often misspelled and mispronounced: (It's Revelation. NOT Revelations.)
Revelation is also the book that has no such intentions.
Revelation is written like a standard Greek Letter. It starts with a greeting from John to the seven churches in Asia. It also has a wonderful salutation praising Jesus and God.
The titles it uses to describe Jesus are high praise indeed. But they are also politically charged.Here is how God and Jesus are described:
  • faithful witness
  • firstborn of the dead
  • ruler of the kings of the earth
  • the one who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood
  • the one who made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father
  • the one who is coming with the clouds
  • the one who every eye will see – even those who pierced him
  • Alpha and the Omega
  • the one who is and who was and who is to come
  • the Almighty

Now listen to some of the titles given to the Emperor (Nero – whose name is the mathematical equivalent of 666)
  • Lord
  • Son of God
  • Savior
  • The one who has brought peace on earth
  • King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Jesus gets more titles here -- but you get the picture, right? Jesus gets high praise like "Alpha and the Omega" -- the beginning and the end. Nero, who would be accustomed to having titles like that – gets nothing. The early readers of this letter would get it right away.

But if it's simply an anti-emperor -- and anti-empire of greed (Rome) letter, then why do we have it in the Bible? There has to be more to it than that! What value does an angry letter hold for us in terms of helping us to move forward in our faith?

The book of Revelation is not the text to judge the evening news headlines with. It's not the one to interpret earthquakes, tragedy and war with. It's something else. It is useful in helping us move forward in our faith:

I think here's how: Revelation brings the reader Hope, Encouragement and Comfort.
Revelation is addressed to the 7 churches in Asia. All the churches were under persecution because of Rome.

But John's Apocalypse arrives and offers hope and comfort.

How does it offer hope and comfort?It's an epic battle of good vs. evil with Jesus winning out over evil in the end. The characters are interesting – the drama intense – and the end result is that Jesus wins.The churches in Asia needed comfort as they were persecuted and hope that a better day was coming. Don't we all need that?

All who face persecution, tragedy, anguish and suffering need hope and comfort.
I think everyone needs hope and comfort.

Deep breath – breathe out. Expect, receive and share God's hope and comfort.

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