I am reluctant to preach any series from the last book of the Bible to Christians living in this part of the world for several reasons. Foremost among those reasons has to be the fact that it is apocalyptic literature, which is a kind of writing designed to bring comfort to those suffering from persecution, and we don’t know real persecution. No one is physically hurting us on account of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have not experienced suffering nor do we have close friends and family who have died for telling people about Jesus like many of those who first received this letter. Nor is anyone forcibly keeping us from worshiping together with fellow believers in Jesus Christ unless our mental or physical health keeps us shut in at home, the hospital, or a nursing home. We have not been sent into exile on an island on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus like the apostle John. Instead, we are more likely to dig our own moat – to make our own island – to impose our own exile – from the people of God. And likewise no one else is stopping us from seeking the lost. No one else keeps us from telling others, ‘Jesus loves you and has freed you from your sins by His blood. Believe the good news.’ But again the apostle John was forced into exile and many of those Christians he wrote to were suffering and even dying on account of their witness to Jesus Christ. It would not surprise us if such persecuted Christians in the early church wondered whether their own church would survive. They may have seen others already disband. We might expect them to tell their own story saying, “We are the little church meeting in the house on the corner that will close soon.” Such a story would become a self-fulfilling prophecy if they did not hear and take to heart a true revelation from Jesus Christ. Such was their situation before the big reveal. We may find ourselves saying that same story until we hear and take to heart that true revelation from Jesus Christ. Hear the opening chapter of the big reveal:
- We may see ourselves as the little church that will close soon but what we need is to see the big reveal after the church makeover.
- The difference is rather dramatic. Imagine with me one of those shows on HGTV where they take a property and they give it or some part of it a makeover. It might be a show where they take a home with no curb appeal and then there is the big reveal and they show you how it looks now. But whatever the show and whether it is just one room or the whole house you remember how it looked before and then there is that moment of the big reveal and you see how they were able to transform it into something beautiful. We need to see the big reveal after the church makeover. I’m not talking about a makeover of the building and grounds of the church property. I’m not talking about a makeover of the worship service. I’m talking about a Spiritual makeover. The makeover of which I speak is a death and resurrection. I’m talking about having new eyes to see and ears to hear. I’m talking about hearing the word of Christ and seeing by faith. I’m talking about a change of culture and attitude. I’m talking about us looking at ourselves and the people around us in a new way.
- Imagine with me our church before and after this makeover. If you had watched many of these shows the first thing that you would notice about the picture before the makeover is that we are not a small congregation. It is worth noting that when we think that we are a small church then we will shrink because we will have the expectations of a small church and those expectations will go unsatisfied. In fact, if you had watched many of these shows you would be shocked if you heard people saying that the church would close in a few years. You would see a church that looks like it should have everything that it needs for ministry. Now it is also worth noting that these shows do not go looking for a picture of when it looked better in the past . The story we tell ourselves is that the sight to see was in the past and that everything has gone down hill from there and it is only a matter of time. But this is not the story told on a program that has a makeover. The program would start with the church in some distress and then show us the big reveal . We would leave behind the expectations and identity of a small church, we would give sacrificially of our time and resources, and among other things we would change the way that we tell our story. (Maybe God knew I needed to be encouraged to read the big reveal in worship and that you also needed to be encouraged to hear it and take it to heart, for His Word says, “Blessed is the one who reads [aloud] the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (Rev 1:3, NIV).)
- The big reveal that you are to hear and take to heart is the book of Revelation.
- The big reveal is the word of God and witness of Jesus in Revelation. Despite the common mistake of citing this book as Revelations (with an s), it is the singular revelation of Jesus Christ. God gave this one revelation to Jesus to show His servants what must soon take place. It is not a book with a bunch of little revelations needing to be put together like a puzzle, it is a book that reveals one big picture. Revelation is the big reveal. We read, “in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.” John is describing the risen and ruling Jesus in the midst of the churches. Indeed, we read, “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword” because His Word is powerful. We read, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” The big reveal shows you Jesus in the midst of His churches speaking His powerful word as He is now and it shows you Jesus coming again on the clouds. Revelation tells you the true story.
- We are invited to hear and take to heart this big reveal. Your story is Jesus loves me and has freed me from my sins by His blood and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father. If we hear and take to heart this revelation, we will get off our self-imposed islands and gather together to encourage one another as the coming of Christ draws near. If we hear and take to heart this revelation, we will find ourselves telling others, ‘Jesus loves you and has freed you from your sins by His blood. Believe the good news.’ If we hear and take to heart Revelation 1, then we will find ourselves reading ahead the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 to see more of the revelation we need to hear and take to heart so that we will experience that makeover and continue to be a lampstand in the future. The time is near. “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”