It seems like the world has just gone mad. With the Islamic State beheading children and murdering Christians, Ebola creeping its way into the first-world, and the Supreme Court’s ruling that gay marriage can be legalized in a number of states (opening the door for the homosexual agenda all over the country) it feels a lot like a losing battle and the end of the world. Add to this young people scheduling their own death and high school football programs being shut down for sexual abuse and one could come to the conclusion that the events of Revelation are unfolding right before our eyes…and it wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to land there.
Before we rush to end-times panic, let’s remember why the book of Revelation was written. It was written to encourage a persecuted church. It was not meant to confuse you, scare you, or send you on a relentless game of “pin-the-tail-on-the-antichrist.” If we can accept that John’s vision contain imagery that is both glorious and terrible and, frankly, beyond our understanding, then we can see very clearly that the foundational message is: no matter how bad things may seem, God is in complete control; though the enemy may seem to be winning battles, he has already lost the war.
The events we typically refer to as the Tribulation are not a surprise to God. Like the plagues of Egypt, they serve his purpose. In them God is glorified as great, good, merciful, just, powerful, and righteous; the wicked are condemned and the righteous encouraged. We know believers will die, for it is appointed for a man to die once and after that face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). My death is not the worst thing that can happen to me. Whether it comes by disease or the sword, the death of my body is the liberation of my spirit. My (potential) imprisonment for Christ serves to glorify God. Because of the eternal victory we are given in Christ, there is no scenario where those who trust in him lose. “For we know that our light and momentary troubles are preparing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). This does not mean that we need to look forward to hardship and suffering with joy and excitement. It does mean that we live unafraid and unhindered by the threat.
We, as disciples of Jesus, must remember that his kingdom is not of this world, so legislation is not our answer. We do not wage war like the world does, nor do we use the weapons that the world uses (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Remember, we are to live our lives here as aliens and strangers. All that we know will be swept away and made new in Christ. We are living in a different reality. We are ambassadors of God’s kingdom. We are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation–not a nation defined by geography, but by the rule and reign of Yahweh. We advance this kingdom as we point the hearts of men and women to Jesus and he regenerates their hearts through faith.
The children of God are not to live in fear–that is the whole message of Revelation. We are to live in victory. Our prayer must not be “Lord, keep us safe.” Rather, like the first century church in Acts 4:24-30 we ought to pray, “Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed [the rulers and the world] conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
To quote another verse of Jesus’ teaching, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). We hold this world loosely and live for God’s glory, not our own comfort and need. We trust in God’s sovereignty and know that we have every day that we are given–no more, no less–no matter what. Live them to the fullest for the glory of God!