We just finished studying the book of Revelation. It took us about eight weeks and we worked out our faith in this hard book together. My challenge as a leader was to make a commitment to studying Revelation from a point of grace. This was a challenge because so many prepared studies on Revelation teach from a perspective of fear. Which means that I had to put a lot more effort into preparation than usual.
Revelation by grace was hard. What was even harder was to realize that we have a church that has become fearful. We are afraid. Afraid to do God’s will. Afraid what will happen if we don’t do God’s will. Afraid that people won’t come when we reach out. Afraid that people will come when we reach out. We live in a constant state of fear, so much so that I am not sure that we even recognize it as such.
As John is trembling in fear at the beginning of this vision, the son of man says “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:17-18) Do not be afraid. I think that has to be our theme in the church today if we have any hope of reaching new people for Jesus Christ. Do not use fear as a tactic to move people towards salvation. Do not give into fear when the future seems not quite what we want it. And do not allow fear to rule our hearts and minds when we are trying to work things out with others in the church who do not see the world as we do.
At the end I found a lot of grace in teaching Revelation, especially through the conversation and questions of two amazing groups of lay people. Revelation demands incredible imagination and a clinging to grace. It demands nothing less than a committed “yes” from people of faith as we seek to transform the world into the hope of God’s heart.