I’ve studied the book of Revelation several times in group settings. While each of these studies has been with different groups, one response has been ubiquitous when we get to the violence, death and destruction of the end times. Almost on cue I’ve heard in each study these self-soothing words: “Well, I’m just glad I won’t be around for all of that,” along with swishing hands that seem to dismiss the whole yucky ordeal. A total abdication of the gravity that will be unleashed on the Earth in the end times exchanged for comfortably reclining in their chair with a sigh and returning to happier thoughts.
I just don’t think that’s the response Revelation is meant to invoke.
Similarly, as our world is on fire with a global pandemic and racial tensions at a fever pitch, I so often hear the refrain (said with a sigh), “I just want everything to return to normal.” As if this worldwide shaking needs to hurry up so that we can return to our regularly scheduled program.
I just don’t think that’s the response 2020 is meant to invoke.
And, make no mistake, there is a response 2020 is meant to invoke. If we believe God is the author and creator of all things, and if every day of history is sifted first through His hands, then we know our response as Christians matters. Just waiting it out, burying our heads and hurrying to the end, is not what we are called to do. Our response to Revelation is the same as our response to our world today – obedience to the Lord.
Let me first acknowledge that the constant barrage of information, changing recommendations, moving of goal posts, conflicting reports, violence in the name of justice, politicizing of everything, and voices not being heard is wearying and has many people feeling depleted, confused, sad, bitter, angry and emotionally spent. Me, too.
These are extraordinary times, and frankly, each day seems to bring more chaos. But our inclination seems to be toward escapism (how many hours of Netflix have been streamed in the last three months?) and guarding against all that is distasteful – even the truth.
There is a difference between guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23) and being in denial or choosing apathy. Don’t lose sight of the big picture – we were chosen to be the Christians of 2020 (Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 2:10). That matters. It’s a colossal charge and one that He didn’t make lightly. It’s time that we rise up in humility, love and obedience to the One who called us by name to be His ambassador for a time such as this.
For every Christian, obedience means vigorously praying and reading God’s Word. It means fellowshipping with other Christians to be encouraged and spurred on. Obedience certainly means loving the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). However, from there, obedience may look different for each Christian. For some, it may look like speaking up when silence is more comfortable. For others, obedience may mean being silent in order to listen. It may mean repenting, forgiving and starting today with His new mercies. Obedience to God is an act of worship (Romans 12:1) and an outward demonstration of our love for Him (John 14:15). Add to that, an obedient heart is a heart that’s at peace – even in the turmoil of 2020.
As Joni Eareckson Tada recently said, “In the worst of times, Christians should be at their best. For we are people of the Word who believe the world belongs to our Sovereign Lord.” Amen. We know Who heals. We know Who forgives.We know Who redeems. We know Who makes all things new. We know the only Savior. We have the keys to the Kingdom.
Each time I have studied Revelation, instead of hoping I don’t have to endure all the coming destruction, I find I’m drawn to pray for Christians who will be in those end time calamities – even if the Lord tarries and waits another thousand years, I’m praying for them now. I pray that they would be steadfast, immovable even under extreme duress. I pray that they would keep their eyes squarely on Jesus and be bold for any who might want to finally know truth. I pray they would be obedient as the day draws near. I see so clearly through the pages of Revelation that the war will not be against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). I may never know these brothers and sisters in Christ, but I’m cheering them on.
Friends, I pray the same for us as we walk through a year like the world has never seen. May we be steadfast and immovable, keeping our eyes on Jesus, bold for His glory, sharing truth and giving an answer for our hope. May we be on-our-knees prayerful and intimately engulfed in His Word. For our battle, too, is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. I may not know you personally, brothers and sisters in Christ, but I’m cheering you on.
May we realize that just as God chose us to be His ambassadors in 2020, that title also means we have an enemy that doesn’t want to see the Kingdom of God advanced. He stirs chaos, his native language is lies, he was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), he comes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Our enemy is currently delighting in discord, and my prayer is that the Lord would make him sorry he ever stirred this pot. I pray that instead, our enemy would recoil at the love, redemption, justice, repentance, forgiveness and peace that comes out of these ashes.
I’ll close with a reminder from one of my favorite authors, John Eldredge, “Friends, we live in a brutal world. This is a love story, but it is set in the midst of a terrible and violent war.” Let us not forget we live in a fallen world. But may we remember that WE are God’s plan to tell the world in Whom salvation and rest can be found.
Dear Lord, thank you for the privilege of being Yours. We know Your eyes go to and fro throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully Yours (2 Chronicles 16:9). Lord, please strengthen us for all You’ve called us to do. May we be found equipped and ready for every good work for this hurting and watching world. Amen.