Revelation DAY 6 - Past, Present, or Future?

Revelation 1:10-20

Is Revelation about the past, the present, or the future?

Christians have debated that question since the book was first shared. The answers have sometimes had devastating results. In every generation, someone claims to have cracked the code. Again, people do this assuming that “prophecy” means predicting the future. In his book, Reversed Thunder, pastor Eugene Peterson says, “Prophets are not fortune tellers. The prophet is the person who says, ‘Thus says the Lord.’”

We learn in Revelation 2 and 3 that John’s prophecy is also a letter. Here we meet the churches who first read the Book of Revelation. Some were praised, most had problems. Jesus charged John with sending his vision to seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. The seven churches sit near the Mediterranean Sea in modern Turkey. John’s a kind of pastor to these seven.

Revelation’s a traveling letter, so all seven churches hear each other’s mail. In a way, that means everything Jesus says to Thyatira also applies to Philadelphia, and vice versa, when the shoe fits. In Jewish thought, seven was a number of completeness. Seven churches imply all churches everywhere. An open letter to all churches means everything Jesus says here also includes us. 

That's a big clue about whether or not Revelation is about the past, the present, or the future. Just like every other book of the Bible, Revelation was written to address the present needs of God’s people. Those people, those churches, are now in our past. But John’s words - Jesus’s words! - have value into those churches’ future. Their future is our present!

It can be a little tricky remembering this because John told the seven churches that the things he was describing were "coming soon." It's also tricky because some of the visions talk about things that will happen far into the future, especially the visions we’ll read about at the book’s end. Revelation is God’s word to us today. As Paul says in Romans 15:4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

When you’ve read or thought about Revelation, have you thought it’s about the past, present, or future?

Speak to me, Lord, and give me ears to hear what the Spirit is saying today. Amen.
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