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Bible Interpretation - Acts-Revelation

18. The Revelation to John

New Testament House Meeting

On one warm Saturday night, about 60 years after the time of Jesus, a crowd of about 25 people, most of them middle-class families with kids in tow, have gathered for the blockbuster performance that has finally come to town, The Revelation to John. This is a one-person play, on its first stop in a seven-city tour of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). The performance will last about two hours and the crowd has heard that it's a suspenseful cliff-hanger. The buzz of chitchat is heard as the crowd eagerly awaits the opening episode. Because of the incendiary nature of the presentation, the performance is being secretly held in the home of a prominent church member and there has been no publicity except by word of mouth. For security purposes, no one is admitted except trusted church members and everyone has pledged to keep the evening's performance to themselves.

The church minister opens the evening's with a prayer and to introduce the presenter. After her prayer, she makes a few opening remarks,

I welcome you to our opening performance of The Revelation to John! I was so inspired when I first attended this performance at our regional gathering in Patmos. I walked away knowing that God is on our side and that, although it may take some time, we will be victorious! But only if we remain confident and keep our eye on our goal.  

I'm aware that these past few years have had some challenges. Not everyone approves of our beliefs. Twenty years ago, when the government shut down the Temple and ran our parents out of Jerusalem, we had hoped to find refuge in our Synagogues out here in Asia. But, as we know, some of our “best friends” and even our relatives kicked us out of the Synagogue. They turned their backs on us and some of them began making false allegations about us to the authorities. And the authorities! What can we say about this “don't ask, don't tell” policy of Rome and the unfair way it's implemented by our local officials! What hypocrisy! We're hard-working, tax paying, law-respecting people and the governor knows it! But no sooner will some greedy, sneaky thief try to intimidate one of us by making a secret allegation than will the two-bit sheriff report us to the prosecutor. I'm confident that they're going to get their due, as you will see when we get to the seventh episode of tonight's performance!

I'm also aware that some of you think it's ill-advised to be holding tonight's performance. While things are difficult, they aren't nearly as bad as it was thirty years ago when Emperor you-know-who blamed us for the fire in Rome. We lost Peter. And we lost Paul. Thankfully, those days are behind us. But we can't get too complacent. There's one message in tonight's performance that I hope we keep in mind: don't get too comfortable! When our day comes, it's going to come fast! Way too fast! We've got to keep eye on the prize, living in the present, knowing that at any moment we may find ourselves gloriously transformed!

A word about the secrecy around tonight's event. We all know that the real king in our life is Jesus Christ. The emperor is not king, and we know things in Rome are crumbling fast. The political back-stabbing of that arrogant tyrant in Rome is unimaginable! He can only be compared to cold-hearted lizard or an unfaithful whore! He's worse than a lizard, in fact he's a ten-horned, seven-headed lizard! But, you know, we can't openly say that. And we certainly can't put it in writing. If word were to get out then we would be putting ourselves in even more jeopardy. So, to protect ourselves, you'll find lots of innuendo in tonight's presentation. I know who the beast is and you know who the beast is, so there's no need to expose ourselves to danger. Let's just refer to him as the beast and keep the innuendo to ourselves.

Everyone else will think that all the symbolic innuendo is about esoteric predictions of the far distant future! They think they're so smart!  But God has confused their minds! They look so closely at the details that they can't see the Truth that is before their very eyes! While they search for hidden meanings about the distant future, let's enjoy the fact that the story we're about to see is in fact quietly unfolding in our present day.  Be assured that these events will become public news very soon, perhaps only days or weeks from now!

Since tonight's presentation has so much symbolism, there may be a point or two where we, ourselves, get a bit confused. While we get the big picture, there may a few things that aren't clear, that seem to cross over from the Truth we know to some fantasy that we sense is not true. You'll hear a lot about earthquakes and plagues. Are these for real or are they just symbolic for the catastrophe that is presently unfolding throughout the empire? Keep in mind that they're almost always symbolic. And they're not only symbolic of what's happening around us, they're also symbolic of what's happening within us. We have earthquakes and plagues in our own minds!

I need to forewarn you that tonight's performance has some extreme scenes. You may want to keep the kids close by. Life, like drama, has its ups and downs and this presentation conveys both good and evil in full force. Keep a couple things in mind. First, the story you're about to witness is meant to be experienced in one sitting. It's a drama, and, like all drama, things get bad before they get better. So if you're distressed by some of the early scenes, rest assured that in the end God will be victorious. If we leave before it's over then we miss the big picture, which is that there is only one true power in the Universe, God. Don't focus on some gory detail and don't try to read too much into some violent scene; if you do then you're no better than those arrogant intellectuals who think they know future events by reading esoteric literature. As I've said, and as Jesus repeatedly said, our glorious transformation will come quickly and quite unexpectedly! Don't fall into the prophecy trap!

Having said this, we need to keep in mind that things often get unbearable before we are rescued. We saw this in the story of Daniel and the book of Enoch. While we would like to see things get progressively better, the fact is that God works in mysterious ways. The Romans are control freaks; we trust God! Often it seems that things are going downhill fast and that our situation is hopeless. Or, to put it another way, sometimes things just have to hit rock-bottom before they get better. If so, take heart! That's the very moment that God often acts! So be encouraged by some of the disturbing scenes in what we're about to see tonight. They just may indicate that God is about to act. Let go and trust that God is sure to deliver us.

Before we get started, let me give you a brief outline about what we're about to see and a few hints at what it's all about.

Seven Golden LampstandsThe story opens with an introduction of the angel of Jesus Christ speaking to John on the island of Patmos about things that must soon take place (Rev. 1:1-3). John is then given a vision of the risen Christ (Rev. 1:4-20) in the midst of seven golden lamp-stands. This sets the scene for the entire story and lets us know that what is revealed in heaven is soon to be revealed on earth.

The bulk of the drama is in seven episodes. Episode One describes the opening of seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 2:1-3:22) and each of these letters seems to describe the benefits and weaknesses of different states of thinking. These states seem to be desire, abundance, intellectualism, zealousness, power, love and deciding.  John cautions what can happen when we enter into these states from sense awareness.

Episode Two begins with John being transported to heaven. He then describes a vision of the opening of seven seals (Rev. 4:1-8:1) and each of these seals describes what often happens as the soul is being transformed from mortal consciousness to spiritual consciousness. The first four seals seem to tell us something about strong beliefs, one of which is Christ, symbolized by a rider on a white horse. But watch out for the other three because they represent belief in war, lack, death. As we'll see, spiritual transformation can be difficult and some of these scenes contain really disturbing images. The fifth seal describes the suffering we experience when we buy into these ideas of war, lack and death and it continues with an earthquake in the sixth seal, which is our mind in turmoil!

Episode Three describes what happens when the seventh seal is broken (Rev. 8:1-11:19), which is the appearance of seven angels sounding their trumpets. Each of these trumpets symbolize the advance of spiritual development. While much of the imagery appears destructive, try to remember that it's really a cleansing process of destroying that which is false in us. I'll leave it to you to figure out what these false beliefs may be, but let me give a preview of some of the images that will show up: hail and fire, a great mountain thrown into the sea, a star falling into the rivers and poisoning the water and the sun and the moon going dark. Don't sweat it!  Worse things than these take place in your own mind! Letting go of these false ideas takes time and can be painful. By the time the seventh trumpet is sounded, we are coming into a real transformation.

Dragon with seven headsEpisode Four describes another view of our spiritual unfolding, but this time it is described in three stages instead of seven stages (Rev. 12:1-17). First is the birth of the Christ child, represented by a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and upon her head a crown of twelve stars who is about to give birth to the Christ child. Next is the resistance we put up in the form of the anti-christ, which is portrayed by the great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, who threatens to devour the Christ child. But evil can only threaten good, it can never actually harm the Christ child. In the end both the woman and the Christ child are given safety in places in consciousness that are prepared for us in meeting challenges; the Christ child is taken up to heaven and the woman flees to the inner secret place of the most high.  So we see that, regardless of any threat, the soul is always protected.

Episode Five is a warning to all of us who have achieved spiritual maturity to not be too complacent (Rev. 15:1-16:21).  Even though we have become mature, we do not yet have a final victory and there will be seven things that continue to plague us if we do not keep vigilant.  Our presenter will describe in this episode how we draw to ourselves spiritual tests to strengthen our desire to know God.  These tests may seem like God's wrath and appear like a series of plagues, but they are actually for our own benefit.

Four HorsemenEpisode Six describes the beginning of the final victory of Christ as a rider on a while horse. The rider overthrows Rome as symbolized by a beast and the whore of Babylon. Do you know what's cool about this episode?  Remember Nero, the emperor who killed Peter and Paul many years ago?  The story has it that he's the beast! And rumor has it that he's coming back to kill the whore of Babylon, and we all know who that is! 

The episode then continues by describing a thousand year reign of peace for those loved ones of ours who have already died (Rev. 17:1-20:15). These thousand years, or what is is commonly referred to as the millennium, honors those who remained faithful but never lived to see Jesus coming back as promised. And, in my humble opinion, another purpose of the millennium is to mess with the minds of all the tele-evangelists who so they've got something to talk about. Isn't that awesome?

Episode Seven portrays the final triumph of Christ by describing the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev. 21:1-22:5), a place and time where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death will be no more.

At the conclusion we will hear a few final warnings from Jesus (Rev. 22:6-21) about the need to stay focused and faithful.  He will warn us that our job is to stay vigilant and not to be trying to use these prophesies to our own advantage.

If, after the performance, any of you wish to have more information, you can hear and download a detailed four hour audio presentation by a very knowledgable speaker at:

May this presentation inspire and bless us!  On with the show!