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Posted: October 1, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Grace Notes: The comfort of Revelation

What do you think of when you think of the book of Revelation? Try describing it in one word. I asked that question to begin our new Bible study series on that last book of the Bible last week. And you can probably guess some of the answers I got: "Scary"... "Confusing"... "Destruction"... "Difficult." Then one person said - "Comforting."

That answer is almost shocking compared to all the other ones, but when you think about why the book was written, why God gave us this record of this vision, "comforting" is right on the money.

I know, since it is a vision, and since the apostle John is given a glimpse of things we don't normally see, things we don't have any frame of reference for, it can seem to be confusing. I know, since the vision describes enemies attacking us and the attacks that are still coming with all of their death and destruction, fear might result. And since we're living in this world where our enemy Satan "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8), that enemy will try to take advantage of the type of language used in Revelation to scare us. But the more we study this book, if we are willing to let God speak for himself - "comfort" will be the natural reaction. Let me explain.

The book starts with a pretty simple sounding introduction, but a very important one. Let's take it piece by piece. First, the title and purpose: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place." With all of the beasts and angels and warfare going on in this vision, right from the get-go we hear what it is really all about. It is the Revelation (the making known) of Jesus. This book is intended to let us get to know Jesus better, his love and his work and his power. And God gave this revelation so that his servants (that's us) can know what we're about to go through. It's always easier to handle something when you know what is coming; when you know it will work out, when you know who will be there with you. Just think of why the doctors try to talk you through the surgery beforehand so that you can feel comfortable with it and all the possible outcomes. So, in actuality - Revelation is a book of comfort.

And it can comfort us because of what it is. That's the next verse. "He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw - that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ." Everything that Jesus gave the apostle John to see was and is - the word of God and the testimony of the one who loved us enough to die for us. Yes there are scary things coming as sin affects our world more and more and Satan does his best to bring us down, using society's influence and temptation. But God's word can and will bring us through it.

In fact, in the next verse, we get to the real gem: "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." Did you catch that? This was not written to confuse you. It was not written to scare you. It was written to bless you, to make you "blessed," in other words... "Happy." So all of the talk of horsemen and warfare and destruction and thrones and seals and bowls and all the rest in the pages of Revelation is for one purpose - to make your life happy.

So next time you try to tackle this book of the Bible that we so often think of as confusing (you're welcome to join our Sunday morning Bible study to do just that) - read it with that in mind. Don't try to read into it what is not there. Read it as a letter from Jesus to people living in a world where sin is attacking. Read it and hear Jesus say to you: "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the living one. I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!" (Revelation 1:17-18) See that in this book, and it will make you happy!

The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.


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