This year, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) is going through the book of Revelation.
I can hear the sighs now. So many people have reservations about this highly controversial, heavily debated books. I grew up in the Left Behind era. We were inundated with debates about the plagues, whether the rapture would be “pre” or “post” (before or after the “tribulation”), or whether it was even in the Bible at all. Everybody had pet theories about who the anti-Christ was and what Babylon meant and when it was all going to go down. The end result was that a lot of people, like me, were sick of it all. Revelation, conveniently relegated to the end of the Bible, was equally conveniently relegated to the end of my Bible reading. Permanently. I would rather have read Amos three times a year than dig into the apocalyptic miasma of Revelation.
Getting to BSF was a challenge. I had a host of excuses and thought I’d better just wait till next year when we are doing the fairly safe book of John. John is about Jesus. I like Jesus. But most of all it’s about the past, so it’s hard to argue about what civilization Rome represents or what Jerusalem means. One day, however, all my excuses had run out. I had to go.
What a ride it has been. Never once have we been asked to predict the future. In fact, it doesn’t even seem like that’s what the book is about. I mean of course it is, in a way. But it is about Jesus, and the Father, and the people, and His church, and how hard life is, and how good God is.
It is about suffering. Mercy. Forgiveness. Justice. Patience. Judgement. Hope.
It’s about a God who created a beautiful world of light and music and dancing, with good food and beautiful places, and marvelous creatures, and then filled it with people who could enjoy and appreciate it with him. It’s about people who chose to worship and adore and desire those beautiful things rather than the Giver of those things. It’s about a Father who waited patiently, telling his children over and over again that the pretty lights and shiny toys wouldn’t last, and that those things couldn’t love them or satisfy them; Who withheld punishment until there was no hope left, and no other alternative.
And finally He takes it all away.
And those who loved Him and understood that they could appreciate and rejoice in the beauty and the music and the dancing as the gifts of a great and loving Father were given a place to be with their truest Love forever, in the presence of the undiluted glory itself.
And those who loved only the things, and themselves, and who twisted these things and called them better or right or true, and forgot about the greatest Love that first made those things, lost them forever.
It is the story of a Father and his children. It is a call to all those children to appreciate the beauty of the world, but love only the Creator of them.