What does it say?
Exiled on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John writes the Revelation of Jesus Christ between 90 and 95 AD. John receives this revelation through angelic mediation in a series of visions. John describes his vision of the resurrected Christ in a scene filled with symbolism (Rev 1). The second and third chapters are a series of letters that Christ dictates to seven particular churches in Asia Minor (Turkey). Ephesus is the only one of the seven that is of any real size and significance at this time.
John’s vision abruptly departs from earth to heaven (Rev 4). John describes God’s throne room surrounded by 24 elders and 4 living creatures (beasts) that worship him. The Lord has a scroll sealed with seven seals in his right hand. No one is worthy to open this scroll other than the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) that was slain (Rev 5).
What does it mean?
The imagery and symbolism of Revelation can appear overwhelming, but almost all comes from the Old Testament readily understood by first century readers and a mystery to their enemies. This Old Testament connection reminds us that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The Bible’s final book spotlights the Person of Jesus Christ, who promised be with us always until the end of the age (Mat 28:18-20).
The letters to the seven churches are first historical and literal, containing both encouragement and warnings of dangers from within and without. These letters also have ongoing value for churches of all times, though not everyone agrees about the specifics of how the letters should be interpreted and applied.
The shift of focus from the churches to heaven is a stark reminder that above all our earthly trials and circumstances, God reigns supreme. Some speculate that the 24 elders might be the 12 patriarchs of Israel and the 12 apostles, though this is not stated. The seven spirits of God point to the imagery of the Jewish Menorah (candelabra) of seven branches representing God’s Holy Spirit (Isa 11:2). The four living creatures fit the description of the Cherubim of Ezekiel 1. The focus then turns to God’s mission from the beginning to redeem all the peoples of the world (5:9-10).
How will I respond?
Above all imagery and earthly trial, God’s story is about his mission to redeem the peoples of the world and receive worship and glory from all. What are the top three world news stories today? What possible connection might they have to God’s mission? Based on this, how will I pray specifically?