HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION? by Dennis E. Johnson for Core Christianity
Jesus hasn’t given us the book of Revelation to provide raw material for constructing a last-days’ timeline, nor to arm us with ammunition for arguing with other Christians. We’re enmeshed in a greater conflict with eternal consequences, threatened by venomous, vicious, aggressive, deceptive foes. In this battlefield crisis, we must respond to what Christ reveals about himself, ourselves, and our enemies in ways that align with our Lord’s purposes. Here are three responses introduced in Revelation 1:1—9:
Hear and keep
The first of Revelation’s seven blessings combines reading and hearing with keeping “what is written in” this prophecy (1:3). “Keeping” blends recollection with obedient action, extending over time. Followers of Jesus “keep” the commandments of God (12:17; 14:12). But Revelation contains more than commands to be obeyed. Its larger purpose is to open the eyes of our hearts to a wider panorama, a deeper perspective on reality itself. John’s visions take us behind the scenes to glimpse unseen forces whose conflict is reflected in the events of history and our daily experience. We are blessed as we “keep” what we hear also in the way that Mary kept, “treasured,” all that the angels had told shepherds about her newborn son, “pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Remember, reflect, let Revelation reconfigure your horizons, and reorder your affections.
Endure and stay pure
The enemy’s objective is to undermine our lifelong allegiance to Jesus through intimidation, bullying us into cowardly renunciation; through deception, leading us into theological confusion; and through seduction, luring us into pleasurable complacency. Over against these assaults, Jesus calls us to endure and to stay pure. We’re partners with John in endurance under affliction (1:9). Persecuted churches like those in Smyrna and Philadelphia hear Jesus’ encouragement to endure. Jesus redeemed us to consecrate us as priests, to serve God his Father (1:5-6; 5:10). Purity is imperative for those privileged to stand and serve in the presence of the holy God (3:4; 7:13-17). Compromised churches like those in Sardis and Laodicea need Jesus’ rebuke and summons to stay pure. All churches need to hear what the Spirit is saying to each church (2:7, 11, 17, etc.), to recognize Satan’s strategies that target us in our time and place, and to resist every assault in the strength of the Lamb.