Week 55: Revelation

Prepare these questions for Sunday, May 18, 2014.  We will not meet May 11 due to Mother's Day.

The book of Revelation was written by the disciple John, most likely the last surviving man to have walked with Jesus during his ministry. In John's day, apocalyptic literature was a known form of writing. Visions where an angel or other guide shows a mortal man the spiritual world were fairly common. Today, it is a rather odd way to tell a story or to encourage someone and, therefore, Revelation is often hard to understand. This book was literally written to encourage Christians from seven specific churches during the oppression that was coming from the Roman Empire. The book was a letter meant to be read aloud in each of these churches and the symbolism would have been more familiar to them (for instance, references to the seven mountains or hills is most likely Rome, which was known as the City of the Seven Hills). Although many Biblical scholars and teachers try to unravel the mysteries of this book (and argue a lot in the process), it's main message can be clear without understanding what modern or future events it may or may not be referencing. The basic idea is this: Trials will come. With God, we can endure these trials. In the end, God will reign over all creation as He did in the beginning.

1. What does John's vision of Jesus look like in Chapter 1? How does this differ from the Jesus we have read about in the rest of the New Testament?

2. Read the description of the throne in Heaven in chapter 4. What impression does this vision give of God?

3. There are a lot of number references in Revelation that are probably symbolic. Twelve, and multiples of 12, can refer to the 12 tribes of Israel and possibly just mean people who follow God. The number seven sometimes refers to the seven churches to whom the letter is addressed and sometimes refers to Rome. Why would there be so many specific numbers used if they are not literal? Why didn't the author just state more plainly what he wanted to say?

4. Read the description of the Heavenly Warrior in chapter 19:11-21. This is generally thought to be the second coming of Christ (the first one being when Jesus was teaching on Earth). What might the seven churches like about this different version of Christ? What might they find scary or intimidating?

5. The descriptions of the New Heaven and the New Earth, the New Jerusalem, and the restored Eden are all a bit controversial. Are they restored here on our literal planet? Are they visions? What does the final victory over evil actually look like? We can't know, but we can gain assurance from idea of victory and the last words of the Bible. Read Revelation 22:12-21. What is the main idea of this epilogue? Why do you think this is how the Bible ends?

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