Revelation is a rallying cry for Jesus’ people. Despite the many false kingdoms that both tempt us to compromise or threaten us with persecution, God is on his glorious eternal throne and Jesus is worthy to implement God’s plan for his Creation. But that plan is implemented through Jesus’ people as they sacrificially live and love in the midst of the roiling conflict.
Revelation reveals that God’s plan to vanquish evil, restore his Creation and establish his full reign is being accomplished through his people as they live in the midst of the chaos. To put it another way, Jesus’ people is how God is answering Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Early Christians believed heaven and earth met in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and that his followers continued this project. We immediately discover in the opening verses of Revelation that Jesus has made us “to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father” (Rev 1:6). As we move through Revelation, we are reminded repeatedly that we are a royal priesthood and an important part of God’s unfolding plan.
As NT Wright states:
“This book in fact offers one of the clearest and sharpest visions of God’s ultimate purpose for the whole creation, and of the way in which the powerful forces of evil, at work in a thousand ways but not least in idolatrous and tyrannous political systems, can be and are being overthrown through the victory of Jesus the Messiah and the consequent costly victory of his followers.” -NT Wright, Revelation for Everyone.
So the underlying message of Revelation is “overcome.” This is Jesus’ message to each of his seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. We are God’s royal priesthood through whom God is performing his grand work of bringing heaven and earth together.
I think the idea of a Rapture has dominated the interpretative landscape of Revelation. So many Christians reading Revelation assume God will rescue his people from the chaos and conflict when actually he will rescue them through the chaos and conflict. In Revelation 1:18, King Jesus is holding the keys of death and hades. In other words, death has lost its power. Even though sacrificial love may lead Jesus’ people to death like their king, death is never the final answer. Jesus’ people will be rescued and raised through death.
As Jesus proclaims in Revelation 21:7, the person who overcomes (the same word to the seven churches) inherits the New Creation for which he has given his life and will be God’s child.