The more I read and reflect on Revelation, the more excited I become about its story. I’m not excited because I believe I’ve unravelled all of its symbols and nuances. In fact, the opposite is true. I feel as if a vast ocean of mysterious imagery and allusions lays before me to explore and learn. But rather, my excitement for Revelation is that it calls me and every Jesus-follower to participate in God’s unfolding plan for his good creation.
Remember John’s vision of God’s throne room in Revelation 4 and 5? This is an awesome revelation of heaven’s perspective of present earthly circumstances. Yet too often we domesticate this revelation into the simple platitude, “God’s on his throne, so he’s in control.” While this is true and can comfort us in overwhelming circumstances, it is almost a caricature of the real vision.
Revelation 4 and 5 reveal far more than God “being in control.” He is the Center of all and the worship of all! And in his covenantal faithfulness, he is achieving a wonderful plan for the good of his creation!
Unfortunately, no one is worthy to “open the scroll,” to take on God’s project. Humanity, God’s image-bearers and caretakers of his creation, have failed. Israel, the family through whom God would rescue creation, have failed. No one is left.
Except the Lion of Judah! Jesus, who is both Israel’s kingly human representative as well as Israel’s God in person, is worthy! But wait! When John turns to view the Lion of Judah, he sees a sacrificial lamb.
Israel’s King (the Lion), ascends his throne when he is nailed upon the cross (the Lamb). At the crucifixion, “Jesus of Nazareth — the King of the Jews” as Pilate’s sign proclaimed, is truly enthroned. The principalities and powers are overcome. God is King!
On that fateful Friday, the sixth day, God fulfills Israel’s Story — through Israel, God would rescue creation from the clutches of corruption and evil. “It is finished!” declares Israel’s King, the Lion-Lamb upon the cross. And on the seventh day, God rests in the tomb.
Jesus’ victorious enthronement on the cross now allows God to begin the next phase of his good plan for creation. On the “first day of the week” according to John’s Gospel, God resurrects Jesus and thus launches his New Creation. For Jesus’ resurrection and the New Creation it inaugurates are the immediate results of the victory accomplished by Israel’s King.
Jesus’ victory accomplishes a second result. It also makes us “kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father” (Revelation 1:6). We are now a royal priesthood who will continue to implement the victory Jesus won in the manner as he won it. N.T. Wright states:
“The Messiah [Israel’s King and representative] is to come into his kingdom through a horrible death; and those who not only follow him, but are called to implement his work must expect that their royal task – for such it is – will be accomplished in the same way, by the same means.” How God Became King
Through our sacrificial love, even to the point of martyrdom, God is enthroned, the powers are overcome, and New Creation is birthed in this present creation. In other words, the plan successfully implemented by Jesus not only established God as the True King and inaugurated New Creation, but rescued us so that we would continue to implement this victory through our faithful lives and sacrificial love.
Revelation excites me because it reminds me that Jesus didn’t rescue people FROM this world. He rescues people FOR this world. Revelation isn’t a story about how God will rescue me away from this world one day. I’m an active cooperative participant in God’s plan for this world, not a passive helpless spectator that’s whisked away. My life and how I live actually matters. Revelation’s story is relevant for the hear-and-now of everyday living, not a projection of some weird far-fetched future.
Revelation excites me because it tells a story that Jesus is King and is rescuing people, including me, to carry out his plan to renew this world. And even if my small part in that story is to love, suffer and perhaps die in faithfulness to King Jesus, God will be faithful and renew this world and complete his project and will rescue me even from death so I may live with him in his completed New Creation.
Revelation excites me because it reminds me that Jesus’ reconciling death and the new world order launched at his resurrection gives me a new human vocation to practice wherever I am and will carry me into and then onward in God’s final New Creation.
My daily responsibility is to be a faithful member of God’s royal priesthood, engaging and winning the world not with the love of power, which is the world’s strategy, but with the power of love, which is God’s strategy.
Who wouldn’t be excited about that?