In the first week of January this year I spent 6 days leading music at a missions conference on top of a mountain in southeast Queensland. The conference was the CMS (Church Missionary Society) Summer School, an annual event for the mission organisation with various guest speakers and missionaries, and about 600 supporters, many of whom are advancing in years (though the younger age brackets are also well represented). The conference theme was ‘Keep Calm for Christ has Won’ with keynote bible talks from Revelation. In fact we covered the whole book in this time! Peter Rodgers, head of CMS Australia, taught us well, showing how Revelation really is a book for us, not written to confuse us but to encourage us, to comfort, strengthen and make us bold for the risen Christ who stands as Victor in the spiritual realm…now! This is the realm revealed in Revelation, the realm of things that must remain unseen until our current heaven and earth are ‘rolled back like a scroll’. Revelation looks behind that heavy backdrop curtain which is the present physical world. It reveals a giant canvas of spiritual realities, of the victory Christ has already won. Far from being a timetable for world history yet to come, the book of Revelation is largely a picture of what has taken place already. (Well, through the teaching we received it made much sense to understand that this is what John has revealed). His letter describes the giant canvas of Christ’s victory. As John takes in this visual revelation his focus zooms in on one area at a time, explaining each different aspect of the battle and the victory. Though people will no doubt continue to discuss and debate the sequence of events, and how many have already occured, we should take comfort in this revelation of the big picture spiritual reality, and not be frightened off by the endless debate which surrounds the book. Christ has won the victory, at the Cross. No matter what the spiritual reality behind the scenes looked like at this point in world history, the outcome remains the same.
Probably the most striking vision of the Risen Christ we were confronted with comes in the very first chapter, at which John falls down as though dead!
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Revelation 1:12-18 NIV
This is no defeated carpenter who suffered and died and was forgotten. This is no meek and mild moral teacher. This is the blazing Lion-Lamb who lives and reigns now! He suffered as a sacrifice and conquered over the power of sin and death, once and for all. Now he lives forever. His voice and feet and mouth are more brilliant than the sun, and full of power. This is the risen Lord Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man who would receive the Kingdom and restore people to God.
Why then should we fear if we belong to him and are united with Him by faith, united in His death and resurrection? This is the vision of Christ we must hold on to in our present struggles – struggles much like those the early Christians suffered as they held onto their faith amidst persecution and ridicule. This letter was written (this vision was revealed) as much for their encouragement as ours. Let’s explore it without fear!
There’s so much more I could write about all that I learned from Revelation at the conference, but this vision of the Mighty Risen Saviour stands out most clearly. Here are some of the songs we used at the conference which have strong references to the concepts and words of John’s Revelation. (You might find them useful if you are preaching or singing through a series on the book.)
Come Hear the Angels Sing (Michael Morrow)
We belong to the Day (Michael Morrow)
See Him Coming (Mark Peterson)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (hymn)
See the Man (Trevor Hodge)
It is well (Todd Fields version of this hymn with new chorus: “God has won! Christ prevailed!”)
Let Your Kingdom Come (Sovereign Grace)
Majesty of Heaven (Chris Tomlin)
No other name (Trevor Hodge)
The Power of the Cross (Keith Getty)
Here we are at CMS Conference 2014. Music brings such encouragement!
Ps. If you have been praying for my dad Martin, thanks! Please continue to pray that he will be able to keep absorbing the food he is now eating and gain in strength. We praise God for his recovery so far! Blessings,
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Praying Ros, God bless you!
Yes, there are a number of ways of looking at the Revelation. Too often, we forget that it’s “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” and while I do read the book as a futurist, at the same time, it’s not just about world events, or what might come to pass, but about the One Who will bring them to pass. For what it’s worth, my own “outline” of the book is this: the revelation of Jesus Christ to the reader, to the churches, and then to the world. I think it interesting that John shows us the Lord Jesus in all His glory to open the book. He reminds us,as you pointed out, that Jesus isn’t just some “carpenter from Nazareth,” or a defeated Jewish man long dead. This is something “the churches” need to remember, as well. Thanks for this reminder.
Thanks for reading! Blessings to you.