Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apocalypse now

Our God is very economical in His dealings with us. He never arrives too early or too late. He never provides too little or too much. He harmonizes all that He creates to function symphonically, synergically. Everything, as He creates it, He declares good. He makes nothing without the Son and the Holy Spirit, thus revealing Himself to rational beings through Them, as the Father, and together with Them, as Holy One and Unearthly Triad.

He has taken from us words that He spoke by His holy prophets, proved by the history of His holy nation, sent out by the writings of His holy apostles, and sealed by the testimony of His holy martyrs, transforming them by the human and divine nature of His Son the Word, and given them back to us as the only divine scriptures on earth, the Bible. There it is, a Book transfigured into a Door.

Open it and you meet not just human words, but the Word. Entering with bowed head and bended knees, we are made to stand upright again with heads held high and straightened backs, renewed in the Father’s image, the God-man Jesus Christ, as we find Paradise as Him, and find ourselves in Paradise.

Yet our God is very economical. He knows what we are made of, because He makes us. He knows our nature from within, having become One of us. From the first-created Adam to the last-born Adam, He knows us all in our billions. The Book that He has given to us is written in words drawn from us. It speaks of things He wants to tell us in our own human language, precisely so that we can understand them.

The book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, is a book that the Church has almost avoided since the beginning, because it contains so much of a mysterious nature that it can easily be misunderstood. At one extreme, the Orthodox Church never reads it in the context of services, and at the other extreme are the many personality cults that are practically erected on the foundation of some man or woman’s interpretations of it.

Let’s listen to what the book of Revelation itself says and, without presuming to interpret the mysterious elements, pay attention to the things it plainly reveals, for they are not few. Approaching the Apocalypse, the phrase that immediately greets me at the door is the word of Jesus Himself, Μη φοβου! ‘Don’t be afraid’ (Revelation 1:17). We can trust Jesus here just as we trust His words in every other book of the Bible.

Many people even forget that it is Christ who is speaking to John and revealing these things, but if you have a red letter edition of the Bible you’ll see that there’s a lot of red printed in the book of Revelation. Like the rock that followed Israel in its migrations and gave them water to drink wherever they went, the Apocalypse has been following the Church in its earthly pilgrimage and follows us still.
Are we drinking from its living water?

For us and for every generation it is the Apocalypse now, and time itself has been carrying within it the seed of its own destruction, as the Day of the Lord draws closer to us. There never was a time not to do as the book of Revelation prescribes, ‘Read the prophecy aloud, listen to it, and keep what it says.’ Why? Because John, the servant and beloved disciple himself testifies, ‘it is the word of God guaranteed by Jesus Christ,’ and ‘because the time is close’ (Revelation 1:2-3).

The book of Revelation contains things both hidden and plain. It is our privilege to have this prophecy and our blessing to do what it says. Even in the first three verses comprising the Prologue, we find the truth both hidden and plain.

Hidden? When John writes ‘about the things which are now to take place very soon.’

Plain? When he writes, ‘John has written down everything he saw and swears it is the word of God guaranteed by Jesus Christ. Happy the man who reads this prophecy aloud, and happy those who listen to him, if they keep all that it says, because the Time is close.’

The hidden? The meaning and significance of the apocalyptic visions, when they are to take place, or whether they already have, and how, and where; the meaning of ‘now’ and of ‘very soon.’ Notice that these are exactly the things which have caused divisions, provoked and supported pride, and given occasion to scandals and crimes among the believers, allowing the planting of bad seed among the good. Christ says plainly to us in the gospels, ‘No man knows the day or the hour.’ Believing and obeying His word, we are saved from the despoliation of the hidden, wherever in the Bible we find it.

The plain? What is written as having factually occurred, ‘John has written down everything he saw.’ What we can trust on the word of an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus, ‘he saw and swears it is the word of God guaranteed by Jesus Christ.’ What will be the result for us if we follow the instructions in faith and obediently, ‘Happy the man who reads this prophecy aloud, and happy those who listen to him, if they keep all that it says.’ Why we should have faith and obey, ‘for the Time is close.’ Notice that the Lord never tells us too little or too much.

Brethren, I encourage you always and ever, to read the Apocalypse now because it is like a fifth gospel, the final seal of the good news, which began in the preaching of John the Baptist, was accomplished in the sacrificial and life-giving death of our Lord on the tree, and which is ‘now’ about to be perfected in us and in our world. Be like the humble and wise, who receive with joy and obedience the clear words of their Master and await with patience for the revelation of all that He will accomplish at His glorious coming, the parousía.

Remember what the Book plainly states, ‘The One who guarantees these revelations repeats His promise: I shall indeed be with you soon,’ and by our faith and obedience to His word, let us say with the saints, ‘Amen; come Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20)

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