Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
What do you do when your Christian convictions and the circumstances of your life appear to declare two different truths?
This was the conundrum facing the first readers of the book of Revelation. The last book in our Scriptures was not written to confuse but to bless (Revelation 1:3). We ought not to regard it as if it were a collection of riddles or some theological Rubik’s Cube. Rather, we must understand that John was writing to readers in a historical context—first-century believers who were being buffeted and persecuted by the authorities of their day—in order to offer hope and assurance.
The gospel was being preached, and the people of God were absolutely convinced that even as Jesus had gone, so He would return. They believed that, as the ascended Lord and King, Jesus was fully in control of all circumstances and His will was being established throughout the whole earth. That was their conviction. But when they looked at their circumstances, these did not seem to square with those convictions. None of the things that they affirmed to one another and shared with their friends and neighbors appeared to be happening. Mockers abounded. In fact, the apostle Peter had already warned the believers, “Scoffers will come in the last days,” and they would ask, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
While the church was small and beleaguered, the empires of man were growing in strength and significance. Persecution was increasing in its intensity, and the Evil One doubtless came and insinuated to these suffering Christians that they had bought into a great delusion. They needed Jesus to come and give them His perspective so that their troubles would not discourage, perplex, or overwhelm them. They needed to understand simply this: that Jesus was still the triumphant Lord and King. His resurrection from the dead had declared His authority and His integrity. He could be trusted with His people’s lives and futures.
In a world that continues to oppress God’s people, the book of Revelation is exactly what the church today needs. While economic gloom, material deprivation, and issues of morality and personal identity threaten to unravel the minds of men and women, John’s message reminds us that our Christian faith is sufficient for the challenges and questions that confront us. Do your circumstances suggest to you that perhaps your convictions about your faith might be mistaken? Rest in this assurance: Jesus rose, Jesus reigns, and ultimately, Jesus wins.