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Written Hope

Revelation 1:19-20
'Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.' (NIVUK)

It may seem obvious, but without the written Bible, we would not reliably know anything about God, what He thinks, what He does or His plans for the future. In the past, God communicated with His prophets in a variety of ways, and they wrote down what He told and showed them (Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:10-12): the history of God's interactions with His people (and their enemies), along with the incarnation, ministry, sufferings, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church and the missionary travels of the apostles were all written down. However, throughout the Old Testament, God also spoke about what would happen in the future, including over 300 references to Jesus before He was born.

Much Old Testament prophecy apparently superimposes the first and second coming of Jesus, His earthly ministry and His future reign. So some prophecy had already been fulfilled in Christ and in the church, and other prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. But Daniel specifically looks at the time around the second coming of Jesus, and that provides a background to many of the pictures in Revelation (Daniel 7:9-13 compared with Revelation 1:12-16); and it is endorsed by Jesus (Matthew 24:30-31). Without the written Word of God we cannot have confidence about the future. Visions and pictures alone are insufficient without God's explanation. Unless it is written it cannot be transmitted faithfully.

So John is instructed to write down this revelation of the future from the Lord Jesus. It is intended to be a practical instruction to seven real churches (Revelation 1:10) suffering persecution and tempted to give up on Jesus. The 'angels' (meaning 'messengers') could be supernatural, but then why was the revelation given to John to give to angelic beings, when such a supernatural being was involved in giving the revelation in the first place (Revelation 1:1)? More likely, the messengers were the teachers in each church who were to share the prophecy with the believers. That is consistent with other Bible writings: they are to be taught to faithful believers and then passed on to others (2 Timothy 2:2).

This prophecy is not a secret code to be deciphered. Jesus has no interest in satisfying our appetite for trying to be in control by knowing the future. Instead, He clearly describes that He will come to vindicate His people, free them from the dominance of Satan and his worldly accomplices, and bring them to His eternal kingdom in peace and joy. It is a book for today, and every 'today' until Jesus returns. It is to give us confidence and hope to keep on obeying our Lord. Let the Lord comfort and strengthen your heart and share these messages with others so that we can keep on believing, obeying, persevering, and enduring in peace and joy.

God of eternity. Thank You that Jesus is in charge of the future. Forgive me for having such a low horizon that I cannot see my life in the context of Your eternity, and for living without a confident hope every day, in the final victory of Jesus. Please help me to be like the Lord Jesus 'who for the joy that was set before Him, endured'. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams