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Revelation and generosity

I have just finished writing some notes for the Bible Reading Fellowship. (You can subscribe to Guidelines here.) This is how I ended the series:


NewJerusalemGoodness—we have reached the end of our whistle-stop tour of the most exciting, influential, complex and engaging book of the New Testament, and perhaps of all human literature. If you are feeling a little giddy, then that’s no surprise!

But you might also be feeling disturbed by the apparent violence of some of the imagery, especially in the last few chapters. There is much debate about this, and what it means for our appreciation of the book, and there are no simple answers to help us overcome our cultural distance from the text. But we do need to bear in mind some key issues as we continue to reflect.

First, the God of the Book of Revelation is one and the same God who loved us and gave himself for us, who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The text of Revelation makes this claim repeatedly, and as we have explored the message of Revelation, I hope you have felt that this claim is justified.

Secondly, one of the key aims of the book is to both confirm and challenge you in your faith. The drama of its images, the rapid movement from one scene to the next, and the sharp contrast in destinies of the main characters in the narrative all communicate the supreme importance of ‘seeking first the kingdom of God and what he requires of you’ (Matt 6.33). If we invest our time and energy, our trust and loyalty in things that are ultimately contrary to God’s purposes, then these things will be lost and our investment will be without return.

And this calls for both decision and action. None of this is ‘pie in the sky when you die’; unlike the words of Daniel (Dan 12.4), the words of this book are not to be ‘sealed up’ (22.10). We are not to stand still, waiting for something to happen, but to grasp this hope and live it out in our everyday lives.

The final note that Revelation ends on is the generosity of God’s invitation to all. Down the centuries, some readers of this text have used it to confirm them in their prejudices, to limit God’s welcome, and close the door on people who are ‘not like them.’ But Revelation will not allow us to do this. The gates of the city will never be shut. ‘Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift’ (22.17). If Revelation does not make us more committed in our discipleship and more generous in our invitation to others, it has not done its work.


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One Response to Revelation and generosity

  1. David Shepherd May 28, 2015 at 12:13 am #

    ‘First, the God of the Book of Revelation is one and the same God who loved us and gave himself for us, who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’

    That’s very true. In fact, as true as saying: ‘the God of the Book of Revelation is one and the same God of the Old Testament’.

    It is He who inspired the wise sayings of Proverbs:
    ‘Wisdom has built her house,
    she has set up its seven pillars.
    She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
    She has sent out her servants, and she calls
    from the highest point of the city,
    “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
    To those who have no sense she says “Come, eat my food
    and drink the wine I have mixed.
    Leave your simple ways and you will live;
    walk in the way of insight.” (Prov. 9:1 – 6)

    Again, it is God’s Spirit in Isaiah who invites His chastened and exiled people to yearn for His promise of generous redemptive providence, while reminding them (and us) of the ultimate futility of continuing to seek worldly fulfilment:
    “Come, all you who are thirsty
    come to the waters;
    and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
    Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
    Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
    Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.’ (Is. 55:1,2)

    Despite this offer, there was no mean-spiritedness in Jesus’ candour about the eternal forfeiture that would afflict those who invoked excuses to spurn the generous overtures of divine wisdom repeated:

    “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’?” (Luke 14:23 – 24)

    In fact, Paul and Barnabus underscored the very same dire consequences in Acts 13:46.

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