Revelation Bible Guide – Introduction
February 16, 2018
Lent at Reservoir
Each year during the pre-Easter season of Lent, what we at Reservoir affectionately call 40 Days of Faith, we’ve become accustomed to exploring a section of Scripture together. You can check out past daily bible guides here if you’re interested. This year, we’re going to explore the book of Revelation, and focus on our identity as children of God in a fractured world. Our Sunday sermons will also explore this from 2/18-4/1, so you’re invited to read/listen to those as well.
Revelation: Children of God in a Fractured World
The last time I heard the book of Revelation mentioned was in a podcast about a basketball coach who was sued by a family for the coach’s cult-like, creepy mind control influence on their child. The coach was a fundamentalist Christian inspired by his church’s interpretation of the book of Revelation. The story of people and churches reading Revelation is full of these types of anecdotes. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, barely made it into the Bible at all, and ever since the early church councils agreed to keep it, it’s been causing trouble.
Nietzsche is said to have called Revelation “the most rabid outburst of vindictiveness in all recorded history,” and George Bernard Shaw is said to have somewhat more gently called it “the curious record of the visions of a drug addict.”
Readings of Revelation have helped support extensive campaigns of religion violence. They’ve been behind innumerable false predictions of the end of the world, paranoid slander of various religious and secular leaders, and loads of bad Christian art and fiction. It’s been said that most Bible-readers don’t read Revelation and the ones who do – well – we wish they wouldn’t.
So why read Revelation at all, and why read it together during our 40 Days of Faith? Well, with just a little background information and guidance, it can be pretty fun. Revelation is written in a genre called apocalyptic literature that was quite popular during its time and is now again in ours. Apocalypse literally means “revelation.” Using vivid symbols and poetry, apocalyptic literature tries to reveal important things about the present and the future that we might otherwise miss. A little bit like zombie thrillers or science fiction or fantasy, apocalyptic uses unconventional, non-literal writing to grip our imaginations and stir our souls.
Additionally, I think Revelation has just a ton of contemporary relevance. It was originally written to people trying to follow Jesus as residents of a Roman Empire, whose culture and leaders alternatively shaped and seduced and threatened them. Revelation tells its readers that their fractured world doesn’t offer the only set of terms to live by. God’s children can have a better future and a better present than what’s available by just going with the flow.
Those of us who live in the contemporary United States live in one of the only nations whose power and good news-propaganda eclipse that of the ancient Roman Empire. More and more, we live in times where this is unmasked as hollow and fractured. Perhaps we wonder how to live our lives and face our eventual deaths with more courage, hope, and resistance. If so, Revelation helps lead the way.
Each weekday in Lent, we’ll present you with a different passage, in the New Revised Standard Version, followed by the three sections below. On weekends, you can catch up on a missed day, review a favorite passage, or skip the guide all together.
- Points of Interest – a handful of comments, which include literary or historical notes as well as impressions, thoughts, questions, and reactions. These aren’t meant to be exhaustive or authoritative, but simply to give you some more perspective to work with as you ponder the passage yourself.
- Spiritual Exercise – each week, there will a different daily spiritual exercise to try, inspired by the week’s passages.
- A Direction for Prayer – there will also be a prompt for prayer that you can use. These invitations focus on the prayers for others we encourage you to try during this season:
- For you: We invite you to name one particularly deep desire you have to see God at work. In making this daily prayer, you’re getting in touch with your own desire — a healthy thing in its own right. You’re also making space for God to work on your behalf and fulfilling one of Jesus’ baseline conditions for new covenant faith — acknowledging you aren’t self-su icient, but could use God’s help.
- For your six: Consider six of your favorite people, people you interact with on a regular basis, who don’t seem to have much of a direct connection to God, but for whom you are very much rooting. What does this passage have to say to them, or to you about them?
- For your church or city: How can we apply the passage corporately as a faith community?
- For our city: What does the passage say about or to our entire city?
The Daily Bible Guide, while it can certainly be a standalone product, is designed to be one component of a bigger package called 40 Days of Faith – a six-week faith experiment that includes sermons, small group discussions, further prayer exercises, and more. You can learn more about the full 40 Days of Faith in this year’s User Manual
One more note before we begin. As the guide isn’t a commentary or academic document, it’s not filled with footnotes, but the following commentaries and books have helped shape my reading and notes on Revelation. Thanks and credit to these resources: Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael Gorman, Unveiling Empire by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther, Breaking the Code by Bruce Metzger, The Apocalypse by Charles Talbert, and Reversed Thunder by Eugene Peterson. If you wanted to read just one book about Revelation, Gorman’s would be it.
That’s all for our introduction! Day 1 of the bible guide will be Monday, February 19.