The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard BauckhamThere are many different interpretive models for the book of Revelation. Some approach it as though it were a code to be deciphered, matching ancient images with present figures in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the last days. Others see it as a uniquely Christian history with little or nothing to say to believers today. As we seek to understand this fascinating and oftentimes befuddling book, perhaps we should interpret it in basically the same way we interpret every other book of the Bible. That is to say, maybe the key to unlocking Revelation’s secrets is to simply ask, “What did this mean to the people to whom it was originally written?”

In his book The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Richard Bauckham takes this basic exegetical approach, and manages to make sense of, and draw compelling meaning from, John’s Apocalypse. Bauckham starts where most Christian exegetes start with any other biblical book by asking, “What sort of book is this?” The answer, he discerns, is that “Revelation seems to be an apocalyptic prophecy in the form of a circular letter to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.” (2)

John’s work is a prophetic apocalypse in that it communicates a disclosure of a transcendent perspective on this world. It is prophetic in the way it addresses a concrete historical situation – that of Christians in the Roman province of Asia towards the end of the first century AD – and brings to its readers a prophetic word of God, enabling them to discern the divine purpose in their situation and respond to their situation in a way appropriate to this purpose.
In other words, the book of Revelation is John’s attempt to speak into the lives of real Christians in a real place by giving them a heavenly perspective on their temporal challenges. “Life looks overwhelming from your perspective,” he says, in essence, “but I want to show you your life and your circumstances from God’s perspective.” Revelation is, at heart, a pastoral work. It is a call to abandon the idols of the Roman Empire and the futility of its warmongering ways, and to instead worship the true God and lay hold of the victory of the “lamb who was slain.”

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Tonight was our Good Friday service at Grace. We had a powerful time together remembering the crucifixion of Jesus and reflecting on what it means for us. I preached a sermon from the book of Hebrews, using the temple passages from chapters 9 and 10 as my texts. It was a powerful time of study for me, as you may have guessed if you had seen this tweet.

Through his death, Jesus has become both our perfect priest and our sufficient sacrifice. He entered the Most Holy Place of heaven on our behalf, and he has made it possible for us to confidently approach God. If you listen to the message, you will hear how radical it is to be able to draw near to God with anything other than abject terror.

It’s been about two and a half weeks since our sweet Zekey passed away. I think about him every day, almost all day. But when I think of him now, I don’t usually remember the sweet, mischievous little guy running our house in Westerville. Nor do I think of the sickly little boy bedridden at my parents’ house in Toledo. No, when I think of Zeke now, I see a tall, handsome young man with tons of dark hair, big brown eyes, and a big smile on his face. I see him standing in front of me, without seizing, without twitching. He is ready to talk to me. We’re about to have our first conversation.

This is Zeke as he is now, in heaven with Jesus awaiting his resurrection. He is whole. He is healthy. He is untainted by that damnable disease.

Although Zeke’s life was short, and he was sick for almost half of it, he has left a profound impression on this world. If you’re reading this, then it probably means that his life and death have moved you in unexpected and unlikely ways. I believe that this is God calling you.

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We held out for healing. We prayed for it. We laid our hands on his head. We called out for God’s kingdom to come on earth, in Zeke, as it is in heaven. But the healing we wanted never came, and finally, after far too long, Zeke took his last breath at 3:00 this morning, passing from life to death, and on into eternal life.

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

Zeke is with Jesus. I’m jealous of them both.

I’m jealous of Zeke because he gets to rest from all of his trials. He gets to see what I can only hope for. He gets to know Jesus face-to-face. He is made whole, today, in the presence of his Savior and Creator.

I’m jealous of Jesus because he gets to talk to Zeke. Because of this disease, I was never able to have a real conversation with him. He could only respond nonverbally because the speech function in his brain was not allowed to develop. But now that he’s made whole, the first person he ever gets to converse with is Jesus. So I’m jealous.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Our hope is built upon the resurrection of Jesus. We don’t imagine that Zeke is whole or that we will see him again because we are looking for ways to comfort ourselves. Rather, we comfort ourselves in the historical fact of Jesus’s resurrection and what that means about the future for all who believe in him.

Zeke’s bed is empty, and I feel that same emptiness in my heart. All of the pillows and blankets that protected his flailing feet and arms from hitting the bedrails are still there, but his body is conspicuously absent. My heart is wrung dry. My stomach is churning.

For half of his life he suffered from the effects of seizures. Now, for eternity, his body is made new, never to seize again. I rejoice that his suffering is over. I lament that he is gone.


My sweet boy, the next time I see you we must have a long chat.

I love you.

I rejoice with you.

You are missed.

I will never forget you.

A photographer, who is a Christian, reached out for help. “I have several gay friends, and they keep telling me, ‘When I get engaged/married, I’m definitely having you shoot the photos.’ While I’m honored by their compliments and love them dearly, I’m conflicted about whether or not I can, as a Christian, participate in their weddings as the photographer.” When her friends ask her to shoot their wedding, what should she do?


What did it mean for Jesus to eat with sinners?
A Christian college student at a state university wants to join a fraternity, but they have a reputation as a party house. He thinks he can be a witness for Christ in the house, but there is a lot of drinking and drug-use that goes on there. When they ask him to join the house, what should he do?

These are complicated questions that require serious reflection. One of the most common responses I’ve seen to these types of questions goes like this: “Jesus ate with sinners, so you should [shoot the wedding/join the frat/go to the party].” But is it really as simple as that? What, after all, did it mean for Jesus to eat with sinners? And why was it such a big deal?

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