Distracted driving kills about 9 people every day in the US. We’ve tried doing something about this phenomenon. Unfortunately, providing more information does not seem to be working. Despite all of the public service announcements, the statistics continue to follow a discouraging trend.
Distracted worship is also on the rise in 2020. For anyone sensitive to the spiritual needs that a worship service is designed to meet, attempting to worship from home has been completely inadequate. Then, the numerous restrictions placed upon churches created additional divisions.
After George Floyd and the BLM riots, we have seen various churches take radically different views regarding cultural issues. All of this adds up to a confusing time for most of us. Even if you are trying to stay out of the fray, you wind up with a very distracted mind when you show up Sunday morning. What does it take to snap back into focus? Revelation may provide just the answer that you need.
Keep in mind the context of the original audience. The seven churches in Asia Minor received direct address in Rev 2-3. Already, late in the first century, most of these churches had compromised to some degree with the culture. They were entertaining false religions, especially the imperial cult where the cities competed for Caesar’s accolades. In other words, they faced many distractions that pulled them away from glorifying God.
Because we are fascinated by things that are new or unique, we are prone to transfer our worship to whatever captures our attention in the moment. That initial motion toward worship is typically unthinking. You cannot worship with a divided mind and heart.
Devote your minds and hearts to worship the returning Lord because He has revealed Himself to be wholly trustworthy.
Read Revelation 22:6-9
› The first exhortation we receive is to…
Keep the Prophecy of Revelation (6-7)
John emphasizes the authenticity of Revelation. The angel (6), Jesus (7), and John (8) testify to the “trustworthy and true” revelation found in this book (cf. Rev 21:5).
What causes the words of Revelation to be “trustworthy and true” is that they come from the source of truth. Through this angel, God has revealed “what must soon take place” to his servants. John received the revelation and faithfully passed it on to the Church.
In the introduction to our series, we talked about how this idea of events taking place soon alludes to Daniel’s prophecy of events that would take place in the latter days (Dan 2:28-29, 45). He is not suggesting that everything would be fulfilled right away, but that the events portrayed in these visions would begin to be fulfilled right away. Throughout history persecution paces church growth.
These latter day events would take place “soon” even as Jesus is returning “soon”. Clearly, Jesus has not returned in the sense of bringing final judgment, but there were immediate implications for the original audience just as there are implications for every succeeding generation throughout the age between Christ’s first and second coming.
Jesus says “I am coming soon” three times in this chapter (Rev 22:7, 12, 20). That is the primary theme of this section. The word “Advent” simply means “Arrival/Appearing.” It is used in reference to Christ’s birth and return. John concludes with this theme of hope, encouraging the perseverance of the saints.
We frequently find thematic bookends in Scripture. We find the phrase “must soon take place” in Rev 1:1. The threefold repetition of “I am coming quickly” alludes to Christ’s public “coming with the clouds” in Rev 1:7. In Rev 1:3 John promised a blessing upon those who hear and keep the words of this prophecy. We are called to obey and preserve the truth of these words.
In Live Not By Lies, Rod Dreher shares the testimony of Alexander Ogorodnikov, a man who was born into a communist family, but converted to Christianity in his twenties. One night his guard came into his cell desperate to confess his night terrors.
When I was a young guard in a different prison, they would gather twenty or thirty priests who had been behind bars, and took them outside…And when they put them into two rows, one behind the other. I was one of the guards who stood in the perimeter around the prisoners.
“One of the KGB guys walked up to the first priest. He asked him very calmly and quietly, “Is there a God?” The priest said yes. They shot him in the forehead in such a way that his brains covered the priest standing behind him. He calmly loaded his pistol, went to the next priest, and asked, “Does God exist?”
“Yes, he exists.” The KGB man shot this priest in the same way. We didn’t blindfold them. They saw everything that was about to happen to them.
Ogorodnikov fights back tears as he comes to the end of his story. In a voice cracking with emotion, the old prisoner says, “Not one of those priests denied Christ.”
It’s a powerful picture of the incredible determination to stand firm for the truth even in the face of death. It reminds me of the martyrs who conquered the Accuser of the brethren in their death.
Revelation 12:11 ESV
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
The words of Revelation were written down and preserved for a Church that awaits the return of her Savior. They graciously call us to turn our minds and hearts away from the distractions of the world and to focus upon the Lord who is coming soon! Our perseverance depends upon God’s enabling us to keep these words.
The Lord is motivating us to obey the prophecy of this book, which is basically a call to persevere. The words of Revelation are filled with terrifying images of spiritual and physical warfare. Obedience to those words looks like enduring the trials and tribulation with a steadfast commitment to God.
We ought to cry out to the Source of this revelation asking Him to teach us to cherish His words! In a world that is filled with so much manipulation of language—so much fake news—it is crucial that we have somewhere we can turn with confidence. When you are filled with anxious thoughts about the future, ask the Lord for his help in keeping these words near.
By providing a vision of the invisible spiritual warfare we are moved to ensure that we are on the right side of the battle. Are we fighting against the evil forces of darkness or have we grown complacent? Have the words of political pundits taken your mind away from these trustworthy and true words?
If you have neglected God’s word, now is time to pick it up again. Read and meditate upon what is trustworthy and true! The primary purpose of Revelation is to motivate your perseverance. Let’s close out 2020 with a reinvigorated determination to keep the prophecy of Revelation!
› Part of the fulfillment of that will involve our unashamed willingness and determined commitment to…
Worship the God of Revelation (8-9)
John provides a warning against false worship through his own humbling example. This is the second time John had to be rebuked for worshiping the angel (Rev 19:10).
Some scholars have suggested that John is reinforcing a polemic against angel worship, which had been gaining ground within the Jewish community. Paul addressed the matter in his letter to the Christians at Colossae (Col 2:18). Regardless of how prevalent the practice was, John clearly struggled with it in the moment.
There is really nothing commendable about John’s spontaneous reaction to worship the angel. We might understand the temptation, but we should not excuse his actions. This humbling example testifies to its authenticity.
It also signifies the effect that these visions had upon John. Clearly, the vision—and the angel who revealed them—were too glorious to remain standing. However, in his excitement to react, he failed to properly engage his mind. His instincts were corrupted by his thoughtless reaction.
The angel acknowledged himself to be a “fellow-servant” alongside John, the prophets, and all who “keep the words of this book.” Angels preserved God’s Revelation, faithfully sharing it with John, and engaging in the ongoing worship of God.
Greg Beale points out that the main idea of revealing the glory of God in Revelation is to exhort the saints to reflect that glory in their obedience and worship. The revelation of God’s attributes stir up in us the desire to reflect those attributes.
John has associated “keep” with the worship of God. We meditate upon His revelation and then respond with a reaction that magnifies the attributes of God’s victory both in judgment and redemption.
Throughout these visions John was dependent upon this angel’s explanation. His appreciation for the angel became something like an obsession with the angel’s presence. It is as if John were blindly following his instincts to bow down at the angel’s feet.
Honestly, it’s not unlike the way we treat our smartphones today. We get these annoying pings that tether us to our phones throughout the day. We pick them up every ten minutes. That’s almost 100 times per day! And we use them for about three and a half hours every day.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have literally perfected the art of distracting us all day. Even when they are not making noise, they provide those annoying red notification bubbles that we feel the incessant need to pop like a child with a fresh sheet of bubble wrap.
This, of course, destroys our ability to focus. Which means we are rarely in a state suitable for worship! Steve Jobs understood the addictive design of the iPhone, which is why he wouldn’t allow his own children to have one.
We might not bow down at the feet of a radiant angel, but we are daily bowing our heads before these glowing screens. In the end, they distract us from worshiping God. Unfortunately, our phones don’t rebuke us for our idolatry, they beckon us deeper.
We should seriously consider various ways to redirect our focus. I changed my notification sound to “suspense” in order to remind me that the Lord deserves my primary attention (it was the closest I could get to a trumpet).
I want the Returning King to captivate my heart more than any distracting ping!
Those who are convinced by the Lord’s call to persevere must now commit themselves to worship Him exclusively. This lifelong struggle replays itself every Sunday morning when your alarm goes off. Our mind races through various excuses to stay home.
We carry on this internal dialogue throughout every day of our lives. Where are we devoting our attention? To what/whom are we bowing our hearts? We must frequently take account of who, what, and how we are worshiping.
Do you see something of your own tendencies in John’s hasty reaction? We naturally seek to worship whatever captures our imagination and attention. Unfortunately, our fickle hearts are distracted by many inferior sights.
The angel’s rebuke in this passage serves to set us straight. It is the messenger God sent not only to reveal these mysteries to John but to rebuke and exhort him to a proper worship. God has now provided these words to you for the same purpose. All of us need to hear this gracious rebuke to recalibrate our hope.
› We might not naturally think of correction as a kindness, but if the result is a greater satisfaction in what has eternal value, then it is precisely what we need to hear.
One of the means by which we will keep the prophecy of Revelation is the enjoyment of undistracted worship of the Lord.
Honoring Christ with our undivided attention is something we should all be willing to fight for. Nothing else takes precedence over this. But the promise of Revelation is that the Lord has secured your enjoyment of true worship for all eternity!
In heaven, the throne of God will be central and the Lord will provide all the light we will need as we reign with Him forever (Rev 22:3-5). Jesus is coming soon to bring us all the way home. Let us devote our minds and our hearts to worship Him who is wholly trustworthy!