I remember sitting in a church sanctuary at the age of six and saying to myself, “I am not going to even make it out the door before Jesus comes back.” The reason for my dilemma was that I was sitting and listening to a well-known evangelist preach on the book of Revelation. He made comments like “wars and rumors of war, earthquakes in different places” and “two were in a field and one was taken and the other one left behind.”
Now to a six-year-old those were some pretty scary statements. You know all I was interested in was playing with my G.I. Joes and playing football and baseball in the playground behind my house.
Now jump ahead 40-some years and this same fellow has finally decided to tackle going through that same book as a pastor with the congregation that I have the privilege of shepherding. I know, I know, you are wondering, “How come it has taken this long to teach from Revelation?” Well, let’s just say throughout all those years in between I have been a little afraid of it.
During my high school years I can remember my youth leader doing a talk on how Henry Kissinger was the antichrist, and I can also remember numerous times being told that Jesus was coming on such and such a date. Well, as you can see, Henry Kissinger was not the antichrist and we are still here so their dates were not correct as well.
So what made me think that I could do any better at talking about this book to my church. Well, let’s just say, I have faith. Faith that if I step out of the way and let God be God, then we will do just fine. You know, I am not the sharpist knife in the drawer but I do know where to put my trust. According to this same book, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”
So I trust that as I read it and those who are there hear it we will be blessed. Now as I am studying to teach I am realizing that no one (commentators, historians, pastors) agrees 100 percent on everything. Who is on the first white horse? Who do the 24 Elders represent? When is the church raptured? And so on and so on. So I am proceeding prayerfully.
My main purpose for tackling this book is because of the times in which we live. The Apostle John was given the responsibility to encourage the churches in his time period and I believe he did an excellent job at it. The churches then were facing persecution like never before and the good news of Jesus Christ needed to be proclaimed in spite of it.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see where our country is headed. And my heart is heavy as I think about whether or not we as a church (the American church) are ready to go through what I think is in store for us.
My goal is not to figure out when Jesus is coming back, my goal is to proclaim HE IS COMING BACK! If I believe that what I believe is really real then I need to be living every day like it could be my last. And I know that there are many out there who have never responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ and they need to hear the good news. You know I may not be able to explain everything that is in the book of Revelation but I am certain about a few things: He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, He is coming back and, as of today, we are one day closer. Don’t be left behind!
Phillip D. Beck is pastor of Central Community Church, Pymatuning Township.