Intro  

This is an expanded series overview following an overwhelmingly positive response to the  beginning of this series. There is an appetite to Revelation in the church, so we’re giving it  some serious focus. 

Revelation is a challenge! 

Its reputation precedes it in a way that no other book of the Bible does. People have been  equally delighted and repelled by the intense imagery, the sense of the future foretold and  the vision of God we glimpse here.  

Which begs the question - why are we studying it now at St Mary’s?! The answer is  threefold -  

1. Because we’re open to the whole canon of scripture and not afraid of the harder bits. 2. Because we haven’t looked at in the last decade 

3. Because so many of our ‘at the cross’ sermons took us into Revelation so we’re  embracing that sense of forward movement and the hope it brings. 

It should be acknowledged that we, not being first century Jewish Christians, are at a  disadvantage when approaching Revelation. Much of what is really alien to us would have  been completely familiar to the original readers, and welcomed within their existing OT  framework. This is a type of literature (apocalyptic prophecy) that is strange to us, so we  need to work hard to understand it in the way it was written to be understood - see Tips  and Hints below. 

Key Message  

Revelation is a letter written to seven ancient churches facing persecution, to  encourage them to keep going until Jesus ultimately sorts it all out, which he will. 

Preachers prompt  

Our aim as preachers in this series is to encourage and build the church as we seek to  persevere for Christ who is revealed in these verses. What feeling/sense will your hearers  be left with? 

The sermons  

the basic idea in our series is: 

Week one : Introduction - ch 1 

Week two: Context of the churches - ch 2-3 

Week three-five: The scroll and its contents - ch 5-8 

Week six-eight: War waged - ch 12-17 

Week nine-ten: Victory and promise fulfilled - ch 19-21 

The Bible Project videos really help with this and are essential viewing!  

https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/revelation-1-11/ 

https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/revelation-12-22/

Date 

Passage 

Theme 

Preacher

May 1st 

Ch 1 

Revealing Revelation 

Martha

May 8th 

Ch 3. 7-13 

Letters to churches 

Tom

May 15th 

Ch 5 

The scroll and the lamb 

Bill

May 22nd 

Ch 6 

Inside the scroll - Seven  seals

James

May 29th 

Ch 8. 6-13 

Inside the scroll - Seven  trumpets

John C

June 5th 

 

TOWN FESTIVAL 

James/Churches  

Together 

June 12th 

Ch 12 

The Dragon and Woman 

tbc

June 19th 

Ch 13.11-14.5 

The Beast and the Lamb James

 

June 26th 

Ch 17. 1-7 

Babylon 

Martha

July 3rd 

tbc (James will choose) 

GIVING 

James 

July 10th 

Ch 19. 1-10 

Hallelujah! 

Bill

July 17th 

Ch 21. 1-11, 22-27 

All things new 

Judith

 

1. Revealing revelation  

As the first in this series, this week needs to set the scene - why we’re looking at Rev,  what type of literature it is, some of the big themes to look out for, some of the pitfalls to  avoid. It’s a warming up exercise for the congregation in the hope that they’ll engage  much more fully with the rest. Big themes include: He IS coming, God of the ages,  endurance and suffering of the saints, visions of God.  

2. Letters to the churches  

This letter to Philadelphia stands to represent all the seven churches, though is actually  much less challenging than the others. I’ve picked this one as a spring board to focus on  the rewards and blessings of faithful endurance, rather than picking out one particular  ‘issue’ that may or may not be appropriate to St Mary’s, but you may also want to list the  difficulties and traps the other churches have fallen into. There’s some really good info  available about the cultural particularities of each church that could help. 

3. The scroll and the lamb  

We’re focussing on the scroll this week because it’s a key element of the narrative of  Revelation. The next several chapters are concerned with opening the scroll and seeing  what’s inside. You’ll need to set the scene of the throne vision and where this scroll is  coming from (ch 4). The other very important element in this passage is the high  exaltation of the lamb. We’ve dwelt on this a little in our pre-easter Lamb sermon, but  there’s more to say about worship and worthiness - the elders and all creation casting  their crowns before him. The aim is to have a BIG vision of God here. 

4. Inside the scroll - Seven seals  

We start unpacking the contents of the scroll this week as six seals are opened, and the  seventh a little later (8.1). The two big themes here are the four horsemen - which link us  to Zechariah 1.8-17, 6.1-8 and the persecution and reward of the faithful (key to the whole  book). These are graphic images, and ones that exist in popular culture as signs of terror  (particularly the horsemen), so you’ll need sensitivity to reclaim these things for God and  take the terror factor out of the image where it’s misplaced. The giving of the white robes  to those hiding under the alter is a really tender thing, even in their agony of waiting their  sacrifice and purity are recognised - a call for the church to hold on. If you’re able to in  the time, you may want to try and fill in the vision contained in 7-8 as well, so we reach  the opening of the final seal. 

5. Inside the scroll - Seven trumpets  

This is a step-change into the more violent parts of the series, so it’s probably worth just  acknowledging that!  

Seven angels blow seven trumpets to dramatic effect. Much of this (and the bowls to  come) is linked to the Exodus plagues - physical signs of God’s judgement against those  who oppress his people. But as with the seals and bowls, the seventh trumpet is  separated by time, so there’s a clear pattern for a reason. You’ll want to end with  reference to the seventh trumpet in 11.15-18 where we see worship, rather than fear. The  key message here seems to be that God’s judgement and wrath have limits - thirds or  quarters are affected. But also that, in terms of the narrative of Revelation, his judgement  is not yet complete - the remaining trumpet blasts and seven bowls tell us that. We’re not  covering the bowls, so it would be helpful to mention them (ch 16) here. 

6. TOWN FESTIVAL - Short service by Churches together to begin the Jubilee  celebrations.  

Returning to Revelation we move into three weeks that really engage with battle and  victory. 

7. The dragon and the woman  

Ch 12 is generally thought of as the key to the whole book of Revelation. We’re told the  dragon represents Satan, and then we have a woman, the church of God, and a male  child, the Messiah. This vision is about about how thees three interact throughout history  and who, in the end, wins - not the dragon. It is a spiritual explanation for the physical  suffering and persecution the church was living when Rev was written, and in many  places continues to endure. There is a battle as described, and there are presently the  separate realms of heaven and earth in which the dragon still fights enraged by his failure  in the heavens, until his final defeat as described in ch 20. But the deep truth in this vision  is that the Messiah is not devoured but victorious, and while the battle rages, the church  is protected and provided for. That’s good news! 

8. The beast and the lamb  

The focus here is on the contrast between the beast and the lamb, rather than giving too  much air time to the enemy! It’s uncomfortable to read and look at the first half of this  passage, so this is really where the rubber hits the road in terms of facing the tough stuff!  But as ‘the number of the beast’ is such an enduring thing in wider culture and carries so  much mis-placed power I think it’s right that we confront that and demystify where  possible. 

9. Babylon  

This week gives a focus to political power and oppression. Babylon is new in every age -  a dominant and corrupt power hungry and self-seeking regime that has no interest or  allegiance to the holy God. Babylon always looks like it’s thriving economically - beloved  by the traders and all those with little or no morality. In Rev, Rome is clearly in mind, the  oppressive and evil rule of the emperor and the cult of the Empire. What is our Babylon?  Here is a call to always have open eyes to both Babylon’s pull and Christ’s power to  overcome (the focus of ch 18 which you’ll want to allude to as well). Sensitivity, and a lot  of cultural background is needed to deal with a glamorous prostitute in a way that doesn’t  reinforce wrong stereotypes of women and their place and power. As v 17 says ‘this calls  for a mind with wisdom!' 

10. GIVING - One off focus on giving as previously planned 

Returning to Revelation for our final two weeks, we move into the promise and hope  that’s been peppered throughout. We’ve come through the fire and now here are two  weeks to revel in God’s victory and love. 

11. Hallelujah!  

This passage stands for all the victory that is described in ch’s 18-20 and takes us into  the New Jerusalem and the promise fulfilled. Babylon is defeated and the people praise  God with all their might. Hallelujah is a word found nowhere else in the NT and four times  here, so the strength of this worship is immense. So the focus is on God’s final and 

eternal victory, the fulfilment of all that has been promised and the response of worship  from the saints, the angels and all of creation. 

12. All things new  

We’ve made it! This is the glorious conclusion of our series and of the book as war is  finally finished, evil utterly defeated and God’s people completely in union with God.  Having read through the whole book and the hardship and horror contained there, I cried  when I reached 21.1 because I’d never before read it in the cosmic context of what  comes before, only my immediate experience. So the ‘Then…’ is vitally important. You  may like to link back to the little churches in Asia Minor that we began with and their  questions about whether it was all worth it. God’s promise is true and will be met. And for  those who endure, it will be very beautiful. 

Tips and Hints  

“The fundamental truths of Revelation are available to anyone who will read the book for  its overall message and resist the temptation to become excessively enamoured with the  details.” (NIV study Bible notes) 

So the first thing is to be sensible about how we’re reading and using the detail.  - Remember the genre  

- Don’t get bogged down in the details unless they’re essential/a barrier to the message  and need confronting. 

- Make the OT links where possible - this builds scriptural confidence in the congregation - Don’t be shy of saying some of it is really weird and a mystery! 

Secondly, remember that although some people use it this way, we are not using  Revelation as a code or timetable for the end times. A lot has been written about the  four basic approaches to reading and using Revelation. Are the numbers and personages  written about literal or symbolic? It’s quite helpful to clock where you’re coming from to  avoid a one-dimensional reading. This short article explains it fairly clearly -  

https://africa.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-ways-to-read-the-book-of-revelation/ 

Finally, to help hold these things together, do two things as you approach the text: 

1. Look AT it - what was the original meaning to the people it was written for?     - Cultural allusions, specific info, history etc. 

2. Look THROUGH it - what are the enduring lessons for us as the timeless church?     - There’s always a new Babylon - what’s ours today? 

I’ve got various books and commentaries that I’ll be recommending to the congregation  through the series, and am always happy to share round. Equally, if you’d like to scratch  heads together I’m very willing! 

 

 

What's happening soon?

Remix Fri 1st Jul Glyme Hall More info
BCP Holy Communion Sun 3rd Jul St Mary's Church, Chipping Norton More info
Sunday Service in Church Sun 3rd Jul St Mary's Church, Chipping Norton More info