There are a lot of folks who make a living prophesying that the market is going to crash, that capitalism as we know it is going to disappear, and that we are going to go through another depression. One writer I occasionally read writes what is referred to as the “Doom, Boom, and Gloom Report.”  He constantly predicts economic catastrophe. Over the years, I have noticed that, if you prophesy anything about the Stock Market long enough, sooner or later you will be right—but a lot of the time you will be wrong. The same thing is true of people who over prophesy our ultimate human destiny. We need Godly wisdom in evaluating these claims!
Revelation is one of the most read and least understood books in Holy Scripture. Many of the Reformers, including John Calvin, did not think that the book was helpful because it is so subject to misinterpretation. In every generation, people have seen in the book signs that their time was the end time. Over the history of the church, the candidates for the position of anti-Christ have been many: Nero, Domitian, Diocletian, and other Roman emperors, Atilla the Hun, Napoleon, Hitler, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Brezhnev, and various Russian leaders, Saddam Hussein, and others. So far, everyone, 100 percent of the prophets of the anti-Christ have been wrong. This experience should make us careful in thinking about the end of the world. We need to remember the words of Jesus: “No one knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36).
Revelation was read by its first readers as a word from a divinely inspired leader of the church, speaking to the church in a time of persecution. The writer’s intent was to encourage and strengthen the church and Christian believers, so that they could face a time of persecution.  In my view, this is the first and best reading of the book today: Revelation, should encourage and strengthen us in times when our faith is challenged and we feel discouraged. 
A Word from the Once Who Can Make Us a New Creation.
Many people are discouraged about the condition of our nation and our world. Many Christians are concerned about growing persecution of Christians in our nation and world. All of us are concerned about the future and desire to be renewed in Christ and to be with Christ in eternity. We are concerned about our children and grandchildren. Therefore, Revelation is important to all of us, and especially when our faith is challenged. With this very brief and inadequate introduction, hear the word of God as it comes to us this morning from the book of Revelation.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 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. John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:1-8).
Lord God of History: As we come this morning to look at the most difficult book in Scripture, we do pray that you would open our minds to your Holy Spirit. If anything is said here contrary to your will, snatch it from every ear. If anything is said according to your will, please burn it into all our hearts that we may leave here changed and transformed. In Jesus Name, Amen
The Blessings We Receive from Internalizing Revelation.
Some months ago, I received a request to preach on Revelation 1:3, “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.” As we begin, then, let us consider three things about this particular verse: First, Revelation was not written to scare us or make us fearful about the future. It was written to bless us. It was written to give us joy and happiness in times of trouble. Second, the blessings are not automatic. We must read the Word of God, internalize it, take it to heart, and be changed by it or it will do us no good. If it does not change how we live and our priorities today, not just at the end of time, we will miss its blessing. Finally, the time is near. This is the most difficult thing for most of us to grasp about the book, but this third point will help us with the other two points. While the book does deal with the end of all things, we need to remember that the time of God’s coming is always near and the book is also relevant to our day to day lives.. 
God is not just coming at the end of history. He is coming now, today, this minute into our lives. The time is near because God is constantly coming into our lives to bless us, change us, correct us, make us new people, etc. One key to keeping our New Year’s resolutions to change and become knew people is to recognize the Jesus is coming, now, today, and soon!
There Are Times When We Need a New Creation.
When Jesus appeared to John and he wrote Revelation, John was in trouble, and the church was in trouble.  No one knows exactly when Revelation was written. Some scholars think it was written early, perhaps during the reign of the Emperor Nero (58-68 A.D.). It is believed that Nero persecuted the Christians after the great Fire of Rome in 64 A. D. perhaps attempting to place the blame on the church because he was widely thought to have begun the fire for his own purposes. Peter and Paul were martyred at this time, but the persecution was not general.
Around the year 100 A.D., the Emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.) instituted a general persecution of Christians, including the Christians of Asia Minor. Most scholars believe that Revelation was written during this time. Christian historians record that, during this persecution, the author of Revelation, John, was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, which is just off the coast of modern Turkey near ancient Ephesus. The Romans often used the isle as a place to intern people they desired to banish. John was, therefore, banished to the little Island of Patmos, no more than ten miles long and about four miles across. It was there that John probably wrote the book. 
Times of persecution are hard on those who are persecuted. Obviously, people who are not really committed to a church leave during times of persecution. Individually, people who are accustomed to thinking of God being on their side often react to persecution by concluding that God is not on their side. They lose their faith. Related to this, is the fact that, as any organization struggles, there can be bad teaching, poor moral behavior, and a host of other problems. As John pondered the state of his churches in Asia minor while in prison on Patmos, and as he heard from the leaders of those churches, he was greatly disturbed. He wanted to do something to encourage the churches so that they could resist the pressures they were under. While he was praying, and worrying and thinking, what we know as the “Revelation of St. John” came to him.
I think we live in a similar time. In the 1970s and 80s, there was a burst of enthusiasm for evangelical Christianity. The evangelical movement grew and prospered. Many people came to Christ, myself included. Young people felt called to go into the ministry to serve the cause of Christ as evangelical churches grew. In the suburbs, new churches were planted. Some of them grew to be quite large. There was a lot of religious triumphalism in the air among evangelicals.
This time of enthusiasm and growth continued until just a few years ago; however, by the early 2000’s something was changing. Society was changing dramatically. The children of the baby boomers, who were the primary leaders of the evangelical movement during the 70s and 80s, often did not return to their parent’s churches. In addition, the hostility of the media, higher education, and cultural elites to conservative Christianity caused many Christians, young and old, to leave the movement. For the first time, Christians were persecuted for their faith in America. The church began to decline. Therefore, just like the church in the day of John, we need to hear a word of encouragement and hope.
The One Whom with the Power to Make Things New.
Right at the beginning, of Revelation John lets us know the reason for our hope: Jesus the Messiah given by God. He begins with, “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (v. 1-2). If we read a little further, we learn that the giver of the revelation is the “Alpha and Omega, who is, was, and who is to come” (v. 8). Finally, near the end of chapter 1 we hear the following: “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever” (v. 18). Taken together we can see that this is the revelation of God the Father, given through the Risen Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If we want to be changed into new people, then we need to listen for the voice of God day by day. God in Holy Scripture, in the preaching of the Word on Sunday mornings in worship, and in the prayerful and humble study of the word during the week to give us all the information we need to become new people. This is the first and most important message we can receive from this book: If we want to be new creations, we need to listen to the One who created the heavens and the earth, who has lived from all eternity, who knows the beginning (Alpha) and the end (Omega) of all things, and who loves us and, as the book says, has given his life for us.
The Book is dedicated “To him how loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (v. 5-6). This is important! Right at the beginning of the book, John proclaims the Good News to his readers: God loves us, died for our sins in Christ, and was risen from the dead to bring us into his kingdom.
The One Who Can Protect and Change Us.
This is a great place to begin talking about the imagery of the book. John tells us that he was on the Island of Patmos, because he was experiencing the same sufferings that the churches named are suffering. As he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, suddenly, he heard a voice and turned and saw a figure (vv. 9-12):
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand, he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance (vv. 12-16).
First, the phrase “one like a Son of Man” is a quote and reference to the book of Daniel, where the prophet Daniel has a similar messianic vision. (Daniel 7: 13). Revelation is filled with quotes from the Old Testament. Of 404 verses in Revelation, over 250 of them quote, or make some allusion to the Old Testament. John quotes Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. He refers to Exodus and the Pentateuch. 
Second, the vision is of a person unlike any person you’ve ever seen. He has a royal robe reaching down to his feet and a golden sash—a symbol of royalty. His head and hair are white as snow, a symbol of holiness and purity. His eyes are like a blazing fire, a symbol of Godlike perceptiveness, intelligence, and power. His voice is like rushing waters. He walks among seven lampstands, which are seven churches (v. 20). This is someone we need to pay attention to!
The risen Christ walks among seven stars and seven lamps. We are told that the lamps are the seven churches of Asia Minor to whom he is writing, and the seven stars are the angels of those churches (vv. 19-20), In John’s time, it was common to think of stars as angels, and this is the source of this vision. In addition, lamps and oil are symbolic of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, and the church is the source of our experience of the Holy Spirit. John frequently uses the number “Seven,” his favorite number in Revelation, which in Hebrew numerology is a perfect number. As you read and study Revelation on your own or with a group, it is important to take some time to understand the meaning of some of the symbols and their source, for they often point to an aspect of the book God is trying to symbolically convey.
All of this is designed to let us know, right at the beginning, that the One who is the source of the vision of John is to be trusted for he is powerful, wise, good, and loves us. The description of the risen Christ reinforces the earlier statement of John that the source of the vision is the One who died and rose from the grave for his people.
If we want to become new people in 2017 or any other time, if we want to find new life, if we want to face the challenges of our own day, we can trust the One who is the lord of history who can “make all things new” (Isaiah 43:19; Rev. 21:5). If we are serious about becoming new people in 2017, then we must be willing to hear the Word of the One who makes all things new, who came and who died for our sins so that we could become new people. We must internalize the message of the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and who is always near to us and who can be trusted to come to us with his love, wisdom, and power in times of need.
Copyright 2017, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 Mark Faber, Doom, Boom and Gloom Report (www.gloomboomdoom.com, downloaded January 14, 2017). There are many “prophets of doom” in the stock market and other aspects of our culture. I like this writer and am using him primarily because of the evocative nature of the name, “Doom, Boom, and Gloom Report”!
 See, Bruce M. Metzger, Breaking the Code: Understanding the book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993), 15. I recommend this book to any student of the book as a brief, readable introduction to their own study.
 It is my view that the book should not be read primarily as prophesy, but as a book of wisdom that can give us encouragement, hope, and guidance during times of difficulty and stress. See, G. Christopher Scruggs, Path of Life: The Way of Wisdom for Christ Followers (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2014), 195-205.
 The obvious fact that the author felt that some very important things were about to take place is made apparent right at the beginning. The book is, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1).
 See, M. Eugene Boring, “Revelation” in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1989). This is a good place to note that I cannot footnote everything. All the commentaries agree on a good deal of the book, and I am not going to cite everything for which I am indebted!
 Movies often portray the imprisonment as a kind of torture in a penal colony. This is not necessarily what arrest on Patmos would have generally involved, although any Roman imprisonment was difficult and hard. Metzger, Breaking the Code, 25; William Barclay, “Revelation” in the Daily Bible Study Series Rev. Ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976), 14, 39-41. However terrible the imprisonment, the book indicates that John had the leisure to pray and meditate “on the Lord’s Day” (Sunday) when the revelation was given to him (Rev. 1:9-10).
 Eric Lyons, “Revelation and the Old Testament in Apologetics Press” (www.apologeticspress.org, downloaded January 11, 2017). See also, Martin Rest, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine: Introduction and Exegesis” in The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 12 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1957), 358: “It has been estimated that 278 verses out of a total of 404 contain reference to the Old Testament.” The author was familiar with the Greek and the Hebrew versions of the Old Testament and obviously had pondered their meaning deeply. Once again this emphasizes the importance of studying the Bible.