Sunday, August 1, 2010

Revelation: The Message of Hope

I remember the first time I read Revelation. I was a young boy in primary school - probably primary 3 or 4. One night, I was rather bored, as my parents had gone out to play mahjong. So I wandered into my parents' bedroom, and started looking around. A big thick Bible in dusty red caught my eyes, and curious at the appearance of this huge weighty tome, I laid the hefty Bible and plopped it onto my parents' bed to read it in comfort.

I was awed by all the cosmic imagery. The glorious Son of Man, the Hallelujah Chorus, the Twenty-Four Elders, the Four Living Creatures, the Seven Churches, the Four Horsemen, the Great Multitude, the Angels with the Seven Trumpets, the Angels with the Seven Bowls, the Beasts, the Dragon, the Plagues, the Mysterious Woman, the Horns and the Kings, the Rider Upon A White Horse, the Armies of Heaven, the Abyss, Armageddon, the Great White Throne, the Final Judgement and the Golden City... OMG. This was E-P-I-C. And oh, this was ... about the end of the world too?

I went o_O and pored carefully through the magic words. More amazing than any fantasy novel, more epic, more terrifying, yet more triumphant and more wonderful and more mysterious than anything else I had ever read, I started pondering. But in my childlike impatience, I quickly flipped through all the pages, because I wondered how it would all end, the world and so on. I mean, this was amazing stuff... what did the Bible say about how the world would end?

Whoa. I soon realised that there was something else besides the end of the world. The last words of the Bible said,
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.
I stared at the last words of the entire Bible for a few minutes in silence. And with a soft childlike sigh, I very gently and slowly closed the Book shut.

I couldn't understand then the deep feelings these words had produced in me. But now I think I do. The first feeling was that of a feeling of ... being lost. Not lost as in I didn't understand, but lost as in ... a sense that I was spiritually lost, and needed to know this person called Jesus, Whoever He was. It was the sovereign grace of God in my life then, calling me to Him, even as a young boy in primary 3 or 4.

The second feeling was that of a gentle, almost dream-like peace that settled upon my heart, even as I felt lost and wistful. Somehow, after all the devastation and chaos and Armageddon that my tender young mind had just read in Revelation, the description of the Golden City was so beautiful that I knew things would just Turn Out Right. Somehow, the gentle words of Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, reassured me that He was coming soon.

Now, two decades later, I sit here in my own bedroom, having just finished re-reading Revelation. I realise that these last words in the Bible have not failed to give me a sense of peace, that in the end, at the end of history, God's grace will be with His people. And I am so grateful that He has finally counted me in as one of His people.

So now, no more feeling lost, but a feeling of gratitude and eagerness, as we await His return. A feeling of hope.

Hope. I remember that was the theme of Rev. Che Anh's preaching at last night's Festival of Praise. Hope is such an important virtue, that it is counted as one of the three greatest virtues of the Christian faith. But why so? I believe it's because when one fails to practice hope, we end up giving up waiting for Christ's return and start living dissipated lives in this world.

We become 'sian', in other words.

Not just so, hope also impacts the present. Because of hope, we are encouraged to make the most of our present circumstances, and to lift up our eyes to the Lord. To live lives worthy of His calling and please Him in every way. As Rev. Che Anh said, "We are to put our hope in God, in Christ's return. (paraphrased)"

Hope also saves us from despair. I remember back in 2005, when I was in the pits of despair, I told Peter that I simply couldn't see a way out of my rut. But he reminded me with these simple words that struck me like a refreshing splash of cold, clean water: "Put your HOPE in God." Somehow I don't know why those words were so powerful at that time, but they penetrated my heart like a stream of daylight shining upon a victim trapped in darkness underneath a collapsed building.

Titus 1:1b-2
"...the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness - a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time..."

It is hope that enables us to take the next step to keep living on. It is the soil of good hope that enables our faith to take root in and grow. It is hope that helps us smile in the concentration camps, and to keep singing on even in the darkest night. It is hope that stops us from cursing God and helps us bless His holy name.

It is hope that enables us to keep standing at the door to await our Master's return... and hope that enables us to lift up our eyes when the end-time signs come, for it is then that our redemption draws near.

Yes, let's practice the virtue of hope in our everyday living.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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