The blessedness of preaching Revelation

There are great blessings in preaching through the book of Revelation. Blessings for those who preach it and those who hear it. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:3).

The greatest blessing for me is the confidence and sense of achievement it gave me. Completing the whole series was not smooth sailing. It was challenging. There were times when I had inadequate time for research but the sermon had to be delivered. There were times I was groping for answers to my questions. Quite a few times I was sure the sermon fell flat. Other times I struggled to find interesting connections and applications. However, once it was finished, I felt something similar to that of climbing Loh’s Peak for the first time: a deep satisfaction and a super high. With this experience of perseverance and passion, I feel that I can tackle any other lengthy book of the Bible if I am led to do so. There cannot be anything more difficult in the Bible.

Preaching Revelation had forced me to grow as an exegete. I had to apply principles of interpretation that is unique to apocalyptic literature. I had to grope with controversial issues and work with them to a conclusion even if a tentative one. I had to sort out and learn to recognise different approaches like the dispensationalist approach. I had to learn to remove my coloured lenses due to years of hearing sermons and reading books on Revelation that uses a particular theological viewpoint. Reading many commentaries have broadened my mind. Yet I observe that in terms of the main themes many of them share similar views. I am now better able to handle such types of literature (genre) in the Bible.

My hope was rooted deeply in God’s sovereignty. The dominant themes of stubbornness, idolatry, judgement, holiness, conflict and persecution, God’s sovereignty and faithfulness kept reappearing. It made me realise the importance of being watchful and faithful to the end. I have to persevere in the grace of God knowing that in the end injustice will be overturned, and  the victory will be manifested in fullness.

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How I decided to preach through Revelation

Preaching through the whole book of Revelation was something I was apprehensive abut. When it was first suggested to me by Deena, a church leader, my reply was, “Wah, that book is too controversial. How to preach? Maybe a Bible study discussion class is a better format. Cannot lah!” The reasons for my apprehension were a few. I had never studied the book of Revelation for myself before. All I had been exposed to during my spiritual beginnings were the early teachings of our church’s founder, Brother A.M. Mathew, who loved to preach from that book. Of course like many other Christians in the 70s, and 80s, I had heard and read a smattering of messages and books a la Hal Lindsey, Dwight Pentecost, and Tim La Haye. I now know they belong to the school of interpretation called Dispensionalism, but not at that time. Seminary did not teach it. I had on a few occasions tried to study the Revelation, but each time I never got beyond chapter 6. So I had a general idea what Revelation was about. I had in my hands several pieces of a strange jig-saw puzzle that looked familiar. However, by and large, I was apprehensive that if I were to embark on a series, I would be entering without a clear idea of my view. I had a lot to research and learn, and was unsure if the congregation would be able to “endure to the end, and be saved”.

Providentially, by the mouth of two witnesses, the power to embark on this long uncertain expository journey, was imparted. One was the Turkey-Greece exploratory trip organised by Bible Society and Omega Tours for pastors. During the trip in 2015 pastors took turns to share devotions about the messages of the glorified Christ to the seven churches. As I listened to those devotions the Lord drew me in and shifted my “impossible” attitude towards preaching Revelations, to one of “maybe it can be done”. Then back in Singapore I was sharing this with pastor Eng Hwa, an evangelical free church pastor, and he said he has done it before and shared how he did it. That got me thinking it can be done.

I prayed some more, discussed this with my colleagues, and explored different ways of doing this project. My colleagues, pastor Thomas, and Ethel the youth worker, did not object and were supportive. Looking at different outlines and examining the church calendar, I tried different options of doing Revelations. However, the best option was to divide out the book into its natural sections, and have other more topical, accessible and practical sermon series interspersed with the more serious and sobering themes in the Revelation series. Rightly, I figured that the darker themes of judgment, conflict and disaster in Revelation would be balanced out with lighter seasons of lighter practical, relevant subjects that directly touched the congregation’s felt needs. It was like making sure we add to the year’s spiritual menu with some foods they can enjoy together with the vegetables and fibre of Revelation.

Finally, I had to take the first step of faith of announcing the series, which I called Revelation Made Simple, to remind myself through the series to keep it simple. When that was done there was no turning back. However with the relatively more easy preparation required in the early parts of  Revelation chapters 1 to 5, I would have about three months of buffer to begin initial preparation of the more difficult sections which starts from chapter 6. An exciting sermonic adventure had begun for me on the 5th July 2015. As the angels in heaven had sung, so did I resound with a loud, HALLELUJAH, when I completed preaching through Revelation, and all God’s people having gone through the great tribulation echoed, Amen, on the 29th of May 2016. Glory to God.

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