Imagination helps understand Revelation


By Julian Fagan




Yep, that’s it. No other way to say it honestly. When I would open the book, I had an excitement, a hope of the blessing promised to those who read it. But, soon I would encounter the expressions of doom and a maze of happenings that bewildered me. I would end up confused, not understanding...uncertain. Every time I wound up queasy, doubting myself. The book was essentially closed to me.


I have learned that such a thinking as mine that throws one back upon himself is wrong thinking. At its essence is a wrong-headedness about who God the Father is and his son, our savior and elder brother.


Growing confidence in the love and goodness of Father, understood through Jesus his beloved son, experienced in the spirit and two other things have begun to unlock the code of Revelation for me. The first is imagination; the second, the parallel and progressing sections of the book, not necessarily different happenings and outcomes, but varying intensities and descriptions of good and evil and the final outcome of the battle.


Fear not!


May 6

You Are Invited!       

Purpose: Encouragement to rejoice in the inclusion of the invitation and education on how to interpret the prophetic scriptures.

Bible Lesson: Revelation 19:5-10

Key Verses: “And he said to me, ‘Write, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’  And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’...For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” — Revelation 19:9


The voice John hears comes from the throne. The scene has shifted to heaven. The message: God rules, and we are in the middle of it. All of you give praise — the gifted, the ungifted, the shiner, the soiled and everyone in between. The suspense is building. It is very close to being over. Recognize it and say so. Give praise to the Lord our God! Even shout, Hallelujah! It’s OK.


Then he is told there is going to be a celebration, a party — the party of all parties. It is described as a wedding, and clothing has been given to the bride; fine linen, which is believing in the righteousness of Jesus. Notice the clothing is given to her. Not a one brought it, nor did they earn it. It is a grace gift. It is Jesus’ righteousness given. And the bride is wrapped up in it. She is beautiful and feels so. Won’t that be a wonderful thing!


Then comes the fourth of seven beatitudes in Revelation. The angel says (just like George Strait), “Write this down, John. You and the rest have got to get this. Write, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb...these are the true words of God.” 


See, they are invited and given what they will wear. And who is invited? Everybody, yep, all of ‘em.


This is the true word of God. You have an invitation to the biggest party, one planned for Jesus and you and all your family and friends and the entire cosmos. Everybody will be there. The blessing is in the invitation. “The Blessed” are those who get invited!

Uh-oh! John pulls a boo-boo. He bowed to an angel. I would have too, almost couldn’t help it. Yet, Jesus has presented us to the father. He alone are we to worship.


Be very careful of whom you think yourself beholding. Don’t be bowing to the preacher, the teacher, the singer, the writer. Only one has the capacity to include us in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit. The angel reminds John. We should remember; we all fall short. Every one of us, even apocalyptic prophets err. Isn’t it amazing that John is not ashamed to admit it? Where do you think he got that confidence?


Jesus’ testimony is the spirit of prophecy. This book is prophecy. How do you interpret it when the very spirit of what is written is the testimony of Jesus? Have you read commentaries on the prophets written from Jesus’ perspective? And, what is Jesus testimony? See who he talks about...who he tells the stories he does what he does. Check it out. Perhaps Jesus can give us the meaning of the book of Revelation. That is if we can see with his eyes. Really...who else are you going to ask?


May 13

A Brand New Day

Purpose: Encouragement to rejoice in the wholeness given by God and warning to those who refuse to accept as reality the only truth there is.

Bible Lesson: Revelation 21:1-8

Key Verses: “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’  And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’  And He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” — Revelation 21:5-6


We move now to the climax. Here the holy city called the New Jerusalem, later called the church, is dressed like a bride ready for her husband. God lives there with his people. He takes all the old pains, the first things and changes them to new.


Yet, there is continuity; there is a new kind of heaven and a new kind of earth and a new kind of living. The declared difference is God’s presence recognized and felt with his peoples.


He very personally attends to each one, wiping their tears and removing their pain. They see and feel him present where in the old earth they did not always, if at all. Is it possible the new comes with the clear ability to see and know what truly is? Perhaps, has it always been so, but could not be seen? Even if so, the pain is gone. It is a brand new day; the two things declared to no longer exist are the sea and death.


The Jewish mind held the sea as a symbol of separation, the source of turbulence, the pushing forth of hostility to God and his people. This rebellion and disobedience is no longer present and the holy city comes down. God is with his peoples and death is removed. There is no room for such in the newness that God creates. The things that hurt his children are now gone.


“It is done,” says God. Present tense. The Alpha and Omega speaks it so and as always, gives the invitation to believe. To those who live in a dry and arid land, where water is most precious, he will give water from the spring of the water of life without cost. All you have to do is be thirsty. How does one overcome? Be thirsty.


The cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars are who? The ones who still maintain they are not thirsty. It is not the doing, the acting, the not is the unbelieving.


Experiencing the newness comes in being thirsty and being willing to admit it. If one continues not to believe and to deny he is thirsty and therefore is cowardly to admit it and goes into further abominations, this one refuses the only hope that is available to him. He rejects what is true with it staring him in the face. It is then the second death awaits the proud, thirsty but not-thirsty man.


In western culture we immediately focus on a spatial separation of heaven and hell. David clearly recognized God was everywhere, and that he could not get away from him should he go into heaven or into the nether world. John, Paul and the author of Hebrews tell us that nothing was made without Jesus, that he holds everything together in himself and that God reconciled the entire cosmos to himself in Jesus.


So to be where Jesus is not is not possible. But alienation in one’s mind is a separation that is intolerable.


What John heard God say was that the unbelieving would be in the lake of continual, nocuous torment, which is the second death. When it comes to heaven and hell, be careful; chew your own food. This is not an easy task. We must learn what the father is truly like. How we think of him will determine how we interpret this passage. Since Jesus said he was the only one who knew God, perhaps we need to ask him.


Do not go into the funk here. This is good news! You are invited, included, loved and are present. Do you want to be there? God is not going to violate your personhood. You can say no, but he is not going to stop loving you. So, hell is very real to every one who insists he is able to satisfy his own thirst. Scares the beejeebees out of me! 


These guys have tried in every way known to man, even to the depths of abomination, and now stand before Jesus being loved, invited and included and still insist they can manage just fine on their own. This one is there, but he is outside. What is he going to do to change things now? How does he feel? Is this what Father has planned for him since the before the foundation of the world?


How do you get away from the one who is everywhere, who made you and whom you think you do not want?   


May 20

No More Curse, No More Night

Purpose: Encouragement to rejoice in the hope that brokenness and pain will be fully taken away and the joy of wholeness will last forever. Hope enables perseverance.

Bible Lesson: Revelation 21:9-10; 22:1-5

Key Verses: “And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on the foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall no have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.” — Revelation 22?3-5


This time John sees from a mountain-top view the bride, wife and holy city. He sees her coming down out of heaven, from God. What we think of as heaven is from God. He sees the throne of Father and Son from which flows the river of the water of life which runs through the tree of life.


Father and Son are seated in the middle of the street of the city; in the middle of the people, accessible, available, giving themselves to all the people, sharing their life, their light. God with us. Us with God. Heaven. Seeing his face.


Think about the longing of your soul to see that one that you love; that you wish you could see and talk to and be with. You miss them so much you hurt. Distance, brokenness, misspoken words keep you from being able to be close. How you would love just to see her face again. Think of what it will be like to be able to actually stand, sit, kneel or lie there and be right in the face of Jesus.


He is there, arms outstretched, and is there for you. And from his love issues forth healing for all the brokenness of your life. All the old is gone, and you are made brand new, whole, complete, perfect. Full to running over with the life he freely gives.


Amazing, his love for us. His never ending passionate love for us. How he gives, and loves and forgives and just keeps on pushing us to accept what has always been true about him and about us. He has made us for himself. He has designed us to participate in his life. And he will bring it about.


When he does, the curse that came in what we call the Fall will be over, no more. And the darkness, the wretched darkness that blinds us in our natural minds, will be over. No more night. No more uncertainty and bewilderment. The beauty of the son’s rise will never set, and we will enjoy his presence, his water, his life, his healing, as we dance by the river flowing from the throne of God. The music is sweet and the heavenly band will keep on playing. Ain’t God good! 


May 27

I Am Coming Quickly

Purpose: Encourage to hold on amid conflict and persecution and education that all who have seen Jesus as he is long for him to come quickly to bring a final end to our darkness.

Bible Lesson: Revelation 22:6-10, 12-13, 16-21

Key Verse: ‘Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’... ‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.’  And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” — Revelation 22:12, 22:16-17


Oops, John did it again. He bowed to the angel again. Isn’t it amazing? It is to me, that we somehow just cannot help messing up. We get so confused. Even John, the beloved disciple. He is still not ashamed to admit his failures. He knows he is loved and included and forgiven. It is not about our messing up. All have sinned.


That is the point. That is the declaration each of us needs to accept. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He didn’t do that so we would get it right. We can’t get it right, and John readily admits his snafus. When we reach that point, then we are seeing the light and the darkness begins to be removed.


He says to John, “Here’s the truth, it is faithful, you can trust it.” Write this down and do not hide it. Don’t change it either. Curses to those who would change the message of who Jesus is and his revelation of his father’s heart. When you share the false gospel, you do not have in your experience the blessings of real life, Jesus’ life. What you end up with is the plagues of the darkness. When you preach that stuff it infects other people. Only Jesus can get rid of plagues. But if we hold onto them, thinking they are the truth, they may last forever.


That leaves us with a single hope. Jesus. The Spirit says, “Come.”  The bride says, “Come.” The one who is thirsty can come and receive the water of life without cost. The one who hears says, “Come.” Everyone who believes Jesus is who he says he is wants him to come and come quickly.


Notice the play on the word “come.” Jesus is the answer and everyone who sees wants him. This darkness is killing us; the oppression is severe. He is our savior. He is our hope. We long to see him face to face. We long for the consummation. And those who love him are willing to say so. He says, “I am coming quickly.”


Notice, present tense. Remember, he said he would not leave us. Remember he said, “In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). So, he must be present with us now.


In a way that I do not understand Jesus will present himself in the fullness of his glory in a way that is even more fully complete to our understanding. The more we do understand now, the more he is present. What we do know of him is so good, so wonderful, that his coming in the bringing of the fully new will be an exquisitely beautiful thing. So, “Come, Lord Jesus, please come...and do so quickly.”


Fagan is executive administrator for Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.