IV. Revelation And Wesleyan/Holiness Themes
1. John begins and ends his book with an emphasis on urgency. The phrase “that must soon take place” (1:1; 22:6) speaks of closing the curtain of history. Likewise, “the time is near” (1:3; 22:10) highlights the significance of the pregnant present that soon will give birth to God's new creation. Repeatedly John announces that Jesus is coming soon (1:7, 8; 2:25; 3:3, 11; 4:8; 14:7; 19:7; 22:7). The emphasis on urgency encourages the persecuted church to stand faithful just a little longer and dramatizes the call to decision.
2. The Spirit empowers and speaks to Christians. Wesley writes that John on Patmos was “overwhelmed with the power and filled with the light of the Holy Spirit” (Notes, 654). Phoebe Palmer preached that “holiness is power.” The Spirit gave John the audacity to challenge the Roman Empire. Periodically the Spirit refilled John at critical intervals in ministry (4:2; 17:3; 21:10). And the Spirit spoke to each of the seven churches (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
3. Holiness requires purity. John calls God's people “saints.” Saints persevere and keep the commandments (14:12). Saints are overcomers. Life's conflicts can climax in victorious living because of the conquest of Christ. The seven promises related to conquering in chs. 2-3 and the declaration that Christ “has triumphed” (5:5) anticipate the final conquest of sin in 19:11-21. The image of life as a conquest translates into the imperative to remember that Christian growth requires overcoming adversity and sin. Sanctification involves the decision to do good though evil seduces. This is the path to the purity required for the contemporary church.
4. Holiness involves social justice. The conflict in Revelation is not merely a struggle among individuals. The conflict is institutionalized. John's portrait of the church as a people oppressed by the state reminds us that institutions often clash. Some institutions liberate, and others victimize. William Booth's In Darkest England outlined a vision of ministry for the Salvation Army that understood the need for institutional justice.
John depicts the struggle in terms of the kingdom of God versus the state. The application to contemporary situations can be identified by asking, “Where is justice being denied? Who are the underdogs being trampled by oppressors? Where do the claims of Christ conflict with the claims of the state? Where do the forces of evil and Satan challenge Christ?” Revelation speaks to the corporate nature of modern life through the images of conflict and conquest.
John pits Roman rules against the rule of Christ the Lamb. The word throne appears in seventeen of the twenty-two chapters. Using political terms like “authority,” “power,” “war,” “worship its throne,” “kingdom,” “the ruler of the kings of the earth,” “the kingdom of the world,” and “the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ,” John protested Rome's supposed supremacy. He posits the throne of God and the church as the religious and political alternative to the secular state.
5. Revelation reinterprets the OT through the Christ event. John especially drew upon Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah 40-66. John never directly quotes the OT. Instead he reinterprets its sacred tradition through his new experience in Christ.
6. Revelation is full of hope. The ultimate symbol of the Christian hope is the vision of the new heaven and new earth (21:1ff.). The heavenly hope provides a reason to withstand the conflicts that strike the church. We live by hope.
7. Music celebrates holiness, hope, and victory. Whether it be “Holy, Holy, Holy” (4:8), Handel's “Messiah” (11:15), or gospel songs of heaven and victory, Revelation has furnished lyrics for vibrant Christian music. Fifteen percent of the hymns and songs in the 1989 edition of the United Methodist hymnal are derived from Revelation.