Understanding the Bible 45: Revelation – Jesus’s Delay and the Rise of Roman Persecution

While the early decades of the church’s history were hardly easy, they were nevertheless filled with optimism: Jesus was risen, the Spirit at work in and through the community of faith, and the body of Christ was growing as the gospel spread across the Mediterranean world. Local opposition – even to the point of violence and imprisonment – did occur.  But suffering was part of the calling of God’s people, and the universal expectation of the church was that time was short. Jesus would be returning soon, and thus urgency about the mission trumped fears about hardship (after all they would be short lived pains for eternal rewards).

But…, as the decades passed, questions about Jesus’s delay began to mount. And with the disastrous events of 70 AD (the destruction of Jerusalem, the fall of the second Temple and the massacre at Masada), things changed dramatically.

By the mid-90s, Roman persecution would rise again (having done so once before – under Nero in the 60s) and force the church to reflect on how to carry on her mission amidst a very uncertain future.  It is out of these events – and the call to live faithfully through them – that John received his vision.  And it is only by grasping the historical context behind the book of Revelation that we can interpret it correctly.   



This is a sermon that was originally presented at Canvas (a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA), August 3, 2014. To learn more about Canvas, click here!


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