The apostle John was nearing the end of his life. He had been a pastor in Asia Minor—modern-day Turkey—but was now living in exile on the Greek island of Patmos. The governing authorities sent him there because of his faithful preaching of God’s Word.
But John was not the only one being persecuted. God’s people back in Asia Minor were also facing very tough times. Christians were being imprisoned and killed. Their property was being confiscated. False teaching was tearing their congregations apart. After 50 years of amazing growth in the church, now Satan’s attacks seemed to be prevailing. The church seemed to be in retreat and in danger of defeat. God’s people were becoming afraid and discouraged; they were losing hope.
We may not be suffering at the hands of an unbelieving world as the Christians in Asia Minor were, but Satan’s attacks on God’s people have not diminished. Today, the truth of God’s Word is openly denied and defamed. Christians are mocked for the biblical values they hold. Human life has become cheap. Morals have disappeared. The love of many has grown cold, replaced by a love of self and pleasure. Large segments of the Christian church have turned from God’s Word and preach another gospel that is no gospel at all. Are there times when you look at the world around you and share the fear and discouragement of those beleaguered Christians in Asia Minor?
To encourage those embattled Christians, God gave John a vision—a vision of what was to come. He instructed John to write down what he saw and send it to the Christians in Asia Minor. We know this vision as the book of Revelation. It has one theme of pure comfort, hope, and encouragement. God was telling his people then, and today, “Yes, in these last days, things will turn very ugly. Yes, the church will suffer. Yes, God’s people will be persecuted. Yes, Satan will do all he can to silence the gospel. But despite what you see and experience all around you, don’t be afraid.”
In the vision, God permitted John to see the horror and ugliness of a world besieged by Satan. But by the end of the vision, John’s eyes were directed to the end of the story. It isn’t just a happy ending; it is an ending that results in the total and complete victory for the Lamb and his people. John writes: “Then I saw a ‘new heaven and a new earth.’ . . . I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:1-4).
When we see a world that appears to be coming apart at the seams, it should not surprise us. God has told us that this is how it will be as long as this world stands. But it also should not discourage us or cause us to despair. Because of what God promised us, we can look forward with confident hope that we also will see the end of the story, a story that ends with Jesus’ final victory—and ours.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 108, Number 3
Issue: March 2021