The words “apocalypse” and “apocalyptic” often are used to describe horrors of war. A movie about the Vietnamese Conflict, Apocalyse Now, displayed riveting scenes of destruction to villages, jungles, and Soldiers. In the case of the Soldiers and the villagers, emotional damage resulted in addition to physical injury. These words, however, come from a Greek word which means, not “horror,” but “revelation.” The final book of the New Testament, Revelation, derives its name from this word. According to its preamble, it is a “revelation” of Jesus Christ. Although its literary genre is unique in the New Testament, Revelation resembles and alludes to Old Testament books like Zechariah and Daniel. No other book has as many allusions to the Hebrew Bible as Revelation. The writer himself considers his book a prophecy. While many assume future predictions when they study Revelation, a careful study of chapters 2 and 3 reveal that it was firmly grounded in the time period in which it was penned (Richard Oster’s recently published Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible is a good place to start your study.). Revelation addresses the sins and needs of seven late-first-century congregations.
Although its title does not mean “horror,” Revelation contains many scenes of terrestrial and extraterrestrial combat. Millions die horrible deaths. Bad things happen to good people. Yet, Revelation’s primary message is “In the end, God’s faithful people win!” Prayer, sometimes almost literally in the sense of a call for fire using lethal means, appears throughout the book. Elders pray. Angels pray. Martyrs pray. Everyone prays. Several prayers in Revelation focus on praising God or Jesus. Others describe what God has done for his people in the past and the implications for the current situation. Some prayers voice the pain experienced by persecuted disciples; these prayers ask for God to avenge the harm done to his faithful followers.
I’ll have more blogs that look at specific prayers in Revelation and what they have to say for what we pray. The book culminates in a dynamic description of Christ’s victory over evil and ends with a call for fire: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” In the fog of spiritual war, sometimes we struggle to remember that God is on our side and that in the end, those who endure, receive eternal life.