C.S. Lewis famously said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Given that the Lord speaks to us through the pains and tensions of fires, viruses and floods, why do so few seem to be hearing a message from heaven? Where, for example, are the massed prayer meetings crying out to God to have mercy on Australia (2 Chronicles 20)?
Their absence indicates the Church has forgotten the divine purpose of apocalyptic. “Apocalyptic” has appeared a lot in secular news recently (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/24/bushfires-ash-rain-dust-storms-flash-floods-two-weeks-in-apocalyptic-australia).
It is one of the most profound and misunderstood words in scripture. The first words of the book of Revelation are “Apocalypse of Jesus Christ” ( Apokalypsis Iesou Christou) (chapter 1 verse 1). The heart of apocalyptic is its message about Jesus.
The Lamb’s War
After appearing as the Victor over death in Revelation chapter 5, Jesus the triumphant Lamb of God launches a war between heaven and earth. He first symbolically releases “horsemen” who carry war, famine, plague and death (Revelation chapter 6).
A host of other judgements follow throughout the book. Most of these are “natural” disasters that will strike every generation before the Second Coming (compare Matthew chapter 24 verses 7-8). They are primarily recorded as a warning to believers not to be “naked and be seen exposed!” (Revelation chapter 16 verse 10) at the sudden thief-like coming of Christ to Judge the world.
Apocalyptic signs in nature and history are intended to keep the Church spiritually awake (Revelation chapter 3 verse 2); prayerful, holy, uncompromising. Such signs are rarely being listened to in our day.
The Jesus of Revelation appears with “eyes…like a flame of fire” (chapter 1 verse 14), and upon seeing Christ’s glorified form his old friend John “fell at his feet as though dead” (chapter 1 verse 17). This is the majestic Jesus who will soon return to purge and heal the world (2 Thessalonians chapter 1 verses 5-12).
This Jesus is not “the bearded sandaled one of the Gospels” (J.C. Ortiz). Our spiritual apathy, general prayerlessness and slowness to sacrifice for the sake of kingdom of God shows that this is the Jesus we do not want. Very rare is the congregation waiting in anticipation for the return of this Jesus (Revelation chapter 22 verse 20).
Suffer with Me
We are not registering “in the Spirit” (Revelation chapter 1 verse 10) the purpose of the traumatic modern plagues to which God in his wrath has “handed us over” (Romans chapter 1 verses 24, 26, 28). Things like youth suicide, domestic violence, depression, drug abuse and anxiety are modern plagues whose only true remedy is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John chapter 12 verse 29. We are failing to grasp that that the route to the exercise of God’s almighty power to judge and heal the cosmos is through voluntary suffering on behalf of those who reject the gospel (Revelation chapter 5 verse 6).
We are refusing to live cross-shaped lives for the sake of the lost. Power will flow out of the Church to heal a traumatised nation (Luke chapter 6 verse 19) to the degree that Christians are willing to lay down their lives for sinners. Nothing could be simpler, nothing could be more humanly impossible (Mark chapter 10 verse 27). Which is exactly why we need Jesus.
Only in the realm where human ability is useless does the kingdom of God breaks in to heal and restore. The manifestation of such resurrection presence depends solely on the sovereign mercy of God which, when divinely exercised through the Church, “turns the world upside down” (Acts chapter 17 verse 6).
At this point the Lord’s Prayer for the coming of his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” begins to be answered (Matthew chapter 6 verse 10). My perception however is that the average Aussie Christian doesn’t want their comfortable world destabilised by such uncomfortable realities.
Nevertheless, the Father loves us so much that he will never stop shaking our world (Hebrews chapter 12 verses 25-27). Apocalypse Now brings a gift of repentance, may we receive it.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed athttp://www.pressserviceinternational.org/john-yates.html