Jeff Dodge: Well, Veritas family, and by that I mean every Veritas church out there and anybody else that wants to listen in, my name's Jeff. I'm down at Veritas, Iowa City. And sitting here with two other Veritas pastors, Mark Arant, that I work with in Iowa City, and Jake Each in Cedar Rapids. All of us are taking this journey through the Book of Revelation over this next several weeks, few months here. This is a fun opportunity to actually just talk about what is that like from a pastoral perspective, as a leader going through this? How are we approaching it, and what are we thinking? Thanks for letting me do this, you guys. It's going to be a fun little time to talk about it.
I want to ask you two, first off. When I came to know Jesus in college, at that point, there was this big push among a lot of Christian churches and Christian ministries on the campus to show all these movies. There was A Thief in the Night, Image of the Beast, all these that had to do with the rapture of the church. They were very scary and very terrifying, and they were evangelistic to get people to come to know Jesus before this very apocalyptic end of things. That was imprinted on me early on as a Christian, where that was the image I had of the Book of Revelation and all things end times. It was that kind of stuff. I've had to see what part of that was legit, illegit, part of the Bible, not part of the Bible, because that was all that I knew and just assumed it was all true as an early believer. What do you guys have as a starting point? What do you bring to the text and the Book of Revelation? What's your background to understanding this book? Jake, you want to start up?
Jake Each: Yeah. Growing up, it was when the Left Behind series books were out, so I think we read through those as a family or listened to them on tape. That kind of understanding, it was just assumed. "Oh, that's an explanation of what's being taught." And you just took it. I never really read it and studied it for myself. It was just, you took that fictional story and just applied it to that. Nicholas Carpathia is the Anti-Christ. I still remember that from the books. And it's like, so this is how it's going to play out? I just took that as, "Oh yeah, that's how it is," and never really gave it much thought after that.
Jeff Dodge: Right.
Mark Arant: Yeah. I was raised in a very evangelical Bible-teaching church, so I think it was a pre-millennial, pre-trib teaching on it. It was a big deal though when our pastor switched his position to more of a pre-wrath rapture, and I still remember the Sunday night church when he was presenting. There was a lot of controversy stirred up in that.
Jake Each: Wait, he presented a change of view on a Sunday night service? Did he open it up for questions then?
Mark Arant: Hey, I don't remember. I was young. I just remember it was a big deal. Now that I look at it, it's all very much still in one understanding of Revelation, so I don't know how big of a move that was.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. One little tick off.
Mark Arant: Yeah. One little tick. Right.
Jake Each: Can you imagine doing that? We're having a Sunday meeting, I've changed my theological position? That'd be an adventure.
Mark Arant: Yeah. Well, and then had a mentor later who was coming from more of a reformed, amillennial view, so that challenged some of my understanding.
Jeff Dodge: In the same church though?
Mark Arant: In the same church. Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: A little smorgasbord there.
Mark Arant: Yeah. He wasn't too outspoken about it.
Jeff Dodge: Had to keep it on the down-low?
Mark Arant: Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: As you think about that, again, it's not just we that bring something into the text. If you had to guess, what do you think the average Veritas attendee, listener to these messages, do you have a gut feeling of what the starting point is for ... What do you think?
Mark Arant: I think this is where you're going to see a pretty big difference between our churches.
Jake Each: What do you ...
Mark Arant: I wonder if Veritas, Cedar Rapids is going to have just some older saints that have more background in this, maybe more opinions.
I feel like our students, more younger college, are just more impressionable, younger in their faith. So I don't know.
Jeff Dodge: Not as familiar, you're saying? They don't have a starting point?
Mark Arant: The people I'm interacting, like in the foyer last week, this person who they've never been to church, but they're a new baby Christian, excited to learn through Revelation and are trying to catch up with some of the terms.
Jake Each: Where if you're a boomer or you're in your 50s or 60s, you've maybe been through a Sunday school class or a study on it, or you've heard somebody preach through it. Although I've had a few people in that age range excited because of all their years going to church, no one's ever preached through the book.
Mark Arant: Interesting.
Jake Each: So they're leaning in in that way.
Jeff Dodge: Don't you think that is true, that there's more people that have assumptions about the Book of Revelation, and fixed assumptions, clear assumptions that they may find are not there, are not reinforced after we actually start turning the pages of that book?
Jake Each: Yeah. It's interesting because when you think of views on baptism or whether it's believers baptism, you can have people that it's like they have a strong conviction. And it's like you've never studied it. That's just what you grew up with. You find some similar things in Revelation. You are 100% certain this is what it means just because that's what you grew up with. You've never actually really worked it out on your own. But for some reason, there can be strong opinions in this study.
Mark Arant: Right.
Jeff Dodge: I guess all of us as pastors are just praying for us first, and then next in line, anybody that's going to listen, that we will do what Jesus says in those opening chapters, "Have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying." You know what I mean? Instead of having our ears already full of what we think He's saying to the churches that we've already imagined that He's saying to the church through this book. But actually-
Mark Arant: Jeff, that was our conversation on the way up here to Veritas when you were just saying, man, thinking about your sermon, To Laodicea, and just, you don't want to just get lost in commentary work. How do you approach it pastorally in the heart of Christ for our churches?
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. I was saying that if there's any anxiety or whatever, tension in my soul right now, it's man, Holy Spirit, you say that you've got something to say to the churches. You have something very specific to each of those seven opening churches that he speaks to. Oh, I bet you've got something very specific you want to speak to our church. So help me be in tune with the Spirit, with the word saturated in my soul, but then an awareness of that spiritual dynamic. Again, otherwise you can get lost in all the details of, "Oh, what are these hot springs at Laodicea? And what are those cold ..." Whatever.
Mark Arant: Sure.
Jeff Dodge: The details.
Jake Each: Yeah. For sure. Do you think that a reason that people may be leaning into the study or tainting interpretation is just the tensions of our world and the news cycle? And then, I just want to make sense of what I'm seeing in the world?
Jeff Dodge: Right. Right.
Mark Arant: Absolutely. Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: For sure. But I think there is that kind of C.S. Lewis chronological snobbery going on where, "Ooh, you think we're the first people who have had a tumultuous world that we're growing up in?" Every Christian of every day throughout history has had good reason to be like, "Is this the end? Look at what's going on all around me." But we somehow feel like we've got a corner on that market.
Jake, when you opened up the series at Veritas, Cedar Rapids, you made this statement. You said, "All right, everybody, grab your Bibles and open up. It's time to go to work." And then you made an appeal like, "Hey, I really want you guys to have a Bible, a real Bible, a tangible Bible." Expand on that. Why did you say that?
Mark Arant: Wait. My digital one is not real, tangible?
Jeff Dodge: It's not a real one.
Mark Arant: You said paper? Is that what?
Jake Each: Well, I don't know if I said that.
Jeff Dodge: I don't know, paper? I don't know if he said it.
Jake Each: I wanted them to bring, I said, a Bible. It's the old crudge in me.
Jeff Dodge: A book form.
Jake Each: Get a book.
Jeff Dodge: A book form.
Jake Each: I don't know if it's connected to the phrase in those first three verses about it would be a blessing to those who read aloud, but just in general, the culture of our church. Don't come to church without the Word of God, whether it's on your phone or a Bible, and just rely on us to put it on the screen, or just listen to us talk. It's better if it's in front of you and you're seeing it in the text. I just think people will benefit more that way.
Jeff Dodge: No, I was intrigued by that. Because obviously, in these opening churches that he talks about, Ephesus and so forth, they are literally just reading out loud and people are passively just listening in. But we live in a day where it is so accessible. We've got, like you guys do, Bibles sitting right there in the foyer. You've got phones that you can get it easily on. We've got journal things.
Jake Each: Yeah. I think we both for the journals, which are great.
Jeff Dodge: That's why I think that impulse, whatever medium you use to have it in front of you, there's a blessing, right?
Jake Each: For sure. Yeah. Yeah. And beyond that, just as a church culture. I love, and this is totally a preference, I love the hearing of the turning of the pages. I like going in the foyer and seeing people hold their Bible. When you just want to be a church that loves the Word of God, to see it, to hear it, I get giddy off of that. But you can log onto your phone.
Mark Arant: You don't know if I'm reading the Bible or playing Boggle.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. Yeah. And Mark's doing his Wordle.
Mark Arant: Yeah. Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: Completely. No, I think that's really legit. There's no other book of the Bible that has that strong opening where it says, there's a blessing if you will read it, hear it, and keep it.
Jake Each: Can you imagine opening your sermons that way? "Hey, if you guys listen to this and really heed what I have to tell you, there's a blessing."
Mark Arant: There's a blessing.
Jake Each: Well, when we're preaching from the Word of God, we can say that with confidence. But there's a bold statement right off the bat out of this book.
Jeff Dodge: Dude. As we're going through the Book of Revelation, it's clear from chapter one, and we're going to see this all the way through, aside from a lot of the mysterious stuff, and we're going to bump up against that for sure, we can't avoid that, the symbols and signs and different images that we're going to see, but there's also these clear threads or currents that you find. One is that church that just compromises, caves to the world system, and the warning, I guess, through all that, that there's going to be this strong world system and we got to be careful not to get pulled into that.
But then also, this idea of the persecuted church. At one point, you got martyrs crying out, "'How long, oh, Lord?' Write this." The afflicted church. Those seem to run through the whole book. You know what I mean? Even if we don't get all the images and stuff, this call to persevere and sustain affliction and don't cave to this. Okay. How do you think these words, these pages, should land on our church in Iowa in 2023? You know what I mean? What might you feel those tensions in as maybe Thyatira would in the first century? What do you think?
Mark Arant: I was thinking about when we were going through the churches, and I just wonder if we have the right measuring stick for health. Because we were in a staff meeting and one of our staff was like, "Does this frustrate you guys?" There was an issue we were working through and we were like, "Oh, totally." And he kept bringing up, "I'm really bothered, but we need to fix this."
Jeff Dodge: It was a way that some things were going on in the gathered church? When the church is ... Yeah. Yeah.
Mark Arant: In the gathered church. It's like, yeah. Yes, that bothers me. But what stuck out to me, and everyone in the church has things, we were like, "Hey, raise your hand if there's things in this church you wish were different. Don't you wish somebody would do something about that?" But what I loved in the letters was Jesus, to every one of them, "I know. I'm walking around, among the lampstand. You guys are the light of the world. Yeah. I get it. I'm walking around and I see it all." And He says, "I know. I get it."
Jesus understands that frustration with what's going on, and it just was a comfort though, that He knows and He's over it. But also, I just wanted to lean in and want us to lean into, okay, that's the thing. You're frustrated that we're not healthy in this area, but then it raised a question. Okay. If you wanted to assess the health of your church, of our church, how would you do it? What's the measuring stick? Well, read the letters.
Jeff Dodge: I was going to say, you can start, right?
Mark Arant: And you can find out what He considers healthy and what He considers sickness. How are you going to measure it? Is it attendance? Is it budget? Is it how excited people were in worship? Is it how much we reach the poor? Is it how much we preach the Bible? Jesus tells us in those letters what is healthy.
Jake Each: Yeah. We see what matters to Christ when it comes to His church in those letters, which can be really challenging. Even I was thinking as a leader, there are certain things when you're trying to just execute ministry that you can be like, "What's wrong with our church?" You can jump to, well, our kids' check-in needs to be better, and we need to get this parking problem figured out. We need better assimilation into groups. How do visitors fall through the cracks? All those things. And none of that is mentioned in any letters. But it's like, oh, how are we doing compromising sexually immorality or embracing false teaching? That's where it's like, oh, that's what matters.
Mark Arant: Well, what stuck out to me too is Smyrna. They're one of the two churches that doesn't get rebuked. And he says, you guys are persecuted, you're poor. You're poor.
Jake Each: But you're rich.
Mark Arant: You're small. You're suffering in the crown city of Asia, in Smyrna. The Roman emperors go through and they've got a cult temple. And he says, you guys are afflicted and poor, and yet you're rich. So you can be suffering and healthy and that, to me, is a different measuring stick than I'm using.
Jake Each: The two churches that don't get any rebuke were the smallest and least influential of the seven.
Mark Arant: Wow.
Jake Each: And that was-
Mark Arant: Was Philadelphia then?
Jake Each: Yeah.
Mark Arant: Yeah. Wow.
Jeff Dodge: It was actually really fun. I was up in Dubuque, where we've helped a church launch up in Dubuque, and we're taking them through this same story. It was really fun for me to see this much smaller gathering in a rented place. They're just scrappy, just trying to ... And I was like, man, this is actually ... At first, I was thinking, oh man, to have them go through the Book of Revelation on the front end? Is that throwing them in the deep end? No. The more I thought about it, I'm like, oh no, this should define you. Praise God that you guys get to think about how to calibrate this thing from infancy. You know what I mean? And to really key in on what Jesus is saying.
Jake Each: We can see what should matter most for our churches, but how do we help our people bridge? We are not under that kind of social pressure, persecution that they were, especially for Americans that we've enjoyed a season of ... If you would say I'm a Christian 30 years ago, 20 years ago, that would be like yeah, that's pretty normal. In fact, it might even give you some social credit in your workplace. Now, we're starting to feel the term Christian starting to get used more in a derogatory term, so it's where we're just feeling this shift. How did the words in Revelation speak to our people in that sense?
Jeff Dodge: Well, hopefully, it gives us a little bit of caution to wave the martyr flag too quickly, because we have been blessed. Even when you think about the most simple baseline, that we can have charitable giving to churches and we don't have to pay taxes on that or whatever, they might take that away. You're like, well, go talk to any Christian throughout the ages that ever got any kind of credit, of any kind, for giving sacrificially to their local church.
Jake Each: That have given without tax breaks. Imagine that.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. I'm just saying, I hope what it does is soften our impulse to freak out and think, because I do think we're going to be challenged more than a generation before. I'm not minimizing the kind of obstacles we're going to face, but at the global scale, in the first century scale of what God's church was prepared, I guess, to persevere through, we got a pretty long ways to go before we're going to start swapping notes.
Mark Arant: I think I would say that I agree with you, and I might push back a little bit. You sent me the video from Zambia, and Sweet Grace Kalunga, this woman that crawled on her hands and knees. Probably a woman in her 60s, crawled about a mile-and-a-half to get to this newly-planted church. She's got gloves on, so she's crawling on her hands and knees and just-
Jake Each: Why is she crawling? Is it-
Jeff Dodge: She was born with defects on her legs. She cannot walk. She has no wheelchair, no anything, so her only means of transportation is to crawl on her knees.
Jake Each: Wait. Wait. Before we go on, you're telling me that a woman in her 60s crawled on her hands and knees a mile-and-a-half to come to church?
Jeff Dodge: Yeah.
Mark Arant: A brand-new church.
Jeff Dodge: I'll show you the video.
Jake Each: Can we get her cell number? And anybody that misses or says they can't make it, we'll just have them call her and tell her why you couldn't make it.
Jeff Dodge: Oh, except that she doesn't have a cell phone or service, but yes.
Mark Arant: We'll have Grace pray for you. Jeff sent me this video and I just cried. Because I was preparing for this sermon, and I'm like, "They're Smyrna and we're Pergamum." Or Laodicea or whatever. Here's the thing that I'm saying though is, the hostility in America, it is against the teachings. I'm not going to reproach the sermon. We were talking about the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans. We know what the teaching of Balaam was. It's, get them to sin sexually. "Balak, don't worry, I don't have to curse them. You won't have to lift a sword. God will punish them, if you can just stir in some sexual immorality in some of your cult idols and worship."
Well, I think that America is Pergamum. We have mixed in teachings, and when you preach the truth, you will lose social credibility. You will be ostracized in your neighborhood. Already, people are leaving the church because of that sermon a few days ago. I would say that, and there is more and more hostility on that where 30 years ago, you preached that sermon, you're going to get more general agreement, even from presidents. Preaching policies, certain things. But now, I think I see it as the heat is getting turned up.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. And it's probably going to more subtle because of that, because there's a new takeover. I agree with you. Yeah, totally. That's a good call. That's a good call.
Jake Each: Yeah. I feel like two different groups in the church, they need to hear both sides, but maybe more liberal, moral-compromising the strong call to stay faithful. Don't care what the world does. Stay faithful to Christ. And then there's also this message to maybe more of a conservative audience of, the gospel does not need democracy. It needs faithful, courageous, so don't put your hope in political powers. Don't put your hope in policies, because you have these persecuted churches that are getting addressed. But the larger story is, oh, the gospel thrived during this time.
Jeff Dodge: Right. Let the lampstand be the gospel of Christ, if we're shining anything out from this place.
Jake Each: For sure.
Jeff Dodge: That's a good segue into the next question I had. There's so many visions of Jesus Christ throughout the Book of Revelation. It's the most worshipful book. Again, it's almost a shame that we assign it to all the apocalyptics of when. There's more about Jesus in this book than, and I'd include The Gospels, than any other book.
What do you think is maybe a contribution to a fuller understanding of Jesus Christ that we're going to gain if we really listen in to Revelation? How do we understand Jesus better, expand our vision of Jesus?
Jake Each: I think of how the Apostle John, his experience of Jesus as his rabbi, that washed his feet, that hung on a cross, that was the lamb, that they hung out, that they laughed, that he was taught by. And then to get this vision and to see his Lord in such a more glorious, frightening, majestic way. I think we need that because so much of it's like to a bad extreme, Jesus is my homeboy type of where it's like, yes, He's a friend of sinners, and yes, He's a compassionate leader. Yes, He loves us.
And He is this glorious, riding on a white horse, needs to be bowed down and worshiped and might scare you when you see Him in all this glory. You get that in Revelation. It feels like, oh, we would be better if we got that vision. I wonder, what was that like for John? It's like the last time I saw you, we were fishing. And now, wow. That would be an experience I hope we have. It's like the Jesus I remember, it's like yeah, I can't wait to ... And then it's like, oh wow.
Jeff Dodge: Oh, that's good.
Jake Each: We'd be better off if we captured that as a church.
Jeff Dodge: What do you think, Mark? You got anything?
Mark Arant: I just think, Jake, your sermon for this Sunday, I want to listen to it. Because you talk about Jesus introduces Himself to each of the churches, and there's a different aspect of Himself. To Pergamum, who is struggling with falsehood and false teaching, He's going to say I've got a double-edged sword coming out of My mouth. For maybe the church who is getting into astrology and some weirdness, I hold the morning star in My right hand. I'm over all that. Or I'm the Alpha and the Omega. He's addressing Himself and saying, this is what you need to see and hear about Me.
And then how He ends with reward, and I think that's a huge theme in Revelation too, that it's worth it. What is that stone with My name on it? Maybe that's a wow, not guilty forever. The decree of God, that stone with my name is declaring to Me, you are forgiven. Forever forgiven. And it's got My new name on it. Just the glories of this, your imagination. I just think this should stoke our imagination of Jesus has become just this something we're right about, a set of propositions that we ascent to with our minds.
Jake Each: Right.
Mark Arant: This is the living God that we need to get on our knees before.
Jeff Dodge: And that he's continuing to, out of love, draw in even the Laodiceans. Even those that are a train wreck, His appeal in those opening chapters is actually, "Oh, I want to receive you. Still, I'm at the door. Let me in." I love that even though He is at times a ferocious, fearful king, the whole book starts out with this glorious invitation. The God of the universe that is going to set all things aright is appealing. I want you to repent and come, and I want to welcome you into this glorious place.
Jake Each: Yeah. No, and I think we learn something, just what it means to really call people to faithfulness in hard times. Where in those letters, there's some tough words where it's like, you better get this right or I'm going to come take your lampstand. I'm going to come like a thief in the night. It's like, wow, you didn't pull any punches in that.
But there's also surrounded by such a picture of, Hey, Jesus is better than this world. Why would you ever want to not be faithful to Him? There's nothing more glorious than Him. There's a sense of like yeah, we're going to speak truth clearly, but you got to present, as John does, Christ as worthy of our faithfulness.
Jeff Dodge: That's good. That's good. That idea also, right away of Jesus being the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and now the end, the finale, the consummation of all things. There are, by some counts, up to 500 illusions in the Book of Revelation to the Old Testament. Again, by far, more than any other New Testament book just references back. Rarely an actual quote, but lots and lots and lots of illusions to the Old Testament.
Having now done a good job of listening to and obeying the Book of Revelation, how will that help the average reader pick up some things from the Old Testament? You know what I mean? How will that work backward then and help us understand the Old Testament with a little bit more clarity? What do you guys think?
Mark Arant: Well, last week, when I was talking about the teaching of Balaam and I said, "Just, how many of you have heard of Numbers 22-25? Shake your head no, if you've never heard of that."
Jeff Dodge: You didn't shame them by making them either stand up or sit down?
Mark Arant: No. No, it's just, you don't have to raise your hand. Just, I want to see the head. It was like the whole church. It was just like, shake it. Nope. Never. Don't know that or can't remember what's in that. That's an example of, and the one I brought up, the teachings of Balaam. I read an editorial from USA Today and basically it said, this is what it sounds like.
Jeff Dodge: This is ...
Mark Arant: This is the teaching of Balaam. This is what it sounds like. I have it in my-
Jeff Dodge: Pretty spot on.
Mark Arant: You can see that. Yeah. If you want to hear what it sounds like in 2023, this is it. And here's the thing. I hope that people go back and read Numbers 22-25. Another way this came up, and this is where I personally was rebuked, you talked about people that have these strong opinions about Revelation and all the LaHaye Left Behind stuff. Oh yeah, that's how it's going to ... I can draw it out on a timeline and map and trumpets, and seven years of this and three-and-a-half years here.
One of my mentors, the more reformed guy, he's like, "Well, Mark, look at the Mark of Beast. Oh yeah, this is great because I want to see what your decoder ring is for for this." He is like, "Do you know the most well-known passage in the Old Testament? Every Jewish kid at their bar mitzvah has this memorized in Hebrew."
Jeff Dodge: The Shema.
Mark Arant: The Shema. Shema Israel, [Hebrew 00:28:52]. It's-
Jeff Dodge: The Lord God.
Mark Arant: This is it.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah.
Mark Arant: The Lord our God. In that passage, he talks in Revelation of, "Where's the Mark of the Beast?" On your wrist, on your forehead. I'm like, "Man, I hope I don't get that computer chip or that tattoo so I can get groceries." He's like, "What does that Deuteronomy 6 say?" Well, here it is, the Shema.
"Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your city gates."
The way that you, my people, are going to be different from the world is the Word of God is going to be all over your life. It's going to be in your mind, your forehead. Not a tattoo, not a literal, but it's going to be in your mind. You're going to think about it. You're going to think biblically. And on your hands. Your hands are your actions. What you do in your actions, let it be the Word of God in real life.
Okay. Now, when I go back to Revelation and all of a sudden I'm like, wait a minute. Is John saying, and 666, that would be what? Seven is the perfect number. This is the worldly thinking, worldly disobedience to God, rebellion against God. Wow. What if the Old Testament interprets that and helps me now say, maybe I'm not concerned about the future? Will I be able to get groceries and I hope I don't get the computer chip? It's, what TV shows am I watching? What podcasts are influencing the way I think?
Then maybe I'm allowing the Mark of the Beast. Worldly thinking. Where do I need to repent on my actions? Because I need God's word. Obedience. That would be an example of how the-
Jake Each: Are you saying ... Oh, go ahead.
Mark Arant: No, how the Old Testament, just our study of Revelation doesn't expose our ignorance about the future as much as it does the Old Testament. Good.
Jeff Dodge: Oh, that's good.
Jake Each: Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. For sure. Yeah. There can be people that are so worried about not getting the Mark of the beast, but they're already so marked by the world.
Mark Arant: Yes.
Jake Each: Wow.
Mark Arant: Yes.
Jake Each: Wow.
Mark Arant: That's what I'm about.
Jeff Dodge: They are missing it. I think to the Old Testament one, it's like the people that in their Bible reading plan just quit going through Ezekiel. And then you have this like, I really want to understand Revelation, and it's like, "Oh, I should probably go back and read Ezekiel." Hopefully, this study will motivate you. Do the hard work of understanding these writings in the Old Testament because it sheds light on understanding this book. My hope would be your passion to understand this apocalyptic Revelation will drive you back to the Old Testament.
Mark Arant: Well, it's like if you get to the end of a good book or the end of a good movie or something, and there's all these loose ends all tied up. And a lot of people want to go back and review part of that movie that, "Oh, that's what they were doing." Or in that book or whatever. I hope people, all of a sudden, some light bulbs go on and they're like, "Oh, man, I never saw that coming together." You know what I mean?
That's what the Book of Revelation is all about, is pulling all those threads together and showing, obviously, preeminently, in Jesus Christ, but how it's all going to be tied up. It's all going to make sense. Yeah. I hope it creates a hunger in me and in all those that are listening in.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. Just a couple more question. Do you guys have any concerns about preaching through the Book of Revelation, even on a couple weeks in or whatever, or not? Or you're just saying yeah, let it rip?
Jake Each: When we went through 1st Corinthians, we joked that this is a shrink-the-church campaign because of all the tough stuff dealt with in that. Yeah. I feel like Revelation is a shrink-the-church campaign, just because there's so much passion to maybe some interpretations. And there's also clear calls to faithfulness against the idolatrous world, that you could step on toes.
Jeff Dodge: That's a good one.
Jake Each: I wouldn't say it's a hesitation though. I lean into that. Yeah, let's go. But those are potential consequences.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah.
Mark Arant: My concern about preaching it is, I want to preach it in a way that honors people who might disagree with me on it, especially our elders. We have elders that are at different places on understanding of it. If I have a different view than someone, I hope that they will feel respected that, hey, this isn't like I have the right understanding of revelation and you are wrong, but that we come out, as we humbly work our way through it, more in awe of Jesus together. I think it's more a spirit thing for us as we step in to preach the word, that we do it in a way that, no, I hope people are encouraged.
The way I approach Revelation fundamentally is, he says, read these words. Take these letters around. Read it out loud in the churches. They'll be blessed to hear them. I believe that the first century Christians could understand what was being read. I don't think that you'll be blessed if you hear it, but you won't understand any of it. That's for people 2000 years in the future that will be able to understand what these dragons are. They're F-16 jet fighters or whatever. You'll never understand it. No, I think it's accessible. So I hope it's more accessible than people think of it.
Jeff Dodge: That's curious. I wonder that, and I guess we'll know someday when we get to the New Heavens, the New Earth. I feel like I get what you're saying, especially in these letters and those kind of things, there are some illusions to things that would've immediately locked in.
But I wonder if there was also some intentionality of, it seems like John himself seems to be mystified and thrown off by what he's seen. I don't know, but I hope all of us though don't give up too easy that. That's my thing is yeah, let's just say we're going to hit some things that are hard to understand.
Well, these are the things of God. This is the final chapter to the entire storyline of God. Imagine that, that we're not going to understand every page. You know what I mean? I hope we find more encouragement and more light bulbs going off, but we just keep coming back. That's the blessing of Revelation. We keep coming back and keep listening.
Jake Each: Have you preached through the whole book before?
Jeff Dodge: In this kind of way?
Jake Each: Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: A more quick run through it? Yeah. But again, I would say this; I come back and I feel like I have many of the same questions again.
Jake Each: That's so crazy.
Jeff Dodge: I wish I could say I have the answer sheet somewhere in the back. Oh, let me just pull out all the answer sheets.
Jake Each: Have you, Mark? Have you ever preached through?
Mark Arant: No.
Jake Each: I haven't either.
Mark Arant: Just the letter.
Jake Each: Yeah. I've done that a few times, but the book. And I may be wrong on this, was it Martyn Lloyd-Jones that was ... "Hey, when are you going to preach through Romans?" And he was like, "As soon as I understand Roman 6," or something. I've felt like I've almost avoided this because it's hard to get in and be like, "I think this, it could be this," and not really knowing. But I think there's appropriate humility in-
Jeff Dodge: Oh, for sure.
Jake Each: Some of these texts.
Jeff Dodge: Yeah. I'm not as worried about Mark and I having different views on something as we come to a text. It's when neither of us have a view on the text. I'm more worried about that. Somebody throws a lifeline at that point. But have you guys found already any just one nugget or some cool truth that maybe you've discovered or rediscovered even early on, just personally that comes to mind?
Jake Each: Maybe this isn't exactly what you're at. I was in my office yesterday studying the seals in six and seven. Michael was working on the trumpets.
Jeff Dodge: By the way, the seals, they're not the animal kind.
Jake Each: Not the animal. The seals are the scroll. There you go. The seven seals. Michael comes in my office. He was trying to study the trumpets and he just goes, "Revelation is hard." That was a profound statement that we were both like, "I need to take a walk or something. My brain is hurting trying to get my mind around some of these things." But the truth that stood out to me the most in studying this is, sometimes I can just jump right into, all right, what are the meanings of the word? What does this mean?
And I've just been hit with, oh, this was written to real people. This was a letter that not just real people, real people that were really struggling. And trying to keep that in mind when I'm trying to figure out what things are meaning, I think that also helps with just a pastoral tone. Like, how would that persecuted person living in Smyrna hear this?
Jeff Dodge: Yes.
Jake Each: Yeah.
Jeff Dodge: That's a good word. How about you, Mark? What do you think?
Mark Arant: I just want to read 22, just the first five verses. Just because I just can never get past this. This is just glorious.
"Then He showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb, down the middle of the city's main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, and there will no longer be any curse."
"The throne of God and the lamb will be in the city, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more. People will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever."
Jake Each: Dude, that's beautiful. That's why we need to keep it for us.
Mark Arant: That's why I just think, how cool that it ends. He testifies about these things. Says, "Yes, I'm coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone. Amen."
Jake Each: Do you think that we need to have more frequent, better view of eternity? It's brought out so much in this book that we can start a ... Part of not being faithful or compromising is just living now and benefiting from a picture of what is to come. I was telling you guys before we started this that I just read for the first time, the last battle with the last book of the Chronicles or Narnia. And he gives this description of the new creation. He makes Narnia.
And I'm just tearing up reading because it's like ... And I'm thinking, this is a fantasy book about a make-believe place. But then you get into Revelation and it's like, oh, this is reality, of a real place, and how beautiful some of these descriptions are. It's like, seeing it in my own heart and wanting it for our church of just longing, and I don't know if we really know what to long for. There's this having a better picture, which Revelation gives us of what's to come.
Jeff Dodge: Totally. That totally teased up for what I was going to end with is, I just started reading The Magician's Nephew, which is, depending on how you read them, a little controversial. Anyway, the first of the Chronicles of Narnia, because it gives the backstory to the Chronicles of Narnia.
Anyway, the opening paragraph of The Magician's Nephew says, "This is a story about something that happened long ago, when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began." The reason it so caught my attention is because I'm reading the Book of Revelation right now. And man, my prayer is that the Book of Revelation will be like what that opening paragraph is.
It reminds us that there's this whole other world. It reminds us of this supernatural realm that we're going to be able to enter into, and just raise the level of fascination, raise the level of that holy longing and that holy missing our real home. You know what I mean? Should stir in every Christian. But I'm telling you guys, my confession is it's too dormant in my life.
And I want the Book of Revelation not necessarily to answer every single question I bring to the text, but that it certainly does raise that level of just a longing and desire for home, and the fascination with what's beyond this seen world. We're too materialistic, right? We're too materialists. I want to grow in my fascination, and Revelation will give lots of opportunity for that if we have ears to hear.
Guys, thanks for doing this. This has been a blast. I don't know if anybody else will get anything out of it, but I've gained a ton. So yeah, thanks for inviting us up. And God bless all of you who listen in as well. And stick with us as we journey through the Book of Revelation.