Blessed: Revelation’s Call to Courage and a Refusal to Compromise with Russell Moore (Episode 8)

This article is part of the Blessed: Conversations on the Book of Revelation with Nancy Guthrie series.

Allegiance to Christ

Nancy Guthrie and Russell Moore discuss themes presented in the letters to the churches found in Revelation 2–3, common questions about the beast and the mark of the beast, and how we can gain courage and hope from the book of Revelation.

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Blessed

Nancy Guthrie

Blessed, by bestselling author and speaker Nancy Guthrie, gives individuals and small groups a friendly, theologically reliable, and robust guide to understanding the book of Revelation.

Topics Addressed in This Interview:

01:35 - Patient Endurance and Overcoming

Nancy Guthrie
My guest today is Russell Moore. Russell, thank you for being willing to talk with us about the book of Revelation.

Russell Moore
I’m glad to. I’m looking forward to it.

Nancy Guthrie
Russell Moore is the public theologian at Christianity Today and director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project. He’s the author of numerous books, and one of the books that he’s written that made me want to talk to him about Revelation was a book he wrote recently called The Courage to Stand: Facing Your Fear without Losing Your Soul. It’s because of that book that I wanted to talk to him about Revelation because it seems to me that the book of Revelation is a call to courage; a call to bold allegiance to Jesus Christ. As we think about the first audience that this book was written to, we know that many of them were already facing severe persecution. At the opening of the book when John identifies himself, he calls himself “a partner in the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patient endurance that are in Christ Jesus.” So he’s speaking to people who are experiencing some of the same kind of persecution that he, in fact, is experiencing as he is there on the Isle of Patmos. As I think about the message of Revelation, I would say the message of Revelation is a call to patient endurance of suffering for our bold allegiance to Christ, and a call to refuse to compromise as we wait for the King and the kingdom to come in all of its glorious fullness. As you think about Revelation, Russell, do you think I’m on the right track of it being a call to courage?

Russell Moore
I do. Especially when you look at the first couple of chapters of Revelation where what John is doing is he’s talking about these failures of courage that come from outside and inside. You have at the beginning talking about what you just mentioned—this partner in tribulation. There’s a Roman Empire that, of course, is armed to the teeth against the church. The church has already seen Jesus crucified by that Roman Empire. They have every reason to believe that they’re next, and he calls them to overcome, or to conquer, depending on how it’s translated. Then, you have the failures of courage that can come from the inside. For instance, tolerating people within the church who are teaching something other than the gospel, something that is destructive. If you think about that, we tend to think that that’s just coming from a lackadaisical attitude, but usually it’s coming from fear. You’re fearful of how you look to people or how people are going to respond to you, so it’s easier just to let those things go. So, he’s speaking to all of that together, and then, of course, going through and showing what’s actually happening behind the veil that’s not apparent to us—where it looks like you’re losing, when, in fact, the losing is victory. I grew up in a really prophecy-chart-oriented kind of church where Revelation was preached a lot, but it was about how certain images were mushroom clouds or black helicopters. So, it was a very scary book, and then a kind of disillusioning book because certain things that we were told were right around the corner ended up not being, and so it would be easy to just leave Revelation alone, until you start realizing what’s there. It’s not simply speaking to something out there in the future, but it’s showing you what’s going on all around you that you can’t see in which you are, as the Bible says elsewhere, more than conquerors in Christ. I think that is just invigorating.

Nancy Guthrie
One of the things that keeps coming up in Revelation is it’s making promises to those who conquer. Or, in some translations, those who overcome. How would you define what that means—to conquer or overcome?

Russell Moore
It doesn’t mean what it at first glance looks like to us because I think when we have a sense of conquering, there’s this sense of visible victory, vindication, I win, you lose—that sort of thing. That’s exactly what Revelation is saying is not what it means to overcome. You have this call to endurance taking place at the beginning in the letters to the churches, and then you move on through and you say, What, according to Jesus through John, does it mean to say, ‘Overcome the beast’? It’s not to defeat him in some sort of visible way. It is to be beheaded. That doesn’t sound like conquering! Or, if you ask, What does it mean to overcome the devil? “They loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). They overcame him, but with what? With the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. That doesn’t look like the wrapped-up storyline kind of victory that we often want. I think that’s one of the major themes going on here—saying to people that there’s a different sort of winning. If you take your life and you look at it only within the grid of your eighty, ninety, or one hundred years (however long your life is), you’re not going to see the actual story, and you’re going to come up with ways of overcoming that actually are surrendering.

08:09 - The Letter to the Church in Pergamum: Affirmation and Correction

Nancy Guthrie
Let’s dive into some of the text of Revelation. I especially want you to look with us at the letters that are in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, and then jump to chapter 13 and talk about the beast, and maybe get to 17 about Babylon. Let’s first look at some of these churches to whom John has been instructed to write. Let’s look at the church in Pergamum. They were affirmed; they were told, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you . . . .” He’s affirming them for the courage we’ve been talking about, the courage in the face of being put to death for faith. But there is a problem of false teaching, and they need courage to stand against false teaching.

Russell Moore
Why does Jesus say to them, “I know where you dwell, where Stan’s throne is”? Why does he say, “I know that you have held fast”? He’s saying to them, I know you. It’s really similar to what you see happening in John 1 and 4 where Jesus says to Nathanael, “I saw you.” He says, Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile (John 1:47). Nathanael has every reason to say, You don’t know me! If you just meet someone and they compliment you, that doesn’t mean much. But then he says, “I saw you when you were under the fig tree” (John 1:48). He knows him, and he’s affirming this. Then, you come to John 4 and he speaks to the woman at the well and says, I know about your situation with your husbands and with the man who’s not your husband. When she goes into the town she says, Come and see someone who told me everything about myself. He knows her. It’s the positive and the negative; he knows it. Jesus is saying to Pergamum, I know the difficulty of your situation, and I know that you haven’t thrown overboard the faith like a lot of people have. But here are these other things that I know. He’s separating the positive from the negative. Actually, if you think about it, it’s a grace.

Nancy Guthrie
It’s a grace to be known by someone you can trust.

Russell Moore
Yes. There’s a sense where I think some people would see Jesus intervening like this as being harsh, when in reality what Jesus is doing here is averting something harsh. He’s saying, I don’t want you to go in this direction that will destroy you ultimately. That’s gracious.

Nancy Guthrie
And I’m holding out this promise to you. Each one of these churches, if they will repent when he’s pointed out something that they need to repent of, there’s a beautiful promise held out. As you go through what’s being promised, they’re all centered in who he is and in his coming and establishing the new creation. They have to look very far forward, most of them, to anticipate the realities of what’s being promised. And that’s really the essence of living by faith. It’s us living by faith, right? We’re not expecting in this life to get everything that Jesus has promised. No, we’re looking toward the future when we will be rewarded if we have the courage to endure, to conquer, to overcome. And we can be sure that what he has promised will become the reality that we will live in forever.

Russell Moore
Yes. That’s what I find so interesting, specifically about Pergamum and what he promises. "To the one who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna”—it’s used in this biblical language of bread from heaven that he talks about in John 6, coming out of Exodus—“and I will give him a white stone with a new name written on the stone”—and here’s the thing that I find interesting—“that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). If you think about what this reward is, you have God who consistently in Scripture is renaming people, and he’s renaming them in ways that usually do not make sense. Abram, you’re now Abraham, father of many nations. He was named that before there were any offspring, and it almost seems kind of cruel to name him that. Or, when Jesus says to Simon, Your name is Peter, rock this does not seem like a rock at all. Now, Jesus is saying this to the church at Pergamum. He says, There is a stone with your new name written on it, which is to say Jesus is going to do for them what he has done in the past, which is he doesn’t give you a name describing who you are. He gives you a name, and then he conforms you to the name. There is so much of your story that you don’t know and you can’t ever know. It’s sort of revealed after the fact to you. I think that’s what Jesus is saying there to the church in Pergamum: I have a storyline for you that I am writing, and you can’t see it yet.

13:54 - The Letter to the Church in Sardis: Wake up, You Are Dead

Nancy Guthrie
Let’s go to the church in Sardis. When I read what Jesus, this one who knows them, has to say to them, he says, “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev. 3:2). We know this was written to an actual church, Sardis. Of course, he was written to seven churches, which seems to indicate he’s writing to all the churches in his day, but I have to tell you, Russell, when I read this I wonder if this might be what he would write to so much of the church in the West today. Does it strike you that way?

Russell Moore
Oh, yes. “You have the reputation of being alive, and yet you are dead.” A member of my church was mentioning yesterday an article that had been written by our friend Ray Ortlund some time ago that talked about a life cycle of churches going from movements to monuments to mausoleums. This was somebody who was really chastened because he was looking at a church that had died in our city, and thinking about all the people who had come to Christ there and who had been called to ministry there and all sorts of other things—this was a really living church at the time. That is tragic, but it’s not as tragic as this sense of churches that often have the illusion of life when they really just have good programming, activity that’s going on, but it’s coming from the flesh, not from the Spirit.

Nancy Guthrie
As you were saying that—activity and programs—I was just thinking, What are the other things that give us the illusion of life when there’s really a spiritual deadness inside? He’s speaking to churches. We think about a church as an entity, but we could also make this individual, couldn’t we? What would be those things we think might be signs of spiritual life, but they’re not dependable for that?

Russell Moore
Worship can be that. There’s a kind of worship that, at least I find myself falling into sometimes, that is really kind of nostalgia. I’m connecting with where God has met me in the past somewhere—which is good and necessary and that’s the reason why you have ebenezers and all the monuments and memorials—but if it’s just that, I think you can fool yourself into thinking that you’re in communion with Christ right now, when in reality you’re just trying to remember something and reconnect with that. I was talking to someone one time who had been in this long-distance relationship with someone where they communicated mostly by text. Then, they were able to see each other again after the pandemic. He was saying, To be honest, it was kind of disappointing. When they were just having these text conversations, he was able to imagine her the way he wanted to imagine her. When he met her, he was actually meeting her, and they actually didn’t have the kind of relationship he was imagining they had. I think sometimes that happens with worship where it’s easy for us to feel as though we’re spiritually alive, because we just know how to sort of program ourselves. For instance, there’s this YouTube video that shows Buckingham Palace the day of, or maybe the day after September 11. The orchestra starts playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” You have all of these visiting or expat Americans who were there sobbing. Every time I see that, I’m going to tear up and be emotionally moved. I know that. When I go to it, there are some ways that we can think we’re worshiping, when in reality what we’re doing is we just know where the emotions are that we can manipulate. There are other times when we actually are worshiping, but we don’t feel like it because it just seems so ordinary means of grace kinds of ways. I think that’s how you can get this feeling of being alive. But even more than that, notice what he says: “You have the reputation for being alive.” It is really easy to construct a reputation. You think about this challenge for Sardis in a social media age where everything is about constructing your reputation in a way that filters out the things you don’t want people to see and shows the things you do want people to see. What can happen is you can then confuse your reputation for yourself.

19:36 - The Letter to the Church in Laodicea: You Are Wretched, Pitiable, Poor, Blind, and Naked

Nancy Guthrie
Let’s go on to Laodicea because I think, once again, this sounds so contemporary to me. Jesus, this one who knows his church, it’s almost like he puts words in their mouth. He says, You say, ‘I am rich. I have prospered.’ And then he says these three words that really got me as I was working on this passage in Revelation. I thought that these are three words that should never come out of the mouth of a Christian. They are saying, in a sense, by their lives, I need nothing. They think they’ve got everything they need. To me it just screams a lack of dependence on God; so much self-sufficiency. I wonder if that’s also a mark of our modern church, that it’s actually possible to carry on and have a lot of programs and activities, and maybe even the church is growing and more people are coming, and yet there’s a real lack of dependence upon God. A self-sufficiency as a church and as people.

Russell Moore
Except that we often are so self-deceived that none of us would actually say that. There are very few people who would say, I don’t need anything. But instead, that’s how we’re living, and it’s sort of the subtext of our lives that we’re kind of keeping hidden from ourselves. I think about this all the time in my own life when my wife and I were working through an adoption process. We started it, we didn’t know how we were going to pay for it, and we had no money at all. There was someone who came to me and said, I’ve been left a little inheritance by my mom. I want to give some of that to you to help with this adoption. I said, Oh! I don’t need that. We’re going to be fine. God’s going to take care of us. This guy said, Yes, he is. And here I am. At one point he says, I don’t want to rebuke you, but I think this is really pride, because it’s similar to when Jesus is washing Peter’s feet and Peter says, ’I don’t want you to wash my feet.’ That seems like humility, but it really is the pride that says, I don’t need that. I’m not a charity case. I can take care of myself. I think that that often shows up and we don’t see it and we don’t know it.

Nancy Guthrie
I think I see it in myself, Russell, when there are seasons where I am prayerless. That’s just a statement: I think I can do this on my own. It shows a lack of dependence on God, a lack of desperation for him to work, so that the things that I do would not be a work of the flesh but would be a work of the Spirit.

Russell Moore
Yes. And usually, I don’t know if this is the case for you, but whenI find myself in those prayerless times, I usually also find myself worrying. If you think about it, that is itself a denial of dependency because what I’m saying is, I’m going to put this over and over again in my mind so that I can fix it ahead of time. That’s just not the way God works. “Give us this day our daily bread.” We have to have this sense of ongoing dependency. That’s what the Abba cry is. That’s what the Spirit does in provoking us to cry, “Abba!” That’s a baby crying out to a father in a sense of complete dependence. When we lose that, then we end up just building everything around ourselves or our idols.

23:46 - Who Is the Beast?

Let’s spend some time in Revelation 13, which begins, “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.” In the previous chapter we read about a dragon, who we understand to be Satan himself. Then, here is this beast. Who is this beast? And I ask that as if it’s a really simple question. Did you notice?

Russell Moore
I think that this beast is humanity made ultimate. In their case, you would have been looking at a Roman Empire where Caesar is worshiping himself and worshiping his power. But that’s not only happening then. It’s something that is happening ongoingly, at every moment from Eden to the New Jerusalem. I think the key to that is in these two images. One is of a beast, an animal, and the other is at the end: "let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666 (Rev. 13:18). This has thrown people because people are trying to figure out the hidden code. I think that what is happening is you have this amplification. Just as we do with God by saying, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”—the sixth day of creation is “Humanity! Humanity! Humanity!” You make it ultimate. What happens when you make it ultimate? You become a beast. You become like an animal driven by your appetites. This connects us, I think, all the way back with Genesis 3 where you have the serpent—the craftiest of all the beasts of the field—and he speaks to Eve, and what is he doing? He wants her to think of herself as a goddess. “You will not surely die. You will be like God, knowing good from evil.” And yet what is actually happening? He is causing her to think of herself as less than she is because she’s actually taking orders from a beast that she has been given dominion over in Genesis 1 and 2. This grandiosity that we have to make ourselves ultimate ends up making us less than human.

Nancy Guthrie
What’s the relationship between human government or the nation-state and the beast?

Russell Moore
You have echo, I think, here of Daniel where you have the nations spoken of as beasts and given these descriptions. I think the role particularly of the nation-state is power. There’s a coercive power. Many political theorists have boiled down the answer to the question What is a state? to this: a state is that which has the power to kill you. Even just the sort of minor authority that comes with if I’m pulled over for speeding, I’m not necessarily worried about being killed. But the authorities that are there are police authorities who ultimately can say, If you don’t obey me, I can kill you. That’s what the cross was. It wasn’t just a way of punishing people and putting people down who were causing a problem for the Empire. They could have done that in private. It is a particularly shameful sort of death that is public along the roadside. What Rome is saying is, Don’t get out of line, or this could be you. That is a power that seems like it is ultimate power. It seems like that to any nation-state or any nexus of power because you think, What are you going to do if what I can do to you is the worst thing that could possibly be done? Jesus comes in and says, That’s not the worst thing that can possibly happen to you. You’ve already lived through it at the cross, and you will live through it here, if you’re faithful to the end. There isn’t that power over you that you think. I think of that little children’s book Where the Wild Things Are. We would read that to our children over and over again until I had it memorized. Max, the little boy in the story, overcomes the Wild Things by looking into their eyes. You have this sense of the fears that come with childhood—everything seems out of your control—and he doesn’t ignore it. When he looks it right into its eyes, it breaks its power and he becomes king of all the Wild Things. I think that’s pointing to something that is true for all of us. The things that scare us, we think, I’m just going to avoid thinking about that. But Jesus comes in and says, No. We’re going to talk about it. I’m going to put this out here because it doesn’t have any power over you if you’re in me. They can’t do anything, ultimately, to you. Take that down a notch and think about it in terms of not an empire wanting to crucify you or behead you, but think about how there are people who are sometimes living in a really awful work situation or an awful family situation. They think, The power that they have over me is to exclude me and to say, ’This person is . . .’ (whatever the label or definition they put to you). Jesus is saying, Yeah, they can do that right now, but they can’t do that ultimately. If what you’re doing is buckling under the fear of that, you’re just taking way too short-term of a view. I think that’s the case with saying to the people of God, Don’t put that number on your forehead. I don’t think it’s a literal tattooing. I grew up in a church (this is in the 1980s) where our pastor told us the supermarket scanners were the mark of the beast. So, you’re terrified of the microchips or whatever. Actually, it’s scarier than that. You could always know, I don’t have the mark of the beast because I don’t have anything that I can see on my hands and forehead. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can see it. You can have the mark of the beast anytime that you buckle in fear to that power—What are they going to do to me?—that you start to actually idolize that kind of power. It’s almost like Stockholm Syndrome where you have this tendency for people to identify with their captors and to start to almost admire their captors. I was seeing something not long ago about cutting, about people who are inflicting pain on themselves. One of the reasons, this person said for that, is people are kind of wanting to go to an experience in their life that at least they know. They know this sort of experience. I think we all tend to do that. There’s a sense in which what you want to do is to find, Okay, who’s the strongest person in the room? That person can protect me from all of the things that I’m afraid of. All I have to do is to be willing to see that power as being real power. The prophets are talking about that all the time. You want to go down to Egypt. You’re afraid of Egypt, and you shouldn’t be afraid of Egypt when you’re leaving in the Exodus because God says, I’m going to be with you. The prophets say, You want to go down to Egypt and make alliances with them because you think that their horsepower and their weaponry can protect you. That’s not where your problem is. I think we all have the tendency, left to ourselves, to do that.

32:42 - What Is the Mark of the Beast?

Nancy Guthrie
That mark of the beast, in a sense, is a mark of identification, belonging, and saying, This is where my primary connectedness is with humanity and humanity’s power. People always ask the question, What is the mark of the beast? but I think it’s fascinating that very few ask the question, What are all of these marks on people’s foreheads in the book of Revelation that are not the mark of the beast, but are actually this mark on a forehead of belonging to Christ? The contrast is there. I think, actually, we’ve been seeing that throughout history in the Bible. There’s been a way of marking oneself as belonging to Christ. I think back to the blood on the doorposts in Egypt, or the priests who have all of the robes, precious stones, a turban, and then across their forehead it’s going to say “Holy to the Lord.” In many ways, this mark of the beast is the contrast to that, isn’t it? It’s a contrast of having your primary identity being belonging to God.

Russell Moore
Yes. It’s something that you can verify. If what you’re trusting in is that kind of power, then that’s something you can always check and you can always know. Revelation 13:4 says, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” One person said to me who was struggling with assurance of salvation all the time, I just wish that when you believed in Christ, that there was some sort of certificate that could come out and it’s sealed and you have it there and you can turn to it. We all would like that rather than walking by faith and understanding that it’s not something that we can quantify and verify. If you think about David, what is his downfall? It’s taking a census. Why is that a problem? It doesn’t seem to be a problem. What he’s trying to do is to say, I can count the people that I have. I can count how powerful I am so I can rest in that. God says, No, no, no. You don’t rest in the numbers. You don’t rest in the armies. You rest in me. You see that with Gideon: No, I want you to have the smaller army to go in. Why? Because you can trust in me. When God puts that number that we see in Revelation, the unique thing about that is it’s not something that we can see, but something that Jesus knows. A lot of the time when we look back at the heroes and heroines of the faith—whether they’re people in church history or people in our own lives that we look back on and say, That person was really faithful and courageous—we can only see that looking backward, because at the time it doesn’t look that way. At the time, nobody sees that but Jesus. Those are just the things that we can see now. There’s much more of that that you don’t see until the perspective of eternity. It just doesn’t fee like it in the moment.

36:26 - Babylon

Nancy Guthrie
In Revelation 17 and 18 we get focused on Babylon, this great city. Of course, throughout the Bible we’ve been tracing what is the story of two cities—the City of God and the City of Man. Throughout the Bible, Babylon’s address must have been 666. Babylon represents this human-centered power and authority, so here is a picture of Babylon. In chapter 17 Babylon is presented to us as a harlot, or prostitute. Revelation is full of contrasts. We were just talking about this contrast of being marked by the beast or marked by Christ. Here’s a contrast between the holy bride that God is preparing for his Son, and this prostitute. This prostitute is out to seduce and to destroy. We find out her power comes from the beast. I think one of the key verses in this whole picture of Babylon comes in Revelation 18:4. A voice from heaven says, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues, for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” Here’s the call to the believers who are receiving this letter: You’re living in Babylon and you’re living in the world, and yet there’s a sense in which we must come out of her. I would call that the challenge of the Christian life. Talk to us a little bit about Babylon and what it’s going to mean for us to come out of her.

Russell Moore
Think about the connections between that beast language and the Babylon language. Like you said, Babylon is woven throughout the Old Testament. Look in the book of Daniel where you have Nebuchadnezzar who wants to deify himself—make a gold statue that people are to bow down to—and ends up like a beast in the field. He’s frothing at the mouth and eating grass as one of the beasts of the field. You have that reality showing up. God is saying that what seems to be so powerful and so permanent can be brought down in an instant. Then you come to this in Revelation and he’s saying, “Fallen is Babylon the great!” (Rev. 18:2) and she’s been brought down in a single hour. The tendency, I think, is to look at what seems to be so permanent, and yet the Bible says it’s passing away. It seems like it will always be there and it will always be the case, but it’s coming down. The very thing that you want to do is to say, I want to identify with this world system and structure because I want to share in their power and their renown

Nancy Guthrie
Wealth. Comfort.

Russell Moore
Yes, all of that. The very thing that you’re wanting then becomes the problem because all you can see is this limitlessness over here, and I’m going to share in that because I’m united to it. And then what happens? You are taken down with it if you don’t come out of it. It reminds me of a study from not too long ago that was talking about fame. Why do you see so many famous people who just come apart, especially if they were famous as children? What the study said is it’s not so much that the fame does something to people as much as it is that people who want to be famous really want to sort of have kindness ahead of time. If I’m famous, then people know me, and that means that people like me. Those are the least-equipped people for fame because what they don’t see is fame actually does the reverse. People want to take you down. They want to build you up, and then they want to take you down. That’s what is so destructive to a lot of these people is the very thing they have spent all of their time trying to achieve is what takes you down. That’s what I think Jesus is saying to these churches is if you start to value all of this stuff and you want to be able to be included in it so you can share it. But you just don’t see where it’s going. It’s going somewhere awful. It’s the same sort of language that he’s using in Revelation 12 about the devil being cast down, and his wrath is all the greater because he knows his time is short. Time is short, so he’s lashing out. Babylon looks to you like it’s never coming down, which is, on the one hand, good news. Babylon is going to fall; you don’t need to worry about it. It can’t do anything to you. But it’s also bad news because if that’s what you’re anchored to, it’s not standing; it’s coming down.

42:24 - Courage and Hope from Revelation

Nancy Guthrie
Are there some things in Revelation that you can personally grab hold of that build your courage and give you hope—hope even for this church that we look around and we see has lots of issues and problems? What gives you hope and confidence and helps you take hold of these promises that are held out to us?

Russell Moore
A couple of things. We started with these letters to the churches. Sometimes I think we read Revelation, and any other book of the Bible, chapter by chapter as though it had been given out in installments. We see each section as standing on its own. I know in popular culture if somebody is referring to the book of Revelations, that they don’t really know the Bible and they’re just trying to pretend like they do. It’s not revelations; it’s a revelation. It’s an apocalypse that is coming. It’s all holding together. The church is a mess in Revelation 1–3. He’s speaking to churches that are in crisis, and they are the ones that he is revealing the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. They are the ones who get this revelation of the bride coming down from heaven. I think sometimes what we want to do is when we look around at a church that is often just in a disastrous situation, sometimes I think that throws us. We start to get cynical. We say, Oh okay, this doesn’t line up with the Bible, which must mean the Bible is false. Jesus never gives us this idealized view of the church at all. The Bible is completely honest about that. It doesn’t do so with a, Oh well! That’s the way it is!. We both know people who will just say, You know, I’m just the kind of person who tells it like it is. And you’ll say, Yeah, you’re mean! Sometimes people say of the church, Well, we’ve always been in trouble. No. Jesus says, Repent, or you’ll have your lampstand removed. But then he comes in and speaks to them about all of these promises and there actually is a way to turn around, by the grace of God. I think that’s really important. The other thing is if you look around over the past couple of years, you’ve got a global pandemic. You’ve got every church in every denomination, and every family just about, divided. Friendships that have been together for twenty-five years are gone. You look at that and there can be a sense of despair about it. And yet you go to Revelation 20, and the church has spent a lot of time and energy about what Revelation 20 means in terms of the future. But put that aside and think about what it means for the present. Jesus is pulling back the veil and showing you who is on the throne, and the people who are on the throne are the beheaded ones. They’re the ones who face the very outcome that a lot of these people when they’re losing their courage would have feared: I don’t want to become like that guy! They’re the ones who are reigning with Christ. That ought to give us a sense of hope when you’re looking at it, but also a sense of, I’ve got to be constantly reprioritizing what I think of as winning. Sometimes what I think of as winning is actually what’s killing me. I think that’s a word of warning to us all, but it’s also a word of hope.

Nancy Guthrie
Thank you so much, Russell, for talking with us.

Russell Moore
Thanks for having me. I’m excited about the book. I think it’s going to help a lot of people.



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Introducing the Blessed Podcast with Nancy Guthrie

In this new podcast, Nancy Guthrie—author, Bible teacher, and podcast host—leads listeners to a deeper understanding of the book of Revelation through conversations with respected Bible scholars, pastors, and other Bible teachers.


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