When I was in elementary school, my favorite movie was called The NeverEnding Story. The movie begins when a young boy discovers a very ancient book and begins to read an epic tale about a wondrous fantasy land full of magic medallions, prophetic oracles, a flying creature called a “luckdragon” and a very brave, young warrior named Atreyu. On the surface, such a tale seems to have nothing to do with the modern world; but there is a story within the story. The movie flashes back and forth between the boy’s world and the fantasy land, switching scenes over and over again until, at the very end, the audience is surprised to learn that the two stories have become one. The worlds have merged and now it is up to the boy to finish what he had started reading in his own life.
Like every other book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation is organized in chapters and verses. This might mistakenly give you the impression that it moves through a sequence of events in chronological time. While the Gospel of Matthew, for example, begins with Jesus’ birth and continues to his resurrection, Revelation is set up more like The NeverEnding Story. There are really two different narratives taking place at the same time in two very different worlds, heaven above and earth below. Like a fantasy movie, this otherworldly quality of Revelation might give you the impression that the events have nothing to do with your life. But the point is that these two worlds are eventually going to become one, when heaven comes down to earth as the New Jerusalem (Rev 21). When you read Revelation, you have the opportunity to make the story your own. Allow me to give you an example:
In Chapter 12, we read this fantastic account of a supernatural woman, who is clothed in the sun and has the moon under her feet, and is about to give birth to a child who will become the ruler over all the nations on earth. But there is also a horrible dragon, as red as fire, with a tail so great it knocked a third of the stars of heaven upon the earth. This monster is crouching before the woman, so that he can immediately devour the child as he is born. Just in the nick of time, the child is snatched away and taken to God in the heavenly throne room! Amazing, provocative images; but what does it mean? What does it have to do with your life?
Most likely, this is an allusion to the birth of Jesus who, shortly after he was born, fled to Egypt in order to escape King Herod and his fanatical killing of all the children in Bethlehem (Mt 2:16). Through divine intervention, the one born king managed to escape. Despite the wicked intent and great destruction that ensued, evil did not win the day.
I know Revelation can be confusing, but we can draw insights for our lives, just as we identify with the life of Jesus. First we always have hope for the future. There might be chaos and mayhem on earth; it might seem like a terrible dragon is lying in wait to eat us all. Yet God will find away to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat! And here’s the key: this belief might seem otherworldly and futuristic, but actually can dramatically impact the way we live our lives right now. We can make this story our own.
There is a man at New Dublin who received a diagnosis of a vicious cancer with a very low survival rate. The morning after he was told this news, a doctor came in to visit. I was beside the bed when he asked, point blank, “Will I survive this?”
“Yes,” he replied, “But you will have to fight.”
Today, this man is still fighting and, truthfully, we do not know how his story will end. But we believe in the God who takes on dragons with laboring women, who was born as a defenseless infant, who fights the powers of evil and cancer and death right alongside of us. Yes, they say that death and taxes are always constant. We cling to our place in the improbable story of God’s never-ending love.