Agents of the Apocalypse (6/6)
Fri, 6 Jun 2014
Before you think you have opened the wrong email, let me tell you that this is the longest Shadow Mountain email I have ever sent. I want you to read every word so that you will understand what is about to happen at Shadow Mountain over the next several weeks:
I have just finished a new book which we have called, Agents of the Apocalypse. This book came about because so many people urged me to write another book on Revelation. I can well understand why. We live in an increasingly chaotic and godless world, and many Christians believe they can see the dark shadows of the apocalypse looming on the horizon. In the last century, we saw brutal persecution of Jews and faithful Christians in nations such as Germany, Russia, and China. And today, persecution and execution of God's people continues in many middle-eastern, African, and Asian nations. Even in America, which has long upheld Christian principles, repression of Christian expression and practice has begun. And if history is any guide, it is sure to increase.
I encounter Christians every day who are anxious about the future, not only because of this increase in anti-Christian sentiment, but also because of the decline of economic and social stability. In times like these, Revelation becomes one of the key books of the Bible, because, perhaps above all others, it encourages Christians to keep hope alive. It recognizes the hard facts of worldwide disintegration and persecution, yet it assures God's people of certain victory.
Because of this critical importance of Revelation, I recognize the continuing need for fresh books to keep its message alive. But that need for fresh books is the big challenge. It is hardly a fresh subject for authors to write about. No doubt thousands of books have been written on Revelation, and I have contributed several to that number myself. So when I was urged to write again on the subject, the burning question in my mind was, how can I write a book that will break out of the pack and present this important message in a new and captivating way?
The answer that found its way into my mind was to use fiction. But at first, I could hardly accept the idea. I wanted to present the biblical truths of Revelation, not a speculative fantasy that might lead readers to wonder about its reality. Yet, the value of fiction as a vehicle for truth had been impressed on me by the man who is widely recognized as the most influential writer on Christianity in our time, C. S. Lewis.
Lewis was a young atheist when he first read Phantastes, a novel by the nineteenth-century Scottish Christian author, George MacDonald. Lewis reported that a new quality, "a bright shadow," leapt off its pages and "baptized his imagination." Though the book did not convert Lewis, it was the starting point in his journey to faith. Years later, fiction again strongly influenced Lewis by playing an integral role in his conversion. His close friend, Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien, used the ancient myths of dying and reborn gods to convince Lewis that these stories were pictures prefiguring the truth of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection as presented in the Gospels.
To those who suspect the power of fiction to present truth, Lewis wrote this: "Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning." He was telling us that the value of fiction is that it aligns reason with imagination and mind with emotion. Fiction, by putting truth in vivid imaginative form, drives it not only into the mind, but also into the heart.
So I asked myself, "Could fiction be used to drive the message of Revelation into the human heart?" The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that it could. Whereas Revelation presents an overview of the coming future, it provides little detail and no personal stories. That is not its purpose. Yet the cataclysmic and triumphant events it portrays affect real people in real situations. The players Revelation identifies in the end times drama are also real people—either people gone bad and wreaking destruction, such as the Antichrist and the False Prophet, or people who stand against these demonic men, such as the martyrs and the two witnesses.
So I decided that painting fictional pictures of these players in the apocalyptic drama would bring the reality of Revelation alive for readers. They could see not only the overarching truth of Scripture, but also experience it vicariously. They could see the actions of these characters up close and personal as they play out this cosmic drama in surroundings and circumstances familiar to us all.
With that decision made, I decided that the best way to proceed was to devote one chapter each to the ten most prominent players in Revelation— those who are the primary agents of the Apocalypse. After I did the research on the ten key players or groups of players, I asked my friend Tom Williams if he would write the fictional stories that illustrated the biblical truth. He agreed to do it, and so we have ended up with this very unusual book.
I want to emphasize that in the writing of these fictional accounts, nothing presented in the Bible has been altered. The fictional elements are constructed firmly on the factual truths of Revelation. The stories merely fill in the gaps that Revelation does not address. They present possibilities that dramatize how the biblical events could play out. I recognize fully that these fictional scenes can hardly be accurate in their fill-in-the-gap details. But they give readers one possibility among many in order to drive the truths of the end times not only into the mind, but also into the heart by showing them as real-life realities.
Each chapter in this book is divided into two sections: The first is the fictional story, which is followed by the second, "The Scripture Behind the Story." I hope the fiction section whets readers' appetites to know the biblical truth behind the story. This second section satisfies that need. It enables readers to separate the facts from the fiction and understand fully the biblical foundation that undergirds the story. The fiction drives the truth into our hearts, and the “Scripture Behind the Story” drives it into our minds.
I am so excited about this project that I wanted to share some of it with you before I take my August break. So, from this Sunday until the first Sunday in August, we will take a pause from the book of Mark, and each weekend I will be teaching on one of the Agents of the Apocalypse. I will tell some of the story as the introduction and then teach the Scripture that stands behind it. Here is the schedule:
June 7/8 - The Exile (Revelation 1)
June 21/22 - The Martyrs (Revelation 6)
July 12/13 - The 144,000 (Revelation 7 & 14)
July 19/20 - The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11)
July 26/27 - The Dragon (Revelation 12)
August 2/3 - The Victor (Revelation 19)
It is my heartfelt prayer that the uniqueness of this series will impress the truth of Revelation into both your mind and your heart and strengthen your resolve to stand firm for Christ in the face of the worst of circumstances. I pray that this short series will help you to realize the overarching truth of Revelation, which is that the Christian's victory in Christ is an absolute certainty.
Now here are some other important matters I need to share with you as you prepare for the weekend at Shadow Mountain:
This weekend, we will also celebrate the Lord’s Supper on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Please prepare your hearts for Communion.
Sunday night is the Steven Curtis Chapman concert. This is a ticketed event, and a few tickets are still available online at shadowmountain.org or in the Lobby after services. Please remember that the concert starts at 7 PM and not at 6 PM!
Would you help us restock the Shadow Mountain Food Pantry? Food bags were made available during services last weekend. If you picked up a bag, please return it to the Patio this weekend, if possible. Additional bags will be available, if needed. We are especially in need of crackers, cereal, tuna, peanut butter, jelly, canned fruit, macaroni and cheese, rice and beans. Your donations are a great help to those who are struggling, and they will keep us stocked until the holidays. Bags may also be dropped off in the Family Ministries building during the week.
Love from Your Pastor,