God’s message to us in the book of Revelation is that in the present we are not always going to win; our lives will not always be characterized by triumph. That is a lesson hard to accept — in fact, impossible — except that it is balanced on the opposite side with this hope: eventually we will win because Christ reigns. These poles …. cannot be brought together because of the intervening reality of opposition from the powers of evil. …
Many twenty-first century Christians find these convictions almost impossible to accept. Instead they have espouse a theology of “victory, healing, luxury, and blessedness” that The Revelation does not teach. God does not promise us a rose garden — at least not one without legions of thorns. And there are many roses in life, they fade, too — with the promise that they will come again next season. …
The Revelation teaches that God always gives victory eventually, but that the meanwhile entails suffering.
— Marva Dawn, Joy in Our Weakness
I was reading John Wesley’s journals today and came across a reference to him preaching from Revelation 20:12 to a crowded house. Not having memorized Revelation, I looked up the verse:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. (NIV)
The journal entry was from 1789, a couple years before Wesley’s death. And here he was preaching still on the question of eternity. It was the guiding star of his preaching from the beginning. His introduction to his first collection of published sermons included one of my favorite bits of his writing:
To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing — the way to heaven; how to land on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!
I often find myself wondering what it would be like to live with Wesley’s attention to eternity, to see every moment of this life in light of eternal life.
William J. Abraham on the injuries caused by modern loss of a doctrine of special revelation:
In fact, without the context of a whole network of claims about special revelation, the recourse to Scripture collapses. The modern loss of a working concept of divine revelation makes this patently manifest, for in those theological circles which can make no sense of any appeal to special divine revelation, Scripture simply becomes a body of ancient texts whose moral relevance has long been abandoned.
Source: Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology