When you talk about the Book of Revelation, there are typically a lot of automatic assumptions and feelings associated with the book. I would say Revelation is one of the most controversial books in the New Testament, considering there are many denominations, doctrines, theories, statements of faith, and interpretations resulting from this one book, ranging from literal and being the most imperative text, to being nothing more than a dream from a castaway.
Regardless of how this book makes you feel, there is a specific point I wanted to make that I found at the end, right before the epilogue. It is verses eight through eleven of chapter twenty-two. Throughout the entire book, John is writing what he saw in a vision. This particular passage is his conclusion. He states that he is the one who saw and heard these things he had just described and that when he witnessed everything, he fell down and worshiped the angel who had been showing these things to him.
The angel quickly states that he is nothing more than a fellow servant and that he should be worshiping God. But what he tells John next, after having shown John everything in Revelation, is this:
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. 11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Revelation 22:10-11 NKJ)
Why do I find this so interesting?
I’m glad you asked.
There are a lot of people who see the Book of Revelation as a warning or a call to action. Some see it as a threat or a prompt to change our ways or to be good or else we will be cast into the bottomless pit. Yet this angels says to John, who is a leader of the first century church, to let people be who they are. He specifically told him to let the unjust be unjust and the filthy to be filthy.
The modern church clings to, and whole-heartedly pursues, the concept that we are to infiltrate the world, indoctrinating everyone to rid all God’s creatures of everything that is filthy and wicked. There are examples in history were men decided the world needed to be purged of heathenistic people, and whenever the Church happened to be in a position of influence, those who believed differently were persecuted, if not slain.
Yet, here, an angel told a leader of the Church to let people be exactly who they are. Keep in mind that the reigning religious culture of the time was not “Christian,” but rather Hebrew. The Hebrew people held close the Law and the Prophets, the pages of which are filled with stories of God leading the Israelites into the Promise Land, commanding them to completely destroy certain groups of people simply because they did not believe. And yet this angel was telling a leader of the Church to let people be who they are.
This tells me that the entire point of this vision was not to instill fear leading to repentance. In fact, this leads me to question if Christians, as a whole, really understand our purpose in interacting with the world. From what I’ve read, our objective is not to indoctrinate or convert, but to love.
Jesus loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to remain there. And as His ambassadors to this world, we have the same charge; to love people just as they are, but to love them too much to allow them to remain there. Not that it is our responsibility to make people change, or to mold them into what we see fit, but that we allow God to work through us to help bring them where He is leading.
Our objective is to love people. Simply love. Not to change people. We are to let people be who they are and pray His influence makes a difference, not our own influence. I think the Church has put far too much importance on human influence and not enough on His influence as our leader. I’m fairly certain we were all heathen before He changed our lives. I’m also fairly certain that none of our lives were changed in that regard due to human influence.