The Verse from Acts that Inspired Preaching Revelation

by Andy Shurson July 18, 2023

“This will really bring the crazies out…” That is my inner dialogue whenever I considered preaching the book of Revelation. Many pastors, including myself, look at the book of Revelation and think: I have not been doing this pastor thing long enough to preach that book. Preaching the book of Revelation brings all sorts of interesting questions and theories out of the hearers. Some come with strong views of what the book references, some come with anxiety over how crazy the images are, and others have their minds drawn to charts and ideas of exactly what the future holds (not to mention you have to address the colloquial title of “revelations”). For the preacher, Revelation produces anxiety over how to deal with all the different approaches and experiences that a congregation has.

I felt all of this before. A few years ago, I had done the seven letters from Revelation 2 and 3. But moving beyond it seemed like too much to handle. I did not want to deal with the questions about the locusts corresponding to military helicopters. I did not want to explain views on the millennium. I just want to preach God’s Word expositionally without facing the dystopian pictures that fill the minds of whoever might walk in the doors on a given Sunday.

Now, months into the preaching Revelation, and getting to the closing stretch, I’m glad I have labored in this bizarre treasure in God’s Word. My view of the book changed last July. And it was one verse from the book of Acts that changed everything! In Acts 20, Paul meets with the Ephesian elders for what is probably the last time. Paul knew these men from three years of laboring together. He warned and exhorted them. And in this beautiful story of Acts 20, Paul says “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).”

Paul declared the whole counsel of God in three years. As I look at the 66 books, the 1,189 chapters of the Bible, I do not know how I can come close to that type of declaration in my preaching ministry. I started to think about the ways it could be done within my conviction of expositional preaching. This brought me to Revelation. Revelation was a way to do it. You see Revelation is full of the whole counsel of God.

When you read Revelation, You are drawn to every corner of God’s Word. Revelation on the conservative side has 500 Old Testament citations. Not only that but scholars believe John cites somewhere between 17 to 22 books of the Bible. This certainly adds to the difficulty and to the richness. Expositional preaching often sends you down rabbit holes trying to understand all the cross-references. Revelation as the final book written makes the challenge even greater. John has access to more of the Scriptures than any other author and boy does he use it.

Understanding the vision of God in chapter 1 depends on the description of the Lord Almighty in Daniel 10. The four horsemen in chapter 4 are running from Zechariah bringing God’s people restoration, not torment. The throne room visions throughout the book use language from Exodus, Isaiah, and Daniel. The dragon, woman, and child reflect the enmity between woman and serpent from Genesis 3. The judgment of Babylon amplifies the call of Jeremiah to be faithful to the Lord under evil kings and kingdoms. The final chapters’ New Heaven and New Earth pull together the visions of ultimate restoration in God’s land from the Isaiah and Ezekiel paired with Eden to give readers a timeless hope.

John richly weaves stories and prophecies from the whole counsel of God together into a beautiful tapestry of God’s glory and comfort for his church. John’s use of the Scriptures and his encouragement to hold to the Scriptures has encouraged me as a preacher and our young congregation. Revelation is a marvelous writing in its telling of God’s story and glory. We saw our church grow in numbers and in commitment as we walked through the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God that John recorded for us. And at the end of preaching Revelation, I can say I did not shirk from preaching the conclusion of the counsel of God.

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