Matt Chandler on recovering Revelation's “hijacked” message of hope “for such a time as this”

Matt Chandler, senior pastor of The Village Church, believes that during the last 150 years, the book of Revelation has been “captured”, read only as a prophecy for End Times events and shaped by modern circumstances such as conflicts and natural phenomena.

“This is not going to make me many friends,” the 49-year-old pastor told The Christian Post. “But [Revelation] was actually hijacked in the '70s, especially, and it became this really scary, horrible thing. It was always a bit confusing because it's apocalyptic.”

While the dispensationalist influence of John Nelson Darby changed the narrative of Revelation several decades ago, according to Chandler, the book must be understood within its original context to understand its power.

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Although written as a message to the seven churches in Asia Minor, around AD 96 to help them endure their struggles with the Roman Empire and local imperial sects, he claimed that Revelation offers a timeless encouragement for Christians to live boldly in faith.

“For 2,000 years, [Revelation] put steel in the spines of Christians, empowered and encouraged them to live bravely, as victors,” he said. “I take that sentence directly from the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, where Jesus says: 'To the conqueror.' To each of the churches, He has this promise that if you win, this is the reward.'”

Reading through Revelation, Chandler said he was struck by the parallels between the struggles of the early Church and the modern day, especially regarding the spiritual and emotional challenges he witnessed in his congregation post-COVID-19.

“Man, I just had fresh eyes for that book,” he said. “I was like, this is a book that speaks so perfectly to this moment in history. … After COVID, it seemed like, both spiritually and emotionally, people were stuck on their couches. I just watched the congregation not go back to those rhythms , which made me love to pastor this church.”

So, Chandler did what he does best: he preached a sermon series on Revelation and its little-known message of hope and encouragement, and the response was overwhelming.

“I don't think I've ever preached anything that resonated like this,” he said. “You could feel it at The Village. But then besides that, [the sermons were] has been downloaded like a million times. It just exploded. As I considered how I could help wider evangelicals at this moment, I thought, 'Let me write some of this down'.”

In his new book The Overcomers: God's Vision for You to Thrive in an Age of Anxiety and IndigoChandler uses Revelation to impress upon Christians that no matter how scary the world seems, they are “uniquely wired, uniquely gifted, and uniquely placed for this moment for all of God's purposes.”

“Not just the blue-check-celebrity-charismatic type, but stay-at-home moms, the welder, the businessman, the dentist,” he said. “Everyday Christians have an important role to play at this moment.”

“I have this burning belief that as disorienting as these times are, they are times when God put us here. No one is coming to save us. … CS Lewis doesn't come, GK Chesterton doesn't come to assess the political climate. And God doesn't panic about it; God is really quite excited. He thinks He has the right team on the field.

During all the hand-wringing and acquiescence or silence at this moment in history, I just thought, 'Wait, no. This is perfect for the Gospel.' People are so anxious, what an opportunity to introduce them to One who can take their anxiety.”

In his book, Chandler elaborates on three essential principles: recognizing the inherent dignity of each individual as an image bearer of God, embracing one's primary identity as a child of God, and understanding one's unique gifts and calling.

“I think these are the three things that begin to pull us out of anxiety, the navel-gazing kind of moral enhancement … moralistic deism,” he said. “That grid of Christianity creates more anxiety and fear and makes us shrink more than we should. We must return to understanding the primary identity, my enemies are not mankind, and God has a meaningful and uniquely mined ministry given to me.”

Chandler's advocacy for mission-oriented, committed faith aligns with his experience in ministry and church planting. As the Executive Chairman of the Acts 29 Network, a large church-planting community that trains and equips church planters across the globe, he encourages new church communities to enter the fray “with the biblical compassion and empathy of the Kingdom.”

Simple faithfulness, the priest said, is the key to influencing society positively. He recounted examples of The Village Church's ministry, including a dentist and his wife providing temporary shelter for a woman's children while she worked to overcome addiction, a restaurant owner holding monthly church services, and church members holding neighborhood prayer walks to bless homes and open them. doors to spiritual conversations:

“All of a sudden, we're doing real ministry on our street,” Chandler said. “These are not elders and deacons and group leaders. These are just families going around their neighborhood doing the work of the Kingdom.”

In an era defined by outrage and anxiety, Chandler said he hopes his book will inspire everyday Christians to realize their pivotal role right where they are. Simple faithfulness, he reiterated, can create a ripple effect that transforms communities.

“If you could extrapolate that through evangelism … stay-at-home moms, welders, business people and entrepreneurs engaging with the world around them … with the love of Christ … I think we could see a real renewal and an outpouring of the Spirit in our. day,” Chandler said.

“I am writing the book trying to blow wind into the sails of everyday, average people … the Church has grown throughout the world, thanks to the everyday, simple fidelity of normal men and women. That is what I hope will come from this book.”

The Victors is now available.


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