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

Matt Chandler speaks at Together 2018 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.
Matt Chandler speaks at Together 2018 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. | ICON MEDIA GROUP

Matt Chandler, the lead pastor of The Village Church, believes that over the last 150 years, the book of Revelation has been “hijacked,” read solely as a prophecy for End Times events and shaped by modern circumstances like conflicts and natural phenomena. 

“This isn't going to make me a lot of friends,” the 49-year-old pastor told The Christian Post. “But [Revelation] actually got hijacked in the '70s, in particular, and it became this really scary, terrifying thing. It's always been a bit confusing because it's apocalyptic.”

While John Nelson Darby’s dispensationalist influence shifted 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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Though written around A.D. 96 as a message to the seven churches in Asia Minor to help them withstand their struggles with the Roman Empire and local imperial cults, he contended that Revelation offers 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 boldly as overcomers,” he said. “I'm taking that phrase straight from the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, where Jesus says, ‘To he who overcomes.’ To each one of the churches, He has this promise that if you'll overcome, here's the reward.’”

While reading through Revelation, Chandler said he was struck by the parallels between the struggles of the early Church and the modern day, particularly 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 into this moment of history. … After COVID, it seemed like, both spiritually and emotionally, people were stuck on their couches. I was just watching the congregation not get back to those rhythms that made me love pastoring this church.”

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

“I don't think I've ever preached anything that resonated quite like that,” he said. “You could feel it at The Village. But then, on top of that, [the sermons were] getting downloaded like a million times. It just blew up. As I considered how I might help broader Evangelicals in this moment, I thought, ‘Let me write some of this out.’”

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

“Not just the blue-checks-celebrity-charismatic type, but stay-at-home moms, the welder, the businessman, the dentist,” he said. “Everyday Christians have a significant role to play in this moment."

“I’ve got this burning belief that however disorienting these times are, they’re times God’s placed us here. Nobody’s coming to bail us out. … C.S. Lewis isn’t coming, G.K. Chesterton isn’t coming to assess the political climate. And God's not panicked about that; God's actually pretty excited. He thinks He's got the right team on the field.

For all the hand-wringing and acquiescing or remaining silent in this moment of history, I just thought, 'Wait, no. This is perfect for the Gospel.' People are so anxious; what an opportunity to introduce them to the One that can take their anxiety."

In his book, Chandler elaborates on three essential principles: recognizing every individual’s inherent dignity 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 start to pull us out of anxiety, the navel-gazing kind of moral betterment … moralistic deism,” he said. “That grid of Christianity creates more anxiety and fear and makes us shrink back more than we should. We've got to get back to understanding primary identity, my enemies are not humankind, and God has a significant and uniquely-mined ministry given to me.”

Chandler’s advocacy for a mission-oriented, engaged 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 urges new church communities to enter the fray “with the biblical compassion and empathy of the Kingdom.”

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

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

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

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

“I'm writing the book trying to blow wind into the sails of everyday, average people … the Church has grown across the world, thanks to the everyday, simple faithfulness of normal men and women. That’s what I'm hoping comes from this book.”

The Overcomers is now available.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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