Jesus is Coming!

Posted: May 26, 2016 in Revelation, Route 66, Uncategorized

Route 66: Revelation, “Jesus is Coming!”

Every journey eventually reaches its destination, and we’ve come to ours in our Route 66 overview of the entire Bible.  The book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament – the final book of the overall Bible – and it speaks of the final days of the created universe as we know it.  The story does go on.  After all, God is eternal, and so His work and plan are eternal – but the plan He has for our current world does eventually come to an end, and He transforms this fallen world into the world that will go into eternity with Him.

How does He do it?  Through Jesus Christ.  As we mentioned at the very beginning of our Route 66 series, the entire Bible is about how God rights every wrong through Jesus Christ – and the consummation of all of that is seen in the book of Revelation.  In Genesis the world was created – in Genesis humanity sinned & creation fell with it.  In Revelation humanity is judged, and creation is remade – and the Lord Jesus is the key to it all.  The book of Revelation is a book about Jesus – it is, in fact, a revelation OF Jesus.  It is about His glory, His Lordship, His wrath, and His return and beyond.  When we read the book of Revelation, we are to see Jesus.  It’s not about the sensationalism; it’s about our Savior.

BACKGROUND:
The first thing we need to be reminded of is the title.  It is not “RevelationS” – it is a single revelaTION.  And although the book is often traditionally referred to as the “Revelation of John,” the book actually provides its own title in 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”  It is often referred to as “the apocalypse,” which is simply the transliteration for the actual Greek word “Ἀποκάλυψις,” and means “unveiling.”  Like a curtain pulled back to reveal what was hidden behind it, so is the curtain of this dimension pulled back for John to be able to witness the current and future glory of his Lord Jesus.

Most scholars agree that it was indeed John the apostle who wrote the book.  The book itself claims to have been written by John (1:1, 1:9, 22:8) – the question is whether or not this is actually the apostle, or someone different by the same name.  It’s true that there are many differences between Revelation and the other writings of John.  None of other John’s books positively identify him at all.  They are all vastly different genres.  Even the writing style of Greek seems to be different in many ways. The John of Revelation gives his name, but never positively identifies himself as the apostle.  Yet, all of that needs to be weighed in light of the other evidence.  The Church Fathers overwhelmingly testify that this is the apostle John.  The different genre is obvious, but unavoidable simply due to what was given.  Earlier, John wrote a gospel & some epistles – here, he’s writing apocalyptic prophecy based on visions he was given from the Lord Jesus.  As to Greek writing style, some of that can change over time – and especially given the subject matter, it’s easy to understand.  We have a tough enough time putting some of these things into English – imagine having a mind that primarily thought in Aramaic & writing it down in Greek! 

It’s best to conclude that the apostle John is the author, and it makes the most sense that he is.  After all, the author did not feel a need to elaborate on his background or qualifications – just naming himself as “John” was enough.  That the Lord Jesus would visibly appear to the last of the remaining apostles makes sense as Jesus gives information about the end times.

As to where John wrote from, he actually names that for the reader.  John had been sent to the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel (the word of God & testimony of Jesus Christ – 2:10), and it was while he was there that he received these visions.  Patmos is a tiny, rocky island in the Aegean Sea, belonging to modern-day Greece, but close to the coast of modern-day Turkey.  It was basically a prison – used to exile people from the Roman Empire for various crimes or whatever was the whim of the Roman official at the time.  That John lived long enough to be sent into exile makes him unique among the apostles.  Although the Bible doesn’t tell us the fate of each of the 12 men hand-picked by Jesus, historical tradition states that each of them suffered a martyr’s death – with the exception of John.  John was apparently tortured, but he survived – and thus, he spent much time in prison/exile.  Supposedly the precise cave where John received his vision was discovered, and a church was built in its place [PIC].  As with all Biblical sites, the location matters less than the event that took place – we need to be careful that historical sites (true or false) don’t become items of idolatry.

The date of the writing of Revelation is about as debated as anything else dealing with the book, and the date does indeed play a key role in how the book is to be read and interpreted.  A late date (beyond 100AD) calls apostolic authorship into question, and thus the book in general.  A date that is too early (65-69AD) means that much of the prophecy that is written could have found its fulfillment in the historical destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD – which is the basis of Preterism (the belief that all Biblical prophecy is already fulfilled…including that of Jesus’ return).  The best probability for the date of writing?  Around 95AD.  By this point, John would have completed his other works, had time to be exiled from Ephesus to Patmos, and yet still be alive to write the book of Revelation.  The earlier dates can be ruled out not only by the fact that Jesus still has not yet returned physically to earth, but also by the testimony of the early church fathers.  The people who received 1st and 2nd hand accounts of John knew that it had not been written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Add to that the existence of the 7 well-known churches in Ch 2-3, and we have evidence of the growth of the church beyond the ministry of Paul and others.  Thus internal and external evidence points to a late (but not too-late) date of circa-95AD.

ISSUES
It is no exaggeration to say that Revelation is likely the most debated book in the entire New Testament, if not the entire Bible.  The imagery of the book is amazing & mysterious, and it can be easy to either (1) oversimplify everything, writing it off as not meaning what it says, or (2) overcomplicate everything, looking for hidden truths in even the most minor of details.  The key to reading and understanding Revelation is to read it for what it is: apocalyptic literature proclaiming the truth about Jesus’ return. 

Apocalyptic literature can be thought as its own genre in ancient literature, known for using all kinds of symbolism to describe the indescribable – many times in reference to the end of the world.  Some examples of this has already been seen in the Bible in parts of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.  Other examples are non-Biblical fiction, purported to be authored by Biblical figures, but plainly false (the Apocalypse of Adam, for example).

This genre of literature is known for its sensationalistic symbolism – but what we need to remember is that just because something is symbolic does not mean it is not true.  Symbols (by definition) stand in the place of something else.  John might use symbols in describing what he saw in his vision, but John did see something…the symbol is just the best way to describe it.

The bottom line is not to let the symbols throw you.  Take it for what it is, but don’t write them off completely.  When something is reasonably literal, receive it as literal.  When it’s not, look for the most likely reference. 

GENERAL OUTLINE
For as complex a book as Revelation is, its broad outline is simple enough.  Although there are numerous ways to break up the book, Jesus gives the best (and most basic) outline Himself: Revelation 1:19, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."  That’s the book in a nutshell.

  • The things seen (1).  For John, this is the present moment – the very instant he witnesses the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The things which are (2-3).  Although most of the book will deal with things of the future, Jesus has specific instructions for the church of the then-present day.  Although Jesus never picks up a pen, He personally dictates 7 letters to the 7 churches of Asia, telling the Christians over and over again, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
  • The things which will take place (4-22).  Prophecies of the future take up the majority of the rest of the book.  John will first see the throne room of heaven, and then bear witness to the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets, and the 7 bowl judgments – all of them leading up to the singular moment of Jesus’ return.  From there, John sees a preview of the Millennial Kingdom & the eternal state.

It all begins with John’s eyes fixed upon Jesus, and ends with a plea for all Christians everywhere to keep looking for Jesus.  Our Lord is coming soon, and His arrival will be glorious!

The things seen
Introduction (1:1-8)
A book such as Revelation needs a bit of an introduction before it gets going, and although it’s brief, it gives us everything we need to know.  Right from the start, the reader learns the purpose of the book: Revelation 1:1, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. …"  This book was specifically given so that we might know the future.  God wanted us (and all of His servants) to know about Jesus’ return, so that we might have hope in His return, His power, and His victory.  Most of these things have not happened yet, but when they happen, it will happen shortly/quickly. Of that we can be sure!

Not only is there a stated purpose to the book, but there is also a stated blessing: Revelation 1:3, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near." To read Revelation, and (more importantly) to abide in the truths of Revelation, keeping the commandments of our God – that person is blessed!  Many people want to read Revelation, simply because of all of the action & destruction…that’s not where the blessing is.  The blessing is on knowing AND applying the truth of Revelation to our lives.  When we live every day with the anticipation of our Lord’s return – when we preach the gospel with the urgency of knowing that everyone will give an account to God on the day of judgment – when we stand firm for the truth of the gospel, no matter what the world throws at us – all of that (and more) is to keep the things of Revelation.  That is the Christian who knows the true blessing of God!  (Has your spiritual life become stale as of late?  Get proactive with keeping the commands of Jesus, and watch what happens.)

From there, John starts almost as if he would begin an epistle, greeting his readers with grace & peace, giving a doxology to the Lord Jesus, proclaiming His return & judgment & more.  Just to read the introduction is to read the gospel.  Jesus is resurrected (the firstborn from the dead) & has washed us from sin (1:5) – He has given us an eternal inheritance with God (1:6) – He is coming back (1:7) – He is the eternal God (1:8).  If this was all the theology we knew of Jesus, it would be plenty!

Vision of Jesus (1:9-20)
John now gives the background for the book, writing how he had been put on the Isle of Patmos for the sake of the gospel, when he heard a voice & a trumpet, and saw a vision of Jesus.  At that point for the first time since he witnessed Jesus transfigured on the mountain, John saw the unveiled glory of the Lord Christ.  He saw Jesus clothed in a garment reaching down to the feet, but saw that His feet were like brass, His head and hair were a glorious white, and His eyes were like fire.  He saw Jesus…fully glorified!  Jesus never was as weak and effeminate as so many paintings and movies depict Him to be – but there was not even a single trace of weakness here.  So many churches today continue to show Jesus at His weakest: only as a Babe in a manger, or dead upon a cross.  In reality, Jesus is a powerful, glorious King.  Jesus is today as John saw Him then: amazing!

John could not even stand in His presence, and Jesus had to command him not to be afraid (1:17), and then told John to write these things in a book. (The things he saw, the things that are, and the things that will be.)  Jesus explained a bit of the imagery that surrounded Him, specifically in reference to the 7 churches of Asia, and then went on to dictate His letters.

The things which are
Why these particular seven churches were called out by Jesus, no one can say for certain.  What is known is that these particular cities are given in order of a common postal route at the time (geographic order).  It’s quite possible that Jesus sent letters to the churches that would be able to practically receive them in the soonest possible time.  That said, ALL of the letters are truly intended for ALL of the church.  These were specific letters to specific congregations, but the truths apply to every Christian throughout history.  Thus the common ending refrain, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Some have tried to match certain churches with certain eras in history, but it always ends up being subjective, changing over time.  Ultimately, there are aspects of each of these 7 letters that are true during every era in history.  There will always be some church struggling with idolatry – some church struggling with deadness – some church struggling with persecution, etc.  Thus the key when reading the letters is to listen.  What is the Spirit saying to you?

Letter to Ephesus (2:1-7)
Each of the letters begins with an address to “the angel of the church of ____,” with Ephesus being no different.  Most likely, the “angel” is really the pastor of the congregation.  “Angel” can technically be translated “messenger,” and that’s probably the idea here.  The pastor is spiritually responsible for the health and welfare of his congregation, so that’s where Jesus directs His instruction.

Ephesus had many things going for it, in addition to a long history provided for us in the Scriptures.  We see its founding in Acts & we read Paul’s instruction to it in his epistles.  Apparently, they did well in many things, laboring hard to both guard the true doctrine of the gospel & live by its precepts.  What they lost along the way was love (2:4).  Jesus called them back to their love for God, warning them that without it, they had nothing. Without a true loving relationship with Jesus, it doesn’t matter how much Scripture we have memorized about Him.  Salvation is found in a relationship with Christ; not in a religion about Him.

Letter to Smyrna (2:8-11)
Smyrna also did many things well.  In fact, Jesus didn’t have a single word of chastisement for them.  They had been faithful to Christ, even in the midst of persecution.  Jesus warned them that more persecution was coming, but those who remained steadfast would be rewarded with the crown of life. (2:10)  Persecution is not a possibility; it’s a fact.  The sooner we realize it, the better.  We ought not to be surprised when people hate us because of our faith, nor should we become embittered towards those who do hate us because of our faith.  All it means is that we are in Christ, and they are lost.  Stay faithful – pray for those who persecute you.  Keep witnessing of Jesus to all the world.  Maybe some of those who hate us will eventually repent and come to faith.

Letter to Pergamos (2:12-17)
Jesus had both good and bad to say to Pergamos.  They had held fast to the name of Jesus, despite intense opposition.  Yet even though they stood firm on the gospel, the compromised in their doctrine.  Who the Nicolaitans were (2:15), we don’t know.  From what we can piece together from Jesus’ repeated mentions of them in Revelation, they seem to have been idolators and sexually immoral.  Bottom line, they were unholy & yet they were accepted as members in good standing in the church at Pergamos.  God calls His church to holiness, and sin needs to be dealt with; not compromised with or ignored.

Letter to Thyatira (2:18-29)
Thyatira was another church both commended and chastised by Jesus.  Externally, they seemed to do good, living lives of holiness (2:19).  But internally, they had allowed massive corruption to enter the church, through the teachings of a false prophetess Jesus identified as Jezebel (2:20).  She brought all kinds of perverted doctrine into the church, and the church basically endorsed it by allowing it.  Jesus calls His people to so much more than that!  We’ve been entrusted with His glorious gospel & the written Scriptures – we cannot allow ourselves to throw it away, no matter how dynamic a speaker might be at any given point.  Hold fast to Jesus’ word!

Letter to Sardis (3:1-6)
To Sardis, Jesus had nothing good to say.  They were dead.  People may have thought them to be a living, vibrant church, but Jesus knew the difference.  They needed to return to the gospel itself, believe, and be saved.  There were a few among them who truly believed – and those who did could be sure of their salvation.  Jesus wouldn’t blot their names out of the Book of Life (3:5).  To the rest, their names needed to be IN the Book of Life in the first place.

Letter to Philadelphia (3:7-13)
Not all of the letters were disciplinary – Jesus had much good to say to the church at Philadelphia.  Although the Christians there had a little strength, they had used it…they hadn’t denied Jesus’ name (3:8).  They had already persevered, and Jesus promised to keep them from the Great Tribulation (which He obviously, did).  The things they experienced at the time was nothing compared to what the rest of the world would experience.  Thus they were exhorted to keep holding fast to Jesus, trusting Him to get them through.  (No matter what, keep your eyes on Christ!  He is our victory!)

Letter to Laodicea (3:14-22)
The final letter has an oft-misunderstood illustration.  Revelation 3:15–16, "(15) “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. (16) So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." Many times, this is interpreted to say that Jesus prefers people to have much faith, or no faith – but lukewarm faith is something He despises.  That’s actually not the case.  Jesus does despise lukewarm faith, but the illustration is far different.  Other cities in Asia Minor had hot springs used for healing, or cool springs that were refreshing to drink.  Laodicea had neither.  Most of their water was piped in via the Roman aqueducts, and it tasted horrible.  That’s the point Jesus is making with the church.  They were neither healing, nor were they refreshing – their faith was just tepid & ultimately disgusting.  They boasted in their material wealth, but had nothing of true value.  Thus Jesus rebuked them & called them to repentance.  And the good news was, if anyone repented, Jesus would answer. (3:20)  (Is our faith merely professed, or is it real?)

The things which will take place
The throne room (4)
After Jesus finished the letters, things changed drastically for John.  All of a sudden, he found himself called up to heaven (which some see as a picture of the rapture – 4:1), and he was immediately in the throne room of God.  John takes some time to describe it, and it’s truly beautiful.  God is on the throne, with God the Spirit symbolized through 7 lamps of fire, and around His throne were 24 elders crowned in gold.  Angelic creatures flew all around, loudly proclaiming the praise of God, and the elders all joined in the chorus proclaiming God’s glory and worth.

The scroll and the Lamb (5)
While in the throne room, God lifts up a scroll which was sealed with seven seals, and the angels ask who was worthy to open it.  Much conjecture has taken place over the content of the scroll, with many people claiming it to be the title deed to the earth.  While it’s true that title deeds might look similar to what John described here, we’re simply not told what it was.  All we know is that it was a scroll, and all of the action that takes place results as the seals are later opened.  (We need to be careful to be silent where Scripture is silent!)

Out of all of heaven, only One person was found worthy to open the scroll: Jesus, described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5), and pictured as a Lamb who had been slain (5:6).  He took the scroll from God, and everything in heaven and earth erupted in praise, giving glory to He and His Father.

6 seals (6)
Jesus begins opening the seals one by one, and all kinds of things begin to happen.  The first four seals release four horsemen that go out in the earth, spreading war, conflict, economic hardship, and death.  The 5th seal gives voice to Christian martyrs who had been killed throughout the centuries, as they ask God how long until He avenged them upon the earth.  The 6th seal started all kinds of disturbances upon the earth: earthquakes, a blackened sun, a blood-red moon, objects falling from the atmosphere, and more.  At this point, the people of the earth take notice & they can know without question that the day of the wrath of the Lamb of God had come, and no one would be able to stand (6:17).  Sadly, they still don’t repent, and would rather hide from the Lamb than bow before Him asking forgiveness.

A common question is: when is it that all these things take place?  From the general teaching of the New Testament, it would seem that the first seal is opened by Jesus after the rapture of the church & resurrection of the saints takes place.  Jesus did teach about the days of the Great Tribulation, but He did so primarily in a context of talking to the nation of Israel (Mt 24).  There were many events that would take place prior to the actual Tribulation itself (wars & rumors of wars, etc. – Mt 24:6), but those are only precursors to the Tribulation; not the Tribulation itself.  From the 6th seal, we know that these events are part of the wrath of Christ, and yet we know that as believers we are not appointed to wrath (1 Ths 5:9).  Thus, we won’t be here when the Great Tribulation begins.  It’s interesting that after Ch 4 begins, the church is not mentioned at all in the remainder of the book of Revelation.  Believers are seen, specifically in context of Israel & believing Gentiles, but not the “church.”  It seems that the Church is not on earth during any of the events that John witnesses, but rather returns with Jesus in His glorious 2nd Coming.

A great example of this is found in Ch 7…

Believing Israel & the nations (7)
Prior to the opening of the final seal, a command is given to the angels to not harm anyone else until the servants of God were sealed for protection.  What follows is a listing of every single tribe of Israel, 12,000 being sealed from each tribe.  This is separate and distinct from an untold number of people in a multitude who came from every nation upon earth during the days of the Great Tribulation, who were praising God.  Thus there is believing Israel & believing Gentiles, all known by God – some sealed for physical protection, some not.  God knew every one, and the promise of everlasting life was given to all.  (But again, the “Church” is not present at the time.)

7th seal & 6 trumpets (8-9)
The 7th seal really kicks off the next series of events with 6 out of 7 trumpets – more judgments coming upon the earth.  The first four trumpets cause massive worldwide catastrophes, with a third each of the vegetation, salt water seas, fresh water sources, and stars of the heavens being struck.  The 5th trumpet unleashes some kind of demonic supernatural army, which John seems to lose words to describe.  They are unholy demon locusts that arise from the bottomless pit, and their stings place men in agony, yet still unable to die.  The 6th seal releases more demonic armies who march upon the earth and kill a third of mankind (9:15).  Yet even in all of this, millions upon millions of people still refuse to repent (9:20-21).  God is giving them every opportunity to turn from their sin, realize the judgment they are facing & come to faith in Jesus, yet they stubbornly refuse.

  • We don’t want to wait until it’s too late!  God is giving people every day right now, and even as bad as it is, this is a day of mercy compared to what is coming in the Great Tribulation.  The time to repent is now!

The angel, the witnesses, and the 7th trumpet (10-11)
There’s a bit of a break as John sees a mysterious mighty angel (whose identity is debated by scholars, whether or not it is actually the Lord Jesus or someone else…I personally tend to think it’s someone else).  This angel roars what is described as 7 thunders, yet what was contained in these 7 thunders, we don’t know.  John was specifically forbidden from recording it.  What we do know is that this angel had a book that was given to John to eat, which tasted sweet & was sour in John’s stomach (10:10).  There was more prophecy that needed to be done, and John had just been given the words.

At that point, John was commissioned to measure the temple in Jerusalem (something that would not have been standing at the time of John’s writing – again, looking forward to future events in prophecy).  He measured it, and saw two witnesses/prophets of God who were given the responsibility of preaching to the people during the days of the Tribulation.  They were originally unable to be harmed, but God eventually allowed them to be killed, and then they were resurrected 3.5 days later, physically taken up to God.  A massive earthquake takes place, and although 7000 people die, many others come to faith in God.

Finally the 7th trumpet sounds, the and the kingdom of God is proclaimed by the 24 elders in the heavenly throne room.

The Dragon (12)
A long interlude takes place at this point, and the narrative of the Tribulation is told from another point of view.  Told through a lot of symbolism, John sees a woman (Israel) pursued by a dragon (Satan).  The woman gives birth to a child (Jesus) who is destined to rule all of the nations.  The woman (Israel) than flees to the wilderness, where she is preserved by God for 3.5 years (i.e. the 1st half of the Tribulation).  The dragon (Satan) is cast down with his angels (demons), and the kingdom of God is proclaimed.  Now cast to earth, the dragon (Satan) persecutes the woman (Israel), and although God keeps her safe, the dragon makes war with her children (those who come to faith in Jesus through the witness of Israel).

The dragon isn’t the only monster…

The Beasts (13)
Two beasts are seen here – the first rises from the sea, having 7 heads & a monstrous appearance.  He is given power & authority upon the earth, as well as what appears to be a supernatural healing – all given to him by the Dragon/Devil.  Although John doesn’t use the title, this beast is Antichrist – the one intended by the Devil to be a perverted evil version of Jesus.  This beast blasphemes God & makes war with those who fear and worship God.  Eventually, everyone who doesn’t worship Jesus ends up worshipping Antichrist.

The second beast arises from the earth, looks far more appealing, and exercises the power of the 1st beast.  This is the one known as the False Prophet, the Satanic imitation of the Holy Spirit.  He’s granted the power to perform miracles (exactly as Jesus forewarned – Mt 24:24), and he causes everyone to be killed who refuses to take the mark of the beast upon themselves: the infamous 666.  What this mark actually is, no one knows.  Apparently it goes either on someone’s right hand or forehead & it becomes their sole method of financial payment.  Anyone who doesn’t take it, starves.  They worship Antichrist, or they choose death.  (Physical death is preferable!)

The Lamb & His wrath (14)
Vast multitudes of people may have sworn their allegiance to Satan, but Jesus knew His own.  Once more the 144,000 of Israel were seen with Him on Mt Zion, and they sang their praises to God.  At this point, three angels went forth: one proclaiming the gospel – one proclaiming the fall of Babylon – one warning the world not to take the mark of the beast.  Afterwards (as the timeline fast-forwards a bit), John sees the Son of Man come with judgment, symbolically thrusting His sickle into the earth harvesting the people.  Those who continued in their rebellion against God were slaughtered, and the blood ran deep.

With that the interlude ends, and John picks up in the regular Tribulation narrative…

7 bowl judgments (15-16)
A song is sung to God prior to the outpouring of these last judgments – they are terrible indeed, full of the completed wrath of God.  Once poured out, the judgments finish up what had already begun earlier with the seals & trumpets.  Terrible sores come upon all those who took the mark of the beast – the salt water seas turn completely to blood, as to the fresh water sources – the earth becomes blazingly hot & people are scorched from the heat – darkness and pain is poured out upon all those who serve Antichrist – demonic creatures come forth compelling evil rebellious kings to go to physical war against God – and (finally) the earth is shaken by the strongest earthquake in all history as islands disappeared, mountains were leveled, and 90-pound hailstones fell from the sky.

The woman and the beast (17)
In a brief flashback, John is shown what happens with Babylon and the systems of the world opposed to God.  He sees a prostitute who was used by the kings and people of the world, and she rode a monstrous beast that looked much like the earlier picture of Antichrist.  The woman was identified as “Mystery Babylon” – perhaps a reference to a rebuilt city, or perhaps symbolic of some other religion or system that corrupted men against God.  The beast itself (Antichrist) is associated somehow with Rome (i.e. the 7 mountains – 17:9), as well as the ancient vision received by Daniel in Daniel 2.  The nations of the world turn upon the woman & abuse her, all according to God’s ultimate plan (17:17).

Babylon’s fall (18)
At this point, an angel proclaims that Babylon is fallen & another voice pleads with people to come out of her, repenting of their sins against God & promising the soon judgment of God.  As the nations of the world witness her destruction, they weep & mourn over her – missing out on all of their physical pleasures she gave them (but utterly blind to their sin against God).  Babylon is declared to be utterly destroyed, as if a giant millstone came crashing into the sea.

Jesus’ return (19)
Rebellious men may have mourned over Babylon’s destruction, but heaven rejoiced!  They recognized this was God’s righteous judgment, and that He had taken vengeance upon those who had persecuted His people.  With Babylon destroyed, the return of Jesus was at hand, and it is gloriously pictured!  Jesus returns with a sword coming from His mouth (His word), and His servants close behind (us).  Though the nations of the world had gathered to battle against Him, they are completely defeated, with the birds feasting on the dead bodies strewn everywhere.  Antichrist and the False Prophet are captured & thrown directly into the lake of fire in Hell (19:20)

Jesus’ kingdom & judgment (20)
Satan was also captured, and he was placed in chains for 1000 years while Jesus set up His physical kingdom upon the earth.  (This is one reason we can know all of this hasn’t yet happened.  Satan isn’t imprisoned yet – that much ought to be obvious!)  During these 1000 years (i.e. the Millennium) Jesus reigns over the earth, assisted by the saints (us, and all those who died as martyrs during the Great Tribulation).  It is during this time that all of the yet-to-be fulfilled kingdom promises to Israel will be fulfilled.  Some criticize the idea of a literal Millennial kingdom, stating that Rev 20 is the only place it is mentioned in the Bible.  Not so!  Kingdom promises are abundant, found in nearly every single Old Testament prophet.  Those promises cannot be written off as simple spiritualized ideas for the New Testament church.  They are far too numerous & far too specific.  All they need is an opportunity to be fulfilled: the Millennial Kingdom is that opportunity.

Although Jesus’ kingdom never ends, the 1000 years eventually do.  Satan is released for a time, and he goes out to deceive the nations.  During the Millennium, there will be a perfect rule & government, but people will still be physically born, eat, live, sleep, etc.  The population of the earth will grow again & there will multitudes of people who never knew anything except the reign of Jesus – but it doesn’t mean they will have faith in God.  Multitudes of these people will be deceived, they will join the rebellion of Satan, and they will be destroyed in one swift act (20:11).  Finally, Satan will join Antichrist and the False Prophet in the lake of fire – not ruling over Hell, but suffering within it as eternal prisoners.

At this point, the final judgment is seen, with God on the great white throne & the Book of Life laid open.  Anyone not yet raised from the dead will be raised, and all will give account to God.  Those whose names are written in the book will be saved; those who aren’t will join Satan in the lake of fire.  (How are our names written in the book?  By having true saving faith in Jesus Christ!)

The new heavens & new earth (21:1-22:5)
All of the previous events took place in the creation we know today – but this creation will one day be remade.  John next saw a new heaven & new earth & a new Jerusalem prepared as a bride for a groom.  Finally the glorious promise of eternity with God was proclaimed: Revelation 21:3–4, "(3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”"  This is the eternal state.

The physical city of the New Jerusalem is beautifully described, but ultimately a city is more than a bunch of buildings – it’s a people.  This was the people prepared for Jesus, forever wed to Him as a bride & groom.  The glory of God illuminated all the physical city, the people dwelt directly with Jesus, and they drank from river of life, eating from tree of life.  Everything that had been lost from the Garden of Eden was restored – even made better than before, if possible.  Everything that had gone wrong at the Fall of mankind was made right again…all because of the work of Jesus.

Close of the vision (22:6-21)
With all of that, the visions ended, and John was overwhelmed.  He found himself inadvertently worshipping the angel who was next to him, who promptly refocused his worship to Jesus.  Jesus reminded John (and us) that He is coming quickly, and He is bringing His reward with Him.  A quick warning is given not to change the prophecies of this book, and John closes by looking for the coming of Christ.

Conclusion:
Are you ready to see Jesus?  He’s coming!  No doubt about it, our Lord is coming back, and His ultimate plan will be fulfilled upon the earth.  Not only does this give us hope for the future, it ought to give us hope for the present.  How is it that we can persevere during persecutions & other trials?  Because our Lord Jesus reigns.  True, Satan runs rampant today, but he’s on a leash.  We don’t live our lives with eternal uncertainty.  God rules, and God wins.  After all, the end of the book has already been written.

So have faith!  Hold on to Jesus, looking to Him & His promises.  And take advantage of every opportunity He gives us today to share Jesus with someone else.  Even if they don’t face the Great Tribulation, they certainly will face the Judgment.  Without Jesus, they aren’t ready.  Right now, they have the opportunity to be saved…they just need someone to tell them.

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