Archive for the ‘Revelation’ Category

When John saw Jesus incarnate for the Revelation, he saw Jesus as the glorious Man and the glorious God. He saw Jesus, as Jesus will return for His Second Advent. Our Lord has come once and He is coming again!

Joy to the World!

Posted: December 27, 2020 in Revelation
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Revelation 1:9-18, “Joy to the World!”

Surprise! Surprises are common on Christmas morning as we eagerly unwrap the presents under the tree. Sometimes we get what we want; other times we get what we don’t expect. Sometimes the unexpected things can be the best gifts of all.

You might find a similar thing today. To the surprise of many, we find our Christmas Scripture not at the beginning of the New Testament, but at the end, in the book of Revelation. But considering that Christmas is all about Jesus, the book of Revelation is more than appropriate!

Many decades had passed since Jesus’ cross and resurrection. The church had grown and taken on a distinct identity from the typical Jewish traditions. Although both Jew and Gentile are included in the Body of Christ, by this point in history the Gentile believers had become more numerous than the Jewish ones. Additionally, the overall Jewish nation had increased troubles with Rome, to the point that the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, exactly as had been prophesied by Jesus.

In this harsh environment, Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ settled into their own “new normal.” Persecution was common, to the point that most of Jesus’ original apostles were already dead – killed in martyrdom. John the son of Zebedee remained, perhaps alone by now. He was a beloved elder among the churches but not even he was immune from persecution. Legend says that he survived being boiled in oil. Scripture tells us that at the very least, he suffered exile.

To this, many in the church were wondering the obvious question: Where was Jesus? Jesus had spoken of His own return and the apostles (particularly Paul) wrote of it often. If Jesus was returning, where was He? When would He come? If not now, when?

Many people today ask the same question. Nearly every generation in history believed that they would be the last generation prior to Jesus’ return, and ours is no different. The world is in chaos and so much prophecy has seemingly been fulfilled that Jesus’ return appears more imminent than ever. Is it? Yes! We can say with absolute confidence that we are closer to Jesus’ return than ever before.

Question: Why does this matter at Christmas? Because at its core, Christmas is not about a babe in a manger so much as it is about the advent of the Son of God. In famed Bethlehem of Judea, Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid Him in a manger…but that was not the beginning of the Son of God, the Son of the Highest. As the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son has always existed, being in the very beginning with God, being God. Jesus was never created; He is the Creator. There was a moment in time when He took the name “Jesus,” but as God the Son, He has always been. At Christmas, we celebrate the Advent, or the arrival of God the Son. We celebrate the incarnation, that God came to dwell among us, ultimately to go to the cross for our sins and to rise again from the grave for our forgiveness.

But we cut the story short if we stop there. How so? Because there is more than one advent. Jesus has come once but He is also coming again. Although He remains incarnate and will not require a second physical birth, there is no doubt about His physical return. And that return will be glorious! He came first as a babe; He will come again as a King.

This is what we see throughout the book of Revelation and we are given a preview of it in the opening chapter. In it we see (along with John) the Incarnate God, the glorious Lord Jesus Christ. This took, is a “Christmas” experience for John. Not in the form of a classic nativity scene, but in the stark reminder of Jesus’ soon Second Advent, when He will come to the earth in power and victory.

In fact, Jesus’ Second Advent is the subject of one of our most beloved Christmas carols, “Joy to the World.” Just listen again to the lyrics, adapted from Psalm 98 by Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;

Let earth receive her King.

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Savior reigns;

Let men their song employ.

While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrow grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make His blessing flow,

Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world through truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness

And wonders of His love.

To speak/sing of a reigning, ruling Savior, already having conquered sin, death, and the curse from the Garden of Eden – this is to speak of the Second Advent of our Lord. Not to diminish the wonder of His First Advent, but to join with it the anticipation of His glorious return. Our King has come and He is coming again!

This was John’s own wonder as he heard and saw Jesus that amazing day of the Revelation. This was what he described in Chapter 1:9-18. (1) He acknowledged his own weakness, (2) he saw Jesus as the glorious Man, (3) he knew Jesus as the glorious God. How do you respond to Jesus this Christmas season? Do you see only an infant child – or do you see Jesus as the Incarnate God?

Revelation 1:9–18

  • John as the weak man (9-11)

9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

It is only natural that John begins with a bit of background. This could perhaps be seen as the “official” start of the account as the first eight verses of Chapter 1 are prologue and greetings to his readers. With those preliminary words written, John begins his narration with a few words about himself. And considering how much he will say of Jesus, it is not unexpected that John writes of his own relative weakness. He does not describe himself as an authoritative apostle, one of the original followers of Jesus through whom God worked great miracles. That much was true, but it was not what John wrote.

True to fashion for the same apostle who did not even name himself in his own written gospel book, John uses terms of humility in his self-introduction. He is simply a “brother” to those in the church. He was not exempt from troubles, being a “companion in the tribulation,” just as every other believer in Christ faced during the first century. He too awaited the “kingdom,” even patiently enduring his wait while under Roman arrest. Like many other Christians, John was imprisoned for his unbreaking “testimony of Jesus Christ” as he preached the gospel in “the word of God.

This is not at all a description of strength. Other prophets in other religions might write of their own supposed glories, riches, and victories, which would boost their reputations in the ears of those who would listen. Not John. John just told the truth: he was a normal, weak human being…one with a jail record at that. There was not a single thing that John could have done to change or improve his situation. He was completely reliant on the power of God to endure day-by-day.

  • As an aside, this is exactly the place at which we need to be if we are ever partake of the grace of God. We need to see ourselves in our weakness and helplessness. We need to understand our dependence on the Lord, casting ourselves on His mercies in Jesus. Otherwise, we will never experience those mercies. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble!

What was John doing in his weakness? Seeking the Lord. For John to write that he “was in the Spirit” is to say that he was experiencing a specific experience of some sort with God the Holy Spirit. None can say definitively what it was, as John does not give any details. Of course, he was about to experience something even more spiritual in the Revelation – something that would make this initial thing seem relatively minor. Whatever it was, this much is clear: John was already seeking the Lord when the Lord responded in a special way.

  • Does this mean we can each expect something similar during Spirit-filled times of prayer? But there is something to be said for an ongoing habit of prayer – be it on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) or any other day of the week. Do you want to be used by God? Start by spending time with God in His word and in prayer.
  • In this, note that John did not let his tribulations keep him from prayer. If anything, it probably hastened them! Trials have a way of sending us to our knees. We do not wish for them but we can be grateful for how God uses them!

And Jesus answered John! Jesus came to John in his weakness, just like Jesus comes to us in ours, showing Himself to be strong. John was patiently enduring tribulation, being exiled to a remote island. Yet Jesus did not answer in timidity but with a “trumpet.” Jesus called out to John with “a loud voice,” literally, with a “megaphone.” This is no secrecy nor shyness nor shame with our Savior; He does not wait for permission to speak!

What Jesus had to say, He wanted John to record. It was to be comprised of a vision, but this was a vision that all the church needed to know. Jesus was sending His word to real people in the seven churches of Asia, indicative of real Christians everywhere. All the church needed to know of God’s plan to send Jesus in power and glory and to know of the glory Jesus has even in this present day. 

  • Jesus as the glorious Man (12-16).

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

Upon hearing the megaphone trumpet-like voice, John turned to see something amazing: a Man standing among “seven golden lampstands.” Although nothing is explained initially, the explanation comes in verse 20 that the seven lampstands were representative of the seven churches. All the specific churches identified by Jesus just moments earlier were symbolized as lampstands, much like the ancient Hebrew tabernacle had a single lampstand within. More important than the lamp was the One who stood among them. Dressed similarly to an ancient priest, this Man was among the lamps, almost as if tending to them. (Being that Jesus is both King and Priest, the symbolism is appropriate.)

Don’t miss the point that this was a real person. John noted that the appearance was “like the Son of Man,” a reference not only to Jesus’ favorite designation for Himself but also Daniel’s description of the Divine Messiah (Dan 7). Yes, it is a reference to Jesus’ deity but it is also inherently a reference to His humanity. Jesus came as a Man, a literal human being.

Again, this is the main point of Christmas: Almighty Infinite God clothed Himself in finite limited human flesh to dwell among us and become a sacrificial substitute for us. The Son of God needed to become a man, that He might be that substitute. If the Son had remained without humanity, there was no way He could step in and pay the price for humanity. It was the human Adam who fell in the Garden of Eden and the Son of God needed to become like Adam (being the second/last Adam) if He was to reverse the fall and redeem mankind.

What Revelation 1 tells us regarding this is that Jesus’ incarnation has not changed. When Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended physically to heaven, He did not shed His humanity upon His arrival. He did not have a temporary physical ministry in the 1st century, only to discard it and go back to the way things were prior to Mary’s pregnancy in Nazareth and Bethlehem. No…Jesus remains incarnate. Jesus is still human today, just as much as the Friday that He died on the cross and the Sunday He rose from the grave. The humanity that Jesus took to Himself, He kept. And He will keep it for all time. When Jesus returns in His 2nd Advent, He will come as a Man. When Jesus reigns over all the earth from Jerusalem, He will reign as a Man. When Jesus institutes the eternal state, He will do so as a Man. Not that He ever stops being God (as will be seen in a moment) but He will forever have His humanity, being the Perfect Man.

  • How wonderful this is! How amazing and gracious! One of the reasons the Bethlehem shepherds were so astounded, marveling at the things they saw was because they realized that they had seen Christ the Lord, God Himself. God put on human flesh to be with us. Yes to save and to redeem us, but also to be with us. We could not dwell with Him in our sin, so He came to be with us. He dealt with our sin, cleansing and justifying us. Now we can be with Him forever! Jesus’ humanity made this possible and it is something that will always remain.
  • Perhaps you’ve never considered the idea that the Son of God loves you so much that He made a permanent change to His existence when He took on humanity. His character did not change (for God’s character never changes), but the mode of Jesus’ existence forever changed. He became human for the glory of God, for the redemption of mankind, and for the love of people like you and me.

The apostle John describes what Jesus’ glorified humanity looked like. Surely this was different than how John had seen Jesus during the three-year earthly ministry. At least, it was different except for one day: the Transfiguration. A the mount of Transfiguration, Peter, John, and James got a glimpse of what John would later see during the Patmos revelation: Jesus in His glory! At the time, the three apostles described only Jesus’ shining (i.e., glorious) whiteness, particularly of His clothing. This time, it was Jesus’ whole personage. His head and hair shone white, His eyes burned with fire, His feet even shone as a kind of unearthly bronze that virtually glowed with brightness. It was astounding in every sense of the word. For as much as John writes, he still seemed to run out of words for Jesus’ appearance. He was a Man, but He was not like any other man; Jesus was glorious.

  • He still is glorious! This is the way our Jesus looks today. As wonderful as they can be, the potential danger of nativity scenes is that people might only conceive of Jesus as a baby. Yes, He was a baby, and it is important to remember how Jesus entered the world in such a humble fashion. But Jesus did not remain a baby – despite the many paintings of the Renaissance or Eastern icons or Roman statues that depict Him that way with Mary. Jesus forever took on humanity, but as with all humans everywhere, Jesus’ childhood was only temporary. Jesus grew into a Man. More than that, He is now a glorious Man in the power and authority of God!

Even Jesus’ voice demonstrated that authority. In the writings of the prophets, it was God who had a voice that sounded like many waters (Eze 43:2). The sword coming from His mouth was nothing less than the word of God (Eph 6:17, Heb 4:12). This is the same sword seen and used during Jesus’ actual 2nd Advent during the battle of Armageddon (Rev 19:15). Everything about Jesus’ voice, appearance, and stature shone forth the glory and authority of God even as it was invested (poured into) incarnate Man. This is our Jesus!

  • Is this how you know Him? For many, Jesus is an idea. For others, Jesus is ancient history or even myth. In truth, Jesus is the living, resurrected, glorious Son of God and Son of Man. Unless we know Him in that way, personally and relationally submitted to Him in faith, then we do not know Him at all.
  • Jesus as the glorious God (17-18).

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

It ought to be no wonder why John fell as if he was dead. What other response could someone have to such a sight? When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he declared his own woe, knowing that he had seen the Lord of Hosts (Isa 6). When Ezekiel had his initial vision of the Lord’s throne, he also fell on his face (Eze 1). When it dawned on Gideon that he had a conversation with Almighty God, having seen the Angel of the Lord, he feared for his life (Judg 6). To get a true glimpse of the glorious living God is a frightful thing. How could it be otherwise? The Bible says that our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). Such an encounter leaves us trembling…or at least, it should. It should, if we rightly understand our own sin. The moment we come to grips with the fact that our sin condemns us to death and judgment is the moment that we will fear that the mention of a perfectly holy God. And this is good! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and this fear is the first step to helping someone seek the refuge and forgiveness of Jesus as Savior!

Even as a born-again believer, the apostle John was right to fall at Jesus’ feet. After all, who should understand the righteous fear of God better than a Christian saved by God’s grace? We are those who have admitted our sinfulness, crying out for salvation. We have received the forgiveness of Christ and should be loathe to take it for granted! Jesus rightly deserves our worship and we should give it to Him eagerly and gladly.

Yet even in John’s righteous fear and reverent act of worship, Jesus reached out to him in comfort. Jesus took His right hand (the one that had been holding the seven stars, representing the seven angels/messengers of the seven churches) and put that same glorious hand upon John, comforting him. Jesus even spoke to John, telling him not to fear – just as did the angel Gabriel said to Mary regarding her pregnancy, or the angels said to the women at Jesus’ empty tomb. This time, it was no angel but Jesus Himself, offering comfort to His beloved friend and apostle, John.

  • As an aside, if there is one more reason why we as born-again Christians should not take Jesus for granted or disregard a righteous fear of the Lord, consider that it was John who fell at Jesus’ feet. If there was anyone who might have grown overly comfortable with Jesus, it would have been one of the original apostles who lived and traveled with Jesus for three years. They ate together, camped out next to each other, probably told jokes to each other, and worshipped side by side in synagogue and during the feats. John was so comfortable with Jesus that he even leaned back against Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper. Yet this John fell in fear, worshipping at Jesus’ feet. If John did not lose his fear of God, neither should we!

Once Jesus calmed John, Jesus identified Himself. This might seem strange considering how well John knew Jesus, but we need to remember (1) Jesus looked very different at the time, and (2) Jesus’ words would be given to vastly more people than to John. Jesus was identifying Himself to all the church, declaring His credentials that the church might listen to Him as He is: the glorious God.

For descriptions are given: (1) The Divine One, (2) The Resurrected One, (3) The Eternal One, (4) The Victorious One.

The Divine One: Jesus is the “the First and the Last.” He was in the beginning with God, being God, and He will be in the end and beyond. There is no period of time that has or will ever exist without God the Son. It emphasizes again how although Jesus of Nazareth came at a specific time and place, being born of Mary in Bethlehem, the Son of God has always been. He has always existed temporally (in time) and He has always existed in priority. He Himself is the focus and goal of creation, as all things were created by Him as God and for Him as God.

The Resurrected One: No discussion of Jesus is complete without a recognition of His death and resurrection. This is true even at Christmas. The babe was born for one reason: to suffer, die, and rise again. There was a reason His birth was first announced to shepherds. They tended the flocks that would be given in sacrifice for the people. These shepherds were blessed to be shown the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Likewise, when the magi finally arrived (up to 2 years later) they brought among their gifts the appropriate spice of myrrh. This was a spice used, not in celebration of life as might be expected with the arrival of a child, but in recognition of death when a corpse was packed with spices. It was an acknowledgement of Jesus’ purpose in dying for the sins of mankind.

Yet Jesus’ work does not end with death, but resurrection. The earthly narrative of Jesus beings with a manger, proceeds to a cross, and culminates with an empty tomb. Jesus “was dead,” with the emphasis being the past tense. Jesus now is the Living One, “He who lives.” The Lord Jesus did not appear to John as a ghost or apparition, but as the living Lord God.

The Eternal One: Not only is Jesus alive, He will forever remain alive. He is “alive forevermore,” or He lives into “age upon age,” “eon after eon,” never to die again. This is an important distinction, symbolized in His physical ascension to the Father. How so? Because Jesus was not the first person ever to rise from the dead. Although it was a rare miracle, it did happen in Israel’s past, and it happened with increasing frequency during Jesus’ own ministry. Most famously, Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead after being four days dead and buried. In fact, Lazarus’ revival was so well known that his life remained in danger – not from renewed sickness, but religious assassination.

But Jesus’ resurrection was different! Jesus was the first one risen from the dead to never die again. Lazarus and all the others faced death twice. Jesus faced it once and conquered it forever (which is seen in the next part of the verse). For this reason, Paul can say that Jesus is the firstfruits of those risen from the dead (1 Cor 15:23). His resurrection is thus far unique in history, and will be echoed by all those who believe in Him as Savior and Lord.

The Victorious One: Jesus is God, the living God, the forever alive God, and the God who has the power of life. Jesus told John that He had “the keys of Hades and of Death,” having personally conquered death in His own resurrection. In fact, it is this goal to which all of Scripture points. This is the reason for Christmas and everything about the life and ministry of Jesus. Genesis shows how life was lost in the Garden of Eden with death reigning over every man. Yet in the tragedy of the Fall, God gave the hopeful promise of One who would come, born of the seed of the woman who would crush the head of Satan and take away the sting of death. This is Jesus, born of a virgin (the seed of the woman), crucified to death but risen from the dead, having all power and authority over death itself. Though He bore all the sin of mankind, all of it carrying the penalty of death for every human that ever lived, Jesus’ one death was sufficient for all. He paid the whole bill! He conquered our most persistent enemy, the foe from which none of us can escape. We find our escape in the glorious victory of Jesus. Though we may face physical death, we who believe will never face eternal death. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and our eternal lives are in His more-than-capable hands!

This was how Jesus appeared to John: as the divine, resurrected, eternal, and victorious Lord. He showed Himself to be the glorious God – the One to whom all praise is due – the One in whom all our hope and faith rests.

Conclusion:

Put it together and what do we find? John was in his weakness when the Son of God graciously came to him, showing Himself to be the glorious Man and God. Jesus came in power and glory demonstrating Himself to be God Incarnate.

This is the gift of God we celebrate at Christmas. But may we remember that Jesus’ incarnation spans far more than Christmas! Just as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and 1st Advent, so should we celebrate and wait with anticipation Jesus’ 2nd Advent. As the song says, “The Lord IS come.” He has come, and He is coming again. Next time it will not be as a babe in a manger; it will be as Jesus is right now, right at this moment: the glorious incarnate God who has been given all authority in heaven and earth, invested with all the power and glory of God.

For those of us who are born-again Christians, it can be easy to lose sight of this at Christmas. So much attention is put on a Bethlehem baby that all we think about is the birth and the Child. And yes, it is an absolutely essential and beautiful part of the story. It just is not all of the story. For us as believers, we can look back on the fulfillment of Jesus’ 1st Advent as not only the prelude to the cross and resurrection, but also as the guarantee of His 2nd Advent. Because Jesus came once, we as Christians can be certain that our Lord is coming again, exactly according to His word and promise.

Are you to ready to see Him? Are you looking for His coming and advent? Are you listening for His call, with the assurance that you are one of His own? 

To see the living God in all His glory is a fearful thing. Even the apostle John fell on his face as though dead. It is shocking for believers and unbelievers alike. Know this: one day (perhaps one day soon) you will see Him. The Bible tells us that it is appointed to man once to die, then face the judgment (Heb 9:27). For those who today know Jesus as Lord, we (like John) will experience and receive the comfort of God. We will be received into His presence, given a home in the place that Jesus has personally prepared for us to dwell with Him forever.

For those who do not know Jesus – who have rejected Jesus as Lord, choosing instead to live for themselves and their own glory, your fate is dramatically different. You too will see Jesus in His incarnate glory, but you will not receive His comfort. Instead, you face the judgment of the One who holds the keys of Hades and Death. To whom will you appeal in that day, when you have already rejected Jesus? There is no hope for life apart from Him. Turn to Christ in faith today.

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.

Revelation 22:8-21, “Don’t Waste Your Opportunity”

One of the worst experiences in the world for our daughter is to lose her opportunity.  It sends her off into fits of grief… Can you imagine how much worse it is on an eternal question – to lose one’s opportunity forever?  The good news is that when it comes to finding our salvation in Christ Jesus (to be saved from the wages of our own sin in Hell & to experience eternal life with God in Heaven), no one HAS to lose their opportunity.  We have the invitation now – we have the opportunity before us – take it!

That’s the message the book of Revelation gives us as things draw to a close.  After a brief (but serious mistake), John is told that our decisions have eternal consequences, and that Jesus is coming back with an eternal reward – but the time to respond to Christ is now.  Don’t waste your opportunity!

So how did we get to this point?  Brief review of the book of Revelation:

  • Ch 1: the glorious vision of Jesus & the outline of the book.  Rev 1:19 – "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
  • Ch 2-3: the 7 letters to the 7 churches.  Keep your 1st love – stay steadfast in persecution – repent from false doctrine – hold fast to holiness, etc…basically to stay loyal to Christ Jesus.  The refrain?  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
  • Ch 4-19: the events of the Great Tribulation & Jesus’ 2nd coming.
    • 7 seals – 7 trumpets – 7 bowls
    • Satan, the beast (Antichrist), the false prophet
    • Babylon as the harlot city that is overthrown & judged
    • Jesus comes back in glory & total victory.
  • Ch 20-21: The millennial kingdom & the eternal state.  Those outside of Christ are eternally judged when they are thrown into the lake of fire, but those in Christ experience eternal blessing & fellowship as God brings forth a new creation completely redeemed & free from any taint or result of sin.

Basically, we’re brought back to where we started.  John hears the direct words of the Lord Jesus as things wrap up & the final invitation is given.  John’s one problem is that in the midst of all of these things, he’s completely overwhelmed & he gets confused.

Revelation 22:8–21 (NKJV)
8 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

  • Yikes!  This is a big deal…and it’s not the 1st time this has happened.  After John witnessed the jubilation in heaven when Babylon had been overthrown, the wedding feast of the Lamb had been announced, and John fell at the feet of the angel announcing all these things to him – worshipping the angel (Rev 19:10).  Most likely, John had been overwhelmed by the sight of all these things & just lost sight of things.  John obviously did not have a heart of idolatry – but he was subject to the same temptations all of us are.
  • Idolatry is serious business.  How bad is it?  It’s antichrist/satanic behavior.  Remember that the foremost thing that Antichrist attempted to get people to do during the Great Tribulation was to worship his own image & not worship God.  The mark of the beast (666) was given as a sign that the one who bore it worshipped Antichrist.  At this point in John’s experiences – after he’s seen the end of Antichrist & all those who worshipped him – after John has seen the glorious victory of the Lord Jesus & heard all of the exhortations to worship God alone – after even experiencing the same temptation & fall earlier (Ch 19) – John does the same thing again.  John voluntarily (though unwittingly) engages in the very behavior that Antichrist will attempt to coerce people into during the Great Tribulation.  John was guilty of the exact same sin.
  • Keep in mind that when we see the work of God, it’s a natural thing for God’s people to want to worship.  We just need to ensure that we’re worshipping the right object.  We worship God; not the messenger.  All over the world, people get this backwards.  They see the glory of God in creation, so they worship the trees, sun, and stars rather than the God that created them.  People see the glory of God in the church, so they start to worship the ritual & religion rather than the God to whom the ritual is supposed to point.  People see the creativity of God in the intellect of man, so they worship intellectualism & man itself, rather than the God who made us in His image.  The very heart of idolatry is to worship the created in place of the Creator…so beware!  If it could happen to John after receiving the visions he received – after not only experiencing the direct revelation of Jesus Christ, but being one of the 12 disciples who lived with Jesus day in & day out for three years – it can happen to any of us.

9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

  • This was basically the same answer the angel gave him in Ch 19.  The angel isn’t worthy of worship – why?  Because an angel is just an angel.  He’s a “fellow servant” = compound word in Greek: with + slave.  IOW, the angel is right along with the rest of us: a servant/slave of God. Interesting that the angel puts himself on the same level as us.  He’s a servant, just like we’re all servants, just like the prophets are servants, just like anyone who is a Christian is a servant of the living God.  Are angels a higher form of creation than humans?  Undoubtedly so (in the incarnation, Jesus was made “a little lower than the angels,” Hb 2:9), yet in the service of God we are all on equal terms.
    • What a wonderful thing it is to be equal as servants of God!  Pastors are not held on a higher level than those in a parking ministry.  Scholars are no more important than Sunday school teachers.  Angels are not better than prophets who are not better than the people in the pews.  ALL of us have been graciously invited to serve the Living God.  No matter how we serve, what’s far more important is WHO we serve; and He puts us all on level ground.
  • Obviously John was right to respond to all of the visions in a worshipful manner – but his object of worship was wrong.  Instead of the messenger, he was to “worship God.”  How basic, yet how easy this is to forget…even among born-again believers in Christ!  Some people worship the Bible, but we are to worship God.  Some people worship the idea of worship, but we’re supposed to worship God.  Some people worship theology, but they forget to worship the One of whom the theology speaks.  The best of people under the best of circumstances can still fall into idolatrous traps.  Be diligent to worship, but be careful to worship God alone.

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.

  • Interesting contrast with Daniel.  Daniel 12:4, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." []  Daniel had just been told of the Great Tribulation & of the final judgment & as his own visions came to a close, he was told to seal the prophecies.  As time has progressed, and the revelation of God was made clear in Christ Jesus, knowledge of these events indeed have increased & become more clear by the decade.
  • Why was Daniel told to seal it, but John told not to do so?  Many scholars suggest that for Daniel, it seems that the time was far off, but for the John the time was at hand.  Both John & Daniel were writing of the events of the Great Tribulation, but they were separated by several hundred years.  Of course, we look back 2000 years later & wonder if the gap between Daniel & John is really that big of a deal?  Actually, yes.  The words of the prophecy given to John were not only of use to those who will later endure the Great Tribulation; they were also current events to the churches of that day.  The Christians alive at the time needed to hear the words of the book, so John was specifically told not to seal it up for later.
    • Today more than ever – we need to study the book of Revelation.  After 2000 years, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus won’t ever return & perhaps all of the stuff that John wrote about are merely spiritual truths.  That’s NOT what this book was given!  Jesus tells us exactly as much in verse 7 – Rev 22:7, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”  We need to keep the words of this book by believing them & obeying them.  It’s tough to do that if we never open the book to find out what it says.

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.”

  • At 1st glance, this verse can seem rather harsh.  After all, the Bible repeatedly calls us to repent & trust Christ.  Is vs. 11 telling us the opposite?  I.e. is it saying, “If you’re unjust, just go ahead and remain unjust so you can go to Hell?”  Surely not!  Keep in mind that the Bible is clear about the open invitation to come to Christ – even the book of Revelation is clear on this point in this very section of Scripture (vs. 17).  Not only are we invited to come, God actually commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).  So vs. 11 is not a denial of the invitation.
  • So what IS vs. 11 saying?  Simply that our response to God today has eternal consequences later.  Those who go to their death unjust & filthy will remain so throughout eternity.  Those who reject Christ will in the end be rejected by Christ.  One day the decisions we make in this life will be made final in the next.  If the warnings in the book of Revelation aren’t enough to wake a person to their own need for salvation, then not much else is going to do it.
    • The time to respond is now!  Today is the day of salvation!
  • Of course this doesn’t just speak of warning, but reward.  Those who are made righteous & holy by the grace of Christ Jesus will forever be righteous & holy.  Our righteousness will never be taken from us; it will never be lost by us.  What a glorious promise!  For eon after eon, we will forever live in perfect righteousness – never to be marred by sin again.  Wonderful!
  • Jesus explains more of the reward in vs 12…

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

  • 3 facts about Jesus.  Fact #1: Jesus is coming.  This has been affirmed over & over in the book of Revelation – most recently in vs. 7.  How important it is to remember that when Jesus ascended to Heaven (prior to Pentecost), it’s not as if He died all over again.  Jesus may be in Heaven today, but He is there physically alive.  And because He is physically alive, we can be assured that He will keep His promise to return & gather us to Himself that where He is, we may be also (John 14:3).
    • The obvious point is that we need to be ready.  Jesus tells us from His own mouth that He is coming quickly.  We don’t know when that time will be, but when it comes, it will indeed be quick.  We won’t have time to “get right with the Lord” or rectify problems between one another.  We won’t have time to do anything else except see our Lord face-to-face.  Thus we need to always be ready to see Him.  Our Lord’s coming is imminent – would you be ready to see Him today if He came?
  • Fact #2: Jesus will reward.  Not only is Christ coming, but He is coming to judge His Church & bring His reward.  This will not be a judgment for salvation, but a judgment of stewardship – how we handled everything the Lord God entrusted to us after we came to Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:9–10, "(9) Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. (10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." [] Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that our works don’t matter once we come to Christ – truly that’s the only time they START to matter!  Our very reward in eternity (though not our salvation) is directly tied to our works that we did in Christ, and by the power of the Spirit.
  • Fact #3: Jesus has the authority to reward because Jesus is God.  We’ve repeatedly seen the same language in Revelation – sometimes in reference to God the Father, other times in reference to the Son.  As we’ve seen so often, there’s no getting around the fact that Jesus IS God.  We find our beginning in Him – we find our end in Him – He is the source of our faith & He is the object of our faith.  Everything we have & everything we are is found in Jesus Christ, God of true God.

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

  • The final blessing of the book of Revelation (there are 7 total).  Who are blessed?  The righteous.  Manuscripts differ a bit here.  Some read “Blessed are those who wash their robes,” – other manuscripts refer to those who do/obey God’s commandments.  (Slight variation in the Greek words used for each.)  Either way, the idea is the same.  Those who wash their robes in the blood of Jesus Christ are the same as those who keep the commandments of God.  It’s a plain reference to those that Jesus has made righteous by His own righteous work.
    • Question: “How exactly does someone wash his/her own robe or actually keep God’s commandments?  Does this imply a salvation-by-works sort of message?”  Not at all.  We are saved by the work of Christ, but that does not mean we do not do works after we come to Christ.  The only people who CAN obey the Lord are those who have been cleansed by God & empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We keep God’s commandments because we are saved; not in order to somehow earn our salvation.
    • BTW – what’s the work of God?  To believe the one God has sent (Jn 6:29) and to love one another (1 Jn 3:23).  Everything else follows from that point.
  • What is the blessing that the righteous receive?  To partake of the “tree of life” and to participate in the “city.”  IOW – all of the blessings written about in the eternal New Jerusalem – all of the promises made of the glorious freedom from sin & unfettered fellowship with God are given to everyone who is in Christ.  Those whom Jesus has made righteous have the unbreakable promise of blessing from God.
    • If you are in Christ, YOU will eat from the tree of life.  YOU will enter through the gates of the city.  This isn’t written for you to think it applies to someone else far down the line…this is a particular promise given to every single individual who has surrendered his/her life to Jesus as Lord!
  • As good as the promise is for those who are in Christ, there’s just as sure of a promise for those who are not.  See vs. 15…

15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

  • The righteous live inside the city walls; the unrighteous will not.  Those who remain in their sin will perpetually remain outside of the blessings of God.  By the time the New Jerusalem is presented, the unrighteous will have already been cast into the lake of fire of Hell.  No more 2nd chances – never even a possibility of release.
  • Please note who’s included in this.  Sorcerers (those who attempt to practice magic) are on the same level as the sexually immoral.  Murderers are on the same level as idolaters.  Liars are on the same level as them all.  Culturally, we tend to put sin on different levels & punish them appropriately in our legal system.  (Those who perjure themselves in court get a far different sentence than a mass murderer, etc…)  Culturally speaking, that’s exactly the right thing to do & maintains earthly justice.  But from an eternal perspective, it all leads to the same place.  Eternally, it doesn’t matter if you drink a glass of cyanide or a gallon – it’s all going to kill you.  The wages of sin is death – and outside of the life that is offered in Jesus Christ, there simply is no solution.  Whether we think we’ve sinned a “little” or a “lot” doesn’t matter; the fact is that we’re dead.  We need the life that only God can give – and God only offers it through Jesus Christ.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

  • If anyone still doubts that the book of Revelation is important to study, re-read the words of the Lord Jesus: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.”  God WANTS us to know these things.  The entire reason Jesus gave to John all of these visions from all of these angels was so that John would pass on the message to the Church.  This is a Revelation about Jesus Christ, and we need to know it!
  • The final description of Jesus.  He is: The root & offspring of David.  Interesting contrast here.  Typically a fruit of a plant cannot simultaneously be the root as well – but that’s exactly the case with Jesus.  Jesus is obviously the promised offspring of David…He is the one that God promised to give David as the King who’s kingdom would never end.  Yet at the same time, Jesus is the source of that promise.  Christ is the origination AND the fulfillment of the promises made by God to David.
    • How so?  Because Jesus is God.  It’s impossible to get away from that idea in Revelation.  Jesus is coming & Jesus is God!
  • Secondly, Jesus is the bright & morning star.  Elsewhere we’ve seen that Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12) – His very glory will illuminate all of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22).  This is a continuation of that idea, but a bit more as well.  Just as after a dark, stormy night the sign of the coming morning brings hope – so does Jesus bring hope.  There are dark days coming in the Great Tribulation – but Jesus is the bright & morning star.  One day those times will be over & we will forever be in the brightness of His glory!

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

  • What an invitation!  Come!  Come to the source of salvation!  FYI, scholars differ a bit on this point.  Some scholars see a distinction between the “come” of the Spirit & bride, and the invitation to the person that thirsts.  In their view, the first “Come” is a prayer – the Spirit & bride praying that Jesus would come quickly (which He repeatedly says that He will.)  Other scholars see all of this as a multi-faceted invitation to sinners to repent & come to Christ.  Contextually, this seems to be the best interpretation as the same word for “come” is used with little distinction, other than the one speaking.  (In addition, we’d need to ask why the God the Spirit would be praying to the God the Son on the timing of His 2nd coming?)  The natural reading of the text is an invitation to sinners to come to Christ for salvation – and thus many speakers join in this chorus. 
  • The Holy Spirit says “Come!”  God Himself invites the sinner to be saved.  Part of the Spirit’s work in the earth is to show us our need for salvation.  Jesus told us that when the Spirit came, He would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8).  Through the word of God, He pricks us to the heart & shows us our need of salvation.  Through the gospel of truth, He testifies of Jesus Christ (Jn 15:26).  The Spirit says “Come,” so come!
  • The Church says “Come!”  As the bride of Christ, those who have received Jesus as Lord & Savior know of the salvation that He brings.  We know of the unbarred relationship we have with God through Jesus.  We know of the forgiveness that He so graciously & freely gives.  The Church has been given the Great Commission precisely so we can tell people to “Come” – come to Jesus & know of the salvation so many other have already experienced.
  • Those who have responded to the good news say “Come!”  It’s not just the mature saint in God who invites others to come to Christ, it’s every new believer as well.  If you’ve heard the call of God in the gospel of Jesus, then as you come to Christ, bring others along with you.  Like Andrew who had barely even known Jesus, yet still proclaimed to his brother Peter that he had found the Messiah, so can the person who hears & understand the good news say “Come!”
  • So don’t wait…come.  To everyone who thirsts, you have a standing invitation to receive of the water of life. … Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" [] 
  • The warning.

18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

  • There’s a warning for those who add to the book.  Those who add to the book will find God adding something to them: the various plagues of the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls.  Fierce warning to stay away from fantasies and wild speculation about the various events in the book.
  • There’s a warning for those who take away from the book.  Those who take away from God’s word will find God taking something them: any promise of salvation in eternity.  Obviously this isn’t a reference to an honest mistake in interpretation; this is a reference to willful false, misleading teaching – which would be indicative of someone who is outside of Christ to begin with.
  • Technically, this warning specifically speaks of the book of Revelation.  That said, the principle definitely applies to all of the Scripture.  Those who add to the pages of Scripture (through made-up doctrines or codes or date-setting or traditions that take priority over Scripture) tread dangerous ground…  Those who randomly decide to cut out books of the Bible they disagree with, or strike out the clear teachings of Christ are putting themselves in a terrible position…  Don’t do it!  Take the word of God for what it is: the very word of God.  The Holy Spirit did not inspire a single word in our Bibles that He did not want us to know – take it ALL in, and be careful not to take anything from it.
  • The end.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

  • The final assurance: Jesus is coming!  Jesus calls us to come to Him – and Jesus is coming to us.
  • Even so, come” is the cry of every Christian.  We WANT to see Jesus!  The early church had the Aramaic “Maranatha!” which basically meant the same thing.  John is mirroring the phrase here in the Greek. 
    • Are you looking for His coming?  Are you reliant upon His grace?

Conclusion:
What a glorious end to a glorious book!  As the visions of Revelation conclude, John is reminded of three basic things:

  • Worship God.  John had made the mistake (innocently enough), but we all need to be reminded of his error & lesson.  As glorious as the visions in this book of prophecy are – as mind-blowing are some of the angels who delivered the message – the only One who is worthy of worship is God alone.  By all means, respond to this book in worship, but worship God!  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit…the Triune Godhead is worthy of our worship, and we ought to freely offer it to Him.
  • Jesus is coming.  Yes, it’s been nearly 2000 years since these words were written, but they are no less true today than the moment Jesus uttered them.  He is coming quickly, and we need to be ready at all times.  May we keep short accounts with one another – may we be quick to forgive – may we walk in humility towards our God – that at all times in every way we would be ready to see our Lord face to face.  Jesus promised to come back, and His promises are unbreakable.
  • You’re invited to receive of His grace.  The invitation has gone out into all the world, and the offer is made to every man, woman, and child on the planet.  Come!  Jesus is coming back – but have you yet come to Jesus? 

What a glorious opportunity every single human being has to be saved!  That we would be saved from the eternal destruction that awaits people in Hell is truly amazing – but that God would go beyond that & save us for eternal fellowship with Him is beyond comprehension!  The invitation is there – don’t waste your opportunity!  One day it will be too late, but right now if you can hear the words of the Bible, it’s not.  You can be saved today by the grace of the Alpha & Omega, Beginning & End, and the First & Last.  Jesus has already done the work on your behalf, but you must respond to Him.

No More Curse

Posted: May 22, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 22:1-7, “No More Curse”

Have you ever heard a story that sounded too good to be true?  Our news is filled with them – most recently from the false prophet Harold Camping!  (According to him, the rapture was supposed to be yesterday at 6pm & the end of the world was to follow in October.)  Although the Bible is extremely clear that we’re not supposed to attempt to set a date for the rapture (Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know…”) – the intent behind it is actually understandable.  After all, who wouldn’t want to know the exact date that Jesus will call us home?

The fact is that we don’t know & we won’t know.  Those who claim to have special insight as to a date are handing out stories too good to be true…and sadly, they actually turn people away from the truth as they turn the glorious gospel of grace into a false prophecy of disillusionment.  Yet the reality is that there is a story about the end-days that might seem too good to be true, but it really IS true – and that’s the story of the Bible!  Jesus really IS coming back – and He really IS coming quickly – and the redeemed earth that He promises really IS that good, completely free from the curse of sin!

John had written earlier about a new heaven & new earth, because the former heavens & earth had passed away.  We’ve already seen a description of part of this, as John looked at the city of New Jerusalem – the dwelling place of the Bride of Christ (us!).  It was amazing (built upon the promises of God) & it was holy (indwelt by the very glory of God).  So that’s part of the new heavens & new earth – but what about the rest of it?  Obviously we will have an eternity to explore, but John did get a bit of insight as to what the rest of the new creation will be like – which is described for us in the opening verses of Ch 22.  What we see is a creation that is absolutely perfect – restored to what God had originally created, yet even better than what God had created.  This is a land not untouched by the curse, but absolutely redeemed from the curse – never to be cursed again because there will never be a need.

Revelation 22:1–7 (NKJV)
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

  1. John had introduced this river already (Ch 21:6).  Jesus had alluded to this several times in His ministry: The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:13-14)… Jesus will give rivers (torrents) of living water (John 7:37-38)…  The idea is plain: those who are thirsty for life will be satisfied only by Jesus who gives life.  The symbolism portrayed through the Holy Spirit comes to completion in eternity with this river of life.
  2. Note what’s being described here is not a symbolic river; it’s a real river.  The only reason to question its reality is if someone has a predisposed theological reason to doubt its existence.  The Biblical text is plain:
    1. We know the water’s quality: it’s “pure…clear as crystal”.  Not only is it free from any physical impurities, most importantly it’s free of any taint of sin.  This is water as how it was meant to be – clean & pure.
    2. We know the water’s essence: it’s the “water of life”.  Life (as we know it today) could not exist without water.  Our bodies are made up of 75% water as infants & decrease gradually over time (up to 45% of water).  The water of this river actually contains the abundant life that Jesus promised.  Better than any water on earth; this is the water given from God.
    3. We know the water’s origin: “proceeding from the throne of God & of the Lamb”.  This river doesn’t come up from a spring; it comes from God.  The water isn’t special because of the water; it’s special because of its source: God.
      1. Keep in mind that Jesus is the only one who can give this water.  If you want to drink of the river of life, you can’t go through Mohammed or Buddha or philosophy or any other source – you must go through Jesus Christ! (John 14:6)
  3. This is the 1st of several parallels we’ll see back to the creation account in Genesis.  When looking to the original Garden of Eden, we find a river there as well. Genesis 2:10–14  “(10) Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. (11) The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. (12) And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. (13) The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. (14) The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.” []  Of course those were real rivers – some of which we know, others of which cannot be indentified (probably lost in the flood).  Just as there was a real river in the Garden of Eden (that became multiple rivers), there will be a real river in the New Jerusalem – the new earth.
    1. This is a redeemed river, for a redeemed people!  Why a river?  Perhaps because we’re rooted in God, just as Psalm 1 proclaims: Psalm 1:1–3 “(1) Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (3) He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” []  A river speaks of nourishment & refreshment (imagine cool clean water on a hot & dry day) – we will be forever fully nourished by God.  We will not lack for any necessity.
  4. FYI – note the singular throne.  The river proceeds from the (singular) “throne of God and of the Lamb.”  There’s only one throne because there’s only one God.  Yet our one God is revealed in both God the Father & God the Son.  Jesus IS God.

2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

  1. Not only is there a river, but there is a tree.  Again, hearkening back to Genesis… Genesis 2:8–9 “(8) The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (9) And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” []  The difference here is that there’s no mention of a tree of the knowledge of good & evil.  Mankind has already tasted of that tree & it is not necessary.  That was the temptation that caused the fall & no longer is that temptation no longer present, it’s no longer a temptation.  Any temptation of knowledge that Adam had will be removed because our knowledge of God will be complete.  The thirst for knowledge isn’t wrong; it was taking the knowledge for himself outside of the command of God (centered in man’s pride).  Yet in heaven, that will no longer be an issue.  In Christ, we know things in part – but in heaven, we will know even as we are known. (1 Cor 13:12)
  2. Apparently, this tree will be huge & arch over the river of life (it’s on “either side of the river”) – definitely big enough to call attention to itself.  From the Biblical description, it seems that its large size is to bear enough fruit for all to partake & bear enough leaves for the nations to be healed.  Some scholars think that the singular “tree” could actually refer to a group (grove) of trees on either side of the river.  Whatever the case, there is enough of this tree to share among all of the people of God.
  3. Although most fruit-bearing trees are seasonal – this tree bears fruit perpetually, every month.  Although the text doesn’t specifically say, there’s an implication here pointing to everlasting life.  There will always be fruit from which we can partake – we will never be barred from it as Adam & Eve were (Gen 3:24).  
  4. Why would the leaves be needed for healing the nations? “Nations” = ἐθνῶν (~ethnic) – often a term used for “Gentiles” or simply, “peoples.”  All who dwell in eternity will be able to find their healing in the leaves of the tree.  Yet the question remains: in an existence where there is no sorrow, death, or pain (Rev 21:4), why would we need healing at all?  There are two kinds of health care: corrective & preventative.  Corrective is to put a cast on a leg that’s been broken; preventative is to strengthen the leg to where it will never break.  The preventative idea is more what’s implied here.  (Walvoord) “The word for “healing” is (θεραπεία) therapeian, from which the English word therapeutic is derived, almost directly transliterated from the Greek. Rather than specifically meaning “healing,” it should be understood as “health-giving,” as the word in its root meaning has the idea of serving or ministering. In other words, the leaves of the tree promote the enjoyment of life in the new Jerusalem, and are not for correcting ills which do not exist.”  It’s more than never getting sick; it’s being strengthened to a point where sickness is never a possibility.  It’s more than being comforted when grieved; it’s experiencing the grace of God in such a way where grief is completely alien.  Truly this is a tree from which we ought to be anxious to eat!
  5. Interestingly enough, Jesus had once cursed a tree (the fig tree, representing Israel) & He hung on a tree that was called “accursed” (the cross).  This tree is just the opposite.  This is a tree of blessing that will always bear fruit.

3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

  1. Hallelujah, the curse is gone!  Question: “Umm…so what was the curse?” J  Back to Genesis… [BIBLE: Genesis 3:14-19]  The serpent was cursed (showing the prophecy of the Messiah) – the woman was cursed (giving her pain in childbirth & a subordinate role to her husband) – the man was cursed (making him labor over the land & determining that he would die).  Beyond the land & Adam’s single death, the full effect of the curse is found in Romans – Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— ” []  Romans 5 goes on to explain how just as sin & death spread to all men through one man, so is grace & forgiveness available to all men through one Man – the Man Christ Jesus.  The serpent (Satan) will remain cursed for all time as he suffers in Hell – but the effects of the curse given to Adam & his wife are redeemed through the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus.
  2. In Christ, because of the work of the cross & the resurrection, the curse is absolutely undone!  That’s true spiritually in the present for every single person who has trusted Jesus as Savior & Lord (immediately upon our justification…) – but it will be true to the fullest extent in eternity.  Today, we live as spiritually redeemed people in a physically corrupted environment.  In eternity, everything will be physically redeemed & perfect as well.
    1. Just imagine what this means!  No more sin – no more temptation – no more sickness – no more death – no more natural disasters – no more freak accidents – no more of any of the trials & tribulations of this life.  Today creation groans; tomorrow it will groan no more!  Today we fight against the struggles of our fallen flesh; in eternity our flesh will be fallen no more.  We will abide in glorified bodies in a glorified heaven & earth…
  3. What is one of the results of the curse being removed?  The throne of God & the Lamb can reside here again.  In the Garden of Eden, man enjoyed direct unfettered relationship with his Creator as Adam was able to walk & converse with God in the cool of the day.  Sin caused an irreparable rift – man was removed from the Garden & God no longer resided there.  Yet in eternity, all of that is undone – as the loud voice from Ch 21 said. [Rev 21:3, “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.”]  We will DWELL with Him – God will DWELL with us…amazing!
    1. It’s difficult to truly understand the blessing here until we understand how rare of a privilege it is.  God had blessed Moses in an incredible way in that God described their own relationship in terms of friendship – speaking to one another face-to-face (Exo 33:11).  Yet even then, Moses could not gaze upon the full unveiled glory of God.  No one could look upon that & yet live (Exo 33:20).  In Jesus Christ, the disciples got the barest glimpse of what this would be as they heard Him with their own ears, saw Him with their own eyes, & handled him with their own hands (1 Jn 1:1).  Even then they only saw the glorified Jesus in but an instant during the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2).  To physically see & physically dwell with the fully glorified God is a most rare occurrence.  And yet that is EXACTLY what each person who has been born of the Holy Spirit (a Christian) will experience EVERY day for all ETERNITY!  Amazing!
  4. What will we do in eternity?  Serve God.  We mentioned this briefly last week…  Heaven is not an eternal lazy retirement plan in which we kick back on clouds of La-Z-Boy chairs & dream ourselves into everlasting boredom.  There will be NOTHING boring about eternity!  We will be serving God in glorious fulfilling work & ministry.

4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

  1. Again, the reiteration of the result of God dwelling among us.  We “shall see His face.
  2. Not only will we see God, but we will have His mark of ownership upon us. Just as Jesus had a name no one knew written on His head at His 2nd coming, so will we have the name of God written upon our foreheads in eternity.  Even today we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 1:13)  Even today we are known by the name of Christ…  In eternity, those spiritual realities will have a physical fulfillment with the name of God being written on our foreheads.
  3. Interesting contrast with the Tribulation.  During the Great Tribulation, the 144K of Israel were sealed by God (Rev 7:3) – the masses of the hordes of Antichrist had to take the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16)…all of this signified ownership/loyalty during days in which ownership meant life or death.  Yet in eternity, we’re still marked with ownership.  This time, it’s not in opposition to any enemy; it’s simply the mark that we forever belong to God. Understand that in eternity, it’s not as if we’ll belong to God for a time only to be tempted away by some other being (as Satan did with Adam in the garden).  Instead, we’ll forever have the mark of ownership by God – we’ll forever belong to Him with no chance ever of falling away from His loving hand!

5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

  1. Ch 21 already mentioned that the sun & moon were no longer needed to shine in the New Jerusalem because the glory of God illuminated the city…  Here, the emphasis isn’t totally on the glory of God (though it’s certainly implied!), but rather the result of the brightness of His glory has upon the people of God.  Notice it’s not so much that the sun is not there, but that the sun is not needed.  We will “need no lamp nor light of the sun.”  God will give us all the light that is ever needed.
  2. There is a spiritual aspect of this that is absolutely true today.  So often, people attempt to find “enlightenment” in all different sources.  They look to drugs or philosophy or intellectualism…  They look to false religion or ritualistic practices – all in hopes of finding some sort of light.  It’s simply not there.  The only source of true light is the light of the world.  Writing about Jesus, John wrote in his prelude to the gospel account – [BIBLE: John 1:4-9]
    1. Outside of Jesus Christ, everything else will always fall short!  Of all people in the world, Christians should know this.  Yet how often do we find ourselves attempting to add to the light offered by the Lord Jesus?  “Sure I read the Bible about the rapture, but I also need to look for these codes that take me to the exact date…” “I know what the Bible says about prayer, but I also want to add ‘the law of attraction’ to it.  Oprah said it was ok…”  “I know what the Bible says about marriage, but surely Dr. Phil can understand my individual situation better…”  Don’t be fooled.  JESUS is the light of the world – Jesus alone.
    2. Question: “So how do I know what outside sources to trust?  Surely it’s ok to read other books?”  Sure, it’s ok.  But the primary question for you to ask is this: is the author upholding the truth of Scripture, or replacing it?  Is this teaching submitted to Jesus, or supplanting Him?  If in the author’s opinion, Christ is not sufficient, then that’s a great indication that the author is not worth reading.  Why?  Because Jesus is the light of the world.  God is the one who gives us light.
  3. Notice that we don’t only serve; we reign.  “And they shall reign forever and ever.”  Typically we hear those words & might think of Handel’s Messiah regarding Jesus Christ – “And He shall reign forever and ever” (c.f., Rev 11:15).  Yet as much as that is true about our Lord & Savior, it is also true about us.  Because we are in Christ (Eph 2) & because we have been given the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12), then we are blessed to be His joint-heirs (Rom 8:17) – and that carries with it all the privileges it implies.  As Jesus reigns through eternity, His people will reign with Him.
    1. Question: “Reign over what?  At this point we’re all one people & there is no more enemy.”  Great question – and it’s one that the Bible leaves a bit unclear.  Perhaps it’s a reference to reigning over stars & galaxies – perhaps a reference to reigning over angels (we know we will judge them – 1 Cor 6:3).  There’s much we could speculate & imagine.  At the end of the day, this is something that the Bible leaves unanswered.  Which is just as well – the knowledge of it would probably blow our minds anyway.
    2. Can you comprehend the fact that throughout eternity you will be reigning with Christ?  It’s completely amazing that God would choose to save any of us, despite our rebellious warring ways.  It’s doubly amazing that God would give us the spirit of adoption & bring us into His family.  It’s completely incomprehensible that God would go beyond that and entrust us with the responsibility of government & stewardship.  Some of us can barely be entrusted with what little God has allowed us to have in this life (we so often squander what we’ve been given!)…yet we will be reigning with God?!  There’s an incredible contrast here with vs. 3: In verse 3 we serve God as slaves; in vs 5 we reign with God as kings.  Oh the amazing grace and empowerment of our Lord Jesus Christ!

6 Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

  1. As the visions wrap up, John receives a wonderful affirmation: it’s all true.  This wasn’t the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up to the realization that everything she saw was just a dream; on the contrary – everything John witnessed was true.  All the words that he received from the Lord were “faithful and true.
    1. Keep in mind that ALL the words of God are “faithful and true!”  Every word that is recorded for us in the pages of Scripture is faithful & true – we can trust our lives upon it!
  2. The same God who gave visions to the prophets of old (Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc.) is the God who gave these visions to John.  “Holy prophets” is better translated “spirits of the prophets” – meaning that God ruled over their words & visions because He inspired the words that they wrote. All these words are true because they carry with them the authority of Almighty God Himself.
  3. Don’t miss the fact that these things must “shortly take place.”  No, this isn’t a reference to date-setting – nor is it a reference to preterism (which teaches that all the visions were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD…the visions were given AFTER that date).  It’s a reference to imminency. 

7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

  1. Is Jesus’ return really imminent?  Absolutely – we have His own words on the matter! “Behold, I am coming quickly!”  There’s no doubt that Jesus is coming (even if it wasn’t on May 21).  Don’t let the mockers dissuade you, nor the date-setters discourage you – Jesus IS coming quickly.  Objection: “But it’s been 2000 years?  Surely if Jesus said He was coming ‘quickly,’ it means He would have done it by now.”  Two answers to that:
    1. “Quickly” could be a reference to how fast everything will take place once it all begins.  It will indeed be quick.  7 years of Tribulation in light of 1000 year kingdom with eternity following is pretty quick (relatively speaking).
    2. More likely, Jesus is speaking from His eternal perspective.  We need to remember that Jesus is God & He has always existed – the entire scope of human history is a blip compared with His ever-existence.  “Quick” is certainly a relative term when it comes to God.  To Him, a thousand years is as a day & a day as a thousand years (2 Pt 3:8).
    3. Don’t miss Jesus’ obvious point here.  We need to be ready for Jesus to come at any time!  Harold Camping was tragically wrong & foolish to set a date…but it would have been wonderful if he happened to have guessed correctly.  We ought to want Jesus to return at any moment (yesterday would have been nice!) – and more than that, we need to be ready for Him to return at any moment.  We need to be stewards of what God has given us (children, finances, responsibility) as if Jesus’ return isn’t for another 100 years; we want to be morally & spiritually prepared as if Jesus’ return is this afternoon.
  2. What’s one way to be ready?  By keeping the words of the prophecy of Revelation. How exactly do we “keep” these words of prophecy?
    1. By believing them.  There are many who would ignore the book of Revelation or pass it off as being too fanciful or symbolic – just the imaginations of John as he was writing against the Roman emperor.  Don’t fall into that trap.  This is a book about Jesus Christ.  It speaks of His righteous wrath upon evil, and His soon coming for His people.  Believe it & wait with anticipation!
    2. By obeying them.  Granted – the book of Revelation is not a rule book, nor is it filled with a lot of plain instruction (compared with a book like James, or 1 John).  But it does have instruction to the Church.  “But I thought the Church would be with Jesus during the Tribulation?!”  We will be – but don’t forget that Jesus dictated 7 letters to the Churches of Asia before the prophecies about the Great Tribulation ever began.  Each one of those 7 letters had instructions to Christians to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus & endure during trials.  Keep those words & stand firm!
  3. What happens when we keep these words?  We’ll be blessed.  We’ll experience the blessing of God in our daily walk with Jesus Christ.  We’ll experience the fellowship with God that we long for – we’ll be empowered by the Holy Spirit as we endure trials – we’ll be motivated to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those that are lost.  We’ll truly be blessed beyond measure as the servants of the Living God!

Conclusion:
What a day that will be!  In eternity when we see Jesus face-to-face in all of His unveiled glory & we partake in the restored Creation – the redeemed Creation…better than what Adam & Eve experienced because it had been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ.  The curse will forever be gone – all because of the One who had become a curse for us when He hung upon the cross.

Understand that this is a better promise than even the Millennial Kingdom.  There will be aspects about the 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ that are undoubtedly astounding – yet during that time, there will still be death & there will still be remnants from the curse.  Yet in eternity, it’s all done!  Every remaining fallen aspect about this world will be done away with, forever.  More than that – every remaining fallen aspect about your flesh will be done away with, forever!  Never again will you deal with the temptation of sin.  Never again will you deal with the grief of guilt.  Never again will you witness loved ones fall away.  We will be with our Savior & He will be with us in a world that He has planned & prepared for us since before we could possibly imagine.

So Christian: hold on until that day.  Persevere!  Heaven is worth the wait!  This isn’t a pie-crust promise in the Bible; these words are true & faithful – you can bank your eternity upon them. 

If you’re not yet a Christian (meaning that if you haven’t had a moment when you surrendered your life to Jesus as your personal Lord & God) – then I’m sorry to tell you that this future is not for you.  Outside of Jesus Christ, the future is infinitely more grim – as everyone else shares Satan’s fate in the lake of fire.  Please know that is not what God desires for you!  God loves you & wants you to be saved!  God sent Jesus to the cross specifically so you could join with Him in the new heavens & new earth in eternity.  But His gift of grace is a gift that must be received – it’s not enough to hear the good news; you must respond to it. 

Why It’s Called “Heaven”

Posted: May 15, 2011 in Revelation

<Revelation 21:9-27, “Why It’s Called ‘Heaven’”

Some people get excited when they look at blueprints & floor-plans – I’m not generally one of them.  Yet there are some floor-plans that are so incredible that they just inspire awe.  To walk around buildings like the Hermitage in St. Petersberg, Russia or grand cities like New York is an amazing experience.  Yet just think of what it will be like to see the city that Jesus has designed!

Normally, when we think of the Bible’s description of what we call “Heaven,” we’re typically thinking of the city New Jerusalem.  Heaven is that place of eternal bliss & wonder – and so aptly described in Rev 21:3-4…  Yet we need to remember that this isn’t the description of a state of mind or a symbolic other-worldly existence; what the Bible describes as the eternal New Jerusalem is a real, physical place in which the saints of God will physically dwell.

The early verses of Ch 21 introduce the city to us; the rest of the chapter goes on to describe it.  What we see is a city that is (1) absolutely amazing – beautiful in its design and built upon the promises & covenant of God.  And we see (2) a city that is utterly holy – set apart and perfect because it is to be indwelt by the very presence of the Most Holy God.  We tend to say Heaven will be wonderful – and it will be!  But why do we call it “Heaven”?  Because it’s where God’s promises are fulfilled & where God Himself will dwell.

Revelation 21:9–27 (NKJV)

9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

  1. Interesting that although the angel is not named, the angel is still identified.  John recognized him as one of the angels that had been involved in pouring out the bowl judgments upon the earth (Rev 16).  These were the bowls full of the finality of the wrath of God, and signaled the fall of the harlot city of Babylon, just prior to the 2ndcoming of Christ.
    1. It’s appropriate to be reminded of Babylon because of the great contrast between the last days Babylon and the eternal New Jerusalem.

                                                                          i.      Both are cities – one ruled by Antichrist; one ruled by Jesus.

                                                                        ii.      Both are women – one is the harlot; one is the spotless bride.

                                                                      iii.      Both had authority – one was temporary; one is eternal.

                                                                      iv.      The very best that Satan can come up with will always be a cheap substitute of the things of God!

  1. There’s more given to the angel to do than to pour out the wrath of God.  His service did not end with the Tribulation – the angel continued to serve God into eternity.  This is important to remember for ourselves!  Sometimes we have a tendency of thinking of Heaven as an everlasting retirement program where we have a cloud, a harp, and that’s it.   Not true!  We will be serving our Lord & King in ways that we cannot yet imagine.  [Parable of the Talents – Mt 25]  The master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…” (Mt 25:21)  After the judgment, there was more to do – God entrusted him with MORE responsibilities – so it will be with us.  The Bible tells us that we are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17), and that we will rule and judge with Christ.  What this looks like in exact detail, we don’t know – but we can be assured that it will be wonderful!  In the service of God, work will not be laborious, it will be fulfilling – we’ll be doing the very things in eternity for which God had originally created us.
  2. The angel does not name the city here, but he does describe it: “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”  People sometimes get confused here…is the New Jerusalem a symbolic description of a literal people (the Church) – or is it a literal description of a physical city?  Yes. J  It’s both…  Some scholars what to divorce these aspects from one another, but there’s no reason to do so when the text so plainly refers to both.  There’s little doubt here that a physical city is described: it’s measurable – it has foundations & pillars & gates & much more physical descriptions of it.  At the same time, the Lord Jesus does not marry an inanimate object like a metropolitan city; the city is plainly called “the Lamb’s wife.”  That’s an obvious reference to the people who will dwell there: us.
    1. Although it’s easy to get confused when considering the idea that we are the Bride of Christ (especially for men), it’s truly a wonderful illustration.  Put aside the notions of procreation & simply thing of the relational intimacy between husbands and wives in the best earthly marriages.  (Hopefully you can include your own in that – if not, please get help!)  In the best marriages, there is immense trust that exists – there’s the joy that husband and wife have for one another – the love a husband pours out on his wife and the respect the wife shows her husband…  People often get envious today when they see marriages that seem to be “perfect” (though we know that even the best marriages aren’t truly perfect).  But in eternity, WE will have the perfect marriage!  We’ll be married to the perfect Husband: the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

  1. in the Spirit”: Obviously John was having a series of visions, but that doesn’t make what he saw in the visions any less true.  The text is simply saying that he was transported somewhere, and this experience that he had was spiritual.
  2. Where was he taken?  “To a great and high mountain.”  The reason why will become obvious: the city is absolutely huge & John is going to need a good vantage point from which to take it all in.
  3. Finally, John sees the bride – shown to him as the glorious city of “the holy Jerusalem.”  This is the city that was promised to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. John 14:1–3 “(1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” []  Chew on this for a moment.  We know we want to be with Jesus (that’s obvious for any born-again Christian).  What’s so amazing is that Jesus wants to be with US!  He’s preparing a home for us for the specific reason that we will always be with Him.

 

11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

  1. The city has “the glory of God.”  The beauty of the city will be described in the next few verses (and it’s incredible!) – but more than “beautiful,” the city is “glorious” in the truest sense of the word.  This city has been given the very glory of God.  “Glory” can typically refer to “light/brightness,” but in reference to God, it can mean so much more…it’s a reference to God’s honor, splendor, majesty, loftiness, etc.  Everything that describes the holy wonder of God is wrapped up in “glory.” THAT’s the glory that’s been given to the New Jerusalem!  It has been endued with the very glory of God.  THAT is the home in which we will dwell for all eternity.  THAT is the glory in which we will live as we worship our Lord & Savior.  It’s almost unimaginable that we have been graced to partake in such a thing!
  2. The glory here is the glory of God, but it’s still described as light.  The light here is pure & clean & precious – “like a jasper stone.”  What we refer to as “jasper” today is a mineral of various colors used for vases & other decorative purposes.  Here, “jasper” seems to refer to a gemstone of diamond-like quality – where it’s transparent & clear, like crystal.

 

12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

  1. 12 gates – 12 angels – 12 tribes.  The obvious point is that God places a value on the 12 tribes of Israel.  No tribes are lost or left out – none are added.  The 12 tribes are represented here (just like they were with the 144K during the Tribulation) because this is the result of the promises of God.  God had called Israel & made covenants with them as a nation & the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).  If God had chosen Israel to be His covenant people forever (which He DID), then we can be assured that God will honor that promise into eternity.  This is exactly what we see with the names of Israel being written upon the gates of the city.
  2. Is there anything else special about the gates?  Potentially it’s a reference to the fact that salvation comes from the Jews (Jn 4:22, Rom 1:16).  The promises of the Messiah were given to Israel, and from there proclaimed to the entire world.  The nation of Israel was the guardian of the Law & word of God.  They were a “gateway” to the promises of God regarding Jesus Christ.  Thus their names are on the gates of the New Jerusalem.
  3. Why are the angels at the gates?  It seems they take on a position as guardians over the city.  The idea is that this is a city that will be forever protected & safe.  No harm will be done to its citizens – ever.

 

14 Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

  1. 12 foundations – 12 apostles.  Not only is the Old Covenant represented in New Jerusalem, but so is the New Covenant.  Again, this is founded upon the promises of God.  The Bible tells us that the cornerstone of the Church is Christ, but its foundations are built upon the apostles & their doctrine (Eph 2:20).  Jesus told the apostles that they would sit on His right & left hand to reign with Him (Mk 10:40) – this seems to be symbolic of the place of honor they have with Christ.
    1. BTW – out of the 12 original apostles, we know one name that won’t be there: Judas Iscariot.  He had abandoned his position when he betrayed the Lord Jesus.  The book of Acts opens with the apostles & the rest of the Church deciding on Judas’ replacement (Matthias – Acts 1:26).  Some have wondered if the apostles didn’t make this decision too hastily & they should have waited for God to bring Saul/Paul to repentance.  After all, Jesus named him the apostle to the Gentiles (2 Tim 1:11), and Paul was arguably the largest influence on NT doctrine apart from Jesus Himeself.  From the description of Rev 21 of the New Jerusalem, it seems that the apostles did exactly the right thing in choosing Matthias as a replacement.  There was a role that needed to be fulfilled by having 12 apostles as a foundation for the Church (even prior to Paul’s conversion).  Just as Israel needed all 12 tribes, the Church needed all 12 apostles – which is verified here at the foundations of the eternal city.
  2. Note how the city comes together as one covenant people.  The OT & NT elders of God’s people are equally represented in the one eternal city.  The Bible tells us that Jesus tears down the wall of separation between Jew & Gentile (Eph 2:14) – between the Old Covenant for Israel & the New Covenant for the Church.  We (as Gentile believers) are grafted into the promises of Israel (Rom 11:17) – thus we partake in all of the promises given to the national descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We are ONE people in Christ.  Yet at the same time, there is still an identity for Israel (the gates), and an identity for the Church (the foundations).  If this distinction remains into the eternal state of New Jerusalem, we can be sure that God keeps the distinction today (as shown by His place to bring all of Israel to faith in Christ… ).

 

15 And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.

  1. Measuring the city.  Not unlike the events of Ezekiel 40-48, when the temple is measured. All of this serves to emphasize that the city is literal.  A person does not bother measuring the dimensions of something that does not truly exist.
  2. What did it look like?  It was “laid out as a square” – technically, it was laid out as a cube (a square in 3 dimensions).  It was 12,000 furlongs in its height, length, and breadth – approx. 1380-1500 miles in each dimension.  Although technically, this could allow for a pyramid – the designation of a “square” certainly implies a cubic shape.  There’s some symbolic significance in the city being a cube – it mirrors the same idea as the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle & Temple.  In the tabernacle, the dimensions were 15 feet in each direction; Solomon’s temple doubled that to 30.  The Most Holy Place within the Tabernacle/Temple was the room in which the Ark of the Covenant & the Mercy Seat were kept – it was the place that symbolized the throne and the presence of God.  In the New Jerusalem, the entire city will be the place of the throne & the presence of God!  In ancient Jerusalem, only 1 person was allowed into the Most Holy Place during certain times of the year under certain conditions.  In the New Jerusalem, ALL people in Christ will be dwelling in that Holy place all the time for all eternity.
  3. In addition, it’s obvious that this is absolutely HUGE!  4100-4500 cubic miles.  Keep in mind that the current atmosphere of the earth is only about 300 miles thick – even at its thinnest outer limits.  (Though God will have created the new heavens & new earth at this time.)  To call it a “city” doesn’t seem to do it justice…it’s more like the size of a miniature moon!  Assuming that there would be several levels by which people could fill up the whole volume of the city, there would still be massive space there.  A single level (or “floor”) would have 2700-3000 square miles (double that of the King Ranch in south Texas or the state of Rhode Island).  There would be room for acres around!
    1. More than enough room for everyone to be saved!  Jesus is not going to run out of room there.  There’s still room for you!
  4. The wall seems to be relatively small in comparison to the rest of the city. 144 cubits = 216 feet high.  Other scholars believe this to be a reference to its thickness – in that case, it would be pretty thick!  Question: why would there be a wall (at all) for a protected city?  Typically, the wall would serve as a defense protection during battles – yet in eternity, there will be no more battles to fight.  Satan will have been cast into the lake of fire (along with Antichrist & the false prophet), and there will be no more danger of attack. Yet a wall can simply provide a boundary – and that seems to be the purpose here.  The city is the place where the people of God will be forever housed & although there is room for all, there is indeed a limit placed there.  (This isn’t Universalism where everyone in all history is saved – eventually there comes an end to the number who dwell there.)

 

18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

  1. Considering that many of our construction projects today consist of discussions of what quality of lumber we want to get – the type of drywall we use – the quality of roofing material, etc., the building materials of the New Jerusalem make any city on earth truly pale in comparison!  This wall isn’t made out of stone; but rather gold.  Not just 18K or 24K – but 100% pure gold.  So pure & free of any deficiencies that looking at it was like looking at clear glass.  THAT’s pure & polished!
  2. Beyond the gold, the foundations of the wall were decorated with all sorts of precious stones.  Scholars note certain color schemes here: white, red, yellow, green, blue etc.  The basic idea is simply that there are a bunch of gems there & it is beautiful. Some have noticed a similarity between the gems mentioned here & the gems mentioned in the breastplate of the high priest of Israel (though there may not be an exact parallel).  The gems in the breastplate represented the tribes of Israel that were carried into the Tabernacle during the ministry to God – here, it likely shows the unity of Israel & the Church as the gems are embedded in the foundations named after the apostles.

 

21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

  1. Not only was the wall made out of gold, so were the streets.  This is no mere asphalt – this isn’t even the crude “yellow brick road” of the Wizard of Oz.  This is more of the purest, finest, most polished gold imaginable.  Illustrating the holiness, majesty, and wonder of Almighty God.  Just think about it: if the streets are that wonderful, how much better is the One who designed it all & dwells there?
  2. The gates were made out of pearl.  And no, I doubt that St. Peter sits at those “pearly gates” as he does in all of the jokes. 🙂  What’s interesting here is that typically a pearl is tiny.  It takes a long time for a grain of sand to be rolled around in an oyster in order to be transformed into a pearl barely big enough to fit on a necklace.  Imagine a pearl big enough to form a single gate of a city!  (It’s a big oyster!)
  3. The idea here is obviously one of unimaginable wealth & comfort & luxury.  There won’t be poverty in New Jerusalem – there won’t be months wondering if the bills are going to be paid – there won’t be sweating over taxes, etc.  All the worries over money (which consume so much of our lives) will be over.  We’ll be completely provided for by our Lord & Savior.  And again, these are all just the building materials.  They are of so much LESS worth that our God who put them all there.

 

–          So we’ve seen that the city is amazing & built upon the promises of God.  But the city is also holy because of Who dwells there.  See vs. 22…

22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

  1. One reason that Jerusalem was so beloved of the people of Israel was because that was the city in which God had chosen to place His name.  That was the city in which God showed David His glory & His desire to have the temple built there.  Israelites would travel for days just go make a pilgrimage to the city during the feasts, and for the privilege of taking their offering to the priests at the temple.  The temple was not just a part of the life of Israel; it was absolutely central to it.  (Which is one reason it was so important for Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple after the Babylonian captivity…)
  2. Yet as much as the Old Jerusalem was known for its physical temple, the New Jerusalem is not.  There is no building there in which the people will go to worship God.  Why?  Because God Himself will be there!  “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  The building of the temple was in Jerusalem to symbolize the throne room and the presence of God.  But in the New Jerusalem, we won’t have a need to symbolize the throne of God; it will BE there!  When Jesus is physically in the midst of His people, there is no need for anything else!
  3. We get a bit of a foreshadowing of this today in that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (both corporately as the Church, and individually as believers).

 

23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

  1. Not only is there no temple, but there’s no sun.  There’s no moon.  There’s no need for any artificial light of any kind, because Jesus is the light.  This actually takes us all the way back to Genesis.  During the days of creation, we find that light was the very 1st thing created by God (on the 1st day) & that the stars & sun were not created until later (the 4th day).  Knowing that as fast as light travels (186,000 miles per second), it can’t travel back in time, where did the original light come from?  God.  In creation, the glory of God illuminated the universe.  In the new heavens & new earth we’ll experience the same thing.  There won’t be any need for the sun because the Son of God will be there.
  2. Spiritually speaking, Jesus is the light of the world NOW (Jn 8:12).  He’s the light that shines in the darkness of a sinful world showing people of the holiness & grace of Almighty God. He’ll also be the light of the world into eternity.

 

24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

  1. What’s interesting here is the mention of kings at all.  It would have seemed that the various kingdoms of the world would have disappeared during the millennium, but yet here we see the kings of the earth bringing their own glory into the city.  It’s not an issue of whether they can add any glory to the already glorious city – it’s that their glory is absorbed & outdone by the glory that it already there.  When we turn out a flashlight in a dark room, it can appear fairly bright – but when we shine that same light outside on a sunny day, you might not even know if it’s on.  It’s a similar idea here.  The kings may have had some sort of glory & honor on their own – but when compared with the glory & honor that Christ has in the New Jerusalem, the former glory of the kings of the earth can hardly be called “glory” at all.  It doesn’t even show up in comparison to the glory of God.
  2. Again the gates are mentioned, but this time, the emphasis is on the openness of the gates.  The pearly gates are not kept closed to keep people out – but they remain open allowing people to come in.  Obviously the city is safe from attack – but it is open to whomever is able to walk into it.  The invitation remains open to all of creation to walk through the gates.

 

27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

  1. Yet there is one restriction on those who enter the gates: their names must first be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Chronologically speaking, those whose names were not written in the Book of Life had already been cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15).  Thus the only people that were left were those whose names WERE written in the Book of Life.  The reason for mentioning this here is to emphasize that the city is HOLY.  It’s perfect – it’s free from any stain of sin.  Those who enter it are likewise.  We are fully justified in Christ – we are made perfectly righteous in His sight because of His work upon the cross.  Thus when we enter the New Jerusalem in eternity, we will do so completely free from any stain of sin.  We will not defile the city because we will not be defiled.  We will be found perfect in Christ & thus the city will remain perfect.
  2. At the same time, there is an invitation found here for people still able to hear these words today.  We tend to want to think that everyone goes to Heaven.  Whenever someone dies, our natural tendency is to want to assume that “they’ve gone to a better place” – and that’s certainly our desire for ourselves as well.  Yet you need to know that not everyone goes to a better place.  Some people go to a far worse place!  The only people who will go to the better place (the BEST place – the New Jerusalem) are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  If your name is written in Jesus’ registry – if He knows you as someone who belongs to Him – if you’ve surrendered your life to Him as your personal Lord & Savior, than you can know without a shadow of a doubt that your name is written in the Book of Life.  Yet if you haven’t done that – then you don’t have that same assurance. You CAN have that assurance today.  Surrender your life to Christ!

 

Conclusion:

Jesus has given us an eternal home & it’s glorious!  It’s an amazing city that it built upon the promises of God.  Every promise that God ever made to the nation of Israel will have been kept.  Every promise ever made to the Church will have been kept.  All the promises dealing with everlasting life find it’s fulfillment in the eternal home that Jesus provides for us in the New Jerusalem. 

It’s also a glorious holy city.  This is not a city in which we are separated from God; this is a city in which we eternally dwell with God.  We will live in His light – we will be in His presence – the very light of day will be the illumination of the glory of God.

Ultimately, what is it that makes Heaven so wonderful?  That’s where Jesus is!  Without Jesus, it would just be another city – it’d just be a place.  It might look nice, but it wouldn’t be perfect.  But because Jesus will be there, it will be absolutely perfect!  Today, we long for the day in which we’ll be with our Savior, but in that day we won’t be longing for it – we’ll be experiencing it.  Truly that’s a promise in which we can rejoice & which we can cling to in the days we need it most.

The only question is: will you be there?  Is your place assured?  There is room enough for you – there’s room for the entire world…but not everyone will be there.  You CAN know – take the time today to receive the assurance that where Jesus is, you will be also. 

Something Better is Coming

Posted: May 8, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 21:1-8, “Something Better is Coming”

Do you remember that feeling as a kid when you were waiting for something new?  Maybe at Christmas or your birthday – you already had gifts for which you were grateful, and then you see a big box in the corner with your name on it.  You knew that as good as what it was that you already had, something new & something better was coming. In a sense, Revelation 21 is the big box.  It shows us the promise that something better is coming.  As great as our relationship with Christ is right now, something new & something better is coming in eternity that we can only barely imagine today.

Chapter 20 had ended with the final judgment at the Great White Throne.  After 7 years of Tribulation & the wrath of God during the wars & rule of Antichrist – after 1000 years of the righteous rule of Christ from Jerusalem during the Millennial age – after the final last-ditch rebellion of Satan – finally there was the last resurrection of condemnation when those who had died rejecting Christ received the reward of their rejection: by being rejected themselves by Christ as He judged them to go to the lake of fire.

That was the future for unbelievers – but there is a totally different future for those who do believe in Christ, and it is wonderful!  John sees it in Rev 21.  1st is the promise…4 promises, actually, of things that are new.  Following the promise is the proclamation, which demonstrates the authority of the One who makes all of the promises.  Something better is coming, and we’ve got the unbreakable word of God to prove it true!

Revelation 21:1–8 (NKJV)

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

  1. Promise #1: We’re to be given new surroundings – a new environment.  Just imagine!  Although God created the world & called it “good,” it did not stay that way for long (as we’ll see in a moment).  For today, we have earthquakes, floods, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, disease, and much more.  (Much of which have dominated the headlines in recent weeks!)  Imagine a world in which all of that is gone!  A completely new environment, restored back to the original design that God had given – untouched by sin, perfectly suited towards His people.
    1. A new heaven & earth had been promised for us in both OT & NT (Isa 65:17-18, 2 Pet 3:12-13).  Jesus had told us that the heavens & earth would one day pass away (though His own words would not – Mt 24:35).  Revelation actually showed this passing away taking place (Rev 20:11).  At this point, the old has gone & the new has come.  Whatever it looked like (and we’re not told much), John recognized it as the new creation promised & now delivered by God.
    2. Scholars debate what this may look like: whether a re-made heaven & earth, or a totally new heaven & earth.  It may be a distinction without a difference.  Most likely, it will be a transformation similar to our own individual resurrections.  Our physical bodies may have long since been destroyed by the time of the resurrection, but they will be remade & fashioned into something completely different with a different quality & nature about them.  There will certainly be something that is the same (in that it will be recognized as our body), but there will be much that is different.  The basic idea is that somehow it will be brand-new, and it will be wonderful!
  2. Why a new heaven & new earth?  Because the current one had been corrupted in the Fall.  One of the results of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden was that the ground was now cursed (Gen 3:17-19).  No longer would it willingly yield produce, but mankind would have to labor & sweat for it.  Paul also wrote of the bondage of creation & how it groans with birth pangs even to this present day (Rom 8:20-22).  All of this is the result of sin.  Prior to sin entering the world, the universe was good.  Over & over throughout the 6 days of creation, God called what He had made “good.”  Yet to look around at some of the things that happen in creation, it’s tough to call a lot of it “good” – or even “desirable.”  (What’s possibly good about a tornado?)  What made the difference?  Sin.  Now that God has poured out His righteous wrath on the world because of sin – now that He has already judged the people who remained in sin during the Great White Throne judgment – God turns His attention to the remainder of the physical universe.  It had been corrupted; now it is made new.
    1. There are some questions that we will never get the answer to in this life.  “Why did the tornado hit this house & not that one?  Why did this person die & not that one?”  We don’t know & many times we can’t know.  There are tragedies that happen in this world simply because this world is fallen.  The ultimate result of sin is death, and the ramifications of that 1st sin still reverberates around the world today every time a natural disaster occurs.  But the glorious promise is that one day we won’t need to ask those questions because the situation in which that question could be asked simply will no longer exist!  The corrupted earth will be gone & the new heavens & earth will be here.
  3. Why would the sea pass away – does this mean there will no longer be any water?  No (Ch 22 shows a river of life) – though perhaps there won’t be any oceans upon the new earth.  Culturally, the sea was a frightening place for the Jews – it was a place of uncertainty & danger. (Part of the drama of Jonah…)  Recall that Antichrist the beast came out of the sea (Rev 13:1).  For the sea to no longer exist means that the place of uncertainty & danger no longer exists.  The new heavens and new earth will be a safe place – a sanctuary forever away from danger, war, and attack.  All of those things will have passed, and we will be forever kept safe by our Lord & Savior.
  4. God is getting rid of every trace of sin.  What may have been left around simply due to the curse of the Fall is now completely undone & redeemed.  God will restore & renew His creation to what He originally intended it to be: a perfect place free from even the slightest hint of sin.

 

2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

  1. Promise #2: We’re to be given a new home.  The city will be described for us in the rest of Ch 21, but for now it is simply introduced as John sees it descending from Heaven.  Jesus had promised that He would prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3) – here it is!
  2. Why do we need a city?  Simple: we need a place to live.  Don’t fall into the misunderstanding that Heaven is simply some sort of philosophical bliss, or wonderful state of nothingness where our consciences just sort of fade out as we’re absorbed into God (or any other sort of nonsense).  Heaven is NOT the new age version of nirvana; the existence we have in eternity is a REAL existence.  We will have REAL bodies, we will draw REAL breath, we will experience REAL life.  It will certainly be better than anything we can possibly imagine in this life, but it will be absolutely real.  And just like you need a home in which to dwell in this life, you need a home in which to dwell in the next life.  (Only in eternity, we won’t have mortgage payments & property taxes!) J  This is a home specifically prepared for us by God, and given to us in which to physically dwell forever.
  3. This is more than a new physical city; this is US.  John is witnessing the new city populated with the saints of God being given to Christ Jesus as a bride to a bridegroom.  Just like New York & Washington DC can refer to a city and a people, so is the New Jerusalem.  That’s not to say that the New Jerusalem isn’t a literal city (it certainly IS!  The rest of Ch 21 makes that perfectly clear), but it’s a description with a dual meaning.  The Lord Jesus does not marry a physical city; He marries the Bride.  Prior to Jesus’ 2ndcoming, we heard the invitation to the wedding feast (Rev 19:7), now the marriage is complete, and the Bride has been given to her Bridegroom.  (Washed, cleaned, and made holy, per Eph 5:27)
    1. Some people (especially men) have a tough time thinking of our relationship with Christ in these terms – but we shouldn’t shy away from the picture when the Bible gives it so frequently.  Earthly marriage is simply a slight shadow of what is going to take place in the Heavenly marriage between Christ & the Church…it’s just the barest foretaste.  The point here is not one of procreation, but of relationship & intimacy.  For every time we “feel” like God is far from us, we can know that in eternity it will never be that way.  We will physically dwell with our Savior in the secure home that He has provided for us.

 

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.

  1. Promise #3: We’re to be given a new relationship.  God will dwell with us, and we will be His people.  What was foreshadowed in the tabernacle & the temple (the presence of God among His covenant people) will be truly fulfilled in eternity as we experience far more than “just” the Chabod glory of God (through the pillar of fire & smoke), but we experience the very physical presence of God Himself.
    1. Question: “Don’t we already have a relationship with God in Christ Jesus?”  If you’ve turned from your sin & surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord, then absolutely yes!  We have an incredibly close relationship with God, with the Lord Jesus Himself as our mediator between God & man (1 Tim 2:5).  Today we can even know God as our Abba Father, in that we’ve been given the spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15).  Truly we have a close relationship with God!  Yet there’s still one thing we lack: physical closeness.  We have a spiritual closeness with God, but we don’t yet have that physical fellowship with God.  As Jesus proclaimed in His chastisement of Thomas, we have believed, but not yet seen (Jn 20:29).  This is the glorious aspect of this promise: one day we WILL see.  Just as God walked in the cool of the day with Adam before the Fall, so we will walk with God as He dwells with us.
    2. This is the flip side of the incarnation.  In Jesus’ incarnation, He put on flesh & dwelt among us (Jn 1:14) – He “tabernacled” with us.  In eternity, we will “tabernacle” with Him.
  2. The result of our new home & new relationship?  God gets rid of every stumbling block because of sin.  Sin is no longer in the way.  Not only will the very presence of it be removed from creation, the result of that is that sin will never again interfere in our fellowship with 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.”

  1. Promise #4: We’re to be given new expectations.  When we think of Heaven & eternity with God, this is typically the verse we remember.  For now, we expect tears & death.  In eternity, there will be no more tears & death.  For now we expect sorrow & pain; in eternity those things are completely done away with.  For every time you’ve wept over a loved one who has died – for every time you’ve been cut to the heart & grieved because of your own sin – for every time you’ve writhed in pain because of sickness or disease…all of those things will simply be gone!  Glorious day!  Note that it’s not just that God comes along & cheers us up when we’re blue; it’s that sorrow itself won’t exist!  The very conditions that would have caused the sorrow would have been dealt with & done away & all that will remain will be the faith, hope, and love that we have with Christ Jesus.
  2. Why no more tears?  Because there’s no more reason!  God is getting rid of every effect of sin.  Sin is the reason for the heartache, death, and pain – and sin will be no more.

 

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

  1. Summary of the promises: God makes “all things new.”  Every single thing of creation – every atom, every planet, every galaxy – every aspect of creation is made new by the hand and will of God.  Objection: “But how?!  Surely this has to be symbolic language!”  WHY?  For the God who created the original heavens and earth in 6 days, could it possibly be a problem for Him to make all things new all over again?  Absolutely not!  Whether it’s a new environment, a new home, new fellowship, or new expectations, God can and WILL make all these things new. []  Think of it a moment: what a glorious promise!  All of us can appreciate how wonderful it is to enjoy something that is new & fresh: whether a new pair of shoes or a fresh coat of paint – a building that’s restored to its original beauty.  The new heavens & earth will be infinitelygreater than that!  More than a “makeover,” this will be a complete transformation from the creative hand of God.
    1. This all starts today.  Truly, it began with the Resurrection of Jesus, and carries through today all the way to eternity.  Every single time someone turns to Jesus in faith & receives a new birth through the Holy Spirit, they themselves are made into a new creation – the old person is gone & the new has come (2 Cor 5:17).  In eternity, all of that work will have been made complete, and nothing that enters into eternity will not have been 1st touched & remade by the grace of God. (Has this happened to you?)
    2. BTW – the implication here isn’t just it that it’s all new; it’s better than it was before.  God isn’t going to simply give us a replacement universe; God is creating an upgrade.  (Guzik) “Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did.  But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man; that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam.  God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.”  As a redeemed child of God, you have more than you could have hoped for otherwise – and it’s all based upon His grace!
  2. This is a sure promise from God!  It’s true!  God had to tell John to write it down – perhaps John was so overwhelmed by it all that his pen just fell slack.  But because it’s true, we need to know about it.  We need to be reminded of the greatness & newness that awaits us in heaven.  Some might scoff & say, “You’re getting too ‘heavenly-minded.’  We’re not supposed to look towards eternity, but bring the kingdom today.”  Obviously we don’t want to neglect what God would have us to do today in order to continue to tell people about salvation in Christ Jesus & demonstrating the love of God for them – but we NEED to know about the glorious eternity that awaits us!  It was important enough to God that He emphasized the need to have John write it all down for us.
    1. Why is it important?  Because it’s faith in these promises that help sustain us through so many of the trials we experience today.  What comfort can we bring a mother who miscarried her baby son?  What words can we say to a family who grieves their beloved parent who passed away?  Or the person who is looking death in the eye because of cancer?  The only promises that mean anything at those times are the promises of Christ Jesus.  Platitudes mean nothing – but the grace of Jesus Christ can sustain us.  Knowing that the pain of this world will one day end, and replaced by something infinitely better through Jesus Christ is a promise that can sustain us.  Knowing that despite our pain & loneliness now that we will dwell with our Lord Jesus forever is a promise that can sustain us.  Knowing that death will one day die because of the glorious work of our Savior & God is a promise that can carry us through the darkest of days!  So yes, keep your eyes on heaven!  These words are true & faithful.

 

6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

  1. Proclamation #1: In eternity, the wait is over – it’s done.  The last time we heard this phrase was back in Rev 16:17, when the finality of the bowl judgments of God were poured out upon the earth.  This time the focus is not upon the judgment & wrath of God; it’s upon the grace and renewing of God.  “It is done” – God’s promises have been kept – every word and Scripture will have been fulfilled – the fullness of the eternal plan of God will be wonderfully known in that day.
    1. Today, we hear the proclamation from the cross: “It is finished!”  In itself, that’s a glorious proclamation!  The price for our sin has been completely paid – those who turn to Christ in faith find that Jesus has completely justified us & made us righteous in the sight of God.  Yet even in the fact that our sins are forgiven (completely finished in God’s sight), there are still ramifications to that fact that are yet to be fulfilled.  Indeed, they cannot be properly fulfilled until we see God face-to-face.  But in THAT day, it will be done.  No longer will we look forward in faith to the fulfillment of the promise – everything will be complete & God will once again have shown Himself to be faithful & true.
  2. Proclamation #2: God is the source of life – He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”  We’ve seen this description many times in Revelation.  It refers to the 1st& last letter of the Greek alphabet & speaks to the idea that God is all encompassing.  When we look to the beginning of Creation, God is there.  When we look to the end of Creation, God is there.  He is the beginning & the end & all things in between.  We would not exist without Him, and we could not continue to exist without His express will.  There is nothing that does not find its sustenance and existence in Almighty God.
    1. Is this God the Father speaking, or God the Son?  Contextually from vs. 7, this seems to be God the Father.  Yet we see the exact same terminology used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Rev 1:8 Jesus describes Himself as “the Alpha & Omega” – in Rev 22:13 we see the same description from Jesus as “The Beginning and the End” (with different translations including different aspects of the phrase).  Is the Bible mixed up?  No!  This is an affirmation of the Deity of Christ!  God the Father and God the Son are absolutely God.  We do not confuse their Persons, but we cannot deny their substance.  What makes God the Father “God” are the same things that make Jesus Christ “God.”  God the Father AND God the Son are the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” 
    2. Cult upon cult attempt to deny or water down the absolute fact that the Bible consistently shows Jesus Christ to be True God in the flesh.  In truth, the Bible simply doesn’t give any other option except to recognize Jesus Christ as God.
  3. Proclamation #3: God is the giver of life.  God doesn’t just grant earthly life; He grants eternal life as well.  The fountain of life will be described in more detail in Ch 22, but for now it’s introduced & implied that those who dwell in eternity will need to drink of the living water it produces.  This is the same thing that Jesus promised to the Samaritan women at the well.  John 4:13–14 “(13) Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, (14) but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” ” [] Have you drunk of the living water?

 

7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

  1. What does God give?  “All things.”  Other translations say “these things” – there’s a bit of disagreement in various Greek texts.  The majority of texts actually say “these things.”  Contextually, we inherit the invitation to drink from the fountain of life & citizenship in the New Jerusalem.  Be careful about making this a materialistic promise – we certainly are joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus over all things, but the emphasis here isn’t about the quantity of the “stuff” we get; it’s the quality of the inheritance we receive.  Our inheritance is glorious because it’s given to us by God Himself, and will never end nor fade because His promise is eternal just as God is eternal.
  2. How close is our relationship with God?  As a Father to son.  What was true of the prophecy to David regarding the coming Messiah (2 Sam 7:14) is also true in our own relationship with God.  When we come by faith to Jesus Christ, surrendering our lives to Him as Lord, He gives us the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12) – He gives us the spirit of adoption by which we cry out, “Abba Father” (Rom 8:15).  It simply isn’t possible to get any closerin our relationship with God Almighty! 
    1. Consider the scope of the change here.  We WERE the enemies of God – warring against Him, rebelling against His righteous rule at every turn, giving our worship and affection to anything but the Almighty Creator God.  We deserved every last bit of eternal Hell that could have been poured out on us.  That’s what we were, but that’s not what we ARE.  Because of Jesus, we’ve been forgiven, washed, justified, and brought into God’s own house as God’s own children.  How many of us would start up adoption proceedings for someone who absolutely hated us?  Yet that’s exactly what God does for us in Christ.
  3. Notice the similarity here to the letters to the churches in Rev 2-3.  This promise is made to the overcomer – the conqueror, just like every other one of the 7 letters to the churches.  Just as the Christians of the 7 churches were to overcome the temptations in their own congregations, so are all Christians called upon to overcome the temptations to abandon the faith prior to eternity.  Keep in mind, Ch 21 comes at the end of a long section that dealt with the trials of the Great Tribulation.  Those who came to Christ after the Tribulation began (after the Rapture) would need to endure multitudes of temptation from Antichrist & his demonic forces.  They will face almost unimaginable pressure to turn away from Christ & just give up.  The message for them is: don’t give up!  Endure through the Tribulation, and you’ll experience the wonder of the Millennial Kingdom.  Endure through the Tribulation, and you’ll experience the wonder of eternity in the new heavens & new earth, knowing a closeness with God as a Father to a son.  Something better is coming, and it’s worth the wait!

 

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

  1. What a contrast! Those in Christ inherit all things; those outside of Christ inherit nothing.  Those in Christ inherit a world without death; those outside of Christ inherit nothing but death. … Keep in mind that chronologically in Revelation, this judgment has already taken place (Rev 20:15) – this is the assurance that those who had rejected Christ all of their lives already had their fate assured.  Beyond our day of death, there are no more 2nd chances.  At this point, God is simply stating the fact of what has already taken place.  The time to repent from these sins is NOW; not later!
  2. This is who we ALL are outside of Christ!  Every single one of us fits into (at least) one of these categories (without faith, hating from the heart, lusting, unnatural drug use, idol worshippers, liars for big & small things, etc.).  Whether the “big” sins or the “little” sins best describe you doesn’t matter.  All of us have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God.  Whether or not they were a convicted murderer didn’t matter – those who were liars shared the same fate.  Those who are not overcomers in Christ…i.e., those who had not received Jesus as Lord & given the right to be the children of God – everyone else has their own place in the lake of fire.  That is their just due, and that is what they will most certainly receive.  Everyone experiences eternity; the destination is the only variable.  Is it the new heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem – or the lake of fire?
    1. Keep in mind that not a single soul HAS to spend eternity in the lake of fire!  Jesus died on the cross for the specific purpose of saving us from that fate.  The most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” []  That’s the reason Jesus came – to offer you forgiveness & life.  Your sin has already left you condemned – but Jesus’ grace is available for the asking.

 

Conclusion:

Something better is coming…and praise God for it!  To live long in this world is to experience more than anyone’s share of heartache and pain.  Every single one of us could tell stories to one another that would cause anyone to weep out of compassion.  That’s just the way this world IS.  But that’s not the way the next one will be.  In eternity, we have the promise of:

  1. A new environment – the new heavens & new earth, completely transformed by the grace of God.
  2. A new home – the city of the New Jerusalem in which we’ll dwell as the Bride of Christ.
  3. A new relationship – no longer will we live by faith, but we’ll physically dwell with God & experience an intimacy with our Creator that today we can only imagine.
  4. A new expectation – because everything will be made new, there will be no more results from sin.  No longer will we expect death & pain; it will be completely destroyed!

 

And how do we know that we have those promises?  Because it’s based upon the sure proclamation of God Himself.  He word is faithful & true, and He will accomplish what He says He will do.  Every promise will find it’s fulfillment in Christ Jesus & we will forever be witnesses to how it is fulfilled in eternity.

So what do we do now?

As believers in Christ, we hope!  Not a “wishful thinking” sort of hope, but we have the confident expectation that this is the eternal future we look forward to.  When we experience pain & hardship today, we understand that (as painful as it is at the time) it’s simply a part of living in this fallen creation.  But one day we will be in a creation that is not fallen, but redeemed!  And we will be dwelling with our Creator – and that’s a glorious, hopeful thought!

If you’re not yet a believer in Jesus Christ – if you haven’t turned away from your sins to ask Jesus by faith to be your personal Lord & Savior – then you need to understand there’s also a promise here for you, but it’s not one that God wants you to experience.  Outside of Christ, you will experience the lake of fire.  There’s simply not a more pleasant way to put it…  You need to know that God loves you & does NOT want you to go there.  He’s made every provision for you NOT to go there – but you’ve got to respond to Jesus Christ.  Recognize your sins & believe that Jesus is God in the flesh… Repent from your sins, forsaking them & turning to the forgiveness of Christ…  Receive Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and King…

The Final Judgment

Posted: May 1, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 20:7-15, “The Final Judgment”

Think back for a moment to Class Presentation Day in school…those days in which you had to give an oral report in front of the teacher & the entire class.  There are only two types of students on those days: those who are ready & confident (though perhaps nervous), and those who aren’t (who knew they hadn’t done their homework).  The same could be said of music recitals, athletic tournaments, and more.  There comes a day in which the preparation time has passed, and either you’re ready – or you’re not.

The same will be true for all of humanity.  The Bible tells us that it is appointed to man to die once, and then face the judgment (Heb 9:27).  The days of our lives are the preparation time; on the day of judgment, it’s too late.  As the book of Revelation starts to come to a close, it shows us a brief snapshot of Judgment Day – the day when all the books will be open, people’s lives will be laid bare before the King, and judgment will be doled out.

Understand that prior to this point, we’ve seen the “preparation” time.  Not only had there been 2000 years (and counting) of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there had been the 7 year period of Tribulation in which the power & judgment of God was made known & the gospel still went to every corner of the world.  Mankind had been given opportunity after opportunity to repent, and although many came to faith, many did not & persisted in rebellion & war against God.  When Jesus came back in His power & glory, multitudes of people were destroyed in the battle of Armageddon.  After Jesus’ 2nd coming will be His glorious reign upon the earth, in which every prophecy given to Israel regarding the majestic reign of Messiah the King will be fulfilled – righteousness will stretch to every inch of the planet – the saints will rule alongside Jesus their Savior & King.

During this time, Satan will be locked up in the bottomless pit – yet he’s been prophesied to be released for a little while (vs. 3).  What happens when he gets out?  What happens to the people who live during the Millennial Kingdom?  These questions are answered in the rest of Rev 20.  The time of preparation is over; the final judgment has come.  Are we ready for that judgment?

Revelation 20:7–15 (NKJV)

7 Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

  1. For 1000 years, the people of the earth have lived in peace under the perfect rule of Jesus Christ.  Reigning from Jerusalem as the fulfillment of the promises to David, King Jesus has enforced perfect righteousness upon the population of the earth – a more perfect kingdom could not be imagined.  And then one day…things change dramatically.  Keep in mind the kingdom is not over; but something happens on that one day that will affect every single human being in creation.  On the moment of the year 1001, Satan’s prison term in the bottomless pit expires & he is released.
  2. At this point, most people probably ask the question “why” (which is important & the Bible addresses) – but the more important question to ask is “how”?  If the Devil was thrown into prison by an angel of God & shut up there for 1000 years with no possible way of escape, how is it that the Devil could actually get out?  The Bible tells us clearly: “Satan will be released.”  Satan does not escape; Satan is set free.  If he is set free, then there is only one Being in the entire universe that could set him free: God.  Thus Satan’s release is by the will of Almighty God.
    1. God has a plan
    2. God has the power – Satan is under a tight leash.
    3. That’s no less true today than it will be at the end of the Millennium!
  3. WHY?  Why will Satan be released?  God allows him to be released in order “deceive the nations… to gather them together to battle.”  “Nations” = ἔθνος (~ethnic), which could also be translated “Gentiles” or “peoples.”  Obviously during the Millennium, there’s only one Kingdom as Jesus reigns over all the earth.  Apparently Satan will go to every corner looking for those he can dupe into rebellion, allowed by God to conduct one final deception to bring them to one final battle.
  4. Question: “But why does God even allow THAT?”  On this point, Scripture doesn’t explicitly say.  Ultimately, God is God, and is deserving of our trust, regardless if we can understand His reasoning or not.  (The clay does not question the potter…)  That said, most pre-trib/pre-mill scholars believe the reason is fairly simple: to provide a test for humanity.  Keep in mind that those who survive the Great Tribulation that physically live into the Millennium will still be capable of reproduction.  Life does not end during the Millennial Kingdom…in fact, the Bible indicates that it will go on & children will be born & life will be prolonged.  Those who die at 100 years old would be considered children (Isa 65:20) – we will likely see a return to the days before the flood when humans lived for hundreds of years at a time.  Imagine the population growth possibilities! []  Yet every person born during this time will still be born with a nature of sin & still be in dire need of the salvation offered through Jesus Christ.  Those born during the Millennial Kingdom will still only be born of the flesh; we need to be born of the Spirit to experience eternal life!  True, their actions will be mostly righteous because they will live under the righteous rule of Christ – but their hearts will still need to be willingly submitted to Jesus as Lord.  It seems that Satan will be released at the end of the Millennial time to allow one final test to distinguish between those who truly belong to Christ & those who may have bowed their knee, but never their heart.
    1. Objection: “But does God even DO that sort of thing?  After all, God doesn’t tempt anyone! (James 1:13)”  True, God does not tempt – but He does test.  To allow Satan’s release is not to tempt the people of the Millennium, but it does test their heart.  For 1000 years, there will be no choice whether or not to serve Christ, but for a brief moment after the 1000 years are up, that choice will once again exist.  And yes – God DOES do this sort of thing.  We need look no further than Genesis 2, when God set a single tree in the midst of a wonderful garden…the one tree from which Adam was forbidden to eat.  Yet the choice was there, and it was a real choice with a real advocate (the serpent).  Apparently, at the end of the Millennial age, God allows that same choice to exist one last time.
  5. The most shocking aspect about this passage is not the release of Satan, but the willingness of multitudes to go along with his deception.  Not just a few follow the Devil; so many follow him that their number was incalculable – it was like the sand on the sea. Don’t miss the magnitude of the tragedy of this rebellion.  After 1000 years of living under the perfect reign of Jesus Christ.  After 1000 years of knowing nothing but the very best that God would have for each one of us.  After some knowing no other life in their entire existence other than the perfect love of God for them…some of them – multitudesof them choose the deceptions of Satan over the truth of Christ.
    1. There are some who boast, “If I were the one in the garden of Eden, I would have never have made the same choice as Adam & Eve!”  Oh really?  A multitude at the end of the Millennium proves you drastically wrong.  Every single one of us would have made the same tragic choice with the same awful results.  Just like Adam, left to our sinful nature, we still choose sin when given the opportunity.
    2. What’s the solution?  The gospel of Jesus Christ!  Those who live during the Millennium will be just as dependent upon the gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation as are every single one of us.  There will never be a time when we are not utterly dependent upon the grace of God in the Lord Jesus!
  6. Before we move on – who are “Gog & Magog”?  Is this a reference to the battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38?  Scholars differ on this point.  Gog is a leader in the land of Magog mentioned in Eze 38-39, that comes out to war against Israel (along with a host of allied enemies) riding from the north looking to destroy Israel in the latter days (Eze 38:15-16).  God supernaturally intervenes in battle & utterly destroys the enemy armies, so decimating them that it takes 7 months to complete all the burials (Eze 39:12).  Although there are many similarities between the battle of Eze 38 & Rev 20, there are many differences as well.  The battle in Ezekiel comes from the north; the battle in Rev comes from all sides.  The battle in Ezekiel takes place in the latter days; the battle in Rev comes at the end of the Millennium.  The battle in Ezekiel takes 7 months to bury the dead; the battle in Rev is immediately followed with the resurrection to condemnation.  Again, scholars disagree but it seems best to see these as two very similar, but different battles.  The reference to “Gog & Magog” in Rev 20 seems to be a reference to going out to the far reaches of the earth to gather the enemies of God together – which is an obvious tie to the events of Ezekiel 38-39 (perhaps even a dual fulfillment of some prophecies).

 

9 They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

  1. The battle of Gog & Magog in Satan’s rebellion is no sooner introduced as it ends.  The multitudes of those in rebellion against Christ surround the city of Jerusalem (which is populated by those who remained faithful to Christ)…and that’s all the war they can muster.  Not even a single shot or arrow is mentioned before fire comes down from God & wipes them out.  How complete is the destruction?  The fire “devoured” them.  The Greek word doesn’t speak of death; it speaks of total consumption.  Apparently there aren’t even any bodies left to bury!  (Much less to take 7 months to do it…)
  2. The Devil may have an opportunity to deceive those who are outside of Christ, but he can’t lay a finger on those who belong to Christ!  His entire army surrounds Jerusalem & “the camp of the saints,” but ultimately he is powerless against them.  At this point, God doesn’t merely defeat the Devil, God completely overwhelms the Devil with an infinite show of supernatural force as a torrent of heavenly fire falls in consumption.
    1. Understand that neither God nor the Devil will have changed at that point.  God is still infinitely stronger than the Devil RIGHT NOW.  God is absolutely supreme over the Devil right now.

 

10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

  1. Not only is Satan defeated, Satan is judged.  Prior to the Millennium, the Devil was locked into the bottomless pit, unable to get out until the moment of God’s release.  Now, the Devil joins his evil companions in the lake of fire & brimstone (burning sulfur) where he will stay for age upon age into eternity.
    1. This is the moment that countless people have looked forward to for so long!  The moment of our enemy’s ultimate defeat & destruction.  No longer will there be an opportunity for Satan to deceive; his deceptions and lies will have finally come to an end, and God will exact His righteous judgment upon him forever!
    2. Note: Satan doesn’t rule over Hell; he will be an inhabitant of it.
  2. Note that this lasts “forever and ever.”  In the lake of fire of Hell, there will never be a moment when the torment stops – there will never be a time when the inhabitants simply cease to exist (as in annihilation).  It will go on & endure forever & ever.  Antichrist & the false prophet are already there – they had been cast in 1000 years earlier, and yet they are still in the lake of fire, and Satan will join them in their punishment.  As understandable as the desire may be to wish that Hell will one day end & people will simply cease to exist there, that’s not the picture that the Bible paints of it.  Those who inhabit the lake of fire will alwaysinhabit the lake of fire, and their torment of Hell will last as long as the bliss of Heaven…forever.
    1. If that doesn’t motivate you to pray for the lost & share the gospel, nothing much else will.

 

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

  1. From the ultimate evil being to the ultimate good God, the scene changes to a great white throne.  This does not seem to be the same throne seen back in Rev 4, which was described on a sea of glass & surrounded by the 24 thrones of the elders.  This throne seems to be set apart – perhaps reserved for this very moment of judgment.
  2. Obviously the One seated on the throne is of far more importance than the throne itself!  God is there.  Some scholars are uncertain whether this is a reference to God the Father, or God the Son.  From the context of the judgment, this seems more probable to be a reference to Christ Jesus in His appointed role as the judge.  John 5:22–23 “(22) For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, (23) that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”[]  Seated upon the great white throne, Jesus in all of His glory is prepared to judge the dead. Objection: “But wait a minute?!  I thought Jesus was the loving one!?”  Some people have the misconception that God the Father is mean & vindictive while God the Son is loving & merciful.  Two huge errors in that thinking:
    1. There is one God, eternally revealed in three persons.  It’s not so easy to split up God the Father & God the Son as if they are two separate Gods…they aren’t.  They are distinct Persons, but they are only ONE God.  What is true about the nature of the Father is true about the nature of the Son.  Jesus said when we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9); Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).  When we see Jesus as incredibly loving & merciful, we know the same is true about the Father.  When we see God as incredibly holy & exacting righteous vengeance, the same is true about the Son.
    2. To understand that God is absolutely holy & shows forth wrath & vengeance is completely different than calling Him “mean & vindictive.” In our culture, we tend to judge a person’s character by how politely they act.  A politician can be an absolute snake, but because he’s got a winsome personality, people put up with a lot.  The Almighty God has no need to condescend Himself to our cultural boundaries of “politeness” or “political correctness”…after all, He’s GOD.  To witness the awesome power and wrath of God in judgment is to witness His utter holiness.  As His created beings, we have no right to pass judgment upon our Creator, it is enough that we have been granted to grace to simply witness Him.
  3. Just how awesome IS Christ Jesus in all of His glory?  So much so that the physical heavens and earth flee from His presence.  This seems to be the moment when all of creation changes, as things transform from Millennial kingdom to the eternal state.  Peter seemed to write of this time: 2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” []  As God prepares the new heavens & new earth for His saints, the creation that had been corrupted in the fall will be done away with & remade.  The new heavens & new earth will be seen in Ch 21, but for now we see the old heavens & earth retreating – melting away in the all-consuming fire of the holiness of Christ Jesus.

 

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

  1. Note that the dead are physically standing before God on the throne.  At this point, they’ve been resurrected from the dead in what Jesus referred to as the resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5:29).  In vs. 5 we’ve already seen the 1st resurrection – that was the resurrection that began with Christ Jesus, included those raised at the rapture, and then culminated in all the saints of God who were martyred during the time of the Great Tribulation.  Now we see the 2nd resurrection, when those who had died outside of Christ are raised for their judgment.  Until this moment, the souls of the unregenerate dead had been in “Death and Hades” (two words for the same place – referencing both the Hebrew concept of “Sheol/the grave” and the Greek concept of Hades).  This had surely been a place of torment (as illustrated in the parable of the rich man & Lazarus – Lk 16), but it was not fully what we think of as “Hell” (i.e. the lake of fire).  At this point, those people are physically raised being given a resurrection body – not for eternal paradise, but in preparation for eternal judgment.
  2. How does God judge them? By their deeds – “each one according to his works.”  Note the various books that are there.  Apparently there is only one Book of Life, but many other books were opened.  It seems that those other books are the records of every single thing done in life – a full accounting of the deeds of every man & woman.  The records were checked, the works were reviewed – and judgment was made.
    1. Objection: “Wait a second!!  I thought that no one could be saved by works?!”  Absolutely correct…no one can be saved by his/her deeds.  Every single one of us has broken the righteous law of God – all of us have fallen woefully short of God’s perfect standard – even our best works outside of Christ are equivalent to bloody unclean rags in the sight of God.  No one is saved by works; but they will be judged according to them.  To those who face Christ Jesus on this day at the Great White Throne (all those who had rejected the salvation He graciously offered them), the records will be pulled of every idolatrous act, every blasphemous thought, every dishonoring of their parent, every hatred of their brother…even every idle word will be accounted for on the day of judgment (Mt 12:36).  The deeds men do will never save them, but they will be man’s cause for his condemnation.
    2. Not even the deeds people do in the NAME of Christ will be cause for salvation!  Jesus spoke of those who would claim that they prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and done wonders in His name – but yet He still never knew them.  Their names had not been written in the Book of Life & they were ultimately workers of lawlessness. (Matt 7:21-23)  The question is not what have you done, but have you received of what Christ has done for you?
  3. At this point, we need to emphasize that the Great White Throne judgment is NOT a judgment for believers in Jesus Christ.  Scholars do differ on this point, but it seems clear that the only humans present in verses 11-15 are the unregenerate (those who had rejected the salvation of Jesus Christ & persisted in rebellion against Him).  There is no mention of the saints here.  Born-again believers WILL be judged by Christ, but our judgment will have taken place at an earlier time as a judgment for reward; the judgment in Rev 20 is a judgment of condemnation.  We can say with absolute confidence that every single human being WILL one day stand before Jesus Christ in judgment, but the judgment you face depends entirely upon whether or not you have received the grace of Christ by having your sins forgiven. (Have you received it?)

 

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

  1. Not only did the heavens & the earth forever change, but also Death & Hades changed as well.  At this point, no longer will there be an abode of the dead from which people await the final judgment, the final judgment has ended & Death itself will die – cast into the lake of fire.
    1. This is one more argument against annihilationism.  If death itself is cast into the lake of fire, how would people already in the lake of fire “die” by ceasing to exist?  The very concept of death is gone.  There is no more death.

 

15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

  1. Verse 15 have to be some of the saddest words in the whole of the Scripture.  This is the moment when every single human being who persisted in their rejection of Christ their entire lives receives the reward of their rejection: they are themselves rejected by God & they go into the lake of fire.  There, they join Satan, Antichrist, the false prophet, and likely a multitude of demons as they begin an endless age of torment and misery.  It’s the place where there is outer darkness & weeping & gnashing of teeth.  It’s the place where the worm never dies & the fire is never quenched.  It was the place created specifically for Satan, and yet men & women created in the very image of God will join him there in utter torment.
  2. Why were they sent there?  Because their names were “not found written in the Book of Life.”  Their sinful deeds written in the other books left them condemned, but the only avenue of salvation would have been to have their name written in the Book of Life.  People are condemned by their deeds, but we are saved solely because of the grace of Jesus Christ & His work upon the cross!  It would not have mattered what was written in the other books if their name had but been found in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Their inclusion in the Book of Life would have cancelled out every sin & given them true Godly righteousness in abundance.  Yet because their names were not found there, the only record that was left was their rejection of Christ – and thus they truly condemned themselves to eternal judgment.

 

Conclusion:

Truly the most important question anyone could ever answer is simply this: is your name written in the Book of Life?  If Jesus were to read from that book today, would you wait with excitement to hear your name called – or would you tremble with dread knowing that you would never hear it?

We WILL face the righteous judgment of God.  1st Satan will be judged after a final battle & final attempt at rebellion.  His defeat will be so overwhelming & swift that he can’t even get off a single shot.  Yet Satan will be judged.  If our grand enemy who has desired the death of mankind from the very beginning will be judged, surely those who were blessed to be created in the very image of God will be judged as well…and we will.  The judgment of mankind is assured; the only question is what the verdict will be.

If you’re already a born-again believer in Christ Jesus, the application is simple: you’ve got a job to do.  You’ve got a Great Commission to help fulfill.  God has told us exactly what will happen to those who reject Christ; we’ve got no time to waste when it comes to telling others about it.

If you’re not yet a believer in Christ, then what can you possibly be waiting for?  Know this: God has made salvation available to the entire world!  There is not a single person in all of the universe whom God will not save if they repent from their sins & surrender themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord.  The Bible tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), and then God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30).  It tells us that Jesus specifically came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (Jn 3:17).  It tells us that if we confess Jesus as Lord & believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead that we will be saved. (Rom 10:9).

You can do that right now in prayer.  Respond to Jesus in faith – go to Him in prayer, confessing your sins, asking for His forgiveness, believing that He is God in the flesh who died for your sins & rose again, surrendering everything you are to Him alone as the Lord of your life.  If you do that, you will find that your name has indeed been written in the Book of Life & you will rejoice in the presence of your Lord & God forever!

The Millennium

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 20:1-10, “The Millennium”

It would be tough to plan a more appropriate text out of Revelation to study on Palm Sunday than today’s text!  On the 1st Palm Sunday, Jesus was presented to Jerusalem & they hailed Him as the coming Messiah King…only to quickly turn on Him when they realized He was coming to suffer; not overthrow their Roman enemies.  In Revelation 20, we actually see the reign that the Jews rejoiced over, shouting “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  THIS is the time they were expecting to see; and this is the time that will most definitely come when the Lord Jesus returns to reign.

Context: Babylon has fallen – the false religious & political system of the world has been overthrown.  Heaven rejoiced in response, and proclaimed the marriage of the Lamb.  The Beast (Antichrist) gathered the armies under his control & went for one last final battle against God, only to have Jesus Christ come back in power & glory with a sharp sword from His mouth, decimating the army & leaving a feast of flesh for the carrion birds.  The beast & false prophet of Antichrist were taken captive & thrown into Hell…forever condemned.

So what happens next?  The Antichrist & false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire, but what about S

atan?  God turns His attention to the Devil next, but has a bit of a different plan for him.  At this point, Satan will be bound & the saints will rule alongside the Lord Jesus Christ.  A fulfillment of prophecy, but also a glorious act of victory!

Revelation 20:1–6 (NKJV)

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

  1. The chronological order is interesting here.  There’s no break in the narrative or visions – no phrase “after these things” that introduces a new section.  This is simply what immediately follows.  After John has seen Jesus coming as King of Kings – after he has seen the Church accompanying Jesus as His army – after the Beast & false prophet were cast into Hell & the rebellious army was destroyed – then an angel comes down to address Satan.  Almost as an afterthought, Satan is addressed by this angel.  Who’s the angel?  We don’t know – he’s completely unidentified.  He’s not even labeled as a “mighty” angel. Yet even this angel is strong enough to bind Satan.
    1. When God wants the devil to be bound, he will be bound.  For God, it’s not even a struggle!  We see the same principle at work when Jesus was casting out the demons left & right/  The Devil is powerless in the presence of God!
    2. How important this is to remember in our own spiritual warfare!  When we come against the Devil, we do not come against him in our own strength.  (How could we?  We’re far weaker than he is & we’d fail every time!)  Instead, we come against him in the name & power of our Lord & Savior, Christ Jesus.  Satan simply cannot defeat Jesus, no matter what he’d like to try.
  2. The angel had “the key to the bottomless pit.”  Remember the last time we saw this key was in Rev 9:1. At that point, a fallen angel (likely Satan himself) had the key & released the demonic horde of locusts during the 5th trumpet.  Who has the key now?  An angel of God.  Satan’s hold on the key was strictly temporary!
  3. The angel also had “a great chain in his hand.”  Some have said this chain must be symbolic, as no physical chain could truly hold a powerful being like the Devil.  Yet if the key to the pit is real, why wouldn’t we think the same of the chain?  If God can create the heavens & the earth, surely He can create a chain that will hold the Devil without difficulty!

 

2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

  1. Just as the Lord Jesus had 4 names in Rev 19, the Devil is shown with 4 names here.  Review: (1) Faithful & True, (2) Unknown name, (3) Word of God, (4) King of Kings & Lord of Lords.
  2. Name #1: the dragon.  This is how the devil has most commonly been described throughout the book of Revelation.  Obvious analogy to his evil & his power.  Peter describes the Devil as a lion – Paul called him the prince of the power of the air.  Our enemy is indeed powerful; but he’s obviously no match for God.
  3. Name #2: the serpent.  We go from the last book of the Bible to the very 1st.  Satan’s 1st appearance in the Scripture was as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. [Gen 3]  From the dawn of history, the Devil has caused problems for mankind – but at the end of the age, he will be dealt with & thrown into the abyss!
  4. Name #3: the Devil = “slanderer/accuser.”  It’s interesting that although the Devil will constantly lie to us (as is highlighted in verse 3), he’ll speak the truth to God…or at least part of the truth.  Apparently Satan takes pleasure in slandering us – accusing us – dragging our names through the mud as he brings up the depths of our depravity.  Just as he accused Job attempting to find fault in him (though there was none), he accuses us.  Yet though we have an accuser, we also have an Advocate: Jesus Christ the righteous! Jesus defends us through His blood & by His grace!
  5. Name #4: Satan = “adversary.”  Make no mistake, we have an enemy.  More than our enemy, Satan is GOD’s enemy.  Satan hates God & wanted to be God, and thus has always rebelled against God & warred against the people of God.  Yet the glorious promise of this passage is that one day the fight will be over.  The enemy’s power will be stripped from him as the Millennial Kingdom begins.
  6. What happens to him?  He’s bound/imprisoned for 1000 years.  This is described further in verse 3…

 

3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. …

  1. Satan’s not merely bound; he is firmly imprisoned!  Note the 3 affirmations: (1) in the bottomless pit, (2) shut up there, (3) sealed to remain there.  Hardly a stronger picture could be painted of the extent of Satan’s imprisonment.  When Satan is finally cast into the abyss, there is no way he’s getting out at all until God so allows him.
  2. What is the effect of Satan’s imprisonment?  The nations will no longer be deceived.  Recall that deception was a major component of Satan’s strategy to get people to worship Antichrist…it was one of the primary functions of the false prophet (Rev 13:14, 19:20).  Deception has been a major component of Satan’s strategy from the very beginning! (Has God said?  Gen 3)  The Devil is a liar & the father of lies.  He still lies today & people still get caught up in the deception. 
    1. We’re not immune!  Even Christians get caught up in the lies of Satan when we start buying into false doctrine or getting caught up in the wisdom of the world in opposition to the wisdom of God.  Right now, Satan is looking for people to take down, and it’s certain that born-again believers are right in his crosshairs!
  3. Yet notice that during the Millennium that Satan can no longer deceive the nations.  This is a huge argument against amillennialism, which teaches that the 1000 years are symbolic of the Church Age as a whole & that during this time, Satan is simply restricted from deceiving people as much as he normally could.  The amillennial position teaches that people are free to hear the truth of the gospel, and that in itself constitutes the binding of Satan.  The only problem is that this is not what the text says at all.  The text is absolutely clear that the Devil is completely bound with no way of getting out, and that not only is his deception of the nations reduced – it’s completely eradicatedduring the 1000 year reign of Christ.  The Bible makes it plain that today, Satan is not bound.  Examples:
    1. The Devil has an active mission.  Today, he does not come except to steal, kill, destroy. (John 10:10)  The Devil has active authority – he’s the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2).
    2. Our battle is active.  We don’t fight against flesh & blood, but against powers & principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this age & against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)  Today, we fight a battle & must take up the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Eph 6:16)  If you’re a believer in Christ, you’ve fought the Devil & his forces – even if you haven’t realized that’s what you were doing!
    3. If there is any further question, the Bible explicitly tells us that the Devil is free to roam about the earth right now.  1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” []  Has our enemy been defeated at the cross?  Sure – without question.  But the Bible could not be clearer on the fact that right now the Devil is NOT bound.  Satan’s imprisonment is a future prophecy; not a present-day reality.  It WILL happen…be assured!

 

… But after these things he must be released for a little while.

  1. As assuredly as the Devil will be bound for 1000 years, it’s also sure that after that time is up, he will be released for a time.  The question is: why?!  Once Satan is bound & Jesus is reigning upon the earth, why would God ever allow Satan to be released – even if only for a temporary time?  What would be the purpose in it?  For some, this very idea is the reason why they have a tough time holding to a doctrine of a literal millennial kingdom…they just can’t imagine Satan ever being released again after a 1000-year long physical & spiritual restraint.
  2. Yet, that is exactly what the Bible tells us.  The text is clear that there is a 1000 year period of time during which Satan is bound, and at the end he will be released – or “paroled” as the case may be.  Upon his release, Satan will again engage in worldwide deception & will lead one final rebellion against God, which will be quickly dealt with & then the Devil will finally be cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:7-10)  Why?  Perhaps many reasons – one of which being to underscore mankind’s sinful nature.  For now, it’s important for us to understand that we need to be willing to take the Bible at face-value for what it says.  We cannot dictate to God what Biblical doctrine ought to teach.  We cannot presume to tell God what He can or cannot do.  God is the one who tells usthese things.  There are surely things that today we do not fully understand – but that does not make them untrue.  Who among us can fully understand the incarnation of Jesus Christ – or the extent of which He took our sin upon Himself?  Yet not only do we affirm these doctrines, we cling to them as being central to the gospel of salvation! We may not fully understand why God chooses to release Satan at the end for a bit, but we can trust that God knows what He’s doing & that His full purpose will be revealed in time.
    1. It comes down to an issue of trust.  Do we trust our God?  The Bible tells us that His ways are higher than our ways – and praise God for it!  If God were like us, NONE of us would be saved!  Yet His ways are not like ours – so some of the questions we have remain unanswered for the time being.  At the end of the day, we affirm our trust in God & know that He is good.

 

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

  1. John’s attention moves from Satan to the saints.  Verse 4 shows thrones, but the 1st question is: who exactly is sitting upon them?  We know that the Tribulation martyrs are certainly included in this number – but are the thrones onlyfor the martyrs of the Tribulation time, or are they just a part of a larger whole (all Christians through history)?
    1. We know the promise given to the overcomers of Laodicea (and thus all of us who overcome the same temptation) to sit with Christ on His throne (Rev 4:21).
    2. We know the promise that all Christians are joint-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17).  We’re specifically told that we will reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12).
    3. We know that all believers will judge the world & even angels (1 Cor 6:2-3).
    4. Altogether, the overall weight of the New Testament seems to conclude that ALL Christians will reign with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom.  Rev 20:4 simply describes only one portion of this group.  Whether there were only enough thrones for the 12 apostles, or for the 24 elders, or for every Christian through history is uncertain – but we’re all represented there.
  2. So why are the martyrs specifically pointed out?  Because they were the ones who had been persecuted throughout the narrative of the book!  In Rev 4:9, the first of their number had cried out from under the altar asking how long it would be until God showed forth His vengeance.  In Rev 7:9 the full number of them are shown giving glory to God.  In Rev 12:17, they were shown being persecuted by the dragon (Satan) who made war against them.  In Rev 13:7, the war against the martyrs was carried on by the Beast (Antichrist).  In Rev 13:15, the false prophet kills all of those who did not worship the beast, nor took his number on their foreheads or hands.  After all of this time of persecution, now we see the martyr’s long awaited promise of victory.  After all the time of refusing to bow their knee except to Jesus Christ, now we see them in glory at Jesus’ side – blessed by their Savior (and ours), and given the privilege of reigning at His hand.
    1. Hold fast until the end!  It’s not over until it’s over…  It’s never easy to endure persecution, but we can be sure of the promise that awaits those who do. [Chinese underground church leaders arrested.]
  3. What happens during the 1000 years?  The saints reign with Christ.  At this point, it’s worth taking a deeper look at the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Theologians have debated this for centuries…dating back literally to the very foundation of the Church.  Although the doctrine of the Millennium was not as developed as what we have today, the majority of the early Church Fathers for 300 years strongly affirmed a literal millennial kingdom period during which Jesus reigned over the nations as Lord, prior to the eternal state.  It wasn’t until Augustine that chiliasm (early millennialism) fell out of favor, and amillennialism took hold as the predominant position within the church until the last couple of centuries.  3 major viewpoints:
    1. Post-millennialism = things will only get better & the kingdom of God will manifest itself in the last days in glorious victory over the Devil & only after that time will Jesus return.  Problems: (1) the Bible specifically says that things will get worse in the last days.  (2) The chronology of Revelation has already shown the return of Christ in Ch 19.  (3) This places the victory in the hands of the Church rather than the hands of Christ – as seen in Dominion/Kingdom theology.
    2. Amillennialism = there is no literal kingdom; the Church age is what is referred to in Revelation 20.  The “kingdom” is simply the time period between Jesus’ 1st & 2nd comings & during this time Satan has no power over the gospel going forth.  Problems: (1) Satan certainly isn’t bound right now…if he is, the terminology means nothing.  (2) The text of Scripture is completely written off & ignored for it’s plain meaning. 
    3. Premillennialism = there is yet to come a future kingdom that lasts for 1000 years when Jesus reigns from Jerusalem over all of the earth.  What the text says is what the text means. 
  4. For those who follow the debate, there are passionate arguments back & forth, here are four common objections to Premillennialism:
    1. Objection #1: “But Rev 20 is the only place in the NT that specifically speaks about an exact 1000 year period.”  Actually, there are many other passages that refer to a literal kingdom of Christ (not the least being the expectation of the apostles at Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1!) – but even granting that Rev 20 is the only specific reference to a thousand-year-reign, what of it?  Simply because a fact is given once in Scripture does not make it invalid.  The magi/wise men that came from the East to see the Christ child are only mentioned once (Matt 2), but we do not doubt their existence.  Even in Rev 20, the 1000 years isn’t mentioned only once; it’s mentioned no less than SIX times in 7 verses.
    2. Objection #2: “Surely the 1000 years is figurative – a symbolic number contained within a highly symbolic book.”  If the 1000 year figure is symbolic in Rev 20, there’s little reason for language to bear any meaning whatsoever in the book.  After all, there’s an angel, a Devil, a pit, martyrs, thrones, etc., what would possibly indicate a switch to symbolic use now?  Besides, to this point in Revelation all of the numbers given have been literal numbers.  When John saw “7 lampstands” (Rev 1:12), there was a symbolic meaning behind the lampstands, but he definitely saw “7” of them.  When he saw 144,000 sealed of Israel, there’s no doubt he actually saw 144,000…after all, he gave the census count tribe-by-tribe.  When we’ve seen 7 seals, 7 trumpets, & 7 bowls, we could count them off one-by-one.  There may be symbolic meaning behind some of these numbers, but the numbers themselves have always been literal.  There’s no reason to assume the 1000 years would be any different.
    3. Objection #3: “If there was a 1000 year literal kingdom, where are the OT expectations?”  Actually, there were expectations for a literal Messianic kingdom all over the OT!  We could spend weeks in the Psalms alone showing the expectation of the Israelites concerning a future literal kingdom in which the Messiah of God would reign over the nations of the earth.  Just for a partial listing: (per Feinberg)

                                                                          i.      We’ve already seen Psalm 2 prophesy of the 2nd coming of Christ & the battle of Armageddon.  It also speaks of Messiah’s rule over the nations of the earth.  Psalm 2:10–12 “(10) Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. (11) Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. (12) Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” []

                                                                        ii.      The Messiah’s reign will be glorious & righteous over all the earth.  Psalm 45:2–5 “(2) You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever. (3) Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, With Your glory and Your majesty. (4) And in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness; And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things. (5) Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; The peoples fall under You.” []

                                                                      iii.      The extent of Messiah’s reign will be far larger than anything ever seen under any previous king of Israel.  Psalm 72:8–11 “(8) He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. (9) Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles Will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba Will offer gifts. (11) Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.” [] 

                                                                      iv.      There had been glimpses of all these things during various reigns of David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and others – but none were literally fulfilled.  There spiritual truths that find it’s fulfillment in Christ among His people, but as of yet no literal fulfillment. There WILL be a literal fulfillment.  Every other prophecy of God has been literally fulfilled; the promises concerning the Kingdom will be likewise.

  1. Objection #4: “If you believe in a Millennial Kingdom of Christ, doesn’t that mean that one day Jesus won’t reign?”  Not in the slightest!  The 1000 years is only the first 1000 years of Jesus’ rule.  After the Satanic rebellion mentioned in Ch 20:7-10, the Millennial Kingdom simply transitions to the eternal state.  Jesus’ kingdom in one sense began the very moment of His resurrection – it will see its full fruition in the Millennium – it will see its everlasting fulfillment in eternity.
  2. What does the Millennial reign of Christ tell us?  It tells us that there is coming a day in which all the world will recognize Jesus as the King!  It tells us that one day, we will see government the way it ought to be, with man submitted to his Maker & God on the throne.  It tells us that God will keep every single one of His promises to the letter; not a single one will be left out.  All of the promises of God are yes & amen in Christ Jesus! (2 Cor 1:20)  It tells us of the kingdom we are to expect in the future & the kingdom we are to act as citizens of right now.  It tells us that when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we’re truly praying for the 2nd coming of Christ & for the Lord Jesus to be recognized as God & King by everyone in the universe.  Praise God for the coming Millennial Kingdom! 

 

5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

  1. Keep in mind that the Church had already experienced its resurrection on the day of the rapture.  Scripture makes it clear that these events occur virtually simultaneously.  1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 “(15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. (16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” []  Some have suggested that there might be various stages within the resurrection of the just (beginning with Jesus’ own resurrection as the firstfruits, and continuing with ours, etc.), but whatever the case this much is true: there’s more than one resurrection.
  2. So what’s the 1st resurrection?  The one that had already occurred.  The context clearly shows that John was writing of those he had already seen sitting on the thrones of judgment & reigning – THAT is the 1st resurrection.  He’ll make the contrast clearer in verse 6…

 

6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

  1. Here’s the clarification.  Those who partake in the 1st resurrection have nothing to fear from the 2nd death.  What’s the 2nd death?  The moment when those who were raised apart from the 1st resurrection were cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).  Scripture makes it plain that there is a resurrection unto life & a resurrection for the condemned (John 5:29).  That’s the difference between the 1st & 2nd resurrections.
  2. Praise God for the promise of the 1st resurrection!  Praise God for the promises of life that we have in Christ Jesus!  Death may touch us briefly now, but in eternity it will never touch us again.  That’s the glorious promise Jesus shared with Mary & Martha prior to raising Lazarus from the dead.  John 11:25–26 “(25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ” [] That’s the same promise ALL of us have who are in Christ!  Because Jesus is the author of life, we have the gift of life.  Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we have the promise of rising from the dead.  Every singly believer throughout all history will rise again – a participant in the 1st resurrection, never again to taste death!
  3. Notice one last role for the believer.  In verse 4 we saw the saints & martyrs sitting on thrones with Christ reigning with Him & judging the world.  Now we see them also described as “priests of God and of Christ.”  What’s a priest?  Among other things, it’s someone who ministers unto God…  That’s exactly the blessing that was given to the tribe of Levi – they had a special inheritance apart from the land of Israel given to them specifically by God in order that they would minister to Him as priests (Exo 28:1, among others).  We’ll have the distinct blessing of serving directly in the presence of God for eternity – starting with the Millennial Kingdom!

 

Conclusion:

To look around at the world today, the words of Revelation seem so very far away.  For now, it looks like that the Devil is winning as he runs rampant through the earth.  But let’s be clear: the Devil ISN’T winning & he WON’T win.  Satan lost the war at the cross – and he’ll forever lose the remaining battles during the Millennial Kingdom.  Bottom line: the devil loses & the Lord Jesus is the victor!

Because Jesus is the victor, all the promises Jesus made will be fulfilled.  Every single one…down to the last jot & tittle.  Every verse that speaks of His literal reign – every promise that speaks of our inheritance alongside Him – every Scripture that speaks of us being made the children of God…all of these promises are true right now spiritually speaking, but we will actually see their literal & physical fulfillment in the day of the Millennial Kingdom.  It’s no wonder we look forward to that day with great anticipation & hope!  This is a promise in which we can greatly rejoice!

Jesus: Warrior-King

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 19:11-21, “Jesus: Warrior-King”

Is Jesus a warrior?  Typically when we think of our Lord Jesus, we remember Him in His 1st coming: meek & lowly…the suffering servant.  And He is indeed all of those things!  The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as being so gentle that He wouldn’t break a bruised reed (Isa 42:3).  Interestingly enough, Jesus’ meekness & humility were some of the very barriers that the Jews had to receiving Him as King.  Although Jesus’ suffering was prophesied throughout the Scriptures, the Kingly Messiah they expected was not a servant; He was to be a powerful King.  Like David of old who had slain his ten-thousands, so the expectation for the Messiah was to be a warrior-king – one who would slay the enemies of God & reign in power, majesty, and righteousness.

What the Jews expected in Jesus’ 1st coming is absolutely true – only it is descriptive of the Lord Jesus in His 2nd coming.  When Jesus 1st came to earth in His incarnation, it could not have been more lowly: a baby born to a unwelcome controversial family in poverty, on the run from power-hungry kings looking to take His life.  When King Jesus comes back to earth in His return, it will be in power as those looking to make war with God will find it – and they will find their defeat at the same time.

As the time of the Great Tribulation comes to a close, the apostle John has heard all of heaven sing of the praises of God in anticipation of His great victory.  He’s seen the preparation of the Bride of Christ, as the wedding feast of the ages is at hand.  Overwhelmed by it all, John falls to the feet of the angel showing him these things, and mistakenly worships him.  The angel mercifully (but rightly) corrects John & tells him to worship God alone.  No sooner does the command to worship God go out that John actually sees God in the flesh.  JESUS is the one whom we should worship – and now Jesus was right before John, portrayed in all of His glory.

Revelation 19:11–21 (NKJV)

–          Jesus the Lord & King

11Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

  1. It’s interesting that of all the glorious things John sees here, the 1st thing he mentions is the horse.  One would think the horse would be virtually ignored – but it becomes the primary way in which John references Jesus in this section.  Why a horse?
    1. The horse represented military might.  Armies mounted on horseback would overwhelm ancient foot soldiers.  Demonstrates the power in which Jesus will show Himself at the 2nd Coming.
    2. The color of the horse represents righteousness.  Just as the bright fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints (made possible for us through the righteousness of Christ), so does the white horse represent Jesus’ own righteousness.  Revelation has already shown us a rider on a white horse (Rev 6:2-3), but this was a reference to Antichrist at the beginning of the tribulation period.  Satan has had many false imitations of the things of God, Antichrist being the preeminent.  Yet Jesus in His glory far outweighs the 1st rider!
    3. The horse represents finality.  No longer is Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, or receiving the 7-sealed scroll, or having His grace & mercy proclaimed to the ends of the earth.  The Lord Jesus has now arisen, mounted His glorious steed & rides into battle.  The time for mercy has ended; the time for judgment has begun.
  2. Jesus is described with 4 different names in this section.  Name #1: “Faithful and True.”  Perfectly descriptive of Christ!  Jesus is the faithful witness of God (Rev 1:5), and Jesus is truth personified (Jn 14:6).  As God, Jesus is absolutely faithful to His unbreakable true word.  He has promised to return in judgment, and He will absolutely follow through on that promise.
  3. Why is it important to underscore that Jesus is faithful & true?  Because Jesus is the Judge.  God the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (Jn 5:22), both to the resurrection of life & the resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5:29).  As the Messianic King, Jesus has the right to judge, and the responsibility to do so – thus He judges without hesitation.  Objection: “But I thought Jesus didn’t judge anybody?!  Didn’t He tell us, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged?’”  Sure (Mt 7:1), but He never said that He wouldn’t judge anyone.  He did say that in His 1st coming, He did not come to condemn, because people had condemned themselves already. (Jn 3:17-18) …  Yet we need to be careful not to mix up His 1st and 2nd Comings.  When Jesus came as the Suffering Servant, He came to seek & save the lost (Lk 19:10).  When Jesus comes back in power & glory, He’s coming to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1).
  4. Notice that Jesus makes war “in righteousness.”  Not only is it right for Jesus to do such a thing (as a display of His glory & absolute justice upon evil), but the way He goes about it is in righteousness.  War is usually filled with all sorts of evil (no matter which side of the battle you’re fighting for), but not the war led by Jesus Christ.  His war will be righteous!

 

12His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.

  1. Jesus’ eyes: “like a flame of fire.”  Calls to mind the image from Ch 1 when John first saw Jesus in His glory.  Revelation 1:14–16 “(14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (15) His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (16) He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” []  Speaks of His glory & holiness.  Our God is a consuming fire! (Heb 12:29)  Sin cannot stand in His presence; the fire of Christ burns off the impurities of those who are saved & condemns those who are not.
  2. Jesus’ head: crowned with “many crowns.”  These are the crowns of royalty (as opposed to the victor’s crowns).  Jesus obviously is both victor & king – but here He is portrayed as the glorious Warrior King.  Earthly kings would wear several crowns if they governed more than one kingdom; all the earth belongs to Christ thus the number of crowns He wears is not named.  Every kingdom simply belongs to Him.
    1. Interesting contrast with the Beast.  Antichrist had several crowns of his own – he had 10 horns with a crown upon each horn (Rev 13:1).  These horns were representative of 10 earthly kings who give their power & authority to the Beast (Rev 17:12-13).  Jesus’ crowns are not numbered; they are simply better.  His are not crowns that belong to any other; they belong to Jesus alone.  Jesus Christ is infinitely better than the perverted version from Satan!
  3. Name #2: unknown.  Jesus certainly has a name written upon Him, but what it was, “no one knew except Himself.”  Some have thought this is the Tetragrammaton – the Hebrew letters that make up the name “Yahweh” that no one was able to pronounce.  Yet, it would seem that THAT name would be readily identified.  This is a new name of Jesus the King…one that no one yet knows.  There are still glories about our King Jesus that are yet to be revealed to us.  He is infinite in His scope & being.  It will take an eternity to learn of Him, just in order that we can praise Him in the fullness of His glory…

 

13He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

  1. The description moves from His head to His body, looking at Jesus’ robe “dipped in blood.”  Some have suggested this is the blood of those who are judged, but this seems unlikely as this is prior to judgment.  More probably, this is a reference to His work on the cross – the sacrifice atonement & the ransom price paid for our salvation from sin & death.
    1. Never in all history can Jesus be separated from the cross!  People will try – but they fail.  People often try to talk about Jesus as a prophet or a great moral teacher, but they always tend to fall short when it comes to the cross.  Liberals try to explain away the need – atheists attempt to explain away the event.  But it just can’t be done.  The whole purpose of Jesus’ 1st coming was that He would go to the cross, pay the price for our sin through His own blood, and then rise again in glorious victory on the 3rd day!
  2. Name #3: “The Word of God.”  Jesus is the Word – the Logos (λόγος) – the very expression of the thoughts & will of God the Father.  Although the translation of “logos” = “word,” the concept is far more than mere letters assembled on a page.  The concept behind the Greek word goes back to “counting” – there’s a sense of mental activity being portrayed.  Thus a “logos” is more than something said – it’s something that was thought upon & expressed.  Jesus as logos is the thought & expression of God – He is the very being & essence of God.  As God the Father speaks during Creation, it is Jesus whom He is speaking, and thus Jesus is co-creator with the Father (Jn 1:3).  If we want to see how God has expressed Himself, we look to Jesus because He is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and the one who wants to see the Father need only look to the Son (Jn 14:9).  Because Jesus is the Word of God, we must affirm that Jesus IS God!
    1. How important this is to remember throughout Revelation!  Although we’ve seen many mighty angels with immense power & authority, Jesus is not one of them.  Jesus is seen as God in all of His might & glory.  What follows the time of the Tribulation is not the rule of angels, but the rule of God & God is the one to bring judgment upon the earth.

 

14And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

  1. John’s attention moves from Christ the Lord to the armies He commands.  Who are they?  Us!  This is a plain reference to the Church!  That’s not to say angels won’t be there as well – Jesus told us they would be (Mt 25:31).  How do we know this is a reference to the Church?
    1. The description matches that of the Bride listed just a few verses earlier.  (vs 8 – “arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright”).  The Bride is the Church; not angels – likewise with the army.  The Bible tells us that Jesus will be coming with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14); this is the moment of prophecy.
    2. The Bible tells us that we will take part in the judgment of the world & of angels (1 Cor 6:2).  (It’s why we shouldn’t need to take fellow believers to court; we will be entrusted with vastly more judgment than the best civil judges today.)  The judgment begins here at the Battle of Armageddon.  This is not something given to the angels, but rather to the Church.
    3. We’ve already been told about this war & those whom the Lord brings with Him. Revelation 17:14 “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” []  Christians are the called – we’ve been called out of the world, out from sin & death, called to follow Jesus.  Christians are the chosen – chosen by God the Father from the foundation of the world for salvation & to share in the inheritance of Christ.  Christians are the faithful – those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to remain faithful to our Lord & King, despite hardships & temptations along the way.  Christians are called, chosen, and faithful & we will be accompanying our King!
  2. Can you imagine that day?  The day WE will be honored with the privilege of following Jesus on white horses (like the horse of our Lord) into battle.  Notice that the armies are not said to fight; they simply accompany Christ the King.  We will be witnesses to His great power & authority.
    1. We’re witnesses today!  This is what we ought to be proclaiming today…

 

15Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

  1. Jesus’ weapon: “a sharp sword.”  As with the original description of Christ as Revelation began (Rev 1:16).  Although this is a different Greek word, this seems to be a plain reference to the word of God, the Scriptures.  Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” []  Jesus IS the Word of God, but from His mouth comes the word of God as well.  Sharp & piercing, there’s no one that the word does not affect.
    1. For the believer, the sword of the Lord cuts us to conviction – per Heb 4:12.
    2. For the non-believer, the sword of the Lord cuts to the heart to lead to salvation…per the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:37).
    3. For the demonic forces against us, the sword of the Lord is our offensive weapon, fending off the attacks of the enemy (Heb 6:17).
    4. For those who reject God their entire existence, the sword of the Lord is what will cut them down in judgment (Rev 19:15).
  2. What happens after the battle?  The reign & rule of Christ.  Today, people have a choice: they can either serve Jesus willfully in love & gratefulness – or they can reject Him in rebellion.  After the Day of Judgment, that choice is removed.  Jesus WILL rule & He will rule “with a rod of iron.” (Referring to the Messianic prophecy of Ps 2:9 – “You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”)  That’s not to say that Jesus will no longer be loving or righteous; simply that Jesus’ rule will be imposed upon the world.  During the Millennium, He will be recognized by all the earth as the Sovereign King.  This is not the description of a power-hungry dictator; this is a description of the long-awaited righteous rule of God.
  3. Not only will Jesus rule, He will personally judge. “He Himself treads the winepress…”  Remember the description of the winepress of God from Rev 14 – the vine of the earth was reaped & thrown into the winepress of the wrath of God.  At that point, the carnage was vividly pictured with blood spattering (or rising, depending on your point-of-view) up to the horses’ bridles for as far as the eye could see (Rev 14:19-20).  The angels took part in the harvest, but Jesus Himself treads the winepress.  This is a gruesome picture – one that we may not normally think of our Lord Jesus taking part in, but this is His role as the Warrior Messiah of God – leading the armies of God to overwhelming victory over all of the earth, judging in righteousness.
    1. What must be emphasized here is that Jesus personally does all of this.  Our American Evangelical culture has watered down Jesus – virtually leaving Him as a wimp incapable of fierceness & wrath.  That’s NOT how the Bible portrays Him!  Yes, Jesus is loving & meek & humble – yes, Jesus invites all to come to Him, taking His yoke upon themselves – yes, Jesus willingly laid down His life for us in love.  But that’s not Jesus’ only side.  When Jesus returns, He will personally tread the winepress of God, and blood will rise like rivers.  Jesus is holy to the same extent as He is loving: infinitely.  His holiness will not be denied; His justice must be answered.

 

16And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

  1. Name #4: “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  This was the same title assumed by ancient emperors for themselves.  Yet for humans, it was arrogance; for God the Son, it is truth.  Jesus IS the King.  There will be no king among men that will be able to resist the King of Kings – there will certainly be no chance for Antichrist who desires to be worshipped as lord to stand against the Lord Jesus.  When Jesus comes, it will be in victory & power & all the earth will recognize Him for who He is.
  2. What do Jesus’ names here speak of?
    1. Faithful & True: His character.  He is the faithful God who is true to His word.  In that day, there will be virtually no promise left undone – the expectations of the warrior-Messiah throughout the centuries will be on display in His glory.
    2. The unknown: His infinite wonder. As much as is revealed about Christ, there is much more to be known.  Jesus cannot be contained – He is infinite in His grandeur & grace.  Forever we will be amazed by Him.
    3. The Word of God: His divine being.  As the Son of God, He is God the Son.  The expression of God & the mind of God.  The King who returns to reign is no ordinary King, He is God in the flesh coming to reign.
    4. King of Kings: His human victory.  Forever victorious, Jesus will rule incarnate over all the nations.  No corner of the world will be left out, and no human will be able to deny who He is: Christ the Lord.
    5. What a glorious Savior!

 

–          Jesus the Warrior

17Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

  1. In church services, we often see a “call to worship”; here we see a call to feast.  In the prelude to the great battle of Armageddon, an angel cries out to the carrion birds to prepare themselves for the feast of their lives.  There will be so much death & carnage on the field of battle that it will take all the birds on earth to dispose of the remains.  Quite a contrast to the invitation to the wedding feast!  Those who belong to God feast with Christ at the wedding; those who do not are feasted upon by the birds of carrion.
    1. Speaks to the fact that the victory is assumed – it’s assured.  There’s no doubt of the outcome.  All the birds need to be ready because all the earth will be judged; there’s not even any question that Antichrist will emerge victorious.
    2. Ever wonder what the Devil thinks of all of this?  Satan knows God better than we do; he knows that God cannot lie & no prophecy of God’s will ever end up void.  It’s not like the contents of the book of Revelation are hidden; Satan must know that his rebellion is futile.  And yet he still rebels.

                                                                          i.      That’s not too much different than people, is it?  Surely people must realize that it is futile to rebel against the Creator God, to whom all men must give an account.  Yet we still rebel. …

  1. Who will be included in the field of death?  Everyone.  Every possible group of people will be included; none left out.  Whether king or captain, slave or free, all who continue to rise up in rebellion against God at the end will be slain.

 

19And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

  1. Antichrist & his armies are gathered to make war.  They think that they can make ware against God.  In truth, they are gathered together for slaughter.  During this last act of rebellion, Antichrist musters all of his forces to come against the Lord Jesus Christ, but all the armies in all the earth are not powerful enough to overcome Jesus; ultimately their battle plans are futile.
  2. Question: is it possible that the men remaining on the earth will actually gather together with the express intent of making war against God?  Sure – why not?  We may have a tough time imagining such a thing now, but in that day those who remain alive on the earth will have experienced sign after sign, supernatural disaster after supernatural disaster.  They will have recognized the hand of God at work; they’re just so lost in their deception & rebellion that they will honestly believe they can pick a fight with God and win.

 

20Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

  1. With barely any mention of the battle itself, the battle is over as Jesus is victorious & Antichrist is utterly defeated.  He & the false prophet both are completely overwhelmed & captured. Why no mention of the battle?  Because we’re talking about Almighty Omnipotent God!  This is the same God that created the Universe with the words from His mouth.  Does anyone think that war against Him could possibly be a struggle?!  All God has to do is show up & He infinitely overwhelms the enemy!
    1. This is the same God we serve today!  He’s no different…God infinitely overwhelms the enemy!  If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)  Never forget whom you serve!  If you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus in repentance & faith – if you’ve been born of the Holy Spirit – then you belong to God.  You’re HIS child, with His seal upon your life.  The same God that infinitely overwhelms Antichrist & the false prophet is your God.  Jesus has no more power on that day than He does on this day.  So why pray to Him any differently?  When in need, cast yourself upon the grace of your Savior seeking His face & His power, knowing that whatever God wills to be done WILL be accomplished!
  2. What happens to Antichrist & the false prophet?  There’s no court case – there’s no deliberation – they are immediately judged & “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.”  We typically think of Hell as the eternal place of judgment for people outside of Christ (and it certainly is), but it was originally intended for the Devil & his demonic forces (Mt 25:41).  This is the place where the worm doesn’t die & the fire is not quenched (Mk 9:44).  Satan will join Antichrist & the false prophet later, but at this point, the Beast & prophet are cast into the lake of fire, forever judged.
    1. This is not a place where anyone would want to join Antichrist & the false prophet!  Their judgment will be torment for eon after eon into eternity.  Forever in pain, forever judged in the presence of God.  No doubt they will be filled with rage, but their rage will be futile as they will be in the lake of fire forever.  Yet we read later that people will join them there.  Rev 20:15, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
    2. That’s not what God would have for you!  God desires that you be saved from that fate & sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross & rise again for that express purpose.

 

21And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

  1. The beast & false prophet weren’t the only ones judged; so were their armies that accompanied them.  They were killed with the sword of Christ Jesus & the birds feasted on the carnage that followed.
  2. Again, notice that this personally comes from Jesus Christ.  The Son of God that would have saved them from the terrible consequences of their sin is the same Son of God that brings the fierceness of His wrath upon them as He slays them with the word of God.

 

Conclusion:

So after great anticipation, we finally see Jesus in His 2nd coming.  Many times in Revelation we’ve seen Him as the Lamb who was slaughtered for sin, slain before the foundation of the world.  Yet here we see Christ in a vastly different light:

  1. Jesus is the Glorious King.  Jesus has been seen as the One who suffered for our sin, but here He is seen in His visible glory.  With many names & many crowns, Jesus demands our attention, and we cannot help but be left in awe of our King & Bridegroom.
  2. Jesus is the Mighty Warrior.  No longer meek & mild, the Warrior Jesus comes in furious righteousness, finishing the war against Antichrist merely by showing up on the battlefield.  Those who rebel against Christ are destroyed & Antichrist is completely overwhelmed & cast into the lake of fire.

 

Is this how you see Him?  Sometimes it seems that people prefer the image of the meek & mild Jesus because He would seem to be a Jesus people can control.  Today, people have the choice of denying Christ & sadly many take full advantage of that choice.  Yet even among Christians, there seems to be a tendency for the saved to want to control our Savior, where we can dictate to Jesus on what terms we will serve Him.  That’s completely backwards!  Jesus is the LORD – He is the glorious Warrior-King of God, God in the flesh who graciously invites us to worship Him.  To see Him as the Bible portrays Him is to see Him in His glory.  At that point we not only love our King, but we reverently fear Him as He rightly deserves.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, this perhaps is one of the most frightening descriptions of Jesus you’ve ever read – yet it’s absolutely true.  This is how the Bible describes Him; this is how Jesus revealed Himself to the Apostle John.  This is how all the earth will see Him when He comes back in power, might, and ultimate authority.

Yet here’s the good news: you do not have to be one who experiences the slaughter of Jesus Christ because He’s already been slaughtered on your behalf.  He’s already taken the full brunt of the wrath of God upon Himself, in order that we would not have to experience it.  Turn to Him today!  Flee to the foot of the cross!  Jesus loves you & desires for you to be saved – but you must turn away from your sins & surrender to Him as Lord.  What army will you be included in, in that day?  Will be the army of Antichrist on whom the carrion birds will feast?  Or will be in the army of Jesus Christ – following our Lord & King as His beloved Bride?