September 3, 2017
All right, from the very first verse of this book, we understand that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Now, some of the Bibles say, it's a revelation of John, not so. It is the revelation that God gave to Jesus Christ, which He gave, therefore, that He might show His bond-servants the things which must surely take place. Jesus, then communicated it to His bond-servant, John. In other words, God the Father wants us to receive this revelation.
This is important because I think, there are a lot of people who don't understand the book of revelation, and so they avoid it, they don't study it. But there is tremendous blessing. In fact, the Scripture says, "Those who hear, those who read, and those who take heed of the words of this book will receive a special blessing." I'm looking forward to that blessing. It's a blessing for the church, it's a blessing for all of us.
I think that many people have a spiritual sense that there's a storm cloud rising on this earth. And that there is a great trouble that you can just sense is arising. Do you sense that spiritually? And therefore, we need to grasp what is happening in light of the prophetic word of God.
Now, the word Revelation, notice it's not plural, it's not revelations, it's The Revelation. And in the Greek, it's the word, I think you all know, it's the word Apocalypse. Now, when people think of the word apocalypse, they often think of worldwide cataclysmic things. And that's often times what is their mind when they have that word. But the meaning, actually, is not that at all. The meaning of the word apocalypse is a very simple meaning, which is the unveiling, or the revealing. It's like when a great sculpture, statue or something is covered and draped over, and they have the great presentation day, and the veil is lifted. And you, "Oh, the great work." It's like that. That's what it means.
The word, exactly, is being revealed. That is important for us to grasp because the unveiling is the revealing of Jesus Christ in the latter days, He is revealed to be King of kings, Lord of lords and Sovereign over the nations as seen in the latter day events. That's why it's so important for us to grasp these things. See, The Revelation, the book, the prophecy was not sent to strike fear in the hearts of people, no. No, I suppose the world could have fear, as well they should. But for the church, it's a word of encouragement. It's a word to strengthen your faith. It's a word that is a word of hope for us.
The unveiling of Jesus Christ over that nations is so helpful because it reveals that God knew the end before there was a beginning and He wrote it down for us that we might understand that our King is a champion who is Sovereign over the nations and He's defeated death, and He's won for us the victory.
As you study through Revelation - let's look at this by way of introduction - we need to understand that the book of revelation has a lot of symbols. It's important that we understand, of course, and then rightly interpret those symbols. It's easy to misinterpret symbols, so it's very important that we understand them. Misinterpreting symbols reminds me of a funny story. It has nothing to do with our study, but it was funny.
Our granddaughter, Avia, and I are driving around and she is practicing giving directions, using her tablet. So we're going somewhere, I give her the address, and so she's telling me where to go. "Turn left on this street, turn right on that street." And then she says, "Turn right on Spring Wood Doctor." Like, Spring Wood Doctor? There's no such thing as Spring Wood Doctor." And then it occurred to me, she saw the dr and misinterpreted it to be doctor. And so I said, "No, no, dear, that's Spring Wood Drive." And we have been laughing at that ever since. Every time we go somewhere, "Turn right on Spring Wood Doctor grandpa."
Symbols are important, they're very helpful actually because they transcend time. Language changes, but signs and symbols, they very powerful communicate the intent of the message. For example, It's one thing to say that a powerful world leader is going to come on the scene. But it's another thing to say, "The beast arises." It's one thing to say that Jesus has authority, but it's another thing to say, "The Lion from the tribe of Judah, arises." There's power in the symbols.
I want us to understand also that there are different ways of looking at and interpreting the Book of Revelation. So I'm going to give you some of those and start with those that I don't agree with. Just so you can have that bearing.
First of all, there is the spiritualizing of the book. In other words, these who use this approach, don't believe that these speak about any events at all but all of these are just symbols. they just represent spiritual insights or spiritual truths without any bearing on anything that actually is going to happen. I don't believe that at all.
Another way of looking at or interpreting the book of Revelation is the preterist view. Now, this approach teaches that the events described in the book of Revelation have already taken place. They describe events that have already been fulfilled, and they mean by that that the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, they believe is the fulfilling of all of these events in the Book of Revelation. I don't believe that. In fact, I think it's got a lot of problems. one of the biggest problems is that the destruction of Jerusalem happened in 70 AD, and the book was written like in 95 AD. So it's hardly prophecy.
Another approach is what we might call the historicist view. Now, they believe and teach that all of these events have already taken place but they extended throughout Church history. So the take the Churches described in the book of revelation as to be different segments of time in the history of the church and they've already been fulfilled. I don't believe that either.
So we come to that last one which is the correct and accurate one because it's the one I believe.
It's the futurist view, which believes and teaches that the prophecies of this book are end times events that connect together the prophecies of scripture that we see throughout the Bible. It brings together the prophecies of Daniel, and Ezekiel, and of Habakkuk, and Zechariah, and the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. All of them culminate together in the Book of Revelation. And the writings of Paul etc.
It's very, very important for us to grasp that these are future events. For example, we're going to see that it speaks about the rapture of the Church. What does that mean? When does that take place? We're going to understand that as we look at the prophetic word. Also, it describes for us that there's a seven-year period of time called the Great Tribulation of the Great day of the Lord that is spoken prophetically in the Book of Daniel but it is revealed in tremendous detail throughout the Book of Revelation. We're going to understand that it is the wrath of God that is poured out on the unbelieving world. We're going to see that.
He speaks about the return of Jesus Christ physically, the Second coming of Christ where He sets foot on the Mount of Olives and He enters Jerusalem through the eastern gate and sets forth His throne in Jerusalem to rule and reign the nations for a thousand-year period which we call the Millenial Reign of Christ. That is described also in the Book of Revelation.
And then He describes for us that there is a Judgment Seat, the Great White throne judgment by which God will judge the nations of the world and the people of the world. What does that mean for the Christian? We're going to understand that because frankly there's a tremendous encouragement that I think Christians will receive from that study as we look at the revealing of the Great White Throne Judgment. But then also, He speaks about eternity in the future, about heaven and earth and all of those future aspects of that revealed for us in the Book of Revelation. These things are really very, very important.
One of the things we also understand, we have to see, is the significance if Israel. As you look at prophecy, Israel becomes critical for us to understand, because what we see in scripture prophetically, is that many of the events of the future prophetic fulfillment happen surrounding Jerusalem and Israel. Therefore we must understand the significance of Israel because there's a branch of theology today that teaches that Israel as a nation is no longer relevant spiritually.
Now, I do not believe that at all. I believe that it is very relevant. They believe in a replacement. In fact, their doctrine is sometimes called Replacement Theology. That the promises given to Israel had been replaced by the promises given to the Church and therefore the spiritual significance is now the Church and Israel is no longer relevant. I don't believe that. In fact, I believe that the promises that God gave to Israel are eternal. I believe that the scriptural promises that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed, I believe are still relevant statements and prophetic even today.
In fact, I am so convinced of that that I believe that those verses are to inform our foreign policy as a nation when it comes to Israel. That we as a nation must support Israel not just for geopolitical reasons, but for spiritual reasons because those who bless Israel will be blessed. And therefore we must stand with Israel as particularly as we see the unfolding of the end times events before our eyes.
Now, another thing we're going to look at, this is still the introduction, by the way, another thing we're going to look at as we go through this book is the connecting of the events that are happening in the world today to Scriptural prophetic word. We need to see current events in the lens, or through the lens of prophecy of Scripture. And that's going to be very important for us particularly as we look at the Middle East, and we understand how we got to where we are now. We need to understand the history of the modern Palestinian problem also, by the way, because it has everything to do with what is happening to Israel in the future.
We're going to weave out together, and we'll weave current events together as we study through this book. So it's very relevant. And the last thing I'll say by way of introduction is that the Wednesday service becomes particularly important as we go through this book because it's the glue that connects all of these things together. Many of you understand how we connect our weekend services to the mid-week service.
Whereas at the weekend services, we'll take a section and we'll dive into that section deeply - may be taking anywhere from five to 10 verses or more - but on the Wednesday services, we go verse by verse by verse by verse, and we connect it all together. It's the glue that connects it. So if you can't make Wednesday, at least connect to the app or the website it's always there posted. But it is the glue that connects it all together. So I want to encourage you to be part of the Wednesday services even if you do that online.
All right, that's our introduction. Let's jump in. Revelation, the Apocalypse, the unveiling, the revealing chapter 1, verse 1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
Now, think about what he saw. This is the famous apostle, John. The one who was perhaps closest to Jesus, think about what he saw. He's the last living apostle, he's the elder statesman, he's one of the most significant figures in the Church at this point. And what did he see? He saw the resurrected Lord with his own eyes. He beheld Him, he touched Him, he spoke to Him, he was there when Jesus healed the blind, he was there when He raised Lazarus from the dead. He was there when He commanded the winds and the waves, he was there when He spoke and the demons obeyed His voice. He saw so much and he's got such relevance to what is happening because he was there, he saw.
He continues on verse 3, and here's where this blessing promise comes, Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and those who heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. In other words, it's just like when Jesus said it's He who not only hears but lives according to that word. In other words, the Book of Revelation cannot just be a Bible study, we cannot approach the Book of Revelation as a study of the Bible, just as that. It has to be personal. We have to hear, we have to read, but we have to abide. We have to take heed of these words.
As true with many parts of the scriptures, we have to make it personal which is what we're going to see as we go through this book. Verse 4 begins a standard New Testament approach to greeting where he says, "John to the seven churches." He's going to speak to these seven Churches that are in Asia. He's going to go through each one of them because there's a word that the Lord gives to each Church. And it's important for us to grasp because it's a word that we need to understand and see if there's any application.
So he says, " To the seven Churches, Grace to you and peace." But notice if you had Grace and peace from Him, from God, who is and who was and who is to come. That's a great picture of the eternality and the great Sovereignty of God over the-- And he says, "And," he's writing, "from the seven Spirits who are before His throne." Now, seven Spirits, what does that mean? We're going to look at that more in detail on Wednesday.
He's speaking of these seven Churches, and so he's referring to the seven Spirits. And it's like this picture of the principalities of the heavenlies and there's these Angels who stand over these churches. And I just love that picture because the Church is very, very important and significant to God. Even today the Church is very important to the Lord. The Church is the bride of Christ. And we need to understand the significance and the importance of the Church in regards to God's heart. There he says he's speaking from the seven Spirits who are before the Throne.
He continues, verse 5, and in writing from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. There is that great declaration that He's King of kings and Lord over the kings. What an encouragement. Man, when you see what's happening in the nations today, it's such an encouragement to have that affirmation, that our Lord is King. He is Sovereign over the kings of the earth.
He continues on, verse 5 still, to Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood. There is the very purpose for which God sent His Son to redeem us by His blood. And verse 6, and He has made us - here's where he gets personal, here's an example of where it's personal - He has made us to be a kingdom. You're in the Kingdom of God now. What does it mean to live in the Kingdom? We're going to look at that.
He's made us to be a kingdom, and notice, He's made us to be priests unto God; His God and Father. Have you ever thought of yourself as a priest? Most people don't think of themselves that way. But it's a very important thing to understand how God thinks of you. He's describing you here as priest unto God. A priest is someone who ministers to the Lord. When you were worshipping this morning, the Spirit of God was moving in His people, and we were blessing the Lord. That's why you worship, right? It's not just to enjoy an amazing worship team, an amazing song, it is to give your heart unto the Lord as a blessing and you're ministering unto the King who is Sovereign over your life. Amen.
And so that is important for us to grasp. He's calling you a priest. You understand what He's calling you to be. I was talking to a fellow after service last night who said he came upon the website whereby a person can fill out a form and instantly become a pastor. Actually, it takes more than that, you have to have the Holy Spirit's anointing for that. But all of us are called to be priests, all of us. So we have to understand who God is calling you to be. So he continues on, priests to God, and he says, "Unto Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
Verse 7, behold He is coming with the clouds, he's just jumping right in here, He's coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him. Every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him. Speaking here of Israel. Once we get into that, Zephaniah describes, Zechariah describes that. And all of the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. When they see Him, they will mourn over Him. That is very interesting, we'll look at that more on Wednesday. He says, "But even so. Amen."
Now, what does the word Amen mean? It means, let it be, may it be. It's a yes, let it be Lord. He's coming on the clouds, let it be. Every eye will see it, may it be. And those who pierced Him will see Him, let it be. And all of the tribes of the earth will mourn over him, let it be. There's a powerful understanding in how describes here, verse 8 he says, “I am the Alpha, I am the Omega.” That's the A and the Z of the Greek alphabet. "I am the beginning, I am the end," he says, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” How about that for a start?
I. Revelation often Comes in Suffering
It's going to be a powerful book. Those are the verses I want us to look at as we go through this book, just start with those verses and understand this to start with, that revelation often comes in suffering. What I mean by that is this, the famous apostle, John, is the one who was given this revelation while he's exiled on the island of Patmos. Why is he there? Because the emperor, Domitian, is very threatened by the Church. Now, we know that there was a great persecution under the emperor, Nero, because the Chruch was beginning to arise in the empire in great significance and influence many. So Nero brought a great persecution.
But Domitian was very threatened because this Church who followed after Jesus Christ, they called Him Lord and King, they called him the very Son of God. But emperor Domitian insisted on being called Dominus et Deus, Master and God. Can you imagine, can you just imagine someone insisting that he be called Master and God? And this Church threatened him. And so he brought a great persecution and who better than to start arresting, but John the great elder statesman. So he had him boiled in oil but by great miracle, he did not die. And so he was exiled to the island of Patmos.
Here he is now on this barren rock suffering tremendously but it's in the midst of this suffering that God gives to him this tremendous revelation. What a great encouragement to the Church when they needed hope. And frankly, it would be a great encouragement to us the Church who needs hope even today. Because here's what we've got to understand that we learn the most in tribulation. There are some things you just can't learn in a Bible study, you learn them through life. You get the Bible study and you write that on your heart, but then you begin to apply it, you begin to live it, it becomes powerful and relevant to you when you live that.
A. We learn the most in tribulation
It's often times the greatest difficulties by which we learn the greatest lessons and come to experience the greatest hope of God's greatest promises. This world's filled with tragedy, this world's filled with difficulty. I read the story, the account of Doctor Criswell, a famous pastor in Dallas, Texas. And he writes of a time he was flying in an airplane, he sat next to a man he recognized. He was a well-known theologian, looking forward to speaking to him. only to discover that the man had just lost his son. His son had died through meningitis. But out of that tragedy, came a great hope.
The story goes like this, the professor relates his story, the boy came home from school with a fever and he says, "We thought it was just one of those childhood fevers but turned out to be a virulent form of meningitis. And the doctor said the boy could not be saved." And so he said, "I set about a vigil, a death watch sitting next to my son." About the middle of the day, he said, this boy whose strength was fading and his vision, and his brain getting clouded said, "Daddy, it's getting dark. Isn't it?" "Yes, son. It's getting dark, it's getting very dark." Of course only to the boy. "Daddy, I guess it's time for me to go to sleep. Isn't it?" "Yes, son. Time for you to go to sleep."
And he said the little boy had a way of fixing his pillow just so when putting his head on his hands when he slept. So he fixed his pillow like that, and he laid his head on his hands, and he said, "Good night, daddy. I'll see you in the morning." And he closed his eyes, and he stepped over into heaven. Doctor Criswell said the professor didn't say anything for a long time, just stared out the window. But then he turned back, his eyes filled with tears, and he said, "Doctor Criswell, I can hardly wait until the morning."
There is a great hope that comes through the tragedies of life. You often have the greatest promises written deeply on your heart. And there's one of the great things we have to understand comes out of the story. Spending time on an island in the Aegean sounds like such a wonderful thing. But it was a barren place, just a rock, and he had been boiled in oil. But out this suffering, God brings this revelation that God is Sovereign over the forces of evil and over the nations of the world. We need that encouragement right now.
God brings triumph out of tragedy, He brings beauty out of ashes, we know that story. We've experienced it ourselves. The greatest lessons come out of the greatest difficulties. When Moses was leading Israel in the desert, they grumbled a lot. At one point, they got this point where Moses almost lost his life because of this angry mob. They had been days without water, and finally, when they did have water it was bitter. So God instructed Moses to take this branch from a tree and throw it into the water, and it became sweet. But it was there that God revealed an aspect of His nature, of His heart.
In Exodus 15:26, he says, “For it is I, for I, the LORD, am your healer. I am Jehovah Rapha, I am the God who healeth thee.”
B. We choose how we respond
Out of the great tragedy and trouble, came a great revelation of who God is in your life. Because what we have to understand is that we have a choice. We choose how we respond. See, John, he has spiritual bearing, he had heaven in his heart. It meant everything to him and therefore it determined the course of his life, and it determined how he responded to life's troubles. Here he had been tremendously persecuted because of his faith, the word of the testimony, he says. But how does he respond?
We live in a very evil, dark world. There's evil all around us. We have to decide how we're going to respond to that. There's troubles all around us. Some respond with spiritual rebellion, you might say. "If God doesn't respond or do things the way I think He should do them, then I'm not going to be close to Him anymore." Well, that doesn't work out so well, doesn't' help anything and frankly, it makes things worse.
Some people, they become bitter, that's their response. They become bitter, all their life, they're just bitter. They hold that against God, they hold it against others. They, as the Scripture says, eat sour grapes. They go through life with a chip on their shoulder. And they focus only on pain. That's no way to live, God doesn't want you to live that way. Be free, man. Be free of that, let go of those things. Don't keep holding on. God does not want you to live in bitterness and unforgiveness. I will dare you, God wants you to be free because there's joy that comes.
God want's us to live with joy in our hearts, and peace. And He wants us to understand that there's another way to respond. The third choice is to get closer to God and watch for His spiritual revelation. God often speaks to us out of our pain. God often speaks to us out of our troubles, out of our difficulties. He reveals Himself. When Moses grew up in Pharaoh's house, all the privilege and all the accouterments of wealth but he saw how his people were being treated.
And one day, he took matters into his own hands, you remember the story out of the book of Genesis, and he ended up killing an Egyptian in his confrontation and he had to run for his life. And left all of this behind and spent 40 years in the desert. What a contrast. 40 years. But it was there that God gave his greatest revelation. That God was going to give meaning and purpose to his life. And that it was he who was going to lead His people out of the bondage that they were experiencing in Egypt. And God revealed to him that his name-- He said, "What shall I tell them that your name is? They will say, "Who it is who sent you?" "You say my name is Yahweh. And it means, all that I am, I am to you."
Now that, that is a great word. All that God is, He is to you. If we could just grasp that. Imagine what God is, imagine all of His aspects, all the aspects of His character, who He is, all that He is, he says, "I am to you." What a powerful understanding. The suffering that he went through brought forth the greatest revelation. When you read through the bible, you'll see so many places where they're going through so many troubles, so many obstacles but God gives fresh vision, revealing an aspect of His character and a great new promise.
II. There is Blessing in Revelation
When the nation of Isreal was being taken captive by Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah received one of the greatest promises in scripture. Lamentations 3:22-23, we love this promise. The Lord's loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is thy faithfulness, oh Lord. Recognise that hymn? We love that hymn because it's a great promise that we can stand on. But it came forth out of the greatest trouble.
See, what he's telling us, what we see in these verses is that there's a great blessing in revelation. God reveals who He is for the purpose of blessing our lives, there's a special blessing for those who would read and hear, and to heed. He says, "Blessed are they who take these words to their heart." The purpose is to encourage the Churches that had already gone through Nero's persecution and now are going to be suffering again. But they needed to take these words to their heart and prepare their lives, we need to do the same.
A. Blessed are they who take these words to heart
Right now, there's a storm cutter rising on the horizon. Now is the time, have a spiritual bearing in your life now. Now is the day to prepare. He says, "For the time is near." What does it mean that the time is near? A lot of people say, "Well, it seems like He's delayed to me." Let me give you a great verse. 2 Peter 3:8-9, do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved. I love it, had to start right there.
Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient. You look at it as slowness, God looks at it as patience. Not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. It's like opportunity. That's why I'm excited for these welcome weekends that we do. These are like opportunities.
And really, you know what makes welcome weekend so - welcome weekend, I can't say that five times, it's a task - what makes welcome weekend so awesome? It's when we recognize as a Church that God uses the Church. In other words, it's when you do the inviting. you would be surprised how many people would want to hear the Gospel. "I know people who don't." Sure there's always been people who don't want to hear, but you'll be surprised how many do. And I'm telling you what, God is going to move in power. God is going to move.
We've already seen that God is not finished yet. God is not done. Do you think God's done? He's not finished and therefore, we have to believe that the patience of God is revealed so that all can come to repentance. Take these words to heart. He says for things will happen will happen quickly. The word in Greek is tachus from which we get the word tachometer. Things will happen quickly. And when things happen quickly, priorities will quickly change.
In October, 17th, 1989, 5 or 3 PM, the world series was considered one of the most important events taking place on the planet because the Oakland A's were facing off against the San Fransisco Giants. But at 5 or 4 PM, and earthquake hit Candlestick Park. 6.9 on the Richter scale. And at 5:05 PM, all priorities immediately changed. Things can happen very quickly.
Now is the time to prepare, now is the time to be ready, now is the time to have spiritual bearing, because there's a storm cut on the horizon. Now's the time for revival.