Banner

"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

Contributors

  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

    top250.jpg

    Community Websites

    Monergism Books on Facebook

    Blogroll

    Latest Posts

    Categories

    Archives

    Ministry Links

  • « Monergism.com Reformation T-Shirt | Main | New & Noteworthy 05-26-06 »

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Pt. 1 & 2 by Rev. C. R. Biggs

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ

    Part One

    Revelation Chapter One

    Revelation 1: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

    The Book of Revelation is God's Word to Us!

    The Book of Revelation is a book that is either misunderstood and avoided, or it becomes a book where Christians become overly preoccupied or imbalanced in their study of it. An ocean of ink has been spilled in attempts to interpret the book rightly, and there have been a variety of interpretations, particularly with regard to issues such as the Millennium (Is the Millennium referred to in Revelation 20 literal or symbolic?), the time of Christ's return, as well as many other issues.

    Some wise teachers in the past have avoided preaching or writing on Revelation altogether, and many Christians today avoid reading it because it is very confusing to them. In the next few studies, I want to attempt by God's grace to write on what is clear from this book and to remind us as Christians that there is a blessing that goes along with the reading of the book (Rev. 1:3). The next few studies will be from chapter 1 of Revelation, a very foundational and important chapter for interpreting the remainder of the book.

    I do not presume to have all the answers for this challenging, as well as important book, but I do know that it is part of the God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant revelation of God to man. The Book of Revelation is part of what God has given us for the people of God to be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He has given it to us in Holy Scripture to rebuke, encourage, correct, and strengthen us. He has revealed Jesus Christ in this book so that we might have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-10). Therefore, for all these reasons, it is important for us to try and understand this book as Christians.

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ

    Part One

    Revelation Chapter One

    Revelation 1: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

    The Book of Revelation is God's Word to Us!

    The Book of Revelation is a book that is either misunderstood and avoided, or it becomes a book where Christians become overly preoccupied or imbalanced in their study of it. An ocean of ink has been spilled in attempts to interpret the book rightly, and there have been a variety of interpretations, particularly with regard to issues such as the Millennium (Is the Millennium referred to in Revelation 20 literal or symbolic?), the time of Christ's return, as well as many other issues.

    Some wise teachers in the past have avoided preaching or writing on Revelation altogether, and many Christians today avoid reading it because it is very confusing to them. In the next few studies, I want to attempt by God's grace to write on what is clear from this book and to remind us as Christians that there is a blessing that goes along with the reading of the book (Rev. 1:3). The next few studies will be from chapter 1 of Revelation, a very foundational and important chapter for interpreting the remainder of the book.

    I do not presume to have all the answers for this challenging, as well as important book, but I do know that it is part of the God-breathed, infallible, and inerrant revelation of God to man. The Book of Revelation is part of what God has given us for the people of God to be fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He has given it to us in Holy Scripture to rebuke, encourage, correct, and strengthen us. He has revealed Jesus Christ in this book so that we might have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-10). Therefore, for all these reasons, it is important for us to try and understand this book as Christians.

    "The Main Thing"

    The title of the book, 'The Book of Revelation', comes from the first sentence which describes the book as 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'. As we begin this study, I think it supremely important to understand that the book, in addition to everything else we learn in it, is foremost 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'.

    In other words, the Book of Revelation is to be understood as the unveiling, or revealing of Jesus Christ. Not merely Jesus' revelation (the revelation belonging to Jesus), but the book should primarily be understood as the revelation of, or about Jesus (God's revelation about Jesus -- to us!). The knowledge and understanding of this important focus may keep us away from unhealthy preoccupations with how history will unfold in the future, as well as fictional speculation on when the return of Christ will be [Note: This book is entitled Revelation (singular), not Revelations (plural). This matters. Many today call it Revelations and I think this is because there is a misunderstanding of what the Book is communicating.]

    I was once told by a wise pastor that one important idea to keep in mind when speaking, writing, or preaching is this: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." In our study of Revelation, by keeping the main thing, well, the main thing, that is the focus upon God's revelation of Jesus, then our attention and our primary concern in our interpretation and understanding of the Book of Revelation will be on the present work of Jesus NOW for his people and the encouraging hope, promises, grace, and strength that this knowledge, this revelation brings to us today in the midst of our struggles in this world and our pursuit of holiness.

    Our study of Revelation chapter 1 will proceed in this way for the next few issues of Word of Encouragement:

    JESUS IS THE...

    1. Resurrected and Living King (vv. 1-5a)

    2. Coming Judge and King (vv. 5b-9)

    3. Speaking King (vv. 10-16; chapters 2-3)

    4. "Ever-Present Help in Times of Trouble" King (vv. 17-20)

    Introduction to the Study

    I have been grateful to have had the opportunity to teach the Book of Revelation two times in the past. One time I taught it to teens at the Christian school where I was chaplain, and then the second time I taught it to adults in the church. When I have taught the Book of Revelation to classes in the past there has been a greater appreciation for how Jesus reveals himself to his Church in the book. Although initially some were intimidated by the study of this book, after a few studies beginning with the above outline in chapter one, some were encouraged to read further and deeper- - and many seemed to love it. In fact, many of the students told me after the classes that they were reading it for themselves and seeing

    Jesus as the King who reigns right now, is present to help his people, and to remind us that no matter what we go through here on earth, Jesus is King, He reigns presently, ever-interceding for his people, and encouraging them on through "danger, toil, and snare" by his grace to the finish line when he comes again.

    This is a good summary of the entire purpose of the book!

    Many of the students were delighted that the Book of Revelation has "present tense" significance and practical application for believers today (as well as the unbeliever today in the way of a warning of denying the King who reigns and hopefully bringing the unbeliever to repentance). Some of the students told me that they had been so preoccupied with what the Book of Revelation had taught about the future (and some fanciful interpretations read into the book about the so-called future), that they had failed to see what the Book of Revelation taught them about their present relationship and walk with Jesus Christ!

    Some of the students were upset with well-meaning, but misguided fictional writers who had gotten their focus off the "main thing" of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ in Revelation. These students realized that these writers had perhaps unintentionally focused them mentally and spiritually elsewhere on speculations that may be legitimate in a fictional novel, but were illegitimate and quite dangerous when written to provide a grid for the understanding and interpretation of the Book of Revelation!

    Learning from my teaching of the book and especially from my students and the questions they raised, this study will focus on the present encouragement as well as blessing that the Book of Revelation was inspired and written to communicate to believers of every nation, tongue, tribe, and peoples from the time of Christ's ascension to God's right hand until the day he returns for those who await him! Before we begin our study, let us consider two important reminders about the Book of Revelation.

    What in the World is an Apocalyptic?

    Part of the frustration for us today in reading the Book of Revelation is in not fully understanding what kind of book it is, or its genre. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation in the last part of the 1st century in a genre that would have been extremely familiar to the people of that time. Genre is a type of written material or literature (like a letter (epistle), history, narrative, poem, etc.). The genre of the Book of Revelation is called apocalyptic. The Book of Revelation is mostly an apocalyptic piece of literature as a genre, but it has other genres such as prophecy and letter or epistle as well. The apocalyptic aspect of the book is for many students of the Bible, the big stumbling block and the reason why many Christians are apprehensive about attempting to read it.

    Simply put, apocalyptic literature in the Apostle John's day was written to encourage believers that God was on the throne. However, apocalyptic was written in highly symbolic language. In Jewish apocalyptic writings, the Jews of the 3rd to the 1st century B. C. were encouraged through persecution and warfare in this world that there was another world that God had promised that would eventually come.

    The purpose of apocalyptic literature was to develop and encourage perseverance under trials, sobriety and continued faith through sufferings, martyrdom and times of unfaithfulness and faithlessness, and to be reminded that God sits upon the throne of the universe, ruling history for his good purposes as well as for the good of his people!

    This is ultimately the same purpose for which John wrote. He addressed the Book of Revelation to the seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The primary reason for his writing a letter and prophecy in an apocalyptic genre (or type of literature) was to encourage the saints that Jesus the Messiah and His Kingdom had come.

    The Lamb sits victoriously upon the throne because he completed all the work on behalf of his people and therefore they should not fear, but be encouraged that Jesus reigns and will come again to restore all creation in order to bring about a new world without sin and misery where holiness and righteousness are all that is to be found.

    The Apostle John wrote 'the Revelation of Jesus Christ' to encourage, to assist the saints by the Spirit's work to persevere in their faith no matter how corrupt or difficult this present evil age becomes, no matter how much they are tempted to give up and give in to sin, they were to be sober, watchful, standing firm in the victory of Jesus Christ as they fix their eyes and the focus of their lives upon the Redeemer ever present to help in times of trouble and through many trials!

    The seven churches were seven real churches in the historical setting of the 1st century, but as I shall attempt to develop in the upcoming studies, these churches had representative problems as well as spiritual virtues that would be addressed by the living and active Word of God in the present. So, even though the churches were real historical churches, the problems, the challenges, the temptations, the spiritual virtues, were similar to all congregations of the visible church throughout history all the way up to this very day! The Word of God, the Living Christ still speaks to his churches for those who have ears to hear what the Spirits says.

    Blessings from God!

    Another truth that is important to grasp as we seek to study the Book of Revelation is from chapter one, verse 3. It says:

    "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."

    A couple of truths need to be addressed. First, this is the only book of Holy Scripture with a blessing to those who read aloud, who hear and keep the words of this prophecy. This is extremely important. The Book of Revelation may have its challenges because it is of the genre of apocalyptic literature, but it holds a blessing for those who read aloud, hear and keep the words of this prophecy.

    Through the gracious interaction and living illumination of the Holy Spirit, we can understand this book (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-14)! It may be a challenge, but we can understand it.

    God inspired John to write this book to encourage his people throughout church history in various times and places with the hope of Jesus the King and his resurrection! God is clear in the Book of Revelation if you study it properly, and we must remember that God would not have desired to divinely tease his people with such a book, offering a blessing to those who read aloud, hear and keep the words, only to confuse his people by the prophecies and symbolic nature of it.

    If there is one diabolical trick presently that should be exposed, it is the misinterpretation of the Book of Revelation that has gone on throughout church history; it is the misunderstanding that one needs a specialist, someone with a "secret key", to unravel the "true" meaning of this book; it is the mistaken focus on the lesser important details of the book causing the Christian to theoretically and functionally only have a 65-book canon, or a 26 book New Testament! I am afraid many have been duped, tricked, mistakenly informed by the wiles and craftiness of the devil!

    Think about it, if there is a blessing from God, a clear revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ, especially meant for Christ's people who live in a world of sin and misery, an age ruled by the evil one (Eph. 2:1-5; 6:10-18; 2 Cor. 4:4), then this would be a book that the devil would want us to avoid, or become overly preoccupied with! Christians be encouraged! God has not left us without a Teacher, a Great and Sovereign Interpreter, the One Who wrote and inspired it Himself! (cf. John 14:25ff; 16; 1 Cor. 2:6ff). The Holy Spirit will help and guide God's people by faith as they truly believe that their is indeed a blessing for those who read aloud, hear, and keep what is written in the book!

    Conclusion

    As part of the prevention of the imbalance, and to avoid the fanciful misinterpretation that we face today in our congregations as we try to understand this book, we should be reminded that although apocalyptic literature is highly symbolic, we can still compare Scripture with Scripture, which is the only infallible rule of interpretation. One of the reasons for our imbalance and misinterpretation of Revelation today is that many do not understand how to recognize the book's genre, and once they do, they do not know how to interpret the book in light of other Scripture.

    When we read the difficult and highly symbolic passages, we are to be reminded that a great deal of what John is alluding to is found in the Old Testament, especially in the biblical books of Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. Could this be because the people of God today are functionally biblically illiterate, particularly of the Old Covenant? I am not trying to be overly critical, but it is always worthwhile to ask the question. Perhaps the reason the Book of Revelation is fancifully interpreted so often is because the people of God have not properly understood their Old Testaments?

    Another important truth to be remembered to help us with the imbalances and misinterpretations is not only to be informed concerning apocalyptic literature, but to also be humbled by the need for the Holy Spirit's help and illumination in our interpretation. If more Christians would humble themselves before God's holy Word rather than being spiritual "know-it-alls", this may lead not only to fruitful interpretation, but a fruitful life as well as we learn to meditate upon God's Word, thinking His thoughts after him as we are led by the Spirit of the Living God (John 15).

    If I had to sum up the entire study of the Book of Revelation that we are about to embark upon, it would be encapsulated in this summary:

    The Lamb of God overcame through resurrection victory and so can his people! Jesus died and was resurrected, defeating the power and works of the devil. Jesus' people will be resurrected and can stand firm in the victory won by the Lord Jesus!

    The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus' victory over and over again, so that God's people will be reminded that His victory is our victory!

    PART TWO


    In the last study above we learned the importance of understanding the Book of Revelation as a genre known as apocalyptic. We also considered why it is important to consider the blessing that God promises in 1:3 to those who read the words of this prophecy aloud, to those who have ears to hear, and to those who keep what is written in the book. We closed our last study by considering the importance of our humility in interpretation, our continual reliance upon the Holy Spirit as our Great Teacher, and how to compare Scripture with other Scripture. Our study will proceed according to the outline below:

    JESUS IS THE...

    1. Resurrected and Living King (vv. 1-5a)

    2. Coming Judge and King (vv. 5b-9)

    3. Speaking King (vv. 10-16; chapters 2-3)

    4. "Ever-Present Help in Times of Trouble" King (vv. 17-20)

    We begin this study by considering how the Book of Revelation begins by revealing Jesus as Resurrected and Living King. When John wrote Revelation in the late 1st century A.D. the church was undergoing a great deal of suffering because of their faith (probably under the Roman emperor Domitian). The Roman Empire was persecuting Christians in different places because of their unwillingness to sacrifice incense and worship Caesar as Lord (“Kurios). Rome wanted the Christians to do more than merely "give to Caesar what was his due" or to honor the governing authorities as Paul had taught in Romans 13. Caesar desired the worship that only God's people could give to Christ alone as Lord and Messiah (cf. Acts 2:29-34)

    This proclamation and confession of Jesus’ Lordship, and the unwillingness to confess “Caesar is Lord” caused a great deal of tribulation and suffering in the visible Church. In fact, John as he wrote the Book of Revelation, was on the Island of Patmos himself, an exiled Christian because of his faith. He writes in Revelation 1:9,

    Revelation 1:9: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."

    God was pleased to use John and inspire him to write to other suffering congregations who were being tested and tried in their faith as the persistent Roman persecution continued. This was a time of tribulation for John and the early Christians, as has been all of the days since Jesus ascended to the right hand of God and the gospel has gone to the ends of the earth, all the way up to the present (John 14:25-31; 16:33; 1 Tim. 3:1-12; 1 Peter 4:12-18).

    Because of the great pain and tribulation of the last days since Jesus ascended to the throne of God as reigning Messiah (Acts 2:16-38; 1 John 2:18-28), the Apostle John was inspired by God to write the Book of Revelation to be a comfort and a help to Christians in every age as they await the coming of their Lord and Savior. The Book of Revelation reminds all of God's people to never give up or given in as we stand firm in Christ's victory! As we study the Book of Revelation, we should always keep the purpose of John in mind.

    The main purpose of John in writing the Revelation of Jesus Christ was that God wanted to encourage his people in the Last Days before Jesus returns to stand firm and strong in the Name of Jesus, and to continue to persevere through the pain and struggles of living in a world full of sin and misery. God gave to his people the Book of Revelation as a revelation of hope to unify them and solidify their witness.

    It is ironic that the book has become for some a source of disagreement and division because of differing interpretations, and a subject to avoid in our conversations as Christians. Despite the disunity in our understanding of the book, today in our study we shall consider the Jesus who will unify all of his people one day. Today, our study is from Revelation 1:1-5a.

    Jesus is the Resurrected and Living King

    Revelation 1:1-5a: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth...

    John writes the Revelation of Jesus Christ in light of the fact that Jesus has accomplished his perfect work on behalf of his people. Jesus sits upon the throne at the right hand of God sovereignly ruling over the history of the world that was created by him and for his ultimate goals and purposes (Col. 1:15-20). Jesus is the Firstborn from among the dead and all those who have placed their trust in him and continue in that same grace will be with him in the New Heaven and New Earth.

    The Kingdom of God has come in Jesus. Jesus is seated at God’s right hand reigning over heaven and earth, and the Church is called to proclaim and confess that the Kingdom has come in this world- -even though at times it does not seem like the Kingdom has come, nor that Jesus is Lord because of suffering and tribulation. The Church as witnesses to the King (Messiah-Anointed One) and His Kingdom impact the world and its leaders through proclaiming the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus’ Kingdom grows and expands as Jesus causes many hearts throughout the world to submit to his Lordship and gratefully live in obedience to the Word of Christ’s Kingdom.

    The Church is to remember that in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), Jesus tells the Church that all authority has been given to him in heaven and in earth. Go and teach the nations all that I have commanded you and baptize them in the Trinitarian Name as they submit to the True and Eternal King, the Son of God. The Church is called to storm the gates of hell in proclaiming the King and His Kingdom even though at times it would seem that the gates of hell are prevailing- -we are to overcome through tribulation and suffering- -because Jesus the King has promised to be with us “even to the end of the age”.

    In the last study we considered verses 1-2. We learned how God had truly revealed himself to his people clearly. The Book of Revelation was not written to be a mystery that only the learned or a privileged few might understand and read. According to verse 3 all who read, that is all Christians can and should understand the Book of Revelation. Why? Because there is truly a blessing for those who read aloud, hear, and keep the words written in it. This is all to be a blessing by the Holy Spirit, our Gracious Teacher and Illuminator of all Biblical truth (1 Cor. 2:6-14).

    What would be this blessing? I think one of the greatest blessings for Christians of any time period is to know and remember that Jesus Christ is the resurrected One, ruling over Heaven and Earth. To know and realize that He is indeed coming soon, and he will judge the earth and restore all things is the greatest blessing we can meditate upon. The Book of Revelation reveals the reign of Jesus, the wrath of Jesus, and the rest we have in Jesus as his people! What more of a blessing could we have on this side of things "under the sun" as we await the Son!

    In verse 4, John writes using the apostolic Christian greeting: "Grace to you and peace..." In John's greeting, he wants the suffering Christians to know throughout all of church history that Jesus is the resurrected and living King over heaven and earth. John gives a Trinitarian blessing by speaking of God the Father as the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Omniscient Spirit who sees all things (cf. Isaiah 11:3-4; Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6), and Jesus Christ the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

    In this Trinitarian blessing, the Apostle John is encouraging Christians in every age that God our Father is the Eternal Father. He is the One God who sees all things and knows where we are and what is our present need. He knows that our greatest need was a Savior to represent us before His Holy throne. Jesus is revealed to us as the one who was resurrected to the most preeminent position in the cosmos ("first-born from the dead"). This brings encouragement to all those who believe in Jesus and who have been clothed with his perfect righteousness will also one day be resurrected to be with him and reign with him (Rev. 4-5; 21-22).

    In verse 5a, John calls Jesus "the Faithful Witness". This can be translated either "witness" or "martyr". Our lives as Christians reveal Jesus because we are called to be his light-bearers and walk in His truth (Matt. 5:14; Eph. 4-5). At this time in the early church when Revelation was written some of the Christians were being killed for their witness, or "martyred" and this is where we get this word. Many throughout church history in these last days since Jesus ascended to the throne of God have suffered persecution and tribulation to the point of death.

    Living in a Material World...and Suffering?

    Many who receive this 'Word of Encouragement' are Americans. As Americans, we have been blessed abundantly in our country and for that we should be grateful. However, sometimes prosperity and riches make us think we have godliness and all we need, then over time we find out that our prosperity, theological laziness, and spiritual apathy has caused us to allow some of our congregations in Christ's church to become "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked", as Jesus tells the Church at Laodicia.

    Revelation 3:15-17: "'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

    Riches and prosperity can be a stumbling block in our Christian growth. Paul tells us that godliness with contentment is the greatest gain (1 Tim. 6:16; cf. Phil. 4:13). We should be ever mindful of this temptation when reading the Book of Revelation. It is addressed to suffering congregations not merely in the early church, but also to all churches. It would be very sad if the very purpose for the Book of Revelation made no sense to Americans today because we were not undergoing the same kind of suffering for our faith and witness. What a horribly sad day when the witness of our congregations looks so much like the culture and the world that there is no real difference between the church and the world.

    I am not saying that we should desire or look for suffering, it will find us (1 Tim. 3:12). I am merely saying that we must keep alert and sober in a culture being defined as the pax sumptuoso, the "Sumptuous Peace" or just plain "fat and happy". I realize some of us do suffer a great deal, but I am reminded that the purpose of Revelation in the midst of suffering is to bring God's people encouragement.

    But do we need the Book of Revelation today as Americans except to make it a pitiable pursuit into the mind of God about the future? Ask yourself: "Is Revelation relevant to me as a Christian today, or have I left the reading of it to the so-called prophecy experts and the so-called learned?" "Do I read this book or is my New Testament functionally only 26 books?" "Have I allowed my unhealthy preoccupation of the future blind me from the book's important encouragement for me as a Christian TODAY?"

    The reason I mention this warning for us all is that when I have taught this book I find that my middle class American students in my class (who I love very much) consider this book more of a mystery about the future to be unraveled. For them, Revelation is a book that is interesting and challenging, but a book that is more concerned with the future than the present. I have thought about this. Why would this be? Then I thought that perhaps it is because we do not understand the beauty of the "present tense" message because some of us are "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (or, "fat and happy" if you would allow me a paraphrase translation). In other words, we aren't suffering, so the Book of Revelation holds no help for some of us. I'm not trying to be harsh, but we could do well to read and pray for our suffering and persecuted Christians throughout the world so that we do not become "fat and happy" in our Christianity.

    Now, I do want to make an important clarification. I am not saying that Americans do not suffer. We do indeed suffer. Many of you who are reading this are undergoing personal persecution in your homes, workplaces, schools, and even some of your congregations. I realize many of you may be undergoing conflict with spouses, even abusive situations. I also realize that some suffer severe treatment for their stance for the gospel as they try to witness in congregations, colleges, and seminaries where the truth is being eclipsed by the pluralistic assumptions of either modernity or postmodernity. However, the overall assumptions and mindset of much of our culture has been influenced by much prosperity. Now, if we were all honest, many of us do have to remind ourselves that our main goal or "chief end" in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, rather than the pursuit of health, wealth and happiness.

    Just something for us all to think about. Revelation was written to encourage Christians to know that the Faithful Witness, the Great Savior Jesus, who was martyred, killed because of his faithful witness to the Living God, is the One who has died for us and the One who we are to focus upon in the midst of our trials during this time of tribulation (cf. Rev. 1:9).

    Jesus has been resurrected and so no matter how costly our witness, no matter how difficult the persecution, pain, and tribulation, we have a resurrection to look forward to! We have a hope of being with the Living Christ forever when he restores all things. He will wipe every tear from the eyes of his people! (Rev. 21:1-7)

    No Fear for God's People

    The Apostle John wants all Christians to know that there is absolutely nothing to fear. No matter how many people, family members, or kingdoms rise up against the Church, the gates of hell will not prevail. As John ends verse 5a, Jesus is the Ruler of the kings of the earth. No matter how little the kings of the earth mirror the Great King, no matter how vehemently they try to thwart God's plans, his people are to know that Jesus is the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth! Jesus is sovereignly controlling each one of them and each individual history as Christ's Kingdom that will never end continues to watch other kingdoms of man fall, one by one. Notice Nebuchadnezzar's famous words concerning this Kingdom of God:

    Daniel 4:34-37: 34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?" 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

    What have the people of God to fear? Nothing, absolutely nothing! Whether we are facing martyrdom as in the early church under the Romans; whether we are facing persecution in Islamic countries; whether we are facing day to day struggles trying to live the Christian life in a culture totally opposed to our Savior; whether we are trying to survive in country ruled by glorified mobsters; whether we are growing older and becoming more feeble and will soon face death itself; we know surely that Christ is the Ruler of the kings of the earth, he is Lord and the conqueror of death, hell and the devil and there is absolutely nothing that can really cause us to fear. This is the great "present-tense" hope of the Book of Revelation.

    Allow your fear to be gone and rest in the Lord Jesus, the Resurrected and Living King! As the same Apostle John wrote in his first epistle to the early church, "Perfect love casts out all fear, for fear has to do with judgment. This is important! Jesus faced the judgment and wrath of God for those who believe! For his saints, Jesus has pronounced "not guilty" over their lives and is working in them to do and will according to God's good pleasure. The judgment of God will come and the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world is the only one worthy to mete out God's judgment (every other mouth must be silenced before the awesome holiness and majesty of God Almighty!).

    Jesus is coming again to restore all things! Jesus' victory has been won, yet we await the full consummation, culmination and conclusion of this victory. For now, we are to stand firm in his victory, continuing through trials, sufferings, difficulties, hardships, and persecutions with the joy and strength that comes from Jesus' Spirit, for he has not left us as orphans! He has sent for the incomparable power of the Holy Spirit for those who believe.

    Church of Jesus Christ: Jesus lives as the Resurrected One who holds the keys of death and hades! Because he lives, even if we die for our faith, we will live again with Jesus. Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me though he die, he will live again!” Amen.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

    Part Three: Jesus the Coming Judge and King

    For Further Reading

    Herman Bavinck- The Last Things: Hope for this World and the Next. Edited by John Bolt. Translated by John Vriend. Published by Baker Books, 1996

    G. K. Beale- The Book of Revelation, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Eerdmans, 1999

    G. C. Berkhouwer- The Return of Christ. Studies in Dogmatics Series. Published by Eerdmans, 1972

    Dennis Johnson- Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, P&R, 2001

    Vern S. Poythress- The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, P&R, 2000

    www.APlaceforTruth.org
    Copryright 2006-2007 A Place for Truth

    Posted by Charles Biggs on May 26, 2006 09:36 AM

    Comments

    I am encouraged to see your balanced approach to Revelation. I'm a pastor who after avoiding this topic for a couple decades, has been working through Revelation this year. I had the chance to audit Revelation in greek at Wheaton w/G. Beale. His stuff is exceptional and he is very interesting to listen to in lectures. I love Poythress and am using his outline for my series. I will have to check out a couple of your suggested books as I had not considered them to date.

    Press on brother.

    David Bielby

    Post a comment

    Please enter the letter "i" in the field below: