The Message of Hope in Revelation
Revelation 1. Anytime anyone says that, you know that we’re about to get into a whole lot of crazy. When I think of Revelation in my introduction to this book, when I was like a kid… Well, let me just say this. When you read Revelation, we are not familiar with this type of literary genre anymore.
When I was a kid, this Book of Revelation was one that people would use as a tool to scare the life out of you. I can remember as a kid, I wasn’t a Christian, but I would go to these youth events that these local churches would put on. They would rent out a gymnasium all night long or something like this YMCA and rent that all night long and let you just go crazy as kids. I was a crazy kid, so I’m like, “Sure, I don’t care who it’s with, as long as I can go crazy all night long, I’m there.”
A part of that, they would always bring us to this room and share this gospel message, where all it really was is they would show this video of some guy dying some horrible death and be like, “You don’t want to be like him, huh? Here’s a verse from Revelation. You need Jesus.” That was my introduction to the Book of Revelation, a whole lot of crazy and scaring the life out of you.
When the world ends, the theme was, you don’t want to be left behind. I will say, one of our goals this morning is to make sure no one is left behind, but we’re not going to talk about it in the sense that maybe we’re used to hearing that phrase used. But when we get to the Book of Revelation, I think it is important to start off in chapter one.
I’m just going to give us a summary of this book today of understanding why it is here. The reason we’re going to end with this book is, one, we’re going to have a series together on the theme of Scripture. We want to see the grand theme of God’s story being told throughout all the Bible. We have the beautiful joy of seeing a book of literature, 66 manuscripts put together telling one massive theme that God has told throughout history.
It is incredible how the Lord unfolds this for us, and it works together in one grand idea over a huge time span that we have opportunity to see how God has revealed himself. A beautiful story. If we weren’t to end with Revelation, we would be a mist of how that story all ties together.
Second is, because this book is so unique, if you ever dive into it and want to understand it, it helps to have a little bit of encouragement jumping into it, because a lot of times you’ll read this and be like, “What just happened? What is this? This is weird, sometimes scary, I don’t understand it, what’s going on?”
When you dive in the Book of Revelation 1:1, John lays out for us this picture of understanding of exactly what this book is. Revelation 1:1, it says this, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his bond-servants the things which must soon take place, and he sent and communicated it by his angel to his bond-servant John.”
Let me just end right there and say this before we get a little further, that the title that John gives in this book or we get the book is Revelation. The first thing that you can do to show that you have a familiarity with this book is to call it Revelation with no S. This is not Revelations, this is one Revelation, and that Revelation is of Jesus, from Jesus, to us.
This is the Book of Revelation. This word in Greek literally means apocalypse. That’s where we get this idea of apocalyptic literature. What that really means is it’s this symbolic language that communicates to us a truth. John will cast these ideas of these certain visions or this beautiful poetic language that figuratively represents something specific.
This apocalyptic literature, and by definition, what it means this word apocalypse or revelation, means it’s this unveiling. What God is doing is he’s peeling back this heavenly picture to reveal to us the goodness of Jesus in life circumstances. I’m going to tell you why he does that in a minute. But he tells us, this is a revelation, an unveiling, and then he gives us this thought that it must soon take place.
That phrase is important for us because it provides an interpretive help to understanding this book. When I’ve heard people talk about this Book of Revelation, oftentimes what I’ve found is that this book has become hijacked by paranoid political doomsday conspiracy theory type people. No doubt, there is some political element to it when it talks about world leaders, but I don’t think that that’s God’s primary intention to this book.
God’s primary intention isn’t for you to get your predictions out and your charts all ready and a map out for everyone exactly what’s happening. I mean, that could be a piece to understanding Revelation, but that is not God’s primary point to this book. What He says us is that it must soon take place.
Another thought I would throw there is that people will read this book, or in our time setting today, we’ll read this book, and you get to the end, you see these different world powers or leaders talked about. Then people will say this, they’ll be like, “But there’s no America. Oh, my word, what happens to America?”
There’s this panic that this regulatory book, when it appeals back, doesn’t talk about America. I will just say this. America is not mentioned because the first century people did not care. There is no America. I mean, what John is saying in this chapter is this must soon take place. What John has given us is this interpretive idea to the Book of Revelation, really, that transcends throughout all of Scripture.
What I mean by this, that when God writes a book of the Bible through His authors, it means something to the people there and then before it means something to us here and now. If you don’t take the time to understand what it meant to the people there and then, you’ll make tremendous error in understanding what it means to us here and now.
The reason, when you read Revelation, America is not talked about, maybe America does or doesn’t exist, who knows, it’s not in Revelation, but the reason it’s not in Revelation is because, in the first century, no one cared about America. There was no America. They have a lot more going on that they’re worried about than what exactly is going to happen in this century for people in America. That’s not even on their radar.
When you read this book, just know the reason America is not talked about is because, for the first century, people going through this book, God is writing something for them there and then before we get to the here and now. It will pay huge dividends when you read a book like Revelation or any other book that might have some apocalyptic reading to it that’s prophetic, especially in the Old Testament, if you take time to understand the images that are communicated rather than jump to application.
What I mean by that is, if you were to read through this book, I’ve heard people do this, where, multiple times I’ve heard people do this, they’ll jump to like Revelation chapter nine, where it talks about grasshoppers or locusts with the face of a man, and they’ll immediately jump to the conclusion that those are helicopters. It’s like, well, maybe, I guess. But in the first century, no one knew what a helicopter was.
But rather, if you just take time to look at the symbolic language that John is using, well, the locusts or the grasshopper was a symbol into the Old Testament, like the Book of Amos. It was symbolic of a plague that took place, where these locusts come through and they eat up all the land. To the Jew, that image has a purpose, it has a meaning. It’s not rooted in some future picture they have no idea what he’s talking about, to the Jew, it meant something in the past. When John’s using that language, they can correctly connect it to something they had already experienced as to relate to what John is trying to explain in that moment.
It’s way more profitable to understand the symbolism to Jewish history than it is to just make the application in our terminology to today. Here’s another one. Revelation 14:1-9, it talks about the mark of the beast, a mark on your forehead and on your wrists. Then people started flipping out in the last couple of decades as computers got more popular, talking about computer chips and the devil controlling those things. Maybe, maybe he will, but I don’t think that that’s what Revelation is talking about.
There could be a tangible means by which the devil uses, but I think what it’s saying is, it’s identifying for us what controls us. Because it talks about, in Revelation 14:1, it talks about the mark of God on us, in chapter 13 the same thing, that God’s name could be written on our foreheads. What it’s actually referring to, for the Jewish people, is this idea of phylacteries, when the Jews were told to bind God’s Word on the wrist and on their foreheads. Jews literally did that.
What it’s identifying for us is who owns you, who controls you, who is your life given towards? When you read the Book of Revelation, you see this played out between these two different worlds at war, the kingdom of satan or the kingdom of God, the city of satan or the city of God. When it talks about the mark of the beast, it’s not so you get all paranoid about computer chips, it’s just simply saying what has control of your life.
That’s why I say, when we look at these interpretive pictures of Revelation, it’s important just to understand what it’s communicating from a Jewish context before we jump to the application, because it can lead to all sorts of paranoia over things God never intended for us to get from this book. John’s saying us, this must soon take place. He’s given this idea that this is relevant for the people in the first century. This isn’t just 21st century, this is relevant to where the people are today.
He says, “He sent and communicated by an angel to His bond-servant John, whom testified the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that He saw. Blesses he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heeds the things which are written in it, for this time is near. 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.”
Let me just say this so I don’t forget. The seven Spirits is the Holy Spirit. Isaiah chapter 11:2, there’s the Spirit of God’s described there, and there’s this seven-fold ministry described as what the Spirit will have in this world. John is referring to the Spirit as the seven Spirits. Seven, in Revelation, is also a number of completeness. But he’s identifying the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of people here.
When you look at this, John, in these next few verses, also gives us some interpretive understanding as to how to read this book. When you read the Bible, a type of literary genre that you’re engaging in matters, because it tells you how you apply interpretive principles to passages of Scripture. It’s different in how you interpret a parable versus how you interpret a letter. It’s different in how you interpret Revelation or apocalyptic literature in terms of how you might interpret a letter or a gospel.
But he also further says, in verse three, that this is a prophecy. Not only is apocalyptic, it’s prophetic. Then he says it’s written to us, meaning it is a letter. John’s encouragement for us as we consider this is that we heed the things that are in it. Meaning, God doesn’t want you to look at this and be intimidated by it and simply run away from it.
But John is writing this for the church to be encouraged. What his desire is for the body of believers is to heed the things that are written in it. I think it is completely okay to acknowledge when a book is hard. Revelation is not easy. A lot of what John writes is tied massively in Old Testament prophecy. If you just pick up this book and start reading through it without an understanding of some prophetic books of the Old Testament, it makes this book so much harder.
Even Peter said of the Apostle Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16 that Paul’s writings are hard to understand. Even Daniel, who, a lot of what Daniel says is borrowed tremendously in the Book of Revelation. Daniel says multiple times in the Book of Daniel, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I don’t understand.” God explains things to him. Even chapter 12, when you get to the end of Daniel, in verse eight, Daniel says, again, at the end of the book, “I still understand.”
I think it’s completely okay to acknowledge when things are hard, but, at the same time, don’t give up, because this book is beautiful. Here’s an incredible thought. Out of all the theological topics that are discussed in Scripture, some theologians say the Second Coming of Christ is the most talked about doctrine in the Bible. This is huge for God’s people.
Why you study this Book of Revelation, what I think is also important to know is to not be so dogmatic as to where you land here. The reason I say is, sometimes we like to read this book for the entire purpose of playing out our predictions in charts and maps and exactly what we think about this book. But let me just say this. No one got Jesus’s First Coming right.
I don’t want to be so arrogant as to propagate that I have every detail of Jesus’s Second Coming correctly. When you read the Gospels and you see Jesus, over and over again, he prophetically declared exactly how he’s going to come, when he’s going to leave. I mean, Jesus even gave the date of his birth and people still miss them.
When it comes to the First Coming of Christ, if they missed the First Coming of Christ, I’m not going to be so arrogant as to say, “This is how every detail goes in the Second Coming.” Look, I have my stand. I grew up traditionally in a pre-millennial preacher relational teaching. I think it’s important to study Revelation to look at these things.
But I don’t want to sit here and say, “Look, when it comes to the deity of Jesus, that’s a 10.” On a hill to die on, make that a 10 in your life. When it comes to predicting exactly how a Second Coming is going to go, make that more like a two. Definitely study this, definitely, definitely. Look, I mean, the Bible makes a big deal about this, and we should look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus.
But when it comes to the idea of belittling other Christians because they might have a different view than you, I remember one time I was at Liberty University and listening Tim LaHaye give a speech. Tim LaHaye wrote the Left Behind series. Tim LaHaye is giving a speech of which he dedicated lot of money to Liberty University off of those books. He helped build this student center.
During the speech, he said, “You write these books, there’s a lot of success, a lot of people like the books.” But he says, in the speech, “This is a silly issue to divide over as Christians.” I’m sitting here thinking, “Man, the guy that wrote these books that Christians are reading during this time period, is saying this. I think that there’s some important things to draw out from that.
But I think, let me just say this and I want to move on, I would far rather see a church hungry to know God’s Word and understand the Old Testament pictures that are illustrating Revelation more than just simply laying out charts. Because if all you’re interested in is laying out charts without understanding those things, it tells me you don’t understand what Revelation is talking about anyway. What credence does that hold?
When it comes to the idea of Revelation, taking time to just move through these images and appreciate what John is communicating is what the beauty of this book upholds. He says at the end of this, he’s writing this to the seven churches. Now, let me just ask you this, why seven? Why these churches? If you read beyond this and you see the churches that he’s talking about, and you think about the New Testament and the churches that the Book of Revelation is written to, some of these churches, this is the only time you’ll ever hear about them.
Why the seven? They’re not even the popular ones or the cool ones, man. Some of them are. But why these seven? Well, if you ever look on a map where John is on the island of Patmos, I could have provided this for you, but on the island of Patmos, these churches make a circle around where John’s at. Rather than have eight, nine, 10 churches, he chooses seven. I think he chooses seven because seven is a number of completeness.
Now, some people come to these churches and they say, “Well, it shows church ages.” Throughout the ages, this is how different churches have responded to the Lord. They try to fit into history the ages of churches in the way that they’ve responded. I reject that. I think that some people can figure that out and like to do that, I don’t think that’s what it is. I don’t think John means to make it that complicated.
The reason I say that is because, a lot of times, I see people say, “Well, it’s talking about seven church ages.” They always get to the seventh church age and pretend like they’re in that age. It’s like this and the seventh age is our age, where we are now. Then, all of a sudden, a couple of more hundred years pass and they’re like, “Oh, we’re out of that age. Okay, let’s redo our timeline.”
Here’s what I think John’s doing. He’s saying, “Look, when you think about God’s people, here’s the typical way churches respond.” Seven churches cover the dynamic of how God’s people might respond. What’s unique when you read about these churches, out of the seven, only two of them are praised. The two that John lifts up are the ones that are going through persecution.
When you go in a little bit further, John starts to share with us a little more as to why he’s writing this book. He says, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
What John is acknowledging for the people when he’s writing this book is that he’s going through a hard time just like them. You know what happens when you go through adversity? You want to rest your security in God. When you see your friends losing their lives, like John has, you really want to know your hope in Jesus is secure. That’s what the Book of Revelation is.
John is writing to the believers that are going through difficulty, and he saying, “Stay true because you win.” The reason you win is because Jesus wins. Let me peel back the picture from a heavenly perspective and show this to you. What Revelation is, it’s a worship book. It’s a worship book for God’s people in the midst of adversity to see the goodness of their God and how they are victorious in him. That’s the point of this book.
John is writing this to a persecuted church in the period of tribulation. One of the other reasons I highlighted this is because I want to be sensitive to the idea of what tribulation represents to God’s people. Because if you’ve grown up in a certain theological circles and they come to Revelation or doubt, you might have heard, they talk about this tribulation period.
Talking about this tribulation period might even say to you that God’s people will not be a part of the tribulation. I just want to be careful with terminology here. Because what Jesus definitely declared to his people is that we will go through tribulation. John 16:33. All of us will have tribulation. John, in the story, is saying, he is going through tribulation.
If you follow Jesus, sometimes there is a price to pay. When I think about brothers and sisters around the world that follow after Christ, Christians today are still losing their lives by the thousands, tens of thousands, every year. They are going through tribulation. What do they need? They need the hope that’s secure in Jesus.
Now, no doubt, when I think about the Book of Revelation, what the Bible makes amply clear, and I just want to point this out to you. In Revelation 6:15, let me read both of these verses, 15 and 16. God said something important here that I think is helpful for us.
It says, “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us, hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne,” and that’s talking about the Lord, “And from the wrath of the lamb.”
The lamb here is certainly Jesus who was the lamp that took away the sins of the world. What the people here are saying is hide us from the wrath of lamb. What he’s talking about is bringing the wrath of lamb on the unbelieving world. God’s wrath is finally coming. When you think in terms of Revelation, what I think is important for God’s people to know is that God’s wrath will not be poured out on His church.
The reason I can confidently say that is because the church is Jesus’s bride and Jesus is not going to beat up on his bride. When you think about Revelation in terms of tribulation, I think it’s important to acknowledge, look, we’re not escaping tribulation as people, because in following Jesus, the Bible promises we will go through tribulation.
The reason I want to say that is because I don’t want to undermine what my other brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing around this world. Their faith in Jesus matters. There is tribulation that we will go through. But one day, Jesus will return. Jesus will bring his wrath against unjustice. That will not be brought against God’s bride. Because we are his bride, and Jesus doesn’t beat up his bride.
What I find very intriguing in this section of the scripture is that the unbelieving world recognizes who was bringing this wrath. Rather than repent, even to the end of their life, rather than turn to Jesus, what do they say? Just let the rocks fall on us. They’ll rather have rocks falling and then turn to God.
Then when we think about the wrath of God, sometimes we have a hard time with that. Especially in our western world, we want grandpa loving Jesus. We want grandpa God who just loves us and He’s all about love and He just looks at you and say, “Aren’t you so cutesy? Oh, [inaudible 00:22:33]. Oh, loving God.”
But I like to remind us. When we talk about the wrath of God, that if God has no justice, then His love is simply flattery and it’s no good for you. What makes His love so incredible and so powerful is that He has the ability to execute His justice in order for you to experience that love. What good is love if someone just says, “I love you,” and simply does nothing for you?
But the fact that God has justice declares to us that His love, as he promises, it can be executed. His wrath, if you’re on the right side of His wrath, is a very comforting thing. In fact, I’ve said this to us before that I have a friend that experienced tremendous persecution. He was from the west side of Africa. During a certain time period in the early ’90s, his area of the world was persecuted for being Christian to the point where people came into their villages and cut off the arms and legs of people.
If you’re a Christian, they cut your arms and legs off. A lot of them survived that way or are even alive today. You can still look this up. Cut their arms and legs off. In his particular village, he had these men come into his town and into his house. His mother hid him up in the rafters. He saw these men come in, and his mom and sisters were home, and from the rafters, he managed to live. This is how I know the story. He managed to live. But from the rafters, as he’s hiding, he watches as these men rape his mom and his sisters and then killed them. Then he runs to the coast and ends up meeting a missionary, and jumps on the ship, comes to America as a refugee and is in Bible college with me.
The only way you can make sense of a world like that is the justice of God poured out. His love demonstrated in His justice. God’s justice is a loving thing. In our western world, sometimes the sanitation of our lives, we don’t have time or take much time to think about that. But the Christians in Revelation, who are losing their lives because of their faith, they’re saying to themselves, “What is this worth? What is this worth?”
John’s reminder to them in the midst of this tribulation is that the justice of God is coming, stay true to Jesus. When you look to Revelation chapter 17, I’m going to just show these two aspects for us. Revelation 17 and Revelation 21 is all I’m going to hit on and be done for the day. I want to do this very quickly.
But it shows us, really, the Tale of Two Cities. There’s one leader in one aspect that’s contrary to everything that Jesus is, and then there’s Christ himself that ends the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 17:1, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me. These seven were of judgment. John’s saying, “This angel come and spoke to me saying,” and this is an interesting statement if I just would end here. It says, “Come here, and I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.”
Sometimes when I read these passages, I said to you interpretive, you’ve got to understand what it means there and then before the here and now. I just picture myself as John in this verse, and an angel comes to me and says, “Everybody, gather on the bus, we’re all going to go look at the greatest harlots to ever live.” How many people are like, “Yeah, I don’t know, I got a mum and a wife, I feel like I need some permission. I don’t know, this probably is not a good… I’ll sit this one out. You guys tell me.” My mom was like, “this is not a good idea.”
But John jumps on, it says in this verse, and verse two, it says, “With whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality. And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.”
Verse four, “The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, and having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality. And on her forehead, a name was written, a mystery, “Babylon the great, the Mother of Harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” I’d read verse four in a minute.
Beautiful picture. You think about this, you go, you leave this week and you talk to your friends about whether or not they want to come to ABC, see what you guys talk about at your church. The greatest prostitute ever, a typical Sunday. I don’t know if that’ll work or not, but this is where we are today.
It starts to paint this picture of what she represents. By the way, if you read the rest of this chapter, you’ll see that this angel interprets this vision for John. He tells exactly how this plays out and what these things represent. For sure, it’s definitely not boring. The story is not boring. But this harlot on this beast represents something significant, which is a kingdom that’s contrary to the Lord.
It tells us that this is Babylon, and that this idea of this picture of Babylon is ruling over the kingdoms of this world. On this lady’s name is written what this image is, and that the kingdoms of this world are intoxicated by her. That’s like where they get their fix as their drug of choice. The reason it uses this idea of prostitution is not because this passage is simply stuck on the idea of sexual morality or sex.
What it’s saying is, “Sin, at its core, is immorality.” Sin is giving to something else what should have been given to God. This is what it’s saying about the kingdoms of this world are intoxicated by her, they’re mesmerized by this. Rather than give the glory to God for which they were created to do and to belong to, they give glory to this woman.
In verse four, it really gives the appeal as to how they’ve been captivated here. It says that she is attractive. She’s laid in this purple and gold and pearls, how appealing she is to the people. In fact, so much so that when you get to verse six, it tells us that John gives her admiration. The angel goes on and says, “John, what are you doing?”
John reads right through this moment in verse three. He says, he sees this woman, blasphemous names written all over. John sees it for what it is. By the time he gets to verse six, John is even captivated by the immorality and the display of what this woman brings in her attractiveness. Now, I don’t think this is a literal woman, but it’s giving this idea that it’s the rulers of this world, and when the rulers of this world goes, so go the people beneath them.
What it’s identifying for is sin is fun for a season. In fact, some people say, if you don’t think sin is fun for a season, you’re doing it wrong. But on the back end of this, there’s also hell to pay. For this lady, by her image, what we learn is that, seduction, not persecution, but seduction, is what leads God’s people… or leads people, I should say, to abandon Jesus.
What’s really ironic and sad about this story is, when it describes this woman laid in gold and precious stones and pearls, Revelation goes on and describes heaven in chapter 21:18-21 the same way. It’s not just laid in it, the entire foundation is built out of it. It’s as if to say, we take the cheap way out, the quick fix, the immediate gratification, for the greater glory that is to come. Why? Why? Why would we do that?
If you read in chapter 16, one of the things that you find out about this lady is, ironically, she’s even religious. You read these themes in the Book of Revelation where it talks about the Antichrist. It talks about this idea of this leader who was and who isn’t more and who is the come, like he’s going to be resurrected like Jesus. There’s even the false prophet.
You see this religious worldview taught that’s counterintuitive to God, and what it is, it creates this entire system that’s really focused on man and what he wants and not giving glory to God. This person on the back of the beast is, he tells us, drunk with the blood of the saints. You think about the idea of this harlot leading this religious movement over all the kingdoms of the world, I think people do that today, and we’ve been doing it from the beginning of time, where we create our own religion to make us feel better about ourselves.
That’s what Adam and Eve did all the way back in the Garden of Eden. They ran and they hid from God, they created a religion to cover up their sins with fig leaves to declare to God that God needs to love them and they obligate God based on what they do. But God doesn’t work that way. God is obligated to no man. The way these religious systems work is you create enough for you to feel good about yourself, so that you can create these other rules to do whatever it is that you want to make you happy, because, truthfully, it’s always been about you, or me, or whoever creates religion.
You see that within our own culture, that people will create things to have this moral position of authority over others so that we can belittle other groups around them to the point that they’ll even start to create their own system of laws as to which they should be governed by. Apart from God and anyone that stands from God, they will just shame them to the point, and this passes, that they literally take their blood and that they’re drinking from the blood of those who are killed.
So as if to ask us, what owns you? Or whose glory do you live for? Or where do you compromise in your own life? Where do we say, “I follow God 75% of the time, but then there’s these one thing that I want and it feels good to me, and so, therefore, I’ll do that.” At some point in our lives, God’s not going to agree with everything that we do.
In fact, he shouldn’t. If the picture of your God agrees with everything that you do, here’s where we need to be careful as to assume that that is the true God, but rather, what we should question is if it’s not simply a God that we’ve created in our own image to please ourselves. Walking with Jesus at some point comes in conflict with who I am because who I am isn’t always aligned with him. The question becomes, where do I lay down my life?
This Book of Revelation, what you see in 18, verse four, even God’s people are seduced. It says, “I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues.'” That’s to say, in this tragic moment, how sad it is when God’s people look like the world.
Now, when you read all this passages, let me just say this, I don’t read a section like this to say, “Okay, this is to guilty for all the bad things you do, so do good things.” This isn’t a battle of good and bad, this is a battle of God’s glory or not. I don’t want you to leave out of here and be a better person, I want you to leave out of here and be God’s person. Religion is about being a better person. We belong to Jesus.
The picture here is a calling to surrender your life to him. John is laying this out. If you read on chapter 18 and 19, I don’t have time to read this, but soon as you get to 18, it says, “All fallen, and fallen is Babylon.” You see this destruction of everything that Babylon is as if to say to us, “Why live for that? Why make life about that?”
Where it says, “The church that’s being persecuted, look, we understand what you’re going through. Just remember, staying true to Jesus is what matters, because in the end, that’s the only thing that will matter. Everything else in this world will go away, but your heart to Christ will endure for eternity.”
When you get to Revelation 21, this is where the grand story all comes together for us. He says in this theme of tying all the Bible, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and I will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And there will no longer be any death, there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain, the first things have passed away.’ And He has said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'”
A couple of things just real quickly I want to say to you here, that when God makes a new heaven and a new earth, the Greek word, what is explained here, isn’t a blowing up of everything and making it new again, the word is actually renewed. Meaning, God doesn’t waste anything, God’s the greatest recycler to ever live.
You think in your life, rather than destroy you and start over with someone else, what God does is He makes all things new in you from the inside out. He does the same thing with all of His creation. He doesn’t blow it up and started over, He refines it and renews it. It’s like restoring an old car that doesn’t work anymore. God’s taking the new heavens and earth, He’s renewing it.
When He paints this picture for us of eternity, what He paints is what I would say is the most integrated picture of heaven, I think, in religion, period. You think of all the different views that people have of heaven, and God’s picture really is the forever family. There aren’t other multiple heavens of different places and people in different existences. There’s Heaven, there’s hell, and that’s it. What God created you for us to belong to Him.
When you get to Revelation chapter 21, you see this, God collecting every tribe, tongue, language, and people, all of them together with Him, this bride that’s finally been adorned, to meet Jesus face-to-face. God is tabernacle, is dwelling among them. He tells us He wipes away all of those struggles in your life, all of the pain, all of the hardship, all of the question, all of the, “How, God, how are you going to work through all of this?” He takes it all away.
We have this massive release of all of that pressure of life in the goodness of His presence. What He’s saying is, you’re finally home. You’re finally home. What you see in the beginning in Genesis, God creates everything for His purpose, on the seventh day, He rests. Intentions are for us to enjoy His presence forever. What happens, man sins, and in that sin, there is unrest. What our souls have longed for from the very beginning days is peace. I want peace.
As if to come to this passage and say, “Does your soul feel unsettled?” John knows. John knows the human soul, it always goes to this unsettling. In some area of your life, you might find a little peace, but if you find it one area, you’re not going to have it in another. There’s always this unsettling in your life and it longs for this peace.
John is saying, “And the presence of God, forevermore, you will have it.” In fact, he goes on from this, he tells us He’s making all things new. In chapter 22, and this is the last verse I’m going to read to us, he says, “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life.”
Where’s he going back to? The Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden. The whole theme of Scripture coming together. 1,500 years from the time Genesis was written, 40 authors, three languages, three continents, one theme. Open up the beginning of your Bible, and the first couple chapters, read about this tree. At the end of your Bible, the last chapter, it’s the garden. God’s presence.
“The tree of life, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and of the lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” Look at that. Not the beast, no mark. Get your computer chip here.
“And there will no longer be any night, and they’ll not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord will illumine them, and they,” look at this, “Will reign forever and ever.” When Adam and Eve were created, what did God say to them? Be fruitful, multiply, subdue the earth. They’re ruling and reigning.
What God says to us in His kingdom, together with Him face-to-face, the ruling and reigning. What’s John doing here? He’s tying the entire Bible together for us that it makes sense. This grand story of God being told. One of the last verses of Revelation, he says to us in chapter 22, God says, Jesus, he says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning the end.”
What He’s saying to the church is, if the church asked the question, “God, how do we know these things will be so? How do we know that we aren’t to feel hopeless in everything that we’re going through? Where can we rest ourselves?” Here’s what it tells us. “Because, in the beginning, I had say-so. As we’ve gone through time, I’ve had say-so. When it comes to the very end, it’s all up to me.” He encapsulates it all. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. All of these things are in His control.
John’s Book of Revelation, for us, is a book of worship in the midst of hardship, that we could see the goodness of God through it all. It’s the tearing back into the spiritual world from a heavenly perspective so that we could see God’s hand orchestrated throughout time and understand with Jesus, in the end, we win.
A question for us is, or a statement, I should say, is if you’re not ready, you’re not ready for a Second Coming, if you haven’t laid down your life towards him through his First Coming, Jesus’s First Coming for us was an opportunity to find freedom from sin and guilt. Jesus died for us on the cross so that we could find spiritual life in him, that at his Second Coming, we don’t run and hide and pray that rocks fall on us, but rather, we lift our eyes to the goodness of this king for which our heart desires.
Revelation is a book for us to encourage our soul to the goodness of this God who wants to make all things new and wipe away every tear from your eye to look forward to the things written in Genesis because God’s going to rewrite or renew those things in our lives that we can experience, collectively together with our forever family, the goodness of God.