Summary: Fifth in a series of ten sermons from the Book of Revelation, this sermon focuses on the Church’s indispensible role of witness in God’s plan of salvation.
When we get through this sermon today, since this is the fifth in our series of 10, we’ll be half way through our series here in Revelation.
• 7 Churches
• 7 Golden Lampstands
• 4 Creatures
• 24 Elders
• A Scroll with 7 Seals
• 4 Horsemen
• 144,000 and a Great Multitude of Worshippers
Dr. Herms brought us through 7 chapters, and just into the beginning of chapter 8. To keep us on track, I’m supposed to get us through 8, 9, 10, and 11.
• 7 Trumpets Sounded by 7 Angels
• Three Woes
• 4 Death Angels
• 200 million mounted troops
• 2 Witnesses
All this has made Revelation 10:4 my favorite verse in these chapters that I’m supposed to cover. You know why? Take a listen:
When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. 4 And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
I’m simply grateful that I don’t have to decipher 7 thunders on top of everything else! If John would have written down what he heard in the seven thunders, it would have likely been just another couple of chapters of confusion for me to untangle.
The truth is, with these 25 minutes or so that we have, we’re not going to be able to meaningfully untangle all that is here in this section of John’s apocalypse, this Revelation of Jesus Christ. We won’t, for example, be able to decode each of the seven trumpets, or three woes, but I am confident that, with the leading and empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit, we will mine something meaningful for us today.
Without belaboring these simple points, I want to again remind us of these three simple assumptions that Ron introduced in the first sermon in this series. I think they will be important throughout the series, and are certainly important as we look at these passages today.
First, this text has a context. I am confident that this text is meaningful to us, in this church in 2008. I am equally confident that this text was meaningful to the church in the first century, especially to these seven churches who were the original readers and hearers of this text. Furthermore, whatever it means to us should be not merely coincidental to that original meaning, but entirely in concert with what would be understood by our brothers and sisters in those churches
the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Second, we need to remember that this text is presented in a particular genre: apocalypse. We can expect that the first century churches who first read and heard this text were better versed in dealing with an apocalypse. For us, apocalypse is probably a clumsy language or form… so we probably have to be a bit more thoughtful and careful as we handle this text. It doesn’t mean that it is beyond our grasp; it just means that, if you are at all like me, we may need to work a little harder to get it.
And finally, this is a Christian text. This Revelation of Jesus Christ, presented to us in this apocalypse, this record of these visions written down by this pastor/prophet John, is for us too.
There is important meaning for us; this is for Christ’s Church: then, now, and through the end of time.
I think that the plain existence of this Book of Revelation is meaningful.
I believe it is important for us to be mindful that this text finishes the story. There is order to God’s Book. God’s story, His Word, begins with creation and ends with this Revelation. These 66 books, 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament, are not aimless ramblings that merely stop… no, it is a complete story that finishes. This Book of Revelation is God’s “and in conclusion.”
This is the complete account of time. Genesis gives us the beginning of time. The eternal God, who stands outside of time, created everything that we know, including time. Revelation gives us the end of time.
This brings me to another point. I hope, today, to relieve a bit of anxiety. When it comes to this Book of Revelation, there is a great deal of energy expended on placing each of the pieces of this apocalypse into a discrete portion of time. Is this about things that happened in the past? A description of the present? Or a description of the future?
If you’d like to sell some books, make it about the present or the not too distant future. Go ahead and make the two witnesses George Bush and Shimon Peres; make the dragon Bill Clinton and throw in the EU and modern day Babylon and you might just have a best seller. We can puff ourselves up with the satisfaction of secret knowledge that only someone in our time and space could possibly comprehend… put some charts together, and make an impressive road show.