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April 19, 2020
Pastor Brad Reaves
Grace Community Church
On November 27, 1989, the day when Communism fell in Czechoslovakia, a Methodist church in the capital city of Prague erected a sign. For decades, the church had been forbidden any publicity, but with the winds of freedom blowing, the Christians posted three words, which summarized not only the New Testament in general but the book of Revelation in particular: “The Lamb Wins.” Their point was not that Christ had unexpectedly gained a victory, but that he had been reigning in triumph all along. Richard Bewes explains: “Christ is always the winner. He was winning, even when the church seemed to lie crushed under the apparatus of totalitarian rule. Now at least it could be proclaimed!”
I know of people that fear the Book of Revelation. There is no other portion of Scripture that is more misunderstood or mischaracterized. The fact is, the reason the Book of Revelation is so poorly understood is that it’s been poorly interpreted and poorly taught. The Book of Revelation can be summarized with the words, “The Lamb Wins.” When I first starting putting this series together last Fall, I had no idea what we would be facing here in April 2020. What I do know is that the timing of this study is incredibly prolific.
The fact of the matter is most people view the Book of Revelation as a book about the future. And it is a prophetic book, but it also a book with a rich history, and incredible relevance for us today; maybe more than ever. Some people ask me if the COVID-19 pandemic is an end-times event. The short answer to that is yes. Jesus spoke of increases in earthquakes, famine, and pestilences in Luke 21:11 and Matthew 24:7. We don’t have to go too far into Revelation to see how difficult things will be here on earth. What people are really asking is, if I think that this is the final event or leading up to the final event that will bring the Second Coming of Christ. We know that only God the Father knows when Christ will come
It is very important and timely for us as a church to study Revelation. Whatever the outcome of this pandemic. The church must be ready to This morning, I want us to look at the opening verses to show you why. Even if you are watching today and you haven’t taken time to seriously consider this part of Scripture, or perhaps you are skeptical of the Christian faith. We can universally agree that these 22 chapters at the end of the Holy Bible carry enough significance for our study. Why? Well let us look at the opening words to see:
I. Revelation is a Book from God
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.
The opening words explain why this book is significant. This book comes from God Himself. Now, we hold, according to 1 Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed. But John opens this with a momentous declaration: This is from God the Father Himself. God the Father didn’t give it to just anyone, He gave it to His son Jesus, who gave it to his angel, who revealed to John be a beloved disciple. This pedigree of those who were entrusted with this is of no small consequence.
In the military, you have a chain of command. If your sergeant comes in and says, “Troops we have a mission.” The guys get their stuff and go and do their job. Now let's say, the company commander - or even a general comes in and gives the order, a great degree of haste and intensity hits the marines. Now let's say the commander walks in and the troops snap to attention and the commander says, “I have a mission for you today, and this one was handed directly to me from the top; the President of the United States.” There is nothing these guys wouldn’t do or sacrifice to see the mission to its completion.
This is what we should realize in the opening lines of Revelation. This is a Revelation from God. Also notice it is Revelation, not revelations. There is one revelation here. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. This is a message and mission coming straight from the top. John makes it clear that this is from God, not something fabricated by a man. Which is central to the very fabric of Christianity. Christianity was revealed by God to humans, not invented by humans to reveal God.
2. Revelation is a Book for Us
Revelation is a book from God to His servants (Rev 1:1). That word there, servants, is literally slave. Meaning one who is completely devoted and submitted to under authority. You see, the Christian is not a religious devotee or extremist. The Christian is someone who traded the bondage of being a slave to sin for being a slave of Christ. Paul identifies himself as Christ’s slave (Romans 1:1). He also uses the term slave to describe a believer:
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (Romans 6:20-22).
What God is telling us is that there are things that will soon take place. Revelation is not just a book about a distant time in the future. Revelation is a book about now. Someone asked me when the end times will come and I can tell you with certainty, the end times are not coming, the end times are here now. When Israel became a nation again in 1947, the end-times clock was restarted. Prophetic writings in the Bible nearly always have a present and future context. So we can look at Revelation in a historical context as Jesus addresses the 7 Churches in Asia Minor (modern-day turkey) but also in a modern context to the Church today and the events leading to Christ’s return.
3. Revelation is a Book to Bless
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.
God passed this revelation down through Jesus and then on down to the Apostle John. That would have been a reason enough for the churches venerate this letter and it should for us. This was not just anyone. John was known as the disciple that Jesus loved. We’ll get into John a little more next week, but we can touch today that this message was given to an Apostle. John was someone who was a disciple of Jesus from the very start of Jesus’ ministry. John witnessed Jesus’ baptism, turning the water to wine, and the feeding of the five thousand. John was there on the Mount of Transfiguration and at the crucifixion. John was the first of the disciples to enter the vacated tomb. He walked with the risen Savior on the beach of Galilee, and he watched at Jesus ascended to Heaven.
If John is the blessed one, then John is a messenger of blessing for us. Verse 3 makes it clear that those who read this word of prophecy are blessed. But not only hear the Word but keep it; be doers of the Word of God, especially the word of Revelation for the time is near (verse 3). Nothing in the world events should catch us by surprise. Even a pandemic. God does not intend it to be that way, because everything that happens is part of God’s plan. And God does delight in revealing His plan.
You are part of that plan. Every Christian can and should be blessed now. Even in facing persecution and trials, weakness and sin. We are blessed in our trials by God’s Word. Yet when through faith we enter the glorious kingdom of Christ’s resurrection power, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Receiving in Revelation the good news that “The Lamb Wins,” we are blessed above all other blessings to be persuaded that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:36–39) (Philipps).
We can read this book in 4 ways:
1. Historically as a means to see God’s work in the early church
2. As a coded message to the persecuted church during John’s day
3. As a poetic or allegorical view of end-times events both now and at all times.
4. And as apocalyptic prophecy to events yet to come
I agree with scholars that say it is not an either/or approach but that we should view this Divine writing using all four interpretive measures. With that we will close with the most significant characteristic of Revelation:
IV. Revelation is a Book About Jesus
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.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Verses 4-8 form a sort of doxology that comprise a typical opening of an epistle of that day. He is writing to the seven churches in Asia (modern Turkey). We’ll get there in a few weeks. To the seven churches is a greeting of the Trinity: who is and who was and who is to come is God the Father. The seven spirits who are before his throne is an image of the Holy Spirit. And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
All authority is given to Christ Jesus and so the salutation transitions over to Christ and the characteristics of that authority over all the earth are restated:
1. He is the one who frees man from sin through his own blood
2. He established us in His Father’s kingdom in heaven
3. He is coming again soon.
4. Everyone will see him on that day he returns.
5. Every person who rejected him, no matter their beliefs or ethnicity will mourn
It is a horror to the world to think that Christ is coming again. We do not wish to be judged or condemned. Those who stand upon their own righteousness will be condemned, but it does not have to be that way. And so Chapters 1-3 are for us, the church. Jesus addressed the church for the church in John’s time and for all eras. More than anything, it is a warning and a call for us to repent. I believe that more than anything, Jesus wants his church ready for Him. He wants His bride adorned and prepared for his coming. And He is coming soon. Are you ready?
Are you living as you belong to the Kingdom of God? Are are you ready to stand before him on that day? Does your life reflect that you are on a mission following orders from the top? Do you live like he is your Lord? Is he Lord over your body, your finances, your internet usage, your family?
More than anything we see that Jesus wants us prepared for him and his coming again. For those who aren’t watching and waiting, he will come by surprise, like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2; Rev 16:15). And so this book will disturb you or encourage you, but you cannot ignore what it tells you.
If there were any other way to wash us from our sins, God would have done it that other way. To wash us in His own blood meant the ultimate sacrifice of God the Son. God wouldn’t do it this way unless it was the only way. In light of all that Jesus did for us, it is right to praise Him. We should honor Him with all glory and dominion forever and ever. When we say this, we aren’t giving Jesus glory and dominion. We are simply recognizing that He has it, and honoring Him for it.
I will conclude with where we will pick up next week. The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End means that Jesus is that He is before all things and will remain beyond all things. He is saying that he is the A-Z and everything in between. Jesus has a plan for history, and He directs the path of human events toward His designed fulfillment. Will you become His servant today. If Jesus is the author of History, will you give your life to Him?