Summary: Today we’re looking at Revelation, the last book of the Bible, chapter 19. In recent weeks we’ve talked about the triumphal entry of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and last week we talked about the ascension of Jesus.
"While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, "It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!" They replied, "We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, 'The boss may come today.'"
The word "maranatha" is a Syriac expression that means: "our Lord comes." It was used as a greeting in the early church. When believers gathered or parted, they didn't say "hello" or "goodbye" but "Maranatha!" If we had the same upward look today, it would revolutionize the church. O that God's people had a deepening awareness of the imminent return of the Savior!" (Our Daily Bread.)
Today we’re looking at Revelation, the last book of the Bible, chapter 19. In recent weeks we’ve talked about the triumphal entry of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and last week we talked about the ascension of Jesus.
Now I want to fast forward over two thousand years from the moment Jesus ascended, in AD 33, to the moment in the future when Jesus Christ returns.
So we know that right now we’re in the church age. The church has expanded across the Earth. And we know that Jesus will come again to collect his church and bring them home.
That moment I believe in rapidly approaching for us. But before history is completed, a time called “the great tribulation” will occur. This is a time of great crisis and struggle for the world at the end.
In life we have all sorts of struggles. We have health problems, surgeries. We deal with money problems, job problems, family problems, and so on. Life on Earth is rough. But the great tribulation will make all of this stuff seem like a walk in the park.
If you’re looking for an image of what this will be like, the Bible describes it this way, from Amos 5:19, “It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.” So it’s described as these worst case scenarios that only seem to get worse. You’re walking down the street and you just escape getting hit by a car, but then you get hit by a bicycle. It’s bad.
Now there is a view in apocalyptic theology that if we are followers of Jesus Christ, then we will be spared from this moment. They call it the pre-tribulation rapture. The idea is that Jesus Christ will come suddenly, gather his church, and bring us to heaven before the tribulation. That’s the view we’re going to go with today. There are other opinions, but we’re gonna focus on this view for today.
Christ returns in a moment and gathers the church to heaven. So you’ve got millions of people disappearing, then the great tribulation begins. So the church is safe in heaven while the tribulation occurs. So then we see the rise of the anti-christ and the formation of a world wide government. Many events happen but then at the end, in Revelation chapter 18, we see Babylon, called “the prostitute”, destroyed by God. And then we come to our scripture today: Revelation 19:1-4
“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a large crowd of people in heaven, saying, “Praise God! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God! 2 True and just are his judgments! He has condemned the prostitute who was corrupting the earth with her immorality. God has punished her because she killed his servants.” 3 Again they shouted, “Praise God! The smoke from the flames that consume the great city goes up forever and ever!” 4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. They said, “Amen! Praise God!”
So let’s pause right there. We see this beautiful scene in heaven, you’ve got the church praising God. You’ve got the evil kingdom destroyed. And you’ve got the 24 elders praising God. Who are the 24 elders? Well we believe this would all the great humans in bible history, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and so on, and Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke, James, and so on. The four living creatures, you’ve got me, I don’t really know what they are, but they’re made by God, to worship God and declare His glories.