Drop Dead Glorious (Revelation 1:9-20)

I suppose it was inevitable… And I am relieved that I don’t need to hide it anymore. It feels like a weight has been lifted.

Pam caught me online looking at…Pinterest.

Pinterest tends to be, let’s say… feminine:

More than ⅔︎ of Pinterest’s base are women.
More than 80% of women in the US ages 18-64 with children are pinners.

Among the top Pinterest searches are DIY Crafts, Home Decor, and Hair & Beauty.

I came to the hard realization that less than 10% of my followers on Pinterest are male.

My Boards are somewhat manly:

• Coffee Pics
• Pool-to-Pond Conversion
• Tattoos
• Let’s Try Vegan
• Punch Recipes

So there I was scrolling on Pinterest when a suggested pin appeared: Repurposed oil lamps

How could I resist?

There amongst oil lamps being used as candy jars and vases and candle holders was something sublime: DIY plans for wiring oil lamps to plug into an outlet. (I’ll let you know how it goes after I first try the sure-fire home remedy for keeping cats out of your yard).

Oil lamps figure prominently in our verses

John sees “seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man” (v12-13).

This entire passage is about light, brilliance, and shining.

When He was on the earth, Jesus said that He was the “light of the world” (John 8:12).

The Lord said to us, “You are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14 & 16).

I’ll organize my comments around two points:

#1 Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Buffeted By Tribulation, and #2 Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Brightened By Trimming.

#1 – Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Buffeted By Tribulation (v9)

Late in the first century, the apostle John was still burning brightly for the Lord. It landed him in hot oil – literally. In what he called The Second Persecution Under [Roman Emperor] Domitian, John Foxe (author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) wrote,

Among the numerous martyrs that suffered during this persecution was… St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos.

Tertullian, an early church figure, in his The Prescription Against Heretics, wrote,

How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood… where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile.

John’s light for Jesus had attracted trouble for him. But in his trouble, he shone all the more brightly.

Rev 1:9  I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

“Patmos” is some fifty miles off the coast of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea. It has the shape of an hourglass and is small, about 13mi² in area. (By way of comparison, the City of Hanford is approximately 16mi²).

I’ve heard it said that John was forced to work either mining salt or quarrying marble. Did I mention he was 90-something?

It is equally possible that John was under house arrest. Patmos was not a penal colony like Rura Penthe. It had a harbor, a town, a temple to Artemis, a temple to Apollo, perhaps a temple to Dionysus, a temple to Aphrodite, a gymnasium, and a stadium.

They couldn’t boil him, so they banished him. Little did the Romans know that God would use John’s time on Patmos as a working sabbatical to receive and write the Revelation.

Ships could find safe harbor from storms there. We can think of John’s banishment as a safe harbor for him during the storms of persecution.

John’s crime, the nefarious activity he was sent away for, was “the Word of God and… the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

John was boiled and banished for being a Christian.

He was sharing the Gospel and the “testimony” that Jesus was God come in human flesh to die on the Cross; and that He rose from the dead; and that there was salvation only in Him.

John was one of the originals. More than that, he had been invited into the inner circle along with Peter and James. He several times refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” He was an apostle.

Yet, for all that, he calls himself their “brother and companion.” He was content to identify with every other Christian as a “brother.” No more; no less.

Only among Christians is there a true equality.

We might even say, in Christ, “all men are recreated equal” in their new birth. I might have a different office, or function, or talent, or gifting. We are complementarian. But we are on absolutely equal ground when it comes to the love of God that is ours through Jesus Christ.

They were accompanying one another as “companions” on the road to Heaven. It’s a road marked with suffering, requiring the sharing burdens.

John described our time on earth journeying heavenward as “the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Here is what I think that trio of phrases might mean:

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). I know that this isn’t referring to the Great Tribulation because, a little later in this book, Jesus promises us that the church we will not go through it. This tribulation John spoke about refers to the oppression and persecution during the Church Age targeting believers.

At the same time that we are promised tribulation, we are assured of “the kingdom.” Jesus will return for us to then return with us to establish the literal kingdom of God on the earth.

The time of waiting for the kingdom is to be characterized by “the patience of Jesus Christ.” This isn’t a big dose of patience we get by asking. In the Bible, we are told that “tribulation produces patience” (Romans 5:3). You might not want to pray for patience.

Light attracts. In John’s case, his light attracted tribulation. If we shine as the light of the world, distinctly Christian trouble will come our way, too.

#2 – Let Your Light Shine And You Will Be Brightened By Trimming (v10-20)

Oil lamps are simple. The oil in a reservoir produces light when a cloth wick is lit.

The wick fails to burn away because it is constantly absorbing fuel, which burns instead of the cloth.

Oil lamps need tending – someone to supply the oil, and to keep the wick trimmed. Jesus presents Himself to John as being in the midst of seven lampstands, tending to them.

Rev 1:10  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

“In the Spirit” indicates an enhanced spiritual state in which John received the Revelation.

Is “the Lord’s Day” a reference to Sunday? Or is it signifying the Day of the Lord, the day of God’s judgment upon the earth, that is prophesied in the Old Testament, and described in this book?

Either John was having an exceptional Sunday “in the Spirit..,” or he was transported forward in time by God the Holy Spirit to somehow witness the events of the Day of the Lord.

It doesn’t matter if the Lord’s Day is Sunday… Or the Day of the Lord… Or something else entirely.

What matters is that what John saw was written down as Scripture under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.

“I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.” It wasn’t a trumpet. It functioned as a trumpet. Trumpets were sounded to gather the people of God, and to provide instruction for their movements.

Describing Jesus’ voice like a trumpet in conjunction with the mention of the seven churches in the next indicates that He was gathering the churches to instruct them.

Rev 1:11  saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

Once again we’re told that Jesus is God’s entire alphabet, and every word He wants to say to mankind.

He was the “first” in that He created all things.

He is the “last” in that He will bring all things to their prophesied consummation.

John was to write one book to these seven churches. Even though there are individual letters to each of these churches, everything in the Revelation was for all of them. And it’s for all of us.

He would have written on a scroll, and by the time he was finished, it would have been approximately 15ft long unrolled.

Rev 1:12  Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m stunned by something John doesn’t see.

He doesn’t see Jesus – not at first.

He sees the lampstands, then he sees Jesus. Even though in verse sixteen we’re told “His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength,” John saw the lampstands first.

As we will see, the lampstands represent the churches on the earth. It is a strong reminder that Jesus is seen – He is unveiled to the world – as He lights-up His church.

The “seven golden lampstands” are reminiscent of the one Menorah in the Holy Place in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It was a particularly beautiful oil lamp, with seven bowls for oil.

The Menorah and these lampstands suggest the same thing: God’s people were then, and we are now, to bear witness to nonbelievers. They were, and we are, to be God’s spiritual light in the present darkness of the world.

Rev 1:13  and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

Jesus in the midst of the church, tending to our light, is a powerful invitation to Christians to regularly meet with Him in a local fellowship

Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of Heaven.” It is a Messianic title.

“Son of man” is also used of humans. When Jesus used this title of Himself, He was claiming to be a son of man – human – Who was the unique Son of Man in Daniel.

Jesus’ attire was similar to that of a priest. Just like the Temple priests would tend to the lamp in the Temple, so Jesus tends to His lampstands, who are His temple.

Rev 1:14  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
Rev 1:15  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;

Notice John keeps using the word “like,” or “as.” Jesus does not have “brass” feet.

Rev 1:16  He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

Wait a minute, Gene…You’re skipping over these descriptive phrases!

I am, and here is why: When we get to the seven letters to the seven churches, we will see that each of the ways Jesus was described here in chapter one will be a way He introduces Himself to a particular church. Listen for them as I read the opening to each of the seven letters:

Rev 2:1  “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
Rev 2:8  “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:
Rev 2:12  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
Rev 2:18  “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
Rev 3:1  “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars…
Rev 3:7  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF DAVID, HE WHO OPENS AND NO ONE SHUTS, AND SHUTS AND NO ONE OPENS”:
Rev 3:14  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:

We should wait to try to define and understand these images until we see what Jesus intended them to mean as He applies them to His council to each of the churches.

Overall, John said “His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” True solar power.

Rev 1:17  And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
Rev 1:18  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

John “Fell at His feet as dead.” This wasn’t the first time John had fallen before Jesus’ glory. He did so when he saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. One commentator said,

On that occasion more than sixty-five years earlier Christ’s face had “shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2) as John and two other apostles had witnessed an anticipatory glimpse of the glory to be witnessed in full at Christ’s second coming to earth. On this occasion the aged apostle is distinguished as being the only one to be given a second foreview of that glory.

“But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus always wants to alleviate fear in His followers. It’s on us to receive His ‘touch’ – usually through the Word, but also through fellowship with His people.

Rev 1:19  Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.

This gets the “Most Valuable Verse” award.

This is Jesus Christ’s own commentary on the Revelation. He gives us the outline for studying, and understanding, the entire book.

“Write the things which you have seen.” What John had seen was the vision of the risen Lord walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks with seven stars in His right hand. Chapter one is the record of the things John had seen.

Chapters two and three will contain the second division, “the things which are.” The seven churches, representing the entire Church Age, are the things which are.
Then from chapters four through the end of the book we read about “the things which will take place after this.” We’ll see the church resurrected and raptured into Heaven; the seven years of the Great Tribulation; the Battle of Armageddon; the Second Coming of Jesus; the one-thousand year reign of Jesus on the earth (called the Millennium); the final judgment of Satan, the fallen angels, and nonbelieving humanity; the destruction of this universe; the creation of a new universe; and we’ll get a glimpse at our lives in eternity with God.

Rev 1:20  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

A “mystery,” in the Bible, is something previously concealed that is now revealed. Jesus revealed exactly what He meant by this imagery.

The word for “angels” is messengers. They can be either angelic or human. Each of the seven letters to the churches will be addressed, “To the angel of the church” in that town.

It’s doubtful, for many reasons, that they are angelic beings. But if men, who are they?

C.I. Scofield noted that, “The natural explanation of the ‘messengers’ is that they were men sent by the seven churches to ascertain the state of the aged apostle.”
Other commentators see them as the pastors of each individual church.

There is an interesting verse near the end of the Book of Daniel. Talking about the End Times, Daniel wrote, “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever” (12:3).

The “stars” Daniel spoke of were human beings. It’s perfectly biblical, therefore, to identify the angel-star of each church as its pastor.

To call any believer a “star” sounds strange to us. We have our own connotation of the word “star,” and no pastor ought to be one. But if you can get beyond the common usage, it makes more sense that Jesus was addressing the pastor in his function on behalf of the congregation, to read to them the entire scroll. (I get correspondence all the time, addressed to me, but intended for the church).

In the earthly Temple, the Jewish priest would refill the bowl of the lampstand with oil, and trim the wicks.

In the Church Age, your body is the temple of God on the earth today – the temple of the Holy Spirit; AND the church, the body of Jesus Christ, is His temple on the earth. You are to shine brightly, brilliantly. Nonbelievers see your light, then Jesus comes into view, in His glory.

The oil lamp is a reservoir with a supply of oil and a wick in order to give light, tended by a priest.

Jesus is our Great High Priest. We are His lampstands on the earth. He wants to light us up to unveil Him, to reveal Him, to sinners – even to those who, in their own way, want to boil or banish us.

The oil? God the Holy Spirit. The trimming? Our tribulations.

One final thought: If Jesus is tending our lamp, and God the Holy Spirit is the oil… Is it possible for the wick to suffer from burn-out?

Hey (hey), You (you), Gaze Up at My Clouds (Revelation 1:4-8)

When there was a Disneyland in Anaheim, the Fantasyland Teacups were a blast to ride. An original opening day attraction, they provided one-and-one-half minutes of intense, non-stop, nausea-inducing whirling.

My secret for not getting dizzy: Stare directly into the eyes of the person across from you the entire time. Let your gaze stray even a little, and the whirling background will overwhelm you.

In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, you need to focus your gaze on a Person who won’t look away.

Don’t take your eyes off of Jesus; not in life; not in this book.

Along those lines, I want you to ‘see’ something in these verses that I think is pretty endearing:

In verse four, Jesus mentioned the churches. While in context He was talking about seven particular first century gatherings, we’ll see that Jesus’ letters to them are for all churches throughout the Church Age – us included.

In verse five, we’re told He “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

In verse six we learn Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.”

Jesus doesn’t take His eyes off of us.

It would be enough to thrill us to know that the Lord is ever watching us. I’m saying He has locked eyes on us. Two people locking eyes in a crowded room is a staple of romantic cinema. O, how He loves you and me!

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Jesus Is Preparing You For His Return With Clouds, and #2 Jesus Will Place You At His Return With Clouds.

#1 – Jesus Is Preparing You For His Return With Clouds (v4-6)

Let me summarize how these verses include us: Between His first and second comings to earth, Jesus is gathering His church, comprised of those who have been washed of their sins. Once saved, He works in you to prepare you for ministry as kings and priests in the future Kingdom of God on earth when He comes with clouds.

Rev 1:4  John, to the seven churches which 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,

“Seven” is a prominent number in the Revelation. Or I should say, groups of sevens are prominent. A group or series of sevens is called a heptad. In all there are at least fifty-two heptads in the book. Here are just some of them:

Seven Churches
Seven Spirits
Seven Lampstands
Seven Stars (and that’s just in chapter one)
Seven Seals
Seven Trumpets
Seven Bowls
Seven Lamps
Seven Promises to the Overcomer
Seven Horns
Seven Eyes
Seven Angels
Seven Thunders
Seven Heads
Seven Crowns
Seven Plagues
Seven Mountains, and
Seven Kings

There are seven blessings, or beatitudes (1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, & 22:14).

Jesus makes seven I AM statements (1:8, 1:11, 1:17, 1:18; 21:6; 22:13, & 22:16).

Here is a quote from an article on the Hebrew use of seven:

The number seven is especially prominent in Scripture, appearing over 700 times. From the seven days of Creation to the many “sevens” in Revelation, the number seven connotes such concepts as completion and perfection, exoneration and healing, and the fulfillment of promises and oaths.

“To the seven churches which are in Asia.” These seven churches were all in the region we know as Western Turkey. If you look at a map, you’ll see that they are in geographical order with regard to a messenger delivering the Revelation to each of them one-by-one.

The seven letters to the seven churches have at least three applications:

They originally had a provincial application: These seven were actual churches existing in John’s day to which Jesus wrote for correction and/or commendation.

The letters always have a present application: At the end of each letter is the exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, plural. Each letter is written to a church, and each is written to all the churches for the entire Church Age.

The letters always have personal application to every Christian in every age. They each say, “he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Do you have an “ear?” You do; and that means what Jesus said to the churches He said to you

It’s also popular to suggest that the letters have a prophetic application. By that is meant the letters represent seven successive periods of church history, from the apostolic church up to the end of the Church Age. As appealing as that sounds, there is one big problem with the prophetic application.

If the church had to go through these seven periods, the rapture could not have been imminent until the last era.

“Grace to you and peace” was so common a greeting we may not think about how remarkable it is to be able to say it; or how much practical help is contained in it.

“Grace to you” should take me back to the understanding that I am totally undeserving of salvation. I am a sinner by nature and by choice. God has saved me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Peace” is what I can therefore experience as a human being. I am at peace with God and I can have the supernatural peace of God.

Remember that lyric, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love?”

What the world needs now is grace, saving grace, and the peace that accompanies it

I can think of no truth more mind-changing in a time of extreme turmoil and stress than to know I am at peace with God, and that I can therefore be at peace in my spirit in the whirling world.

“Him who is and who was and who is to come” sounds like it is describing Jesus, but a Jew would immediately and correctly understand this to refer to YHWH. Plus you’re told in the next phrase that this Person is seated on His throne. The Father sits on His throne and Jesus sits at His right hand.

Next we are greeted by “the seven spirits who are before His throne.” If you’re going to keep track of weird descriptions in the Revelation, this is a worthy inclusion.

A popular solution is that this refers to a verse in Isaiah that seems to describe God the Holy Spirit seven ways. It reads, “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (11:2).

Language scholars point out, however, that while in English we may be able to count seven descriptors, in Hebrew there are really only six.

John will say something similar in the fifth chapter of the Revelation. There we read, “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (v6).

If we were Jews, familiar with the Old Testament, and we heard “seven eyes” you wouldn’t think of Isaiah.

You would think of chapter four in the Book of Zechariah.

Zechariah spoke of “the eyes of the LORD” being “seven” (4:10). He spoke this way while discussing the ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

Because Zechariah used this imagery to describe the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, we know that John was using it that way also.

Why use these phrases instead of simply saying God the Holy Spirit?

One commentator pointed out, “The book of Revelation is immediately using images from Old Testament prophecies to show that this book is interacting with those symbols. Revelation uses language that is found in previous prophecies so that the readers can connect the message of Revelation to the prophecy in the Old Testament.”

These references are signs that direct us to Zechariah. An angel was showing him things. I’ll read it:

Zec 4:2  And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
Zec 4:3  Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

We will encounter seven lampstands later in the first chapter of the Revelation (v13 & 20).

The angel revealed the “two olive trees” as, “The two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth” (v14). Later in the Revelation, two anointed witnesses have a prominent role in the Great Tribulation.

One more thing about not naming God the Holy Spirit directly. He has the ministry of showing the world Jesus. He is the Promise of the Father, given by the Son. He keeps a low profile. Descriptions of His ministry compliment His determination not to call attention to Himself.

Charles Spurgeon said, “It is the chief office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ. He does many things, but this is what He aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ.”

Rev 1:5  and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

These same three phrases are found in Psalm 89 as a description of the Messiah Who would rule on David’s throne from Jerusalem. By using the references in the Revelation, it is beyond doubt that Jesus is the son of David Who will rule on the throne from Jerusalem over the much promised Kingdom.

These phrases also present, to His church, Jesus in His past, present, and future ministries:

“Faithful witness” looks to Jesus’ past. “Witness” is martyr. Jesus came and was faithful to accomplish His witness on the Cross for the human race.

“Firstborn” is a word of preeminence. It means Jesus rose from the dead as the first and preeminent Person to never die again. It means others will follow and rise as a result of His resurrection. We live presently in the power of His resurrection as we await our resurrection or the rapture.

In the future the Lord Jesus will be installed as the “ruler over the kings of the earth.”

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…”

Jesus “loved us,” and thereby we know that He loves us:

He loved you while you were yet a sinner and He proved His love on the Cross by dying for you.

That is why I can say, Jesus loves you. His love does not depend upon your behavior and it can never change.

He “washed us from our sins in His own blood.” “Washed” can be translated loosed or released and is better understood that way:

We are released once-for-all from the penalty of sin.

We are loosed from the power of sin.

Yes, of course, we still sin; but there is a very strong sense in which we don’t have to.

Revelation 1:6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This is in a prophetic tense. It is understood to be presently true because it will surely come to pass. In His Second Coming, we return with Jesus and in some sense share in His rule over the earth.

To Him will be “glory” when He is fully revealed at His Second Coming. Then He will have “dominion forever and ever” from that time forward.

How do we understand that Jesus does not have “dominion” now? Theologian Roger Olsen describes the church age like this:

We are living in “enemy occupied territory.” For whatever reason and by whatever means the kingdoms of this world, the political systems that people have created, are not yet ruled over by God except in the sense that they are subject to God’s ultimate control. God can limit their destructive power, but He has relinquished, as it were, complete control and is waiting and depending (until the end of this age) on us – God’s people – to resist God’s enemy who is occupying His territory (“the kingdoms of this world”).

If you think that gives the devil too much authority, consider the following:

The apostle John, in his Gospel, calls the devil “the ruler of this world” three times (12:31, 14:30, & 16:11).

The apostle Paul calls the devil “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).

When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he “took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me” (Mathew 4:8-9). Jesus did not dispute the devil’s right to offer Him those kingdoms.

It is therefore with joy unspeakable we read that Jesus is “coming with clouds” (v7) to be “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (v5).

The devil’s temporary authority will topple and the rightful ruler will be installed.

I frequently use as an illustration the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War 2. It effectively ended the war in Europe. But fierce fighting continued for eleven more months before victory was declared. From D-Day June 6th until August 21st, when Paris was liberated, 72,911 Allied service members were killed or listed missing and 153,475 were wounded.

Jesus defeated Satan on the Cross, but the kingdoms of this world are still under Satan’s dominion until the Second Coming

Let your heart delight in the knowledge that Jesus is keeping His eyes locked on you:

He saw you from the Cross, we might say, when He washed you from your sins in His own blood.
He called you out into His Church.
You are His kingdom of priests, being prepared for your future ministry in the Kingdom, at His Second Coming.

#2 – Jesus Will Place You At His Return With Clouds (v7-8)

Michael W. Smith sang,

Need your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world

Once you receive the Lord, you do find your place in this world. You do it the old fashioned way: Pray, read your Bible, gather together with believers serving in a local church, and share your love for the Lord with others.

You are a member of the body of Jesus on the earth. Serve Him, stay humble, be led by the Holy Spirit, and you will discover what member you are in that body.
You are a living stone in the Temple of God on the earth. Allow the Lord to place you where He wants, when He wants.

In the future, you’ll be coming back with Jesus to rule alongside Him.

Rev 1:7  Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

This verse is absolutely full of the Old Testament. It borrows “cloud” imagery from Daniel 7:13 & 14, Jeremiah 4:13, Ezekiel 30:3, Zephaniah 1:15, and Zechariah 12:10-13:1. Those passages all mention His “coming in the clouds.”

Is “clouds” symbolic? Probably not – not here, anyway. It means that clouds of some sort will accompany Jesus at His Second Coming.

You might remember at His ascension into Heaven in the Book of Acts we read, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (1:9-11).

“They who pierced Him” refers to the nation of Israel in their official rejection of Jesus in His first coming. In Zechariah 12:10 it says that at the Second Coming, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him.”

“Every eye will see Him” means everyone on the earth who is not a Jew.

“And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” This “mourning” speaks of repentance.

At His Second Coming, all Israel on the earth will be saved.

“Even so, Amen.” This is the second “Amen” in this passage. (There are no “Awoman’s,” BTW).

Rev 1:8  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

“Alpha” and “Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s like our expression, Everything from A to Z. As if that wasn’t inclusive enough, Jesus said He was the Beginning and the End.

With the Revelation of Jesus Christ completing the Bible, you and I have God’s entire alphabet, and every word He wants to say to us.

Jesus described Himself is terms equal to God the Father when He said “who is and who was and who is to come.”

“Almighty” is used ten times in the New Testament and nine of those uses are in the Revelation.

It means something like the one who had his hand on everything. It’s a word of oversight.

Although Satan is still wreaking havoc, God limits the authority of the ruler of this world, and God works through providence to push His plan forward to its ultimate and inevitable end.

Once again we note that Jesus spoke of us prominently. We will serve with Him, next to Him, as kings and priests: or as some translate it, as a kingdom of priests.

Our world can seem to be spinning out of control. That includes the world at large and our own personal “worlds.”

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

I want to share a quote from Charles Spurgeon. It isn’t about our study so much as it is about every Bible study. He said,

I have talked with you as well as I could upon this sublime theme, and if I did not know that the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ, I should go home miserable, for I have not been able to glorify my Lord as I would; but I know that the Holy Spirit can take what I have said out of my very heart, and can put it into your hearts, and he can add to it whatever I have omitted.

Go ye who love the Lord, and glorify Him. Try to do it by your lips and by your lives.

Go ye, and preach Him, preach more of Him, and preach Him up higher and higher, and higher.

Are We Near Yet? (Revelation 1:1-3)

I found this travel advice on a parenting website:

When my husband and I buckle in our eight-year-old daughter for a long drive, we make sure she’s got lots of movies loaded up on the iPhone or iPad, a nice set of headphones, books, stuffed animals, a pillow and blanket, a notebook and colored pencils, and some snacks and water. Another activity to add to the roster is playing the app Toca Life: City. Created by using suggestions from kids around the world, players have 3 million ways to personalize 29 characters and direct them in a digital doll house, or really doll town, navigating through rooms, customizing hairstyles, selecting their wardrobe, going grocery shopping, and visiting the pet store.

Are you kidding me??

Not in my day. I’ve twice told you my sad story. How my oldest brother, at the strong behest of my irritated father, threw out the window of our ‘57 Plymouth my Jack-in-the-Box during our trip from Connecticut to California.

I had that one toy to play with for 2,793 miles while traveling unbuckled in the back of the station wagon surrounded by luggage.

That, my friends, is old school, boy-named-Sue parenting that will prepare you for real life.

The article I read was titled, “How to Avoid Hearing, ‘Are We There Yet?’”

People more-and-more are asking, “Are we near yet?”

Scott McConnel, director of Lifeway Research, writes, “The current global pandemic will create interest among churchgoers and nonreligious people about what the Bible says about plagues, disasters, and the End Times. The urgency… is less about stockpiling toilet paper and more about helping people be ready for Christ’s return.”

“Are we near yet?” Check-out verse three: “For the time is near.”

We have the answers people need… And many of them are in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Are The Servant To Whom Jesus Is Unveiled, and #2 You Are The Servant By Whom Jesus Is Unveiled.

#1 – You Are The Servant To Whom Jesus Is Unveiled (v1)

Tesla revealed its CyberTruck in November 2019. It was behind a curtain they raised, surrounded by smoke. They drove it out on-stage with fanfare and a light show. It was going great until Elon Musk demonstrated the unbreakable glass by tossing a baseball at it. It shattered. Twice. No matter that they previously hit the body with a sledgehammer doing no damage. It’s now considered one of the great unveiling fails of all time.

The Second Coming of Jesus is considered by most nonbelievers as a great unveiling fail

“Where is the promise of His coming?” ask the scoffers.

It’s “near.” This book gives details about the unveiling of Jesus Christ.

Rev 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place…

“Revelation” is the word apokalypsis – the taking away of a covering. It’s really too bad that this word has come to be synonymous with chaos or catastrophe. The apocalypse isn’t the end of the world, but rather the restoration of it.

In His first coming Jesus was veiled:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel

The apostle Paul put it like this: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

His glory was veiled so He could accomplish the work of substituting Himself for our sins.

The apocalypse pulls the cover off, revealing Jesus as He is today, and as He will be at His Second Coming, and in eternity.

In the Lord of the Rings universe, the one true king, Aragorn, has many names and titles. He is Strider, Elessar, Isildur’s heir, Thorongil, Estel, and the Dúnedain. We come to know him more completely through each of these.

Jesus will be made more known by the many names and titles given Him in this book. Going chapter-by-chapter, He is: “The faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5), “The Almighty One” (1:8), “The Alpha and the Omega” (1:8; 21:6), “The Son of Man” (1:13), “The Beginning and the End” (1:8; 21:6), “The Son of God” (2:18), “The One Who is holy and true” (3:7), “The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (3:14), “The Beginning of the Creation of God” (3:14), “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” (5:5), “The Heir to King David’s throne” (5:5), “The Word of God” (19:13), “The King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16), and “The Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (22:16).

He is called “the Lamb of God”
no less than twenty-eight times

Warren Wiersbe says of Jesus’ unveiling,

In Revelation 4-5, He is seen in heaven as the glorified Lamb of God, reigning on the throne.
In Revelation 6-18, Christ is the Judge of all the earth; and
In Revelation 19:1-21, He returns to earth as the conquering King of kings.
The book closes (chapter 22) with the heavenly Bridegroom ushering His bride, the church, into the glorious heavenly city.

These “things which must shortly take place…” This is often misunderstood to mean that all the prophecies of the book were to be fulfilled ‘soon’ after they were given, as in “I’ll be with you shortly.”

What if I told you the word “shortly” is en tachei and that our English word “tachometer” comes from it?

When you floor your accelerator pedal the tachometer redlines. In the context of the Revelation it means that once the events describe begin, it will be pedal-to-the-metal.

“His servants…” That’s you & I

I can see the Lord choosing to give His beloved disciple, John, the Revelation. But me? You?

Nevertheless, He has given it to us through John, on these pages.

The Lord wants us to see Him, as He is now in Heaven, and as He will be at His Second Coming.

It’s a good reminder to really ‘see’ Jesus in these odd times we are experiencing.

Where am I looking for hope? For strength? For truth? For clarity?

It should be not just “to” Jesus, but at Him unveiled to us in His power and beauty, poised to return.

#2 – You Are The Servant By Whom Jesus Is Unveiled (v2-3)

It’s been a White House tradition for decades: A first-term president hosts a ceremony in the East Room for the unveiling of the official portrait of his immediate predecessor that will hang in the halls of the White House for posterity.

Odds are that’s not gonna happen this year.

We will be privileged to see many ‘portraits’ of our Savior in this wonderful book. We’ll want to show them to others who have an inaccurate, or incomplete, portrait of the Lord.

Rev 1:1  … And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

John is the person who received the Revelation and penned the scroll. He is the apostle John, author of the Gospel bearing his name and three letters. He id’s himself four times in the Revelation (1:1,4, & 9; 22:8).

He left us a kind of secret signature. John is the only writer who calls Jesus the Lamb, and he does it in his Gospel and in the Revelation.

He identified himself as a “servant.” He used the word for a voluntary bond slave – someone who chose slavery out of love for his Master.

This word “signified” is so important. It can be understood as sign-i-fied, meaning through signs or symbols.

I’ve heard people say that the Revelation cannot really be understood because it’s full of signs. Stop and think for a moment.

Do we use signs to be confusing, or to make something clear?

When you see a sign with a blue square overlaid in white with a stylized image of a person in a wheelchair, what do you think? Do you think it means free rides? Meals on wheels?

Signs reveal rather than conceal. Signs and symbols are better than language in that they are universal and therefore not subject to individual interpretation.

Biblical symbols are consistent throughout the Bible. The signs and symbols in the Revelation will either be defined for us; or we can easily find them defined by their use elsewhere in the Bible.
So, Yes, there are some extremely weird images in the Revelation. But we have their explanations. One commentator noted,

The Book of Revelation is rooted in the Old Testament. It contains more than 500 allusions to the Old Testament, and 278 of the 404 verses in Revelation (that is almost 70%) make some reference to the Old Testament.

A first century Jew would immediately understand without need of any explanation the signs we find fantastic

Sometimes Jesus conveyed information Himself to John (1:10); sometimes it was through an “elder” (7:13); and sometimes a “voice from Heaven” told John what to say and do (10:4). Mostly Jesus communicated the Revelation through an “angel.”

Rev 1:2  who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.

John knew that what he was writing was inspired Scripture.
He faithfully recorded the “testimony of Jesus,” the things Jesus said to him through the angel. He also “saw” the things he wrote about.

(Commentators debate about whether or not John received visions while on the earth, or was in some manner transported to the future to see the actual events. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What he saw is what matters).

The Revelation is the Word of God… Testified to by Jesus… Delivered by an angel… Given in universal sign language… Visually witnessed by John… And recorded by inspiration. This is iron-clad future stuff.

Rev 1:3  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

I am being “blessed” right before your very eyes. Today, I am “he who reads… the words of this prophecy.”

You are being “blessed” right before my very eyes. Today you are “those who hear the word of this prophecy.”

(BTW: This is the first of seven beatitudes in the Revelation – 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7 & 14).

What is the blessing? We’re not told. Always leave it up to Jesus to determine how to best bless you. But, yes, a blessing is promised – and that is exciting.

We need to read, and hear, the Revelation more, not less. I’m not suggesting it is more important than any other Scripture. I am suggesting too many are ignoring it, or worse – teaching it as already fulfilled – and that’s not good.

“He who reads” and “those who hear” refers first to the original audience for the Revelation – the seven churches of Asia in chapters two & three. If you look at them in order on a map, they form a route from one city to the next. This entire book was read to, and heard by, all of them. One commentator pointed out,

“Because writing materials were expensive and scarce, so were copies of the books that were parts of the biblical canon.

As a rule, one copy per Christian assembly was the best that could be hoped for. Public reading was the only means that rank-and-file Christians had for becoming familiar with the contents of these books.”

You’re to “keep the things that are in it.” Prophecy is practical. We don’t study it because we are curious about the future. When we get to the letters to the seven churches, for example, Jesus will give much in the way of practical obedience.

The original recipients were suffering extreme persecution from Roman emperor Domitian. It was going to go from bad to worse to martyrdom. The believers would find great hope in the knowledge of the return of Jesus to establish the kingdom.

It has become popular to categorize the book as “apocalyptic literature.” That sounds right at first, since it calls itself apokalypsis. After all, if the Apocalypse isn’t apocalyptic, what is?

Apocalyptic literature is a category of writing – what scholars call a genre – like prose and poetry are categories of writing.

One of many reasons the Revelation is not in the category of apocalyptic literature is that the first three chapters are very much literal.
Another reason is that apocalyptic literature doesn’t promise you a blessing from Heaven for reading it.
Yet another reason is that apocalyptic literature is pseudonymous (so͞oˈdänəməs). Big word that means written under a false name. Definitely not the case here.

But there is a better argument: The Revelation characterizes itself as prophecy

We see that here in verse three, and later, in chapter 22:18-19.

The proper approach to the Revelation is to “assume a literal interpretation of each symbolic representation unless a particular factor in the text indicates it should be interpreted figuratively.”

If you’ve ever heard or read a teaching by someone who treats the Revelation as apocalyptic literature, you noted that they ignore the signs as they are defined in the book in favor of their own allegories.
In chapter seven we will read, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” (7:3-4).

The chapter continues by going tribe-by-tribe saying that 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel were sealed. They were set aside for special ministry.

Who do you think they are?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christians from Pentecost 33AD until the present day will be resurrected to Heaven as immortal spirit beings to spend eternity with God and Christ. They believe that these people are “anointed” by God to become part of the spiritual “Israel of God.”
Mormons believe that the sealing of the 144,000 relates to the high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God.

It’s not only the cults that contribute to confusion:

Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, says, “The 144,000 and the great multitude are not two different peoples but two different ways of describing the same purified bride.  From one vantage point the purified bride is numbered; from another, she is innumerable – a great multitude that no one can count.”
Kevin DeYoung, writing for The Gospel Coalition, says, “The 144,000 are not an ethnic Jewish remnant. The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed.”

There is nothing anywhere to suggest 144,000 is a figurative number, or that these aren’t exactly the Jews who John says they are

One more reason we are futurists who read prophecy literally.

Whenever someone in the Bible interpreted prophecy he did so literally

Daniel, for instance, was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah.

He came to the place where Jeremiah indicated that the captivity of the Jews in Babylon would last a period of seventy years. Daniel believed it to be literal. He realized that the time was almost through and set himself to being ready to return to Jerusalem.

“For the time is near.” “Time” here means a certain period of time. We might call it an “age.” The certain period of time is the Kingdom of God on earth for a thousand years.

Consider the following biblical factoids:

For every prophecy of the first coming of Jesus there are eight prophecies of His Second Coming.
There are over one-thousand eight hundred and forty-five verses in the Old Testament that refer to Jesus Christ ruling over a kingdom on the earth.
Seventeen Old Testament books feature His rule on the earth as a prominent event.
There are at least three hundred eighteen references to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming in the New Testament.
His return is mentioned in twenty-three of the twenty-seven books that comprise the New Testament.

The kingdom age was the constant expectation of the Jews. We see it among Jesus’ disciples:

Before the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we read in Mark 10:37, James and John “said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
As Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:7).

How is it “near?” Jesus is in Heaven, poised to return. He’s coming. We think it is delayed; but it is “near.”

Consider this: When the apostle Peter talked about the End Times, he reminded us that, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (Second Peter 3:8). It isn’t meant as a mathematical equivalent, but to say that, from a heavenly perspective, hardly any time has past since the Lord first started dealing with humans in the Garden of Eden. If you only live 70 or so years, several thousand years seems an eternity. If you are eternal, it’s a twinkle of the eye.

You likely received many picture cards this Christmas. It’s always interesting to see how folks are changing and aging – especially if you haven’t seen them for a while. Every now and then, you might not recognize someone. Or they have completely changed their look.

The last time His disciples saw Jesus, He was in His glorified body, ascending into Heaven. Right out of the gate, in verses twelve through sixteen, we are going to see Him very differently portrayed.

I’m hoping we will see Jesus in ways we haven’t thought of in a while… And maybe in ways we’ve never thought of before.

Operation Desert Transform (Mark 1:1-13)

In an iconic line of dialog from the movie, The Untouchables, Sean Connery’s character accuses his attacker of “bring[ing] a knife to a gunfight.”

His quick-witted quip has become a popular way of describing being poorly or wrongly equipped for the task at hand.

The task at hand, for every Christian, was stated by Jesus when He said,

Mat 28:19  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

A little later on, Jesus told His followers that this task was no knifefight.  It wasn’t a gunfight, either.  It would be more like a nuclear war.

That’s because we don’t wrestle against natural forces.  As we’re told by the apostle Paul,

Eph 6:12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We need to show up with something supernatural in this fight; and that is exactly what Jesus went on to tell His first followers:

Act 1:8  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

They did, and they were:

They did “receive power” on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

They were “witnesses to [Jesus]… to the end of the earth,” in the preaching of the Gospel that continues to this day.

By listening carefully to the opening words of the Gospel of Mark, we will see that he highlights the baptism with the Holy Spirit, mentioned in verse eight, as a sort of doomsday weapon that gave Jesus, and that always gives Christians, the advantage against Satan and the rulers of the darkness of this age.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Are Guaranteed The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit By Which You Are Enabled To Serve, and #2 Jesus Manifested The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit By Which He Was Enabled To Serve.

#1    You Are Guaranteed The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit
    By Which You Are Enabled To Serve
    (v1-8)

Mark is the Spirit-inspired author of the second Gospel.  He is the well-known John-Mark of the Book of Acts.

John was his Hebrew name.

Out among Gentiles he was called Mark.

He was the son of a Jerusalem widow whose large home was a meeting place for the believers during the early days of the church.  Big-hearted Barnabas was his cousin.

He was well-known, at first, for deserting Paul and Barnabas on one of their mission trips.  When Barnabas wanted to take Mark on their next trip, Paul refused, and it led to the two men parting ways.

Mark was well-known, in the end, for being restored to fellowship, and to ministry.  In his letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Paul sent greetings to Mark.  In Philemon, Paul included Mark among those whom he called “my fellowlaborers.”  These references indicate that full reconciliation had taken place between Paul and Mark, and that Mark was actively laboring with Paul.

In Second Timothy 4:11, written shortly before his death in Rome, Paul requested Timothy to come to him and added, “Take Mark, and bring him with you: for he profitable to me for the ministry.”

Mark also spent considerable time with the apostle Peter.  In First Peter 5:13 Peter sent greetings to the churches in Asia Minor and added greetings from “Mark my son.”  He was referring to Mark as a son in the faith, not as his biological son.

It was from Peter, from his eyewitness accounts, that Mark compiled this Gospel.

At one point, Mark was an utter, embarrassing failure.  But he was restored to fellowship.  He got back into the fight.  God used him to write an account of Jesus Christ that has ministered to multiplied millions of people.

Maybe you’ve failed, or are failing.  Or maybe you’re just hesitating for some reason.  You’re needed in the fight.  I pray that these studies in Mark will refresh you.

Mar 1:1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Gospel began when God came into the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned, promising to come as a man to die for their sins and redeem what they had forfeited.

Mark was announcing the beginning of the active ministry of Jesus Christ.

It is generally agreed that Mark was writing to a Gentile audience to emphasize the fact that Jesus was a servant.

By stating right away that Jesus is “the Son of God,” Mark was saying something truly remarkable.  He was saying that God, the Creator and Sustainer of life, is a servant at heart.

Some therefore say the key verse in Mark is 10:45, where Jesus said He did not come to be served, but to serve, by giving His life as a ransom for the human race.

You’re going to notice that Mark’s Gospel moves rapidly.  In that respect, it feels like a servant’s Gospel.

Mar 1:2  As it is written in the Prophets: “BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.”
Mar 1:3  “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS: ‘PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD; MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'”

Mark puts together portions of two “prophets” in this quote, Malachi and Isaiah.

Fulfilled prophecy sets the Bible apart as unique.  Any other religious writings are like knives brought to a gun fight in that they can make no such claims.  It’s offensive, really, to put the writings of other religions in the same category as the Bible.

In these prophecies, God the Father was promising His Son that, before His earthly ministry began, He would send an appropriate messenger to announce Him, and to prepare the people.

Mar 1:4  John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

Came from where?  Came how?  I’m only asking to emphasize how rapidly Mark is moving.  No background; no history.  Just the facts.

Let this encourage you that, although we want to be ready to give answers to what we believe, sometimes just the strait-forward telling of the facts is what the Holy Spirit wants to use in reaching hearts.  You don’t have to be a scholar, or know the answer to every question, in order to preach Jesus to people.

The Jews had any number of rituals involving water.  But the only people who were immersed under water, who were baptized, were proselytes.  These were Gentiles who wished to convert to Judaism.  They were circumcised, then after seven days, baptized in running water by full immersion.

For a Jew to submit to baptism was a big deal.

The proper reading of these words is, “repent, and be baptized because of the remission of sins.”

“Remission” means sending away, a dismissal.  It speaks of the cancellation of your sins without demanding the deserved punishment.

“Repentance” is a change of mind with regard to your sin.  You acknowledge you are a sinner, that you sin, and you consciously turn away from it.

Remission of sin is part of the salvation which God gives the believing sinner when he places his faith in the Lord Jesus.  Remission of sins cannot be the result of baptism, but rather, are its reason.  Baptism is the believer’s testimony to the fact that his sins have been remitted.
Those baptized were the ones who had already repented of their sins.

It’s the same today.  Baptism does not save.  It can not save.  It is not necessary for our salvation.  We are baptized out of obedience, because the Lord commands it, in order to publicly testify we have been saved.  You might call it believers baptism.

Mar 1:5  Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

A steady stream of people went out into the wilderness, listened to John’s simple Gospel message, and submitted to baptism.

The wording indicates that John himself did all the baptizing.

The “confessing [of] their sins” didn’t necessarily happen as they were being baptized.  It means those who were baptized were agreeing with the message – that they were sinners in need of forgiveness.

Mar 1:6  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

Let’s just say that his dress and his diet were consistent with someone preaching repentance.

The Gospel should affect your lifestyle choices.  You should dress and diet, i.e., live in all aspects, like someone whose sins are remitted, who has repented, and who is inviting others to do the same.

I don’t know what that looks like for you, only for me.  I’m simply saying that the Gospel should dictate your decisions.

Mar 1:7  And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.

The verb tense for “comes” speaks of imminence.  There was an urgency in John’s presentation.

Since we don’t know what life holds for us, we ought to be urgent in presenting the Gospel.  We cannot assume we have tomorrow.

John thought of himself as the lowest possible servant.  He wasn’t worthy to perform footwashing; not even to remove the sandals, but only, maybe, to “loose” the sandal strap.

A quote by C.S. Lewis has been circulating on social media.  “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Mar 1:8  I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The “you” looks beyond those whom John had baptized in the Jordan.  It is a statement to anyone, to everyone, who hears the Gospel.

John’s physical baptism was a symbol of a spiritual work that was coming after the Messiah finished His work of paying the debt in full for sin owed by the human race.  John called it a baptism “with the Holy Spirit.”

This is a highly charged phrase which, sadly, divides Christians.  We argue over the precise ministries of God he Holy Spirit, and about the scope of His continuing work in the world today, and in the future.  We disagree, within our own saved ranks, with what, exactly, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is, and just exactly when and how it occurs.

It may not be completely possible, but let’s try to set our biases aside for a moment and hear what John said, in light of what we know Jesus said and did.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit, to indwell them:

Joh 20:22  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

To these same, now Spirit-indwelt, believers, He would go on a few days later to say:

Act 1:8  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

(A few verses earlier, Jesus referred to this as a baptism with the Holy Spirit).

After the Holy Spirit was in them, and after He had come upon them, the Christians kept on asking for Him to empower them, and He kept on manifesting Himself to them:

Act 4:31  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

I would add for our consideration this passage, where Jesus was addressing believers:

Luk 11:9  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Luk 11:10  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Luk 11:13  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

You can look at all that through a theological bias, or presupposition, and draw all kinds of conclusions.  Or you can take it as it is, simply and descriptively, concluding that the normal Christian life is one in which the indwelling Holy Spirit Whom you receive at the moment of salvation wants to come upon you to empower you for your service, and Who wants to go on refreshing you in new fillings of His power.

You have been guaranteed the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  Without it – without Him – you’re holding a knife while facing a nuclear warhead.

It sounds funny, but too much that passes as spiritual in ministry is really just our own energy clothed with Bible terminology.

Having begun in the Spirit when we are saved, we must seek Him to continue in Him in our serving.

#2    Jesus Manifested The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit
    By Which He Served
    (v9-13)

I never realized how fast they drive in a presidential motorcade.  To protect the president, officers are instructed to crash into suspicious vehicles, if necessary.  The high rates of speed, and the defensive posture that is assumed protecting the president, has led to several deaths – especially of motor officers.

If it’s such a big deal to prepare the way for POTUS, you’d think it would have been a really big deal to have the Son of God come from Nazareth to the wilderness where John was baptizing.

Mar 1:9  It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

No escort; no entourage.  Jesus walked the fifty plus miles by Himself, camping out along the way.

Again please notice the bare-bones approach Mark takes.  No record of the conversation John had with Jesus, initially refusing to baptize Him because, as he said, “I have need to be baptized by You.”

No record of Jesus responding by telling John it was necessary to fulfill all things.

Still there is enough here to communicate that Jesus, the Son of God, Who would die so sins could be remitted, was identifying with the human race.  He was God, but He was also man – the unique God-man Who alone could die for the sins of the world to save us.

Mar 1:10  And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove.

Mark repeatedly uses the word “immediately.”  It keeps the action moving in this fast-paced Gospel.

We might jokingly say that Mark puts the “Go” back in Gospel.

Jesus saw the heavens, literally, “torn open.”  How far He saw we cannot say.

Have you seen the Avengers movie, The Age of Ultron?  There’s a tear in space through which an intimidating alien invading force comes threatening earth.

Through the tear at Jesus’ baptism came… A dove.  Not very dramatic, or intimidating, but far more powerful than anything the world had ever experienced: The Spirit of God upon the God-man.

The Spirit had been a part of Jesus’ life from conception.  This was something new.  It was a baptism with the Holy Spirit to empower Jesus for His ministry.

If Jesus needed this, don’t you think we do?

And if Jesus was identifying with us, don’t you think this is an experience we also can and should have?

Why a dove?  It was the animal associated with humility and innocence, but also sacrifice, as it was commonly used in the Temple, especially by the poor.

Mar 1:11  Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The meaning is “You, and You alone.”  Jesus had been eternally with the Father and the Spirit, in Heaven.  Here He was, the God-man, on the earth, as promised in the Garden of Eden – the Seed of the woman Who would crush Satan.

This phrase, “in whom I am well pleased,” can mean two things, and I say it’s both:

It can mean God the Father was, and had always been, pleased with Jesus – in eternity past, and in His life as a man for some thirty obscure years.

“Well pleased” can also mean to select, implying that His incarnation, and the whole plan of redeeming the human race, is a thing pleasing to God.

Mar 1:12  Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.

“Drove” is a strong term.  It doesn’t, however, mean that Jesus was driven against His will.  It means He had a strong sense of the Holy Spirit sending Him, or leading Him, if you prefer, out into the wilderness.

We might say that God spoke to Him.  Do you ever say that?  That God spoke to you?  It doesn’t mean you heard His voice, audibly.  It means you had this strong sense of His leading you.  There are times you might even say He drove you.

Have you had such experiences?  If not… You’re not listening.

If you have had such experiences… When was the last time you had this sense of being led, of being driven?

The Savior Who was promised to our original parents when they were in a beautiful garden paradise was driven out into a rugged, dangerous wilderness.

The contrast is intentional.  What the first man forfeited in a garden would be regained by the Second Man in the desert.

We’re not done with this word “drove,” not just yet.  One commentator wrote, “The present tense [of the verb drove] marks the first occurrence of the historical present in this Gospel, a characteristic feature of Mark’s style.  It vividly depicts the action as though taking place before the reader’s very eyes.”

It is to writing what 3D is to movies.  Or, better yet, it’s like virtual reality.  Mark writes in a way that makes you feel you are there, with Jesus, in the wilderness.

Mar 1:13  And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

Mark portrays Him as being constantly tempted – not just the three great temptations Matthew mentions at the end, when Jesus was at His weakest from fasting.

How long are rounds in MMA?  Or in boxing?  Or in wrestling?

This was a forty day, day-and-night, contest that involved the spiritual as well as the physical.

Satan may have felt he had the advantage.  After all, he knew Jesus well, from Heaven, as the glorious, eternal, Second Person of the trinity.

Now here He was, a puny human.  Sure, He was the God-man, but what did that mean?  It meant He was hungry… weak… thirsty… tired… temptable.

Mark is the only Gospel writer who mentions “the wild beasts.”   Kenneth Wuest writes, “The region abounded with boars, jackals, wolves, foxes, leopards, and hyenas.”

“Angels ministered to Him.”  This was Satan’s first clue, perhaps, that defeating the God-man would be no walk in the park.  Still, the advantage, on the surface, belonged to Satan.

Wait a minute, you object; you’re not factoring in the Holy Spirit.

Satan had faced Spirit-filled men before.  Though any one of them could defeat him, and many did for a time, he was the master at overcoming them with temptation.

In the Old Testament, think of David, the physical ancestor of Jesus.  Sure, he killed Goliath, and easily conquered Philistines, and captured Jerusalem.

But can you say, “Bathsheeba?”

With the exception of Joseph and Daniel, Satan always defeated the Spirit-filled man, at some point, with temptations.

Ah, but not this One.  We will see that Satan is no match for the Spirit-baptized man.

You say Jesus was more than a man; that He was the God-man?

True; He was both God and man.  But while He was on the earth, He voluntarily set aside the prerogatives of His deity, and lived strictly as a man.

Satan is no match for the Spirit-baptized man.  We are going to see just what that looks like as we follow Jesus’ footsteps in this Gospel.  Demons will tremble; diseases will be healed; men and women and kids will be saved.

It will cost Jesus His life.  Of course, by laying down His life, He’s able to take up His life, in the resurrection.

Want to follow Jesus?  It will cost you your life.  You must lay down your life, die to self, and take up the Cross.

You, too, experience the resurrection – first, it’s power in your life, and then, in the future, when you are raised or raptured to be with the Lord.

Someone Worthy This Way Comes (Revelation 22:8-21)

“Is that your final answer?”

Host Regis Philbin made that question a pop culture phenomenon when he repeatedly asked it on the popular TV game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?  He would present the question, give the contestant some time to think out loud about his or her answer, then ask, “Is that your final answer?  They would then answer “Final,” and their choice was locked in and could not be changed.

This last chapter of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is a “final answer” kind of text.  Will you believe in Jesus, and be saved; or will you reject His offer of salvation and forever be outside of Heaven, suffering eternal conscious torment?

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 If Your Final Answer Is “Yes,” Then You Have Words To Declare, and #2 If Your Final Answer Is “Yes,” Then You Have Works To Discover.

#1     If Your Final Answer Is “Yes,”
    Then You Have Words To Declare
    (v8-11)

In Ray Bradbury’s classic sci-fy story, Fahrenheit 451, books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found.  The title refers to the temperature at which books would ignite.

I never read the book, but I remember a movie based on it.  In the end, individuals had memorized whole books in order to pass them on to future generations.

According to verses seven and nine of chapter twenty-two, you are to “keep the words of the prophecy of this book.”

It doesn’t mean we must memorize the Revelation, but it does encourage us to hold it in high regard, and to share its message.

Sadly, the words of the prophecy of this book have fallen on hard times.  While we might sometimes seem to overemphasize the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and prophecy in general, the vast majority of mainline Protestant Christianity is ignoring this book and Bible prophecy in general.

One group writes on their website, “the major problem with biblical prophecy from a western perspective, is that much of the western church doesn’t realize it is happening.”

The study of prophecy from a literal, futurist position, has never been so relevant.  Everywhere I go, average people are referring to things like the mark of the beast and the miraculous preservation of the nation of Israel.  People are interested, and maybe even a little scared.  We can give them hope that Jesus is coming.

Revelation 22:8  Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

Angels are popular today – as decorations.  I wonder what they think about that?  They are powerful created beings who faithfully serve God as His messengers.  Knick-knacks don’t do them justice.

One thing we’ve learned in our studies is that we will one day in the future be over the angels (First Corinthians 6:3).

Maybe they will collect figurines of you.

Here is something to think about.  John had been part of the inner circle of disciples, along with Peter and James, while Jesus was on the earth.  He was close to Jesus – called “the disciple Jesus loved” (John 13:23).  On Patmos, where he was exiled and received this revelation, he was a mature Christian having walked with Jesus maybe 60+ years.

Even with all that going for him spiritually, his experiences overwhelmed him, and he worshipped in a way that was not just uncharacteristic for him; it was wrong.

If John could err, so can we.  We almost always need to be exhorted to be more exuberant in our worship, but let’s not be aberrant.

Revelation 22:9  Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

The angel is content to identify himself as a “servant” and to identify with John, the “prophets,” and all the saints who will read the Revelation and who “keep the words of this book.”

You and I are part of a much larger plan to bring the message of the Gospel to those in need.

You might never think of it, but angels are excited about the Lord bringing things to their conclusion.  They rejoice in Heaven when one sinner gets saved.  They want to see the redemption of all things.  They want to get back to more pleasant things – like worshipping God.

“Worship God” is great counsel, not just as a correction for false worship, but for almost anything you face.

As I thought about his words, I was reminded that sometimes the best counsel is the simplest, and most obvious.

We’ve come to think that change requires a great deal of time, and a lot of effort.  I think our expectation of difficulty can hinder the work God wants to do in our lives.

Let me give you an example from the Bible.  In the Old Testament, a Syrian commander, Naaman, went to the Jewish prophet, Elisha, to be healed of leprosy.

Elisha refused to see him, but got a message to him telling Naaman to go and dip seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman was furious.  Who did Elisha think he was?  Didn’t they have cleaner water in Syria?

Put that into perspective.  What if you called the church, for help, and we refused to see you personally, but told you where to read in the Bible.  How would that go over?

People leave churches over stuff like that.

Naaman’s annoyance brings us to the heart of the story, the key moment.  Naaman’s servants said to him, “if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

Naaman went and did the simple thing Elisha had counseled, and he was healed.

Keep things simple.  Remember that God’s Word is also His enabling to obey His Word.  Do what He says.

Someone needs to hear this.  Maybe it’s you.  You’ve been struggling with something when, all the while, God has already given you the power you need to deal with it.

Revelation 22:10  And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.
If we “seal” these words, our focus becomes man-ward, inward, and earthly, rather than God-ward, outward, and heavenly.

The “time” period in which the prophecies of this book will take place is “at hand.”

If it was “at hand” in the first century, why is it still pending in the twenty-first century?

It may seem a long time has passed, but it’s nothing to the Lord.  Just a couple of days, really.  All the while He’s been at work, behind history, to set-up the events that precede His return.

God is described by the ‘omni-‘ words – omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent.  I conclude that it must take around six thousand years in order for Him to redeem what Adam forfeited in Eden.  In other words if there were another way, a faster way, He would have implemented it instead of the plan we read in our Bibles.

Revelation 22:11  “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”

The prophecies of this book call for a decision – a final answer.

If you reject God’s offer of salvation, you will remain “unjust” and “filthy.”  The word “unjust” reminds me that I am a sinner, unable to stand before the just judgment of God.  He can, however, justify me on the basis of Jesus taking my place on the Cross.  He can declare believing sinners righteous, just-as-if-I’d never sinned.

“Filthy” reminds me of that whole picture the Bible portrays of me as a sinner before God, dressed in filthy rags.  When I believe in Jesus, He removes those filthy garments, and gives me a pure white robe of righteousness.

Most of us like to quote movie dialog.  There’s a line from a movie where they are training for customer service.  The instructor, to make his point, says, “you’re putting the wrong EMPHAsis on the wrong SYLLable.”

If ever there was a time to put the right emphasis on Bible prophecy, it’s now.

Let’s not be pressured to ignore prophecy by the skeptics and the scoffers who ask, “where is the promise of His coming?”

#2    If Your Final Answer Is “Yes,”
    Then You Have Works To Discover
    (v12-21)

One of the criticisms leveled at us, as premillenials who believe in the imminent rapture, is that we want to escape the responsibilities of making earth a better place.

The rapture is not an escape so much as it is an abduction.  It’s true.  Think about it: Jesus is coming to snatch us away.

Don’t accuse me of wanting to get away from my responsibilities; Jesus is the One who is coming to take me away.  Your beef is with Him.

Meantime, we are trying to make the earth a better place, the only way it can improve – by our good works that represent Jesus to nonbelievers so they can get saved.

“Works” and “do[ing] His commandments” are the theme of these next verses.  The teaching of Bible prophecy should always encourage biblical action.  We don’t go out and sit on a mountain, waiting for Him to come.  In fact in the letters that teach most emphatically about the rapture, the apostle Paul addresses lazy believers who are mooching off others, using the Lord’s imminent coming as their reason.  He tells them if you don’t work, you don’t eat.

Revelation 22:12  “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

As I’ve pointed out repeatedly in our studies, “quickly” doesn’t mean soon.  It means suddenly.  It means that Jesus could return for us at any moment, so be ready.

When Jesus comes for the church He will resurrect those who have died, then rapture the living believers to Heaven where we will stand before Him and be rewarded (First Corinthians 3:13-15).

You will be rewarded on the basis of your works.  Now the thing I always like to emphasize about works is that they are something God leads us into.  They are things that He has planned for us that we discover.

In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God is doing His work in us, and that work is to make us more-and-more like Jesus everyday.  He is conforming us to the image of Jesus.
After you get saved, you are predestined to become like the Lord.  He Who began this good work in you will certainly complete it.

Growing up, there was always a project car in our garage.  The first I remember was a dune buggy conversion.

Then there was my oldest brother’s Avenger GT fiberglass kit car.

For years upon years my younger brother’s Alfa Romeo was parked in there.

We’ve talked about our mansions in Heaven.  None of them are going to feature a garage in which those who are still a work in progress are kept.  No matter when God starts His work on us; no matter how many times we resist it; we will be perfected when we stand before Him to be rewarded.

That’s God’s work in us.  The verse also mentions God’s work through us, and those are our “good works,” which we discover as we walk with Him.

The good works that God has prepared in advance for you to discover are how you build a successful spiritual life that impacts the world around you.  It is imperative you believe that there are things for you to discover – things God wants to empower you to perform.

There’s a deception in our churches that the work of the ministry is done by pastors and missionaries.  Not true.  Pastors are tasked with equipping every saint to do the work of the ministry.

All of us are to devote ourselves to bringing Jesus, and the Gospel, to the places God has placed us.
Ask the Lord to show you how to increase your witness, and His presence, where you work and where you play.

Revelation 22:13  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

Jesus speaks for Himself.  He gives three strong statements that only God could claim.

You know, sometimes the cults say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Well, He did even in the Gospels.  But they forget His statements in the Revelation.  There are words in red in this book that Jesus says that can only be true if He is God.

Revelation 22:14  Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

Some translations have the phrase “wash their robes” instead of “do His commandments.”  In either case, these describe you, rather than challenge you.

Here is what I mean.  You’re not blessed only if or because you “do His commandments.”  No, you “do His commandments,” by His power, because you are blessed by Him.

Likewise, if the translation is “wash [your] robes,” it’s not an exhortation to do your own spiritual laundry.  Jesus said in Ephesians that He was the One doing the washing, the cleansing, to one day present you without spot or blemish to His Father, in Heaven.

These are His promises to you, not prescriptions for you.

The Tree of Life was seen earlier in this chapter.  It was in the Garden of Eden originally, but mankind was barred from eating from it after Adam and Eve sinned.

We won’t be going back to the Garden of Eden.  The Tree of Life will be transplanted in the New Jerusalem.

Sometimes I think we forget that, and think of Heaven as a return to where it all began.

God has something much greater planned for us.  The New Jerusalem is way better than Eden.  Those who think we need to get back to nature need to understand that paradise is not a cabin in the woods but the city whose builder and maker is God.

Crosby, Stills & Nash sang the Joni Mitchell song, Woodstock.  In it they long to “get back to the garden,”meaning the Garden of Eden.

Their idea of the garden is expressed as “losing the smog,” and as “bomber jet planes… turning into butterflies.”

Woodstock – the music festival without enough bathrooms and where three people died – was, they thought, a return to Eden.

That’s a pretty low view of Heaven.  Woodstock, NY… Or The New Jerusalem?  God’s got something greater in store than a hippie music festival.

Revelation 22:15  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

This doesn’t mean they are right “outside” trying to break in.  It means they are forever outside of the new heaven and new earth, having been cast into and confined in the Lake of Fire.

The verse mentions “dogs.”  In the New Testament the apostle Paul calls the Judaizers “dogs” (Philippians 3:2).  These were the men who, pardon the expression, ‘dogged’ Paul’s travels.  They came in after him and tried to tell the believers they were not saved until they practiced the Jewish ritual of circumcision and kept the Law of Moses.  We’d expand this to include all false teachers and their teachings.

“Sorcerers” has to do with both the occult and drug abuse.

“Sexual [immorality]” is anything and everything sexual outside of God’s loving boundaries in biblical marriage.

“Murderers” are, you guessed it, murderers.

“Idolaters” is a catch-all category.  If you’re not worshipping the living God, you’re worshipping someone, or something, else, because we are hard-wired for spirituality.

“Whoever loves and practices a lie.”  In context this has reference to those who in the Tribulation believe the lie of the antichrist.

Revelation 22:16  “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

Wait a minute; did He just say “churches?”  Because we haven’t heard that word since the opening of the book.

It’s part of our argument that Jesus will resurrect and rapture us prior to the Tribulation that the church is not mentioned at all – not once – in chapters six through eighteen, while the Tribulation is raging on the earth.

As the “root… of David,” He preceded David; as the “offspring of David,” He came through David’s line as a descendant.

How can Jesus both precede and follow David?  Because He is God come in human flesh.

The “bright and morning star” is the herald of the breaking of a new day.  Satan aspired to that title, but it belongs to Jesus.

Revelation 22:17  And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

The “[Holy] Spirit” and the “bride,” the church, are God’s agents to invite lost men to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior in the age in which we live.  “Whosoever desires” may come to Jesus.

Who is it that “hears… thirsts… and desires?”  We would say it is all men everywhere.

A good friend messaged me an acrostic, Christ Offers Forgiveness For Everyone Everywhere.  C-O-F-F-E-E… Coffee.

Seriously, the Bible says we were created with “eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3).  Jesus said that being lifted up on the Cross, He would “draw all men to Himself.”

That doesn’t mean everyone is saved.  No, He is the Savior of all men – “especially those who believe.”

No one can hear or thirst or desire God unless God takes the initiative.  But He has taken the initiative, and His grace is active upon hearts to free the human will so we can by faith choose Jesus.

What follows is a most solemn warning:

Revelation 22:18  For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;
Revelation 22:19  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

The book in question is this book, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  In its context, these verses describe any efforts of nonbelievers to undermine these prophecies.  The people being described have no part in eternity.

We are called upon to convey this warning to nonbelievers.  We should speak about prophecy in our witnessing.

Revelation 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Revelation 22:21  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

When is Jesus coming?  “Quickly,” meaning suddenly.

John understood this to refer to the rapture, because he adds, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”  He knew that Jesus’ Second Coming is preceded by at least a seven year Tribulation.  No way John would invite Jesus to come immediately, knowing the future calendar, unless he was referring to the rapture.

The imminent, pretribulation, premillennial return of Jesus was important to John.  It affected how he lived.  He wrote in 1John 3:2-3,

1 John 3:2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.1 John 3:3  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

If you are busy conveying a warning, you will normally be careful yourself.  What you believe about the rapture and its timing does affect your entire life.

Revelation 22:21  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

You warn others in a context of grace.  It is because you love them with the love of Jesus Christ that you warn them, that you explain to them what is happening and what is going to happen.  Prophecy is a great proof of the love of God as He is shown to give men ample warning to repent and be saved.

“The Spirit… [says], Come.”  The Holy Spirit is in the world today restraining the flood of sin.  He is grieved at what He sees.  His ministry is to reveal and glorify Jesus.

Here we learn, in what I believe is the only prayer recorded that He utters in Scripture, that He longs for Jesus to return.

“… The bride [says], Come.”  The church on earth is the bride of Jesus Christ.  The church collectively ought to long for His coming just as a bride awaiting the coming of her bridegroom to marry her.

“… Him who hears [says], Come.”  The individual in the church on earth – you and I – ought to, in our personal lives, live in the expectancy of the imminent, pretribulation, premillennial return of Jesus.

“… Let him who thirsts come.”  This refers to nonbelievers – who are parched for a drink of the free living water offered to all by Jesus.  But they must come and take; they must receive Him by faith.

Say it with me: Get ready and stay ready, because, ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Face Time (Revelation 22:1-7)

Satisfaction Guaranteed.

It’s one of the most common expressions in the marketplace.  There’s usually a time limit, say thirty to ninety days; and there may be other limiting factors.  But, by-and-large, we believe we deserve a guarantee of satisfaction with our purchases.

God’s people have always had a guarantee of spiritual satisfaction.  The psalmist declared, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (16:11).

He also said, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (37:4).

As we take a final look at the New Jerusalem, we’ll understand that it will be a place, for eternity, of true and total satisfaction.

But what about right now?  Should we be expecting, and experiencing, true and total satisfaction?

Hold off on your answer until we take a look at our text in the Revelation.  In it we will see that, one day, we will be truly and totally satisfied; and until then, we should see ourselves sanctified on our way there.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Jesus Is Going To Forever Satisfy The Desires Of Your Heart, and #2 You Are Able To Presently Sanctify The Desires Of Your Heart.

#1    Jesus Is Going To Forever
    Satisfy The Desires Of Your Heart
    (v1-5)

Whatever Happened to Heaven?, asked Dave Hunt in the 1988 book with that title.  In it he argued, “the overwhelming emphasis in the New Testament is upon Heaven [but] this vision has been lost in the church today.”

The apostle Paul gave us an inspired quote about longing for Heaven.  Speaking of dying or living, those two things, he said,

Php 1:23  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
Php 1:24  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

Paul thought it would be “far better” to “depart,” meaning to die, and to be absent from his body and present with His Lord.

Paul wasn’t suicidal.  He wasn’t being negative.  He wasn’t depressed.  He wasn’t off his meds.  He was expressing what is a basic biblical norm – Our future life in Heaven is preferable to our current living on the earth, and as long as we are on the earth, we are here to serve others in the will of God.

We’ve been looking at our future in Heaven.  John sees us home in our mansions in the great city Jesus is away constructing, the New Jerusalem.  As the Revelation comes to its end, John shares one last glimpse.

Rev 22:1  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

An angel has been taking John on a guided tour of the New Jerusalem.  It comes down from Heaven to hover over the new earth.  It’s built mostly from precious metals and jewels.  It’s huge, with not one, but twelve massive pearl gates, and a single street of transparent gold.

A river runs through it – called the “pure river of water of life.”

This river would have triggered a memory for John.  He had been in the Temple, on earth, in Jerusalem, when Jesus said,

John 7:37  …”If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
John 7:38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Jesus spoke those words on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  It’s the fall feast when Israelites were to construct temporary shelters and live in them to commemorate God’s bringing them through the wilderness safely to the Promised Land.

There was a special ritual involving water that was performed each day.  For the first seven days of the eight-day feast the priests would march in procession down many steps with large water jugs on their shoulders to the pool of Siloam in the Kidron Valley.  There they would fill their jugs and make a solemn procession back up the steps and into the Temple courtyard where thousands of people would be gathered to worship God.

As the people sang and worshiped God, the priests poured out the water on the pavement.   It was a reminder of how God brought water out of the rock when their fathers were dying of thirst in the wilderness.  They remembered how Moses took the rod and struck the rock according to the commandment of God, and how life-giving water came gushing out the rock.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, the priests did not make a procession to the pool of Siloam nor did they pour out water on the pavement.

This was to signify that God had kept His promise to their fathers.  He preserved them in the wilderness and brought them into a land
flowing with milk and honey – a well-watered land where they no longer needed water to gush miraculously out of the rock.

It was on this day as the people were gathered to worship God that Jesus stood and cried to the thousands of worshipers in the courtyard: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”

John goes on to say that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit Who, when He came, would fill, then flow through Christians like a torrent of spiritual life and power.

We therefore identify “rivers of living water” with the Person and work of God the Holy Spirit.  It is another emblem, or symbol, of His presence – like the dove that came down from Heaven upon Jesus at His baptism.

This river flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb” lets us know that the Holy Spirit is also enthroned there.  He apparently isn’t seen, the way God the Father and Jesus are; but He is there.

God the Holy Spirit is a Person; He’s not a force.  He’s not water, but His presence is represented by it.

John saw God dwelling with men.  The Feast of Tabernacles portrays just that – God dwelling with, or tabernacling, with His people.

I’m one who believe that Jesus was probably born during a Feast of Tabernacles.  It fits all the facts of His birth story.

He will undoubtedly return, in His Second Coming, at that time of year.  Not the rapture; that is an imminent event.  But just as Jesus in His first coming fulfilled, on the very day, several of the feasts, He will certainly fulfill the fall feasts, and that makes His return likely to be in a future September, during Tabernacles on the Jewish calendar.

Rev 22:2  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

In the Garden of Eden there were two trees.  There was the Tree of Life and there was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Adam and Eve’s test was to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They failed, and were then prohibited from eating of the Tree of Life, lest they live forever in their sin.

Banishment from the Garden was an act of grace.  It gave time for God to work through human history to redeem and restore all that our first parents lost.

What kind of tree was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?  Genesis doesn’t say, but it doesn’t ever anywhere in the book mention apples.  I read that early Christian scholars often took the forbidden fruit to be an apple possibly because of the pun suggested by the Latin word malum, which means both “apple” and “evil.”

At least one early Latin translation of the bible uses “apple” instead of “fruit.”  A contributing factor no doubt was that apples were a lot more popular in Europe than in the Middle East.

Best guess as to what kind of fruit it was is the fig.  Immediately after eating it and seeing their nakedness they sewed fig leaves together.  Easy to find if you were eating figs.

The Tree of Life flourishes in the New Jerusalem.  But is it one tree or several?  From the description of its relationship to the river and the street of gold it’s hard to picture.

I’ve got to think it’s the same tree that was in the Garden.  Not just any-old tree of life, from a nursery, but THE Tree of Life, preserved these many centuries, to be replanted in the new, fresh soil of the New Jerusalem.

Will we eat in heaven?  Will we need to eat?

The best answer is that we can eat, but will not have to.

In His resurrection body, Jesus enjoyed food (Luke 24:41-43, John 21:12-14).

The heavenly visitors ate with Abraham (Genesis 18:6-8).

The great heavenly reunion between Jesus and His people is described as a marriage supper (Revelation 19:9).

Jesus said He wouldn’t drink wine again until He did so with us in Heaven (Matthew 26:29).

At the same time, it doesn’t seem as though it could be Heaven if we had to eat to sustain life.

We said last week that the “nations” on the eternal earth will be saved Gentiles who were not members of the church.  They come out of the Tribulation and the Millennium and into eternity.

Why do the “nations” need leaves for “healing?”  The word can be translated health-giving.  The leaves promote the enjoyment of life; they are not for ills and sicknesses.

One thing to note is the mention of “months.”  It fascinates me that we will still measure, or at least note, the passing of time.  I tend to think of eternity as some kind of endless ‘now’ – as somehow not involved with time.  It just shows how limited I am in understanding these things.

Revelation 22:3  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

From the sin of Adam and Eve until now and up until eternity the universe as we know it is under the “curse.”  Sin brought death and the whole earth groans waiting for its redemption.

John was letting us know that all of that is finished, it is done.  God will dwell among us in perfect fellowship.

Does it bother you to be called a “servant” in Heaven?  It shouldn’t because the nature of God is to serve.  Jesus said He came to serve, not to be served.

It wasn’t a temporary departure from His regular attitude.  Jesus remains a Servant.  For example the Bible says He always is praying for you – serving both you and His Father through intercessory prayer.

We’re to serve now and that won’t change in Heaven.  Well, it will change in one respect: We will always enjoy it with no bad attitudes about it.

Revelation 22:4  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

We will all “see His face,” meaning we have immediate access to God in eternity.

How can billions and billions of saints all see His face all the time?  There is a lot about Heaven we simply are not told.

“His name shall be on [our] foreheads.”  Got to take it literally.  As futurists who believe in the literalness of the Revelation, we take texts literally unless we are told they are figures, or types, or similes, or metaphors.  We can’t pick and choose what we think is literal and what we think is figurative.  If seeing His face is literal, so is having His name on our foreheads.

Today we approximate this with those we love in different ways.  We might have rings that match each other.  Or some other kind of jewelry where you have half and I have the other half.

Some have tattoos, literally, that match or go together.  You might want to wait until you’ve been together a while to get someone’s name tattooed on you.  Or plan for a cover-up later.

Whatever form it takes, it speaks of eternal endearment.

Revelation 22:5  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Pardon the pun but in the New Jerusalem there will be no “night” life.  It’s always light.

We don’t get that because we need day/night cycles to function.  People get weird in places where it’s always light or always dark certain times of the year.  Sleep deprivation is a serious threat to mental and physical health.

Our glorified bodies will be much different, much improved.  We won’t need sleep.  And, really, who would want to sleep if you could be with Jesus instead?

When you’re dating you go without rest and sleep to be with the one you love.  In eternity you’ll want to enjoy every moment of face time with God.

We’ve ‘seen the light’ before, but now it is from inside the New Jerusalem, at its very source.

We will “reign forever and ever.”  We will reign as servants.  We don’t normally think of those two words together but we should.

As we mentioned earlier, it is the nature of God to serve as He reigns over His creation.

You can serve and not be a servant but you can’t be a servant and not serve.

Just serving, just doing something, doesn’t make you God’s servant.  There’s an attitude behind the activity.  It’s the mind of Jesus who humbled Himself to serve His Father and us as God in human flesh.

Cultivate servanthood in your heart.  Serving will follow and it will flow out of you as torrents of living water.

We are told enough about eternity to know that we will be truly and totally satisfied.  We will be completed, and holy, having free will that is nevertheless unable to sin.

We will experience the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

Ah, but what about now??

#2    You Are Able To Presently
    Sanctify The Desires Of Your Heart
    (v6-7)

The Revelation John was receiving had come to its end.  He’d be left, for a time, on the Island of Patmos, a prisoner of Rome, probably mining salt as a very old man.

Back up a few years.  According to Tertullian, John was banished to Patmos only after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it.  It is reported that all in the audience of Colosseum were converted to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle.

This event would have occurred in the late 1st century, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, who was known for his persecution of Christians.

It is traditionally believed that John was the youngest of the apostles and survived them.  He is said to have lived to an old age, dying at Ephesus sometime after 98AD.

One minute John is seeing incredible visions of the future, having been transported there by the Holy Spirit.  He sees the city he will be living in, maybe even his own mansion.

Then he’s looking out over the sea, a persecuted disciple, with a couple more years to suffer on the earth.

How did he not fall into despair?  How did he persevere?

You probably would say that, having seen his future, and the satisfaction he would know there, it counteracted all the yucky stuff going on in his life.  It gave him hope to finish well.

You’d be right, and you’d also be telling yourself to look at your own future, and the total satisfaction you will know there.  It will counteract the things you must face on earth, on your way home.

It will give you hope to finish well.

Rev 22:6  Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.

Our Lord is “God of the holy prophets.”  Prophecy comprises over a fourth of the Bible.  Fulfilled prophecies – and there are scores of them – are a great proof that all of God’s Word is “faithful and true.”

Jesus sent His “angel” to the apostle John to “show His servants.”  This book reveals, it doesn’t conceal.  It is rendered into signs to clarify, not to confuse.

What you read about in the Revelation “must shortly take place.”  The events, and their order, “must” occur; you cannot alter them.

“Shortly” means impending.  From the standpoint of heaven, these events are always impending.

We think they are more impending than ever.  Each week in our prophecy update we show how the news and trends in the world corroborate the centuries old prophecies of the Bible.

Ours is the generation that has seen so much come to pass that was previously unthinkable.

Things like the predicted mark of the beast were ridiculed as some sort of nonsense.  Now it’s not a matter of how or if this type of system will be used, but when.  How rapidly things have changed.

Revelation 22:7  “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Jesus is coming “quickly.”  It doesn’t mean soon.  Soon gives you the idea that there might be an interval of time.  A better word might be suddenly.

The events of this book are impending in that we see the signs leading up to them.  The Lord’s coming for the church, to resurrect and rapture it, is imminent.

We might say the things we read about will happen soon whereas the rapture will come suddenly, and before them.

No book of Scripture promises you’ll be “blessed” as much as the Revelation.  This is the sixth blessing conferred in the book with the seventh and final coming in verse fourteen.

How, exactly, do you “keep the words of the prophecy of this book?”  I think it is by looking for and hastening the coming of the Lord.  It is by believing His coming for the church is imminent.  It is by “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Here are some verses stating that Christ could return suddenly, at any moment, without warning.  These passages support the premillennial position and the doctrine of imminence.

1Corinthians 1:7 “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1Corinthians 16:22, “Maranatha.” “Mar” (“Lord”), “ana” (“our”), and “tha” (“come”), meaning “Our Lord, come.”  The Arabic greeting implies an eager expectation.

Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 4:5, “The Lord is near.”

1Thessalonians 1:10, “to wait for His Son from heaven.”

1Thessalonians 5:6, “so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”

1Timothy 6:14, “that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Titus 2:13, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 9:28, “so Christ… shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

James 5:7-9, “Be patient, therefore,brethren, until the coming of the Lord… for the coming of the Lord is at hand… behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

1Peter 1:13, “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Jude 21, “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

If you believe, really believe, the Lord’s coming is imminent, and that He is away preparing your mansion to come for you and take you home, then you will stay ready, like a bride awaiting her groom.

Another way of saying that is, You will sanctify the desires of your heart.

Sanctify means “set apart,” with the idea of being set apart for Jesus.  That means you will subordinate your desires to His will for your life.

It’s not just that He might come back and catch you doing something you shouldn’t be doing – like putting cream and sugar in coffee.

We should rather have the attitude that we want to be ready; that we are excited to see Him; that we don’t want anyone or anything in our lives to interfere with the joy of that moment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be excited and looking forward to the things of earth, like getting married, having kids, and watching them grow; or excelling in your chosen field of work.

I am saying that what Paul said still stands: To be in Heaven, with Jesus, is far better than to remain on the earth.

Thinking about Heaven, and the hope that Jesus is coming any moment, will sanctify all your endeavors on the earth.  Doing everything as unto the Lord gives everything in your life purpose and eternal meaning.

Remember this song?
Heaven is a wonderful place,
filled with glory and grace,
I want to see my Savior’s face.
Heaven is a wonderful place.

I want to go there.

It should be your theme song as you journey homeward to the city whose builder and maker is God.

There Is A House In New Jerusalem Being Built By The Risen Son (Revelation 21:9-27)

It’s back-to-school time, so I thought we’d begin with a math problem.

If, on average, one human being takes up a space 2 feet by 2 feet by 6 feet, how many cubic feet does a person occupy?

That’s right; we each occupy about 24 cubic feet of space.

Here is something a little more challenging.  In the year 2000, when the earth’s population hit 6 billion, how many cubic miles would it have taken to fit everyone on planet earth?

Everyone on earth would have fit in one cubic mile.

One cubic mile is 147,197,952,000 cubic feet.  Divide by 24 and you get 6,133,248,000.

The math gives us some perspective on our topic.  In our text the heavenly city New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven.  It measures not one mile in every direction, but about 1400 miles in every direction.  That’s 2.06 x 10 to the fourteenth power cubic feet.

I can’t really fathom a number that big, so let’s dumb it down.  If the city had 20 billion residents, which is about three-times the current population of the earth, each person would have a cube of space that is seventy-five acres in every direction.

You know one thing that tells us?  A lot of people have gotten saved, and many more will get saved, before the city makes its dramatic appearance.

(BTW – mathematicians calculate that only about 108 billion people have ever lived on earth).

While all that is interesting, it isn’t the emphasis that the Holy Spirit puts on this appearance of the New Jerusalem.  He focuses first on you, then on Jesus.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Will Inhabit Your Mansion In The New Jerusalem, and #2 Jesus Will Illuminate The Universe From The New Jerusalem.

#1    You Will Inhabit Your Mansion
    In The New Jerusalem
    (v9-10)

Jesus promised His disciples – including you and I – “in My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Some scholars, and certain translations of the Bible, substitute words like “abiding places” or “rooms” or “dwelling places” for the word “mansions.”

Those words are all possible translations.  So is that what we’re going to have in Heaven – a “room?”

If you’re not convinced you will have a mansion after reading chapter twenty-one, then you’re just not listening.

Revelation 21:9  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

This angel retired as a bowl-pourer into a second career as a tour guide in the New Jerusalem.

We must remain flexible serving the Lord.  Yes, God has gifted each of us in unique ways.  But ministry isn’t always about getting to exercise my gift or gifts the way I’d like to.  It’s about doing what the Holy Spirit directs you to do.

“The bride, the Lamb’s wife” is the church – comprised of all those saved from the birthday of the church on the Day of Pentecost up until the rapture of the church.

Revelation 21:10  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

You’re never told that the New Jerusalem is on the earth.  It seems to hover over the earth.  The new, recently created eternal earth is like a satellite of the New Jerusalem – not vice-versa.

People get confused, because the angel said he’d show John the bride, but what follows is a long description of the city.

The solution is simple, really.  When the New Jerusalem descends from Heaven to earth, the bride is already living in it.

When John sees the New Jerusalem, he sees the bride, living in community, enjoying eternity, in this great city.  By describing the city, he was letting us know that we will all one day be home safe.

I don’t think it’s unspiritual to look forward to your mansion.  If for no other reason, it is a gift, being custom crafted, to the most minute detail, by the One Who loved you so much that He died for you while you were yet a sinner, and an enemy of God.

We know that creation – everything we call the universe – was spoken into existence by God.

We know, too, that Jesus was the Creator, because we read in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

Regarding the New Jerusalem, and your mansion, does Jesus simply speak it all into existence?  He certainly can; but does He?

He said to us He was leaving to “prepare a place” for us.  His immediate followers – all Jews – would have understood that He was comparing His departure and return to the Jewish wedding customs of their day.

The bridegroom would be away preparing the home that the couple would live in and, once it was finished, He would return, suddenly and secretly without warning, to take her there.

I therefore humbly suggest that Jesus is working on your mansion by hand.  It is being constructed, rather than created.

After all, He was a carpenter by trade.  A first century Jewish carpenter was really more than that.  The Greek word describing the trade is tekton which included a master builder, master stone mason, and one skilled in metal technology.

You say He doesn’t have time to work on each mansion so personally?  Romance always finds time to express itself to the one who is loved; and Jesus’ love for you is the greatest romance of all time.

Our part is to remain excited, and in love, with our absent but returning Bridegroom.

#2    Jesus Will Illuminate The Universe
    From The New Jerusalem
    (v11-27)

The newspaper article said, “Men fell on their knees, groans were uttered at the sight, and many were dumb with amazement.”

That was the reaction of the residents and witnesses who were present to watch Wabash, Indiana become the first town in the world to illuminate the night with electric lights in 1880.

Whether it’s Hong Kong or New York, Seoul or Chicago, Paris or Vegas, we’ve come a long way illuminating the night.

All of our cities combined are less than a match-light compared to the illumination of the New Jerusalem.  In verse twenty-three we are told that Jesus is the light source for the New Jerusalem.  The city will be constructed in such a manner that the light of Jesus Christ will reflect throughout it, and through it to the rest of the universe.

Revelation 21:11  having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

Precious jewels and gems are its construction materials.  They have the correct properties needed to reflect the light of God to every part of the new heaven and the new earth.

The whole city is like a precious gem.  It is overall likened unto a “jasper” stone.  The modern jasper is a multicolored quartz stone.

The stone referred to here cannot be that for this stone is not opaque. “Jasper” is a transliteration of the word iaspis which is of Semitic origin.  Moffatt suggests that iaspis could mean the modern opal, diamond, or topaz.

The stone described is transparent and gleaming so it is most likely the diamond.

Revelation 21:12  Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
Revelation 21:13  three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.

More retired angels; these serve as honor guards.

The gates have the names of the “twelve tribes of Israel.”  Talk about symbolism.  It was through Israel that you and I were able to enter eternity.  It is through the King of the Jews that the whole world is offered salvation.

I mentioned last time we were together that believers other than the church would also reside in the New Jerusalem.  A passage in the Book of Hebrews (12:22-24) distinguishes between the residents of the city.

There are those identified as “the general assembly and church of the first born,” meaning the church.
And there are “the spirits of just men made perfect,” referring to Old Testament saints, justified by faith before Jesus came, like Abraham.

Revelation 21:14  Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

After Judas betrayed Jesus and hung himself, there were only eleven.  Who is the twelfth apostle?  In the Book of Acts they cast lots and picked Matthias.

Some say that it was God’s intent for Paul to be the twelfth apostle.

The weight of the biblical evidence seems to favor Matthias.  After he was chosen the Holy Spirit refers to the group as “the twelve,” not “the eleven plus Matthias.”

Is it really possible that the great apostle Paul will not have his name commemorated in the city, on a stone?  Yes.  Let it be a lesson to us.

Revelation 21:15  And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall.

The angel moonlights as a surveyor.  These guys do whatever they are tasked with.  Great example to us.

Revelation 21:16  The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal.
Revelation 21:17  Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.

The New Jerusalem’s length, height and width are equal.  This means that it is either a cube or a pyramid.

A cube is more reminiscent of the Holy Place of the Tabernacle and Temple, suggesting that the entire city is the ‘new’ Holy Place.

John mentioned that the cubit measure of an angel is the same as for a man.  This answers the question about whether we’ll use the metric system in Heaven.  Apparently we’ll use Bible weights and measures.  Better familiarize yourself with the span, the talent, and the omer.

Revelation 21:18  The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
Revelation 21:19  The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
Revelation 21:20  the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.

Amazing, vibrant colors will be produced as the light passes through these various gems.

“Pure gold” is said to be “like clear glass.”  In verse twenty-one we will read that “the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”

As for pure gold being transparent, I came across this bit of trivia from NASA:

The visors of astronauts’ space helmets receive a coating of gold so thin that it is partially transparent.  The astronauts can see through it, but, even at that thinness, the gold film reduces glare and heat from sunlight.

Revelation 21:21  The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

Forget the giant pearls; where are the oysters that created them???

We talk about pearly gates and streets of gold, but there appears to be only one street of gold in the city.  No cul-de-sacs or dead ends.

I want to concentrate on the building materials.  They are precious gems and minerals.  What do you think about that?  I’ve heard it said that gold will be so common that it’s being used as asphalt.

That’s one way of looking at it.  But let me ask you: What do we do with precious stones and gold today?  Or, better yet, what do wives want their husbands to do with them?

They are in the jewelry that we give to the one we love.

Remember we saw the city described as a diamond?  The New Jerusalem is a diamond in a gold setting, as the singular, transparent street ribbons its way through it.  This city is like a huge ring – only instead of wearing it, it will surround the bride.

Extravagance is a trait of romantic love.  You want to be able to give your loved one something amazing.  It’s not because you are materialistic; it’s because you are romantic.

Things that have value, when given to the one you love, show you care more about him or her than all the things in all the world.

If you could, you’d give your loved one the world – because the one you love has more value to you than everything valuable in the world.

If you are Jesus you can give your beloved everything.  It is symbolized in the extravagance of the New Jerusalem.

Cities aren’t usually notable for what is not in them.  The New Jerusalem will be notable for something that is not there.  There will not be a temple of any kind there.

Revelation 21:22  But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

The sense I get of John’s statement “I saw no Temple in it” is that he was looking for one.   The Temple at Jerusalem had been a focal point in his life.  For many years he had visited it at least twice annually as was required of every male Jew.

From his knowledge of the Millennium, gained both from his reading the Scriptures and from the Revelation he had received about the future, John was aware there would be a magnificent Temple on the earth during Jesus’ thousand-year reign.

The lack of a Temple in the New Jerusalem would have been a stunning realization for John.  Stunning in a good way because he was immediately inspired to understand that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its Temple.”

Revelation 21:23  The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.

We wish there was more description of eternity, but in reality we can’t understand it.  I mean, can you fathom an earth with no sun or moon?  The physics of it are beyond us.

Since “God is light” and “in Him is no darkness at all” (1John 1:5) and since Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 9:5), it would not do for there to be darkness or night in the New Jerusalem.

Bottom line: The New Jerusalem is constructed in such a way that, in eternity, the light of the glory of God in Jesus Christ is sent through it to the entire universe.

Revelation 21:24  And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.

The earth below the hovering New Jerusalem will still have “nations” and “kings.”  Who are these earth dwellers?

The word for “nations” describes Gentiles, i.e., all who are not ethnic Jews.

That makes sense.  The New Jerusalem will be populated by the church, and by saved Israelites who we call Old Testament saints.  But there will also be multitudes of saved Gentiles, neither members of the church nor ethnic Jews.

For example there will be multitudes saved during both the Tribulation and in the Millennium.  Most will be Gentiles, not Jews; and since the church is raptured prior to either, they are not the bride of Jesus.

They are in no way second-class, however.  These will inhabit the earth, in kingdoms that bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:25  Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).

Shutting the gates of a city were for its protection from enemies and intruders.  None will exist in eternity.  The open gates will be a constant reminder of the blessedness of our mutual fellowship.

Even today you still refer to some communities as a place where people don’t have to lock their doors.  Sadly, you usually hear that expression in the past tense after something awful just happened in a place where people never used to lock their doors.

Second, these gates are beautiful.  They are beautiful architectural marvels that enhance the extravagance of the city.  We add things to buildings just to adorn them, do we not?

Besides that, you remember they are to be made of pearl.  Not just made of many pearls but “the twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl.”

You can’t help but think of the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price that Jesus told while on the first century earth.  In it a wealthy merchant shopping for pearls found a magnificent pearl.  He sold everything to purchase it.

In the parable, the merchant is Jesus and the church is the pearl.  He did indeed pay a great price for us – a kings ransom as it were.  He died on the Cross to ransom us from sin and death.

The pearly gates are a constant reminder of the Lord’s love for His bride.

Revelation 21:26  And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.

When folks go somewhere they often bring something back with them as gifts that represent the place they’ve visited.  Macadamia Nuts or pineapple from Hawaii, for example.  (Although Kona Coffee is much to be preferred).

Whatever it is that the nations produce during eternity will be brought up to the New Jerusalem to be enjoyed and to reveal the glory and honor of those nations and their inhabitants.

Revelation 21:27  But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

All who enter or exit will have been fully and finally conformed into the image of Jesus.  We will have free will that is incapable of sin and rebellion.

Anything or anyone who might defile has been permanently removed and sentenced to the Lake of Fire.  There is no escape and they can never enter the city or walk upon the earth.

What an encouragement that finally, in the end, only those who love the Lord will be in community together.

There are seven references to the “Book of Life” in the Revelation (3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12&15, and here).

My take on the “Book of Life” is that it is the census of every person ever conceived.  Those who reach an age and an understanding that can reject Jesus Christ and who die without Him as their Savior will have their name “blotted out,” deleted from the Book of Life.

In the end, when it contains only the names of the saints, it bears the name of the One Who saved them.  Perhaps it is given to Jesus, to cherish as a memento of His work of redeeming those it lists.  Thus it is “the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

In eternity, Jesus is going to illuminate the universe.  The current earth is subject to darkness; and by that I mean a terrible spiritual darkness.

Colossians 1:13 mentions a kingdom of darkness.

Acts 26:18 describes salvation as “turn[ing] from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that [we] may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus].”

Ephesians 6:12 says there are principalities and powers who rule over “this present darkness.”

If you’re a Christian, after you’re saved, you have to navigate through the kingdom of darkness all around you.  It’s a spiritual combat zone.

I can liken it to having night vision goggles; you ‘see’ your enemies, and can stay on the path God has set before you.

You have the Gospel to share.  It’s like a burst of light in the eyes of those accustomed to the dark.  Some are drawn to it, while others withdraw from it, loving their darkness and the dirty deeds done there.

Jesus once said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

You can walk in that light now, through this present darkness, and then forever, when Jesus illuminates the universe.

It’s God’s will for every one of us, and for everyone.

There’s plenty of room in the New Jerusalem.  But you need, in the end, to be written in Jesus’ Book of Life in order to have an address there along its street of gold.

If you’re not a believer… You’re in danger of having your named blotted out.

Come to the Cross; come to Jesus.

Surfless City, Here We Come! (Revelation 21:1-8)

Some of you ladies may remember playing the board game, Mystery Date.

The object of the game is to be ready for a date by acquiring three matching color-coded cards to assemble an appropriate outfit.

Your outfit must match the outfit of the date at the “mystery door.”  The date is revealed by spinning the door handle and opening the plastic door on the game board.

The five possible dates are: 1) The formal dance date, 2) The bowling date, 3) The beach date, 4) The skiing date, and 5) The dud date.

You lost if you opened the door to the dud, more commonly known as the “bum.”

The Revelation removes all mystery from the “date” Who awaits when the door opens for us to eternity.

The Lord, Jesus Christ, is our heavenly Bridegroom.  He is robed in righteousness and has granted us robes of righteousness which we can further adorn as our wedding gowns as we walk with Him this side of Heaven.

Today we will learn that we are so loved by Him, so precious to Him, that He prepares a city for us, full of fellow saved citizens, but free from any citizens that could in any way detract from our joy.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 A Bride As Precious As You Must Be Showcased In The Appropriate City, and #2 A Bride As Precious As You Must Be Separated From Inappropriate Citizens.

#1    A Bride As Precious As You
    Must Be Showcased In The Appropriate City
    (v1-2)

One list of the top five Most Beautiful Cities in the World has Venice, Paris, Prague, Lisbon, and Rio De Janeiro.

Another lists Cape Town, Rio, Istanbul, Paris and Rome.

Still another lists Dubai, New York, Shanghai, Rome and Paris.

(No cities in Central California made any list of beautiful cities).

The most beautiful city in the universe has not yet been seen.  Well, it has been seen by one person – by the apostle John in the Revelation.

We get a glimpse of it in our text; and we will get a slightly more detailed look next time we are together.

It is the New Jerusalem.  Not the one on earth rebuilt in some manner, but one that is coming down from Heaven to earth.

Revelation 21:1  Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Let’s start with the passing away of the current heaven and earth.  The apostle Peter tells you how this is going to happen:

2 Peter 3:7  But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

2 Peter 3:10  … the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

2 Peter 3:11  … all these things will be dissolved…

For you who are more scientific, Dr. Henry Morris puts it like this:

After terrestrial matter [is] been converted either into the vapor state or, more probably, into pure energy, God [will] once again exercise His mighty powers of creation and integration, and the new heavens and the new earth [will] appeared out of the ashes, so to speak, of the old.

There’s an on-going argument about whether or not the current creation will be totally replaced or completely restored.

Christians who are somewhat critical of we who emphasize the rapture claim we are escapists who can’t wait for the earth to burn, while all the while God wants it restored.

That’s just not true.  We believe God will restore the earth.  He’ll restore it during the Millennial reign of Jesus.  It is during the thousand years that we read of things like streams breaking out in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).

We will be with the Lord, aiding Him in its restoration.  We are totally on board for a restored earth during the Millennium.

After the Millennium, before eternity begins, the restored earth and the heavens will be replaced.

A restored earth is simply not good enough for eternity.

Calvary Pastor David Guzik said something I thought profound:

Our instinct is to romantically consider innocence as man’s perfect state, and wish Adam would have never done what he did.  But we fail to realize that redeemed man is greater than innocent man; that we gain more in Jesus than we ever lost in Adam.  God’s perfect state is one of redemption, not innocence.

Let’s think of what it means to have a whole new “heaven.”
We’re not talking about Heaven where God dwells – Heaven with a capital “H.”  We mean the heavens above us – the earth’s atmosphere and what we call space.

I love a good sunrise; or sunset.  Meteor showers are cool.  So are blood moons.

But I could live without hurricanes and tornadoes and lightning.  Lots of terror is generated in the heavens.

Beyond that we must remember that currently the heavens above us are the headquarters of Satan and his demons.  He is called “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians.  His presence there has fouled it all up.

We could similarly meditate upon a new earth.  There’s a lot about the earth to fear and loathe.  Those who want to appeal to nature must not understand its cruelty.  Nature is awful in its ravages.  It is amoral, killing at will.

Now for the really big question.  Why is there “no more sea?”

This genuinely seems to bother us.  With all the things going on in the Revelation, people are troubled by the lack of oceans on the new earth.

In the end we’re not told why there is “no more sea.”  Anything we say about why would be a guess we can’t really substantiate.

Instead, let’s try to tap into why it troubles us.

Location is super important to us.  Realtors and developers always say “Location! Location! Location!” to emphasize just how important it is to the value of a property.

Some of the most valuable property in the world is beachfront property.  You will pay a lot more for a home if it gives you even a peek at the ocean.

Some instinct in us causes us to refer to beachfronts, or islands, as Paradise.  Maybe this is why “no more sea” bothers us so much.

Are they Paradise?  Not even close.  Paradise is to be with Jesus.

The words “no more sea” remind me that Paradise is not a place; it is a Person.  In eternity, we won’t be thinking “Location! Location! Location!”  We’ll be thinking “Lord! Lord! Lord!”

And seriously – anyplace in Heaven is better than the best place on earth.

Revelation 21:2  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

The New Jerusalem is, quite literally, the crowning jewel of the new creation.  In subsequent verses we’ll see that it is made mostly of jewels and precious stones.

It will come “down out of Heaven from God.”  It’s being constructed in Heaven and will be moved into place when the time comes.

It’s interesting that in chapters seventeen and eighteen we read about Babylon.  That city, originally, was an attempt to build from the earth upwards, to reach God.

But fallen man cannot pick himself up; God must reach down to him.  He has – in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, as God becoming man, to go to the Cross, and die in our place, for our sins, that we might be saved.

The New Jerusalem is being “prepared” in Heaven “as a bride adorned for her husband.”  The city is not the bride; you are.

The city is an adornment that reveals the wonder of His love for you.  It is the place that Jesus has been away preparing for us collectively, and for each of us individually.  It will be the real estate in which your mansion is being constructed.

We’ll see later in this chapter that we are not the only residents.  Other saints will live there.  For example we’re told in the Book of Hebrews concerning Abraham that he looked for the city whose builder and maker is God.  He, too, looked forward to living in the New Jerusalem.

It takes nothing away from us to have other saints living there; in fact, it emphasizes the Lord’s love for us.

Before we get lost in the beauty of the New Jerusalem, later in the chapter, the Lord establishes that it is merely a showcase for His bride, the church – for you and I and all those saved from the Day of Pentecost right up to the rapture.

It’s the most beautiful showcase possible because we are so very precious to Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong; He is precious to us.  The universe is not about us; it doesn’t revolve around us.

Nevertheless the Lord is all excited to put us on display.  It gives Him pleasure to draw attention to His finished work in us.

He saved us.  He committed Himself to setting us apart, to performing a good work in us every moment of every day.  He is described as washing us by the water of the Word of God.  We will be presented without spot or blemish to our heavenly Father.

When the New Jerusalem comes down out of Heaven, when it’s done – we’re done.

I want to be done; don’t you?  I can’t begin to imagine how beautiful each of you will be in eternity, let alone myself.  It seems too fantastic; but it’s true.

1Jn 3:2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

#2    A Bride As Precious As You
    Must Be Separated From Inappropriate Citizens
    (v3-8)

A highlight of the New Jerusalem will be that there is no low-life.  All those who rejected God’s grace, and His offer of salvation through faith in Jesus, will be excluded as citizens.

Revelation 21:3  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

God’s original purpose for the human race will be restored – to enjoy a personal, face-to-face relationship with Him.  Everything that occurs between the fall of man in Genesis chapter three until Revelation twenty-one is to redeem and to prepare a people to enjoy fellowship with God.

Charles Spurgeon wrote,

I do not think the glory of Eden lay in its grassy walks, or in the boughs bending with luscious fruit-but its glory lay in this, that the ‘Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day.’  Here was Adam’s highest privilege, that he had companionship with the Most High.

Do you enjoy God?  We talk about serving God… Fearing God… Obeying God… Submitting to God… Praying to God… Giving to God.  Those should all be done in a context of enjoying His presence in our lives.

You say, “It’s hard to enjoy His presence in my suffering, in my struggles.”  Hey – that’s precisely when you can enjoy Him the most.  Imagine going through suffering without God; that’s scary.

Revelation 21:4  “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Life today is characterized by “death,” “sorrow,” and “pain.”  It produces “tears” and “crying.”  Jesus will “wipe away every tear.”

Have you ever had someone wipe away your tears when you were crying?  It’s a tender gesture that only someone who is very close to you should attempt.  It is symbolic of their desire to alleviate your sorrow.

With Jesus, it’s not symbolic – it’s sincere in the truest sense as all of your pain and suffering come to an abrupt end.

“Every tear” emphasizes each one – not just crying in general.  Just as the hairs of your head are numbered, so your tears are counted.  And they are saved in God’s bottle, we read in the Old Testament.

It is impossible for me to begin to fathom what it means to be without sorrow.  What if, for example, someone I love is not in Heaven but is in the Lake of Fire?  How can I not have sorrow?

It has caused some to speculate that God will alter my memory.  The “former things will pass away” means, they say, we won’t remember them.

That doesn’t seem right.  It’s not truthful.  It’s not the nature of God.

Others, and we’ve discussed this, believe that the unsaved will be annihilated and cease to exist.  That’s not biblical.

We are so fallen that it’s impossible to understand certain things.

We must simply take them as truth because of their source which is God.  You will be without sorrow of any kind over any person or experience or circumstance.

Revelation 21:5  Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

“Behold” is a great word.  I think it should be used only by God to describe things He’s done.  You “behold” and are astonished and amazed.

“All things” will be made “new.”  For “new” we might use the word fresh.  We might use the expression “brand new.”  The sense I get is that all things in the new creation will remain fresh, as if it is always brand new to us.

You know that new car smell?  Whenever you get a new car, people comment about the ‘new car smell.’

BTW – If you really like the smell, you can buy a bottle of New Car Smell fragrance.

I should tell you, however, that there is some evidence that new car smell may be toxic.

The smell results from the release, or “offgassing/outgassing,” of various volatile organic compounds (VOCs)… [and] many man-made VOCs are known to cause various health issues.

Things are great when they are brand new.  Then they immediately start to deteriorate.  Not so in Heaven.  “All things” there, though they will go on eternally, remain fresh.
“And he said to me, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”  John was called upon to write.  Imagine if he had the attitude that writing wasn’t his ministry; that it wasn’t his gift.

You should have situational awareness and serve – regardless your ministry, or gifting, or calling.

God is “faithful” and will bring each of His saints to this city to live with Him.  We fall; we fail.  He remains faithful.  He Who began this good work in us will see it through to the end.

God is “true.”  There is a use of the word “true” we have lost.  It means (by dictionary definition) to make level, square, balanced, or concentric.  Let me give you an example.  Bicycle wheels have adjustments on each spoke.  A cyclist adjusts them to ‘true’ the rotation of the wheel.  In this sense of the word “true,” everything God has promised and said will not just come to pass but will be true to His nature and character.

I’m getting ahead of myself but let me say this about our mansions in the heavenly city.  They each will be ‘trued’ to your individual personality.  All things they are made from and all things in them will be true to you in giving you the greatest sense of the Lord’s love for you.

Revelation 21:6  And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

Jesus identifies Himself as the “Alpha and the Omega” four times in this book.  They are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; Jesus is everything there is to say or communicate; He is the fullness of life.

Jesus promises “the water of life freely to him who thirsts.”  He first made that offer in the Gospel of John.  It is the offer of the Spirit to those who receive Him as Savior and Lord.  Eternity will be populated by those who freely received Him.

Drinking and thirst are common pictures of God’s supply and man’s spiritual need.  Drinking is an action, but an action of receiving.  Like faith, it is doing something, but it is not a merit-earning work in itself.

Revelation 21:7  “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Believers are called “overcomers.”  It’s a word that makes us think of a great struggle.  We think ‘Overcomers Anonymous.’  We think failure.

How do you overcome?  First John 5:4 says it is by “faith” in Jesus Christ.  Since you are a believer in Jesus you can walk by faith through this world and not by sight.

You will “inherit all things” the same way a son would be left with all the possessions of his father.  Only in our case we get to enjoy it all with our heavenly dad.

Significantly absent from eternity will be all those who rejected salvation by grace alone through faith:

Revelation 21:8  “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

This is a brief listing of things characteristic of nonbelievers.  Their mention is intended to encourage us; we will be free from these things in eternity, since no nonbelievers will be around to exhibit them.

“Cowardly,” in the context of this book, refers to people refusing to follow Jesus because they were afraid of persecution and martyrdom.  It is a spiritual cowardice that gives evidence there is no presence of the Holy Spirit, Who grants boldness.

“Unbelieving” indicates there is sufficient evidence to believe but there is a conscious refusal to do so.  It pains us today to see those we love reject the Gospel in the face of overwhelming evidence of the truth.

“Abominable” means to incite disgust.  Sin is bad enough but there are some things people do that are more disgusting.  None of that in eternity.  No waking up to awful atrocities people perpetrate on one another.

“Murderers” reminds us of increasing violence among men and mankind.  New Jerusalem will never devolve into violence.

“Sexually immoral” means there will be no horror stories of child sexual abuse.  You won’t have to check a registry to see if your neighbor is a sex offender.

Let’s go down a short rabbit trail, since we mentioned sex and Heaven.  The Bible is a little fuzzy on sexuality in Heaven but this tells me that whatever God has planned for me is pure.

Jesus said we wouldn’t marry, or be given in marriage; so that seems to teach no sexual activity.
C. S. Lewis’s insight was great, where he talked about the boy who had heard about sex and people having sex and said, “Well, do they eat chocolate while they are having it?”

Because he was told it is this wonderful experience.  And to him it was like nothing could be better than eating chocolate.

Then Lewis makes the argument that perhaps our sense of loss about the idea of not being able to have sexual relationships is like that boy thinking that chocolate is the greatest joy, and that there are greater joys that await us.  Heaven, by definition, is always a greater joy.

“Sorcerers” won’t be there.  There will be no dark side, no sinister forces, no temptations by super-intelligent demonic forces.  You won’t be lured off only to regret having fallen into error.

“Idolaters” would refer to all false religious activity.  You know how we like to say, “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship?”  Well, we will be able to fully experience freedom from religion in the future.  We will do nothing from a sense of obligation or merit – only from love with a pure heart.

“Liars.”  No reason for lying in Heaven.  Your words and everyone else’s will be true.  And there won’t be folks you’d rather avoid or not talk with.

Nonbelievers rejected Jesus as Savior and Lord and, in chapter twenty, were cast into the Lake of Fire.  It wasn’t because of their lying or idolatry or sexual immorality.  It was because of their unbelief.

We talked about the “second death” and the “lake which burns with fire and brimstone” in our last study.  It was created for the devil and his angels, to punish and incarcerate them for all eternity.

Nonbelievers go there by choice, having rejected salvation in Jesus Christ.

If you’ve been with us for our studies in the Revelation, you’ve noted our emphasis on God reaching out to lost sinners, not being willing that any should perish, but rather that they all would come to know Jesus.

We saw the 144,000 Jewish evangelists sharing the Gospel.

We saw the two witnesses sharing the Gospel.

We saw angels flying in the heavens sharing the Gospel.

We saw multitudes martyred, each one exuding a testimony of Jesus Christ as they breathed their last breath.

God’s efforts to save the lost during the Tribulation are, quite simply, extraordinary.

During the Millennium, Jesus will be physically present on the earth; and resurrected saints will rule with Him, in their glorified bodies.  The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and still multitudes will refuse His offer of salvation.

Once we are past the second death, and the earth and the heavens are new, it will be wonderful to be free from the devil, his demons, and all those who opposed Jesus Christ.

Ever had a bad neighbor?  Well, you won’t in eternity.

We’re not to that point, though, and, so, our emphasis should be on enjoying the Lord so much that all ‘bad neighbors’ will develop a thirst for the living waters that flow from Jesus, through us, to parched hearts ravaged by sin and the suffering and sorrow it causes.

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself, I’m About To Be Thrown Into The Flame

You’re labelled a Millennial if you were born after 1980 and into the early parts of the 21st century because you are the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.

Millennials were initially called Generation Y because of the widespread use of the term Y2K to designate the turn of the century.

I suggest we keep calling them Generation Y because there is a time coming in which the true Millennial generation will be revealed.

Millennial, as you probably know, is from the compound Latin word that means thousand years.  In our text we are going to see the words “thousand years” repeated six separate times in just fifteen verses.  It is the length of time that Jesus will rule over the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth between the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of eternity.

This thousand year kingdom is therefore often referred to as THE Millennium.

The true Millennials are those whose futures are discussed in these verses.  We’ll see they fall into two very distinct groups.

I’ll organize my thoughts around the following points: #1 If You’re A First Resurrection Millennial, You’ll Reign With Jesus, Then See Him For All Eternity, but #2 If You’re A Second Death Millennial, You’ll Rebel Against Jesus, Then Be Separated From Him For All Eternity.

#1    If You’re A First Resurrection Millennial,
    You’ll Reign With Jesus, Then See Him For All Eternity
    (v1-6)

Let me get something out of the way.  This is the only chapter in Revelation where a period of a thousand years is mentioned, and the fact that it follows immediately on the heels of the Second Coming in chapter nineteen, and is emphasized six times, and is clearly described as a period of time before which and after which certain historic events take place, strongly lead to the conclusion that it is a literal thousand-year period.

I have to tell you that because there are those who don’t take this to be a literal period of time.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of places in the Old Testament that promise Israel an earthly kingdom at the end of the age.  The early church almost universally believed in an earthly, historical reign of Jesus, initiated at His return.  It’s why the disciples asked Jesus, at His ascension into Heaven, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

Tyconius (in the late 300’s) was among the first to teach a spiritualized interpretation of the Book of the Revelation, denying the idea of a literal kingdom on earth lasting a thousand years after the resurrection.

His view was adopted by Augustine, the Roman Catholic Church and most Reformation theologians.  It’s technical name is amillennialism.  It teaches that from the ascension of Jesus in the first century until His Second Coming, both good and evil will increase in the world as God’s kingdom parallels Satan’s kingdom.  There will be no rapture, but when Jesus Christ returns the end of the world will occur with a general resurrection and general judgment of all people.

Postmillennialism is the belief that Jesus Christ will return after the a golden age or era of Christian prosperity and dominance, ushered in by the church.  This era, they say, is the Millennium, but it may or may not last one thousand years; just a long time.

We are not amillennial.  We take the Millennium to be literal.  After all, everything else in this chapter is certainly literal: Jesus, the devil, the angels, the resurrections.  All of that is literal.

We are not postmillennial.  The thousand year reign of Jesus on the earth clearly follows His Second Coming at the end of the seven year Tribulation.  Things are not going to get better and better but, rather, worse and worse.

We are called premillennialists.  We believe Jesus Christ will return to this earth to establish and govern the Millennium directly; and that it will last exactly one thousand real years.

Revelation 20:1  Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

The “bottomless pit” is the abyss.  It’s a prison for demons.  Some commentators say it may be the chasm in Hades that separates the place of torment from Abraham’s bosom.

The “angel” has an assignment as a jailor.  The “key” and the “chain” are real but also symbols of God’s authority and power over those incarcerated in the pit.

Revelation 20:2  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

The four names of Satan describe four aspects of his strategies over the centuries:

As the “dragon” he has sought to interfere with God’s promise to send a Savior into the world.  You see this most vividly in Revelation twelve where the dragon is seen waiting to devour the Savior born from the nation of Israel.

As the “serpent of old” he has sought to tempt mankind with his subtle lies.  Think Eve in the Garden of Eden.

As the “devil” he is a liar and slanderer, accusing God before men.

As “Satan” he is at the throne of God, accusing men before God.  Job one & two.

Satan will be bound for one thousand years and, presumably, so will all his demons.

Rev 20:3  and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

I don’t think we can begin to envision a world in which there is no devil, or demonic influence.  The Rolling Stones capture a sense of Satan’s all-pervasive influence in their song, Sympathy for the Devil.  It’s a terrible title, and filled with bad theology, but they nail the fact he has been at work wreaking havoc and causing chaos throughout human history.

Not so in the Millennium.  At least, not until the end, as is ominously hinted at when it says, “after these things he must be released for a little while.”

Rev 20:4  And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Two distinct groups are being described.  One group is sitting on thrones performing the work of judges.

Jesus promised His disciples that they would sit on thrones as judges in His kingdom (Luke 22:29-30).
Paul told all believers – including you – that they would one day judge the world and even judge angels (First Corinthians 6:2-3).

You will work as a judge in the one thousand year reign of Jesus.

The second group is martyrs from the Tribulation.  They, too, will reign with us, and Jesus, for the thousand years.  Their bodies were slain but their souls lived on immediately in the presence of God in Heaven.  In the Millennium they will “live.”  It means they will be resurrected from the dead, that they will receive new, glorified bodies, as you read in verse five:

Revelation 20:5  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

The Tribulation martyrs are resurrected as part of the “first resurrection.”  The designation “first” confuses us.  Because it is “first,” we tend to think of it as happening all at once, all at the same time.

The first resurrection is not a single event; it doesn’t happen all at once.  It is the resurrection of believers, as opposed to nonbelievers, and it follows a particular order over a rather long period of time.

Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected never to die again. Others, both in the Old and New Testaments, were raised from the dead – but not resurrected.  Those who were raised from the dead died again.  Resurrection is the transformation of the body into its final spiritual state.  Jesus was the first to be resurrected, and He is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1Corinthians 15:20), meaning there are others who, like Him, will be raised to glory.

Next in order in the first resurrection we find that certain saints were resurrected immediately following the resurrection of Jesus.  In Matthew 27:52 & 53 we read, “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”  This was a token to show that all the saints of the Old Testament would be resurrected.

Next in order in the first resurrection are the saints of the Church Age.  In First Thessalonians chapter four you’re told that, at the rapture, “the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them.”  Deceased believers will be resurrected, then living believers will be raptured and given their resurrection bodies.

Next in order in the first resurrection are the two witnesses of Revelation chapter eleven.

Next in order in the first resurrection are the Tribulation martyrs we are reading about in Revelation twenty.

Next in order in the first resurrection, according to Daniel 12:2, are the Old Testament saints.

To summarize: The first resurrection is the resurrection, in stages, over time, of all believers.  That includes you.

Rev 20:6  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

We who participate in the first resurrection are blessed because we will not be included in the second death, when all nonbelievers will be cast into the Lake of Fire (v14).  We shall be “priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

There will, in fact, be a Temple in Jerusalem during the Millennium, requiring the service of priests.  No further description or discussion of it is offered here, so we are to take this to mean only that we will have much to do.

If we rule and reign, and are judges and priests, who are the citizens, and who is the congregation?

Well, when Jesus returns in His Second Coming, there are people alive on the earth.  He divides the believers from the nonbelievers.

The nonbelievers are taken away to Hades to await the events we are going to read about in just a moment, which take place after the thousand years are over.

Believers, in their human bodies, enter in to the Millennium and begin to repopulate the planet.

By the end of the thousand years there will be multiplied billions of people on the earth.  They are the citizens we rule over; they are the congregation we will minister to.

When the thousand years end, and eternity begins, we will go forward into that future seeing Jesus forever and ever and ever.  We will be like Him, having been raised from the dead or raptured.  We will know Him fully, and one another, too.

Those who label the generations, like Generation Y, study them, and then list their characteristics.

First Resurrection Millennials ought to display the characteristics appropriate to our calling and destiny.

If we stick to our text, First Resurrection Millennials are characterized, in verse six, as “blessed and holy.”

Do you understand how blessed you are?  To be saved, not fearing death, knowing Jesus is preparing you a custom mansion and will return imminently to take you there?

Are you pursuing holiness?  And by that I mean, Do you cooperate with Him as Jesus is seeking to changed you day-by-day into His image?

If you cannot be described as “blessed and holy,” get with the Lord, and ask Him for a refreshing in the Holy Spirit.

#2    If You’re A Second Death Millennial,
         You’ll Rebel Against Jesus, Then Be Separated From Him         
         For All Eternity
         (v7-15)

You probably have not heard of the group, Christian Exodus.  This is from their website:

Christian Exodus was founded in November of 2003 in response to the moral degeneration of American culture, and the rampant corruption among the powers that be.

The initial goal was to move thousands of Christian constitutionalists to South Carolina to accelerate the return to self-government based upon Christian principles at the local and State level.  This project continues to this day, with the ultimate goal of forming an independent Christian nation that will survive after the decline and fall of the financially and morally bankrupt American empire. We have learned, however, that the chains of our slavery and dependence upon godless government have more of a hold on us than can be broken by simply moving to another State.

That last statement is code for, “We failed.”

You know what?  No society of human beings in their natural state can hope to achieve a utopia.  As we are about to see, incredibly, even with Jesus as Head of State, and billions of glorified Christians on the earth, mankind will rebel.

Revelation 20:7  Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

In Satan’s absence there will be justice for all, the wicked will be properly and immediately punished, and even the natural ferocity of the animals will be abated.  Righteousness and peace will flourish.  There will be economic prosperity and physical healing.

It’s as perfect an environment as is possible this side of eternity.

Revelation 20:8  and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

The shocking truth you learn is that, even with Jesus ruling the perfect earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, multitudes will reject Him.  You can be forced to obey, but you cannot be forced to be saved; it is a matter of free will.

Who are “Gog” and “Magog”?  We see these terms in Ezekiel 38 & 39 in conjunction with  a coalition of nations who invade Israel in the latter times but are miraculously destroyed by God.  The battle in Ezekiel occurs before the Second Coming of Jesus.  The reference to “Gog” and “Magog” here is not that battle.

“Gog” seems to be a demon king and “Magog” are a people, probably related in history to the ancient Scythians.

Revelation 20:9  They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

We’re still “camp[ing]” in the Millennium.  We’re still awaiting our eternal home.
Once we are gathered together in “the beloved city,” in Jerusalem, “fire [comes] down from God out of Heaven and [devours] them.”

None of these conflicts in the Revelation are very interesting.  They’re like the recent MMA title fight between Ronda Rousey (rou-z) and Cat Zingano, which lasted 14 seconds.  Blink and you missed it.

Revelation 20:10  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Satan is then cast into “the Lake of Fire,” his final place of torment for all eternity.

Here is something of great importance.  The “beast and the false prophet” were thrown in the Lake of Fire at the very beginning of the thousand year reign of Christ.  These two guys are still there, still alive.

There is no such thing as annihilation after death; you must go either to Heaven or to the Lake of Fire.  Much as I’d like to teach otherwise, the Bible says there will be eternal conscious torment for unrepentant sinners.

At the end of the thousand years comes the second resurrection.  It is the resurrection of all nonbelievers from all of human history.  Unlike the first resurrection, which occurs over a period of time, the second resurrection does occur all at once.
While it is indeed a resurrection in which people receive bodies it is called “the second death.”

The first death is the separation of the soul from the body.
The second death involves a resurrected body, but one that is  separated from God for all eternity.

These next verses are perhaps the most terrifying in all of Scripture:

Revelation 20:11  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

This is a time stamp.  Earth and Heaven flee away when God creates all things new, as eternity begins.  These nonbelievers are on the very precipice of eternity.

Revelation 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Revelation 20:13  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Revelation 20:14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Is it Jesus on the throne?  He did indicate in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John it would be Him.

Books are opened.  One is the Bible; Jesus once said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”

Another book is the Lambs “Book of Life.”  It has written in it the names of all those who receive Jesus as their Savior.  We’ve discussed it before.  I believe it is, as an alternate translation renders it, the Book of the Living.  Everyone ever conceived has their name listed in it.  Those who die having rejected Jesus and His offer of eternal life, who have thus blasphemed the Holy Spirit, have their name removed from the Book.  Their names are blotted out.

A third book is a book containing the works of men.  I take this to mean the good works they thought they could perform to work their way into Heaven on their own merit.  God keeps a careful record of your works if you are not a believer.

In the end He will review them.  They will prove woefully insufficient to get you into Heaven.

You can avoid the judgment of your works.  The only “work” that can get you into Heaven is what Jesus described in John 6:29,

John 6:29  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

The “sea,” “death,” and “Hades” all “give up” their dead:

The “sea” and “death” probably refer to the location of the physical bodies of the nonbelieving dead.  The “sea” is mentioned so you will understand that no matter the physical location or disintegration of a body God can raise it up again in the end.
“Hades” is the location of their souls.

“Death” is the result of sin, and it is gone.  “Hades” is the result of death, and it is gone.

The Lake of Fire is the final place of eternal torment for nonbelievers.  God sends no one to the Lake of Fire.  It is their choice to go there.

Jesus is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe (First Timothy 4:10).  Those who refuse His offer of salvation by rejecting His Son will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

We all know Second Death Millennials.  Many of them are folks we love – family, friends, co-workers, fellow students.

Some of them, if we are honest, we tend to despise, on account of what they do to us, or the very heinousness of their sin.

They are all going to get what they deserve based on their decision to reject Jesus Christ.

John Bradford was imprisoned in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor.  He was burned at the stake on July 1st, 1555.

During his ministry, on seeing evil-doers taken to the place of execution, he would exclaim, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”

That is how a First Resurrection Millennial sees a Second Death Millennial.

We deserve to be at the Second Death, but somehow someone got the Gospel to us.

They may have shared it directly… Or given of their time or talent or treasure serving the Lord in prayer, or by giving, or in a ministry, so that someone else could share the Gospel with us.

Whether behind the scenes, or on the front lines, Be someone’s someone.

Back In The Saddle Again (Revelation 19:11-21)

They are the ‘where were you when’ moments in history.

Those who were alive during President John F. Kennedy’s assassination can often recall where they were when the tragic news was announced.

Other memorable where were you when moments are:

The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (July 6, 1968).

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial (June 12, 1994).

The Apollo 11 moon landing (July 20, 1969).

As Christians we have a unique view of history.  We have prophecy – which is history written, by God, in advance.

Instead of asking where were you when?, we can ask where will you be when?

There are two dramatic, prophetic events whose certainty demands we ask ourselves, and others, that question.

The first is the resurrection and rapture of the church.  Jesus is coming, in the air, to take the believers of the church age home to the place He has been preparing for them in Heaven.  He will raise the dead in Christ, then living believers will be transformed in a moment of time, faster than the twinkling of an eye.  He’s promised to do it before the seven-year Tribulation on the earth; and He says it is imminent – it could happen at anytime.

Where will you be when that happens?  In Heaven, with the Lord… Or left behind?

The second prophetic event is the one we will read about in our text.  It is the one all history is moving towards.  It is the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth, ending the Tribulation.

Where will you be when Jesus comes to establish His kingdom on the earth?

I’ll organize my thoughts around two questions: #1 Will You Accompany The King When He Comes?, or #2 Will You Be In The Company Of The Kings When They’re Killed?

#1    Will You Accompany The King
    When He Comes?
    (v11-16)

The Green Bay Packers have the most famous waiting list in sports, with more than 100,000 names waiting for season tickets.  The team’s website says the wait is 30 years.

It is a common custom in Green Bay and other Wisconsin cities to put a baby’s name on the list as soon as the birth certificate is obtained.

Your guaranteed access to the greatest future events in all of human history is free; all you need to do is get saved, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Once you’re saved, you’ll be resurrected or raptured when Jesus comes for the church.

Once you’re saved, you’ll accompany the Lord from Heaven to earth in His Second Coming.

Rev 19:11  Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

There’s a scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Shadowfax appears for the first time.  He is the magnificent lord of all horses.  I crack-up at it; but something like that is going to happen as the Lord returns.

We’re told that Jesus is called “Faithful and True.”  These seem to be shout-outs as the Lord appears.  I mean, He is faithful and true; but those witnessing His return call it out.

“Faithful” captures the fact that His coming has been the unwavering plan of God from eternity past.  Promising in the Garden of Eden to save lost humanity, God the Father has worked providentially throughout history; and Jesus never, ever wavered in His commitment to go to the Cross.

“True” can mean a lot of things, but with regard to Jesus’ Second Coming, it establishes that the plan of God was the only possible way for men to be saved, and for the universe to be restored.  Jesus is not “a” way to forgiveness; He is “the Way,” the only true way, for sin to be atoned for, and for you to be justified, sanctified, and glorified.

It is “right” for Him to “judge” the nations and “make war” with them.  By the end of the Tribulation these men and women have determined their fate by their individual personal decision to reject God’s free offer of salvation.  Besides that, their wickedness is extreme.

This dramatic display of judgment comes only at the end of a long time of grace, patience, and mercy.  There is no rush to judgment.

Rev 19:12  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.

John had undoubtedly looked into Jesus’ eyes many times in the three-and-one-half years he had followed the Lord.  Not once did he describe them as a “flame of fire.”  This is Jesus unveiled.  He is still in a body; it’s a glorified human body.  But it’s infused with His divine power, and John can see it in Jesus’ eyes.

We will each look into those eyes.  At what is called in the Bible “the reward seat of Jesus,” our works on the earth – and especially the motives behind them – will be judged.

They will “be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (First Corinthians 3).

Could this fire be Jesus’ gaze – His eyes as a flame of fire?

To be “crowned with many crowns” speaks of victory after victory.  Think of all that Jesus has triumphed over: sin and death and the grave and the devil.

Apparently upon him there is writing, a “name.”  We can’t help but be curious about the “name written that no one knew except Himself.”

Maybe it is an endearing name.  Albert Barnes said, “This cannot here mean that no one could read the name, but the idea is, that no one but Himself could fully understand its import.  It involved a depth of meaning, and a degree of sacredness, and a relation to the Father, which He alone could apprehend in its true import.”

Jesus has so, so many names in the Bible.  Commentators generally agree He has more than two hundred names.  One site, christiananswers.net, has an alphabetical list of 900 names, complete with the Scripture references.

It’s a great devotional to discover some of His names.  Each of them describes some aspect of His nature or character or mission or methods.

It seems there must be one name known only to the trinity – an intimate name that only the Father and the Spirit may rightfully use.

Rev 19:13  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

This is not the blood He shed on the Cross at Calvary.  If you were to look at this forensically you see that this is the blood spatter of His enemies.

The first direct reference to this rider is that He is “called the Word of God.”  It’s Jesus.

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Only Jesus can be called “the Word.”  Jesus is God come in human flesh to declare and to reveal the character and nature of God to us.

What if a person has no knowledge of Jesus?

God can be known, to an extent, from creation.  In Romans 1:20 we read, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

The Bible also declares that God has put “eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

It seems to me to be the testimony of Scripture that God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to be lifted-up on the Cross in order to draw “all men to Himself” (Jesus’ words from John 12:32).

That doesn’t mean all men are universally saved; they are not.  Jesus is the savior of all men, potentially; but only of those who, in fact, believe in Him.

What about those who have never heard of Jesus?  Can they be saved?

We subscribe to a position on salvation that is sometimes called “the wider hope.”

Salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus.  We affirm that God, in His grace, grants every individual a genuine opportunity to be saved, without excluding anyone.

Within our wider hope camp there are several suggestions as to how this is accomplished for those who have never heard the Gospel.  My current position is one that has a long history in the church – that God will somehow, by His providence, get the message of salvation to any person who responds to creation and/or the eternity stirring the heart, who is seeking Him.

The Holy Spirit is, after all, in the world, and His ministry is to reveal Jesus to every heart.

Let’s not fry our brains trying to figure that out.  Let’s let God be God and do His work.  You and I are not among those who have never heard.  The Gospel is being preached to us, even now.

Revelation 19:14  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

You’ve heard the old joke, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out!”  Well, at the Second Coming of Jesus we are coming back with Him “clothed” in the “fine linen” wedding garments to our marriage supper but a fight breaks out.

Not to worry.  We won’t do any actual fighting.

Revelation 19:15  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Paul writes that at His return Jesus Christ will destroy the antichrist with the breath of his mouth (Second Thessalonians 2:8).  These, then, are metaphors for the spiritual power wielded by Jesus.  His very words “strike the nations.”

In the Greek of Revelation the verb to rule is poimainein, which signifies “to shepherd.”  The Lord rules the nations as a shepherd-king who with this rod both protects his own people and destroys his enemies.

The rod of the shepherd is an amazing tool.  When the shepherd is afield with his flock in the high country he carries a minimum of equipment.  In the Middle East the shepherd carries only a rod and staff.  As far as I can tell, the rod has three uses:

First, it is used for protection.  The shepherd spends hours practicing with this club leaning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy.  It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.

Second, it is used to discipline the sheep.  If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away from its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch.

Third, the rod is used to examine and count the sheep. In the terminology of the Old Testament this was referred to as passing “under the rod:”

Ezekiel 20:37  And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: 

This meant not only coming under the owner’s control and authority, but also to be subject to his most careful, intimate and firsthand examination.  A sheep that passed “under the rod” was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it.

The “winepress” is a terrifying image of judgment.  It seems to be borrowed from this passage in Isaiah:

Isaiah 63:2  Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?
Isaiah 63:3  “I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes.

Like grapes being crushed in a vat, so will the armies of men be defeated by the Lord.

In the mean time the Scripture speaks of our feet this way:

Romans 10:15  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!”

Today the Lord has multiplied millions of feet on the earth as believers share their testimony.  In the end His feet will stomp those who fully and finally refuse to believe.

Revelation 19:16  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Here are just three ways of many suggestions to understand this imagery:

Jewish scholars insist that the word translated “thigh” would in Hebrew be the word banner.  Thus they see Jesus with a long, flowing banner upon which is written “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

It could be that the reference to His “thigh” is a reference to the sword that would be strapped to the soldier’s thigh.  (This seems unlikely, since Jesus doesn’t really need physical weapons.  His sword is the Word).

It might be that Jesus has a tattoo.  Why not?

Jesus doesn’t need a name tag; everyone is going to know it’s Him.  His role is what is being designated.  He’s coming as King of kings and as Lord of lords.  He’s coming to plant the flag.

The believers of the church age – the church – are among those who accompany Jesus.

Where will you be when that happens?  You can accompany Jesus if you get saved before you die, or before the rapture.

Otherwise you will be left behind.

Most of us know we will accompany the Lord.

We have confidence that, should we die, we will be absent from our bodies, and present with the Lord.  Think on that for a moment.  Is it not the most tremendous comfort?

We believe the rapture is imminent.  Remember, the rapture is like a bridegroom fetching his bride at a time unknown to her.  Thus she lives in joyous, romantic anticipation.

We really ought to be happy campers as we are journeying in these temporary tents on our way home.

#2    Will You Be In The Company Of The Kings
    When They’re Killed?
    (v17-21)

Repetition is often instructive when studying a passage of Scripture.

The word “flesh” is repeated six times in these next verses.  It has a very literal meaning.  It refers to the skin and muscles of the Lord’s enemies at His Second Coming.  Their flesh will be eaten by scavenger birds.  It will be a feast for them as they pick away at the carcasses of the fallen.

We also talk about nonbelievers figuratively as bringing forth the works of the flesh.  We mean that they produce awful things from their unredeemed human nature.  In one famous passage the works of the flesh are described like this:

Galatians 5:19  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
Galatians 5:20  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
Galatians 5:21  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus returns to establish the kingdom of God.  These “will not inherit” it.  They are of the flesh having never received the Lord as their Savior.

Revelation 19:17  Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,

An angel blocks out the sun on account of his own brilliance.  He calls out to birds that have gathered in the Valley of Megiddo.  All of the world’s remaining scavenger birds come and fill the sky.  They literally feast on the flesh of the fallen but we are to see the failure of the flesh from a spiritual standpoint.

The scene is presented with what one commentator called ‘repellant realism.’  It is purposely revolting and nauseating in order to emphasize how revolting and nauseating fallen man is in his natural state.

There must be something that would repel you, or nauseate you, if you came across it.  Well, that is what our reaction ought to be to the things listed in Galatians, and any other work of the flesh.

The chapter opened with an invitation to the marriage supper.  This is not that supper.  This is a different supper.  Nonbelievers are the menu, not the guests.

Revelation 19:18  “that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

God is no respecter of persons.  In the end only one thing will matter: Do you know Jesus as your Savior?  If not it makes no difference if you are great or small, free or slave, in the eyes of other nonbelievers.

Revelation 19:19  And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

In any good action movie there is a final showdown between the hero and the villain.  Somehow they find each other on the field of battle and they go at each other.  In the movies, for dramatic effect, usually the villain almost defeats the hero but, in the end with some amazing maneuver, the hero wins out.

The Second Coming of Jesus is not like that.  The villains are the “beast,” who we call the antichrist, and those with him.  They are easily overcome.

Revelation 19:20  Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

The beast, a.k.a, the antichrist, and his false prophet will be the first two inhabitants of the Lake of Fire.  They are judged and thrown there prior to the final Great White Throne judgment.

We’ll see that the devil will be thrown into the Abyss for one thousand years before he is eternally confined in the Lake of Fire.

The Lake of Fire is the final eternal destination for all those who ultimately reject Jesus Christ.  We normally refer to it as Hell but that is inaccurate.  Let’s look at a few terms to describe the destinations of the dead.

“Sheol” is a Hebrew word that describes the non-permanent place or temporary address of the disembodied souls of the dead.  It is the same as the Greek word “Hades.”

Prior to Jesus Christ’s resurrection, both the souls of the evil and the righteous went there after death.  It is translated “grave” 31 times, “hell” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times in King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.

Sheol (Hades) has two compartments, separated by an impassable gulf.

One side was and is the holding cell of nonbelievers after they die.

The other side, called “Abraham’s Bosom” in Luke 16:22, was for the comfort of the righteous after they died, while awaiting their entrance into Heaven.

I said “was” with regard to believers because the resurrection of Jesus changed their address.

When Christ died He descended into Sheol (Hades).  When He was resurrected He led the righteous out of Sheol to Heaven.  Since then, the souls and spirits of all of the saved people go directly to Heaven when they die.  Abraham’s Bosom is empty.

The lost still go to Sheol and join the lost of the Old Testament in torment on one side of the gulf when they die.

Then there is “Gehenna.”  It is translated “Hell” all 12 times in the KJV.  It is used to refer to the permanent place for torment of the “… soul and body …” (Matthew 10:28).  It is a place of “… fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:45).

In most of the references, it is clear from the context that those who enter Gehenna do so in bodies.  For this to happen, it must occur after the resurrection of the damned at the Great White Throne judgment.

Gehenna is the Lake of Fire described in Revelation 19 and 20.  It is presently uninhabited, but the Beast and the False Prophet will be cast into it at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 19:20).

One thousand years later Satan will be cast into it (Revelation 20:10) and will be followed shortly by the lost people of all previous time periods (Revelation 20:15).
They will all enter Gehenna together, in their resurrected bodies, where they will remain in torment for all eternity.

To summarize: Sheol (Hades) is the temporary place of torment for the souls and spirits of the nonbelievers who die.  Prior to Christ’s resurrection saints were kept and comforted in the now vacant part known as Abraham’s Bosom.

There are also a few places like the Abyss, which are detention cells – prisons – for demons.

Gehenna is the Lake of Fire for the permanent place of torment of the souls of the wicked dead in their resurrected bodies.

Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 that the Lake of Fire was prepared for the devil and his angels.  That is why we can honestly say that God never sends any man to the Lake of Fire; they go there of their own free will, having rejected Christ.

Revelation 19:21  And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

The “rest” are those on this battlefield.

You do not want to be in the company of these kings when the King of kings returns.

If this all seems fantastic to you, it shouldn’t.  There are something like eight-times as many references in the Bible to Jesus’ Second Coming than there are to His first coming.

When Jesus ascended in to Heaven, and His disciples stood gawking upward, two men appeared to them, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

If you knew the future, wouldn’t you do something with that knowledge?

Between April 1992 and April 2012, Apple’s stock value increased by over 4000%.  Don’t you wish you had bought a few shares?

Or how about that property on the coast you could have bought years ago?  What would it be worth today?

If you’re not a believer, continuing to put-off coming to Christ is like refusing Apple stock… Or passing on that beach house… When you had perfect knowledge of the future.

Except that the stakes are so much higher.

Don’t be foolish.  Come to the Lord.