Monday, January 19, 2009
The Book of Revelation is the culmination of Bible prophecy - the point at which all the prophecies of the ages converge and find their ultimate fulfillment. Revelation discloses the future of the Jew, Gentile, and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Within its pages are specific details concerning the Savior's return, the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom and, finally, the eternal state of both the saved and the lost.The word revelation comes from the Greek apokalupsis, meaning an uncovering or unveiling. For this reason, the Book of Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse. In either case, the definition reflects the fact that God has made known to mankind those eternal, supernatural truths and realities which man, on his own, could never realize or discover.The Book of Revelation is the final work of the New Testament and the Revelation of Jesus Christ which details world history from the time of John (the Early Church Age) to eternity. It constitutes God's last special revelation to mankind this side of heaven. Simply stated, Bible prophecy and Revelation are history written in advance. They form God's description of future facts and events. Such prophecy is completely trustworthy because God is Omniscient, He knows all things, whether they be actual or merely possible, and He knows them perfectly from all eternity. Acts 15:18 states: Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. Thus, the Almighty is able to fully and accurately describe the future in advance of its actual occurrence.
Current international events reflect exactly the conditions and happenings predicted throughout the Bible for the last days of this age. Yet, comparatively little prophetic teaching and preaching are currently taking place. This is probably due to the fact that this field of endeavor involves a great amount of research and study (see II Timothy 2:15). Millions more prefer not to have prophecy explained to them because they would rather live by the world's standards and dictates. As individuals who are seeking satisfaction and rewards in this life, they are obviously not anxiously anticipating Christ's return.As we walk through the Book of Revelation together, remember that this special message has been given to reveal God's truth, not conceal it; and to clarify God's eternal purpose, not mystify it. I will not present an elaborate outline or engage in the use of heavy theological terminology. My goal is a simple verse-by-verse analysis. I trust that, as a result, each reader will gain a clear understanding of the blessed truths that the Book of Revelation contains.
Verse 1: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.
We begin our study by immediately recognizing that the noun is revelation, singular, not revelations, plural. This term comes from the Greek word Apokalupsis and means an unveiling or uncovering. It is often used in the epistles as a manifestation (Romans 8:19), a coming (1 Corinthians 1:7), a revealing (2 Thessalonians 1:7), and an appearing (1 Peter 1:7). The Book of Revelation, then, concerns the unveiling or appearing of our precious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not the unfolding of the story of St. John the Divine, or even of prophetical truth, but rather the message of the appearing of Christ. This appearing takes place at the Rapture (chapter 4, verse 1), as well as at the hour of His return to earth when every eye shall see Him (chapter 1, verse 7).Secondly, we see that this revelation was given to Jesus Christ, as is everything, for Jesus said, All things are delivered unto me of my Father (Matthew 11:27). They are presented unto Him to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass. The term shortly in the original means rapidity of action once there is a beginning. This certainly pictures the present hour when signs pointing to His return are beginning to appear with alarming frequency. These truths, then, are sent and signified by Christ's angel unto John, the writer of the book, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Notice that the first four letters of the word signified spell SIGN. Why? The Book of Revelation is a study of signs. There is the sign of the Holy Spirit presented as seven spirits (verse 4) and the sign of the seven golden candlesticks and the seven stars (verse 20). Thus, through signs, we come to an understanding of this gloriously revealed portion of Scripture.
Verse 2: [John] bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
This statement is self-explanatory.
Verse 3: Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Verse three proves that the apocalypse is not some deep, mysterious, confusing book. God would not be an omniscient, all-knowing God if He promised a special blessing to those who read, hear, and keep what they read and hear, if they were unable to comprehend the truth. No, the Book of Revelation is understandable and fills the heart with joy once one sees its glorious message concerning the Savior.One reason that readers and hearers are to keep that which they have heard is because the time of Christ's return is at hand. The words at hand mean imminent. Near and imminent are not synonymous. Imminent means impending. Hence, the event could happen immediately or within ten minutes, ten months, or even ten years. Imminence is always the meaning of at hand when speaking about the return of the Lord. For example, Romans 13:12 says, The night is far spent, the day is at hand [imminent]. Philippians 4:5 declares, Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. And 1 Peter 4:7 says, But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. Thus, the next event on God's calendar, the return of Christ for His Church, may happen momentarily. That is why we, as Christians, should keep our eyes fixed heavenward, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
Verse 4: John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne;
John now focuses his attention on seven local churches located in a land area called Asia. This is not Asia as we know it today, but probably a portion of Turkey. Only seven churches are mentioned, although there were undoubtedly more in existence. Seven is God's number of perfection. The number also pictures seven different sets of conditions reflecting the history of God's people through the Church Age.God's salutation, found in nineteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, is presented here as well: Grace be unto you, and peace. It is not peace and grace but grace and peace, because this is God's program for sinners. They cannot have peace until He has shown them His lovely grace. God must show His unmerited favor and love, called grace, before one can experience peace. This grace is shown through the sacrifice of Calvary and is freely bestowed upon all who believe and receive Christ. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). When grace has done its job, peace follows: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). This peace was made through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). Thus, Romans 15:13 states: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.Only Jesus can give this peace. An unsaved psychiatrist is unable to do the job. Psychiatrists need the same peace that they strive to give. Thus, we must turn our problems over to the Son of God.We also find that the message of grace and peace is from the entire Trinity. First, the Father which is, which was, and which is to come; then from the seven Spirits which are before the throne (a designation of the blessed Holy Spirit in all of His holiness, for seven means perfection)...
Verse 5: And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
The question is often asked, Why is Christ the first begotten from the dead, when Lazarus and others were raised first? The answer is simple. Others were raised to life, but they died again. They were raised from physical death to physical life only to eventually die a second time. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead to immortality—never to die again! He is the first to have been resurrected with a new never-dying body. This is why Christ should be the first that should rise from the dead (Acts 26:23)...and why He only hath immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).Five times Christ is called the first begotten or the firstborn from the dead. Another five times He is called the only begotten. The term only begotten refers to His incarnation, whereas first begotten (or firstborn) refers to His resurrection. For instance, he bringeth in the first begotten into the world (Hebrews 1:6). [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [first begotten] of every creature (Colossians 1:15). And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn [first begotten] from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18).Romans 8:29 declares, For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn [yea, the first begotten] among many brethren. Think these verses through carefully so that no cultist can trip you up on the terms first begotten and firstborn, in his attempts to make the eternal Christ have a beginning. No, praise God, Christ is from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2). Yea, He is one with the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).The Lord Jesus Christ is also called the prince of the kings of the earth. This, of course, refers to the future, when the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) returns to earth as the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:16). This glorious event will be the fulfillment of Psalm 2:6, which states: [I have] set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. At that time the Lord Jesus shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth (Psalm 72:8).
Verse 6: And [He] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Verses 5 and 6 contain three glorious statements concerning Christ's work on our behalf: (1) He loved us; (2) He washed us from our sins in His own blood; and (3) He hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father. The order is beautiful. Let's examine it in detail.
First, the Lord Jesus had to love us in order to wash us and make us kings and priests. However, it is even more thrilling when one sees that His love is in the present tense, meaning that He continues loving those He has washed. This is why John 13:1 triumphantly declares, [Jesus], having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. Can you understand such love? Oh, that you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge (Ephesians 3:18,19). This love is forever. That is why Paul declared in Romans 8:37-39: Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.The love which Jesus Christ has bestowed upon each born-again believer should manifest itself in daily living, for He said to His own, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34,35). This love for you and me brought Christ from heaven's glory to the cruel cross of Golgotha's hill. Love made Him shed His blood for the remission of our sins.
Secondly, He washed us! Some do not like the teaching about the blood. They want to earn heaven by their own meritorious works. However, being whitewashed is not the same as being washed white. There is a vast difference! It is not less toil that solves the difficulty, it is no toil. Listen to God: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5).When one trusts in the merits of Christ's shed blood, his sins are gone, As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). Isaiah 38:17 declares, Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. God says, I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins (Isaiah 44:22). Yes, He has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). Oh, come to Jesus and He will lift all your load. Here's proof! To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43). It matters not how far astray the wayward son or daughter has gone, the blood of Jesus Christ [God's] Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).Thirdly, because of His love and the washing of regeneration, Christ is able to make us kings and priests unto God and his Father. Priest is the title of every believer. It is also the reason one does not need a minister to help him get closer to God. If you have been born again, you are a priest in the eyes of the Almighty. You can bring your own petitions to God. One is not heard any more rapidly because he has been ordained by men, for all born-again believers are on the same level. All are members of a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that [we] should shew forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). What a calling! Thank you, Jesus. John adds, To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen
We want to continue in our study of the book of Revelation by finishing chapter 1.
Verse 7: Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
This verse announces the Lord's return to earth. Notice that every eye sees Him. That is why this great event is described as the revealing or revelation of Christ and occurs when He comes as the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11-16). Thus, our text is actually a preview of what will happen when He returns with His saints in chapter 19. Isn't it thrilling to know that when the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west (Matthew 24:27), every eye will witness the spectacle of the ages? Notice also that the Israelites-a special group-will observe this momentous event, for they shall look upon [Him] whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10).Furthermore, when He comes in power and great glory to smite the nations, all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. This is because He comes for judgment and none will escape. As John envisions the hour when the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints (Jude 14), he victoriously cries, Amen! Amen! The Greek for even so is Amen, and Amen is the Hebrew for even so. John is literally shouting the praise or praises of God in two languages as he says, Amen and Amen, He is coming!
Verse 8: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
This text speaks of the eternal Christ. Alpha and Omega are the beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet. Christ is saying, I am the beginning and ending of all things. He uses the title I am, which is a verb indicating being, but not becoming. He always was. He was before all things and created all things. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3). For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:16,17). He also controls all things by upholding all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3), and He will consummate all things as well (see Ephesians 1:10). Yes, Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.The terminology, I am... the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, expresses Christ's oneness with the Father (see verse 4). In fact, He adds the term, the Almighty, a name used for the Father in connection with His person. This term is used forty-eight times in the Old Testament. This verse clearly refutes the doctrine of anti-trinitarianism, which is anti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-Holy Spirit.
Verse 9: I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John realizes that he is an old man and highly revered, yet he wants no praise from men for his sufferings. He immediately identifies himself as a brother in Christ and a companion in heartache and suffering. He tells of the tribulation he endured during his incarceration at Patmos, but he rejoices that the other blood-bought sons of God will miss the Tribulation. How true! The Saviour stated: In the world ye shall have tribulation (John 16:33). However, this does not include the Tribulation hour out of which the saints are kept (see Revelation 3:10). John's persecution came because of his devotion to Christ. This is always true when one takes a stand for the Saviour. Jesus said in John 15:18-20, If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Verse 10: I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Beginning with this verse, we enter into the revelation experience with John and observe firsthand all that is presented to him through the remainder of the book.
Joseph A. Seiss says that John was carried forward through the centuries until he saw a vision of the great and terrible day of the Lord-the Tribulation hour. A majority of scholars, however, believe that the phrase, on the Lord's day, refers to the first day of the week. Thus, on Resurrection day-Sunday, the first day of the week-John is visited by the One who had so loved him while on earth-Jesus himself. As He appears, John hears the trumpet-like voice of Christ...
Verse 11: Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
Alpha and Omega are the titles we discussed in verse 8. Verse 11 pictures the eternal Christ giving instructions to His beloved servant concerning the seven churches mentioned in verse 4 and to be discussed in chapters 2 and 3. Then, John adds...
Verse 12: And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.
When the trumpet-like voice of Christ sounded in verse 11, John turned to see the voice that spoke to him. This is different! One does not normally see a voice. Yet John turned to see the voice. As he looks in that direction, he sees seven golden candlesticks or lampstands. Verse 20 clearly explains the meaning of verse 12 as follows: The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks [means this:] The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.The fact that the seven churches are pictured as seven lampstands is significant because believers are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Sad, as we shall see, is the fact that the history of the seven churches often diminished that light. Oh, pray that it shall not be so in your life. Jesus said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).Now that we have observed verse 12 in light of verse 20, let's take a closer look at the glorious Saviour who appears in the midst of the lampstands or churches.
Verse 13: And [I saw] in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
The Lord is clothed with the garments of the Old Testament high priest because He is risen and in heaven, performing His ministry of intercession. For this reason, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25). Thus, sixty years after Christ's death and resurrection, John sees Him as the High Priest in the heavenlies. Paul also testified to this blessed fact by stating: Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Hebrews 4:14). Next our precious Lord is described in detail.
Verse 14: His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
John's description speaks of antiquity and coincides with the vision Daniel had in chapter 7, verses 9 through 13. This Ancient of days, the eternal One, Jesus Christ, is also pictured in terms of whiteness because of His righteousness, for He is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:26). The Greek also emphasizes the fact that His eyes shot out fire. Christ is righteously angry concerning the sin of the churches depicted in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
Verse 15: And his feet [were] like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice [was] as the sound of many waters.
Christ's feet picture judgment and relate to the events that take place when He returns to the earth in chapters 19 and 20. His voice as the sound of many waters also depicts judgment.
Verse 16: And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
The seven stars of this verse are the angels or messengers of the seven churches (see verse 20), while the two-edged sword is the Word of God as described in Hebrews 4:12: The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Then the expression, his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength, takes our minds back to the transfiguration scene in Matthew 17:2 and thus pictures the glory of Christ, who is to be the Judge during the Great Tribulation hour, Armageddon, and the Great White Throne assembly of Revelation 20:11-15. Because of it, John is stunned, astonished, and humbled at the experience and cries...
Verse 17: And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
Verse 18: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
The sight of Christ glorified was breathtaking, and the one who laid his head upon Jesus at the Last Supper now falls prostrate at His feet. As John falls before his blessed Lord in fear, Jesus lovingly says, Fear not. He is saying the same to us today. In the midst of wars, rumors of wars, heartaches, and death, the blessed Lord says, Let not your heart be troubled (John 14:1). This message to John is from the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, the eternal One, Jesus Christ. The One that liveth (resurrection), and was dead (crucifixion) and who cries, behold, I am alive for evermore (ascension), Amen. He also has the keys of hell and of death. Because of this tremendous fact, Christians are not to fear, for through death ... [Christ destroyed] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14, 15). Not only have we been delivered from the fear of death but from the fear of Hades as well.Let me explain: Hades was the place where the souls and the spirits of all humans went until the cross. Sheol (Old Testament) and Hades (New Testament) were one and the same. In Sheol and Hades were two compartments, one for the wicked and the other for the righteous. In Luke 16:22, 23, the rich man and Lazarus went to their respective places- one to suffering and the other to comfort. The thief on the cross went to the comfort side, or paradise, as promised by Christ when He said, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43). This is where Christ went upon His death (Acts 2:27, 31). There He ministered to His people and led captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8-10), literally releasing them for their entrance into the third heaven of 2 Corinthians 12:2.Presently the comfort side of Hades has been emptied by Him who has the keys of death and Hades (hell), but the torment side is still full. This will be emptied for the Judgment Day when....death and [Hades deliver] up the dead which [are] in them: and they [are] judged... (Revelation 20:13).
Verse 19: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
This verse gives us the order of the Book of Revelation, which is written chronologically, or as the events happen. One immediately recognizes the three tenses past, present, and future. Write the things which thou hast seen-past, chapter 1; the things which are-present, chapters 2 and 3; and the things which shall be hereafter-future, chapters 4 through 22.
Verse 20: [God explains to John:] The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Since we have discussed the closing verse of this chapter in connection with verse 12, let us move on to the study of the seven candlesticks, or the history of the seven churches, which we will cover in our next newsletter.