The closing book of the NT, bringing the entire Bible to a conclusion after more than 2000 years of inspiration!
We might expect a massive finale, and we get one!
This is the conclusion to:
- The Bible
This is quite a conclusion
There is a lot in it
- The meaning and purpose of life
- The destiny of humanity
- The end of the world
- The plan for the universe
- The battle of good over ever
- The ultimate and final victory
- The mystery of suffering
- The perplexity of seemingly unanswered prayer
Perhaps we may feel overwhelmed by this, discouraged from studying the book with so many symbols, demanding such a thorough knowledge of the rest of scripture and maybe even a good working knowledge of Church history.
Perhaps as CA Coates has observed this is the reason for the encouragement of 1:3; the Spirit of God well understanding that we may indeed by discouraged from grappling with the book!
Revelation 1:3 encourages us to personally engage with the book.
Not only engage with someone who has engaged with the book; which may indeed be very tempting.
There needs to be on our part, a fresh appreciation and application of the text of Revelation:
All this given to the Apostle John.
The first book of the Bible – Genesis – written by Moses
The final book of the Bible – Revelation – written by John
Each are responsible for writing 5 books in the OT and the NT
Much of what Moses set the scene for in the first 5 books of the Bible will find its completion here in the final book by John.
The symmetry through the ages of inspiration is striking:
Old world passed away
Satan comes in
Sin and the fall
Redemption and eternal salvation
Tree of life guarded
Tree off life freely available
Plagues of Egypt
Plagues on whole world
Mark of Cain
Mark of the beast
Sin, sorrow and suffering begin
Sin, sorrow and suffering ended
Sun and moon created to give light
Sun and moon no longer needed for light
It would seem justified to open the pages of Revelation with a degree of trepidation and humility, it is after all the magnum opus of John, given to him in his 90s after a long and deep experience of Christ and the gospel!
It took a man of deep spirituality to write it, the author of the deeply spiritual 1 + 2 + 3 John!
The apostle who served his apprenticeship leaning on Jesus breast and who gave to us the epistles of love, life and light.
To John is given the task of writing the only completely prophetic book of the NT!
Many books of prophecy in the OT:
Major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel
12 minor prophets
A significant proportion of the Psalms
At least 16/39 OT books could be classified as prophetic books, yet only 1 completely prophetic book in the NT, although parts of other NT books would have a prophetic content; Matthew, 1 + 2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, and 2 Timothy.
Interesting perhaps to reflect on why we might have that pattern / disparity?
The great burden of OT prophecy is to point us forward, not so much to events nor even a programme but to a person, that is Christ.
The bulk of the NT now looks back at the person; that is Christ.
The NT Gospels take the place mainly of the OT prophets, both from their own perspectives bringing us to Christ prospectively and then retrospectively.
What was prophetic for the OT authors is now historical for the NT.
The prophetic burden is not that God’s people become sign watchers, nor experts in geopolitics but rather that the Lord’s people look off unto Jesus!
It is surely a great challenge to read it and apply it!
Back to the book of Revelation at 50!
It has been an interesting 50 years
The intervening 35 years have shed considerable light on the revelation not so much from a biblical perspective but from human history and the areas of:
eg Rev 1:7 “every eye shall see Him,” and the two prophets of Revelation 11
the general witness of the Nations to two dead in Jerusalem.
In the first half of the twentieth century Christians were unable to explain how this could happen. In the second half of the twentieth century in my younger days some saw the possibility of this by means of the television
Now at the beginning of the 21st century such a statement is completely compatible with current experience, there is no explanation needed.
The mark of the Beast is likewise enabled by modern technology implantable microchips are already in place.
Illust: Story told of Albert Einstein setting a university exam for his students. His assistant professor asked ‘but isn’t that the same exam you set for your final year students last year? Exactly the same exam? You can’t do that! To which Einstein famously replied ‘yes the questions are the same but the answers have changed.’
As we come to look afresh at Revelation, the questions, the text, the inspiration, the Spirit remains exactly the same but we come with a fresh perspective as to what some of these texts could potentially mean in the light of recent, very recent changes in the world in which we live.
Perhaps we can see just how close these events have become, how easily and quickly our society has been and can be changed: Mass surveillance of the population; contact apps for ‘disease monitoring’
Control of financial transactions via electronic means
Threatened and real abandonment of physical monetary transactions eg Wuhan province
Attractiveness of implanted microchip technology
Removal of civil liberties eg right to assemble and control of movement and monitoring of social media information feeds for ‘misinformation.’
Imposition of a closely policed state
State interference in privacy
Compromise of data and confidentiality –
How easily and quickly he Kingdom of the beast could emerge with:
Restriction of personal freedoms and liberties
Can’t go wrong with the one given:
Thou hast seen (chp 1)
Things which are (chp 2 to 4)
Shall be hereafter (chps 5ff)
Grace (chp 2+3)
Government (chps 4 to 19)
Glory (chps 20 to 24)
Or thinking of Christ:
- Lord in the midst of the lampstands
- Lamb in the midst of the throne
- Lion over the nations
- Lover in the midst of the marriage supper
- Light in the midst of heaven
Consider the differing perspectives we find here in Revelation:
- In the Isle called Patmos (1:9)
- In heaven before the throne (4:1ff)
- Upon the sand of the sea (13:1)
- Carried into the wilderness (17:3)
- On a great and High mountain (21:10)
Perhaps my own 7 fold outline of the changing themes and scenes of Revelation:
- Revelation of the Person and Character of Christ (chp 1)
- Revival in the Church (ch 2 + 3)
- Reigning and Ruling over the world (chp 4 – 19)
- Response to the prayers of the saints
- Retribution on the wicked
- Removal of evil (chps 13 to 19)
- Restoration of Righteousness
The righteousness of God is seen in the person of Christ impacts:
On the Church chps 2 + 3
On the world chps 5 to 19
Into eternity chps 20 to 22
“the revelation of Jesus christ” (1:1)
The whole of the Bible is the 'Revelation of Jesus Christ'
In the sense that it is the revelation about Jesus Christ
'Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.'(Joh 5:39)
The scriptures are full of prophecies / patterns and parables of Christ
Luk 24:27 'And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.'
This revelation is a little different
This is not the Revelation 'concerning' Jesus Christ but rather the revelation from Jesus Christ.
This revelation is very special:
This is the revelation from the Revelation of scripture.
This is the revelation within a revelation, to reveal the truth behind appearance, reality behind perception!
Genitive of Origin?
Notice the flow here:
God gave the Revelation to Jesus
Jesus Christ "Him"
By His angel
"Unto His servants" / "unto His servant John"
To show unto His servants
God gave the revelation to Jesus
Jesus gave his revelation to us
This is the revelation from Jesus Christ as we follow the flow of the revelation through these verses.
It is hard to miss the significance however of the fact that the whole of the Word of God is a Revelation of Christ:
OT – pictures, prophecies, pointers and parallels
NT – Person and work of Christ
And here crowning it all – the concluding Revelation of Jesus Christ!
Here we see that out of the:
Trial and Tragedy comes Triumph
Disaster comes deliverance
All has as its destiny the glory of Christ.
As the alpha He is the origin
As the omega He is the destiny
With all things headed up in Christ in chapters 21 and 22:
The bride is the bride of the Lamb
The apostles are the apostles of the Lamb
The temple is The Lord God and the Lamb
The Light is the Lamb
The book is the Lambs book of Life
The throne is the throne of God and of the Lamb
The river of life flows from the throne of the Lamb
History is His Story!
This is about to come as something of a shock to a world which has universally rejected Christ :
“14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” Luke 19:14
“38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Luke 23:38
And still so:
‘By the world rejected and by the few enthroned.’
Therein lies the missing piece of the jigsaw of this world
If only he were not so universally rejected there would be no:
War, famine, and man made disasters
This is indeed a book all about Jesus Christ; charting His life from:
Grave (1:5) to the Glory (Rev 22)
Cross (1:5) to the Crown (Rev 19:12, 16)
Yet all of the Bible is about Jesus Christ!
In the OT:
In the Gospels – biography – Person of Christ
In the epistles – doctrine
This is the ‘Revelation of Jesus Christ’ – the unveiling!
This is a unique glimpse behind the fabric of space and time, behind and beyond what we can see, to what we can’t see.
This book reveals that righteousness is not random.
Here is what lies behind the veil of reality, what is behind the scenes!
Not only do we see that righteousness is not random, but we also perceive that evil is not random:
Christ and the Church
Satan and Babylon
As He is progressively unveiled; we perceive Christ and:
His Plan of Salvation (chp 1)
His Presence in the midst of the Church (chp 1 to 3)
His Power from the throne, in judgement (chp 4 to 19)
His Purpose for the universe (chp 20 to 22)
His Person supreme and glorified over all and in all
We peel away the layers of what we refer to as reality and behind the appearance of what we perceive to be transpiring we see that hand of Christ!
We gain a glimpse into the deep mysteries of this universe, beyond the dimensions of space and time.
The Bible is full of mysteries, 14 specific NT mysteries of which we find 3 in the book of Revelation itself:
The NT mysteries:
Mysteries of the Kingdom – Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; and Luke 8:10
Mystery of blindness on Israel (Roms 11:25)
Mystery of the Gospel to all peoples (Rom 16:25ff)
Mystery of the Cross (1 Co 1+2:7ff)
Mystery of the Rapture (1Co 15:51)
Mystery of His will, of all things in Christ (Eph 1:9)
Mystery of Jew and Gentile in 1 body (Eph 3:3ff)
Mystery of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32)
Mystery of Christ in you (Col 1:25ff)
Mystery of Iniquity (2 Thess 2:7)
Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16)
Mystery of the 7 churches (Rev 1:20)
Mystery of Gods judgement (Rev 10:7)
Mystery of Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5-7)
What is a mystery?
Perhaps we have often heard the memorable phrase:
'Truth once concealed and now revealed'
With the thought of 'mystery' often attribute to previous concealment, ie that they once were a mystery.
Certainly this highlights one important aspect of the NT mysteries – that they are NT mysteries and that if anything can be discerned of them in the OT can only really be discerned in retrospect!
But as definitions go its not the best:
It's not very precise, that definition would apply to any NT revelation or doctrine not clearly revealed in the OT for example; the incarnation, life and ministry of Christ, justification by faith etc. It is not very informative.
It tells us nothing about the subject or content of the mysteries, it’s a rather cryptic definition of mystery! Having heard the definition of the mysteries of scripture, if I were to then ask; 'what is a mystery?' we would really be none the wiser.
It's not entirely accurate – there are some mysteries which are not yet revealed (eg 2 Thess chp 2 and 3 mysteries in Revelation).
It demystifies mysteries! Mysteries seem to maintain the character of mysteries in the NT rather than surrendering that character now that they are 'revealed' eg 1 Tim 3:9. This definition almost dismisses / denies the mystery aspect of these truths.
What are the NT mysteries?
''μυστήριον'' : from 'mustes' – a person initiated into the sacred mysteries, from 'mueo' to initiate, learn a secret or esoteric knowledge.
Linked to the sacred mysteries.
At the heart of many of the ancient religions lay a secret, an answer, a hidden insight into the nature of reality, the meaning of life, the destiny of existence, the mysteries!
This is still seen in some today: Mormonism, Free Masonry etc.
There is a reason we come to a place of worship, to a gathering, a reason we read the Bible!
One of those reasons is our search for answers, for meaning, for purpose.
We seek answers to why we are here, where we are going, the meaning of life, the answers to the big questions of life.
There are answers in the Bible.
The Bible is exceedingly interesting!
The Word of God contains God's answers to the reason why, who, what and how!
God's answers to:
Why I am here
What in the world is happening
How I can find God
Who God is
These are the NT mysteries!
These are Gods answers to the question why?
Gods hidden agenda.
They are justification for the conspiracy theorists paranoia that there is an agenda behind the scenes.
Gods hidden agenda, revealed not by time, not by a time delay switch but revealed to those that have ears to hear, those who have the Spirit of God!
'he that hath ears to hear let him hear' (Matt11:15; Luke8:8) and also Matt 13:11; Luke 8:10.
Not so much:
Concealed in the past and revealed in the present but
Concealed to the unregenerate and revealed by the Spirit of God
The distinction between:
concealment and revelation
mystery and understanding
lies not so much in time but in aptitude and ability.
The mystery is unlocked not by time but with a key; and that key is Christ.
Not so much a distinction between:
without the Spirit
with the Spirit
It is not time that is the key but Christ who is the key (Matt 16:19; Rev 1:18; Rev 3:7)
God's agenda in human history has not been hidden.
God's desire is for a world saturated with the knowledge of God:
Habakkuk 2:14: 'filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord'
Isaiah 11:9: 'They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of -- the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'
It is the insight into what is happening behind the scenes that is specific to Revelation.
History is not chaotic
Evil is not sporadic
Righteousness is not random
Revelation gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of this universe, into dimensions not apparent.
It is interesting that science is perhaps catching up here!
String theory – multiple dimensions beyond this world – possibly 11
M-Theory – membrane / mystery / magic theory!
Problem of the low value of gravity – cf. magnetic forces
An attempt to identify the graviton via the SERN collider
A hope to understand why the force of gravity is so low and the possibility of leakage into another dimension?
Much is speculative of course but one thing is clear, that mainstream science and physicists are seriously entertaining the idea that there is more to this universe than appears on the surface, there are more dimensions to this universe than we have before appreciated!
This is the “revelation of Jesus Christ”
Not only is it all about Jesus Christ – which of course the rest of the Bible is too:
- Prophetically in OT
- Pictorially in the OT
- Parable in the OT
- Person in the Gospels
- Doctrinally in the epistles
Here we see Christ hidden, cryptically, in secret and now unveiled:
- His Plan of Salvation (chp 1)
- His Presence in the Church (chps 1 to 3)
- His Power from the Throne (chps 4 to 19)
- His Purpose for the World (chp 19 to 20)
- His Pre-eminence Eternally (chp 20 and 21)
Babylon, Satan, the Beast and false prophet are very much to the fore up until chapter 19; wickedness, death, destruction and chaos ensues, until reality is unveiled in chapter 20 and behind the scenes of the chaos of the apparent in the reality of one working all things according to the counsel of His own will; working all things for His Glory. Christ pulls the trigger on these judgements, from the very first seal which is opened till the final destiny is reached. He has been behind the whole of human history from the very beginning until the end.
His Person sovereign supreme
Righteousness is not Random
Evil is not chaotic
There is order, and organisation.
Consider the coordinated and pan European attack on the Jews in WW2 and consider the ‘spontaneous’ almost world wide rise in woke culture, identity politics and the promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism. None of this is coincidental nor disco-ordinated.
If the DESTINY of this world is headed to Christ so too is the
DIRECTION of this world headed to Christ and by implication, the path too – the DETAILS as to how we arrive at that DESTINY.
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10-12)
Not only is the ultimate DESTINY of all things ultimately leading to the revelation of Christ (Rev 22), but the route there, the DETIALS of that journey likewise reveal Christ – His Grace in the church, His Government, power and judgment over the world and His Glory eternally.
For there to be a definite destination there must be a definite direction.
To reach this destination the direction of all of human history is ordered and ordained!
The reason Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees
The reason Israel sheltered in Egypt
The reason behind the Exodus
The reason Ruth accompanied Naomi out of Moab
The reason for Daniels captivity in Babylon
The reason for the census in the days of Herod
The reason Elizabeth bore John
Was that all might be brought to Christ!
Here is a fitting conclusion to the whole of the Word of God.
“to show unto us his servants”
The object of the revelation is for His servants.
If you serve the Lord, or if you desire to serve the Lord, you can claim a right to this revelation.
Why is this relevant to those who serve the Lord?
Because these revelations: 'must shortly come to pass'
put service to the Lord into context
condition the outlook of the believer
This conditions the mind of the servant, the focus of the servant
The mindset of the servant, to leave all and follow, to not take the eye off the goal, to not get distracted.
Why? for curiosity?
What is the purpose?
Is it sufficient that it is:
The Word of God
It is about Jesus?
It is in the Bible?
Is that enough?
Yet so much of the Bible has a clear purpose:
The Gospels: 'these things are written that you might believe and that believing you might have life through His name.'
Romans: 'the Gospel of Christ, it is the power of God unto salvation' – presenting and defending the gospel.
sanctification truth – 1 Corinthians
Church truth: 1 Corinthians, pastoral epistles
Work of Christ: Hebrews
But what would I think of Revelation?
What does it do?
What is it for?
Revelation is the 'apocalypse' of John
That Greek word has come into the English language.
The apocalypse, the unveiling.
The unveiling of what?
The clue is in the name
It is the unveiling of what we see.
It is the unveiling to what lies behind what I see!
What lies behind the veil of reality!
Revelation is the true nature of absolute reality.
This is God's plan and purpose and agenda, not ours!
When the veil of appearance is dropped we see the nature of realty beneath it.
That reality is very different from the one we have come to know.
No rather to show the sovereignty of God in all things!
To give a future eternal perspective on life.
This makes sense of life!
“if in this life only we have hope only in Jesus we are of all men the most miserable”
‘laying up for ourselves treasures on earth’ is hardly an option!
Do you see what happens to earth?
Taking the easy way out?
compromise with the world?
collusion with the enemy?
These are doomed to failure
reassurance despite the difficulties and confusion there is a plan new life
it is imperative to live in the present for the future.
'shortly come to pass' (v1)
But was this not 2000 years ago?
Shortly come to pass – possibly from the Divine perspective.
The blessing is to (1:3)
Surely blessing in all of the Word of God, but particular blessing here, why?
Sense of perspective in life, seeing that all these things shall be dissolved.
Thus a sense of priorities
A sense of Divine purpose; seeing the underlying and hidden purpose of God in all things. How can I know my purpose in life if I don't know God's purpose for me?
For the purpose of my life to be meaningful it must align with Divine purpose.
The content of the book ought to influence our life practically
A sermon preached from our bible teaching series on the book of Revelation
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie