The world we face today is different from the world we knew
a few years ago. The events surrounding September 11 and then the
war with Iraq have changed our world, our lives and our outlook
toward the future. Our whole nation fears the political threats of
terrorism. But we, recognizing that the terrorism is grounded in
religious persecution, fear that Muslims may answer the battle cry
of the Koran and begin their holy wars in our communities. On the
one hand, I believe the chances of that are extremely slim. On the
other hand, what if it happens? I think about our brethren in the
first century. They faced persecution that is unimaginable to our
American mindset even in our present climate. I think about the
kind of sermons they must have heard on a regular basis to
encourage them to maintain faithfulness. I think about Paul’s
message to the churches in Acts
14:22, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom
of God.” I think about Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in I
Thessalonians 4:15-18. “Comfort one another with these
words.” I think about John’s message in Revelation.
As we face uncertain and discomforting times, we can turn to Revelation.
It is a message for our times.
is not a prophecy of modern events.
misunderstand me. Revelation
did not prophesy the attack on the World Trade Center or the
Pentagon. It did not prophecy the war on Iraq or the military
action in Afghanistan. In fact, Revelation does not prophesy any events of our time.
that Revelation is a
prophecy of modern events, denies the historical context of the
book. The first chapter explains how we should read the book.
says the book would talk about things that would “shortly take
place” and that “the time is near”. This book is not about
events thousands of years in the future.
1:9, John claimed to be a partaker of the tribulation. When
John wrote this book, his readers did not need to know what would
happen in a future “Great Tribulation.” They needed comfort to
make it through the tribulation they were in.
1:9, John also claimed to be a partaker in the kingdom. In vs.
6, he claimed he and the Christians to whom he was writing had
already been made into a kingdom. This book is not about the
establishment of a future kingdom. It is about the perseverance of
an already present kingdom in the midst of great persecution.
when we read Revelation
we should not be trying to figure out what events it is
foretelling for our future. That is not the book’s purpose.
Rather, we need to determine what it meant to them and then see
how it parallels our situation today.
parallels can we find?
extent that our times mirror the times of the early Christians, Revelation’s message is for us. What parallels can we see?
parallel enemies. In Revelation
13:1-10, we read about the beast coming up out of the sea. It
represents a government opposed to Christianity. Today, our
government is not executing us. However, it is not altogether
friendly to us either. In Revelation 13:11-18, we see the beast from the land (the false
prophet) who promotes false worship. This represents the attack on
Christianity by false religion. That parallels one of our biggest
fears: the attacks of Islam (a false religion) on Christianity.
What about atheism (also a false religion) that has been attacking
us for years?
these parallels, we note four lessons from Revelation.
To do so, we will look at some very symbolic passages. John said
in Revelation 1:1 that
the message of God was “signified,” that is, given in signs
and symbols. Because of time constraints, we will not be able to
dig deeply into this symbolism. Rather, we will simply take note
of the points themselves.
can we learn for today?
We will have
enemies who attack us.
passages demonstrate enemies of God’s servants or people. Revelation 11:7-10 shows the beast out of the abyss and the people
of the world attacking God’s witnesses.
pictures a dragon attacking those who keep God’s commandments
and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
describes a beast. This beast speaks words of arrogance against
God, His house and His people. He even makes war on God’s holy
of the enemies of the early church. But it is not different today.
God's people have always had enemies and will have enemies until
the last enemy is conquered and the kingdom returned to the Father
(I Corinthians 15:24-25).
We will have enemies who attack.
will look like God’s enemies are winning.
imagine being one of the first century Christians, hearing about
the imprisonment, torture and death of friends, brethren and
leaders? Can you imagine what affect that might have on the
courage of the early Christians? Can you imagine how easy it would
be to think they were on the losing side? Revelation deals with that very issue showing such seeming success
for God’s enemies that one might believe Satan’s side is going
6:3-8, we see the ravages of men slaying one another, of
poverty, of famine, of war, of pestilence and wild beasts. So much
success for Satan that even the martyred saints cry out, “How
long?” (Revelation 6:10).
11:7-10, the beast kills God’s witnesses and the inhabitants
of the earth gloat and rejoice. God, it seems, has lost and the
beast has won.
13:7, the beast is allowed to “overcome” the saints. In Revelation
13:14-18, the earth beast or false prophet convinces all
mankind to worship the beast and his image. He has so much success
that he is able to control the marketplace, not allowing the few
who refuse to worship the beast to buy and sell or eat and drink.
pictures a woman called “Babylon The Great”. She is drunk with
the blood of the saints.
be times when it appears that God is losing and Satan is winning.
We may wonder as did the martyrs, “How long will this go on?”
The world and the worldly will rejoice and gloat over us. But we
must remember the next lesson. Despite how things appear …
We must take
comfort and courage, God always wins.
This is the
message the Christians of the first century needed to hear. They
faced a more aggressive and militant enemy than we ever have. They
needed to know that God was going to win. Revelation
demonstrates that over and over again.
6:3-8 we see the ravages against Christianity. In Revelation
6:12-17 we see God’s judgment on the kings and people of the
earth. God always wins.
11:7-10 we see the death of the witnesses and the gloating of
the world. But in Revelation 11:11-13 we see the witnesses resurrected, called to
heaven and then judgment on the enemies. Even death cannot conquer
God’s people. God always wins.
13 we learn about the beast and the false prophet and how much
success they seem to have. But, in Revelation
16 we see bowls of judgment poured out on the beast and the
false prophet. Finally, in Revelation 19:20-21, the beast and the false prophet are seized and
cast into the lake of fire. God always wins.
17:4-6, “Babylon the Great” feasts on the blood of the
saints. But in Revelation
18:2ff, “Babylon the Great” is fallen.
Christians were being whipped and beaten, they needed to know that
God was not being whipped and beaten. Revelation
explained, “God always wins.” No matter what happens today. We
need to remember. God always wins.
If we are
faithful, we will be rewarded.
the early Christians to persevere? What will help us continue
through everything the enemy throws at us? Knowing that if we are
faithful, we will be rewarded.
to the seven churches show the reward for the faithful. They will
eat of the tree of life (Revelation
2:7). They will not be hurt by the second death (Revelation
2:11). They will partake of God’s hidden manna and have a
name written on a new stone (Revelation
2:17). They will have authority over the nations and will
receive the morning star (Revelation
2:26-28). They will be clothed in white, their name will not
be erased from the book of life and Jesus will confess them before
His Father (Revelation 3:5).
They will be made pillars in the temple of God. The name of God,
the city of God and Christ’s new name will be written upon them
(Revelation 3:12). They
will sit down with Christ on His throne (Revelation
describes the reward of the faithful. Their robes have been made
white by the blood of the Lamb. They were before the throne of
God, serving Him night and day and He spread His tabernacle over
them. They will never hunger or thirst again. They will be
shepherded by the Lamb to drink the water of life and God will
wipe away their tears. The martyrs had asked, “How long?” When
God brought about their desire, it was worth the wait.
read about the victory of the witnesses and the judgment on their
enemies, we read about the reward of the faithful, both small and
great, in Revelation 11:15-18.
14:13 we learn about those who refused the mark of the beast,
but rather were marked with God’s seal. They were blessed
because they died in the Lord. They will rest from their labors
and their deeds will follow them.
19 we read of the victorious marriage supper of the Lamb.
Those who have been faithful are part of that feast and
reminds us of those martyrs in Revelation
6:10ff. Just because someone died does not mean they miss out
on the victory which belongs to the Lord and those who are His.
Those who die in the Lord are rewarded as well, reigning with
21-22 pictures the new heavens and new earth, which contain
the river and tree of life. What a picture of victory for those
who overcome God’s enemies. We will have peace, rest and victory
if we remain faithful against God’s enemies today also.
not written to us. It does not prophesy events of our time or our
future. But, insofar as our times mirror the times of the early
Christians, it is a message for our times. We will have enemies
who attack us. Sometimes it may seem as though they will win. But
God always wins and He will reward those who maintain faithfulness
to Him. Just about halfway through the book, in Revelation
12:10-12, John was told how the saved will be saved. They will
be saved by 1) the blood of the Lamb, 2) the word of their
testimony and 3) by not loving their life, even to the point of
death. We are saved by God’s grace through the sacrifice of
Jesus Christ. We cannot earn our salvation. At the same time,
however, God expects something from us. He wants our testimony. He
wants us to lead lives that glorify and point people to Him. He
wants us to testify to others about His glorious Gospel. He wants
us to follow Him even if it leads us to our death. His word is to
hold absolute sway. That begins when we submit to His gospel, His
way. How can anyone claim to be willing to die for Christ, if they
are not even willing to be baptized for Him? Follow God’s word,
“Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ