Preaching from Revelation
is tough because so many of us have done our study on it and come
up with our own little theories about what it must all mean. Revelation
is a hotbed for each of us to proudly say, ďI know what everyone
else says, but Iíve really figured it out.Ē Sadly, I am not
really different on that front. I recognize that my theories may
be faulty and yours or someone elseís may be more valid. With
that in mind, as we come to the conclusion of our ďGive
Attention to ReadingĒ trek through the New Testament, I want to
share some thoughts that I have from the Revelation.
I am not trying to pass this off as if I have the absolute right
theory on the book, but rather I hope it will be something that
can be added to our consciousness regarding the book as we all
grapple with it and strive to serve the Lord according to His Revelation
so our names will be in the book of life and we will each have our
share in the tree of life and the holy city of God (Revelation
I believe it is a mistake for us to view the Revelation
as one lengthy prophecy, spelling out step by step some future
events that began in Revelation
1 and progressed to Revelation
22. Rather, I believe Revelation is much more like a Russian nesting doll. I donít know if the
illustration works better to picture the doll being built as we
surround each level with a new and bigger level or if it works
better to picture opening each level to reveal a new level,
drilling down to the heart of the message. But, whichever picture
works better, the concept I want to share is that is not one long
vision of prophecy but rather a series of apocalyptic visions that
repeatedly reveals the same message over and againóGod wins.
Though the cycles are not absolute, notice how the book presents
seven churches, then seven seals, then seven trumpets, then seven
bowls. Also notice how in some cases one cycle of seven opens the
door for the next. For instance, when the seventh seal was opened
8:1-2, the seven angels with seven trumpets are released.
Then when the seventh trumpet is blown in Revelation
11:15 a series of visions are initiated that culminates in
the seven angels with seven bowls of plagues and Godís wrath in Revelation
16:1. These visions are nested in each other. However, the
visions are not providing us with information about new events,
but rather repeating the same message of Godís victory whatever
we are facing.
With that in mind, I would like us to review one of these
nested visions in Revelation
6 as the Lamb opens the first six seals and provides a
picture of the victory God has over His enemies. However, this
victory will look different from what we might naturally expect.
Jesus established a spiritual kingdom, not a physical one.
6:2, the first seal is broken and white horse comes forth
conquering and to conquer. Sadly, our premillennial friends have
stolen this imagery and perverted it to the point that even
Christians sometimes mistake what this is about. Premillennialists
tell us this is the antichrist. However, apart from their
Premillennial theorizing, antichrist doesnít even come into the Revelation. Rather, that was a statement in Johnís letters about
people who denied that Jesus came in the flesh (cf. I
John 4:2-3). The Bible never presents a new world order
ruler that is the antichrist and this passage doesnít do so
Rather, it makes much more sense to recognize this image in
its biblical context. Cross reference this image with Revelation
19:11. We once again see the same white horse and on it a
rider going forth to make war and bring judgment. He goes about
conquering. There, the image is clearly Jesus. For what reason
would we take this first image that shows the exact same picture
but make it have the exact opposite meaning? There is no reason to
do so except because Premillennialists have a preconceived notion
that has to be filled here.
Having laid this foundation, I think we learn an important
lesson. The Jews had awaited the Messiah for generations. They
believed He would come riding in as a leader on a stallion,
conquering all their enemies. They believed He would throw off
whoever was oppressing them. They believed He would physically
conquer all other nations and bring His people to physical power
and rule over the world in an era of peace, plenty and prosperity.
If we simply stop reading at Revelation
6:2, we might think that is exactly what God was revealing
to John. However, as we read further, we discover that is not the
case. In Revelation
6:3-4, we see war continuing on throughout the world, even
though Jesus is conquering. In Revelation
6:5-6, we see political inequity is still in the world
even though Jesus is conquering. In Revelation
6:7-8, we see death and destruction by pestilence and
famine still going throughout the world even though Jesus is
conquering. In Revelation
6:9-11, we see that war has even been made against those
who have submitted to King Jesus even though Jesus is going forth
conquering and to conquer.
Why was Jesus revealing this to John? Because, as the
Christians, especially Jewish Christians, saw all this happening
in the world, they might think Jesus actually failed. Jesus wanted
them to know that He was in fact conquering. He was winning. But
that was because He never intended to establish a kingdom of this
world (cf. John
18:36). Jesusí kingdom is not a physical kingdom with a
physical throne, physical army and physical domain. Therefore, His
victory is not measured by physical battles, political domain or
material means. His victory is seen in souls who submit despite
what is going on in the physical world.
From the very beginning, Jesus is explaining that no matter
what we face, we need to know that He really is conquering the
enemy. Donít be deterred or distracted by what we see in the
physical realm. Jesus really is winning.
Jesus did not come to provide physical and material ease.
Look again at that survey in Revelation
Jesus did not come into the world to stop all the wars (vss.
3-4). Rather, war will continue on despite Jesusí
continued and progressive victory in the world.
Jesus did not come into the world to stop all the political
inequity that goes on in our world (vss.
5-6). We are told the prices for the wheat and barley are
exorbitant. However, it is clearly not because there is no food.
The people are told to stay away from the oil and wine. This is
not a picture of famine, but of someone controlling the food
supply and keeping part of the populace in poverty. This inequity
continued despite Jesusí continued and progressive victory in
Jesus did not come into the world to stop all the death and
natural disasters (vss.
7-8). Rather, death, pestilence, famine and all the things
that cause that would continue on despite Jesusí continued and
progressive victory in the world.
Sadly, one reason often given by atheists and skeptics for
their lack of faith is all these awful things that continue on.
Surely, if God is out there, He would do something about all of
this. Since it all continues on, God must not be out there. God
wants us to recognize that these things are going on. He is not
blind to them. He will act in His good time for His good reasons.
However, we must not lose faith in Him just because the world
continues on the way it always has. Wars are going to take place;
we and our loved ones will be impacted. Governments will continue
to be oppressive; we and our loved ones will be impacted. Natural
disasters will continue to come; we and our loved ones will be
impacted. God is still out there. We can trust Him to deliver in
His good time. Donít turn your back on Him.
Additionally, look at Revelation
6:9-11. This is not just natural, as the world turns
troubles that everyone faces. This represents specific attacks
against us as Christians. Surely, if Jesus were conquering, that
would be removed. I can understand why these brethren were
impatient. But as Paul said in Acts
14:22 we enter Godís kingdom through many tribulations.
War will even be made on Godís people because they are Godís
We need to understand that Jesus didnít come into the
world to ease the political oppressions and natural disasters. He
did not come to bring physical and material ease. He came to bring
salvation so that we might have hope even through all the
tribulation we face. We must not hear the news of tsunamis
impacting our brethren in the Philippines and China, tornadoes
killing boy scouts (one of whom was the grandson of an elder in a
congregation in Alabama), floods destroying the homes of
Christians in the Midwest and think God is blind, helpless or
non-existent. Jesus didnít come to stop those things. We must
not hear about legislation that seems to undermine our work as
Christians or even hear about persecution happening in the world
against brethren (even when it starts happening here) and think
God has abandoned us. Jesus is still King. He is still conquering
and we want to be on His side.
At times, it will seem Jesus is losing and doing nothing
Look again at Revelation
6:10. What is at the heart of this question? The martyred
saints are really asking, ďGod, why arenít you doing
anything?Ē War was continuing, political inequity hadnít
stopped, natural disasters still prevailed and Godís people were
being killed. What was God doing in all thisóplaying
Notice Godís response. He provided these martyrs with a
white robe (He rewarded them). He told them to rest
a little longer (He reminded them they werenít going through the
trouble anymore). Then He explained that He had His own reasons
for waiting. He was waiting until the evil of the worldly was
complete and they had martyred all the saints they were going to
martyr. God would do something in the fullness of time, when it
was right to do something about it.
This is hard for us to grasp, but as the war goes on
between Jesus and His enemies, it will sometimes look like God is
losing and doing nothing about it. It will sometimes look like
Satan is winning. As this is happening, it will sometimes look
like Godís people are the losers.
In these times, we have to learn to walk by faith and not
by sight (II
Corinthians 5:7). We must learn to trust God that no
matter how it looks He is really working everything out for our
In the end, Jesus wins.
In the end of this nested vision, we see what happens to
those who do not trust in the Lord. We see the end of those who
wage war against God. Read Revelation
6:12-17. This is a picture of judgment coming upon the
earth. The earth quakes, the sun darkens, the moon becomes as
blood and the stars fall from the sky. The sky rolled up like a
scroll and all the mountains and islands were shaken out of their
But notice what this is all about in vss.
15-16. The kings and generals, the rich and powerful all
ran into hiding. These are the source of the persecution (cf. James
2:6-7). The wrath of God is coming upon them and they are
trying to hide from it, but there is no hiding place. The great
day of wrath has come and who can stand?
Actually, that question is answered in Revelation
7. God sends forth His messengers to seal the servants of
God so that they might be protected from harm. Notice Revelation
7:9 with the multitudes clothed in white robes. Where have
we seen that before? These are those who earlier were asking God
when He was going to do something. Their number was completed and
God acted in His good time. He brought judgment on those who
persecuted, oppressed and attacked His children, but His children
were preserved from the judgment. Whether Godís children lived
or died through the persecution and oppression, they came out on
the other side the victors. They no longer questioned God.
Instead, they worshiped Him (Revelation
We could study the
entire book of Revelation.
We could pull out all the commentaries and view all the possible
theories. We could examine all the nested visions within this book
and we will always come back to this exact same picture. GOD
ALWAYS WINS!!! We need to be on His side. Whether you believe this
book was originally for the destruction of Jerusalem or the fall
of Rome is really immaterial. The message is still for us. Jesus
is the king. His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that is going
throughout the world conquering. Life, however, continues on
filled with tragedy and travesty. At times, we may think God is
doing nothing. At times we may even think He is losing. In those
moments, we may think about defecting. We may think about
quitting. We may think about abandoning the Lord because we think
He has abandoned us. He hasnít. He is waiting until the right
moment, in His good time, in which He will provide judgment on our
enemies and deliverance for us. God will win. The White Rider has
gone forth conquering and to conquer. Satan and the world are
fighting back. Whose side are you on today?
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ