Revelation

Series Introduction

Revelation is the only book in the Bible that starts by proclaiming the God’s blessing on those who read and take to heart what is said. By reading, rightly understanding and then acting on this book in our lives we will receive God’s blessings! Rather than being afraid of Revelation, as so many Christians and ministers seem to be, we should be taking it as the most exciting letter about the gospel: through Revelation we receive all God’s blessing through Jesus. Revelation is a gospel book. It’s an exciting book – and if God expects that we will apply it then God must expect that we’ll be able to understand it. So 2 Timothy 3:16-17 applies to the book of Revelation as it does to any other passage…

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Revelation is a letter of great drama – exciting, dramatic events portrayed… dramatically! It’s the Saturday afternoon melodrama. It’s a big picture book, not a puzzle book – we don’t have to understand every detail. But more than just a book – it’s an epic tale. Think of Revelation as one of the great Hollywood blockbusters – with a massive budget and incredible special effects and the very best cast and crew and the greatest director of all time. Revelation gathers together all the threads of the story, gathers the threads of salvation history and brings it to cataclysmic ending, as we reach the final great battle between good and evil – a battle won on the cross, a battle that never occurs in Revelation because Jesus has already defeated death and sin. Revelation is a huge movie that invites us to cheer on the good guys and love the hero, and boo and hiss as the evil one and his minions as they take the stage. We join in with the chorus of the heavenly choir, we shudder at the descriptions of evil and tyranny, the end of the world, and we share in the hope of heaven and the lamb ruling for eternity. Revelation is a letter that should hit us emotionally as well as mentally and spiritually. We should be able to hear the terror in their voices and smell the fear…

Revelation 6:15-17 “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (NIV)

Who can stand? Revelation is not some mystical journey through wacky images but a clear vision of Christ’s rule and his love and mercy towards us, of who can stand in the face of God’s anger, and the security and salvation we can receive at the hands of the king of all creation.

Video introductions http://www.youtube.com/user/dvc1964.

Revelation Introductions – And I Saw Heaven Opened

Series introduction – Revelation

Being totally honest – Revelation is a strange book. For many Christians Revelation is number one on the top-ten list of books not to read. For others Revelation is the only book to read – and people come up with all sorts of weird theology they claim as the message of Revelation. We see it regularly in the news – someone claiming the end of the world is here and Armageddon has begun – from the book of Revelation. As a teenager there were all sorts of strange little comic book tracts about the end of the world, taken from Revelation. There are books about the Rapture, movies that look almost demonic, claims about the battle of Armageddon, the devil, the lake of fire, the angel army, the 1000 year reign of Christ – and so many more it hurts my head! Revelation gets a bad name either way and for so many Christians that has meant we decide to keep it at the end, out of harm’s way – out of mind out of sight! But I want to show you that Revelation is a wonderful exciting book for normal people. It is understandable for normal people – as opposed to understandable for apocalyptic theologians – that it makes sense in a world where so often very few things make sense. I want to show you that it’s the most exciting and encouraging book in the Bible, that it speaks at length about the things we are passionate about.

Revelation 1 Introduction 2011

Revelation 1b – I See The King

Revelation is a strange book with a bad name – but it’s far more understandable than people make out. It is maybe the most exciting book in the Bible because it speaks at length about things we’re passionate about – not Armageddon and the 1000 year reign of Christ so much as the victory of Jesus won on the cross – that’s the basic theme of the Revelation, the gospel of Jesus. As we deal with the weirdness – the beasts, and numbers, colours, dragons, robes and creatures, trumpets and angels, scarlet women, great cities, battles and armies – those lurid images of the end times – we have to focus on what revelation focuses on – Jesus the King. It is written in a particular style – apocalyptic literature – picture language – it’s designed with a sense of the big picture rather than instructing us to interpret every little thing. As Christ Jesus he stands in glory as the king of all creation we are meant to be impressed.

Revelation 1

Revelation 3 – Postcards from Palestine – Part 1

As we consider the Church of Ephesus and the wider ancient church and we  turn our eyes to ourselves – what would Christ Jesus say to us? If we think Jesus would simply say – you’re doing great – no worries… then we are probably fooling ourselves. To the ancient church Jesus reminds them of his might and power, and how pathetic the worldly powers are. He demands they repent – of a lack of love, of mediocrity, of false teaching and godless behaviour and he repeatedly calls on them to resist temptation, to resist the world and to stand against false gods. He encourages them to conquer, to follow in his footsteps and he promises that those who overcome in this life will receive the crown of life, will eat from the tree of life, will be delivered from hell and will share in his rule over the nations.
What would he say to our church? What encouragement would he give? What demands for repentance would he make? Are we committed – to godliness, to love, to faith, to the scriptures? Are we committed to pressing on and to the gospel witness? Are we committed to the kingdom above all else – or to ourselves?

Revelation 2

Revelation 3 – Postcards from Palestine – Part 2

As we consider the churches in Asia Minor and the wider ancient church and we turn our eyes to ourselves – what would Christ Jesus say to us? If we think Jesus would simply say – you’re doing great – no worries… then we are probably fooling ourselves. To the ancient church Jesus reminds them of his might and power, and how pathetic the worldly powers are. He demands they repent – of a lack of love, of mediocrity, of false teaching and godless behaviour and he epeatedly calls on them to resist temptation, to resist the world and to stand against false gods. He encourages them to conquer, to follow in his footsteps and he promises that those who overcome in this life will receive the crown of life, will eat from the tree of life, will be delivered from hell and will share in his rule over the nations.

What would he say to our church? What encouragement would he give? What demands for repentance would he make? Are we committed – to godliness, to love, to faith, to the scriptures? Are we committed to pressing on and to the gospel witness? Are we committed to the kingdom above all else – or to ourselves?

Revelation 3

Revelation 4

Revelation 4

Revelation 5

Revelation 5

Revelation 6

Revelation 6

Revelation 7

Revelation is a letter of great drama – dramatic events portrayed… dramatically. It’s a big picture book, not a puzzle book – we don’t have to understand every detail. But it’s more – it’s an epic drama. Think of Revelation as one of the great Hollywood blockbusters – with a massive budget and incredible special effects and the very best cast and crew and the greatest director of all time. Revelation gathers together all the threads of the story and is cataclysmic, as it should be, as we reach the final great battle between good and evil – a battle won on the cross. Revelation is a huge movie that invites us to cheer on the good guys and the hero, and boo and hiss as the evil one and his minions as they take the stage. We join in with the chorus of the heavenly choir, we shudder at the descriptions of evil and tyranny, the end of the world, and we share in the hope of heaven and the lamb ruling for eternity. Revelation is a letter that should hit us emotionally as well as mentally and spiritually. We should be able to hear the terror in their voices and almost smell the fear…

Revelation 6:15-17 “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Who can stand? Revelation 7 is a brief interlude amidst the tyranny and destruction of the breaking of the seals. John sees the angels of God holding back further destruction so that the people of God – Jew’s under the Old Covenant and Christians under the new, can be clearly marked for protection. We tend to always hear of the mark of Satan – why dwell on it when here we receive a clear vision of Christ’s rule and his love and mercy towards us, of who can stand in the face of God’s anger, and the security and salvation we can receive at the hands of the king of all creation.

Revelation 7

Revelation 8-9

As we’ve been exploring the great book blockbuster disaster movie that completes the Bible – the book of Revelation we have seen clearly that we are living through much of what Revelation describes – the end of days. It speaks not only of the future and the past – but of the now!

Revelation, with numbers and colours and weird beasts certainly prompts many wild claims and ideas about God – but the reality is much simpler. Once this world draws to a close all people will face God – rich, poor, king and outcast will be faced with the terrible and great reality of Jesus’ rule.

With John we have witnessed Jesus the crucified and risen lamb sitting on the throne of heaven.

We see the repeating cycles of history – disaster, evil deeds, and death – and we recognize our world. But most importantly – we see God’s control. We see Satan defeated and awaiting final judgment. We see the power of death and sin overthrown by Jesus on the cross.

For those first Christians – facing death – was their faith misplaced? Certainly we can see that knowing their experiences – painful and deadly – were in God’s hands – that’s a vital piece of the puzzle.

Revelation 8 – 9 reveals the coming destruction of this universe by the one who created it. Judgment will bring the reversal of the created order. Those who belong to Jesus, the faithful in Israel and from across the world – they will inherit the kingdom of God if they stand firm to the last day. This is our present reality – if we are faithful.

Reading Revelation is not about taking some mystical journey through a strange book, but seeing the clear vision of Christ’s rule, his love and mercy towards us and of the judgment to come, of salvation and security at the hands of the king of all creation!

Revelation 8-9

Revelation 10-11

Revelation is the great blockbuster movie that completes the Bible. It describes not only the end and the future, but it runs us through – again and again – the cycles of history – our time. We are living through the end days, the final period of creation – that is the timeframe of Revelation.
In chapter 10-11 we see God’s take on the world. The movie takes on a whole supernatural thriller theme with massive powerful angels reminding us of God’s absolute power and sovereignty, the beast from the abyss, and the great themes of judgment and salvation.
Though the world claims the cause of Jesus to be pitiful and ineffectual – we see the final outcome – we are living in the days when final trumpet blast of judgement will reveal the mystery of God.
But if we belong to Jesus we already know the mystery – we know Jesus. The question is… will we be brave enough to proclaim Him? Even if it means death – will we stand firm and speak truly? Clearly the world will thin us mad – does think we’re mad! Oh well!
The day is coming when we will stand amongst the multitude of the people of God – no longer a minority, but the only majority – we will stand with people from every tribe and nation and we will sing God’s praises, and sing the praises of the lamb because Jesus has saved us.
Revelation gets a bad rap – so many people with so many agendas – there is money to be made by those who declare that they alone can reveal the truth – for a fee. Don’t bother with such foolishness. Revelation is clear – the language is different, but it tells the same truth as the rest of the NT – the truth of the gospel and majesty of the king, the coming judgement and the wonder of the approaching eternity.
Video Introduction http://youtu.be/lpZc0enjgso

Revelation 10-11

Revelation 12-13

Chapters 12 – 14 are central to the book of Revelation – mostly because it tells a story that we are very familiar with – but from a heavenly perspective. The seventh trumpet brings seven signs of persecution as we return once more to the beginning – dealing again with our period of history, from nativity to second coming – the present age. It starts with the birth of Jesus and the attempt by Herod to kill Jesus soon after he was born. But instead of being just another birth on planet earth, we see what God sees – his Son comes into the world to save mankind. Satan sees the threat to his rule and commences a war against God, first attacking Jesus, and then turning on God’s people.
We need to see Christ Jesus from the heavenly perspective.
Think of Christmas. We have entirely the wrong view of the Christmas story. We have this painful tendency to see the nativity and the baby Jesus – cute as a button, dressed up in his Pumpkin Patch clothes – sorry… swaddling clothes – but just beautiful – with cows and sheep and angels and shepherds and all that is cutesy and beautiful. Silent night, holy night…. all is calm, all is bright…!
But look again – look from God’s perspective.
Revelation 12:7a “And there was war in heaven.”
Jesus coming to earth is not cute! This is God breaking into history – it is beyond imagination that the creator and sustainer of the universe would come as a man – let alone be born as a child. Jesus broke into history – he came to break the power of sin and death – to destroy the barrier that stopped us from having life. He came to wipe out Satan’s power – to wipe away the power of death and the consequences of sin.
Satan is defeated. The war is won but the skirmishes rage on. If it is not God you’re worshipping… if it’s not Jesus that you’re trusting with your whole life… then you have sided with Satan and you will on the final day be judged. We all belong to someone.

Revelation 12-13

Revelation 13-14

The number of the beast! 666! Cue the scary dark music, darken the screen, add a scream or two for dramatic effect. Scary hey!?
One of the great joys of the modern internet enabled world is that the mediocre, the bizarre and the just plain scary can be aired for all to see.
Anyone with a camera or an mp3 recorder, or even just a computer can upload whatever bizarre thoughts are whizzing through their brain – and they will probably find some sort of audience (and… no – I am not oblivious to the irony of that statement given that this is a podcast).
Nowhere is this more evident than with the book of Revelation. It used to be you had to physically publish to get an audience, which at least kept the crackpots on the small and usually local scale. Now everyone and anyone can publish at bargain basement prices.
Instead of following the garbage so many spout on the weirdness of Revelation we thought we’d see what God is actually saying – and we found that Revelation isn’t that hard – as long as you read it with the same sort of rules we apply to any literature.
Chapters 13-14 is a passage that includes beasts working for Satan, the number of the beast, and the threats against the church. People focus on these things without seeing the truth – that in the great war between Satan and God – Satan has already lost with Jesus crucified and risen – that the war never happens in the future because it has already been won in the past. No matter what happens in the future of this world, those who belong to Jesus are safe for eternity.
It’s worth understanding how Satan operates in these last days, and especially his use of political and religious powers – but in the end he’s dead in the water, thrashing around but ultimately powerless to affect the most important thing – the safety of those who belong to Jesus.
Consider the truth of Revelation, not the lies and sensationalism of men.

Revelation 13-14

Revelation 15

God is great! He gives John the vision of the end and the days in which we live – not just the anguish of persecution – but also the true reality of the future. It can be hard work belonging to Jesus – but the truth is this. In heaven gathered around God’s throne will be the whole Christian nation – from every tribe, nation, language, people, race, colour… gathered and safe for eternity. It’s a present reality to which we are largely blinded by the world we live in. If we belong to Jesus then we are the redeemed of earth – we have a new song that only we can learn – the praise of Jesus. Wherever Jesus goes, we go – whatever Jesus gains we gain – his inheritance is our inheritance. In God’s eyes we are blameless for all eternity. The Lamb of God sits enthroned as ruler over all – the 144,000 who belong to Jesus – who have God’s name and Jesus’ name inscribed on their foreheads.
If you worry about the 666 then consider this – if it’s a literal mark then we have to look for the literal mark of Jesus on Christians.
What – you don’t have one? Doesn’t that mean you’re not saved?
Here’s the thing…
Do we think God is right and just to bring about his wrath against this world?
Do we want God to bring his wrath on this earth?
It’s an expression of his righteousness and justice that God brings his wrath against sin. Without the judgement and the outpouring of God’s wrath there can be no eternity in his presence. People in our world want to ignore God most of the lives and then blame him when bad things happen.
Revelation 16:10b-11 “Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.”
In the face of God’s wrath will people repent?
Most will curse God instead. They will blame God for their choices. And there is the truth. The fact is – our choices have eternal consequences. We will live in eternity according to trust in Jesus – or we will suffer the wrath of God.
Which will it be?

Revelation 14-15

Revelation 16

Miracles – signs – wonders – what gets you trusting – what does it for you when it comes to salvation and assurance, to knowing God’s presence and love? Cheese toast? With the image of Jesus burnt into the cheese? Don’t worry too much if you can’t see it – only the most faithful can! Is that a sign of salvation and judgement? What about a Cheetos – a cheese flavoured chip – that looks like Jesus being crucified? Or, because Cheetos are clearly a very spiritual food, one that looks like Jesus praying?
Strange – if you turn it on the side it looks like a dog.
Signs – wonders – marvellous demonstrations of God’s power, signs of the end of the world? I’m not convinced that when Jesus said he would return that he meant he’d be back as a cheese flavoured snack?
We live amongst true signs of the end of days – not the fakery of religion, but the reality of the world grinding down to an end, of persecution increasing, of the world groaning under the burden of sin and death. Revelation 16 describes it in the terms of the plagues of Egypt – partial judgment becoming complete judgment and partial destruction becoming all encompassing. The world will be wiped away as God brings his wrath to bear against all who stand against him and his people.
In the midst of that – the wonder of Armageddon – the future final battle between God and the forces of Satan – the battle that has already been won on the cross – no further battle is required, only the announcement of destruction of God’s enemies.
Revelation has much the same message as the old “be happy, don’t worry” song – be happy, stand firm – stand with God, live by his word and do not be afraid – though the world falls apart around us, and people wage war against God and his people – the battle has already been won, God is victorious and he will be with us if we belong to Jesus

Revelation 16

Revelation 17-18

How is the world going to end?

The woman on the scarlet beast – the great dragon – the beast from the land and the beast from the sea – Armageddon, the Apocalypse, the rapture – Babylon the fallen, saints and angels, lake of fire, the Abyss – Revelation is filled to overflowing with wacky weird and completely out there imagery. And people make what they want of it all – which is frankly pretty foolish. Revelation is not that hard to understand – it’s just different to most other things we’ve read. But just as we have to suspend belief and a little science and read Harry Potter as fantasy literature, we have to read Revelation with the rules of Apocalyptic literature firmly in mind. And when we do, most of the hard parts disappear and Revelation is left to do its job – that is to be a warning and a blessing. The same goes for its descriptions of the end days – the time we are living in right now and the end of all things that is coming.
17-18 speaks of the political, ideological and religious powers arrayed against God and his people, and the fact that their attempts to assume power will come to nought. We see Satan and his forces having lost decisively at the cross of Jesus and turning on each other, devouring each other as so many evil empires have done in history. As Babylon is destroyed the question is … how will we live? Whatever the day to day decisions are… what we must do as Christ’s possession is live in the world but not belong to the world. We have to learn not to make worldly choices. Jesus calls us to “come out of Babylon”. We can live in such a way that we do not share in her sins – living as strangers and aliens!

Revelation 17-18

Revelation 19

This sermon started by playing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The link to the youtube clip is here. Spine tinglingly good. The Hallelujah chorus was taken from Revelation 19.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76RrdwElnTU
With the end in sight – and along with the great multitude of the faithful – how do we respond? In the face of all that is hard and testing in this world, as we struggle to remain faithful even though sometimes it is just so hard even to keep our heads above water – or if we are those who face such persecution that we would rather be dead – and that is very real even today – what is our response to the destruction – to the judgement and wrath of God?
We are often uncomfortable with the whole notion of God the angry, wrathful, judging, righteous God – and we often relegate ‘that’ God to the OT. Our God is a God of love and peace and forgiveness. And we say – it isn’t fair – for God to judge people. But – here’s the thing. How should we respond when any war is brought to an end, when the enemy is defeated, when the battle and the danger is gone and finished and can never return? How do we respond when it happens here on planet earth?
We look at our world and we see peace and goodness and love and light and wonder and hope and joy and good things – and we find it so hard to see the great battle that is raging against God – yet that is our world – our world is at war with Jesus. And the best and most natural response to the end of war is rejoicing – and declaring God to be the righteous and just Lord over all. At the end of WWII the allied forces did not celebrate the deaths of 25-30 million people. They didn’t celebrate the dropping of a single atomic bomb that destroyed a city for generations – and then a second one. And the same for us in heaven – we should celebrate with heaven the end of evil and the forces of evil – we celebrate victory over death. The war that raged for all human history – the war that started with Adam and Eve, the war that necessitated the death of God’s one and only Son, the war that kept us out of God’s Kingdom – God through Jesus on the cross has defeated the enemy – his righteousness has been seen and will be seen by all and we share in Christ’s victory. That victory song turns very quickly into a song of rejoicing – not that evil is defeated but that now at long last Christ reigns and will be recognised by all as the rightful king – we rejoice with heaven that at long last the kingdom of God is here – and that song will last for all eternity.

Revelation 19

Revelation 20

Revelation 20 may be the most hotly disputed chapter of the Bible amongst Christians – and I would have to say in my opinion that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Unfortunately, like many passages in the Bible, it has been used and misused by people who have a particular agenda. For example, Revelation 19-20 have been used…

  • … as the backbone to the crusades
  • … by the Holy Roman Empire in creating “the new heaven and the new earth”
  • … by radical Anabaptists in the 16thC to force Christians to be rebaptised and become members of the new Jerusalem – which conveniently coincided with the city of Munster
  • … John Darby who championed “Dispensational Millennialism”.

And today we have a series of views, which claim to be true to Scripture – most which developed in the past 100 years. A-millennialism, post-millennialism, pre-millennialism, dispensational millennialism, mid-millennialism, pan-millennialism – they all centre on the idea of the 1000 years.

In one sense the view you hold of the Millennium doesn’t matter much – because what God has planned he’s going to do regardless of the view we hold. And if we hold different views that’s OK too. I think Revelation is clear – but we are trying to understand a type of Scripture that intentionally obscures the message. There is a very real sense in which we are not meant to understand the end and the judgement day – it’s beyond our comprehension except in the most basic of ways. John in his visions and prophecies gives us glimpses of heaven and the end. Jesus says even he has limited knowledge of the last things…

Mark 13:32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert!”

Whatever else we come to understand from Revelation 20 or elsewhere in the Bible there is one thing that Jesus makes abundantly clear. No matter what… we cannot and should not seek to define a timetable of events that would lead us to think we know when Jesus will come again. The only one who knows when and how Jesus will return – that is, the exact sequence of events, the timing, the signs of the last day – is God the Father. It is his plan, in his time according to his will and by his power.

So – how are we to understand Revelation 20?

Revelation 20

Revelation 21-22

So How Does The Vision End?

With the unveiling of God’s kingdom!

All the way through Revelation the ‘kingdom coming’ has been in view – the great hope of the persecuted, of all who die in Christ. When Christians die we immediately sprint to the side and the presence of Jesus and receive our reward. The judgment and the kingdom will be preceded by the wholesale destruction of all we hold dear and all we hate – it will all go.

Revelation 21:1-4 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In Revelation 21-22 we are treated to the imagery of heaven – the end of persecution, the punishment of evil, the heavenly temple, the great city with is over-the-top adornments, the beautiful bride – we are invited in heaven, in the royal presence at the commend of God himself that we might see and thirst for that everlasting water.

If the book of Revelation does anything it should leave us longing for Jesus – for justice to come to the earth, for the enemies of God to be banished – longing for the fulfilment of God’s plans. It should leave us longing and desiring to be Godly while we wait.

Maybe the words of Isaiah sum up Revelation for us – and especially our response…

Isaiah 55:1-2 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”

Revelation 21-22

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