Revelation 001 – It’s All About JesusRevelation 1:1 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 20, 2018 • Revelation
It’s All About Jesus
5-20-18 Revelation 1:1 Lesson 1
Revelation 1:1, leaving (finally) The Book of Daniel and going to the next logical place to go, which is the Book of Revelation. Daniel and Revelation go together, did you all know that? Daniel being sort of the basement and Revelation being the ceiling. The title of our message this morning is It’s All About Jesus. And of course as was mentioned our hearts go out to the victims in the latest shooting, our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families in this time of loss and as has been mentioned already it was a great time last night to see our five graduates be honored and recognized and move their way out of high school and into college. So please keep them and their families in prayer during this transition time.
And I have to be honest with you, I have probably shrunk more churches than I can think of by teaching Bible studies on the Book of Revelation. A lot of people just will not… they don’t want to hear this book and they don’t want to hear it taught in detail. And it was very heartening to me last week to discover the congregation was applauding (literally) my decision to move into the Book of Revelation. So thank you for that. [people clapping]
For those of you that know me fairly well one of the things I like to do before we launch into a book is I like to give you some background of the book. And one of the things I’d like to do today to sort of familiarize us, orient us if you will, to the Book of Revelation is I’d like to ask and answer ten questions about this book. And some of you are wondering what to do with the Daniel quiz or test that I gave you last time. You’re supposed to take that text and tuck it into your Bible and we’re going to be going over the answers the next opportunity in Sunday School. And if you didn’t get the test, I’m not sure if we have any left on the name tag table on your way out, you can just e-mail the church and we can get that over to you. But it’s just sort of a test, I think it’s a fairly easy test (but the teacher always thinks that, right?} just to sort of orient you to the Book of Daniel. So we’ll give that a shot and we’ll go over that in Sunday School.
But today we are moving into the Book of Revelation and an introduction to the Book of Revelation as we ask and answer ten questions about this book. And that’s why I had you open up to the Book of Revelation chapter 1 and verse 1. And I think these are the same questions that you could ask and answer when you study any book of the Bible. Before you launch into a book you should probably get the background under your belt because it will help you appreciate what the book is about. And so that’s what we are doing this morning with The Book of Revelation.
Number 1, question number 1, what is the book’s title? And notice, if you will, Revelation 1:1, you learn a lot about a book just by its title. The title comes from the first verse; it says, ““The Revelation” which is the Greek word [apokalopsis] “of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.”
You’ll notice that the name of the book gets this word from the opening word or noun of that book, the apokalopsis translated revelation, which means unveiling. That’s what that word means, something is hidden but now it’s disclosed. And the reason that is so significant is because in church history, and even today, the Book of Revelation has taken a bit of a beating by people who claim that the book cannot be understood. Well if it can’t be understood then why is the opening word of the book the unveiling? That wouldn’t make any sense, would it. God has reached down and disclosed to us something in this book that we could know no other way. “It must be stressed that Revelation means “unveiling,” not “veiling.”
At the very least, it would be confusing to John’s first century readers, as well as to later generations, for him to write so much about Babylon when he really meant Rome (Paul was not afraid to speak directly against Rome in his writings, so why should John be?) or ‘the false church’ (all the apostles , including John, wrote plainly and scathingly about false teachers and false doctrines in the church and would not hide their teachings by symbols). It must be stressed that Revelation means “unveiling,” not “veiling.” In the absence of any statement in the text to the contrary, therefore, we must assume that the term Babylon applies to the real city of Babylon…” The Revelation Record, 323 Revelation 1:1.
God did not give us a book, particularly the final book of the New Testament, to confuse us. You say well, wait a minute pastor, aren’t there a lot of symbols in this book? And that is true, many, many symbols. However, as we proceed through the book I’ll be showing you how each of these symbols is referring to something concrete. The fancy name for that is each symbol has a reference and so as we learn the rules of interpretation we will learn to identify what the symbols are and as you’ll discover, by learning a few rules you can know what every single symbol in the book represents. And yet this is not how the book has been treated over the last 2,000 years of church history. Many people believe that the Book of Revelation was not meant for man to understand.
John Calvin, the great church Reformer wrote a commentary on virtually every single New Testament book and most of the Old Testament books but guess which book he did not write a commentary one? The Book of Revelation, claiming that The Book of Revelation could not be understood. Even by one of the greats of the past, the great Martin Luther, wanted nothing to do with the Book of Revelation. This is what he says in his preface to the New Testament.
He says, “I miss more than one thing in this book,” the Book of Revelation, “and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…I think of it almost as I do of the Fourth Book of Esdras,” which is a non-canonical non-inspired book, “and can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it…It is just the same as if we did not have it, and there are many far better books for us to keep. Finally, let everyone think of it [Revelation] as his own spirit gives him to. My spirit cannot fit itself into this book. There is one sufficient reason for me not to think highly of it — Christ is not taught or known in it;” now I’m not sure if he’s reading the same book I’m reading when he said that, “but to teach Christ is the thing which an apostle is bound, above all else, to do, as He says in Acts 1, ‘Ye shall be my witnesses into Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the uttermost parts of the earth.’ Therefore I stick to the books which give me Christ, clearly and purely.” [Preface to the New Testament, 1522.] End of quote. He made that statement in 1545, actually in the preface to Luther’s commentary or translated edition of the New Testament.
So here’s one of the greats of the past, Martin Luther, someone that we respect, someone that made great contributions to the historic Christian faith, that really did not want anything to do with the Book of Revelation on the grounds that it couldn’t be understood and Jesus Christ is nowhere portrayed in the book. This is what I’m talking about regarding the hits that this book has suffered in church history.
Now you’ll notice in the opening title that it’s not just The Apokalopsis or The Revelation, but it’s “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” That’s why it’s sort of astounding to me that he could say he can’t find Christ in the book; Christ is the point of the book! Now your study Bible, if you use a study Bible, it says at the top there, “The Revelation of John” or some call it “The Revelation to John” and many people think based on the study Bible notes at the top that the book is entitled “The Revelation of John.” Now do we all know that the Holy Spirit didn’t put this here in my study Bible? Man put that there. The book is not the revelation of John, John is just the mediator. The book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” It’s all about Jesus, this book. That’s why I’ve entitled this message “It’s All About Jesus.”
And since that is the point of the book one of the things that I would caution you against as we move into the book is not to lose Jesus in the book. That’s a very easy thing to do because this book brings up some fascinating things, many of which I believe are happening or being set up right before our very eyes: the mark of the beast, the one-world religious system, the antichrist, and you see John never wrote a book about those things. He wrote a book about Jesus. The mark of the beast, the antichrist, the one world religious system needs to be understood in relation to Jesus and His ultimate sovereignty over those things. So we will be looking at many, many fascinating details in this book but the most fascinating of all, the spotlight should be focused on none other than Jesus Christ.
I have pastor friends that say well, I just don’t like Bible prophecy. The problem with that is Revelation 19:10, which says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” So when someone says to me well I don’t like prophecy I usually say well you mean you don’t like Jesus? They say what do you mean by that? Well, if you read Revelation 19:10 prophecy, like every other part of the Bible, points to Jesus Christ. Any attack on The Book of Revelation is none other than attack on the full disclosure and the revelation of Christ.
What is this book about? It’s Christ’s final phase of redemption. It is the execution of His entrance into human history, and by the way, did you all know that the battle is already won? Revelation 5:9 says, of Jesus, “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” [Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Jesus has already entered history and won the final victory through His crucifixion and His resurrection from the dead, and because He has already secured that victory the victory has already been won. The Book of Revelation is just the final phase of that victory. The work has already been accomplished. There’s no question where this thing is going; we don’t have to sit on the edge of our seats with sweaty palms wondering is God really going to pull this thing off. It’s a done deal, it just hasn’t occurred yet factually from our point of reference.
And by the way if you, today, are related to Jesus Christ by way of faith, you’re on the winning side of history; did you know that? Jesus, in John 16:33 says, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” He’s already won, the victory is already secure, you are connected to Him by way of faith so you are a winner. You may not feel like a winner, you may not even look like a winner, but you’re on the winning side because of the work that Christ has already accomplished. The Book of Revelation is just sort of the icing on the cake (if you will).
Now one thing I’ll call your attention to is Revelation 1:1, the noun “Revelation” or apokalypsis is a singular noun. Many people call the Book of Revelation the Book of Revelations, many pastors and preachers and teachers will call the Book of Revelation The Book of Revelations. And may I just say to you that it is not a multi vision book; it’s a singular vision that John received on a particular day all in one sitting. This is not Revelations, plural, this is a singular revelation. It just happens to span 22 chapters.
It’s very different than the Book of Daniel that we just finished studying. The Book of Daniel records all of Daniel’s life, beginning at age 16 (roughly) all the way into his 80’s and 90’s where God showed him at different occasions of his life, spanning a great length of time, snippets or different visions. That is not what is happening in the Book of Revelation; it is a singular vision.
So that’s a little bit about the title of the book. Now let’s move to number 2, who wrote this book? Well the answer to that is pretty easy, God wrote the book. Well, that’s true, but did He not use a human author? And the answer is He did use a human author; you’ll see his name at the very end of Revelation 1:1, it says, “He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” In fact, John’s name is mentioned in this book three times in chapter 1 and then twice in the final two chapters of the book. John is the human author; John is the human instrument that Christ used to record this vision.
It’s the same John that we read about in the Gospels, the same John that leaned against the chest of Christ in the Upper Room. It’s the same John, it’s just this time around sixty years have passed. John is no longer a young man with his whole life in front of him, at the age of 30 roughly. He is now in his 90’s, sixty years have passed and most of his life, if not all of his life except for a few short snippets is behind him.
John makes an incredible contribution to your Bible. Did you know that the Apostle John was used strategically by God late in his life to write five books? Number 1, the Gospel of John. Number 2, the three epistles of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. And then finally, one more thing God wanted to use this man for prior to his death and that’s The Book of Revelation. It is very interesting to observe that John had his most fruitful ministry, at least in terms of writing, at the very end of his life. And I say that because many people, as they get older they think God is finished with them. It could be that your most fruitful days of ministry are just in front of you, not behind you. And that was the case for John.
This takes us to a third question, where was John when he recorded this book? Where is the place of writing? And if you go down to Revelation 1:9 he tells us exactly where he was geographically. He says “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos” well where is that? It’s a little tiny island off the coast of Asia Minor. In fact, the island is so small it doesn’t even show up on most maps. It’s in the Aegean Sea, 60 miles southwest of Ephesus; it’s an area that abounded in volcanic rock and you might ask yourself well what was John doing out there? The answer is John was a trouble-maker; he was a troublemaker for the Emperor Domitian. Why was John a troublemaker? Because John kept talking about something that Rome, particularly the Roman Emperor Domitian didn’t want anything to do with and didn’t want it promoted and propagated, and that’s a coming kingdom.
You see, John was what we today call a premillennialist. He taught the imminent return of Jesus Christ who would establish His kingdom on the earth. Rome didn’t like that very much because Rome thought they were the kingdom. And John was saying things that no, the kingdoms of man will be overthrown cataclysmically and be replaced with the eternal kingdom of God. And this message of John was so profound, it was so much a part of his preaching that Domitian didn’t know what to do with him so Domitian actually tried to boil John to death. So when we say John got himself in hot water we’re speaking literally there. In fact, we have this very interesting citation from Eusebius and it talks about how Domitian frequently exiled people on islands that he didn’t know what to do with.
Eusebius in his Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, [3.18.4] talks about Domitian, a poor individual named Domitilla, and this individual was banished on the island of Pontia. Why? Because of her testimony to Jesus Christ. [“…and they even indicated the time accurately, relating that in the fifteenth year of Domitian, Flavia Domitilla, who was the niece of Flavius Clemens, one of the many consuls at Rome at that time, was banished with many others to the island of Pontia as testimony to Christ.” Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, 3.18.4]
So the fact that Domitian would do the exact same thing to John, except he put him on a different island, the island of Patmos, fits exactly with everything we know related to the Domitian Empire at the end of the first century. [Revelation 1:9, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”] And Tertullian tells us that Domitian tried to boil John to death. He says, “…where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile!” [Tertullian Prescription Against Heretics, 36]
It’s very interesting that they tried to kill John if this tradition is true and the guy wouldn’t die. And so Domitian really didn’t know… what do you do with a guy that doesn’t die? Well, you just throw them off on an island somewhere and that’s the end of him, right? And this is a very encouraging thing to us because I believe that the following statement is true. We are indestructible until we have finished the work to which God has called us. Amen! I mean, there is virtually nothing that can stop or snuff out your life until it’s your time and as long as you are alive, as long as your respiratory system and cardiovascular system is functioning, as long as there’s life in your body God, as a child of God, God has some sort of job or task for you to fulfill.
So John kept talking about a coming kingdom; in fact, in Revelation 5:10 he writes this: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” See how dominant this coming kingdom was in John’s ministry. And Domitian first tried to kill John and then after he wouldn’t die he simply exiled him, like he did many, many other people, this time on the island of Patmos.
This takes us to a fourth question, who is the audience of this book? I mean, when John penned this book who exactly is he writing to. And if you go down to Revelation 1:11 you’ll have an answer to that question; “saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’” Who is John writing to? He’s writing from Patmos to the seven tiny struggling churches of Asia Minor.
What you have to understand about John is at this stage in his life he is almost like, I would say a rock star within the evangelical Christian world because he’s the last living eyewitness to Jesus. I mean, he’s probably the last one alive. And he consequently was functioning as bishop, not over these churches but over many, many other churches in Asia Minor, that are found in the Bible. They looked to John for guidance. They looked to John for doctrine. They looked to John for truth. The New Testament hadn’t even been fully completed yet and yet Jesus Christ had one final vision, one final word, one final statement to His church (or churches) and thus in the providence of God John was marooned on the Island of Patmos to receive this final vision. The final word, or words, of Jesus Christ to His church and/or churches.
And because this is written to the churches, that’s very important to understand; the Book of Revelation is not written to unbelievers. Did you know that? If you want to find the part of John’s writings that address unbelievers you would go to the Gospel of John because John, at the end of that book says here’s why I compiled all of the signs that point to the deity of Christ, that you might believe and have life. [John 20:31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”] So obviously John is writing to people that hadn’t believed yet and didn’t have life yet, spiritual life.
John is an evangelistic book, not so much the Book of Revelation; it’s more of an edification book. It’s a book designed for the believer. Now certainly an unbeliever could read this and for lack of a better phrase, “get the hell scared out of them and get saved.” Certainly that could happen and if it does happen, and I know people to whom it does happen but that really is not the major point of the book. This is not an evangelistic book, this is an edification book that’s written to the churches.
John gives us a hint of his audience; notice Revelation 1:9. He says, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, [was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.]” See how John is claiming solidarity with his audience? He calls him their “brother,” their “fellow partaker” in the kingdom and in Jesus. In other words, was John a believer? Well of course he was. John, by claiming solidarity, by claiming alignment with his audience is revealing to us, right here at the beginning of the book, that this book is addressed to the Christian. So who was it written to? It was written to the struggling seven churches of Asia Minor.
When was it written? Well, the book was written at the very close of the first century. A very safe date for this would be A.D. 95. You say well how do you know that? I know that because of the testimony or Irenaeus, in his book, Against Heresies. “But if it had been necessary to announce his name plainly at the present time, it would have been spoken by him who saw the apocalypse.” What is that? That’s the Book of Revelation, the book we’re studying. “For it” modifies which noun in the prior sentence? Apocalypse. For it was not seen long ago, but almost in our own time, at the end of the reign of Domitian.” Domitian left the throne about A.D. 96 and so a very safe date for the book, based on what Irenaeus says here is A.D. 95.
And let me explain something to you; virtually every church father embraced this position from the first century through the writings of Irenaeus all the way to the fifth century. The earliest Church Fathers believed in an A.D. 95 date for the book, at the close of the first century. The reason I bring this up is there are many, many people today are trying to argue that the book was not written in the 90’s under the Emperor Domitian, the Empire of Domitian, that it was written in the 60’s under Nero. And why in the world are they saying this? Because they’re trying to argue that the Book of Revelation already happened in A.D. 70. That’s a viewpoint called preterism which says the book was written in the 60’s and its contents were fulfilled when Rome sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70 so the antichrist is really Nero of the past; Babylon is really Jerusalem that was destroyed. And big, big names teach this. The late R. C. Sproul was an advocate of this position, and many, many others.
And you see, the whole preterist mindset dissolves when you understand that the Book of Revelation can’t be a prophecy about A.D. 70 because it was written a quarter of a century after A.D. 70. See that? That’s why there’s been a battle that’s taken place recently concerning the date.
It’s interesting that in Revelation 2:4 Jesus tells the church at Ephesus that they have left their first love. He tells them that they have been invaded by the doctrine of the Nicolaitans [Revelation 2:4, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:6, “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”] And the problem is when you read the other book written to the church at Ephesus, the Book of Ephesians, there’s no reference to them leaving their first love, there’s no reference to the Nicolaitans, so what happened? Thirty-five years had elapsed between Ephesians and Revelation and the church at Ephesus, a great church, had become apostate.
Revelation 3:17 of Laodicea says Laodicea has become prosperous. [Revelation 3:17, “’Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,”] That doesn’t fit an A.D. 60’s date because the archeological records tell us that Laodicea was destroyed in an earthquake and it took several decades for that city, which included the church, to recover from that earthquake. So the city of Laodicean prosperity doesn’t fit A.D. 60, it fits A.D. 95 because it would take a few decades to recover from an earthquake. It would take a few decades, three and a half roughly, for the church at Ephesus to leave its first love and begin to entertain the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
You say well what’s your point pastor? Here’s my point: when you look at all of the details of this and A.D. 95 date fits much better than a Neronian A.D. 60’s date. When was this book written? It was written at the end of the first century.
Sixth question; number six, how is this book organized? How would you outline this book? How would you wrap your arms around it? You always, when you study any book of the Bible want to look for a structural clue. And many times that structural clue is provided at the beginning of a book if you pay attention. Jesus said this to His disciples, in Acts 1: “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and even to the remote parts of the earth.” [Acts 1:8, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”] What He just did there is He gave the outline for the Book of Acts. You’ll be My witnesses in Jerusalem, that’s chapters 1-7 of the Book of Acts. You shall be My witnesses in Judea and Samaria. That’s chapters 8-12 of the Book of Acts. And you shall be My witnesses even to the remote parts of the earth. That’s chapters 13-28 of the Book of Acts. Isn’t it interesting how the Book of Acts provides an outline at the beginning.
We have the same exact thing happening in the Book of Revelation, chapter 1 and verse 19. Notice what it says there, “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” What you have there is an outline of the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation has within it a three part outline. Number 1, “write the things which you have seen.” That’s Revelation chapter 1. That is the vision of the glorified Christ that John saw on the Island of Patmos in A.D. 95. You know, Jesus showed up on John’s doorstep there in Patmos and gave him a vision of Himself. In fact, it wasn’t really like the vision he remembered of Jesus when he used to walk with Him and leaned against His chest in the Upper Room and His incarnation. This was Jesus Christ in His glorified state. And let me tell you something, a glimpse of that shook John to the core of his being and he fell down as if he was dead. And he records that vision for us in chapter 1, “the things which you have seen.”
Number 2, what does he say, “write down the things that are.” The “things that are” is Revelation 2 and 3, Christ’s words to the seven churches of Asia Minor. And then John is told, “write down the things that will take place after these things.” The Greek there is meta tauta, after these things and “after these things” is Revelation 4-22, the futuristic section of the book. The section of the book that is futuristic even from our time period.
Now you say well how do you know Revelation 4 begins that third section. Notice Revelation 4:1, tell me if this rings a bell, “After these things” meta tauta and then it says “I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place” what’s the last phrase there, “after these things.”’ “After these things” is used two times there in Revelation 4:1; that’s our clue that John is getting ready to write the third major section of the book.
The book has three parts to it: “write down the things that you have seen,” chapter 1; “write down the things that are,” chapters 2 and 3; write down the things that will take place after these things” the part of the book that is still future from our time period in the twenty-first century, and that’s chapters 4-22. Now as we progress through the book and get to that third section I’ll give you some more structural clues on how to further break that down. But for the time being just understand that this book has a very nice three part outline, a very nice three part structure to it.
This takes us to a seventh question, how was this book delivered to John on Patmos? What was the method of communication. Now has anybody played the telephone game? Nobody’s played the telephone game. We’ve got a few people out there. You guys know how the telephone game works; one person starts the beginning of a chain and gives a message, whispers in the ear of the next person, the next person, the next person, and it gets passed on and finally they say to the person at the end, what did you hear at the end and it’s a big laugh because the final messages was very different than the original message. Or the final message somehow got garbled.
So the question arises, how do we know that John, when he received these things in the first century did not get a garbled message? And the answer is the Holy Spirit is very careful to reveal a seven-fold communication process. That process is found in chapter 1, verse 11 and chapter 2 verse 1. Notice what it says: “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show His bondservants the things which must soon take place, and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,” that’s verse 1. Jumping down to verse 11, saying, “saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches:” and then it mentions the seven churches, [to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’”] And then when you go over to Revelation 2:1 it says, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus [write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:”]
So according to verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1 the vision started with God the Father and was handed off to God the Son and then to an angel and then to John. John received it on Patmos at the end of the first century, in exile, and he is told to write it down in a book. The book ultimately would be sent where? To the seven churches. And that’s why it keeps saying over and over again in this book, as we study it, John says, “I saw” and “I heard.” Now when you watch Mysteries of the Bible and the History Channel some guy from Harvard or somewhere like that, with a PhD after his name, will come on there and try to convince you that John did not write this book because the handwriting style is very different than his Gospel or his epistles.
Let me ask you a question. Put yourself in poor John’s shoes; the Lord shows up on your doorstep, scares the living daylights out of you, He shows you a vision and He says write it down and this took place within one day, one sitting. Wouldn’t your handwriting get a little jumpy? I mean, when John wrote the Gospel of John he had time to calmly, coolly, deliberately think about his sentence structure and his words. Not so here! And that explains the difference in handwriting style. And a lot of these answers are so easy to respond to when you just look at the basic circumstances of these books.
The term “write” is found about twelve times in the book and John over and over again is saying I saw and I heard. And he’s not given a lot of time to give explanation on it. And I think John is seeing things into the twenty-first century and how would you explain things in the twenty-first century? I mean, what if you took Benjamin Franklin and you resurrected him from the dead and you have him a trip through Hobby Airport and he sees someone on the internet or on their cell phone, or he sees a giant aircraft leave or come back or he hears something on the loud speaker. How would he explain that; he doesn’t have the vocabulary, so he keeps saying “it was like,” “it was as,” and you see that’s what John is doing in this book. He is seeing things that he really doesn’t have a vocabulary for in the first century since these are probably twenty-first century material or even beyond. And he’s doing his best with the circumstances that he was put in.
But there is a chain of communication that’s disclosed to us in the opening chapter, from the Father to the Son to an angel to John, to a book. Now Revelation 2:1 says to an angel again. [Revelation 2:1, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write….”] And while I think the first angel in the chain is literal I think the second angel is a preacher or a pastor over each pastor over each of the seven churches of Asia Minor because the word angelos, the word translated “angel” can be used of a messenger; angelos is used to describe John the Baptist in Matthew 11:10. [Matthew 11:10, “This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’”]
So through a pastor or a preacher and ultimately to the listener or the hearer of this vision; from the Father to the Son to an angel, to John, to a book, to a reader and/or preacher and finally to a listener who hears this message and is edified by it. And so we see in the book a very airtight method of communication.
This takes us to number eight, what is this book about exactly? Here is what I think is the message of the book. Christ’s ultimate victory over evil provides comfort to Christians of all ages as well as a stimulus for holy living because when God fulfills His covenants with Israel…” oh oh, I’ve got that underlined, it must be important, “ He will gain victory over evil as well as punish it.” What he’s saying is you, as a member of the church, are on the winning side of history even though we live in a world where evil abounds, because the ultimate eviction of Satan from this world and the ultimate establishment of the kingdom of God on earth is something that is so certain that from God’s point of view it’s a done deal. And by the way, when God does this He is going to wrap up unfinished business with the nation of Israel. The doctrine of replacement theology, where God is through with the Jew, God has snipped the cord of national Israel, I don’t know how to say this more nicely, it’s heretical. It’s heresy to say that, it’s heresy to teach that, it’s ill-informed biblical reading to communicate that and yet this is the majority position within Christendom since Augustine, all the way back in the fourth century.
The fact of the matter is God made a covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It’s called the Abrahamic Covenant, you’ll read all about it in Genesis 15. And that covenant has two adjectives to describe it that you need to understand. Number one, unconditional and I’ve developed this in other teaching so I won’t go back into this but that covenant is something that rests completely and totally and solely on the shoulders of God for its performance. It doesn’t even depend upon the Jewish people for its ultimate performance. So obviously this covenant does not depend upon man, it depends upon who? God. And the best we can tell in the 21st century, although God has made good, perhaps on some of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant that covenant today in the year 2018 remains unfulfilled.
So what does this mean? If God gives an unconditional covenant that today is unfulfilled at some point what does it mean? It means God can’t lie, God has to put His hand back on the nation of Israel and they become the instrument through which His kingdom ultimately will arrive on the earth and that’s why the prophet Jeremiah says, “Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,’ declares the LORD.” [Jeremiah 31:37]
“Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name:”  “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.” [Jeremiah 31:35]
Here’s how you get rid of the Jewish people; you get rid of the sun and the moon and the stars, because God has covenantally obligated Himself to say, through the Abrahamic Covenant, as long as the fixed order exists Israel will always be a nation before Me. Even when they were outside of their land God preserved them and God is not finished with the nation of Israel. And the Book of Revelation is a record of how God is going to vanquish evil through His instrument that He will bring to faith in the tribulation period called the nation of Israel. And that’s why when you get to the futuristic section of the book the whole book sounds so Jewish. Have you noticed that? I mean, there’s not even a Southern Baptist mentioned in this section. [Laughter]
Revelation 7, 144,000 Jews; Revelation 11, two Jewish witnesses, Revelation 12, the dragon pursuing the woman who I’ll be showing you is the nation of Israel. Revelation 20:9, the headquarters of the millennial kingdom will be the city of Jerusalem. And then gates of the eternal city are going to be named after the twelve tribes. That’s why in my message statement I underlined when God fulfills His covenants with the nation of Israel evil will be vanquished.
The Book of Revelation reveals two destinies; you have the heavenly destiny of the church that is caught up into heaven, Revelation 4, that’s us. And then you have the earthly destiny of the nation of Israel, the instrument that God is going to use, Revelation 4-22, as well. Two stories being told. And the Bible reveals these two stories but how would you ever know how these two stories are going to end? The Book of Revelation tells you; it ties together themes which would have no resolution if you didn’t have this final canonical book. Two destinies running, two trains running through Grand Central Station and yet Grand Central Station is the Book of Revelation that tells you how it’s all going to play out.
Why was this book written? I mean, what is its purpose? Yes, it reveals great truths about the nation of Israel but what was the purpose to the original audience? When you’re reading all of this stuff what are you supposed to get out of it exactly? The purpose of the book is to comfort the oppressed churches of Asia Minor and stimulate them to practical holiness through a future reminder of God’s conquest and punishment of evil. Let me tell you something about these seven churches; these folks are struggling. Their struggles are very carefully documented for us in Revelation 2 and 3.
And when you’re a struggling Christian or a struggling church you’re always wondering am I on the right side. You might be saying to yourself I’m the only one in my whole family that’s saved. I’m the only one in my whole work place that saved, every time I try to voice things about Jesus people just argue with me or they shout me down and you start to wonder, am I on the right side? And anybody that’s struggled wrestles with that. And the Book of Revelation comes along and says you’re on the winning side, you’ve already won, it’s just a matter of time before the final plan in the divine blueprint moves into execution.
And so you read the Book of Revelation and you ought to be encouraged about it but here’s something else it does. It reveals the hatred of God for sin. Sin is of such a magnitude, it’s such a consequence that God has a blueprint in mind where sin will be judged. The Book of Revelation reveals that and it also shows us of a new world that’s coming, a world untainted by sin. And you read all that and you say yeah, God really must hate sin. And if God really hates sin you say to yourself well you know what, number one, I need to get saved because I’m a sinner by nature. And number two, if you’re walking with God and there’s compromise in your life because as a Christian we still have the ability to go back to the old nature and sin. Is that true with anybody here? Well, you guys just sinned right then and there, [laughter] it’s called the sin of lying. [laughter] And so over and over again in the Christian we’re tempted to go back to the old nature and sin. We have the resources in Christ to say no to the sin nature but the temptation is always there this side of eternity.
And so why not just go back, after all, the pastor said “once saved always saved,” what does it matter? Because God hates sin, that’s why. Sin is so profound that we think we can negotiate with it, we think we can control it but we can’t. That’s why God said to Cain, “sin is crouching at your door…but you must master it.” [Genesis 4:7, “…And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”]
In other words, if you don’t get it under control through the divine resources it’s going to very quickly get you under control and as we go through this book and we see God’s hatred for sin and judgment for sin and the fact that His Son came into the world two thousand years ago to eradicate the barrier that we have between God because of sin, we say to ourselves God must hate sin! And if God hates sin that much maybe I shouldn’t compromise in this area or compromise in that area. And so there is a natural stimulation to daily holiness when you read the Book of Revelation. There is a natural stimulation do encouragement when you read the Book of Revelation. This is how any generation in the last two thousand years could be blessed and edified by the Book of Revelation even though the events primarily take place on the earth after the church has been removed.
People say why are we studying the Book of Revelation, I’m not planning on being around for all that stuff. Well you study the Book of Revelation because God gave it to you to study, number one, it’s written to the seven churches. And number two, it has an impact on your daily life through encouragement and through practical holiness.
And this takes us to the tenth and final question, what makes the Book of Revelation different? What is unique about this book? What do you discover in the Book of Revelation that you couldn’t discover reaping the remaining sixty-five books of the Bible? And here are some, what I would call unique characteristics:
Number one, it is the only book that promises a blessing, not just to the hearer but to the heeder. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” The book opens that way, the book closes that way. Jesus says, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” [Revelation 22:7]
Now is there anybody in here that does not want to be blessed; can you put your hand up please. We all want to be blessed by God, don’t we. How do you get blessed by God? You read and you heed. You remove the Book of Revelation from the diet of the Christian and you remove a blessing that this book naturally wants to introduce. Revelation 22:18-19 talks about a curse to the subtracters. It says, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;  and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
You say well what does that mean? I don’t know if I know, I hope I get it figured out by the time I get to Revelation 22 so I can teach on it properly. I know this much though, God doesn’t like it when people neglect this book. God doesn’t like it when people minimize this book. God doesn’t like it when people tamper with this book. And what do you do with a generation of church growth preachers that won’t touch the book in forms of exposition because they’re afraid of driving away unsaved, unchurched people? What do you do with that? It’s a neglect, it puts you under not the blessing side of it but the cursing side of it.
The book is unique because it contains a ton of Old Testament material, 404 verses in the book, 278 are references to the Old Testament. You might be startled to discover this, as I was, that there’s no Old Testament quotes in the Book of Revelation but there are plenty of illusions or references back to the Old Testament.
The book is unique because of its recurring numbers. The number four, seven, twelve, those numbers, for whatever reason, keep showing up over and over and over again. The book is unique because it’s a record of God’s vindication. It shows you that God, at the end of history wins! And if you’re connected to Him by faith you’re a winner already. It shows you in its uniqueness not just Jesus Christ as the Lamb but Jesus Christ as the what? The Lion. We all love the pictures of Jesus, you know, He had no place to lay His head, His suffering, the fact that He couldn’t even get into an inn as an infant with his parents, the suffering Messiah! We have that picture blazed in our minds.
But what about the other side of Jesus, not the lamb but the lion? What about the Jesus that’s coming back with a sharp sword out of His mouth striking the nations down? What about that side of Jesus? What about the Jesus that’s coming back to a world that’s in rebellion against Him, that fights against Him and there’s such a blood bath that the blood rises to the horse’s bridles for two hundred miles? What about that Jesus? You don’t get that picture of Jesus by reading John’s Gospel; you get that picture of Jesus by reading John’s Apocalypse and how important it is to have a full understanding of who this Jesus Christ is, not just the lamb but the lion.
The book is unique because it talks about worship. We have today in evangelical Christianity the worship wars. I don’t even think we know what we’re talking about half the time. We don’t even know what worship is. What is it? It’s a response to truth, that’s what worship is. Truth is coming forth in divine righteousness in the Book of Revelation and heaven itself can’t control themselves, they just have to worship and praise God for who He is. You want to understand worship? Read the Book of Revelation. The book is unique because of its many symbols, visions and imagery. But as I’ll be showing you, there’s easy rules to follow to figure out what those symbols mean, where they are what the mean.
The book is also unique, and this is new to me relatively, I didn’t understand this until fairly recently, the book is unique in terms of its chronological organization. What do you have in the rest of the Bible concerning prophecies? You’ve got scattered pieces, that’s what you have. But nothing really comes along and takes all of those scattered pieces and puts them into a chronological framework. The Book of Revelation does just that. It’s sort of like assembling pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; the scattered pieces and how would you know how to piece it together? Well, you have the box top, right? With a picture on it telling you what the assembled picture is going to look like once you get it put together.
What is the jigsaw puzzle? It’s the Bible, in terms of prophecy. What is the Book of Revelation? It’s the box top, it’s the picture, it’s the portrait of how all of these scattered pieces fit together and comprise a beautiful Mosaic. You can’t have that portrait or picture if you cut yourself off from the Book of Revelation. The only thing you’re left with concerning the future is scattered, fragmented data. And I would say this, I don’t think the Book of Revelation tells you a single thing that’s new in terms of prophecy. Everything that it reveals has already been revealed. But I’ll tell you what the Book of Revelation will do is it will come along and take all that scattered stuff and put it in order for you.
And finally, the book is very interconnected with other biblical material. It’s very connected, for example, with Genesis 1-3 how sin entered this universe. Revelation talks about how sin will exit our world. It’s very connected with the prophecy of the Seventy weeks. You say aha, that’s why the pastor took so long teaching that, because that’s the foundation, that’s the structure, that’s the seven year tribulation period as revealed by the prophet Daniel; the Book of Revelation comes along and paints on a canvas already erected by Daniel in the prophecy of the Seventy weeks. You see, Daniel is like watching the movie in black and white; Revelation is the same movie, you’re just watching it in color.
Daniel is the basement, the Book of Revelation is the ceiling, and the Book of Revelation even reveals more than Daniel did, things about the church age that we’re in now, and great information about what follows the tribulation period, the kingdom, the Great White Throne Judgment, the eternal state. You see how connected this book is to what God has already revealed? And to be completely frank with you, that’s why this book is a mystery to so many; they start with the Book of Revelation, not understanding that the Book of Revelation is just summing up everything else in the Old Testament. The book is a mystery to us because we don’t really know much about the Old Testament, do we?
The Book of Revelation is an answer to the prayer request that we’re told to pray by the Lord, “Thy kingdom come.” Aren’t we told to pray that in the so-called Lord’s Prayer? “Thy kingdom come,” have you ever wondered how that prayer request is going to be answered? It’s answered in the Book of Revelation, chapter 11, verse 15, which says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” The resolution to the prayer request in Matthew 6. You see all of these unique characteristics about the Book of Revelation.
In review, asking and answering ten questions. Number one, what is the title of the book? The Book of Revelation, the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Number two, who wrote it? John.
Number 3, where was it written from? Patmos.
Number 4, to who or whom was it written? The seven struggling churches of Asia Minor.
Number 5, when was it written? A.D. 95., the conclusion of the first century.
Number 6 how is this book organized? There’s a three part outline given in Revelation 1:19. [Revelation 1:19, Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”]
Number 7, how was this book delivered? A seven step process starting with God the Father, ending with the pastors or the preachers over the churches of Asia Minor, those steps in terms of the giving of this vision are revealed at the beginning of the book.
Number 8, why was it written? It was written to motivate holiness and encouragement for any Christian that would ever read it.
Number 9, what’s the book about? It’s the final victory of Jesus which has already been won, it just hasn’t been executed yet in real time.
And number 10, what makes the book different? It’s a summation or a chronological organization of scattered Old Testament information.
I hope you’re looking forward to the study of this book as much as I am. You know, you could be here today, not even knowing who Jesus is; a friend brought you, you’re going to church because that’s what they do in Texas, they go to church, I want to fit in culturally, you’re surfing You Tube or internet, social media, you come across this sermon, what are these people talking about the final victory? The answer to that is the gospel, or good news, the final victory has already been achieved by Christ. The only issue is are you going to participate in the final victory? Are you going to be on the winning side of history or the losing side of history? Are you going to be on God’s side and the manifestation of His kingdom on the earth? Or are you going down with Satan and his system.
That’s up for grabs and that hangs on a single word, the word “believe” which means to trust.
A person becomes or enters into a right relationship with their Creator and their Redeemer and thus gains or comes onto the right side of history because they’ve believed or trusted in what Jesus has done. The Spirit of God has come into the world to convict men and women of their need to trust in Jesus Christ. If today you’re feeling that conviction, that tug of the Spirit you can get the whole issue resolved right now simply by responding to the free offer of salvation which is through the gospel. And the only way to enter into that good news is through trust, which is another way of saying believe.
You don’t have to walk an aisle to do this, join a church to do this, raise a hand to do this. You don’t have to give money to a local church to do this, you don’t have to put yourself on some kind of self-improvement that only makes your flesh try harder anyway; you receive what Jesus has done in your place as a free gift and you do that by way of faith. It’s a privacy between you and the Lord where you trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation. If that’s something that you’re interested in doing I’m available after the serve to talk.
Father, even as people might right now be trusting in Your Son we just ask that You would convict, and beyond that You would be with our church and our teaching as we move through systematically this very important book. Help us to not just go through the Book of Revelation; help the Book of Revelation to go through us as we grow in You and walk in You. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.