Revelation 002 – A Forgotten Blessing

Revelation 002 – A Forgotten Blessing
Revelation 1:1-4b • Dr. Andy Woods • June 3, 2018 • Revelation


Andy Woods

A Forgotten Blessing

6-3-18                 Revelation 1:1-4b               Lesson 2

If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 1 and verse 1, the Book of Revelation is pretty easy to find, Amen, easier than Habakkuk  or something like that.  The title of our message this morning is A Forgotten Blessing.  And we’re moving into what’s called the prologue of the Book of Revelation, which spans about eight verses.  It’s basically an introduction.  And the prologue is going to be followed by an epilogue in chapter 22 (assuming we get there before the rapture happens) and that’s sort of a conclusion in chapter 22 verses 6 through the end of the book.  So you have an epilogue, prologue, epilogue.  And the last time I was with you we sort of introduced the book by asking and answering ten questions about the Book of Revelation, sort of giving you the dates, the time period, where John was; he’s essentially marooned on the island of Patmos under the reign of Domitian at the conclusion of the first century and yet God had a purpose for John being there on that deserted island, to receive from Jesus Christ Himself the final word to His church and the final source of divine truth in the Bible that God has communicated.

As we work through the prologue, and I don’t think we’ll get through all of this even today, there’s so much here, but here’s sort of an outline we can follow.  And many times you can go to a movie and walk in a couple minutes late and miss the introduction and then you’re sort of lost through the whole movie… what’s this movie about?  And I sort of feel that way about this prologue, this introduction.  It really gets us moving on the right footing, the right path and we start to see in the book themes that are developed here early on.  And if you miss the introduction you’re sort of confused as to why things are happening in the Book of Revelation.

But notice, if you will, Revelation 1:1, and we have in Revelation 1:1 the title of the book.   Notice Revelation 1:1, it says, “The Revelation” which is the Greek noun apokalopsis, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show His Bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.”  That word “Revelation” (apokulopsis in the Greek), what does that mean?  That means a disclosure.  It means something has been hidden in ages past but now has been fully revealed.

Henry Morris, in his commentary on  the Book of Revelation says this: “It must be stressed that Revelation means “unveiling,” not “veiling.”  And that may seem like a simple idea but it kind of refutes so much of how the church has treated the Book of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation is secret, it contains some kind of secret information known only to the few.  The Book of Revelation is too difficult to understand.  You know, this sort of mindset!  A lot of pastors and church leaders won’t teach the Book of Revelation because they’re afraid it’s going to divide the congregation and my answer to that is well, the whole Bible is going to divide your congregation if you let it speak.  I mean, the Bible is a controversial book and the Book of Revelation is no different.

God gave us the Book of Revelation to understand.  Now there are symbols in the book and I’ll be teaching you how those symbols can be interpreted but you should understand that from the beginning that this book is something that’s an unveiling.  That’s what the title of the book means.   And you’ll also notice that a apokalopsis (unveiling) is a singular noun.  This is not the Book of Revelations, as many call it, it’s the Book of Revelation.  It’s a singular vision that John received, I believe in a particular day, on the island of Patmos.  It’s all connected.  It’s very different than the Book of Daniel that we just emerged from where Daniel, from about age 16 to about age 90 received many, many different revelations and many visions at different times.  And we’ve walked through those in the Book of Daniel.

The Book of Revelation is very different; it’s a singular vision.  God showed up to John on the island of Patmos and gave him a command to write, write down.  In fact, the word “write” occurs about twelve times in the book, “write down what you see and what you hear.”  And it’s also interesting, this is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  One of the things to understand about the Holy Spirit is when the Holy Spirit gets ahold of somebody or something it will always point towards Christ.  Jesus revealed that in the Upper Room, that the Spirit would testify of Him.  The Spirit of God is not interested in pointing to someone’s literary style, someone’s popularity, someone’s giftedness/ what He’s interested in is pointing to Christ.  That’s how you know when your life is being directed in a Spirit led manner.  People will see in you the character of Jesus Christ.

So this book is about Jesus.  In fact, in Revelation 19:10 we can read these words, we can look ahead, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  If a person ignores the Book of Revelation, if a person neglects the Book of Revelation, they will walk away with a very lopsided view of who Jesus is because this book does not portray Him as the suffering Messiah as is predominant in the Gospels.  There are references to His death, as I’ll be showing you, in this book but this book points to Jesus as the reigning King, not as the lamb but as the lion.  Not as the one who suffered and died 2,000 years ago on a cross, being rejected by His own nation but someone who’s coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And the issue is does your life align with Him.  If not, a person will experience violent judgment upon the return of Christ.

And I fear that we have focused so predominantly in the church on the sacrifice of Christ and the humility of Christ and the servanthood of Christ (and all of those are very real truths) that we have sort of a lopsided view of who Jesus is.  We’ve also failed to see Him as the coming Judge and the reigning King.  So as we move through the book I would encourage you not to lose Jesus in the midst of all of these very interesting and exciting details.

You go to the second half of verse 1 and into verse 2 and what you have revealed here is a chain of communication.  It says, verse 1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show His Bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, [2] who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”   Now the last time I was with you I showed you that there was actually a chain of communication here.  The vision starts with the Father and is passed down to the son, then it’s passed down to an angel, then to John himself;  John is told to write it in a book and he is to send it to the readers, or the preachers over the seven churches of Asia Minor.  And as the Scripture is read (and no doubt explained) the listener who heeds and hears these words is promised a blessing. We’ll talk about that blessing in just a minute.

But you’ll notice what it says here, “which God gave to Him to show His Bond-servants, the things which must soon take place.”   So the vision goes from the Father, who originated the vision, to the Son, and you’ll notice that this vision is given to the “Bond-servants” of God.  You say well what is a Bond-servant?  The Greek word is doulos which means a slave.  There’s so much talk today about our plans and our goals and our agenda and what we want out of life that we have lost sight of the fact that if you are “in Christ” by way of faith and have submitted to the discipleship of Christ then all of that “me” stuff ends.  Our lives are not about us, our lives are not about ourselves, our lives are not about our goals, our plans, all of it comes  unto submission to the authority and the Lordship of Christ.  That’s what being a disciple is.

But let me tell you something, membership has its privileges and the reason I say that is because when we begin to walk out the walk of discipleship under the Lordship and authority of Jesus Christ, I’ll tell you this much…your mind will go down paths it never would have gone down before.  Your mind will be enlightened and illuminated by things, such as the Holy Spirit, that you’ve never understood before.  And that’s how you can determine if you’re really growing in Christ.  As you’re growing in Christ the Lord is showing you further and further and further things.  There are many Christians that say well, I don’t want to go to a Bible study on the Book of Revelation because I’ve heard all that.  I don’t want to go to a Bible study on the Book of Romans because I’ve heard all that.

The reality is maybe you understand certain things about Revelation or Romans or any other Book of the Bible that you want to study but here’s what the Holy Spirit is going to do—He’s going to take you deeper and deeper and deeper into your understanding.   This is what happens to the bondservants, the slaves of Jesus Christ.  The Book of Amos, chapter 3 and verse 7 says this:  “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He first reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.”

Why is it that so many Christians have sort of plateaued in their understanding of God?  They’ve never really submitted to His authority as disciples.  The privilege of discipleship is an invitation to all Christians to come deeper into the things of God and what you discover is God is in the business of revealing things to us before they happen.  That’s why the bondservants are the target of this particular book.

It’s interesting that Jesus Christ, in John 15:15 said this to His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”  As we walk with Christ under His direction, under His power, we learn things; we have insight into things that we could never learn any other way.  Yes, our lives are living sacrifices unto God as bondservants but membership has its privileges as the insights come to us in greater and greater proportion as we walk with Him.

Now you’ll notice also in verse 1 this word, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to Him to show His bondservants the things which must” what? “soon take place.”  The reason I bring this up is there’s an awful lot of confusion today on what that really means.  There is a movement today called preterism.  Preterism was taught to some extent by the late R. C. Sproul, it’s taught to some extent by Hank Hanegraaff, and other somewhat popular Bible teachers.  Preterism is growing in popularity throughout the Reformed community and movement.  If you have your kids in home schooling in any sense they will reject many of the curriculum that is promoted by the home school movement, not all but some.  They will reject the futurist interpretation of the Book of Revelation (that we’re promoting here) and they will promote something called preterism.  Preterism means past; you can describe it this way: stick a fork in it, it’s done!

These are folks that are telling you that the Book of Revelation already happened.  Isn’t that amazing.  The beast is not the antichrist of the future, the beast is Nero in the first century, etc. etc. etc.   And how would they arrive at this conclusion?  Through that word “soon.”  And they’ll tell you well, this can’t be soon because this hasn’t happened for 2,000 years so this had to be something that happened back in the period of the apostles or just after.  Many people link it with the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D.  70.

So that sort of demands that we start to talk about what this issue of “soon” means.  These are what you call the time texts.  I don’t know if you can see that screen very carefully but there’s three words that are used:  shortly or quickly, that’s the Greek word tachos.  By the way, from tachos we get the word tachometer, which measures speed.  And then in the Book of Revelation, mostly at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book John will tell us that these things are “near” or “at hand.”  That’s the Greek word eggus.  And then John will also use the word méllō which means about to, or on the point of.

And the preterist will seize on those words and say you know what, these things had to have happened in the lifespan of the apostles because of the words quickly, shortly, near, or at hand.   And I’m here to tell you that those words can mean something that had to happen in the lifetime of the apostles, that’s a possibility.  But there are other possibilities as well.  Those words that I just explained don’t have a one size fits all definition.  They mean different things, depending on the context that they are found within.

Tachos, what can that mean?  Well, that could be describing something happening very fast, within the lifespan of the apostles.  You’ll find that used in 1 Timothy 3:14, “I hope to come to you soon” Paul says.  When he says “soon” that means within the next year, two years, etc.  But let me tell you something, tachos can also be an adverb.  What is an adverb?  An adverb modifies a what?  A verb!  Adverbs in English typically end in l-y, Joe ran quickly; ran is the verb, quickly is the adverb describing how Joe ran.  Tachos can refer to something that when it happens it will happen fast, like an adverb.  It’s used that way in Acts 22:18 which says leave Jerusalem quickly.  [Acts 22:18, “and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’”]

Quickly is describing the speed at which the verb takes place.  You see that?  Let me put it this way?  It’s sort of like going to fill your car up with gasoline and you’ll drive in and it will say “insert credit card here” and then something comes up on the screen that says “remove card quickly.”  It’s not saying you need to remove the card in the next ten seconds or you don’t get any gas (although maybe it is saying that, I don’ t know).  But what it’s actually saying is when you remove the card do it fast, do it quickly.

And what John is saying through this word “soon” or tachos is simply this:  when these events happen they’re going to happen with great suddenness.  Surely there can be some postponement of time before these events happen but when these events happen they’re going to happen lickety-split, sort of like the flood in Noah’s day.  Noah preached about a flood according to Genesis 6:3 for a hundred and twenty years.  [Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”]

That’s a long time; that’s about half the length, duration wise, of the United States of America.  That’s a long time to be warning about a flood.  But let me tell you something, when the flood came it came suddenly, didn’t it?  It came quickly.  That’s how tachos is being used here.

This is why Jesus, when  He describes these things in Matthew 24 analogizes it to a woman in labor.  Every woman in labor knows that when birth pains begin to increase in intensity and frequency you’d better get moving over to the hospital and the doctor better not look at his day time and say well I can’t help you right not, I’ve got a golf game I’ve to tend to, I’ll be back in a few hours.  Because when the birth pains hit and they come in intensity and frequency that baby is going to be delivered whether you’re ready for it or not.

That’s what John is saying here; that’s what he means when he says “soon.”  He’s not saying these things had to happen within his lifetime; he’s saying that WHEN they happen they are going to overcome the unsuspecting world with tremendous speed or velocity.

Now what about some of these other words, the word engys is used many times in the Book of Revelation to describe the nearness of these events.  So is the word méllō.  But what you’ll discover in these words is they can also mean, yes chronology but they can also mean imminency, meaning at any moment.  There is no prophetic sign that must transpire first before these events come upon the earth.  They’re imminent, they’re in a state of expectation, they can come at any moment.  And that’s how the word engys is  used in Philippians 4:5, “the Lord is near.”   [Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”]  The Lord’s coming is so near it could disrupt this church service, it could cut short this sermon (some of you may be praying for that to happen), “méllō” is the exact same way.  1 Peter 5:1, “and the one who will share the glory that is to be revealed,” it can happen at any moment.  [1 Peter 5:1, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed.”]

So these are not things indicating that these events happened in the first century contrary to what you hear from preterism.  What it’s revealing is the speed in which these things will happen and the any moment expectancy of these things as well.

So the vision goes from the Father to the Son, looking back there at verse 1, it continues on and it says, “which God gave to him to show His bondservants the things which must soon take place, and He sent and communicated it by His angel….”   [Revelation 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to 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, [2] who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” ]

So now the vision is going to go from the Father to the Son to an angel.  And this  is sort of a problem for John because John is going to receive this vision, not so much from the Father and the Son who originated the vision but the messenger is an angel himself.  John, at the end of his little epistle, 1 John 5:21, writes this: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  What is an idol?  An idol is something that we elevate above God in importance in our hearts, money, power, pleasure, whatever the issue is that takes the place of God.  John says we are to rid ourselves, “Little children … from idols.”  And isn’t it interesting how John, even the great Apostle John, didn’t follow his own advice because what John does on the island of Patmos in the first century is he is so overwhelmed by this vision that he actually begins to worship the angel that gave the vision rather than God.

You’ll find John doing this at the conclusion of the book, in Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him.” That’s the angel that simply passed the baton off to John, “But he” that’s the angel, “said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.” Worship God the angel says, don’t worship me, I’m just an errand boy, worship the Lord!    And John says little children, rid yourself of idols.  John became an idolater here, sort of in an embarrassing sense at the very end of his career, and he’s sharply rebuked for it.

And if that weren’t bad enough, he does it a second time, three chapters later.  Over in Revelation 22:8-9 it says this: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me.”

[9] But he” that’s the angel, “said to me, ‘Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.’”  Two times John has to be corrected.

It is the nature of the human heart to become idolatrous.  It even is the nature of the human heart to become idolatrous within the church of Jesus Christ where people begin to worship the instrument that God uses rather than God Himself.  And you look at denominations after denomination as they sort of fossilize, what happens in many cases is the people in that denomination are no longer worshipping the Lord, they’re worshipping what God did through such and such or so and so.  And so this is something that John himself, who warned about this, fell into being so enthralled with the vision itself.  And it’s something we need a warning about.  We’re not to worship people, we’re to worship the Lord.

What are we, after all, as servants of the Lord?  We’re just bondservants, fellow slaves.  If the Lord has given you a spiritual gift of some sort, and by the way, on the authority of the Word of God every believer has at least one spiritual gift, what you will discover if and when God uses you for any significant reason people will want to naturally give credit to you.  Just like John was trying to give credit to an angel.  And our response to that is not to absorb the praise; if a person absorbs the praise they’re on dangerous ground because Isaiah 42:8 says God will not share His glory with another.  [Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.”]

In fact, 1 Timothy 3:6 says don’t put a novice into a position of authority within the church because he will fall into the trap of Satan.  [1 Timothy 3:6, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”]  We studied Satan in the Old Testament, Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, other passages, the sin of Satan was he began to attract the praise to himself, not seeing himself as an instrument of God but as the source of the blessing.  And of course this is sort of a trap for those of us involved in pastoral ministry, preaching and teaching.  People come up and they want to say, if the Lord speaks to them through a sermon… well, your sermon did this for me today, and I’m so grateful for your ministry.  And if we’re not very careful with those words of adulation we’ll start to sort of think, you know… you know it was a good sermon after all.  And you know, I was up late at night putting this thing together and I deserve a little credit, don’t I?  NO, this is the work of the Holy Spirit; this is the work of God.  We need to deflect praise of men back to God where it belongs or we find ourselves on shaky ground.

I think it was Billy Graham, said here are the three “G’s” to avoid in ministry, and if  you watch how ministers fall and fail it’s always these three words beginning with the letter G.  Number 1, he said don’t touch the Girls…sexual immorality.  Number 2, don’t touch the Gold, don’t put yourself in a position where you’re embezzling funds.  And then the third thing he said is don’t touch the Glory.  Don’t touch, don’t take for yourself that which is for God only.  And so when people come up to me occasionally they’ll come up and they’ll say you know, your ministry is a blessing and this and that, I usually say well praise the Lord, praise God!  Praise God that God can take a lump of clay and use us for His purposes.  And that’s sort of a great way to sort of get the attention off of ourselves and back to the Lord where it belongs.

So this vision comes from the Son, from the Father to the Son to an angel and notice that the angel, end of verse 1, beginning of verse 2, hands this off to John, the apostle.  You’ll notice also in verse 1 John also is called a bondservant.  [verse 1, “… and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,”]  We, as readers, are called bondservants, verse 1; John himself is called a bondservant.  So he sees himself just as a slave passing off God’s information to fellow slaves.  And that’s why John is called “faithful” in his task.  He wasn’t called, like Daniel, to understand every nuance of this, he was called to faithfully record it, just as Daniel, the prophet had done.

And that’s really the issue with God;  God is not so much interested in our success as He’s interested in our faithfulness.  God may have called you to do something, whatever it is; it may be something minor, it may be something that doesn’t get a lot of limelight but you just keep doing it and doing it and doing it and  you’re fitting into the pattern of John, who was simply faithful to record what God revealed.

If  you look at verse 2 it says, “who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.”  John was faithful to record God’s final phase of His redemptive plan in the Book of Revelation.  And not only that, John was faithful in other things.  According to John 1:14 it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we even saw His glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John says I was there at the first coming, and let me write to  you a book about the first coming of Jesus Christ.  We call that the Gospel of John.  John was faithful to record exactly what the Holy Spirit surfaced in his mind about sixty years later.  We call that John’s Gospel.  And the faithfulness of John didn’t stop there; God used him strategically to record the final phase of God’s redemptive plan yet future.  It’s fascinating the role that John played in giving us the truths that we have; the first coming of Christ, the Gospel of John, the second coming of Christ, the Book of Revelation.

So we move from the title to the chain of communication and now we move to verse 3 which is the blessing.  And that’s why I’ve entitled this message the forgotten blessing.  Notice, if you will, what verse 3 says.  “Blessed” that’s the Greek word makarios, it’s the word that’s used over and over again in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes, Matthew 5, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”  All of those blessings are beatitudes.  It’s the same word here, makarios, so there’s a blessing here for us.  “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.”   This is the first of seven blessings pronounced in the Book of Revelation.  I call these, or these have been called the seven beatitudes of the Book of Revelation.  It’s the repetition of makarios.  First of all there’s a blessing on the reader, verse 3.

Revelation 14:13, there’s a blessing on the dead.  [Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’’’  ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’”]  Those that die in the midst of these events because they’re not here to experience the rest of them, “absent from the body is to be” what? “present with the Lord.”

Revelation 16, there is a blessing on those looking for the return of Jesus Christ.  Are you looking for the return of Jesus Christ or have we become so preoccupied with the things of this world that our eyes are no longer focused heavenward where they belong?

There’s another blessing, Revelation 19:9 of the marriage supper participants. [Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’”]

There’s another blessing, Revelation 20:6 of those that participate in the first resurrection.

[Revelation 20:6, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”]  We’ll be explaining all of these things as we go.

Another blessing on the reader, Revelation 22:7.  [Revelation 22:7, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”]

There’s a blessing on those who partake, Revelation 22:14, the partakers of the tree of life in the eternal state.  [Revelation 22:14, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.”]

Seven blessings, the repetition of makarios.  Notice the number seven here; we’re going to see the number seven quite a bit.  Charles Ryrie says this, he says: “The number seven occurs fifty-four times in the book and appears more frequently than any other number.  It is associated with completion, fulfillment and perfection.”

In the Book of Revelation there are seven churches and seven spirits and seven lampstands and seven stars and seven seals on the scrolls and seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb and seven angels and seven trumpets and seven thunders and seven heads of the dragon and seven heads of the beast, seven golden bowls, seven kings, etc. etc. etc. etc.  Of course when we think of the number seven we think of the creation week, how God brought the whole thing into fulfillment in six days, rested on the seventh.  And we see that same concept in the Book of Revelation where God is sort of bringing the whole thing, all of redemptive history together under one umbrella.  Completion!

If you don’t have any knowledge of the Book of Revelation you don’t know how the story ends.   You don’t know how the themes that begin so early in the Bible find their resolution.  I mean, how does the issue of sin get resolved?  How does the issue of Satan get resolved?  How does the issue of the nation of Israel get resolved?  How does the issue of the church of Jesus Christ get resolved?  How would we know these things had it not been for this divine disclosure where we learn the completion of all things.  You simply cut yourself off from a knowledge of how things wrap up in God without a knowledge of the Book of Revelation.

But notice what it says here, verse 3, 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.”  [Revelation 1:3]   It never tells us what the blessing is.  It tells me that if I become a student of the Book of Revelation I’ll be blessed but what exactly is the blessing?  There’s a lot of ink spilled on this.  What is the blessing?  I think it can mean different things for different folks but let me tell you how it worked in my life.

When I got saved and finally started to grow in the things of God the very first area of Bible study that I became interested in was the area of Bible prophecy.  That’s always been a tremendous interest of mine and God did a dirty trick on me… actually it’s not a dirty trick at all, it’s a wonderful trick.  Two hundred and seventh-eight of Revelations four hundred and forty verses allude to the Old Testament.  So guess what I have to do to understand the Book of Revelation?  I’ve got to study the Old Testament.  And frankly I’ve got to study the rest of the Bible because the rest of the Bible reveals the themes that find their resolution in the Book of Revelation.  Because the Holy Spirit gave me an interest in Bible prophecy and because this book has so much to say in terms of allusion back to the Old Testament I had to become a student of the whole Bible, all sixty-six books!  And as I became more familiar with those prior sixty-five books suddenly the themes of the Book of Revelation started to make sense.  Maybe that’s the blessing.  Maybe an appetite in this world forces you to become a student of the whole Bible.

Another aspect of this blessing is you know where this world is headed.  You don’t need to be gripped with fear and anxiety over the latest skirmish in the Middle East, over the latest fluctuation in the price of gold or over interest rates, over the economy, over the next election cycle.   You just sort of are relaxed about the whole thing because you know where the whole thing is headed.

I’ve watched basketball games, I played basketball, I’ve watched many basketball games and I remember watching a game live on the edge of my seat cheering for my team, sweaty palms, not knowing which side was going to pull it out, and then the game came on later in terms of a taped delay, the exact same game, and because I knew the result, because I knew that my team was going to win, fortunately they did win, you could just sit back on the tape delay and  you can just relax because you know what’s going to happen.  And this is what the Book of Revelation will do for you; you don’t need to be in fear and gripped with fear about the future.

So many people live based on fear that they read on the internet about the latest headlines.  I’m not against looking at headlines, what I’m in favor of though is interpreting those headlines through the lens of God’s Word.  And it just gives you such a calming effect, the hysteria, the anxiety just starts to dissipate from life because we know where everything is headed.  This is what I call the forgotten blessing.  There is a blessing that God promises to those who become students of this Book.

But notice Revelation 1:3 very carefully, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and” what? “heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  The blessing is not just for those who read it and  hear it but the blessing comes to those who heed it.  And I believe that what is being described here is sort of a church service.  It’s part of the chain of communication, from the Father to the Son, to an angel, so John, to a book.  Now who is this book dispatched to?  To various angelos or messengers of the seven churches.

Revelation 2:1 says, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write,” in other words this book would ultimately be handed off to an angel of the church at Ephesus and six other churches and angelos here, not in the first reference to an angel in the chain but a second reference to an angel in the chain I believe is a preacher or a pastor.  John the Baptist, in Matthew 11:10 is also called in the Greek an angelos, which means he was not a literal angel but a preacher.  [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.’”]

And so when you look at this verse very carefully the blessing comes to those who read it to their congregations, I would take that to mean the pastors over the various churches in Asia Minor.  And with the reading would also come the exposition of it.  The exposition of it would be the explanation of it and the application of it.  Did not the Apostle Paul tell Timothy, also in Ephesus, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and to teaching.”  [1 Timothy 4:13]   That’s what a pastor is supposed to do.  That’s what a preacher is supposed to do; he’s supposed to read, expound or explain and apply.

And as this ministry was being executed in the chain of communication there were those in Ephesus and the other churches that would hear these things.  Consequently they would heed these things and they would apply these things and consequently the whole flock there in Ephesus and the other places would be blessed, sort of a miniature church service, a reading, an exposition and application to the hearer.  The hearer hears it and the hearer applies it.

And this is very important because a lot of people think that the sum total of spirituality is hearing things or reading things.   That’s not what the Bible says.  The blessing comes to the person who applies in their daily walk, in their daily life, the things that they’re learning.  Don’t think that you will have the blessing of God simply by filling your notebook up with information and your mind up with all kinds of interest­ing details. That’s not where the blessing comes; it comes from heeding, it comes from application, it comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to deal with us in areas of our lives where they may not be right with God and the Holy Spirit, through the application of the Word of God will say well, this needs to change under My power!  And we say to the Lord, I don’t know how I’m going to change this habit, or this mental state or mental pattern that I’m in but I’m willing to be taught, I’m willing to be open to Your leading and Your empowerment to change.  That’s the life that’s blessed.

Jesus, in the Gospel of John, chapter 13 and verse 17 says this: “If you know these things you are blessed if you do them,” see that?  Knowledge was never meant to be the final step in our growth process.  It was meant to be a first step; knowledge has to turn into application.  Knowledge has to turn into wisdom.  What is wisdom?  Knowledge applied.   There are a lot of people out there with knowledge but very little wisdom because they’ve never applied what they’ve learned and consequently they’ve never experienced the blessing of God.  The way we say it around here is orthodoxy (correct belief) preceded orthopraxy (correct practice).  And I would encourage you as we move through this to allow the Book of Revelation to do that in our individual hearts.

James 1:22-24 puts it this way.  “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. [23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; [24] for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he is.”  The growth in the Christian life, the progress in the Christian life, the maturing in the Christian life comes from the application of truth, truth or knowledge becoming wisdom.

Now one other quick thing I want to draw to your attention is this word “prophecy” in verse 3.  “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.”  [Revelation 1:3]  That word “prophecy” is probably more important than you can possible realize.  And the reason I say that is because what you’re going to hear on the History Chanel, ANE, Mysteries of the Bible, they’ll bring on some guy with a PhD from Harvard and he will say “the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature.”

And they’ll say this over and over again, it’s “apocalyptic literature.”  And what in the world is

apocalyptic literature?  What are they even talking about?  I’ll tell you exactly what they are doing.  They’re comparing the Book of Revelation to all of these other non-inspired books, I have many of them listed on the screen, that originated around the same period of time and what they’re trying to sell you on is you cannot interpret the Book of Revelation literally.  Why not?  Because that’s not how you understand all of these other apocalyptic books.  And they will cast derision on those of us that want to hold to a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation.  They say well how can you interpret the seven heads of the dragon literally?  Or the seven heads of the beast?

And what I’m going to try to teach you is all of the symbols in the Book of Revelation can be identified and once you identify them there’s a way to discover the reference or the meaning behind each symbol.  That’s what we saw in the Book of Daniel, didn’t we?  The head of gold is meant to be understood as Babylon.  The chest and arms of silver is meant to be understood as Medo-Persia, etc.  With each symbol is a reference behind it.  But what these academics will do is they’ll throw you into a state of confusion; they’ll try to convince you that the Book of Revelation is not meant to be understood literally because after all, we all know that the apocalyptic books are not literal.  If you haven’t been exposed to this your kids or your grandkids have been exposed to this mindset.

Notice Brian McLaren’s statement, he’s one of the leaders of the emergent church.  “The Book of Revelation is an example of popular literary genre of ancient Judaism known today as Jewish apocalyptic.”  Sounds so scholarly, doesn’t it?  “Trying to read it without understanding its genre would be like watching Star Trek or some other science fiction show thinking it was a historical documentary instead of being a book about the distant future it becomes a way of talking about the challenges of the immediate present.”  See what he just did there?  He took the whole Book of Revelation, which is yet future,  and put it into the present and also put it into the past. What is he doing?  He’s discarding the literal method of interpretation, he thinks he has a right to do that because after all, the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature.

The direction that folks are moving in is you interpret the Gospels through one lens but when you get into prophecy you interpret it through a different lens.  And we at Sugar Land Bible Church reject that.  We believe that the same literal method of interpretation that’s used anywhere else in the Bible, including the Book of Romans, you use in the Book of Revelation, it’s just in Revelation it’s more difficult because there’s a lot more symbols involved.  But when you understand the rules of interpretation what you’ll discover is there’s a way to understand what those symbols are and what they mean.  And I’ll be sharing with you those rules.  I’m not changing the method of interpretation one iota as we move through this book.

And this is where the doctrine of preterism comes from.  How do you fit this whole book into the past? Well, apocalyptic literature has exaggerations in it so that’s obviously what the Book of Revelation is doing.   Kenneth Gentry, a well-known preterist, says, “…the preterist view does understand Revelation’s prophecies as strongly reflecting actual historical events in John’s near future,” i.e. A.D. 70, “though they are set in apocalyptic drama and clothed in poetic hyperbole.”  [Four Views of Revelation, p. 38.]  There are many other quotes I could give you.

This chart, I wish we had time to go through it all, shows you the difference between the apocalyptic books and the Book of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation was inspired by God; the apocalyptic books were not.   The Book of Revelation predicts the future.  None of those other apocalyptic books do.  They pretend they were written in the past but they trace history rather than predicting the future.  And on and on we could go with these differences.

And the reason I bring this to your attention is John never says the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature; he calls the book an apokalopsis, an unveiling, but he’s not saying it’s apocalyptic literature.  In fact, if you want to understand the literary style of the Book of Revelation he tells you what it is right there in verse 3, it is “prophecy.”  What is prophecy?  It is history in advance; that’s prophecy, designed to change the moral outcome of human beings.  That’s what John is seeking to do in the Book of Revelation.

It’s also interesting here in verse 3 he says, “for the time is” what? “near.”  What does that mean?  It had to be fulfilled in the first century?  Not at all, “near” there, engys, means what?  Imminency, it can happen at any moment.  It’s a statement of the overhanging expectation of this book, not that it had to happen in the first century.

Then we move to the author, notice Revelation 1:4, John is the author, you’ll see his name there at the beginning of verse 4.  [ “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” Revelation 1:4]  You know, we kind of read over this word “John” and we forget what the Lord did for John.  You remember who John was?  Remember John was a man that was so dominated by hatred that when Jesus and His disciples entered a Samaritan village in Luke 9:51-56 and they rejected the message, John said Lord, shall we not call down fire from heaven and destroy these people.

[Luke 9:51-56, “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; [52] and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. [53] But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. [54] When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” [55] But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; [56] for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.”]

And yet who did John become?  He became the love apostle.  God worked so strategically in John’s life that he became known as a man of love.  And how did Jesus do that?  How do you transition a man of hate to a man of love?  Well, there’s a little clue in John’s Gospel.  John never called his own name out but he calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”   John didn’t understand everything there was to know about Jesus but he knew this much, that he was loved by Jesus Christ.  He was unconditionally accepted by Jesus, the Lamb of God.  And isn’t it interesting that when you realize that you’re unconditionally accepted by God it’s easy to let other people off the hook, isn’t it?  It’s easier to accept other people.

And if you’re struggling today with bitterness and anger toward somebody else I would simply invite you to do this: bask in the love of God, the unconditional acceptance of God as we are “in Christ”  and as we grow in that it’s easier to have tranquility and peace in our personal relationships.  I don’t think this was a lessons that John learned overnight.  I think it’s something that was developed in his character and it took around sixty years for Jesus to get John moving in this direction.   Sixty years have passed between the incarnation and the events that we’re reading about here.  John will write five books of the New Testament: The Gospel of John,         1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and the Book of Revelation.  John was a work in progress, sort of like that lump of clay on that potter’s wheel that the Lord just kept beautifully working in his life and in his character and he became the man of love transitioning away from a man of hate and anger and antagonism.

You continue on with verse 4 and it says, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia:” now we know who the audience is, don’t we?  Seven struggling churches in Asia Minor.  And what I want to show you here is that the geography is literal.  Asia is a real place.  In fact, every piece of geography mentioned in the Book of Revelation is literal.  I’ll show you that as we go through.

You say well who cares?  Here’s why you should care; one of these days, hopefully before the rapture, we’re going to get to Revelation 17 and you’re going to run into a city there named Babylon.  And most of the Christian world will try to convince you that Babylon doesn’t mean Babylon, Babylon means Rome, Babylon means Jerusalem.  I just got back from New York City, I saw the Statue of Liberty, somebody sent me a book trying to argue that New  York City and the Statue of Liberty is what Babylon represents.  Other people say it’s Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington D.C., not that those cities aren’t Babylon-like, sort of, but that’s not how geography is developed in the Book of Revelation.  Babylon means Babylon!  Well where is Babylon?  It’s in Iraq, that’s where the center capital of the antichrist will exist in the last days.

And then we’ll close with this, verse 4, the greeting.  Notice what he says there in verse 4, “Grace to you and peace,” John, to the seven churches in Asia, “Grace to you and peace….”  What is grace?  It’s unmerited favor from God, favor that you do not deserve, favor that comes your direction because of your acceptance and relationship to Jesus Christ.  And once a person receives grace they receive peace from who?  From God.  Before a person gets saved they have no peace with God.  In fact, Romans 5:10 calls us pre-salvation enemies of God.   [Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”]

It’s interesting that when a person hears the gospel, hears what Jesus did for them through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, and receives that as a free gift they experience something called reconciliation.  The conflict between sinful man and a holy God is called off.  And that’s why trusting in Christ is the most important decision a human being can make because if a person has never trusted in Christ they don’t have grace from God nor peace.  They’re at enmity with God.  And yet God loves us so much that we will not fall into His condemnation so He sent His Son to pay the penalty in our place.  We celebrated it at the Lord’s table this morning, through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension and the final words of Christ prior to His death were what?  “It is finished!”  Translated from the Greek verb tetelestai, paid in full, nothing else for me to contribute other than to receive it by faith.

Well, what if I don’t receive it by faith?  Then the warfare between yourself and God continues and you’re headed off into a Christless eternity.  What a mistake it would be to go through your life and never get this issue resolved.  I can’t think of a more foundational issue to get fixed than this.  Can you?  And so if you’re here today for the first time, uncertain of your eternity, if you’re listening by way of live streaming and you’re uncertain of your eternity, our exhortation to you here at Sugar Land Bible Church,  the best that you know how, in the privacy of your own mind and thoughts and heart is to trust in what Christ has done for you.  It’s not necessary to raise a hand, to walk an aisle, to join a church, to give money, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you receive, by faith, as a gift, what God has done for you and you move into grace and peace.  You can do that right now even as I’m talking.  If it’s something that you want more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.  Shall we pray.

Father, we’re grateful for this prologue and this exciting journey that we’re on as we move into the Book of Revelation.  I do ask, Father, specifically that we would not just go through the Book of Revelation but the Book of Revelation would go through us, and You’d develop us into Christlikeness and You disclose to us what the future may have as we leave, after studying this book, with optimism and hope.  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.