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An Overview of Revelation: Apocalypse Synopsis, Pt 1

Scripture: Revelation 1:1-20
Date: 07/31/2010 
The first in a series on an overview of the book of Revelation with a focus in this sermon on an introduction to the book and chapters 1-3.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

You know I’m soliciting your prayers because in the next few weeks I’d like to do something I’ve never really done here in our church family and direct our attention to the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, and do a study that is really designed as an overview. I’ve thought before, "well, it'd be nice to go through Revelation but we'd have to take like a year and a half to do it and it would still be incomplete, 'cause it's such an incredibly profound book." I thought, "well maybe I what I could do is whet your appetite by doing something of an overview of Revelation." and there's a lot of--just incredible information you can get just flying over. Don't have to go bush by bush on the ground to be able to appreciate it. And so in the next few weeks we're gonna be doing something that is an overview of Revelation and I’m calling it "the apocalypse synopsis."

I kinda like the way that came out. And I want to encourage you to start reading the book of Revelation and you're gonna learn things on your own as we go through. It's an incredible book because Revelation is in effect a kaleidoscope of every other book in the Bible. It's amazing how all the different books in the Bible tie into Revelation. Now the title that I picked, "the apocalypse synopsis," is because the word Revelation actually means apocalypse and that's from the greek word which is apokalypsis. It's where we get the english word apocalypse. And it means disclosure, an unveiling, or even nakedness, something that is uncovered. And here in a special sense in this book, not only is the plan and the future, but the program of God in Christ himself, is unveiled. He's revealed in the book of Revelation. Of the--what is it--404 verses in the book of Revelation, 278 can be drawn from other books in the Bible. For instance Revelation, it talks about mystery Babylon and the fall of Babylon. Well you can read about that in Isaiah. It talks in Revelation about gog and magog. You read about that, gog and magog, in Ezekiel. You can read in Revelation about the seven plagues. Well you read about the ten plagues in exodus. You talk of course about the Lamb in Revelation and then you're gonna read about Jesus, the Lamb of God. And it's a--you've seen these orb spider webs, circular spider webs some garden spiders make where they--basically they've got tendrils, they've got these runner lines that go out in all different directions.

They radiate out and the spider will sit in the middle. And in that middle circle he's got his eight legs sitting on the different runners and when you touch any part of the web he feels it from where he is in the middle. You can scarcely read any book in the Bible without finding that there is a line running somewhere in Revelation. And so the reason I think it's so profitable for us to study the book of Revelation is because in doing it, if done well, you'll be studying the whole Bible. It really runs and intersects with every other book in the Bible. Revelation is sort of the capstone of all scripture. Now the phrase, the opening line if you've got your Bible--matter of fact, if you turn in your Bible to Revelation chapter one that's a good place to start. Some of you will have in your Bible--I’m just checking mine. Mine's got it right. How many of you have a Bible that says, "The Revelation of Saint John," in the title? Yeah, I see some of you got the Revelation of Saint John. Is it really a Revelation of Saint John? The first line in the book, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ." the book is not at all a Revelation of Saint John. We'll get to the author in just a minute. It is a Revelation of Jesus. Matter of fact that phrase, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, is found three times in the Bible not just in Revelation.

You look for instance in 1 Peter 1:7, "that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested with fire, might be found to praise, honor, and glory at the apocalypse of Jesus Christ." the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The first words of Revelation are right there exactly in 1 Peter 1:7. And then you go again to 1 Peter 1:13, "therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the Revelation of Jesus Christ." the apocalypse, the unveiling, of Jesus. Now I think it's interesting. When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles, he sent them in twos. All the apostles had their preaching buddy. Any of you go to summer camp and you had your swimming buddy? So if anyone disappeared too long they said, "now where'd they go?" you know what I’m talking about?

When I went to summer camp we had our swimming buddies and you had to kinda keep an eye on each other all the time. When Jesus sent out the apostles everybody had their preaching buddy. He sent them out two by two and who was the preaching buddy of John? Peter. You remember? Peter and John went up to the temple, acts chapter three. Peter and John were preaching buddies. They were friends way back when they were fishermen. Peter didn't want to go out with his brother Andrew because they knew each other too well. They probably had--who knows, maybe it was Andrew and James. But they'd known each other a long time and they became preaching buddies. So I think it's interesting the two other times that it talks about the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John, who was younger than Peter, is quoting his friend and one of the great apostles of the early church, Peter. And so it's a Revelation of Jesus. It tells us about Jesus. And we'll dive into that a little more. Now to the author of the book--by the way, the book of Revelation is the only prophetic book that you find in the New Testament.

It's the only apocalyptic book. Now what I mean by that is you read in Ezekiel. He's got these dreams of these beasts, and the wheel within the wheel, and these visions, and the valley of bones. And you read in Daniel and you get these dreams, the metal man and the goat and the lion and the bear and the sheep, and there's these--the tree. And you got these apocalyptic visions that you'll read about in Zechariah. But the only apocalyptic book--now Peter does have one apocalyptic vision of that sheet that comes down. But the only apocalyptic book in the Bible is the book of Revelation. It's the only book of prophecy that you're going to find in the New Testament and it is unique from every other book in the Bible in a number of ways. The author, there's very little question, is John. He names himself four times in the book. Revelation 1 verse 1, verse 4, verse 9, Revelation 22:8, John says, "I’m the writer." and he never says John the apostle, but it's pretty well understood that this is John the apostle who it's believed, and the early church fathers tell us, that he is the author of the book.

He probably wrote it during the reign of Domitian who was--reigned from like 81 to 96. He died in 96 and that's when John was released and allowed to go back to Asia. According to "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" during the persecution of Domitian he put John in boiling oil to kill him. A number of the apostles were killed. But he was not at all affected by the oil. A matter of fact, it says he stepped from it as someone would from a warm bath. The emperor was so shaken by this they thought that it might not be prudent to fight against God and try to execute him again so instead they banished him to the island of Patmos where a number of Christians were imprisoned there and they worked in the mines. Whether or not they made John work in the mines--he was a very old man at this time-- is not clear. And so probably sometime between 94 and 96 A.D., when John himself is 85 or 90 years of age, he has this incredible experience and this vision. And he was the last of the apostles. It's interesting, Peter and John are walking together. Remember I told you about the close relationship? After Jesus rose he asks Peter three times, he said, "you denied me three times. Peter do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?" and Peter says, "Lord you know I love you." and they're walking together and Jesus says, "Peter when you were young you girded yourself and went where you wanted. When you're old another will gird you and you'll stretch forth your hands," indicating that he would die of a crucifixion. Now John liked to tag along.

He's following from a distance, kind of eavesdropping on Jesus and Peter talking. John also followed Jesus from a distance when he was arrested. And so John hears this conversation. Peter looks over his shoulder, his good friend John, they loved each other, and he says to Jesus, "what about him? What's gonna happen to him? I’ll be crucified. How's he gonna go?" and you know what Jesus said to him. John 1:22, "if I will that he remains 'til I come, what is that to you? You follow me." now many in the early church heard this report. "John's gonna live until Jesus comes back again!" and they took these words of Jesus and they misapplied them. And John later clarifies. He said, "He never said that. He said, 'if I would then that's none of your business.' he wasn't saying that." but in a sense John does live to the coming of the Lord in that he sees it before he dies in the vision of Revelation. Two brothers came to Jesus and they said, "Lord we want to sit one on your right hand and one on your left when you enter your kingdom." who were they? James and John. And Jesus said, "you don't know what you're asking. Are you willing to be baptized with my baptism and drink the cup I’m going to drink?" they said, "oh, sure, anything Lord. Yeah we can do it. We can handle it." they were very young and confident.

He said," you will indeed drink of my cup and be baptized with my baptism but it's not mine to give to sit on my right or left." well, of the twelve apostles the first to die a martyr's death was James. The last and only one to die of natural causes was John. He was the longest living of the apostles, probably the youngest when they first began to follow Jesus. So we believe he is the author of the book of Revelation. Now before we dive into the book itself, just an overview, there are certain key words that appear through the whole vision a number of times. That kind of tells you something about what the emphasis is. For instance, the word lamb appears 29 times in Revelation. You've got some names and some numbers that are very prominent in the book of Revelation. Lamb 29 times. Throne is mentioned 47 times. It's bearing out the dual ideas of the sacrificial atonement and the sovereignty of God and the judgment. And then there are some numbers that are very prominent. Let me ask you, what are the numbers that jump out in Revelation? Seven? I heard someone say 666. Well that's true. That's only mentioned one time in Revelation but it does jump out doesn't it? It's the number people remember the most but it's only mentioned one time. It--666 is actually mentioned two and a half times in the Bible. One time in Revelation, how many--who knows how many times the word antichrist is found in Revelation? Zero. Antichrist is found in the letters of John but not in the book of Revelation. That's interesting.

Everyone thinks, "I’m gonna preach about the antichrist from Revelation." well you're not gonna find the word in Revelation. The character is there but the word antichrist is found in the letters of John. Anyway, back to 666. The other time it talks about the amount of gold that Solomon collected in one year was 666 talents. And it's very interesting that during the time of Israel they began to go up, up, up. From Saul the kingdom gets stronger through David. It reaches its pinnacle in Solomon. Their temple is built. They're doing well. They're Godly. They're loving the Lord. The nations are flowing under them. Israel reaches its pinnacle but they had been collecting too much gold. It says 666 talents of gold right at that point in the Bible. Israel turns. Solomon starts to go down. He takes other wives. He gets horses from Egypt. He begins to do the things God told him not to do and it's interesting that number's mentioned. It's like they were trusting in man. It's the number of man and they go down. But what are some of the other numbers in Revelation? Seven. Twelve is mentioned. And by the way, 144,000 is a multiplication of 12. And so you find, for instance, the number "7" 55 times in that 1 book. Number four quite--the number four represents something universal. Maybe I should tell you what these numbers mean.

By the way, I’m gonna make a shameless commercial right here in the middle of the sermon. Amazing facts has a web site called Bible prophecy truth. Bibleprophecytruth.com. I think it's also dot-org. We can probably get both-- Eric just woke up. Is that right? We've got--both? Yeah. And there is a page there that says Bible numbers and their meaning. And I don't have time to review all that but you can download that there for free. What Bible numbers--there's prominent meaning. Seven represents-- it's a perfect number. It represents usually a complete cycle of some kind, like our weekly cycle. Twelve is a number--who knows? It represents the church. You've got 12 apostles and you've got 12 judges, 12 patriarchs in the Old Testament. New Jerusalem has got 12 foundations, 12 fruits 12 times a year, it's gonna be filled with 12 times 12,000, the 144-- so it's a number really for the church. Revelation 12, chapter 12--not that that means anything--it's got a woman with 12 stars above her head. She is the bride of Christ. So it's the number for the church. Forty represents a generation.

Three and a half is half of seven. You're gonna find that number several times. A time, which is one year. A times, means a couple or a pair of years. And half a time, half a year. Three and a half years, 1,260 days--a Jewish year had 360 days--1,260 days, 42 months, 42 months of 30 days, all comes up to the same time period which is a time of truth being preached under persecution and resistance. Elijah, three and a half years. You find that. Jesus' preaching, three and a half years. Three and a half years the apostles preached, before Stephen was stoned, just to the Jewish nation. Anyway. And by the way you find another three and a half in the book of Esther. It begins in the third year of Ahasuerus, he has a feast of 180 days. At that time the pagan queen is dethroned and they begin a search for a Jewish queen. It's a very interesting number in the Bible but it's half of seven. It means an interruption, incomplete, resistance, persecution. And then you've got the number 4, I told you. "Sent his angels to the four corners of the earth," it usually represents something universal.

You've got the four gospels that reach all men, whosoever will. And you've got the number four. The number ten, a symbol for the law or for the will of God. The Word of God is symbolized usually by five. And you've got--3 is mentioned 11 times and a third is mentioned 23 times. I don't know if you want to do them together but a third is mentioned 23 times in Revelation and "3" 11 times. Well God is God the father, the son, the spirit and so you'll find that triune emphasis there. Ten, nine times. So just some of the numbers in there. What is the purpose of Revelation? What is God trying to communicate through this book? Acts 14:22 tells us something about that. "Strengthening the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith in saying that we must, through many tribulations, enter the kingdom of God." It traces the history of God's people, it says the time is at hand, through these many tribulations and they land in the kingdom of God. You know, Revelation's a beautiful book in that it's the culmination of the Bible story.

First three chapters of the Bible, man is perfect and through disobedience he no longer can eat from the tree of life and he's evicted from the garden. Man receives his wife but there's sin. Last three chapters of the Bible, man has gained the victory over sin, he is restored to the Garden of Eden, he can eat from the tree of life. First three chapters he's separated from God, last three chapters God himself will be with us. And you also have the battle between the woman and the serpent in the first three chapters. You get to Revelation chapter 12 and you've got the battle between the woman and dragon, the serpent. It's just--it's such an incredible book. You know when you read what the commentators say about Revelation it's really funny because they either love it or hate it. You've got some commentators, they basically say, "you know, some of the church fathers wished it wasn't in the Bible because it's so deep," like Melancthon. And then you got others that say, "it is the most incredible book of every book in the Bible." and one commentator was saying, "it's as though John thought before any word was put down, it is such a perfect book, mathematically, in its structure, in its arrangement. It is unique in that it is so perfect." "Pilgrim's Progress" quotes from Revelation many times and the majority of the commentators are just astounded by its perfection. But then there are others who say, "Revelation either makes people mad or it attracts mad people." [congregation laughing] it attracts crazy people and those who study it become crazy.

I mean this is the attitude-- and you know you laugh because you and I kind of-- "yeah, you know." you get people like David Koresh, he read Revelation too. But you know, the more profound a truth is the more likely it is that it will be abused. Revelation is a hard nut but the best meat is in the thick shells. And so yeah it does take a little drilling sometimes but you get through and you find the very sweetest food in Revelation. Revelation is not a book that is designed to scare you. Well if you're lost you ought to be scared not just because of Revelation. You know if you're lost we're hoping you're miserable. We're not hoping you're comfortable as you glide towards destruction. But for the church it is a book of incredible comfort. You find the story of salvation. It is beautifully reflected in the book of Revelation and we're gonna get into that in chapters four and five in just a moment. But it's filled with symbols. Why didn't God just say it plainly? Why is it in these symbols of lions and lambs and dragons and snakes and these creatures that are part calf and you got a part eagle and lion and man it just seems really strange. And why the symbols? Well most of the apocalyptic prophecies in the Bible, Daniel, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Revelation, they are written while God's people are being occupied by another power.

Daniel wrote his prophecy while they were being ruled by Babylon. Ezekiel by Persia. Zechariah. And it was in Jeremiah even a little bit. And it was because of that, the messages--some of the messages in Revelation, for instance, talk about the fall of Rome. The messages in Daniel talk about the fall of Babylon and the fall of Persia. And if they had written these things out they would have been seen as treasonous and so God gives them the messages in a code of images. But the wonderful thing is if a person was a Bible reader the Jews understood what these symbols meant 'cause they appear other places in the Bible. So the key to unlocking Revelation is to know what do these things mean. When you get to Revelation chapter 12--now remember this is not exhaustive. I’m kind of doing a fly-over. It's a review. You get to Revelation 12 and it starts talking about a dragon. Well is it really there's, you know, some reptilian monster charging through history in the last days? Or what is that serpent? Well you read right in the book, it says that book is that old dragon the devil.

It tells you who he is. And of course in Revelation it's through the medium of a serpent that the devil brings sin into our world. So that's not that difficult. Then it uses a lamb as it is slain. Well what is that lamb? Well John the baptist tells us, points to Jesus and says, "behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." it talks about these two prominent women, one in Revelation 12, one in Revelation 17, what do these women represent? They represent the church in two--actually opposite conditions but it's the bride of Christ. Adam had this perfect wife, then through the serpent sin came in and there was a problem. And so it's--a woman represents the church, the bride of Christ. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church." and, "i have likened the daughter of Zion," that was how God addressed the church in the Old Testament, "the daughter of Zion to a delicate and comely woman." God told Hosea to go take a bride who was a prostitute. Why? To illustrate what the church had done to their God in breaking his heart. So you got one woman who's like a prostitute in Revelation chapter 17. And so when you know the Bible history--and you know quite frankly, one reason it's hard for me to do a study in Revelation the way I’d like to do it, is because it's so much easier if you know you're talking to people that know their Bibles, that know the stories in the Bible. Otherwise you gotta stop and just keep going back and explaining to bring things up to speed.

But--oh by the way, the letter in Revelation is written to the churches of Asia which, from the island where John was, are right across the water in Asia Minor. He could see them. And so he's actually separated as he's having his vision and he's being told to write to them. All right let's keep going here. What is the focus of Revelation? First words, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ." it's telling us about Jesus. The whole book. And he says, "which God gave him." now why is this book important to us? It's coming from who? A message from God. Think about that, that you hold in your hands, assuming you've got a Bible, I hope you bring your Bibles to church. You've got a message from God and he gives this message to Jesus who gives it to his angel who gives it to John who gives it to you and me. And that's exactly how it comes. It's fairly direct really when you think about it. If nothing else it's from an angel that's divine to John an apostle to you. And several times in the book he appeals, he says, "i, John, saw these things. I am bearing witness.

This is true. Here is a message from God." and as you read the book of Revelation it is so perfect that you say, "Wow, this is divine." I remember first time I read Revelation. A lot of people think, "Ah, there must have been mushrooms on Patmos." "And John is hallucinating!" and you--i was a hippie and I did take hallucinogenics, LSD and peyote and different things. And when I first started Revelation I thought, "yeah, I was on that trip too!" because I thought--I thought to myself, "this is just so far out I don't know what he's talking about." but as I became acquainted with the other books in the Bible I realized, "oh man. This is not just a person's mind short-circuiting. There's a genius in it that can't be explained any other way." it is. It's just absolute divine genius how you could get it to tell a story and draw from all these other different stories. Basically, as--one commentator said, it's the golden capstone of all scripture in that they all come together in Revelation. It tells us about Christ. It's like Jesus said in Luke 24:27, "beginning at moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." every passage in Revelation and not-- Revelation is not a book to tell us about the beast. The way some people on television, I’ve got that new satellite now where I not only get the amazing facts channel and 3abn and the other good Adventist channels, I also get a lot of other Christian channels and charismatic channels and some of 'em have programs that are on Revelation every day and they try to read the headlines through the glasses of Revelation. And they have--anything that's happening, they try to make Revelation apply to everything that's happening in the headlines. And you know they get the goofiest interpretations that--and I don't mean to be derogatory. I don't mean to be unkind. But that's not how it's to be read. It's to be read with an overview of history.

What does it say about Jesus? He's the central focus. It's not a Revelation of the beast or the antichrist. John 5:39, Christ said, "search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life. These are they that testify of me." if all the scriptures testify of Jesus, if the first lines of Revelation are an unveiling, a revealing of Jesus Christ, then we know the purpose of Revelation is to reveal Christ. Now if you have any doubts look at the names of Christ that are given in Revelation. It says the faithful witness he's called. He's called the firstborn from the dead in Revelation. The ruler over the kings of the earth. The son of man. Have you met some of these people now that say that we're saying the name of Jesus wrong and we need to change it now, and they've rewritten the Bible. And they say, "if you don't say it in the original Hebrew, Yeshua," you're saying it wrong and it's somehow blasphemous. And they get very focused on you pronouncing and uttering the name with the Hebrew accent in the original dialect and you know God has got many names. And just in Revelation it's the ruler over the kings of the earth, the first and the last, the living one, the son of God, he who is holy and is true, the amen, the beginning of the creation of God, the lion from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, the Lamb, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus, the king of kings, the Lord of Lords, the alpha, the omega, the beginning, the end, the bright morning star, and that's not all of 'em.

So Revelation is looking at Jesus like you would walk around a jewel with a thousand facets and the light catches it all a little different each way depending on your perspective of where you're looking at it. And it's like Christ is the central jewel in Revelation and each name is telling us something about his character. And you see him so many different ways in the Bible. So it's a Revelation of Christ first and foremost. Now the other important thing that I think we need to remember, Revelation is not a sealed book. I remember doing a one of my Revelation seminars I did on the Navajo reservation and I remember this couple came in and they looked absolutely terrified. They came in--i had a tent pitch, first Revelation seminar I did, there was a tent right on the road where Dave and Cindy Boatright, elders here at central church, they're back in Waterflow where we had that meeting. They're still working with the Waterflow church. And I remember this one couple came in and they just were kind of clutching each other and--said, "hi, welcome." and they said, "ah, we're afraid to come." they said, "our pastor said there's a curse on anybody who studies Revelation, but we didn't think that was right, so we wanted to come and find out." and I thought, "a curse?" the book opens and concludes with a blessing on anybody who reads it. So, you know, right there is good news if you came to church today. God promises you should get some kind of blessing out of this because if we're studying the book of Revelation, he promises a blessing. The book begins and ends with a blessing. You look, for instance, in Revelation 1:3. "Blessed is he who reads." I’m hoping that during this series you'll read it too. And those who hear."

Some of you might just be hearing right now. "And especially those who keep the words of this prophecy, that are written in it, for the time is near." so the time was at hand for these things to happen. Closes the book, Revelation 22:7, "behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who keeps the words of this book." matter of fact, Revelation is unique from every other book 'cause there's a blessing pronounced in the beginning, a blessing at the end, and a warning at the end. A curse is pronounced on anybody who would have the audacity to altar or hide the things that are contained within it. So I would think that if there's ever a time in the history of the church when God's people ought to be studying Revelation, if he says the time was at hand for the fulfillment of those things when it was first delivered, it's especially at hand now. So, again, Revelation 22:10, "do not seal up the words of the prophecy of the book, for the time is at hand." it says there's a blessing. Do not seal it up. It's something that should be understood. And you know one reason I think God put Revelation where he did? 'Cause as you read Revelation, in order to understand it, you got to read the rest of the Bible. It is there as an encouragement to acquaint yourselves with all the scriptures.

Because if you want to understand what's coming, he said you got to know what's happened in the past. Best way to understand the future is be acquainted with history. Best way to understand the book of Revelation is to be acquainted with Bible history and be reading the other stories in the Bible. So we're gonna get into chapter one and we're not gonna do it exhaustively. Chapter one, you have the introduction to Revelation. You got these seven churches, which are really seven stages. Matter of fact, while I’m talking about this, there are actually seven sets of seven in the book of Revelation. Of course, the introduction we'll get to in just a moment. You've got the seven churches in chapters two and three. Then you've got seven scenes. We get the seven churches on earth. And then you get the seven scenes in heaven. And we'll get to that and that's in chapters four and five. Then you've got the seven seals of Revelation, seven trumpets, seven signs. That's talking about Revelation 12-13. There's seven signs that are given, seven plagues, and then the seven final visions. So even the book of Revelation is perfectly, mathematically divided up into sevens of seven. It's like Jesus said. "How often shall I forgive my brother," Peter asked him. "Seventy times seven." and so even the book is divided up there in that way. Before this is over, I should probably assemble a good outline that--just a summary of the book. Many of you in your Bibles--my Bible I’ve been using since I came to central church. I use the open Bible.

It's Thomas Nelson Bible publishers. And they have an outline of the book and they don't really insert any kind of denominational creed into this, but they got an outline of the book that kind of tells you how it's laid out and you can find that. They're online. There's some good kind of generic outlines of Revelation. And I recommend and invite you to do that. All right, we're gonna dive in real quick. And again, I’m not gonna be able to do a verse by verse study, but first you've got the introduction and it says here in chapter one, verse one, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him, to show his servants things that must shortly take place." so when does the fulfillment of the prophecy of Revelation begin? Way off in the future or shortly? Now there are three or four popular ways that people interpret the book of Revelation. You know, I don't want to bore you, but I kinda got to give you this background. You got what they call the preterist, the historicist, the historicist-spiritual, and then the futurist, preterist. Just think of the word pre. And all that means is there's one group that thinks that everything in Revelation was fulfilled in the first century. It's all past. Everybody from the second century on, when they read Revelation, they looked back and said, "that's all been fulfilled." they think that Nero was the antichrist and everything that it talks about in there is all in the past." oh, there's probably 20% of evangelical Christians that believe that. Not a lot. It's a small group.

Then you've got the futurists. Now the futurists, they believe that some of Revelation, the first chapter, is talking about things that are past and some of it was present when it was written in chapters two and three. But once you get to chapter four and John hears this voice and he is caught up to heaven, says you don't hear any more reference to the church from then on. Well, the word church doesn't appear. That's true, but it doesn't mean there's no reference to the church. A lot of reference to the church. And so they say that's after the rapture, so they think the rapture takes place in chapter four. So in other words, everything that you and I read in Revelation from chapter four on hasn't happened yet. I respectfully and strongly disagree with that, but that's the futurist view. Now I got to give you a little history on that. Nobody really believed the futurist view for the first 1600 years of Bible--of Christian history from the time of Christ till 1500, 1600 ad. When the great Protestant reformation took off. And some of the reformers like martin Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and--they began to point to the roman church as a fulfillment of part of Revelation, as one of the persecuting powers. Millions of people were flocking out of the Catholic Church into the Protestant churches because of the preaching of Revelation, because the interpretation of Revelation that Luther and the others used, which was called the historicist view. Now most reformers, myself included, are historicist, meaning that Revelation covers a span of history from the first coming to the second coming, obviously on into heaven 'cause it closes with us in heaven. And so it kind of covers the history of the church.

Since the time is at hand, meaning the fulfillment of these things, the relevance of what I’m saying is applicable now and it's gonna be applicable in every age of history, of Christian history, until ultimately we're in the kingdom. So there's this kind of a panorama of the history of the church between the first and second coming. It's the historicist view. That's what I believe. That's what virtually all of the reformers believed. But when the Catholics saw all of the--their members-- there was that great, big sucking sound. And they were just pouring out of the Catholic Church into the various reformed churches. They said, "Look, we have no answer for their interpretation of Revelation." and so there were a couple of Jesuit priests, one was Francisco Ribera, that were assigned to come up with a counter-reformation interpretation of prophecy. And they came up with what we call the futurist interpretation. This is easy to document. This is not some kind of thing that you're never gonna find. It's very well documented. And it stayed pretty much in a few small circles of Catholics and Jesuit theologians, but then a man named Darby came along, he embraced it, who was a Protestant, Plymouth Brethren. Gradually other--you've heard of the Scofield Bible? It was incorporated into the Scofield Bible by Cyrus Scofield, who was a Protestant. All these Protestants began to buy Scofield's Bible. And since the preachers were not preaching Revelation, they said, "well, I want to know what it means." they began to adopt Scofield's interpretation. But these are now Protestants. And then a historian and a schoolteacher named Hal Lindsey wrote a book called, "The Late Great Planet Earth," which made it very popular.

Nothing in his book that he foretold would happen would happen, but you know, it took root then in the Protestant churches and the evangelical churches until today, now, the majority of Protestant evangelicals believe the Catholic interpretation of prophecy, the Jesuit interpretation of prophecy, futurism, which is really strange, but it could be what was planned all along. So just giving you a little background. He said the time is at hand. Now I’ve run out of time. This was gonna be a two-part series, but at the rate I’m going, it's gonna take longer than that. So he says, "for the time is at hand." and he says, "i want you to bear witness of the Word of God--or to his servant John, who bore witness to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ and all things that he saw." he's giving faithful witness. "Blessed are those who read and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep." is there a difference between reading and hearing and keeping? Is there something to be kept? Does the book of Revelation say something about obedience and the will of God?

It's not just a book--i know people love to get together and argue Revelation. They may not be obeying God's commandments, but they love to argue Revelation. Well, if we're not keeping the things that are written, then the blessing is not there. "For the time is near." then he begins to say who it's written to. "John to the seven churches that are in Asia." now is this letter only for those seven churches that are in Asia? And it mentions them more specifically when you get to Revelation chapters 2 and 3. And those churches being Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos or Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Were they the only churches that were in Asia? And we got a little map we'll put up on the screen. And the isle of Patmos was right off the shore. I don't know if that's big enough where you can see it. You see the darker gold area. That's the part of Asia Minor where the seven churches--a little bright spot right in the middle of the map in the Mediterranean or the Aegean sea is the isle of Patmos, right off shore. So is the message of Revelation only for that section of geography? Were those seven churches the only churches in that part of Asia Minor? No, they weren't. There were other groups and early history refers to other churches that were there. And the interesting thing also is the number seven, of course, has got some symbolism to it. There were--those seven churches really existed. And he goes through them in a circle. Sequentially the message is given. Now we're gonna quickly touch on those seven churches.

Jesus in chapter one, he appears in a glorious way. I heard about a boy one day that was coloring vigorously in his Sunday school class, the teacher says, "what are you drawing?" he says, "I’m drawing God." another girl coloring next to him said, "no one knows what God looks like." and he says, "well, they will when I’m done." and so this is one of the two times in the Bible that someone says they see God. By the way, again, this is a parallel of the vision Daniel has of God the son and he also has a vision of God the father, but it's so nebulous and glorious it's hard to describe. Jesus appears and he's wearing like the garments of the high priest, this linen with the golden girdle. It's a little unique. And he's among seven candlesticks. Now right away I want you to notice something about what's happening here in Revelation. The vision of Revelation largely happens in the context of the heavenly temple. That happens with several Bible prophets. Isaiah. He sees God in the holy of holies, flanked by the two cherubim on the right and the left. They got six wings and they're crying, "Holy, holy, holy." he sees God on His throne. Mercy seat was a symbol of that. It's the holy place. And the visions that you're gonna see in Ezekiel and Zechariah, they often happened in the context of the heavenly temple. Now you'll notice in Revelation 1 Jesus is in the first apartment. That's where the candlesticks were. But as you go through Revelation, you'll also find reference to the altar of incense. What room was that in?

That's the first apartment. And it says, "then I saw the temple of God in heaven open," meaning the veil, "and the ark." what room was that in? That was in the holy place. And so the whole vision is transpiring in this heavenly temple. If you don't know something about the earthly sanctuary, Revelation's gonna be a little harder for you to understand. It's also in the context of the sacrificial system. Now Jesus is walking among the seven candlesticks and they represent the seven churches. Why are they symbolized as candlesticks. What does Jesus say to the church? You are the what of the world? You are the light of the world. We're really to reflect the light that comes from him. And in Revelation 12, you've got the bride of Christ and she's standing on the moon. That's a light that God made. She's clothed with the sun. That's a light that God made. She's got 12 stars above her head. That's a light that God made. The light of God, the church, the bride of Christ. And so he is among the candlesticks. God has sent his church to be a light in the world. Amen? And so one of the things it's telling us is that you are to be a light in the darkness of the world. "i have come to illuminate you. You reflect that light to others and I am in your midst." that's the other things that is beautiful. Whole sermon right here.

Christ was in the midst. He stands among them. When we gather in his name, is he in our midst? He is with his church. He says, "i am very conscious." he sends a message to his church. Does Jesus say, "John, I got a message for you to give to the pagans"? How does God communicate to us? Revelation 1 tells you the preferred method that God has to communicate with humanity. He, through Jesus, through the angels, to the leaders in the church, communicates to a lost world. He does not send the angels to the pagans, so to speak, but he gives us the privilege to communicate to others. We are in the conduit. We're in the chain that God uses to communicate. He wants to spread the gospel to the world through who? Harvest is great. The laborers are few. The laborers are the church. He wants to use us to tell them. And so he gives this message through Christ to the angel, to John, to the church, who are lights in the world to the lost. You got that? And so just--it's wonderful when you think about it. Now you get to chapter two and chapter two and chapter three are the seven--there are no chapters in the original, so you've got seven messages. Chapter two has got four churches. Chapter three has got three churches, adding up to seven. And in these seven messages to the seven churches--i might begin by asking you a question. Did this apply at all to those literal churches? Did those churches have real names? Yeah, I’m sure that there were churches, very prominent churches of Ephesus and Smyrna, and you'll hear them referred to.

The book of Ephesians is written to the church of Ephesus. And it mentions the church of Laodicea other places in the Bible, and so these are real churches and real towns that were in Asia Minor. But you've got to know there's something spiritual going on here too. Can God give a message to somebody literally that's applicable to them, but it has a dual application, spiritually, for others? When Jesus told the apostles that Jerusalem was gonna fall and there wouldn't be one stone left upon another and the abomination of desolation would surround Jerusalem with armies, did that literally apply to the Jews that were alive that day that heard his voice? It did. It was something very applicable to them. Some of those who heard him say that lived to see the fulfillment. It was a message for them. But was there a broader spiritual meaning of that abomination of desolation? Is there gonna be another time when God's people are going to not just head into the hills of Judea, but head into the hills during the small time of trouble? And so some of the prophecies in the Bible have a dual application.

So the message is when the churches of Asia, Ephesus and Smyrna and Pergamos and Thyatira and Philadelphia and Sardis and Laodicea, when they read the their messages, they looked around and said, "oh yeah, that applies to--yeah." they knew what it meant. But there was also a broader meaning. For instance, it talks in the seven churches about, "tell Jezebel. You get that woman, Jezebel." there's probably no member on the church books in Thyatira called Miss Jezebel. That was a Bible character. But even they in the church understood that Jezebel was an Old Testament character and that there was a message there for something that was going on. We may not know everything that was happening in those churches that day, but they did. It talks about Balaam. I doubt there was a member of one of the churches acting like--who had the name Balaam who was on the church books. Anyone here name their kid Balaam or Jezebel? I mean, no, we wouldn't do that in our churches because you do know what the Bible meaning of that name is, right? So they even understood that God was speaking to them through code for whatever the needs were in their church. Put simply, the seven messages to the seven churches cover the religious history of God's people from the first coming to the second coming.

There is a cycle that the church goes through historically, where when Christ ascended to heaven, you've got the church of Ephesus. They love the truth. They were on fire for the truth. But they were losing their love for Christ. And so they were very zealous for doctrine and maintaining the purity of the church, but they had begun to lose their love for Christ. And as--and then you got the church of Smyrna. That's the church from like 303 to 313. The word Smyrna means myrrh, or incense and offering. And they were laying down their lives. It was the fiercest persecution of the Christians. It was an age of great sacrifice, where they showed their love and they were dying for the faith. Matter of fact, the church of Smyrna, there is no reproof that's given. All of the churches typically there's given some reproof and some warning and then some encouragement. But a couple of churches, he only had good things to say about 'em. One of 'em was Smyrna 'cause they were dying for their faith back then. He says, "You love not your lives to death and I have got for you a crown of life." And it tracks then, again, the different phases that the church goes through. And I’ll tell you why this is really important to us today.

The cycle of the seven churches in Christian history, beginning with the church of Ephesus, ends with what age of the church? Laodicea. Who would be part of that church? We're living during that age. And you don't have to be Laodicean, but we're living during the age of Laodicea. And boy, I’ll tell you, friends, maybe I’ll have more time to talk about this next week, but boy was it ever true being lukewarm and indifferent, thinking you're rich and increased with goods and having need of nothing. But not only is that true of a cycle that a church goes through. A church movement often goes through the same cycle. Look at the Lutheran church. Starts like Ephesus, ends up like Laodicea. You can track the cycle of, an evolution--not that I like to use that word in preaching, but people misunderstand, but some things do kind of go through an evolution, where, in our experience, many people come to the Lord and they're on fire and it's the truth and so they fall in love with the truth.

Then they start forgetting about actually love for the Lord and they begin like Ephesus and then they go through the age of Smyrna. And I’ve seen individuals that go through the entire cycle. You in your continuum of Christian experience, you could be anywhere in those seven churches. That's why this message is relevant for everybody, because some of you live a life-- and I know people. I’ve met people. They're like Philadelphia. I’ve just met church members that they are like the church of brotherly love. They live Philadelphia. And then I’ve met some who are like Sardis. They got a name that they live, but they're dead. They're nominal Christians, in name only. And then we've all known the ones that are sacrificial. They just pour themselves out like Smyrna and then there are some who are Laodicea. So it's a cycle that the church history went through and is still going through. Beginning with Ephesus, ending with Laodicea. Laodicea means a judging of the people and it's the time of judgment. He ends the church by saying the amen. We're talking about the last age of the church. And it, of course, is also a cycle, a church--the Methodists went through it. The Baptists went through it. Could be that we're going through it.

It's a cycle that movements go through. As the generations pass, they lose that first love and that fervor and they can eventually become just sort of an institution, an organization that becomes lukewarm. And that's a real risk. That's a real danger that we need to pray about. And I hope if nothing else I have encouraged you to get your Bibles and to start studying this book, amen? Because I think that, you know, when Jesus stood up his hometown, he said-- he read Isaiah 61. He said, "Today are these things fulfilled in your ears." I think we're living in the generation that can read Revelation and say, "these things are fulfilled in our hearing. It's happening all around us." and I think that we've begun an adventure today in the things of God and the events are unfolding, really, around us right now. I want to be ready. I know you do too. And I want to receive that blessing of having the power of God alive in my life and in our church. Jesus is in the midst of his candlesticks, isn't he? Let's pray that we might experience the book of Revelation, a revealing of Christ.

Father in heaven, Lord, as we embark on this adventure, not only in the holy book, but in this especially holy, apocalyptic prophecy, the only prophecy book of the New Testament, we pray that we'll experience the blessing that you've promised. You've encouraged us to read it. You've told us that it's revealed. You've told us it is not sealed, but still is something that requires study. And we pray, Lord, that you will honor our effort to know you better through the study of this book. Reveal Jesus to us. And I pray that we will experience Christ in our lives. Help us to be among those who not only are hearing and reading, but keeping the things that are contained in this book. And I pray that we can be listed among the overcomers that are mentioned in this book. Bless our study, Lord. I pray you'll bless our church and help us to be a light in this world. We thank you and ask these things in Jesus' name, amen.

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The Prophecies of Daniel and Revelation by Jim Pinkoski

The Prophecies of Daniel and Revelation by Jim Pinkoski
God's Promises




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