How To Read The Book Of Revelation Rich Nathan April 2-3, 2005 Revelation: Looking at Life From the Perspective of Heaven Series Revelation 1:1-8 One of the fascinating stories from WWII is the effort by the English to break German coded messages. The English assembled mathematicians, crossword puzzle experts, linguists, chess champions, really smart people to work on their code breaking. At the height of their code breaking efforts, they assembled more than 10,000 people to work at an old mansion called Bletchely Park, which is about 50 miles north of London. The challenge was breaking the code produced by the German Engima inscription machine. German Engima Machine (www.BletchleyPark.org or www.mastergeneogology.com) This German Enigma machine was able through this complicated array of rotating wheels and electric contacts to produce a coded letter, which lit up a panel above the machine. The recipients of the code would type of the resulting code in his own Enigma machine and he would see the deciphered message lit up letter by letter on the panel above the machine. These rotators and wires were constantly being reconfigured. The odds against anyone who did not know the settings figuring out the code were 150 million million to 1. What the English needed to break the code was to capture the Enigma machine. Here is where the story gets really interesting. There was a British Secret Agent known as Intrepid, who discovered that the Germans were building the Enigma machines in Poland. Along with the Polish underground, Intrepid targeted a truck carrying an Enigma machine. The spy network killed the truck drivers, stole the machine, and replaced it with smuggled parts from another Enigma machine. Then they packed the truck filled with explosives and blew it to bits. When the Germans investigated the bombed out truck, they had a good laugh. Those stupid Poles, they used too many explosives. They blew up the Enigma machine! Intrepid then smuggled the original Enigma machine into Britain and once the English had their own Enigma machine, they were able to decode thousands of German messages. Some people credit Intrepid’s work with shortening the war by two years.
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In order to protect the secret that they had broken the German code, British counter-intelligence leaked to German agents that there was a highly placed British spy on Germany’s military staff. The Germans never found out that there was no such spy and that the British were eavesdropping into their coded messages. As the English General Montgomery once boasted, “With the codebreaking, I know what the Gerries are having for breakfast!” Why do I tell you this story? Today we are going to begin an extended study of the book of Revelation. The great English writer GK Chesterton once said that “Saint John saw many strange monsters [in his revelation], but he saw no creature so wild as one of his commentators.” Brothers and sisters, one of the most important things that you are going to hear in this series is what I’m about to say: The book of Revelation is not a code book. The book of Revelation is not like the German Enigma machine that required brilliant code breakers to decipher it. For hundreds of years people have proposed that Revelation contains a secret history of the world, especially a secret history of contemporary people and events, a secret history of the world which this code breaker has uniquely uncovered. In the 16th century, Martin Luther, the great German Reformer, believed that he saw clear references to the Pope in Revelation’s description of the Beast who sat on a city of seven hills. The Pope, of course, found clear references to Martin Luther in the same passage. In the 19th century, Edward Irving, the founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, found references in the book of Revelation to Napoleon, to Louis XVI, and to Britain as God’s faithful witness. In the 20th century, people have found unmistakable references in the book of Revelation to Mussolini, to Hitler, to John Kennedy, as the Revelation 13 Beast whose head was wounded and who recovered, to Gorbachev because he has a red blotch on his head. A few years ago it was popularly thought that the Beast was certainly a computer kept in Belgium, in charge of the European Common Market. And the Number 666 was a barcode about to be implanted in people’s hands to register their purchases. At some point, brothers and sisters, you would think that people would get wise and reject all this foolishness. But as PT Barnum, the great circus owner, once said, “No one ever lost a buck underestimating the taste of the American public.” Looking at the history of Revelation’s interpretation, you could paraphrase PT
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Barnum by saying: No one ever lost a buck underestimating the public’s appetite for secret information from the Bible. Revelation is not a secret history of the world. Unfortunately, when Revelation is read as a code book, or as a secret history of the world, it is taken out of the hands of ordinary people. Unless we meet someone who is part of the specially enlightened elite, the person who comes often with charts, graphs, and seminary notes, unless we meet this person with the great prophetic insight, then the book is closed off to the ordinary person. And so many of us ordinary people have become intimidated from reading it. But the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, SLIDE 2Ti 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2Ti 3:17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. All scripture, including Revelation, has practical value for teaching, correcting and training. The apostle Paul underlines this point in 2 Tim. 4:1-5 when he draws a contrast between the solid teachers of the gospel and people’s desire to have teachers “say what their itching is wanting to hear.” SLIDE 2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. God gave us the book of Revelation not to tickle our fancy, or to satisfy our curiosity, or to entertain us, or to create in churches the enlightened, elite who alone could unlock the book. God gave us the book of Revelation for the same reason that he gave us all of the scripture – to teach us, correct us, comfort us, and to train us in righteousness. As we begin this series from the book of Revelation, I’ve called today’s introductory teaching very simply, “How to Read the Book of Revelation.” Let’s pray. SLIDE – Revelation 1:1-8 Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
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who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Rev 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, Rev 1:6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Rev 1:7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” The person who turned the book of Revelation into a gold mine for the last 35 years is, of course, the popular writer Hal Lindsey. I don’t believe you can overestimate Lindsey’s influence on generations of Christians on their approach to the book of Revelation, to end-times teaching in general, and to Bible prophecy. It was Lindsey who really popularized the idea that the book of Revelation was to be read as a secret history of the world, as a code, or even more accurately as a Rorschach Inkblot Test. SLIDE – Rorschach Inkblot You are familiar with Rorschach Inkblots, aren’t you? A psychiatrist shows you an inkblot and asks you what you see? Whenever they used to show us these inkblots in psychology class, the only thing I ever saw was a bat! I don’t know what that says about me. Maybe I spent too much time as a child reading Batman comic books. I don’t know. But lots of folks, including Hal Lindsey have been able to find in the Bible and in Revelation, in particular, whatever they want to find. It changes over time. I know you will immediately say that Hal Lindsey and lots of people like him have really been used by God to help people find Christ. Maybe some of you came to Christ through The Late Great Planet Earth. This whole genre of literature has really stimulated lots of people’s interest in the Bible and in the gospel.
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But I believe, as I said earlier, that these books have really hurt the cause of Christ by communicating to millions and millions of people around the world that Bible prophecy and Revelation, in particular, cannot be read by ordinary people. You need a code breaker or a specially gifted person. Look at Revelation 1 and what it says in contrast: SLIDE Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Revelation is not written to the prophetically gifted elite, to the uniquely illuminated. It is written to the servants of God, to ordinary people. Unfortunately Hal Lindsey, along with lots of others, has regularly communicated that the Bible contains this secret history of the world. It is sort of like Nostradamus, which the Bible is emphatically not. This is such an important point, that you do not turn the Bible into a Rorschach Inkblot in which you can read anything out of and try to find in it contemporary people and events. This is such an important point that you don’t make the same error that people have been making for the last 2000 years that I want to underline it for a moment simply by looking at one illustration and that is, Hal Lindsey’s books. Now, I’m not trying to pick on poor Hal. I could have mentioned a lot of other writers, as this is a major trend in Christian books today. I mention Lindsey only because he is such a popular writer. Lindsey, it was said by the NY Times, is the best-selling author of the 1970’s. He apparently is one of the very few writers to ever have had three books on the NY Times Best-Seller’s list at the same time. His book The Late Great Planet Earth sold more than 18 million copies and was passed only this year by Rick Warren’s wonderfully helpful book, The Purpose Driven Life, for the all-time best-selling Christian book. The Late Great Planet Earth was translated into dozens and dozens of languages. It had huge influence. What Lindsey finds in the book of Revelation are references to supersonic jet aircraft with missiles, advanced attack helicopters, battle tanks, ICBMs with multiple targeted re-entry vehicles, biological and chemical weapons, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, space station satellites. In Lindsey’s inspired Bible code, John’s locusts become helicopters. The crowns of gold are the helmets worn by pilots. The sound of their wings are the thunderous sound of many attack helicopters flying overhead. The bow wielded by the anti-Christ is a code word for long-range weapons like ICBMs and the reference to the color of fire in Revelation 9:17 becomes the Chinese national flag emblazoned on military vehicles.
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What is really disconcerting is that Lindsey changes interpretations of the same Bible passages as the geo-political contemporary scene changes. So, for example, in 1981 he wrote The Countdown to Armageddon, in which he says: SLIDE Today the Soviets are, without question, the strongest power on the face of the earth. Let’s look at recent history to see how the Russians rose to the military power predicted for them thousands of years ago. However, in 1995 with the fall of the Soviet Union, Lindsey wrote Planet Earth 2000 AD and said: SLIDE Scripture never predicts that the Soviet Union would gain world domination. Bible prophecy clearly says that the Kremlin was never going to rule the world. As Russia fell as a world power, Lindsey’s writing focused more and more on fundamentalist Islam. So in 1970 when Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth he said: SLIDE The Russian force will establish command headquarters on Mt. Moriah, or the temple area in Jerusalem. In The Apocalypse Code, written in 1997, Lindsey writes: SLIDE The Russian Muslim force will set up command headquarters on the temple mount in Jerusalem. Again, back in 1981, Lindsey wrote: SLIDE As the biblical prophets predicted long ago, the Russians are the greatest threat to world peace. But in 1994 in his book titled Planet Earth 2000 AD, Lindsey writes: SLIDE The greatest threat to world peace is fundamentalist Islam, just like the scriptures warned. And of course, Lindsey was able during the Gulf War to find clear references to Saddam Hussein in the Bible. In 1970, he made the mistake of identifying the ten horns of the beast as the ten member states of the Common Market. When the European union grew way past ten members, Lindsey later wrote:
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SLIDE More than ten nations could at one point be admitted, but in the final stage, it will number only ten. Not only do the interpretations change with geo-political changes, but his date setting for the beginning of the Tribulation changes as the calendar changes. Lindsey’s books over the years regularly predict that the end of the world is near. In The Late Great Planet Earth, written in 1970, he dated the return of Jesus as being 1988. In The Final Battle, which was written in 1994, Lindsey recalculated and set the date before 2024. Now, he says it will certainly happen before 2067. I could go on. But my point is, friends, that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, who loves the truth, and loves God’s Word, don’t you think it is time that we took a different approach to the Bible than looking at it as a secret code or as a Rorschach Inkblot that we can read into it whatever we want? Don’t we need a little more sanity to our approach to scripture? Wouldn’t it be incumbent upon all the writers of these Christian books to show a little more humility in their supposed secret interpretation of the text? Don’t you think, friends, that it is incumbent upon us as Christians who love the truth and God’s Word to stop buying these silly books? Let me ask you some questions. How have you approached the Bible in the past and the book of Revelation, in particular? Have you been intimidated by the Book of Revelation, as I was, for years because I didn’t know it was written for all the servants of God? I didn’t have charts, graphs, and secret illumination. The book of Revelation, friend, is written for you. Have you allowed your ears to be tickled by all these fanciful interpretations, snatching bits of information from this website and that book, and this particular radio preacher? How shall we read the book of Revelation? If it is not a code book, or secret history of the world, or a Rorschach Inkblot that we can pull out of it whatever we want to, whatever our imaginations come up with, then what is the book of Revelation? SLIDE – Revelation 1:1-5 Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Rev 1:2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Rev 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
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Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, Revelation is first of all a revelation. Verse 1, SLIDE Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Notice, it is not just written for prophecy buffs. Again, it is written for God’s servants. Revelation is a prophecy. Verse 3, SLIDE Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. As Gene Peterson points out in his fabulous book on Revelation titled Reversed Thunder, the common way to misunderstand prophecy, and especially the prophecy of Revelation, is to suppose that it needs prediction. But that is not the biblical use of the word. Prophets are not fortune-tellers. The prophet is the person who declares: “Thus says the Lord.” You see, prophets are people who speak what God is speaking. They say what God is saying, and they see what God is showing. Prophets are people who bring the Word of God into the present moment. The prophet is here to say that God is speaking now. The prophet doesn’t simply rehearse what God said yesterday, or what God is going to say tomorrow. The prophetic word is not something from the distant past that puts us to sleep, or some escapist diversion about the future, where we can satisfy our curiosity about what is going to happen in 2 or 20 years. The prophet addresses now. Notice what Revelation 1:3 says: SLIDE Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Near means “at hand.” Do you remember in Mark 1:15, Jesus says:
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SLIDE Mk 1:15
“The time has come,”he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” It is the same root word in the original Greek. Now, Revelation certainly contains some future elements. But as we are going to find in a moment, the future is spoken about in order to illuminate our present situation. We live life now in light of the future. The Bible forbids us to have some neurotic interest in predictions. The book of Revelation is not an exception to the general biblical rule to stay away from fortune-telling. Instead, pay attention to the present moment in light of what is breaking in on us from the future. The book of Revelation is not only a prophecy, which calls us to here and now. The book of Revelation is a letter. Verses 4 and 5: SLIDE Rev 1:4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Revelation has the form of a letter. The sender, John, writes a letter to seven churches. In fact Revelation 2 and 3 are not seven letters, but one letter to seven churches. It is a circular letter. It has the common form of greeting of Christian letters from the 1st century: Grace and peace to you. Now, it is interesting that verses 4-5 contain one of the clearest Trinitarian statements about God that we find in the entire Bible. It is, “Grace and peace to you from him who is and was and is to come.” He is speaking about God the Father. We’ll find that in verse 8 in just a moment, “and from the seven spirits before his throne.” This is John’s reference to the Holy Spirit, with the number seven used over and over again in the book of Revelation to mean a number of completeness. The seven Spirits are the fullness of God’s Spirit sent out throughout the world, “and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness.” We have grace and peace from God the Father, from the Holy Spirit, and from Jesus Christ. This is a letter but it is a different kind of letter. For those of you who have read the book of Revelation, as a letter, it had to have some meaning to the original recipients. The whole book is a letter. John was not writing a book that could
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only be understood 2000 years later as referring to ICBMs and attack helicopters, and Muslim fundamentalism. He was writing a letter that could be understood by his readers. But he was also writing a letter that had application to us. It is a letter than pulls together all of the rest of the Bible. Do you know John’s letter, the book of Revelation, has 404 verses. In those 404 verses there are 518 references to earlier scriptures. He dips into Ezekiel, Daniel, Zephaniah, Isaiah, and Exodus. Virtually every great Christian doctrine finds a place in the book of Revelation. Whether we are talking about the Trinity, or the deity of Christ, or the work of Christ in his death and resurrection, or the worship of God, or the sovereignty of God, the authority of scripture, or the suffering of the church, or angels, or demons, or the return of Christ, or judgment, or heaven and hell, it all comes together in this letter, the book of Revelation. This truly is the capstone of scripture. When the Romans built an arch, they would build it from both sides and then the stone that held the whole structure in place, the stone that was at the top that was an angled stone, the crowning stone was the capstone. The book of Revelation is the crowning stone holding together the rest of scripture. There is nothing taught in the book of Revelation that isn’t taught elsewhere. What this letter teaches is biblical doctrine in a more vivid way, a more alive way. Rather than reading about the doctrines as you would a flat systematic theology, the book of Revelation causes us to experience the doctrines. It is the difference between reading about milk chocolate and having a Dove Promise melt in your mouth. It is the difference between reading a political journal regarding Africa and seeing Hotel Rwanda. Revelation is a letter, but it is a letter like no other letter ever written. It is a letter to be personally experienced. And Revelation is a revelation. Verse 1, SLIDE Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Revelation is most of all a revelation. Verse 1 SLIDE Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
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The word “revelation” is from the Greek “apokalupsis” where we get the word “apocalyptic” or “apocalypse.” But the word “apocalyptic” didn’t originally mean an end-time scenario involving a nuclear holocaust and fiery battle scenes, and buildings exploding. The word “apokalupsis” originally meant a disclosure, an unveiling. Revelation lifts the curtain so that we can see what is going on behind the scenes. By revelation we mean an uncovering. It is like a pot of Maine lobsters boiling on your stove. You lift the lid so that you can look at the lobsters. What is uncovered by the lifting of the lid on the pot? What is uncovered is not a secret code, but a perspective. Revelation offers us a perspective on life. John and his readers are taken up to heaven not so that they can be raptured out of the Tribulation, but so that they can see the world from heaven’s perspective. If you wanted to get a little summary statement about the book of Revelation, here is what it is: Revelation offers us heaven’s perspective on life in this world. You see, when this book was written in the 1st century, it appeared that all of the power in the world was held by the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor, at the time when Revelation was written, claimed for himself the titled “Lord and God.” All of the architecture and statues, rituals, and holidays and parades were designed to display Rome’s power and the splendor of its pagan religion, but John is given a revelation. Rome is not this glorious goddess and the Emperor is not Lord and God. As John looks at Rome from heaven’s perspective, he sees Rome the way God sees her – as a prostitute, as a seductive whore, as a scheming witch, whose wealth and beauty is the result of her disgusting idolatry and immorality. The reason why there are so many symbols and images and pictures in the book of Revelation is that they form a shocking alternative to the images people were exposed to every day. It is like seeing this gorgeous actress on the screen. She is smiling and sweet and innocent. She gives such wonderful interviews and she pitches her softballs to hit out of the park, but then you are given a revelation. You get to see behind the scenes. There is an uncovering, an unveiling and you watch the actress on a hidden camera in her own home. What you discover about this sweet beautiful actress is that she is a witch. You see her berating and cursing her household staff. You see her screeching at her husband and shredding her children’s self-esteem. You see her reaching in the a.m. for a vodka bottle, looking grotesque as she drinks her breakfast. You see her in the evening vomiting up her dinner so that she can keep her weight down. The book of Revelation doesn’t introduce us to a different universe. It introduces us to our universe, to our world, our lives, in the light of heaven. What does John see in his Revelation? He sees God. The center of the book of Revelation, by the way, is Revelation 4 and 5 where John is taken into heaven not by way of escaping this world, but by seeing what is really going on. When John is taken up to heaven there is God the Father and there is the Messiah, the
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Lamb of God, seated on the throne, being worshipped. What is disclosed is that Rome is not the ruling power over creation. God and his Christ rule. And because Revelation is always meant to be a present word to us, it presents you and me with the question of who do we believe holds all the power today? Without a revelation, without an uncovering, all of us are fooled into thinking that something or someone other than God and his Christ holds all the power. You say: Rich, I believe in God’s rule. I believe God has all the power and there is nothing and no one that can compare with him. But do you really believe in the rule of God? Do you really believe in the power of God? Let’s drill down here. You can tell whether you really believe that God rules this world by asking who or what in your life has the power to determine your joy? Is there a person who regularly can wreck your joy? Is there someone who, by their behavior, their comments, their disapproval, can wreck your joy? Or conversely, is there a person or a circumstance that regularly creates your joy? Only when this happens, only when they say “I love you,” only if they approve of you, only if you engage in this behavior, or get this result. If you score a certain amount on a test, or make a sale, then you are joyful. You say you believe in God’s rule. You say you believe in God’s power and God’s control but brothers and sisters, unless God alone controls your joy, you are not serving under the rule of God. Or consider who or what controls your fears. What are you afraid of? Are you deathly afraid of being left alone? Are you afraid of being single and getting older and you do not have a baby yet? Are you afraid that your biological clock is ticking? Are you afraid of people’s disapproval of your faith? What are you afraid of? You say you believe in the rule of God, but brothers and sisters, unless at a very fundamental level, God is the only one who you fear, you only fear walking out side of God’s perfect will for your life, then God is not ruling your life. Something else is. John’s revelation also takes us into the future. John not only gets to see the world in light of heaven, but John gets to see the present in light of the future. In John’s day many Christians were suffering persecution at the hands of Rome because they wouldn’t worship the Emperor. They refused to give the Emperor the title Lord and God. The Christians refused to take part in Roman pagan festivals. John’s revelation offers persecuted Christians comfort. But it is not the comfort of a promised escape. He doesn’t say to persecuted Christians: “Don’t worry. You won’t experience any real pain.” He doesn’t say to persecuted Christians: “Don’t worry, Christians, you are going to be transported to heaven before you are martyred.” He doesn’t say to persecuted Christians: “Don’t worry, Christians, the Lord would never let anything really horrible happen to his children.” But what Revelation does say is that even though right now you are experiencing conflict, in the end you will conquer. Even though now you are wounded, in the end you will win. Even though you are being victimized, in the
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end you will be victorious. Revelation is not an escapist book, but it is an incredibly hopeful book. Revelation says: “Christian, you may be suffering injustice now. You may be persecuted now. You may be abused now. But take heart, the end of the story is that God wins and you will also win if you remain faithful to him.” Let me give you a simple illustration. I travel pretty often by plane. Sometimes the plane trip is uncomfortable. You are sitting next to someone who has their elbow in your ribs the whole time. The person in front of you has their seat back so far that it is leaning on your knees. The flight attendant is having a really bad day and just throws you a bag of pretzels and a cup of ice with a couple of ounces of diet coke. But you can make it through an uncomfortable plane trip if you know that waiting for you on the other end is going to be an incredible family reunion. You are going to get to see your parents who you love, who you haven’t seen for a year or more. You are going to see your kids, who have been out of the country. You are going to see your spouse or fiancée. Friends, do you think about the future very often? I don’t mean the fantasized created futures of popular books but I mean the future of your life; the future of this planet that is clearly laid out in scripture. Do you think about the future very often? Do you look at your present circumstances in light of your future? Maybe your body is breaking down and you are in pain every day of your life. Do you think to yourself: “You know, my seat on the plane is very uncomfortable. I’ve got someone who is smashing me by leaning into my lap. But when this flight is done, I’m going to the best party.” Do you allow your future victory to give you some joy? That is the secret of the saints throughout the ages. Their allowed their certainty of the future victory to give them a present experience of joy. Maybe your marriage is very challenging. As I often say, marriages between Christians range from easy to not-so-easy to challenging to very challenging, to very-very challenging. Often we bring into our marriages lots of baggage – family baggage, emotional baggage, the baggage of sinful choices. Do you say to yourself: “WOW, I’m stuck in this seat with all this luggage under my feet, and in my lap. My spouse’s luggage is falling on me from the overhead compartment. But if I’m going to stay in this seat, as I have vowed, and not try to find a seat that is a little more comfortable, if I’m going to stay in this seat and not open up the emergency exit and leap out, if I’m going to obey the Lord by staying in this seat, then I need to know what the destination of this flight is. That God has an incredible future for me.” Do you think about this, brothers and sisters? That God wins. That no matter how uncomfortable your life or flight is right now, you win with him so long as you stay with him. So many of you suffer from continual discontent with your work or circumstances. Do you spend any time allowing God’s future for you to encourage you in the present?
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Revelation is a revelation of God’s rule. Revelation is a revelation of God’s victory. And Revelation is a revelation of God’s person. You know why Revelation is so difficult for so many people? It is because we approach this book from the wrong end. It is like grasping a knife. You don’t grab it by the blade; you grab it by the handle. When we approach the book of Revelation, we often get into all the details. We grab onto the wrong end, “What do the bear’s feet mean? What is the meaning of the number 666? What about the two witnesses in Revelation 11?” Instead of first grabbing the details of the book, start with the handle. What is the handle? Revelation tells us in the very first verse that it is all about Christ. Revelation 1:1, SLIDE Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only the source of this book that John received, but Jesus is also the content of the book. In Revelation we are going to find the most explicit teaching in the entire Bible about the deity and glory of Jesus Christ. No book in the New Testament, not even the gospel of John, exceed Revelation’s identification of Jesus Christ with God. Revelation is all about Christ. And Revelation is all about God. To use theological language, Revelation is to be read theocentrically. It is an entirely God-centered, God-saturated look at life. Again, it is life from the vantage point of heaven. Contrary to contemporary life, which is entirely man-centered, Revelation says the reality of the universe is that God is at the center and you are not. You are not the star. The story of history is not about you. It is his story. We live in a God-centered world. Let’s close today by looking at the first statement by God in this book. It is just one of two occasions in Revelation that we hear God himself speak. Revelation 1:8, SLIDE Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” This verse contains three of the four most important designations of God in the whole book of Revelation. We read that God is the Alpha and the Omega. The one who is, and was, and is to come. We read that God is the Almighty. The
© Rich Nathan 2005
only other title missing here that is found elsewhere is “the one who sits on the throne.” I just want to tackle one of those titles in verse 8. God is the Alpha and the Omega. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. We might say today that God is the A and the Z. In the Greek alphabet one can’t speak of anything before Alpha. There is no letter before Alpha in the alphabet. Nor can anyone speak about anything after Omega. There is no letter after. So it is with God. There is nothing and no one before God. There is nothing and no one after God. He is the origin of everything and he is the goal of everything. God has the first word in creation and God has the last word in the new creation. He speaks first in the book, and he speaks last. Revelation 21:6, SLIDE Rev 21:6
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Have you thought about God being the Alpha and the Omega, the origin and the goal of your life? You came from the hand of God and all of your successes and all of your blessings and all the things that are working for you, all the love you have experienced, all of the problems you’ve avoided, all of the horrible things that did not happen to you – it all has come from the hand of God. God is your destiny. He is the Omega. He is the end. Your life is racing toward your encounter with God. One day you are going to stand before him. You are going to see him as John saw him. You are going to see him as beautiful. You are going to see him as ruler. You are going to see him as the victorious conquering one. Your life is racing towards God. Are you ready? Let’s pray.
© Rich Nathan 2005
How To Read The Book Of Revelation Rich Nathan April 2-3, 2005 Revelation: Looking at Life From the Perspective of Heaven Series Revelation 1:1-8 I.
What The Book Of Revelation Is Not A. It is Not a Code Book. B. It is Not a Secret History of the World. (2 Tim. 3:15-17) C. It is Not a Rorschach Inkblot Test. i. Interpretation Changes With Changes In Politics ii. Date Setting Changes With Changes In the Calendar
What The Book of Revelation Is (Revelation 1:1-5) A. It is a Prophecy. (Revelation 1:3)
B. It is a Letter. (Revelation 1:4,5)
C. It is a Revelation. (Revelation 1:1) i. God Rules ii. God Wins iii. God’s Person (Revelation 1:8)
© Rich Nathan 2005