The Book of Revelation is an extremely important book. We want to take a quick look at this work in terms of its bad news and its good news. Today the world says the bad news is that there is no good news. However, Revelation tells us the good news is that there will soon be no more bad news, and that forever.
TRIBULATION IS COMING BUT GLORY IS ALSO COMING
Much of the Book of Revelation is about the Day of Lord. This day that the prophets often spoke of includes the Great Tribulation and the coming kingdom of God. It is helpful to read Revelation with Matthew 24 open before us, because this chapter gives us Jesus’ view of the end-day. Matthew 24:6-8 tells us we are already suffering “birth pains” of the end of the age. These are things like wars, famines, and earthquakes. Such things are called the beginning of birth pains. Of course we know that birth pains increase in frequency and intensity as they progress. We see these birth pains proceed to include things like hatred, persecution, and martyrdom (v.9). In fact, in Revelation 6:9 we learn that many Christians will be martyred. Perhaps it was this fact that made the prophet Daniel sick when he learned of it and the same vision may have made John weep.
John saw believers coming out of midst of great tribulation (Rev. 7:14). In the Greek language of this passage we learn that it speaks of a continuous action. They are still coming out of great tribulation not merely escaping it. Of this time, Daniel 12:10 says: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined.” We know in Ephesians 5:27 that our Lord is returning for a church without spot or wrinkle. Someone has said of this that it takes a hot iron to get wrinkles out. It also takes a lot of scrubbing to remove spots. The point is that Christians are obviously not escaping the birth pains of the coming tribulation. We can verify this by looking at the apocalyptic events like 9/11, the Asian tsunami, and even the destruction ofAmerica’sGulfCoast. Christians were involved in these events and we have already heard reports how some distinguished themselves by their faith and how others were protected from the disasters.
As the tribulation intensifies, many will fall from the faith (Mt. 24:10-13); but the saved will endure (v.13). Now it is natural for us to want to avoid tribulation, but we must acknowledge the fact that much of the church is already in tribulation. The World Evangelical Fellowship reports that more Christians died as martyrs in the recent twentieth century than in all centuries combined since the time of Christ.
The Bible tells us that we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). In Romans 5:3-5 we read: “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” In Romans 8:18 Paul says: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
MILLIONS WILL PERISH, BUT MILLIONS WILL LIVE FOREVER
Millions of sinners will be destroyed in the coming judgment. This is the sure testimony of the Bible. Certainly we cannot think that God will always allow evil men to mock him, to cast his Gospel and his Messiah underfoot and to despise his law. No, God will not allow evil men to continue living on his planet. Many want to live today without the law of God and without any restraints upon their sinfulness. The Bible tells us that lawless people will finally get what they want – or what they thought they wanted. A totally lawless ruler will soon be in charge of this world. His name is the Antichrist. We see him arising in chapter 13 of Revelation. His name in the Greek language means “the lawless one” (2 Thess. 2:8). This one will bring horrible suffering upon the ungodly.
The Bible tells us that there is a great harvest of wickedness coming. We read about this harvest in Revelation chapter 14. We see that this harvest is in two parts, the reaping and the vintage. Some have concluded that the reaping involves Christians being taken out of the earth and making their escape to heaven. The Bible does not bear this out. This scripture is based on Joel 3:13, and in this Joel passage we understand that the whole harvest is of evil. This reminds us of Isaiah 24:5-6: “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant… Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left”
It seems from scripture that sinners will literally self-destruct as the heat is turned up on that last day. They simply will not possess the godly principles that will enable them to endure. In Psalm 37:29-31 we read that the saints of God will endure: “the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.” In Revelation 7:3 we read that God’s elect will be sealed in their foreheads against this day. The name of God and the ways of God will control their thinking. They will be sealed just as Noah was sealed long ago. Remember that this righteous man was sealed in the ark, without and within, while the whole world was destroyed around him.
We see in Revelation that great judgment is coming upon people and nations. They will be judged through the fire and through great national disasters. The pictures in Revelation are not pretty. We see in Revelation 9:15 that two hundred million mounted troops will be released to kill a third of humanity. We are not talking about thousands or millions, but billions of wicked people killed. In Revelation 16:16, we learn that all nations and their armies will be gathered to a place called Armageddon in Israel. There the Lord will slaughter these rebellious hordes and the mountains of Israel will be soaked with their blood. We then see wicked people going away to eternal punishment but righteous people to eternal life (Mt. 25:46). How urgent it is for everyone to join the ranks of the righteous. In John 20:31, the author says that he has written the Gospel “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
THE EARTH IS PASSING BUT A NEW ONE IS ON THE WAY
The Bible, as well as many scientists and physicists, all know that our world is passing away. This is a scientific principle known as entropy. According to this principle the earth and solar system are running out of usable energy. This reminds us very much of Hebrews 1:12 where it speaks of the Messiah folding up and setting aside the universe as he would fold up worn out clothing. In short, earth will become a casualty of the last day. In 1 John 2:17 we read: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Now we should not think that God will totally destroy the earth. It is more likely that he will sort of recycle it. We have a number of scriptures like Psalm 78:69 and Psalm 104:5 assuring us that the earth’s foundations are permanent. In 1 Corinthians 7:31 Paul says: “For this world in its present form is passing away.” It is the form of this present evil age that is passing away.
We know from the Bible that horrible tribulations will be poured out upon the earth in the last day. There will be blood, fire, meteors crashing into earth (8:6-12). That is some of the bad news. But the good news is seen in Revelation 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” Peter asks in view of the loss of this present world: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Pet. 3:11-12).
The good news is that God has a fresh new world prepared, and it will be a world where righteousness dwells. It will be more beautiful than anything we have ever seen. There will be no more sorrow, tears, pain and death. Everything will be indescribably beautiful. If God can make a rose bloom in the midst of decay, just think what he will be able to do without decay! Revelation 22 tells us that this new world will be like the Garden of Eden restored. The river of life will be there and the tree of life. What a paradise it will be for redeemed humanity!
IT’S GETTING UGLY BUT SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL IS COMING
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the last day in these words; “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (Isa. 60:2). It is beginning to get dark and ugly out there.
Although it is getting dark outside there are many bright and glorious things coming. First, the kingdom is coming. That is what the book of Revelation is all about. We see in Matthew 24:14 that the message of the kingdom has somehow become hidden from us but that it will be restored in the end-days. Revelation tells us some very important things about this coming kingdom. In Revelation 1:6 we read that Jesus: “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.” In Revelation 3:21 we read this precious promise: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.” Yes, Revelation is all about the kingdom of God. It is about overcoming. We note that Revelation is a reversal of what Satan has done to man. Man who has been cast down to the depths because of sin will again arise and rule with Christ in this earth.
Revelation has many beautiful pictures concerning this. We read that Mother Zion will give birth and will produce her new, victorious humanity. Actually there is a beautiful mystery included in chapters 7, 12 and 14 of the book. It is the mystery of the overcoming remnant or the man-child. Some have looked at these verses and interpreted them as natural Israel. This is surely not the case. While these are said to be from Israel, we note immediately that all the tribes of Israel are not represented. Then we see in Revelation 7:9 that these hail from “every nation, tribe, people and language.” In chapter 14:1 ff., we see this group once more. Here they stand victoriously with the Messiah. There is no guile in their mouths, they are undefiled and they follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have his name and the Father’s name in their foreheads. It is to be noted here that they come from the earth (14:3) and from among men (14:4). They are obviously not just
Undoubtedly what we have here is the first-fruits being produced by Mother Zion. This is most certainly speaking of the end time unity of Jews and Gentiles spoken of in Ephesians 2:11-21; 3:6. In Revelation chapter 12 we see these presented again as the triumphant man-child. We can rest assured that God will have his winners. As they say, “the Church triumphant is alive and well.” The prophet Isaiah speaks of this group of overcomers in these words: “For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isa. 37:32). We see something else that is very interesting about this group. We see that they have a part in casting Satan out of heaven. In Revelation 12:11 we read: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
We have almost lost the meaning of these passages. It is interesting indeed that up to the middle of last century Christians looked upon these passages much differently than they do today. In fact, the earlier commentators relate how there was a general agreement that these verses spoke of a triumphant group within the church.
Well there is more good news. Revelation tells us that the Bridegroom will at last make his appearance. In Revelation 19:16 he is revealed as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” The Bridegroom not only appears but the preparations for his wedding begin to take place (19:9 & 11). His lovely bride begins her descent from the heavenly places. John, in trying to describe this indescribable event, looks up and says “It is a city, the new Jerusalem!” Then it as if he says, “wait, it is a bride dressed for her husband!” The simple truth is that this is a picture of triumphant, overcoming saints being at last fully united with their Messiah. It is very important for us to remember that it is the bride who makes herself ready for this wedding (19:7). It is up to us to put on the beautiful garments he has provided us. These are the garments of praise, of salvation and of righteousness (Eph. 4:22-25; Col. 3:10-14; Isa. 61:3).
Daniel in looking at this event many centuries ago exclaimed: “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (Dan. 7:18). The Book of Revelation (22:5) virtually ends with a similar statement in speaking of the saints, “And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Publication date, 2006
Adapted from a sermon given at Faith Covenant Church, Colorado Springs, CO.USA 1/1/06
Click on the author’s free commentary: Revelation: Is The Church Being Deceived?