Tag Archives: Revelation

Revelation: The Epilogue

Revelation 22:12-21

Jesus is the speaker of these verses, in which He gives an amazing invitation coupled with an ominous warning. It begins with “Look, I am coming soon” which is the second time He has said this in chapter 22 (see verse 6), only this time, He continues saying, “and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” He is coming for the Final Judgment and the consummation of the Church, not for any further warnings.  In verse 13, Jesus identifies Himself as God, the position of Authority from which He is speaking.

Verses 14-15 begin with an interesting comment: “Blessed are those who wash their robes” is a reference to something we saw earlier in the book, the white robes of the redeemed. By saying “washed” their robes, He is referring to those whose robes have been washed by grace through the shedding of His blood. Those who remain in their sin at His return will not be particularly blessed by God’s judgment.

Again in verse 16, He confirms just exactly who He is, using Old Testament images we have already discussed, and then verse 17:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

“The Spirit and the Bride” is a reference to the Church, for we know that the Church is portrayed in this section (20-22) as His Bride, and the Church is indwelt by the Spirit who speaks in and through the Church, thus, when the Spirit and the Bride say “Come,” Jesus is also making reference to the Gospel, for the spread of the Gospel is God’s Commission to the Church. He, who has an ear, is the believer who hears this prophecy, and again “Come” refers to the Gospel. The one “far off” who is thirsty refers to those who still need to respond to the Gospel.

Verses 18-19 comprise a stern warning to anyone who adds to or subtracts from this message: Woe!

Jesus concludes His remarks in verse 20:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

There you have it from His mouth: He is coming soon! John finishes with words that need no explanation from me in 20b-21:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

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John Visits with an Angel

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

Revelation 22:7-11

This text begins with a word from Jesus Himself in verse 7: He is coming soon Blessed is he who keeps the “words of this scroll”. Revelation has been full of references to the early return of Christ and the final judgment. Again here, Jesus emphasizes that He is coming soon. To the modern mind, after almost 2,000 years of waiting, this seems a little off, but I’d like to remind everyone of a small little detail concerning the “soonness” of His return. Nobody has been waiting for Him for 2,000 years. I sure haven’t been waiting that long, have you? There is always an urgency in the New Testament about Jesus’ return, and yet He hasn’t returned; so why all of the urgency? The answer is twofold and really quite obvious:

First, He might return at any moment for His Church; there isn’t anything keeping Him from returning today that any of us knows about. The second is simply this: we only get so much time to be ready, for He could come for any of us at any time, for nobody knows when they will die. In either case, we might want to be ready, don’t you think?

Next, John identifies himself as the author and eyewitness of these messages and visions, and vouches for the accuracy of this book. Then, perhaps caught up in the enormity of the moment, he seeks to venerate or worship the angel who has brought God’s message to him, much to the consternation of the angle, who tells him he should “Worship God”. Pretty solid advice I’d have to say, and I’m sure John would very much agree. We really should be worshipping God all the time, particularly in light of all we have seen in this book!

The angel continues, telling John not “to seal up the words of the prophecy”, which has a direct contrast to Daniel 12:1-4:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

Daniel had seen into the distant future, this present age, the return of the Christ, the judgment and the consummation, but he was told to seal it up, for the time had not yet come. With John’s scroll of prophecy, the time had now come for these events to play out, as they continue to do now, as the Last Age rolls on.

Then we come to a curious verse, 12:11: “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy” This verse is parallel to another verse from Daniel 12, and that is verse 10:

Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

A second parallel can be found in Ezekiel 3:27:

But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.

While I realize that interpretations of this rather odd verse will vary, it seems to me that the angel is telling John to spread the words of his prophecies; some will be wise and understand, others will scoff and laugh. So be it, for each will be rewarded according when the Day comes. This should not be understood as an endorsement for vileness or wickedness however, since the reward of the wicked is God’s Final Judgment.

The same principle applies to us when we share our message of God’s loving grace; some will listen and respond while others will call us idiots; so be it. We will have done what we could, and they made their choice freely. Does that sound a little too curt to you? It could be, but that is really the whole matter in a nutshell. I know that it can be heartbreaking when people we love and care about refuse to accept God’s loving grace, but in the end, we are called to share, we are not called to beat people into submission, for that is not the way of love.

When we get together next, we will have arrived at the thrill-packed conclusion of the book; see you then!

Trustworthy and True

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Revelation 22:6

With these words, the Revelation of Jesus Christ concerning that “which must soon take place” comes to a close. You will recall that in chapter 1 Jesus told John that He would reveal “what is now” and then “what must soon take place”. The revelation concerning the present (John’s present, c. 90 AD) was found in chapters 1-3, and what would take place later has been running from 4:1 through 22:5, and I’m sure that you will also recall that for the most part, John’s “later” is our “now”. Yes, dear reader, we have seen the entire scope of this present age, from the first century to the 21st, and on into the future.

We have seen through these visions that we, the Church, will have to endure a great deal, as we live on the front lines of a battle of cosmic proportions, yet we have also seen that God protects His church, and that even those who give their physical lives for His cause, are more than rewarded for their sacrifices. If you have been following along with us on this journey, and if you take the time to think it through, you will also have your eyes opened in a sense, when you look at the world we live in. You will come to see what is going on in this world for what it really is. Quite honestly, if you allow yourself to do that, you will also come to realize that the whole discussion in Christian circles about when the Second Coming is to take place, “who is the Antichrist” and all the rest of that kind of thinking, is totally, completely and utterly a waste of time and energy because… it doesn’t matter. In fact, it is a potentially dangerous distraction!

Considering that we are in a spiritual battlefield, why not have the courage to ask yourself who will benefit if we Christians waste our time and energy trying to figure out when Jesus will return, who the Antichrist might be… or what the “signs” will be that His Coming is near. Yep, I dare you to ponder that question!

While you’re pondering that, ask yourself what the purpose and mission of the Church is: Isn’t it to make disciples for Jesus Christ by sharing the Good News of His awesome love to a world that desperately needs to hear it? Isn’t that world comprised of all of those “neighbors” that we are told to love, you know, the ones that Jesus died for?

I would suggest that there is only one being who would benefit by our allowing ourselves to indulge in such speculation, and it isn’t the Lord.

Back to the text…

One last point; notice that the angel tells John, that the words he has been given are “trustworthy and true” and “The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” The Lord is the God who “inspires” the prophets tells us that God stands behind His prophets and vouches for the truth of what they say, John is now one of those prophets, and God Himself is standing behind the words John is sharing with us in these chapters.

I’ll wrap up with one more little point to ponder:

Think of the incredibly awesome promises we have just been studying in chapters 21 and 22; now think about the fact that these are God’s promises, and He completely stands behind them.

Do you believe God? If you answer in the affirmative, then ask yourself how this is going to change the way you view your life in the here and now.

See you next time!

Paradise Restored

To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life… Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. .. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 21:6b’ 22:1-2, 5b

In this final dominant image of the New Jerusalem, John shows us that the city is like the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2: 8-10a:

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden…

Compare the Revelation and Genesis passages to Ezekiel 47:1-12, where God in the temple is seen as the source of life. By this comparison of the consummated Kingdom of God to the Garden of Eden, John is making it very clear to us that what we have to look forward to is the restoration of the Paradise that was lost in the fall of Adam, way back in Genesis 3. In Genesis, we also saw that there was a “tree of life” in the Garden which could sustain human life forever; here we would seem to have multiple trees of life, bearing fruit year round, never going out of season, symbolizing eternal life. John 21:6 has a similar symbol, the “water of life”, which, as I seem to recall, is what Jesus offered to the Samaritan women once upon a time…

And so, we will reign with God in intimate fellowship, in Paradise restored forever and ever; not bad as gifts go!

 

The Kingdom of God is an Intimate Relationship

 prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband… Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children…  One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.

Revelation 21:2b, 7, 9

The sixth image is an awesome one: In the fullness of the Kingdom, not only will God be present with His people, they will also enjoy the deepest, most intimate and meaningful of relationships with Him, for they will be His family. Note 21:7 when is says “Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children”. Read that slowly; give it a chance to really sink in…

The New Testament has many references to this idea of entering God’s family as brothers of Christ, of being God’s children, yet all too often we fly past as though these statements were more hyperbole than anything else, but they are not. Hebrews teaches us very clearly that we are “co-heirs” with Christ “to everything”; what does this mean?

Think of what a “co-heir” is: It means that you and I will inherit a piece of everything that Jesus inherits from the Father, and what has He inherited? He is King of kings and Lord of lords; you will have a piece of that. He has inherited the whole universe; you will have a piece of that. He is the Father’s Son; you will have a piece of that. He is the Son whom the Father loves; you will have a piece of that… Can you see how this is working?

Verses 21:7 and 9 refer to the church as the Bride of Christ, meaning that in the consummated Kingdom; our relationship with our Lord will be like that of a wife and her husband, only without the problems. It will be a deep and intimate relationship with no secrets and no forbidden subjects, all questions answered and shared; no lies or holding back on either side… Talk about love; this is love to the fullest, beyond what anyone has ever experienced before.

If you consider this reality and look around you today, at your struggles, at your circumstances and problems of this life, even on your worst day, how can they possibly begin to compare to the wonders you have in Christ?

The New Jerusalem is “Emmanuel”

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God… It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal…  The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. ..  I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light.. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there… They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 21:3, 11, 15-16, 22-24a, 25; 22:4-5

Back in the days of Moses, God commanded that the people build a tabernacle in which the Ark of the Covenant was to be placed, within which the Spirit of God would dwell in the midst of His people. Years later when the temple was built in Jerusalem, God’s Spirit dwelt within the Most Holy Place, as God continued to dwell in the midst of His people. The problem with that arrangement was that the people had no access to God.

Years after that, Jesus Messiah came, He was “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”, and He walked literally in their midst, talking, healing, teaching, loving His people. After His death and resurrection, at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to indwell the followers of Christ, and to this day, God is present with us in the person of the Holy Spirit within us.  By His presence within us, we can have a direct relationship with Him, something no one in the Old Testament could quite do. After the consummation of the Kingdom, we will live in community as the New Jerusalem where Father and Son will be with us even more directly; face-to-face. Jesus will once again walk the street, so to speak, and we will have the best of both, the indwelling Holy Spirit and the face-to-face.

In the last section, I told you that the New Jerusalem would be a community, and that we the followers of Christ will in fact be the New Jerusalem. In this section, we can also see that the New Jerusalem will also be a temple, the dwelling place of God, thus it will truly be “Emmanuel”, God with us.

The Kingdom of God is a Community

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb…  The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d] thick. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

Revelation 21:2a. 10a 12-14, 17-21

The New Jerusalem is described as a community more than anything else; in its description, we see little of the appearance of its architecture, but we get a great deal of insight about the people who are the city. In calling it the “New Jerusalem” John is using the name of the old Jewish capital, the city that was the embodiment of the nation; here is the embodiment of all of the people who have come to God by following His Son.

Notice first off that the new city “comes down” from God; it is not located in the sky or in the clouds, but comes from God, is His sole creation. It has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 Apostles, who are the foundation upon which His church is built. We have seen this notion in NT passages such as Eph, 2:20. It also has 12 gates named after the 12 tribes of Israel. Earlier in Revelation we have seen the 12 tribes used as symbols for the whole of God’s people; the gates represent the entryways for all people who follow God.

The city is 12,000 stadia long, by 12,000 stadia wide and 12,000 stadia high, roughly a 1,400 mile cube. Yet as we have seen, the number twelve represents God’s people. Here we have 12 X 1,000 three times, representing the total number of the redeemed.  The walls are 144 cubits thick, once again representative of the full number of God’s people, therefore we must conclude that “new Jerusalem” is the people of God.

The 12 stones closely resemble the stones on the breastplate of Aaron, the High Priest, and even though they don’t match exactly Exodus 28, they seek again to identify the city with the people of God. All of these images, the city name, its dimensions, gates, foundations and building materials point us to the fact that the New Jerusalem represents God’s people together, not as individuals alone and isolated. My view is that this tells us that our eternity will be spent in community, a community based upon relationships with God, and with other people of God, a much more interesting prospect than playing a harp while seated on a cloud for all eternity!