AGCC Sun. a.m. 1/7/2001
#1 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXTS: Rev. 1:1-20
INTRO:The book of Revelation is often ignored in Bible study groups, and even by preachers because of all the difficult symbolism and sometimes vague sounding visions … but it is the one book in the Bible that God promises a special blessing to those who simply read it. (Rev. 1:3)
Another reason it is often ignored is because it is not understood correctly, and the focus of those who study it is skewed toward trying to piece together a detailed plan of the future. While there certainly are predictive elements to the book about the future this is not the total focus of the book, even its title should help us see this, it is NOT "THE REVELATION OF THE FUTURE" but "THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST." It is as much about Christ as it is about the future! In fact, this is where the book begins … one cannot look to the future without first coming to Christ who holds the future! Without Christ there is no guaranteed future, and without hope for a future there is no striving to be better!
ILLUS:In the fall of 1989 as glasnost and perestroika were changing the map of Europe, a poll taken in the Soviet Union showed that fifty- seven percent of the adults surveyed said they had no confidence in the future. Of course the poll had to do with the immediate future and with material things such as food, fuel and medicine. If we were to ask the people in any country to answer spiritually, not materially, and long-term, not short-term, how many would say they have confidence in the future? -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
The fact is that only Christians have a firm conviction that the future is certain, and we have this because of the book of Revelation which clearly says that God is in control … we have a future to look forward to!
ILLUS:Atheism has no future. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
PROP. SENT: The book of Revelation shows us the glorified Christ and the certainty of His ruling over all things … we are not stumbling toward an uncertain future … but we will not enjoy this future if we are not in fellowship with the King!
I. THE FOCUS 1:1-6
A. Christ 1:1-3
1. There would be no reason to detail the future without first detailing who is in control of it … and so the book of Revelation begins with a vision of Christ, not a vision of future details of history!
a. John reveals Christ differently here from the Gospels.
b. In the Gospels we are introduced to the baby Jesus, the Son of man, the one who was the suffering servant … who willingly subjected Himself to wicked humanity and died for our sins.
c. This was Jesus at His first coming … a man that most were not afraid of, nor was Rome impressed with Him … and certainly the Jews didn't take Him seriously for the most part.
2. Jesus in the Gospels is the man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, pierced with our iniquities, etc.
a. But here John REVEALS Christ as the King of Glory!
b. Jesus here is the conqueror, the one in charge of history, the one who alone controls the future, controls the nations, controls all of the universe!
c. This is the Jesus who is coming!
3. We must see this Jesus for faith in the future!
a. No other leader has ever emerged that controls the future!
ILLUS:Long before the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Julius Caesar enjoyed a triumphal entry into Rome. He had defeated Gaul, Africa, Egypt, and Asia. In less than two years, he was dead. Christ had a far more modest triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but he is alive forevermore. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
b. The tragic arrogance of man that keeps him from coming to God is that he believes he is in control of the future without God.
4. This revelation that ONLY God controls the future should bring us to our knees to acknowledge Him as Lord!
5. John's view of the future begins with Christ … and so must ours!
B. Church 1:4-6
1. John's vision of Revelation moves from Christ to the Church … the body of Christ!
a. The Church is not some passive actor on the stage of life.
b. Jesus as King rules not only the universe, but His Church as well.
c. One day the Church will rule with Him all of creation!
2. This vision is given to John to awaken the Church to both who Jesus Christ is as the risen Lord, the Lord of the second coming, and also to call the Church to prepare for the future as the ruling body of Christ!
a. We cannot afford to be lax in our living as His Church, we should be planning on the future!
ILLUS:Plan ahead--it was not raining when Noah built the ark. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
b. This Revelation was to stir the Church to being on guard, to live knowing that Christ's return was imminent, that God has a plan that we are to be ready for.
3. In fact, as we will discover, the first part of the book reveals the coming King Jesus in power … and the next part contains messages to the Churches about being ready, and impacting the world while there is still time.
ILLUS:A strange sign greets visitors to Vienna, Austria. Translated from the German, it says, "Welcome to Vienna, where the salt is in the saltshaker." Of course, the salt is in the saltshaker. Where else should it be? They mean that they don't put salt on the streets in the winter! The church, however, must never make the same boast. We are the salt of the earth, but we do no good if we stay in the saltshaker. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
4. This revelation is given to rouse the Church, to impact the world, to get its own house in order … to be at the ready for Christ's triumphant return.
a. The Church cannot take the luxury of deciding it has plenty of time, there is a sense of immediacy and urgency to the book of Revelation.
b. The early Church expected Christ's return at any moment … and so should we … we are closer now to His return than at any other time in history!
5. John is clear in the Revelation given him that the Church is called to be a nation of priests to serve God … we are on a mission, a time sensitive one!
II. THE FUTURE 1:7-20
A. Control 1:7-9
1. John now turns to the future, but still with Christ as the focal point!
a. He sees Jesus in power, the people of the earth when they view Christ will mourn … those who don't know Him as Savior that is.
b. Jesus is shown now as the "Alpha and Omega" - the first and the last!
c. Christ is over all things, this is more than the suffering servant, it is the ruling king!
2. Jesus will reveal to John a broad stroke picture of the future, these rumblings of what is to come were meant to cause both the Church and the world to get ready … to prepare for the future God has planned.
ILLUS:The May 1984 National Geographic showed through color photos and drawings the swift and terrible destruction that wiped out the Roman Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was so sudden, the residents were killed while in their routine: men and women were at the market, the rich in their luxurious baths, slaves at toil. They died amid volcanic ash and superheated gasses. Even family pets suffered the same quick and final fate. It takes little imagination to picture the panic of that terrible day.
The saddest part is that these people did not have to die. Scientists confirm what ancient Roman writers record--weeks of rumblings and shakings preceded the actual explosion. Even an ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible from the mountain days before the eruption. If only they had been able to read and respond to Vesuvius's warning!
There are similar "rumblings" in our world: warfare, earthquakes, the nuclear threat, economic woes, breakdown of the family and moral standards. While not exactly new, these things do point to a coming day of Judgment (Matt. 24). People need not be caught unprepared. God warns and provides an escape to those who will heed the rumblings. -- Michael Bogart, Lemoore, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 4.
a. Such warnings should not be ignored, too often they are!
b. Today many people ignore the teaching of the Church that Jesus is coming back again … this will prove very unfortunate for those who ignore the opportunity NOW.
c. Even more tragic is that some Churches don't preach or teach about the second of Christ anymore! How can this be!!!???
3. This REVELATION was being given to John to send to the 7 churches, the world will not prepare if the Church does not!
a. Knowledge about the future was not intended to satisfy our curiosity about specific details on tomorrow, it was meant to change us in the present as we realize that He is coming again with a certain future!
b. It also was meant to show that evil will not triumphant over God, or His Church.
c. The 7 churches were being asked to take seriously the future by living seriously in the present, there are practical purposes to prophecy!
4. This REVELATION from God was meant to drive home the fact that death is the not the final end … there are serious things to consider because we continue to live after death!
ILLUS:A letter came from Health and Human Services to a resident of Greenville County, South Carolina: "Your food stamps will be stopped, effective March 1992, because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if your circumstances change." -- S. Bowen Matthews, Wilmington, Delaware. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3.
B. Calm 1:10-20
1. The 7 lampstands are the 7 churches (see 1:20 - it is so stated here!)
a. Notice that Christ is said to be "among the lampstands" -- He is among His Church!
b. Even in the frightening pictures of disaster that Revelation will later speak about there should be calm in the Church, for Christ is among the church!
2. The second coming of Christ is our blessed hope!
3. Again John sees the glorified Christ, brilliant and powerful … this picture of Christ's supremacy was meant to inspire fear in the ungodly, but calm to the godly!
a. How many times did Jesus use the phrase with those He loved, "Do not be afraid, it is I." -- or "fear not"
b. This view of Jesus is one of power, absolute power … nothing is greater than Christ and this alone should have allayed any fears or nervousness they might have had about the future.
4. Jesus alone holds the keys of Hell and death … and for those who belong to Him the future is only a good one!
ILLUS:When I was a freshman in college--I attended Wheaton College in Illinois--one day it was announced that Dr. V. Raymond Edman would preach. It was a great occasion when he preached. He was a legend in Wheaton, a past president of that college. Many of you know of him, a great Christian leader. He was getting up in years, quite infirm, so it was quite an occasion when he spoke in chapel. He came to the pulpit and began to preach.
He wanted us to be excited about coming into the presence of God. He wanted us to prepare for our encounter with God through worship. He wanted us to be reverent when we came into the presence of God. He told of a time when he was invited to have an audience with Haile Selassie, then emperor of Ethiopia. He used this as an illustration. He told about how he prepared himself, knowing that he would have an audience with the king, and what an exciting moment it was for him when he walked into the palace, and the reverence he felt as he bowed before the king.
And at that point in his sermon, he paused, and he collapsed--dead.
He was talking about entering into the presence of the king, and he was doing it! And we were witnesses. For him the veil was pulled back. The King was present there in that chapel. -- Donald McCullough, "Blessed Are the Pure in Heart," Preaching Today, Tape No. 83.
5. Not only was Jesus among the 7 lampstands, the Church … but it also says he held in His hand the 7 stars … the 7 stars are said to the be "angels" of the 7 churches … meaning the "messengers" or pastors! (Greek word here "aggelos" [angelos] can mean either supernatural or natural messengers)
a. What a comfort to every pastor … especially when they feel their work is in vain, God holds every Pastor who is preaching the truth in His hand!
b. As John is about to reveal frightening details about the future they are only frightening to those who have no relationship with God, for those who belong to Christ these frightening events are simply assurances that tomorrow belongs to God and so do those who belong to Him, thus they calm us about the future!
6. We cannot miss the meaning of this book:
a. To reveal Christ in His power and glory
b. To reveal the future as under God's control.
7. To figure out the date of Jesus' second coming, or who the person will be who will become the antichrist … this is not the thrust of the book, the thrust of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is to reveal Jesus Christ and His control over tomorrow … and to be ready for the future when it gets here!
a. And it will get here!
b. And only those who belong to Christ will welcome it and benefit from it.
c. Are you ready for the future?
CONCLUSION: The book of Revelation is first and foremost a Revelation about Jesus, not just the future -- even the title of the book suggests this: "THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST." The focus is not just the future, it is the power of God in control of the future. You can get lost in the symbols and miss the message -- the message is simply, "GOD HAS A PLAN FOR TOMORROW -- AND HIS CHURCH WILL BE TRIUMPHANT!" What is your hope of the future based on, and are you ready for it?