We often approach the book of Revelation as a book to be deciphered. However, believers in the first century found more hope in this book than cryptic messages and symbols needing interpretation. In this message on Revelation 22:6–21, David Platt challenges us to move beyond simply interpreting the book for knowledge, and to instead practically apply this final passage to our lives as we await the return of Jesus Christ.
- See the world in all its deception.
- See Christ in all his glory.
- See the church in all her beauty.
- See your life from the proper perspective.
Revelation: The Hope of Glory
The End of the Beginning
Dr. David Platt
November 4, 2012
The End of the Beginning
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Rev. 22:6–21)
If you have Bible and I hope you do, turn to Revelation 22 if you’re not already there. Also turn with me just a few pages to the left to 2 Peter 3 because we are going to read from there in a minute as well.
While you’re turning to these two texts (Revelation 22 and 2 Peter 3), I want to give you a quick heads up on what lies ahead, Lord willing, in the next few weeks. A few months ago, our elders and pastors went away together on a retreat, and we had some wonderful time before the Lord in prayer and in the Word. One of the things that was so encouraging was when we discussed where the Lord was leading us to go next as a faith family in His Word.
Our retreat happened to be during the week that we were studying Revelation 2–3 as a faith family—Christ’s letters to the seven churches. As elders, we prayed together, and we asked, “Lord Jesus, you are the Chief Shepherd of The Church at Brook Hills. What are You saying to us? What do You want to do in our midst? Where do we need to grow most? What do we most need to hear from You?”
We split up, we spent time alone with God, and then we came back together, and we shared with one another what we sensed the Lord was saying to us through His Word. And it was awesome. There was such unity around the room, and it was clear. God had spoken and revealed clearly some areas where we are doing well as a church, and some areas where we need to grow as a church. We got to the point where we started talking about what we needed to study and walk through in God’s Word after our time in Revelation, and it was glorious to see overwhelming clarity and unity around certain topics and even particular
Bible books. It was just this sense that God had spoken clearly to us.
Over the next year, we are going to begin unpacking some of those things one by one, and the first one we’re going to address is prayer. In so many ways, we were convicted that we are like the church at Laodicea, prone to be self-sufficient and self-reliant instead of being God-dependent and God-desperate. If you were to look at our church from the outside, and even from the inside in many individuals lives, the truth is that we are not a people continually on our faces in prayer and fasting, passionately, continually expressing our complete and total desperation for God.
Starting next week, we are going to begin a series on prayer, looking particularly at what Jesus tells us about prayer in the book of Luke. I’ve asked Jim Shaddix, our Pastor for Teaching and Training, to lead us out in this series. Without question, Jim is the person in my ministry life who has taught me the most about prayer. So he is going to lead us through this series, and I believe it’s going to be an extremely important time in our faith family on a couple of levels.
First and foremost, as we hear Jesus speak to us from His Word through Jim on prayer. Then second, along those lines, as we listen to another teacher proclaim God’s Word as a shepherd to us. Much like Bart did in the past before we sent him out to plant a church, and much like a series of pastors did this summer, I’m convinced that it is a really good thing for us as a church to be dependent on God’s Word, not just one particular communicator of God’s Word.
I believe this is healthy for us as a church. There’s not just one pastor here. There are many pastors in our faith family, a plurality of shepherds who serve this church under the authority of Christ the Chief Shepherd. Sure, I’m going to preach the majority of Sundays, but it is healthy for us to hear from multiple pastors who preach the same Word. And, to be even more personal, this is healthy for me. I’ll be here all these Sundays (all but one, next Sunday I’ll be in San Francisco with Multiply), and I’ll be involved in worship in other ways on those Sundays. But I benefit deeply from hearing the Word and being fed the Word by fellow pastors here. At the same time, it gives me a chance to step back and spend more time working and praying and thinking through how to best lead this body and also encourage other bodies of Christ together with us to be a part of the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
And then, on top of all that, Lord willing, sometime in the next month or so, my wife is going to have a baby! This timing works out really well as we prepare for number four to come, hopefully right after Thanksgiving. (And you can join with me in praying that little Isaiah doesn’t come during the 24 hours I’m in San Francisco next weekend for Multiply! He could put me in the doghouse from the very beginning of his life, if he wanted!)
All this to say, starting next week, Pastor Jim is going to be leading us through a six-week series on prayer. Then we’ll celebrate Christmas together on December 23 and Christmas Eve, and then we’ll jump into the new year with other things that our elders have heard the Lord say, “I want The Church at Brook Hills to hear from Me on these things.”
But today, we come to this final sermon in this series on Revelation. I’m a bit sad, which is strange for me, because when we started this series, I was a bit sad, I was nervous. I didn’t really know how to preach through this book, but I have been surprisingly encouraged and challenged in my study of this text to the point where I would say that this has been one of the favorite books or series I have preached through over my last six years here.
Now I fully realize that some, maybe many, of you may not feel the same way, particularly those of you who would take a different interpretation of various parts of Revelation, and you’ve been thinking, “When is this series going to end?” And I can respect that, appreciate that. But my heart has been warmed by this book personally and pastorally in wonderful ways over the last three months, and frankly, I don’t want it to end. Isn’t that the beauty of the book of Revelation? This book is only the end of the beginning.
I love the way C.S. Lewis put it. In the last paragraph in the last book of the Narnia series, he wrote:
“The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
The end of Revelation is only the beginning of a story where every chapter will be better than the one before. In a sense, that’s the point of Revelation, right? If we read and study this book rightly, it will inevitably leave us wanting more. So what I want to do today is what this text does. These final verses in Chapter 22 summarize the major themes and the major truths of Revelation in a pointed fashion. I want to recap all that we have seen in this book, and then we’re going to invite the choir up here to lead us in a full-blown, no-holds
barred, raise-the-roof style sing out based on all that we’ve seen in Revelation. How does that sound?
Revelation 22:6–21 shows us that the book of Revelation is not intended to promote hopeless speculation about the future.
I hope it has been clear that the book of Revelation is not intended and was not written to promote hopeless speculation about the future. That’s what most people think is the purpose of this book. So we bring out charts. (I was given a pretty hard time for pulling out a chart last week. I almost made it throughout the whole book, but I gave in. But it was a different type of chart!) When this book was written and read in churches in the first century, you didn’t have a lot of people making charts about how these things were literally going to be fulfilled over the next few thousand years. Instead, you had people who were struggling in their faith, facing temptation, walking through persecution and trials on all sides.
Revelation 22:6–21 shows us that the book of Revelation is intended to fuel hopeful obedience in the present.
Revelation was written for them then and for us now—not to promote hopeless speculation about the future, but to fuel hopeful obedience in the present. Mark it down. Any time the Bible talks about the future or the end of the world, the purpose is not to promote speculation among God’s people, but to fuel obedience in God’s people. That’s why I have you in 2 Peter 3. I want to show you another example of when the Bible talks about the future, specifically about the return of Christ. The point is not to promote speculation; instead, the purpose is to fuel obedience.
Here in 2 Peter 3, people were asking, “When is Jesus going to come back? Is Jesus even going to come back?” Some people were even saying, “Maybe He won’t come back.” So listen to what Peter says in 2 Peter 3.
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 3:1–7).
Peter’s saying, “Some people are asking if He’s going to come back, and if He is, why hasn’t He?” You may wonder the same thing. We talk about Jesus coming back today, but it’s been 2000 years since He promised to return, and nothing’s happened. Is this real? Is this true? If you’ve thought that, if you think that, listen to what Peter says next.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Pet. 3:8–10).
So He’s coming back, Peter says, and as a result of that, listen to Peter’s exhortation.
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:11–13).
“What sort of people ought you to be?” Peter asks. People of holiness and godliness. He continues: “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these—[for these promises of Christ’s coming to be fulfilled]—be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Pet. 3:14). Skip down to verse 17.
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:17–18).
Did you see it? When the Bible tells us Jesus is coming back, the Bible is not telling us to get our charts out and figure out when. The Bible’s telling us to get ready. Live in holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening His coming. That’s why Revelation ends like it does.
If the primary point of Revelation was just to tell us when Jesus is going to come back and what things are going to look like, the book would have stopped at Revelation 22:5. What a climax that would have been: “They will see His face, and reign with Him forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). That’s a good place to stop.
Instead of stopping there, we’ve got 16 more verses, and half of them are telling us as Christians to obey, to be faithful. This is where we realize the point of all these images that we’ve seen in this book and all these truths that we’ve studied in this book. The point is not to make us forecasters of the future; the point is to make us men and women of God in the present. The point of this book is not for us to investigate the end times; the point of this book is for us to do examine our own lives.
Dennis Johnson said it best in his commentary on Revelation:
“Scripture is not a passive cadaver, waiting for curious medical students to dissect it in their quest for information. It is a living, double-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the triumphant Son of Man and pierces the thoughts and intents of our hearts. It is a hammer that shatters, a seed that grows, rainfall that never returns to its Giver without accomplishing the mission on which he sent it. Scripture has a job to do in us.”
So let’s make sure, as we finish out Revelation, that Scripture does its work in us.
See the world in all its deception.
Four final exhortations for you and me and the church today in light of Revelation. One, see the world in all its deception. (We’re going to go pretty quickly through these things because they’re summing up what we’ve already seen.) Remember that this book was written to a church under attack from all sides, persecution from the world, seduction by the world, and Christians looking at the world around them and beginning to wane in their commitment to God’s Word.
So God gives them—and us—images like the beast to remind the church: don’t put your hope in government. Followers of the Lamb must never be duped into thinking that the state holds the key to salvation. As long as your hope is in human government, as good or bad as that government may be, you will have a very unsteady foundation in your faith.
There’s a word for us here as we approach this Tuesday. As we talked about last week, we work and we vote as we apply biblical truth to our lives in this country, but our hope is not in any particular government or any particular president. Psalm 146:3, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 146:3). Do not put your hope in government.
Then, in the image of the false prophet, the book of Revelation has urged us: do not put your hope in religion and religious systems that arise in this world, which oppose Christ. We’ve seen graphic imagery of economic, social, and religious systems that pull people away from Christ.
In the prostitute, Babylon, we have been urged: do not put your hope in material affluence and social acceptance in this world.
This world is full of deceptive attractions: sensual pleasures, material possessions, the promise of satisfaction, the hope of security, the insatiable lust for power, and the subtle lure of pride. We talked about it. In the words of C.J. Mahaney, “Today, the greatest challenge facing [Bible-believing] American [Christians] is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world.”
John is saying here and elsewhere: “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 Jn. 2:15). Attractive idols that promise earthly delight lead to everlasting death. See the world in all of its deception. The things this world says matter most don’t matter most. They don’t matter. They won’t last.
So don’t build your life and your family on that which doesn’t matter. Don’t raise your kids teaching them to value the things that don’t matter and won’t last. Right after John tells us not to love this world or the things of this world, he says, “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:17).
See the Christ in all His glory.
Revelation begs us to see the world in all its deception, and then beckons us to see the Christ in all His glory. He is the theme of Revelation. we saw it in the first chapter, first verse. This book is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1). Revelation 1:5,
“Jesus [the] Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5–7).
One writer said: “Whenever Revelation works on us as God intends it to, we [will] trust, love, and fear Jesus more.” That’s my prayer. My prayer is that as a result of studying Revelation, you love Jesus more today than you did three months ago. That you see and know and adore Jesus the Christ more deeply today than you did three months ago.
Think about the portrait John has painted for us with brilliant strokes of imagery. Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Over and over again, we have seen the humanity of Christ—His identification with His church—and the deity of Christ—His identity as God. Last week, in Revelation 21, we heard God the Father speak, and He said in verse 6, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6). So now, here in Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). These titles used throughout Scripture (particularly the Old Testament) for God are used here, first-person, in Christ. He is fully human and fully divine.
He is the fulfillment of prophecy and the final high priest. All throughout this book, we’ve seen allusions to Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets who looked for, longed for the day when the Christ, the Messiah, would come. And over and over again, John has pointed us to Jesus as the fulfillment of all those prophecies.
Even now, here in verse 16, Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Think about that! How can you be the root and the descendant of David? The root from which David comes and the descendant who comes from David? How can you be an ancestor and a descendant at the same time? Jesus is the Christ who made the promise to David and then fulfilled the promise to David in his coming as the final high priest, Chapter 1, “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev. 1:13).
Remember, all these images that we’ve seen depicting Christ are not necessarily intended to be literal. John’s purpose is not to satisfy our curiosity about what Jesus is wearing in heaven. These are images that were familiar to John’s readers, images that trigger in their minds and our minds the words of the prophets, images that evoke awe and wonder at a vision of the One Scripture spoke about for centuries. He is the fulfillment of prophecy and the final high priest.
He is infinitely old and infinitely wise. He has existed forever. Jesus knows no beginning, and He knows no end. His wisdom knows no beginning, and His wisdom knows no end. “The hairs of his head are white, like white wool, like snow” (Rev. 1:14), John told us.
He sees all, knows all, and reigns over all. His eyes like a flame of fire, searching our hearts, seeing through our pride and pretense. Nothing can escape His all-searching, all-knowing gaze. You cannot hide anything from Him.
His purity has no error and His power knows no equal. His feet, we’ve seen, are like burnished bronze, glowing with purity and power. His voice resounds with authority and His face radiates with light. When He speaks, it sounds like the roar of many waters, and from His mouth protrudes a sharp two-edged sword. His face is “like the sun,” John said, “shining in full strength” (Rev. 1:16).
He had the first word in creation, and He will have the last word in creation. Jesus the Christ is the force behind all of human history. The never-ending Alpha and the never-ending Omega. He was dead for a time, but He is alive for all time. He declared in Chapter 1: “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:18). He has defeated death. He is the conquering Lion and He is the slaughtered Lamb. The conquering Messiah of Genesis 49 and Isaiah 11 has come! Throughout history, from the beginning of time, men have come and men have gone, women have come and women have gone, all of them, the noblest of them, the kindest of them, the strongest of them, the greatest of them, all of them have fallen prey to sin. All of them, all of us, every single man and every single woman a slave to Satan. All of them, all of us, generation after generation, century after century, every single man and every single woman on the earth has succumbed to death.
But then came another man, unlike any other man! This man did not fall prey to sin; He possessed power over sin. This man did not succumb to death; He triumphed over death. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has come and He has conquered!
How did He conquer? John rose in Chapter 5 to see the strong Lion, and to his surprise he glimpsed a slaughtered Lamb standing. Just in case you were wondering, slaughtered Lambs don’t stand. This Lamb endured death in our place and defeated death by His power. As a result, this Lion-like Lamb is “worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for He was slain, and by His blood He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9–10). The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God now reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.
His worth is undisputed. Power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing belong to Him! His work is unforgettable. For all of eternity, we will never, ever forget the price He paid for our sin.
And His worship is universal. This Lion-like Lamb does not deserve the praise of one type of people; He deserves the praise of every type of person on the planet. One day, He will receive the reward of His sufferings—a kingdom of men and women from all over the world who have experienced his salvation and who will exalt his supremacy.
Revelation 12 showed us that the birth of Jesus the Christ His birth declared the death of the ancient serpent, His death defanged the adversary, and His resurrection demolished every accusation against the church. If you’re not a Christian today, you may be wondering, “What does that mean?” Here’s what it means. Here’s the story of the Bible. From the very entrance of sin into the world, God promised to send a Savior in the form of a man, born from woman, to defeat the devil. This God did that in the person of Jesus, who was born, just as had been prophesied for centuries.
Jesus did what no one has ever done or will ever do on the pages of human history: He lived a perfect life, free from sin, never once giving in to the temptations of evil. Then He died on a cross to pay the price for sinners who have rebelled against God—sinners like me and sinners like you.
And then, three days later, He rose from the grave in victory over sin and death and the devil himself so that everyone who believes in Him, everyone who trusts in him will be saved from their sin so that when the devil accuses you of being a grievous sinner, you might look back and say, “You are right, but I have a great Savior. Because of His blood shed for me, I am safe from your accusations forever!” Forever.
We know His promises are forever because He is faithful and true. He’s introduced to us in Revelation 1:5 as “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5). Here in verse 6, we are reminded that His “words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 22:6). He is the righteous Judge and Messianic warrior riding on a white horse, Chapter 19, with the armies of heaven by His side on the assault against evil and injustice and unrighteousness in the world. Many crowns adorn His head, and much mystery surrounds His name. He conquers God’s enemies, and He reveals God’s Word. He comes in red apparel, dipped in blood, for He treads the winepress of God’s wrath.
He rules the nations of this world, and He brings God’s wrath upon this world with a rod of iron and a sharp sword. For all who have turned away from this Christ to live for this world, you don’t want to meet Him on that day when He comes. He will come, yes, to consummate salvation for all who have trusted in Him, but He will also come to usher in wrath for all who have turned against Him. So turn to Him today. Trust in Him today.
His grace is free and His joy is full. Verse 17, “Let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who desires take the water of life without price!” (Rev. 22:17). Verse 14, “Wash your robes in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:14). Trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ on your behalf, and you will have eternal life!
Non-Christian, don’t hesitate today to drink from the fountain of glorious, sovereign grace that is free and joy that is full! For Jesus is the Savior who came once, and He is the Sovereign who is coming back soon. That’s undoubtedly the theme of Revelation 22:6–12. This Christ that we have seen all throughout this book in brilliant imagery, we will one day see with our own eyes.
Did you underline how many times He told us He is coming soon in Revelation 22? Verse 7, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Rev. 22:7). Verse 10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet …” (Rev. 22:10). Verse 12, “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands …” (Rev. 22:12). Verse 20, “As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Rev. 22:20).
He’s coming. You say, “Well this was written 2000 years ago, and He hasn’t come!” Remember Peter, with the Lord, a 1000 years are as a day. For all we know, it’s late Saturday night, and the dawn of the eternal Sabbath is on the horizon. He is coming back soon.
He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and no one, nothing compares to Him. I pray that you will walk away from the book of Revelation with a fresh vision of the Christ. Dennis Johnson writes:
“When you think of Jesus Christ, do you see him in all the ways that Revelation’s images portray him? When you think that you have hidden your sins well from others, do you remember his eyes like flames? When fear grips your heart – fear for yourself, your family, or Christ’s church – do you fight that fear with the picture of the rider on the white horse, against whom the devil’s worst, last weapons are impotent? When you are confused, not knowing whom to trust or which path to take, do you hear the voice of the faithful witness ringing in your ears, ‘These words are faithful and true,’ and do you turn expectantly to his words to find your way? When the accuser, though disbarred from heaven, renews his prosecution against your conscience, do you stand with John in awestruck wonder, gazing at the slain Lamb who poured out his blood to wash you clean and robe you in his own fine linen, bright and clean, to make you—yes, you!—God’s precious treasure.”
See the church in all her beauty.
Which leads right into this next exhortation: see the church in all her beauty in Revelation described as His body. We are His body with whom He identifies. All throughout Revelation, you can’t help but to think of Acts 9 when Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus and says, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). But Saul had never met Christ. He had just persecuted Christians. That was the point: When you mess with the church, you are messing with the Christ. All throughout Revelation, we have seen Jesus the Christ faithfully defending His church as His body.
And we are His bride. Oh, the imagery of you and me, this church, the church, men and women with sin-sick, sin-stained hearts, men and women who have given in to the evil and anger and lust and pride of this world, us standing before a holy God dressed in white, fine linen. How is this possible? Don’t miss it. Revelation gives us a picture of the bride through the eyes of the Groom—the gracious, merciful, loving Groom who has given His life for His bride.
No groom looks at His bride on their wedding day and thinks, “Uh, she looks alright.” I stood at the front that gathering of the church that day, and when those doors opened, I though, “This gorgeous, beautiful, stunning woman in white is my wife!” So see the church through the eyes of the Christ.
See your life in proper perspective.
See the world in all its deception, see the Christ in all His glory, see the church in all her beauty, and then see your life in proper perspective. Don’t see as the world sees. See as God sees.
When you do, you will fight against sin. You’ll see sin for what it is. You’ll see sin for all the devastation and damnation it brings, and you will fight against it. So put away the charts and put away the speculation and look at your life! Are you fighting against sin? Are you giving in to the ways of this world?
Revelation is urging us to resist compromise. These first-century Christians were tempted to turn away from Christ, tempted to compromise with worldly ways and worldly practices and worldly festivals in order to save their jobs or their families or their lives, tempted to compromise with the world and tempted to compromise in the church
Christian, we’ve seen it, we’ve talked about it. It is so easy to blend in with the world in subtle, seemingly justifiable ways to the point where our lifestyles are virtually indistinguishable from the lifestyles of our neighbors. We should not look just like the world!
Resist compromise! And refuse complacency. Lack of love in the church at Ephesus, lukewarm faith in the church at Laodicea. A smug self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency of a people who waned in their want for God.
All throughout Revelation, God promises blessing for the faithful. Seven different times, we see this phrase: “Blessed is the one…” or “Blessed are those…” The book started in Revelation 1:3 saying, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). Then see how the book ends. Revelation 22:7, “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Rev. 22:7). Then in verse 14, “Blessed are those who wash their robes …” (Rev. 22:14). Blessing for those who follow this Word faithfully.
At the same time, God promises judgment for those who fall away. Remember that this book with all of its frightening, terrifying pictures of God’s wrath was written for the church. There were men and women in the church in Asia Minor (in those churches) who claimed to be Christians but were wandering from Christ and denying Christ and running after the world, so God gives them visions of wrath to warn them of impending judgment.
Do you remember His words to His churches in Revelation 2 and 3? Revelation 2:5, “Unless you repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Rev. 2:5). Revelation 2:16, “If you do not repent, I will come to you soon and war against you with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16).
Revelation 2:22, “If she refuses to repent, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches and mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:22).
Revelation 3:3, “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will knot know at what hour I will come against you” (Rev. 3:3). Revelation 3:16, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:16).
This book is a serious, somber warning to false Christians who are faking it in the church, evident in their falling away, and God is calling them to repent and turn from their sin. So church, let this book be a wake-up call to us all. Your sin is not to be toyed or trifled with.
Revelation 22:18–19 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev. 22:18–
19). Don’t pick and choose which parts of God’s Word, this Book, you will obey and which parts you will not. Don’t pick and choose what parts of God’s Word you will heed and what parts you will ignore. Disobedience to God damns.
So turn from sin. Run from the ways of this world, for Christ is coming to bring blessing on the faithful and judgment on those who have fallen away. That’s the point! We can explain every Greek phrase, identify every Old Testament allusion, trace every connection in Revelation to the rest of the Bible, and uncover every mystery that is here, but if we still are lured by sex and pornography and possessions and pleasures and safety and security and the comforts of this world, then we have missed the entire point of the book.
Revelation is warning us and inviting us here, particularly at the end of this book. Did you see the invitation in verse 17? “Come!” (Rev. 22:17). Come! Come away from the world. Come to Christ. Let the one who is thirsty come!
Fight against sin. Then, on the other hand, endure amidst suffering. Revelation is written for brothers and sisters who are suffering in the first century, and the world seems to be falling apart around them. The church is under attack, Christians are losing their lives, and they’re wondering, “What is going on?” Does God see our tears? Does God hear our prayers? Why are our enemies prospering while we are suffering?”
You and I may not be experiencing persecution today like the first people who heard these words (and like many brothers and sisters are experiencing around the world today), but we are familiar with suffering, in various ways. The cries of first-century Christians in Asia Minor are echoed in thousands of ways all across this church in twenty-first century America. Why cancer in me, God? Why is my marriage falling apart? What is happening to my son or daughter? Why did I lose my job? Why do I feel so lonely? Do you hear my prayers? Do you see my tears? The book of Revelation is written to encourage us to endure amidst suffering.
Revelation tells us: do not be surprised by it. Revelation makes clear that the call to follow Christ is a call to suffering. One writer said:
“If we close our eyes to Revelation’s harshly realistic portrait of the church’s life as one of suffering and martyrdom, we will be caught off guard when pain, social rejection, or even violent opposition break in upon our lives. Is it our intentional deafness to Revelation’s call to expect and endure suffering that leaves so many comfortable Western churches and Christians ill-prepared to stand fast when life gets hard? Does this explain their disappointment with God when he does not deliver the tranquil life they expected and instead calls them to endure hardship – walking by faith, not sight?”
Do not be surprised by suffering in this world, Christian. And Revelation encourages us: do not be overcome in it. Revelation is saying that you may think things are out of control as you see the beast coming up out of the abyss to make war with you and your family, but take heart in this: Christ is in control. And Christ has conquered all. And Christ is reigning, not just in the future. Christ is reigning now, and He sees your tears. One day soon He will return, and He will personally wipe those tears from your eyes, and all the pains and hurts of this world will be gone, and the new will come.
So overcome in the midst of suffering, knowing that Jesus is present with you. From the very beginning, Chapter 1, we’ve seen Him in the middle of His church, this Christ! The God-man, the fulfillment of prophecy and final High Priest, infinitely old and infinitely wise, whose purity has no error and power knows no equal, whose voice resounds with authority and whose face radiates with light, this conquering Lion-like Lamb, the righteous Judge and Messianic warrior who rules the nations of the world, the King of kings and Lord of lords. This Christ is with you!
Jesus possesses and protects you. Revelation leaps off the page and into the heart of the suffering Christian to remind you, Christian, that you are in the grip of God’s gracious governance, and nothing can happen to you apart from His sovereign will. You are safe from God’s wrath. You are sealed by God’s Word. Satan cannot overcome you. Suffering cannot destroy you. Death cannot stop you. Christian, you belong to God in Christ, and He will keep you to the end, so trust in Him. Trust in Him.
He possesses you, He protects you, and Jesus has a purpose for you. All throughout this book, it has been clear: Christ is in control. God is sovereign over evil, sin, Satan, and suffering, and He is working all these things—even the worst things in this world—for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. Even your suffering has a purpose in the grand, global, God-exalting plan for history.
So brothers and sisters, Revelation says, fight against sin and endure amidst suffering, and as you do proclaim the gospel of Christ. Say to the world, “Come!” To everyone you know, to everyone you work with, to everyone you encounter, tell them that God’s grace is free and God’s wrath is real. Tell them they can be saved to know and enjoy God forever and ever! Tell them to come! Proclaim the gospel of Christ to everyone you know and proclaim the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth. To every nation, tribe, tongue, and people on the planet. Praise God for one of our short-term teams that just got back from North Africa. This morning I heard testimony of people trusting in Christ from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of tribes and people groups. Praise be to God.
We get to be a part of ushering in the consummation of history. As we proclaim Christ, peoples, nations, and tribes trust Christ, and in the process, we hasten the coming of Christ. You say, “What does that mean? We can hasten the return, the coming, of Christ? That’s exactly what Peter said. Peter said the reason Christ has not yet come back is because God desires more people to reach repentance, 2 Peter 3:9. And then he says in verse 12: “Hasten the coming of the day of God” (Rev. 22:12). Usher it in!
Think about it. If Jesus has taught us to pray and plead, “Your Kingdom come,” and if Jesus has promised to come when the gospel is proclaimed among every nation, tribe, people, and tongue, then we don’t just sit back and wait for Him to return. We give our lives working for His return. We give our lives saying with Revelation 22:20, “We want you to come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
My prayer for you and my prayer for me and my prayer for The Church at Brook Hills in light of the book of Revelation is: God, give us unwavering holiness in this world. God, by Your grace, verse 21, help us to resist compromise and to refuse complacency, to fight against sin, and to endure amidst suffering, to proclaim the gospel of Christ to everyone we know and to the ends of the earth knowing that it won’t be easy. Knowing that this is a costly way to live in this world. But knowing that we have unshakeable hope in the world to come. God, give us unwavering holiness in this world with unshakeable hope in the world to come.
The book of Revelation is not intended to promote hopeless speculation about the future.
The book of Revelation is intended to fuel hopeful obedience in the present.
See the world in all its deception.
- The beast: Do not put your hope in government.
- The false prophet: Do not put your hope in religion.
- The prostitute: Do not put your hope in material affluence and social acceptance.
See Christ in all His glory.
- He is fully human and fully divine.
- He is the fulfillment of prophecy and the final high priest. He is infinitely old and infinitely wise.
- He sees all, knows all, and reigns over all.
- His purity has no error and His power knows no equal.
- His voice resounds with authority and His face radiates with light. He had the first word in creation, and He will have the last word in creation.
- He was dead for a time, but He is alive for all time.
- He is the conquering Lion and the slaughtered Lamb.
- His worth is undisputed, His work is unforgettable, and His worship is universal.
- His birth declared the death of the ancient serpent, His death defanged the adversary, and His resurrection demolished every accusation against the church.
- He is faithful and true.
- He is the righteous Judge and Messianic warrior.
- Many crowns adorn His head, and much mystery surrounds His name. He conquers God’s enemies, and He reveals God’s Word. He rules the nations of this world, and He brings God’s wrath upon this world.
- His grace is free, and His joy is full.
- He is the Savior who came once, and He is the Sovereign who is coming back soon.
- He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
- No one and nothing compares to Him.
See the church in all her beauty.
- We are His body.
- We are His bride.
See your life in proper perspective.
- Fight against sin.
- Resist compromise.
- Refuse complacency.
- God promises blessing for the faithful.
- God promises judgment for those who fall away.
- Endure amidst suffering.
- Do not be surprised by it.
- Do not be overcome in it.
- Jesus is present with you.
- Jesus possesses and protects you.
- Jesus has a purpose for you.
- Proclaim the gospel of Christ.
- To everyone you know.
- To the ends of the earth.
- Hasten the coming of Christ.
- God, give us unwavering holiness in this world…
- With unshakeable hope in the world to come.