The Revelation (Apocalypse) of Jesus Christ
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Revelation shows Jesus as Savior and Lord in His cosmic power, perspective and significance.
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Revelation of Jesus Christ (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
Introduction: During John's final years of imprisonment on Patmos, he had a series of experiences he was told to write and send (1:11) to the seven churches of Asia Minor. As such this book can be summarized by its first word: "apokalupsis" (Gk) meaning the "uncovering, unveiling or revelation" of Jesus Christ.
The book reveals the glory, majesty and victory of Christ over evil in order to encourage His followers who suffering persecution to endure, if need be, through martyrdom to the glorious end (Rev. 21, 22). The suffering of the redeemed has not been limited to the first century so remains highly relevant to us also.
Some have questioned John's authorship because the style of Revelation varies from that of the Gospel of John. It is natural that a planned book (Gospel of John) will be of a different style than an unplanned book given by vision (Revelation).
Both offer the unspeakably majestic blessings of the Gospel; the "7 I AMs" in which Christ is the blessing of salvation he brings:
I am the bread of life (John 6:35, 48, 51
I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5
I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7, 9
I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14
I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25
I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6
I am the true vine (John 15:1
And the "7 blessings" of heeding Christ's word and call in Revelation:
God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3)
I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Rev. 14:13)
“Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed.” (Rev. 16:15)
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.” (Rev. 19:9)
Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6)
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” (Rev. 22:7)
Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. (Rev. 22:14)
Purpose of the Letter: John is commanded to write (v.11) this revelation (unveiling of the future) from Jesus to the seven churches. He reveals that which our Father knew would be needed to give the early church and us today courage and faithfulness for what lies ahead.
God is Sovereign, working all things out for our salvation and eternal good in the end. We need not be afraid, though the enemy and battle is fearsome, because God-in-Christ and Christ-in-us is greater then every evil.
This opening chapter is rich and full in describing the Father, Son and we His redeemed people:
God the Father:
was, is and is to come (v.4,8)
is on the throne (v.4)
is Alpha (first, initiator) and Omega (last, consummator), the Almighty (v.8)
loud voice like a trumpet, rushing waters (v.10,15)
He loves us (v.5)
|He is the faithful witness (v.5)|
like a son of man (v.13)
He is first and the last (v.17)
|He is firstborn from the dead (v.5)|
robe with golden sash
He is the living one forever (v.18)
|He is ruler of the kings of the earth (v.5)|
white hair, eyes like blazing fire (v.14)
He freed us from our sins by his blood (v.5)
feet like bronze glowing in a furnace (v.15)
He made us a kingdom
and priests (v.6)
face shining like brilliant sun (v.16)
His is the glory and power forever (v.6)
He walks among the churches (lampstands v.13)
He controls angels ("7 stars", v.16)
He is the Word of God ("sword", v.16)
We (the redeemed):
He holds the keys to death and Hades (v.18)
are servants (v.1)
are blessed (v.3 & 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7,14)
are freed from our sin (v.5)
are a Kingdom and priests to serve our God and Father (v.6)
display patient endurance, also in suffering (v.9)
are not afraid (v.17)
are in churches served by an angel (v.20)
have Jesus walking among us (v.13,20)
"Be not Afraid: I am the first and the last" (v. 17) is the most common command in scripture. Obedience to this command is accomplished by faith in the fact Christ has been since before the beginning and knows the end from the beginning. He rules forever.
Personal Application: I will, when I hear 'bad news,' turn physically my eyes upwards reminding, not God, but myself who is sovereign.
My Prayer: Father, I want to be obedient to You in all things. Obedient in faith, in response the words of the Spirit to the church (chs.2-3) and in patient endurance as needed to Your glory (chs.4-22).
Many good commentaries help with specific historical details of the seven churches addressed by Jesus. I will take only a more limited focus on:
Who Jesus is:
The One who holds the seven stars in His hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands (2:1)
The first and the last, who was dead but has come to life (2:8)
The One who is judge - has the sharp two-edged sword (2:12)
The One who has eyes like flames of fire (2:18), discerning minds and hearts (2:23); feet like bronze, unmoveable (2:18)
Hearing from heaven: The constant refrain for us daily: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (v.7)
Responding wholeheartedly to Jesus speaking through His Word and Spirit (v.7):
Return to the ardor and joy of your first love (v.5)
Do the deeds you did at first (v.5)
Hate/avoid the deeds of Nicolaitans (term literally means "conquering of the people" - little is known of the followers of Nicolas outside these verses) (2:6,15)
Do not fear suffering (2:10)
Be faithful unto death (2:10)
Remove false teaching which endorses immorality and becomes a stumbling block (2:14) to salvation.
Remove immoral people who lead believers into sin polluting the church (2:20ff)
Hold fast until I come (2:25)
Warnings underscoring the seriousness of heeding:
"I will remove your lampstand" (2:5) could mean loss of ability to represent Christ or to be a church at all.
"I will make war against them" (2:16) hopefully only to press for surrender.
"I will throw ... into tribulation (2:22), in judgment for willful refusal to repent.
"I will give each according to your deeds" (2:23);
The Blessing of Overcoming. Overcomers are those who look to Jesus for victory over Satan and receive:
to eat of the tree of life in the Paradise of God (2:7)
to not be hurt by the second death (2:11)
manna, the bread of life (2:17)
a white stone (2:17). Several meanings are possible: white stones were often given to victors at the games, to guests for admission to special banquets or festivities, and were used in voting for acquittal in a trial.
a new name (2:17), as Jacob was given a new name in the OT, to indicate the gift of a new identity.
authority over the nations (2:26) as I (Jesus) have received authority from My Father (2:27)
the morning star (2:28)
The contexts in which the seven churches struggled:
Ephesus was the main city of the Roman province of Asia and the best preserved today. It's people were known for their pride, wealth (as a banking center) and independent spirits. It contained the temple of Artemis/Diana (Acts 19:23-35). John knew it well, having lived there till his exile to Patmos.
Smyrna was a vulnerable seaport village which had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Yet it alone, of the seven cities addressed, exists today.
Pergamum was known for its great library and as city were parchment was developed and first used. The city was dedicated to the Roman pantheon - including great temples to Athena and Asclepius (whose symbol was coiled snakes), a large altar to Zeus on the mountain above the city - and to emperor worship at the temple of Augustus. Any or all of these temples could be behind the phrase "throne of Satan" (2:13).
Thyatira was an outpost city known for its trade guilds and manufacturing of dyed wool products. "Depths of Satan" (2:24) may be reference to the Gnostic god "Depth" (Bythos), who with his partner "Silence" (Sigē) formed an alliance against hope.
Sardis was a center of emperor worship and home to a large colony of prosperous Jews (called "Sephardic" after the city's ancient name). Its fortified acropolis gave Sardis an overconfident sense of security.
Philadelphia was situated in the foothills of the Timolus Mountains where it repeatedly experienced severe earthquakes leaving it weak and impoverished. It's principle deity was Dionysus, a god of wine.
Laodicea was a proud, wealthy city, the economic and judicial center of the region. After a severe earthquake (AD 60), Laodicea refused aid from Rome and rebuilt their city themselves (Tacitus, Annals 14.27) adding to their reputation of pride and self-sufficiency.
Frog in a Kettle: The spiritual challenges of our context vary dramatically globally but every Christian lives in a culture where prevailing beliefs, attitudes and behaviors subtly or aggressively push against or act to divert us from the Lordship of Christ. Every church and Christian is a "frog in a kettle" needing to be aware of and resist the culture and spiritual values resisting the Kingdom which make us ineffective, lukewarm or even living counter to the purposes of God.
Personal Application: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." I cannot maintain perspective immersed in my context. I will ask what the Spirit says to me and to the church and for strength not to be swamped in the battle but to obey in love and behavior.
My Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, pull the weeds in and around me and tune my heart to hear and sing in love with You.
"Come up here" (v.1), the most wonderful words we can ever hear, brings John, through the "door standing open" (v.1) into the throne room of God (ch.4) and the Lamb (ch.5), who alone are worthy to be worshiped forever.
He Alone is Holy: There can be no sharing of allegiance with Caesar (for whom "worthy are you" [v.11] was required in Roman emperor worship); John ascribes this worship to God alone, the reason for banishment to Patmos. Nor can there be sharing of allegiance with any earthly good or goal, nor any form of syncretism (which continues to increase with expanding globalism). God alone created the universe (v.11), sustains and redeems it with power and grace. He alone is holy and alone is worthy of worship.
The throne of God is central to the entire revelation, human history and eternity. This matchless God; Creator and Redeemer is glorified as "Holy, Holy, Holy" (v.8), the highest expression of worship in scripture repeated three times to utter heights! "To double something makes it emphatic; to triple it makes it ultimate. (NLT)" To Him the redeemed return their crowns, given only by grace, before the throne which is our source and eternal glory (v.10).
All Creation Worships: The 24 elders (v.4) probably represent the redeemed from all of history. The 7 Spirits of God (v.5) speak of His fullness and perfection. The 4 living creatures (v.7) may be angels or, since they are said also to be in the center of the throne (v.6) may be representations of God's attributes in creation, or even expressions of His incarnation (lion of Judah, sacrificial calf, Son of Man, high soaring eagle connects heaven and earth). Being covered with eyes (v.6,8) likely emphasizes breadth of knowledge or understanding.
Personal Application: I will utter the triune "Holy, Holy, Holy" to my Lord and Redeemer today and eternally. I will look to the door standing open (v.1) by the grace and mercy given through the cross of Christ, hear His voice trumpeting "come up here" and enter in by faith with unspeakable joy, in anticipation of future grace. I will fall on my knees and cast the crown, given by grace, before Him.
My Prayer: Father, how unspeakably majestic and worthy are you, the "Holy, Holy, Holy" One on the throne, who loves and redeems us, sustains the universe which is Your temple, and us, Your children and priests forever.
God's Plan: God has, in his sealed book (v.1), a comprehensive plan for the redemption of His creation and people.
Jesus fulfills the Father's Plan: Jesus is the Father's agent fulfilling the full purposes of God. In doing so Jesus is both the Lion who rules (v.5) and the Lamb who saves, having all strength (seven horns) and knowledge (seven eyes) (v.6) to do the Father's righteous will.
Jesus is fully qualified and worthy: to judge, save and receive eternal worship (v. 8-14).
The prayers of God's people (v.8) of every age have asked God to restrain rampant evil and bring justice, calling in that sense for the judgments of chapters 6-20.
Jesus alone is worthy remove the seals releasing God's purifying judgments (v.9,12) which prepare creation for restoration. Jesus is worthy of this worship and role in restoration because he paid the ransom price for salvation (v.9), positioned the redeemed as a kingdom and priests before God (v.10) enabling us ultimately to reign on the earth (v.10).
Personal Application: I will memorize the words revealed in this chapter (vs.9-10,12,13 to worship the Ruler of the kings of the earth. I will see myself as purchased by his blood and belonging to Christ (v.9) to serve our God, also by reigning in His behalf on the earth (v.10).
My Prayer: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing, Amen." (v.12)
Revelation 6 - 16
Christ's reign is not theoretical. Those who choose other gods, rejecting accountability to their Creator and the free gift of His grace in the cross of Christ, face judgment. This is depicted in a series of 7 seals (ch. 6-8:1), 7 trumpets (ch.8-9) and 7 bowls (ch.16). Some debate whether the events are consecutive (21 judgments) or cyclical (7 judgments, each cycle giving more detail) but this is comparatively irrelevant in to the end-point in the return of Christ.
The final process now begins.
Judgment is released: The seals are broken and coming forth are war (v.4) including the inevitable famine (v.6) and death (v.8) which follow, even to 1/4 of the world's population. These deaths include martyrdom (v.9-11, perhaps increasing out of anger towards those who love the God against whom the world rebels. While war and famine may be imagined by those rejecting God to remain under their ultimate control, the massive physical disturbances which follow are not (v.12-14).
The limits of human arrogance: As the rich and powerful cower (v.15) they cannot but recognize "Him who sits on the throne...and the Lamb" (v.16). No one can stand before Him (v.17).
Patience of the saints: Injustice to martyrs (v.10) is not explained, nor when the limits of martyrdom will be reached. Rather we learn patience in suffering and the promise of rest and redemption (v.11).
Personal Application: I will not be shaken by calamity as if it were unexpected when scripture speaks so clearly. I will rejoice in grace and be patient in suffering. I will hold to the word of God and my testimony to Christ (v.9).
My Prayer: Father, before You, who can stand? So I bow in worship, praise and adoration for Your great salvation in Christ and for Your great grace to me in Him and for Your character and wisdom and might.
Passover: This chapter is one of three interludes (the others are 10:1-11:14 and 12:1-14:20) showing we who are redeemed by the Lamb safe in Christ as judgment "passes over" (Ex. 12) them and us. The angels "hold back" the winds of judgment (v.1-3) until God's people are sealed, as Israel was sealed from the 10th plague.
Sealed: A seal or tattoo (like the blood on the door posts) is a sign of ownership. Sealed and saved in this chapter are both children of Israel (v.4-8) and Gentiles of "every nation, tribe, people and tongue" (v.9) who "come out of" (i.e. this earthly plane by death) the great affliction (v.14).
Worship and great rejoicing is on their lips (v.10,14) for they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. God has spread His tabernacle presence over them (v.15) with the fullness of blessing, provision and protection (v.16-17). So great is this promise and its reality that, whether we suffer in the tribulation or die because of it, is virtually of no consequence.
Personal Application: I will not fear death but perhaps even increasingly yearn for that which is to come on the other side of death. I will run to the Throne and to those who worship Him there.
My Prayer: Father, bring us quickly into the presence of Your Throne and of those who worship You and the Lamb there.
Revelation 8 and 9
Silence and Prayer before the Storm: Rev. 8:1 depicts heaven holding it's breath as before the storm or in the eye of the hurricane. Yet it is not a surprise, for judgment is in part response to the urgent pleas of God's suffering people asking He judge evil and bring His righteous and just Kingdom to the earth. Rev. 8:3-4 depict the petitions of the saints as 'incense' rising - and God will answer.
Second Cycle of Judgment: "Like the first cycle (6:1-8:1), this one (8:2-11:19) contains an interlude (10:1-11:14; cp. 7:1-17) and ends with a glimpse of God's eternal Kingdom (11:15-19; see 7:9-8:1)." (NLT Study Bible). God's judgments remind us of the ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14-11:10) with the same purpose-to show the powerlessness of earthly gods (or satanic powers) and to demonstrate beyond doubt the power and sovereignty of God. (NLT)
The fire (v.7), great mountain burning (v.8) and star burning like a torch (v.10) could be meteor or volcano, if God chooses to use natural means.
God's sealed people: The judgments, as did the plagues on Egypt (Ex.12:23), fall on those not sealed by God (9:4; cf.7:1-8). Those who remain defiant seek death but cannot find it (9:6, cp.Ex.11:6). V.4 makes clear, judgment is "only for men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads."
The defiant: Rev. 9:20-21 - "While these judgments should lead to repentance, they do not. Sin has such control over people that they choose to worship the evil forces that torture and murder them rather than repent and turn to God." (NLT) It's possible some are not aware they are worshipping demons when they worship idols or give allegiance to worldviews excluding God, but their defiance against God remains.
9:11: Apollyon = destruction. Emperor Domitian's patron god Apollo was depicted as a locust.
Personal Application: I will intercede for God to judge evil quickly, bringing His Kingdom to the earth. I will not fear judgment for God has sealed His people and 'if I perish, I perish' (Esther 4:16).
My Prayer: Father, as the world calls judgment down on itself, grant peace on those You have sealed. Put words in our mouths that we may be faithful witnesses to the One who amazingly, graciously "purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue" (5:9).
To All Kings and Nations: The interlude between the 6th & 7th trumpets (ch. 10-11) is introduced by a strong messenger (10:1) who calls John to continue to prophesy to all peoples and their kings (v.11), though not to reveal all he hears (v.4) of the mystery of God (v.7).
The message about future justice (small scroll, v.2) is sweet to the believer, but bitter to hearers who reject God's call (v.9).
The true angel (v.1-3) stands in contrast and opposition to the human pride which built the 100 foot bronze "Colossus that stood as a symbol of human power in the harbor of Rhodes for several decades before it was toppled by an earthquake in the late 200s BC. The statue still lay broken at the time that John wrote Revelation." (NLT)
Personal Application: I will eagerly hear all the Word of God that is given and be satisfied until the mystery of God is finished (v.7). I will proclaim that Word to all peoples and their kings (v.11).
My Prayer: Father, speak Lord for Your servant hears. Give courage also to speak to those who don't want to hear and patience for fulfillment.
The interlude between the 6th & 7th trumpets (ch. 10-11) continues with two human messengers who witness (v.3) with great power (v.4-6), reminiscent of Moses and Elijah whose words were backed by God in the same ways described in verse 6. The events of this chapter are clear, specific and to be expected literally as described suggesting this stage of God's final call to repentance has not yet taken place. The reference to the temple (v.1-2) also appears literal and the basis for expectation of a third temple, following the destruction of the 2nd temple (built after the exile; Ezra 3) in 70AD.
Moses and Elijah (who also appeared at the transfiguration (Mt 17:3) or, as has also been suggested, Peter and Paul) obey God with faith and courage for 3 1/2 years (v.3) before they are killed by the beast (v.7) and left exposed in the streets of Jerusalem (v.8) while those who refuse to repent, celebrate (v.10).
God however honors his witnesses and terrifies those who hate them by honoring them like Jesus after his sacrifice - raising them from the dead after 3 days (v.11) and ascending to heaven in a cloud (v.12).
Heaven erupts with joy! The elders worship God (v.17), passing over the phrase "and is to come" (1:4,8) because His eternal reign has begun! The time to judge even the dead has come (v.18).
The celebration of eternal glory precedes (what seems to me to be) a final rehearsal of the history of Satan's battle against the Messiah and those who follow Him (ch.12-18), when Christ returns in power and glory (ch.19) to establish God's eternal Kingdom of Heaven on earth (ch 21-22).
Courage: The chapter gives courage to believers who face persecution as they have throughout history. (It's not clear whether the 2 witnesses prophesy the first or second-half of seven years of tribulation).
The victory of evil can only be apparent, never final, and Satan knows it (12:12). Satan cannot kill the witnesses, even temporarily, until God allows it to show His great power in their resurrection. God honors those who honor Him.
Personal Application: I will trust the Lord for courage to speak and obey His word. I will not fear when evil appears to have the upper hand temporarily. I will look to heaven and join the angel (v.15) and elders (v.16-18) in worship and anticipatory celebration, v.15: "The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."
My Prayer: Praise to You Lord, for You conquer the evil one and give eternal life to those who trust You and obey, regardless of temporary consequences and appearances. I look to You alone. I worship the Lord God, and Him only (Mt.4:10).
The next three chapters follow a progression: The people of God are under attack by the evil one (chapter 12). With his allies, the beast and false prophet, Satan attempts to continue rule of the world (chapter 13) before his final confrontation with the Lord (chapter 14).
Satan's attempt to destroy the Messiah included Herod's slaughter of the innocent, the wilderness temptation, Peter's attempt to turn Jesus away from the cross but Jesus remained faithful to his call. Jesus life and ministry are not detailed but only His safety with the Father (v.5).
Satan's attempt to destroy God's people: Having been cast out of heaven (v.7-9) and overcome by the Messiah, Satan persecutes the people of God (symbolized by the woman who gave birth to the Messiah, v.13, 17). Satan's twin efforts focus on deceiving the world (v.9) and accusing the brethren (v.10).
Our Defense: The sobering parenthesis between vs 9 and 13 reminds believers of their defense against Satan: the cleansing power and merits of the blood of Christ, ongoing active witness to Christ, and ultimate, final loyalty to Christ (v.11).
The NLT reminds us in this onslaught "God strengthens his people; he does not promise that they will escape persecution or death."
Personal Application: I will "flee to the wilderness" (v.6, 14) if needed but will nevertheless "keep the commands of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (v.17).
v.10: "Now the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down; he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony and they did not love their life even when faced with death."
My Prayer: Father, I see the battle on every continent and all around us. I pray for courage, for myself and for the church, faithfully to use all the weapons You've given (v.11) to overcome the enemy of God and of our souls. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
The blasphemous evil trinity: Satan the dragon (v.1) draws from the sea (symbolizing evil) a beast whom he empowers (v.2) and heals from a fatal wound (v.3) in a mockery of the resurrection (v.14). The last member of the triad rises from the underworld with partial likeness of a lamb, also a mockery of Christ (v.11) and is empowered by the 2nd person of this evil trinity.
Forced worship: Everyone is forced to worship an image of the beast which speaks, calling for those who do not worship to die (v.15). "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (v.8)"
Economic slavery: The third beast also enforces the branding of ownership, as of a slave, without which he or she cannot buy or sell (v.16). The 'brand' is the name or number (666) of the beast (v.17).
Our Challenge: Presumably those who refuse the brand of the beast, marking those who receive it as slaves, must go into hiding to survive (v.15). This chapter seems the low point of the apocalypse. But Jesus is Lord.
Personal Application: I will not be branded a slave of the beast. I will not worship the deception, for my name is written in the Lamb's book of life (v.8).
My Prayer: Father, thank you for having written, from the foundation of the world, my name in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Strengthen me for what is to come, to Your Glory.
The voice from heaven: is so otherworldly John tries several ways to describe it - "many waters", "thunder", "harpists" - but no combination of images do God's voice justice.
Multiple angels likewise call out in this chapter; with a final offer of the gospel, a final call to the earth to worship God (v.6-7), declaration of the fall of Babylon (v.8) and the coming judgement (v.15).
The saints: have been purchased from the earth for heaven (v.3), marked (v.1) and undefiled, following the Lamb (v.4) singing a new song (v.3) having been given rest from their labors (v.13).
Two vines: Jesus is the true vine (John 15) producing good fruit. The 'vine of the earth' (Rev.14:12) also produces grapes, fruit which sets teeth on edge, is harvested and thrown into the great wine press of the wrath of God (v.18-19).
The Son of Man (v.14): is first seen in Daniel 7:14 and is frequently spoken of by Jesus, always in reference to Himself. Jesus is both Savior of those who receive Him with thanksgiving and Judge of those who refuse, choosing instead to continue in their rebellion.
Personal Application: God sustains His saints, enabling us to persevere (v.12) in our labors (v.13) as we both participate in the proclamation of God's eternal gospel to all peoples (v.6) and anticipate final rest, peace and celebration. I will persevere in the strength of the Lord looking to Him until the end in eternity. I will look away from the threats and temptations of the world but not from the desperate needs of the world for the Gospel.
My Prayer: Father, these truths are fully adequate to the profound battle of the ages in which we participate, fully adequate to Your glory, fully adequate to Your justice and to grace. How profound are Your ways! How great Your glory! Thank you for the promise of a new song to express Your wonder and worship.
The Song of Moses and of the Lamb: God's provision of exodus from slavery prefigures the breadth of God's deliverance from the tyranny of the dragon and his servants on the whole earth. The saints and martyrs who remain faithful witness the righteous judgment of those who oppressed them and celebrate the God who saves though judgment.
The God who Judges: God is not only "great and marvelous" but also "righteous and true" (v.3). He is King of the nations, just, holy, and eternal Lord. It is God's moral character which both has compassion leading to salvation by grace and which righteously judges evil. God's perfect unity cannot be separated. Righteous judgment can come from nowhere but the temple of God (v.6).
Personal Application: How impossible it is to retain sanity in an unjust universe. How wonderful it is that "righteous and true" (v.3) is our God! The song of Moses and the Lamb will go up with joy forever! I will memorize the song of Moses and the Lamb today and sing it forever with them.
My Prayer: Father, "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name?
for You alone are holy!
All nations will come and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed (v.3-4)."
Armageddon: geographically is where Solomon fortified Megiddo on a hill guarding the Jezreel Valley (I Kings 9:15) which is on-route between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Many expansionist armies in history used this route leading to many battles and the term "bloody battlefield." "Armageddon became a symbolic term epitomizing the final conflict between God and the forces of evil. (NLT)"
The wrath of God: Only those who turn a blind eye to the vast evils of history and those constant around the world, public and hidden, can resist the righteous necessity of judgment in a moral universe. "The truth that God is just and true is the foundation of human integrity in the midst of a confused, unjust, and dishonest world. (NLT)"
Readiness: Roman guards who slept on watch in John's day had their clothes taken away to shame them for their neglect. v.15: "Look, I come like a thief! Blessed are those who stay awake and keep their clothes on, so that they may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."
The Judgments of God: in 7 plagues on the earth are followed by the same words as those of Jesus on the cross: "It is finished" (v.17); the rebellion against God has finally come to an end. The remaining images of Revelation are only descriptions of that long-awaited end.
The 5th judgment (v.10) could melt the ice caps; the 6th judgment (v.12) released the demonic powers animating the evil trinity (dragon, beast and false prophet) to entice the kings of the earth to amass at Armageddon. After Armageddon the 7th plague shook the earth, flooded the islands and massive hail pounded what remained.
Hardness of heart remains in some through judgment, perhaps, inexplicably, even in hell. No greater evil can be imagined. They did not repent: the refrain of vs. 9, 11, 21 brings to mind the response of pharaoh to God's ten judgments on Egypt steadfastly refusing to release Israel from slavery.
Personal Application: I will not be among those who blaspheme God for His righteous judgments. I will warn until the last those whose hearts are open to salvation. I will rejoice in the new heaven and earth to come in which righteousness dwells in His presence.
"You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; 6for they have shed the blood of your people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve."
My Prayer: Father, you judge in history, yet the judgment to come is beyond imagining. Thank you Jesus' salvific "it is finished" will be linked to the "it is finished" of judgment which ends also all rebellion against You forever. May your glory be absolute and complete and soon.
The Enemies of God: The chapter is composed of apocalyptic images. Fornication and adultery refer to worship intimacies with false gods, intoxicating the idolaters (v.2). All false gods - warned against throughout scripture - ultimately flow from Satan, the deceiver. The harlot represents Rome, an expression of idolatrous Babylon (v.5), who has spiritual (and/or political) dominion over the kings of the earth (v.18). The beast represents the emperors of Rome, cruel opponents of Christ and His followers, and the kings (v.12) who follow, chronologically and in their opposition to the Lamb.
Victory over the hostile world system: A single verse stands over-against the enemies of God, v.14: "the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings - and with Him will be his called , chosen and faithful followers." This does not imply we will by political or physical means fight those who hate Christ, but that by our allegiance to Christ (12:11), walking in the train of the King of kings and Lord of Lords, participate in His victory.
Personal Application: I will look to the Lamb and walk closely in His train in the face of opposition, certain of His victory whether in this life or that to come. My core identity is this: 'called, chosen, faithful (v.14).'
My Prayer: Father, thank you that you are certain, and in the certainty of your character and our destiny in You, we have peace. Thank you that we are your heritage (Isa 47:6), that you have called us, chosen us and enable us to be faithful (Rev. 17:14).
Source and Destiny: Everything is about it's source, whether easily seen or far back is entirely secondary. Everything goes back to the garden, flowing either from the deceiver, the source of darkness and death, or from the only True God, Creator and Redeemer, the source of life and light and joy. Everything also flows to it's end, whether that end is easily seen or yet in the future.
Certain Judgment: As Germanic tribes brought Rome down in the 400sAD, Babylon, as a continuing political and false religious system, wherever it's administrative center, will fall on the day of judgment, leaving only the demons which animated her (v.2).
Spiritual and Moral Separation: "Come out of her, my people" (v.4) involves rejection of Babylon's false religious system and economic control (via the mark of 13:16-17). The 28 commodities listed in v.12-13 represent Babylon's plunder of subdued nations and wealth gained immorally by those trading, in even human lives [where Rome's slave population was near 20%].
"Coming out" of Babylon, though costly, is both obedience to Christ and protection from a judgment which will be far more costly.
Final Rejoicing: While God's justice seems slow to those who suffer, He remembers what the world wishes to forget (v.5). Therefore God's saints, prophets and martyrs - suffering injustice in history - will rejoice when complete and final justice comes from heaven (v.20). Rejoicing at judgment comes from confidence in the Judge, knowing He gave every needed opportunity to repent, and that with immeasurable patience, continually rejected.
In the meantime: The "both/and" of investing in "welfare of the city" (Jer. 7:7), without participating in her sins (Rev. 18:4), requires courage and continual guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Personal Application: I will not cease doing good, continue to invite everyone to alignment with the King, and seek the welfare of those in the city who do not know their left hand and from their right hand spiritually.
My Prayer: Father, give us your patience, confident that you remember (v.5) and will make all things right, forever. Give us needed wisdom and focus to stay 'separate' while seeking the eternal welfare of those around us.
Hallelujah!: is heaven's response to God's great salvation of the redeemed (v.1), to God's righteous cleansing of the earth of evil (v.2-3), to the holiness and glory of the great I AM (v.4-5) and for God's eternal perfect reign (v.6).
The Banquet: The redeemed join in a celebration banquet for the marriage of the Lamb (v.7). For this we have prepared lifelong with those righteous acts (v.8) which express His love and Kingdom. True, we are saved by Christ alone. Yet seated around the table it appears the robes of some saints will glitter more brightly than others. In this the 'grace' and 'works' controversy is gratefully laid to rest.
The Great Contrast of the Bible is unswerving from the Garden to two feasts - the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7-8) and the "great supper" of God's judgment (19:17-18, 21) - grace and judgment, reward and punishment. Those who are not invited to the marriage supper (v.9) or who do not accept their invitation (Luke 14:15ff), are left outside the banquet hall. The Return of Christ is both for salvation and for judgment (v.11).
His Names are Wonderful: "Faithful and True" (v.11), "the Word of God" (v.13), "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (v.16). In addition, there is a name to revealed at the end of history (v.12c). With burning eyes (v.12), Christ wears many crowns and will accomplish also his final task (v.15). It is this Jesus, who our proclamation (v.10) reveals to those who are willing to hear and see.
Lake of Fire: the beast and false prophet are first to enter (v.20), then the dragon (20:10), death (20:14) and all who have rejected their rightful King (Rev. 20:15; Matt. 22:1-14). Some squirm, as I have, at biblical depictions of judgment. God however has challenged my spirit with this question: When will you be ready for righteousness? My response was immediate and remains 1.) an eagerness for Christ's return and the end of evil, and 2.) an ongoing urgency to hold the Gospel before those who've not turned to Christ.
Personal Application: I will seek opportunity today to be a channel of the spirit of prophesy to someone who may not know or needs Jesus.
My Prayer: Father, I can't imagine all that laid up for the marriage feast of the Lamb and in the close of history for all who, unimaginably, reject You, the lover of our souls, to the end. I trust and love You. Hallelujah - forever and to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Chronology at the end of history: seems to be
Christ returns in glory, when the Gospel has been proclaimed to every ethnae. Satan is restrained, removing resistance to Christ's rule (for a literal or figurative 1000 years) (v.1-3).
The resurrection of the saints, to reign with Christ (the first resurrection) (v.4-6)
Satan's brief release after his 1000 year 'time out,' to demonstrate his final decision (v.7-9).
Resurrection of those who joined the ranks of Satan's rebellion against God (the second resurrection) (v.13).
Final judgment of saints and sinners, according to deeds and the cross of Christ (v.11-15).
The end of death and the temporary dwelling place of the dead (v.14).
The Lake of Fire (the second death) (v.14-15) and the New Jerusalem (ch. 21-22).
Satan's persistent rebellion and final effort: Freed briefly, after his lengthy 'time out' for reflection before final judgment, Satan uses his freedom to gather the willing for war (v.8) but, again, no battle takes place (e.g. 16:16-21, 19:19-21), this time because Satan is preemptively cast into his realm (hell) for a final time, now permanently.
Eternally separated from God: Those who join Satan for war on God (v.8) will have seen the righteous reign of Christ for 1000 years and rejected it. God accepts their decision and they live with the consequence of it with Satan who has demonstrated he will never change. "Perhaps more than any book in Scripture, Revelation illustrates that the unrepentant persist in their rebellion despite the consequences (9:20-21; 16:9-11; cp. Luke 16:31)" - (NLT).
Satan's primary, limited power is deception (v.3, 8) into which people enter voluntarily from the days of Adam and Eve, so no one can say they were coerced into evil. We must therefore be watchful, not in the sense of being preoccupied with Satan, but by testing our thoughts and deeds continually by the plumb-line of the truth and love of God.
God judges our deeds, whether 'saint or sinner' so as to demonstrate the righteousness of judgment and the grace of salvation. Saints are saved by grace (the Book of Life, v.12,15) but nevertheless also squarely faced with their deeds, which seem in some way to effect their position in heaven.
Personal Application: I will not mistake 'salvation by grace' for a bland doctrinal rejection of 'good works' since God also judges the 'righteous by faith' by their deeds (v.12-13). I will then be eager to do good deeds, not out of self-concern, but rather to reflect God's character and glory so people will be drawn to Him (Matt. 5:16), be saved, and enjoy Him forever.
My Prayer: Father,
how majestic and comprehensive Your plan and how righteous and gracious it's
outcome. Strengthen me and your Church by Your Holy Spirit to walk with You in
difficult paths, confident of the brilliant goodness of Your heart and glory of
the final state.
The Gift: The vision leaves me weak, even breathless, crying "holy, holy, holy." The presence of the Glory of God left John earlier on his face as if dead (1:17). Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) towards the end of his life experienced a vision of God after which he never wrote again, calling earlier work "mere straw." How great is the glory and grace given the bride of the Lamb!
New Heaven and Earth and City of God: every trace of sin is gone, only glory remains as God makes all things new (v.5) and dwells with his people forever (v.3). Jesus, our lamp (v.23) is light of the world in this life and light of the New Jerusalem in the glory to come. The tabernacle of God is among man (v.3), as anticipated in the Communion service, God and man at table are sat down.
The New Jerusalem is a perfect cube of 12,000 stadia (v.16), i.e. 2,220 km in each direction; a base of 4,928,400 sq. km and volume of 10 trillion cubic km. The measurements suggest the New Jerusalem is not ethereal and symbolic but the more-than-real home Jesus has prepared for us (John 14); "... even if only 25% of this space were used for dwellings, 20 billion people could be accommodated spaciously" (Ryrie). Measurements (v.15-17) also declare clear and absolute boundaries, as does the book of Life of the Lamb (v.27); everyone is in or out. Warnings continue in the closing vision (v.8, 22: 11,15, 18f) to underscore nothing greater in all eternity could be lost than This Great Salvation.
Its gates (v.12) and foundation stones (v.14) suggest the comprehensive inclusiveness of salvation history in Old and New Testaments. The gates of the New Jerusalem are never closed (v.24) because no danger remains. Open gates may also suggest God's people are free to enjoy paradise surrounding the city.
The theme of transparency and integrity (no deception, v.8), crystal-clear (v.11, 18, 21) calls forth a prayer in me: "Father, shine your light through me, mind, body, word, soul and spirit, that nothing impure remain in me. I make full confession to You, show me anything I miss."
Personal Application: I will cling to Christ in all circumstances, physical and spiritual, to conquer (v.7) with Him. I will live transparently before God and man. I reject all deception confessing freely any dark blot seeking to make me stumble. I will keep my eye on the goal of His grace and glory alone.
My Prayer: Father, thank you that by your glorious grace and mercy all will be made right. Thank you that, in Christ in You, we have peace in the present and certainty about the future. Thank you for what could be no better. I worship you forever!
Eternal life is depicted in two wonderful images of grace: Water of life (v.1) flows from the throne of God, as seen in Ezekiel 47 where it continues to grow in depth. Christ bless all who come, thirsty to drink (v.17). The tree of life (v.2) was first given in the Garden. It is given here to provide healing from the wounds of the fall.
As in the Garden (Gen. 2-3), life and relationship is more important than knowledge. It is likely we will never know all God knows. The desire for knowledge in the Garden led to pride and can still tempt us away from simple reliance on the Lord. John was told not to write some knowledge into this book (10:4).
The eternal state of believers: we will see God face-to-face, His name on our foreheads and we will serve Him in the brilliant light radiating from Him, reigning under His authority forever and ever (v.3-5), like the angels who now serve all "those who heed the words of this book" (v.8-9). Our reward (v.12) is permanent.
The eternal state of unbelievers: What we are in eternity we will be forever. This is also the case with those who do evil (v.11). The original terms in v.15 are sobering: pharmakoi (pointing to the connection between drugs and sorcery), pornoi (the root of pornography which leads to other sexual sins), pseudos (those who are fond of false fronts), eidOlolatrai (those who give divine status to what is not God) and phoneis (one who takes from another what God has given as penultimate gift).
Come: an urgent final appeal by the Spirit and by the bride loyal to Christ, by those who hear and believe Him (v.17), and finally by the bride-Church to her Lord and Savior (v.20). This is the climax of history. For His appearing we yearn!
Personal Application: I will, every time I sense spiritual thirst, drink of the water of life (v.1, 17) and look to the tree of life (v.2) opening the Word, in prayer and worship. I will look up - for our redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).
My Prayer: Father, how our anticipation builds for this great day of the Lord and Your coming to make all things right. We yearn and breathe, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (v.20)