Stand and Conquer: The Revelation Series (Part 1)
February 12, 2012
Why does God speak to you about Jesus in this strange way?
1. To make you live like Jesus
2. To display the true glory of Jesus
Some people think you're probably as smart as a box of rocks if you try to preach The Revelation.
There are some reasons to be concerned!
1. This is a book about ultimate things - ultimate destiny, ultimate reality, ultimate truth - and you cannot have a discussion about ultimate things without stirring the pot.
2. The Revelation is a form of literature that really shows how you read the rest of the Bible. Everyone brings into The Revelation how they understand things like the promises, the curses, and the rest of the Bible's storyline.
3. Because of the highly symbolic and metaphorical language The Revelation has been subject to some of the most horrendous and botched exegetical surgeries of any portion of the Bible. A lot of people have been very poorly taught out of this book.
4. It may go down as one of the great sins of our age that we tend to believe what is popular must be right. Some of you will be utterly shocked when we get to Revelation 20 and I inform you that I don't think the 1000 years in this passage refers to a literal earthly 1000-year reign of Jesus. If you've watched certain movies and read certain novels of the last 10 years that has the potential of sounding like utter heresy. That view has certainly been around for a long time but by no means has it been the most popular nor most widely held in church history.
5. For some reason, many Christians are absolutely adamant their view on The Revelation is right and the others very wrong. This hits close to home. In God's providence it was this very issue that led me out of one church to help plant this church. I have felt the passion.
So for all these reasons there's great potential for misunderstanding, for fear, for real apprehension and distrust. I am identifying these at the front and I am simply asking you to go slow with me, and listen carefully and let the words of the text speak. Let God reveal Jesus to you and cling to the big picture.
The Revelation has 22 chapters. It wasn’t originally written like this - chapters were added in the 13th century, and verses were added in the 1550’s. It was the last book of the Bible to be written, and in that position it serves as the final word or the conclusion to the whole book. It’s a very unique book. There is no other book in the Bible like it, yet it is like many other books.
That being said, why did God choose to write to us in just this way?
1. GOD SPEAKS TO YOU IN THIS WAY TO MAKE YOU LIVE LIKE JESUS \
a. THIS IS A LETTER TO YOU (1:4)
This is a letter to you, not a vague piece of literature, like a comic book, Manga, or science fiction. It is like the book of Colossians, which was written to certain people, yet also intended to be read by every Christian. “To show to His servants” (1:1) refers to the church at large. “To the seven churches” (1:4) refers to the same idea. As we’ll see throughout the Revelation, 7 is the number of completion. Our family loves to get a letter from Grandpa. In one letter, each person will have a line. For example, “Will - obey your parents. Sophie - live for the Lord.” And each of the churches is addressed in this one letter.
Understanding that Revelation is a letter will influence how we read the book and understand its purpose. It is real instruction calling for real action in real people. It is not a book with seven letters in it. It’s one letter, not a care package with various letters for various people stuffed in. It is one letter that addresses seven churches by name, and all churches – “the church” – by implication.
b. THIS IS A PROPHECY TO YOU (1:3)
It is in line with Daniel, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah and all the other prophetic books in your Bible.
What is a prophetic book? It is a message from God that calls for a change in behavior now. A prophet is a man of God, sent to tell people a message with God’s demands. Prophecy is not just telling the future - in fact, it is actually very little of this. And when it is given, prophecy is for the purpose of motivating ethical change now.
For example, Zephaniah describes “the Great Day of the Lord” in some detail, then calls for a massive change in behaviour:
“Gather together, yes, gather,O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect -before the day passes away like chaff- before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the LORD. Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands: seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
Notice how the future is described so the present will be purified. Prophecy paints the future storm to motivate present reform. Therefore, prophecy is not investment forecasting, telling you to “get out of oil in Palestine.”
If you read the Revelation as if it was The Farmer’s Almanac, you have totally missed the point! Hal Lindsay wrote a book entitled “The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon” which suggested the end of the 80’s would be the end of the world. Walvoord’s book “Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis” held similar predictions for the 1990s. The Revelation is not a crystal ball. It is not something that certain gurus can gaze into and predict the future. The only thing the fortunetellers of this world actually see in their crystal ball is their own reflection. “Bible fortune tellers” see no more. They see their own face staring back at them, and therefore read themselves, their culture, and their experience into the text. The fortune-teller inevitably works things out so the storyline ends in his own time, whether that’s 1648 or 1984. We seem to forget what Scripture says;
“Concerning that day or that hour no one knows” (Mark 13)
“You do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24)
“The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24)
We need to treat prophecy as prophecy. It is not a horoscope. The Revelation is a prophetic letter given to a specific people in a specific time and culture. It is our duty to figure out what it meant to them, what behavioral and ethical changes it was calling for in them, and therefore what behavioral and ethical changes it is calling for in us.
1. GOD SPEAKS TO YOU IN THIS WAY TO DISPLAY THE TRUE GLORY OF JESUS
a. HE USES APOCALYPTIC LANGUAGE TO SHOW YOU JESUS IN HIS PRESENT GLORY (1:1)
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ…”
An apocalypse is a revelation, a revealing of something, when something previously unknown is disclosed. If you have ever seen a magician, they may lay a hanky out, and when they pull it back... there’s a rabbit! The magician has revealed the rabbit.
By definition, an apocalypse includes a description of the “other-worldly.” Visions are given to offer a transcendent and eternal glimpse of the here and now.
In Revelation 4 and 5 we read about the Throne Room Vision, which ultimately shows us that God is in control. Hebrews 8.5 tells us that the earthly temple is “a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things”, and Hebrews 11.16 says “they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one”. The things that are real are the things that are unseen, while what we see are only shadows, copies and images. The Revelation is a sustained look at the unseen reality.
Note! The book is called Revelation. There are not many Revelations, just one Revelation that contains many parts, images, and visions.
Now, I suppose getting a glimpse of the heavenly realm would be pretty easy to write about, right? Imagine the best sunset you have ever seen. Now right about it. “It was red.” You would use metaphors, comparisons, poetry, everything you could to get the sense across. Apocalyptic writings are like that; they are an attempt to describe the indescribable.
All throughout the Bible visions and dreams are pictures of another reality. Pharaoh had a dream in which he saw 7 fat cows; it meant 7 years of bumper crops. Nebuchadnezzar saw an image with a golden head in his dream; it represented him. Peter saw a sheet with animals on it; it meant no more dietary restrictions. In the Revelation there are perhaps hundreds of symbols and pictures that are intended to signify something else. Leon Morris said “the purpose of symbols are to convey ideas - not to paint a picture of some real 10 headed creature.” When you’re driving and you see a yellow sign with a deer on it, you’re not going to look for another sign, but for a real deer that the sign signifies.
Apocalyptic writing makes use of symbols and numbers to depict in word pictures. It often describes the same exact thing in different symbols to explain a different angle. Did you watch the Superbowl last week - after TAG? For one play there are many angles replayed. You may have an overhead shot, a sideline shot, the perspective of the defensive lineman, maybe someday we’ll even get the view from the ball! But there are many different angles used to show the same thing. Likewise in Revelation different angles and symbols are used to describe the same thing.
We also need to be aware that the book is not written chronologically. We may read “then I saw...” and “after this I saw...” and it will sound like one thing is happening after another. But all this is saying is how the visions came one after another to John, it does not mean this is the order in which these things will happen. If you read the book of Daniel, you will also see that events are not chronologically, but thematically arranged.
Let me explain how this will really help you. In chapter 9 we will read about locusts that are the size of a horse, have human faces with women’s hair, lion’s teeth, and loud wings. If you take a crystal ball approach, you may believe that this represents helicopter gunships. But if you understand the apocalyptic writing in the context it was written, locusts meant devastation to an agricultural people. The locusts described in the Revelation symbolize and signify the destruction and devastation that falls on unbelievers through the demonic influence on evil men. They bring two warnings - one to the world and one to the church. The world is warned that the devil you follow now will kill you in the end, and you need to repent! The church is warned to not tolerate evil in the church, but to stand and conquer. And these are two warnings that we will see throughout the book.
This is what John meant when he wrote:
“The revelation (apocalypse) of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show (to be shown a symbolic vision) to his slaves the things that must soon take place. He made it known (to show by a sign) by sending His angel to His slave, John.”
The only other time these words “to show” and “to make known” are used together like this is in Daniel 2.
This is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This prophetic apocalyptic letter is all about Jesus. It’s not about helicopters, Israel, oil, Obama, the Pope, Hitler, Nero, Satan, or dates, but it’s about Jesus. Which means that if you go home on any given Sunday thinking more about something or someone other than Jesus, I have failed.
a. HE REVEALED JESUS IN HIS GLORY SO YOU WILL BOLDLY STAND AND CONQUER
This prophetic apocalyptic letters showing us more of Jesus has a purpose. Last Sunday Pastor Tim preached from Ephesians 6 where four times it tells us to stand against the attacks of the devil and his minions. The Revelation of Jesus gives a more detailed explanation of this intense spiritual war, and basically summarizes it by saying “suck it up and die if you have to, but whatever you do, don’t give up.” Christ has conquered already. Now live as a co-conqueror!
Ephesians: [Rev. 2:7] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers l will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'
Smyrna. [Rev. 2:11] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'
Pergamum. [Rev. 2:17] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers l will give some of the hidden manna, and l will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.'
Thyatira. [Rev. 2:26-29] The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him l will give authority over the nations,  and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as l myself have received authority from my Father.  And will give him the morning star. [29J He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Sardis . [Rev. 3:5] The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and will never blot his name out of the book of life. l will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Philadelphians. [Rev. 3:12-13] The one who conquers, will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Laodiceans. [Rev. 3:21-22] The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as l also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
“if anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Revelation 13.10)
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14.12-13)
“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21.7-8)
What God gives to Jesus to reveal to us is a picture of his total omnipotence, his complete power over all that exists. He is the great victor and savior of our souls, standing with His foot on Satan’s neck, looking us in the eyes and saying, “Stand and conquer!” My unbelieving Friend, Satan is a defeated enemy. If you are not a Christian, you are in his ranks. You are serving a defeated general. You are like a German soldier after Hitler’s suicide in World War II - you’re wearing the wrong uniform! Christ the Lord commands and invites you to come, to surrender to His total Lordship, and to ask His forgiveness. My brothers and sisters, God gave this Revelation so you would stand and conquer. Therefore, stand and conquer like Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, like Stephen before the angry mob, like John banished to Patmos, and like Jesus on His cross.