What I’ve Learned from Preaching through the Book of Revelation2
This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else. Unlike some, the things in Revelation that had the greatest impact on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium. Here are the primary lessons I learned.
(1) Christians in this present age can expect to suffer intense persecution at the hands of an unbelieving and idolatrous world. No one is exempt. To suffer is not an indication of God’s disappointment with us but of our identification with Jesus and when embraced with humility and courage can be a tremendous way to make known the sufficiency and beauty of all that God is for us in Jesus.
(2) God is absolutely and comprehensively sovereign over all the affairs of all mankind. I say “all mankind” because not even the most wicked are outside of God’s providential power.
It often appears that the entire world reels with one blow after another. In Egypt dozens of Christians are killed when ISIS detonates a bomb on Palm Sunday. Bloody civil wars continually erupt all around the globe. Racial strife plagues our own country. Threats against Israel by Iran and other Muslim countries is a daily fixture. And drug cartels continue to supply a seemingly endless flow of illegal narcotics into our country. The world, by all external appearances, appears horribly unstable and chaotic and out of control. But the book of Revelation is God’s word to us that he is in complete control.
(3) Jesus Christ is preeminent above all earthly powers and persons. At the heart of human sin is idolatry: the tendency to exalt as god anything or anyone above or in preference to Jesus Christ. But he is the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords.
Jesus Christ is alive from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, reigning and ruling and exercising absolute sovereignty over all the kings of the earth, all the events in the Middle East and throughout Central and South America and even in the lunatic plans of North Korea and China and Russia.
As “the ruler of the kings on earth” he mysteriously governs and regulates what all earthly kings and presidents do, sometimes restraining them from doing evil, sometimes frustrating their plans, sometimes ordering events so that they might serve his purposes. We can’t figure out how he does it, but do it, he does! Thus, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:25 that “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” So don’t just read the newspaper or scour the internet. Read and reflect with the eyes of faith and confidence in the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all things.
(4) We have the assurance that God will accomplish his purposes and bring all things to their consummation in Christ Jesus. No matter how bad circumstances may become, no matter how oppressed the church may be, no matter how successful and powerful the world and its wicked ways appear, nothing can derail or disrupt God’s purpose in history to bring a Bride to the Bridegroom at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
(5) As the global oppression of the church increases and intensifies, there will come a time when it will appear that the church has been destroyed. For a time, its voice will have been silenced and its presence barely noticeable. But this is only in appearance, as the church will rise up in power and be the catalyst for a global harvest of souls. If you wonder where I find this in Revelation, I encourage you to listen to my two sermons in Revelation 11.
(6) Satan hates God and hates you and hates the Church and will do all within his power, under God’s sovereignty, to undermine your confidence in God’s goodness and lead you to abandon your faith. But we are assured complete and final victory as we overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony and as we do not love our lives even unto death (Rev. 12).
(7) Although the wrath of God against sin and idolatry will intensify and expand as we approach the second coming of Christ, no Christian will be the object of it, but will be preserved eternally safe and secure. God has sealed his servants, all of them, with the Holy Spirit and no amount of suffering or hardship can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
(8) Neither eye has seen nor ear has heard the marvelous blessings that God has in store for his people in the new heavens and new earth. Or to use the words of Paul in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
(9) Judgment is certain. The one thing that will guard your heart from becoming cynical and pessimistic is the repeated assurance in Revelation that a time of reckoning is coming when God will bring justice to bear on the earth. Truth will be vindicated. Evil will receive its rightful recompense.
(10) Christ is coming soon. Amid all the argumentation over this book and its symbolism and the question of Israel and the rapture and the tribulation, may we never lose sight of what is preeminent: the physical, personal, bodily return of Jesus Christ to consummate his kingdom. This is our only hope. This is our blessed hope!
So remember: although some will tell you that you are wasting your time reading and meditating on Revelation because it is too difficult and obscure, Jesus tells us otherwise:
“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).
“And behold, ‘I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book’” (Rev. 22:7).
This book is not beyond your ability to understand it and believe it and obey it. Don’t miss out on the blessing that is promised for those who keep what is written in it!