One - most loved / hated books.
Offer a different way of looking.
A view very common : bible scholars.
Unfortunately : very rare when it comes to the 'popular' level.
Some have felt liberated, others felt offended.
Either way, I hope I've succeeded in painting a beautiful Jesus. - Which should always be our goal. - Because it's the truth - He is beautiful.
Tonight as we close:
Hoping to do: tell the story, as a cohesive WHOLE.
Do a tiny bit of role playing, transport yourself back into early church history.
B/C we know - Book of revelation is an beautiful piece of apocalyptic literature written by John to 7 churches in Asia minor.
Let's do something fun.
Let’s pretend, that this gathering is NOT outlet in 2015, but a small home church in 68AD.
Close Your Eyes - Welcome to 68AD
One - Leaders - John - Prison.
On an Island called ‘Patmos’
He’s told us he’s there ‘because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9)
We know that’s His way of telling us, that he got in trouble for preaching the gospel.
He says the Lord told him to write to us. All 7 of us. And that Jesus gave him a vision and was told to write it down and get it to us.
So we've gathered in one of our homes to read the letter.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.“ (Revelation 1:3)
And we know that that’s true. B/C we’re in a tough spot. Rome has had enough of Jesus following. They want us to worship Nero. A man! And if we don’t deny Jesus, they’ll kill us. Just like they killed Jesus and so many of our brothers and sisters already. We know it’s any day now.
So we read our letter. Hoping that it will bring us some direction and some comfort. And it's my honor to read it to you.
The book opens and John immediately tells us what kind of book he’s written:
“The revelation from Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1)
We know that word - Revelation - translated "Apocalypse". - Means "uncovering"
Apocalyptic Literature. We know it well.
It’s very popular among the oppressed.
We speak in code to display emotion, and we speak in code to protect ourselves from our oppressors.
Here's the story John wants to share with us:
My dearest churches, JESUS IS COMING
Riding the clouds, he’ll be seen by every eye, those who mocked and killed him will see him, People from all nations and all times will tear their clothes in lament. Oh, Yes. (Revelation 1:7)
Jesus has a message for each of us. All 7 churches.
Encouraging us, and warning us not to get complacent, b/c our faith is about to be put to the test.
John says: In a vision: He was transported into heaven with a voice saying he’ll tell him what comes next.
He sees a beautiful throne room - emeralds, gems.
Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. (Revelation 4:4)
24 Elders - represent the followers of Jesus throughout history.
around the throne, were four living creatures, … Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:6-8)
4 living creatures - Ezekiel - represent the Angelic world.
There’s a throne, &
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll … sealed with seven seals. (Revelation 5:1)
This scroll has the character of God. But no one has the character to open it. John weeps - never know who God is. How He rules.
One of the Elder says:
“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” .” (Revelation 5:5)
So John looked,
and there, surrounded by Throne, Animals, and Elders, was a Lamb, slaughtered but standing tall. (Revelation 5:6)
7 eyes, 7 horns. We know this. Represents perfect wisdom and perfect power. HE’S the one worthy to open the scroll.
This is Jesus Christ dying on the cross.
Before that, we didn’t know who God was. And everyone who thought they knew, AKA the pharisees were the MOST wrong. The Lamb starts opening the scroll. And what you see is the freeing of people, the destruction of empire, and the declaration of truth.
The Lamb opens these seals and John begins to have visions. Visions of evil.
And it looks like Evil is winning. It’s the greatest power of all. Horses with evil riders.
Its rider was Death, and Hell was close on its heels. (Revelation 6:8)
This makes a lot of sense to us. Because to us, it looks like evil is winning. Death is on our doorstep and he’s ferocious!
I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-12)
So John sees the army of God - infinite in number.
John is reminding us that even though death is terrifying, that we’re part of God’s army. We’re the army that lays down their life.
John is saying: He knows that we feel alone. Outnumbered. There’s what, 10 of us, compared to the massive roman army, but take heart, we’re part of a HUGE army.
We're the army that fights their battles with palm branches - symbolic - we fight our battles not with violence, but by worshipping God and following the lamb.
After the 7 seals have been opened,
John - begins the next cycle of 7. Blowing of the 7 trumpets.
He tells us how destruction falls on the empires of the world that keep people in bondage.
God’s struggle isn’t against sinful people, but structural evil that oppresses people.
Jesus destroys that evil, not by being evil, but by the power of His love. And we contribute to his victory when we love as he loves.
After this, John sees a woman…
Woman dressed all in sunlight, standing on the moon, and crowned with Twelve Stars. She was giving birth to a Child and cried out in the pain of childbirth. (Revelation 12:1)
This is baby Jesus. & another sign:
a huge and fiery Dragon! It had seven heads and ten horns, a crown on each of the seven heads. (Revelation 12:3)
John says this is Satan.
Next John sees a beast:
… a Beast rising from the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads—on each horn a crown, and each head inscribed with a blasphemous name. (Revelation 13:1)
We know this, we’ve read the book of Daniel - where 4 monsters come out of the sea, and they represent wicked kingdoms.
This beast is Rome. Specifically, Nero. John says so:
“Solve a riddle: Put your heads together and figure out the meaning of the number of the Beast. It’s a human number: 666.” (Revelation 13:18)
Yup, that equals Nero Cesar.
Goes on: SOON, we will have to make the choice - worship Nero, or risk lose our ability to buy and sell.
But John reminds us, we - …
Follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (Revelation 14:4)
John has a vision of a winepress -
The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress. (Revelation 14:19)
blood poured from the winepress as high as a horse’s bridle, a river of blood for two hundred miles.. (Revelation 14:20)
This is us. This is the army that lays down it’s life for others. Our blood.
John reminds us
they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” (Revelation 16:6)
John: These people acting violently against us, they will be consumed with their own hatred.
They will drink the blood that they spill.
John sees to His horror:
… frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. (Revelation 16:13)
He says - Frogs are:
… demonic spirits (that gather) all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.
We’ve been there. We know that place. The valley of magedo. He warning us - when we follow the beast, the only outcome is war.
But again, remember that John is telling us to follow the lamb and not the frogs. It’s going to be tempting, we’re going to WANT to pick up sword and do the whole ‘eye for an eye’ thing. But we can’t. We don’t follow frogs. We follow the lamb.
A last, we see Jesus coming.
Will - abolish - wicked empires - lead - killing each other?
He (Jesus) is dressed in a robe soaked in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Revelation 19:13)
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)
Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Revelation 19:15)
Amazing: John says: A sword coming out of his mouth. And with it He slays the empire.
And as always, he fights his battle not by shedding the blood of others, but by shedding his own blood to save others.
He doesn’t fight people. His battle is not against flesh and blood.
Paul wrote that to the church in Ephesus:
struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
He fights lies w/ the truth of his word.
In this battle - he defeats the beast and the kings of the earth - that oppress people.
To make a mockery out of evil empire: Yells to the birds:
“Come to the Great Supper of God! Feast on the flesh of kings and captains and champions, horses and their riders. Eat your fill of them all—free and slave, small and great!” (Revelation 17:17-18)
After awhile the dragon (the devil) will try and attack the kingdom of God, but it won’t work.
Jesus has won.
The victory is ours.
Even if we die, we still win. Because it’s all about Jesus.
As this point, John switches gears. Shoots WAY into the future and says he is granted a vision of how this whole thing wraps up.
“a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)
Jesus comes as a judge and everything is accounted for.
All of creation rejoices when they see His judgement, because His enemies are destroyed. - The principalities, and powers.
Church already begun to call this: The great reversal
John sees: the first as last and the last as first.
"The great redemption"
Remember what Paul wrote to the Romans: all of creation is groaning for redemption.
We see perfection - true beauty.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
Jesus has won
We live in the new heaven & new earth.
Because he’s come and made all things new.
Johns letter - ends w/Jesus saying:
“Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)
So take heart young church. Trials and tribulations are coming, but Jesus has the victory.
That’s the book. - EVERY major part.
Written to early NT church encouraging them to not lose faith even when tribulation comes.
The triumph of lamb-like power.
It’s only followers of the lamb who could ever think you can defeat violence by laying down your life.
But that's what Jesus was calling these people to.
History tells us - they WERE killed, they were burned alive, skinned alive.
Put in - winepress. but they triumphed.
God's kingdom does not come by the violence of the beast, but by the self-sacrifical love of the Lamb.
Practical Summary for us today:
Don’t conform to the empire.
Don’t conform to the worlds way of power.
Just like it’s hard to notice the air we breathe, it’s hard to notice when the power of the empire has snuck in to our thinking.
That’s why we have to be very intentional in NOT conforming to the ways of this world.
You’ll seem weird. The world will think you’re stupid if you trust in lamb-like, self-sacrificial power. Paul says, they'll think you're weak and foolish. They expect you to trust in domination just like they do. They expect you to trust in beast power, just like they do. They expect you to believe in forcing conformity, just like they do.
But we, as Christians. We have a different way. We follow the lamb wherever he goes. We don’t follow frogs. We don’t follow dragons, we don’t follow beasts. We rely on lamb-like self-sacrificial power. We contribute to the coming of God's kingdom by rejecting the worlds power and living out lamb-like power. We are the people who pray 'Thy Kingdom Come'. We follow the lamb wherever He goes.
(and then special song)
As we close - series on Revelation
Focus on - God's kingdom.
Way of living - makes no sense to the world, but to us, is the power of God.
Us as a community - Recommit to being a part of His way of doing things.
We fight how he fights - forgive - love
The world will think you're crazy. But we know, it's lamb-like power that saves the world.
B/C - lamb-like power.
Invited to eat w/: