We have come to the end of our study of the book of Revelation. We began this study back in September of 2005. It has been a long study, but I have to tell you that I have never been more encouraged or challenged in any study I have ever done. Let me explain to you what I mean. I have been so encouraged by the message I have studied each week because I have found in Revelation a message that I didn’t anticipate finding. I had never really studied Revelation before we began our study together. I had read Revelation, but to be honest I had “heard” more about Revelation than I had read. What I had heard led me to believe that Revelation was solely concerned with “end time” events. What I discovered as I studied Revelation was that it was much more than a message for those who would be living in the “last days.” Revelation contains a message to the Church in every age. It is a “right now” message to the struggling Church, and struggling Christians, as well as a message of encouragement for those who first received it and those who will receive it throughout history. I have been encouraged and I pray that you have been encouraged as well.
Secondly, I have been challenged in my study like I have never been challenged before. As you know, Revelation is “apocalyptic literature.” It is full of visions, sometimes it’s very difficult to understand visions. There are parts of Revelation that you can’t read like one of Paul’s epistles. Oh, I guess you can, but you will find yourself believing things about the message that I don’t think are there.
Revelation is so rooted in the Old Testament that if you undertake a serious study of this book you will know your Old Testament well by the end of your study. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. As we have worked our way through Revelation we have come across 117 references to the book of Isaiah. We have also come across 84 references to Scripture found in Ezekiel. There are 17 references to Genesis, 42 from Exodus, 6 from Leviticus, 4 from Numbers, 12 from Deuteronomy, 47 from Jeremiah, 20 from Amos, and I could go on. This is the most Jewish of all of the books of the New Testament. If you want to learn the Old Testament then study Revelation. With all of that said, let’s turn our attention to the last verses of Revelation beginning in Revelation 22:6.
6The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” 7″Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” 8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” 10Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” 12″Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14″Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16″I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. 18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 20He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (Revelation 22:6-21 NIV)
In this last section of Revelation we are reading the “epilogue” of the Apocalypse—this is the writing at the end of Revelation to bring it to a close. At the beginning of our Scripture for today we find ourselves right back where we began when we first started our study. Turn to Revelation 1:1-3 and read along with me.
1The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw– that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads 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 1:1-3 NIV)
Did you notice the similarities? Let’s examine some of them. First of all, we find that the revelation was given to “show” the Lord’s servants what must “soon take place.” The Greek word that is used for “show” is taken from the root word “dei,knuw” (deiknuo) which means, “to show, expose to the eyes, or to give evidence or proof of a thing.” Let me give you some examples of other places where the word is used. Turn with me to Hebrews 8:5 where we find the word used to drive home the point that Moses was instructed to build the tabernacle exactly as God had “shown” it to him.
5 They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:5 NIV)
We also find the word in Acts 10:27-28 where Simon Peter shares the revelation that the Lord had shown him with the Gentile Cornelius and his Gentile friends.
27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. (Acts 10:27-28 NIV)
When God shows us something it requires a response. We are not shown something by God simply for our amusement. God reveals His purposes and will to us so that we might adjust our lives accordingly. My study of Revelation, and your study of Revelation, has taken place for a reason. We’ve not simply been filling time on Sunday mornings; we’ve been sitting in class, learning of God’s ways and His plans, so that change can take place in your life and mine. I pray that by the time we reach the end of this study today that God may reveal to you the changes He is desiring to make in our life today.
Let’s examine another similarity between the opening of Revelation and these closing verses. In Revelation 22:7b we read, “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” In Revelation 1:3 we read,
3 Blessed is the one who reads 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 NIV)
If you read, hear, take to heart, and follow what is written in this book you will be blessed. The Greek word is “maka,rioj” (makarios). It is the same word that is used over and over again in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” “Blessed are those who mourn.” “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” You can gather from those quotations of Jesus in Matthew 5 that Jesus isn’t talking about the kind of blessing that TV preachers promise for those who send in their “faith gift” or “seed offering.” The blessing we will receive is much greater than a financial windfall—it a lasting, permeating peace, a Divine calm in the midst of the storms of life. This kind of blessing was certainly needed in the first century as the brothers and sisters in Christ were being persecuted by the evil Emperor Domitian. It is also needed today as brothers and sisters in Christ suffer from all kinds of pain and sorrow.
I got back from vacation last weekend and since then there has been an onslaught of heartache in the lives of people that I have had the opportunity to be with. One after another they have come into my office or I have met them at the hospital or talked to them on the phone. Their hearts are heavy; they are finding themselves in the crucible of crushing times. I wish I had a dime for every time that I have prayed this week, “Lord we are so grateful that in this midst of this trial you are reminding us that you will never leave us or forsake us.” In a world of seven billion people how can so many feel so alone? Yet, we know that we are not alone and that gives us a peace that the world cannot know. We are “blessed,” we can experience peace in the midst of our challenging seasons of life!
Another similarity that we find in the opening and closing of the book of Revelation is the Apostle. We read John’s name three times in the first nine verses of Revelation 1, but his name doesn’t appear again until Revelation 22:8. Read with me from Revelation 22:8-9.
8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:8-9 NIV)
The Apostle John was God’s instrument of transmission for the message. John “heard and saw these things” that we’ve been studying for the past many weeks. He saw “the Lamb looking as if it had been slain.” He saw the twenty-four elders lay their crowns before His throne and cry out,
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11 NIV)
John saw the beast defeated and thrown into the fiery lake of fire. John saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. He saw all of these things. Can you imagine? John saw these things and he shared them with those in the seven churches of Asia Minor and with us today. John saw these things and yet I’m sure you caught that he fell at the feet of the angel to worship him in Revelation 22:8. How could he make such a mistake after all that he had seen and heard? To make matters even worse this is the second time that John had made this mistake. Back in Revelation 19:9-10.
9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” 10At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:9-10 NIV)
Two times John was so overwhelmed with awe that he fell down to worship someone who was not God. I am so glad the angel corrected John and told him, “Don’t do it! Worship God!” I’ve thought a lot about John’s experience this past week and how vulnerable we are to stand in awe of people or things that are less than God. We see this all the time in our day as the media portrays folks as being larger than life, different than the rest of us. Alongside of this is the fact that there is an innate need within us to worship. We can either worship God, as the angel instructed John, or we will find ourselves worshipping some thing or someone else. “Don’t do it! Worship God!”
In verse 10, John is told, 10Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. (Revelation 22:10 NIV) It is interesting that John is told to not seal up the words of Revelation because in Daniel 8:26 God gave Daniel the opposite command. Read along with me.
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” 27 I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. (Daniel 8:26-27 NIV)
Daniel was given this council because his vision was for a later time. John was told to not seal up and keep secret what he had been shown “because the time is near.” What do we make of this? For those who say that Revelation 4 to the end is only for the “end of time” this poses a problem. If “the time is near” literally means what it says then 2000 years is a long time to “be near” isn’t it? If what Dr. Bruce Waltke says about Revelation, that it is relevant for every generation, first for those who “first heard it in Asia Minor, for our day today, and for those who will be alive in the last days” then this statement doesn’t pose a problem at all. I can stand before you today and echo what John said, “The time is near!” Jesus is the Lord of history. He is at work in every age and He will, one day, bring history to its final consummation.
Let’s move on the next section of Revelation 22:11-13 where we read what appears to be a strange command from the Lord. Read along with me.
11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” 12″Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:11-13 NIV)
This council from the Lord sounds similar to what the Lord told Daniel in Daniel 12:8-10. Daniel was given a vision that he didn’t understand so he asked the Lord what it all meant. Read along with me.
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” 9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. (Daniel 12:8-10 NIV)
We find in Ezekiel another similarity to what the Lord told John. Each of God’s spokesmen were announcing God’s judgment upon the people if they did not repent and turn from their ways. God’s people didn’t listen in Daniel’s day, neither did they listen in Ezekiel day. Let’s read what the Lord said to Ezekiel.
27 But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house. (Ezekiel 3:27 NIV)
God’s Word goes out and you and I are given the opportunity to respond to the Word of the Lord. What will we do? Will we turn away as if nothing has happened or will we stop in our tracks and listen to the Word of Lord so that we might learn of His ways and repent of our ways? The choice is before us today just as it was before those who have gone before us. God give us the grace to heed your call!
There is another important lesson imbedded in these verses for you and me. Our behavior today will establish our character for the future. Let that sink in for a moment. The behavior we exhibit today will set like concrete our character or lack thereof for the days ahead. Don’t dare believe that you can do something today and it doesn’t really matter. The things you do, the way you behave, today, will affect who you are for the days to come. How are you living your life? Are you daily surrendering your heart to the King of all kings or have you told yourself over and over again, “One of these days I’m going to get serious with the Lord.” If God is calling you to make changes today then don’t harden your hearts, respond to His call.
There is a lot of conversation today about who Jesus is. Was He a great teacher? Was He a great philosopher/religious leader in His day? Was He, could He possibly be God? Most people in America would tend to lean towards the first two answers. They don’t have any trouble with Jesus the teacher or leader, but they shrink back and become defensive when you suggest that He was God, the only Savior of humanity. In Revelation 22:13 and following we find great evidence that this is really the core of who Jesus was and still is today. Read along with me.
13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14″Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:13-14 NIV)
Jesus says that He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” We read this almost identical phrase in Revelation 21:6 where God speaks to John.
6He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:6 NIV)
In Revelation 21:6 it is God who claims to be “the Alpha and the Omega” and in Revelation 22:13 it is Jesus who claims to be “the Alpha and the Omega.” How do you reconcile this? It is quite simple my friends—Jesus is God, the second “person” of the Trinity. If this is not enough evidence for you then let me show you another example from our Scripture. Take a look at Revelation 22:16.
16″I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16 NIV)
Who sent His angel to give the testimony for the churches? Jesus did, right? Now turn back to Revelation 22:6 with me and read along.
6The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” (Revelation 22:6 NIV)
Who sent the angel to show God’s servants what must soon take place? God did right? God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit act in accord. We serve one God who manifests Himself in the three Persons of the Godhead.”
Let me give you one more example. If you will remember, on two different occasions John fell down at the feet of the angel to worship him. The angel stopped John and said, “Don’t do it! Worship God!” Now, turn back to Revelation 5:11-14 with me and let’s read together.
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:11-14 NIV)
Who did the angels worship? The Lamb of God, the One who was slain and yet lives! If the angel counseled John to worship only God then how can that angel worship the Lamb unless He is God? He is God! He is worthy of our worship! We ought to worship right now!
Is it any wonder that the Spirit and the bride, the Church, say, “Come! Come Lord!” Take a look at Revelation 22:17 with me.
17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17 NIV)
The Church of the first century longed for the coming of Jesus and He reassured them that He was with them, He would never leave them or forsake them. The Church throughout the ages has longed for the coming of our Lord and He reassured His followers that He was with them, He would never leave them or forsake them. I am afraid that the modern-day, American Church has lost this longing; we have become too comfortable with life on planet earth. We need to long for the Lord’s coming as those who have gone before longed for His coming. Jesus is coming back. I believe that with all of my heart and long for His final coming. At the same time, the Spirit of God and the Word of God remind me from day to day that He is already here. He is with me. He is with you. Though we may go through dark days, trying times, and heartbreaking situations in life—He is the Lord who is with us. We are not abandoned!
There is one final section of this passage of Scripture that I want us to look at today. Read along with me beginning in verse 18.
18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 NIV)
Don’t change a thing. Don’t add anything to what God has given us. Don’t delete any hard passages because you don’t agree with what they say. Don’t change a thing. Throughout history the Church has taken this call seriously–The call to preserve the Word of God. The Church has fought to preserve the Word of God in every age because there have been those in every age who have tried to pervert the Word of God. Many of you have heard of the Gospel of Thomas. It has been the subject of TV shows and documentaries in the past few years. The Gospel of Thomas reproduced the teachings of Jesus in a way that made Him sound like a Gnostic. Marcion’s edition of the Gospel of Luke, the only Gospel he gave to his followers, eliminated everything from the Gospel that suggested Jesus had a real, physical body. According to Tertullian, Valentinus perverted the whole New Testament with his verbal additions and changes.
I see the same thing taking place in our day. People will take segments of God’s Word and twist and contort them so that they put words into Jesus’ mouth that were never there. Preachers, who go to school long enough to get letters placed after their names, will explain away portions of God’s Word and use the ivory tower of academia to validate their claims. Leave it alone. Newport has said, “We are to stand reverently before and beneath God’s Word. We do not look over the Bible’s shoulder to correct its theology. Rather, it is the Bible that corrects our theology.” God’s Word is God’s Word. You can either allow it to shape, mold, and correct you or you can deny its power and validity, but in the end it will break you with its truth my friend.
What you and I have experienced for the past year and a half as we have studied Revelation is an invitation—an invitation to recognize and proclaim that there is no other King, no other President, no other Emperor than King Jesus. We have been offered an invitation to pledge our allegiance, our sole allegiance, to the King of Glory, and to follow Him wherever He leads us. Through dark lonely days as well as to the mountain’s peak we are to follow Him. There are many today who want to follow Jesus, the Guru of prosperity, and reap the benefits of His blessings. They believe that to follow Jesus will mean a better life for them, but they have no intention of following Him to the cross.
Let me close by telling you a story. In Jesus’ day Hebrew education was divided into three stages. The last stage of education, for kids who excelled in their studies of God’s Word through the first two stages, was called Beth-Midrash. If you’ve ever seen the movie Lentel with Barbara Streisand then you’ve witnessed some of what takes place in this phase of education. Every good Jewish boy age 14 wanted to enroll in Beth-Midrash and come under the tutelage of their Rabbi. To become a Rabbi, or a teacher, was the highest honor to be had.
At age 14 you would go to a local rabbi, one you highly respected, and ask him if you could become his disciple. The Rabbi would quiz you to find out how well you knew Torah. If, at the end of the test, he felt you had what it would take to become a Rabbi then he would say, “Come, take my yoke upon you.” This was the highest honor in the days of Jesus. If you were accepted by the Rabbi then you would leave everything—family, community, everything, and you would devote your life to following your Rabbi. The goal of a disciple was to be exactly like his Rabbi. You would spend your days following him around and copying everything about his life. You wanted to look like him, act like him, even eat your food like him.
There is a phrase in the Mishna that says, “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” The thought behind the phrase was that if you followed closely behind your rabbi on the dusty roads you would get covered in his dust. Meaning, you were following him so closely, trying to be like him, that you would glory in being covered with the dust that he left behind.
This is the call of Jesus to those in the first century—“Follow Me” This is His call to us today—“Follow Me.” Give your heart to no one else. Regardless of what obstacles you face, regardless of how hard the times become, follow Me! I want to invite you today to enroll in the Beth-Midrash of Jesus. Give Him your heart and give your all to following Him so closely that you become covered in the dust of your Rabbi.
July 1, 2007