Comfort for the Called, Chosen, and Faithful

Revelation 17:14

Might wonder why, if we’re starting study of Revelation, pick up in the middle instead of chapter 1. Our text sets out key concept of the book – it’s a war story, written to encourage and warn those living in war zone. Need to put this out there right now: Holy Spirit did not inspire writing of this book so as to make Christ-followers fearful. Anyone whose teaching and use of Revelation causes born again believers to be fearful either misunderstands or is misusing the book. Why do I say that? One of very first things exalted Lord says in chapter 1:17 – “Do not be afraid”. Even before that, are told “blessed are those that read it aloud”, “blessed are those who hear and obey” (1:3). More on that next week but… God intended this book to be a blessing, to reveal truth so as to put away our fears.

Notice: God intended it to reveal! Is not written in code, not filled with hidden mysteries that only certain few can unlock, not designed to confuse. It is “The revelation of Jesus Christ” – Jesus is the one revealing, Jesus is the one being revealed. And, more than any other book in NT, has a global audience in view. Many similarities / parallels with OT prophet Daniel. In fact, more than 250 of 404 verses in Revelation contain some kind of reference to OT. Both Daniel and Revelation called apocalyptic literature, a style of writing that uncovers the future by means of imagery. These two apocalyptic books largely filled with visions, communicating truth through use of pictures:

1 – Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2) – statue made of different materials: 4 successive world empires — Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome

2 – Daniel’s vision (7) – 4 beasts followed by the Son of Man: same 4 empires, succeeded by everlasting kingdom

3 – Daniel’s vision (8) – ram and goat with various horns: world empires followed by one who takes on Prince of princes

4 – Daniel’s vision (10) – glorious Man: his role not fully described for Daniel, “these matters are closed and sealed”, Man appears again to John in Rev. 1

After Daniel saw final vision – Dan. 10:16-19I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength.For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me.”Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me.And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”

As we consider these pictures, visions given to John, what are we looking at? Who do we see and what is happening? And how should we respond? Two primary divisions – chapters 1-11, then 12-22; cover same basic things but with different emphasis. First, see Church persecuted by the world. Second, see deeper spiritual realities that give structure and impetus to struggle. Our text summarizes, gives big picture assessment – “they will make war but the Lamb and those with him overcome”. Purpose of book is to comfort – “To make strong; to invigorate; to fortify” – the Church in its struggle against evil. Does that by revealing true realities behind what we see and hear. In all the book there is one central figure: the Lamb… and those with him need not be afraid.

A. the conflict

it’s a war… for real

real forces, real weapons with ammunition, real targets and objectives… on both sides… and there are only two sides, only one winner

is a strategy manual – do not need FOI request, top secret clearance to have access… is right in front of you, God’s Word

lays out accurate picture for both sides, how war will be waged, what eventual outcome will be… and you can take it to the bank – even if other side reads it, only advantage is to the Lamb

physical aspects

the ones we see, get most exercised about – would often, but not always, come under category of persecution

removing crosses, 10 commandments, nativity from public places; stifling public religious expression in workplace, military

targets of violence around world – killings or worse, church burnings, imprisonment, oppression because of Christian identity

ones we see but don’t always recognize as integral part of this conflict

prayer in school; attempted redefinition of marriage; entertainment pushing a worldview; legislation removing Sunday distinctives – make it like every other day, fierce cultural pressures to conform

marketing that appeals to senses and desires; governments that usurp role and authority of family and church

spiritual aspects

this is important: turn to Daniel 10:10-14, 20 (pg. 1034)

is it any wonder Paul would say to Ephesian church: Eph. 6:11-13 (pg. 1347)

Bible makes it clear – we live in real, material world and are real, material beings; also clear… that’s not all there is to reality

need to factor in, like messenger to Daniel and apostle Paul, spiritual dimension to have comprehensive grasp of reality

prime players in conflict move in spiritual realm – that’s where real leadership operates, what we see as John pulls back curtain

weapons of choice: truth and deception; truth as it is found in written and living Word of God, twisting of truth to deceive vast following

only those who have ears to hear what the Spirit says will grasp full reality, understanding physical conflict a subordinate piece of greater spiritual conflict

vast majority of those on losing side have no clue how they are being deceived, manipulated, ultimately destroyed in service to their true leader

real target – the Lamb

various enemies identified in beginning ch. 17 “will make war on the Lamb” – the Lamb is the one they want

since Lamb is beyond reach, for now, trying to carry on war of attrition… “weakening or exhausting by constant harassment, abuse, or attack”

B. the conqueror

the Lamb – 29x in Revelation, a lamb like no other you have ever encountered

Lamb who went down to apparent defeat 2000 years ago, rose in triumphant victory, assumed his place of authoriity

at first glance, looks like easy target; yet is Lamb who leads the charge, who single-handedly overcomes all his foes

makes perfect sense that one who recorded other John’s declaration: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!John 1:29 should use “Lamb imagery”

this Lamb is “Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, who has prevailed to open the scroll” showing his sovereign authority over all things

Daniel was told “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.”Daniel 12:4 John was instructed ““Do not seal up the words of the prophecy contained in this book, because the time is near.” Rev. 22:10

good reason – the conquering Lamb had already shown what time it was by opening the scroll/book – have been in end times since Jesus’ ascension… maybe nearing “end of the end”!

C. the credentials

Lord of lords and King of kings

combination of titles used 2x in Revelation, here and 19:16 where is in opposite order: King of kings and Lord of lords

expresses his absolute superiority and sovereignty, rulership over both dimensions of reality: spiritual and physical

not a name he presumptuously took to himself – was given to him by his Father: Phil. 2:9-11Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

these two pieces – “the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings” – provide unsurpassed comfort… in old sense…make strong; invigorate; fortify

questions come to those in combat: what’s the point of all this; if we survive this skirmish, then what; what are our chances, is there any hope of winning the war

purpose of book is to “reveal” big answers to big questions, all under this umbrella: do not be afraid, the Lamb will overcome because he has the credentials, and those with him will overcome also

who is this Lamb? – he is God HimselfDeut. 10:17, 21“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. …He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen.”

D. the cohort

only two categories of people: those “whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world” (v.8) and “those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (v.14)

no third category – spectators, neutral non-combatants; either for the Lamb or against the Lamb

called

one of those Christian code words used by Jesus, Paul and John – in every instance, is God who does the calling

called to belong to Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:6) loved by God and called to be saints (Rom. 1:7) called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28) those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1)

select individuals, not volunteers who signed up of their own volition, rather specific ones who have heard Holy Spirit’s call

chosen

another Christian code word, identifying people of God, his “chosen ones” or “the elect” as a group

those justified by God Rom. 8:33), who know the truth (Tit. 1:1), are holy and beloved (Col. 3:12), precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 2:4), whom the enemy would deceive if possible (Matt. 24:24)

faithful

have by God’s sustaining grace and strength remained faithful to the end, iow have finished life well

don’t forget words of commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant” – not successful, popular, famous, but faithful

note that those who trust the Lord are not influenced by “the harlot” or defeated by the kings (Rev. 17:14). Once again, John points out that the true believers are the “overcomers.” Wiersbe

Most of this life we live in tension – blessing and hardship, sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure. Repeatedly, when on earth and then from heaven, Jesus said: “Do not be afraid”. Last chapter of book has been written, will not change even though is yet to play out in time and space – “the Lamb will conquer them” and if you are among “called, chosen, and faithful”, victory will be yours as well.

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