Tag: The Lamb Will Conquer

What Sort of People?

2 Peter 3:1-14

Finished our trek through Revelation – letters to the churches, John’s visions of heaven’s throne room, cycles of judgment, scenes of the end and what comes after. Much of imagery has roots in Old Testament passages, not just ones in Daniel. Tabernacle / temple references, Ezekiel’s vision of God’s throne chariot, allusions to Egyptian plagues and Israel’s deliverance, mention of Jezebel and Balaam, Isaiah’s new heaven and earth – it’s clear from the very beginning that familiarity with / understanding of Old Testament essential to proper use of Revelation.

God in infinite wisdom, in second half of first century, blessed church with corrective and explanatory teaching addressing “the future”. Peter (present text), Paul (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thes. 4) and John (Revelation) elaborate on things relating specifically to the end, eschatology: when will Christ return, how will he come back, what will happen when he does return.

Peter and John put his return in context – what will precede and follow that event. John begins with his present as the setting from which he views the future, describing 1st century issues that will be present in the church throughout this age. Then he continues to the end, the Lamb’s final victory over all his enemies and the beginning of the final age, looking at panorama of history from different camera angles or perspectives.

Peter in our text takes a different approach, a greater emphasis on cosmology than John but with no less importance given to theology. John tells us what our experience will be and why – Satan’s war with Christ and his church; Peter places greater stress on God’s purpose for his creation, how that is demonstrated in two cosmic crises – flood and fire. Peter’s teaching has broader scope – from creation to consummation. John’s teaching designed to comfort and encourage saints “in the trenches” – we are on winning side, our Commander (the Lamb) will prevail and conquer.

Peter begins chapter 3 with a warning – watch out for deceivers / scoffers – just as saints were warned in letters to the churches. Then, in light of history and Scripture, he explains God’s purpose as he is presently governing his creation. Finally, Peter asks the challenging question: how should understanding this change your life?

A. watch for deception v.1-5

remember what the Bible says (1-2) Our worldview comes from Scripture, theirs from senses. Peter, good pastor and teacher, points those in his charge to authoritative source. Major point of the Renaissance – ad fontes, “to the fount” or “to the source”. Don’t rely solely on what someone says the Bible says, see what it says for yourself. During 15th & 16th centuries, meant going back beyond the church fathers to the Hebrew and Greek texts; for Peter’s audience and us – means gaining good grasp of what the Bible itself truly says. Don’t discount value of trustworthy tools: study resources, helps, pastors and teachers. But,… verify with Scripture itself, view all of life through framework established by God’s word, not just senses and opinion based on observation.

Most important, church built on foundation of apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). When church forgets, neglects, or denies that foundation, has no warrant for existence. Whenever there is controversy, question, need, whether cultural or ecclesiastical, must go to the source, rely on God’s word as given to us to be our “sufficient, certain and infallible rule for saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” (LBCF 1.1)

deception starts with dissing God and his word (3-4) Our confidence in future based on God’s promise, theirs on pragmatism. Did God really say that? Did God really mean that? That’s old-fashioned, we’ve moved on. Those who challenge the Bible put their own spin on what it means, then claim that since reality doesn’t match their spin, the Bible must be wrong. Called a straw man, spin doctoring. Make claims that people are supposed to accept as fact without any proof, emphasize FUD to draw people away from the truth.

Must remember that scoffers who attack God’s word aren’t uninformed, they’re intentionally ignorant; they know the truth but refuse to receive it. Are willing agents of the real deceiver, Satan. We know that because it’s their own sinful desires / evil urges / lusts that guide their lifestyle choices and way of thinking. Message for us: BEWARE, BE INFORMED, BE CONFIDENT that your faith is built on a sure foundation.

B. remember God’s purpose v.5-9, 13

Charge lodged against God: He promised a BIG EVENT; it hasn’t happened yet; therefore, it won’t happen.

Response: God has already done one BIG EVENT; time has different significance for eternal God than for finite man; God has purpose in delay; therefore, second BIG EVENT will happen.

the old world – purified with water (6) When God destroyed “old world order” with flood, could have destroyed ALL on the earth; instead provided for salvation of 8 people to begin “now world order”. Purpose not to annihilate every living thing, rather to establish new covenant with one who had “found grace in the eyes of the Lord”.

the now world – purified with fire (7) When Christ returns, “now world order” will be destroyed with fire; earth and things found on it will be purified, a smelting or refining process, where all impurities are purged out. Rather than a “burnup”, will be a meltdown resulting in a “new world” fit for eternal habitation. As Paul made clear in 1 Cor 3:13-14, not all will survive the purifying process; “both the earth and the works that are found” will be those that have stood the test and found to be fit for the next life. (See also Mal. 3:2-4; 4:1-2)

the new world – permanently pure (13) New heaven and earth will have continuity with “old” and “now” but radically different properties. Will be a place of eternal and true righteousness, where sin and corruption no longer possible. Represent not a new creation ex nihilo but a re-creating from what already existed.

all with a view to redemption and renewal – why the delay?? (9) Delay not due to inaction on God’s part. He is presently actively engaged in carrying out his Plan A, and is important to ascertain source of propulsion for God’s plan. What, beyond simple passage of time, is moving force that makes the plan advance? The redemption of sinners. Jesus came not to condemn but to save; primary thrust of God’s ongoing purpose relative to mankind is not to see them perish but to see them repent and be saved. Purpose of delay is to fill heaven up to its quota, providing the full number of saints to make up the throng of worshipers John saw around the throne of God.

C. given: you are…, how? v.10-14

given this is temporary (10-11a) Present world will someday end; will not vanish, will be re-made. Means there is that about this world that has great value: God will have preserved it from Creation through Fall and Flood and Fire to then exist Forever in its perfectly constituted form. Yet is only temporary, what comes next although connected will be far better.

how to live

From what country ought we to be? Word and deed should give away citizenship – citizens of eternal “new world”, resident aliens in temporary “now world”.

holy conduct and godliness (11b) Goal should be holiness first, happiness will follow. Live as set apart for use of and service to God. Since end can come at any moment, holy living must be present tense – living now in dependence on God and conformity to his Word. By life and habit should be as well-prepared as possible for next life – if missionaries spend years in active diligent training before going to field, shouldn’t we do the same for heaven?

anticipation (12) expectant active waiting. Not simply looking forward to future time but viewing it as certain, expecting it will come. In meantime, work to do to hasten return of Lord Jesus; how is that possible? how can we impact timing of the Second Coming? Directly connected with reason for God’s delay: patiently giving opportunity for repentance. To the extent we are instrumental in facilitating sinners coming to repentance and faith we can “hurry along” his return.

confidence (13) Not a leap in the dark, based on confidence in God and his word – specifically the promises he has made about the future. God has been faithful in the past, kept his promises, no reason to doubt the future. Based on past and present faithfulness, unchanging character of God, should have absolute assurance he will keep promises of “new world”.

clear goal (14) “to be found by Him” – same verb as end of v.9 – when purifying process is over, that we will emerge from the crucible as fine gold, without any remaining impurities. Same thought (using same verb) expressed in 1 Pet. 1:7 – that our faith may be proved genuine having been tested by fire. Should be striving with God’s help for thorough sanctification in this life: to become as much like the Lord Jesus as possible.

Knowing what awaits us long-term helps us to deal with what we know is in store short-term: even though life can get really tough now (lots of people don’t like Christians, especially vocal ones), what God has planned for us makes challenges now seem like nothing. Given all God has provided to us for encouragement in his Word, by his Spirit, our natural response should be to serve him diligently and faithfully. All we do should first be for God, then others, then to meet our own needs.

Final Words

Revelation 22:16-21

Many words to describe the book of Revelation: mysterious, frightening, complicated, hard to understand, easy to disagree about. Hard to believe, though, the Originator intended it to be that way. Especially considering how book begins, and ends. First stated through pen of inspired author, then reaffirmed by the Lamb himself: blessing promised to those who gain a working understanding of its contents:

Rev. 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

Rev. 22:7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Gonna take a risk here, especially in highly individualistic American culture: promise of blessing not directed to individual Christians in isolation. Message itself is given to the local church, promise given to believers in that context. That is evident from 1:3 as well as 22:16.

“Blessed is he who reads” – singular – “and those who hear” – plural. One reading, a group hearing; epistle written to church(es), one copy present in church, read by pastor to congregation. God knew time would come when each individual member could/would have own Bible, could have directed promise to be written so as to include that. But he didn’t. Not only promise given to believers in local church setting, entire message of book directed to the local church.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things in/for the churches.” Lord Jesus himself makes it explicit who he was speaking through and to – through his angel, to John, ultimately for the local church. Yes, Jesus loves individuals and died to redeem individuals; but…. the church is his bride, he is the head of the church, he gave himself for the church, he cherishes the church, he spoke by the Spirit to the churches 7 times in Revelation.

Is important: This book was explicitly written to be read aloud in the church, heard and heeded. If the church wants to experience blessing of God, behooves us to pay attention to this last book of the Bible, know what it says, understand what it means, heeds its warnings, obeys its commands.

A. God’s final blessing v.16-17

Not surprising that book ends the way it does; began with repeated warnings to churches – look out for deception, especially from Satan. Theme continues throughout, embodied in attempts of dragon, beast and false prophet to counterfeit the real. So why should we believe what is said? How can we know what’s in here is true? The source categorically identifies himself using names that describe his true identity and authority.

Alpha and Omega (13) has required knowledge to accurately declare what will take place in future. The one who began it all, who will bring it to an end, who decreed the end at the beginning and all things leading up to it, he has authority and power necessary to make it turn out as he has said.

Root and offspring, bright morning star (16) in a word, the Messiah. The one in whom all God’s promises would be fulfilled. Confirms what his apostles had been saying for a generation, adds incredible weight to conclusion of the Bible. This really must be the last chapter if we’re not waiting any longer for the Promised One. When he declares “this is what’s left”, no more and no less, puts a stamp “THE END” at bottom of page.

The word isn’t used but “blessing” is clearly indicated for those who respond to the imperative “Come”. Structure of thought here is significant: Spirit and bride say “Come!“; then, him who hears: say “Come!” Remember, this book is Christ’s message to the church; it ends with important instruction about what the church should be doing while waiting for his return. Spirit and bride together issue the gospel call – church issues call to repentance that is heard with ears; Spirit issues call that is heard with the heart. The church’s job is to faithfully proclaim the gospel message and issue the call. The one who hears and responds in faith to the gospel also has a job: pass word along, add his/her voice to that of the church in calling others. Word proclaimed also must include warnings present in this book – fearsome judgment and an indescribable future for those who fail to heed God’s call.

Then comes the promise of blessing: the one who has thirst, desire for water of life will have his thirst fully quenched. What makes a real blessing – water has already been purchased, it is offered free of charge. It is provided as a free gift. How cruel it would be of God to give thirst, desire for something, then withhold what would satisfy. PTL he doesn’t do that. Also means we know since God is supplying the water (eternal life, ’cause the water fountain is in heaven) it will never run out. We can’t call too many into the kingdom!

B. God’s final curse v.18-19

If Revelation is indeed final installment of God’s Word written down over period of 15 centuries, then warnings apply to this book directly and indirectly to whole Bible as well. Also should be taken as warning against adding/taking away with respect to meaning as well as content. How Revelation/revelation is handled is of great importance to God. Ones who felt heat of Jesus’ anger the most were Pharisees who added and added to God’s word, making it oppressive and burdensome for those who tried to obey it (see Matt. 23:4; Luk. 11:46).

Few evangelicals would argue for adding to / removing from actual text of Revelation. Have high enough view, great enough regard for Scripture as word of God to not do that. But many would not be as careful when it comes to meaning. Can go to two extremes – minimizing message so it fails to accomplish Jesus’ purpose: encourage the saints, warn the wicked. Other extreme: adding to message details of time and sequence, applying message to times or people not intended by Jesus.

God gives stern warning – eternal condemnation for one who wilfully, knowingly, with intent distorts truth of Revelation. While warning may not apply specifically to ones who do these things out of ignorance, poor understanding, still should take warning VERY seriously. Those who have opportunity to teach this book especially out of all 66 should pay close attention to how they handle it. Must not avoid it, that would be to forfeit great blessing; instead must by aid of Holy Spirit do all they can to teach while being faithful to content and intent of text.

C. God’s final reminder v.20-21

One last reminder that Lord Jesus will return quickly – suddenly – without warning. That should add level of urgency to our labors in the Gospel. Can’t count on next week or tomorrow or even rest of this day; must be making most of each moment, each opportunity God gives us for influence and witness. Also means we shouldn’t give impression to others that they have all time in world to come to repentance. Call to respond to Gospel expects immediate response – not a “let me think about it” but rather “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Ought to be desire of all believers for Lord Jesus to come back NOW! But for right reasons: church is full, Jesus will be glorified, our work is done, time has arrived to make all things right. At the same time: between rock and hard place, just like Paul – Phil. 1:22-24Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer:I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far,but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.” NET

Come, Lord Jesus. The whole of Revelation is meant to stir our longing and prayers for the full realization of God’s purposes, which is to take place at the Second Coming. Revelation fittingly ends on this note. Poythress

In the meantime: grace of Lord Jesus to be our portion. In very closing words last reminder that our part in all that is promised the saints due not to own merits but God’s grace. Our perseverance through promised trials only possible because of Lord Jesus’ strengthening grace. If we are indeed overcomers and guaranteed a heavenly and eternal inheritance, it is all because of grace. Truly we have been loved with an everlasting love and led by grace to know that love.

Coming Quickly

Revelation 22:1-15

This portion of Scripture brings to close description of what we can expect eternity to be like, at least to extent we can comprehend in this life. Intended by God to spur us on to perseverance, continuing faithful through trials and hardships, knowing he will make it all right in the end. Also gives confidence that Paul was right when he wrote: “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18) If you’re following along the outline from couple weeks ago, emphasis in this section on: God’s world renewed, word validated, work completed.

A. God’s world renewed – the river and tree of life v.1-5

all that was lost in Eden regained in heavenly city but way better. Milton wrote of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained; if Eden was first paradise, this in our text is not simply Paradise Regained but Improved. Things present in original Eden also be in New Jerusalem but even more magnificent including God. I know, God himself won’t be more magnificent, but… Our perception of him will be immeasurably enhanced and the Lamb (not present in Eden) will be there.

complete satisfaction (1-2a) not stagnant pool, not even lake of fixed size; a never-ending river pure and clear whose source is God. Visual reminder of nature of life – eternal, always being refreshed/renewed, never boring or humdrum. You can’t stick your foot in the same river twice – same river, different water.

complete freedom

from the curse (2b-3a) all nations have been healed; those healed now have free access to tree of life. Result of curse: way to tree of life barred by armed angels. Tree of life in New Jerusalem probably a species, not individual specimen. No restrictions on use of shade or fruit symbolic of complete cure from sin and its curse (lifted from all creation, not just the saints). No limit to those who can participate in its benefits – people redeemed from every nation.

to serve (3b) doing God’s bidding whatever it might be – fulfillment of Lord’s Prayer: thy will be done.

in worship (3c) without exception, without interruption, all of life will be characterized by worship. Everything will truly be done for glory of God – pure motives, perfect obedience, all credit and praise given to God and the Lamb.

complete fellowship (4) Man was created imago Dei; will be “re-created” bearing image of glorified Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). No veils, no limitation to afterglow of glory shown in his goodness, seeing face-to-face God in his full glory, wearing his glory as Moses did but more so. Here the reward in its fullness of the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt. 5:8

complete restoration (5) Additional reminder that God’s glory illuminates entire “city”; artificial lights unnecessary. cf. creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) man intended to be God’s viceregent, the one appointed to govern and manage living things for God. Rulership in Eden was limited in both scope and duration, thanks partly to the Fall. Glorified saints will be granted rulership once again and in fuller measure – no limit to its duration!

B. God’s word validated – these words are trustworthy and true v.6-11

source of the words – the one who sent the prophets sent his angel (6) The words address issues of life and death, temporal and eternal significance, things in this age and the next. Essential that we depend on what is reliable with regard to our soul. Clear from angel’s message his words can be trusted – not because he’s an angel, but because of source: God himself. Angel not speaking on his own authority, nor John writing on his own – contents of Revelation and all of scripture authoritative because it is word of God, albeit communicated to us through means.

promise of the words – blessing (7) First of three reminders in chapter, Lord Jesus will return quickly/suddenly, without warning; means need to be vigilant and diligent, not slacking off. Promise is explicitly stated, not merely implied: God rewards faithfulness and obedience. Requires knowledge of what is contained in the prophecy: must know the dangers in order to avoid them, the expectations in order to satisfy them.

response to the words – worship (8-9) without thinking who was standing in front of him, John fell down in worship as significance of angel’s message became clear to him. Our response should be exactly the same – all sorts of wrong responses: dismissive, casual, get me out of here now; one right response: worship the Lamb. First thought should be God-ward, then applying concepts/truths to personal circumstances afterward.

timing of the words – without delay (7a, 10)

countdown is underway, what will take place in this age, not the next age as for Daniel. Countdown began at Incarnation, the hinge point of history. Means the message of the prophecy is directed to the church on this leaf of the hinge. No other major event in redemptive history between John’s day and the return of Christ.

when God’s purpose for this age is complete, Christ will return suddenly and immediately without advance warning. No longer delay when last saint is added to the church, God’s provision of opportunities for repentance ends.

purpose of the words – positive and negative (11)

harden the rebellious – God’s word does not have positive effect on all people. Can have a hardening influence, encouraging further or greater rebellion. Many/majority of wicked actively resist any restraint placed on them, especially by God; reject any threat of judgment in favor of own view of future.

encourage the righteous – understanding God’s plan based on his word helps righteous look past present circumstances, keep God in view. Add to that the fact that immersion in God’s word brings about sanctification through accompanying work of Holy Spirit.

C. God’s work completed v.12-15

reminder – be ready (12a) Reminder with purpose, he’s not coming just to visit, check up on how things are going. Will come to do something particular: bring this age to an end with no opportunity for modification.

coming to reward (12b)

coming as paymaster, disburse wages based on work done. Works done as sinner or as saint: done by sinner still in sins has reward only of eternal death; those done by saint, even though imperfect are rewarded as done by favored child.

will be just and final because Sovereign Lord is in charge (13) knows all things, what he is doing, and does what is right. Has the authority to do so in addition to knowledge; verdict is not subject to dispute or appeal. Is the beginning and the end, has declared end from the beginning and nothing can alter God’s decrees.

reward identified – right to eternal inheritance

viewed by God as wearing righteousness of Christ, making both them and their works acceptable; are treated by God as children, brothers and sisters of Lord Jesus, having been adopted by the Father and sealed by Holy Spirit.

righteous will receive everything promised them by God (14) have been promised eternal life as a blessing, means it comes with accessories that make it blessed. Simple change from mortal to immortal would be curse – seen by guard at tree of life in first Eden. Blessings include residence in New Jerusalem and all its privileges.

rebellious will be denied everything promised to the righteous (15) no hint here of second chance or doctrine of purgatory. Those who die in their sins or are still in sins when Jesus returns are forbidden entrance into city. Not that it will be big deal then, rebellious won’t want experience of New Jerusalem; only desire would be to destroy it or remake it to their own liking. In either case, reward issued is


When that great day arrives, God’s work for this age completed, the saints will be complete also, confirmed for all eternity (a right to the tree of life). No danger of sin or from sinners, no probation, no further need of mediation; pure happiness on foundation of pure holiness. Saints will owe absolutely none of that reward to any personal merit – attributable solely to God’s gracious benevolence toward them from beginning to end. God views his children and their works as completed in him – what he intends to make them because of what his Son did on their behalf and completing what his Spirit is presently doing in them. What a great blessing, that our salvation from beginning to end is accomplished by God with nothing left that we need to add.


New Jerusalem In a New World

Revelation 21:9-27

“You must have heard of this book by now, Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. The book is about a 4 year old boy, Colton Burpo, who almost died, and went to Heaven. He then comes back and tells us all about it through his dad, the pastor! The book is a best seller, currently number one on the New York Times Nonfiction Paperback list.” Steve Marquedant Now there’s a DVD, being sold in denominational bookstores, etc. etc. Captivating, probably; interesting to read, perhaps.

On the other hand, we have before us in our text account written by an apostle: described as “one whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20), commissioned by the exalted Lord Jesus to write down Christ’s message of encouragement to his church. In doing so, divinely superintended by the Holy Spirit, gave us God’s description through his servant of what we can anticipate. View of Lord Jesus and his surroundings “filtered” through pen of one closest to Lord Jesus during earthly ministry.

Having described in outline form what he saw in his vision, John grasps for words to give readers sense of overwhelming majesty, grandeur, beauty. He was so thoroughly overwhelmed by experience, all he could do was fall down in worship (Rev. 22:8). Does “blow your mind” when you try to bring all pieces together, wrap mind around all that God is going to do and fulfill of his promises at the end. Creation, Eden, tabernacle, Solomon’s temple, Isaiah’s new Jerusalem, Ezekiel’s new temple, promises made to the OT church, to NT church, to seven churches.

In contrast to prostitute, the illegitimate partner of presumptive powers (those who presume to take power/authority that belongs only to God) – here the bride, the wife, one in legitimate intimate relationship with God himself. Because of apocalyptic style of literature, city and residents blend together – mingling of church, the organized community, and church, the people of God. That’s important because heaven will not consist of millions of people living in a 1500-mile cube. John’s intent was to communicate principles more than specific details – what kind of a place, existence, relationships are of primary significance.

A. God’s city – the new Jerusalem v.10-21

glory (11a) foremost characteristic, place where God’s glory is continually present without restraint; same glory that prevented Moses from entering tent of meeting (Ex. 40:34-35), priests could not enter Solomon’s temple because God’s glory filled it (2 Chron. 7:1-2). That radiant glory signifying presence of God will be pervasive in saints’ final dwelling.

radiance (11b) glory of city described using same kind of visual pictures as for God’s throne spoken of by Ezekiel (ch. 1) and John earlier in Revelation (ch. 4). Even in heaven church’s glory result of God’s presence, not an intrinsic beauty independent of God.

size and security (12-17) 1500 miles on a side, in other words, huge! Expansive enough for all the saints to live in comfortable community. City is complete – has a completed wall, concept of completion also present in numbers: 10 – human completion, 12 – religious completion. 12,000 furlongs (12 x 10^3), 144 cubits (12 x 12), 12: gates, angels, tribes, foundations, pearls. All adds up to perfect completion. Wall and gates present but not necessary for security: God is present, enough said, the gates are never closed (v.25), walls do remind residents they need fear no intrusion.

endurance (14a) 12 foundations, complete and perfect, city not like Jericho; no danger of collapse, being undermined. Verified by fact that church is built on foundation of apostles and prophets, that is, their teaching which is Word of God that endures forever.

continuity (12b, 14b) 12 tribes, 12 apostles – old and new church, made up of people from every direction of the compass. Residents of city not a new/replacement people, newly created for heavenly existence; they are renewed people out of God’s original creation. Along with foundations and gates show continuity between this age/life and the next.

perfection (15-17) Ruler made of heavenly material – gold; city measures up perfectly. Is a perfect cube, “its length and width and height are equal”. City has same shape as Holy of Holies in both tabernacle (15′) and temple (45′, Solomon; 60′, Herod), but immensely larger. Most Holy Place no longer dwelling of God alone, will include his people; makes sense since veil no longer in place.

purity (18) city is not Midas’ dream come true, rather a place of absolute purity – gold that has been refined to remove all impurities, possessing a worth fit for heaven. Paul spoke of gold, silver, precious stones as describing works which would endure testing (1 Cor 3:12) and be worthy of reward. The heavenly city will be of such purity that it appears perfectly transparent.

rich beauty (19-21) secondary loveliness; primary beauty derives from God but is fitting that his city should share in his beauty. Also a loose correspondence between foundation stones and those in high priest’s breastplate: privileges once reserved for high priest will be shared by all the saints.

B. God’s dwelling – the new Jerusalem v.22-27

perfect temple (22) no physical temple to be seen, the city is the temple; don’t have to go somewhere to worship, God is intimately present and perceptible by his people everywhere and always. No need for other temple furnishings: altars, laver, lampstand – people are always in right state for worship, for life in God’s presence. Sacrifice and cleansing no longer necessary, temple life is continuous unbroken communion and fellowship with God. Not the sole activity of the saints but constant activity alongside other occupations.

perfect light (23) no need for artificial or created lights but they will probably continue to exist. God’s glory can continue to be displayed in heavens while his glory is dominant – by virtue of comparative magnitude (full moon vs. stars) or by means of saints having enhanced visual abilities. God himself will provide adequate illumination for all the saints’ activities with a far better quality of light than presently experience.

perfect living (24) no darkness: cf. 1 John 1:5, God is light, in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:7 If we walk in the light, as he is in the light… John frequently used “light” in an ethical sense, especially when used with “walk”. He’s speaking of conduct, way of living, perfectly doing what is right in submission to God’s universal authority. Likely that cultural diversity that distinguishes “nations” (cultures and peoples) will be present in heaven but in a purified form. “all the diversity of riches both material and intellectual and artistic and spiritual, as in Isaiah 60:3-5; Haggai 2:7-9; 1 Cor. 12.” Poythress

perfect safety (25-27) no closed gates, no defilement Safety both physical and spiritual. Wall is there but serves symbolic rather than practical purpose. Reminds saints of their security, at the same time open gates indicate there is no danger from outside. Just as no escapees from hell, so no gate-crashers (illegal immigrants) in heaven. Sentence to lake of fire is eternal with no chance for parole, time off for good behavior. So,… nothing will disturb peace and safety of saints’ everlasting rest.

“Still more, this rest will be absolutely perfect. We shall then have joy without sorrow, and rest without weariness. There is no mixture of corruption with our graces, nor of suffering with our comfort. There are none of those waves in that harbor, which now so toss us up and down. To-day we are well, to-morrow sick ; to-day in esteem, to-morrow in disgrace ; to-day we have friends, to-morrow none ; nay, we have wine and vinegar in the same cup. If revelations raise us to the third heaven, the messenger of Satan must presently buffet us, and the thorn in the flesh fetch us down. But there is none of this inconstancy in heaven. If perfect love casteth out fear, then perfect joy must needs cast out sorrow, and perfect happiness exclude all the relics of misery. We shall there rest from all the evil of sin and of suffering.” Richard Baxter, Saints’ Everlasting Rest

Heaven is for real, eternity is forever, not because a 4-year-old says so but because God’s Word does. Also far more worship-inspiring than anything people of any age can imagine; seasoned apostle did indeed see what he could with pre-resurrection human capacity, words failed him. Yet they are authoritative word of God to us for our comfort and encouragement. Because God’s word stands forever (Isa. 40:8), is settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89), we can take it to the bank, be fully assured of the truth and glory of what God has in store for his people.

A Renewed Universe

Revelation 21:1-8

The pace picks up: focus on what comes next, after “The End”, an eternal epilogue. Seems that John wasn’t content to describe in detail contents of his vision; had to summarize full scope (in our text) then go back and flesh out details (21:9 to end). Tutoring someone in reading/writing; ongoing issue: ability to formulate ideas and mental images far outstrips writing facility. Can imagine or visualize much more quickly than can write it down. Result: missing letters, words, phrases, skipped over in trying to keep up with mental information flow. Perhaps similar phenomenon for John: saw in vision soooo much, had to write down the outline, then come back and add balance of text.

John already addressed issue of what will happen to the wicked at the end. Now focus shifts to what future holds for righteous after resurrection and judgment. What will life be like, who will be present, where will God be – important questions, to be sure. What John saw in vision, like previous visions, is inexpressible but he gives it a shot. Continues to use figurative symbolic language to communicate spiritual and physical realities, same kind of language used throughout Revelation.

These realities will exist within framework of the universe, heaven and earth (Hebraism). Concept communicated by Gen. 1:1 – “In the beginning God made the universe.” Isa. 65:17 – “I create a new universe.” Rev. 21:1 – “I saw a new universe.” Important to understand “new” does not mean “substitute” as in “the new replaces or was brought in as a substitute for the old”. “New” can be used in more than one sense: can refer to time, what was not there before, young, recent; here it refers to quality or nature, superior in value or attraction to old.

νέος denotes the new primarily in reference to time, the young, recent; καινός, denotes the new primarily in reference to quality, the fresh, unworn. Grim

What John says in relation to new heaven and earth must be reconciled with other portions of Scripture which deal with topic: Gen. 9:11, 15; Rom. 8:19-22; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; also 1 Cor. 15:35-53 Reasonable to believe that universe will not be eliminated, then replaced; instead will be restored and renewed just as the righteous will be.

One last detail: sea in Revelation and rest of Scripture frequently used to refer to something other than oceans. In OT temple worship, laver called a sea; probably because of size, capacity of 11,000 gallons (1 Ki. 7:26CEV), perhaps also symbolic connection too. Later in Scripture, sea came to be associated with danger and evil, place where satanic agents arise, something to be feared and avoided. All those things that would challenge new order of things in God’s kindgom will no longer be present, hence no more sea.

“This is not because God hates the ocean and the creatures who live in it! Rather in the new heavens and earth there will be no place for the dragon to hide, no abode for dead, no unbelieving nations engaging in commerce. No longer will storms sweep the earth. Therefore, in the New Jerusalem there will be no more sea.” Riddlebarger

Oceans in their beauty and grandeur, the creatures which fill them will likely be renewed along with rest of the universe.

A. God’s city – the new Jerusalem v.2 = Rev. 21:10-21

Not a coincidence that major element of the new universe is a new city. Isn’t just any city, she is pictured as a bride in wedding day finery. Holy city/New Jerusalem/bride emphasize different aspects of what we know as the church. City is place where there is community, society, building blocks of family, larger frameworks of neighborhood, various types of activities and interactions among residents.

Bride made ready for her husband speaks of breathless anticipation, thrill of discovery, excitement over beginning a new level of relationship. Union is to be permanent, perpetually increasing in knowledge and intimacy. In contrast to worn and bedraggled appearance in present world, redeemed and restored bride is stunning in her loveliness. She will be the perfect companion for the perfect Lamb of God, possessing a beauty all her own as given her her bridegroom.

B. God’s dwelling – the new Jerusalem v.3 = Rev. 21:22-27

From the beginning God intended that there be no hindrances to fellowship between him and those made in his image. The Garden as designed by God was perfect place of worship, intimate communion between Creator and created. Sin/the Fall changed all that but only temporarily. The goal of history is restoration of that fellowship, fulfillment of repeated promise of God to live with his people.

In John’s vision, not only is fellowship restored and God living with men, nothing will ever change that. All vestiges of sin and its corruption have been removed forever as people of God take up residence in real Promised Land, city for which Abraham longed and waited. God promised Solomon that he would put his name in the house Solomon had built, that his eyes and heart would be there for all time. (1 Ki. 9:3) In New Jerusalem, that promise will come to its fullest expression.

C. God’s world renewed – the river and tree of life v.4, 5a = Rev. 22:1-5

God not simply a presence in new universe; will be actively sustaining his creation as now but with a difference – no more sin. All effects, consequences, complications due to the Fall, original sin and actual sin removed from new heaven and earth. Will be a restored order in contrast to present order of things. Universe will be returned to at least its original state at creation, effects of curse on nature will have been removed and heaven and earth purified.

D. God’s word validated – these words are trustworthy and true v.5b = Rev. 22:6-10

As incredible as all this sounds, what John described was accurate to the extent that words can communicate. Should keep in mind words of Paul, 1 Cor. 2:9“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” NIV Both vision and declaration come from one with authority – sat on the throne; one with experience – made all things, certainly can restore all things. God declares his work of transforming creation so it conforms to his sovereign will is fulfillment of his promise. In spite of present circumstances, God and his word/promises can be trusted.

E. God’s work completed v.6a = Rev. 22:11-15

Told in Genesis 2:1-3 God had finished his work of creation. Told in John 19:30 God had finished his work of redemption. Once again in Rev. 16:17 and 21:6 we’re told that God has finished work of restoration – his purpose in human history has been completed. God is the Alpha, who brought all things into existence; he is Omega, who brings all things to state of completion in conformity with his eternal purpose. God’s self-expression as the A-to-Z of all things assures reader of certainty and immutability of God’s character and promises.

F. God’s final blessing v.6b, 7 = Rev. 22:16, 17

Lord Jesus said Matt. 5:6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Our thirst for righteousness, for filling of Holy Spirit, experiencing glory of God will be fully gratified. There will be nothing lacking from eternal experience – everything pictured by John in present vision will be inheritance of the saints. Renewed universe, eternal dwelling of God, intimate fellowship with Christ and his bride, family relationship all part of inheritance promised to those who overcome. Real blessings – every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) – with eternal and immeasurable value, in fact, the entire inheritance awaits each of those who persevere in faithfulness to Christ.

G. God’s final curse v.8 = Rev. 22:18,19

Both warning and guarantee – sin and sinners have no place in restored creation. Once God says “It is finished” for the final time, separation between righteous and reprobate is absolute and irreversible. None of those who made life miserable for Church in this life will be present to harass her in the next. Nor will there ever be a recurrence of the Fall; purity and blessedness and holiness of new city never be tarnished.

As John describes final vision, standing on threshhold of eternity, number of themes running through Scripture take ultimate shape as he weaves them into a tapestry:

creation (v. 1); the holy city of Jerusalem (v. 2); communion with God expressed through marriage imagery (v. 2); dwelling of God, including tabernacle and temple (v. 3; see on 4:1-5:14); saints as God’s own people (v. 3); the end of suffering and death (v. 4); new deeds of salvation (v. 5); trustworthiness of God’s word (v. 5); living water (v. 6); becoming a son of God (v. 7); warnings to the faithless (v. 8); judgment (v. 8). Poythress

A picture of indescribable beauty, happiness, peace and joy that just begins to approximate what reality will be like. No wonder Paul could say: “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ESV (Rom. 8:18) God has graciously given us glimpse of eternal realities to encourage us in this life – there’s another life coming; what it promises will make everything in this life worth it all. Further confirmation that God does indeed work all things for his own glory and for good of those who love him. (Rom. 11:36; 8:28) May God grant us grace and strength to persevere that we might receive the inheritance that awaits us.

Final Judgment

Revelation 20:1-15

The study of end times or “eschatology” has come to be highly divisive in evangelical church. View on the Rapture or the Millennium frequently used as test not just of sound doctrine but of Christianity. If you believe in one system or don’t fully subscribe to another system then you’re certainly wrong and probably not a real Christian. May God graciously keep us from such lack of charity toward brothers and sisters.

The one who claims Revelation 20 is obviously easy to understand has a simplistic view of Scripture. Text is not a complete mystery either; takes effort to properly figure out what John communicates by use of imagery. Also not a text that stands alone, in isolation from rest of Scripture; cannot be interpreted rightly without considering what remainder of Revelation and all of Bible teaches about themes covered here. What is contained here MUST have provided comfort and encouragement in the 1st century, a primary purpose of John. Had to do so without deceiving or confusing and thus playing into Satan’s agenda. Should look to rest of Scripture to shed light on portions of text that are less clear, fit this into that, not other way round.

Chapter 19 speaks of the dragon’s allies massing for battle, ends with beast and false prophet being thrown alive into lake of fire, all of their followers killed by the Divine Warrior’s sword. Chapter 20 speaks of Satan gathering nations together for battle, ends with death and Hades and anyone whose name not in Book of Life thrown into lake of fire. Chapter 20, although new vision, does not chronologically follow chapter 19; rather, retells chapters 16 through 19, but from different perspective.

A. Satan bound v.1-3

CAUTION: this is apocalyptic language, word picture intended to communicate certain truths. John portrays Satan as being bound, shut up, confined for the 1000 year period. Purpose of this binding is stated: “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer”. Restraint is in respect to one sphere of Satan’s activity, not a complete incarceration. Nowhere else in Scripture is Satan described as being completely restrained prior to the end; however, some of his activities certainly have been curtailed.

For 4000 years Satan was able to keep the nations in darkness, deceiving them about the truth of God. Only as God through his agents enabled people to understand did they come to faith and turn from worshiping idols. The one exception – the one nation, the children of Abraham through his grandson Israel. But all that changed at the cross, the empty tomb, the commissioned apostles, the Day of Pentecost and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Satan still has great power, is active throughout the world, but his nearly universal ability/power to deceive is bound. In last 2000 years, Gospel has gone to the nations and Satan is powerless to stop it. He can harrass, cause a few (relatively speaking) casualties here and there, but cannot prevent establishment of Christ’s church among “every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9) Satan divinely prevented from mounting universal organized opposition to the Church. He will be let loose for a short time in future, now as surely restrained by God’s decree as if shackled in prison cell.

B. Saints reign v.4-6

Jesus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed (crossed over) from death into life.” John 5:24 “the perfect indicates a completed action whose effects are felt in the present.” Mounce “implies the performance of the action in past time, yet states only that it stands completed at the present time.” Goodwin “the perfect tense is used for indicating not the past action as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action.” Wallace

In course of human experience – first (kind of) resurrection is to spiritual life; first (kind of) death is physical. Second (kind of) resurrection is bodily, soul and body reunited; second (kind of) death is spiritual death or eternal torment. All mankind except those present at Jesus’ return experience both first death and second resurrection. All mankind experience either first resurrection (at time of conversion, rebirth) or second death (at time of judgment). “The first resurrection occurs at the time of regeneration when we are born again, and is manifest when we leave this life and enter into the presence of Christ in heaven.” Riddlebarger

Great comfort for those in John’s day (and since): death, even horrific death, at hands of Satan’s agents for sake of Gospel not meaningless. It is beginning of something far more glorious – instant translation to heaven and place of honor with exalted Christ. Throughout Revelation thrones located in heaven, not on earth. Also consider Jesus’ words answering Pilate, question if he were king of the Jews: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36 Kingdom is a spiritual one, not physical, exercised from heaven along with saints who are there, present time.

The 1000 years?? 10^3, human completeness to the superlative degree, amount of time necessary to bring God’s plan for mankind to completion. A long period of time, obvious, 2000 years plus, only God knows how many more. Meanwhile, saints in heaven not simply sitting around waiting for end; actively involved with Lord Jesus in governing his kingdom in preparation for the end.

C. Satan released v.7-10

At end of 1000 years, short time before Lord Jesus’ return, Satan released from restraining order. Will be allowed to work with his agents to deceive once again – seen already in Rev 16:12-16; 17:12-14; 19:20. Dragon, beast and false prophet work in concert to deceive nations into thinking they can prevail against the church; in reality, against Kingdom of Christ “physically” seen in his church.

Satan will be successful, will put church under seige, seemingly surrounding it so there is no escape from forces of world power aligned against it. Throughout history have been periods when church in particular area/nation under concerted attack: various times under Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, communist countries, Nazi Germany. This will be different – portrayed as universal worldwide assault on God’s people, the “camp of the saints”.

When all seems hopeless for the saints, Satan and agents giddy with anticipated success, God in person of his Son enters time and space to bring things to a conclusion. Without ceremony, Satan banished to lake of fire along with beast and false prophet. There as inmate, not warden; object of God’s wrath, not his agent, enduring eternal punishment for his rebellion.

D. sinners judged v.11-15

Told 3x in NT that Christ will judge “the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). In this chapter we’re told that saints “live and reign with Christ” (4). Now, v. 11ff, John’s attention is on the dead – he “saw the dead”, “the dead were judged”. Doesn’t mean the living weren’t present, just weren’t the primary focus here. The prostitute has been taken care of, the beast and false prophet, then Satan, now the last of God’s enemies – the dead, those who did not experience the first resurrection.

Judge is none other than Lord Jesus, the one appointed by God to be the judge and confirmed by his resurrection from the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:31). As perfect Mediator between God and men, suited to be perfect Judge; pictured here in majesty and authority much like vision Daniel saw in Da. 7:9-10. No one escapes judgment, final test is “book of life”; God knows his, none is missing from either the book or the gathered crowd of people. Purpose of judgment isn’t to figure out who merited what for a sentence; no need for interrogation, no opportunity for defense or appeal.

Purpose is to declare what God has already determined based on what is written in his books: deeds of the ungodly as done in their flesh, deeds of the godly as done in Christ, confirmation of exclusion from or inclusion in book of life. Therefore, ungodly have no hope of standing in judgment, godly have no fear of falling in judgment. In epistle John gives great encouragement to godly: “In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment” 1 John 4:17

As John pictures it, second death is final and irreversible, not only for ungodly men and fallen angels but for Death (the last enemy) and the grave as well. Once final judgment is declared, those who are listed in book of life need never fear death again. Hell, place of eternal damnation a literal place but probably not literal lake of fire. Almost certainly far worse than any language can communicate, any picture could convey – will be physical and spiritual torment, contrast to physical and spiritual bliss enjoyed by the righteous.

We will be present there at the judgment but have nothing to fear; not standing there by ourselves, on our own merit. Already seen images in Revelation about that: the white robes, fine linen, white and clean, robes washed and made white in blood of the Lamb. That’s how God will view us on that great day: complete in him we will stand before the Judge justified, sanctified, pardoned and glorified.

The Lamb’s Final Victory

Revelation 19:11-21

If Thomas Watson correctly answers the question, “What is the main scope and end of Scripture?” with “It makes a clear discovery of Christ”, shouldn’t be a surprise to see much of Christ in this last book of Scripture. Especially true as the end (of the book and of time) gets near. In text, 8 out of 11 verses have explicit reference to Christ, portraying him as victorious warrior.

In Rev. 4:1 there was a door opened in heaven and John was invited up to heaven; in Rev. 11:19 God’s temple in heaven was opened; in Rev. 15:5 the tabernacle was opened and out came the seven angels with seven bowls; here (Rev. 19:11) heaven itself is opened and Jesus is revealed. R A Taylor

Prior to this only John was allowed to see what was happening in heaven. Now the “boundary” between heaven and earth is removed, God in person of Christ revealed for all to see. God has been present in creation all along although vast numbers of people have denied or ignored him. When that day comes, will no longer be possible to ignore his presence as he appears on world stage to have final victory over those opposed to him and his church.

Not the first time God has engaged in battle against his enemies: defeat of Egypt’s gods including Pharaoh and army, fall of Jericho and destruction of Canaanite idolaters, overthrow of Assyrian and Babylonian empires, death and resurrection of Lord Jesus. Each a victory over the dragon, beast and false prophet. What John portrays here and following chapter is last engagement when Satan and all his allies forever defeated, consigned to their eternal prison.

A casual look at history might seem to fit Taoist view symbolized by Yin-Yang – two complementary or opposing forces in constant ebb and flow without either one achieving supremacy. Forces of good and evil, always in conflict, neither one gaining decisive victory. Bible gives very different picture – two opposing unequal forces, in conflict only until the end of this age, the eternal sovereign Lord overcoming evil according to his plan. Achieved through the person of Christ sent from heaven, not in humiliation but exaltation, as the Divine Warrior.

A. the divine warrior v.11-16

character (11-13, 16)

on a white horse: victorious king, no longer “lowly and riding on a donkey” but coming in triumph; contrasted with the hideous Beast

called “Faithful and True”: the “faithful and true witness” (3:14) to Laodicean church, identifying with suffering of his church; contrasted with Dragon, et al, characterized by deception and faithlessness

in righteousness: wages truly just war; no unwarranted casualties, no unnecessary suffering, no unintended consequences. War will have perfect God-ordained conclusion – just judgment on all mankind.

eyes: ability to see all things including hearts of men and judge righteously

crowns and a name: possessing all authority and subject to no other power, with dignity and majesty expected of such a sovereign

a robe: purpose is judgment, not salvation; allusion to Isa. 63:1-3 and God’s warrior treading the winepress of his wrath

name is called “Word of God”, “King of kings, Lord of lords”: the God of creation, only ruler with truly universal authority. On his robe for all to see and know his true identity, matching name written on his person – proof he is no impostor, no pretender to his position.

attendants (14)

armies of heaven: made up of the saints, not angelic warriors. Angels may be present but focus is definitely not on them or their role. Fine linen not used in either Old or New Testament to describe garb of angels. The bride granted to be clothed “in fine linen, clean and bright”; explanation given: “fine linen is righteous deeds of the saints”. Also told in Rev. 17:14 that those who are with King of kings and Lord of lords are those who are “called and chosen and faithful.”

attendants have limited role: on white horses, meaning victory is assured; having no weapons, they are spectators, witnesses to the great work God alone will accomplish. Union with Christ means we participate in his death and resurrection – Paul takes it so far as to say he has “been crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), we have been “buried with him in baptism”, “raised with him through faith” (Col. 2:12). Attending Christ during this final conflict means saints will participate in his victory as well even though not present as combatants.

weapon and work (15)

sharp sword: must be cautious what mental images we associate with Christ and his engaging in battle. Whatever you’ve seen at the movies, experienced in real life – this isn’t that; it’s entirely different. Jesus doesn’t wield broadsword of Damascus or any other kind of steel; his sword is his all-powerful word, already seen Rev. 1:16. (see also Eph. 6:17; Isa. 11:4; Heb. 4:12) Just as God spoke all creation into existence, as Christ sustains all things by his powerful word (Heb. 1:3), so he will speak final judgment on his enemies and what he says will be accomplished.

rule them: quotation from Psalm 2:9, context gives insight as to meaning. Christ described in role as the Lord’s anointed – breaks the nations with rod of iron, smash them to bits like a clay jar. Has come to execute justice, not govern benevolently; remember the opposing side – massed for war in total rebellion.

treads the winepress: told here it is Christ who brings God’s fierce anger to bear on his enemies; Isaiah 63:3 makes it explicit he does it alone. Repeated indications this is God’s battle, not one in which saints or even angels will be engaged. In all eternity will never be any question that God and God alone vanquished his enemies.

B. angelic summons v.17-18

God’s representative (17a)

reflecting brightness of God, indicating he speaks with divinely given authority, has the right to issue summons

God’s plan (17b)

tale of two feasts: one of blessing, one of judgment. God called out of the world those who would be his, invited them as guests to marriage supper, joined them to Christ as bride to bridegroom, treated with dignity and honor. Now summons to all who reject Christ to another feast, guests as well as main course, stripped of all dignity and honor.

God’s curse (18)

none will escape God’s righteous judgment: people from every station in life without exception, regardless of position or possessions will be present at this feast. No role changes allowed, they wanted to be allied with the beast in life, same wish granted in judgment and death also. All including great ones will be denied dignity even in death, not having honor of decent burial.

C. arrayed for battle v. 19-21

opposing force (19)

Once again Satan’s army described, this time drawn up for battle – same as seen in Rev. 16:14, 17:12-13 Convinced time has come when they can challenge the Lamb for supremacy; are engaged in furious warfare against the Church (thus Christ himself, too) when the Divine Warrior appears intent on battle.

distinctive outcome

beast and false prophet (20)

described by John as a sequence, perhaps occurrs instantaneously as the Lamb declares “Finished” (Rev. 16:17), single word γεγονεν. Beast and false prophet unceremoniously yanked from world stage and thrown headlong into lake of fire. No longer able to deceive world, promote false worship, oppose rule of Christ. Only one voice heard in cosmic courtroom – that of Judge. No defense, no arguments, no pleas for mercy, only swift sentence.

the rest (21)

all those present in support of beast and false prophet have no opportunity to attack, to wage any sort of offensive once the Lamb appears. They are all in formation, waiting for the Lamb and his army to take the field. Absent from John’s vision is a scene of fierce battle, hand-to-hand combat, the outcome in question. Satan’s forces expect real warfare, expect to prevail against their enemy. Yet with a word, Christ declares the outcome final, those who rebelled against him meet their doom. As soon as it begins it is over.

Why? How come no battle? The real battle was fought and won 2000 years ago at the cross (Col. 2:15). Christ triumphed over his enemies, putting them to shame by showing their complete ineffectiveness against him. He proved it by rising from the dead. So what’s left? Strip them of remaining power, put them in their proper place, the place prepared for those who rebel against God.

The great day of the Lord – one all those who are far from God should dread. Instead most deny reality of it, pretending God as revealed in Scripture doesn’t exist, gladly consuming the lies and deceptions Satan feeds them. Only God can change the hearts of those who are hardened against him, pray he does so before it is too late. For those who love Lord Jesus, whose hope is in the Lord, confident he has won battle on their account, is a day to anticipate with great joy – when Christ returns with power and great glory to make all things right.

The Lamb’s Pure Bride

Revelation 19:1-10

John’s account of the fall of Babylon informs of great mourning, weeping, wailing – all that the lost had counted on for future hope gone up in smoke. John viewed event from primarily earth’s perspective: how will it look to those present at time of destruction. Only verse 20 gives indication of how heaven might view the end of the prostitute and her domain, then John continues describing the finality of her destruction.

Her end will be truly awful, those who trust in the great prostitute will not end well nor is there a wonderful plan for their eternal future. Difficult for us to accept, given inclusion of friends and family among their number. From our present point of view seems nearly impossible to rejoice, when we think about all the consequences, what the Great Day of the Lord will bring. Yet Bible makes it clear that will not only be mourning that Day, will be great rejoicing also. How can that be?

Becomes more understandable when we take into account circumstances of those rejoicing. We talk about seeing things from heaven’s perspective, but what does that really mean? More than simple change of location, much else is different also. Our eyes and ears will be opened all the way – will see and hear without distortions due to remaining sin. True of our understanding as well; will be able to comprehend reality as it really is, connecting the dots in right sequence to make a clear picture.

Goes even beyond that. We understand much in terms of contrasts or comparisons; often describe things as “like…” or “not like…”. Becomes more significant when trying to grasp topic at hand. Saints in heaven not only have perfect vision, hearing, understanding; have perfect model by which to evaluate everything else. Those saints can see God as he is in all his glory and magnificence; for them, viewing God at work in the world, God is in the foreground, all else is in background. Seeing God in his perfections makes heinousness of sin starkly clear. How revolting and insulting sin is to God becomes obvious, his righteous judgment is then cause for rejoicing. Our problem now is we don’t see either side clearly; thank God for day when we will have perfect understanding.

As next scene opens, John hears and sees the commencement of a great celebration, in fact it’s a wedding that’s about to happen. Handel’s Messiah can’t hold a candle to the Alleluia Chorus announcing the beginning of the great event. The Lamb is to be married, the Bride is ready, the guests have been invited. All this has been accomplished by power of God as he brings about his purpose for his creation.

A. hallelujah chorus v.1-6

Note the repeated hallelujahs (1, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Salvation, glory, honor, power belong to God (1) Bringing to an end God’s purpose in salvation now evident with overthrow of Babylon, deliverance of his people. God will accomplish this in such a way that he receives all the glory and honor – will obviously be a “God thing”. Regardless which “side”, God will get credit either for judgment or salvation. God deserves the praise because only he has the power to subdue Satan and his kingdom, deliver the saints from deception and dominion of false trinity. God’s glory truly is seen in rightness and justice of his judgment against evildoers.

her smoke rises forever (3) Great crowd in heaven shouts loud praise to God that his judgment on Babylon is completed. Unlike beast who appeared to be killed only to rise again, Babylon is no Phoenix, will never rise from ashes to threaten kingdom of Christ. How much of the joy of heaven would be lost if always looking over our shoulder, wondering if sin or Satan might reappear. God ensures that will NEVER occur; there is absolutely no possibility of anything disturbing the peace and bliss of heaven.

Amen, alleluia (4) More voices added to heavenly chorus, giving their assent to what has already been loudly proclaimed. Yul Brynner: “So let it be written, so let it be done.” = Amen. Representatives of entire church along with all creation declare agreement with praise given to God for what he has done. Accompanied by worship – no high-fives here, humble bowing in adoration before absolute Sovereign of all creation.

heavenly call to worship (5) Call comes from very throne of God, perhaps from the Lamb, directing the church to worship. Jesus did tell Mary Magdalene to tell his brothers that he was “ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” John 20:17 Certainly not beyond realm of possibility for Jesus to identify with his people, putting the thought of “my” and “your” together into “our”, especially since he is addressing saints gathered in heaven.

God has begun to reign – response to call from the throne (5) Call to worship brings immediate and full-throated response: “like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder” NET Vast multitude not satisfied with singing, shout with all their might, praise to God and declare reason for enthusiasm: God’s unopposed rule in its fullness has begun, the 7th trumpet conditions are in place – “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Rev. 11:15

B. wedding celebration v.7-8

All this is kickoff for celebration like no other – we’re getting really really close to the end-slash-high point of the Lord Jesus’ exaltation. Remember: state of humiliation – laying aside His divine majesty assuming human nature, becoming subject to the demands and the curse of the law. Followed by state of exaltation: passing from under the law as a covenant obligation, entering into the undivided favor and good pleasure of God, and being crowned with a corresponding honor and glory. Christ’s return with power and glory on that great Day to judge the world is the mountain peak of exaltation during this age; the marriage of the Lamb immediately precedes his return.

“his bride has made herself ready.” (7) She has dressed herself in white, a beautiful gown befitting a beautiful bride. Making ready is a process – not only garments but bride herself require preparation. Gown and accessories are fitted and adjusted: train, veil, shoes, flowers, jewelry, hair, makeup – combined effort of bride and attendants to make her beautiful and present her to the groom. Clear from Scripture our salvation has purpose in this life: “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10) “the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty …become[s] one who lives it out” (James 1:25NET) “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. …I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18NET)

“it was granted her” (8) True righteousness signified by fine linen not something the bride bought or took for herself; was granted to her by her bridegroom. He gave her a pure gown and granted permission to wear it, showing her readiness for the wedding. Bride’s experience up to this point is outworking of the bridegroom working out his purpose in her salvation:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27NET)

betrothal is over; now begins full experience of salvation and glory in full union with Christ. “They two shall be one” to fullest extent possible. Two pictures given for our understanding – bridegroom and bride, banquet with host and guests. Same individuals in both pictures, emphasis on different aspect of the relationship. Bride: union with bridegroom; guest: union and fellowship with other guests.

C. declared blessing v.9-10

4th of 7 blesseds: (Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14)

(9) Unlike Jesus’ parable of Luke 14:16-24, the blessed ones are invited not as guests but as the bride, every table is a head table! Obvious here that only those invited will be present, will be no party crashers. Invitation to party/banquet always given in advance of the event; may be only moments before (go compel them to come in), may be months or more ahead of time. Invitation synonymous with God’s effectual call that results in regeneration, adoption, entrance into his kingdom. Angel here says it’s a blessing simply to have an invitation – blessing begins in this life, participation in next is guaranteed.

Don’t be so overwhelmed by the messenger you forget source of the message (10) Right response, wrong object. More fully we understand scope of God’s plan for his people, more our minds/hearts geared toward worship. John had most intimate relationship with Jesus during time on earth, still blown away by what he saw in heaven (see also Rev. 22:8-9). We rejoice greatly when someone tells us these wondrous truths but worshipful gratitude must be reserved for God alone.

D. make yourselves ready

hold onto the truth – ref. 7 churches; we have the truth: written and living Word accompanied by Holy Spirit; ability to understand and apply truth; must maintain and not compromise it

live our faith – knowledge of truth must be apparent in action as well as word; understanding of biblical principles must inform choices made in daily life

worship God – express adoration and praise, give him honor corporately, 24/7 in all we do; God and his honor must have first place. Bride should act as though married, faithful to her husband.

remember it’s all of grace – invitations issued at discretion of bridegroom, not request of guests; the bride is who she is because Lord Jesus has washed her up, set her aside for his pleasure, made her truly holy, removed her blemishes (not just painted them over!). All done because he “loved the church and gave himself up for her”.

Babylon is Fallen

Revelation 18:1-24

The rest of Revelation: focused on end of this age, events immediately connected with Second Coming of Christ. Based on vision he saw, interpretation given by angel, John presented compelling picture of kingdom of Satan’s two-pronged assault on kingdom of Christ. Power and persuasion, domination and deception – closely allied, used to greatest advantage throughout intervening time between advents.

Adolf Hitler a reasonable example of both in action: deceiving German people and foreign governments at times, using power of persuasion to move large crowds to buy into his plan. At same time, exercise of force to dominate German Jews, weak or non-compliant neighbors, implementation of anti-Semitism and Social Darwinism. Not really unique in most ways, principles Hitler espoused were practiced before 20th century, persist in some forms even in our nation today.

Chapter 17 should alert Christians to Satan’s tactics, put us on our guard against them. Chapter 18 encourages us – we’re not on an endless wheel of life, the end is coming. God will deal with “the problem of evil” and all its agents once for all. Satan is highly deceptive, not all Christians are equally perceptive; final warning is given to those who might have been taken in, just as God graciously did for Lot and his family.

When last bowl is finally poured out, it will finally be done – the city of man is utterly destroyed leaving the city of God. Satan will be stripped of all his power to dominate and deceive, blood of the martyrs will be avenged as cry of saints around heavenly altar is answered. In process of destruction and judgment, all illusion will be removed; city of man will be seen for what it truly is, kingdom of Satan. In John’s description of the end, echoes of woe against Babylon – Isa. 13:19-22, Jer. 50 & 51; against “Edom” – Isa. 34:10-14; promise of total and final judgment/destruction. This time the kingdom will fall and NEVER rise again.

A. announcement and warning v.1-8

Babylon is fallen (1-3) From near the beginning of human history conflict promised as part of mankind’s lot. Enmity between seed of woman and seed of serpent. A chapter later, first murderer began constructing a city (Gen. 4:17). Theme continued after flood; land of Shinar (Babylonia), began to build another replacement city, Babel; this time one that would have tower reaching to heaven (Gen. 11:4). City may appear invincible, has survived for millennia, has acquired incredible possessions and prosperity. Authoritative message from heaven itself – Babylon is done, her spiritual uncleanness and immorality evident for all to see.

Come out of her (4-5) Another authoritative (warning) message from heaven: Run while there’s still time; your soul is safe in God’s keeping, but he’s not obligated to protect your body from hard stuff. Warning primarily to saints before the end comes, especially those who are weak in understanding or have succumbed to temptation to play with fire. e.g., I have own personal high standards but I don’t mind making a profit off those who don’t have such standards. Warning includes reminder that God’s patience not forever: “God has remembered”, tower may not have reached heaven but sins have.

Pay her back (6-8) Will not be long period of decay ending in her demise; will be sudden and quick, obviously God’s judgment. Will be act of true justice – render as she rendered; her double portion is a certain death sentence – a double dose of blood of murdered saints (Rev. 17:6). Will occur on promised “Day of the Lord”, no one associated with city will escape doom just as for Sodom. Form of payback: destroyed by things she thought she was immune to. queen/no widow/no sorrow <==> death/mourning/famine. Kingdom of man intended to provide insurance against these things; no help whatever against consuming fire of God’s justice.

B. mourning on earth v.9-19

kings weep and lament (9) merchants weep and mourn (11) seafaring men cry out weeping and wailing (19) Men of all walks of life mourn that all they trusted in for security – power, position, posessions – disappeared in an hour. Kings recognize as judgment of God (10); merchants see only end to their bright future, no more sales (11), sailors no more need for transportation (19). Not a word of regret about the evils which their various dealings encouraged: love of excess and temporal things (14), traffic in human lives (slavery) (13).

standing at a distance

kings fear her torment (10) – unfaithful to their duties (3)

none want to associate Babylon’s guilt with their own; for an hour, still delude themselves into thinking they can survive even if city-prostitute doesn’t. At same time, know they are also guilty, have been unfaithful to their duties. Recognize justice when they see it, know they have not been just in their own conduct toward those under their care. Consequently have instinctive fear that their turn is coming, especially if they stand too close.

merchants fear her torment (15) – profiting from pursuit of worldly pleasure (3)

Problem isn’t profit-making, isn’t with material possessions; things in list with few exceptions that which was made by God for man’s enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). Problem was attitude toward things – pride of possession, trust in riches – both merchants and customers guilty of bad attitude. Manifested in failure to give God credit as source of good things, confidence placed in gift rather than giver. Accompanied by indulging desires, acquiring stuff in excess, pleasing self rather than God. Result: slavery real and spiritual; some enslaved to satisfy desires of others – financial bondage, sex trafficking, etc. All enslaved in sin and bondage to Satan and his system.

sailors cry out (18-19) – dependent entirely on world system to meet their needs

It is a world system that comes crashing down, not hard to imagine in a day of “global economy”. Currencies, stock markets, supply chains interconnected globally, influenced by international economic and political conditions. Turmoil in one area of world ripples throughout entire global community. Sailors here have vantage point that helps them see extent of Babylon’s influence, effect of her fall. Since entire system is destroyed, no group anywhere escapes disaster; the end of Satan’s kingdom spells their end also.

C. rejoicing in heaven v.20-24

Conditions on earth, in city of man, kingdom of Satan: weep and lament, weep and mourn, weeping and wailing, cried out – despair and perhaps premonition of personal doom, akin to that immediately before heart attack. Mood in heaven much different, in fact, opposite end of spectrum. Just as lost, those with mark of the beast, in absolute despair soon to be followed by unceasing rage, so the redeemed rejoice at overthrow of evil. View of saints centered on God and his actions from heavenly perspective; rejoicing is over what God has accomplished, not misery of those experiencing his wrath.

apostles and prophets have been avenged (20) Justice has been served on behalf of messengers sent by God for benefit/good of his people and world. Ambassadors were ridiculed, persecuted, ignored, killed; God has last word, brings about final retributive (eye for eye) justice. As they did, so shall be done to them.

judgment is final (21-23a) Sudden, violent, forceful and final – as millstone splashes in the ocean never to be seen again, so will be end of Babylon. Finality is reinforced by more imagery: no more entertainment/pleasure, commercial enterprise; all is darkness and desolation, will be no future generations or any infrastructure to support them. This is “The End”.

judgment is just (23b-24) God is not capricious, operating on “impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason” (WordNet). Nor does God condemn pleasure or prosperity. He punishes Babylon, the lost, for their sinful thoughts and actions directed against Christ and his church. If God is holy and righteous and just, he must deal with evil and evildoers. John assures the persecuted church that God will indeed judge his enemies – guarding his holiness, vindicating his righteousness, and executing justice on the cosmic stage.

Paul, contemplating his imminent departure from life, told Timothy he had fought a good fight, he had reached the finish line, in the process had kept the faith. In light of that Paul anticipated receiving a crown of righteousness on “that Day”, the Day of the Lord, one he has appointed for Christ’s return. On that Day, Babylon will finally fall, the lost will be judged and righteous rewarded. Paul also told Timothy same crown of righteousness was laid up for others also – identified as “all who have loved his appearing”. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Challenge for us is to live the way Paul did, finishing well. Need constant reminders of what is true and faithful so we quickly recognize the counterfeit. Yes, do have to say “No” to things displeasing to God, but that’s only very small piece of whole. Much bigger piece: saying “Yes” to all the right and good stuff. Filling up the spaces in our lives with what is pleasing to God. More we feast on God’s goodness, less appealing will be what world has to offer.

Research clearly shows people do much better grocery shopping on full rather than empty stomach. Same is true when comes to other areas of life. If we are filled and satisfied with God and the blessings he provides – his Spirit, his word, his church – we will have little or no interest in looking elsewhere for satisfaction. For Paul and for us, crown is wonderful reward; really, though, it represents God rewarding the work he has done in and through us. Even that pales in comparison to reward of the Lord Jesus – experiencing him face to face, no more hindrance to enjoying him because of our remaining sinfulness; will all be gone, forever.

If truly is our heart’s desire to be fully satisfied with the Lord Jesus, earthly pleasures will have no attraction for us, nothing world offers will captivate us or our affections. We will indeed love his appearing, be greeted by the words “Well done” when we finish our race.

The Great Prostitute, The Greater Lamb

Revelation 17:1-18

Helpful to recognize both parallels and contrasts in Revelation. Parallels from different perspectives help understanding by providing additional detail and connections with the rest of Scripture. Contrasts aid in similar way, especially when considering the “negative” side. For example, if False Prophet is counterfeit Holy Spirit, understanding work of Holy Spirit helps elaborate on work of False Prophet. Holy Spirit points people to Christ, False Prophet points people to Satan.

In some cases, direct connection is explicit: verse 18 of text, woman you saw is that great city”. At other times, connection is implied: cp Rev. 17:1 with Rev. 21:9 – remove parenthetical expression, 20 Greek words in a row identical.

και ηλθεν εις εκ των επτα αγγελων των εχοντων τας επτα φιαλας και ελαλησεν μετ εμου λεγων δευρο δειξω σοι το κριμα της πορνης της μεγαλης της καθημενης επι υδατων πολλων

και ηλθεν εις εκ των επτα αγγελων των εχοντων τας επτα φιαλας των γεμοντων των επτα πληγων των εσχατων και ελαλησεν μετ εμου λεγων δευρο δειξω σοι την νυμφην την γυναικα του αρνιου

By introducing two visions using same language we should expect commonalities and/or contrasts. In these two texts, same class of messenger, same basic import of message, contrasting specific subject: woman/prostitute vs. bride. If we understand role and work of the bride, helps us to recognize what and how the prostitute attempts to mimic or counterfeit. Effective means of recognizing counterfeit is not to study all the ways to fake something; rather study the one genuine and counterfeit of whatever sort will be apparent.

Further contrasts & parallels:

Babylon <=/=> Holy City; Prostitute <=/=> Bride; Fornication <=/=> Faithfulness; Beast <=/=> Christ

woman || prostitute || great city || Babylon <=/=> bride || church || New Jerusalem || Holy City

According to Thomas Watson: “What is the main scope and end of Scripture? To reveal a way of salvation. It makes a clear discovery of Christ.” John 20:31 God’s Word is fundamentally a spiritual book, identifying and describing spiritual realities and truths we are unable to discover on our own. That’s the aspect of text we need to keep front and center in our interpretation; application can be a little more flexible.

A. the vision v.1-6

(1-2) moving force/motivation behind kingdoms of world

political leaders had been deceived and enticed, gave in to seduction; weren’t coming up with their ideas all by themselves, had help of Satan’s agents encouraging own sinful tendencies. Many actually motivated to do good to others as well as self; sin-blindness prevents from recognizing and pursuing right way.

actually satisfied evil desires by giving in to prostitute’s demands, paying her price in return for what she promised: life, liberty, happiness. That’s bottom line why anyone worships benevolent sounding false god: promises that appeal to desire.

(3-4) alliance and incongruity

finery in the wilderness; conflicting picture – prostitute promises the best, the finest, but reality is she has nothing from which to meet commitments. Obvious from the setting that deception is present, getting more obvious as more details are presented.

beauty and the beast – not your typical pimp-mobile. Instead of top-of-the-line luxury model, it’s a rust-bucket with no doors or wheels. Don’t miss fact that these two are closely allied; in fact, beast hopes prostitute’s false beauty will divert attention from him as her manager. Everybody likes the call girl, nobody wants anything to do with the pimp.

attractive appearance masks inward corruption – like the way-past-wrinkle-stage woman dressed and made up like a teenager. Again, beast is trusting in finery plastered on the outside to do its job, mask the real corruption until the deal is done.

(5) power behind the scenes – “mother of prostitutes”

reproduced herself in form of offspring, “clones”, visible entities following her agenda. The agenda: practicing all the things highly displeasing to God. e.g., “The LORD hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him:arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil,a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Prov. 6:16-19

(6) promises life but feeds on death

your best life now” – false promise of life required death of saints; true promise of life required death of Savior. Once again close connection between beauty and beast is obvious: seductress derives pleasure from exercise of beast’s persecuting power.

B. the interpretation v.7-18

a mystery (7b) that requires wisdom (9a) Any interpretation of sort: “well, obviously, the _______ is…” is very apt to be wrong. Means spiritual insight is necessary to understand; vision primarily makes a theological point, not politico-historical one. It’s as if John, experiencing vision, for first time began to grasp (6b) unseen spiritual reality empowering socio-political institutions of his day, but still needed help to understand full significance.

(7-11) alliance between deception/seduction and power

beast: same as introduced in 13:1-10, a counterfeit Christ; had deadly wound but appeared to come back to life – told same again in different ways:

was, is not, will ascend; was, is not, yet is (8). was, is not, is also an eighth (11)

beast is limited – will go to perdition (8a), going to destruction (11b); only a brief time (10c). also, those “whose names are not written…” will be astounded (8b), those sealed by God need not be taken in.

point being: kingdoms and nations, political systems will rise and fall (some already had in John’s day), even extremely powerful ones will fall and may appear to rise again (communism, socialism, e.g.). However, they are sovereignly limited in duration, power and effect even though the lost are completely wowed. Seduction of worldly thinking and priorities accompanies all of them; intimately connected because they are twin manifestations of same master, Satan, working through his agents.

(12-14) when Euphrates is dried up, this follows

political powers seem to have gained critical mass, believe hedge around the church has come down (12) Deceived by three frogs (demonic spirits), enemies of Church around the world believe time for action has arrived.

willingly submit to authority of Satan, begin their final assault on Christ (13-14a) Single intent, their one mind, is that their “hero” acquire full authority over all the earth, dispose of all his enemies.

this time the Lamb wins (14b) war is really with Christ, not his “mere servants”. Surprise, the Lamb overcomes all his enemies, winning complete victory in presence of saints. The saints whose blood intoxicated the prostitute are blessed to see final justice on their enemies.

(15) effect of prostitute’s seduction is global

similar comprehensive language as describes those in Christ’s kingdom (Rev. 5:9; 14:6). Just as beast exercises power through agents around world, so second prong of Satan’s attacks has global presence.

(16-18) God is sovereign over the pagans, too

Satan’s kingdom divided against itself; comes about as result of God using even his enemies as his agents. Prostitute becomes victim of her own unfaithfulness; when her agents see through deception, realize promises will never be kept, turn on her and destroy her.

how, we ask, could the knowledge of this far future event help the suffering saints, to cheer and strengthen whom was the one chief purpose of this book?” Pulpit Commentary Remember promise of Rev. 1:3 – “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.”

It assures us of two things:

1. God rules. The Lamb is greater far than the prostitute, the dragon, beast or false prophet. Satan’s kingdom in its entirety can never overcome the kingdom of God. No matter how painful it may get, the Lamb wins and will take those on his side with him.

2. All that Satan and world have to offer is superficial, temporary, lacking real substance. What the Lamb promises is a priceless and eternal inheritance. Implied warning: no matter how alluring the world’s offer gets, don’t be sucked in. Remember, it’s an illusion intended to deceive and draw us away from real treasure.