Sunday, June 23, 2019

Reasoning Through Revelation. Day 3, Apocalypse

Today we begin our look at the first chapter of Revelation with these words: "The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who testifies to everything he saw---that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (Revelation 1:1-3) 

The word translated as "revelation" is the Greek "apokalypsis" which means "an unveiling, uncovering, or revealing." This word has come to have a negative connotation since it has to do with the Great Tribulation. But in John's day it simply meant to reveal something that wasn't previously known. The purpose of the message of Revelation is for the Lord to reveal to us the way future events are going to unfold. In this book we will learn about the Lord's plans for the church. We will find out how He is going to fulfill all the promises He's made to Israel. We will gain an understanding of the order in which final events on this earth will come to pass before the eternal kingdom is put in place with Christ as King forever.

When the time appointed by God arrives, end time events will begin to take place suddenly. When John speaks of those days being "near", he uses the Greek words "en tekei" which means "quickly or suddenly coming to pass". John isn't telling us to live in fear that the end times will begin at any moment, but he's saying that when these events are set in motion they will happen one after the other in quick succession, much like when you stand dominoes up in a line and knock the first one over. When the first domino falls, the others fall one at a time right behind it.

We have to keep in mind, though, that even if some of the end time events begin to occur while the church is still on the earth, the church will not be left here to endure the worst days of the Great Tribulation. We will study the evidence for believing this as we go through the book, but it is my opinion and the opinion of many who know far more about the Scriptures than I do, that from the beginning of Chapter 4 on, the church is in heaven with Christ. In the beginning of Chapter 4, in John's vision a loud voice from heaven commands him to, "Come up here,". After that we do not see the church mentioned on the earth again until she returns from heaven with Christ to reign with Him. (How can the church return from heaven with Christ unless she has already been in heaven with Christ?) There's no logical explanation for the absence of the church on the earth during the Great Tribulation unless Christ has already fulfilled His promise of taking His bride (the church) to be with Him in the place He has prepared for her. (John 14:2-3)

When Jesus spoke of preparing a place for those who love Him, He was using terminology that a man of his day would use in a marriage proposal. A young man, after having had his proposal accepted, would go home and build onto his father's house a room or rooms in which he would dwell with his bride. When the young man felt the dwelling place was complete, his father would inspect it to make certain everything was as it should be, and if all looked just right the father would say, "Son, go get your bride." During the days between accepting the proposal and being called to the wedding, the bride waited in anticipation to hear the voice of her bridegroom calling for her as he approached her house. She kept her bags packed for the honeymoon because she didn't know what day her beloved would return for her. This is the time period we, the church, are in right now. We are waiting for our Bridegroom to call for us. I believe that before the worst days this world has ever known come to pass, the Lord Jesus will have completed the dwelling place He has gone to prepare for us. I believe God the Father will inspect it and find it to be absolutely perfect. At that moment He will say, "Son, go get Your bride." When that happens, our Bridegroom will call our names and we will go to be with Him, for what man in love would leave his bride on the earth to endure the worst times this world has ever seen? Would the One who gave His life to save us from our sins not also do everything possible to spare us from the dark days of the Great Tribulation?

We who believe in Christ aren't to be looking fearfully about us for signs of the end times, but like a bride of Old Testament days we are to be listening for the voice of our Bridegroom calling us to the wedding. We may recognize the signs of the end times based on what we are going to learn in Revelation, but our main focus should be on Christ our Redeemer. Because we love the Lord, He is graciously revealing to us the things that are to come---even the things we won't witness with our own eyes. The Lord doesn't have to share His plans with us; He's sharing them with us out of love and respect for us. As He said on the night before He went to the cross, if we love Him we are His friends, and friends share their plans with each other. "I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15b)

Another reason for revealing His plans to us is that the Lord wants to bless us. Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises us a blessing for reading it. Every book of the Bible is profitable to us, as the Apostle Paul says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) No time spent studying the Scriptures is ever wasted, but the blessing we are promised in Revelation indicates that there is a special blessing in reading these prophecies and in taking them to heart. Who doesn't want extra blessings from the Lord? Personally, I want every blessing that He's willing to pour out on me! I want my cup to run over, don't you? I believe we will be blessed by studying this book. I don't know yet what form this blessing will take, but let's study God's word in anticipation. Let's study it in an attitude of being willing to receive whatever He chooses to reveal to us. He honors an attitude like that. 

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