Revelation Lesson #009
July 28, 2004
There are two basic doctrines that underlie everything in the book of Revelation. They really bring it home to us and that is why we have camped out a few times with that phrase "the time is near/at hand." There is an urgency here, a sense of our destiny, that something is going to occur that will bring all of human history to a culmination that will involve several judgments. We have a judgment or evaluation for believers at the judgment seat of Christ and this relates to what we call our personal sense of eternal destiny. The second thing is our occupation with Christ. This comes through more and more as we go through this study: the focus on Jesus Christ. John, to whom this revelation was given, was so close to our Lord when He was on the earth at the time of the incarnation. Nevertheless, John is overwhelmed when he sees the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ in this chapter. This is the risen glorified Lord returning as the judge of the earth. So we have judgment indicated to the churches, there is judgment on the earth as the wrath of God and the wrath of the Lamb are poured out upon the earth. Wrath is a term of divine judgment. Then there will be another judgment, the judgment at the end of the Tribulation, the evaluation of believers in the Tribulation as well as unbelievers who survive the Tribulation, and then there is the final great white throne judgment for all the unbelieving dead that takes place at the end of the Millennial kingdom. So we have this sense of destiny on the one hand, and on the other hand occupation with Christ.
Let's fit this in to what we have studied a tremendous amount in the past, and that is the dynamics of the spiritual life. We have what we have taught as our problem-solving devices (stress busters) which are simply different spiritual skills that we learn, that we have extrapolated from Scripture, and that we discipline ourselves to apply in terms of spiritual growth. It starts off with those basic skills that we learn in childhood. We first learned after we were saved that we cam lose fellowship, that we still sin. Then hopefully as we move along and begin to grow we will begin to stay in fellowship a little more and a little more and a little more. So we have our ongoing walk by means of the Spirit and we learn to walk in dependence upon the Spirit. We do that because we begin to learn promises. As we learn those promises we begin to trust God and we rely upon Him. We call that the faith-rest drill. As we depend upon God and we learn to discipline ourselves, and when we get into certain situations and begin to claim promises, then we begin to grow. That spiritual life is based on those many promises that God gave us in the sufficient Scripture—2 Peter 1:3, 4.
Then as we grow we learn something about grace, that our walk with God is not dependent upon who and what we are but upon who Jesus Christ is, what He did at the cross, and what is given to us at salvation. We get it all at salvation, we don't get a little more of God later on, He doesn't dish out His grace incrementally to the believer, but we are given the Holy Spirit who indwells us, seals us, baptizes us in to the body of Christ, all at the instant of salvation. The issue in spiritual growth is to learn about those spiritual provisions and spiritual assets so that we can begin to utilize them in spiritual growth. That is part of doctrinal orientation where we begin to orient our thinking to the Word of God. 2 Peter 3:18, says that we grow by means of grace knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the Word of God that is used in conjunction with the Holy Spirit that produces growth. The Holy Spirit teaches us the Word and brings it to our mind to apply. 1 Peter 2:2 says that we are to desire the sincere milk of the Word that we may grow by it.
As we get out of spiritual childhood we all get to a point where we have to recognize than what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day. Eventually we get to spiritual adolescence we begin to think in terms of longer range consequences. Where am I headed? We are making decisions today in light of long-range plans. We call this a personal sense of our eternal destiny where we begin to make decisions today in the light of eternity. We begin to think in terms of the fact that we are in spiritual basic training. God is teaching us all of these things to prepare us for our role to rule and reign with Jesus Christ in the Millennial kingdom and on into eternity. The things that we can learn now when we are struggling with our sin nature and living in the devil's world fighting the cosmic system are things that we can't learn in eternity because there won't be a sin nature, there won't be Satan, there won't be that dimension of the angelic conflict. So we have to develop that sense of our eternal destiny, and this is the emphasis in Revelation that the time is near, the emphasis on judgment, the emphasis on the fact that there is eventually going to be an evaluation. To the overcomer there will be a variety of different rewards and blessings that are outlined in the seven letters to the seven churches.
From adolescence we move into adulthood and we have to master certain spiritual skills that are indicative of maturity. That mean that you don't utilize these or that these aren't a part of our life as an unbeliever, but they aren't as much a part of our life because there advanced spiritual skills are based upon the previous skills. For example, our personal love for God. A lot of people think of love as sort of an emotion, a feeling, a sentiment, we come to church and hear about God and go away feeling warm and fuzzy about God. But you can't love someone you don't know. If you don't know the Bible you can't understand who God is, where He is going, and what He is doing, what His plans and purpose for mankind are, what His plans and purposes for your life are. As you come to understand how God works in history and how He works in people's lives, what he has done for you, what he has supplied for you, what he is continuing to do in your life, that your love fro Him increases. As you utilize the faith-rest drill, as you understand His grace, as you understand doctrine, your love for God increases. As a result of that you begin to realize that just as God loves you and Jesus Christ loves you and gave Himself for you, you are to love other people. You are to love one another just as Christ loved us. This is our impersonal love for all mankind. They may not be very lovable, they may not be very attractive, we may not want to love them. They may, in fact, be antagonistic to us, nevertheless we are to love them just as Christ loved those who were antagonistic to Him.
This leads us to a greater appreciation and focus on Jesus Christ. We are to lone another as Christ loved us. Where is the focus there? The focus is on Jesus Christ. So we have to spend a lot of time contemplating and meditating on who Jesus Christ is and what he has done, and ask the question: "How does the cross exemplify the love of God, and how am I going to imitate that love that Christ showed me when I was a rebellious, antagonistic, obnoxious sinner? That implies a lot of knowledge of doctrine because it is not that silly little superficial love that most people come up with. There are all kinds of dimensions to Jesus' love. This Jesus is the same one who at the sheep and the goats judgment at the end of the Tribulation where Jesus says to the unbelievers, "Depart from me into the eternal lake of fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels." So the love of Jesus is also a love that sends unbelievers to eternal condemnation. That sort of rattles our cage a bit if we have come out of the world system and thinking that love is just one-dimensional and you don't have room for this. Take that and add that to your concept of parental love and what that implies in terms of your role as a disciplinarian and as a leader in the home, and one who not only does positive things for your children in terms of good, kind, gentle things but also someone who has to bring them before the bar of your justice in the home and discipline them sometimes. Sometimes if it is a hard discipline it is very difficult but you do it because greater is your love for your child. You are prepared to put him through harsh discipline at time to prepare him for adulthood.
All of this is linked together and called the love complex. It is developing our mature love. Once we get there the next thing that unfolds is that we begin to have real, profound, tranquil joy in life. That is the consequence. "Count it all joy when we encounter various trials because we know the testing of our faith produces endurance." We have this grounding in doctrine, all these other skills are in place, and the result is contentment, tranquility and happiness.
The two things that we focus on in Revelation is our personal sense of eternal destiny and our occupation with Christ. John really brings that out in this opening section in Revelation 1:4-7 where he is focusing on Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is referred to as "the faithful witness." John 8:18, "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me." In that verse Jesus is indicating His role in this broader spiritual conflict that we are all a part of and what we call the angelic conflict. We look at history in some sense as a trial, an appeal trial that Satan is wanting in order to challenge God's decision to sentence Satan and the fallen angels to the lake of fire. Matthew 25:41. If the lake of fire is already there, why aren't they there? They are already judged and condemned. The inference is that there has been a challenge to that verdict. This gives us an understanding of God's plan and purposes in all of history and why things come to the conclusion they do in the book of Revelation. This focuses us on a couple of key ideas that are present in the titles and statements about Jesus in Revelation 1:5.
The main issue in the angelic conflict, first and foremost, is the integrity of God. The integrity of God includes three aspects of His character. First of all His righteousness, which is the standard of His character. The Greek word DIKAIOSUNE [dikaiosunh] refers to an absolute standard, an absolute character. God is ultimate righteousness. He doesn't meet some eternal standard of righteousness; He is righteousness. Who He is defines the nature of righteousness; that is the standard. Everything has to meet that standard of His own character. The second element in His integrity is His justice. Justice is the application of that standard to His creatures. God who is absolute perfection has to apply that same standard to His creatures. When His creatures disobey Him then God applies the standard of His righteousness to their disobedience and reaches a judgment. The third element in His integrity is His love. Love is what motivates Him so that there s not a conflict between God's righteousness and His love. God's love provided the solution for man's problem. God didn't stop with the condemnation of man but He solved the problem. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as a substitute for us that we might have eternal life. John 3:16 says that God loved us in this way. That he sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. So the love of God provides the solution and this is expressed through the grace of God.
Satan's protest to God at the condemnation of him and his fallen angels was, How can you as a loving God sentence creatures to eternity in the lake of fire? What a horrendous punishment! It is not for five or ten minutes, or even five or ten years, it is forever. So God says there was going to be a little test case, an experiment to demonstrate something. Remember an experiment is not something you do to find out what will happen, it is technically a laboratory procedure that is undertaken to demonstrate a known truth. That is what God is doing in history. He is showing all of His creatures what happens when they sin. We often think of some of our sins as small and insignificant but we don't understand all of the consequences that come about. So God put Adam and the woman in the garden and planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam's was an innocuous sin, but God was demonstrating that even the least little act of disobedience has horrendous consequences. All the wars, famines, and suffering in human history are all the result of the fact that Adam ate a piece of fruit. God is demonstrating what happens in rebellion.
In Satan's rebellion what he was doing was, first of all, challenging the integrity of God, and secondly, he was challenging the sovereignty of God as the creator of the universe to rule the universe according to His own standards, according to His own righteousness. So Satan challenges God saying that He didn't have a right to rule, that he wanted to be like God and wanted to do it his own way. He was saying that he wanted to demonstrate that as a creature he could run the universe just fine on his own. This demonstrates arrogance. In terms of Christian virtue it is a lack of humility. This is why in contrast to Satan the emphasis in the person of Christ is that he demonstrated humility to the point of going to the cross, that He was willing to suffer in obedience to God, He humbled Himself to the point of death, even the death of the cross—Philippians 2:6-10. Secondly, he challenged God's integrity and His right to rule according to that standard. Satan said he had a better standard. So God is demonstrating that standards fails, and Jesus Christ is demonstrating that only the standard of God, the standard of His righteousness, brings success in life. Ultimately that is the standard that is established when Jesus Christ comes back in His righteous rule, which is His rule of iron—Psalm 2:7; Revelation 3. He challenges God's love, saying that this isn't real love to send creatures to the lake of fire. Instead, what he is doing is focusing on one creature's self-centered agenda, that he ought to have his way, as opposed to focusing on all of the damage, all the pain, all the consequences to all the other victims.
The result of all of this is what we call the appeal trial of Satan, that human history is really Satan's appeal and a demonstration to creatures of God's integrity, love, sovereignty and right to rule. As part of this trial, Jesus Christ the eternal second person of the Trinity, enters into human history in hypostatic union. Undiminished deity took on true humanity and became the central witness in this appeal trial. He demonstrates that as a creature—having taken on humanity—cannot live independently of the creator. He demonstrates that He lives in complete and total dependence upon the creator, and he demonstrates all the values, the virtues of the Christian life, and that in the devil's world a person who is perfectly righteous ends up being wrongfully executed. That demonstrates that when we operate apart from the creator everything is going to be turned upside down.
Our Lord's title "faithful witness" is also an allusion to His fulfillment of the Davidic covenant in Psalm 89:37. He is the firstborn from the dead, and that, too, is a title that goes back to Psalm 89. So all of these titles take Old Testament covenant promises and takes them into the person of Christ showing that He is the one who fulfills these Old Testament promises in His person. He is the true heir to the Davidic covenant. In His function as the faithful witness He faithfully demonstrates to us how to live the Christian life. The spiritual life He had wasn't the spiritual life of the Old Testament, which was based on the Mosaic law. It was a spiritual life based on the indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit, and he is modeling that for the church age believer. He is faithful in a number of ways. He is first of all faithful to demonstrate and reveal to us the attributes of God in relation to immutability, dependability and integrity. He is faithful in His function in true humanity during the incarnation. He never once disobeys God, He never once lives on the basis of His own will independently from the Father. He is faithful in His mission to supply salvation, to go to the cross and pay the penalty for our sins. He is faithful in His mission to set the precedent for the church age and to demonstrate how to walk by means of the Holy Spirit. And He is faithful in His teaching.
We have pointed out that these are just some of the titles that we find for Jesus in the New Testament. Here are some others. He is called Jesus Christ, which is not just a personal name, it is a title. He is Jesus the Messiah, 1:1, 2, 5. The faithful witness, 1:5. The firstborn from the dead, 1:5. The ruler of the kings of the earth, 1:5. The Alpha and the Omega, 1:11; 21:6. 22:13. The Son of Man, 1:13; 14:14. The first and the last, 1:17; 2:8; 22:18. The one who lives, 1:18. The one who holds the seven starts, 2:1. The one who walks among the seven golden lampstands, 2:1. The one who has a sharp two-edged sword, 2:12. The Son of God, 2:18. The one who has eyes like a flame of fire, 2:18. The one whose feet are like fine brass, 2:18. He who searches the minds and hearts, 2:23. The Lord, holy and true, 6:10. The Lord who was crucified, 11:8. He who has the seven spirits of God, 3:1. He who is holy and who is true, 3:7. He who has the key of David, 3:7. The Amen, 3:14. The faithful and true witness, 3:14. The beginning of the creation of God, 3:14. The lion from the tribe of Judah, 5:5. The root of David, 5:5; 22:16. Twenty-eight times in Revelation He is called the Lamb. He is the male child, 12:5, 13. The King of the nations, 15:3. The Lord of lords and King of kings, 17:14; 19:16. He is the Word of God, 19:13. The bright morning start, 22:16. All of these are titles for Jesus, he is the focus of this book and the one that we are to be occupied with.
After he has said this John's focus is so much on what Jesus has done he is moved to another and greater expression of devotion to Jesus Christ, and has this statement of devotion in verse 5, "To him that loves us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." "To him who loves us" is a present tense. It is an emphasis on God's ongoing love for us, not just that which is part of salvation but the ongoing love of Christ for the believer after salvation. That is a part of what this book is all about. He is the one who still loves us, no matter what our failures are as a believer, no matter how we have sinned, no matter how we have disappointed Him, no matter what has happened. His love never changes, it doesn't increase, it doesn't diminish, it is always the same. He is the one who continuously loves us.
The second thing we read there is related to it: "He washed us from our sins by His own blood." This is a metaphor for having our sins paid for by Christ's death on the cross. This is the work that he did at the first advent.