Cover image of Revelation: The End -- and a New Beginning

Revelation: The End -- and a New Beginning

What is it that makes us want to read the last chapter of a book first? For some reason, many people begin reading the Bible with the book of Revelation; but this is a serious mistake. This book plunges you into a confusing array of dragons and trumpets and vials and seals, with many amazing sights and sounds and visions. A person starting here might well throw the whole Bible away in frustration, unable to make head nor tail of it.It is very significant that the book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. And if you have read the rest of the Bible before you come to Revelation, you will be much better equipped to understand the climax of the entire revelation of God to his people.Nevertheless, the reason many have difficulty in understanding this book lies not only in interpreting the symbols, but also in failing to take note of the suggestions that are given in the first eight verses. If you read these verses carefully and thoughtfully, you will have a tremendous key to this book. They are like certain introductory remarks often found on the title page of a book, and if you read them that way, you will be greatly helped. The title of the book is the first line:The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him.. (Revelation 1:1a RSV)Notice that it is not "the revelations," plural. The book is all about Jesus Christ, and it is his self-revelation: it was given to him by God the Father to reveal to his servants. The purpose of it is in the next line:...to show to his servants what must soon take place... (Revelation 1:1b RSV)

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When Men become Beasts (Revelation 13:1-18)

The thirteenth chapter of Revelation brings before us the most famous number in the world -- 666. If you get that number on your license plate or on your credit card it sends shivers of fear down your spine! I learned this morning that a couple from this congregation had that as their house number. They were so disturbed they asked the city to change the number, which they did. Six hundred sixty six has become a sinister number in the eyes of many. Several movies have been based upon the powerful mystery connected with it. In this passage we will learn the secret of that strange number and of the beasts that are identified with it.

14 Sep 2018

Rank #1

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The Dragon Lady (Revelation 17:1 - 19:5)

One of the frequent questions asked about the end times is: "Will the church go through the great tribulation?" I am not going to deal at length with that question now, but we have seen in many passages of Scripture, and especially in the seven letters to the churches of Revelation, several reasons to say, "No, the true church of Jesus Christ will not go through the great tribulation." Those who truly know the Lord and who are alive when this period comes, will be caught up to be with him before the tribulation begins.

11 Sep 2018

Rank #2

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To Jew And Gentile (Revelation 7:1-17)

Everyone knows that the tiny nation of Israel, with a population of less than four million people, nevertheless receives enormous attention in the world's media, far beyond what its size would warrant. The only explanation for that extraordinary fact is that it indicates the central place that Israel has in the program of God. God will not let the world forget Israel! In the Old Testament, of course, Israel is always center stage. Everything centers around this nation. God has recorded the history of the world only as it relates to Israel, the nation that came from the loins of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even when you come to the Gospels in the New Testament, Israel is still the focus of attention. Jesus insisted that "salvation is of the Jews," (John 4:22 KJV). He corrected people when they misunderstood that principle. He sent his twelve disciples out and told them, "Go not to the Gentiles, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," (Matthew 10:6, 15:24 KJV). Even in the epistles of the New Testament, primarily written to the church, nevertheless the Apostle Paul in his great masterpiece, the letter to the Romans, devotes three chapters to Israel. He points out in Chapter 9 how God has dealt with them in the past, in Chapter 10 he states the present condition of Israel, existing in unbelief among the nations of the world, and in Chapter 11 he clearly foretells the time when God will restore Israel again to prominence among the nations of earth. God has a great future yet for the Israelis.

20 Sep 2018

Rank #3

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Supreme Headquarters (Revelation 4:1-11)

Chapter four of the book of Revelation represents a dramatic change. We move now to the third division of the book. In 1:19, we learned from the Lord himself the proper divisions of the book. There John the Apostle heard the Lord say to him, "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later (or after this)." It is very important to observe these three divisions because they will guide us through this difficult and sometimes hard to understand book. First, John was told to "write what you have seen." That covers the vision of chapter one. What John the Apostle saw was the Lord himself walking in the midst of his churches. Then he was told to write "what is now." That occupies chapters two and three, i.e., the letters to the seven churches which is a sweeping prophecy of the present age of the church. Then he was told "write what will take place after this." It is to that division we come in chapter four, the beginning of what will take place after the church age.

23 Sep 2018

Rank #4

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The Rider on the White Horse (Revelation 19:6-21)

Chapter 19 of Revelation brings us to the climax of this great book -- the Second Coming of Jesus, the glorious appearing of our Lord. It is fitting that we should consider this on Palm Sunday, when we celebrate the Lord's so-called Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. He would not have called it a triumphal entry for he wept as he came down the mountainside. But this Second Coming described in the book of Revelation is the true Triumphal Entry. Last week we ended our study in the midst of a great Hallelujah Chorus in heaven. I mentioned at the time that this is the first appearance of the word "Hallelujah" in Revelation. But even more remarkably, this is the first appearance of the word "Hallelujah" in the whole New Testament! There are many Hallelujahs in the Psalms, and indeed in much of the Old Testament, but it is rather striking that there is no mention of anyone in the New Testament singing "Hallelujah" until this remarkable scene in Revelation 19. Here, at last, heaven breaks into praise and rejoicing over the judgment of Mystery Babylon the Great, the harlot church which claimed to be the queen, the true wife of the Lamb of God. She is destroyed by God himself just before the appearance of Christ. Now this great chorus comes to a crescendo to announce the true bride of Christ.

10 Sep 2018

Rank #5

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Four Terrible Horsemen (Revelation 6:1-17)

The sixth chapter of Revelation brings us to the beginning of the judgments of the wrath of God. It is not an easy passage to preach on, but it is part of the content of blessing promised to those who read and keep the prophecies of this book (1:3). I grew up on the Great Plains of Montana, and during the summer months we often experienced sudden thunderstorms. Often before the storm there would be strange calm, a sense of foreboding in the air. One could almost feel the violent storm that was about to break. This is what we experience frequently in today's world. There is a keen sense of an approaching crisis in the affairs of earth. Many secular writers of our day reflect this. To change the metaphor, it is as if we are floating down the stream of time and we sense that a great cataract is thundering ahead and we are about to plunge over the abyss.

21 Sep 2018

Rank #6

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The Last Warning (Revelation 11:1-19)

Recently I enjoyed seeing the stage production of Les Miserables in San Francisco. I had read Victor Hugo's novel in a somewhat torturous experience of French when I was in college, but I did not remember anything but the main plot. The most memorable thing I learned was that the French do not care what you do as long as you pronounce it properly! But when I saw the play it all came to life. The characters took on real flesh and blood. We were transported back to the stirring days following the French Revolution as the vivid staging of the play recaptured many colorful scenes from that novel. You may experience something of the same as we come to Revelation 11. Amidst the terrible judgments that are being poured out, the seals that are being opened, the trumpets that are blasting, we now turn to a more intimate scene. We zoom in, as it were, on certain personalities and characters on the stage of the last days which appear in flesh and blood. We learn more about how the program of God is going to be advanced and through whom it will be carried out.

16 Sep 2018

Rank #7

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The Great Breakthrough (Revelation 5:1-14)

In Chapter 4 of Revelation, John the Apostle was caught up into the presence of God in heaven. There he saw the throne of God and the court of heaven. Though the scene in Chapter 5 is still in heaven, the theme changes from the worship of the Creator to the worship of the Redeemer. Both of these themes are often reflected in Christian hymns. One of my favorites praises God for his creative wisdom:

22 Sep 2018

Rank #8

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Earth's Last Trial (Revelation 15:1 - 16:21)

The book of Revelation surveys God's solution to the crisis of history; how he will bring about the long promised world of peace and blessing. After centuries of patient waiting and putting up with might-is-right arrogance, hate, greed and the bloodshed that has characterized our earth so long, God says there comes a time when he will call a halt to the whole rotten business! Eugene Peterson, with his gift of eloquence, has put it this way:

12 Sep 2018

Rank #9

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The Time of the of Harvest (Revelation 14:1-20)

John Wesley once said, "Give me a hundred men who love nothing but God and hate nothing but sin, and I will shake the whole world for Christ." I think Wesley probably underestimated, because in the 14th chapter of the book of Revelation, to which we come this morning, we read that Jesus chose not just 12, not even 100, but 144,000 men, and with that number he would to shake the world in the closing days of this age. In Chapter 7 we saw these 144,000 were chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, 12,000 from each tribe. In Chapter 14 they reappear, and we will see their ministry described:

13 Sep 2018

Rank #10