“The Time is Near”
The End Times.
1 “And at that Time
shall Michael Stand Up,
the Great Prince
for the Children of your People:
there Will be a Time of Trouble,
such as never was
since there was a Nation
even to that same Time:
at that Time your People
Will be Delivered,
every one that shall be found
written in the book.
2 “And many of them
that sleep in the dust of the Earth
some to Everlasting Life,
some to shame
and Everlasting Contempt.
3 “And they that Be Wise
as the Brightness of the Firmament;
they that Turn many to Righteousness
as the Stars Forever and Ever.
4 “But you, O Daniel,
Shut Up The Words,
Seal the Book,
even to The Time of the End:
many Will run to and fro,
knowledge will be increased.
5 “Then I Daniel looked, and, behold,
there stood other two,
on this side of the bank of the river,
and the other
on that side of the bank of the river.
6 “And one said to the man clothed in linen,
which was on the waters of the river,
How long will it be
to the end of these Wonders?
7 “And I heard the man clothed in linen,
which was on the waters of the river,
when he held up his right hand
and his left hand to heaven,
Swore by Him that Lives Forever
that it Will be
for a Time, Times, and an Half;
and when He Will Have Accomplished
to Scatter the power of the Holy People,
all these things Will be Finished.
8 “And I heard, but I understood not:
then said I, O my Lord,
what Will Be the End of these things?
9 “And he said, Go your way, Daniel:
for the Words are Closed Up
and Sealed till The Time of The End.
10 “Many Will Be Purified,
and Made White,
but the wicked will do wickedly:
none of the wicked will understand;
but the Wise Will Understand.
11 “And from The Time
that the Daily Sacrifice
Will be Taken Away,
that Makes Desolate Set Up,
there Will be
a Thousand Two Hundred and Ninety Days.
12 “Blessed is he that waits,
to the Thousand Three Hundred
and Five and Thirty Days.
13 “But go you your way
till the End Be:
for you will rest,
stand in your lot
of the Days.”
No book of the Bible
–both positively and negatively–
The Book of Revelation.
From frightening depictions
of the white horse and its Rider
Administering Divine Wrath
upon the Nations of the Earth,
to the image of a multi-headed Dragon
who persecutes the Lord’s churches,
to an evil beast
who wages war upon the saints,
to the seductress
who dwells in the great city of man
who has prostituted herself
with the merchants of the world,
to John’s description of Jesus
in His Post-Ascension Glory,
The Book of Revelation
like no other book of the Bible.
Some find these scenes frightening.
Some find them confusing.
Sadly, some avoid the book altogether.
Far too many have seen this book
as a springboard to fanciful
and wild speculation.
Despite such a dubious reputation,
Revelation is a Comforting
and there is much here
for the people of God,
especially in a time of uncertainty
such as our own.
We begin a new series
on the Book of Revelation.
When I begin to preach
through a book of the Bible,
I like to jump right in and get started.
But that’s not possible
with a book like Revelation.
There is so much confusion
about the way in which this book
is to be interpreted
that in order to avoid
adding to that confusion,
we will spend a fair bit of time
on background material
before we tackle
the first three verses of the book,
known as “The Prologue.”
Even John Calvin,
the father of the modern science
of biblical studies,
is often quoted as saying
did not write a commentary on Revelation
because he did not think
he understood Revelation well enough
to comment in detail.
Whether Calvin actually said this or not,
it is a shame that more commentators
did not take this advice!
That being said,
this is one book of the Bible
where recent studies in first century literature
can give us a great deal of help
in understanding the nature of this book
and the meaning of the symbols found throughout.
We really do know a great deal more
about Apocalyptic Literature now
than we did even thirty years ago.
This explains why it is
that so many outstanding commentaries
and studies on Revelation
have been published of late.
Whereas twenty years ago,
Reformed pastors had but one
trustworthy commentary on Revelation
there are now at least five major commentaries
or studies ranging from basic guides
for the first time reader,
to exhaustive studies
numbering a thousand pages or more.
It is my prayer that whatever uncertainty
and apprehension you may have
about studying this book
will give way to a confident sense of understanding.
Revelation is a Book
about Jesus Christ’s Victory over Satan
and all his ( Satan’s ) allies,
as John describes
The Redemptive Drama on Earth
from a Heavenly Perspective.
1 According to the best internal and external evidence,
The Book of Revelation
was written by John, the Apostle
and the author of our Gospel and three Epistles,
during his captivity on the Island of Patmos
some time in the mid-nineties of the first century.
1 Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, 7.
2 Revelation is the last book to be written
included in the canon of the New Testament.
2 A comprehensive discussion of this
can be found in; Beale, The Book of Revelation, 4-36.
In many ways,
Revelation is the most practical book
of the entire New Testament
since it is specifically written to Christians
who live in the post-apostolic age.
This means that the symbols and visions we find here
are meant for us.
Therefore, we must make every effort to interpret them correctly
and apply them to our present context.
When we worked our way through the Book of Exodus
(in a previous series)
and studied Israel’s journey through the wilderness,
it was easy to think,
“well, this is interesting,
but how does it impact my life?”
But when John
uses symbols throughout the Book of Revelation
drawn directly from the Exodus account,
he now applies them directly to Christ’s church.
As members of that church,
we are the people Wandering through the Wilderness,
Sustained by The Living Bread from Heaven,
Fully Dependent upon the Living Water
to Quench our thirst,
while always living under the constant threat of attack
from God’s enemies.
Nevertheless, we have the certain knowledge that
God Will Fulfill
All of His Covenant Promises
Made to His People.
Nothing that Satan can do will ever stay God’s Mighty Hand.
As we will soon see,
the symbols and images in Revelation describe a conflict
in which God Calls us to participate as combatants.
This is why we must attempt to understand these symbols correctly,
thereby lifting the veil of mystery
which continues to shroud this great book.
The Apocalypse of John, as it is known,
contains a combination of literary forms.
First, Revelation is a letter (an epistle), written by John
and sent to the seven churches
scattered throughout Asia Minor and
which are mentioned by name in chapters 2-3.
But this book is certainly not an ordinary letter!
Even though Revelation takes the literary form of an epistle,
the content of this letter is what is known as “apocalyptic,”
a literary genre utilizing visions and highly symbolic language
to depict the cosmic struggle between God and Satan.3
3 See the discussions of this in: Bauckham,
The Climax of Prophecy and Beale,
The Book of Revelation, 50-69.
In apocalyptic literature the symbols
are never intended to be taken literally
that far too many “interpreters” of this book have made.
Instead, they ( the symbols ) are to be interpreted
through the lens of both the Old Testament
and John’s own age
(the later years of the first century)
and historical situation
(the increasing persecution of the church
in Asia Minor).
John writes against the backdrop of the Roman empire
with its imperial cult (emperor worship),
and with Rome’s massive military
and political influence upon all aspects of life
always lurking in the background.
The evil visage of the emperor Nero
is inescapable in the Book of Revelation.
Nero, who lived in the 60’s of the first century,
was at first ambivalent towards Christianity,
but later unleashed a savage attack upon the church,
burning Christians as human torches in his private garden,
feeding them to lions and wild beasts in the Coliseum,
as well as putting to death both Paul and Peter.
For John, Nero Caesar is evil incarnate,
the historical reference point
for all of those enemies of Christ
who come after him.
But the primary key
to interpreting the symbols in Revelation correctly
is the Old Testament.
The Book of Revelation is very much
like the prophecies of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah,
which also make use of similar apocalyptic symbols.
Most of those who heard the Book of Revelation
when it was read in the churches
to whom it was addressed,
were probably able to
immediately connect the symbols and images
John uses to those Old Testament passages
from which they are drawn.
But since we are two thousand years removed
from the original context,
and not Jews steeped in the Torah
and Jewish apocalyptic writings,
we will have to do some work
to keep such a background in mind.
This means that in many ways
The Book of Revelation
is a Divinely-Inspired Commentary
on those Old Testament themes
which were not completely fulfilled
by the first Advent of Jesus Christ.
To interpret this book correctly, then,
we will look to the Old Testament
to find the meaning of the symbols used by John.
It is John who explains to us
what the Old Testament Prophets meant
in the Greater Light of the Coming of Jesus Christ
and the Messianic Age.
Therefore, as we try and interpret these symbols
drawn from the Old Testament,
let us not make the mistake
of seeing the conflict they depict
as a struggle between good and evil
as though these were two equal poles
fighting for supremacy.
Satan struggles against the Kingdom of God
throughout the Book of Revelation
as an already defeated foe
(cf. Colossians 2;13-15).
The final outcome is never in doubt.
In fact, since Revelation was written
after the First Coming of Christ
The Inauguration of His Messianic Kingdom,
we must understand that John’s vision
Satan’s head was already crushed
by Christ at Calvary
Satan’s final defeat
is Rendered Certain
by Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead.
But make no mistake about it,
the images of conflict which are depicted
through the lens of Apocalyptic Symbols and Images
are that of a real conflict
in which the people of God will suffer greatly
at the hands of the devil.
Having been defeated by Christ’s cross
and empty tomb,
Satan is portrayed as a wounded animal,
certain to die,
but utterly vicious and irrational in his anger
before The End finally comes.
Satan wages war upon the saints, but he cannot defeat them.
When he kills them, they come to Life and Reign with Christ.
Indeed, this is a conflict in which the final outcome is never,
never, in doubt.
If you take nothing else from this series of sermons,
take this with you:
God Wins Decisively
in the End !
The Book of Revelation is not only
a letter filled with Apocalyptic Visions,
it also contains Predictive Prophecy
in which certain future events are foretold
well in advance.
Yet, while there are some elements of Predictive Prophecy
in this great book,
it is wrong to look at Revelation
as though it were simply
“history before it is written,”
as some have described it.
To do this is to confuse John with Nostradamus.
John is not writing this letter to tell us
about the minute details of future events.
John is writing to tell us about
Ultimate Triumph over sin and Death
as the final chapters of Redemptive History
Draw to a Close.
Therefore, we should view
the Prophetic elements of Revelation
in service of Redemptive History,
and not just as sensational information
given to titillate the curious.
There are four major “approaches”
to “interpreting” the Book of Revelation.4
4 These are summarized in Beale,
The Book of Revelation, 44-49.
The one with which most of
you are familiar is
the futurist view,
which holds that most of what is written
here remains yet to be fulfilled in the days
immediately before our Lord’s return.
This explains why it is that people who hold this view
(like Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye)
spend so much of their time and energy
trying to tie the symbols in the Book of Revelation
to current events.
As many of you know, many evangelical churches
and ministries devote themselves to “explaining” every tragedy
and political crisis directly from the pages of Revelation.
But if you are expecting me to do the same
you’ll be very disappointed.
I am not going to “identify” the Antichrist,
“predict the date” of our Lord’s return,
or explain the roles of America
and Israel in Biblical Prophecy.
I will be talking about what John talks about
= Jesus Christ’s Certain Victory
over all of His enemies.
which is gaining acceptance among Reformed Christians
This “view” holds that Revelation was written
before the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70
and that much of what we find in the Book of Revelation
was fulfilled when the Roman army
sacked Jerusalem in A. D. 70,
destroying the Temple and dispersing surviving Jews
throughout the Mediterranean world.
Preterists make the opposite error as do the futurists.
Instead of treating this book as though
it deals with future events,
preterists treat Revelation as though it is largely historical
and that most everything written here
has already taken place,
with the possible exception of Christ’s Second Coming
and The Resurrection,
a view taken by so-called partial preterists
like R. C. Sproul and Ken Gentry.5
5 See R. C. Sproul,
The Last Days According to Jesus (Baker);
Ken Gentry, The Beast of Revelation (ICE).
This is very problematic because it reduces Revelation
to a mere historical record,
robbing the book of its Apocalyptic Character
eliminating John’s stress upon Christ’s Final
and Eschatological ( End of Time ) Victory
He Returns in Judgment
to Raise the Dead
Make All Things New
A third “view” is one which has been widely held
by historic Protestants and is known as historicism.
Though few still hold it today,
this view sees the book of Revelation
as a kind of historical map
which plots the history of Christ’s church
from the Apostolic Age unto the time of the Reformation.
Proponents of this view usually identify the Harlot of Babylon
in Revelation 18 with the papacy and the Roman church,
a view which has been elevated to confessional status
by the Westminster Confession.
Although the papacy may indeed
be a part of the anti-Christian opposition
to the preaching of the Gospel,
this view does not comport well
with the nature of apocalyptic literature,
which depicts not specific events
general patterns of a re-occurring conflict
between Christ and Satan
in a Final Eschatological Battle.
A fourth view is called idealism,
a modified form of which
I will be presenting
throughout this series.
This view emphasizes the apocalyptic nature
of the book and understands the various visions
throughout Revelation as depictions of the struggle
which takes place during the entire Period of Time
between the First and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Each Vision is describing the same period of time
but from a different perspective or vantage point,
each Vision with a different theological theme or emphasis.
As Dennis Johnson
from Westminster Seminary California puts it,
each of these visions is like looking at the same scene
from a different camera angle.6
6 See Johnson,
The Triumph of the Lamb.
This means that we must not see Revelation
as depicting strictly future or historical events.
Nor does Revelation exhaustively map out
the history of the church age.
Instead, we must see the visions
and symbols in them
as pictures of the on-going struggle
Christ and Satan and his agents,
the Beast and the Dragon,
a struggle which Christ
Will Inevitably Win
on behalf of His People.
This is the way
Apocalyptic Literature works.