Unlocking Revelation (WEEK 1)
Why people don’t study the Book of Revelation?
Why people don’t preach the Book of Revelation:
1. It is too difficult to understand
Legendary preacher RT Kendall said of the Book of Revelation:
An interesting irony has taken place in me since November 1954 (when I first felt called into the Ministry). At that time the Book of Revelation was the one book in the New Testament I understood best (so I thought). Now that I am old (78 in July 2013), it is the book I understand the least!
The famous Baptist preacher of the last century Charles Haddon Spurgeon said of The Book of Revelation:
I do not perceive that John says, “Blessed are they that understand this Book,’ for, surely, they would be very few.
I have been a Christian for over 30 years and a preacher for 25. I have never done a series from this Book. I have taught on the letters to the churches as these seem like the easiest to understand.
As soon as the Book gets into the prophetic revelation I was lost. For many years I would describe myself as a Pan Millennialist. I had no clue what this Book said about the end times but the one thing I could say for certain is that it will all Pan-out in the end.
2. It is seen as being as too controversial
When I shared with colleagues that I was doing a series on the Book of Revelation a frequent response was, “WOW that’s really brave of you.”
What they were referring to was that Revelation is a book which seems to court controversy.
In years gone by the battles and the fall out that has happened as believers have pushed their view points on the merits or otherwise of Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, Amillennialism Pre or Post Tribulation have led people to say that “It is not worth it. It’s all going to Pan-Out in the end. Why cause division over a secondary issue?”
Another reason preachers avoid the Book of Revelation is that the message that God will judge the world and sinners doesn’t preach as well as the God of love revealed in the Gospel.
The truth is that judgement protects everything that damages love.
But judgement is actually an expression of God’s love.
If I have an incurable disease in a limb in my body that will spread to the rest of my body and kill me, then the most merciful thing I can do is chop that limb off.
3. Christian’s Attempts at interpreting Revelation have made us look silly
Christians have been so bold and definitive in their projections about what Revelation says about the end of the world.
According to one website I visited, in my 45 years on this planet I have survived 57 Apocalypse predictions. That’s over 1 a year.
You’d think that all of these failed predictions would invite a more cautious approach to end of the world predictions. End of the World Predictions are in fact speeding up. In the last 10 years alone I have survived 15 end of the worlds!
Comically, you often find that if one prediction fails so many of these people end of the world predictors have another attempt. My favourite end of the world doomsayer is evangelist Harold Camping.
Harold Camping has publicly predicted the end of the world as many as 12 times based his interpretations of biblical numerology.
In 1992, he published a book, ominously titled 1994?, which predicted the end of the world sometime around that year.
Camping’s first big prediction was for the rapture to occur on September 4 or 6, 1994.
The “or” is significant, evidence of his hesitancy, which extended to the punctuation on the title of his book, 1994? .
Perhaps his most high-profile predication was for May 21, 2011, a date that he calculated to be exactly 7,000 years after the Biblical flood. When that date passed without incident, he declared his math to be off and pushed back the end of the world to October 21, 2011.
Some of the ‘absolute statements’ over the years from those that are completely sure exactly when Jesus is returning has led to prophecy and end times in general being laughed at in some circles and so some Pastors just stay clear of it.
One of the things we can learn about End of the World predictions is that it is good business. End of the World Books fly off the shelf.
The book, The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey sold over 28 million copies had sold by 1990.
The Left Behind series was another Apocalyptic book about the Rapture. It sold over 80 million copies. In 2014 it was made into a movie staring Nicolas Cage. It is probably the worst movie ever made! Even worse than the earlier version of the film staring none other than Kirk Cameron.
My favourite end of the world omen is the Blood Moon predictions.
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”
Revelation 6:12 KJV
I typed in “Blood Moon” into Google and I got 17,200,000 results.
In 1504, famed explorer Christopher Columbus leveraged the concerns that Jamaican natives had over the moon’s crimson appearance. During his fourth and final trip to the New World, Columbus and his crew were thwarted by an epidemic of shipworms. The creatures had munched their way through the hull of his two ships, and the crew was forced to abandon their fleet.
The islanders welcomed Columbus and his crew, offering to feed them. Six months later, however, their hospitality had worn thin. Columbus—armed with an almanac that predicted an upcoming lunar eclipse—met with the local chief, telling him that the Christian god was angry over the native’s resentment to Columbus and his crew. He said that a bleeding moon would appear in the sky, a sure sign of God’s anger. When the eclipse came to pass, the islanders were so terrified they brought provisions to Columbus, begging for forgiveness. The explorer said the natives were pardoned just as the eclipse ended and the moon’s brightness returned.
Apparently we just missed a blood moon on July 27, 2018. It was the the longest of the century.
It coincided with the 70th year of Israel as a nation. It also just so happens to happen the very night Mars will be at its closest to proximity to Earth in 15 years and the second closest ever approach to the Earth in 60,000 years.
Many are claiming this is it.
Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli calculated that the occurrence of lunar tetrads varies over centuries. Some have several lunar tetrads, while others do not have any. For example, the years between 1582 and 1908 did not have any tetrads, whereas the next 250 years—from 1909 to 2156—will have 17 tetrads.
The current century—2001 to 2100—will have eight tetrads. The first tetrad of the 21st century took place in 2003-2004, the second was in 2014–2015, and the next will be in 2032–2033, with the following eclipses.
Why do we need to look at the Book of Revelation?
1. It’s a part of the the Bible
It is one of the 66 books that comprise our Bible.
Did you know that there were many other sacred writings by Jewish and Christian believers over the ages that are anointed and wonderful for informing us about God.
The intertestamental 14 books of the Apocrypha are an example of these:
• 1 Esdras (Vulgate 3 Esdras)
• 2 Esdras (Vulgate 4 Esdras)
• Judith (“Judeth” in Geneva)
• Rest of Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4 – 16:24)
• Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach)
• Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremy (“Jeremiah” in Geneva) (all part of Vulgate Baruch)
• Song of the Three Children (Vulgate Daniel 3:24–90)
• Story of Susanna (Vulgate Daniel 13)
• The Idol Bel and the Dragon (Vulgate Daniel 14)
• Prayer of Manasses (Daniel)
• 1 Maccabees
• 2 Maccabees
The Story of Susanna
Story of Susanna is the story of the wife of a wealthy merchant. Susanna ends up being falsely accused of adultery by two men who actually had wonted her physically but she had resisted them.
Susanna ends up being put on trail and sentenced to death as a result of her false accusers. Just before she is to be stoned to death the Prophet Daniel arrives on the scene. Daniel proves that Susanna’s accusers are actually the perpetrators. AS a result these men are put to death.
The Story of Susanna is a book on empowering women. It speaks to us of exploring all sides of issues to determine truth. It speaks of being careful of crowd mentality.
All good stuff and helpful. It could be even said to be in line with Biblical revelation… But whilst this is true it is not part of the Biblical cannon.
The Book of Revelation is canon and it is there not in there by accident. God intended us to be blessed by its inclusion.
Paul in 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 says:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
In fact Revelation is the only Book of the Bible that guarantees a blessing to those who read it:
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3) NASB
2. Kingdom People are Eschatological People
Eschatology is a theological term which is a combination of two Greek words eschatos (“last things”) and logy (“The study of”), which give us the meaning “the study of last things”.
Over the last couple of years I am hoping that you will have realized that you are Kingdom people. Our focus is on King Jesus and seeing the influence of His Kingdom in our lives and in the world around us.
Whilst the Lordship of Jesus (His Kingship) has been once and for all times settled His Kingdom is yet to be fully established on the earth. There is a future realization of the Kingdom still to be played out. One aspect of this realization is the Second Coming of Christ.
So Kingdom people are eschatological in our focus.
Another way that we are eschatological people is that as Kingdom people we life from the future to where we are now, as opposed to living from the present.
Our reference point for reality and what the earth should be like is heaven. The Christian prayer is “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Heaven is a picture of what earth looks like. But Heaven is a future reality. Therefore Christians live life back to front.
If this is the case then eschatological scriptures need to inform our perspective. And the Book of Revelation is an Eschatological book as we are going to see.
3. The Book of Revelation informs prophetic operation
Revelation is a genre of Biblical literature which is prophetic. It shows how the Prophetic looks like in the New Testament.
One of the hallmarks of our Church is that New Life is a prophetic Church. We have been a pioneer in the rekindling of the prophetic in our day, both at an individual level and also nationally and internationally.
Fundamental to the role of being a Prophetic Church is a good apprehension of the prophetic Books of the Bible. Part of stewarding the prophetic is a correct handling of prophetic scripture. If we are faithful with what God has given us He adds to us.
4. Understanding the Book of Revelation will cause you to understand more of the Bible
It is the most Biblical book of the Bible. There are 348 clear OT references in the Book of Revelation. “It is filled with references to events and characters of the Old Testament, and a great deal of its phraseology is taken directly from the Old Testament books.” You will learn how the great themes that resinate through the Bible.
5. Revelation will give you perspective on life this side of the Second Coming
The Book deals with really big issues head on: Trials, temptations, persecution, death and defeat. It locates God right slap bang in the middle of it, and how He is working out His purposes, growing, shaping and proving us and bringing about His Kingdom.
Revelation will in this sense prepare you for the Christian life.
Before Jesus went to the Cross He set the coming scene for His disciples about what was to come. He tells them that they are in the midst of battle and this Battle is one of sovereignties.
Whilst Jesus is the King of Kings who is the rightful ruler of the World we are in the midst of the world acknowledging and submitting to His sovereignty.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Revelation shows us why life is sometimes so hard.
Revelation shows us that God is using these things to grow us.
Revelation shows us that some of the wrestle is because of this cosmic battle. Things are being displaced and they don’t like it and they react.
6. Revelation reveals Jesus
The very first three words of the Book of Revelation tell us the purpose of the Book:
“The revelation from Jesus Christ”
ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
The Book of Revelation is about Jesus Christ.
The Book of Revelation is about who Jesus Christ is.
The Book of Revelation is about what Jesus Christ has done.
The Book of Revelation is about what Jesus Christ is doing.
The Book of Revelation is about who we, the Church are in Jesus Christ
The Book of Revelation is about Jesus’ victory
You are going hear me next week tell you why I think The Book of Revelation was written in the time of the Roman Emperor Nero.
Nero ruled Rome between AD 54 and 68. He was the 6th Caesar and the last in the Julio-Claudia line.
Over the 100 years or so Roman Emperors had been around they had a difficult time staying in power.
There was always someone seeking to take the throne from you or split your Kingdom in two.
Emperors stayed ruling by using one of two main strategies: Wowing the populous with incredible feats of construction aimed at making the population think you were a demigod because only a demigod would be able to create edifices so fantastic.
The second way emperors stayed in power was to scare the bejesus out of people by being unspeakably cruel.
Of the two ways emperors stayed in power Nero fell into the latter category. He was psychopathically cruel.
He took the throne at the young age of 14. Not long after becoming emperor he became paranoid that his mother was plotting against him. Instead of having a powerful conversation he had her cruelly murdered.
Then Nero killed his first wife Ocatvia because he didn’t like her.
When Nero took power he landed right in the middle of a power battle. in an effort to win people over he burned down one third of the city. When the plan back-fired he pinned the blame on Christians.
At the time, Christians were a tiny, disliked minority in Rome. Under orders from Nero, Christians were rounded up and subjected to horrific acts of torture before being brutally murdered. They were the perfect scapegoat.
There are stories that Nero ordered Christians dipped in oil, hung from poles, and set ablaze in his garden. It was said Nero would take walks through the garden at night to admire the burning bodies.
He condemned some to be dressed in animal skin and torn apart by dogs. It is also said that he had captured Christians dipped in oil and set on fire in his garden at night as a source of light.
In the middle of Rome stands an Egyptian Obelisk from Heliopolis. It was the only one that survived the destruction of Rome when Rome fell.
In 37 AD, Emperor Caligula transported it to Rome, and erected it in the centre of the city which he ruled.
Originally, inscribed on it were the words “Augustus Divinus” (Augustus Divine) and then the names of subsequent Cesars:
- Tiberius Divinus (AD 14 -37)
- Caligula Divinus (AD 37 – 41)
- Claudius Divinus (AD 41 – 54)
- Nero Divinus (AD 54 – 68)
- One writer says about this Obelisk:
… Nero and his henchmen have long since passed from the scene to their eternal reward, but the Obelisk still stands, now in the centre of the great square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Chiseled on its base are the words, taken from the overcoming martyrs’ hymn of triumph:
-which is, being interpreted:
Christ is conquering;
Christ is reigning;
Christ rules over all.”
7. Revelation is a Book of Worship
The book of Revelation teaches more about worship than any other New Testament book. John is taken to heaven in the Book and witnesses scenes of worship from around God’s throne:
In fact John shows us that life lived out in true worship is where Jesus is placed at the very centre of our lives, regardless of what is going on.
Paul writing to the Colossians tells us that:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Jesus Christ is the centre of life and life only makes sense when He is at the centre.
Other Sermons In This Series
August 13, 2018