Unlocking Revelation (Week 6)
We have been learning about the historical reality that sat behind the Book of Revelation and how the message of the Apostle John received from Jesus makes sense when you understand this backdrop in which it is written.
Over the next few weeks we are going to see that its main focus is the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
The Key Function of Prophets in the OT
We mostly equate prophecy with predicting (foretelling or forth-telling) and knowing (describing the inner reality of someone).
Whilst these are aspects of the function of the Gift of Prophecy they were not the primary purpose and function of the office of the prophet.
The Book of Revelation is the outworking of the office of the Prophet. When we understand that The Book of Revelation is a prophetic piece of literature from the office of a prophet it helps us to understand what is in its pages.
It is also why the Book of Revelation is not so much a predictive book, but rather a legal case against Israel.
In John’s day would have understood prophets to be God’s Covenant guardians; They were God’s legal team. Attorneys serve one one of two sides of the bar: As either a prosecutor or as the defence.
Old Testament Prophets were principally God’s prosecuting attorneys. Their role was to bring “Covenant Lawsuits” against Israel and also the world.
OT prophets were not “prediction,” orientated but rather “evaluation” focused. They judged Israel’s ethical response to their Covenant.
God is a Covenant God
God has purposed to relate to us through Covenant.
Whilst most people know of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the Bible in fact describes five Covenants which God makes with people.
Why would God want to make a covenant between himself and humanity? Because God is not just wanting to relate to us:
- He wants a committed relationship.
- Covenant engenders a deep level of relationship
- He wants us to know what to expect from Him in that relationship.
- Covenant creates safety
The whole of the Christian life (our relationship with God, forgiveness of sins, the blessing of New Life, the Kingdom our role of disciples, eternal life) are packaged within the confines of the New Covenant.
On the Cross a New Covenant was established:
Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
A covenant is a chosen, binding relationship in which two parties made promises to each other:
- The rules of the Covenant
- Blessings: The commitment
- Curses: The consequences for failure to uphold the covenant
- The ratification
- Signing of the Covenant
- Shedding of blood
- The rules of the Covenant
- Grant – One party is strong the other week. No obligation on the weaker party.
- Kinship – Two equal parties. Very few rules
- Vassal – One party strong the other week – Big consequences on the weaker party if they break the rules
The Old Covenant
We know that Israel were God’s people by covenant.
What we often miss because we are not familiar with the different types of covenant in ancient times was that when Israel came out of Egypt, God offered them a Grant Covenant.
The Israelites reach the foot of Mount Sinai led by the cloud of God’s presence. He has fought for them… He has provided for them… He has led them… He is going to bless them.
In Exodus 19:3-6
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
God offers a Grant Covenant:
- Divine protection
- Divine privilege of being a nation of priests (Everyone would have direct access to Him)
8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.
Then God tells them to get ready for the marriage ceremony
9 The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. 13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”
It is all going great up to this point, but something goes wrong…
Fast forward to 18-19
18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
At this point something happens in the storey that Deuteronomy 5:23-27
gives us an insight into…
23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leaders of your tribes and your elders came to me. 24 And you said, “The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a person can live even if God speaks with them. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. 26 For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”
Israel gets scared… They tell Moses we don’t want to meet God face to face. You do it.
What are they doing? They are rejecting the offer of being an equal party to God and they ask for a downgraded covenant.
God adjusts to their requests and summons Moses up the mountain and God institutes a Kinship Covenant.
This is what is ratified in the giving of the 10 Commandments.
The trouble is that Israel is now required to bring something to the party. They are given the rules of the Covenant – God gives them just 10 – the 10 Commandments!
The Kinship Covenant rules stipulated that in the event there was a breach in the agreement the Diety they called on to ratify the agreement would have to punish them. Guess who has to punish them? God. And this drastically changes how God relates to them before and after the signing of the Covenant.
Over the course of 40 years Israel does such a bad job at their end of upholding the 10 Commandments that they have their covenant type with God downgraded even further to a vassal covenant.
In ancient times if two Kings were in a Kinship convent together but one of the kings was a terrible covenant partner, when the king died the covenant partner had the right to make a new covenant with his successor. So when Moses dies and Joshua takes over, God downgrades the Kinship Covenant to a Vassal Covenant.
Remember a Kinship Covenant is between two equal parties and a Vassal Covenant is between a Greater and a Lesser party.
Whilst there are 10 requirements for Israel at Sinai in the Kinship Covenant, when God downgrades the Covenant to a Vassal Covenant in Deuteronomy 1 Israel are now required to meet 613 rules and stipulations.
Within Covenant version 1.3 Israel are told if she obeys God, she will be blessed in every area of life (Lev. 26:1-13; Deut. 28:1-14)
Summary of blessings:
- Exaltation (being lifted up)
- Health Reproductiveness (in every area of your life)
- God’s favour
The blessings are intricately connected to the biggest blessing of them all Presence of God in the midst of Israel. God’s residence in their Temple resulted in the blessings of their lands.
A Vassal Covenant contained within it consequences for the failure of the vassal in upholding the covenant to their Suzerain (Controlling Partner).
Israel’s consequences for breaking their covenant requirements were spelled out in horrifying detail (Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 28:15-68).
Summary of curses:
- Inability to reproduce (in any area of your life)
- Mental and physical sickness
- Family breakdowns
- God’s disfavour
No Presence, no Blessing. No Temple, no Presence.
To be without the Presence was to be in Exile to God. In Jesus’ day, even when Israel was back in their Promised land, even when they had access to the Temple, they considered themselves still in exile from God.
God’s Graded Punishment Consequences
When Israel failed to uphold the Covenant they invoked a punishment on themselves. Depending on the transgression the exacting punishment they were due looked different.
Crime type 1. Theft, Rebellion and Oppression
I want to highlight a few of the outlined sins and their consequences in the Old Covenant as these relate to what plays out in Revelation.
“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”
Punishment: If you stole an ox or sheep you were required to pay the owner either 5 or 4 times back the value.
Symbolism of ox and sheep
Ox and sheep were symbolic animals to Israel. Much like The Bald Eagle in America is referred as a symbol of Americanism itself. To the Jew the ox and sheep were animals which symbolised humanity in the sacrificial system. e.g. Lev. 22:27, with Lev. 12.
- The ox primarily represented the office-bearer in Israel ie. The king or a priest
- The sheep represented the ordinary citizen and the poor
A fourfold restitution was required for the crime of oppressing the poor, and fivefold restitution for rebellion against authority.
Crime type 2. Adultery/Harlotry
“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbour—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.
20 “But if this charge [fornication] is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
Book of Revelation – The Court case brought against Israel
The Book of Revelation is a Covenant Lawsuit brought by God against Israel for her crimes against the covenant.
A. Israel’s Prosecutor
John is the prosecutor, but he is not alone. In the courts of heaven are 24 elders.
Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
The symbolism would have been clear to the first century believers – The Church are numbered amongst the prophets! The Church has responsibility to judge the nations in the heavenly courts.
The elders in Revelation would appear, at face value, to be representatives of God’s people, the senate sitting in council around their King. These 24 elders are seen sitting on thrones. John has told us already that Christians are reigning with Christ (1:6), that they wear crowns (2:10; 3:11), and that they have been granted kingly authority with Him over the nations (2:26-27).
B. Israel’s Crime
The lawsuit bought against Israel is:
- Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah who was sent to rule and reign in the Davidic linage as their Promised Priestly-King.
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
- Jesus was also a sheep, the sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; Rev. 5:6, 9)
- He was wrongfully sold (Matt. 26:14-15),
- He was treated “like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isa. 53:7).
- Throughout Scripture, Israel is regarded as God’s Wife; the covenant is a marriage bond. Israel was expected to be faithful to it.
- Israel’s apostasy from God was called by Him as adultery, so much so that she is called a harlot.
See how the faithful city has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers!
“Long ago you broke off your yoke
and tore off your bonds;
you said, ‘I will not serve you!’
Indeed, on every high hill
and under every spreading tree
you lay down as a prostitute.
- When John brings the lawsuit against Israel, he is doing it for her rejection of Christ. This is her greatest apostasy of all time.
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute [Harlot], who sits by many waters… The name written on her forehead was a mystery: Babylon the great the mother of prostitutes [Harlot] and of the abominations of the earth.
Rev. 17:1, 5
C. Israel’s Punishment
Unbelieving Israel thus brought upon herself all the penalties and curses of the covenant, including fourfold and fivefold as well as double restitution (Rev. 18:6).
Payback 5 times the value
Payback 4 times the value
How did this play out?
God destroyed the Old Covenant with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70.
The ultimate consequence of Israel’s failure to uphold the Law was the total removal of God’s Presence from Israel and the means for it ever returning.
The destruction of the Temple in AD70 was the ultimate punishment of Israel by God and a clear statement of His divorce!
It was like He was throwing His wedding ring back at them and saying He was done!
Now whilst Paul in Romans makes it clear that God has a role for the Jewish people in these last days, this does not mean that the Temple will be resurrected,.That door (The Temple and sacrificial system) the Jews had is no longer available to them. They now have to come in through Jesus.
11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
1. Believers are not under judgement because we have been judged in Christ
As Jesus began His journey towards the Cross He made this statement:
“Now is the time for judgment on this world.”
Mysteriously, in a spiritual, quantum physics kind of a way, the Cross, was the Day of the Lord in advance.
As Jesus was hung on the cross He experienced the full weight of the judgement of God that will occur on the Day of The Lord falling on Him.
That’s also why the sun went dark and the ground shook. These were the physical hallmarks that the Prophets had foretold of the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
There was only One man representing the entire human race there that day. Jesus has experienced Judgement Day in advance.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:2
Who according to this verse did Jesus atone for? Not just Christians but the everyone.
All people are pre-forgiven by Jesus’ death for them on the Cross. Universalists would suggest that everyone is a beneficiary of this gift but the Bible makes it clear that this forgiveness needs to be embraced by an individual act of faith by a person. For those of us though that have embraced Jesus as our Lord and saviour it means that through Him we have been judged already. We will not be judged for our misdeeds ever again.
Whilst we have died and been punished in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, there still remains a judgement for the Christian. But as opposed to being a judgement for our misdeeds it is a judgement for reward.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad
2 Corinthians 5:10
13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
2. As Believer’s our sins have been forgiven once and for all time
Many Christians struggle with the belief that they can sin their way out of the Kingdom. I believe that whilst sin will damage you, damage your relationship with God, and also do you harm, and grieve God, it won’t affect your standing with God. You are forever forgiven and righteous.
Let me prove it for you…
Do you remember what the ONE sign the Jews were looking for that their exile from God was over?
The return of the Holy Spirit to the Temple equated to the forgiveness of sins.
Has this happened? Yes? When?
When was the return of Holy Spirit? Pentecost. Pentecost was the Day the 10 Commandments were given. The start of the Old Covenant. Pentecost was the 1st day of the New Covenant. It was the first day of the New Covenant!
1. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven… 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
This means we are the Temple of God.
When we receive Jesus the Holy Spirit comes and takes residence in us.
What was the ultimate punishment for Israel when the disobeyed their agreement with God? The removal of Holy Spirit.
So you ever sin? Yes. Both by accident and on purpose.
Now why it that Holy Spirit will “never leave us or forsake us?” (Heb 13:5)
It comes down to covenant. When God made the Covenant on the Cross with Jesus, who was the covenant between?
The Father and the Incarnate-Son (Jesus).
Were we a part of the convent that Jesus made in the sense that we had to maintain it? No!
Who maintains the New Covenant? Jesus, not us!
The New Covenant is entirely maintained by Jesus Christ.
Will Jesus ever break or mess up the New Covenant? No.
So how do we access the New Covenant? Through marriage to the Bridegroom (Faith).
Because He is our Husband, every blessing in the heavenly place that Jesus has obtained is ours through marriage.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Holy Spirit, lives in us because our sins have been forgiven. He will never leave us because He is part of the Covenant package that is maintained by Jesus.
3. The New Testament Judicial function of the Office of the Prophet has been given to the Church
We have seen how in the OT the office of the Prophet participated in the heavenly court with the Elohim. They were participants in the judgement of Israel and the world as God’s covenant attorneys.
The Book of Revelation shows us that this function of the office of the Prophet has now been passed to the Church.
In the OT the prophet brought cases against the unrighteous in the NT the prophet brings cases for the righteousness of believers
What is the function of the Prophet in the New Covenant?
The prophet serves no longer a prosecutor but rather as a Advocate eg. Like the Holy Spirit.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (paraklētos) to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.
The word translated Helper or advocate is the Greek word “paraklētos”. It means “Defence attorney.”
Who according to the the Bible is the “accuser of the Brethren”? The Devil!
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
According to this verse the devil is relentless in his accusations.
And what does he have against us? Nothing!
Believers are not under judgement because we have been judged in Christ! And also positionally the world has been judged by God.
Remember too that He didn’t just die for our sins but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Cor 5:16-21
I hear lots of prophecies that sound very judgement orientated. I hear lots of statements made by Christians that are very judgement orientated.
If our prophecies sound more destruction and judgement orientated we are prophesying out of an old covenant. And we should mark Jesus’ words, “you do not know what spirit you are of” (Luke 9:55).
“Christianity should feel like, “My chains fell off”, not, “You better not screw up!””
NT prophecy sees past the dirt and sees the image of God in the person. It calls this to life.
Despite the all the brokenness and sinful choices a person has made God never lost sight of our worth which He established in us at creation when we were manufactured as his image bearers.
Though the Fall marred this, Jesus, shows us that God never stopped believing in our original goodness, however hidden this might be.
Other Sermons In This Series
August 13, 2018
November 07, 2018
September 26, 2018