Revelation 7 – Part 1

“And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” Revelation 7:4

John received two new visions that corrected the possible impression that no one would survive the “beginning of birth-pangs” (Matthew 24:6-8) during the first half of the Tribulation judgments (Revelation 6:1-17). God will save two groups of people during the first half of the Tribulation (cf. Matthew 24:14): He will preserve 144,000 Israelites alive on the earth (7:1-8), and He will take to heaven a multitude of people from all nations who will die during that time (7:9-17). John saw both groups in chapter 7, which contrasts the panic of unbelievers described in Chapter 6 (“After these things”) and in answer to the question “Who is able to stand?” (6:17), with the security of believers during this time of unprecedented suffering (7:1a). 1

The mention of martyrs during the Tribulation (6:9-11) leads John to write about what will happen to those who become believers during that time. Though billions of unbelievers will die, many will come to faith in Christ and many of those will be martyred for their faith in Him. In wrath, God will remember mercy (cf. Hab 3:2). Even though this will be a time of trouble like never before, it will also be a time of salvation like never before—of both Jews (vv 1-8) and Gentiles (vv 9-17).” 2

As the hoofbeats of the four horsemen echoed into the distance and the cacophony of geological and cosmic upheavals stilled, John’s attention turned to the center of the earthly end-times drama: the land of Israel. Throughout their history, the people of Israel had been conquered, delivered, devastated, exiled, and restored over and over again as military threats bombarded them from every side. Yet at the beginning of John’s vision of the Tribulation, just as the land of Israel is about to endure the most devastating war in all of history, God’s intervention reminds us that He will keep His promises to Israel.” 3

In between the sixth and seventh seals of judgment, John writes, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” (Revelation 7:1). The apostle “saw four angels standing at the four corners.” The phrase “four corners of the earth, is an idiom for the four cardinal directions 4 – north, south, east, and west. 5

The four angels in John’s vision have the responsibility of restraining the judgment of God (pictured by “the four winds,” cf. Jeremiah 49:36-38; Daniel 7:2; Hosea 13:15) on nature (“the earth…the sea…any tree”). Most of the trumpet and bowl judgments involve God’s destruction of the earth’s environment in some way (cf. Revelation 8–9, 16). However, as Revelation 11:14 indicates, the first six trumpet judgments take place before the 144,000 go out to preach in the last half of the seven years. 6

Then John sees another angel in addition to the first four: “2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’” (Revelation 7:2-3). “Another” [allon] angel” of the same kind as the first four angels ascended “from the east” (literally – “from the rising of the sun”). In the Bible, divine salvation often comes “from the east” (cf. Genesis 2:8; Ezekiel 43:2; Matthew 2:1; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). 7

This fifth angel had “the seal of the living God.” A “seal” was a symbol of ownership (2 Corinthians 1:22), authentication (John 6:27), and protection leading to final salvation (Ephesians 1:14; 4:30; cf. Genesis 4:15; Exodus 12:7). 8 This “seal” represents God’s intention to protect the twelve tribes of Israel that are mentioned in verses 4-8, much as He protected Noah from the Flood, Israel from the plagues of Egypt, and Rahab and her household in Jericho. 9

“In Ezekiel 9, a linen-clothed angel went forth and put a mark on a select group of people to set them apart from those on whom God’s judgment would fall. The same is true here. The purpose of this seal is to set apart those who will share the gospel in the last three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation and to protect them from the judgments that will be falling on unrepentant mankind (cf. 9:4).” 10

On earth during the Tribulation, the followers of the Beast will bear his mark on their right hand or forehead (Revelation 13:16). During this same time, the Lord will identify His people by placing a seal of ownership on their foreheads (Revelation 7:3). Revelation 7 and 13 use two different Greek words to distinguish these marks from each other. In Revelation 7, God seals the 144,000 on their “foreheads.” The word used there for the verb “sealed” is sphragizō, which symbolizes the spiritual sealing mentioned throughout the New Testament (John 3:33; 6:27; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). But in Revelation 13, where followers of the Antichrist are given a “mark” (Revelation 13:16-17), the word used is charagma which refers to a literal brand, tattoo, or etching. 11

This angel commands the four angels to whom was given authority “to harm the earth and the sea” to withhold their judgment on the earth until he had finished sealing “the servants of our God on their foreheads” (7:3). God wants His servants set apart and ready before any of the judgments fall on the earth. 12 The “servants” in view are believers in Jesus Christ who are Jews (7:4-8). The sealing of God’s servants sets them apart as God’s redeemed people and guaranteed their physical safety while they preached the gospel during the last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation when the trumpet judgments take place (8:7-21; 11:15-18).

“Evidently God will give these 144,000 believers special protection in the last half of the Tribulation, because its calamities will be much more severe than those in the first half. Antichrist will also mark his followers in a similar way (13:16-18; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20).” 13

Next John writes, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” (Revelation 7:4). When God’s Word says, “all the tribes of the children of Israel,” He means it. Unfortunately, “most posttribulationists and amillennialists believe the 144,000 are members of ‘spiritual Israel,’ a title of theirs for the church. 14 “Many interpreters take the number 144,000 as symbolic of all God’s servants in the Tribulation.” 15

Swindoll writes, Many Christians today are convinced that God’s plan for ethnic Israel has come to an end. Some believe that the promises of a glorious nation and blessing in the Holy Land have been abolished because of Israel’s past unfaithfulness. Others have determined that these promises were fulfilled in a spiritual sense through Christ in the church. Some theologians propose that Israel has been replaced by the church and that ethnic Jews have been divorced by God, without a future in God’s plan.

“However, the New Testament assures us that God plans to bring about the fulfillment of those promises through Jesus Christ. Although most ethnic Jews have been in a state of unbelief since the time of Jesus, God will one day bring a remnant to faith in Christ and restore them to the land promised to their forefathers (Genesis 13:15). Jesus Himself promised the apostles, ‘In the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19:28). Before Christ’s ascension, the disciples eagerly inquired about the timing of that earthly kingdom when they asked, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6). It is significant that Jesus didn’t reject their literal interpretation and expectation of a future fulfillment of these earthly promises. Instead, He told them that they would not know the timing of this restoration (Acts 1:7-8). 

Years later, the apostle Paul addressed the problem of Israel’s unbelief by declaring that this rebellion would one day be reversed: ‘A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved’ (Romans 11:25-26). In other words, when God has accomplished His purposes through the church, He will again turn His attention to the nation of Israel and bring them to faith in Christ. We can see the beginnings of this future for Israel with the sealing of the 144,000 in Revelation 7:1-8.

“Why is the restoration of Israel so important? Because God’s very reputation as a Promise Keeper is at stake! With explicit reference to the calling of Israel, Paul said, ‘For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). It’s as simple as this: If we cannot trust God to keep His promises to Israel (Jeremiah 31:35-37), how can we trust Him to keep His promises to us (Romans 8:35-39)? Never doubt it: God will do what He says He will do!” 16

That God is referring to ethnic Israel is underscored by the fact that John heard the names of twelve tribes of Israel with 12,000 from each tribe “sealed” and thus protected: 5 of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 6 of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; 7 of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; 8 of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed.” (Revelation 7:5-8). Nothing in this text suggests a symbolic understanding. The fact that specific “tribes” were named “and specific numbers from each tribe were indicated would seem to remove this from the symbolic and to justify literal interpretation. If God intended these verses to represent Israel literally, He would have used this means. Nowhere else in the Bible do a dozen references to the 12 tribes mean the church. Obviously, Israel will be in the Tribulation, and though men do not know the identification of each tribe today, certainly God knows.” 17

The number of sealed servants of God, with specific numbers from each tribe in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9, underscores the literal understanding of these verses. “If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally.” 18

Hitchcock gives several reasons why the church cannot represent Israel in Revelation 7:1-8: “Why would the Holy Spirit begin to mix the church and Israel in the book of Revelation, the final book in the New Testament, when He has so carefully distinguished the two groups in the previous twenty-six books of the New Testament? Why begin to identify the church as the true, spiritual Israel at this late point in the New Testament? It does not make good sense and is inconsistent.

“Second, if one holds to the pre-Tribulation timing for the Rapture, the church is already in heaven as pictured by the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4–5. Thus, it doesn’t make sense that the group in Revelation 7, which is on earth, would be the church. The church has already been raptured.

“Third, it is interesting that Jews and Gentiles are clearly distinguished from one another in Revelation 7. The 144,000 Jews are listed in 7:1-8 while 7:9-17 presents an innumerable host of ‘every nation and tribe and people and language.’ Merging these two groups does not do justice to the distinctions that Revelation 7 makes:

“Jews from twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8), Gentiles from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9-17); numbered—144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8), not numbered—“a great multitude which no one could count” (Revelation 7:9-17); standing on earth (Revelation 7:1-8), standing before God’s throne (Revelation 7:9-17); sealed for protection (Revelation 7:1-8), ascended after persecution (Revelation 7:9-17).

Furthermore, Revelation 7 clearly distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles, but this distinction is inconsistent with the New Testament picture of the church—Jews and Gentiles are seen as one in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 3:6). Since Galatians 3 and Ephesians 3 unite Jews and Gentiles as one and since Revelation 7 does not reflect that unity, the Rapture must reinstitute a division between Jews and Gentiles. Revelation 7 reflects that division.

So then, who are these 144,000 servants of God? If the Scriptures are interpreted literally, then the 144,000 are a literal group of 144,000 Jewish men—12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel—raised up by God during the Tribulation to serve Him. They are not spiritual Israel (the church), but actual Israel.” 19

The most important fact taught here is that God continues to watch over Israel even in the time of Israel’s great distress. There is no justification whatever for spiritualizing either the number or the names of the tribes in this passage, to make them represent the church.” 20

In conclusion, God’s faithfulness to His promises is seen in the fact that ethnic Israel will retain her national identity before God during the Tribulation period, and He will resume dealing with them again as His chosen people during this time (7:1-8; cf. Daniel 9:24-27). Jehovah Witnesses or any other Gentiles who claim to be a part of this group fail to accept the final authority of God’s Word which clearly states that these 144,000 servants of God will be physical descendants of the twelve Israelite tribes. When they are sealed (7:1-8), they will know their tribal roots, and their sealing will take place after the Rapture of the Church (4:1-4).

How can we apply this to our lives today? Just as God prepared the 144,000 Jewish servants for service by giving them His seal (7:2-8), so God has prepared us for His service by giving us the Holy Spirit to empower us to be His witnesses to the entire world (Acts 1:8). We are not alone when it comes to sharing the gospel with a lost world. God the Holy Spirit indwells us (John 14:16-17) and will give us the boldness (Acts 4:29-31) and words to speak to those who need Christ in their lives (Matthew 10:19-20).

The 144,000 Jewish servants will boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ’s coming Kingdom during the Tribulation period. There appears to be a cause-and-effect relationship in Revelation 7 between the 144,000 Jewish believers (7:1-8) and the innumerable crowd of Gentile believers in heaven from all nations (7:9-17). The preaching of the gospel by these 144,000 Jewish evangelists during the last half of the Tribulation period will results in an innumerable number of people being saved. They will be the greatest evangelists the world has ever seen. These sealed servants of God will fulfill Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Revelation 7 provides a panorama of God’s saving work during the Tribulation. The 144,000 reveal God’s passion to save people even amid the unspeakable judgments of the Tribulation. To the very end, our Savior will graciously continue “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). 21

Does our passion for the lost reflect that of our Savior Who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:3-4)? I am convinced that the closer we grow to the heart of the Lord Jesus, the more our hearts for the lost will reflect His. Christ promises that if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

Swindoll reminds us that this interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments in Revelation 7 teaches us several things: “To reaffirm Christ’s central position, remind us of God’s great plan of redemption, and reassure us that God’s wrath isn’t without mercy. John needed that interlude. So do we. In fact, it might be wise for us to follow God’s example and work interludes into our own lives.

“Interludes do at least three things for us—all of them essential in a world filled with relentless stress, hardship, busyness, and drama.

“First, interludes reaffirm for us who’s first… Interludes strengthen the centrality and preeminence of Christ. When we are alone for even a short period of time, we get a desperately needed opportunity to focus on Him. Strive to make this ‘time with God’ a daily appointment. Consider not only setting aside a few hours on Sunday morning to remember who’s first but also devoting the whole Lord’s Day to Christ-centered activities.

Second, interludes remind us of what’s important. In the fast pace of modern life, we frequently get our priorities jumbled up. The nonessentials of life tend to bleed over into the essentials—and vice versa. When we pause, step back, and gather our thoughts, we give ourselves a chance to reorder our priorities. Such occasions to ‘regroup’ can be monthly getaways or annual retreats. Each of us is different, but all of us need a chance to reconsider priorities, set things straight, and form a plan to keep life’s essentials on top. Consider dedicating a portion of a vacation to thinking and praying through your priorities. What a difference it will make for the rest of the year!

Third, interludes refresh us with why it’s all worth it. In the depths of despair, in the thick of tragedy, in the throes of suffering, we need interludes in order to recharge spiritually with the faith and fortitude to carry on. Interludes can help us endure suffering, loss, disappointment, and the death of dreams. They massage us back to a fresh new start. We reenter the fray with a new perspective, centered on God’s goodness and on His plan and purpose. Sometimes we just need a shelter from the storm.

“It’s easy to lose sight of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy in the midst of the daily turmoil of life in this fallen world. Only during interludes of reflection are we able to evaluate our priorities and passions in light of the central position of Jesus Christ, which equips us with a new sense of purpose as we place our trust in Him.” 22

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for this amazing interlude in heaven between the sixth and seventh seal judgments which underscores that Your wrath is accompanied by Your mercy. Only You can give us security amid a world that is spinning out of control. Your judgments can awaken people for their need for Your mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for remaining faithful to Your promises to Israel and to those of us who are Gentiles. We can trust You to keep Your promises no matter how difficult life becomes. Please show us how to work interludes into our own lives that enable us to renew our commitment to Christ. We need to detach from this hostile world and renew our love relationship with Jesus. Make us more like You, Lord Jesus, so Your love for the lost becomes ours. Use us to proclaim Your message of grace through faith to a world that is perishing without You. Protect us from the evil one and equip us with a renewed sense of purpose as we place our trust in You. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 94.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 1524-1525.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 162-163.

4. Ibid., pg. 163.

5.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2382.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1525. Regarding Revelation 11:14, Vacendak says, Since the death of the two witnesses and the subsequent earthquake occur after the first and second ‘woe’ (i.e., trumpet judgments five and six), one may conclude that the first six trumpet judgments occur during the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation” (pp. 1538-1539).

7. Constable, pg. 95.

8. Ibid.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

10. Vacendak, pg. 1525.

11. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 290.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1525.  

13. Constable, pg. 96.

14. Ibid., cites as examples William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 30; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 168; Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 175; George Raymond Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible Commentary series, Revised ed. (London: Morgan & Scott, 1974; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1983), pg. 140; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, 1972 reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pp. 114 116; Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 99; James Moffatt, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” In The Expositor’s Greek Testament Vol. 5 (1910), 4th ed. Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll 5 Vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-12), pg. 395; Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and Carlisle, England: Paternoster Press, 1999), pg. 413; David E. Aune, Revelation 6—16, Word Biblical Commentary series (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), pg. 447.  

15. Ibid., cites as examples Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” In Hebrews-Revelation Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12 vols., Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pp. 463 and 481; Ladd, pg. 117.

16. Swindoll, pp. 156-157.

17. Walvoord, pg. 164.

18. Constable, pg. 96 cites Thomas, Revelation 1—7, p. 474.

19. Hitchcock, pp. 288-289.

20. Walvoord, pg. 164.

21. Adapted from Hitchcock, pp. 291-292.

22. Swindoll, pp. 168-169.

A Cosmic Christmas (Video)

This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 6 – Part 1

“And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” Revelation 6:2

Our daily rituals are often the same, day in and day out. Wake up. Get up. Wash and dress. Eat breakfast if there’s time. Dash off to school or work or other activities. We expect our routines to be the same every day. However, each one of us has experienced an unexpected disruption along the way. A flat tire, a sick child, a fender bender, a phone call out of the blue relaying tragic news: Situations like these interrupt our routines with unwelcome stress, even severe trials. Occasionally these unexpected events can overturn our entire lives.

For most people, God’s end-time judgment will be unexpected and unwelcome, disrupting life’s routine with more than just minor irritation. The Great Tribulation of Matthew 24:21 will affect more than just one family, city, or nation. The period of God’s final judgment will affect the whole world (Luke 17:26-30; 1 Thes. 5:1-3; Rev. 3:10).

“Some people completely deny that God would ever judge anybody for anything. After all, they reason, isn’t God a loving God? Doesn’t He abound in mercy? Whatever happened to divine compassion and forgiveness? Clearly, God’s coming judgment strikes at the very heart of our theology, our view of the nature and character of God Himself. It’s no wonder that people find much that is disturbing to them in the book of Revelation. Yet when we discover that God’s mercy and wrath work hand in hand and that God will bring about redemption through judgment, we will have a much clearer and more balanced understanding of the God we love and serve.” 1

In Revelation 4 and 5, John saw God the Father sitting on His throne in His heavenly throne room holding the seven-sealed scroll containing judgments to be unleashed on rebellious humankind during the early part of the Tribulation period on earth (Revelation 6:1-8:2). Only one Person in the universe – Jesus Christ – was found worthy to take that scroll, to open its seals, and to begin the process of taking control of the world from evil and forever conquering sin and death. However, the steps necessary for preparing the world for His Kingdom on earth would involve a period of unparalleled judgment and suffering. 2

The subject of Revelation 4 and 5 was worship in heaven. But beginning in Revelation 6 the subject changes to wrath being poured out on the earth. 3 

With the opening of the first seal, the tribulation period begins on earth—a seven-year span following the rapture of the church in which God brings judgment to earth in order to reclaim it. Once the church is in heaven and worshiping around God’s throne, divinely wrought calamities will come upon the earth.” 4

In the book of Revelation, there are three distinct series of judgments that will take place during the seven-year (Daniel 9:27) Tribulation period on earth: seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments. The seventh of each series brings the judgment to a close and opens a new vision, in which the next series begins. The seven-seal judgments take place during the first half of the Tribulation (6:1-8:1) followed by the trumpet judgments beginning in the middle of the Tribulation (8:2-9:21, 11:15-19). The bowl judgments refer to the most severe judgments near the end of the Tribulation (16:2-21).

“Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’” (Revelation 6:1). When “the Lamb opened” the first of the seven “seals,” John “heard one of the four living creatures” say, “Come and see.” The “voice like thunder” alludes to the intense storm of God’s judgment that is about to come on the earth. 6

Next John writes, “And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” (Revelation 6:2). Among the numerous interpretations of this verse, the two most common understand the white horseman to refer either to Jesus Christ 7 or to the Antichrist. 8

It is best to understand that the rider on this “white horse” is the Lord Jesus Christ for the following reasons: 9

1. None of the symbolic elements of this first horsemen are found anywhere else in the Bible describing the world-ruler or Antichrist. However, every feature of this vision is found elsewhere in the Bible in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Zechariah 1:7-11; Psalm 45:4-6; Revelation 19:11-21).

2. The vision of the four horsemen in Revelation 6:1-8 is like the visions of Zechariah 1:7-11 and 6:1-8 which provide a Scriptural prototype that divine, not Satanic, agencies, are in view (cf. Zechariah 1:10-11 and 6:5). The vision in Revelation 6:1-8 has the four horsemen intimately connected with God’s throne in Revelation 5 and are therefore, the only active agents of judgment which are directly summoned by the living creatures surrounding the throne of God.

3. When comparing the first vision of Zechariah with Revelation 6:1-8, it is significant to observe that the first man riding on a red horse” that “stood among the myrtle trees” (Zechariah 1:8), was none other than “the Angel of the Lord” or the preincarnate Christ (cf. Zechariah 1:11). Hence, the first horseman of Zechariah’s vision is the Son of God.

4. Psalm 45, a Messianic Psalm, is parallel in thought to Revelation 6:2 (“he went out conquering and to conquer”) when it reads, And in Your majesty ride prosperously” (Psalm 45:4). This parallel becomes more noteworthy when the Psalmist describes this prosperous ride with the words, “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; the peoples fall under You” (Psalm 45:5), for the first rider of Revelation 6 is armed with a “bow” (6:2). The ultimate victory of the rider of Psalm 45 is no different than that for which the first horseman of Revelation 6 goes forth, for the Psalmist continues, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 45:6). These words, applied to the Son of God in Hebrews 1:8, can also be seen in the first horseman of Revelation 6 being connected to God’s throne in Revelation 5. The first horseman of Revelation 6 can be seen advancing the cause of God’s throne whereby the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ would then be in the final and eternal establishment of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

5. The most obvious parallel is that the first horseman of Revelation 6:1-8 rides “a white horse” (6:2) just as the last horseman of the book of Revelation does: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” (Revelation 19:11). The horse was “white,” symbolizing victory, righteousness, and holiness. White has these connotations in other places in Scripture. A Roman conqueror typically rode a white horse in a triumphant procession. 10 The first horseman of Revelation 6 goes forth at the beginning of God’s judgments on the earth and the last horseman of Revelation goes forth at the consummation of these judgments. The first horseman of Revelation 6 represents “victory in prospect” – “he went out conquering and to conquer” (6:2) – and the last horseman of Revelation 19 “represents victory realized.” 11

6. The differences between the first horseman of Revelation 6 and the last horseman of Revelation 19 can be adequately explained. First, there is the matter of the first horseman having a “bow” (6:2) in contrast to the last horseman having a “sword” (19:15). “The bow is the weapon of long-range warfare, whereas the sword is the weapon used in close combat with the enemy. If the rider of 6:2 represents Christ as the Initiator of all God’s judgments upon His enemies, it is clear that throughout the Tribulation He fights with them, so to speak, at long range. For the judgments of the Tribulation are such as fall from heaven to earth while the King is absent. But in chapter 19, the King comes personally to earth and now the conflict with the forces of evil is waged at close quarters and, with the sword, the last battle is won. And just quite naturally the sword is thought in connection with His Word – for it proceeds out of His mouth – so also may the bow be linked with the same Word. As the prophet Habakkuk has written, 12

Your bow was made quite ready; oaths were sworn over Your arrows.” (Habakkuk 3:9). Hence, the judgment-bringing Word of God is seen first under the figure of a “bow” foreshadowing Jesus’ conquests over His enemies from long range in heaven (6:2) until the final battle when He returns in chapter 19 as the last, white-horsed Rider fighting and winning at close range with a sword in His hand (19:11-21). 13 The purpose of these long-range judgments from heaven is to bring Christ’s enemies into submission to Him (Hebrews 1:13) and to bring the nation of Israel to repentance (Daniel 9:24-27; Romans 11:26-27).

Another difference between the first and last Rider on a white horse is the one “crown” (stephanos) of 6:2 and the “many crowns” (diadēmata) of 19:12. It is important to realize that the first appearance of this Rider is separated from His last appearance by seven prophetic years. The stephanos is no less appropriate than the diadēmata, for the writer of Hebrews sees the Son of God already “crowned” (the verb form of stephanos, stephanoō) in glory and honor before His final victory (Hebrews 2:9). 14 The stephanos refers to “the crown of victory both for the victorious athlete in the games and for the triumphant general in war.” 15 The use of stephanos in Revelation 6:2 is appropriate in connection with the victory which is ascribed to this first horseman who goes “out conquering and to conquer.” His victory is certain and therefore He is crowned beforehand. But the “many crowns” of Revelation 19:12 representing kingly authority, 16 are equally appropriate where the emphasis falls upon the royal identity of the last Horseman Who is “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16).

The single “crown” (stephanos) represents the final all-conquering victory which the first Rider will achieve (6:2), while the “many crowns” (diadēmata)of 19:12symbolize the multiple victories over the kings and lords of the earth which flow from this victory. Hence, the “crown” (stephanos) of ultimate victory is followed by the “many crowns” (diadēmata) of universal authority. Regardless of whether it be the stephanos or diadēmata, it belongs alone to our Lord Jesus Christ. May God speed up His wearing of them both! 17

Prayer: Father God, as we watch the world spin out of control with evil and wickedness, we are encouraged to read this vision of the first Rider on a white horse representing the Lord Jesus Christ. His wearing of one crown reminds us that His victory over His enemies is certain. Following His removal of the church from the earth, He will begin a series of long-range judgments using His bow from heaven against rebellious humankind on earth to bring them into submission to His kingly authority and to bring the nation of Israel to repentance. His universal kingship will be fully realized when He returns to earth to defeat His enemies at close range using a sword at the end of the Tribulation period to establish His universal reign on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords! Lord Jesus, we not only look to You to conquer evil and sin in the future, but we also trust You to lead us into victory over evil and sin in our own lives. In Your mighty name we pray King Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 148-149.

2. Ibid., pg. 149.

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pg. 277.

4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2381.

5. Swindoll, pg. 149.

6. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1521.

7. Zane C. Hodges, “The First Horseman of the Apocalypse,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 119:476 (October 1962), pp. 324-34; Jack MacArthur, Expositional Commentary on Revelation (Eugene, Oreg.: Certain Sound, 1973), pg. 137.

8. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, pg. 86 cites J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1990), pg. 250; Evans, pg. 2381; John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

9. Adapted from Hodges, pg. 324-334.

10. Constable, pg. 84 cites Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol 6 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 340.

11. Hodges, pg. 328.

12. Ibid., pg. 333.

13. Ibid., pp. 333-334.

14. Ibid., pg. 334.

15. Ibid., pg. 334 cites J. H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, pg. 589; cf. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 943-944.  

16. The diadēmata (“many crowns”) represent kingly authority (see Constable, pg. 86; Walter Bauer, pg. 227; Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes [E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition], Kindle Locations 227973-227977). Hence, the last horseman’s vast kingly authority as “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16)is represented by thediadēmata of Revelation 19:12.

17. Hodges, pg. 334.

Revelation 5 – Part 2

“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’” Revelation 5:9

Swindoll writes,When the incarnate Son of God took the scroll from the Father, everything changed. The rule of humanity over all creation, which has been derailed by the Fall and wrecked by the curse (Gen. 1:28; 3:17-19), will be restored through the God-Man, Jesus Christ. As a truly human descendant of Adam, Jesus Christ is qualified to fulfill the original calling of humanity to exercise dominion over the earth and to subdue it, restoring the conditions conditions of Paradise throughout the whole world. As the truly divine Son of God, Jesus Christ has the power and authority to fulfill this calling where Adam failed. Don’t miss this! In Revelation 5:8 we see the beginning of the process of God putting everything in its right place by placing everything in the right hands.

“What a reason to rejoice! In fact, as soon as Jesus took hold of the seven-sealed scroll, everything changed from weeping to worshiping. All creatures in heaven and earth burst forth in praise. Uncontainable jubilation flowed outward from God’s throne. In one wave after another, creation poured forth praise to the Lamb of God. Why? Because not only is He the Suffering Servant who took away the sins of the world by His sacrificial death (Isa. 53), but He’s also the risen, glorified Judge who will execute judgment on the wicked and bestow blessings on the righteous. All authority to judge has been given to Him alone (John 5:21-22, 27). 1

After the Lamb and Lion, Jesus Christ, takes the scroll from the hand of God the Father, we see weeping transformed into worship. “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8). Jesus took “the scroll” because He alone was found worthy to execute judgment on all of humankind and set up His Kingdom on earth. This transfer of authority to Christ triggered an outpouring of praise and worship because it signaled that Jesus would soon begin judging His enemies on the earth. 2

Ever since that day in the first century when Jesus asked His people to pray, ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10), both the believers on earth and those in heaven have been anticipating the answer.” 3

Notice the order of worship. As soon as Jesus possessed the scroll the “living creatures” or angels closest to the throne, possibly seraphim (cf. Isaiah 6:2-3), fell flat on their faces before the Lord Jesus Christ as if to obey the command, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” (Hebrews 1:6). 4 This points to Jesus as God for only God is worthy to be worshiped (cf. Exodus 20:2-5). This is the declaration of Hebrews 1:8 when the Father says to His Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” God the Father calls His Son, “God.”

This is why Jesus does not refuse the worship of the four living creatures in God’s throne room in heaven. If Christ was not God, then we would expect Him to tell all the inhabitants of heaven to stop worshiping Him. But He does not do this because He is God Almighty!

Then the “twenty-four elders,” representing faithful church-age believers, the highest of God’s redeemed, also “fell down before the Lamb.” Only “each” elder, had “a harp, and golden bowls full of incense.” This is clear in the Greek text from the masculine gender of hekastos, translated “each,” which agrees with the masculine gender of “the twenty-four elders” (iekosi tessares presbuteroi), not the neuter gender of the “four living creatures” (ta tessara zōa). 5

These redeemed saints offered “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” By the way, don’t ever think your prayers are insignificant. Even if God doesn’t answer your pleas for help now, one day when Christ reverses the curse and rights all wrongs, your desperate cries for His intervention will be counted. God never tosses your prayers into a trash bin—He’s storing them up in bowls, and He will one day answer them in ways beyond your imagination. Be patient!” 6

Then the four living angelic creatures and the twenty-four elders broke out singing a new song.9 And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and have made them kings and priests to our God; and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10). This song was probably “new” in the sense that it represented new praise for a new deliveranceabout to take place. 7

Several times God commands us to “sing a new song” to Him (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10). As God reveals new blessings to His people, they are to respond by singing a new song which praises God for those blessings. Failure to sing a new song when God is doing something new in our lives is disobedience and can lead to a loss of joy and admiration for the Lord in our worship.

But when God’s people obey the Lord and write and/or sing new songs to the Lord which reflect the new manifestations of His grace toward us, He will reveal more of Himself to us (cf. John 14:21). Also, there will be an increase in our praise to Him and “many will see it and fear and will trust in the Lord” (cf. Psalm 40:3). Being sensitive to the new manifestations of God’s grace to us in our songs to Him will increase our “fear” or admiration of Him and lead us to “trust” in Him more in our daily lives, and it can also lead the unsaved to “trust in the Lord” Jesus as their Savior. Hopefully, no Christian wants to hinder unsaved people from coming to faith in Christ because of a music style preference.

All of us have our music preferences, but as we look back at history in the Old and New Testaments (cf. Exodus 15:1-17; Psalm 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; 14:3) and in the Church Age, songs changed as the Lord revealed Himself and His workings in new and different ways. Singing a new song to the Lord enables us to experience and express the new manifestations of His grace in our lives in more meaningful ways. 

As I look back at my Christian life the last forty years, some of the most intimate times of worship with the Lord were when I learned a new song which expressed the new things God was doing in my life. I especially enjoyed it when the worship leader in our local church would write and/or lead us in a new song that reflected the new manifestations of God’s grace in and through our local church. Praise Jesus for those who capture the new things He is doing in the songs they write and/or sing! 

When is the last time you sang a new song to the Lord? Take time today to draw near to Him by singing a new song to Him that expresses something new that He is doing in your life. To find a new song, you can use google and search for “New Christian Songs.” Since God continues to create new and refreshing songs for His Church, you should have no trouble finding one to enhance your worship of Him. One of my favorites right now is “House of the Lord.”

In Revelation 4 the four living creatures and twenty-four elders praised God for His work of creation (4:11). In chapter 5 they praised Christ for His work of redemption. 8 This new song of praise to Christ focused on His worthiness to open the scrolls because of His death (“You were slain”), the redemption (purchase) of every people group by His shed “blood” (Revelation 5:9). Verse 9 is being sung only by the twenty-four elders because only humans can sing “You… have redeemed us to God.” 9 Jesus did not die to redeem angels. He died to redeem sinful human beings (cf. Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3-4).

The reference to redeemed people in heaven being from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9b) portrays the ethnic, linguistic, and national diversity that will be present in eternity. This means that difference and diversity are not problems to be solved but were part of God’s plan from the very beginning. God delights in the variety and beauty of His creation. Here in this perfect, complete worship service around the throne we can see clearly that ‘red, yellow, black, and white’ are all precious in God’s sight. And this diverse community of saints is unified in their worship of the Lamb. Christian unity does not mean uniformity, but a shared focus on and worship of Christ Jesus.” 10

In God’s plan of redemption, all lives matter to the Creator of the universe. In fact, each person, no matter what their color, is worth the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:9; cf. I Corinthians 6:20). His blood was the purchase price for each of us. All people are created equal and are dearly loved by the Savior of the world. Each of us can be grateful for our diverse backgrounds and appearances because they all bring great pleasure to our Creator God!

Verse 10 has two important textual issues. The NKJV reads, “And we shall reign on the earth,” (5:10b) but the Majority Text (MT), along with the Critical Text (CT), reads, “And they (believers) shall reign on the earth.”Who then is speaking this sentence? Some say it is spoken by the twenty-four elders, who are angels. Another suggestion is that there is an antiphonal choir here, with the four living creatures singing this line (i.e., all of v 10) as they alternate lines with the twenty-four elders.

“The same is true of the first clause in the NKJV translation, ‘And [You] have made us kings and priests to our God.’ Once again, the NKJV mistakenly has ‘us,’ whereas the MT and CT have the third person plural: ‘And You have made them kings and priests.’

“The four living creatures and elders are singing joyfully to the Lamb about those who will not only be entering His eternal kingdom but will also be ruling with Him in it because of their steadfast devotion. They were faithful and godly in life; therefore, they will reign in eternity (cf. 2:26-27).” 11

After the living angelic creatures and twenty-four elders sang a new song of praise to the Lamb of God, John writes, 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:11-12). The chorus of praise did not end with the twenty-four elders. Two more groups join this worship service in God’s throne room. An innumerable host of “angels around the throne” now join “the four living creatures and twenty-four elders… with a loud voice” ascribing worth to “the Lamb who was slain” Who deserves “power… riches… wisdom… strength… honor… glory… blessing” to be given to Him at the beginning of His reign on earth (5:11-12). These seven qualities belong intrinsically to Christ. 12

“The angels use seven expressions (the perfect number is probably significant) to indicate the wonder of the Lamb.” 13

The repetition of “and” (kai) between each quality brings special emphasis to each one individually. It “produces the impression of extensiveness and abundance by means of an exhaustive summary.” 14

The final group to join this profound worship in God’s throne room includes “every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13). Every creature, saved and unsaved, angelic and demonic, will join in giving God the Father(“Him who sits on the throne“) and “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, “the blessing and honor and glory and power” they deserve.

“The creatures in view must be intelligent beings capable of worship, who can fully appreciate God and the Lamb— not the stars, planets, and animals. This probably involved a forward (proleptic) look to the end of the history of planet earth, when every creature will bow the knee to Jesus Christ (cf. 5:10; Phil. 2:8-11).” 15

Even the inhabitants of hell (“under the earth”) will bow before Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:8-11). If you have not yet concluded that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf. John 20:28), the day will come when you reach such a conclusion “on the earth” during the Tribulation period (Revelation 6-19) or during Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6), or “under the earth” in the future in hell if you never believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life.  

Why not come to faith in Jesus now for His gift of eternal life (John 3:16) so you can give Him the glory He deserves both now and “in heaven” in the future? Simply come to Christ as a sinner, realizing you cannot save yourself from sin’s penalty (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Recognize that Christ died for all your sins on the cross and rose from the dead, proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4). Take Him at His Word when He says, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), and He will give you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Then you can give Jesus the glory He deserves every day for the rest of your eternal life!!!

John concludes Chapter 5 with these words: “Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:14). While all creatures in every corner of creation worshiped God the Father and God the Son together for their work of creation and redemption (5:13), the four living creatures and twenty-four elders continued their unceasing worship (5:14).

Revelation 4 and 5 present heaven, God’s dwelling place, as a real place. John saw God the Father and God the Son receiving great honor there, surrounded by church-age believers and innumerable angelic worshippers. Even though John saw a vision, it was a vision of something that truly exists. We may be able to see both heaven and its inhabitants there some day depending on how we respond to Jesus Christ in this life.

The reason I am going to repeat what I said above is because some people need to hear this more than once before they understand and believe it. The Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36). You have a choice to make. You can refuse to believe in the Son of God and abide under God’s wrath for eternity confessing His Lordship “under the earth” in hell or you can believe in Jesus now for everlasting life and enjoy confessing His Lordship “on earth” and “in heaven” for eternity.The choice is yours.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for the preview You have given us of heaven where all its inhabitants will focus on giving You and Your Son the blessing and honor and glory and power You both deserve. Thank You for reminding us that anyone and everyone can worship You. Revelation 5 shows us that every kind of creature from every level of creation has something to offer the triune God. Through new songs or old, with beautiful instruments or bold voices, by heartfelt prayers or hearty ‘Amens,’ all of us can reorient our hearts and minds toward You, Lord God. This powerful preview of worship in Your throne room gives us a rare insight into the spontaneity and variety of genuine praise. As great as it will be to see people there from every tribe, language group, and nation in Your throne room, we look forward to seeing the Lamb and Lion, Jesus Christ, the most, because He paid the price to make it possible for us to be there with Him!!! The One Who is worthy to exercise judgment and rule over the earth will accomplish His will through our lives. Even though human history is strewn with the wreckage of failed attempts to fix humanity’s problems, we can turn to Christ, Who has paid the price to bring about this glorious future. Help us to invest our lives in His coming Kingdom by proclaiming His gospel of grace to a lost world so more people can inhabit Your heaven in the future. To Jesus and to You, Father, be all the blessing, glory, honor, and power both now and forever. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 141.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 78.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1520.  

4. Swindoll, pg. 142.

5. Constable, pg. 78 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pp. 79-80.

6. Swindoll, pg. 142.

7. Constable, pg. 78.

8. Swindoll,pg. 142.

9. The word correctly translated “us” (hēmas) is found in the Greek Majority Text. See Vacendak, pg. 1520.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2380.

11. Vacendak, pp. 1520-1521.

12. Constable, pg. 80.

13. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series. Reprint ed., (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 101.

14. Ibid., cites F. Blass, and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Translated and revised by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) paragraph 460 (3).

15. Ibid.

Revelation 3 – Part 3

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:16

Jesus now speaks to the last of the seven churches. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.’ ” (Revelation 3:14).

Laodicea was a large and prosperous city forty miles southeast of Philadelphia where many wealthy people retired, thereby establishing it as a renowned banking center. A medical center specializing in eye salve and a prominent wool industry famous for its glossy black garments added to its material prosperity. Because they lived in the midst of this affluent city, the believers dwelling there also became affluent. Unfortunately, these believers allowed their wealth to ruin their effectiveness for Christ, and they did not even know it! Because of their outward wealth they had no clue as to their inward poverty. Therefore, the Judge of the churches sends a stern rebuke in their direction to move them to repent as well as an invitation to open the door to close fellowship with Him once again.” 1

“Ancient pagans had hundreds of false gods to choose from, but modern pagans who may have rejected the worship of idols still have one false god that controls their lives: self. Self-expression, self-confidence, self-worth, self-reliance—these concepts all revolve around the myth that human beings have an inexhaustible source of strength within themselves. Such worthy people, of course, have trouble attributing all worth to God, which is the very definition of worship!

“Sadly, Christians aren’t immune to the disease of self-reliance. When believers in Christ rely on their own strength for good works, operating by the power of the flesh rather than by the power of the Spirit (Gal. 3:3), they produce ineffective and useless works. When believers think their own resources are sufficient, they glow with pride. And when believers look to themselves to provide for their own needs, they shine with self-sufficiency. Christ’s messages to the seven churches in Asia come to a close with a tragic letter to the self-sufficient, self-righteous, self-serving church in Laodicea. In their inexhaustible wealth and independent spirit, the Laodiceans were severely rebuked by the One who knew them better than they knew themselves. In fact, the Lord didn’t state a single word of commendation—only stinging reproof. That church suffered from pervasive self-reliance, hypocritical works done in their own strength, and an apathetic attitude toward the authority of Christ. Sadly, Christ’s hard words for Laodicea resonate with relevance for many churches and Christians today.” 2

Jesus refers to Himself as “the Amen” (lit. truly)3 because the Laodicean church needed the truth. As “the Faithful and True Witness,” Jesus would provide a faithful and true assessment of their spiritual condition (3:14a). “The Laodiceans had a reputation for saying and doing whatever was necessary to preserve their own well-being. In contrast with them, Jesus spoke the truth.” 4

Christ also refers to Himself as “the Beginning of the creation of God” because this church was self-sufficiently wealthy, and they needed to be reminded that everything they possessed was from their Creator God (3:14b). When churches forget this truth, they can begin to feel entitled to whatever they want. They can easily seek to be in control instead of yielding to God’s control.  

Non-Trinitarians think this phrase (“the Beginning of the creation of God”) means Jesus is a created being. But the Greek word translated “Beginning” (archē) means the “First Cause” of God’s creation. 5Jesus is the Creator or originating source of creation (Revelation 1:18; 2:8; 3:21; 5:13; cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:2), not the first creature to be created. 6

Laodicea had suffered a severe earthquake that destroyed it, but its prosperous citizens had subsequently rebuilt it, without the aid of Rome. The Laodiceans were creative, but Jesus Christ alone was the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-16). 7 Jesus could also give them the spiritual wealth they so desperately needed in their current state of spiritual impoverishment. 8

Jesus then rebukes this church for being indifferent. 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16). These believers in Jesus wereneither refreshing (“cold”)nor soothing or stimulating (“hot”). They were “lukewarm.”  

“This rebuke would have been especially meaningful to this church, for water was piped to the city from Hierapolis, a few miles north. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm!” 9

Nobody orders a lukewarm drink. They want iced tea or hot coffee. In the spiritual realm, God finds tepidness unappealing as well.” 10

Because the Laodicean Christians had no cool water for the spiritually thirsty people around them (cf. John 4:13-14) and they were not hot enough spiritually to stir up one another’s faith, 11 God was disgusted with them. He said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Christ’s response to this self-reliant, self-righteous, and self-serving church was about the least flattering response you could receive, especially from the only Person in the universe Whose opinion matters the most. Essentially Jesus was saying,“You make me sick!”12

The phrase “I will vomit you out of My mouth, cannot be a reference to the loss of salvation because that would contradict John’s other writings (cf. John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; I John 5:1, 13). The Bible tells us that the gifts of God are irreversible. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29). God promises eternal life as a free gift to all who believe in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Since “the gifts … of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29) and eternal life is a “gift of God” (Romans 6:23), then eternal life is “irrevocable.” When a person believes in Christ for His gift of eternal life, it cannot be given back to God nor taken back by God no matter how the believer lives because it is irreversible or permanent (John 3:16; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-27; Romans 8:31-39; et al.). God did not save us from hell because of our goodness (cf. Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7), and He will not abandon us because of our sinfulness (cf. John 6:37; Hebrews 13:5).

One of my mentors, Zane Hodges, thought it possible that the Lord is referring here to the Rapture or sudden removal of the church from the earth (Revelation 4:1-4; cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). The Lord Jesus will be so disgusted with the indifference and self-reliance of Christians at the end of the Church age (Laodicea is the last church listed during this age), that He will vomit them up to heaven through the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-4). Then He will start all over in the Tribulation with the Two Witnesses preaching the gospel of the kingdom during the first half of the 7-year Tribulation (Revelation 11:1-13) followed by the worldwide witness of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 7:1-17; 14:1-5).

Not only does Jesus give these seven local churches warnings and encouragements that are as applicable today as they were in the first century, these letters also “prove to be prophetic of the history of Christianity following their writing. Most Christians in the first century may not have seen this, but one can hardly deny it now. It has become increasingly obvious as church history has unfolded. Chapters 2 and 3 are therefore prophetic, as are the rest of the chapters of Revelation.” 13

This is known as “the Historico-Prophetical View.” Proponents of this view understand the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 existed in the first century, and what characterized each of them has represented other local churches in various locations throughout church history. However, they also reveal the history of the church from the time John wrote to the Rapture in seven successive periods. 14

Constable writes, “A general scheme of the periods of western civilization that correspond to the conditions described in each of the letters to the seven churches is as follows: 15

Prior to the Rapture of the church (Revelation 4:1-4), Jesus gives some serious advice to this self-reliant church: 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18). Because the Laodiceans had become materially wealthy they thought they “had need of nothing,” including God (3:17a). The Laodiceans were materially “rich”; Christ says they are “poor” spiritually (3:17b). Laodicea had a world-famous medical center that was known for treating eye disease; Jesus informs them that they are “blind” spiritually (3:17c). Laodicea was a center for manufacturing clothing; Jesus declares that they are “naked” spiritually (3:17d). These believers were spiritually destitute, and they did not even know it.

“Here Jesus debunks a prominent lie of prosperity theology: being materially successful means God has blessed you. Not so. The Laodiceans said, I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing. But the external appearance of prosperity was not indicative of the condition of their hearts or their level of fellowship with God. They were spiritually uncommitted, carnal, and compromising. As Jesus put it, they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked spiritually.” 16

Because their self-estimate was so deeply flawed, the Lord gave them counsel as to exactly what they needed to do. Their ability to pull out of their disastrous spiritual condition rested on their paying the price they needed to pay spiritually.” 17

If someone told us that everything about us makes him want to vomit, we would not expect to hear from that person again. 18 But as “the Faithful and True Witness,” the Lord Jesus also continues to extend love and grace to His church no matter how unappealing her spiritual condition is. Christ counsels them to be faithful by instructing them to “buy” three things (3:18). Obviously, this is not talking about our salvation because Christ has already bought that through His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. I Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1). 19 In addition, salvation is a free gift which cannot be bought (Revelation 21:6b; 22:17b; cf. Romans 4:5; 6:23b; Ephesians 2:8-9). But in Revelation 3:18, Jesus is speaking figuratively when He counsels them to “buy” three things that these complacent and carnal Christians need:

“gold refined in fire” which represents eternal rewards that stand the test of the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 3:11-15). They were to be faithful to Jesus by having faith that is tested by fire (I Peter 1:6-7).

“white garments.” Their shameful nakedness was to be clothed, not by purchasing the sleek black wool that was made in Laodicea, but by buying “white garments,” which refer to being faithful to Christ through righteous conduct and serving God (Revelation 19:8), not out of selfish motives, but in a way that pleases the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:3, 9-10).

“eye salve.” Instead of purchasing the eye salve that was produced and sold in Laodicea, they were to buy a spiritual “eye salve” that would enable them to see more clearly on a spiritual level and remain faithful to Christ. For this to happen, they must see their desperate need to get into the Word of God and to ask God’s Spirit to help them understand and apply it to their lives (cf. John 9:6; James 1:22; 1 John 2:20, 27). 20

The church of Laodicea is typical of the modern church which denies its spiritual needs and is content with its beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. Notice that verse 18 does not tell us the purchase price for these items. We are not told how much the refined gold, white garments, and eye salve will cost us. The Lord Jesus will tell us this in the next verse.  

The believers at Laodicea may have felt Jesus was being overly harsh with them, so Christ reminds them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” (Revelation 3:19a). Jesus’ rebuke of them is evidence of His love. If He did not love them, He would not rebuke them in their spiritually lukewarm condition. But Christ wants the best for them (and us), so He tells them what they need to hear, even though it may be painful for them.

If the Laodiceans did not listen to Jesus, His love for them would lead Him to “chasten” them. The word “chasten” (paideuō) literally means “child-training.” 21 It refers to correcting or instructing a child. 22 It is always an activity of God toward Christians, not non-Christians (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11). 23

“The church at Laodicea is typical of a modern church quite unconscious of its spiritual needs and content with beautiful buildings and all the material things money can buy. This is a searching and penetrating message.” 24

Jesus then says, “Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19b). How does a church or individual Christian buy gold refined in fire, white garments, and eye salve? That is, how does an indifferent church become spiritually healthy and earn eternal rewards? By being “zealous” for good works and “repenting.”

All Christians are to be known in the church and in their community as people who are zealous for good works – who are eager to please God. What do you have zeal for in your Christian life? A nice house? A car? A well-kept home? A large retirement plan? An attractive appearance? A bigger church building? These things are not wrong in and of themselves. But the number one aim in our lives should be to please God – to love Him above all else and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

The word “repent” (metanoeō) refers to a change of mind or way of thinking. 25 The Laodiceans needed to change their minds and realize they did not have it all together spiritually and that their lives were not pleasing to the Lord. Whatever we are doing that is not pleasing to the Lord is to be corrected. We are to confess that it is wrong to God (I John 1:9) and start doing what we know is pleasing to Him.

The Laodiceans are to repent of their self-sufficient, half-hearted service, and remain faithful to Christ, fervently serving Him. Hence, when Christians are zealous for good works and repent of wrong attitudes and actions, they will…

– lay up refined gold or eternal rewards that stand the test of the Judgment Seat of Christ (3:18a; I Corinthians 3:8-15).

– be clothed with the proper white garments or righteous conduct that will glorify Christ in eternity (3:18b; cf. 3:5; 19:8).

– be able to see properly on a spiritual level (3:18c; cf. Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14).

Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” (Revelation 3:20a). Many Christians have mistakenly understood this verse to refer to salvation. But we have already seen that the “churches” in Revelation 2 and 3 refer to genuine Christians. In the context, the Lord Jesus has been talking about works, not faith; He has been addressing service, not salvation; He has exhorted us to be zealous for good works and repent of works that sicken the Lord.

The Lord is now saying if a church invites Christ in for dinner, He will come, and they will have fellowship together (3:20a). This verse is not to be taken literally. This is not a literal “door,” just as verse 18 was not to be taken literally. Amid their self-sufficient attitude, the Laodiceans had shut the Lord Jesus out from their church. The word “stand” (3:20a), literally means “I have taken My stand.” 26 It emphasizes a persistent dealing with the church. Christ persistently seeks intimate fellowship with this self-reliant church that has shut Him out. Hence, He asks permission to enter the church and re-establish fellowship with them.

Christ then says, “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20b). Notice that Jesus says He will come “in to” (two words) the person, not “into” (one word) the person. The Greek verb translated “come in” (eiserchomai) accompanied by the preposition translated “to” (pros) means “to come or go to someone.” This construction occurs eight times in the New Testament (Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 17:2; 28:8; Revelation 3:20) and each time it means to enter into a building and stand in front of a person. 27 Whenever “come in” (eiserchomai) is used of entrance into a person it is followed by the Greek preposition eis (Mark 9:25; Luke 8:30; 22:3; John 13:27) and refers to demon possession. The preposition eis deals with “the idea of entry, whereas pros tends to stop short of going up to (without entry).” 28 The result of Christ’s entrance “to” the person is a common meal shared – “I will… dine with him, and he with Me.” The Greek verb “dine” (deipnēsō) indicates that this is the main meal of the day, the one to which an honored guest would be invited. 29

This verse is speaking of entrance into a building toward a person, not entrance into a person. Jesus will not force His way into a church. Christ is saying that He will come in the church toward the believer who repents (hears His voice and opens the door of the church) and eat dinner with him, that is, have intimate fellowship with him.

How does one open the door so that Christ can come and fellowship with him? By being zealous for good works and repenting of the works that made the Lord Jesus vomit (3:19b).

Christ’s invitation here is not for lost sinners to believe in Him for the free gift of eternal life, but for His disobedient children to get close to Him once again. If any of these lukewarm believers did open the door to Him, Christ promises, ‘I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.’ This is a promise that they will enjoy close fellowship with Him once again.” 30

With Christ on the outside, there can be no fellowship or genuine wealth. With Christ on the inside, there is wonderful fellowship and sharing of the marvelous grace of God. This was an appeal to Christians rather than to non-Christians. This raises the important question concerning the extent of one’s intimate fellowship with Christ.” 31

Christ then promises, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21). The believer who “overcomes” by humbly and zealously submitting to Christ in fellowship and service until the end of his life, will be able to “sit with” Him on His throne, as Jesus was humble and zealous in submitting to His Father’s will and was rewarded with sitting down with His Father “on His throne.” This promised reward assures the overcomer of close fellowship with Christ forever by receiving the honor of sharing His royal throne. This is a conditional reward because it is dependent on overcoming as Christ did. 32 Just as Christ overcame death by humble and dependent submission to His Father’s will, the Laodiceans can overcome their self-sufficiency and enjoy ruling with Christ by humbly and dependently submitting to Christ in fellowship and service.

The use of αὐτός (“to him”) in Revelation 2:17, 17, 27 and 3:21 indicates a restrictive kind of reference to the overcomer. It is a specific and restrictive way of showing that ruling with Christ applies only to the victor or overcomer, 33 not to every believer in Jesus.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:22). Only those Christians who “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promise and live as “overcomers” so they may receive this ultimate reward of reigning with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth. If they are lukewarm and then repent of the works that sickened the Lord Jesus and are zealous for good works, then they can receive the privilege of reigning with Christ in His future Kingdom on earth. The Lord Jesus uses rewards here, as with the other six churches, as a motivation to conquer sin and slackness—not as a motivation to salvation. 34

At the outset these faithful believers will rule with Christ on earth for a thousand years during the millennial kingdom (cf. Revelation 20:6). Throughout eternity they will reign with Christ on the new earth (cf. Revelation 21:10-11; 22:1-2). 35

As we read about the possibility of ruling with Christ in the future, we may not be very motivated by the thought of reigning with Christ or having rulership in the future world. Joseph Dillow has some key things to say about this.

“Those who have not persevered in faith, who have denied their King now will have feelings of deep shame and regret because they took Him for granted and wasted their lives. The pain will be acute, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“…Some may not find the motivation of rewards as significant in their walk with God as the other motivations… That said, it seems to me, that all of us should consider this biblical emphasis to live with the end in view.

“Furthermore, the notion of reigning with Christ… should not be trivialized as if it means various administrative positions in a kingdom or being a mayor of a city. The theme is much broader, and the vision more glorious. What is signified by these expressions is not so much administrative positions as the joy of participating with the Messiah in the final destiny of man, to serve Him and minister with Him in the millennium and the future world. We aspire to higher position because we can then be more effective in the service of our King… We will have greater opportunity to serve Him, to demonstrate our love and gratitude to Him, and to extend the knowledge of His love and goodness throughout the cosmos. To miss that is to miss much.” 36

If we find ourselves indifferent toward the things of God like the Laodicea Christians, it is not too late for us to change. Even if we haven’t been doing well in our service for Christ thus far, we can start today. The Laodiceans were not doing well, yet the Lord holds out the possibility that they might rule with Him in the future if they will be zealous for good works and repent of the works that sickened the Lord Jesus. 

In recovery programs like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), while not perfect programs, they do have a lot to commend them. One of their slogans is very appropriate for this passage. It says, “Denial is not a river in Egypt.”

The Lord Jesus does not want us to be in denial. He wants us to acknowledge when we fall short and be zealous for good works. He wants us to aim to please Him in all that we do or say. If you want to be an overcomer, you will have to go all the way with Jesus Christ. You may say, “But it is too hard, and I am not getting any credit now.”  

Let me tell you about Henry Morrison, a missionary to Africa. He was coming home from Africa on a ship which was also carrying former President Theodore Roosevelt. When the ship docked in New York City, thousands of people were there to greet Roosevelt. But no one was cheering for Morrison.

Henry Morrison had served the Lord for forty years in Africa. As he watched the crowds greet Theodore Roosevelt, he became dejected to think he had served the Lord all those years and yet no one was there to greet him.

Morrison said that as he walked down the gang plank in a depressed mood, a voice whispered to him, “Henry, don’t worry. You are not home yet.” Then he said he saw a vision of multiplied thousands of Africans standing at the gates of heaven, those whom he had reached for Christ, applauding as he entered the pearly gates.

So if people are not recognizing you down here, if you are not getting any applause right now, don’t worry. You are not home yet. Remember what Jesus Christ has waiting for you if you remain faithful to Him. He will richly reward you with intimate fellowship with Him forever by giving you the honor of sharing His royal throne.

In summary, Christians who repent of their self-sufficient and half-hearted service for the Lord, and humbly and zealously submit to Christ in fellowship and service until the end of their lives, will be richly rewarded with a share in Christ’s glorious reign in His coming Kingdom (3:14-22).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Faithful and True Witness Who alone is qualified to judge the self-reliant and self-serving church. You know that much of the modern church in America is a lot like the church of Laodicea. We have become lukewarm with complacency and self-reliance. We no longer seek to preach the gospel of grace to all people. Instead, we are captivated by our big, beautiful buildings and all the things that our money can buy. We are driven by our own desire for comfort instead of compassion for those who are perishing without You. This lukewarmness will eventually cause You to remove Your church from the earth via the Rapture so You may start over with the Two Witness at the beginning of the Tribulation. Lord Jesus, forgive us for the areas in our lives that have become lukewarm with apathy and complacency. Please enable us to repent of the works that disgust You and empower us to do good works for and with You until we go to be with You in heaven. We pray that we would keep the door of our hearts open to You so we may enjoy intimate fellowship with You now and be the channels through which Your blessings overflow to all with whom we come into contact. Thank You for reminding us that our eternal life is secure in Your finished work on the cross, but our eternal rewards depend on how we live the Christian life now on earth. No matter what the spiritual health of other believers or churches may be, You call us to be faithful and to keep You at the center of our lives if we are to receive the ultimate reward of sitting with You on Your throne in Your glorious Kingdom. In Your mighty and majestic name, Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1514.

2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 109-110.

3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 53. 

4. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 56.

5. Bauer, pg. 138.

6. Archibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!), 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2017 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 214976-214978.

7. Constable, pg. 56.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1514.

9. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2376.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1514. 

12. Swindoll, pg. 113. 

13. Constable, pg. 61 cites M. J. Brunk, “The Seven Churches of Revelation Two and Three,” Bibliotheca Sacra 126:503 (July- September 1969), pp. 240-46.

14. Constable, pg. 63 cites John Peter Lange, ed. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. 12 vols. Reprint ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960. Vol. 12: James-Revelation, by J. P. Lange, J. J. Van Oosterzee, G. T. C. Fronmuller, and Karl Braune. Enlarged and edited by E. R. Craven. Translated by J. Isidor Mombert and Evelina Moore), pg. 139; Arno C. Gaebelein, The Revelation (New York: Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1915), pg. 33; J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ Edited by J. Otis Yoder (Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1971, pp. 61-62; William Kelly, Lectures on the Revelation, New ed., (London: A. S. Rouse, 1897), pg. 24; Frederick A. Tatford, The Patmos Letters (By the Author, 1969; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, n.d.), pg. 106;  F. W. Grant, The Prophetic History of the Church (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Publishers, n.d.);  Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse (Charles C. Cook, 1900; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pg. 64; C. I. Scofield, ed., Scofield Reference Bible (1917 ed.), pp. 1331-32; Harry A. Ironside, Lectures on the Revelation (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1946), pp. 35-36; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pg. 51; J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 Vol. 5 (Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pp. 900-926.

15. Constable, pg. 63.

16. Evans, pg. 2376.

17. Vacendak, pp. 1514-1515.

18. Swindoll, pg. 114. 

19. The word “buys” (agorazō) is the same word used to refer to Jesus’ payment for sin on the Cross (I Corinthians 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1).

20. Vacendak, pg. 1515.

21. Robertson, Kindle Location 215197.

22. Bauer, pg. 749.

23. EvanTell’s The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2014), pg. 1387.

24. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, pg. 164.

25. Bauer, pg. 640.

26. The Greek verb, hestēka, is a perfect indicative which means I took My stand in the past and continue to take My stand in the present.

27. Mike Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984, pp. 82-82.

28. Ibid, pg. 83 cites C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, (Cambridge at the University Press, 1953), pp. 67-68.

29. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pg. 98.

30. Vacendak, pg. 1515.

31. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, pg. 164.

32. William Ross, “An Analysis of the Rewards and Judgments in Revelation 2 and 3,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1971, pg. 50.

33. Richard Benedict, “The Use of Νικάω in the Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1966, pg. 42.

34. Evans, pg. 2377.

35. Vacendak, pp. 1515-1516.

36. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 1039-1040.

Revelation 3 – Part 2

“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12

Jesus now speaks to the sixth church: “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7). The city of “Philadelphia” (lit. “brotherly love”; cf. Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; et al.) was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. “A Pergamenian king, Attalus II (159-138 B.C.), founded it. The town received its name from his nickname, “Philadelphus” (“brother lover”). This king had a special devotion to his brother, Eumenes II. The city stood in a wine-producing area and was the so-called ‘gateway’ to central Asia Minor. The modern name of this town is ‘Alasehir.’” 1

Philadelphia “was… afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several times, most recently about A.D. 37.” 2 The church there had to deal with the uncertainty this entailed and also with the persecution of those of ‘the synagogue of Satan.’ In spite of the problems it faced, this church was faithful to the Lord and along with the church in Smyrna it received praise from Christ and no rebuke.” 3

Jesus describes Himself to “the church in Philadelphia” as “He who is holy,” set apart from everything and everyone else.Being holy, He is qualified to judge the spiritual life of this church. As “He who is “true,” the Lord Jesusis not just a likeness of God, He is God Who is infinitely distinct from all false gods who represent a lie. 4 When Christ says He “has the key of David,” this is a reference to Isaiah 22:22, where the key of the house of David was given to Eliakim who then had access to all the wealth of the king.5Like Eliakim, Jesus has the authority to distribute (“He who opens and no one shuts”) or not to distribute (“He who… shuts and no one opens”) all of God’s resources as He chooses (3:7). He wants the believers in Philadelphia to know that their rewards in His coming kingdom will be based on His royal prerogative alone. 6

The Lord Jesus then says, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8). The Lord Jesus gave this church an “open door” of opportunity for blessing because even though they “have a little strength” in numbers, they have obeyed God’s Word and boldly refused to deny his “name.” Although they were small in numbers, they were great both in their commitment to God’s Word and in their boldness to confess His name despite opposition and persecution.

Even though you may have a small church, you can still please the Lord with your obedience to His Word and your boldness to openly confess His name. The size of a church is not nearly as important as it’s commitment to Jesus and His Word. Too many churches today focus on size and outward appearance without paying enough attention to their inner spiritual life. Christ is most glorified when churches are most committed to Him and what pleases Him.

Jesus promises the following to these faithful believers at Philadelphia: 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere.” (Revelation 3:9-10a). Christ guaranteesthat their professing Jewish antagonists (“the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not”) would have to acknowledge these believers as the true followers of God (“I will make them know… that I have loved you”) whom He has “loved” because they persevered in obeying His commandments (3:9-10a).

Connecting these two verses fits well with the Biblical teaching that Christ expresses His love in special ways toward believers who obey Him and take a stand for Him (cf. John 14:21-24). In Rev 3:8, Christ had just commended this church for obeying His word and now He is rewarding them because they obeyed His command to persevere.” 7

When we persevere in obedience to Jesus, He will reward us by overruling our Satanic enemies who come against us. 8 There are religious groups today who “lie” by saying they are true followers of God, and they think they are serving God by persecuting Christians (cf. John 16:2). But the truth is, they have rejected Jesus Christ and one day Christ will judge these impostors when He returns to earth (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Jude 1:12-15; Revelation 19:11-21) and at the Great White Throne Judgment where all who refused to believe in Jesus will be judged according to their works to determine their degree of punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

God promises that the day will come, when all opponents to the Christian faith will have to acknowledge the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf. Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11). 9 The Bible says, 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11). For example, every atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah Witness, Mormon, and Muslim who has rejected Jesus Christ in this life, will bow “under the earth” in the lake of fire at the name of Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This need not be the case if these living unbelieving people on earth would change their mind about Christ now, and believe He is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). Then they will be able to bow in the future at the name of Jesus “in heaven” and confess that He is Lord.

Then the ascended Lord Jesus promises, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10). Because these believers have faithfully persevered in obedience to Christ’s command, He “will keep” or protect them “from the hour of trial [time of trouble] which shall come upon the whole [Roman] world” during the readers’ lifetimes “to test” or trouble the unsaved “who dwell on the earth” (3:10b).

Some believe this verse teaches that only Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ will be delivered from the Tribulation period through the Rapture (Partial Rapture view). This view acknowledges that some Christians are unfaithful and will not be raptured. 10 A similar view (Puritan Dispensational Rapture) states that all Christians will persevere in obedience to the end of their lives and therefore, all Christians will be raptured. 11

But this verse is not referring to the Tribulation Period because all” Church-Age believers will be protected from that period of God’s wrath on earth through the Rapture or sudden removal of the church, whether they are spiritually “awake” or “asleep” (cf. I Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16-17; 5:9-10; cf. I Corinthians 15:51-52). In Revelation 3:10, Jesus assures the obedient believers in Philadelphia that they would have His protection during this time of turmoil sent to trouble “those who dwell on the earth” (i.e., the unsaved; cf. 6:10; 11:10; 13:14; 14:6; 17:8). 12 It is better to understand verse 10 historically as referring to deliverance from the ten years of persecution during Trojan’s reign. This deliverance came about by the Roman Emperor’s fear of sending troops to an area known for its devastating earthquakes. 13

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11). Jesus reminds the readers that He is “coming quickly,” therefore they should “hold fast” to their obedience to Christ amid trials to the end of their lives (Revelation 2:26). To stop following Christ because of persecution and opposition is to permit the enemies of Jesus to “take your crown,” and allow them to cause you to lose the ultimate eternal reward of ruling with Christ forever in His coming kingdom (cf. Revelation 2:25-27; 2 Tim 2:12-13). “Eternal life is a free gift and cannot be lost but the reward of ruling with Christ forever requires faithfulness to the end (cf. 2:10).” 14

Jesus promises several different rewards for the overcomer who endures in obedience to Christ until he dies. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12). Christ guarantees the overcomer that He “will make him a pillar in the temple of My God.” This refers to a position of permanent honor and intimate association with Christ. Since the Father and the Son will be the temple (cf. Revelation 21:22) in eternity, this reward is probably an especially magnificent experience of nearness to God as well as a key position of support and prominence in God’s eternal kingdom. The phrase “he shall go out no more,” describes the permanence of these rewards. Once these positions of honor and authority are given to the overcomer, they shall never be withdrawn. He is firmly set as a “pillar” in Christ’s eternal kingdom and as such will never be separated from this intimate relationship with God. 15

The overcomer will also have “the name of” God, the name of God’s city, “the New Jerusalem,” and the Lord’s “new name” written on him, stressing a permanent place of prominence in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state. Since these faithful believers honored the Lord Jesus on earth, He will honor them as His victorious ones forever in heaven.

“Writing one’s ‘name’ on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now. In the ancient world, columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world, devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exod. 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s ‘new name’ elsewhere. Perhaps this new name is a symbol of His character, which overcomers can only appreciate when they see Him (cf. 2:17; 3:5).” 16

Jesus closes with His familiar appeal: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:13). Only those believers in Jesus who have “an ear” and “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” will be able toappropriate Jesus’ promises and live as “overcomers” so they may receive these magnificent rewards listed above.  

In summary, Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ through difficult and uncertain times will be rewarded a permanent place of prominence and close association with Christ in God’s spiritual temple in the eternal state (3:7-13).

Prayer: Holy Lord Jesus, You alone are worthy to judge the spiritual life of the church. You are true because You are God and You are infinitely distinct from all false gods who represent a lie. You alone have authority to distribute Your rewards in Your coming Kingdom as You choose. So much of what we have here on earth is temporary and changing. But You offer us rewards that are permanent and eternal. Although we may face religious persecution and opposition in this life for Your sake, our commitment to remain faithful to You is far more important in light of Your promises to give us a permanent place of prominence and close association with You in God’s spiritual temple in eternity. Thank You Lord Jesus for offering to honor us in heaven if we will honor You here on earth. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 50.

2. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John

F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1511.

4. Ibid.

5. Walvoord, pg. 164.

6. Vacendak, pg. 1512. 

7. Ibid.

8.  Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2375.

9. Walvoord, pg. 164.

10. Retrieved on October 26, 2021 from John H. Niemelä’s March 1, 2017 Grace Evangelical Society’s journal article at www.faithalone.org entitled, “Revelation 3:10 and the Rapture: A New Departure,” where he cites Robert Govett, The Saints’ Rapture to the Presence of the Lord Jesus (London: Nisbet, 1852), pg. 310.

11. Ibid., cites John F. MacArthur, “The Final Generation, Part 1 (Mark 13:28-37),” on Grace to You, April 3, 2011. Transcript at https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/41-69/the-finalgeneration-part-1. Accessed August 9, 2016.

12. Vacendak, pg. 1513.

13. William Ross, “An Analysis of the Rewards and Judgments in Revelation 2 and 3,” Dallas Theological Seminary ThM Thesis, 1971, pg. 52.

14. Vacendak, pg. 1513.

15. Ibid.

16. Constable, pg. 54 cites Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John. 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907), pg. 58.

Living Life Today in Light of Tomorrow (Video)

This video looks at Bible prophecy in the book of Revelation to bring stability and hope to our lives when so many things seem out of control in the world today.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Digital Globe / www.FreeBibleimages.org, GoodSalt / www.goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses. The video scenes in this video are used with permission from the producers of the video entitled “The Free Gift.”

Revelation 1 – Part 3

“ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.’ ” Revelation 1:11 

After a very powerful introduction to the book of Revelation climaxing with a quote from the Almighty Lord Jesus Christ (1:1-8), the apostle John transitions to the setting of his first vision of Christ as Judge among seven local churches (1:9-11). Wanting to keep the spotlight on the Lord Jesus, John introduces himself and his situation in a humble and simple manner 1 when he writes, I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island of Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:9). The phrase, “I, John,” introduces a change in speaker, 2 since Almighty God was the last to speak (1:8).

John describes himself as the “brother [in Christ] and companion” with his readers in three things:

“tribulation” or persecution for their faith. The word for “tribulation” (thlipsei) refers to“distress brought about by circumstances.” This mention of “tribulation” is not referring to the coming Great Tribulation leading up to Jesus’ physical return to earth (Matthew 24:21, 29), but to “tribulation” or persecution in general that Christians of every era experience (Matthew 13:21; Mathew 20:22-23; John 16:33; Acts 12:2; 14:22; Romans 5:3; 8:17-18, 35; 2 Timothy 2:12; 3:12). 4 John could help his readers endure suffering because he himself had gone through it as well. Those who have not experienced opposition to their faith are not as capable of empathizing with those who have.

“the… kingdom … of Jesus Christ.” John is referring to the future earthly “kingdom” or rule of Jesus Christ that will be established when He comes back to earth (Revelation 19:11-20:6; cf. Psalm 2:6-12; Zechariah 14:9; Matthew 19:28; Acts 1:6-7; 2 Timothy 4:1). John and his readers will share in this future kingdom.

“the … patience… of Jesus Christ.” The word translated “patience” (hypomōnē) “implies endurance under extreme difficulty, as a beast of burden might endure under a heavy load.” 5 Persevering through persecution and suffering is motivated by the promise of reward in Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:17b; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 10:35-36; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21). Those who faithfully endure for Christ to the end of their lives on earth will share in the privilege of reigning with Him Jesus’ future reign on the earth.

When the Lord reminds these believers (and us) of these three things (tribulation, kingdom, endurance) that they share in, it unites them with a common purpose and perspective amid suffering. Sharing in Christ’s suffering is an essential element in discipleship (Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:23-24; Romans 8:17; Philippians 3:10; I Thessalonians 1:6; I Peter 2:20-21; 4:12-14).  

John “was on the island of Patmos,” when God gave him this incredible revelation that comprises this last book of the Bible.Patmos is “a small island in the Aegean Sea southwest of Ephesus and between Asia Minor and Greece. According to several early church fathers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Eusebius), John was sent to this island as a prisoner following his effective pastorate at Ephesus. Victorinus, the first commentator on the Book of Revelation, stated that John worked as a prisoner in the mines on this small island. When the Emperor Domitian died in A.D. 96, his successor Nerva let John return to Ephesus.” 6

The reason John was in this penal colony on Patmos was because of his commitment to proclaim, “the word of God and for the testimony of [about] Jesus Christ.” The Roman Emperor Domitian sent John to this desolate island to silence him.Yet this exile did not silence John.God had bigger plans for His apostle while he was there.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, John “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10a). For John to be “in the Spirit” means he was thinking and functioning spiritually, engulfed in a spiritual framework on the Lord’s Day (the first day of the week).” 7 While under the influence of the Holy Spirit, John’s physical senses are apparently supernaturally suspended as God gives him the visions found throughout this book. 8

While “in the Spirit,” John writes, 10 I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:10b-11).

John heard the clear, penetrating voice of the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ identify Himself as the eternal God when He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.” “The First and the Last” is a title that belongs to Yahweh, the God of Israel (Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12).Because Jesus is God and exists eternally, He can give eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:16; 10:28).No other person has this capability. This is what makes Jesus so unique.

The Lord Jesus instructs John to “write in a book” what he will “see” and then “send it [the book of Revelation] to the seven churches which are in Asia” Minor. The ‘book’ in view was a roll of papyrus made from a plant that grew in Egypt. Normally papyrus scrolls were about 15 feet long.” 9

Each of these seven “churches were an autonomous local church and the order of mention is geographical in a half-moon circle beginning at Ephesus on the coast, proceeding north to Smyrna and Pergamum, then swinging east and south to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” 10

Why did the Lord choose these seven churches? The best explanation is that they represent conditions that are applicable to all churches throughout history 11 from which this book could easily circulate. 12

What impresses me the most about these verses is the apostle John’s devotion to the Lord Jesus while he was banished to the island of Patmos by the Roman Emperor to silence him. But John’s love for Christ could not be silenced. Yielded to the Holy Spirit, the apostle was used by God to pen one of the most profound books in the entire Bible about the Lord Jesus Christ and His ultimate triumph over evil.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your Word which cannot be silenced. Thank You for the example of the apostle John and others like him, whose devotion to Jesus could not be silenced, even long after they have died. May each of us look up to You in prayer so we can speak up for Christ when others try to shut us up. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 36.

2. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 18 cites David E. Aune, Revelation 1—5 (Word Biblical Commentary series, Dallas: Word Books, 1997), pg. 75.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1498.

4. Swindoll, pg. 37; Constable, pg. 19.

5. Ibid.

6. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2369.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1499.

9. Constable, pg. 20 cites Frederic G. Kenyon, Handbook to Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: Macmillan, 1912), pg. 30.

10. Walvoord, pg. 164.

11. Evans, pg. 2369; Swindoll, pg. 38.  12. Constable, pg. 20 cites Robert Thomas, Revelation 1—7: An Exegetical Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 93-94.

Revelation 1 – Part 2

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7

In the opening verses of the book of Revelation, the apostle John explains that the message of this book is from and about Jesus Christ, especially as it relates to end-time events (1:1-2). The promise of a special blessing is given to encourage readers to prepare for what is going to take place in the future (1:3).

John then addresses his readers. 4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 1:4-5). John sent this letter (all of Revelation) “to the seven churches” which are addressed in chapters 2 and 3. The number “seven” signifies completion or fullness in the Bible which can be taken to mean this message is for the “whole” church throughout history, including all of us today. These seven churches were in the Roman province of “Asia” Minor or western modern Turkey.

Notice that John extends “grace” before “peace” to his readers (1:4b). Why does he do this? Before undeserving sinners can experience “peace” with God, they must be saved by God’s “grace” or undeserved favor. “God doesn’t save us because of any good thing we have done, will do, or even promise to do. God saves us solely by His grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is God’s gift to undeserving sinners—we must never forget that! The result of this precious grace is a relationship that offers us true peace that overcomes any trials and tribulations the world can bring. What a reassuring greeting to the members of the persecuted church! Though John will later describe judgment and distress that will overtake wicked unbelievers in the future, God’s own people receive grace and peace.” 2

What about you, my friend? Have you found peace with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ? The Bible says, 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved from hell “through faith.” Not through religion or regulations. Not through our good works or morality. It is through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Too many churches are saying we are saved through faith plus… I believe this must break God’s heart. Because when we say it takes more than faith in Jesus to save us from hell, we are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing. Jesus paid for some of my sins, but I must pay for the rest of my sins.” In other words, we are telling God that Jesus did not get the job done, so we have to help Him. But listen: Jesus does not need our help to save us from our sins. He did not make a down payment for our sins when He died on the cross. He made the full payment for our sins. That is why He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He finished paying the penalty for all our sins when He died in our place. He simply asks us to humbly accept His free gift by faith. And when we do, we are saved forever!

This wonderful salvation is “the gift of God.” Do you ever have to pay to receive a gift? No. Why? Because a gift is already paid for. Salvation is free to you and me because Jesus Christ already paid for it all when He died for our sins and rose from the dead. The hand that receives the gift of salvation is our faith in Jesus Christ. The moment we believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation, “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).

John tells us that “grace” and “peace” are from the Triune God. First, he refers to God the Father when he writes, “from Him who is and who was and who is to come” (1:4c; cf. Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 16:5). This brings to remembrance the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14-15. God the Father transcends all of time – past, present, and future. He was in control of our past. He is in control of our present. And He will be in control of our future no matter what we face. This is important to remember when we read through the series of judgments in the book of Revelation. God’s abiding presence in our lives enables us to experience His peace which surpasses human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Next, we see that “grace” and “peace” are also from God the Holy Spirit. John writes, “and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne” (1:4d). Remember the number “seven” represents completion or fullness in the Bible. In Revelation 4:5, we read, “Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” (cf. Zechariah 4:2-7; Isaiah 11:2-3). The Holy Spirit gives “perfect illumination and insight concerning all that transpires everywhere. By this perfect wisdom God rules the universe. The imagery of God’s throne is used throughout the rest of the book (the word throne is used forty-two times). The believers of the seven churches undoubtedly received great encouragement from this greeting as it emphasizes that God is at work in their lives with complete awareness as well as perfect insight.” 3

We may think that God is distant or doesn’t care about us when we face difficult times. God wants to remind us that He is fully aware of our needs and circumstances, and He is at work in our lives. In fact, the Bible tells us that when are in so much pain that we do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede for us to God the Father (Romans 8:26-27). He fights for us before the throne of God.

John introduces God the Son last in this acknowledgment perhaps to emphasize His importance: “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth” (1:5a). The Lord Jesus is described as “the faithful witness.” Throughout His entire earthly ministry, Jesus was faithful to share the truth He had received from His Father in heaven (John 3:11, 32; 4:44; 7:7; 8:14-18; 18:37). This would be especially true concerning the future events He would disclose in this letter. As “the firstborn from the dead,” Jesus was the first to rise from the dead and remain alive forever, making Him superior to all others. When John says that Jesus is “the ruler over the kings of the earth,” he is looking ahead to Christ’s future ministry after His Second Coming to earth (see Revelation 11:15; 19:15-20:6). 

John is so overtaken with joy at the mention of the glorious and majestic Lord Jesus Christ, that he breaks forth into praise: 5 To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and He made us into a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5b-6 NKJV NASB). John gives glory to God the Son since this is the primary purpose of the book of Revelation. John ascribes “glory and…  dominion” to Jesus who has always “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” In giving glory to Jesus, John first “draws our attention back to the cross where he had once stood as an eyewitness to the sufferings of his Savior (John 19:26-27, 35). By the shedding of His blood, Christ paid the debt in full for the sins of the world and thereby released believers from the guilt and penalty of their sins. On our behalf, He conquered death and gave new life to all who believe.” 5

No one loves us as much as Jesus. How do I know this? Because He “washed us from our sins in His own blood” the moment we believed in Him. Another evidence of His love for us is that “He made us into a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” The moment you and I believe in Jesus for His gift of salvation, we are placed in His “kingdom” (corporately) as “priests” (individually) “to His God and Father.” This emphasis on God’s love at the beginning of this book would be a great source of comfort for his readers considering the following revelation of much judgment to come on humanity (Revelation 6-19). Everything God does is because He loves His people. 6

The first prophetic utterance in the book of Revelation is given in the next verse: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” (Revelation 1:7). In verses 5 and 6 John focused on how worthy Jesus is of eternal “glory” and “dominion.” But now he sees Christ coming back to earth to obtain this “glory” and “dominion.” This verse announces the climactic event in Revelation, namely, the return of Jesus Christ to the earth at His Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-16).  All that takes place between this verse and Revelation 19:11-16 leads up to that event.

The word “Behold” (Idou) draws attention to what follows. 7  To put it in our own vernacular – “Stop whatever you are doing and pay attention to what I am about to say! You don’t want to miss this!”

This Jesus Who washed us from our sins in His own blood at His First Coming is coming back to earth again this time “with clouds.” Just as Jesus ascended physically and visibly to heaven with a cloud (Acts 1:9-11), so He will return from heaven to earth physically and visibly with clouds. As Christ gradually descends out of the sky to destroy His enemies at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 19:11-21), “every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.” “All mankind will have the opportunity to witness the return of Christ to earth, including Jews, Who will mourn their crucifixion and prolonged rejection of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37). The phrase ‘all the tribes of the earth (gēs)’ is a reference to every nation on the planet (the same Greek phrase is used in the LXX in Genesis 12:3; 28:14; Psalm 72:17; and Zechariah 14:17 in reference to the entire earth). John is elated that both Jews and Gentiles will believe in Christ and mourn over their mistreatment of Him. Thus, he proclaims, ‘Even so, Amen. (Emphasis added)’ ” 8

This Second Coming of Christ to earth (Revelation 1:7) is in in contrast to the future Rapture or sudden removal of the Church which will probably not be visible to everyone (I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 4:1-4) because it will take place suddenly. Only those who are “in Christ” (believers in Jesus) will hear “the trumpet of God” sound (I Thessalonians 4:16) when the Rapture takes place.

Other contrasts in the Bible between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ to earth include the following:

a. The Rapture is imminent – it could happen at any moment (Matthew 24:36-51; I Corinthians 15:51-52; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), whereas the Second Coming is preceded by numerous signs (outpouring of Spirit, prophesy, dreams, visions, blood, fire, columns of smoke, warfare, darkening of sun and moon, unprecedented suffering, etc. (Matthew 24:4-35; Joel 2:28-32; Revelation 6-18).

b. The Rapture removes believers (Matthew 24:40-41; I Thessalonians 4:13-18) whereas in the Second Coming, Christ returns with believers to the earth (Jude 1:14; Revelation 19:8, 14).

c. The Rapture results in the removal of the church and the start of the Tribulation (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), whereas the Second Coming results in the return of the church to earth and the start of the 1000-year-rule of Christ on earth (Revelation 19:8, 11-20:6).

d. The Rapture brings a message of hope and comfort (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), whereas the Second Coming brings a message of judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:3-9; Revelation 19:11-21).

e. The Rapture of the church was previously unknown (“mystery,” I Corinthians 15:51-58) to the Old Testament writers, whereas the Second Coming is predicted in both Old and New Testaments (Joel 2:28-32; Zechariah 14; Matthew 24:4-30; Mark 13:24-26).

f. At the Rapture, the Lord takes believers from earth to heaven “to the Father’s house” (John 14:3); at the Second Coming, believers return from heaven to the earth (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19:8, 11-21).

g. At the Rapture, Christians are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 4:4), but at the Second Coming, Gentile nations are judged (Matthew 25:31-46).

h. The Rapture is before the day of wrath (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), but the Second Coming concludes the day of wrath (Revelation 11:15-18; 19:11-20).  

i. At the Rapture, Christ comes in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16-17), but at the Second Coming Christ comes to the earth (Zechariah 14:4).

j. At the Rapture, Christ claims His bride (John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-18), at the Second Coming, Christ comes with His bride (Revelation 19:8, 14).

k. At the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (I Thessalonians 4:16-17), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matthew 24:31).

l. At the Rapture, Christ comes to reward (I Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 22:12), at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge (Matthew 25:31-46).

m. At the Rapture, Christ comes as the Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2).

Next Jesus confirms the preceding prophetic forecast of His return to earth (Revelation 1:7) with a solemn affirmation of His eternality and omnipotence: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8). “The Alpha and Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and signify here, Jesus’ comprehensive control over all things—including time (cf. Revelation 21:6; 22:13). He is in control of the past (“who was”), the present (“who is”), and the future (“who is to come”). Christ is the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), and He will bring history to its conclusion. Christ is yesterday, today, and tomorrow because he exists eternally. 9

Jesus is “the Almighty.” The Greek word for “Almighty” is pantokratōr, “the all-powerful One.” It is used ten times in the New Testament, nine of them in Revelation (2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). 10  Because Jesus is the all-powerful God, He has the ability to bring to pass the promise of His Second Coming to earth. 11

In conclusion, the fulfillment of Jesus’ visible and bodily return to earth to defeat His enemies (Revelation 19:11-21), is based upon the Triune God’s power to fulfill His promises and plans (Revelation 1:4-8). Since God has the power to bring His prophetic predictions to pass, He also has the power to fulfill His individual plans for each of us. His power cannot only save us from an eternity separated from Him, but it can also give us peace which surpasses human understanding during times of distress. Therefore, we can trust Him to take care of us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for giving us Your grace which saves underserved sinners from hell forever the moment we put our faith in Christ alone. This same grace can also give us peace as we face tribulation and distress in our modern world. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for washing us clean of all our sins with Your shed blood the moment we believed in You. No one loves us like You do, Lord. Because You are in control of our past, present, and future, we can trust You to take care of us during these uncertain times. Nothing is too hard for You, Lord God Almighty. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), g. 2368.

2. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation, (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 35.

3. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1496-1497.

4. Ibid., pg. 1497.

5. Swindoll, pg. 36.

6. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 16.

7. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 468.

8. Vacendak, pp. 1497-1498.

9. Evans, pg. 2369.

10. John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 164.

11. Vacendak, pg. 1498.

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 6

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

In John 17, we are learning to pray like Jesus prays. So far we have discovered that like Jesus, we are to pray…

– For God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5)

– For those we disciple (John 17:6-19) which includes…

  ~ Praying for their receptivity to God’s Word (John 17:6-8).

  ~ Praying for their protection from the world and the evil one (John 17:9-15).

  ~ Praying for their purification through God’s Word (John 17:16-19).

– For future believers in Christ (John 17:20-26) which includes…

  ~ Praying for their unity, so the world can believe in Jesus (John 17:20-23).

The second thing Jesus prayed for future believers is THEIR PRESENCE WITH HIM IN HIS COMING KINGDOM WHERE THEY WILL SEE HIS GLORY DISPLAYED BEFORE THEM (John 17:24-25). Christ prayed, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24). When Jesus prays for these believers to “be with Me where I am,” He may be referring to His Millennial Kingdom on earth where they will “behold His glory” as He reigns over all the earth from Jerusalem as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Psalm 72:19; 102:15-16; Zechariah 14:1-21; Matthew 6:13; I Timothy 6:14-16; Revelation 17:14; 19:16-20:6). 1

Prior to the reign of Christ on earth, the church will be caught up to heaven to live with Jesus (John 14:2-3; I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), while those left behind will go through the seven-years Tribulation period on earth (Daniel 9:27; Revelation 6-18). At the end of the Tribulation period, King Jesus will return to earth with His church to defeat all His enemies who were gathered together to make war with Him (Revelation 19:7-21). Then Christ will set up His kingdom and reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years (Zachariah 14:1-21; Revelation 20:1-10).

Do you ever buy something new that you are very proud of? Or an accomplishment occurred in your life that was one of the top things in your life? When that happens there is always somebody that you want to share it with. Somebody that you want to show it to. Jesus is saying, “Here is My family. All who have believed in Me. They know about the cross and they know how I was born in a manger in Bethlehem. But there are some things they don’t know about Me. They don’t know some of the best parts of Me. They don’t know what it is like for Me to be glorified, sitting on My throne in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. I want them to be there. I want them to see that. When I am sitting on My throne in My eternal kingdom, I want them to see My glory.”

Christ’s prayer for His followers to be “with” Him in His coming kingdom on earth to see His “glory” will come to pass because the Father always hears and answers His Son’s requests (John 17:24; cf. 11:41-42). This underscores the eternal security of every believer in Jesus. Our arrival in Christ’s kingdom is not based on our prayers or faithfulness, but upon the prayers and faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  

The Father gave Jesus this great glory because of His eternal love (“for You loved Me before the foundation of the world”). There has never been a time when the Father has not loved Jesus. Think about that! Together, the Father and Son have been working side by side for all of eternity past. And you know what is also amazing? It is the Father’s love for us which is also constant. Nothing we can do or not do causes the Father to stop loving us. We are secure in His unending love for us forever!

Next Christ prayed, “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.” (John 17:25). By addressing God as His “righteous Father,” Jesus was expressing His confidence that His Father would do what was right and grant what He just asked for in prayer. “The world” did not know the Father because they did not believe that Jesus came from the Father. So we see that the Father is right (“righteous”) and the world is wrong (“the world has not known You”). 2  But Christ’s disciples knew the Father and believed He “sent” Jesus.

What about us? Do we also know the Father and believe that He sent Jesus into this lost world to save sinners? If we do, we are guaranteed to be taken to heaven by the Lord Jesus where we will be able to behold the unveiled glory of King Jesus and bathe in the love He shared with His Father before the foundation of the world. What could be better that that!?!

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for Your Son, Jesus Christ, Whom You sent into this world to pay the price for the sins of the world when He died in our place on a cross and rose from the dead. Thank You for the gift of everlasting life and for the future home in heaven we will have with You where we can behold the glory of King Jesus both there and when He comes back to earth to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over all the earth. Please keep this vision of His glorious reign in the front of our minds and in front of those we disciple so all of us can live for that special day when we will see His glory and bathe in the love that You shared before the foundation of the world. In Jesus’ glorious name we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 461.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition.), pg. 680.