Jesus Wins! – Part 42: Soon!

//Jesus Wins! – Part 42: Soon!

Jesus Wins! – Part 42: Soon!

Revelation 22:6-11

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” [1]

In these final two chapters of Revelation, John has seen four images in his last vision describing the glorified consummated church’s eternal relationship with God. He has seen the church as a bride, a temple, a city, and a garden. All of these pictures are given to describe the fully-restored relationship between God and his people. As such, they are a description of relationship and not the actual real estate of the new earth and sky. That doesn’t mean we will live in a purely spiritual realm. It means like Adam and Eve before their rebellion, we will live in a perfect physical world with perfect sinless bodies and souls in perfect glorious fellowship with our Triune Creator God. That is so inconceivable to us who are born into sin we are given these pictures of our final state of salvation, so we can see ahead with the eyes of trust.

John has wrapped up his panoramic vision of the course of redemptive history. Now comes the epilogue in verses 6 through 21. The emphasis of this last passage is that the things recorded in this letter are going to take place soon. It also urgently emphasizes that all human history is racing toward a glorious conclusion when Messiah Jesus will return in unimaginable glory to judge the earth-dwellers, raise the dead, and make all things new. Next week we’ll cover verses 12-21. Then, Lord willing, we will conclude with an overview of the applications we can take from the Apocalypse.

During our 41 previous weeks in our study, we have emphasized how the visions John records offer a commentary on the history of redemption from the time of Christ’s first coming until the time of his return to consummate all things to himself in either judgment or blessing. We have seen John repeatedly paint his pictures using the colors of the Old Testament. Though you are certainly not required to read the Apocalypse this way, I have approached the text as a series of camera angles of the same events rather than a consecutive timeline of multiple final judgments of separate groups, multiple returns of Christ, separate futures for Jews and Gentiles, multiple temples, and multiple appearances of the New Jerusalem.

Revelation was written first to encourage its original readers during persecution at the hands of local and regional authorities of Roman Asia at the turn of the first century. It was also written to encourage all of Christ’s people throughout this present evil age who sojourn in the spiritual wilderness dominated by the dragon, his demonic minions, and the idol-worshipping earth-dwellers of the city of man. It shows us God’s glorious goal, so we will not grow weary or discouraged as we make our pilgrimage toward the heavenly Mt Zion.

Using apocalyptic language and symbols, John has shown his original readers how the Roman Empire and its self-worshipping emperors are a type of all the evil governments and their leaders that will arise throughout this present evil age. This series of evil governments and idolatrous cultures will end with a final judgment when Messiah returns in judgment and blessing. Knowing that everything mankind worships other than Christ – power, prestige, self-generated happiness, self-worship — will be judged and destroyed helps those who overcome the world, the flesh and the devil continue to overcome. The Apocalypse is not a detailed roadmap to future world politics, but a message of pastoral comfort from Christ Jesus to the people who bear his mark of trust into his saving works.

The struggle that began in Eden between Messiah and the devil when Adam refused his high-priestly duty to excommunicate the serpent-dragon from God’s holy garden-temple, carried on throughout the Old Testament story. When Adam rebelled, God promised a Seed of the Woman to undo the works of the devil and reunite heaven and earth. John takes up that story line from the point where Jesus, the Promised Seed, enters the world. The first 20 chapters of Revelation describe the time between Christ’s finished cross work and his final return in judgment and blessing when the dragon still wages his last-ditch war. Chapters 21 and 22 promise that there will come a day when the dragon’s war will end in his crushing defeat. The once-ordinary and oppressed bride will be dressed in glory and permanently united to her spouse to tabernacle with him in a new earth that is one great garden-temple surpassing Eden in its eternity and glory. The struggle may seem long and fierce to us pilgrims. But the outcome is not in doubt. Even the devil has read the ending, which is why he rages against God’s people.

Greg Beale sums up 21:1 through 22:5 this way:

The portrayal of the new covenant, the new temple, the new Israel, and the new Jerusalem affirms the future fulfillment of the main prophetic themes of the OT and NT, which all find their ultimate climax in the new creation. The new creation itself is the most overarching of biblical promises, of which the new covenant, the new temple, the new Israel, and the new Jerusalem are but facets. …Why is this vision placed at the end of the book? It is here to underscore the ultimate basis for John’s final goal and purpose in writing: to exhort God’s people to remain faithful. This is why the book concludes with an epilogue of repeated exhortations, promises, affirmations of Christ’s imminent coming, and warnings to the saints (22:6–21).[2]

All that is cursed – the fallen angels, the idol-worshipping earth-dwellers, and even the sin-tainted cosmos itself – will pass away. The people of God become a radiant bride, a glorious city, a giant Holy of Holies where God lives with them, and a glorious new eternal garden with the waters of life flowing through them. Also present is the Tree of Life, the sacrament of the now-fulfilled Covenant of Works performed perfectly by the Lamb. No unruly sea will be found in the new creation. No sun or moon will outshine God’s ever-present Shekinah glory-cloud. That glory makes God’s people shine like precious stones and pure gold. The fulfilled promise of divine intimacy – You will be my people. I will be your God, and I will tabernacle with you – is the ultimate description of this new and true earth and sky.

EPILOGUE (22:6-9)

Verses 6-22 have two major themes: the authenticity of the book as a divine revelation, and the nearness of the end.[3] In verses 6-9, John both concludes his vision of the new earth and begins the epilogue, the summary, to all the visions he has seen. Revelation ends as it began in chapter 1, with Messiah’s assurance, “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (3:11; 1:3). This segment is the formal conclusion to the whole book and connects to the introduction in 1:1–3; both identify the book as a communication from God (using the language of Dan. 2:28–29, 45), both highlight John as a “witness” to the revelation that he has received, and both emphasize that the revelation is a “prophecy” communicated to “hearers.”

Having showed him the eternal communion between God and his people, the angel speaks again to John. “And he said to me,These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.’[4] We know verse 6 summarizes the preceding vision of the new Jerusalem from its placement immediately after that vision and from its verbal repetition of 21:5b, “These words are faithful and true.”[5] These words come through the angel from God, making them prophetic words like the words given to Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah – all of whom contribute imagery to the Apocalypse. What those prophets saw through the dim light of Old Covenant revelation, John sees clearly as a prophet of New Covenant revelation by the light of the person and work of Messiah Jesus. Further, the angel says the visions John has seen “must soon take place.

Therefore, the various visions contained within Revelation describe the entire period between Jesus’ first and second coming, not just the time immediately before the return of Christ. Although, certain events associated with the time immediately before Christ’s return become the main focus beginning in chapter 16 with the bowl judgments. The camera angles of the bowl judgments, more than the seals and the trumpets, provide detailed views of the catastrophic final events of this present world. The persecution of God’s people begins in earnest as the church is gathered at Pentecost and continues in waves of intensity throughout our sojourn among the earth-dwellers. For John’s first readers, an intense wave was just starting for the churches of Roman Asia. Their trials “must soon take place.

In verse 7, John hears the direct testimony from Jesus. “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.[6] His glorious second advent will be reaffirmed twice more in these 15 verses. What Jesus states three times in the epilogue, John heard sung in the prologue in 1:7, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.[7] Jesus shall return in the divine glory-cloud.

Yet, we have been waiting over 1,900 years for Jesus to fulfill his promised to return “soon.” One scholar writes:

God is more concerned with the fulfillment of his redemptive purposes than he is with satisfying our ideas of appropriate timing. All the issues that find their complete fulfillment in that point in time yet future when history will verge into eternity, are also being fulfilled in the ever advancing present. The end and the beginning are but two perspectives on the same great adventure. The final overthrow of evil was determined from the beginning and has been in force ever since the defeat of Satan by the sacrificial death of Christ and his triumphal resurrection.[8]

Also, in verse 7, Christ also adds the sixth of seven benedictions found in this letter to remind his listeners of the covenant blessings associated with keeping his words. In 1:3 we heard, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.[9] The reason for this repeated benediction is so we will not be deceived by the lies and deception of Satan. Because the words of this prophecy are the words of God, these words will keep us from losing hope during our struggles with our three great enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.

We have repeatedly been warned of what to expect from our enemy, the devil, and these words also set forth in general terms the future course of redemptive history so that we will not be caught unawares when chaos comes. These words must be kept, because they give us a glimpse at the final chapter of this great story. They give us the true picture of the nature of things in a world that is filled with Satan’s lies. John too gives testimony to the truth of his prophecy while revealing just how careless he became because of what he saw. “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me….”[10]

This is the third time John has told us he was tempted by glorious things other than Jesus. He marveled at the earthly glory of the Harlot of Babylon (17:6) and was rebuked by an angel. In 19:10 he began to worship a heavenly angel. Finally, here he does the same thing again. The point seems to be that if John, an apostle caught up into this great heavenly prophetic vision, can make idols out both earthly and heavenly things, then you and I surely can and do as well. We can make idols out of church, out of our good works, out of our attempts to raise children in the faith, out of sacred music, church offices and perceived power, somebody-ness, church architecture, and even the color of the carpet. We tell ourselves that since it’s church-related, our manipulations are actually ministry.

If you take nothing else away from our time in Revelation, please hold on to this:

Whatever you worship other than Christ can and will harm you!

So, yet again, the angel rebukes John’s idolatry: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.[11]

Beginning in verse 10, John records the final testimony of Messiah Jesus to his church. The angel gives to John very different instructions from those given to Daniel seven centuries earlier in Daniel 12:4. The angel tells Daniel: “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” But to John, the angel now says, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.

When Daniel received his vision Messiah’s coming was many centuries away, so the vision was to be sealed until the Lion-Lamb was crucified, dead, buried, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. At that point Christ himself become worthy to break the seal of Daniel’s prophecy. Unlike Daniel who looked ahead to what God will do, John now looks back to what God has done in Jesus Christ. John understands things Daniel could not–that the Son of Man, who possessed an everlasting kingdom, and who was led into the presence of the Ancient of Days is none other than Jesus Christ. Because of Messiah’s work, we can now see what Daniel was forbidden to publish. Now, all God’s people can read and understand Messiah’s testimony; everything we need to know about the course of future history has now been to us revealed in Jesus Christ. And in that testimony, he tells us that he is coming soon!

As God directs his creation toward its appointed goal, human lives go on as they did in the days of Noah. Those who bear God’s mark of baptism continue to receive God’s word and strive to obey him. Those baptized into the devil and his beasts continue to pursue their idols of self-generated happiness, judging themselves to be good and God to be bad. Messiah commands, “11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.[12] This is not so much a warning to the idol-worshipping earth-dwellers outside the church as it is to make believers inside Christ’s community. It echoes God’s promise of judgment to the idol-worshipping Israelites who bore his name in Isaiah’s time. Isaiah proclaimed:

He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” [13]

What will become clear when Messiah Jesus returns, is that those are Christ’s will demonstrate they are sealed into him by their actions and attitudes flowing out of their trust into the perfect life and sacrificial death of the resurrected and ascended Lion-Lamb, Jesus. Those who are not Christ’s, will demonstrate their allegiance to the dragon-serpent by worshipping anything and everything other than Christ. At the end of the age, all of God’s judgments will be seen to be exactly what they are: holy, righteous, good and just. John is passing on Jesus’ warning to us this morning: It is possible to love church and not love Jesus.

You might love (some of) the people, the politics, the power, the attention, the tradition, the theology and intellectual stimulation, the entertainment, or any other number of benefits of being among Christ’s people. But when those are the only things that bring you into the congregation every week, you are not worshipping Jesus and you are not here to receive and keep his words for you. What Christ says about that is chilling: Keep it up; this is your earthly judgment and your eternal judgment is coming. When you defend yourself before me by reciting all your church works I will say, “I never knew you.

We invite you to die to your idols this morning and turn to the living Christ alone for your right standing with God. Trust into his perfect law-keeping life and sacrificial death alone. Keep on washing your robes in his blood alone. Receive the mark of his name for his is coming soon and Christ alone knows how much time you have left to repent and simply say, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for living and dying for me.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.[14]

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:6–11.

[2] Beale, 1119–1120.

[3] Mounce, 402.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:6.

[5] Beale, 1123.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:7.

[7] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 1:7.

[8] Mounce, 404.

[9] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 1:3.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:8.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:9.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:11.

[13] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Is 6:9–10.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17.

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