Jesus Wins! – Part 44: Last Call!

//Jesus Wins! – Part 44: Last Call!

Jesus Wins! – Part 44: Last Call!

Revelation 22:16-21

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

17 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.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Revelation is Christ’s direct testimony to his church. He did not command John to send it out to be read in churches so that members could become armchair theologians speculating on the future of world geopolitical events of the 21st century. The letter is fully known as The Revelation of Jesus Christ because that is what the apostle John entitled it in 1:1. The preposition is important. Though the work is certainly about what must soon take place (1:1), it is primarily Christ’s revelation OF himself as the sovereign ruler of all things – even the persecution of his earthly saints in these last days. He reveals himself to be the Lion-Lamb, the great field general of the Holy Trinity who has already overcome and destroyed the work of the unholy trinity of the dragon and his beast and the false prophet. And he is the architect and builder of the New Jerusalem to which Abraham looked as fulfillment of God’s covenant promises.

The letter ends the way it began, with a personal appearance and testimony by the Lord Jesus Christ. In 22:7, Jesus said, “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.[1] In verse 12 Jesus testifies, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.[2] Finally, in verse 20 he promises, “Surely I am coming soon.[3] You may recall from our journey through this letter that many of the colors with which John paints his visions come from the book of Daniel. We noted how Daniel was told to seal up the revelation he received because it was for a time in the distant future. But from the beginning of Revelation, Jesus has been explaining to John that the far distant time prophesied in Daniel has now arrived. John is told that his visions are not to be sealed up because John’s visions belong to the present time.

The last days began when Jesus rose again and ascended to heaven. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost and pillars of God’s Shekinah glory-cloud dances upon their heads, Peter preached in Acts 3 that these were last days foretold by the prophets. So, everything on God’s great calendar of salvation history has been fulfilled except for the saving of the full number of elect and Christ’s return in judgment and blessing.

Jesus commands his church to always be looking and living with an eye toward the horizon, living with a passion to see the earthly church filled with those rescued out from among the idol-worshipping earth-dwellers. The application is no different here than in 2 Peter 3:10-12:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[4]

To put it another way, since we have had this series of glorious visions play out before us over the last 43 weeks, shouldn’t that transform the way we think and live in this deadly wilderness of idolatry and devils? This is not a book to engage us in speculation; it is given for us to engage in sanctification – becoming more set apart for service to God. Our great calling is to live with unrestrained devotion to Christ. This letter is written to teach us the pathway to God’s favor:

“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” [5]

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.[6]

To “keep the words” is more than striving for obedience. It means to cherish and to preserve them in your mind, to keep them alive in your life regardless of what we study next because now you have seen Christ in all his majesty and power and glory as the Lion-Lamb. Second, you have heard him testify that pay day is coming. He is returning with wages. You will either receive what you have earned or what Christ has earned. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[7] Those who despise the Lord Jesus Christ in this life will continue to despise him in the next. People who cling to Christ in this life (because Christ first clings to them!) will have him as their reward in the next. At the end of the day, the will of the earth-dwellers to worship idols rather than Christ will be done. They shall have their way for eternity, alienated from him whom they hate. God will say to them, “Your will be done.

The testimony of Messiah Jesus throughout this letter is that all human beings – men, women, boys, girls, infants, and seniors – are stamped with either one mark or the other. They are either baptized into Christ, or they are baptized into the world, the flesh, and the devil. There is no in between. There is no morally-neutral ground. There are only two final destinations: the new heavenly earth, or the lake of fire. Since that is true, then absolutely everything in the lives of God’s people is to center upon that fact. You will either trust Christ to do all things necessary for your good and his glory or you will strive to manipulate your situation and the people around you to gain what you judge to be “good” for your own life. The former is the upside-down life of trust that remains curiously expectant to see what Jesus does next. The latter is idolatry and witchcraft. It doesn’t matter how much “churchy” “Jesus” language you sprinkle on your idolatry to justify it. If Jesus owns you he will spend your life crushing your idols, training you to trust him.

This is why God’s people must and shall suffer in God’s upside-down Kingdom. Paul explained it to the congregations of Rome this way in 5:1-5:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [8]

Later, in chapter 8, Paul writes:

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [9]

Paul and Jesus are communicating the same things. The Western church of our modern era puts its emphasis on sanctification because we are such a pitifully-subjective, inward-looking culture. But Paul and Christ put the emphasis upon the objective, outward fact of the believer’s glorification. The call to participate in your holiness comes from the fact that you shall one day be glorified with Christ. So, Jesus has gone into great detail in this letter to show us his glory that he will share with all his saints who suffer now in his upside-down kingdom.

In Satan’s kingdom, suffering is the ultimate evil to be avoided at all costs. The Old Adam, our sinful flesh, “wins” by controlling its own destiny, getting what it wants, when it wants it – and it always wants it NOW. Are you unhappy? Flee your unhappiness at all costs. You have a right to seek your best life now! Do you not have the power you need to make it happen? Take the power any way you can. Are stupid people standing in your way? Run them over any way you can. Do whatever it takes for you to be happy.

TESTIMONY

The false testimony of the dragon-serpent has not changed since the day he suggested to Adam and Eve that God was a liar and they were chumps for depending upon God alone. As surely as you inherited certain physical traits from your father or mother, you inherited Adam’s innate sinful self-dependence and his false goal of self-defined happiness. The ultimate question of Revelation is: will you believe the testimony of the world, the flesh, and the devil, or will you believe the testimony of John the apostle, the angels, God the father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son?

Jesus concludes his with a legal oath, “16 I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.[10]

There is simply no “Yes, but…” to this testimony. We might say, “Yes, but Jesus doesn’t know how horribly I am being treated.” Except he assures us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.[11] He is the one who, for your good and his glory, has decreed absolutely everything about your situation right here, right now to engender more of your trust into him. So, you can be angry, frustrated, sad, or mad that your manipulation is not achieving your self-defined happiness, or you can become curiously expectant to see what Jesus does next in your life as you begin to minister to those around you.

Let me ask you some questions. Do you ever thank Jesus when you DO NOT get your way? Do you ever confess to him that you have no clue whether your present situation is best for you or not? Do you find yourself TELLING God what he needs to do to improve your situation? We usually tell him what we want rather than asking him to supply our real needs.  Our flesh is confident we know what’s best, so we KNOW how to try and direct the Creator-Sustainer of the Universe. We KNOW how to run our own lives and all we need to do is get God and those around us on the same page. Those are not the trusting, Jesus-dependent attitudes of one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.

The blessing of keeping the words of Revelation is NOT in knowing who the 10-hored beast is, or whether Gog is Russia and Magog is China, or whether locusts are really modern attack helicopters. We keep the words of this book by trusting that Messiah Jesus is in charge of absolutely EVERYTING great and small, corporate and personal, miserable and wonderful, alpha to omega, beginning to end. Jesus’ message to the suffering church is not, “We apologize for the inconvenience.” His testimony is, “I am the winner! I am in charge!” The question for you and me is how often do we trust his testimony to be true?

The statement that Jesus sent his angel to testify to John concerning the churches reiterates the beginning of the Apocalypse (1:1–2). In both places, the testimony refers to the whole of the letter. The word “testify” is a forensic, or legal, word in this context. We see that in 22:18–19, where the penalty for disobeying the testimony is stated. The threefold repetition of “testify” in 22:16, 18, and 20 emphasizes this legal nuance. Also, if Jesus’ sending his angel is modeled on the language of Mal. 3:1 (“I [the Lord] will send my angel”), here is yet another proof of Christ’s divinity.[12] Jesus sends the testimony to you all (pleural, v. 16). It is sent to the seven churches of Roman Asia and to all his people to be read and kept in this present evil age.

Even Christ’s statement of identity in 16b is legal language. “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.[13] It is the language of messianic prophecy and the language of the Davidic Covenant. Both statements come from the beginning of the letter. In 5:5 we hear, “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’[14] In 2:26-27, Jesus promised the congregation of Thyatira, “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end… I will give him the morning star.[15]

Those titles combine two Old Covenant promises that Messiah would triumph over his enemies. The title morning star originates from the fourth oracle of Balaam, the pagan prophet whom God forced to pronounce blessings on Israel. He prophesied that “a star will come out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). The immediate reference was to David as the type and shadow of his greater Son, Messiah Jesus. The star was a familiar symbol in Jewish writings for the expected Davidic king. The morning star is a promise that the long night of tribulation is all but over and that the new eschatological day is about to dawn. [16]

Jesus uses the present tense in his titles: I am…. He is speaking from the future consummation of all things into our present time (and the time of John and the Asian churches) to say the fulfillment of these prophecies has already begun. When we first heard these titles in 5:5 and 2:27, they were used in connection with his historic resurrection. Peter informs his readers that when they give attention to scripture, “the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19).[17]

The title “the root and the descendant of David[18] comes from Isaiah 11, which reads:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. [19]

Combined with his title as the morning star, there is also the color of Isa. 60:1-3 brushed into this image:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3     Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. [20]

Jesus is swearing he is the long-awaited Messiah, David’s greater Son. Because he is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, his testimony is absolutely true. He is the star promised to God’s people as they fought for their literal, historic promised land. He is the eternal Davidic King who subdues the gentiles. He is the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God. And, his testimony is not to be altered.

COVENANT CURSES

In verse 18, John issues a warning. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.[21]

John touches his brush to the palate one final time to draw a color from Deuteronomy because he sees the connection between this letter and Moses’ final book. In Deuteronomy, God was about to bring Israel into their promised land. Deuteronomy was the restatement of God’s law to the new generation of people who were to receive their inheritance. Revelation, then, is a new law code for the new Israel about to receive their new heavenly earth. In Deuteronomy, Moses issues warnings of covenant curses for those who turn from worshipping God:

“…hear the statutes … you shall not add to the word … nor take away from it” (4:1–2; likewise, 12:32); “and it will be when he hears the words … every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven” (29:19–20).[22]

John is warning his hearers not to alter the teachings of this letter. John is not saying Revelation is the final book of the cannon, nor is he specifically speaking about all of scripture. John’s warning specifically concerns “the prophecy of this book.” It is a warning to false teachers already plaguing the Asian churches with teachings that a little idolatry is no big deal.

In Deuteronomy 4:3, God specifically mentions punishment he inflicted for those Israelites who had worshipped Baal of Peor (Num. 25:1-9, 14-18) as an example of the covenant curses inflicted for failing to worship God alone. Here in Revelation, Jesus issued similar warnings to those of the seven congregations of Asia flirting with idolatry and to their false teachers. The final warning of Revelation 22:18 is a warning for all his people to worship God in Christ Jesus, not idols, or face the covenant curse of being shut out of the new land. It’s not teaching that those who truly trust into Christ can lose their salvation. It IS saying that make believers who pretend to worship Messiah Jesus while trusting into the idols of their own self-generated happiness will have no inheritance in the kingdom of the new heavenly earth.

In fact, John’s warning includes the entire range of plagues set out in Revelation – not merely the final judgment, but all the preceding warning judgments of the six seals, six trumpets, and six bowls that come before the great and final seventh judgment. John’s warning of new covenant curses is not about erring slightly in our interpretation of Revelation; it is about rejecting Christ as the sole source of our blessedness. You can follow your own path, seek your own ideas of your personal highest good, strive to create your own happiness, fight to get your way; or, you can submit to the sovereignty of Christ in everything. Ask him about everything. Thank him for everything. Rest in him for everything. Are you ministering or manipulating?

The final call of Revelation is this: keep yourselves from idols and worship Christ alone. Salvation is not dependent upon what you do. But, who you trust will dictate how you act. One last time Messiah Jesus promises, “Surely I am coming soon.”[23] Will he find you sprinkling churchy language on your idolatry, or will he find you among those who cry out, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”?

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:7.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:12.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:20.

[4] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 2 Pe 3:10–12.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:7.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:14.

[7] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ro 6:23.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ro 5:1–5.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ro 8:15–19.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:16.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:13.

[12] Beale, 1143.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:16.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 5:5.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 2:26–28.

[16] Mounce, 409.

[17] Kistemaker and Hendriksen, 592.

[18] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:16.

[19] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Is 11:1–2.

[20] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Is 60:1–3.

[21] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:18–19.

[22] Beale, 1150.

[23] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Re 22:20.

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