Month: March 2022

God’s Planned Future (5) Daniel’s 70th week prophecy



As we enter Revelation chapter 6, we have noticed that John’s attention in chapters 4-5 is fixed on Christ as He begins reclaiming the earth by unsealing the scroll handed to Him by Yahweh. From Revelation 6:1 onwards, there is an increase in Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled as Christ unleashes judgment upon the rebellious world. Into this scene Daniel’s prophecies fit into God’s prophetic plan, particularly Daniel 9:24-27.

In this lesson we shall briefly give thought to the chronology of events in Daniel’s 70 week prophecy and observe how this prophecy fit with the Revelation.

To start with, Daniel tells us that the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Daniel 9:22, He (Gabriel) made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. God’s intention was for Gabriel to explain the 70 week prophecy in such a way that Daniel would understand it and not be confused by it. The vision Daniel received was to bring clarity, not confusion. It was to bring security, not fear or doubts. The prophetic vision was to be an affirmation of the sovereign certainty God gives when looking to the future. It’s intended to fill God’s people with hope, and trust in the trustworthiness of the Almighty who controls the future.

But first, here is the text of Daniel 9:24-27 (ESV):
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

Understanding Daniel’s prophecy language:
While the English word “week” always means “a period of seven days”, the Hebrew word (šâḇûa‘) is less specific, because it only means “a period of seven.” That’s why some modern translations (e.g. NIV) use the word “sevens” instead of “weeks.” The word “weeks” (or “sevens“) used by Daniel speaks of “periods of seven years.” 

This seems strange by our modern English way of thinking, but it’s not unusual in the biblical context. Israel observed cycles of seven years as well as cycles of seven days throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Gen 29:20; 41:27; Lev 25:8; Deu 15:12; 31:10; Jdg 6:1; 2Ch 36:21).

What’s more, when Daniel speaks of “years,” they are to be understood as biblical years, that is, a “year” that has 360 days and NOT our modern 365 days. This, coupled with the corresponding “biblical months” which have 30 days, and NOT our modern floating 28 to 31 days in a month. So, in our calculations, the 360 day year is preferred in order to be consistent with other related prophecies that refer to a specific number of days, months, or years (Dan 7:25; 12:11; Rev 11:2-3; 12:6, 14).

Daniel’s prophecy divides the 490 years into three smaller units: one of 49 years, one of 434 years, and one of 7 years. Daniel was writing in terms of ‘weeks of years’ – in other words…

  • Dan 9:24    70 weeks (70 x seven) = 490 years total.
  • Dan 9: 25b 7 weeks (7 x seven) = 49 years to rebuild Jerusalem in Daniel’s time.
  • Dan 9:25c 62 weeks (62 x seven) = 434 years until an anointed one is cut off (Christ’s death), 49 + 434 = 483 years.
  • Dan 9:26b  “after the 62 weeks”  there is a gap, a non-defined period of time from the death of Jesus to the final week. We are living in this gap period now, waiting for the final week of 7 years to happen in the future.
  • Dan 9:27b The final “week” of 7 years is further divided into 2 halves; with 2 lots of 3 ½ years each.
  • The final “seven” of Daniel is what we call the tribulation period beginning at Revelation 6:1. This period has not happened yet.

Chronology of Events:
Daniel 9:24. In 538 B.C. Daniel receives prophetic revelation concerning six things that will occur as a result of a seventy week program (490-year period). Importantly, these six things are related to “your people and your holy city” (Jerusalem). The context demands that this refers to Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

  • finish the transgression (Fulfilled)
  • put an end to sin (Fulfilled)
  • atone for iniquity (Fulfilled)
  • bring in everlasting righteousness
  • seal both vision and prophet
  • anoint a most holy place [i.e. temple]

The starting point for this 490 year period was the decree to restore the city of Jerusalem which occurred around 444 B.C. according to Nehemiah 2:1-8. From this decree to restore the city of Jerusalem until Jesus the Messiah and Prince, there will be a 49 year period followed by a 434 year period which together is a total of 483 years. The 49 year period culminated in the building of the city with plaza and moat despite difficulties caused by those who opposed the project. Then the coming of Jesus official messianic ministry came, which included His death. This occurred in the early A.D. 30s, 483 years after the Nehemiah 2:1-8 decree.

Daniel 9:25: The first 69 weeks (483 years) expired in the early A.D. 30’s with the ministry of Jesus the Messiah.

Daniel 9:26: After the 69th week (483 year period), but before the 70th week, the killing of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans occurred. The killing of Jesus happened in the early A.D. 30s and the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 70A.D.

After 483 years (49 + 434 years) Jesus the Messiah will be cut off (killed) and have nothing. He will not establish His kingdom at this time. This killing of Jesus the Messiah on the cross happens after the 483 years expires, not at the end of the 483rd year or in the beginning of the 484th year.

Thus, there is a gap between the expiration of the 69th week and the start of the 70th week. Another event that occurs between the 69th and 70th week is the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple by the Romans in A.D. 70. This proves that there is a gap between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week since this event occurred almost forty years after the 69th week expired.

Daniel 9:27: 1 week (seven) = 7 years. This is the final ‘seven’ in Daniel’s prophecy. In the coming 70th week of Daniel, which is still future for us, the coming evil prince [i.e. Antichrist] will be from the people who destroyed Jerusalem (the Romans, Dan 9:26). He will make a seven year covenant of peace (i.e. one week) with the people of Israel. At the midway point (3 ½ years) he will put a stop to Jewish worship in the temple and bring desolation to the temple (Dan 9:27; 11:31, 36; 12:11; Mt 24:9, 15-21; Lk 21:20; 2Th 2:3-4; Rev 11:2).

Yet he, the Antichrist, will be destroyed in fulfilment of Daniel 9:27b …until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. The desolation of the temple in the 70th week of Daniel is different from the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple predicted in Daniel 9:26, which occurred between the 69th and 70th week. They are two separate events. Now we are ready to step into God’s timeline in Revelation 6:1 with the understanding of how Revelation fits into God’s prophetic plan.

God’s Planned Future (4) Revelation 4-5 “God’s throne room and a scroll”



Things that make the Revelation easier to understand:
*   It’s written chronologically, sequentially, and progressively moves forward in time.
*   God gave the Revelation so that readers could be blessed (Rev 1:3; 22:7). Blessing can only occur when understanding happens. Therefore, God wrote the Revelation to be understood and enjoyed by its readers.

As we progress from the end of Revelation chapter 3 into chapter 4, it is obvious that John’s vision has shifted from earth to heaven (Rev 4:1). The Revelation no longer views the church on earth because the church has been snatched up by Christ to heaven (Raptured, 1Th 4:16-17). In fact, John does not speak of the church again until chapter 19.

The Scene
In Revelation 4-5 John explains what he sees, hears, and feels right there within God’s heavenly throne room. Revelation 4:2-3 tells us of heavens centrepiece, behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. It is as Jesus told the woman of Samaria God is spirit (John 4:24), so John sees God in His natural glorifying form of light, God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). John saw Yahweh’s glory emitting from His heavenly throne which he depicts as flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder (Rev 4:5a). What a breathtaking sight, as God’s glory beams out in multiple colours accompanied by thundering sounds.

John’s visitation purpose
And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Rev 4:1). John had been invited to visit the heavenly throne room by the same one who spoke to him in chapter 1:10-20. The glorified Lord Jesus Christ was the trumpeting voice who spoke to John in this vision.

Of further significance is that Christ tells John the purpose for being invited. The reason was simply as Christ said, “I will show you what must take place after this.” John’s visit was not for entertainment, and it was not just an information gathering tour of heaven. No, Christ specifically wanted John to see and understand the actual events of the future which were to be directed from the very throne of God.

The unfolding events in the coming chapters of Revelation were shown to John in advance for the purpose of clarity and understanding. Christ was NOT giving John a vague impression; this was NOT a clouded dream which John could not focus on with accuracy. It was Christ’s desire for John to see must take place after this, not simply for John to have a feeling or an idea of the future. Christ spoke with absolute certainty and with divine authority of the definitive real-world events which must take place.

The throne room
John saw that around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads (Rev 4:4). These elders are representatives of the raptured church. This is reinforced by the song of worship they sing while bowed before the throne of God in Revelation 5:9-10. And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

These elders qualified to sing about Christ because they had experienced the redeeming, saving power of Christ. Angels certainly had never experienced Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross, nor had Old Testament saints. Plus, raptured New Testament church elders, representing the saints, would have known that only blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, would one day reign on the earth with Christ during the 1000 year kingdom (2Ti 2:12; Rev 20:6).

John continues to explain that before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God (Rev 4:5b). This is referring to the seven-fold Spirit of God, not seven separate spirits.
John MacArthur explains:
Unlike the lampstands mentioned in 1:12-13, these were outdoor torches, giving off not the soft, gentle light of an indoor lamp, but the fierce, blazing light of a fiery torch. John identifies them as the seven Spirits of God. As noted in the discussion of 1:4 in chapter 1 of this volume, that phrase describes the Holy Spirit in all His fullness (cf. Isa. 11:2; Zech. 4:1-10). The sevenfold representation of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah speaks of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, reverence, and deity; in Zechariah of power; in Revelation 1:4 of grace and peace; and here of fiery judgment. Torches are associated with war in Judges 7:16, 20 and Nahum 2:3-4. John’s vision depicts God as ready to make war on sinful, rebellious mankind and the Holy Spirit as His war torch. The Comforter of those who love Christ will be the Consumer of those who reject Him.
End Quote
(John MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Rev. 4:5)

John also saw that before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal (Rev 4:6). Later in John’s visions of heaven he sees this great sight again, and I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire… (Rev 15:2). The sea John describes is not water as later in the Revelation John observes that in heaven the sea was no more (Rev 21:1). Rather, the sea is a large expanse of some type of glass as in Revelation 15:2. This massive glass expanse is similar, if not the same, as when Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness (Exo 24:9-10). The sight of God’s multi-coloured glory beaming throughout heaven’s throne room reflecting off the crystal glass sea is difficult for us to imagine. But this is the heaven waiting for all God’s children and from where God administers the future and Jesus Christ takes and opens the scroll.

John also tells us that around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
     “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
       who was and is and is to come!”
(Rev 4:6-8).

These 4 majestic creatures never sleep and seeing all that Yahweh does and hearing all that Yahweh says, they miss nothing, they never cease from audible proclamation of God’s holiness. The superior creatures are the cherubim referred to in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. While all other activities in heaven continue to unfold, these 4 creatures never tire of thundering out worship which becomes the background theme of heaven emanating from the throne room.

These mighty creatures’ worship in unison with the 24 elders. There is synchronisation between them all as the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to their eternal God (Rev 4:9), the 24 elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev 4:10-11). This heavenly anthem of worship never stops. Regardless of earth’s activity, heaven echoes the hymns and declarations of Yahweh’s worthiness to be worship and enthroned as Sovereign God of gods.

The scroll
Revelation chapter 5 begins with John’s attention focused on what he saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne, a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1). This scroll had writing on both sides of it. As each section (chapter) of the scroll was written it was rolled or folded, then a seal was placed on the scroll to lock that chapter before the next chapter was written. This scroll was the title deed to the world, and it contained God’s planned process of taking the world back under His sovereign and eternal rule. It was a confidential document that could only be opened by the one legally entitled to open it.

Dr. Robert L. Thomas explains:
This kind of contract was known all over the Middle East in ancient times and was used by the Romans from the time of Nero on. The full contract would be written on the inner pages and sealed with seven seals. Then the content of the contract would be described briefly on the outside. All kinds of transactions were consummated this way, including marriage-contracts, rental and lease agreements, release of slaves, contract-bills, and bonds. Support also comes from Hebrew practices. The Hebrew document most closely resembling this scroll was a title-deed that was folded and signed, requiring at least three witnesses. A portion of text would be written, folded over and sealed, with a different witness signing at each fold. A larger number of witnesses meant that more importance was assigned to the document. (Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 1992], page 378)

As John watches this scroll, he saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it (Rev 5:2-3). In all of creation, both angelic and human, no one was worthy or able to take the scroll from Yahweh and open it. John responds to this scene with loud weeping (Rev 5:4).

Then one of the 24 elders says to John, “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” (Rev 5:5). This is the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, descendant of the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:8-10; Heb 7:14). Jesus testifies to this in Revelation 22:16b, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (cf. Isa 11:1, 10; Jer 23:5-6; 33:15-17).

Jesus also qualifies to take and open the scroll because He has conquered death and the grave (Heb. 2:14-15). Christ condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3), He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them (Col 2:15. Cf. 1Pe 3:19). And through faith in Christ’s substitutional death, believers share in Christ’s victory. Christ achieved this by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col 2:14. cf. 1Jn 5:5).

Christ, the worthy Lamb of God, went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne (Rev 5:7). At this the four living creatures, with the 24 elders, erupt in worship of the Lamb, proclaiming that He is “Worthy… to take the scroll and to open its seals…” (Rev 5:9).

Joining the four living creatures and the 24 elders are the innumerable angelic hosts of heaven, all worshipping the Lamb (Rev 5:11-12). Adding to this enormous choir are the voices of all in creation proclaiming, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13).

Heaven is booming with worship as God’s glory flashes throughout in the most spectacular display of light radiating Yahweh’s holy perfections. It is from this majestic scene of worship that Christ begins to open the scroll, one seal at a time, chapter by chapter the Scroll shall reveal the progression of Christ taking possession of His world again.

Having a clear understanding of Revelation 4-5 is important in eschatology because these two chapters establish Christ’s authority, His power, and the certainty of the actual events that shall take place in God’s planned future. Therefore, we enter Revelation chapter 6 with great anticipation of how it is that Christ will action the scroll as He unseals and reads it.

Pains of the Heart – Part 4

Christians, be assured that great trials which produce great pain captivates the attention of our great God, and it is Jesus Christ, who is God over all (Romans 9:5). There simply is NO higher authority or greater resource available to us! A brief look at Israel highlights the sovereign grace of God which not only preserved Israel, but equally preserves every believer today.
God had sent Babylon to administer correction for Israel’s persistent idolatrous unfaithfulness to Yahweh (Isa 42:22-24). It was a desperate time in Israel’s history. Yet, while captive to Babylon, Yahweh offered hope and comfort. But now thus says YAHWEH, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

These few words communicate essential truths relevant for every child of God in pain. These are sanity savers, possibly even life savers, which God intends us to cling onto with all our might.

First, YAHWEH is the ultimate authority as your creator. God did not make a mistake, He intentionally made you unique and He has not forgotten you (Job 10:11-12; Psa 139:13-16). No matter how severe the situation, God is greater than your fears, therefore, trust in God and NOT the words that generate fear and suspicion. Just as Yahweh was Israel’s Redeemer, guaranteeing their present and future security, so Jesus Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13) guaranteeing our eternal security.

Suffering Christian, be grateful that your name is known by God Almighty. The Lord reminded Jeremiah that “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jeremiah 1:5). Believers are assured that those whom he (God) predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:30). If you have been called to salvation, you are secure for eternity because he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Therefore, it is with much tenderness that Yahweh reminded Israel, as He also reminds us today, that you are mine.”

God continues in Isaiah 43, to affirm three expressions of His nature which are critical for any of His children needing assurance and hope during difficult times. These three expressions are NOT due to any redeeming qualities on Israel’s part but come purely from the holiness of Yahweh. Isaiah 43:4, you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you. YAHWEH valued Israel as precious. He honoured Israel above all other nations. God loved and continues to love Israel today. God’s affection for Israel was built upon the relationship that God had established with Israel. God explained in Deuteronomy 7:6, for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Similarly, God chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:4-5). If you are suffering pains of the heart as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, remember that you are a direct result and expression of the will of God. Heart recovery begins with resting in these truths.

To be continued…

God’s Planned Future (3) The Rapture


Introduction 
In this lesson we shall consider the New Testament teaching of the rapture, which is Jesus Christ’s return to snatch away His bride, the church. This is not a new teaching but has its roots in the words of Christ, and Scripture employs the normal use of language to communicate this truth.

The rapture is Jesus Christ’s irresistible transportation of His church to their heavenly home. It’s an event filled with hope and assurance. It’s encouraging, inspiring and joyful, filled with anticipation of being united with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the attitude of many today towards the rapture is ‘Pie in the sky by and by.’ Many are so consumed with themselves and their manmade beliefs of God, that they simply do not care to explore the wonderful truths of God’s planned future. But for those who care to ask God, His calendar is loaded with prewritten details, with the next great event being the rapture of His church. This is what we shall explore in this lesson.

Old Testament figures
The idea of God physically transporting a person from earth to heaven may be humanly demanding, but for the God who created the universe by His spoken word, it is a small thing. We get an Old Testament glimpse of rapture reality through two men who prefigure God’s will and power in this matter.

In Genesis 5:23-24 Enoch’s rapture is recorded simply and with no fuss, as if it was the most natural thing that could have happened to him. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

The next personal rapture-styled departure we read about is Elijah, which took place with a little more fanfare. In 2 Kings chapter 11 we read of Elisha and Elijah walking down the road talking about, amongst other things, how God was going to end Elijah’s life and how Elisha would continue his ministry work. As they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2:11).

A little history of rapture teaching
While God’s Word is the final authority on all theology matters, including the rapture, it is worth noting that the church has held to this truth from the beginning. As with all biblical truth, there have been those who challenge and even deny the rapture over the centuries. But history records a sure thread of faithful teachers down through the ages.

Jesus first introduced the rapture to His disciples the night before His crucifixion (John 14:1-3). Following Jesus’ ascension, the apostles continued Jesus’ teaching of the rapture, recorded most obviously by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4.

Similarly, the early church fathers continued to teach the imminent return of Christ to rapture the church before the coming time of God’s wrath upon the world.

Polycarp, 65-155AD
Irenaeus, 120-202AD
Tertullian, 145-220AD
Cyprian, 200-258
Dionysius Alexandrinus, 264AD
Victorinus, 303AD
Chrysostom, 347-407AD
Macarius Aegyptius, 390AD
Cyrillus Alexandrinus, 444AD
The Codex Amiatinus, 690-716AD
Joachim of Fiore, 1130-1202AD
Dolcino of Novara, 1316AD
Joseph Mede, 1627
Mather, 1639-1723
Peter Jurieu, 1687AD
John Gill, 1697-1771AD
James MacKnight, 1721-1800AD

Church history gives testament to the flow of biblical teaching of the rapture down through the ages. Some of the more modern teachers include Dave Hunt, John MacArthur, John Walvoord, Dwight J. Pentecost, Chuck Missler, David Jeremiah, to name just a few.

What is the rapture?
The rapture is the next great event on God’s calendar, spoken of by Jesus in John 14:3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; and 2 Thessalonians 2:1b.

The rapture is when the Lord (Jesus) himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1Th 4:16-17).

  • The glorified Lord Jesus Christ, alone, without being accompanied by angels, returns from heaven into earth’s atmosphere, stationing Himself in the clouds.
  • As Christ enters earth’s atmosphere He is heralded by a cry of command through the voice of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God from heaven.
  • All deceased Christians, whose dead bodies have been buried, burnt, drowned, or eaten by wild animals, are instantaneously resurrected. They are given new spiritual bodies, perfect, immortal, imperishable, glorified bodies (1Co 15:35-53). These resurrected believers immediately appear with Christ in the clouds.
  • Following immediately, all living Christians on earth are forcefully and rapidly transported (snatched up) to join the resurrected believers with Christ in the clouds.
  • From the clouds, Jesus transports everyone back to heaven for assignment of their rewards while the 7 years of tribulation play out on the earth.

In this event, Jesus does not actually touch the earth but takes His bride up from the earth. There is NO judgement in this first stage event, it is simply Jesus’ transportation of His bride away from the earth for heavenly reward. The rapture will not be silent, it will not be a secret, nor will it be a partial event. In fact, it will be loud, visible, unmissable, inescapable, and undeniable, as every believer on earth, at that time, shall be snatched up to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. And there is no reference to Satan in this glorious event.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

The rapture, which includes the resurrection of dead believers, is based upon, and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. As surely as Jesus rose from the grave, so Christ will resurrect dead/sleeping Christians in the rapture. This is why we speak of “certain hope” when we talk of the rapture. Christian hope in being resurrected with glorified bodies is not a theory, it is not wishful thinking, and it is not mystical mumbo jumbo. Because we believe Jesus rose from the dead, we also believe in the resurrection of sleeping/dead believers in the rapture.

Some people claim that because the word “rapture” does not appear in our English Bibles, the whole belief must be false. However, the word “rapture” had made its way into the language of the church by the year 412AD. Jerome translated the Greek word HARPHAZO (caught up, 1Th 4:17) to the Latin word “raptur-ey” in the Latin Vulgate  translation of the Bible in the late 4th century.

The Greek word harpazō (caught up) occurs 14 times in the New Testament in various contexts, and all with similar applications. In effect, the word “rapture” has been in biblical language since the first century, and more specifically in the language of the church for about 1600 years. Therefore, harpazō (caught up) is the best word for Scripture to describe God’s Son taking up the church from earth to heaven as the first stage of Christ’s second coming. Stage 2 is when Christ comes in judgement as seen in Revelation 19:11-21. So, the English word “rapture” is biblically accurate and conveys the biblical truth perfectly.

Although Paul does not use the word harpazō in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, he does explain the same eschatological event as in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed (1Co 15:51-52). Here, Paul explains to the Corinthians an event which had previously been a mystery. But is no longer a mystery because the transformation and transportation of the Church was openly taught and explained.

This was the point of Jesus’ teaching to His disciples the night before His crucifixion in John 14:3. His next visitation will be for the purpose of taking believers from earth to heaven. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Notice that the purpose of Jesus’ next visitation to earth would be to relocate believers from earth to His heavenly home which He has been preparing. Jesus next visitation would NOT be for the purpose of Jesus taking up permanent resistance here on earth to establish His earthly kingdom. That would come later.

When Jesus shows up next to snatch up His church, no believer in the church shall be left behind on earth. As Paul says, we shall all be changed (1Co 15:51). Christ does not return to snatch up a select few who meet some special criteria. No, it will be as Paul said, we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up (1Th 4:17), no exceptions. If any were to be left behind on earth, they would have to suffer the coming years of tribulation and wrath, which Christ is protecting His bride from when He snatches her up.

The speed of the rapture
1Co 15:51-52   …we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Facts:
A wink is a controlled movement of the eye and lasts for about half a second.
A blink is a reflex action of the eye and lasts about 1/3 of a second.
A twinkle is a reflected particle of light seen in the eye which travels at the speed of light and causes the eye to twitch – it takes about 1 billionth of a second to do this. This is as close to instantaneous as possible in human language.

Paul is simply saying that the rapture will NOT be a process that takes time. Rather, it shall happen instantaneously and with no warning being given.

Rapture and second advent distinctions
The Bible is clear, the rapture is stage one in Christ’s second coming, with the second advent of Christ happening at the end of the tribulation, being stage two.

They are two separate events on two separate occasions. There are many differences between the rapture and Christ’s second advent (the Day of the Lord). They are two distinct events and should not be confused or combined into one event. While both are stages in Christ’s return to claim His church and His world, they are separated by time and purpose. These differences also promote the fact that the rapture must happen first, before the coming 7 years of tribulation, and before the coming 1000 year (millennial) earthly kingdom of Christ. Therefore, Christians say that the rapture is a pre-tribulational and pre-millennial event. This lesson would be called a pre-millennial view of eschatology. God’s order of events shows that His sequence is rapture, tribulation, second advent, millennial kingdom etc.

Therefore, it is helpful to observe from Scripture the distinctions between these two events. Below are some of the differences between the rapture and Christ’s second advent of Revelation 19:11-21.

Rapture: Christ comes in the air, stops in the clouds, and returns to heaven with His New Testament bride, the church (1Th 4:17).
2nd advent: Christ comes, His feet touch the earth on the Mount of Olives to remain and reign (Mat 25:31-32).

Rapture: Jesus comes FOR His saints (Jn 14:3; 1Th 4:17).
2nd advent: Jesus comes WITH His saints (Rev 19:14).

Rapture: Jesus comes with a blessing for His saints (1Th 4:17).
2nd advent: Jesus comes with judgment for those who have rejected Him (Mat 25:31-46).

Rapture: Jesus gathers His own to Himself (1Th 4:16-17).
2nd advent: Angels gather the tribulation elect (Mat 24:31).

Rapture: Resurrection of NT believers (1Th 4:15-16).
2nd advent: No resurrection.

Rapture: Believers are taken (1Th 4:15-17).
2nd advent: Unbelievers are taken (Mat 25:41).

Rapture: Unbelievers remain on the earth (implied).
2nd advent: Believers remain on the earth (Mat 25:34).

Rapture: There is no mention of Christ’s kingdom on earth.
2nd advent: Christ’s kingdom on earth is established (Mat 25:31, 34).

Rapture: Believers receive glorified bodies (1Co 15:51-57).
2nd advent: No one who survives the tribulation receives glorified bodies.

Rapture: Can happen at any moment – imminent.
2nd advent: Happens seven years later, following specific identifiable tribulation events.

Rapture: Focuses purely on the church.
2nd advent: Focuses on Israel and the world.

Rapture: Leaves Israel’s covenants unfulfilled.
2nd advent: Israel’s covenants are fulfilled.

Rapture: Impacts believers in Jesus Christ only.
2nd advent: Impacts all of humanity and all evil powers.

It is also worth noting, that in both Matthew 24 and Revelation 19:11-21, they focus on the second and final stage of the coming of Christ. There is no snatching up (rapture) mentioned in this second stage. This is because the rapture took place 7 years earlier.

The context of 1 Thessalonians 4
John MacArthur explains the context of Paul’s explanation of the rapture to the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1-3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly. But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them.

First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3-4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1-2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord. It was merely the persecution that all believers can expect (2 Tim. 3:12) and that Paul had warned the Thessalonians about (3:3-4).

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it. Instead, that persecution would have been a cause for joy, not concern. If the Day of the Lord had arrived, and the Rapture was after the Tribulation, then that blessed event would have been drawing near.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)? They loved each other so deeply (cf. 4:9-10) that those thoughts greatly disturbed them. Their concern for those who had died shows that the Thessalonians believed the return of Christ was imminent and could happen in their lifetime. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for their concern. The Thessalonians’ fear that their fellow believers who had died might miss the Rapture also implies that they believed in a pretribulational Rapture. If the Rapture precedes the Tribulation, they might have wondered when believers who died would receive their resurrection bodies. But there would have been no such confusion if the Rapture follows the Tribulation; all believers would then receive their resurrection bodies at the same time.

Further, if they had been taught that they would go through the Tribulation, they would not have grieved for those who died, but rather would have been glad to see them spared from that horrible time.

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.
End quote.
(John MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1Th 4:13-18)

The rapture happens before the tribulation
The pre-tribulation rapture assures believers of their exclusion from suffer God’s wrath upon this world. The Old Testament repeatedly shows us that God is just and that the righteous do not suffer God’s wrath as the wicked do.

In Genesis 18, when Abraham learned of Lot living in Sodom and the judgment that the Lord was about to execute on Sodom and Gomorrah, he responded. Abraham asked, will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (Gen 18:23). He then begins negotiating with the Lord over sparing the city Lot lived in if there were enough believing righteous people there. Then Abraham says to the Lord, far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25).

This principle is what the apostle John told the church in Philadelphia of, when Jesus said …I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth (Rev 3:10). John knew that it was NOT Christ’s intention for His bride to live through the time of God’s wrath and indignation with the rest of the world (Dan 11:36). This is a good example of near/far prophetic fulfilment. The immediate group of people being spoken to in the church of Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13) would be protected from the future tribulation period (Near). It is also prophetic in that it protects the future global church (Far) from living through the coming tribulation period because the tribulation did not occur in the first century. It is still to happen.

We see the same principle active in Genesis 6, in the life of Noah. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:5-8). 
As we know, Noah obeyed the Lord and built the ark for his family and the animals. God sent sufficient rain along with the underground springs of water that erupted, to cover the entire earth totally. Genesis 7:22 tells us that everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. God’s judgment exterminated the wicked only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Genesis 7:23).

Again, we see God’s just faithfulness to His people. Peter also taught this very truth, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9). The church of Jesus Christ shall not go through the coming time of God’s judgment upon this world. Jesus’ rapture rescues His people from the coming wrath of God.

Added to this, Christ is presently preparing the heavenly dwelling for believers (Jn 14:2-3), while waiting for the predetermined number of Gentiles to be saved (Rom 11:25). Only then will He return for His New Testament bride before the tribulation begins. Consequently, Paul instructed the Thessalonians to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1Th 1:10).

This is why, as you read through the Revelation, the church is NOT seen in chapters 6 to 18 as God’s wrath is unleashed upon the world. This is also why the New Testament gives NO warnings to the Church about how to survive during the coming wrath of God (Rev 3:10). The church will not be present on the earth, they will have already been removed by Christ and taken to heaven in the rapture.

This is further seen in that the church is pictured in heaven throughout Revelation chapters 4-5. This is pictured in the throne room of heaven. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads (Rev 4:4). The elders are representative of the raptured church in heaven.

The white space that exists between Revelation chapter 3, where the church in on earth, and 4 where the church is in heaven, accommodates the transportation of the church from earth to heaven. This is in preparation of the terrible tribulation that is about to come upon all the earth.

The “Last Trumpet” of 1Co 15:52 is NOT the Trumpet of Rev 11:15, but it is the trumpet of 1Th 4:16.

1Co 15:52

1Th 4:16

Rev 11:15

Trumpet sounds – no mention of God’s wrath

Trumpet sounds – no mention of God’s wrath

Trumpet sounds towards the end of God’s wrath – just prior to judgement of individuals

 

The trumpet call of God – Sounded by the Lord Himself

Trumpet call of an Angel – Sounded by an angel

 

The voice of an archangel (singular) – then the trumpet sounds

The trumpet sounds – then there are loud “voices” (plural) calling out

The trumpet sounds, the dead are raised & we living saints are changed

The trumpet ushers in change, transportation & reason for encouragement

The trumpet ushers in judging of the dead & reward for the saints

Trumpet is part of the resurrection & changing procedure

Trumpet is part of the resurrection & transportation procedure

The trumpet immediately precedes God’s temple being opened, lightning, thunder, earthquake, and hail

Three biblical days
Some teachers claim there is either no rapture, or that the rapture is somehow squeezed into the day of the Lord when Christ returns in Revelation 19. They mistakenly attempt to bundle all future prophecies into one single event, amalgamating separate events into one. With this being a biblical  impossibility, it is helpful to understand the meaning of 3 biblical phrases: the day of Jesus Christ, the day of the Lord, and the day of God.

  • The day of Jesus Christ includes the rapture, when Jesus Christ completes His work within the redeemed and snatches them up (1Co 1:7-8). I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Php 1:6. cf. 2:16). This is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Php 3:14). 1 John 3:2 adds, …we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (cf. 2Co 1:14). This shall be the final stage in the believer’s bodily redemption and sanctification (cf. Rom 6:22; 8:23; Eph 4:30; 1Th 5:23).
  • The day of the Lord is God’s time of judgement, of great fear and terror. During the Old Testament (26 times) this phrase was used to describe God’s historic judgement in the Old Testament period upon a people group, such as on Egypt, Babylon, and Israel (Eze 30:2-19. cf. Isa 13:1-13; Joel 2:1-2).
    But it is also used of God’s future judgement coming upon the sinful world, including Israel, which He actions through His Son Jesus Christ (Zep 1:14-18; Ac 2:20; 1Th 5:2; 2Th 2:2-3; 2Pe 3:10). The day of the Lord will reach its climax when Christ fulfills Revelation 19:11-21. The day of the Lord is inclusive of “the great day of God the Almighty,” referred to also as the battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:14-16; 19:19-21), which is no battle at all because Christ simply destroys all His enemies.
  • The day of God is the same as the day of eternity. The day of God is the period following the day of the Lord, when Christ destroys all of God’s enemies. This day of God will stretch forward into eternity future.
    As 2 Peter 3:12-13 shows, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. And 2 Peter 3:18b, …To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
    (cf. Psa 110:1; Ac 2:33-35; 1Co 15:28; Php 2:10-11; 3:21; Heb 10:13).

Blessings of the rapture
Paul taught the grieving Thessalonian Christians about the rapture to raise their hope and affirm their security in Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 reads, therefore encourage one another with these words. The rapture stimulates spiritual encouragement by addressing fear and human speculation. Conspiracy propagated across the internet can do nothing more than instil fear and promote self-importance, but prophecy builds faith and certainty in God. It would be a terrible thing if believers could only look forward to Christ returning in judgment. But this is NOT the case. (1Th 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15-18; 5:9-10; 2Th 2:1).

The New Testament is rich with such encouragements for believers. When looking to the future, God’s Word is not clouded or lacking in information. The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors with precision, absoluteness, and certainty that would not require human intervention to unravel. As in the gospel, God’s planned future speaks for itself.

Paul testified that our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:20-21). The writer of Hebrews celebrated that Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28).

Paul rejoiced with the Corinthians, saying, you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7-8).

Similarly, Peter exulted the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice… (1 Peter 1:3-6a).

Paul certainly rejoiced with Titus as they were both united in waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

For many of us, including myself, we repented, turning our lives over to the control of the Lord Jesus Christ, in part, to escape the just judgment of God. God’s wrath instilled such a terrifying and healthy fear of God’s wrath that we knew it should be avoided. Which is precisely what the apostle Paul told the Roman church. The truth of the rapture encapsulates the power of the gospel with the assurance of eternal safety from divine judgment. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9).  

In Daniel 11:36, Daniel prophesied of the coming antichrist who will establish himself as world king early in the 7 year tribulation. The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place (Daniel 11:36 NIV). Christ’s raptured church shall be enjoying the glories of heaven while evil runs rampant on earth, but only until God has spent His wrath on the wicked. God had determined the precise timing of His wrath, and He has EXCLUDED the church from that wrath.

Belief in biblical eschatology motivates holy living as we anticipate the soon return of Christ (2Pe 3:11-13). Beginning with the rapture, our expectations of God are purified and defined by his Word.

The rapture will affect every human being, even those who deny the truth of the rapture. People who are close to you, your loved ones, family, work or school friends, business associates, neighbours, club associates, Facebook friends, Twitter friends etc. – none will escape the direct impact of the rapture.

Regardless of what a person may think on the rapture, they cannot escape the responsibility of it, nor will they escape the event itself with the eternal consequences of it. When the Lord Jesus returns to snatch up His church, there will be no negotiations, no striking up a deal, no last minute bargains, no complaints, no warnings, no changing your mind, and no delays.

Whether you are prepared or not, whether you are a willing participant or not, nothing will change the certainty of this event. The Lord’s plan will NOT be interrupted or altered. It will NOT be slowed down, sped up, or manipulated by any external force. The Lord’s sovereignty will win the day! The church will be rescued to heavenly reward and the Jesus Christ will be glorified.

Christ is returning to rapture His church, and He does not tell us when, but simply to be ready! Acts 1:7, Jesus said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
(cf. Mat 24:6; 25:13; 1Th 5:1-2 regarding the unknown time of Christ’s 2nd coming)

Parallels between 1Th 4:13-17 and John 14:1-3
1Th 4:13-18                                        John 14:1-3
:13 Sorrow                                          :1 Trouble
:14 Believe                                          :1 Believe
:14 Jesus – God                                  :1 God – Jesus
:15 Say to you                                    :2 Told you
:15 Coming of the Lord                   :3 Come again
:17 Caught up                                    :3 Receive you
:17 To meet the Lord                       :3 To myself
:17 Ever be with the Lord               :3 Be where I am
Both these passages are speaking of the same event, with the same participants. Both speak of Jesus’ promised rapture.

 

 

God’s Planned Future (2) Revelation 1-3

Revelation 1-3
Usually, the first book of the Bible that comes 
into a believer’s mind when thinking about end time events is the Revelation. Revelation is an exciting book written for God’s people, especially for those who want to see how everything turns out in the end. Revelation tells us that in the end, Jesus Christ is victorious over all His enemies. Therefore, all believers in Christ are also winners. Satan and sin lose! Christ is victorious! The wicked are judged, and sin is eradicated, never to rear its ugly head again. Hallelujah!

We learn these wonderful truths as we read Revelation literally, which is how God intended it to be read by the first century churches.

Stepping back in time, we see that eschatology was part of the normal New Testament teaching program in churches. Paul often reminded believers of Christ’s return and the surrounding events, and he did this with great certainty, as we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:1,5.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him… remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? Therefore, eschatology should never be avoided, nor should it be down-played or overlooked as of secondary importance. Proving this to be true, God concluded His written Word with a remarkably detailed and easy to understand Revelation of His Son’s future calendar details (Rev 1:1).

Revelation is the only book in the Bible that begins and ends with a blessing for the reader.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Rev 1:3). Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book (Rev 22:7). 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 (Rev 22:14). Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near (Rev 22:10).

Revelation should be an open book, read publicly, and discussed openly by God’s people. God never intended for us to keep it to ourselves. We are not to avoid Revelation, nor should we ignore it or change any part of it. Revelation brings great blessing to its readers as they study and obey it. Happiness, security, and resolute 
hope in Christ for the future come from believing the Revelation. Faith will be strengthened, and love for Christ will be deepened. 

The challenge for us today, is allowing Revelation to speak for itself without us 
adding our preconceived 21st century ideas into it. When the apostle John recorded the Revelation on the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9), it was clear in his mind why he was writing it down, who the recipients were to be, and how they would understand it. This was because he personally knew the readers, he knew the churches, he spoke their language, and he lived in their culture. 

Revelation 1:4 tells us that John wrote to 7 actual churches in the geographical area of Asia (Modern day Turkey). In verse 11, Jesus told John to write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and to Laodicea. John’s written Revelation from Jesus was not mystical, it was not a secret, and it was intended to be understood by the readers in these 7 churches. These 7 churches were literal congregations of real Christians. These 7 churches are not symbolic of future periods of time, and they are not allegorical or representative of a spiritual reality which we cannot be certain of. 

For this short series, we shall consider the Revelation in a summary format, pausing at times to observe how other Scriptures fit into the context. We shall always look for divine clarity and not mysticism. 

Revelation chapter 1 is critical to our understanding of the entire Revelation. It sets before the reader the divine authority, the biblical context, and the method of understanding, that is, the method of interpretation as intended by Jesus Christ.

The authority
Revelation 1:1a The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. 

First and foremost, this revels Jesus Christ. Jesus, speaking to John, testified of
Himself, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades (Rev 1:17-18). Throughout this final Revelation of Scripture, Jesus presents Himself as sovereign Lord. He is the eternal one who conquered death by rising from the grave. He was before the beginning, and He shall remain after the end of this world. He is supreme ruler over death and hades with all creatures answering to Him. Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

The Lord Jesus Christ bows before no-one other than God the Father who He is coequal with (Php 2:6). So, as Jesus reveals Himself to John, it needs to be understood that there is no higher authority. As the Eternal One who intrinsically possesses all power and all knowledge, He can communicate truths which are understandable. Jesus does NOT need our help in saying what He means. We must simply believe what He says. 

Therefore, there is no need to change the meaning of Jesus’ words. No reinterpretation is required. Jesus says what He means, and He means what He says. As the ultimate authority, Jesus wraps up Scripture and this final Revelation with the words… 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. (Rev 22:18-20). 

The Context 
Revelation 1:1b-2 He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who
bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 

This Revelation of Jesus was given to Jesus from God the Father and delivered to John by an angel. The purpose for this Revelation was to show God’s servants the actual events which He is going to cause to take place through His Son Jesus (Future). 

This entire Revelation is primarily about disclosing Jesus Christ and His plans for
humanity. God wants people to know who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing. God didn’t want the readers of Revelation to know the Jesus of world religion, but the Jesus who God says is ruler, and the Jesus who explains Himself with understandable words. God’s point is this, if you want to know Jesus Christ, the Revelation is a great place to start reading. 

Of significance, is that John recorded this revelation in approximately A.D. 96. This was about 67 years after the Holy Spirit’s initiation of the Church in Acts 2, and about 36 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. It’s important to note that this Revelation was delivered AFTER the destruction of Jerusalem, meaning, the descriptions of future events shown to John could NOT be referring to the past destruction of Jerusalem. A simple fact, but critically important. 

John received this revelation on the Lord’s day (Rev 1:10), which is a Sunday. John was about 90 years of age and was close to the end of his earthly life having been exiled as a prisoner to the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9). This was Rome’s response to John being a preacher of God’s Word and Jesus Christ (Rev 1:9). Patmos was not a peaceful place where John would finish his life in relaxation. Patmos was about 12Km long and 10Km wide, rocky and with little to no vegetation. It was a small Roman penal colony which had a temple for the worship of the goddess Artemis. 

There was little to no earthly comfort for John there. Yet, as we see many times in Scripture, in the harsh environment of the world, Jesus Christ reveals Himself. John wrote down the Revelation and had it delivered to the 7 literal churches in Asia Minor. To Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Rev 1:11). 

The method of understanding 
Key to understanding the straightforward meaning of Revelation is chapter 1 verse 19. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.

Revelation is written with a contextual flow that is to be understood chronologically and literally. The entire Revelation is progressive in the way it unfolds and moves forward. It is sequential in that it begins with that which was John’s past (Rev 1), it then speaks of John’s present time (Rev 2-3), and then it looks to John’s future (Rev 4-22). The text of Revelation has a forward movement of truth with self-explanation. It is not muddled, it is not confused, and it is not fuzzy or vague. 

Like all well written books, Revelation uses various grammatical styles, including parenthetical sections, which are qualifying or explaining sections. For the purpose of this series, I shall call these parenthetical sections Textual Interludes.” In 4 places within the Revelation John pauses his storyline to add detail to the context before moving on with the next progressive vision of the Revelation. Even today, many of us do this when telling a story. Part way through the story we pause, we add more information to the things we have just been explaining, then we continue telling the story. 
Textual Interludes:
#1           Rev 7:1-17
#2           Rev 10:1-11:14
#3           Rev 11:19-14:20
#4           Rev 17:1-18:24
(We shall cover these in greater detail later in the series). 

You will notice that in Revelation chapter 1, John uses the word “like” 7 times in verses 13-16. This is because human language failed to explain or express with sufficient accuracy what John saw, so he writes an understandable parallel, forming a picture in our minds to help us. This style of writing uses a metaphor to help the reader understand the meaning. This is not allegory or spiritualizing the text. John is simply making a parallel with words for the purpose of clarity.

An example of this is the 7 Stars of Revelation 1:16, in his right hand he held seven stars. Then in verse 20, John explains that the seven stars are the angels (messengers) of the seven churches. 

The word for angels in the original Greek language is aggelos, which means messenger, especially an angel. Whether these messengers were angelic, or human, makes little difference, they remain the messengers who delivered this written Revelation to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. 

Revelation 2 and 3
Now that the foundation for the Revelation has been laid in chapter 1, Jesus moves on to send His messages to each of the 7 churches in Asia Minor which existed in John’s time. To Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Rev 1:11). For each church Jesus had a specific message which was applicable to them.

While there are lessons from each church which could be applied to almost any church that has ever existed, these messages were personal to the congregations John knew. Likewise, churches of all ages could easily be found to have similar qualities as these churches, both good and bad. These 7 churches could easily represent the different types of churches which can be found in any age; therefore, the lessons remain relevant for us today. 

To the church in Ephesus             Rev 2:1-7
The loveless church                        Complaint from Jesus
The Ephesian church worked hard for the Lord, and they were patient in their
perseverance of faith. They did not tolerate false teaching or evil behaviour by those who claimed to be apostles but were proven to be false. These believers endured difficulties and being attacked for the name of Jesus Christ, and they did this without growing tired. Spiritual fatigue was not for them, they stood their ground for Christ without getting blown over in their faith. 

Sadly though, while giving their energies to fighting for the truth, they failed in one major area of Christian life. Jesus confronts them with it, you have abandoned the love you had at first (Rev 2:4). Passion for Christ had faded until it could not be found. Affectionate and compassionate love for their Lord and Savour was nothing more than a memory. 

In the end, this church was known as the loveless church. What a sad tragedy, when
God’s people lose their love. The cost of being loveless attracted a stern warning from Jesus. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Rev 2:5).

* The church in Smyrna                 Rev 2:8-11
The church willing to suffer        No complaint from Jesus
This is the shortest of all the letters with only 4 verses. Smyrna is the 1st of only 2 churches that Christ has no complaint against, the other being the church of Philadelphia. In fact, Revelation chapters 1 and 2 are the only times this church is spoken of in the New Testament. 

These believers understood what faithfulness to Christ really looked like, and they lived it. Their love for Christ expressed itself through everything they did, so that when persecution arrived, they stood firm in Christ. Faithfulness is loyalty to the One who saved you from an eternity of something far worse than what you are presently having to endure (Hell).

The church in Smyrna had tribulation, they suffered imprisonment and even death, they lived in poverty, and they were accustomed to being slandered by those who were
energised by Satan. Yet Jesus tells them that in His eyes they were truly rich (Rev 2:9). This was a pure church, and Jesus’ reward for them was to give them the crown of life. As those who conquer sin and persecution, their eternal reward was to be that they would not be hurt by the second death (Rev 2:11; 20:14).

The church in Pergamum             Rev 2:12-17
The worldly church                         Complaint from Jesus
Although being a centre of worship for 4 deities (Athena, Asklepios, Dionysos, and
Zeus), the city of Pergamum was devoted to the cult of Roman emperor worship. Consequently, Christians were endangered here more than anywhere else. Jesus acknowledged that Pergamum was where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells (Rev 2:13). 

However, the Lord knew that some held to the false teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality (Rev 2:14). So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:15. Cf. 2:6).

These false teachings focused on compromise which blended pagan life-style with
Christianity. That’s what made it so attractive to people. You could carry on with your old non-Christian sinful behaviour while calling yourself a Christian. You could feel good about your sin while pretending to be a Christian. The goal was to allow the pleasure of sin without the pain of a guilty conscience. 

Jesus’ response was righteous in gospel appeal, repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth (Rev 2:16).

The church in Thyatira                   Rev 2:18-29
The sin tolerant church                 Complaint from Jesus
Thyatira was well known for its ‘Guilds’ (Unions), which incorporated idol worship with feasts and festival celebrations, which were nothing short of demonic orgies. Thyatira mainly worshipped the Greek sun god Apollo.

As is often the case, a spiritually sick church may have some good parts to it. And this was true of the church in Thyatira. They had some good works, they had some love, faith, service, and patient endurance, and they did more good works now than in the beginning (Rev 2:19). This was a saved church, without doubt. But they had a terrible weakness that they knew of but would not do anything about.

Jesus tells them plainly, you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:20). Toleration of serious sin was a major compromise of their righteousness, and they had become comfortable with it.

Jesus had graciously given Jezebel time to repent of her immorality (Rev 2:21), but she refused. Consequently, sickness, great tribulation, and the death of some of their children would be Jesus’ judgement on them (Rev 2:22-23a). Their judgment was to be a testimony to the other churches of Jesus sovereign and purifying engagement with His churches (Rev 2:23b). 

To the faithful believers in the Thyatira church, Jesus exhorts them to hold fast what you have until I come (Rev 2:25). It’s important for faithful believers to keep their eyes fixed on the Lord so they do not become discouraged by the compromised living of people who tolerate serious sin.

The church in Sardis                       Rev 3:1-6
The dead church                              Complaint from Jesus
The city of Sardis had a church that appeared, from the outside, to be lovely. They put much effort into their external appearance but totally neglected their internal heart condition before holy God. While they had a reputation for being vibrant and appealing, Jesus could see the rotting stench of their sin. 

Jesus’ all-seeing and all-knowing presence finally caught up with them and spoke out against them. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead (Rev 3:1). Jesus’ warning came to them with a gospel command to wake up, remember the truth taught to you in the past, and repent of your sin (Rev 3:3). Jesus warned them that if you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you (Rev 3:3). Unrepented sin attracts the Lord’s judgement, and He gives no warning of when it will arrive. 

However, despite being spiritually dead overall, there were a few genuine believers nestled amongst the corpses (Rev 3:4). Jesus’ words of comfort and assurance would have inspired perseverance and faithfulness. Revelation 3:5, the one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

These few loyal believers need the comforting words of their Lord to give the
assurance of salvation needed to survive in such an evil and hostile church environment.

* The church in Philadelphia      Rev 3:7-13
The faithful Church                         No complaint from Jesus
Jesus affirms His love for this wonderful church even though they were not impressive by human standards. These believers had something far greater than any earthly resources. Jesus praised them in Revelation 3:8, you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Many in this church would have admitted that they were weak people, yet they remained faithful to the cause of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ reward for them was amazing, since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (Rev. 3:10).

The definitive wording of Jesus’ reward tells us that there is a literal time of trial and testing coming upon the entire world in the future. The fact that the church will be kept from going through that trial means that the trial is not theoretical or symbolic. It also means that Jesus was NOT speaking of a past event from history, namely the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

This church of Philadelphia was not faithful because their lives were comfortable or
easy. No, these believers were acquainted with strong opposition. Philadelphia had people of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie (Rev 3:9). This church was surrounded by false religious teaching by people who put an unhealthy emphasis on their Jewish heritage. This was energised by Satan, who used these people to attack the true church. 

The church of Philadelphia endured their difficulties with great perseverance. Therefore, Jesus promised to spare them from the coming 7 year Tribulation which John begins recording in Revelation 6:1. Jesus further affirms His love for them by reminding them that I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown (Rev 3:11). Their reward for conquering Satan’s attacks would be great and it would be eternal. 

The church in Laodicea                  Rev 3:14-22
The half-hearted church               Complaint from Jesus
Finally, the Laodicean church pictures a common problem within churches of any age. They were half-hearted and lukewarm in their affections and living for Jesus Christ
as Lord. Jesus tells these believers that, I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot (Rev 3:15). They could not hide or disguise their serious lack of zeal for the Lord. They did not have 
the depth of conviction to inspire hot passionate service for Christ. Nor were they so cold or indifferent to the Lord that they could abandon Christ altogether.

They had a seriously wrong emphasis on acquiring worldly possessions, worldly comfort, and worldly popularity. Jesus’ confrontation with this church was severe and to the point. Jesus quotes them arrogantly saying, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev 3:17). This church had focused on all the wrong things. Their treasures were earthly, corruptible, and fleshly (Luk 12:29-34). They really did think that they were self-sufficient, determining their own status in life and their own future. How wrong they were!

The world would have looked at the Laodicean church and thought that it was a great
place with a great bunch of nice people who had succeeded in life. But they were wrong! This church was a failure in Christ’s eyes. Yes, they were saved, they were the body of Christ, and they did have eternal life, but they were unholy, powerless, and had no desire for Christlikeness.

To the Laodicean church, Jesus applies the teaching of Hebrews 12:5-6, my son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

In their pursuit of self-gratification this church had seduced themselves by developing self-deception (Jer 17:9). This was based on an inaccurate self-assessment, a false sense of self-security, and prideful self-importance. They had exchanged the truth of Christ for the error of self. They were rich in pride and bankrupt of humility. They had forgotten Matthew 5:3, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus tells the Laodicean church that those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent (Rev 3:19). Jesus was commanding them to repent of their half-hearted and lukewarm attitude towards Christ. Repent of their worldly, earthly affections. Repent of their attitude which did not care about Christ with any depth of sacrificial love or obedience.

Moving forward in Revelation
As John concludes the 7 letters to the 7 churches, he issues  Jesus’ repeated invitation for the 4th time. Revelation 3:22, he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

It is always Christ’s desire for belligerent believers and compromised churches to
lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:1-2).

Sanctification requires self-inspection, an examination of spiritual fruit, or the lack of it. Both Jesus and John understood this as they prepared to start mapping out God’s
designed future for this world and His church. 

The eschatological landscape which they were about to deliver was so broad and divinely inspired that God’s people needed to have clean hearts and sharp minds. As the Revelation unfolds before the readers, they shall view staggering heavenly and earthly scenes from God’s perspective which will stretch them past natural thought or imagination. Faith shall be the only lens through which they will be able to see, understand, and accept, the predestined future God has willed for this world. 

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