Series: The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part One
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 8, 2019
You can see by what’s on the screen we’re beginning a new series from the Revelation of Jesus Christ - which was given to the Apostle John. What is a prophetic revelation that describes how this age of human history is brought to an end and about what comes next and why.
And is full of symbols and cities and animals and creatures and colors and numbers and names and churches and angels and peoples and thrones and who gets to rule and judgements and bowls and instruments and cataclysmic catastrophes and devastation and heaven and hell and death and life and gardens and trees and meals and future history and even someplace in all that… us.
Which - not to understate the obvious - all that can be a tad confusing - if not extremely difficult to unpack - and one reason why some of us hesitate to preach from this letter.
But, it is the next and last book that we need to look at as we’ve been adventuring through the Bible for the last 3 years - since Genesis. So, make sure your safety bar is in its down and locked position and stay seated until the sermon comes to a complete stop. Hang on and hang in.
This morning we’re looking at just the first 8 verses of the revelation. What is often called “The Prologue.” What is John’s greetings and introduction - John identifying himself and who he’s writing to and about what and why.
If you are able - would you please stand with me as we come before God’s word together. And would you read John’s prologue with me.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 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.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.”
“Revelation” translates the Greek word “apokalupsis” - which is why sometimes this is called the... “apocalypse”. An “apocalypse” is God revealing truth - about Himself and what He’s doing and why. And here, that revelation is prophetic - what God will do and why.
There are some really solid Bible teachers that have taught on this revelation - that have fallen into the trap of stating with great certainty what will happen and how and when. Speaking - with great certainty - on and on they go - prediction after prediction - all wrong. All cheapening the purpose of God’s prophetic revelation.
Let’s be clear. Prophecy is not about knowing events. Prophecy is about knowing God.
God doesn’t give us a list of signs to look for and debate about so we can impress each other with what we think we know. God reveals Himself in prophecy so that we can know God. Not know about God. But know God. Deeply. Intimately.
God’s prophetic revelation is intended by the Sovereign God to draw us closer to Him. To give us a glimpse behind the scenes of history showing where and how and why God is working in His relationship with mankind. To grab His sovereignty in all that in order to increase our knowing Him - how He works and what He’s passionate about.
In order to go deeper in our relationship with Him - to press into God. To deepen our trust in God. To increase our faith in God. To help us strive towards greater obedience and following after God.
Verse 1 tells us that this revelation is about… Jesus Christ. “The revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Before we go any farther into the revelation we need to make sure that we’re solid on that bottom line truth: It’s about Jesus. Say that with me, “It’s about Jesus.”
As much as we might be tempted to think that this revelation is about symbols and creatures and angels and thrones and cities and judgements and cataclysmic catastrophes and devastation and on and on and even someplace in all that… about us. This revelation is about… Jesus Christ.
We will get totally messed up and we will totally miss the point and we will totally miss the blessing of what’s here if we forget that one bottom line truth. Many have.
All of what’s here - all of the symbols and all of the numbers and all of whatever - it’s all there to focus us on the centrality of Jesus so that we are drawn closer to God.
The revelation of Jesus Christ is what God gave to Jesus Christ.
“Gave” has the idea of delegation. God gives the revelation to Jesus with purpose.
Jesus is to show - to make known - to His servants - literally the word in Greek is “slaves” - those who live in faithful obedience to Jesus. God gives the revelation of Jesus to Jesus to make known to His servants what must soon take place.
The point is that all this “must” soon take place. Because this is about what God is doing and will do that Jesus is the central focus of. And God wants us to know that. Why? To draw us closer to Him.
Let’s slow down and make sure we’re together on what that means.
In January of 2017 - we began studying through the Bible - beginning at Genesis and Creation. With Adam - who representing all of us - Adam disobeying God - sins - so that each of us is born into sin and we just go on confirming Adam’s choice by our own sin.
Moving through the Old Testament - we saw God at work - relentlessly - purposefully - intentionally - working through history. Working through promises and covenants and law and sacrifices and kingdoms and nations. Working through real people in real situations in real time - prophets and kings and queens and shepherds and ordinary people like us.
God revealing through all of that the big picture of what God is doing about our brokenness and sin and separation from God. God - Who loves us - how God is dealing with what separates us from Him. Redeeming and restoring us. Inviting us back into relationship with Him.
All of which points forward to... Jesus Christ.
When we arrived at the New Testament we focused on Mark’s gospel record. Which Mark begins with the words: “The beginning of the gospel of... Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)
The gospel is about Jesus. The gospel is Jesus. Jesus is the big picture - Who and what God is doing to redeem and restore us to relationship with Him. Jesus is the central focus and central reality of the Gospel.
The gospel is that by grace alone through faith alone - by Jesus Christ alone - we are saved. Those who believe the gospel, who by faith receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, become children of God. (John 1:12)
Then we studied Acts. How we fit into the big picture of what God did next and what God is doing here and now. The outward expansion of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the Roman Empire and beyond - even to Merced. God calling all peoples to salvation in… Jesus Christ.
Which brings us to this revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave to Jesus Christ - to make known to the church - even us - what must soon take place - what is all about Jesus.
So, if we want to go deeper with God and to know more of what God is doing in the world, and what God calls us to in all that, we need to be looking to Jesus. Who Jesus is. What Jesus does. What Jesus teaches. What it means to live faithfully obeying Jesus as His servants. And what that will look like in the days ahead that God is cluing us into through this revelation.
Because it’s about... Jesus.
Paul writes to the church in Colossae. Paul gives us an glimpse of Who Jesus: He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions of rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the Head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
We need to be continually humbled and blown away by Who Jesus is.
The revelation belongs to Jesus and the revelation is about Jesus. Jesus is the revealer and the revelation. Jesus is the glue that holds all this together. Jesus is the big picture of the assembled pieces of the prophetic puzzle.
The revelation of Jesus Christ is what God gave to Jesus Christ to show His servants the things that must - will - soon take place because God wills them to take place. Jesus sends His angel to the Apostle John - who - bears witness - that what John personally saw - this revelation - is the word of God that testifies of Jesus.
Verse 3: 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.
This is the first of seven blessings in the revelation. We often associate The Book of Revelation with a lot of horrible things going on. But in the midst of that are God’s promises future blessing.
“Blessed” is the Greek word “markarios.” It means a whole lot more than some passing surface emotion - or having things seemingly go right for us.
“Blessed” has the idea of a profound sense of essential well being - of being rightly aligned at the core of who we are. Being centered on what’s important in life and experiencing a peace - a settledness in our hearts - as a result.
In the midst of our dog eat dog - survival of the most Politically Correct - fear inducing - spinning out of control world - God offers to us something tremendously different.
In the face of the even more horrendous stuff that God tells us is coming - God offers us His approval - His provision for our lives - His healing - His purpose for us - life in His kingdom - His very presence with us - knowing God and being known by Him - now and forever.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy,
True confessions. There are times when I’m having my alone time with God - and I’m reading the Bible - and I get far enough along and I realize I have no memory of reading what I’ve just read. My mind has drifted someplace else or sometimes I’m just sleep reading. Anyone with me on that?
Reading aloud is the instruction to slow down and pay careful attention to what’s being read. Try reading aloud sometime in your alone time with God and see if helps you focus.
“to hear” has the meaning of intentionally working at understanding the meaning of what it is that we’re hearing. Perception. Comprehension. Active listening.
“keeping” is more than just “doing.” The Greek word has the meaning of guarding - preserving - protecting - what we’ve heard.
It means taking possession of it for ourselves. So valuing what we’ve heard that it becomes central to how we do life. So integral - so valuable - that we will not allow anything or anyone to rob us - to keep us back - from doing what is that we’re hearing.
Notice: All of three - read aloud - hear - keep - are necessary in order to be blessed.
Reason being: Because prophetic revelation is about more deeply knowing God. Which is about how we’re responding to God because of what He reveals to us.
It’s like God saying, “If you think things are bad now. Just wait. But Jesus is central to all that. He’s what I’ve been doing in the past and in the now and I will do in future history. I’m letting you know that, so that - hear Me on this - so that as things get worse you will press into Me more. Because I will bless you as you do. Trust Me. I’ve got you.”
Bottom line: John’s prologue introduces us to what we’re going to see over and over again as we go through this revelation. It’s about Jesus. The centrality of Jesus to everything to everything that God is doing. And that as we intentionally process and faithfully and obediently respond to that truth God will bless us.
Coming to verse 4 - verses 4 to 8 are John’s greetings to those he’s sharing this revelation with.
John begins: Dear seven churches that are in Asia. Seven churches that were located in the Roman province of Asia - in what is now western Turkey.
How many? Seven. Seven being a number that in Scripture represents fullness - perfection - completeness.
Meaning that John is not only writing just to these seven specific churches but that these 7 churches are representative of the complete list of all churches - even Creekside.
We’re going to learn more about these seven churches next Sunday and then when we get to chapters 2 and 3 - after Camp Creekside.
Today, what we need to hang onto is that John is writing to real people in real places in real congregations about what God reveals will really happen. People like us who need to be pressing into God more.
John’s desire is for grace and peace to be with the churches - the servants of Jesus - that he’s sharing God’s revelation with.
Grace is God’s undeserved, we can’t earn it by our own efforts or ever be worthy of it - favor. Salvation and life with God is God’s - by grace given - gift to undeserving sinners like all of us.
Peace is what it means to experience that relationship with God in the day-to-day drama of our lives. Peace isn’t the absence of drama. Peace is the deep inside heart level settledness we know because - in spite of the drama around us - we know that we’re right with God and that God has us.
Grace and peace are huge - significant - blessings of God - especially in the midst of where we do life.
Notice that John powerfully emphasizes that the source of grace and peace is... God.
Grace and peace come from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come, John using language that points backwards to the Old Testament. Words that call to mind how God has describes Himself to His people.
God revealing Himself to Moses as the “I Am” - the everlasting God who reigns over heaven and earth. As the covenant God who is faithful to His people and His promises to them. God revealing Himself to Isaiah as Israel’s Creator, Lord, and Savior - the timelessness of that. God who gives Israel hope even as they’re being threatened by Babylon. God who will strengthen and uphold and help His people. (Exodus 3:14,15; 6:2-8; Isaiah 41:4,10)
Then John moves to the Holy Spirit. “The seven spirits who are before His throne.” Seven is a number that Zechariah prophetically connects with the Holy Spirit. Seven - not meaning seven Holy Spirits - but seven symbolically meaning… fullness, perfection, completeness. Seven describing the perfection and fullness and completeness of the Holy Spirit. (Zechariah 4:2-7)
Then John moves to Jesus - the faithful witness who is the firstborn from the dead - resurrected - what is all about Jesus’ saving work. And Jesus is the ruler of the kings on earth - the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jesus who has loved us and freed us from our sins by His blood. Jesus who has made us to be a kingdom - through His work on the cross has brought us into citizenship in God’s kingdom. Priests - who serve and bring worship to God the Father.
Jesus - who’s glory shines brighter. Who’s dominion is greater. Jesus, who’s glory and dominion extends from now and to forever.
John’s response? “Amen.” - “So be it.”
Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen..
Jesus is coming - just as Daniel predicted. Not as a baby born in humility in an obscure village. Jesus is coming with the clouds - from Heaven at the head of Heavens armies to dispatch the armies of mankind - to crush the arrogant defiance of mankind.
Jesus will come with all His divine authority and power and glory on full display. And everyone on earth will see Him when He comes. Those who rejected Him. Even those who did not believe in Him. When He comes there will be mourning because He comes as the Judge.
The coming of Jesus is the coming of the kingdom - the removal of what defiles us - what is evil - the inauguration of the renewed creation with all it’s perfection and beauty and purity. It is what we pray for. It is what we long for. What we are desperate for.
John’s response? A more emphatic: “Even so. Amen!” Yes to all of it. So be it.
How else could we respond? His servants. But in humble affirmation - to God alone be the glory.
The source of grace and peace is... God. The triune God who purposes to save us through the work of Christ on the cross and makes us to be spiritually alive through the work of the Holy Spirit - who calls us to relationship with Him - that we might serve Him and that He might bless us by His grace with His peace even in the midst of the drama, disaster, and destruction of this life.
God who reveals all of this to us that our confidence and hope in Him alone.
In verse 8 John concludes His doxology with a declaration coming from God Himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” - the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet - “Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.”
God is the God of the past and of the future - A to Z - and Who is - meaning the God of everything in between. God is the Almighty God who is able - Who has creation and re-creation in His hands.
No thing or no one can ever alter what He has chosen to do. He rules over it all. It all fulfills His purposes. What He has been doing even since before Genesis. There is no possibility that history or creation or what must soon take place - none of that will ever spin out of His control.
The Lord God - who reveals to us what He is about to do - who desires to bless us - who is the source of grace and peace - is the Almighty God who is mighty in every moment of drama that is faced by those who are servants of Jesus Christ. In whatever they face or will face - He is our God who is the supreme Lord over all.
Processing that… How do we respond to that? That’s huge. And it’s only the first 8 verses.
First - God’s prophetic revelation should form our response to the drama around us. Should inform and reform how we respond to what swirls around us.
On the left is who? President Trump. On the right is who? Xi Jinping - President of China.
Is the trade war with China about egos or economics? Or is about a dictator called President of China trying to consolidate and hold on to power and a US President working for his re-election who’s trying to score points with his electoral base? Or is it deeper? Maybe spiritual?
Is the trade war about a Chinese leader who’s cracking down on Christians and the church in China in order to consolidate his power and maintain his rule. And just possibly God might even be using President Trump and a threatened trade war to loosen the grip of that dictator in order to create opportunities for the gospel.
How do we view events in Syria or Iran or Israel. What about moving our embassy to Jerusalem?
What about in Merced? Or in your family?
Are we looking for the fingerprints of God in that? God revealing where He’s at work?
What are we fearful of or confident in? What are we praying for? What are seeking after? What are we posting online. Does it point people to God or away from God?
Takeaway number two: God’s prophetic revelation should form our response to God. Should inform and reform how we respond to God. Either we’re going deeper with God or we’re not.
Either God is sovereign over our time and resources and abilities and wealth and what He blesses us with - either God is sovereign over all that or He’s not.
Either Jesus is the central focus or our lives or He’s not.
Either were trusting God - living dependent on God for His blessing of grace and peace in all that or not.
Either we are experiencing God’s blessing and grace and peace - relying solely on Him in the midst of the drama of our lives - or we’re not.
Either we’re living as servants of Jesus Christ - or we’re not.
It is from the fullness of the triune God that grace and peace are supplied to us. The weight of that truth - that reality - of what God reveals to us about Himself and what He has done and is doing for us and for His glory - the weight of that cannot be overstated.
May it be so - that God’s revelation is an encouragement to us individually - and on this renewal Sunday - an encouragement to us as a congregation - to press into God as His faithful servants.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.