REVELATION Chapters 13-20: The Incredibly Patient God

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Revelation Chapters 13-19 are as complex and overwhelming to the human mind, just like Genesis Chapters 1-3 about the creation and the fall of Adam. They are Bible passages that speak about things that are not part of our everyday experience, and therefore we cannot perfectly interprete every line in these passages. No wonder both passages are taught in many different ways by Bible scholars.

In order not to add to the confusion, instead of seeking to interprete every single line in those six chapters, it is more helpful to ask what is the big picture in these chapters? Or stated differently, we can ask, what is the main message to us in the midst of all the symbols and all the activities taking place in these chapters.

Revelation 13 follows the vision of Satan’s failure to destroy Jesus and Israel in Revelation 12. Enraged by failure, Satan turns his attention to complete domination of humanity through a person referred to as the Beast with the number 666. Revelation 14 shows that even with heavy opposition to God, there is still a super faithful group, the 144,000 who stay with Christ no matter the situation.

Heaven responds to the reign of the Beast with more plagues in Chapters 15 and 16. The Beast responds by acquring more power to himself through forceful overthrow of more established rulers, referred to as Babylon in Revelation Chapters 17 and 18. Eventually, there is open warfare between Jesus and the Beast in Revelations 19, and Jesus wins; but Satan did not give up, coming back for a rematch in Revelations 20. Satan lost aagain and it becomes clear that Satan will not change.

Thus from Revelation Chapters 12-20, we see Satan the dragon wage one war after the other against heaven. In these wars, Satan partnered first with some of the Angels in heaven but failed; Satan later partnered with humans, twice, and still failed. God is not quick to condemn; God is patient even with Satan.

The Apostle says in 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV): “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Lord, thank you for your patience with all, Amen!

REVELATION – The Book that Unwraps God’s Big Big Plans

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In the past ten weeks we have been studying the book of Revelation. The focus has been on the resurrected Jesus who assures the Church that he is protecting them, who coordinates the execution of God’s plans for shutting down this current world, and who leads us into the new heaven and new earth.

Like Noah and the flood in the book of Genesis, or Moses and the ten plagues in Egypt in the book of Exodus, when God executes judgments on the earth, it is through elements of nature. When this happens, there is always a rescue for God’s people. During the flood, it was Noah’s family; during the ten plagues of Egypt, it was Israel. In the book of Revelation, it is the Church and Israel that are rescued. I hear you asking, why is this earth being shut down and replaced by a new one?

We read in Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV) (shortened): “To Adam he [God] said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit… which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat… “Cursed is the ground because of you… It will produce thorns and thistles for you… By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground… for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

God created the earth as a place where he lives with humanity in a collaborative relationship. Adam had the power of choice, and chose to live independently from God. The Bible shows how God is healing this broken relationship with Jesus as the peacemaker between God and humanity. Starting from Genesis 3, God’s plans have included, heal the relationship with humanity, shut down the current broken world of thorns, thistles and death, and replace with a new world.

Revelation 21:1-4 (NIV) (shortened) says: “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people… ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This is the goal starting from Genesis 3; the book of Revelation showed the early Christians and shows us that the plan is executed to the very end. A big insight from Revelation is that there are many who just like Adam are not interested in God’s plan, and they will find a friend in Satan, and together they will make war against God. The question before us is do we like God’s plan or are we against?

Lord, help us to clearly see your big, big, big plans for us, Amen!

REVELATION 11-12: Israel Rescued from Trouble

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The first time I tried reading modern French philosophy, it was a tragedy, I understood nothing. The books were in English, but one of the difficulty was that I did not know French history. When my knowledge of French history improved, I understood French philosophy better. Revelation demands us to do the same.

When we read Revelation, we read New Testament prophecy in Old Testament Bible language. We read about lampstands, coloured horses, angels with trumpets, serpent, sodom, egypt, babylon. Early Christians understood the Old Testament so it was clear to them, but we find the language of Revelation tough. As we grow in knowledge of the Old Testament, the easier it gets to understand Revelation.

Two weeks ago we looked at Revelation Chapters 8-10, where Jesus opened the mighty 7th seal. It released seven angels who released different plagues on the earth, the way Moses released plagues on Egypt. The impact of these plagues is that the earth begins to fail to support life the way it should. The goal is that humanity will see clearly that the end has come and turn their hearts to God.

The vision of the end was interrupted in Revelation Chapters 11-12, with visions of Israel. Chapter 11 shows that in the midst of trouble in the world, Israel will be sent two preachers, with power to stop rain like Elijah, and to turn water to blood like Moses, two major Old Testament prophets. The preachers will be killed for being hot headed, but will resurrect after three and half days like Jesus.

Revelation Chapter 12 shows how Satan symbolized as a dragon set out to destroy Jesus, the son of the woman (Israel) but failed. A dragon is a snake with great power to kill. The dragon then went after Israel, the woman, but God protected her. The dragon then went to war against her other children who believe in Jesus – the first Christians were Jewish and they suffered terrible persecution.

Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 11:25-26 (The Living Bible): “I want you to know about this truth from God, dear brothers [gentile Christians in Rome], so that you will not feel proud and start bragging. Yes, it is true that some of the Jews have set themselves against the Gospel now, but this will last only until all of you Gentiles have come to Christ – those of you who will. And then all Israel will be saved.”

Lord, you are faithful to Israel to the end; we rejoice with Israel, Amen!

REVELATION – The Future from a Jesus Standpoint

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There are many plans for the future; car makers are planning for a future of electric cars and driverless cars; space explorers are planning for a future where we will live on the moon or on planet Mars; banks are planning for a future without cash, everybody will use cards. Whose future plans matter? The book of Revelation says its God’s plans that matter and go on to show us God’s plans.

Revelation 1:1 (The Living Bible) says: “This book unveils some of the future activities soon to occur in the life of Jesus Christ. God permitted him to reveal these things to his servant John in a vision; and then an angel was sent from heaven to explain the vision’s meaning.”

The book of Revelation unveils, unwraps, reveals, the future from a Jesus standpoint. The early Church knew Jesus as a man who walked around preaching; as a man who ate and drank like them; as a man who bled and died and resurrected. Revelation unveiled Jesus in a new way for them and for us too.

The resurrected Jesus is shown in Revelation, as watching over his Church (Chapters 1-3) and as executioner of God’s plans for the world (Chapter 4 onwards). These plans are to close up the present world (Chapters 4-20), and to bring in the new heaven and the new earth (Chapters 21-22). To the early Church, this unveiling of a powerful Jesus helped them to stay strong, and to overcome persecution.

Two thousand years after John wrote down this unveiling of Jesus, it continues to serve as encouragement to the Church, knowing that Jesus is watching over us, even during troubled times in the world. The future of our world that matters is the future that is seen from Jesus standpoint in Revelation.

Father in heaven, give us the patience and persistence, to study Revelation and clearly see Jesus, leading us to a better world, Amen!

REVELATION 8: The Mighty 7th Seal

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In the past seven weeks we have been in the book of Revelation. The book is about the importance and the work of Jesus after his resurrection. The gospels teach us about the message of Jesus while he walked on the earth, Revelation teach us about the responsibilities of Jesus after his resurrection.

In Revelation Chapters 1-3 we see the resurrected Jesus speaking directly to the Church, to let us know that from his heavenly location, he is still with us, guiding and guarding us. Then from Chapter 4 onward, we see the resurrected Jesus take up the responsibility of managing God’s endtime plans for the earth.

God’s plans for the earth have been in stages; before Jesus came to the earth, the plans ensured that Jesus birth and ministry were top priority. Everyone and anything that was going to be an obstacle, were taken out of the way. Once Jesus was born, crucified, and resurrected, God’s plans shifted to his endgame – closing out this world and preparing us for the new heavens and the new earth.

Revelation Chapter 4 onwards shows that the step by step execution of this endgame is in Jesus hands. He has the scroll with seven seals that contains the plans of this endgame; when he removes a seal, a major tasks takes place. By Chapter 7, Jesus has removed six seals, and now in Chapter 8, he removes the mighty seventh seal; when he did this, there was silence in heaven for a period (Rev. 8:1).

All that happens in Revelation Chapters 8-10 results from removal of the seventh last seal. Beginning from Chapter 11, Apostle John enters into another vision. The seventh seal released seven angels who released different plagues on the earth, the way Moses released ten plagues on Egypt. The impact of these plagues is that the earth begins to fail to support life the way it should. The goal is that humanity will see the writing on the wall that the end has come and turn their hearts to God.

Revelation 9:20-21 (The Living Bible) says: “But the men left alive after these plagues still refused to worship God! They would not renounce their demon-worship, nor their idols made of gold and silver, brass, stone, and wood – which neither see nor hear nor walk! Neither did they change their mind and attitude about all their murders and witchcraft, their immorality and theft.”

In spite of the earth failing, humanity just goes on in its pursuit of wealth at any cost, success at any cost, big building and construction projects at any cost. In the pursuit of our ambitions, Godly worship and values are thrown out of the window. In these times of huge uncertainty all over the world, have you paused to draw nearer to God, or just continue to pursue your ambitions at any cost?

May the simple truths of Revelation inspire us to godliness, Amen!

REVELATION 7 – The Church Past and Present Fully Protected

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To many the book of Revelation is a complex puzzle. Imagine that you find a letter, written in English, that your great-grand-father wrote to your great-grand-mother and she kept it. The letter is in old English so you can read it but there are words you don’t understand. How do you make sense of the letter?

It is by investigation and research – you will ask in the family and research old English words; you will want to know what the letter meant to your great-grand-mom and why she kept it. This is similar to understanding Revelation. We have to ask, what did Revelation mean to the early Christians who first read it? Why did they keep and pass it on to us. This is the path I follow in teaching Revelation.

In Revelation we see Jesus comforting the early Christians (Chapters 1-3). We see John taken in vision to the heavenly council in Chapters 4-5 where he saw Jesus given the sealed scroll, making him the appointed executioner of heaven’s plans for the earth after his resurrection. In Chapter 6 which we studied last week, we see Jesus removing the seals from the scroll, and the consequences on earth.

Chapter 7 follows from the removal of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17), and the announcement that it is judgement season. On opening the sixth seal there was great panic among the powerful and the poor on earth. While this was going on, in Chapter 7 verse 3, the angels are told that no action should be taken until they “have placed the Seal of God upon the foreheads of his servants.”

How many are these servants? First is the symbolic number of 144,000 from Israel; inspite of Israel’s numerous failures to stay faithful, every Israelite who stayed true to God will be redeemed. Then John saw “a vast crowd, too great to count, from all nations and provinces and languages” who are also redeemed. At this time the gospel had not been preached all over the world, but John saw people from all over. To the early Christians this showed that the world was not ending soon.

Revelation 7:13-17 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: ‘Then one of the twenty-four Elders asked me, “Do you know who these [redeemed] are… “No, sir,” I replied… “These are the ones coming out of the Great Tribulation,”… The one sitting on the throne will shelter them; they will never be hungry again, nor thirsty… For the Lamb [Jesus] standing in front of the throne will feed them and be their Shepherd and lead them to the springs of the Water of Life. And God will wipe their tears away.”

We see that when seal six was removed, the great judgement was announced, but the main action that took place was complete protection for God’s people from Israel and from among the gentiles with Jesus leading the way. These billions of redeemed people did not happen in a day, its been going on now for the past 2000 years. If we are celebrating Easter this weekend, it is because the resurrection of Jesus has made it possible for you to be among that vast crowd too great to count.

Lord, we see your plan of redemption; it seems slow, but we see the outcome, a people too vast to count; keep us in that number, Amen!

REVELATION 6: Understanding The Great Vision – Part 2

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The early Christians who read the book of Revelation were greatly encouraged by it. The Jesus they had known was a powerful teacher who lived and preached in Israel. They believed Jesus was the messiah of the world by faith, but now the book of Revelation, starting from Chapter 4 is showing Jesus determining the fate of the world. This was indeed a revelation of a new aspect of Jesus authority.

In Revelation Chapters 1-3 Jesus encourages the Church to remain faithful. In Chapter 4, Apostle John was shown a great vision starting with a council meeting in heaven. In Chapter 5, John saw that the council appointed the resurrected Jesus to execute heaven’s decisions on the earth. These decisions were in a scroll with seven seals; the decisions had been kept secret until the resurrection of Jesus.

In Chapter 6 Jesus removes the first to the sixth seal, the seventh is removed in Chapter 8. The first seal released a white horse carrying a king; the second seal released a red horse carrying a warmaker (warmonger); the third seal released a black horse carrying a trader (merchant); the fourth seal released a pale (or yellow-green) horse carrying death. The fifth reveals that God has not abandoned the Church; the sixth reveals that a day of judgement is coming even though it is not immediate.

It is worth noting Revelation 6:9-11 (The Living Bible) (shortened): “And when he broke open the fifth seal, I saw an altar, and underneath it all the souls of those who had been martyred for preaching the Word of God… They called loudly to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge the people of the earth for what they’ve done to us? When will you avenge our blood… they were told to rest a little longer until their other brothers, fellow servants of Jesus, had been martyred on the earth and joined them.”

To the early Christians reading Revelation Chapter 6, it meant this world of troubles (red, black, and pale horse) is not ending anytime soon. It also showed them that in the midst of continued worldly chaos, firstly, they have a champion, the king on the white horse (the first seal), and secondly, they have not been abandoned despite persecution (the fifth seal), but they would have to be patient.

Lord, take away the fear and complexity we bring to Revelation; teach us its simple truths that bless our souls, Amen!

REVELATION 4-5: Understanding The Great Vision – Part 1

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Have you entered the office of a high government or business leader? I am sure there were symbols in that office to remind you that you are in the presence of a great person. It might be the many certificates of accomplishment on the wall, the awards and trophies won, the very expensive and specially made furniture, the pictures with important people, the flag and other government symbols. The great vision in Revelation Chapter 4 starts with a symbolic show of God’s power.

The great vision in the book of Revelation, starts from Chapter 4 and goes right up to Chapter 20. Thus, understanding this vision, especially the acts of Jesus in this vision, is important to understanding the book of Revelation. In the next 4 weeks, we will focus on understanding Jesus in the great vision.

In Revelation Chapters 1-3, Apostle John wrote seven letters to the Churches, reminding them that despite their persecutions, Jesus is with them and upholding them. Then in Chapter 4, John was told to come up higher, to be shown things that will happen after that period of persection. This was also a message to the Churches – persecution was not the end of the world, there is still much more to come.

Revelation 5:1-5 (The Living Bible) (shortened) says: “And I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne, a scroll… sealed with seven seals. A mighty angel with a loud voice was shouting out this question: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll… I wept with disappointment because no one anywhere was worthy… But one of the twenty-four Elders said to me, “Stop crying, for look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, and proved himself worthy to open the scroll and to break its seven seals.”

John is in the throne room of Heaven, he has seen many royal symbols reminding him of the power and greatness of God; now the vision moves to why that council meeting was happening. Important decisions about humanity have been made by the council, is there a minister with the qualifications, experience, and character, to carry out the decisions? YES, the resurrected Jesus is worthy to handle this!

Everything else that happens in Revelation till Chapter 20, is about Jesus removing one seal after the other. Each time Jesus removes a seal, instructions are given to the angels to make things happen on earth. To the early Church, they see Jesus the great wise King, the master, the leader, in charge of their destiny, in charge of the destiny of the world. This is the ultimate message of the book of Revelation.

Lord, continue to give us clarity to understand Jesus in Revelation, Amen!

REVELATION – Jesus Determines the Life of the Church – Part2

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I completed my undergraduate studies when the mobile phone and emails, were not yet common place as they are today. I was far away from my parents; communication between me and my mother was through letters. While her words of wisdom inspired me, the most joyful thing was knowing that she cared a lot.

We have lost the joy of writing and receiving letters from those we love In our culture today. Instant messaging means the waiting, the anticipation, and the expectation that goes with writing and receiving love letters is gone forever. So, when we read the letters of Jesus to the seven Churches in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, we don’t see the relief, the excitement, and the joy it gave to the Churches.

The Church leaders and Church members not just in the seven Churches mentioned, but in all of the Churches everywhere at that time, and all of the Churches from that time to the present, have drawn courage and joy from the letters. All the seven letters follow a similar pattern; there is a positive feedback, a comment on what is not going right, an exhortation to do better, and the re-assurance of rewards.

Revelation 2:1-7 (The Living Bible) (shortened) states: “Write a letter to the leader of the church at Ephesus and tell him… “I write to inform you of a message from him who walks among the churches… “He says… I know how many good things you are doing… You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. “Yet there is one thing wrong; you don’t love me as at first! Think about those times of your first love… and turn back to me again… else I will come and remove your candlestick from its place among the churches… “Let this message sink into the ears… To everyone who is victorious, I will give fruit from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.”

The first letter was to the Church at Ephesus; the city was part of the Roamn empire back then, but is located in Turkey today. The next letter was to Smyrna, then Pergamos, then Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Apostle Paul helped establish the Church at Ephesus and taught there for three years; many magicians there became Christians and burnt their magic books (see Acts 18 and 19).

Timothy was the pastor in Ephesus (see 1 and 2 Timothy); the Church was spiritually strong (see book of Ephesians) and stayed strong till Ephesus was destroyed about 150-200 years after Revelation was written. The Church survived Roman persecution, and was a great light to the early Christians. The Ephesian Church no longer physically exist today, but its light continues to shine through the Bible.

The other six Churches no longer physically exist too; those cities were also a part of the Roman empire back then but are now part of Turkey. We know more about the Church in Ephesus than any of the others. Protestant Church tradition says Apostle John took Mary the mother of Jesus and they both lived and died in Ephesus. The light from the Church in Ephesus continues to bless us because Jesus has preserved their light. How about you, would your light still shine, lomg after you are gone?

Lord, lead us in love, preserve our light, long after we are gone, Amen!

REVELATION – Jesus Determines the Life of the Church – Part1

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Barely twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus, the Church was experiencing severe persecution from Emperor Nero of Rome. This continued for several years even after Nero had died. The early Christians needed to know when this would all end; they needed to know if Jesus was still Lord of lords and King of kings.

This was the setting when Jesus visited Apostle John, in a vision on the island of Patmos. The island was a Roman hard labour prison camp where John was locked up because of his Christian faith. Things do not happen by accident; John was likely praying about the persecution of the Church and looking for answers. No surprises then that the first issue Jesus addresses is his relationship with the Church.

Revelation 1:9-20 (The Living Bible) (shortened) states: “It is I, your brother John, a fellow sufferer for the Lord’s sake… I was on the island of Patmos, exiled there for preaching… It was the Lord’s Day and I was worshiping, when suddenly I heard a loud voice… When I turned… behind me were seven candlesticks of gold… among them was one who looked like Jesus… He held seven stars in his right hand… I fell at his feet as dead; but he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid… Write down what you have just seen… The seven stars are the leaders of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks are the churches themselves.”

John saw Jesus holding seven stars and walking among seven candlesticks of gold; John was told the stars are the leaders of the Church, the candlesticks are the Churches. The clear meaning is that Jesus is here, involved in the life of the Churches and their leaders. Why seven stars? In the Bible, numbers have symbolic meaning – seven means completion; seven Churches stand for all the Churches in the world.

To the severely persecuted Church, seeing Jesus among them was comforting and encouraging. Jesus was not just among the Churches, but in the next Chapter, Jesus sent messages to the Churches. Reading these messages was like serving water to someone who had been travelling in the desert and starving for water.

Revelation Chapters 1-3 focus on earthly matters about the Churches. Revelation Chapter 4 and after address heavenly concerns, from a past-present-future approach. We will continue with Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 next week, and in two weeks time look into the exciting heavenly vision that starts in Chapter 4.

Lord, help us see Jesus in Revelation, Amen!