What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 1:1-3 – “First Thoughts about Last Things”

Revelation is an easy book to find.  Just go to the very end of the Bible and you will find it.  It is appropriate that Revelation is found at the end of the Bible because it is a book about the end, about end times, and about last things.  The big fancy theological word for the study of the end times or last things is the word “eschatology,” which means “the study of the eschaton, or the end of the age.  Today we are beginning a new study of messages entitled, “What Is The World Coming To?”  Lord willing, we will make our way, verse-by-verse through the 22 chapters of this great book.  Most Christians that I know and talk to would really like to understand the book of Revelation and I believe God wants us to understand this book.

There has been a lot of interesting conjecture concerning the contents of Revelation over the years, especially since the popular book by Hal Lindsey came out over 50 years ago.  The book is entitled, The Late Great Planet Earth.  In many ways, the publishing of that book ushered in a new group of popular American Christian literature and movies on the end times.  When one reads the first edition of Lindsey’s book (written in 1970), you cannot help but conclude that Lindsey believed the Lord will return before the end of the 1980s.  Lindsey dated a generation as 40 years and believed that 40 years after the Jews returned to Israel in 1948, the Lord would come again.  Of course, that did not happen.  A lot of the success of end-times discussions during the 1980s was aided by the ongoing cold war and the threat of nuclear disaster.

In 1988, Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, published a book entitled, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In 1988.   Most readers of that book can readily conclude that he, too, was wrong.  I remember in the 1980s some were even saying that Ronald Reagan was the antichrist because his full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, contains six letters each, hence: 666, the number of the beast.  There was a lot of this conjecturing over numbers and numbering systems, and so forth.

It reminds me of the three old men who had gone to the doctor for a memory test.  The doctor asked the first old man, “What is one plus one?”  He said, “Two hundred seventy-four.”  The doctor said to the second man, “It’s your turn. What is one plus one?”  He said, “Tuesday.”  The doctor then turned to the third man, “Okay, your turn. What’s one plus one?”  He said, “Two.”  The doctor said, “That’s great!”  He then asked the man, “How did you get that?”  The third man said, “Simple.  I just subtracted 274 from Tuesday!” 

My prayer is that we will avoid that kind of reasoning as we study this book together.  It is my belief that God wants us to understand this book.  In the words of the hymn-writer William Cowper, “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.”  Our study today is entitled, “First Thoughts about Last Things.”  This first study will be an introductory overview of the book.

Before we talk about the main points that come out of these verses, let me make a few general remarks about the book. 

1) It is the Book of Revelation.

It is not the Book of Revelations. “Revelation” (the Greek word is “apokalupsis”) means “an uncovering,” “an unveiling,” or “a disclosure.”  In the New Testament, this word describes the unveiling of spiritual truth (Romans 1625; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 1:17; 3:3), the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19), Christ’s incarnation (Luke 2:32), and His glorious appearing at His second coming (2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7).  In all its uses, “revelation” refers to something or someone, once hidden, becoming visible.

What this Book reveals

Or unveils is

Jesus Christ in glory.

Truths about Him and His final victory, that the rest of Scripture merely allude to, become clearly visible through revelation about Jesus Christ.  This revelation was given to Him by God the Father, and it was communicated to the Apostle John by an angel (1:1).

2) The author of the book of Revelation is identified for us as John. 

You see it there in verse one: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to whom?  To His servant John.”

This John is the same John who wrote the Gospel of John, and the letters of first, second, and third John.  The book tells us later that John is writing from the island of Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea, about 70 miles Southwest of Ephesus.  John is being held there as an exile.  He was exiled to Patmos during the latter part of the reign of the evil Roman Emperor Domitian, who ruled from AD 81-96.  This places the date of the book of Revelation somewhere between AD 90-96.

Christians in John’s day were facing fierce persecution.  The Christian church began to feel weak and vulnerable.  Some even began to compromise their convictions. 

The purpose of the book of Revelation

Is primarily to encourage these Christians

And to remind them that Jesus Christ is

The Victorious King who is, indeed,

Coming again to right all wrongs

And to reign on earth.

While the primary audience was the early Christians of Asia Minor, the audience includes Christians of all time periods.

There are three main sections of the book identified from verse 19 of chapter one.  You see there in 1:19 . . .

Past (chapter 1), “Things which you have seen;”

Present (chapters 2-3), “things which are;”

Future (chapters 4-22), “things which shall be.” 

Now, later, chapters 6-19 deal with a time known as “the tribulation.”  Basically you have in chapters 6-19 three series of judgments.  They are three series of seven judgments: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.

As we study, I am going to be presenting what is known as the futurist view and, more specifically, “the premillennial view.”  The premillennial view asserts that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return before a time period known as the millennium.  Jesus Christ will return prior to the 1,000 year reign described in chapter 20.  We will learn more about the later. 

I have already said that I believe God wants us to understand the book of Revelation.  He wants us to really know what He is teaching here in this book.  He does not want us to get lost in the details.  The story is told about a man who drove into a large city looking for Main Street.  Having difficulty finding it, and realizing he was lost, he noticed a boy standing on the street and called out to him: “Young man, do you know where Main Street is?”  The little boy shook his head and said, “No.”  The man asked, “Well, do you know where First Street is?”  Again, the little boy nonchalantly shook his head and said, “No.”  Getting a little frustrated, the man asked, “Well, do you know where this road leads?”  And again, the little boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “No.”  Exasperated, the man shouted, “Young man, do you know anything!?”  The little boy said, “I know I am not lost.”

God does not want us to get lost in the details of this book.  He wants us to really know, to really understand this book.  After I finished getting my outline together in my study time, I noticed that two of my favorite preachers, Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines, had very similar outlines.  That encouraged me not so much because it put me in the same camp as those guys, but because it shows how plain these points are in these first three verses; that anyone could find them.

**What God Wants Us to Know About Revelation:

I.  The Principal Person Of The Book.

Verse one begins by saying, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”  That says it all – “The revelation of Jesus Christ!” 

Jesus is the principal person of the book.

This Book is not a revelation of John about Jesus Christ, it is a revelation of Jesus Christ.  The word “revelation” is the Greek word “apocalypse.”  While that word typically brings to mind synonyms such as disaster, destruction, day of reckoning, and so forth, the Greek word literally means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.”  So, it is helpful here to read the first verse, “The unveiling of Jesus Christ.”  The revelation of Jesus Christ is the unveiling of Christ that the world may see His glory and splendor.

When Jesus came the first time, much of His glory was veiled.  He came as a humble carpenter from the obscure town of Nazareth.  Many people in his hometown rejected Him because he was just a “local boy,” nothing special about Him.  His family rejected Him.  The Jews, at large, rejected Him.  His glory is veiled.  You see that as you read through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And then little, by little, it becomes increasingly apparent to His disciples that this Jesus of Nazareth is more than a man.  When you get to that incredible event on the Mount of Transfiguration, for just a few moments Peter, James, and John see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ unveiled as brilliant white light shines right through the body of Jesus Christ. 

But in large part, the glory of Jesus was veiled during His first coming.  When He comes again, things will be very different. 

He came the first time in humiliation. 

He will come the second time in exaltation. 

He came the first time

In a humble stable in Bethlehem. 

He will come the second time in

unveiled glory from heaven,

Coming with His mighty angels.

The principal person in the book is Jesus Christ.  Let me remind you again that . . .

Jesus Christ is the principal person

Of every book of the Bible. 

The Bible is a “Him” book. 

The Bible is about Him.

The Old Testament saints were saved the same way you and I are saved.  Not by our works, but by grace through faith.  We look back 2,000 years to the cross and see God’s Son.  The Old Testament saints, such as David and Solomon looked ahead 2,000 years to the cross. 

In faith, they believed

God would send His Messiah

And by faith looked ahead

To that promise. 

And in faith, you and I believe

God sent His Messiah and

Look back to Calvary.

Salvation is the same in both Testaments, Old and New.  Our salvation is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Him.

And this Book is about Him. 

He is the principal person of the book.

The Greek construction of the phrase, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” can mean both an unveiling “about” Jesus Christ and an unveiling “from” Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is at once the One unveiled

And the One doing the unveiling.

This brings us to the second point in our study today.  Not only does God want us to know the principal person of the book, but secondly, God wants us to know

II.  The Prophetic Purpose Of The Book.

Verses 1 and 2 tell us, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.”

What is it that God is going to show His servants?  “Things which must shortly take place.”  The Book of Revelation is a prophecy.  It unveils the glory of Jesus Christ by telling about God’s program through future events.  Remember the structure from verse 19.  The Lord Jesus says to John, “write the things which you have seen” (Past; Chapter one), “and the things which are” (Present; Chapters two and three), “and the things which will take place after this” (Future; Chapters four through twenty-two).

The book of Revelation is about “things which must shortly take place.”  First notice, they “must” take place.  They must.  God is guiding the events of history.  Nothing happens by mere chance.  Nothing will hinder God’s purposes.  These things absolutely must take place and God will see to it that they do.  Notice secondly, that these things must “shortly” take place.  That is, they will take place soon.  The faithful early Christians looked for the Lord’s return to happen soon.  They prepared for His Coming.

We are to live the same way today.  We must always live our lives in such a way that we are ready for the Lord’s return.  Some will say, “Well, a lot of time has past since the Lord’s first coming.  He does not seem to be in any hurry.”  Well, He is not in any hurry.  He knows the exact time.  Remember these things “must” take place.  Someone else may ask, “Why has He not yet come?”  That’s the same question Peter addresses in 2 Peter 3:8-9, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack (slow) concerning His promise, as some count slackness (understand slowness), but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

God has planned the exact moment that our Lord Jesus Christ will return, and His return will happen at a time we do not expect.  Peter says to the Lord a thousand years to us is just a day to God.  He is not bound by our time-table.  He is operating on His own.  So Peter says God is not slow in fulfilling His promise.  If it seems to you that much time has passed as we await our Lord’s return . . .

The Bible says understand that this delay

Is because of the loving grace of God

Who is allowing the delay that more people

Should come to repentance and be saved.

Do not toy with the time God is giving you.  Be about the business of preparing to meet our Lord.  Make sure you are ready and make sure your family, friends, and acquaintances are ready.

The Bible goes on and  says about this revelation in verse one that Jesus “sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”  It is best to read that word “signified” as “sign-ified.”  Did you catch that?  “Sign-ified.’ 

The revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ

Through prophetic future events is given

By way of symbols and signs.

That may be for two reasons:

1) It may be that because of the fierce persecution of John’s day that biblical truth was given in symbols so that those doing the persecution would not understand what it was about.  After all, the revelation is given to Christ’s “servants,” not to just anyone.

But . . .

2) It may also be that the contents of the book of Revelation, the unveiling of Jesus Christ through future events, was given in symbols and signs because it was the best means to convey spiritual truth.  The unveiling of future events may be difficult to convey in just words.  Have you ever caught a glimpse of something you just could not describe?  You end up saying, “Well, you just had to be there.”  That may be what John encountered as he was presented the unveiling of future events.  So, with God’s help we will be interpreting these symbols and signs in the weeks ahead.

God wants us to know the principal Person of the book.  God wants us to know the prophetic purpose of the book.  And thirdly, God wants us to know . . .

III.  The Precious Promise Of The Book.

The book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible with this precious promise.  Look at it again there in verse 3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  This verse shows that the early Christians assembled on the Lord’s day for the public reading and teaching of the Scripture.  The preacher would come before the people with the Bible and would read the Bible and give the sense of the passage read.  So, blessed is he who reads (the pastor) and those who hear the words (the congregation).  I am blessed as I read and you are blessed as you hear the words of this prophecy.

This book is a blessing to read.  Is not it ironic, then, that it is the one Book of the Bible that is so often not read?  I got to thinking about that this week, and I thought about some of the reasons we do not read this Book.  One reason may be, quite frankly, that we do not read it because we do not fully understand it.  One of the reasons we do not understand it is because we really do not know our Bibles well, especially the Old Testament.  It is interesting: John never quotes the Old Testament insofar as chapter and verse is concerned, but as he writes and shares the revelation, he alludes to and makes reference to the Old Testament around 300 times.  Some scholars even estimate that as much as 75% of the book of Revelation is to be understood by knowing the Old Testament.

I also think that one of the reasons we do not read Revelation is perhaps owing to spiritual warfare.  The devil does not want us reading this Book.  He does not want us to be blessed.  This book prophesies his doom.  Revelation is the final Book that records the final days of Satan.

The book of Genesis is a Book of beginnings. 

The book of Revelation is a Book of endings. 

In Genesis we have the entrance of sin. 

In Revelation we have the ending of sin. 

In Genesis the devil enters as one destroying. 

In Revelation he exits as one destroyed.

Satan does not want you reading this Book.  He does not want you to be blessed.  He will do what he can to keep you from reading it and studying it. 

But if you and I go through this Book a blessing will follow – “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy” – but not just reading and hearing!  The Bible says “and keep those things which are written in it.”  In other words, we must obey what we read here in the Book of Revelation.

God wants us to know the precious promise of this book.  I am praying for a great blessing to follow our studying through this Book.  I am praying for a spiritual harvest of committed believers to the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of our studying this book together.  Let’s get ready to receive the precious promise of this book; a great spiritual blessing as we read and hear the words of this prophecy because, as verse three ends, “the time is near.”

That statement is meant to encourage Christians – “the time is near.”  Hang in there.  Jesus Christ is coming again.  You are going to make it.  Stay the course.  But the phrase also applies as a warning – “the time is near.”  Be ready.  Make sure you are spiritually prepared for the events in this Book that will unfold before your very eyes.  Be ready when our Lord returns.

As I was driving around the other day, God impressed upon my mind the need to be spiritually prepared at all times.  The Lord may not return again for several years, perhaps even decades.  The odds are that most of us will die before He returns.  When we die we will face an immediate judgment whereby our souls will go immediately either to heaven or to hell.  Immediately.  There is no “soul sleep” or purgatory.  The Bible teaches that our souls go immediately to one of two locations.

Are you ready to meet the Lord, whether He returns first, or whether you die first?  Can I say that there is no more important question than that?  The Bible says in James 4:14 that you and I do not even know what tomorrow brings.  James says your life is like a vapor.  Your life is like the upward steam from a hot cup of coffee.  You see it for a moment and then it is gone.  Your life is like that.  You see it for a moment and then it is gone.  That is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Now is the time.  Today is the day of salvation.”   We are going to study about Jesus’ return . . . the question is, “Are you ready?”  Some of you do not have peace with God and if you continue that way you are taking the chance that you will live another day.  You might even be thinking, “I will make peace with God another day.”  Do not wait . . . Do not delay!  Your life is a vapor.  It will be over very soon.  Now is the time.  Today is the day of salvation.  Come and accept what Christ has done for you and be saved, for the time is near.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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