Wednesday, December 2, 2020

An Overview of Revelation

"John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia" (Revelation 1:4a)

Revelation has to do with the coming of Jesus Christ, but the idea of Christ’s coming means more than just His final coming in power at the end of history. It also includes His coming into history to deal with His church along the way.

In Revelation 1, Jesus comes to John. He tells John to write seven messages to seven different churches in Asia Minor. Each message is a kind of preliminary coming of Christ because each church is warned to set things right before Christ comes. The picture given in Revelation 1–3 is of Jesus walking among the seven lampstands of the seven churches, trimming the wicks. When Jesus comes to each church, sometime after the church has received the letter, He will deal with the problems there.

Then the seven churches are told to observe Jesus coming to another city and another church. (Remember, the entire book is written to the seven churches [Revelation 1:4].) It is the city called Babylon, in the midst of which is a temple. This city has become completely apostate, and Jesus intends to wipe it out. Before He does so, He seals 144,000 faithful believers, just as Noah was put in the ark before the Flood and just as Lot was taken out of Sodom before it was destroyed. These 144,000 are martyred later in the book, but they go to heaven to be with Jesus.

The faithless church (temple) and the wicked city (Babylon) are destroyed. This vision gives a clear warning to the seven churches and shows them that Jesus is serious when He says He is going to pay them a visit.

After Babylon is destroyed, we find a millennium of kingdom victory displayed in Revelation 20, and the New Jerusalem revealed in Revelation 21–22. The New Jerusalem is not entirely a future reality because her gates are said to be open and people are invited to come in, something that cannot happen after the Last Judgment (Revelation 22:2, 14, 17). The implication to the seven churches is clear: When Jesus comes and judges your sins and purifies you, it may seem unpleasant, but afterward you will participate to some degree in the wonders and glories of the kingdom of God, even in this world.

As you begin this study of the Revelation, you may find yourself unable to relate. So much of the church is caught up in speculating over the time and manner of Christ’s coming to end history that we forget the other ways He comes. Commit now to applying lessons learned in your studies to your personal holiness.