AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE!

“AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE!”
Revelation 22:1-21

(To listen to this audio message, please click here.)

Some time ago, my wife and I were invited to a birthday party. When I received the invitation, I had no idea what the evening would involve. All I knew was the location – a retreat center called Faraway on the Longbranch Peninsula. But the fact that we were going to be with friends made it appealing. So, we said, “Yes!” Then the evening arrived. To our delight, transportation was arranged for us, so that rather than driving ourselves, we were able to relax in the comfort of a friend’s “Caddy.” But there was more! Stepping out of the car, we found ourselves facing one of the most beautiful waterfront mansions we’d ever seen. The evening then began with a tour – delicate antique furniture, embroidered bedspreads from China, precious inlaid tiles in the bathroom. Each room was a masterpiece of interior design. Then dinner was served – one of the most delicious meals we’d had in months. It truly was an evening to remember.

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As I reflected on it, I couldn’t help but compare it to another invitation we have received. On this trip transportation is also provided; we will be surrounded by Christian friends; and we will dine in the most glorious mansion anyone has ever seen. But there will also be some striking differences. This time we won’t have to return home afterwards. For we will be at home forever! This time we can eat all that we want without worrying about our waistlines. And best of all, the Lord Jesus will be our host at this meal! As I reflected upon it, I wondered, how could anyone in their right mind refuse an invitation like this?

The invitation I’m referring to is the one given in this, the final chapter of Revelation. The key word here is “come.” This is not a new word in the Bible. When Noah finished building the ark, God invited him, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, and be safe.” When Israel turned to idols in Isaiah’s day, God urged them, “Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” When John baptized Jesus, he said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and Peter wanted to know more. So, they asked Him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus invited them, “Come and see.”

The Bible is full of invitations to “come.” But the invitation in Revelation 22 is unique. Actually, there are two invitations in this chapter. The first is Christ’s offer to sinners, “Come . . . take the free gift of the water of life.”

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The second is John’s reaction to everything he has seen: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Isn’t that a wonderful way to end such a serious book? For weeks, we have witnessed many terrible, heartbreaking truths. But now the curse of sin is lifted and “whosoever will” may come and freely enjoy the glory of God’s kingdom. No one need suffer the judgments mentioned in this book. That’s something people bring upon themselves because of their unwillingness to repent and turn to Jesus. Everyone is invited to enjoy the blessings of this offer. So, to help us understand what it involves, John emphasizes three key facts about it.

1. THE BLESSINGS OF THE INVITATION

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young once sang a song about man’s craving to “get back to the Garden.” While we may not recognize it in ourselves, that desire is real! Every philosophical, political, or religious movement is nothing more than man’s feeble attempt to recover what was lost in Genesis 3. But the good news John announces in this last chapter of the Bible is that Paradise Lost will soon be Paradise regained! What we forfeited due to sin, God will restore by His grace. To illustrate that, John describes four blessings we will enjoy in the New Jerusalem.

First, the fullness of God’s Spirit. John says in verse 1, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” This is a physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit who is poured out on everyone who believes in Christ. One reason for this conclusion is the origin of this water. It comes from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Another reason is the promise of Jesus in John 7:37, ”If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me . . . streams of living water will flow from within him.” To what was Jesus referring? John explains, “By this He meant the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” In other words, just as Jesus will be the light of that city, so His Spirit will be our source of physical and spiritual life.

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Second, access to the Tree of Life. Verse 2 continues, “On each side of the river stood the Tree of Life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Someone has said that the history of mankind revolves around three trees – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which brought death upon all of humanity when our first parents broke God’s commandment and ate of its fruit in the Garden. The second tree is the Cross of Calvary on which our Savior died to pay for our sins. The third tree is the Tree of Life that will grow along the River of Life in the center of the city. Those who have read Genesis 3 will remember this tree. For it was from this tree that man was banished. God posted cherubim at the east of the Garden with a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life, so that man could not eat of its fruit and live forever in his fallen condition.

Consequently, the presence of the Tree of Life in new Jerusalem is one of the strongest testimonies to God’s full forgiveness and our complete salvation from sin. For what was taken away from us because of sin now brings eternal life to everyone who enters this city. Other details about this tree are also interesting. One is its fruit. It bears twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month of the year. That means there will be food in heaven – delicious food, of which we can eat all that we want without any worries of getting fat. In fact, it is in eating this fruit that we gain power to live forever.

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Another detail is its leaves. It says they will be for “the healing of the nations.” What does this mean? Will there be disease in heaven? No, the word can be translated “health.” That is, just as its fruit gives life to all who eat it, so its leaves maintain the health of those already healthy. Finally, look at its abundance. Genesis makes it sounds as if there was only one tree of life in the Garden. But not in New Jerusalem! This tree will flourish throughout the city!

Henry Morris writes, “The tree is not rare but prolific, growing in profusion all over the world. In the New Jerusalem, it grows along the esplanade in the center of the golden streets and lines both banks of the cascading river. Presumably, outside the city, it grows along the shores of all the tributaries of the mighty river, as they spread out around the world. The need to continually partake of its life-giving fruit will be a testimony to the people of the New Earth that our Creator and Savior is Himself the source of life and breath and all things. This knowledge and requirement will never become a burden but will always remain a joy and a delight.”

Third, fulfillment in our work. People wonder, “What will we do in heaven? Sit around and strum our harps forever?” Certainly, music will play a major role in heaven’s worship. But John says we will also be busy doing other things. First, he says we “will serve Him.” What does that mean? Are we going to have to work in heaven? Yes and no. Yes, we will be actively engaged in serving Christ. That’s been our calling from the beginning. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Those who like to garden can appreciate what a pleasure that was, especially without weeds to frustrate their efforts. Thus, it will be on the New Earth! It will involve none of the drudgery involved in today’s work. For what turned man’s work into labor and sorrow was the curse. But Revelation 22:3 promises that there will no longer be a curse. Hal Lindsay says that the service we give to the Lord will be as laborious as a Bride making the bed for her new Groom on their honeymoon.

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Compare it to your hobbies. Most of us have activities we enjoy doing in our spare time – sewing, painting, reading, writing, playing an instrument. These activities are pleasant because there is no pain or stress involved in doing them. So, will it be in heaven! God will let you explore interests you had in this life, but never had the time or money to pursue. Or maybe He will give you brand-new talents you always wished you had and let you cultivate them for His glory.

By the way, this is one reason we can afford to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and forego other things we’d like to do. Personally, I would love to have season tickets to the Seattle Seahawks’ games, a summer cabin at the ocean, a boat to enjoy on the weekends, and every evening free to spend with my family. But, like many of you, I forego those things. Not because they are wrong, but because there isn’t time in this life to do both everything I want and everything I should. Does that make me sad? No, and why not? Because I’m going to live forever and have all of eternity to pursue the things I enjoy. In fact, given that this is the only life in which we can sacrifice ourselves for Christ, wouldn’t it be foolish to try to get everything I want today? Remember –

Only one life, ‘twill soon be passed; Only what’s done for Christ will last!

The second thing we will do is “reign forever and ever.” There’s no indication here over whom we will rule, but I’m convinced that these are more than idle words dropped onto the page. If John says that we will reign with Christ, then there must be someone who needs ruling. 1 Corinthians 6:3 gives us a hint, for there Paul writes, “do you not know that we shall judge angels?” Another writer suggests that there may be intelligent life on other planets that God will reveal in eternity. In his space trilogy, C. S. Lewis imagines Perelandra and Malacandra, two planets with intelligent creatures living on them who have not rebelled against the will of God. But, of course, the definite answer to this, like so many other questions, won’t be answered until we arrive in heaven.

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Finally, the presence of Christ. This will be our greatest joy in heaven. John says “we will see His face.” Theologians call this the Beatific Vision, for there is no sight more beautiful to human eyes than the face of God. You ask, “Is it the face of God the Father or God the Son?” Jesus answered this in John 14:8-9. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus explained, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Colossians 1:15 reiterates this. Referring to Jesus, it says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” God is Spirit, and therefore invisible. But that won’t detract from your heavenly joy. For in Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)

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Fanny Crosby, the writer of “Blessed Assurance” and many other great hymns, said she didn’t mind being born blind because in heaven, the first thing she would see is the face of Jesus. In fact, in giving her testimony at a conference where Dwight L Moody spoke, she shyly admitted, “There is a hymn I’ve written but never published. I call it my soul’s poem. I repeat it when my heart is troubled, for it brings comfort to me. She then recited it while the audience wept: “Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but O, the joy when I awake within the palace of the King and I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story – saved by grace!” At age 95, her wish was granted. She awoke in heaven and the first face she ever saw was the face of Jesus. Imagine her joy!

2. THE CONDITIONS OF THE INVITATION

John continues in verse 6, “Then the angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the profits, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place. Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.’” First, the angel emphasizes the trustworthiness of this invitation. In fact, he confirms the reliability of the entire Bible by emphasizing that the same God who inspired this book inspired the prophets of old. But, he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to pinpoint two conditions for enjoying the blessings of this book.

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The first is: Keep the words of the prophecy in this book. This means more than keeping a copy of the Bible on your bookshelf or nightstand. It means to stand up for the truth of this book and put it into practice. In fact, to demonstrate how vital our loyalty to this book is, John adds in verses 18-19, (Let the followers of Joseph Smith and other cult leaders beware!), “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the Tree of Life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

This was a common practice of scribes when recording royal decrees. Anyone who added to the King’s words was warned that he would stand before the king in judgment. But this warning label is far more severe. John warns us that our very entrance into God’s kingdom is at stake, determined by what we do with this book. Will we believe it and obey it? Or will we ignore it to our eternal hurt?

The second condition is: Worship Jesus alone. John himself is corrected about this. He confesses in verse 6, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, ‘Do not do it. I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers, the prophets, and all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” The only acceptable form of worship in heaven is that which is directed toward the Father and the Son. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He also added in another place. “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. (John 5:23) John’s experience points out two eternal dangers that are at work today.

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The first is the danger of hero worship. Most leaders are by nature charismatic personalities. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be likely to follow them. But there is a danger in admiring them too much. And that’s what’s happening in Christian circles today. People are so hungry for someone to follow that they develop little fan clubs around their favorite religious artist or Christian speaker. And that’s wrong! Not only does it rob God of the glory that He alone deserves; but we inevitably discover that our idols have feet of clay. I once attended a Bible study where a woman said, “O, I don’t know what I’d do if I ever heard my pastor swear! I think I’d lose my faith!” And I thought, “Then get ready to lose your faith, sister, because I know some things about your pastor you’d never believe.”

The second is the danger of being carried away by emotion. One of my seminary professors used to warn us prospective pastors, “Gentlemen, do not entrust the ministry of the church to artsy people.” I wondered how he could be so harsh. But now I understand his concern. Human emotions are so powerful that unless brought under the control of godly wisdom, they can lead to all sorts of dangerous behavior – worship of angels, visions of giant “Jesuses, as well as unethical and immoral behavior. More than once I’ve heard Christians excuse their immorality by saying, “It feels so right; it can’t be wrong!” But that’s when we need to remember that Satan is an angel of light who can just as easily counterfeit our emotions to deceive us as he can false doctrine.

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3. THE ASSURANCES OF THE INVITATION

Finally, in verses 12 to 19, John moves from blessings and conditions to assurances of Christ’s return and our invitation to heaven.

His first assurance is that it is near. Three times in this chapter, Jesus promises, “I am coming soon!” One example is verse 12 where He promises, “Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life, and may go through the gates into the city.”

This confuses people. “After all,” they think, “it’s been 2000 years since Jesus made this promise. If He was coming soon, why hasn’t He arrived yet?” The answer is found in the meaning of the word “soon.” The word means “suddenly.” Jesus wasn’t promising that He’d come immediately. He was warning us that when He does come, it will be suddenly and without warning. It is what Paul meant when he said that the Day of the Lord will come without warning “like a thief in the night.” In other words, when the things predicted by this book begin to happen, they will happen rapidly, leaving no time to repent. So, repent now!

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That also helps to explain Jesus’ statement in verse 11: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” Jesus isn’t advising people to continue in sin and be lost. The Bible says He is not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. The point here is that when He returns, there won’t be any time for repentance. Those who have chosen to be holy will continue to be holy forever, whereas those who refuse His invitation will be lost forever. So, again, the time to repent is now, not then!

My next-door neighbor told me about an experience he had. He was helping his friend repair his roof when suddenly a piece of lumber knocked him off balance and sent him crashing to the ground. The fall fractured his collar-bone and nearly broke his neck. I asked him, “What did you learn from the accident?” He said. “I learned one thing for sure. I’ve always heard that a person’s life flashes before their eyes at a moment like that. But that isn’t true! I didn’t have time to think about anything. If I hadn’t known the Lord, I could have died and been lost forever! I realized that the time to make your peace with God is now!”

His second assurance is that it is free. Verse 16 says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.” And then He adds in verse 17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.” In other words, there is absolutely nothing you and I can do to earn our way to heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Titus 3:5 adds, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us.”

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In fact, notice how the Bible ends in verse 21. John says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” That’s very different from how the Old Testament ends. There Malachi warns that Elijah is coming and will “strike the earth with the curse” unless his readers repent. The Old Testament speaks of law and judgment, but here we read of grace. Why? Because it’s only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that anyone can be saved. Salvation is a free gift of God that can only be received humbly by faith.

Yet, even though salvation comes freely to us, it came at a high price to God who gave the life of His Son to purchase our salvation. Furthermore, there is often great soul-searching and spiritual wrestling before a genuine commitment to Christ is made. Some Christians give people the impression that all they have to do is bow their heads, say a quick prayer, and “presto- chango,” you’re on your way to heaven. But that is not true. Verse 17 says it is those who are “thirsty” who may freely drink of the water of life. That means there must be a genuine recognition of our need for Christ and a sincere hunger for the salvation He can give us, in order for the change to be real. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Jesus said, “for they shall be filled.”

By the way, be sure to notice from whom the invitation comes. John writes, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” That’s a reminder of our partnership with God in the work of evangelism. The Spirit is God, and He faithfully does His part by convicting the people of sin and drawing them to Christ. But we, the Bride of Christ, also have a part to play in the salvation of others. We are to be witnesses to Christ and invite others to believe in Jesus as often as we can.

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Or put another way, William Carey’s pastor was wrong! When the great missionary suggested taking the Gospel to India, he was abruptly told, “Sit down young man. If God chooses to convert the heathen, He will do it without the help of you or me.” But that’s bad theology! Here God reminds us that if someone gets into heaven, it will be because we’ve invited them. We are tools of the Holy Spirit, and our words, if they are God’s Words, have great power over people. Therefore, whatever the Holy Spirit accomplishes, He will accomplish through us. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” Therefore, prayerfully look for someone who needs that invitation and extend it to them today.
Remember, there are only two things that you can take to heaven with you: 1) Your Christ-like character developed over a lifetime; and 2) Another person with whom you have shared the Gospel and invited to heaven.

(To download this written message and its discussion questions, click here.)

 

A WHOLE NEW WORLD: ETERNITY DAWNS!

A WHOLE NEW WORLD–ETERNITY BEGINS!

(Revelation 21:1-27)

(To listen to the audio message, click this link – New World.)

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Philip Yancey writes, “A strange fact about modern American life: although 71% of us believe in an afterlife, no one much talks about it.” He’s right, of course! According to a survey in US Catholic magazine, 97% of the respondents said they believe in heaven. 83% added that they were confident they would go there when they die. But how many think about heaven on a daily basis or talk about it with their family and friends? The unfortunate answer is: not very many!

One example is the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Did you know that four past volumes record a grand total of zero articles on heaven? Many articles deal with death, aging, and even out-of-body experiences, but none address the topic of heaven. Even more surprising is the Religion Index to Periodicals. It includes only a handful of articles on heaven. I know that percentages don’t apply when it comes to eternity. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that 99.9% of our existence may take place in heaven. Is it not strange, then, that we should ignore it as if it really doesn’t matter? Even in Christian circles, the topic usually only comes up at funerals or in special studies like this.

Why? Yancey gives three reasons: 1) Our modern affluence. We have so much that we don’t really feel we need heaven. 2) Another reason is the influence of paganism which tells us that death is the end of our existence. “Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow we die!” 3) The traditional image of heaven – a place where we do nothing but strum a harp and sing hymns all day long sounds as exciting to us as it did to Huckleberry Finn.

But whatever the reason, we are about to see that heaven is a real place – the only place capable of satisfying the heart of man. Certainly, there’s a degree of happiness in this life, thanks to God’s grace. But there is also much suffering – death, disease, disappointment. Whatever pleasures we enjoy in this life are marred by the curse of sin. But one day that curse will be removed! Heaven will come to earth and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Rev. 21:4) That is the message of Revelation chapter 21.

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To recap what we have learned so far in this great book, the apostle John was given the final prophecy of the events leading up to the Return of Christ. First, he saw a vision of the glorified Jesus correcting and commending seven churches in Asia Minor, each one representing a type of church in the Church Age to come. Next, the apostle John was caught up to heaven – a symbol of the Rapture and end of the Church Age. For from this point on, the Church is safe in heaven worshiping our Lord and pleading with Him to reclaim the earth for man. To do that, He opens a scroll, representing the title deed to the earth, with seven seals that unleash a host of ever-greater plagues on the unbelieving world – seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments. Together these make up the Great Tribulation. However, there is a silver lining in all of this. While most earth-dwellers refuse to repent, there is a huge multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation who recognize their guilt, turn to Christ in repentance, and are saved.

Following these plagues, Jesus returns to earth, crushes His enemies arrayed against Him at the Battle of Armageddon, casts the Beast and False Prophet into the Lake of Fire, locks Lucifer and his devils in the Bottomless Pit, so they can no longer tempt the nations for one thousand years, and sets up His Kingdom with His throne in Jerusalem. However, after the thousand years are completed, Satan and his demons are released from prison to test a final generation of mankind, a vast number of whom revolt against Christ. This reveals who truly loves Jesus and who has been hiding rebellion in their hearts. But the mutiny does not get off the ground. God sends fire from heaven to consume His enemies, at which point the Great White Throne is set up, the former heavens and earth fleeing away at His glorious presence, and the final condemnation of sinners takes place.

That is where the action of Revelation 21 picks up, if you will turn in your Bibles there now. First, we notice three facts about the new earth.

1. THE GLORY OF THE NEW EARTH

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A. ITS NEWNESS

Verse 1 begins: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

Four times in five verses John uses the word “new.” That’s important because the word he uses means new with respect to quality rather than substance or time. It could be translated, I saw “a fresh heaven and fresh earth.” Some Bible teachers say it’s a brand-new world God will create, that the elements of the present universe will vanish and God will start all over again using new materials. That is possible, but it is not what the word suggests. It suggests that God will purge the present elements of sin and, using the same subatomic particles, will make a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. After all, every part of God’s original creation was said to be good. All it needs is a thorough cleaning. How will this massive clean-up be accomplished? Peter says God will pull apart the building blocks of creation and purge them with fire: “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2 Pet. 3:10)

By the way, this gives us a pretty good idea of how God feels about materialism. All this “stuff” we’ve been relying on for our security and happiness will suddenly be blown away. So, Peter adds, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” (2 Pet. 3:11)

Furthermore, John says there will be “no more sea.” Why not? One reason is that the sea will no longer be needed. Right now, the oceans serve as the reservoir for the hydrologic cycle which sends rain on the earth to provide the life-giving water that plants and animals need. But in the New World, we will live in glorified bodies and will have no need for rain. The second reason is to make room for the immense population of the new earth. Right now, 70% of our planet is covered with water. But the most important reason is where all this water came from. It came from the Flood. The seas are a reminder of sin and judgment so they too will be done away.

B. ITS COMFORT

 John continues in verse 3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live among them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 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.”

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The Bible, in a sense, is a record of God seeking fellowship with man. In the Garden, He walked with Adam and Eve. In the Tabernacle and Temple, He revealed Himself in His Shekinah glory. Finally, in Bethlehem, He entered the world in the person of His Son. John says in his gospel: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) Yet each time God draws near to man, our fellowship with Him is broken because of sin: the forbidden fruit in the Garden, idolatry in Israel, the rejection and crucifixion of His Son on a cross. But one day sin will be eradicated, and God will make His home among us. When that happens, there will be perfect peace on earth and joy to the world.

It is difficult to add anything to what is written, except to say that no longer will anything be allowed to creep into this world to hurt us – the gnarling pain of arthritis, the heartache of a broken romance, the discouragement of a failed business. Even dying itself will come to an end. You see, death isn’t the worst thing a Christian can face, but dying may be. Just think of the pain and humiliation of a lingering bout with cancer! But in that day, even the memory of those sorrows will be wiped away. For John assures us, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

That fact is something we need to remind each other every day. When, as a teenager, I worked in a grocery store, I was low man on the totem pole, which means I was the one to clean the restrooms and perform the other tasks no one else wanted to do. So, what kept me going by day was the thought of what I was going to do that night. And if the plans were good enough, sometimes I actually found myself singing as I worked. The same is true of our trials in this life. One of the best ways to help someone who’s hurting is to remind them of what is ahead. Remember Paul’s advice following his description of the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. He ends by saying, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” Do that for someone this week. Find someone who is hurting, weep with those who weep, and remind them: “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

C. ITS RESIDENTS

The residents of this New World are said to be two things. First, they are said to be those who “drink of the water of life freely.” This is a reference to the Holy Spirit who gives eternal life to everyone who trusts in Jesus. Second, they are said to be those who “will inherit all things.”

Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist, trusted in this truth. Following the great Chicago fire of 1871, his house was burned to the ground. As he inspected the damage, a friend happened by and said to him, “I heard you lost everything in the fire.” “No, you heard wrong,” Moody corrected him. “I have a much more than this.” “What do you mean?” his friend asked. “I didn’t know who you were so rich.” At which point, Moody opened his Bible and read to him Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes will inherit all things.”

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Even better than that, the verse adds, “I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” Some of us never had the father-son or father-daughter relationship God intends for His children. Dad was rarely around when we needed him. Or when he was there, it was to our hurt, rather than our blessing. I have a friend who never knew his real father. When his mother remarried, it was to a man who physically abused him and made him watch as he sexually abused his two sisters. Today my friend is a Christian and has, by the grace of God, forgiven his stepfather. But does that remove the pain of his memories? No, the pain may linger as long as he lives, and then end forever. For in heaven all our tears will be wiped away. He will have the privilege of climbing onto his Heavenly Father’s lap and calling him, “Daddy,” and God will call him, “My son.” You see, no matter what we miss out on in this life will be more than made up for in the life to come

And yet, this comfort is not without a word of warning. Verse 8 adds, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” John isn’t saying that those who commit the sins can never be forgiven. If that were the case, no one would ever be forgiven. “For whoever keeps the whole law yet offends in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). Instead, it is a warning to those who persist in sin without turning to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. They will not be allowed into God’s heaven, no matter how “good” they appear to others.

The story is told of the nobleman who died very suddenly. Immediately, his jester ran to tell his fellow servants what it happened. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he cried, “Oh, where has he gone? Where has he gone?” “To heaven, of course!” the other servants replied. “No,” the jester answered. “I know he has not gone to heaven.” “Why?” the others asked, somewhat surprised. The jester explained, “Because heaven is a long way off, and my master has never taken a long trip without talking about it beforehand and making careful preparations. And since I have never heard him say one word about heaven or seen him do anything to prepare for it, I know he has not gone to heaven.”

What about you? Are you preparing for heaven? Have you recognized your complete unworthiness to enter God’s kingdom, and are you therefore trusting in Jesus to save you? Heaven is a long way off. But even that is not reason enough to prepare for it. The most serious reason is that it lasts forever. You and I will either be with Christ or without Him forever. Which will be true of you?

2. THE GLORY OF THE NEW JERUSALEM

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 What is heaven like? That was a question asked of third-graders in Union City, Tennessee. One little boy diplomatically said, “Heaven is where some very nice teachers will be found.” Another wrote, “Heaven is where you get everything you want. But if you want too much, you may not get to go there.” But my favorite answer was from the little girl who said, “Heaven will be the happiest part of my dead life.” Naïve? Maybe. But adults don’t do much better. One lady said she was hoping for an unlimited charge card. Another lady said, “There will be all the chocolate I can eat.” A gentleman added, “I’ll be able to play golf every day.” And they are right! Heaven will be a wonderful place. But it is going to be so wonderful that all present attempts to imagine it fall far short. To help us out, John pulls back the veil and describes five certain things we can know about it.\

A. ITS GLORY

Verse 9 says, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, the experience was like that of a precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

This used to confuse me. I wondered how both the Church and this city could be called the Bride of Christ. Then I realized, a city is not only streets and buildings; it is also the people who live in them. In fact, this has been the hope of God’s people from the very beginning. Of Abraham, it is written:

“He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb. 11:8-10, 15)

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 It is definitely worth waiting for. For when John sees it, the sight is so breathtaking he can only describe it as having the glory of God. Unlike our modern cities with smoggy skies, polluted waters, and gray concrete, this city is like “a jasper clear as crystal.”

B. ITS WALLS

Its wall is the first thing John describes in detail. He says it has a great, high wall with 12 gates. Unlike earthly cities, this wall is not a defense against enemy armies, for we will no longer have any enemies. Instead, it is a reminder of God’s strength and our security in Him. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.” (Psalm 46:1) The gates, on the other hand, symbolize our free access to God. Earthly cities like the old city of Jerusalem have gates that lock at night. But because God dwells in this city and Jesus paid our way into His presence by the shedding of His blood, verse 25 says its gates will never be shut forever. Why are there angelic sentries at each of the gates? Since there are no enemies to keep out, they are there continuing to serve as “ministering spirits to those who have inherited salvation.” (Heb. 1:14)

C. ITS SIZE

Verse 15 adds, “The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city . . . The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with a rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.”

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The most impressive things about the city is its size. A stadium (plural = stadia) was about 600 feet long, which means the city will be 1400 square miles. Comparing it to our own United States, this will encompass an area stretching from the Canadian border in the north to the Mexican border in the South, and from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to Denver in the west. In fact, John says it will be “as high as it is long,” making the city a giant cube – 1400 miles long, 1400 miles wide, and 1400 miles high – all of it composed of beautiful transparent jasper, 216 feet thick. No wonder John describes it as a giant jewel! Imagine flying into such a city today or hovering over it in your brand new glorified body! It will be the most beautiful sight human eyes have ever seen.

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Its dimensions also make it easier to understand how the redeemed of all the ages can fit inside. Dr. Henry Morris did some calculating and estimated that about 60 billion people have been born since Adam. If 20 billion of those 60 billion have been saved, will there be enough room for them in the new Jerusalem? He answers:

“Assume that 25% of the city is used for the mansions of the redeemed with the rest allocated to streets, parks and public buildings. Then the average size of each person’s property would be a little over one-third of a mile in each direction. Some, no doubt, would have larger allotments, some smaller, but this would be the average size. Obviously, there is enough room in the Holy City for all who will be there.”

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 Does that make you feel better about your cramped quarters down here? I have to be honest. Sometimes when I visit the beautiful homes of my friends, I am envious. Oh, if we could only afford to decorate or landscape our home like that! But then the words of the song writer come back to me –

When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings – money cannot buy Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

D. ITS FOUNDATION

Verse 14 says, “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

Foundations speak of permanence, and are in sharp contrast to the temporary shelters in which we live today. In this life nothing is for certain. Health fails. Relationships falter. Jobs force us to pull up stakes and move away from family and friends. Earthquakes, floods, and windstorms can destroy all our hard work in a matter of moments. But in heaven our foundations will be secure. Paul promised, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17)

Why are the apostles’ names written on the foundation stones? To remind us how the church was built. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that we have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. It was due to the faithfulness of men like Peter and James and John that we have the truth in our hands today. So, it is only fitting that they should be honored throughout eternity.

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Furthermore, verse 19 adds, “The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper (transparent green), the second sapphire (deep blue), the third chalcedony (blue-gray), the fourth emerald (sparkling green), the fifth sardonyx (white with red stripes), the sixth carnelian (blood red), the seventh chrysolite (golden-yellow), the eighth beryl (sea-green), the ninth topaz (yellow-green), the tenth chrysoprase (pale purple), the eleventh jacinth (reddish-orange), and the twelfth amethyst (flashing violet). The 12 gates were 12 pearls, each gate made of a single pearl.”

By the way, somewhere along the line the story got started that St. Peter is the doorkeeper of heaven, and that he stands at the pearly gates deciding who gets in and who does not. That is only partly true. St. Peter does not stand at the gates of heaven. The angels do. But the gates are made of pearl. As a matter of fact, each gate is made of one giant pearl. Imagine the oyster that made that! Someone has said that a pearl is the perfect jewel to symbolize our way into God’s presence, for it so beautifully pictures what Jesus did to make us fit for heaven. Just as a pearl begins from a small irritating piece of sand in an oyster, and is wrapped in layer after layer of pearl until it becomes beautiful, so every Christian is an unfit vessel until he is wrapped in the beauty and righteousness of Christ.

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E. ITS UNIQUENESS

John’s description ends with a list of things that will be missing from the New Jerusalem. But rather than detracting from its glory, their absence makes it all the more glorious. The first item missing is a temple. He says in verse 22, “I did not see a temple in the city.” Why not? Because he explains, “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are Its Temple.”

Second, he says there will no longer be a need for the sun or moon, “for the glory of God gives It light, and the Lamb is Its lamp.” This fulfills Isaiah 60:19, which says: “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.” Whether or not the sun and moon are destroyed at this point is not clear; but what is clear is that their light will no longer be necessary.

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Third, there will be no more night. Night was given for two reasons: to rest our weary bodies and to help us calibrate time. But neither will be necessary in the New Jerusalem. For one thing, our bodies will never grow tired. We will be more alive and awake than a three-year-old first thing in the morning. For another thing, time will be no more. Eternity will be one glorious day without interruption.

Fourth, there will be no impurity in the city. Verse 27 says, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” The Fatherhood of God will finally lead to the brotherhood of man. Everyone who enters the new Jerusalem will have one thing in common: they will love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts and seek to honor one another in everything they do. What a glorious day that will be!

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So, what do you think? Having read what the Bible says about heaven, do you think it’s real? Freud said it was a fantasy born of man’s instinct for self-preservation. Harvard philosopher Alfred North Whitehead asked, “Can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of heaven?” Most liberal ministers and agnostics agree. But what do you say? Is heaven fact or fantasy? Is it the great hope and longing of your heart? Or is it the silly imaginings of a religious few?

Personally, I am absolutely convinced of heaven’s reality. Not only does the Bible mention it over 700 times, and not only did Jesus Himself refer to it throughout His ministry, but here is the testimony of someone who visited it: “I, John, saw the Holy City.” In fact, he not only saw it, he participated in its measurement.

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No, heaven is not a fantasy. It is the only real thing worth living for. One day earth will be destroyed and replaced by a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells. Will you be there? If there is any doubt in your mind, I urge you to bow your heart right now, confess your sins, and call upon Jesus as your Savior. Heaven may seem a long way off, but not for some of us. Life could end in just weeks or hours. So, start thinking and talking about it! Be so heavenly minded that you’re of some earthly good!

(To download a written copy of this message and send it to a friend, click Written.)

When the Kingdom Comes – Rev. 20:1-15

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(To listen to the audio message, click HERE.)

WHEN THE KINGDOM COMES!

(Revelation 20:1-15)

According to the most recent FBI statistics, violent crimes such as murder and sexual assault have increased for the second year in a row – an average of 386 offenses per 100,000 citizens with an additional 2,451 cases of robbery and theft per 100,000. Furthermore, the illegal drug trade, which is the cause of much of this crime, is now estimated at upwards of $100 billion a year.

How do you feel when you hear news like that? Does it make you want to run away and hide? Move to Australia? Or maybe like me, it makes you pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Several years ago, The Cincinnati Post, came up with an answer for the day. In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, they printed a crime-free front page. The editors decided that for one day, they wouldn’t assault their readers’ senses with crime and violence. So, they put the murders and robberies on the back pages and greeted their readers with a giant headline: MERRY CHRISTMAS! Nice idea, huh? Of course, it was only a temporary fix. Actually, it wasn’t a fix at all. It was just a case of journalistic sweeping the dirt under the carpet. For as much as we’d like to hear only good news, ignoring the bad won’t make it go away.

What will? What’s the final solution to all the gloom and doom we read about today? There is only one lasting solution, and that’s the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. When He comes, He is going to set up a kingdom of righteousness that will never pass away. Peter wrote, “But in keeping with His promise, we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Won’t that be wonderful? Imagine picking up your newspaper and finding no mention of crime or violence for 1000 years! And in those few cases where man’s sinful nature breaks out, imagine the relief of seeing perfect justice meted out every time!

That’s the topic of this study – the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. For 19 chapters, we’ve witnessed man’s inhumanity to man and rebellion against his Creator. But no more! In Revelation chapter 20, we find four banner headlines: “Lucifer Is Locked Up!” “God’s People Are Rewarded!” “Rebellion Is Ended!” “Sinners Are Judged.” These are the four events we’re going to examine in this study. So, get ready for a blessing. For they may be closer than you think.

1. LUCIFER WILL BE INCARCERATED!

The Kingdom begins with Lucifer’s incarceration. Verse 1: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the Dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.”

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This is the event believers have been longing for ever since Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit! Some Bible students think this already happened at the Cross. Others ask God to bind Satan in their daily prayers. But this verse makes it clear. The binding of Satan won’t happen until the beginning of the Kingdom. Dr. James M. Graves explains, “If the devil is bound today, it must be with the terribly long leash.” For as Hal Lindsay argues in his classic book, Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth.

Why is this binding necessary? “To keep him from deceiving the nations.” That’s why our world is in trouble today. Satan has convinced mankind that we can get along just fine without the Lordship of Christ. But one day that deception will end. As the hymn says, “We’ll share the joys of heaven – a harp, a home, a crown; the tempter will be banished, we’ll lay our burden down.” Imagine the peace we will enjoy! Not one evil thought implanted in our minds for a thousand years!

Where will Satan be incarcerated? In the Abyss. The word means that which has “no depth or bottom.” This is not the same as hell. Hell is the lake of fire. This is Hades, a temporary place of torment, where fallen angels and the unsaved dead are kept until the final judgment. Dr. Henry Morris writes:

“Somewhere deep in the center of the earth, a prison cell has been reserved for a special prisoner, a cell in the remotest recesses of the bottomless pit, as far removed from human beings as is possible to be on this planet, with its entrance invincibly sealed so that he cannot direct his demonic hosts. These too will be bound in appropriate compartments of the abyss, as will the spirits of lost men and women, there to await the judgment of the great day. It is doubtful whether such a cavity could ever be detected by scientific measurements made by geophysicists on the earth’s surface, but the Bible says it is there.”

But the most interesting fact is how the devil will be bound. We are not told his name, but verse 1 says that one of God’s holy angels will do it. All along Satan has tried to frighten us with his power, pretending to be God’s opposite. But that is not true. Lucifer is not the opposite of God. He is a fallen angel who will one day be bound in the bottomless pit without Jesus Christ having to lift a finger. He will simply send an angel to put him in his place. It is a reminder that as powerful as the devil is, he and his angels are simply creatures (the opposite of Michael the archangel) who can to no more than what Jesus permits him to do.

2. LOVERS OF JESUS WILL BE REWARDED!

Verse 4 says, “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus . . . They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him 1000 years.”

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The first question to ask is: how long will the kingdom last? Surprisingly, this has been a matter of intense debate among Bible-believing Christians. Those who take an Amillennial position (“a” means no Millennium) insist that there will be no literal kingdom on earth – that the “thousand years” is a symbol of the church age and our victories over the devil. At Christ’s return He will judge believers and unbelievers alike, at which point eternity will begin. The problem with this view is that it spiritualizes both the words of this chapter as well as God’s promises to Israel. Six times the phrase “one thousand years” is repeated, stressing that this is a literal one-thousand-year period of time that God is describing.

Postmillennialists, on the other hand, believe the world is getting better and that it is the Church’s duty to expand the Kingdom by preaching the Gospel to every person on earth. Once we achieve this, Christ will return and celebrate the victory with us. Similar to this is the Kingdom Now movement – the belief that though Satan now rules as the god of this world, we believers have the power to bind him and reclaim the earth for Christ. Because we are indwelt with the same Spirit as Jesus, we have all authority in heaven and on the earth and can believe for and speak into existence things that are not, thus bringing the Kingdom to earth.

In my opinion, neither of these views is tenable. The only view that makes sense is Premillennialism, which teaches that the Old Testament promises to Israel were literal and that one day Jesus will return to earth, set up His throne in Jerusalem, and rule over a Kingdom that will last for one thousand years.

How will this Kingdom begin? John says it will begin with “the first resurrection.” Some Bible students stumble over this phrase. They assume it refers to the first time anyone is resurrected. In other words, the Rapture (or resurrection of the Church) won’t occur until after the Tribulation at the outset of the kingdom. But that’s not what the word “first” suggests. The word actually means “the first type of resurrection,” which includes four phrases: 1 Corinthians 15 says Christ was the “first fruits” of all who are raised; next comes the Rapture of the Church in 1 Thessalonians 4; third will be the resurrection of Tribulation martyrs at the beginning of the kingdom; and finally, mortal believers who are born during the Kingdom will be transformed at the end of the thousand years.

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The Scripture adds that those who take part in the first resurrection are blessed. Why? The reason is because we will not experience the second death. According to the Bible, there are two types of death a person can suffer – physical death in which the soul is separated from the body, and spiritual death in which the soul is separated from God forever. Everyone suffers the first kind of death, due to the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. But those who accept Jesus are spared the second death, which is the lake of fire. In fact, when you realize we deserve this judgment and have been forgiven because of Jesus, it makes you want to fall down and praise God forever! The second reason we are blessed is because we will reign with Christ a thousand years. Instead of fire, we get thrones, and instead of judgment, we become His judges. Whom will we judge? It will include angels, for Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 6 how foolish it is for Christians to take each other to court. For he writes, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” It will probably also include children who grow up during the Kingdom age.

3. REBELLION WILL BE CRUSHED!

One of the most graphic evidences of Satan’s lack of remorse are his actions following his release from prison. He goes forth and immediately inspires another rebellion against God! Who will take part in this uprising? Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who entered the kingdom in mortal bodies. Due to the ideal Kingdom conditions, people will live long lives like the patriarchs Adam, Methuselah, and Noah (Isaiah 65:20) and bear children who will cover the earth’s surface like the sand of the sea. (Revelation 20:8). Outwardly, they will conform to God’s law, but inwardly not all will love Him. Therefore, when Satan is released from the Abyss. He will find mankind riper for temptation than ever before.

John says in verse 7, “When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city He loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

 

What form will this rebellion take? WAR! War has always been one of Satan’s favorite enterprises. Here he gathers together the descendants of Israel’s enemies, Gog and Magog, and lays siege to Jerusalem. But the rebellion won’t get off the ground. Just as they are about to attack, God sends fire down from heaven and casts Satan into the lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet are. This makes two facts obvious. First, it corrects the myth that Satan is the king of hell. For what king lets himself be tormented day and night forever? No, Lucifer is not the ruler of hell; he is its primary prisoner, the very one for whom it was created. (Matthew 25:41). Second, it reveals that hell is forever. For even after 1000 years, where are the beast and false prophet? Still suffering in the lake of fire.

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Some time ago, I came across a story about a Frenchman named Savain who was captured by Russian troops during Napoleon’s invasion in 1812. At the time of his arrest, he was barely in his teens. Finally, after 60 years of confinement, he was placed under house arrest in the town of Saratov. But never was he permitted to go home. After 40 years of house arrest, he died in 1912, making his imprisonment the longest on record – a century and a day! That is a long time. However, when compared to the endless agony of the lake of fire, that was just a moment in time. You see, the most frightening thing about hell, even greater than its pain and loneliness, is the fact that it never ends! It goes on and on forever.

Why does God permit this final great rebellion? To demonstrate the wickedness of man’s heart. Almost everyone recognizes that man has a problem. Psychologists say it’s a behavioral disorder. Educators claim that it’s the result of ignorance. Social reformers say the cause is poverty and racism. But God’s Son hung on a cross 2000 years ago to prove that our problem is sin. In the Kingdom, all conditions will be perfect. There will be no hunger, poverty, or racism. Crime and disease will be abolished. And “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:9) But will that be enough to overcome man’s problem? No, because his problem is not his environment. It’s his evil heart, and the only thing that can cleanse a sinful heart is the blood of Jesus Christ. So let me ask you –

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?111newlife

4. SINNERS WILL BE JUDGED!

Verse 11 says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.”

The scene before us is the Final Judgment when sinners are made to stand before the Great White Throne to answer for their sins. This is not the same as the Judgment Seat of Christ. That is a judgment of believers rewarded for their works. This judgment, on the other hand, involves no rewards and no believers. Only sinners awaiting final condemnation will appear before this throne. However, the Judge in each case is the same – Jesus Christ, to whom God has committed all judgment and at whose presence heaven and earth will flee away.

Why will creation have such a reaction to His glory? Because creation still contains the curse of sin. Remember God’s words to Adam? “Cursed is the earth because of you!” Since then, “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth.” (Romans 8:22) So, before Christ can usher in a new heaven and a new earth, He must purge this world of sin. He will begin by burning the elements of this present creation with fervent heat. Then He will condemn all sinners who stand before His throne. Death will give up its bodies. Hades will give up its lost souls. Even those buried at sea will be resurrected to stand judgment. (Don’t forget that a whole generation once drowned in the Flood!)

What will be the basis for this judgment? Verse 12 says, “Books were opened . . . and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” What books will this include? Three books. First, the Word of God. Jesus said, “That very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” In other words, sinners will be held accountable for the truth they’ve heard. Those who’ve heard the most will be judged most severely. Whereas those who have heard less will be judged more leniently. But all who stand before His throne will be condemned, because no one can be saved by works.

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That is the second book, which will be opened – the book of works. Jesus said that God is keeping track of every thought, word and deed committed in this life, and that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). How will God produce this great “Here Was Your Life episode? A DVD and giant screen TV? That won’t be necessary. Dr. Wilbur Penfield, director of the Montréal Neurological Institute, explains:

“Your brain contains a permanent record of your past that is like a single continuous strip of moving film, complete with soundtrack. The film library records your whole waking life from childhood on. You can live again those scenes from your past, one at a time, when a surgeon applies a gentle electrical current to a certain point on the temporal cortex of your brain. As you relive the scenes from your past, you feel exactly the same emotions you did during the original experience.”

Perhaps God will expose our sins in a similar way. But, whatever the method, verse 15 is clear. No one will escape this judgment, except those whose names are written in the third book, “The Book of Life.” Who will this include? Those who have turned to Christ as Savior. In an earlier study, John wrote, “He who overcomes . . . I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (Revelation 3:5) How does once become such an overcomer? John writes in 1 John 5:5, “Who is the one who overcomes, but He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

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But someone may wonder, if every sinner who stands before the Great White Throne is condemned, why bother judging their works? Because there are degrees of judgment in hell, just as there are degrees of reward in heaven. Jesus said, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him, they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:47-48)

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So, take a final self-check before we finish this study. Ask yourself: If my life were to end today, would God welcome me into His kingdom? If so, on what basis? The only acceptable answer is: I’m trusting Jesus to save me. In fact, Jesus promised if we submit to His Lordship, we won’t have to face this final judgment. “Verily, verily I say unto you, he who hears My voice and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24) So, if you have not bowed your heart to Jesus, do so now! Then make it real by telling someone about it. After all, can you think of anything more critical in this life, than deciding where you will spend eternity?

Matthew Henry, the famous Bible teacher, was once attacked and robbed. Afterwards he made this comment: “Let me be thankful first, because although they took my money, they did not take my life; second, because although they took my all, it was not much; and third, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Isn’t that a terrific response to injustice? I share that as an example of the attitude we should have as we endure the wickedness of this world and await the glory of the world to come. You and I are surrounded by sin and violence. Liars prosper. Criminals are pampered. The proud are lifted up. But rather than focusing on this present evil, what you and I must learn to do is content ourselves with the great truths revealed in this study. First, we need to give thanks that whatever we suffer in this life is short-lived compared to the eternal glory we are about to enjoy. Second, we need to show mercy toward those who are sinning, remembering what they’re about to suffer unless we win them to Christ. And finally, we need to make sure of our own salvation and rewards – that we are not only headed for God’s Kingdom, but that we will have a place of honor reserved for us when we arrive.

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C. S. Lewis believed passionately in the return of Jesus Christ. However, he felt it necessary to issue this warning to those of us who want Him to hurry. He asked, “Why did God land in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and start a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side.”

“God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; a sight so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

I agree with Lewis. Jesus Christ is preparing to return to our world very soon, crushing rebellion, judging His enemies, and setting up a Kingdom of righteousness that will last forever. But it is only those of us who choose to love and serve Him now who will be happy then. Will that include you?

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RETURN OF THE KING! (REVELATION 19)

(To listen to the audio version of this lesson click HERE.)

THE RETURN OF THE KING

(Revelation 19:1-21)

Several weeks ago, I bought a T-shirt off the internet. I did so hoping it might become a conversation starter with strangers. My hope was more than fulfilled. Not once in all the times I’ve worn it have I failed to receive a comment or compliment about it. In fact, when I wore it last, my radiologist wanted to know where she could get one for her husband. If you look at its picture below, you’ll see why it draws such attention.

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You and I live in a day of superheroes – Superman, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman, etc. Of course, not one of them is real. Yet they have captured the attention of my grandson and millions of other children. So, I use the shirt to explain to those who comment that while it’s fun to pretend that superheroes are real, there is only One Superhero who has ever lived – Jesus, who really did save the world, but the way He did so was by dying for our sins.

That is the event we celebrate at Christmas. We celebrate the first coming of Jesus who died on a cross to save us from our sins. That may not win Him the glamor of comic book heroes, because what comic book heroes specialize in is power. But again, they like their victories, are fictitious. The only supernatural feats ever achieved by a human being were through the power of Jesus Christ who stilled a storm, fed a multitude with a few loaves and fishes, healed people of incurable diseases, and then following His crucifixion rose miraculously from the dead. Furthermore, what the world forgets is that the coming of Messiah was prophesied to be in two parts – the first, to deal with sin; and the second, to deal with His enemies. Hence, Jesus is coming again. This time not as the meek and mild Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world but as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will judge His enemies and set up a kingdom of righteousness that will last forever.

That is the focus of this study. In Revelation 19, we witness the Return of the King. At the Rapture, you remember, Jesus will return in the air for His saints to save them from the wrath of God to be poured out on the world. But in Revelation 19, Jesus returns to the earth with His saints to end the Tribulation and set up His kingdom. In so doing, two great themes stand out. The first is the vindication of God’s people. The second even more important theme is the vindication of Christ’s glory.

  1. THE VINDICATION OF CHRIST’S PEOPLE

For 2,000 years, Lucifer has been allowed to tempt, slander, persecute, and counterfeit Christ’s church. I think of that now as the world celebrates the first coming of Christ at Christmas. I wonder how many celebrants truly love Jesus. But it is not mine to worry, for one day soon the devil’s deceptions will end and those who genuinely love Jesus will be honored as the true worshipers of God, while those who hate His church will be punished for their sins. Notice three ways Christ will vindicate those who worship Him.

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A. He Will Judge Our Enemies

Verse 1 begins, “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in Heaven shouting: Hallelujah, salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries, and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants.’ Verse 6 adds, ‘Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah for our Lord God Almighty reigns.’”

FLASH MOB SINGS HALLELUJAH CHORUS

Ever since Handel wrote the “Hallelujah Chorus,” it has been regarded as the most sublime expression of praise performed by man. God’s hand was seen in that it took Handel but three days to write the chorus. But here that earthly chorus is eclipsed by the Heavenly choir that inspired his song. What does “Hallelujah” mean? “Praise the Lord!” a phrase found only here in the New Testament, and used four times in six verses to describe the ecstasy of Heaven’s worship. What inspires such feelings? John points to two things:

  1. The end of false religion

Verse 2 reads in the original language, “True and just are His judgments, because He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication.” Because gives the reason for heaven’s joy. In chapter 17, we learned that the great prostitute is the city of Babylon who gave birth to the false religions of the world and is the force behind the persecution of the saints. Therefore, it is fitting that before Jesus introduces His bride the church, He should judge false religion and that the church in Heaven should rejoice. In fact, God commands it in Revelation 18:20. “Rejoice over her, O Heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! For God has judged her for the way she treated you.”

Imagine! No more cults twisting Scripture or distorting the person of Christ. No more ACLU opposition to the mention of God in government or the public schools. No more persecution of God’s people anywhere! Whomever you talk to in that day will instantly agree: “Jesus is Lord!” We’re not to relish the judgment of sinners, but we are to long for the day when Christ will receive the glory that He alone deserves.

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  1. The beginning of the Kingdom

Verse 6 literally reads, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude . . . shouting: ‘Hallelujah for our Lord God Almighty has begun to reign.’” It’s not that Heaven’s throne is inactive today. God is still on His throne ruling and overruling to accomplish His will. It’s that the church’s prayers for a kingdom are finally being answered. God’s kingdom will now come and His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)

B. He Will Introduce His Bride

 The multitude continues in verse 7, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory for the wedding of the Lamb is come and His bride has made herself ready.” To appreciate this event, we must understand the wedding customs in John’s day, which consisted of three phases. First, the betrothal. This was a binding legal contract between the parents of the bride and groom, which meant the two parties were legally married though the marriage would not be consummated for many years. That was the relationship between Mary and Joseph when Mary was found to be child with by the Holy Spirit. During this period, the bride prepared her trousseau and the groom prepared an extra room to his father’s house where they would live. Then, following the betrothal, the groom would return for his bride, surprising her with a shout and escorting her to the room he prepared for her. There the wedding was conducted with a marriage feast to which many were invited.

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Isn’t that a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus? Right now we’re in the betrothal period. Legally, we belong to Him and love Him, though we have not yet seen Him, because He saved us and and purchased us with His own precious blood. During this period, important preparations are being made. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2. Meanwhile, we the bride prepare our trousseau here on earth.

Of what does this trousseau consist? Verse 8 says, “fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. Don’t misunderstand! The devil is a liar. Before we accept Christ, he tells us that we must earn our salvation– something the Bible denies. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). But then we accept Christ, and what does the devil whisper next? “Now that you’re saved by grace, you don’t have to do anything about it!” But that’s wrong too. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10). In other words, once we are saved, we began to prepare for ourselves the garments we will wear forever. No believer will be naked in that day. Jesus promised if we love Him, we will be clothed in white garments.” (Rev. 3:5). But the degree of glory with which those garments shine is the result of “the righteous acts” we perform today.

In John’s day, men wore two pieces of clothing — a robe-like undergarment called a tunic, made of plain white linen. That represents the righteousness of Christ, which He gives each follower as a gift. No one will be allowed into God’s presence without that spiritual covering. But on the outside of the tunic, there was also a loose, dressy robe, known as a toga. That’s analogous to our righteous deeds as Christians. 1 Corinthians 3:12 suggests that we can adorn it with gold, silver, and precious gems, if we serve Him faithfully. But if not – if we live foolishly and selfishly – we will lose our rewards and be rather shabby in appearance. So be careful! What you sew today, you will wear for eternity!

raptured-saintsFollowing the betrothal period, two events will occur. First, Jesus will return for His church. In John 14:3, He said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” 1 Thessalonians 4 adds, “The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout . . . Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Second, after the rewarding and wedding of the church to Christ in heaven, will follow the marriage supper of the Lamb on earth. That’s what’s announced here: “Rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” (Rev. 19:7)

When and where will this feast take place? Some say it’ll happen in Heaven before Jesus returns to earth. I disagree. Remember what Jesus said at the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:29) For that reason, I believe it’ll be the first order of business when the kingdom begins. That’s why verse 9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” They are blessed because they get to enter the kingdom. Matthew 8:11 refers to this: “Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven.” In other words, it isn’t only church age believers who will be there. It will be believers from every age who are invited because of their love for Christ.

199096d4f7d1eb4ab4811e41aec56b16Take a moment to check yourself before we go on. Can you say with confidence that you will be present when the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place? If so, will the garments you’ve prepared for yourself bring you joy or shame?

3. HE WILL WELCOME OUR WORSHIP

 In verse 10, John is so overwhelmed by what he sees that he falls at the angel’s feet in worship. From a human standpoint, this is understandable. For this is no ordinary angel. Revelation 18 says he fills the whole earth with his glory. Yet God accepts no substitutes in worship. So John is quickly corrected. “Do not do it!” Why not? Because as glorious as the angel is, the only one worthy of our worship is Jesus. The angel says. “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Hebrews adds, “When He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

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What an important warning in this day of spiritual superstars and religious counterfeits! Take the Roman church. I’m grateful for the way it’s preserved many of the key doctrines of our faith through the centuries – the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, etc. – but honesty forces us to recognize it’s also been a proponent of false worship. Members and clergy alike offer prayers to Mary and other departed saints. Popes themselves have also shown a willingness to receive the worship of their followers. I will never forget the Pope’s visit to America in 1987. We were in Florida at the time, and the reaction was incredible – even among non-Catholics! I remember hearing one woman in the crowd remark, “Now I can die in peace, for I have seen the Holy Father!”

The Mormon church is another example. For what’s the ultimate goal of every Mormon male? To become a God and populate his own planet with spiritual children, who will worship him as Heavenly Father. The slogan is, “As God is, you may be!” Add to this the New Age nonsense about “finding the God within,” and it’s clear that man’s most basic spiritual problem today is finding the proper object of worship. But the true Church (made up of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ) knows that there is only one proper object of worship, and that’s the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I AM (the Hebrew name of God), you will die in your sins.” Why is the Bible so adamant about this? Because Jesus went on to explain, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) How crucial this truth is becomes even more obvious as we turn to the second great theme of this chapter.

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  1. THE VINDICATION OF CHRIST’S GLORY

Revelation 19:11-21 is unquestionably one of the most exciting passages a Christian can read. For here it’s not merely the church, but Jesus Christ who is vindicated. I write this article in the month of December watching the world celebrate the birthday of our King, who came the first time as the meek and mild Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Because the world mistakes meekness for weakness, He was rejected as their Savior. After all, who is attracted to a man dying on a cross? What the world wants is a conquering hero who takes the world by storm! But make no mistake. When Jesus comes again, no longer will He be the meek and mild Lamb of God; He will be revealed as the glorious Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who executes judgment on all His enemies.

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  1. His Glory Will Be Revealed in His Names

Notice three names in these verses. Verse 12 says, “He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself.” This is a reminder of Christ’s incomprehensibility: He is so glorious that there are some things about Him that we will never understand. Sometimes a believer will say, “I can hardly wait to get to Heaven. There all my questions will be answered.” Not so! The truth is, that which is finite can never fully understand the Infinite. God is ultimately incomprehensible to the human mind – even in heaven! Only what is necessary for our joy and well-being will be revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Verse 13 adds, “His name is the word of God.” This is John’s favorite title for Jesus. His gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwell among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” In his book, There’s a New World Coming, Hal Lindsay explains the meaning of this phrase:

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“Just as my words reveal my invisible self to you, so Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. God clothed all His thoughts toward man in the person of Jesus. In that sense, Jesus is the ultimate communication of God to man. He’s called “the living Word” because in His person, Jesus embodies everything God has to say to man about how to obtain eternal life.”

 Finally, verse 16 says, “On His robe and on His thigh, He has this name written: ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords.’” This is Jesus’ title found nowhere else in Scripture. What does it mean? It means He is sovereign over every ruler – both human and angelic. To stress this, the Greek text puts it in giant capital letters: ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Vicar Frederic Farrar, shared the words of Queen Victoria following his sermon on the Lord’s Return. “O, how I wish the Lord would come in my lifetime!” the queen said to the dean. “Why does your Majesty feel this great desire?” The preacher said. With queenly countenance lit up with deep emotion, she replied, “Because I should so love to lay my crown at His feet.” You and I will have that opportunity one day, along with all the kings and queens of the earth. For one day the Bible says, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:11)

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B.  His Glory Will Be Revealed in His Appearance

 Several facts are emphasized about Jesus appearance in these verses, each one intended to reveal something about His glory. Let me highlight four of them. 

  1. His horse

Verse 11 says: “I saw Heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse.” This is in contrast to the humility Christ displayed at His coming. On Palm Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. But when He returns He will be sitting on a great white stallion conquering everyone who stands in His path.

 2. His crowns

In Revelations 6:2, we read about another rider on a white horse who wears a crown on his head. Remember that when we studied Revelation 6:1, I argued at that time that this is a false Christ – the antichrist. How can I tell? Because according to Revelation 19:12, when Jesus returns, He won’t be wearing a single crown. He’ll be wearing many crowns on His head – proof that He is indeed the king of every tribe, tongue and nation. Furthermore, the word crown in chapter 6 was stephanos, which means a crown of victory, whereas this word is diademata, which refers to royal crowns that only king are allowed to wear.

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 3. His sword

Verse 15 continues: “Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” This is not the small sword of Hebrews 4, which convicts our hearts of sin. This is a giant sword (hromphaia) used to decapitate one’s enemies.

 4. His rod

Verse 15 goes on to say, “He will rule them with a rod of iron.” This is the royal scepter with which Jesus will rule the nations during the millennium. Some may recoil at the use of these weapons. But let’s not forget what verse 11 says. When Jesus judges and wages war, He will do so “in righteousness.” In other words, there will be no injustice in His kingdom. The only ones who need to fear punishment are those who intend to rebel against Him, for they will be punished severely for their crimes. The Bible teaches that believers who live through the tribulation will enter the kingdom in natural human bodies, which means they will bear children and new generations will grow up with the potential of rebelling against the Lord.

 C. His Glory Will Be Revealed in His Victories

Christ’s conquest of Earth takes place through three successive victories over His enemies: 1) His defeat of the beast and the false prophet in Revelation 19:22  2) His defeat of Earth’s armies in Revelation 19:21  3) His defeat of Lucifer in chapter 20. Our study concludes with His first two victories in verses 20 and 21.

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  1. His victory over the Beast

Verse 19: “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the Rider on the horse and His army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.” “The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” This victory takes place just prior to Christ’s judgment of Earth’s armies, and it’s significant because it means the followers of the beast and prophet will be forced to watch as their heroes are caught and cast into the lake of fire. What humiliation and perfect punishment! Earth’s greatest sinners become the first two residents of hell.

All other sinners will await final judgment in Hades, a temporary place of punishment. But these two villains are so vile they require no final judgment. They’ll immediately be “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Furthermore, if anyone asks if there’s a second chance for those in hell, remind them that the lake of fire is not a place of temporary punishment. For next week, when we read of Satan’s judgment in chapter 20, we find that even after 1000 years of burning, the beast and false prophet are still in the lake of fire, suffering “torment day and night forever.” 

  1. His victory over earth’s armies

Verse 21 concludes, “The rest of them (that is, the armies of the beast and false prophet) were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the Rider on the horse and all the birds gorge themselves on their flesh.”

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This is the battle of Armageddon, at which Earth’s armies gather together in a final, mad attempt to blow the Creator out of the sky. Until now, man has put his faith in the beast, believing that he is superior to Jesus Christ. But now they realize how wrong they were. For just as quickly as Christ called the world into existence, Jesus now kills the armies of the earth with the Word of His mouth, preparing the way for the great supper of God. This is in contrast to the marriage supper of the Lamb. For while believers are feasting in the kingdom, unbelievers will be consumed by the birds of prey. Six times John uses the word “flesh” in this passage warning man not only of the great carnage ahead, but also of the danger of his fallen nature. Man fails because he is flesh and relies on the flesh, whereas those who love Christ overcome because they are filled with the Spirit of Jesus.

The other fact that stands out is the description of those who return with Christ. Verse 14 says that those who follow Him will be “riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.” What does this reveal about the glory of Christ’s victory? Tim LaHaye offers this helpful comment:

“The most significant truth is the garb of this army. They are ‘clothed in fine linen, white and clean. Military men are issued fatigue uniforms for battle dress not only for camouflage but also because war is so dirty that light-colored clothes would be severely soiled. Here, however, the Commander-in-Chief of the Heavenly forces clothes His army in white, a practice unheard of in the history of warfare. The reason should not be overlooked: no member of the armies that come with Christ in His glorious appearing will do battle. Not one of us will lift a finger, for the battle will be won by the spoken word of our Lord.”

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I began our study by reminding you that there are two parts involved in God’s invasion of the Earth. He came humbly the first time – that meek and mild Lamb of God who died on a cross to pay for our sins. But not so the second time. For almost two thousand years now, His followers have been praying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” You may have prayed that prayer yourself. But C. S. Lewis added this warning about that prayer. He wrote:

“God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

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(To download and copy the written version of this lesson, click HERE.)