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Just Conquer

The Blessing of the Apocalypse

65: Apocalyptic Blessings

July 11, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 1-22 Series: Just Conquer #65 # Introduction I really, always, do not understand making no final comments on how a series through a book of the Bible has changed, or at least *affected*, the preacher. This applies to commentaries as well as to verse-by-verse teachers. It took me 64 sermons to work through the book of Revelation, and that ought to have accomplished something. (This, obviously then, makes the 65th sermon, so one short of the dreaded 66...6). We started on the second Sunday of September 20*19*, and how much is different since then, around us, in us. At the start of the series, and there is a good portion of you who've joined us long after the start, I shared that there are typically four views on Revelation. 1. The Preterist believes that most of Revelation was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. 2. The Historicist believes that Revelation has been being fulfilled throughout church history. 3. The Idealist believes that Revelation has been being fulfilled in history in more symbolic ways. 4. The Futurist believes that most of Revelation has not yet been fulfilled, but will be in the future. The thing that all the approaches must reckon with is that things haven't happened just like they're described in John’s visions. One of the related issues to answering that question is hermeneutical, that is, how to read the prophetic words. I committed myself to two rules; 1) I wouldn’t patronize anyone by saying “If you just read your Bible” and 2) I would try not to make my case using the word "literal" hardly ever, even if we did work through how best to interpret the words/images. I think I succeeded. I started as, and am still a futurist. But with the help of 2020, and in light of some of the visions John saw, I do believe we see patterns today that will be *uber-fulfilled* later. Some things really stood out to me. Having read Revelation probably a few dozen times, I had more impressions of the cataclysmic judgments, of star-falling, sky-crashing, sun-dimming, mountain-falling, smoke-rising images dominating the Apocalypse. And those are part of the unveiling. But there are some other things. First, I have been impressed by **all the different names/descriptions of God, especially of the Father and Son, in Revelation**. The Apocalypse uncovers quite a theology proper (by my account 40 something different names and combinations): 1. Him who is and who was and who is to come (1:4, 8; 4:8) 2. the faithful witness (1:5; 3:14) 3. the firstborn from the dead (1:5) 4. the ruler of kings on earth (1:5); King of the nations (15:3); Lord of lords and King of kings (17:14; 19:16) 5. Him who loves us (1:6) 6. Him who has freed us from our sins 7. Alpha and Omega (1:8; 21:6; 22:13) 8. the first and the last (1:17; 2:9; 22:13) 9. the beginning and the end (21:6; 22:13) 10. the Almighty (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22) 11. the living one (1:18; 7:2) 12. Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand (2:1; 3:1) 13. Him who walks among the seven golden lampstands (2:1) 14. Him who died and came to life (2:8) 15. Him who has the sharp two-edged sword (2:12) 16. the Son of God (2:18) 17. Him who has the seven spirits of God (3:1) 18. the holy one (3:7) 19. the true one (3:7) 20. Him who has the key of David (3:7) 21. the Amen (3:14) 22. the beginning of God's creation (3:14) 23. Holy, holy, holy (4:8); the Holy One (16:5) 24. Him who is seated on the throne (4:9, and many others; 7:10) 25. Him who lives forever and ever (4:9, 10; 10:6; 15:7) 26. the Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5) 27. the Root of David (5:5) 28. the root and descendent of David (22:16) 29. the Lamb (standing as though it had been slain) (5:6; 7:10) 30. Sovereign Lord (6:10) 31. He who created heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them (10:6) 32. the Lord of the earth (11:4) 33. the God of heaven (11:13; 16:11) 34. a male child who is to rule all the nations (12:5) 35. sitting on a white horse called Faithful and True (19:11) 36. named with a name no one knows but Himself (19:12) 37. The Word of God (19:13) 38. the God of the spirits and the prophets (22:6) 39. the bright morning star (22:16) 40. the Lord Jesus (22:20, 21) There may be more direct names and descriptions of God in the book of Revelation than any other single book in the Bible. The second thing that stands out to me is that **all the devil’s best is a deception**. “That ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the *deceiver of the whole world*” (Revelation 12:9). Deception is his only way to glory, but it is a parody glory. He is a wanna-be. The false trinity (Dragon/Satan, Sea Beast/Antichrist, Land Beast/False prophet) presents a faux Christianity. Satan doesn’t create, he can only pervert. He is a liar and a loser. He lies because he has lost and knows his future loss. All that glitters is not gold, and whatever glitter he has is grotesque underneath. He can only get worship through manipulation and threats and killing. I simply had not realized that even though the dragon is not quite toothless, his rage has more to do with desperation; he shows “great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:12) A third thing that stands out to me, amidst all the plagues and punishments on the end-times enemies, are ** all the promises to the saints in Revelation**. (The second message in the series was titled “A Promising Apocalypse.”) - we get to know what will soon take place (1:2) - we get grace and peace (1:4) - conquerors get to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God (2:7) - conquerors will not be hurt by the second death (2:11) - conquerors are given hidden manna and a white stone (2:17) - conquerors receive authority over the nations; reign on earth (2:26; 5:10) - conquerors will receive the morning star (2:27) - conquerors will be clothed in white garments (3:5; 7:13; 19:8) - conquerors will have names confessed by Jesus before His Father (3:5) - conquerors will be made pillars in the temple of God (3:12) - conquerors will have the name of God on them (3:12) - conquerors will sit with the Conqueror and His Father on the throne (3:21) - we are being made a kingdom and priests (1:6; 5:10) - we will get vindication for afflictions (6:10-11) - we will not hunger or thirst anymore, we will not be struck by the sun (7:16) - we will dwell with the Lamb and He will be our shepherd (7:17) - God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (7:17) - we will rest from our labors (14:13) - we will come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years (20:4, 6) - God will dwell with us, we will be His people and He will be with us as our God (21:3) - God will wipe away every tear, there will be no more mourning or crying or pain (21:4) - conquerors will be God's children (21:7) - we will walk by the light of the Lamb (21:23) - we will drink from the river of the water of life (22:1) - we will eat from the tree of life (22:2) - we will see the face of the Lamb and have His name on us (22:4) The fourth thing that stands out to me are **all the blessing that belong to believers**. These are the promises full-tilt. There are seven *apocalyptic blessings* (compare with seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls). The repetitions of Revelation’s beatitudes are not tedious. ## 1. Blessed are the ones reading and heeding the Book. In the beginning John writes: > **Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.** (Revelation 1:3) ## 2. Blessed are the ones exhausted in righteous works for the Lord. As the seventh trumpet has blown a heavenly voice, and the Spirit, announced: > **And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”** (Revelation 14:13) ## 3. Blessed are the ones ready for the Lord’s return. A parenthesis before the battle of Armageddon, Jesus Himself said: > ** (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)** (Revelation 16:15) ## 4. Blessed are the ones promised to the Lamb. After the downfall of the great prostitute, Babylon, we see the glorious Bride (Christians collectively) and guests (Christians individually) as an angel said: > **And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”** (Revelation 19:9) ## 5. Blessed are the ones having eternal life. Amidst the great fulfillments in the Millennial Kingdom John writes: > **Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.** (Revelation 20:6) ## 6. Blessed are the ones reading and heeding the Book. This is the only repeated beatitude. John wrote it in Revelation 1:3, Jesus Himself announces it here: > **“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”** (Revelation 22:7) ## 7. Blessed are the ones dwelling eternally with God. The seventh beatitude, in the conclusion to the book, written by John: > **Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.** (Revelation 22:14) **Blessing** for the saints in the Lion-Lamb is the point of the Apocalypse. **Blessed** is a translation fo the Greek word μακάριος (in Latin translated *beatus*). Blessed is “happy.” Like that gloss or not, that is the ground floor meaning when applied to the world of men. It is to be happily favored, to be graciously privileged. It is to be happy recipients of God’s special attention and God-given experiences. You are #blessed when: you can put things in their proper context with proper value and meaning, when you have a freedom given by Who is in control and what He cares about, when the taste of obedience is good. #Blessed is a wealth, a protection, like betting behind the point and out of the wind. The blessed are *not* fearful. *Let the blessed embrace no voluntary gloom*. Psalm 16, without using the word, portrays the blessed (refuge, good, community, delight, inheritance, understanding, security, direction, joy and pleasure, unending hope). # Conclusion *Not all* will attain this blessedness. It will be wrath (for rejecting the God of many blessings) or blessing (of life with the God of eternal blessing). It will either be doom and torment or delight in His presence (Psalm 16:11). We will wail forever or worship forever, divine punishment or divine pleasure. We will dwell in the Father's house or we will be separated from Him in the lake of fire. Only one group *develops*. Believers will go further up and further in God’s blessing. Rebels will be *stuck* in their blasphemy, their *complaints*, unceasingly worn out by their consciences, by what they could have had. They will know full well that they are getting what they deserve, and they will resent it. As the world rebels against God, transgressions are too great to count, “sins are heaped high as heaven” (Revelation 18:4-5). God’s wrath on sinners is too great to comprehend, “the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger” (Revelation 14:10-11). And also, His grace is too great to contain (as Paul wrote, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” - Romans 5:20). William Langland wrote in the 14th century, pointing helplessly at the mercy of God, > “all the wickedness in this world that man might work or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal in the sea.” (quoted in _Angels in the Architecture_, Location 290) When we see the Father and Son, when we see the parody of the devil, when we hear the promises, especially the promised blessings, we will conquer. “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:10; 14:12). Believe in the Lord of blessings. > **"they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony for their loved not their lives even unto death.”** (Revelation 12:11) Beloved, just conquer. ---------- ## Charge Whether you are more positive or negative by personality, whether you identify as optimistic or pessimistic by theology, the charge today is that you *identify yourself in Christ*. Your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). And however much you grieve or groan, however much you are glad, you must believe, according to the word of Christ, that are more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ## Benediction: > The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. > > He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! > The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Revelation 22:17, 20–21, ESV)

64: The Final Amen

July 4, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 22:14-21 Series: Just Conquer #64 # Introduction I’ve been picking away at a book titled _Last Stands_, about military battles fought by those who at some point in the fight knew that they could not win. The first chapter recounts how 300 Spartans withstood the million-man Persian army for a few days at Thermopylae. They did not retreat, they did not surrender. As the author of the book summarizes, “With the outcome decided, all that was left was the glory” (Michael Walsh). Here we are at the end of Revelation; the end of the matter, all has been heard. All that’s left is the glory. The outro-duction, as I’m calling it, began in verse 6 after the conclusion of John’s final vision. We saw that the prophetic words are dependable, applicable, accessible, and profitable for the righteous who do right, who hold fast Christ’s name, and who conquer by the blood of the Lamb (see also 12:11). These last eight verses of Revelation get us to the final amen. # The In and the Out (verses 14-15) > **Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they might have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.** (verse 14) Here is the seventh beatitude, the last #blessed of the book. Eternal happiness belongs to the righteous, **those who wash their robes**. The washed ones are the living forever ones who have **the tree of life**. If you are clean, then you may enter into the joy of your Master in **the city**. The robe-washing-ones aren't saved *by* washing themselves, the washing is part of their salvation. The Lamb did all the redeeming, and His redeeming work doesn't end with forgiving unrighteousness. He sends the Holy Spirit to reside in us, and the Holy Spirit gives us a desire for and a power to pursue righteousness. We'd call it sanctification, consecration, the obedience of faith. We wear our consecration like garments. (See also 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as well as Revelation 7:14-17.) The robe-washing ones have two privileges, both in terms of *authority over*. They have access to the **tree of life** (unlike the punishment on the first couple in Eden) and access to **enter the city**. John saw the **tree of life** in his last vision (22:2). It grows by the river of the water of live which flows from God's throne through the center of New Jerusalem. God prohibited Adam from eating this tree's fruit when he sinned, while the second Adam purchased our access to the tree, for its food and for its healing. The **gates** are never shut (21:25), but not everyone can enter (see the following verse). The righteous are allowed in, no restrictions, no barrier to fellowship and glory. Verse 15 shows the other side, the *outside*. > **Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.** (verse 15) John draws the antithesis. The robe-washers dwell with God and the rest are **dogs**. It's as derogatory as can be. These dogs aren't man's best friend, these are the worst of men referred to as dogs. The **sorcerers** try to manipulate the world apart from God's natural laws, the **sexually immoral** try to satisfy themselves apart from God's sexual laws, the **murderers** take out their hatred on God's image-bearers, and **idolaters** deceive themselves thinking they can have their own make-believe God. All the ones *loving and practicing lies* perfectly summarize the sons of the devil, a liar from the beginning, and they join him in the lake of fire. Blessing is being *in*. Blessing is God's *welcome*. It's hell to be left out. # The Root and the Fruit (verse 16) > **I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star.** (verse 16) Jesus speaks directly for the second time in the epilogue. In verse 7 He promised blessing for those who keep the words of the prophecy of this book, and then John testified that he received the revelation. John quotes Jesus here as claiming to be the source. The Apocalypse is not creative fiction. Jesus **sent my angel to testify**, and this confirms the first words of the book; "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John" (Revelation 1:1). The source is Jesus, the content are the **things** of judgment and promise, the beneficiaries are **the churches**. In the immediate context it's the seven churches addressed in chapters 2-3, and in the historical context it's all the Bride. Among all the options Jesus had to establish His testimony, including the option of providing *no* qualifications other than what has come in the visions, He declares Himself with perhaps the least abstract, least timeless attributes He could, the opposite of His attributes in verse 13. Being the **root and descendant of David** Jesus is of course royalty, but also extraordinary. He's both the one from whom David came and the one who comes from David, an ancestor *and* descendant. That's tough to do on a timeline, and only Jesus can. This also means Jesus is *King*, the "King of the Jews." He is the fulfillment of an old covenant. (See Isaiah 11:1, 10, as well as Revelation 5:5.) Being **the bright morning star** Jesus fulfills the poetic efforts of the rosy-fingered dawn (think Homer’s _Iliad_), the astronomical target of a guiding north, the great light of the world. Balaam also declared that “a star will come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). # The Call For and the Call To (verse 17) > **The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.** (verse 17) There's not agreement about who is speaking. It could be Jesus, continuing on from what we have as verse 16. If it's Jesus, the repetition of "Come" would obviously not be *to* Him about *His* coming. All three (or four) parts of verse 17 would be an evangelistic call. But that doesn't make the most sense. The unveiling that is the book of Revelation is about Jesus' return, the things that will happen leading up to it and the glory for His people following it. The outro-duction is dominated by that theme. In verse 7 Jesus says, "I am coming soon." In verse 20 Jesus says, "Surely I am coming soon." John himself responds with "Come, Lord Jesus." And so verse 17 begins with the **Spirit and the Bride** expressing their desire for Him. The *one-hearing* is more individual. The *one-hearing* is a seven-fold refrain heard at the end of every message to the seven churches. The image of the **Bride** emphasizes the collective nature of the desire, and this description focuses on the individual disciple. The remaining part of the verse does turn evangelistic. Every hearing one wants to see the Lamb in His glory, and, don't *you* want to be a hearing-one? The reasons to repent from rebellion are repeated throughout the Revelation. As the rider on the white horse He will consume every enemy. None will escape the fury of His wrath. But in Him is much more than the proverbial fire insurance. In Him is soul satisfaction. In Him is *life*. And all of it is by grace, available only in Him and available only **without price**. (See also Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 21:6.) # The Plus and the Minus (verses 18-19) > **I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.** (verses 18-19) It's actually another testimony; **I warn** is an interpretive turn on "I testify" based on the double threats that follow. Don't mess with the Apocalypse or else. Take care with this **book, book, book, book**. There are two ways to mess it up, adding and subtracting, and there are two matching consequences. Want more? You can have more, just probably not the more you wanted. Add to the prophecies, get **the plagues**. Plagues puts the judgments into skin and bone; the rubber meets the rebellion. Prefer to remove some of the parts? Want to make it a little easier, more palatable perhaps? Take away from the prophecies and watch all the good parts slide away. This does *not* apply, at least not necessarily, to Preterists or Postmillennialists (or whatever eschatology we don’t happen to agree with). It applies to denial of eternal judgment, or to promotion of immorality and idolatry, things that turn others away from the Lamb (think the churches in Pergamum (2:14) and Thyatira (2:20-23). “Those who twist the divinely inspired prophecies to their own ends will suffer the consequence that fits their sin” (Osborne). Also, this is not the first time such a warning has been inspired. (See Deuteronomy 4:2 and 29:19-20, when Moses warned the Israelites. See also Proverbs 30:6.) It is convenient that it comes at the end of the Scripture Canon as we have it, with prophecies into the eternal state. There is relevance for the entire inspired Word of God, but it applies primarily to the book of Revelation. # The Promise and the Plea (verse 20) > **He who testifies to these things says, "Surely, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!** (verse 20) Here is the third testimony (also verses 16 and 18), more promise, more hope. The **I** in the **I am coming soon** is the King, the star, the Lamb. He is **Lord Jesus**. *Veni, Domine Jesu.*Also *Maranatha* (an Aramaic transliteration in 1 Corinthians 16:22). **Amen** hears and affirms. So let it be. Christians live in light of the Lord's lordship and in light of the Lord's return. We care about His kingdom and His coming, about His kingdom come. We will see Him as He is in His glory. We will be transformed into His image; we will share His glory. We will dwell with Him, and we will serve Him. Our fellowship will no longer be by faith, it will be *direct*. Christian, you *get* to want this. You are allowed to long for this; there is no angelic warning against it. You cannot have too much of a Christ-is-coming-ly mindset to be any earthly good. You will do good works on earth because of this witness. # The Lord and the Last Word (verse 21) > **The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.** (verse 21) After all the plagues, the final word is a *good* word, a benediction. After all the judgment, John finishes off with *grace*, and not just any grace, but the grace **of the Lord Jesus**. Who has more grace? Even with the haunting images and the horrors of God’s righteous wrath, there is a holy happiness offered to those who submit to the Almighty. He gives grace to understand, grace to *conquer*. With a bit of irony, this second **Amen** in as many verses is *not* actually found in all the early Greek manuscripts (though included in most of the major English translations). It is easier to account for its addition by a later scribe than it is to explain its absence so, according to the priorities of textual criticism, it may not have been written by John. I say it has irony because of not "adding to" the words of the prophecy, while also that's not what the warning is about, and any scribe would have just copied that part. It *fits*. # Conclusion There is a focus on "words" in verses 6, 7, 9, 10. 18, 19; Revelation is given that we would say say *Yes* and *Amen*. Agree and attend to the truth, to Him who is the Truth, to Him who is our King. > For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11–13 ESV) ---------- ## Charge Beloved, Jesus is Lord. As He regularly told His disciples, no one knows the day or the hour of His return, so be on guard, keep awake. Watch for Him. ## Benediction: > If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (1 Corinthians 16:22–24, ESV)

63: The End of the Matter

June 20, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 22:6-13 Series: Just Conquer #63 # Introduction Words are like water that wash us. Paul wrote about husbands who ought to love their wives like Christ who cleanses His Bride, the Church, "by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to Himself in *splendor*" (Ephesians 5:26-27). The Lamb laid down His life to redeem the Bride, and the Lamb gives His Word, His promises about what will soon take place, to the Bride in order to prep her in radiance. There is great emphasis on the "prophetic words" in these final verses of the Apocalypse; these are the words preserved for us that prepare us for being presented to Christ. We've reached the conclusion, the epilogue. The main body of visions was concluded in 22:5, and the outro-duction compares well with the introduction. There are a number of ways that the words are affirmed, words that have been given to the Church to help her be consecrated, blameless, and to conquer. My wife and I were talking this past week about nearing the end of this study, and she remarked that my approach has been like one of those brushless car-washes with thick strips of fabric that slap and swipe. I like that. I've intended to be charitable toward non-Futurist, non-Premillennial, non-Dispensational viewpoints, though I have also been parking us and letting the paragraphs slap into us. That can't wash off scratches of eisegesis and dents that certain interpretations bring with them, but it can wash off some of the superficial theological simplicities that get stuck on our thinking apart from the washing of the prophetic words themselves. We are nearing the final Amens, an Amen in verse 20 and the last Amen of the Canon in verse 21. Verses 6-21 reiterate the key themes of Revelation and make an obvious bookend with chapter 1. Compare (along with Osborne): - the revelation is from God (1:1, 22:6) - the revelation is for God’s slaves (1:1, 22:6) - the revelation is about what “must soon take place” (1:1, 22:6) - the revelation is about Christ’s coming (1:7, 22:7) - the revelation must be kept (1:3, 22:7) - the revelation keepers are blessed (1:3, 22:7) - the revelation belongs to the Alpha and Omega (1:8, 22:13) The biggest difference between the beginning and the end of the book is that now, after writing down the prophetic words, John cries, “Come, Lord Jesus!” What we've heard from John are prophetic words, and there are four characteristics of the prophetic words in verses 6-13. # The Prophetic Words Are Dependable (verse 6) Whatever we think about the seals, trumpets, bowls, about the beasts and the abyss and Babylon, the *source* of all these details requires our attention and our acceptance. > **And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.** There is some difficulty determining who is speaking throughout the epilogue, but this "he" is the angel who has been giving John a tour of the eternal City from 21:1 to 22:5. That angel affirms the final vision of radiance, and probably *all* the visions after the letters to the churches. The very **words** are **trustworthy and true**, faithful to the facts, reliable and right. They are true because they are *God's* words. As so many prophetic announcements (in the OT) have been introduced with, "the word of the Lord," so all that has been heard is a divine transmission. God is God of His **prophets**. God is God for His **servants**, His slaves. God works through His prophets to give truth to His servants. Much of this repeats chapter 1. Again, Revelation ought not be ignored. It is a product of supernatural origin that contains not just a collection but the *culmination* of prophetic insight for the comprehension, comfort, and the courage of God's people. # The Prophetic Words Are Applicable (verse 7) In chapter one an angel receives the revelation from Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks directly and affirms the prophetic words. > **"And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.** The **behold** is not poetic but emphatic. It attests to the attention that really belongs with the statement. We use bold letter-styling for important comments, or start a line with an emoji. We use oral cues, too, even if they are more casual. "Hey, listen to this.” What follows the behold is the hope of the churches: **I am coming soon.** This is the Lamb, the Messiah, Jesus, named by Himself in verse 16, appealed to in verse 20, and the last name in Scripture in verse 21, “Lord Jesus.” His return is *immanent*; His day “will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). This refers to His final coming, not to a supposed coming to judge Jerusalem in AD 70 (contra Gentry) or to “spiritual” comings in “every generation of the church” (contra Beale). *Be ready*. The Lamb, who says He will return, also says that He's *not* back now, which is His prerogative, which means our perseverance is His plan for now. How can we possible be expected to endure all this? We are expected to endure by obeying what He said with His favor. The sixth beatitude in the book, the sixth of seven #blesseds, is for word-keepers. This is true for all of the inspired Word. What a privilege that we have our own completed copies. But Jesus particularly promises blessing for Revelation readers and Apocalypse keepers. *Keep* the prophetic words. I know the objections: Eschatology is hard. Eschatology is divisive. Eschatology isn't practical. Okay. But Jesus says that you can't be fully blessed if you don't care. That seems *relevant*. (Whether or not I have done the words their proper service, you have direct access to *blessing*.) Don't be satisfied being *un*blessed. # The Prophetic Words Are Accessible (verses 8-11) The angel has affirmed the prophetic words, Jesus has affirmed the prophetic words, now John does as well. > **I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things.** The apostle John gave eye-witness testimony, he was a steward of what was given to him directly. Then the angel says three things. ## Worship God (verses 8-9) The words and visions pushed John over again. > **And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!** While applicable to the entire book of Revelation, it was especially the last set of sights and sounds related to the Celestial City that caused John to again, for the second time, get overwhelmed and fall down before the angel (see 19:10). And again, the angel tells John, Stop it. The angel identifies himself as a *sundoulos*, a **fellow servant**. The angel is just the messenger, as are any and all of God's prophets, John included. The angel exhorts John, **Worship God!** What could be more obvious? The worship part is completely understandable. The obvious, the correct response to the great prophetic words of our future in glory in the radiance of His face upon us is to worship *now*. We will be worshipping, but the words depicting our future reality provoke us to praise in the present. Likewise, what is more obvious than that we worship the giver of the prophetic words, God Himself. ## Open the Book (verse 10) Unlike the end of the visions that God gave to Daniel, God says that the visions given in the Apocalypse are to be left open and accessible. > **And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.** The first part of this is more understandable. Though it is also *preachable*. The prophetic words are for the ones who read them. The prophetic words are for our blessing now, they are for our courage now, they are for us to live for the Lamb and avoid the deceit of the Beast now. *Apocalypse* means unveiling, so don't recover the uncovered. John had been told to “seal up what the seven thunders have said” (Revelation 10:4). Daniel was told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4). Now, **the time is near**. ## Do Right (verse 11) The angel continues his instructions, and since the prophetic words are in the open, their light reveals the absolute *antithesis*: good and evil. > **Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.** It makes some uncomfortable that the angel would exhort evildoers *not* to stop their evildoing. But God, who is sovereign over every heart, does not shy away from this angle. Is there hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ for any who give up their rebellion and cast themselves at the Lamb's feet for mercy? Of course! Is there any surprise among the Lamb's people that some of the seed doesn't take in the soil? Those who hearts of hate toward God may find it a permanent condition. But if you have ears to hear, kiss the Son lest He be angry and it be too late (Psalm 2:12). What Christians ought to be concerned with is *perseverance* in what we know is right. **Do right**. **Be holy**. Do it now, because the time is near (per the previous verse). # The Prophetic Words Are Profitable (verses 12-13) In the previous verse we see the evil and the good, the filthy and the holy. All will get what's coming to them. > **"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."** The motto, so to speak, of the Apocalypse is that Jesus is coming. "Behold, he is coming" sounds as early as Revelation 1:7. Jesus speaks again, and calls for our concentration again on the validity and reliability of the prophetic words. He adds here that He will come with **recompense**. This doesn't only refer to punishment, but also to reward. He will **repay** based on what's been done, good or evil. The righteous will be honored, the filthy will be shamed and punished. *Count on it.* (See also Isaiah 40:10.) We are not saved by our works, we are saved by the Lamb’s slaughtering in our place (Revelation 5:9-10). But the redeemed live like it. Count on it because of who says it: Jesus, who is God. This is the final set of polar titles, but previously they have been designations of the Almighty who is *with* the Lamb rather than of the Lamb Himself (1:8, 21:6). Of course, John had heard Jesus say, "I am my Father are one" (John 10:30), and regularly the Almighty and the Lamb are sitting on the same throne. # Conclusion In this outro we have reached the end of the matter; all has been heard. The last visions have been revealed of the eternal days, and John is wrapping up the prophetic words. These prophetic words come from God, they are authentically authoritative. And these prophetic words say that Jesus is coming. It reminds me of Solomon's end to Ecclesiastes. > The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14) As the "worship God" in verse 9 fits with Ecclesiastes 12:13a, “fear God,” as keeping the words fits with “keep His commandments” in Ecclesiastes 12:13b, the recompense in verses 12-13 fits with Ecclesiastes 12:14, “every deed” will be assessed. ---------- ## Charge Beloved, God is your Keeper, no one can snatch you out of His hand. Beloved, because God is your keeper, you likewise be keepers of His commandments. This is your delightful duty. ## Benediction: > The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. (1 Kings 8:57-58, ESV)

62: Reformed Eden

June 13, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 22:1-5 Series: Centers and Circumferences #62 # Introduction Have you ever wondered what in the world God wants you to do? Have you questioned what He made you to do, or what He wants with you? These are great things to think about, ground-floor, gut-level existence things. And it turns out the answers are in the Bible, on the very first page and onto the very last. In the first chapter of Scripture God spoke the universe into being and, according to the details in chapter two, into that cosmos He formed man from the dust of the earth and planted man in a garden for him to work. Through that garden flowed a river, and in that garden was a tree called the "tree of life." Genesis 1-2 are the only two chapters in God's Word without sin tainting the story. In chapter three Adam *fell*, he and Eve and the serpent were judged and the ground was cursed. Adam and Eve lost “paradise,” the Greek word for Eden, and were prohibited from eating the fruit of the tree of life. In the last chapter of Scripture God gives John a final angelic tour that finishes what began in chapter 21. Sin has been dealt with, either through the death and resurrection of the Lamb or in the lake of fire. Now sin is *gone*, and Paradise is back and better than Eden. The City-Bride, the New Jerusalem, has "tree(s) of life" lining the main street. The curse is lifted. Eden isn't just regained, Eden has been reformed. She is new and improved. And in this Garden-City men will reign forever. Let us not grow weary of conquering, for in due season we will rule if we do not give up (compare Galatians 6:9). Again, this is the last vision of Revelation, the last vision in the prophetic Word, the furthest vision of what eternal life will be like. It is inspired and inspiring, and, interestingly enough, in key ways it is more like the life we already seek to live than it's not. There are three parts to the vision. # Inexhaustible Provision (verses 1-2) The first chapter of God's Word is about His good and gracious gifts (He kept creating good things and then presented them to His image-bearers), and the final chapter of God’s Word shows that His lavish and gracious provision is still inexhaustible. > **Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1–2)** The two main features are a river and a tree, both concerning **life**. The **river of the water of life** flows from the throne of God and flows down the main street in the city. It is **bright**, or better, *clear* **as crystal**, so pure and unpolluted. It isn't bottled at the source, but it runs bountifully. That it comes from the **throne** means that its source is the Almighty Himself. Imagine an unending stream with no filth that only refreshes (quite a contrast to our figuratively unending social media streams). There was a river flowing out of Eden to water the garden that divided four other rivers (Genesis 2:20), but this river is different. A similar picture in Ezekiel 47:12, with trees “on the banks, on both sides of the river,” always bearing fruit for food and with healing power in their leaves. > And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12) The river does have an analogy in the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said was like a spring of living water (John 7:37-39). But the comparison doesn’t mean that the river *is* the Spirit on the new earth. Perhaps an even better analogy is a less metaphorical reality of God as the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13). In one way we are already invited to drink this water, Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17, along with John 7, but we will be satisfied by it in glory. The **tree of life** was also in Genesis 2:9, a tree that Adam and Eve *did* have access to until they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then God prohibited them from eating the fruit of life (Genesis 3:22), a gracious restriction that kept them from seeing so much of the disastrous consequences of their disobedience. The tree of life on the new earth is now available for fruit. A couple things are striking about it. First is that it bears different sort of fruit, **twelve kinds of fruit**, so all "year," even if it's not exactly like our year as determined by sun and moon, which is a portrayal of perpetual harvest. Second is that there seems to be more than one. That the tree(s) is **on either side of the river** either means that the river branches into two around the tree, or more likely that there are trees on both banks of the river. This means that the tree of life could be a *kind* of tree, a species, so that it's more than one. We might say, that field is full of pine, where pine functions as a collective singular. > He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7) Not only does the tree produce fruit but even its leaves are profitable, **for the healing of the nations**. Which nations are these and why do they need healing? As I said about the nations in Revelation 21:24-26, I believe that these are nations with kings who lived to the end of the thousand years and entered the new heaven and new earth. No more need. No more pain, disease, or division. # Unhindered Stewardship (verses 3-4) When we think about the beginning of the human story we don't get very far before there is sin and then a *curse* to deal with. At the end of the story the curse will be dealt with by God, and removed. > ** No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3–4)** This is what was lost, but more than that. Paradise isn't merely regained, it is *better*. Nothing **accursed** will be found, a state unknown for thousands of years, back to Genesis 3:17-18. Specifically the ground was cursed that Adam would have to work by the sweat of his nose, a struggle and then death. We are **slaves**, δοῦλοι, addressed that way in Revelation 1:1. But His slaves **will see his face**. That we will see Him so directly means that we will be our fullest selves. As image-bearers, this has been our biggest struggle. It is one of the reasons that hearing His Word is so important, a reason for our worship liturgy. We behold God, and as we do so we are transferred from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is that greatest of glories. We will **worship**, but that may not be the best way to understand. We will *serve* (KJV, NASB), and that is often in a cultic, worship context. Adam was placed in the garden “to work” it, a Hebrew word that is often translated by in Greek by λατρεύω which is the word used here in Revelation 22:3 (Osborne). The context here is in the new garden, as image-bearers, carrying out our duties to take care of the garden on behalf of God. If there will be sweat, it will only be *good* sweat. No painful service, no backbreaking toil and being known for the sweat off the nose, and God’s **name will be on their foreheads**. We will have no questions about our identity, because there will be no barriers to our reflection and no disobedience visible to others. The “world” will know us, and we will know God (see 1 John 3:1-3). **They will see his face**, compared to Moses who only got to see the backside because God Himself said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). This is when the “agelong benediction” of Numbers 6 will be applied in full (Beale). Seeing His face means worship and work without existential crisis, without identity questions, or disconnect from divine purpose. Our worship in stewarding the garden will be unhindered as our fellowship is unimpeded so our security will be unquestioned. Imagine what our callings will be! There will be no sermons necessary, so it seems like there’ll be a new line of work for me. We will not be tempted to live for ourselves. “The tie that binds them to the holy God operates in them unweakened from moment to moment” (Kuyper). The Creator and creature are exactly how they belong. # Unending Authority (verse 5) Earlier descriptions of the new earth have made this not new information, but we still pay attention to the repetition here, and to the connections, as we finish the view of what we'll be doing. > ** And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)** No darkness, no dirty deeds done in the dark, no evil hiding in the shadows, no oppression behind closed doors, no corruption on the underbelly. Instead, we’ll know all light all the time. We will have understanding, we will have fellowship, we will have authority. That authority won't hurt anyone, won't be abused. We will **reign forever and ever**. We will finally rule, reign, have dominion as God blessed His image-bearers with in the beginning (Genesis 1:28). This will be a fruitful reign. > The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. > > The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 2:26–27; 3:21) # Conclusion Epilogue to come in verses 6-21. The new creation, the City-Bride, the direct and uninterrupted fellowship with God, the water and tree of life, no more curse, this is the promise for all the saints who conquer. The Apocalypse has aimed at portraying this communion so that we would desire it, so that we would not be upset by the forces, even demonic forces, that would seek to ruin our joy and faith in the Lamb. Remember what He has done, remember what He has promised, and *hold fast* (see Revelation 2:13, 25, 3:11). *Everything* from Revelation 4:1 until now has driven to this point. We have seen with John the telos of teloses. We can go no further until we are *there*. This is Eden *reformed*. Eternal life, eternal fellowship, eternal service, eternal *rule* is the last vision give to us. And behold, it will be *very good* (think Genesis 1:31). There has been confusion, frustration, injustice, and troubles for going on 6000 years. It will not always be so. Don’t grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will know eternal rest and reign. ---------- ## Charge Someday, if there are sermons, they will be just the right length. Someday, if there are Mondays, we will look forward to them. Someday, and we can sure of this, our heavenly Father’s favor will be upon all His children without interference. The original benediction, the “agelong” benediction, was given to Moses for Aaron on behalf of the people of Israel by the LORD. It has been the most deeply desired blessing of God’s people for millennia, and it will be our experience for ages and ages. ## Benediction: > The LORD bless you and keep you; > the LORD make his face to shine upon you > and be gracious to you; > the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. > (Numbers 6:24–26, ESV)

61: Everlasting Light

June 6, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 21:22-27 Series: Just Conquer #61 # Introduction This coming Thursday is the anniversary of Mo and I's move to Marysville twenty years ago. Marysville hasn't always been as great of a city as it is these days, and Lord willing will be still to come. But one of the things it's always had going for it in my mind, other than the number of auto parts stores, is how often it rains. We moved from the Los Angeles area, having lived all our married life up to that point in Santa Clarita. Not only is it hot in the summertime, it only rains 34.1 days annually, one of the least rainy places in CA. Near the end of our time there, I would wake up and lament that it was sunny *again*. Twenty years in this Western WA cloudy-skies climate has caused an increase in my gratitude to God for sun, but when the sun comes up at 4am and goes down at 10pm, I don't mind finding some dark. Our future as God's people is brighter than any southern California imagination. > The sun shall be no more your light > by day, > nor for brightness shall the moon > give you light; > but the LORD will be your > everlasting light, > and your God will be your glory. > (Isaiah 60:19) This comes near the end of Isaiah's prophecies, and John's vision near the end of Revelation picks up the same thread. God will be the *everlasting light*, *our* everlasting light. There will be no night. It will be all glory all the time. John began to describe what he saw about the New Jerusalem coming down in verse 9 of chapter 21. He saw the walls, the gates, the measurements, the materials, all with radiant glory. Now John moves to some of the internal features of the city, and four significant things are not found. # No Temple (verse 22) An angel invited John to see in verse 9 and took him to a high mountain in verse 10. He sees here in verse 22, and again at the start of chapter 22. He starts with an astounding absence. > **And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.** The word **temple** typically refers to a sacred location where God/a god met with worshippers. After the (temporary tent) tabernacle, the Jews had two separate temples (the first built by Solomon and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the second temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel after the exile and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70). Ezekiel saw an eschatological temple (Ezekiel 40-48), and the Jews “consistently affirmed the hope of a final, material temple structure on a scale greater than any before” (Beale). Either that temple is rebuilt around and during the Millennial kingdom (and not carried over into the new heaven and new earth), or, as others claim, the City-Bride in Revelation 21 *is* the temple. But why would Ezekiel’s vision center on the temple and then John go out of his way to say that he saw no temple? Note that the people are the city, and God dwells with them (verse 3). Then God Himself is the temple, and men enjoy His presence. He is **the Lord God the Almighty** (ὁ παντοκράτωρ) **and the Lamb.** Again the divine nature of the Lamb is put in the spotlight. There is no temple made of materials *or of men*, which argues against a spiritual application of Ephesians 2:20-22. That really is a fantastic passage, which figuratively describes the church as the dwelling place of God. But in Revelation, the redeemed are a City, the wall around the city has apostle foundations, but that does not make us the eternal temple, and in fact, John says explicitly that *God Almighty and the Lamb* are the temple. # No Sunlight or Moonlight (verse 23) When it comes to the light of the world, God and His Son are it. > **And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.** The city itself is lit by the **glory of God**, and we'll see in the next couple verses that the glory shines for the benefit of others outside of the city. The phrase **has no need** has caused some to say that there actually *will be* a sun and moon in the new creation, but that they won't be light sources, or at least they won't be depended on as light sources. Perhaps. But the day/night cycle will be no more according to verse 25 (and compare that with the original assignment of the sun and moon in Genesis 1:14-18), and repeated in 22:5 - “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light….” Since God's glory will be on display, there's no on/off switch. Our glorified, resurrected bodies will be ready for going all day. God wraps Himself as it were with light (Psalm 104:2); He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). Jesus said He was “the light of the world” (John 8:12). We give thanks to God for qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:11). Perhaps because the perfect fulfillment of submission is now seen between the Lamb and His Bride, the sun and moon are mentioned as no longer necessary as additional, external illustrations. # No Closed Gates (verses 24-26) Verse 24 picks up with the light, but explains what will be happening with the light. > **By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day--(for) there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.** The first question is who are those who live outside the city? The redeemed of the Lamb are the City-Bride, those who live in and are part of the city, and all the rebels were thrown into the lake of fire. These cannot be a new group of unsaved men. John does not provide their identity in Revelation. The most satisfying idea is that the kings and these nations are believers (whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, verse 27), who were saved and lived to the end of the thousand years but who were *not* deceived by Satan. They will be transformed for eternal life, but they will not have died and then returned (Thomas). Kings bring in their **glory** and **honor**, their grandeur, their drip, as told in both verse 24 and 26. God's glory lights up the new earth, and men, who are now glorified image-bearers, are bringing what they've made to Him as glory. It’s not just that they walk around in an entourage, they bring wealth and riches and gifts. This also suggests the ideas of work, production, economics, (international) trade, high (and low) quality goods, and *not* zero sum, since nations will "walk" by the light *outside* the city. It's not all glory inside leaving no glory outside. Bringing in glory will be like tribute, in a way, yes, but satisfying tribute. The nations, drunk with Babylon’s offers, used to bring her gifts. This is not tribute imposed by the Almighty to remind these kings who the true king is, as if they resented the special place of the Lamb. Their work, and their work product, is a means of their worship. As Isaiah 60:19 was repeated, the descriptions here repeat a few other verses in Isaiah 60: > Your gates shall be open continually; > day and night they shall not be shut, > that people may bring to you the wealth > of the nations, > with their kings led in procession. > (Isaiah 60:11) # No Unclean Thing (verse 27) > **But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.** Verse 27 doesn't mean that there will be both truth-doers and false-doers around, but the false-doers exist outside the city. The statement emphasizes what is completely other than our experience, and certainly for Jews who knew their history, city and temple. At this point it is all clean, all the time. It also functions as an exhortation to all who hear the words of this prophecy: you must love and serve the Lamb or you will have no place in this glorious future. # Conclusion As with much of the Apocalypse there are too many details that become problems for those who think this passage is describing the church. A future state (because it certainly doesn’t apply for the present state) of the *church* doesn’t need sun or moon? The *church* won’t need closed gates? The *church* will at some point only have those who are truly saved in her midst? Here is glory the saints won't have to hide from, contrasted with Moses who asked to see God’s glory, and he had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock while God passed by and Moses got to see God’s back (Exodus 33:18-23). ---------- ## Charge We are promised a future of light. In his first letter, John wrote that when we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have *fellowship* with one another. When we walk in God's light, we will be walking in fellowship. Might as well get started enjoying it now. ## Benediction: > Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. > > The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:11, 14, ESV)

60: Allocating Radiance

May 30, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 21:9-21 Series: Just Conquer #60 # Introduction When God decided to create something *other*, when He made the world and all that is in it, His purpose was to show His glory. The end for which God created the world is to show off His greatness, which, considered from our angle would be difficult, because there is no greatness like His greatness. He is infinite, and so every one of His attributes is connected to that infinitude. Even His communicable attributes are unique to Him because they are perfect. No one communicates like Him. No one is as righteous as Him. No one is as joyful as Him. No one loves like Him. He has done, is doing, and will do whatever shows His glory. It is revealing itself, and connects with His nature, that He is glorified by our understanding of God's glory and, as Jonathan Edwards points out, by our *delight* in God's glory, and also *by sharing His glory with His people*. God doesn’t preserve His glory in a gallery behind glass over which we “oooh” and “aahh,” God portions out His glory *in us*. The OT concept of glory (*kavod*) was weightiness, and God is refining His people to be *gold*. The NT concept of glory (*doxa*) was brightness, and God is polishing His people to be radiant like *diamonds*. Beautiful brides are often said to be radiant, and we see in Revelation 21 the Bride of the Lamb. Cities are sometimes said to be radiant, and we see in Revelation 21 the City of the Lamb. The City-Bride is *adorned* for her Husband (21:2), the City-Bride is made glorious by her Husband (see also Ephesians 5:25-27). The City-Bride, and this is John's eye-witness testimony, comes down from heaven "having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel" (21:11). The City-Bride is a place and the people, and she is glorious with and for God’s glory. God allocates radiance all over and among His people. The descriptions and dimensions on display all work toward the glory of the Lamb, who is repeatedly referred to in this section (seven times from 21:9–22:5) as He dwells with a radiant people. For whatever is challenging about this part of John's vision, and there are a lot of pieces to the vision, the coming of the City is not gradual through millennia. This is not church history, it is not a vision of the spread of the gospel to the world. In its context, judgment is finished, all the unrepentant are in the lake of fire, and even Death is dead. The radiance shines in the new heaven and new earth, a new dispensation. In a broader context, the Bible refers to the final parts of our salvation, our resurrected bodies and our perfect blamelessness, and here we are. This glorified state is not the process of our sanctification, it is the *end* of it. One beseeching before we look with John at the angel's tour of the city. There are some exalted, not-of-this-world sort of descriptions to be heard. What you must not do is punt your belief over the symbolism side *because* someone might laugh at you for believing what the sentences say. This also means that you must not be one who laughs at those who don't think everything is merely a symbol *because* it seems silly to you. If you want to make a case for maximum symbolism as the proper interpretation, do so, but for better reasons than what you think "can't" be. That is a dangerous standard, especially in light of passages such as Isaiah 55:9. It’s like saying God couldn't have created the entire universe in six 24-hour days. God can't be three Persons yet one God. There couldn't have been a global flood. Jesus can't be fully God and fully man. God wouldn't have taken on flesh and then died; that's *foolish*, it's a scandal. Brothers, there is no gospel and there is no glory apart from truths that don't "fit" our human wisdom. One man's ludicrous is another man's salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-23). For that matter, the "it's symbols all the way down” approach does *not* unveil, it veils, which is the opposite of the name of the book *Revelation*. Even more than that, it often denies the very words that are written. I listened to some messages where the preacher argued that a literal reading is unreasonable and then went on to explain that "and the sea was no more" (21:1) can't mean that there won't be a sea for fishing, and later he said that "the city has no need of sun or moon to shine" (21:23) obviously doesn't mean there won't be a sun and moon. Pressing symbolic language too far can become a justification for denying Scripture no matter how beautiful you say it is. *Believe God's Word.* # The City's External Features (verses 9-11) At the beginning of chapter 17:1-3 an angel came to get John, took him to the wilderness, and showed him the vision of a woman. That woman was Babylon, a flashy harlot, to be conquered by the Lamb (17:14). Another angel, perhaps the same one, gets John again, takes him to a mountain, and shows him another woman, the radiant Bride, to be married to the Lamb. > **Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.** The Bride was introduced in Revelation 19, and mentioned again at the beginning of chapter 21. Now she is also called **the wife**, because she has been united. Like Ezekiel was taken in the Spirit to a high place (Ezekiel 40:2), John is taken to a **high mountain** on the new earth to see the "new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (21:2). She has **the glory of God** as her clothing. This glory *shines* (φωστήρ), and it is not skin deep like the prostitute, though the surface sparkle is legit. The radiance is compared to **jasper**, which unlike our current jasper is more than likely a reference to opaque precious stones, even diamonds. The light bounces and plays and paints the scene, **clear as crystal**. # The City's Wall, Gates, and Foundations (verses 12-14) Three external features are mentioned: the wall around the city, the gates in the wall, and the foundations of the wall. > **It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of sons of Israel were inscribed--on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.** That the walls have a symbolic emphasis is clear, because there are no more enemies at this point on the new earth. That the walls have symbolic significance does not mean that the wall is only a symbol. The details explain/clarify, they do not make it enigmatic/cryptic. We'll see a measurement for the wall in the next paragraph, the first focus is on the gates. Each gate is watched over by an angel. If all the enemies are in the lake of fire, why the watchers? Good question. But if the gates are symbols of ways into the church, are the watching angels also symbolic? Symbols of what? If the angels are not symbols, why are the gates symbols but not the angels? It’s better to take the vision as John saw it. The twelve tribes fit one name on each of the twelve gates, not all twelve names on all twelve gates, comparable to (though not the same as) Ezekiel’s vision which named each gate separately in Ezekiel 48:30-34. Just as the camp was organized with gates in the OT, so all four directions allow access from any side. > **And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.** Along with the sons of Israel are the **apostles of the Lamb**. We aren’t told whether it was Judas' replacement, Matthias, or Paul. But the Twelve were a group, with names, not just symbols of another group. Ephesians 2:20 does talk about how the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. It's really surprising how many interpreters *conclude* that Revelation 21:14 is the same truth pictured. But Ephesians 2:20 doesn’t talk about gates and foundations, only foundations, and that would mean that the OT representatives are also foundations, making 24, not 12. Even more, the gates are sons of Israel, not prophets. The foundation in Ephesians 2:20 is a figure of speech, but that does not make it the same in Revelation 21. Israel and the Church are together, as represented by the Tribes and the Apostles, but also still distinguishable. # The City's Measurements (verses 15-17) Another section starts here as the angel returns to view. **And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.** The angel provides information not distinguished by sight alone. John himself had a measuring rod in chapter 11, but it wasn't gold, and he was only measuring the temple. This is the city in which there is no temple (21:22), which is also significant for those who try to connect Ezekiel 40:3-5 to the measurement, where Ezekiel measures a temple, not a city. > **The city lies foursquare; its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement.** The shape was not only square (τετράγωνος - four-cornered), but a cube, since all three dimensions measure the same, **length and width and height**. A perfect cube was also the same of the inner part of the temple (1 Kings 6:20, a 20 cubit cube). 12,000 stadia would be somewhere between 1,400 to 1,500 miles. Different commentators liken these 2 million square miles to whatever geographical features are nearest them (e.g., from the Pacific Coast to the Mississippi River, Thomas). This would give the city a volume of about 3,375,000,000 cubic miles. This is according to the standard cubit of **human measurement** but measured by an angel. Even with verbal clarification on size and the standard used, a bunch of interpreters conclude how impossible a city this size would be. Because it's so obviously silly (to them), 12,000 must be a symbolic number of completion, to go along with the symbolic cube of perfection, so symbol all the way down. As for the wall, it's only **144 cubits**. And even though it's proportional as a multiple of 12, 216 feet tall is way too small to be of any significance, compared to a 1,500 mile (7 million feet) high city. Even if it's 216 feet thick (as the NIV includes) instead of tall, isn't it just dumb? So, great, then *where are we*? And why bother with a measuring rod, and also say that this is **by human measurement**? The cube does reflect completion and perfection, and it is part of God allocating radiance actually. # The City's Materials (verses 18-21) The city is radiant. And **every kind of jewel** adorned it. > **The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.** The fact that the wall is made of **jasper** means “its purpose is not defense but rather radiating the glory of God” (Osborne). There is a possible connection to the various jewels that the high priest wore in his breast-piece (Exodus 28:17-20). Eight of the stones referred to in Revelation are mentioned in Exodus, and perhaps the other four could be related. As stones went along with each month, and as stones represented each tribe, so these stones would represent all the people. And, yet, these are not the stones of the gates, which had the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, these are the foundations, which have the names of the apostles, which requires switching the symbolism to make the representative point. Or, the variety and brilliance of the most precious sorts of stones make up a radiant foundation. The final two materials are about the gates themselves and then the streets. > **And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.** The gates were **made of a single pearl**. The gates weren't measured for height; if they were the entire height they would be 216 foot tall. Silly, right? But why? Who says a pearl in the new earth *can't* be so large? We sing about **streets of gold**. This gold is so golden that it's free from any impurity that would color it, so **as glass**. To our symbolism committed friends, this represents what? # Conclusion Israel and the Church are God’s people, the Bride of the Lamb, and God has allocated radiance for them, His own glory to clothe them. The believing remnant is likened to jewels in the Old Testament. In Malachi 3:16–17, it is said of those who fear the Lord and meditate on His name, “‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘on the day that I make them my jewels.’ (KJV); think the Jewels of Anniera in The Wingfeather Saga. We are adorned as jewels, as a glorious bride in a glorious city. ---------- ## Charge This world is not our home. What should we do until we get home? We are often out of place, out of step, out of favor. So, as those who are wise, *make the best use of the time* because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16). As those who are trained in the words of the faith and good doctrine, *train for godliness*, which holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:6-8). In the evil day, having done all, *stand firm* (Ephesians 6:13). ## Benediction: > But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. > Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 3:20–4:1, ESV)

59: Then and Now

May 23, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 21:1-8 Series: Just Conquer #59 # Introduction What is your greatest longing? What comes to your mind when you imagine the best future you can? For most of us I’m assuming that the Bible animates most of that picture, as it should. We have a “scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”). The future will also only be better for a certain sort of person. The future includes a great reckoning. All those who have done wrong—by perfect God’s standards and according to His omniscient records—will be judged by their works. All those who’ve done wrong and have not been redeemed by the Lamb will stand before the great white throne and be sentenced to the second death, to eternity in the lake of fire. This is the final state for every conscious being in the universe who will not love and be loyal to Jesus Christ. All those who do trust and serve Jesus anticipate (and *hasten* 2 Peter 3:12) that day of judgment because then Jesus’ name will be exalted above all, and also our testimony for Jesus’ name and whatever suffering we endured will be finished and rewarded. The righteous look forward to the reign of righteousness that Jesus will establish. But our desire that every wrong will be acknowledged and punished is not the ultimate point. There is more longing than for justice, even more than longing for the end of our troubles. Our longing is to *be home with God*. Revelation 21 begins to describe what that will be like. From Revelation 21:1 through 22:5 John gives perhaps the most detailed vision of “heaven,” of eternal life, found anywhere in Scripture. Our experiences now make it difficult to conceive of the positives (Peter has a similar list of what our inheritance is *not* in 1 Peter 1:4). But while all things will be new, they will not be entirely disconnected from now. Before we get to seeing these glories, I admit I was surprised to learn that the general agreement among Bible readers about the final judgment does not carry over into chapter 21. I thought we were mostly back on the same page, with judgment and followed by the new heaven and new earth still in the *future*. It turns out that some believe that chapter 21 takes us back to the first century and that the *new* is actually coming *now*. Here is just one example (from someone I have otherwise learned a lot): > “I take the first heavens and earth as the Judaic aeon and the new heavens and earth as the Christian aeon, and these two aeons overlapped—the latter beginning at Pentecost, and the former ending with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70…. Church history is the time it takes for this bride to walk down the aisle.” (Douglas Wilson, _When the Man Comes Around_) So, > “The process of world evangelization is the process by which God is making all things new, which is the declaration He makes in this passage.” (ibid.) This is not how I believe the new is connected to the now; the new is *not* now but still *then*. The language in these verses, even as the images connect with other prophetic visions from the OT and earlier in the NT, reveals a climactic and cataclysmic remaking, not a gradual and generational remodel. This is even quicker than the original six-day creation, and certainly not thousands of years of gospelistic-evolutionary development on earth. There are two key points in these two paragraphs, the Then (verses 1-4) and the Now (verses 5-8). # The Then (verses 1-4) In the previous paragraph John saw "earth and sky" flee away from God's presence as men were called to the judgment seat. Now John describes the replacement. **And I saw heaven-a new kind, and earth-a new one. For the first heaven and the first earth went away and the sea is not any longer** (verse 1). The Bible opens with, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). The creation story is about the universe, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16), and was creation *ex nihilo*, out of nothing. That “heaven" didn't stand for a system nor did "earth." It was space, place, dirt, and water, thrones and dominions, *all things*. So here is the *new* heaven and the *new* earth, the scene for eternal life. The Lord revealed this purpose even in the Old Testament: > “For behold, I create new heavens > and a new earth, > and the former things shall not be remembered > or come into mind. > (Isaiah 65:17) It is **new** not merely remodeled, *replaced* and yet recognizable, and the fulfillment of creation’s longings for freedom from corruption (Romans 8:18-23). That the **sea was no more**is surprising if for no other reason than that our current earth’s surface area is 75% water. But the sea has an unruly, uninhabitable relationship, and has been a source of fear and death to men. Even in Genesis 1:1, when the water did not have any boundaries yet, darkness was over the face of the deep and the earth was *tohu va bohu*, “without form and void.” This new earth will be different from the start. The new earth gets a capital city. **And I saw the holy city, the Jerusalem-a new one, coming down out of heaven from God**. In the second half of verse 2 we will see an additional description, and the metaphor gets mixed. In the first part of the verse is a new Jerusalem called the holy city. While the Lord promised an anointed King who would rule in the old Jerusalem, a promise fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-10), even that was not the full and final center for God's rule. More will be defined and described about the city in verses 9-27, even spilling into chapter 22. The **new Jerusalem** is only mentioned here and in Revelation 3:12 (even though there is a Jerusalem “above” in Galatians 4:26 and a “heavenly” Jerusalem in Hebrews 12:22). In the second half of verse 2 the New Jerusalem is not only a place but also *people*. Without providing a subject change, the city is *coming down* and ***having been prepared* as a bride, *having been adorned* for her husband**. There are three participles, the the last two are both perfect tense and passive voice. Someone else already prepared/adorned in the past with continuing effect. The city-bride comes to earth. Isaiah 62:3-5 refers to *Israel* as a bride, so this **bride** is all the saints in unity, while also they are **peoples**, plural (verse 3), from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). That a city could be a woman could be a place and could be a people should not surprise us since chapters 17-18 were about Babylon, the harlot, who was both a city and citizen rebels. This bride is truly glorious and she is holy, in covenant with and faithful to her husband. A great announcement comes in verses 3-4. It is not by God but about God; God Himself speaks in verse 5. But this voice has authority, and it is not just good news, it is the *greatest*. > "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people(s), and God himself will be with them as their God." “He Himself, the God, with them, will be!” (αὐτὸς ὁ θεὸς μετʼ αὐτῶν ἔσται) Is there a better hope? God walked in Eden with Adam and Eve, and it was this intimacy that they lost when they sinned. As God chose a people for Himself in the OT He centered His presence in the temple, but “the holy of holies” was only available to one man one day a year. His glory was the *shekinah*, the “tabernacled,” which is related to the Greek word for "dwelling" in verse 3 (σκηνώσει). Then God in Jesus "dwelt among men" (John 1:14, using a different form of the same verb) and *His glory* was displayed. Then the Spirit dwells inside every believer as a guarantee of our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14, see also 21:7). But for all of us now, this is by faith. It is real, but it is not now what it will be in the resurrection. To take our current salvation experience as the meaning of Revelation 21, to say that this new earth is among us and coming among us more every day in the church age, is to *collapse* the promises. His tabernacling among His people on the new earth will be a new experience. So will the description in verse 4. **He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not be any longer neither mourning neither wailing neither pain will be any longer, because the first went away.** A fulfillment of Isaiah: > He will swallow up death forever; > and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears > from all faces, > and the reproach of his people he will > take away from all the earth, > for the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 ESV) Even during the “thousand years” there will be death. There will be less death, with more peace than wars, and lives will be longer. But until the last battle is over and the dead raised to judgment and Death itself cast into the lake of fire, death will be an enemy. Death causes fear. Death is expensive, trying to avoid it even more so. Death brings grief. Even Christians know the pain and suffering related to broken bodies. *Then* there will be work to do, but the threats will be gone. # The Now (verses 5-8) Here is a divine application. While John's vision is of the future, God Himself speaks in a way that encourages and warns us now. It will be unnecessary for those in the resurrection to know these words; they will already be experiencing them. **And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."** This is God's work, and part of His plan. **Also, he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true"** in reference to the first four verses. It's not just that John got distracted by the glories of the vision, it's the attention God wants on this part of the unveiling. **And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."** God is the Lord of history, from A to Z, and in between. Every notch on the timeline is His, including the Great Tribulation and Armageddon and the Millennium and new heaven and earth. Past, present, and future belong to Him. **"To the thirsty I will give from the spring of water of life without payment."** This echoes Isaiah 55:1-2. This is the ache of the soul, the heart's thirst for God like a deer pants for water (Psalm 42:1-2). And God says, Come and drink. Stop slurping dust in broken, empty cisterns (Jeremiah 2:12-13). All this can be yours forever in Him. But it is only in Him, and you must cling to Him. **"The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son."** For the last time in Revelation we see *ὁ νικῶν*, the one victory-ing. To *just conquer* means to hold out for this new earthly glory rather than the first earthly glory. > But the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake, the one burning with fire and sulphur, which is the second death. It's quite a list, and it begins with a contrast between the one overcoming and the one underwhelming, the winning one and the running away one, the conqueror and the cowardly. The coward leads the list, an unusual location for him. This, along with the messages to the churches, warns that even among professing believers there is the possibility of compromise and apostasy. The rest of the vices could be among those in the church, and obviously those outside of it. They are all outside the redeeming work of the Lam. Though they couldn't save themselves by being the opposite, these evil works will be judged and the end of all is the second death, the eternal separation from God. # Conclusion Then will be better than now in *every* way, and also, how we live now matters for then. The kind of people who will be “at home” in the new heaven and new earth, the kind of people who will be “at home” with God dwelling among them, are the people who love fellowship with God now, who believe and rejoice with great joy in Christ *by faith*. We have been made new creations, and we long for Him to make all things new. The Apocalypse has aimed here, all of the Bible has aimed here, our hearts—as believers—are aimed here, not as escape but as “the outcome of our faith” (1 Peter 1:9) and when we know fully, face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12); He will be our God and we will receive our inheritance as His *sons*. > At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get *in*. (Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”) ---------- ## Charge In a future day, in the new heaven and new earth, God will wipe away every tear and sin and death will no longer be the rule. But we, as new creations, are the exceptions for now. Be not cowardly but unafraid, be not faithless but loyal to the Lamb, love your neighbors, let no worldly thing have your highest affection, and tell the truth. This is the way of the ones who conquer. ## Benediction: > May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11–12, ESV)

58: The Day of Judgment

May 16, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 20:11-15 Series: Just Conquer #58 # Introduction We have come to the end of human history on earth as we currently experience it. We are almost at the end of the book of Revelation, and we have just considered the last battle (20:7-10), which turned out to be lopsided to the hilt against the rebels and the devil. We have also come back, after a long journey between chapters 4-20, to a place in the Apocalypse wherein there is a lot of agreement among the various reading approaches to the book. This is John's vision of the final judgement, after which comes the new heaven and the new earth. The final paragraph of chapter 20 does tie up some loose ends from earlier in the chapter. In particular John mentioned that "the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended" (verse 5), in contrast to those who experienced the first resurrection and who would not face the second death. Now we see those dead resurrected, what by implication would be called the second resurrection, and they are those over whom the second death does have power (verse 6). Satan has been judged and cast into the lake of fire, where he joins the antichrist and the false prophet. While the antichrist and the false prophet primarily plied their deceptions and destructions during the Great Tribulation, Satan has been a murderer and liar since the beginning (see John 8:44). The antichrist was just favorite embodiment, but the "seed of the serpent" are all those who have rejected the Ancient of Days and His anointed Son. All of them will be brought before God's throne and sentenced to eternal punishment in the lake of fire. There are two related parts that John sees. # The Consummation (verse 11) This is it. The final reckoning is about to take place as the final moments of the time-space universe as we know it occur. **And I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it.** This is after the thousand years, after the judgment of devil. There is no need for a trial for him or for further evidence to be presented against him; his end had already been decided. Others will come before the throne of judgment, and calling it **great** emphasizes it's majesty and **white** emphasizes it's purity and splendor. It is *God's* throne, and according to Daniel 7:9 it is the Ancient of Days, God the *Father*, seated on the throne. But there are other indications in Scripture that judgment has been given to the *Son* (John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10), and earlier in Revelation the Lamb is “in the midst of the throne” (Revelation 7:17). That the Father and Son (and Spirit) act in unity is not questioned. **From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.** This is quite a statement. It prepares for "a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first hearth had passed away, and the sea was no more" in 21:1. It makes me think of the un-creation scene in _The Last Battle_ when the stars are called home, but of course Lewis’ vision was fictional, and the whole scene is difficult to comprehend. The scriptural language is astounding: “The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment” (Isaiah 51:6). Some non-Pre-Millers question why Christ would rule for a thousand years on earth only undo that earth. But without getting too meta about the physical, it is God's creation to do with what He wants, and location and chronology are tough for our minds to relate with glorified bodies and eternal existence. Jesus Himself said that “heaven and earth will pass away” (Matthew 24:35), and Peter wrote about when “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved” (2 Peter 3:12). We take those descriptions seriously even though our apprehension is currently imperfect. # The Condemnation (verses 12-15) Before getting to the new hotness, the old and unholy must be dealt with. Such a judgment belongs with the nature of God Himself. He is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3) and must “repay each one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). **And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne**. This is the "dead" who came to life after the thousand years. They are resurrected from Hades, from the temporary place of judgment, to face the the Judge, and eternal judgment. *All* are accountable. None are too big to get out, none are too small to be overlooked. The dead are brought from wherever they are, **the sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them.** It is interesting that these three appear to be related: the sea, Death, and Hades. Death and Hades have been mentioned before in Revelation, first when Christ holds their keys (Revelation 1:18), then with Death as the rider on the pale horse and Hades following (Revelation 6:8). They not only contain the dead like the sea, but they will be thrown into the lake of fire. Everything about their descriptions shows them to be personified powers, and the imagery in Scripture points to the pushing of beings rather than *ideas*. The **sea** isn't punished, and seems to be mentioned as a place where other dead bodies would have been lost, and of particular interest for bodies drowned and “buried” at sea. **Books were opened**, **and the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.** These are divine records, the unabridged and unerring biographies of the deeds of men (the opening of “books” is also mentioned in Daniel 7:10 following the Ancient of Days on the throne). While God reveals that He accounted all men unrighteous in Adam, God also reveals that He assigns judgment based on what men *do* (Romans 5:12, 15). Works always reveal what is in our hearts, and the hearts of rebels lead to sins, of some kinds and at varying levels. Verse 13 repeats the same standard, **and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.** Though they are all thrown into the lake of fire, this does not necessitate that all the punishment is the same. All the punishment is awful, yes, so it’s not as if there is a “better” place to be in the lake of fire. But even if all that was different were the consciences of men, the justice of God means that there will be different degrees of punishment “according to what they had done,” even if we don’t know exactly what it looks like (and can appreciate the imaginative effort in Dante’s _Inferno_). There was a distinguished book among the books: **Then another book was opened, which is the book of life.** John has already referenced the **book of life** previously (13:8, 17:8), and it has also been called "the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” written before the foundation of the world." It is not a book of deeds, but a book of names. It appears to be the names of all the redeemed, and therefore the names of all those elected by the Father and given to the Son. While the works of the saved are considered, it is not the works that save. Those in the book of life are not there because of what they did but because of what the Lamb did for them. The second death has no power over them (see again verse 6), and this is because they've been given new and *eternal* life in Christ. They have believed in Him, and so they have not only been raised with Him spiritually but their bodies were raised to reign with Him before the Millennial Kingdom. They will know everlasting joy in the presence of the Lamb in the new heaven and new earth, going further up and further in to glory. Much of chapters 21 and 22 are about this. But the last enemy must be eliminated. **Then, Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.** For those who think that fire is merely symbolic, it does beg the question why the enemies would be resurrected first and then sent to this punishment? **Death and Hades** were mentioned together as two separate riders in Revelation 6. They are presented here as *characters*, perhaps as demonic agents, even though we usually think of Death as a *state of being* and Hades as the intermediate *place* for the dead. It is unusual to say that a concept and a location are throw into the place of final punishment, but perhaps they are **thrown into** the lake as in their purpose is completed. **And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.** # Conclusion We are of a race that expects that judgment. God has “put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). These are the ends: judged according to our works and punished in the torments of the lake of fire forever and ever, or, redeemed by the Lamb's work and brought to worship Him forever and ever. How do you know which group you're in? The requirement is not to determine if you are in the Lamb's book of life, the call is to repent and believe in the Lamb. Only after that do you make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Do you believe in the Lamb? Do you love Him? Do you seek to obey Him because you love Him? Do you desire His return? Death is not our friend. Death has been dealt a death blow (Hebrews 2:14), death cannot have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:55). > He will swallow up death forever; > and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears > from all faces, > and the reproach of his people he will take away > from all the earth, > for the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 ESV) ---------- ## Charge The apostle Peter wrote about when “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved,” and how “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:12-13). There is no mistaking what sort of people we’re to be: holy and godly and hastening the coming day of God (2 Peter 3:11). “Beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Peter 3:14). ## Benediction: > [May you] grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 ESV)

57: The Last Battle

May 9, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 20:7-10 Series: Just Conquer #57 # Introduction One of the greatest, tongue-in-cheek, self-defeating but still quite edifying quotes is from Friedrich Hegel about history: "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history." Applying the observation to itself we would not learn this reality, but it does remind us that we're not good at seeing. As Solomon sagely wrote, that “what has been done is what will be done” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), including the pattern of not noticing patterns. For about six thousand years, that being the approximate length of human history, human beings have been rebelling against God. It started with Eve, and Eve's disobedience is especially archetypal (a recurring motif) because she was deceived by the ancient serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:13, 2 Corinthians 11:3). Once Adam joined her in that sin, all mankind was considered unrighteous and every person is born unto rebellion, that is, with a bent to go his own way. Previous to those bites, Adam and Eve were not carriers of rebel DNA, but now the devil has material to work with. For six millennia there has been enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). We may not want it to be so simple, but there really is only worship and obedience to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ, or there is a "fiendish parodying" with "endless manipulations" and "deceptions" all for the purpose of establishing "the devil's illusions (of) of a social 'reality'" (Joe Boot, _Gospel Culture_, location 535). While this has been true for all time, it will take its ultimate form in the Great Tribulation when the dragon delegates authority to the beast and the nations are deceived. They will put on such a show, but it is destined to end in fire. At the end of Revelation 19 we saw the Second Coming of Christ to defeat the nations in the battle of Armageddon. At the start of Revelation 20 we saw the devil bound for a thousand years and then the reign of Christ on earth with His resurrected saints for a thousand years. During the Messiah's Millennial Kingdom there will be those who experienced the first resurrection and there will be others who have *not* died. I believe many of those non-resurrected humans living in the Kingdom will be Israelites, and I believe that there will be some who are from other nations that were not participants in the battle of 19:17-21 who "come quietly," so to speak, into honoring the One who rules on the throne in Jerusalem. Jesus will govern on earth, Satan will be bound in the pit, and the earth will be full of the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9). But...Revelation 20:7-10 tells us what happens at the end of the thousand years. With a hat tip to C.S. Lewis, we now come to The Last Battle. And the lesson we will learn is that even with a *divine* King ruling in perfect truth and justice, the hearts of men will rebel. If there's one thing we learn from history, it's that men are rebels. There are five parts to this paragraph. # Satan Unbound (verse 7) For the sixth time in seven verses the millennium is referenced. **And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison.** The NASB translates, "when the thousand years are *completed*," a little better nuance than **ended**, because of two things. First, the verb is a form of *teleo*, related not just to something being over, but something being brought to its objective, its telos. Second, we were supposed to be looking for this end due to the last part of verse 3: "until the thousand years were ended (the same form of *teleo*). After that he must be released for a little while." The "must" is a divine must. It could be translated, "it is necessary." But who decides what is necessary? And is there a reason that binding and *then* releasing for a short time is *essential*? God is clearly the one writing the story, and in His plan He purposes that Satan be *removed* from earth so that he cannot be busy with his deceptive work and then be **released from his prison** (another indicator that it is not just restrictions on his power but elimination of his presence) to deceive again, as the next verse states. And the reason appears to be to make the point as starkly and strongly as possible: no matter how much time goes by, not only the devil, but men do not want to submit to God. # Men Deceived (verse 8) Satan will be released, perhaps by the angel or perhaps by God Himself, **and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle.** Upon release he has two purposes, or it may be one mission with the means he knows best, his “spiritual gift.” He comes out *to deceive* the nations and *to gather* for battle, or in stages, he deceives them into gathering. A thousand years has not changed the devil's mind; he is still hell bent on using image-bearers and dragging them with him in rebellion against their Maker. And, a thousand years has not changed the nature of man; he is still susceptible to lies and manipulation and will hope against reality that Jesus can be rejected, again. It is the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 2. > Why do the nations rage > and the peoples plot in vain? > The kings of the earth set themselves, > and the rulers take counsel together, > against the LORD and against his > Anointed, saying, > "Let us burst their bonds apart > and cast away their cords from us." > (Psalm 2:1-3) This is the history of the heart of man. This will be the final hurrah, which turns out to be only is his final humph. **Gog and Magog** are names used in Ezekiel 38-39 to describe the opposition to Israel, and Gog was the king while Magog was the land of Gog (Ezekiel 38:2), (though there was a son of Japeth named Magog (Genesis 10:2)). The context in Revelation 20:8 itself gives the clue that they are not limited to two persons or to a person and a place, but are a way to describe **the nations that are at the four corners of the earth**. This refers to Gentiles, and we'll see in the next verse that they assault Jerusalem. This final showdown was prophesied, as is the final outcome. **Their number is like the sand of the sea**, and though so many men were killed and became bird-food in the battle at the end of chapter 19, that does not mean that every person on earth was in that war. With a thousand years of peace and prosperity around the earth, it should not be surprising that a hoard of human rebels could make up a new army at the end of the millennium. If the battle depended on numbers, it appears that the advantage is to Gog and Magog. # Jerusalem Attacked (verse 9a) The last battle occurs at a different location than the battle at Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). **And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city**. The **beloved city** is Jerusalem. This is the location of the throne of the King of David, and was prophesied as the place where the nations would concentrate their forces. If, as I've pointed out, the Jews have been gathered back to Israel, then they would be **the camp of the saints**. > At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:17) Alternatively, this is a metaphor for persecution of the church: “The church is now and will be the true Israel in the midst of whose camp God’s presence tabernacles” (G.K. Beale). “So after a long period of gospel glory, Satan is permitted one last attack on the object of his malice, which is the Christian church” (Douglas Wilson). For those who recently read Ezekiel in the Bible Reading Challege, you may have noticed that in chapters 36-37 Israel is restored to the land and then a war involving Gog and Magog follows in chapters 38-39. The Pre-Miller understands a literal fulfillment of passages such as Isaiah 62:1-4, especially 4. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet…You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate.” And then the devil deceives men into assaulting the blessed. # Rebels Consumed (verse 9b) At Armageddon the armies were "slain by the sword that came from the mouth" of the Rider on the white horse, from the mouth of Christ (Revelation 19:21). Following that, the birds of prey feasted on the flesh. A different method, but with similar dispatch, defeats the army here. **But fire came down from heaven and consumed them**. No effective resistance at all is mustered, *and*, no effort by the saints is required to put them down. Fire came down when king Ahaziah sent groups of 50 out to Elijah in 2 Kings 1:10-14. If 19:19 and 20:9 are the same battle, as non-Premillennialists must interpret, then these are two ways of talking about the same event, which, to some, is not “an event” anyway, but a picture of regular successful defense by the church. That makes descriptions “such as fire came down from heaven" dramatic, and it makes "consumed" overkill. The Pre-Miller understands one battle before the thousand years and a second battle, this last battle, *after* the thousand years. # Devil Punished (verse 10) Before the thousand years began the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire (19:20). Then third member of the unholy Trinity was bound for the millennium, then released, and now he joins them. **And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.** The description sure makes it sound as if the beast and the false prophet **were** there already, which fits with the progressive nature of the paragraphs. That said, “But all three can be seen as thrown into the fire at the same time” (Beale). I don’t know *how* that conclusion is reasonable, but it is made by some. After this the devil is not mentioned any more in Revelation; the “ultimate bruising of his head (Genesis 3:15)” (Thomas). The final rebellion has been occurred and the only thing remaining in human history is the last judgement, which we'll see in 20:11-15. This is the devil’s destiny. # Conclusion We are beholding the Lord wrongly if we read Revelation and are being transformed into a more fearful people. We should be more like Elijah on Mt. Carmel and less like Elijah running from Jezebel. God loves the rebels out of their rebellion, otherwise rebels will be glad for any opportunity to rebel. The cultural and political implications of this millennial lesson are significant and relevant. When Jesus reigns on earth, when perfect justice is done, when great earthly blessings are given, and resurrected saints are knowable and visible, it will still only be the elect who *love* to submit and serve Christ. Others may enjoy the greatest period of common grace on earth, they will be its beneficiaries, but a growing resentment in some will be a sufficient target for the unbound devil to deceive them into attacking Christ. This does *not* mean that Christians should keep Christ out of the public sphere. It means that we must trust Christ to make us fruitful as we acknowledge His name and call others to do the same. But if He does not call men to Himself, they will come to resent Christ and those who bear His name. That is true now and will be during the millennium, because if there's one thing we learn from history, it's that the heart of man is easily deceived into defiance against God. ---------- ## Charge Honor your father and your *mother*; such is a commandment with promise. Resist the devil, and he will be frustrated. Ask God to enlarge your heart so that you may run in His ways. ## Benediction: > Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, ESV)

56: Not About Bunkers

May 2, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 20:1-6 Series: Just Conquer #56 # Introduction Many years ago at a Shepherds' Conference I heard John MacArthur describe the work of John Calvin in a way that planted a mental seed which still bears fruit every week as I study the Bible. John Calvin wrote his _Institutes of the Christian Religion_ fairly early in his life (27 years old). He continued to revise it, editing and adding, for the next two decades until his death. His work explained the theology that the Reformers believed, and were willing to die for. By the time Calvin's earthly ministry was finished, he had also published verse-by-verse commentaries for almost every book of the Bible. MacArthur commented something to the effect that Calvin dragged his theology through text after text of Scripture which sharpened his theology and kept it driven by the Word. At a different level, we all have some sort of "theology" when we come to read whatever book we pick up, including the Bible. With the Bible, though, we want to constantly, intentionally, submit ourselves to it. We don't need to claim that we come without any assumptions, but we must be willing to have our assumptions challenged, if not rebuked and corrected, depending on what we read. It is a process, and that's *good*. God's revelation was progressive, so is our understanding of it. One reason I wanted to preach through the Apocalypse is because I wanted to drag my own notions of eschatology through every seal, trumpet, and bowl. It's true, I also wanted to drag you all (and your theological assumptions) along together. Being honest with our assumptions is tough, and it is even tougher to willingly barrage those assumptions with questions to see what still stands. Preaching through Revelation has been the most difficult series for me, not necessarily because of the apostle John's visions, but because of trying to consider some of the interpretations of those visions by those with a different approach. This can be done charitably, not building figurative bunkers about eschatology. Some of my closest friends are *wrong*. It's also been difficult because eschatology seems to be one of the most dualistic doctrines by default. What I mean is, the way I've heard Revelation talked about is more for bunker-builders than bold conquerors. If the world is going to hell in a handbasket, as is often talked about, then we should hunker down until the rapture. But I wanted to drag my Kuyperianism through these chapters to see what would come out. As we like to say, we are Reformed and still reading Revelation (ha!). No, we’re “Reformed and still reforming,” which includes reading the verses in Revelation for themselves, which promise blessing (Revelation 1:3), rather than assuming what they *can't* mean because of our "theology." Also, for what it’s worth, John Calvin never wrote a commentary on Revelation. Who knows what might have happened if it had been otherwise. We've looked at the first two paragraphs in Revelation 20, paragraphs that repeatedly refer to the “thousand years.” Satan is bound for a thousand years (verses 1-3), some group of people are resurrected and are said to reign for a thousand years (verses 4-6). After the thousand years, Satan is released for a little while and then is finally defeated (verses 7-10). I have mentioned some of the categories, but have tried to drag us through the verses first. If the eschatology of Revelation were a vision chart, and Jesus is the big “E” on the top line, we have some among us who’ve never looked closely at any of the lines below, and others who are arguing over the fine print of copyright information. And great. Today I want to get a higher perspective with some of the theological categories, show how they are understood to fit in Revelation (and a “thousand” millennial misunderstandings, which shows that I realize a “thousand” can be figurative), and then finish with some of my pastoral burden for why it matters. # The Millers Perhaps you've heard this before, I don’t know who first said it, that the Millennial Kingdom is 1,000 years of peace that Christians like to fight about. The millennium refers to a thousand. I don't have exact figures, but whole denominations defend that a thousand means a thousand and other denominations say that thinking that a thousand means a thousand is indefensible. At the beginning of our study in Revelation I gave four approaches to the book: Preterist, Historicist, Idealist, and Futurist. These do not directly map onto the three main explanations of the millennium, but they are often related close. *Usually* the Historicist and the Idealist think 1,000 is symbolic, and the Preterist *must* think it's symbolic since we're *in* the millennium now. I don't know if there is any benefit to being a Futurist who isn't Premillennial, but, for example, Abraham Kuyper is a Futurist A-millennialist. What’s different about each of these *millers*? Is it okay to be *any* one of them? A **Postmillennialist** *typically* believes that the thousand years is symbolic of a long time, perhaps thousands of years. For example, Doug Wilson, who is probably the most well-known Postmillennialst in our group, teaches that the "thousand years" is the time between Christ's first coming and His second coming. When considering Revelation 20, the dragon is bound *now*, and Christ’s second coming is *post*/after the thousand years. The “first resurrection” is spiritual life, and the reigning with Christ includes political and cultural gospel-progress and success. Some Postmillennials think that a "golden age" of the kingdom, where the gospel has more widespread acceptance, is still to come, and they call that time the millennium. But it's still not a 999+1 years, and it still happens before Christ returns. There are good things for the Post-Millers, especially in their emphasis on the power of the gospel and the Lordship of Christ over all things, along with obeying Christ as Lord with a generational mindset. An **Amillennialist** *typically* believes that the thousand years is symbolic of a long time, and is currently in effect as well, both with great blessings and great trials. (Kuyper is odd, believing that the "thousand" is still future, but that it may only be a few days.) The emphasis for an Amillennial is that Christ is *currently* reigning (with all authority, Matthew 28:18), seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 8:1; 12:2), and that both gospel fruit and wicked rebellion will increase until some point in the future when God ushers in the eternal kingdom. There will be no “thousand years” before the new heavens and the new earth. All those who have died in Christ are reigning with Christ, we who are still alive on earth and those who have died with Him in the heavenly places. There are good things from the A-Millers, especially in their emphasis on the authority of Christ and the need for faithfulness to Christ amidst suffering. A **Premillennialist** *typically* thinks that the thousand years is *not a figure* for a long time, but that "thousand" is the shorter way to say ten centuries or one-hundred decades. A Pre-Miller understands the Rider on the white horse to come and defeat the kings of earth and then establish His reign on earth. They take chapters 19 and 20 consecutively, battle on earth then kingdom on earth then a final battle on earth then the new heavens and new earth. At the beginning of this thousand years, believers will be resurrected with their glorified bodies and will participate in the reign *on earth*. There are (at least) two subsets of Premillennialism: Historic and Dispensational. **Historic Premillennialism** holds that the thousand years is future, not symbolic, and that the focus of Christ's reign will be the *church*. Most likely the church will go through the Tribulation, and then the church will be the primary vehicle or institution through which Christ reigns during the millennium. Many of the early church fathers were Premillennialists of this type, including Augustine, until he turned toward Amillennialism and the church followed him in that for a thousand (and more) years. **Dispensational Premillennialism** holds that the thousand years is future, not symbolic, and that the focus of Christ's reign with be the *nation of Israel*. Most Dispensationalists think that the church will be raptured before the Tribulation (note that there is no talk about "church" after Revelation 3, though there are Mid-Trib and Post-Tribers, too), and then "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25) and Jesus will reign from the throne of David in the city of David, Jerusalem. # Every Miller Can’t Be Right Both Post-Millers and A-Millers share a symbolic take on the "thousand years,” which is because both Post-Millers and A-Millers share a (mostly) symbolic take on the book of Revelation. Both Post-Millers and A-Millers think that Revelation repeats, or "recapitulates," such that, for example, the battle in 19:17-21 and the battle in 20:7-10 are the *same*, that the battle is *spiritual*, and that the millennium is in between (20:1-6) only as a *vision*, not as an actual kingdom. Pre-Millers get defensive about overly-sprititualized interpretations (arguing that a "thousand years" is plain), about non-sequential reading of the book (i.e., battle, binding, resurrections and reigning, battle). As a Dispy Pre-Miller, I believe that it takes less gymnastics to accept it in the order it's presented and with the more "surface" or “natural” reading, even while acknowledging a high amount of figurative language in John’s visions. And while we all believe that God is faithful to His promises, a Dispy Pre-Miller is distinguished from all of the other categories in terms of God’s love and plan for the nation of Israel. # A Thousand Ironies I also believe in a double-irony (not a literal thousand). The first irony is that a Dispy takes "covenant" more consistently than most capital-C Covenantalists. The second irony is that most Dispies live inconsistently with their own theological consistency. As for a more consistent hold on the covenant, Dispies maintain that when God said "all Israel will be saved" that God meant Israel, the nation, not a redefined group (see especially Jeremiah 31:31-40). I keep reading about "replacement" theology, where the church replaces Israel. Some want to call it "fulfillment" theology rather than replacement, so they say that the church is the fulfillment of the promises. Others reject the label "replacement" because they say that Old Testament Israel *was* the church in an earlier stage of God’s redemptive plan, so it's the same thing, so the New Testament church can't “replace” it. But a Dispy says that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for the *Jew first*, that God's promises to the nation of Israel that were unconditional and that are unfulfilled must be fulfilled otherwise God's faithfulness is in question (which is the reason for Romans 9-11). He promised Israel new hearts, land, a rebuilt city, He promised them blessing. He promised them the Messiah in flesh, and the throne will be in Jerusalem. A number of the visions in Revelation fit with the fulfillment of promises to the *nation*. The 144k are from the tribes of Israel (7:1-8), distinguished from the “great number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9). The two witnesses are in Jerusalem (11:1-13). There are some of the "woman," who is identified as Israel, who are spared from the pursuit of Satan (12:1-6, 13-17). The final battle (20:7-8) is outside of Jerusalem. The fulfillment of God’s “new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31) is upheld and exalted by Dispies. Dispies have failed badly, however, and ironically, to be Kuyperian. To the degree that Augustine turned to Amillennialism in the 5th century he also promoted dualism. He blamed his move on bad-apple Pre-Millers. Eusebius and Augustine were repulsed by visions of gratuitous, gluttonous behavior in the thousand years kingdom as apparently taught by some. But why would glorified, let alone sanctified believers, abuse the good gifts? The Israelites were not too spiritual for Deuteronomic blessings. The kingdom conquerors in Hebrews 11:33 didn't wish they had been the ones sawn in two, as Hebrews 11:37. Dispy Pre-Millers have built too many eschatological bunkers, and read our rapture novels. We have been dualists, watching for the figurative rapture helicopter out of the figurative Vietnam of tribulation. We have the principle that God will show His faithfulness through spiritual and material blessings on earth in history, but we often do not live in practice consistently with our principle. Ironically, the Pre-Millers, who are supposed to not love symbols and spiritualization, have defined themselves out of any material and physical blessings, while still expecting it, reserving it, for Israel. The Post-Millers have taken physical and left out Israel. The A-Millers leave out Israel and physical. # Conclusion Just as Arminians must reckon with words such as “elect” in the Word, so Christ’s reign is called a “thousand years” no matter how we try to define it. The millennial categories provide alternatives for how to understand the “thousand.” As for consistent Dispy Pre-Millers, we share the optimism of the power of the gospel with the Post-Millers, we share the concern over the increase of evil on earth with the A-Millers. And a future kingdom of saints reigning with Jesus does not eliminate current responsibilities of the saints for Jesus. A Kuyperian Dispensationalist *magnifies* his ministry in order to make the Jews jealous (like Paul described in Romans 11:11, 13-14) with the result that they would turn to Christ. Here is the place and now is the time for us to glorify the Lamb as He blesses us in our succeeding and in our suffering, and we trust that God has ordained to use us in part to turn Israel to her Messiah for when He returns to reign on earth. ---------- ## Charge By His grace you have turned to the sun and the Son, you have considered your jealous-making ministry in the story of human history on earth, you have been made fat in faith. What grace He has given, and now He promises His powerful grace as you go. ## Benediction: > May [you] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. > Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:18-21, ESV)

55: King Over All the Earth

April 25, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 20:4-6 Series: Just Conquer #55 # Introduction The study of the end times is not just a study of prophecies but of *promises*. The result of such study is not just (hopefully) a more detailed accuracy about what is going to happen but a *deepened hope* in what God is going to cause to happen. He is a God of promises, a God of hope, and He is always faithful to His Word. From the beginning of our study in the book of Revelation I have maintained that the major "problem" with Revelation, if it really should be called a problem, is that all the things John saw and wrote about have not happened exactly the way that John saw and wrote about. All of the approaches to the Apocalypse wrestle with this fact and propose different ways of handling it. But this is a larger problem than the descriptions and promises found in the last book of the Bible. There were many promises in the Old Testament that were fulfilled when Christ came, but not all of them. Jesus Himself taught about some things that have not happened yet, and this is a *feature* not a bug in the Bible. In this dispensation we live by *faith* not by sight. However much God's Word provides understanding, the point is that we should believe whatever God says. Learn the lessons He teaches, including the lesson of leaning on Him and not our own understanding. He is faithful. God has given a lot of revelation about His reign on earth. He is sovereign by nature, cannot be anything but sovereign, and this is more certain than a triangle having three sides. God rules, has ruled, and will rule. Before He ascended Jesus said that all authority had been given to Him by the Father (Matthew 28:18), and He sits at the Father's right hand (Hebrews 12:2). This God who rules is the God who reveals the His rule will be embodied on earth, and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). God *promised* such a kingdom to Abram (Genesis 17:1-8), that would come through Judah (Genesis 49:8-10), as a son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). There would be a King to rule over all the earth from His throne in Jerusalem. This has not happened yet. That reality has been variously explained, and there are two broad categories of explanation. It *is* happening, but in a spiritual sense, or it *will* happen more than in this spiritual sense. If we are going to give ourselves to serve this God, if we are going to follow the commands of Christ, if we are not going to be ashamed of Him and His words, if we are going to refuse compromise with the world, if we are going to suffer as those who believe in Him without seeing Him, we ought to give full attention to what He says about what He's going to do. It is not an overstatement to call His promises an issue of life or death. Last Lord's Day we considered John's vision about the binding of the devil for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). While it is supernatural, it is not fanciful or fictional. The purpose and duration of Satan's time in the pit relates to this next paragraph (20:4-6) which views the thousand years without the devil’s deceiving work among the nations. There are significant interpretive questions about these three verses. There is significant disagreement, with downstream implications, about the interpretation of these verses. Let's reread them and see what promises there are to be celebrated. > Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for 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 is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6) Three times the phrase **for a thousand years** qualifies the duration. It was used twice in the previous paragraph for the binding-time of Satan, it will be used once more in verse 7 as a summary marker, "when the thousand years are ended." As I said last week, this is the Millennium (from the Latin word *mille* meaning “thousand”). The reason why we refer to the Millennial *Kingdom* is because two of the three uses of **for a thousand years** in verses 4-6 speak about *reigning with Christ*, the Messiah, the Anointed King. This is a period of Christ's reign, and of some group with Him. It is tempting to leave the paragraph and bring in other theological categories, or even other Scripture passages, both of which are worthwhile in their place, but neither of which are required just yet. Let's look at the text in front of us first. Along with the reigning Christ, who else do we meet here? An angel and Satan, as affecting the nations, were the main characters in the previous section. Here John sees 1) those seated on thrones, 2) those who share the first resurrection, and 3) those who are resurrected but *not* in the first resurrection. *Both* of the first two groups have authority to judge and reign with Christ and cannot be affected by the second death, the last group is resurrected for sake of the second death. Two related questions arise. What type of resurrections are these? And where is the judging and reigning (by the resurrected) taking place? We can work from what we know. The **second death** is eternal death, which means that the *first* death, not explicitly referenced here, but by implication, is *physical* death. Anyone whose name is not found in the book of life experiences the second death (20:15), but before that, the (physically) dead are "raised" and brought before the "great white throne" (20:11). This raising is what verse 5 describes: **the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended**. So *everyone* is raised physically, those who are part of the group called **the rest** are raised to face the second death. What is the **first resurrection**? The ones who experience the first resurrection *were* **souls** who **came to life**. They are those who *cannot* be affected by the second death, and they come to life at a different time than **the rest** who are affected by the second death. They are also the ones who reign with Christ for a thousand years. Every clue in the passage itself points to a *physical resurrection* and therefore a *physical reign*. This is the promise for those who would not submit themselves to the beast while living on earth. This is the promise for those who actually were willing to give up their physical lives. The promise is not simply that their faithfulness on earth, which caused them their life on earth to end, would result in their reward of reigning with Christ in heaven. This is not merely a spiritualized reward. It is a common interpretation to say that the first resurrection refers to Christian regeneration, that is, to *spiritual* resurrection (Augustine seems to have been the first to promote this view). As we'll see in a moment, what that allows is for a *spiritual* reigning as well as making the thousand years a symbolic reference. But not only does this make the vision about two different kinds of resurrections, the first spiritual and the second physical, it makes the promise for living without compromise a promise of *salvation*. Yet it is those who are saved, as in, already spiritually resurrected in Christ, who resist the beast. The first resurrection occurs *after* the beheadings/martyrdom, so if the first resurrection is spiritual, then the martyrdom results in spiritual life. In other words, they died for Christ before becoming spiritually alive. That misses the entire point of this promise. When **the souls...came to life**, these are already spiritually saved souls who get their new physical bodies. Which also means that when they **came to life and reigned with Christ**, this reigning must be more than spiritual as well. If the thousand years is happening *now*, between Christ's comings (as Douglas Wilson and many others maintain) then the reigning *must* be spiritual. That perspective creates more problems. John saw **thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed**. We are not told the explicit identity of the ones sitting on these thrones, but the movement of this part of the end times points to their authority being *on earth* (contra Wilson). Christ defeated His enemies on earth (19:17-21), Satan is bound away from the earth (21:1-3), so why would the thousand years of reigning, as opposed to the reign of the beast, not also be on earth? Whereas John had previously seen elders sitting on thrones in heaven (4:4), these thrones represent authority *on earth*. Because the ones on the thrones are distinguished from the ones who had been **beheaded for the testimony of Jesus...who had not worshipped the beast or its image**, we have reason to think that the ones with authority are the same group as those who were in the army of the Rider on the white horse (19:14). Based on promises given earlier in the book of Revelation, these are the saints who lived and died before the tribulation, and the **beheaded** were those who lived and died during the tribulation. > The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21) It is not only the martyrs, both groups are *blessed*. **Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection**. They receive their resurrected bodies and are certain not to succumb to the power of the second death, and **they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.** Such a reign of Christ on earth with His resurrected saints fulfills prophecy after prophecy (see for example Exodus 19:6,; Isaiah 61:6; Zechariah 14:9), beginning in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament. While it has always been true that God is King over all the earth, God established a covenant with David that David's son would sit on a throne in Jerusalem and rule the nations (2 Samuel 7:16). So many Psalms anticipate not just the recognition of the Anointed one's spiritual worth and spiritual authority, but of the Anointed one's coming and defeat of enemies and blessing of His people. > Rise up, O judge of the earth. Understand O stupid people! (Psalm 94:2, 8) But not everyone agrees with this. > The mention of the saints’ resurrection in 20:4–5 probably is a reference to their share in Christ’s own resurrection, which gives them power to rule spiritually over the devil. (Beale) > Having entered into glory, they continued to live on, and they participated in the reign of Christ over all the nations of men. (Wilson) > Rushdoony takes the view of many amillennialists that the first resurrection is a figurative way of referring to the regeneration of the believer, whereas Benjamin B. Warfield held the view, also found among some amillennialists, that the first resurrection is the entrance into heavenly joys and that these verses present a picture of the souls of the redeemed safe in heaven. (_4 Views_) Such interpretations just don’t fit. I cannot comprehend what Abraham Kuyper thinks would be so boring about such a future kingdom. Due to what's seen in verses 7-10, when Satan is released for a short time and we find that some are on earth who are still capable of being deceived into rejecting the good reign of King Jesus, there is plenty of plot to work with. If we're going to play that game, how many Christians have been bored thinking about their eternal rest, strumming harps on the sidewalks next to streets of gold? It's possible to make anything "uninteresting" if we try, but God's plan, and *the fulfillment of His promises* down to the jot and tittle, is definitely not going to upset us. # Conclusion We are not *in* this kingdom, we are before it, and Christ will come before it, which is what it means to be a Premillennialist. The judging and reigning is *not ecclesiastical* or spiritual but civil and historical, just as the war was at the end of chapter 19 was on earth, and even as the dragon could no longer deceive the nations. I plan to preach a part two of this paragraph next week, with a brief breakdown of the attempts to square it with eschatology perspectives. I mean, I haven't even shown one chart yet. We are still praying as the Lord taught us, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). And God has promised: The LORD will come and all the holy ones with Him (Zechariah 14:5), > And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9) ---------- ## Charge We make promises because God makes promises. We keep promises because God keeps promises. We imitate Him by giving our word and we imitate Him by following through on our word. But this is not only parallel behavior, as in a mirror. His faithfulness doesn't just show us how, His faithfulness *blesses* our how. His promises don't just give us ideas, His promises and His faithfulness and His joy make us strong. ## Benediction: > Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23–25, ESV)

54: In a Real Bind

April 18, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 20:1-3 Series: Just Conquer #54 # Introduction Of the reasons that I chose to preach through the book of Revelation, a fair summary would be that I thought it would be good for us. It's not that I have end-times fever. There was a decent amount of eschatology talk among us *before* 2020, and it's easy to see how numerous events, and some of the commentary on those events, have promoted heightened apocalyptic awareness. I thought Revelation would be good before all of that. I thought it would be good because many Christians disagree about the end-times within orthodoxy, among denominations, and even within our relatively small flock. That is *fine* because it is good practice to lock arms with some with whom we may lock heads. The way we learn to get along is not by ignoring all the tricky or difficult or personal subjects. This mindset is out of step the society around us, which makes it unique and important, even if not easy. Another reason it's good practice is to read the book of Revelation itself. It is possible to have very strong convictions based on very little details like those "without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions" (1 Timothy 1:7). Evolution is a great story, until you have to answer all the questions. COVID-19 has a higher survival rate than the COVID vaccine promises, and the prevalence of masks means that our culture has a high immunity from paying attention. My point is that it's easy to get uptight about eschatology without wrestling with the inspired prophecy. Maybe we can't answer every question, but we ought to try our best. We also want to practice not being embarrassed. Revelation is revelation for our blessing and for our *boldness*. It is written that we might see the parody and envy of the false trinity, that we might recognize the tactics of deceit that are already at work today, let alone that will dominate in the Great Tribulation, and that we might *love* the Lamb and spend our lives for Him, even if it costs us our temporal comfort. The book of Revelation corroborates from beginning to end that we have no need to be embarrassed about holding fast to Christ, to the Word of God, and to all that He has told us. His first coming scandalized the expectations of many, it won't be surprising if the details about His second coming do likewise. So I'm about to get us to look together at the Millennium. Of the 22 chapters in the Apocalypse, chapter 20 may provoke the most emotions (though the 666 and mark of the beast are particular attractions). There are camps based on the Millennium, and you should have an idea about them, not because this is a seminary class, but because we should all want the profit from this part of God's inspired word, equipping us for every good work in *our part* of God's story. It's okay that people have questions, and there will be more questions about the Millennium answered in the upcoming paragraphs. Also some of the difficulty comes from a failure of asking enough questions or being satisfied to easily with a "sense" or a system rather than what can be seen. Let's read verses 1-3, observe what is written, then see if we can interpret what sort of bind the dragon gets into and what the thousand years means. > Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. (Revelation 20:1–3) Verse one introduces the prophet's vision, **And I saw**, that introduces us to the first main character, another **angel**. Though we are not told his name, the descriptions of where he came from, what he carries, followed by his conduct in verses 2-3, show him to be a supernatural individual. He's not a human messenger, and nothing suggests that he represents a human or a collective group (especially of humans). He is **coming down from heaven**. Scenes have shifted between earth and heaven in Revelation. We are getting another act on earth, even as the flesh on earth was eaten by the birds in the previous paragraph (19:17-21). The angel is holding two things: a **key** and a **chain**. The key opens and closes the “abyss” (NASB), the **bottomless pit**, from which demons came out in Revelation 9:1. The chain is used in the next verse. The second character is re-introduced in verse 2, with all the names and descriptions used for him previously in the book: **the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan**. The **dragon** is his most frequent title in Revelation (Thomas), a devouring creature, having lost a war in heaven to Michael and been thrown down to earth (Revelation 12:7-8). The **ancient serpent** identifies him as the creature as far back as Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden, also the one who has tried to sweep away the Messianic people (Revelation 12:15). The **devil** is the accuser (Revelation 12:10), and **Satan** is his name. Jesus was tempted by the devil; God's people have been hunted by the devil (Revelation 12:15). The devil is “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), and he gives his delegated power to the beast in order to deceive the nations (Revelation 13:2). He is also a supernatural individual, connected to lies and sinful rebellion, not merely a figure of an evil force. He is the ultimate face of evil, and he does not easily give up. There are five things the angel does to the devil: 1) seized, 2) bound, 3) threw, 4) shut, and 5) sealed. A couple things come together here that need to be considered. Is this binding a symbol? If yes, a symbol of what? If Satan is not a symbol, then why would his being bound be a symbol? The objection is that angels are spiritual beings, including Satan, so some interpreters say that clearly an actual **chain** wouldn't be effective; chain must not refer to a chain. And likewise, pit can't be a place that contains spiritual beings, and there would be no door to shut and a seal would be useless. As for the binding, does the angel *limit* the dragon's influence, or *eliminate* the dragon's influence? Some interpreters think Satan is like a dog on a long chain, even if the chain is metaphorical. But seized, bound, threw, shut, and sealed are too graphic and emphatic to apply to today or even to be satisfied as putting a damper on his deceiving. The location is different than earth, the locking keeps him away from the nations on earth; shut de door on the devil. “The text does not say that Satan will deceive the nations *less* than he did in the past—it says that he will deceive the nations *no longer*” (Waymeyer). This is a real bind, as in, the dragon seems to be in a real bind, and the descriptions put the interpreter who takes it all as symbols in a real bind. Look at the purpose of the binding and im-pit-ting: **so that he might not deceive the nations any longer**. Deceiving the nations has been part of Satan's work through the beast and false prophet since he was thrown down from heaven (chapter 12:9). That deception has taken a variety of forms, and had varying levels of success. But those who read the binding as limiting, rather than eliminating, either think that we are currently enjoying this reality (most amillennialists) or that this will be a gradually recognized state on earth as the gospel spreads with success (postmillennialists). Here’s a postmillennial example: > “The devil was the spiritual being that gave the beast its great power. So when he was bound, this meant that he would not be able to prevent the successful evangelization of the Empire, which in fact he was unable to prevent.” (Douglas Wilson. _When the Man Comes Around_) While there is no doubt that the world was changed in radical ways when Jesus took on flesh, and when He dies and rose from the grave, Easter was not the angel’s chaining of the dragon. The apostles continued to acknowledge Satan's authority and work on earth post-Jesus' resurrection (Satan is “the god of this world” 2 Corinthians 4:4; “the prince of the power of the air” Ephesians 2:2, “the evil one” with “flaming darts” Ephesians 6:16, and more). How can Satan be bound and in the pit now, and prowling about like a lion seeking prey (1 Peter 5:8)? Is it simply that he can't deceive "the nations"? Are we supposed to think that he can't deceive governments but he can deceive persons? That would give us a new way of presenting the gospel and a new word: an angel-who is Jesus-chained up Satan so that Congress won't believe lies, though, of course, *you* still might. The end of verse 3 adds a limit to the binding: **After that he must be released for a little while**. To do what? If he’s merely restricted, we’re supposed to believe that **released** is merely a dramatic word for less restricted. We find out in verse 7-8 that he is released to deceive the nations again. The dragon’s time in the pit didn’t diminish his wrath. It's more interesting to think about *why* this is *necessary* (that **he *must* be released**), but before that theological question, we're supposed to think that the first coming of Jesus changed the devil's deceptive global influence and also that this happened chronologically before all the problems of chapters 6-19 (since they all happened post-resurrection)? The kings had just gathered to make war against the Rider. They had been deceived into it, so chapter 16:13-16. How did that happen, though, since chapter 20 says Satan *couldn't* do that very thing? Or, the alternative is that this binding by an angel Satan hasn't happened yet. We are still anticipating it. Which gets us to a phrase used six times in the chapter. It is a piece of eschatology that's only found in Revelation 20, at least in these specific terms: **the thousand years**. - bound (the dragon) for a thousand years (verse 2) - until the thousand years were ended (verse 3) - reigned with Christ for a thousand years (verse 4) - until the thousand years were ended (verse 5) - reign with him for a thousand years (verse 6) - when the thousand years were ended (verse 7) The Latin word for *thousand* is * mille* (the VLG has *per annos mille*). The Greek word is χίλια (*chilia*), which gave rise to the pejorative term Chialists. The meaning of the 1,000 years is where Premillennial, Postmillennial, and Amillennial (or “inaugurated millennialism” Beale) come from. There are sub categories and nuances within each, but broadly, a Premillennialist believes that Christ returns in the final parts described in chapter 19 and reigns for a thousand years on earth. A Postmillennialist thinks that the return and reign of Christ happens after the millennium, which probably just means a long time. An amillennialist understands the time between the first coming and the second coming as the millennium, no matter how many calendar years it ends up being. Here is an amillennialist explanation: > “the descending angel in 20:1 introduces a vision in vv 1–6 going back before the time of the final judgment in history, which was just narrated in 19:11–21. The time span of the vision will be seen to extend from Christ’s resurrection until his final parousia.” (Beale) Christ restrained Satan at His resurrection and is reigning *now* in heaven in the spiritual realm and the saints with Him, and to a lesser extent through Christians in the church on earth. The binding of Satan is a reduction on his work, but not a removal of his presence, because evil increases alongside the spread of the gospel. Usually Post- and A- have a symbolic reading of 1,000 and the Pre- usually understand it as measurable by the almanac. If it is symbolic, **the thousand years** could actually mean *thousands* of years (as Beale), or it could mean a few days (Kuyper, see his quote below). We will need to deal with the millennial implications of resurrection and reigning as well as location of that reign in the next paragraph (verses 4-6). But for now, consider, is every number in Revelation literally useless, as in, no use for the cardinal number? Many (beloved) interpreters point to Psalm 90:4 (and 2 Peter 3:8) to show that a thousand years is figurative. > For a thousand years in your sight > are but as yesterday when it is past, > or as a watch in the night. > (Psalm 90:4) But that observation about God's eternal nature is impressive *because* the 1,000 years is a knowable, countable time. It takes over 14 lifetimes to get that far (unless you lived before the flood like Methuselah). To God's existence it is a drop in the bucket. That is not the same thing as saying that God doesn't count. Numeric prophecies about sojourning in Egypt, exile in Babylon, were true in years. Specific details about the first coming of Jesus were demonstrable (even if confusing to the first ones who heard), why not His next coming? What is absurd about an actual millennial binding of Satan and ruling of Jesus? --- Before I finish for today, I thought I would take opportunity to point out that two of the men who God has used most to help me understand the world are decidedly opposed to what I’ve said already about what will happen in the world. I’ve already given one alternative provided by Doug Wilson, here’s another: > “I take the one thousand years of Satan’s binding to be a symbolic representation of the Church age, from the time of Pentecost to the Second Coming. The one thousand years represents the fullness and completeness of Christ’s reign, not a literal one thousand times around the sun.” (Douglas Wilson) Abraham Kuyper has nothing good to say about Chialists, even though he is a futurist amillennialist, as in, he thinks most of Revelation is yet to happen, just not like it says. In his commentary on Revelation Kuyper writes that Chialists offer an “untenable representation,” that is, an impossible to hold or defend position. He claims the only way to interpret 1,000 as ten centuries is to “set aside” the context or treat the rest of Revelation “as though it had not been written.” There is “literally nothing (that) would have happened and nothing would have been accomplished to justify this uncommonly long delay.” It makes it a “futile interval,” and “ten centuries of long, if uninteresting history.” Kuyper was not merely an amillennialist, he was a committed *anti-Chialist*. > “We can not reckon here with years, yet, if for one moment we might indulge in a play of imagination, we might readily picture to ourselves that the binding and incarceration of Satan were to last but a few days….Thousand then merely means that there is no more reckoning with human data.” (Kuyper) This is all good, though, because we can talk about it to recognize different positions, including those that are *very* critical of our own. We can talk about it and recognize that we don't have to agree with someone on everything to be blessed by them. We can talk about it because **Satan is our enemy** and accuser and deceiver, not brothers in Christ who love Christ and the glory of Christ and the Lordship of Christ who claims sovereignty over every thumb's width in the domain of human existence. # Conclusion At the start of Revelation 20 we see *Who*: an angel and the dragon. *What*: binding and sealing in the abyss. *Where*: from earth to the pit. *When*: a thousand years. *Why*: no deceit among the nations. Is Satan bound now? If he is, then we could be in the millennium, and both Post-mills and A-mills typically understand it that way. I believe that puts them in a real bind, because if it’s all symbol, then (among other problems) it’s hard to say why Christ and resurrection aren’t also a symbols. Again, there is more about the Millennial Kingdom in verses 4-6, and we'll keep trying to answer what a thousand years looks like in Jesus' sight. ---------- ## Charge If the devil works to deceive, our response needs not just to be to find the truth, it needs to be to *believe*. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16). Resist deception not primarily with cynicism, or skepticism, but with *faith* in the greater Lion (Revelation 5:5). Trust Him, trust His Word, and He will establish you. ## Benediction: > Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8–11, ESV)

53: Dashed to Pieces

April 11, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 19:17-21 Series: Just Conquer #53 # Introduction Is living by faith the easiest thing to do, or the most difficult? We are saved by faith *alone*; salvation is *God’s* work that we receive. The Father chose a people to save, the Son made the sacrifice to purchase salvation, and the Spirit regenerates and then works and wills that salvation in us. The believer's identity is just that: a *believer*. We are "the ones believing." Believing certainly seems easier than paying off our debt to God, especially since His economy of forgiveness runs on blood. The only currency, so to speak, that covers the long list of our lawbreaking is blood, and we don't have enough. We've all rebelled against Him in sin, and there's no only-human way to fix it. He doesn't accept dollars or good deeds or pilgrimages. Faith in Christ, receiving the gospel of His righteous sacrifice, is the only way of salvation. But this is only "easier" in the way that hanging onto the wing of an airplane at 30,000 feet is "easier" than flapping your arms to fly at the same height. Another angle on this is to say that living by faith is still quite a ride. This ride looks ridiculous, unsafe, and unnecessary to many on the ground. They might say that clinging so desperately onto Christ makes us fools. And, look at all the other people standing around down here, safe by all appearances, and having a much easier time. But, ironically, if they had the eyes of faith that would save them, then they would be able to see some of what they needing to be saved from. But they don't believe, so they can't see, and in spiritual darkness they will play around acting as if they don’t need God. Many of them will even get up the gumption to get irritated at the name of Christ. They will mock and shoot at those hanging onto Christ, and at some point in the future a group of those self-identifying as Team AllThat will gather against Christ in an attempt to dethrone Him. Any believers living in this time of tribulation will have their faith tested, many of the faithful will be criticized and cut off and some will be killed. The power of the beast will appear to be victorious. It will look as if nothing can overcome him, even with the appearance that he overcame death, having a mortal wound that was healed (Revelation 13:12). So many will follow the Antichrist rather than put their faith in Word of God. I understand that the word *faith* is not in Revelation 19:17-21, neither is the word *believe*. But this Revelation is *for* us who believe. This is the prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ, and it will be a ride for those with Him. # The Banquet (verses 17-18) The Rider on the white horse and His army were seen in heaven (Revelation 19:11), now John writes that **I saw an angel standing in the sun**, or maybe “before” the sun. This location might emphasize his authority, he can handle the heat of sol, or his visibility, the greatest backlight of all time (even if not quite what we might think like the Bat-signal). This angel is another herald angel, announcing the second supper in the chapter, but with a completely different set of guests and menu. **With a loud voice (the angel) called to all the birds that fly directly overhead.** Though the Greek word is a word for birds in general, the description of the birds as **overhead** birds along with the purpose for their coming suggests that these are more like vultures, birds of prey that feed on decaying flesh. In fact, flesh is the key word in this summons. > “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” (verses 17b-18) In chapter 19 there are two meal invitations from the Lord. In verse 9 an angel revealed the blessed status of those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. That banquet is a feast *for* the faithful. This supper in verse 17 is a feast *on* the unfaithful, especially on those who are about to war against the Lord’s Anointed. This is **the great supper of God**, an extraordinarily abundant meal. The language is similar to Ezekiel 39. > As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field: ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 39:17–20) The repeated emphasis in Ezekiel 39 is that God will make it so the Israel and the nations “know that I am the LORD” (verses 7, 22, 28)(Beale). On the menu is **flesh** of all kinds of *men*. This is not beef or poultry, pork or fish, this is the meat of humans, plus of the horses that some of them rode to this battle. Five times the word **flesh** is used, and there is no good reason to think it is a symbol. The flesh-eating birds are called to eat different sorts of flesh, and the final verse in the chapter says that “all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” The primary group seems to be the soldiers gathered to fight the Lamb (see verse 19). That makes sense for why kings and captains and mighty men and cavalry are identified, but the **the flesh of all men** and the following categories (**free and slave**, **small and great**) are more than army men, more than the enlisted along with the officers. This would be all those sorts who followed the beast and took his mark (as verse 20 describes). The sequence portrays as much insult as the reality. It’s one thing for the bodies to be unburied, a typical indignity, which would be why the birds have their free-for-all spread. But the call of the angel comes *before* the battle. This is calling your shot before you take it. This is scoffing at the scoffers. This is like “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). King Lune said, “Never taunt a man save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.” But this is ridicule of those who deceive themselves about their strength. # The Battle (verses 19-21) In these short three verses there are three quick stages. The war was over almost as soon as it started. ## Stage One: Gathered for Battle (verse 19) The **beast** is mentioned again for the first time since chapter 17, as one to whom the kings gave over their power (17:13, 17). He is the beast that “was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction” (17:8). Remember that when the sixth bowl of judgment was poured out, the dragon (Satan) and the beast (the Antichrist) and the false prophet sent out unclean, demonic spirits “who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (16:13-14). The wannabe trinity is prepping against the true triune God. The armies were **gathered** by spiritual forces, to make **(the) war.** It is not the *final* war, see Revelation 20:8-9 with a different cast in a different location, and most significant, one before and one after the thousand years. This gathering occurs in the place called Armageddon (16:16). Now in Revelation 19 all the players are on stage. > And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. (Revelation 19:19) The one **who was sitting on the horse** has the name, “The Word of God” (verse 13). On His robe is written, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (verse 16). You’d think that would be intimidating. But the kings of the earth rage against their obligations to worship the Lord (see Psalm 2:2-3). ## Stage Two: The Beasts Captured (verse 20) There seems to be a significant piece missing, and it’s not because of a problem transmitting the text. There aren’t manuscript questions or debates. This is not like five-hundred pages of an epic poem describing a week in the life of a Greek soldier (as in _The Illiad_). According to John Stage One is the muster and Stage Two is the capture of the commanders. If there was much of a fight, it wasn’t worth mentioning. > And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. (Revelation 19:20) Without any “indication of any effective resistance” (Thomas), the beast and the false prophet are *instantly* **captured**, “taken” (KJV), “seized” (NASB), overpowered and taken into custody. We know that the beast is bad, but we’re reminded that lying about the beast is also bad. The false prophet bore false witness to false glory. He lied and led others into idolatry, so he is tied to the beast in judgment. And **these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur**. This is the first time that “the lake of fire” is referenced in Scripture, and these are the first two in. More will be cast into the lake of fire in chapter 20, including Satan and all those who have not been redeemed by the Lamb. It is the terminal place of torment, different from *Hades* which is the place of the dead between death and resurrection (Thomas); Death and Hades themselves will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Burning sulfur would be *hot* and foul (Mounce). There is no need for a trial for these two. That they are **thrown alive** shows both consciousness and terror. According to chapter 20 they will still be there when God throws the devil in, and “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (20:10). This is everlasting, eternal, unending punishment. This is eternal death, not in annihilation or oblvion, but eternal separation from God and anything good. “If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:15). See also Revelation 14:10-11, “no rest, day or night.” One commentator I read said that this “does not suggest that two literal individuals are cast bodily into the fire” (Beale). But if the lake of fire is real, and it is, then so are those who enter it. This is not just where ideas go to die, schools of thought or Republicans or banking systems, it is for all rebels. ## Stage Three: The Soldiers Slain (verse 21) As for the human army, they are completely wiped out and become food for the birds. > And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:21) The **sword** is a reference to the Word, and while a sword describes the Word of the Rider it does not make all the rest of the description symbolic. In Numbers 11 the Israelites in the wilderness complained about lack of meat, so much so that they looked longingly to their slavery in Egypt. The LORD told Moses to tell them that He would give them meat, “you shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD” (Numbers 11:18-20). These birds will have their fill on those who rejected the LORD. This is *not* a gradual defeat. It is not a metaphor of the defeat of evil about by the spread of the gospel, which would contradict everything about this paragraph. It is a decisive and cataclysmic devastation of the Antichrist and his followers. # Conclusion God will give the nations to His Son, and the ends of the earth will be His possession. Those who fight against Him He will “break with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:8-9). But blessed are those who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2:12). Those who trust Him with conquer with Him. Those who trust this word will see the victory of the Word. Living by faith, squeezing as tight as our little frail fingers can to the wings of the plane, is a crazy ride, and much safer than letting go. And also, at the right time we will see that Christ has been holding on to us, and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28), or out of the Father’s hand who has given us to the Son (John 10:29). Those who believe in Him will endure and will conquer and reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). Hold fast to Him (Revelation 2:13; 3:11; 12:17; 19:10). ---------- ## Charge The author of Hebrews encouraged his people who were publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, or who were partners with those so treated (Hebrews 10:33). He encouraged them to remember remember their better and abiding possession (10:34). He told them their confidence had great reward (10:35). Then he put together some ideas from Habakkuk and Isaiah: “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay, but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37-38). Don’t let go of the Wing. ## Benediction: > And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11, ESV)

52: The Word of War

March 28, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 19:11-16 Series: Just Conquer #52 # Introduction At a minimum it is a great disappointment when you learn later on that you’ve been missing a key perspective that would have at least changed how you thought about what you were doing even if it didn’t change what you were doing itself. It’s like when I realized that manliness, and marriage, are meant for fruitfulness. Relational/romantic connection and sanctified pleasure and even carrying on the tradition of struggling with car seats are all good, but love *produces* (kids are just the most obvious fruit in the field). I didn’t begin to walk around with the fruitfulness mindset until I’d already been married for a decade. It is my conviction, based on my own experience as a disciple of Christ and based on my observation of disciples as a shepherd and based on more and more reading of the Bible, that we don’t use Jesus’ names enough. I do not mean using “Jesus” necessarily; He has many names. I certainly don’t mean using His name as punctuation in prayers. Of course using Jesus’ name happens in vain, and it’s worse from religious hypocrites than from cursing rebels. I’m not promoting adding a Jesus veneer, like a Lordship laminate, ironed over top of everything. Yet I still think there would be a good kind of casual recognition of just how easy it ease for Jesus to be Lord. This is not necessarily an eschatology problem, though I have spent more time around Futurists—those who think most of the Apocalypse is still to happen in the future—and the general posture of said Futurists is doctrinally occupied and temporally unsettled. There is a similar disconnect for many for whom marriage is still in the future. They think they will change as needed once they say, “I do.” But even if you have things that will need to be figured out then, there isn’t a Then when the switch to flip suddenly appears. Even though I believe Jesus will reign on earth in a different way than He currently sits with all authority on His throne in heaven (per Matthew 18:18), a Futurist should *not* think, or speak or live like, that a switch will flip on Jesus being King of kings and Lord of lords. That is not a *Christian* truth per se, it is a cosmological reality that Christians accept and announce. We’re the ones who confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), and while that confession is spiritual, the spiritual is not something we only practice in Christian or private or spiritual places, such as church, home, or our hearts. In other words, *Jesus is Lord* is not limited to being a personal or private thing. Perhaps we have gotten our own emphases out of order; it is more amazing that this Lord is Savior than that this Savior is Lord. He is the King-Priest. Yes, we are still in our sins without His work as High Priest, but He rules the world no matter what, and we should talk about it. He shall be named. It is harder for us to enunciate His name than it is for His name to be exalted. The Logos wears lordship as easily as the sun wears light. His name is so great that it rises more easily than rain falls. His will will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, and every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:9-11), and all His enemies will become His footstool (Psalm 110:1), whenever He wants. His effortless Lordship comes to mind like Aslan’s evident superiority throughout Narnia. His kingship has no weak spots, even if not everyone recognizes his glory. His is a reign that always feels like a when not a whether or not. As a lion Aslan copies the Lion of the tribe of Judah whose throne and armies have no reasonable rival. Jesus’ effortless Lordship also comes to mind from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Of the many memorable images that Jonathan Edwards uses, his quote from Revelation 19:15 about “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” always stands out to me. Edwards begins his message from Deuteronomy 32:35, “their foot shall slide in due time,” from which he makes this thesis: * “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”* What is true regarding every individual is true for the whole system. In the world made by the Logos, a world made visible to those who walk in the Light, it takes more work for sinners *not* to slip into judgment. Likewise, it takes so much effort for the unjust just to attempt to usurp the rightful King that they *Can’t even*. So, Christian, there is no need to be ashamed of His name or of the gospel that offers forgiveness to those who mock Him. We are headed to a future in which He shall be named, and those who name Him now will conquer with Him. Revelation 19:11 picks up the pouring out of the seventh bowl (Revelation 16:17-21). Chapters 17-18, which spilled into the beginning of chapter 19, were a sort of interlude portraying the fall of the great prostitute, Babylon “the great,” a nickname for the future lover of the beast, full of herself and her comforts who will be turned on and devoured and made desolate. But the beast (the Antichrist) who turned on the prostitute (“Babylon,” Revelation 17:15-18) still needs to be defeated, and now it’s time. While the bride of the Lamb is about to feast at her wedding (verses 6-10), the beast is about to lose. This paragraph, verses 11-16, prepares us for the battle by exalting the Word of War. # The Rider (verses 11-13) John heard (verse 1) and heard (verse 6) and now he saw (verse 11). **And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.** If there are not animals in heaven, there are at least animals in visions of heaven. The opening of heaven signals insight, but also progression; in Revelation 4:1 a door opened, here heaven itself is opened. The white horse brings us to the brink; it’s not a statue of remembrance but a picture of readiness. As for the rider, we will learn a lot of His names in these verses. He is *not* the same rider on a white horse in Revelation 6:2, though both are war horses and both bring troops behind them and both will conquer. His mount here is like Shadowfax, but more majestic. He *is* the same rider who rode a donkey’s colt into Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago (Matthew 21:4-7 and John 12:14-15, as prophesied by Zechariah, 9:9); this ride will be different. He is called **Faithful and True**, the antithesis of the self-serving and deceiving beast, and the character of the Lamb to whom the Bride is betrothed and the One who will rule. He **judges and makes war**, which will be a war of judgment. He is the Lamb of God who gave His blood to save His people and also the Lion who will see the blood of His enemies. His knowledges is great, **His eyes are like a flame of fire**, a repeated reference to His piercing gaze, burning through the smoke of deceit. His royalty is great, **and on his head are many diadems**, or “crowns.” Only three beings in the NT wear the διάδμηα crown (compared to the στέφανος victor’s crown): the dragon (Revelation 12:3), the beast (13:1), and the Word (Osborne). In contrast to the beast who only had seven (Revelation 13:1), Jesus has **many**. One ruler’s kingdom is not like the others; one makes blasphemous claims, the other has true sovereignty. On His crown He also **has a name written that no one knows but himself**. So what is the name? There have been suggested interpretations, but all of them have one fatal connection: that would make the name known to more than the rider Himself. John saw a name, but this is a divine name perhaps to be revealed later. He has the name above all names, and His names are higher than ours as thoughts are (see Isaiah 55:9). **He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood**, and though the battle hasn’t actually happened yet, it pictures Him standing as the conqueror. It’s not His own blood, blood of atonement, nor is it the blood of the martyrs. It is like grapes stomped in the vat soaking His robe. > Why is your apparel red, > and your garments like his who treads > in the winepress? > > “I have trodden the winepress alone, > and from the peoples no one was with me; > I trod them in my anger > and trampled them in my wrath; > their lifeblood spattered on my garments, > and stained all my apparel. > For the day of vengeance was in my heart, > and my year of redemption had come. > (Isaiah 63:2–4 ESV) And **the name by which he is called is The Word of God**. John wrote the gospel of John which famously begins with reference to the Logos. Revelation 19:13 is the only verse in the Bible that uses ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ all together as a reference to a *person* (though it is used in contexts about the written Word). The rider is the incarnate God, the Word of God and the Word of war. # The Reign (verses 14-16) A slight shift in perspective happens in verse 14 from His appearance toward some of what He does in judging and warring. First we see that He is not alone. **And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.** A few things point toward this being the redeemed and not angels. In the previous paragraph the redeemed were identified with white, linen clothes (19:8). The redeemed are identified as those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (14:4) including when He comes (17:14). And at least the believers in Thyatira were promised to reign with Him using similar terms as repeated here (2:27). What is really missing is that there is no blood on their robes, and there is no indication that they do any fighting in the battle. They appear to come with the Word of war and yet He does not need their numbers. **And from his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.** The sword is an image of His Word, and an image of authority over life and death (Osborne). In the OT and in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 He defeats by His breath, which is the inspired Word, God-breathed. The Word created all things, the Word saves the elect, the Word overcomes the rebels. From the stump of Jesse: > with righteousness he shall judge the poor, > and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; > and he shall strike the earth with the rod > of his mouth, > and with the breath of his lips he shall kill > the wicked. > (Isaiah 11:4 ESV) **He (Himself) will shepherd/rule them with a rod of iron,** a prophesy from Psalm 2:8-9, and previously referred to in Revelation 2:27 and 12:5. **He (Himself) will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty**. More prophetic identification and fulfillment, see Psalm 2, Isaiah 11 and 63 and 64. The iron rod breaks, and the grapes are trampled. **On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords**. The thigh would be the best place to see the name while He sits on the horse. This does not mean that He is the only King, it means that He rules all kings. In the Millennial Kingdom (chapter 20) there will be other kings who bring their tribute into Jerusalem. His lordship is superlative, and it is reality. # Conclusion > This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:5–8 ESV) The question is not whether or not the Word of God will be named, it is only when. He is Faithful and True, He is the Word of God, He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He has a great name on He knows. Though this passage is not necessarily an evangelistic announcement, it is a warning to all in every age who do not love His name or confess Jesus as Lord. Come to Him, and for those of us who have, know that Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ---------- ## Charge All things were made through the Logos, the Word of God, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). In Him was, and is, *life*, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4). You have been given life in Him, in Him you have been given light by which to see all things (John 8:12). Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8), and give glory to the Word of God, *the* King, *the* Lord. ## Benediction: > Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25, ESV)

51: The Supper of the Lamb

March 21, 2021 • Sean Higgins

Revelation 19:6-10 Series: Just Conquer #51 # Introduction What sort of message could you imagine receiving that would cause you to fall on your knees and start worshipping the messenger? Imagine you were the apostle John, and you had already been given visions of heaven and of the worship of angels and the redeemed, as well as visions of beasts and falling stars and great earthquakes, what remains that could surprise you or excite you to bow down and worship the messenger? What if I told you that this exact thing happened...about a wedding supper invitation? The metaphor of a bride and bridegroom is a metaphor of joy. In the Old Testament Israel is betrothed to God, and in the New Testament the Bride of Christ is the church. The Father has chosen a Bride for His Son, and His Son *loves* her and has sacrificed for her and is preparing her for presentation to Himself in holiness and blamelessness (Ephesians 5:25-32). It is a relationship of love, a relationship of fellowship, a relationship that will be consummated. We would count down the days if we knew the exact day (see Matthew 24:36). Beginning in Revelation 19:6 we meet the Bride, a truly glorious woman compared to the great prostitute introduced to us in 17:1, who has occupied the prophecy in her painted on beauty and deceptive immorality. The scene has been about judgment. Now the scene shifts to *joy*. The prostitute is left with nothing, the Bride will be forever loved by the Lamb. I think the climax of _The Odyssey_ is not when Odysseus kills the suitors who have been spoiling his house, though that is a crucial and necessary part of the plot. The goal of his getting home is his getting back to Penelope. When his wife finally recognizes him, the story is complete. When the Bride in Revelation 19 is presented to the Lamb, the great redemptive love story will be consummated. This will be the event of the eschaton. Though the wedding itself doesn't happen in these two short paragraphs, the invitations have gone out. How long have these wedding preparations taken? In one sense, longer than human history, no matter how long human history still has to go before the wedding day. How many angels have been waiting to see the Father's Son in his glory ad Bridegroom? In John’s vision the Bride is ready. No Bride has been more ready, EVAR. She is dressed in white, and dinner is staying hot in the chafing dishes and the champagne is on ice. The scene of praise continues from the start of the chapter, and the fourth Hallelujah is shouted. But the mood shifts from avenging the blood of the servants to recognizing the Bride. # The Lamb's Ready Bride (verses 6-8) There is nothing quiet about this response of praise. > Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, Hallelujah! The **great multitude** returns from verse 1. There they had a loud voice, here the voice is compared to crashing tidal waves, to a Niagra-sized waterfall, and to a thunderstorm. They begin with "Praise the Lord!" the translation of the Hebrew word, **Hallelujah!** For the ninth time in the Apocalypse, God is **the Almighty**, the παντοκράτωρ, the All-Powerful, the Omnipotent One. **The Lord our God** the Almighty **reigns**, also part of the chorus in Revelation 11:15, "he shall reign forever and ever." This anticipates the Millennial reign on earth (20:1-6) but will continue forever. Now we get to the particulars of the paragraph: > Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, land his Bride has made herself ready; (verse 7) **Rejoice and exalt** (or "be glad" NASB) are jubilant imperatives. A few things about this. First, this is the way that God receives glory: *not* quietly. Second, this is the way that weddings (or at least receptions) should be: *not* quiet. Third, this wedding is the promise of those who rejoice and exalt when they are slandered, and the point is their joy. These images of celebration are not new. > I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; > my soul shall exult in my God, > for he has clothed me with the garments > of salvation; > he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, > as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest > with a beautiful headdress, > and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. > For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, > and as a garden causes what is sown > in it to sprout up, > so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise > to sprout up before all the nations. > (Isaiah 61:10–11 ESV) What a day of rejoicing that will be when Israel is restored (Beale). We really ought not take any of these things for granted. There is something about rejoicing that is divine, not disconnected from the joy of the LORD being our strength (see Nehemiah 8:10). We taste rejoicing now, as in weddings. A wedding means the consummation of not just a thousand decisions and decoration touches, but of the preparing of lives. A wedding means the crown of longing, the fulfillment of parents' prayers and counsel as well as the hopes of the couple. A wedding means the the fruition of love, and how is love best expressed? Self-flaeggelation, physical or even emotional, isn't the way of love. Pride is a burden of orderly fussiness, love rejoices. This wedding is going to be *loud*. It's a waterfall of laughter and singing. A wedding is the community culmination of joy, or it ought to be, and that's why the desolation of Babylon in Revelation 18:23 says that "the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more." The only other time both verbs are used next to each other in the New Testament is when Jesus told His disciples, “Rejoice and be glad.” It was the final Beatitude of Matthew 5:3-12, and belonged with being reviled and lied about and persecuted. By this point in Revelation 19 God’s people have been shamed by the world, now they will be vindicated. This collective Bride is ready. > it was granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure -- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. She **was given**, which has been a regular way in Revelation of referring to God's sovereign action. What she was given is the outfit, which is explained as her sanctification. She was given **to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure**, white without blemish as Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:27). White symbolizes persevering purity. The Bride has not defiled herself by compromising with the world. The clothes are her **righteous deeds**, which says more about this preparation. If the Bride is the elect, and if you are elect, then, by God's grace, every obedience belongs with what will make this wedding more glorious. # The Lamb's Sure Supper (verses 9-10) The picture switches from a corporate to an individual emphasis. The saints are both collectively considered as the Bride, and personally invited to the feast. The images are not of two separate groups any more than Christ is two separate beings, Lamb and shepherd (see Revelation 7:17)(Thomas). An angel speaks to John again. > And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." This is the fourth **blessed** in the book, and the third time John was told to write. Both pieces seem over the top. This is an announcement about a dinner invitation. *This* needs to be written down? It’s that big of a deal. It echoes the prophet Isaiah: > On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make > for all peoples > a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, > of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine > well refined. > And he will swallow up on this mountain > the covering that is cast over all peoples, > the veil that is spread over all nations. > He will swallow up death forever; > and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears > from all faces, > and the reproach of his people he will take away > from all the earth, > for the LORD has spoken. > It will be said on that day, > “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, > that he might save us. > This is the LORD; we have waited for him; > let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” > (Isaiah 25:6–9 ESV) Revelation 19:9 is the only place in the Bible that uses the phrase, **the marriage supper of the Lamb**. One of my favorite books is titled, _The Supper of the Lamb_, and one of my favorite quotes from that book is: “A silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job” (Capon, Location 87). There is too much love for this supper to be silent. **Those who are invited** (οἱ...κεκλημένοι) perfect tense and passive voice, completed and divine. > And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." It’s not as if John had been thinking that the previous words were from God but these weren’t. The angel still gives the authorized version; depend on this. And it caused John great excitement. > Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. After all the visions John has seen, this announcement about the wedding supper caused him to worship the messenger. The angel, of course, refuses the worship. He said, **You must not do that!”** or “See not!” (from Ὅρα μή, YLT). **I am a fellow servant (σύνδουλος) with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.** In the vision the Bride is ready, and dinner will start shortly. There are some other things to do before the wedding takes place, including the return of the Lamb to conquer and defeat the Antichrist and bind Satan and reign for a thousand years. Yet this glimpse of glory makes us long for the day, and reminds us to get prepared. # Conclusion The opportunities to be lied about are opportunities for rejoicing, as they are opportunities that prepare us for that great day of rejoicing. Faithfulness to the Bridegroom makes the Bride radiant. Endurance through difficulty makes ready. Here we have an exuberant epithalamium, a song or poem celebrating a marriage. It is feast, it is festival. This will not be a time to count calories. As when the crew arrives at Ramandu's Island _Voyage of the Dawn Treader_ and the feast laid out on Aslan’s Table, meat and pudding, fish and fruits, cheese and cakes, noodles and bread and honey butter, nuts and pies and *wine*. It will be a celebration. Hell will be sad, not so with heaven. ---------- ## Charge The Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory. Do your good deeds not only so that others may see them, do your good deeds by His grace in order to be without spot or wrinkle for the Lamb. ## Benediction: > May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13, ESV)

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