×

Message

Failed loading XML...
Resource not found

Reading: Revelation 19:11 – 21

So the final three and a half chapters see history coming to some sort of conclusion, and God’s final judgment on all his enemies; and, in reaching this final section, we do come to some of the most contentious parts of the whole book which have seriously divided opinion amongst Christians. Throughout my talks on this incredible book, I’ve tried to walk a balanced line which has, I hope, avoided too many controversies, but it may be that some of you will disagree with me over some aspects of these final chapters. All I’d say is, I may be wrong, but I hope we can all respect each other’s views.

  • The Second Coming: 19:11 – 18

The second half of chapter 19, which was our reading this morning, describes the second coming of Jesus. You may remember from chapter 6, where we met the four horsemen of the apocalypse, that the first rider was on a white horse and was an antichrist figure: here we see another rider on a white horse; this one is called faithful and true, and his name is the Word of God. If you know the opening of John’s gospel, you’ll remember that John calls Jesus the Word there, so just maybe that’s a small piece of evidence to suggest that this book was actually written by the same John.

  • The end of the Unholy Trinity: 19:19 – 21

Jesus’s return to battle sees the defeat of the beast and the false prophet and the death of all who had received the beast’s mark. The beast and the false prophet are the first to be cast into the lake of fire. Is this a literal fire? Bearing in mind that so much of this book is highly symbolic, we really don’t know. What we can say is that it is clearly symbolic of God’s judgment on the evil pair.

  • The Millennium: 20:1 – 10

The next chapter begins with Satan being bound in an abyss so that he can’t do anything to deceive people for a thousand years. This ushers in a period described as the Millennium during which Jesus and all the faithful who are still alive plus all the faithful dead who are now resurrected will reign over the earth. What can we make of this? The sequence of events seems very strange to me: the beast and the false prophet have been defeated and sent into the lake of fire; Satan has been bound; then there’s a wonderful reign of peace for a thousand years; then God lets Satan out again to do his worst and instigate a new rebellion against Jesus which results in a final battle and defeat. Why would God have a wonderful reign of peace then let Satan loose again? Why not cast him into the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet? Well, first, I’d be very careful about reading too much into the chronology of this book: events aren’t always sequential. Furthermore, we’ve seen how symbolic most of this book is, so why should we take this thousand years literally? It is, after all, the only place in the whole of Scripture where it’s mentioned, so we have to be very careful about building a doctrine out of one verse. There are three views about the millennium:

  1. Amillennialism

It’s not a literal period of time at all but refers to Christ’s present reign at God’s right hand.

  1. Premillennialism

A real period of time, literal or symbolic, when Christ will reign on the earth before the final judgment.

  1. Postmillennialism

The view that the world will actually get better and better and will eventually become Christianised resulting in a long period of peace and prosperity before Christ returns.

I don’t see much evidence of the world getting better and becoming more Christianised, and I’m always wary about Biblical timescales: after all, we’re told that 1000 years is as a day in God’s timescale. Furthermore, I do have a real problem with a God who binds Satan then deliberately lets him out to deceive people so that he can then devour them with fire. For me, the message of the millennium and its immediate after-effects is a message which repeats itself throughout much of the Bible: It’s about how God looks not on the outward appearance but on the heart. We have a picture here of people living peacefully under God’s reign for 1000 years, only to turn against him once Satan is released. It’s incredible to think that people who have enjoyed peace could so easily turn to violence, but it’s about the state of the human heart. If you’re familiar with the Bosnian-Serbian conflict of 1992-5, you will remember that people who had lived side by side as neighbours for years and years suddenly turned and massacred their neighbours simply because they were of a different religion: and most of the worst genocides were committed by people claiming to be orthodox Christians.

  • The Final Judgment: 20:11 – 15

It’s not easy to get our heads round judgment in the Bible! There are three pictures of judgment in the New Testament: In 1 Corinthians 3:12 – 15, Paul pictures us before Christ’s judgment seat where all that we have done will be tested by fire and what is good will remain like gold and silver purified, but the rest will be burnt up like wood, hay and stubble. Then in Matthew 25, the judgment here refers to the nations, and the basis of this judgment is how we have treated the poor, the hungry and thirsty, the naked, the prisoner, the needy. Finally, the judgment here in Revelation 20 is based on whether your name appears in the book of life. Some people try to make distinctions between all these, suggesting that the judgment in

1 Corinthians is for Christians, that in Matthew is specifically for the nations of the earth, and the one in Revelation is specifically for the unredeemed sinners and those who had received the mark of the beast.

Again, for me, only one thing really matters: Hebrews 9:27 says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Exactly when and how this will happen, I’ve no idea. But you and I will one day stand before the throne of God and give an account of our lives to him. Will he say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”

Just to finish this section on a more controversial note, for a long time now, I have had serious difficulties with the concept of a God of love who torments people for eternity, and I’m personally coming round to the view that what is called here “the second death” is a literal death in which the souls of the unredeemed are ultimately annihilated rather than consigned to burning flames for eternity…but I’m open to being proved wrong one day.

  • The New Jerusalem: 21:1 – 22:6

This final section before the epilogue is such a positive conclusion to a book which has been pretty full of doom and gloom. Chapters 21 – 22 are God’s final act of redemption: the renewal of the heavens and the earth – a new environment for our new resurrection bodies. It’s a restoration of the paradise God intended when he created Eden – he walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, and now he takes up his residence amongst men on earth…and what a beautiful picture it represents. We could spend several sermons just reflecting on the symbolism of this city, the New Jerusalem, but if ever you needed a picture which illustrates how symbolic the whole thing is, it’s this: it’s a giant cube descending from heaven to earth! It’s actually quite a complex set of symbols because it’s both a city and a bride – it reflects the perfection of the church, the bride of Christ, but it’s also her dwelling-place, because Christ dwells in his people. The city is perfect in its symmetry; it’s exquisite in its wealth and beauty; it needs no temple because Christ himself is present; it needs no sun as the glory of God illuminates the city; it’s a fulfilment of the shadows of the future foreseen in the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament; the tree of life is there, bearing perpetual fruit which can now be eaten, unlike how things were in the Garden of Eden. If this chapter really is an image of eternal life, we actually need to stop saying that we’re going to spend eternity in heaven, because we’re not!

Chapter 21:2 – 3 says:

                  I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven

                  prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard

                  a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is

with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and

God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every

Tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or

crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In a world where there is so much to bring pain and sadness, isn’t that just a wonderful picture to dwell on as we near the end of the book?

  • The Epilogue: 22:7 – 21

The concluding words offer a number of promises and challenges:

  1. A blessing
  2. A reminder to focus our worship on God, as John falls down to worship the angel again!
  3. An exhortation to publish the words of the book as the time is near. (This is one reason why I believe that, even if there is a future dimension to this book, it’s first purpose was to be an encouragement to those first century Christians who were facing the most horrendous persecution)
  4. A blessing to those who wash (go on washing) their robes. That’s a challenge to us to be constantly being filled with the Spirit and walking closely with Christ.
  5. A reminder that murder, idolatry, immorality, magic arts and falsehood will exclude you from the New Jerusalem.
  6. A warning not to add to or take away from the words of the book.
  7. Finally, a cry from John to look for his coming, as he blesses his readers with the words of the grace.
  • Concluding applications

So at the end of this gallop through a very complex but utterly fascinating book, what are its lessons for you and me?

  • The centrality
  • Constant exhortations to worship. Eight times in the book, John shows us various combinations of the elders and the four living creatures and the angels and the redeemed all worshipping God.
  • God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to his people. Through all the trials and tribulations faced by his faithful people from the earliest times to the present day and into the future, God is totally and utterly reliable.
  • The certainty
  • The need to be vigilant and faithful in our witness.
  • Finally, the challenge that we may one day have to face persecution, but coupled with that is the promise of a glorious future in God’s presence.

So there we are: a hasty look at a difficult but intriguing book. I don’t know whether my reading of the book is right or not, but I’ve tried to give you a consistent view over these four weeks. If you’ve missed any of the talks and want to fill in the gaps, my talks are on the sermon page of the website. If you read the book differently, God will bless you anyway just for reading it!


    Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /var/sites/r/riversidesleaford.org.uk/public_html/modules/mod_jw_srfr/tmpl/default/default.php on line 25

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. By browsing this website you agree to our use of cookies although you can disable them via your browser. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

  I accept cookies from this site.
EU Cookie Directive plugin by www.channeldigital.co.uk