22 March 2016

Overview of the Apocalypse: A Summary of the Book of Revelation

Doing some studying this afternoon in preparation for a Bible school class tonight and came across an article I had written for a group of high school students in a Bible study several years back. Enjoy and Lord bless!

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The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1) contains 22 chapters, 404 verses, and 12,000 words. It was penned by the apostle John (who wrote 4 other New Testaments books bearing his name – the Gospel of John and the epistles 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John), but we know that the words came from God Himself (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Preliminary Observations

First, it is essential that we note the placement of the book. Revelation is the last of the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible. It is placed last in God’s order of books because one cannot rightly understand this book without a working knowledge of the prior sixty-five books. However, because of its fascinating subject matter, many Christians want to begin their Bible reading and study with it and many ministers want to teach it to their congregations before they have taught the rest of the Bible. This inevitably leads to confusion and misunderstanding.

The book of Revelation does not stand by itself. It is the culmination of God’s dealings with men, angels, devils, and planet Earth. All that has gone before has led up to this summation. Without knowledge fo the former, one can only misinterpret or misapply the latter. In fact, 278 of the 404 verses in the book contain references or allusions to the Old Testament.

Those who begin their Bible study with Revelation end up interpreting its strange statements by trying to fit them into the accepted findings of modern science. Those who look to this book for exciting sermon materials end up subjecting its contents to the headlines in the daily newspaper.

Only God knows how many outright lies have been declared as “new truth from the book of Revelation” by those who did not know the scriptural foundation for its contents. We must not begin the Bible where God ends it.

Second, the book of Revelation is divided into three distinct sections. Chapters 1-3 give a chronological picture of the church age, and chapters 19-22 give an orderly picture of the summation of all things. The material in chapters 4-18 shows the outpouring of God’s wrath and judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth in response to their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Revelation is given by God to show us how each crisis will end and how each problem will be solved. Because of this, it is best to study Revelation by themes (for example: the beast, God’s wrath during the first 3½ years, destruction of nature, etc.) rather than by chapters. If one studies the book by themes, much of the material will be found to overlap and supplement other portions of the book.

Second, there is much debate as to the proper method of interpreting Revelation. Some teach that the book is historical and presents a mystical look into the history of past ages. Others hold that the book is symbolism and seek to find the secret message in each verse.

However, the text itself declares that the book is one of prophecy, looking to events which would take place after John’s departure from this life. We are told seven times in Revelation that the contents of the book are prophetic (1:3; 10:11; 19:10; 22:7, 10, 18-19).

One final principle that is essential to the proper study and interpretation of any passage of scripture and is absolutely imperative for the student of the book of Revelation is the principle of literal interpretation. Unless the scripture explicitly states otherwise, it means exactly what it says. Where the Bible uses allegory, it is very careful to point this out (Galatians 4:24). When Jesus spoke a parable, He was always very careful to say so up front (Matthew 21:33; Matthew 24:34; et al.). When the Bible uses pictures and symbols, it is very careful to define what they represent (Mark 4:13-20).

So when the Book of Revelation speaks of locusts (chapter 9), it’s not talking about military helicopters. When the Bible says that the third part of the trees will be burnt up (chapter 8), that’s exactly what it means will happen. When the book makes reference to a star called Wormwood (chapter 8), it doesn’t mean a spaceship. You get the point.


Contents of the Book

The instruction John was given by the Lord to write the Book of Revelation well summarizes the contents of the record:

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter (Revelation 1:19). 

THE THINGS WHICH THOU HAST SEEN…

In chapter 1, John sees a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory standing in the midst of 7 golden candlesticks. He is instructed to write the things he has seen and pronounces a blessing upon those who read, hear, and keep the words of the prophecy…for the time is at hand.

THE THINGS WHICH ARE…

Chapters 2 and 3 consist of 7 letters to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. Each is given a commendation (with the exception of Laodicea), a rebuke (with the exception of Philadelphia), and a promise to those who overcome.

Not only did these churches literally exist and receive these letters in the days of the Apostle John, the content of the letters serve to form an outline of the history of the church that Jesus established:

EPHESUS (2:1-7)
  34-170 AD
    The apostolic period (see the book of Acts)

SMYRNA (2:8-11)
  170-312
    Rome persecutes the church

PERGAMOS (2:12-17)
  312-606
    Rome accepts the church

THYATIRA (2:18-29)
  606-1517
    Rome controls the church

SARDIS (3:1-6)
  1517-1750
    Churches pull out of Rome

PHILADELPHIA (3:7-13)
  1750-1881
    The modern missions movement

LAODICEA (3:14-22)
  1881-present
    Lukewarm mega-church
                 
These letters serve as a helpful benchmark for any individual or group of Christians. We should use the strengths and weaknesses addressed in the various churches to examine ourselves on a continual basis and determine if our lives and the activities of our fellowships are pleasing to the Lord.

THE THINGS WHICH SHALL BE HEREAFTER…

• The Catching Away of the Church

Chapter 4 opens with a call to “Come up hither!”  This represents the upward call of God’s saints when Jesus returns to the clouds and catches away the believers. This is commonly referred to as the rapture and is described in 1 Corinthians 15:49-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

The activities of chapters 4 and 5 take place around the throne of God. There the saints cast crowns before His throne and offer songs and shouts of worship and praise to the Lamb who is found worthy to open the 7-sealed book.

Those who heard the call to “Come up hither!” (4:1) are not seen again until Jesus Christ returns to the earth to destroy the antichrist and his army at the battle of Armageddon and establish His kingdom in Jerusalem (19:11-21).

For this and many other reasons, we are certain that no believer will be “left behind” to experience the horrors that will come upon the earth and its inhabitants during the 7 years of Great Tribulation, as revealed by this book.

• The Tribulation

Following this great catching away of the believers, there will be a period of time spoken of in the prophetic scriptures, both Old and New Testament, as the Tribulation. It is described in chapters 6-19 of the Apocalypse.

The Tribulation will last 7 years with two distinct 3½ year periods (Daniel 9:27 w/ Genesis 29:27-28; Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 12:6; Revelation 13:5).

At the beginning of the tribulation, the antichrist will rise to power. He will rule over a one-world government, consisting of a ten-nation confederacy (Revelation 17:12-14; Daniel 7:7-8, 19-28). He will be a master-deceiver and people will worship him as the Messiah (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 13:5-6, 15).

He will make a peace treaty with the nation of Israel and allow them to offer sacrifice in the temple. But after 3½ years he will break the treaty and set up an idol in the holiest place of the temple (the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15).

That’s when all hell breaks loose. He will cause all men to take a mark, without which no man can buy or sell. Refusal to take the mark will result (if they catch you) in death by beheading (Revelation 13:16-19; 20:4).

The antichrist will wage war against those who trust the Lord during this time, but they will be miraculously protected by the Lord when they flee to the mountains outside Judaea (probably a place called Petra – Matthew 24:15-21; Revelation 12:6, 14-17).   

At the end of the Tribulation, the armies of the antichrist will be gathered to the plain of Megiddo or “Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16). The emperor Napoleon viewed this place as the most perfect battlefield in all the world. There the Lord Jesus Christ will come to the earth with the armies of heaven following and will utterly destroy His enemies, banishing the antichrist to the lake of fire forever (Revelation 19:11-21). This event is referred to in scripture as “the end of the world” (Matthew 13:36-50).

• The 21 Tribulation Judgments

Chapters 6-19 of Revelation reveal 21 plagues that come upon the earth and its population during the time of the tribulation. These are as follows:

THE 7 SEALS (6:1-8:5)
  1. 1.     White horse: the rise of antichrist
  2. 2.     Red horse: war
  3. 3.     Black horse: famine
  4. 4.     Pale horse: death
  5. 5.     Martyrdom: souls under the altar, saints persecuted, aid promised
  6. 6.     Great earthquake: sun blackened, moon turns to blood, stars fall, men fear
  7. 7.     Half hour of silence in heaven…opens to the 7 trumpets


THE 7 TRUMPETS (8:6-11:19)
  1. 1.     Hail and fire mingled with blood: 1/3 of the trees and all grass burnt up
  2. 2.     1/3 of the sea becomes blood and 1/3 of the sea creatures die
  3. 3.     The star Wormwood: 1/3 of the rivers smitten
  4. 4.     Sun, moon, and stars give off 1/3 of their light
  5. 5.     Locusts: torment men 5 months, men seek death and cannot find it
  6. 6.     2,000,000 horsemen: slay 1/3 of the population
  7. 7.     Heavenly announcement…opens to 7 vials


THE 7 VIALS (16:1-21)
  1. 1.     Boils: infest those who have taken the mark of the beast
  2. 2.     Sea becomes blood: all living souls therein die
  3. 3.     Rivers become blood
  4. 4.     Sun scorches men with heat
  5. 5.     Darkness: men gnaw their tongues for pain
  6. 6.     Euphrates dries up: kings gathered to Armageddon
  7. 7.     It is done: thunder, lightning, earthquake, Babylon falls

The book of Revelation well demonstrates the truth of Romans 2:4. It is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. His judgment (though just) only further hardens those who have already rejected His love.

• The Millennial Kingdom

The events described in chapter 20 are intriguing indeed. Following the battle of Armageddon, Satan will be bound, and Jesus Christ will rule and reign as King over all the earth with His saints for 1,000 years. He will restore the creation to its original condition (Isaiah 35), and there will finally be peace on earth (Isaiah 2:1-5; Luke 2:14). Those who survived the Tribulation and were kind to God’s people are allowed to enter this kingdom in their human bodies (Matthew 25:31-46). The saints of all ages will also be present, howbeit in our glorified bodies (2 Timothy 2:12).

At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed and will mount one final effort against the Lord of glory. He will gather an army from the four quarters of the earth (those born during this kingdom who are not fond of the king) and come to battle at Jerusalem. But God will send fire down from heaven and annihilate the entire host. Satan will then join the antichrist in the lake of fire.

After the 1,000 years is the final judgment where all those whose names are not found written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Born once, die twice. Born twice, die once.

• Eternity

The final 2 chapters of Revelation give us a small glimpse of God’s eternal kingdom. God creates a new heaven and a new earth for all His saints to inhabit.

New Jerusalem (heaven) will be the eternal home of all those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior from the time that He died and rose again until the time that He returns to the clouds to take His church to heaven. The gates are made of pearl. The streets are pure gold. From the throne runs a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, with fruit trees growing on the banks. There will be no more need for the sun. God’s glory will light up the entire city, which by the way is 1,500 miles3.

The earth (and the planets, Isaiah 45:18) will be inhabited by those who followed God prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and following His return to the clouds to catch away His church.

The Bible doesn’t say much about what we’ll be doing for eternity. But this much I do know, every time the scriptures bring us to the throne of God, there is a multitude that is giving Him the praise and worship He so deserves. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to joining that company.

EVEN SO COME, LORD JESUS…


Concluding Thoughts

The Book of Revelation is terrifying to read – if you have any feeling that you might be around on the earth to experience it. The hope of all true believers is to be caught away by the Lord prior to this time when His wrath is poured out upon the earth (God has no desire for us to experience His wrath, 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Consider the following comparison:

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come (Joel 2:31).

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come
(Acts 2:20). 

Notice the difference. What Joel describes as terrible, Peter merely views as notable. Why is that?  Peter is a believer, and there’s no chance that he’ll be around to experience the terror that will come upon the earth during that time.

Examining the truth about the apocalypse – and the horror connected with it – ought to cause us to examine ourselves and make sure of our standing before God. When Jesus comes, will we go with Him, or will we be left?  NOW is the time to make sure you have your sins forgiven. And the only way to do that is to go to God as a sinner, believing with all your heart that what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross is the only way for you to be forgiven. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

  

05 March 2015

Proverbs on Speech


The book of Proverbs has much to say regarding speech.  Not only is that a mammoth understatement, it is also an incredibly loaded statement.  The book of Proverbs contains a total of 915 verses.  Categorized below are at least 150 different verses (some listed a number of times under various headings), and I am sure there are some that I have missed.  That means about 1 out of every 6 verses in the book of Proverbs has something to say about speaking. 
 
The overwhelming lesson I have taken from this study is that if God is so concerned with what comes out of my mouth, I would be well served to give more thought, more attention, and more study to what I say and how I say it.
 
Some are naturally quiet and reserved.  Others, because of their personality or their position or both, tend to do a lot of speaking.  I fall into the latter category.  It is very important that I pay careful attention and give diligent heed to what this book has to say.
 
 
Let’s start with some contrasts: the speech of the wise vs. the speech of the fool; the tongue of the strange woman vs. the tongue of the virtuous woman; the instruction of parents vs. the enticement of sinners. 
 
The Speech of Wisdom
Wisdom lifts up her voice in the public place.  She stands on the top of the highest places (9:3) and cries[1] out at the entryway of the city (8:1-3).  She makes known her words to the simple in the streets, in the chief place of concourse, and in the openings of the gates (1:20-23).  Her speech is characterized by righteousness (8:8), knowledge (15:7); instruction (1:3; 8:10); and sound counsel (1:5; 8:14).
 
The Speech of the Fool
The fool hides hatred by lying (10:18) and slanders his neighbor (10:18).  His mouth proclaims (12:23), pours out (15:2), and feeds on (15:14) foolishness.  His lips do not disperse knowledge (14:7; 15:7) but rather boasting (14:3), deceit (14:8), and perversity (19:1).  Unlike wisdom, he opens not his mouth in the gate (24:7), and his instruction is folly (16:22).  He utters all his mind (29:11) and enters into contention (18:6).  His mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul (18:7).
 
The Tongue of the Strange Woman
The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein (22:14).  Her snare is laced with flattery and fair speech (2:16; 6:24; 7:21).  She is loud (7:11), and yet her lips drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil (5:3).  She entices the simple with her lies (9:16-17). 

The Tongue of the Virtuous Woman
Everything said above regarding the speech of wisdom is true of the virtuous woman, for Proverbs says she opens her mouth with wisdom (31:26).  On top of that, the book adds this beautiful phrase: in her tongue is the law of kindness
 
The Instruction of Parents
Proverbs makes mention of the instruction (1:8; 4:1; 13:1), the law (1:8; 4:2; 6:20), the teaching (4:4, 11; 31:1), and the commandments (2:1; 4:4; 6:20) of father and mother.  The parents plead with the son to attend to their words; to incline his ear to their sayings; to let them not depart from his eyes; to keep them in the midst of his heart (4:20-21; see also 7:1-5; 7:24; 23:26).  The end objective is for the son to be guided by the voice of his parents’ instruction, even when mother and father are no longer present: When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life (6:22-23).
 
The Enticement of Sinners
This instruction is so important, for sinners will always be enticing us to join them (1:10).  For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall (4:16).
 
 
The book of Proverbs speaks against numerous sins of the tongue: these include lying, deceit, false witness, talebearing, whispering, backbiting, flattery, and boasting.  It condemns that speech which is froward or perverse. 
 
Lying, Deceit, False Witness
The Lord hates a lying tongue (6:17), and so does a righteous man (13:5).  Lying lips (12:22) and the false witness that speaks the lies (6:19) are said to be an abomination unto God.  He calls the liar and the slanderer a fool (10:18).  The liar’s judgment is certain, for Proverbs says that a lying tongue is but for a moment (12:19).  Twice it states that a false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish (21:28) and not escape (19:5, 9).  According to Proverbs, the root of lying is hatred (10:18; 26:24, 26, 28).  Over and over the book warns us to recognize and avoid the false, deceitful witness and his lying, deceitful words (12:5; 12:17; 14:5; 14:8; 14:25; 25:18; 26:18-19; 30:8).  It also urges not to engage in the sinful practice (17:17; 20:17; 24:28).
 
Talebearing, Whispering, Backbiting
A prudent man conceals knowledge (12:23), but a talebearer reveals secrets (11:13; 20:19).  His words are as deep wounds (18:8; 26:22).  They kindle strife (26:20) and separate very friends (16:28; 17:9).  Proverbs instructs us not to accuse a servant to his master (30:10) but to debate our cause with our neighbor himself (25:9) and to use an angry countenance to drive away the backbiting tongue (25:23).
 
Flattery
We have already seen that the strange woman is characterized by her flattery (6:24 et al).  Further, Proverbs states that because a flattering mouth works ruin (26:28), we must not meddle with him that flatters with his lips (20:19).
 
Boasting
How prevalent is this sin that Proverbs condemns!  Most men do indeed proclaim their own goodness (20:6), but Proverbs would have us allow our praise to come from the lips of others (27:1-2).
 
Froward Mouth
It might help to think of froward as the opposite of toward (“to and fro”).  According to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word means “perverse; that is, turning from, with aversion or reluctance; not willing to yield or comply with what is required; unyielding; ungovernable; refractory; disobedient; peevish.”  A naughty person and wicked man walks with a froward mouth (6:12).  The froward tongue shall be cut out (10:31).  Wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and discretion are given to deliver us from the man that speaks froward things (2:12).  So put away a froward mouth (4:24).
 
Perverse Lips
Perverse lips are also to be put away (4:24), for he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief (17:20), and perverseness is said to be a breach in the spirit (15:4).  Better is the poor man that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool (19:1). 
 
In contrast to the above, Proverbs reveals those things that ought to characterize our speech: pleasantness (15:23; 16:24; 22:18); sweetness (16:21); softness (25:15); kindness (31:26); grace (22:11); and truth (12:17, 19, et al). 
 
 
The book of Proverbs places a high value on right words and also describes the destructive power of the tongue.
 
Value of Right Words
Consider the following statements: The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life (10:11).  The tongue of the just is as choice silver (10:20). The lips of the righteous feed many (10:21).  The tongue of the wise is health (12:18).  A wholesome tongue is a tree of life (15:4).  The wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook (18:4).  There is gold, and multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel (20:15).  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (25:11).  A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it (15:23)!  By heeding the instruction of the book of Proverbs, we might learn to say the right thing, the right way, at the right time (cp. 15:23; 27:14), to the right result. 
 
Destructive Power of the Tongue
Truly, death and life are in the power of the tongue (18:21).  An hypocrite with his mouth can destroy his neighbor (11:9), for his words are like the piercings of a sword (12:18). 
 
 
One of the most interesting aspects of this study was the instruction Proverbs provides regarding how to give an answer.  That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightiest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee (22:21).
 
1.     Study to answer (15:28).  Do not answer a matter before you hear it (18:13).
2.     Get your answer from the LORD (16:1).
3.     Answer softly (15:1) not roughly (18:23).
4.   Know when to answer nothing (26:4).  Know when to return a fool his folly (26:5). 
5.     Answer with a righteous life (27:11).
6.     Enjoy the good results (15:23; 24:26).
 
 
The book of Proverbs calls its reader back to two very important but almost-forgotten arts in the Christian life: that of counsel (both seeking it and giving it) and rebuke (both taking it and giving it out).
 
Counsel
In general, the book of Proverbs is one big treasure trove of counsel (22:20).  The book reminds us of the great importance of proper counsel (11:14; 15:22; 20:18; 24:6) and urges us to seek it out (20:5), hear it (1:5; 12:15; 19:20), compare it to God’s word (1:5; 8:14; 19:21; 20:18; 21:30 cp. 12:5), and act accordingly.  Good counsel, properly given and received, sweetens friendship (27:9) and produces joy (12:20).
 
Reproof, Rebuke
Proverbs says more about rebuking than being rebuked (9:7-8; 19:25; 24:25; 25:12; 27:5-6).  It reminds us that a rebuke properly given risks offending the recipient for the sake of his betterment.  It is a selfless act, and thus not very popular.  Those on the receiving end of such a rebuke would be wise to pay careful attention (6:23; 9:8; 19:25).
 
 
Finally, the book of Proverbs mentions several things that should occupy my speech to a much greater degree: delivering souls (14:25; 24:11-12; 12:6); praying (15:8); confessing (28:13); singing and rejoicing (29:6); and speaking well of others (27:2; 31:28, 30).


[1] The simple cries for wisdom in 2:3-6.  Wisdom cries to the simple in 1:20-23; 8:1-3; 9:1-3.  Whatever our desire for wisdom, it cannot match God’s desire to give it to us.

30 December 2013

Bible Reading Program

Looking for a Bible Reading Program for 2014?  This booklet contains four different plans to choose from.  CLICK HERE to download the file.  Print double-sided w/ short edge binding and staple (or take to your local print shop or office supply store).

Follow the link below for more Bible Reading/Scripture Memory programs, workbooks, etc.

READ THE BIBLE!

For a sermon on New Year's Resolutions CLICK HERE.

THE PURPOSE

-        To maintain a daily walk with the Lord (Revelation 3:20).
-        To live in obedience to scripture (Deuteronomy 17:19).
-        To prepare yourself for the day of judgment (2 Timothy 2:15).
-        To gain a working knowledge of the Bible (Isaiah 28:9-10).
-        To cleanse the heart and purify the mind (Psalm 119:9-11).
-        To seek true, genuine success (Joshua 1:8).


THE PLAN

-        Read daily (Deuteronomy 17:19).
-        Read habitually (Job 23:12).
-        Read meditatively (Psalm 1:1-3).
-        Read prayerfully (Psalm 119:18).
-        Read thoroughly (Proverbs 30:5-6).


THE PROGRAM

Each month contains a chart with four reading plans to choose from:
-        Sequential: Read straight through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
-        Old Testament / New Testament: Read sequentially through both testaments simultaneously, with a daily reading passage from each.
-        Chronological / Historical: The arrangements of these daily readings are loosely based on the order of events and/or when the books were written.  This plan includes a number of days each month to catch up, get ahead, study other passages, or reflect on prior reading.
-        Sectional: This plan promotes variety by providing readings from 7 different sections of scripture – 1 for each day of the week.


Choose one of the charts.  Track your progress by marking the passages you have read.  Stay on track and complete the entire Bible in a year.