Jesus' return is near, so be prepared.
Revelation(53) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Stuart Johns(204) on April 14, 2019 (Sunday Morning(291))
Jesus(7), Kingdom of God(4), Promises(11), Reward(2)
“In April of 2008, I had to drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana, for work, so I went to Enterprise to rent a car. They gave me a big, brand-new, comfy Chrysler 300 to drive—and I loved it! In fact, I enjoyed feeling large and in charge so much that I blew right past the first tollbooth. You see, I'm not used to stopping for tollbooths, because I have an I-PASS in my own car—a little device that signals I've already prepaid my tolls.
After passing the first tollbooth, I thought about it: Oh! This car doesn't have an I-PASS! But just as I started to worry about it, I thought, This car belongs to the rental-car company—not me. So they're probably responsible for any tolls. That must be what your rental money goes toward covering.
When I got on 294, I drove past another toll, thinking, Even if I am responsible for the tolls, there's only a few tolls between here and Indiana—maybe $4 round trip. I'm sure there's some threshold where they don't even bother sending you a bill for the tolls. I mean, it wouldn't be worth their time to send me a bill for only $4. Nothing's going to happen!
After I returned home from my business trip, a month or two went by. Nothing happened—and I knew nothing ever would. But then, in October, I received a piece of mail that read: "Notice of Toll Violation."
I was right, to a degree. The Tollway Authority wouldn't bother sending me a bill for my measly $3.90 in tolls. But when you add in a $20 fine for every one of the 5 tollbooths I drove past, they did bother sending me a bill for $103.90!
I about had a heart attack. They had me dead to rights. They had a photo of my rental-car's license plate. They even knew the exact lane number I was in. The fact that months had gone by and nothing had happened didn't mean that nothing was ever going to happen.
In a passage concerning the return of Christ, Peter says: Get a clue, people! Just because the Lord hasn't come back yet, don't think for a minute that he won't! The Lord isn't being slow about his promise, as some people think. No—he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”
Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today International
If I want to get a doe tag for the hunting season I have to prepare ahead of time
Last year hunting license went on sale June 18, 2018
I’m not normally thinking about hunting in the middle of summer, but I have to prepare in the summer so I can get a doe tag in the unit I’d like
In order to go to the doctor for my biannual checkup I have to prepare in advance
They want me to get blood work done a week before my appointment
I went on Thursday to have my blood drawn in preparation for my appointment
Some of us have been preparing to pay our taxes on Monday
Those of us who own our own businesses have to make quarterly tax payments, so we don’t have a huge tax bill in April
If we don’t make quarterly payments, then we have to put money aside each month in order to have it available to pay taxes at the end of the year
We have to prepare to have our vehicles inspected, especially if it doesn’t pass inspection and needs to have work done on it
We can’t wait until the inspection has expired to have it inspected, otherwise we could be without a vehicle
As John finishes writing his letter to the seven churches, it is mentioned three times that Jesus is coming soon. For John, he wanted the readers of his letter to realize that Jesus could come back at any moment and they needed to live in that anticipation every day. If they failed to live with the anticipation of Jesus’ imminent return, then they may not be prepared for His return. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Jesus’ return is near, so be prepared.
We will see in these final verses how we can and should prepare for Jesus’ return.
GOD (Revelation 22:6-21)
Osborne provides an excellent outline for Revelation 22:6-21, so I’ll be using his five main points as the headings for five points this morning [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 780-98]
Authenticating the Book (vv. 6-7)
The angel repeats the same words as the Lord, found in Revelation 21:5, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
The angel and the Lord were both referring to the entire book of Revelation and not just the preceding vision or the following content
PRINCIPLE – God’s promises are “trustworthy and true” and He will fulfill them.
These two terms are attributes of God
He is completely trustworthy
He never fails us
He never says one thing and does another
He never over promises
He always keep His promises
He is always true
He never says anything that is false
He never lies
He doesn’t try to hide the truth
What we have seen and studied in Revelation will happen (we may not know when, but we can trust the Lord to fulfill His promises and His prophecy)
My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge that God is trustworthy and true through my adoration of Him.
Adoration is the first part of prayer in the acrostic A.C.T.S.
Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication
It is praying back to God, His perfect character traits
How the prophecy of Revelation was communicated
John shared this at the beginning of the Revelation and restates it differently here
Revelation 1:1, The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw – that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
John says here that it came from the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets
Is the Holy Spirit being referenced here or is it the spirit of the prophets?
“As for the debate about whether πνεμάτων (pneumatōn) refers to the Holy Spirit or to the prophets themselves, one cannot do better than Swete (1911: 303), who says it means ‘the natural faculties of the Prophets, raised and quickened by the Holy Spirit.’ Fee (1987: 696) puts it another way: it refers to ‘‘the prophetic Spirit’ by which each of them speaks through his or her own spirit.’’” [Osborne, 780-81]
It is how we refer to the authors of the Bible who were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to write down what we find in the Bible today
2 Peter 1:21, For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
It was sent through the Lord’s angel and given to the servants of the Lord
Servants obviously refers to the prophets and the Apostle John
It also refers, on a broader scope, to all believers, especially since the word “servant” is used throughout Revelation referring to believers
It all focuses on what must soon take place
We could take quite a bit of time unpacking this idea
It has been over two-thousand years since Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and John’s writing of Revelation
How could John’s statement about the events of the apocalypse coming soon be valid for us today?
2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God’s timing is perfect and what may seem a long time to us is a short time in the scope of salvation history
What we must do as followers of Jesus Christ is wait patiently for our infinite God to fulfill His perfect plan – we can do this because He is trustworthy and true
Jesus then reiterates the angel’s words by saying that He is coming soon – His return is imminent
Jesus speaks a blessing over those who keep the words of the prophecy in this book
The Greek form of the word “keep” helps us to understand that it is a continual, ongoing observance and not a onetime event [Patterson, The New American Commentary, Revelation, 379-380]
Dennis Johnson explains it well, Scripture is not a passive cadaver, waiting for curious medical students to dissect it in their quest for information. It is a living, double-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the triumphant Son of Man and pierces the thoughts and intents of our hearts. It is a hammer that shatters, a seed that grows, rainfall that never returns to its Giver without accomplishing the mission on which he sent it. Scripture has a job to do in us. (Triumph of the Lamb, 334) [Johnson cited by Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 351]
The prophecy that has been written in Revelation has come from God and Jesus Christ and so it is authentic – we can trust in it and know that it is true
1st – this is the first thing we need to do to prepare for Jesus’ return – continually keep the words of the prophecy found in Revelation
Angel’s Commands (vv. 8-11)
First command [Worship God and Jesus only] (vv. 8-9)
John identifies himself as the one who heard and saw all of the things written in Revelation
His reaction to this overwhelming revelation is to fall down and worship
His reaction is correct – to worship!
John just heard Jesus say that He is coming soon
He also heard Jesus speak a blessing over those who continually keep the words of the prophecy found in Revelation
Perhaps he simply got caught up in the words of Jesus and forgot that it was an angel in front of him and not Jesus
This is not the first time he has done this and been rebuked for doing it
Revelation 19:9-10, Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of the prophecy.”
Our reaction to hearing that Jesus is coming soon and that He will bless those who continually keep His words, should be to fall down and worship
Whom John falls down in front of to worship is not correct
As he did before, John falls down at the feet of the wrong person
The result is the same – he is instructed not to do it!
The angel does exactly what he should have done – point John to God and Jesus
He reminds John that he is simply a fellow servant
In fact, the angel, John, the prophets, and everyone who keeps the words of this book (all believers) are servants of God and Jesus
We saw last week that we will not be sitting around on clouds doing nothing, but we will be worshiping God and serving Him perfectly for all eternity
PRINCIPLE – God and Jesus alone are worthy of worship!
Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
“Historian Joseph Loconte notes that many people today are still obsessed with angels, particularly angelic beings who seem tailor-made to meet our every need. Dr. Loconte writes:
Take, for example, Angels 1O1: An Introduction to Connecting, Working, and Healing with the Angels, written by metaphysician Doreen Virtue. We are informed that, in contrast to the ideas of sin and guilt in some religious traditions, angels love every person unconditionally. They help everyone who calls on them, regardless of their religious faith or lack of it. ‘They look past the surface and see the godliness within all of us,’ she writes. ‘So angels aren't judgmental, and they only bring love into our lives. You're safe with the angels, and you can totally trust them.’
[Angels] make no demands on us; rather, they wait to be summoned to help us overcome every difficulty. [Virtue claims], ‘You never have to be afraid that the angels would ever ask you to do anything that would make you feel afraid.’
With her appearances on CNN, Oprah, and The View, Virtue's message—shared by many other authors in the field—clearly has a large audience. ‘I've discovered that the quickest and most efficient route to happiness is through connecting with the angels,’ she writes. ‘So whether you need help with your health, career, love life, family, or any other area, the angels can help you.’ Yes, even your sex life can be improved with a little angelic assistance, whatever that might mean.
Joseph Loconte, The Searchers (Thomas Nelson, 2012), pp. 98-99
We know from scripture that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14)
Akin expresses it beautifully when he says, “to take a good thing (like an angel) and turn it into a god thing is to make it into a bad thing (an idol).” [Akin, 351]
Tim Keller says, “Worship is pulling our affections off our idols and putting them on God.” [https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1997/june/2441.html]
2nd – the second thing we need to do to prepare for Jesus’ return is to make sure that we are worshiping God and Jesus only
My Next Step Today Is To: Sacrifice any idols that have taken the place of God and Jesus in my life.
These could be good things (hobbies, sports, etc)
Have they become god things in your life (have they taken the place of prayer, studying God’s Word, attending church and Bible studies, etc.)
The first command of the angel was to worship God and Jesus only
Second command [Do not seal up these prophecies] (v. 10)
It’s pretty straight forward, don’t seal up the words of the prophecy of this book
The revelation of Jesus Christ to His servants is something that God wants us to know
It is not to be sealed and hidden
All the way back in Revelation 1:1 the Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis which is where we get our English word Apocalypse (it literally means “unsealing” or “unveiling”)
That has been our theme for the entire book of Revelation – Jesus Unveiled
By the time John wrote down the revelation of Jesus, it no longer needed to be sealed or veiled, because the time was near
This was not always the case
There was a time when God wanted and needed certain visions to be sealed
Daniel 12:4, 9-10, But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge . . . He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
Daniel’s words express what the angel’s third command was
Third command [Choose right or wrong] (v. 11)
This command is a warning to those who are unsaved
Only God knows the time of Jesus’ second return
We are told in scripture that His second coming will be like a thief in the night (Rev. 16:15; Matt. 24:43; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Pet. 3:10)
This sudden second coming will not allow time for people, whether righteous or evil, to make a change
Our character has been set by a lifetime of habitual action, whether righteous or evil [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 406]
This command is also an encouragement to those who are doing what is right and living holy lives (they are to continue with those actions and behaviors)
3rd – the third way we can and should prepare for Jesus’ return is to choose right instead of wrong, because we never know when He will return.
The final major section of this passage has some additional sayings (some attribute them all to Jesus, while others attribute some to Jesus and some to John)
Additional Sayings (vv. 12-19)
Jesus (vv. 12-16)
Jesus is coming with His reward (vv. 12-13)
Jesus says the same words as He did in verse 7, “Behold, I am coming soon!”
He explains that He is coming with His reward
When we think about a reward it is something positive, right?
We find someone’s wallet and returned it to them with everything inside and they give us some of the money
Bounty hunters track down criminals and are rewarded with money
When Jesus is talking about coming with His reward it is both positive and negative
He will reward everyone, righteous and evil, based on what they have done
If they have been doing wrong and vile things, they will be rewarded a certain way
If they have been doing right and holy things, they will be rewarded differently
We will see in verses 14 and 15 what part of those rewards will be
PRINCIPLE – God will judge everyone for the deeds performed in this life.
We know from both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God’s desire is for everyone to take care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan (He is aware of their circumstances and knows whether or not we are helping to meet their needs)
We also know from Matthew 25:31-46 that if we feed the hungry and thirsty, invite the stranger in, clothe those who need clothes, look after the sick, and visit the prisoner, that we are serving the Lord through this
Those who do these things will be rewarded with entrance into God’s kingdom
Those who do not do these things will be rewarded with eternal fire in hell
Jesus also commanded us to share the Gospel with those around us
We need to be aware of the deeds we are doing on earth, or not doing
Serving the Lord by serving others and sharing the Gospel is outward evidence of a transformed life
4th – the fourth way we can prepare for Jesus’ return is to make sure we are doing what He has called us to do here on earth.
Jesus is able to judge our deeds accurately, because He is eternal
That is one of His many attributes and it is expressed here in Rev. 22:13 in three ways
Alpha and Omega
First and the Last
Beginning and the End
Jesus and God have been there throughout our entire lives and have seen, heard, and know every action, word, and thought
Scripture speaks about the fact that God and Jesus will judge human beings based on what they have done
Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
Romans 2:6-8, God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
“The reward will be spiritual blessedness to the righteous but judgment for those who are evil.” [Mounce, 407]
Jesus’ blessing and warning (vv. 14-15)
Reward for the righteous
This is the seventh and final beatitude in Revelation
Wash their robes
The form of the Greek word for “wash” is important (it is a participle in the present tense)
This represents a continual action and not a one-time act
It can be translated as “those who keep on washing their robes” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 420]
It means that the followers of Jesus Christ confess their sins regularly
All of us realize that while we are followers of Jesus Christ, we are still tempted and sometimes give in to those temptations, which requires our agreement with God that we have failed
1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Confession should be a part of our regular prayer time with the Lord
Those who continually strive to be in a right relationship with God and Jesus, through confession of sin, are given the right to the tree of life
Right to the tree of life
Sometimes we like to demand our rights, without fulfilling our responsibilities
We know that eternal life is by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, but we see here that it is not without the human responsibility of confession of sin
A daily “righting of the ship,” so to speak
Keeping a short list with God
Going through the gates into the city is another way of expressing the right to the tree of life, which gives us free and unhindered access to the presence of God
That is not the case with those who have rejected God and Jesus Christ
Reward for the evil
Their reward is to be separated from God for eternity, which is expressed as being outside (it is referring to being outside the great city, the New Jerusalem)
John lists six types of evildoers who are excluded from the great city [Easley, 421]
Dogs – term used for various impure persons (male prostitutes, those with a distorted view of the Gospel)
Practice magic arts – “sorcerers,” use of witchcraft, spells, and drugs to extend personal power and pleasure
Sexually immoral – “fornicators,” those who violate the sacredness of marriage
Idolaters – worshiping anything in place of God
Everyone who loves and practices falsehood – they are devoid of truth
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but representative of the kinds of evildoers who will be rewarded with eternal separation from God
Every person has the choice to decide whether or not to be among those inside the city or outside the city – the choice is ours
Jesus’ testimony (v. 16)
Jesus again identifies Himself as the One who originated the revelation
He then gave it to His angel, who in turn gave it to John so that he could communicate it with the churches
Jesus uses a two-fold description of Himself that may seem complicated, but is not
“As the Root of David, he is the One from whom David himself came and to whom David owes his existence and purpose. As the offspring of David, Jesus became a man in the incarnation and was born to the line of David as promised by the prophets.” [Patterson, 383]
He also refers to Himself as the bright Morning Star
This is a word of hope for all believers
The dark night of tribulation is almost over
The morning star is an indication that night is almost over
God’s final fulfillment for eternity is almost here
Numbers 24:17, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.
There seems to be a transition in speakers from Jesus to John
John (vv. 17-19)
Passing on the message to “come” (v. 17)
It seems as though John may be passing on information from other sources
Akin sees verse 17 as “a fourfold invitation to all persons of the world to come and be saved.” [Akin, 354]
The Holy Spirit invites them to come
The church (bride) says come [The Great Commission]
Anyone who hears the Gospel and responds to it should extend the invitation to others
The person who is thirsty is invited to come
Isaiah 55:1, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
John 7:37, On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
Whoever wishes is invited to come and take the free gift of the water of life
PRINCIPLE – God continues to offer His salvation to the very end.
John is concluding his letter to the churches, so what we see communicated here is not another vision of the end times
It is John encouraging the readers of his letter, which includes us, to come to Jesus Christ for salvation
The Holy Spirit is the One who prompts us, in our spirit, to respond to the Gospel
The body of Christ (the church) has been commissioned to share the Gospel with those around them
Anyone who has heard the Gospel and responded is encouraged to share the Gospel with others
It’s not too late
Admit, Believe, Choose
Revelation 3:20, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
My Next Step Today Is To: Open the door of my life to Jesus Christ, so I can be in a right relationship with God and spend eternity in heaven.
After John passes on the message about coming to God and Jesus Christ, he warns his readers about tampering with the prophecy he has shared
Warning about tampering with the prophecy (vv. 18-19)
The warning is for everyone who hears the words of the prophecy in Revelation (believers and unbelievers)
Adding to or taking away
The punishment, from God, for anyone who adds to the words of the prophecy is that He will add the plagues described in Revelation to them
I’m reminded of two examples in Scripture where an individual said or did more than God had instructed
Read Genesis 2:16-17; 3:2-3
Read Numbers 20:6-12
If someone takes away any of the meaning that God has intended through His prophecy then He will take away their share in the tree of life and the holy city
The warning is for those who do this willfully and not out of ignorance or lack of understanding
“Nobody fully understands the Bible or can explain everything in it; and those of us who teach the Word sometimes have to change our interpretations as we grow in knowledge. God sees the heart, and He can separate ignorance from impudence and immaturity from rebellion.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 2, 624-25]
After sharing Jesus’ sayings and sayings from others, John closes the book with some final words
Final Words (v. 20-21)
Plea for Christ’s Return
John reminds us once more that Jesus has testified to the words written in the book – it is His revelation and He is coming soon
John says a quick prayer of agreement with Jesus – Amen. Come, Lord Jesus
My prayer is that we can all say those words with John (have the congregation recite those words in unison)
John then closes with a benediction
It’s the grace of God through Jesus Christ that allows us to enter the great city, enjoy face-to-face fellowship with God, eat the fruit of the tree of life, and drink from the river of the water of life
We can agree with John – Amen!
We’ve had quite the journey through the book of Revelation. We have seen throughout this journey that Jesus has been unveiled. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will return one day, very soon, and take us home to be with Him. He has been preparing a place for those who have believed on Him. We must prepare for His return. We saw four ways to do that today.