God’s Plan From Beginning to End
How many of you are familiar with J. R. R. Tolkien’s series of books, Lord of the Rings? Perhaps you’re more familiar with the three movies that were produced. The premise behind the books and the movies is that there is a battle between good and evil.
At the end of the third book we read these words, “When Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for is seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried: ‘Behold the King!’”
Kendell H. Easley in his commentary says, “This excerpt suggests that Tolkien knew the true King of kings. He knew that human history is all about a real battle between good and evil. He knew that the true King has not yet been revealed in his splendor, but will one day.” [Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary, 11]
Aragorn was with the Hobbits and the other characters as they fought their way to the mountain where the one ring would be destroyed. He was known to them as Strider, but He was with them nonetheless.
Jesus was physically with humanity for a period of time. He is with us now through the Holy Spirit that lives within every believer. We see through all of Scripture that God’s sovereign plan continues to unfold throughout history. It is His redemptive plan that was set into motion when Adam and Eve sinned. It continues today and will one day be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns.
I’ve seen God’s redemptive plan at work in my life in the past
I was four years old when I believed in Jesus Christ for salvation
I didn’t understand all that a relationship with Jesus meant at that age, but God continued to work in my life as I learned more and more about His Son
As a teenager, I felt the call to missionary work, but didn’t know when or where
It wasn’t until three years after graduating college that I began to serve with Child Evangelism Fellowship
God’s sovereign plan for my life continued to unfold as I was obedient to His call into pastoral ministry
I’ve seen God working in my life even now
As a family we’ve been reading through the Bible and praying for the nations this year
It has been an incredible time of bonding as a family and it’s brought up good conversations and some laughter
God has also been working in my life through several books I’ve read recently
Not A Fan and Radical have challenged me to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow Jesus Christ
I’m still working through what that looks like for me
I recently started reading Visioneering by Andy Stanley and that has been challenging me to think about the future and the vision God has given me in several areas: career, finances, spouse, children, ministry, etc.
I’m looking forward to developing and praying about those visions
I don’t know when some of them will come to fruition, but I know that God’s sovereign plan will be revealed and accomplished in His time
How have you seen God’s sovereign plan at work in your past? (spouse, job, career, salvation, etc.)
How do you see God’s sovereign plan working in your life right now?
Do you believe that God’s sovereign plan will be accomplished in your life in the future?
As John begins his letter to the seven churches in the province of Asia, he wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – God’s sovereign plan is seen in the past, present, and future.
GOD (Revelation 1:1-8)
The theme for the entire book of Revelation is “Jesus Unveiled”
The very first word in the original Greek text is ʹΑποκάλυψις and it means “the act of uncovering, unveiling, revealing, revelation.” [Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 610]
The book of Revelation is the unveiling of the culmination of God’s plan to redeem humanity
That plan includes Jesus Christ at every step
We’ll see Jesus unveiled in multiple ways throughout this book
If you remember, I told you that I would give you the greatest teaching of Revelation that isn’t found in most commentaries – “right before the final judgment, God is still wooing the people of this world. His judgments are designed to call everyone to repentance. God may do His greatest act of evangelism at the very end. This may be why believers are still here.” [Dr. Douglas Buckwalter, lecture at Evangelical Seminary]
Most movies today that portrait the apocalypse make it look scary and something that should be feared
Yet, that is not how we should look at the Apocalypse
This is God’s fulfillment of His sovereign redemption plan
We saw His sovereign redemption plan in the past
He promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior
He made a covenant with Abraham
He promised David that someone from His line would always sit on the throne – it is Jesus!
He sent Jesus over two thousand years ago to be the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
We see His sovereign redemption plan in the present
The presentation we showed during halftime at the “Super Game” Night from Sports Spectrum and Football Sunday highlighted interviews from NFL players talking about what Seeking, Surrendering, and Serving looks like for them
This past year, the Philadelphia Eagles team saw several players give their lives to Jesus Christ and be baptized
It’s not just through NFL players that we see God’s sovereign redemption plan at work in the present, but also through every individual who surrenders their life to Jesus Christ
Through Revelation we have a glimpse into His sovereign redemption plan for the future
Introduction (vv. 1-3)
Transmission of the revelation (vv. 1-2)
John gives us a little introductory explanation about how the revelation of Jesus was transmitted to him
The revelation that John receives is not his own revelation, but rather Jesus’ revelation
There is great discussion about whether the revelation is about Jesus or from Jesus
Most scholars believe the original Greek within context favors the subjective genitive meaning – from Jesus – instead of the objective genitive – about Jesus
But the meaning of the Greek can be both of/about and from
It is definitely from Jesus, but I believe we’ll see that this revelation is an unveiling of Jesus as God’s fulfillment of His sovereign plan
There was a chain of communication that took place
The revelation was transmitted from God to Jesus
Jesus then shared it with an angel who in turn shared it with His servant John
In writing this book of the Bible, John then shares it with Jesus’ servants, the congregations of the seven churches in the province of Asia and of course with all believers down through history (that includes us)
What must soon take place
This phrase has caused some confusion and controversy over the years
How can this revelation be something that is soon to take place, if it has been two thousand years since John wrote these words?
How is John defining “soon”?
The Greek word means “speed, swiftness,” but with the preposition can mean “quickly, suddenly, soon.” Walvoord explains that the word indicates rapidity of execution [Rogers & Rogers, 610]
“It’s the same Greek word from which we get the word ‘tachometer’ – the instrument used to determine the speed of an engine. Thus, the Lord is telling us in this verse that when end-time events begin to happen, they’ll increase their rpms and happen with greater rapidity.” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary New Testament, 1663-1664]
We also have to remember that God works outside of our time/space continuum
Jesus’ return is always imminent in prophecy
Chronological sequence is always a secondary concern when speaking about prophecy [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 41]
We should have a sense of expectation and responsibility when we read that the end will soon take place [Osborne, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 55]
Live each day as if Christ is returning today
Testifying to everything he saw
John is letting us know that what he wrote down is everything he saw when he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10)
He also clarifies that what he saw was the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ
Those two statements are one in the same
Beatitude (v. 3)
This is the first of seven beatitudes that we will find in Revelation (14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14)
The same Greek word is used here as in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-12 and Luke 6:17-26
It can be defined as “happy”
Two groups can count themselves blessed/happy
Those who read it
There weren’t many in the 1st Century church who were able to read
So, it’s not hard to understand why those who could read and did read Holy Scripture were blessed or happy
They were sharing the very words of God to those who couldn’t read
This is how the Gospel was spread throughout the Roman world
Those who hear it and take it to heart
To take it to heart meant to “keep” or “observe”
Both the reader and hearer were to obey what was read
Jesus expresses in Luke 11:28 almost the exact same words as here, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
The theme of listening continues throughout Revelation, especially when addressing the seven churches
In each letter we hear these words, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)
Even though each church is addressed individually, all of the churches are to listen and obey what is being said to the other churches
PRINCIPLE – God will bless His people who read His word and those who hear it and obey it.
We have the opportunity to experience God’s blessing in our lives – to be happy
There are individuals in our culture who cannot read (children, the elderly, the illiterate)
What greater privilege than to read God’s Word to them, so they can hear and obey His Word
Through reading Scripture to others, we allow them to experience God’s blessing – to be happy
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to reading God’s Word to someone who is unable to read it.
We also have the opportunity to be blessed by God when we hear and obey His Word
James 1:22-25, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.
Is there some way God has been challenging you to obey Him through the reading or hearing of His Word?
Have you been obedient?
My Next Step Today Is To: Experience God’s blessing and be happy by being obedient to His Word.
The reason why they are to listen and obey is because the time is near
After explaining how he received the revelation of Jesus, John shares the traditional greeting of the 1st Century
Greeting (vv. 4-5a)
He identifies himself as the sender – John (the beloved disciple of Jesus)
The recipients are the seven churches in the province of Asia
This region would have been western Asia Minor
Today it is western Turkey
“Furthermore, the seven cities were located ‘on the great circular road that bound together the most populous, wealthy, and influential part of the Province.’” [Mounce, 45]
The letter would start at Ephesus, which was closest to the island of Patmos, and would end at Laodicea after completing the circular route
Each church probably hand-copied their own, so they could read it again and again
The other cities and villages within Asia Minor would learn of this great revelation from those seven churches
Grace and peace
This was the standard Christian greeting in the 1st Century
We see Paul using this greeting in his letters to the various churches
Grace is God’s unmerited favor (unconditional and undeserved kindness)
This would have been the traditional Hellenistic greeting
The Greek word is chairein
Peace refers to wholeness and well-being
This would have been the common Hebrew greeting
The Hebrew word is shalom
It is through Christ that Christians can experience true grace and peace in their lives
The source of grace and peace – threefold
John doesn’t say God directly, but we understand that’s who it is from his description – from him who is, and who was, and who is to come
This is the first of two times that John uses this description of God – the other is in Rev. 1:8
A similar form is also used in Rev. 4:8; 11:17; and 16:5
“This paraphrase of the divine name (YHWH) stems from Exod 3:14-15 and calls attention to the fact that all time is embraced within God’s eternal presence.” [Mounce, 45-46]
Exodus 3:14-15, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
PRINCIPLES – God is eternal and sovereign
Eternal – God has no beginning or ending. He is not affected by time. He has already lived your tomorrows (Because He is eternal we see His sovereign plan in the present, the past, and the future)
Sovereign – God has the right to plan my life. He has the right to rule and make any decision He wants to. He has the right the change things. “He has the right to rule and He rules rightly.”
Grace and peace don’t just come from God, but also the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit
The description John gives of the Holy Spirit here seems confusing
The seven spirits before the throne
Most translations have the seven spirits, but some put in a footnote, the sevenfold Spirit
Some scholars think it refers to seven angels, but that doesn’t seem to hold true within the context and how the seven spirits is used elsewhere in Revelation
Using Zechariah 4:2-6, some scholars believe that the seven spirits are talking about the Holy Spirit, since the angel explains to Zechariah that the seven lamps on the lampstand represent the work of the Holy Spirit and not might or power
“While there is but one Holy Spirit, he does not invest himself incrementally in the churches but is always available simultaneously, in his fullness, to all seven congregations.” [Patterson, New American Commentary, 59]
We see this spelled out in the individual addresses to each church to hear what the Spirit says to the churches
There is one final source of this grace and peace and it comes from Jesus
John describes Jesus in three ways: the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth
Jesus faithfully passed on to the angel the revelation from God
His life on earth was a witness to the truth from God
John 3:11, I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
We see Jesus saying it again in John 3:32-33
Jesus was the model for the Asian churches who were about to go through a time of persecution
1 Timothy 6:13, In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession . . .
He wasn’t just a faithful witness, but was also the firstborn from the dead
Firstborn from the dead
This simply expresses that Jesus was the first One to rise from the dead
This is significant for followers of Jesus Christ, because His resurrection guarantees that we will also be raised from the dead
1 Corinthians 15:20-23, But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
John describes then the future of Christ
Ruler of the kings of the earth
This is a reference to His sovereign role as King
This expression looks forward to Rev. 19:16
“There is a sense in which Jesus may be observed in his three ministries as prophet (faithful witness), priest (conquering for man the wage of sin exacted against man through his victory over death), and king (ruling all other kings).” [Patterson, 60-61]
John moves from the greeting to a doxology
Doxology (v. 5b-6)
John listed three titles for Jesus in the ending of his greeting and now he lists three works of Jesus
He loves us
Jesus’ love for us was manifested in His death, burial, and resurrection
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
Read Romans 5:5-8 [Bible marker #2]
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It was through His perfect sacrifice that we are freed from our sins
He freed us from our sins
Anything we think, say, or do that displeases God
Our sin creates a separation between us and God (Rom. 6:23)
This separation comes as a result of our own choices
We try to bridge the gap that our separation has created with good works, religion, philosophy, morality, and many other things
There is only one thing that can bridge the gap of separation – it’s the blood of Jesus Christ
Hebrews 9:22, In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
1 John 1:7, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Become God’s child
John 1:12, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
My Next Step Today Is To: Become a child of God by believing in Jesus name and receiving Him into my life.
“John reminds his audience that salvation is not just what God saves us from (our sins, 1:5), but what he saves us for – for a destiny as his agents and worshipers (1:6).” [Keener, The NIV Application Commentary, 71]
Made us to be a kingdom and priests
Exodus 19:5-6, Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
These words for Israel in the OT and for us in the NT are to encourage us to remember that we are God’s special people – The Israelites and the Christians in Asia Minor were experiencing persecution and these words would have brought them comfort
We are to continue what God initially charged the Israelites to do – to show those around us what a relationship with Jesus Christ looks like
Praise for Jesus
John concludes this doxology with glory and power to Jesus
Amen means “so let it be”
Before John begins to share the vision he had, he reminds the churches about Christ’s promised return
Promise of Christ’s Return (vv. 7-8)
This promise comes from two Old Testament passages
Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
Jesus return will not be missed
It will be seen by everyone
Every eye will see Him
Everyone will recognize who Jesus is
This is obviously a reference to those who crucified Jesus – they will realize that they pierced the Messiah
But it is much broader than just the Jews who crucified Him
It also encompasses all fallen humanity – there are individuals from every generation that have rejected Jesus, marginalized Him, and have not believed that He is the Son of God or the only way to the Father
They will mourn when He returns, because it will be clear to them who Jesus is
It’s imperative that we recognize who Jesus is now and not when He returns
It will be too late when He returns – we will be one of those who mourns because we will understand who Jesus is and recognize that we have rejected Him
2 Corinthians 6:2, For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
John affirms this message from the prophets of old – so shall it be! Amen.
There are three principles that God highlights about Himself in v. 8
PRINCIPLE – God is omniscient [all-knowing]
Alpha and Omega were the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet
Alpha and Omega also represent all of the letters in between
God was there at the beginning (creation) and He will be there at the end
God is also right here with us now
PRINCIPLE – God is immutable [unchanging]
He is continuing to fulfill His sovereign plan through the past, present, and future
God doesn’t change – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)
God’s sovereign plan is seen in the past, present, and future.
PRINCIPLE – God is omnipotent [all-powerful]
Almighty simply means that God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
There is nothing He cannot do
Jesus’ return is imminent – it will happen!
Are you reading, hearing, and obeying God’s Word until Jesus returns?
Have you prepared for Jesus return?
We have a responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to share the good news of Jesus Christ
We will be blessed when we read God’s Words to those who can’t read
Those who hear and obey God’s Word will also be blessed
There are many ways that people are preparing for the Apocalypse. Here is one example.
“Are you ready for the end of the world? If not, a company named Vivos can help you and your loved ones get prepared. The Vivos website says, ‘Whether we want to believe it or not … we are on the cusp of an increase in number and magnitude of events that may, in the twinkling of an eye, change the world, as we know it.’ They list a range of possible cataclysmic disasters, including Armageddon, plagues, a solar kill shot, a super volcanic eruption, major earth changes, killer asteroids and comets, mega tsunami's, an economic meltdown—not to mention manmade threats, including nuclear explosions, a reactor meltdown, biological or chemical disasters, terrorism, and widespread anarchy.
But for a mere $35,000 per person, you can co-own an underground Vivos shelter in one of their airtight, fully self-contained, impervious complexes designed to survive any catastrophe. Their website advertises:
Our [complexes] comfortably accommodate community groups from 50 to 1,000 people, in spacious living quarters, outfitted and stocked for a minimum of 1 year of autonomous survival to ride out the potential events. Every detail has been considered and planned for. Members need to only arrive before their facility is locked down and secured from the chaos above.
Their website warns that ‘millions will perish or worse yet, struggle to survive.’ But they also boldly promise, ‘Vivos is your solution to ride out these catastrophes, so you may survive to be a part of the next Genesis!’ They also offer this reminder: ‘It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.’”
Matt Woodley, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; source: Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock (Penguin Group, 2013), p. 245; Vivos website (accessed on April 10, 2013).
There is only one way to be prepared for the Apocalypse and John is unveiling that truth in the book of Revelation. He is unveiling Jesus as God’s sovereign plan that we see in the past, present, and future.