THINGS WILL GET MUCH BETTER AFTER THEY GET WORSE
(Saturday, October 10, 2020)
At the last trumpet, Jesus Christ Himself is going to return to this Earth! “The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord …” (Revelation 11:15). Jesus Christ is about to take over this world in crisis, rule it with a rod of iron and bring peace, joy, happiness and success to everybody on Earth. That is the kind of prosperity mankind really wants, but has never been able to achieve.
The final section of the Book of Revelation [Chapter 19 – 22] gives a chronological explanation of the events that occur from the end of the Tribulation through eternity.
In the diagram, we see that the first section presents the events that will occur before the Tribulation. The second section gives a big picture perspective in chronological order of events that will occur from the beginning of the Tribulation until the end of the Tribulation. In our previous blog post we captured the major events articulated in Revelation 6 -18, which was the largest and most complicated of the sections in the Book of Revelation: the layered explanation of events during the Tribulation [i.e. The seven seals, seven trumpets, seven signs and seven last plagues (bowls) of prophetic events that will occur before and at the time of coming of Jesus Christ in clouds with great power and glory].
This final section of the Book of Revelation is actually the answer to the question “What is the Meaning of Life?” These four chapters that conclude the New Testament actually present a clear and simple answer to the Meaning of Life. However, most people do not read these four chapters by themselves. Most people read these four chapters after reading the thirteen most complicated chapters of this book [Revelation 6-18], and are too confused and / or mentally exhausted to comprehend the simple answer. Again, this is how the prophetic prophecies stated in the Bible will conclude. None of the prophetic prophecies in the Bible will remain unfulfilled. Can you explain how the Bible ended? Focus on these four chapters and you will not only know how the Bible ended, you will also find out the Meaning of Life.
2.0 RETURN OF CHRIST TO EARTH [THE FIRST RESURRECTION]
Revelation 19 talks about Christ’s second coming and the defeat of all His enemies to establish His kingdom on the earth. In fact, we can divide the chapter into three parts. First: rejoicing over the coming kingdom in verses 1 through 6. Second: the invitation to enter the kingdom, which is called the Wedding Feast in verses 7 through 10. And thirdly: the coming of the kingdom and the coming of Christ in verses 11 through 21.
John hears a great multitude in heaven saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” This is the first place in the New Testament where the word “hallelujah” occurs. That’s interesting because we’re so familiar with the word, but it doesn’t occur in the New Testament until we come here, and we read “hallelujah.” It means “Praise Yahweh” or Praise Jehovah or Praise the Lord. In fact, the word occurs four times in this passage in verses 1 through 6 and only here in all of the New Testament. The sixth message in this series is recorded in Revelation in 19:1-8 and contains the exuberant praise of God’s people in heaven. In response to the judgment against Babylon, God’s faithful people praise him. And their praise continues as they recognize that the judgment against Babylon has cleared the way for the wedding between the Lamb, who is Christ, as his bride, the church.
Next, an interlude interrupts the messages in Revelation 19:9-10. In this interlude, John is commanded to write down a blessing for all those who participate in the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Lastly, this vision series concludes with the final battle between God and his enemies, reported in Revelation 19:11-21. Christ appears as the divine warrior and wages war against all the enemies of God. These enemies are led by the beast and the false prophet, which are, respectively, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth from Revelation 13. And there is no contest; the beast and the false prophet are defeated forever. Listen to how Revelation 19:20 describes their downfall: The beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf… The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 19:20). The final battle concludes all the wars God has waged on behalf of his people, and completes the victory Christ won on the cross.
In His return, Jesus will appear in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (the scene will be almost same as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 by Apostle Paul). It says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord”. This will be the first resurrection.
The book of Revelation makes it clear: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). This verse is speaking of the resurrection of the just. It is speaking of the resurrection of the righteous. Those who take part in the first resurrection will appear with Christ, and it is then that they will receive the job that they will perform during the thousand years. The second death has no power over them, as once they have been resurrected, they will be immortal. There will be no more death for them! It goes on to say, “They shall be priests unto God and of Christ, and they shall reign with Him.” They will not be as strangers, or pilgrims, or street walkers. They will reign! The word “reign” means to rule. They will rule with Christ for a thousand years!
3.0 REIGN OF CHRIST ON EARTH [1000 YEARS]
Now that we’ve explored the judgment on Babylon, let’s examine the series dealing with the reign of the saints in Revelation 20:1–21:8. This series on the reign of the saints includes three parts, beginning with the thousand year reign of the saints, commonly called the millennium, in Revelation 20:1-10. In this section, John saw an angel descend from heaven and bind the great dragon, who is Satan. John saw that for the next thousand years, Satan would remain bound while the faithful Christian martyrs would come to life and reign with Christ. John also saw that after the thousand years, Satan would be released to gather the nations for the final battle against God, as described in Revelation 19. At the end of this battle, all God’s enemies will have been permanently destroyed. Even Satan himself will be thrown into the lake of burning sulfur forever.
Most interpreters recognize that, like the rest of John’s apocalyptic prophecy, Revelation 20 is highly symbolic. And believers interpret its symbols in a wide variety of ways. In fact, in the entire book of Revelation, it would be hard to find a more debated passage than this one. Broadly speaking, there are four major schools of interpretation for this passage. Each one is named in part after its understanding of the millennium or thousand years mentioned throughout this passage. These four schools of interpretation are: historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. Historic premillennialism and dispensational premillennialism are both premillennial systems, meaning that they believe Jesus will return before the millennium starts. By contrast, postmillennialism and amillennialism are both postmillennial systems, meaning that they believe that Jesus will return after the millennium ends.
We agree that there is going to be a ruling and a reigning of the Lord Jesus Christ through his gospel in some way, whether it involves his personal presence immediately or eventually — that’s a question we’re not clear on — but we know that he is going to rule, he is going to reign, and it will be a manifestation of the power of the gospel. We know that he will judge and there will be a judgment of the sheep and the goats and there will be some who will be cast into eternal punishment because they do not have forgiveness of sin through him, and there will be others who will be called to enter into the glory that is prepared for them from before the foundation of the world. We know those things are true. We all agree on those things. We know that heaven is going to be a place where indwelleth righteousness and Christ himself will reign, and we will glory in him, and there will be no doubt as to the power and wonder of Jesus Christ. All of us agree on that. And we could go on with other truths about these last things, this eschatology as we call it from the word eschaton. And the number of things that we agree on because of the clarity of Revelation is really quite astounding. And as a result, we can all find great comfort and encouragement in the Bible’s teaching about the millennium. The second part of the series on the reign of the saints deals with the last judgment on God’s enemies, in Revelation 20:11-15.
The truth of Christ’s reign on earth connects with some of the Bible’s earliest statements. It is found in virtually all the Hebrew prophets. God’s promise of His 1,000-year reign on earth stands as a symbol of hope for all mankind. The reign of the 1,000-year period of peace and righteousness following the next coming of Jesus Christ, who will reign over the earth forever and ever. It is the scriptural teaching of the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. The first explicit statements that the Kingdom of God will reign on earth for a thousand years appear toward the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation. Revelation 19 describes the return of Jesus Christ, coming in glory and power to take over the kingdoms of this world and to institute a new, just reign here on earth (Revelation 19:11-16). He will put down rebellion, remove the last human empire ruling on earth and institute the reign of the government of God for the 1,000-year. Moreover, in Old Testament we also read of the impact the ruling Kingdom of God will have during the 1000 years in areas that include world peace, economic stability, the restoration of true education and right values, the role of the resurrected saints, the roles of various physical nations and even changes in the nature of animals. This is going to be a wonderful and exciting time—something we can eagerly look forward to.
4.0 RESURRECTION OF REST AND DAY OF JUDGEMENT [SECOND RESURRECTION]
In this part of his vision, John witnessed God rendering final judgment on all humanity, based on their works. This judgment included everyone who had ever lived. Believers, whose names were written in the book of life, were spared God’s terrible wrath. But the rest of humanity was condemned for their sins. This aspect of the last judgment completely removed the presence and effects of sin in the world, making way for the new heavens and the new earth. Finally, the third part of the series on the reign of the saints focuses on the last judgment for God’s people, in Revelation 21:1-8.
In Revelation 3:5, Jesus extends three promises to every faithful believer. First, He will grant Him white garments (also in Isaiah 61:10 and II Corinthians 5:21). Roman officials customarily wore white clothing at religious festivals as symbols of high honour. White clothing that is given to the faithful represents not only honour but also purity and righteousness. This is a picture of the “righteousness of God” that is required for salvation. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “For he hath made him (Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” In other words, Jesus Christ traded places with us on the cross of Calvary. He took our sin upon himself in order that He might give us His righteousness. This is pictured in the Old Testament as a “garment of salvation” or a “robe of righteousness.” Our righteousness based on our deeds are filthy rags according to Isaiah 64:6. “But we are all as unclean things, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).” Isaiah also wrote, “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” (Isaiah 61:10). Therefore, every believer (overcomer) shall be clothed in white raiment speaking of the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:21).
Second, Jesus will not blot the faithful believer’s name out of the book of life. (also in Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20 and Philippians 4:3) While some individuals think this statement implies that a believer may lose His salvation, it simply means the conqueror—the “overcomer” (1 John 5:4,5)—can be secure knowing their name will never be erased. Every born-again person has eternal life that will be His divinely given possession forever (John 5:24; 6:35–37, 6:39; 10:28–29; Romans 8:1). Does the idea of blotting out a name from the Book of Life imply loss of salvation? There is the Book of Life and then there is the Lamb’s Book of Life. These are different books. The Book of Life is the book of physical life. The Lamb’s Book of Life is the book of eternal life. When we are born the first time, God places our names in the Book of Life. When we are born the second time, God places us in the book of eternal life, a register and roll of all who shall inherit eternal life. When we die, God blots us out of the Book of Life. God never blots our names out of the Lamb’s Book of life. In Exodus 32:31-33 we read, “Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!’ ‘Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” Moses asks God to kill him. He asks God to take him out of the book of physical life. On the day of Judgement, Jesus will physically blot out the life of those who do not gain victory in their spiritual lives. What does this passage mean by the idea that Jesus will “never” blot out his name from the Book of Life? It obviously does not mean that he can never lose his salvation for John clarifies that in other passages (John 5:24; 6:35-37, 39; 10:28-29; Romans 8:38-39). If we did not become Christians by good works, then we cannot become non-Christians by bad works. God bases our salvation on the finished work of Christ, not on our works. A person can never have security of eternal life by what he does; he can only have eternal security based on what Christ did. Remember, according to Revelation 3:5, if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he will not blot your name out. What is the sin that can cause your name to be blotted out? It is unbelief. It is the rejection of Jesus Christ as Saviour. This is the unpardonable sin. (See John 3:36, 1 John 5:12). In John 3:18 we have this unpardonable sin given. “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” A person living in unbelief is living in a condemned state already. If that person puts their trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour before they die, God promises in Revelation 3:5 that “…I will not blot out his name from the book of life…” If that person dies in unbelief, then at that point, God blots their name out of the book of life. The believer will be clothed with the righteousness of God, and his name will never be blotted out of the book of life. In other words, you can never be lost once you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Third, Jesus will confess the believers’ names before His Father and the angels. In a public ceremony in heaven, Jesus will acknowledge that these overcoming, enduring, faithful “conquerors” belong to Him. We are not told much about what is presently happening in heaven, but we are informed that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luke 15:10). I believe that what happens at the moment of salvation, according to Revelation 3:5, is that an announcement is made in heaven that you have trusted Christ, (as Jesus said, “before my Father; and before his angels”). (Revelation 3:5 and Luke 15:10) Evidently, great joy follows the announcement in Heaven. Moreover, in Matthew 10:32–33 and Luke 12:8-9 we read, I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels- Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Further in Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 we read, Revelation 13:8 says: “And all who dwell on the earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Revelation 17:8 says: “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” On the Judgement day, whose name is not found written in the Lamb’s book of life will be eternally separated from God,which is the second death.
5.0 THE SECOND DEATH [LAKE OF FIRE]
The first death is physical death, which is separation of the spirit from the body; the inner person from the outer. (James 2:26; Luke 23:46; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:4). Note that the “inner person”, or spirit, does not cease to exist at death, but is described as being “unclothed” … having no body. The spirit will receive a new body at the resurrection but continues to exist in a conscious state until then, longing for the new body which the Lord will prepare (1 Corinthians 15:50-53). The part of man that “sleeps” is the body, not the spirit. The spirit goes to God for judgment. Physical death is universal in its scope, and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The Sadducees of Jesus’ day denied life after death and the resurrection. Jesus let them know that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob continued to exist after their physical deaths (Matthew 22:31,32). While the first death is universal and cannot be avoided, the good news is that the “second death” can be avoided, and in fact it ought to be made life’s priority to do just that! Many would like to avoid the first as well, but, as they say, that horse is already out of the barn. However, in Jesus it can lose its’ sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). But the “second death” can be avoided, and again, it must be through Jesus. We must ensure that the course of our life is leading us to avoid the second death. It’s imperative. It’s more important than anything. Everything good and all the potential for good hangs in the balance, and Jesus is the answer, and we need to take Him seriously.
The second death is defined later in Revelation 20: 14 & 21: 8 as the “lake of fire.” It is the death of body and soul. Well, that is described, his doom, in Revelation 20: 10. The nations that followed beast, Gog and Magog, are all destroyed. “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” And with that, the chapter on Satan is closed. What a story it was. There are lessons to be learned from it. From the accounts of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, he had a glorious beginning. He was Lucifer, the morning star. Ezekiel calls him the anointed cherub. He was in the very presence of God. He was blameless, Ezekiel says, until unrighteousness was found in him. His heart was lifted up in pride because of his beauty.
The second death is the judgment over everything that is tainted by sin. When someone has not used the opportunities in their life to overcome sin, they will be hurt by this second death, because nothing that cannot stand the fire of judgment will be allowed into eternity. For we who have used our opportunities while still here on this earth to overcome sin, we will not be hurt by that second death. We have recognized the sin that we are tempted to, judged it as unacceptable for one who wants to practice righteousness, and resisted it. We are an overcomer who live righteously and do what is good and true in every circumstance. And if we fall, we repent, are forgiven, and resolve to resist the temptation to sin the next time. We don’t want to miss an opportunity! The “second death” is the eternal separation from God. It is separation from His mercy, kindness and goodness. It is darkness and wailing. It is the complete loss of all good things. It is the opposite of eternal life (Matthew 25:41;46). One only needs to see how the Scriptures describe the second death to understand the importance of the promise Jesus makes. We read of judgment and see the second death is also described as a “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-14). Let us avoid falling into that lake! Overcoming means that you and I will not be hurt by the second death! This is made possible by the grace of God made available through the atoning death of His Son. We also learn that Satan and His servants are there, not to rule as often depicted, but to also be punished consciously and eternally. (Revelation 20:10). It is so important to overcome in Christ! (Revelation 21:3-8). Now, I could put some effort into making the second death sound less threatening than the Scriptures of God describe it, but why would I? Many do just that. Lots of people appreciate a softer approach to judgment, at least for now. But I am certain such appreciation will vanish in eternity by all who, because of this, have neglected preparing for the judgment to come.
If we are to overcome the evil one, it must be by our faith (1 John 2:13-17). We overcome by being buried and raised up with Christ (Romans 6:4,5; 8,9). Being raised with Christ from baptism is important. We are not ready for the second resurrection until we undergo this first, spiritual resurrection, rising from baptism to walk in newness of life. The book of Revelation figuratively describes this new life as a thousand-year reign with the Lord (Revelation 20:6). This spiritual resurrection is also called a “new birth”. Jesus said one must be “born again” to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). We are born again through our obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:22,23). In this way, we overcome by faith. We must be “born of God” (1 John 5:4) and walk in our new life in Jesus. This is living each day by faith. This is the means to our victory bought by God’s grace.
Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Jesus has shown us the way. But this is not something to be casual about. Overcoming by faith means being steadfast, diligent and dedicated. It is to those who overcome that Jesus promises access to the tree of life and that the second death will not hurt them. It is more than worthwhile to endure giving up our own will, the works of the flesh that Paul speaks about in Galatians 5, in order to do God’s will. The love, goodness, longsuffering, etc. that replaces our natural selfishness, envy, uncleanness, and so on, are the results of living an overcoming life. These give us value that we will have for all eternity. There is grace for forgiveness of sins, but we also have grace for a much deeper life. Anytime an opportunity to overcome sin is missed we will be forgiven but have lost an opportunity to gain something of eternal value. That is the pain of the second death. That is an eternal loss. First Corinthians 15:41 talks about the glory of the sun, the moon, and the stars. This is symbolic of the eternal glory that we can come to. The more eternal value we have as a result of being faithful to overcome, the greater our eternal glory will be.
6.0 NEW HEAVEN AND NEW JERUSALEM [BRIDE]
John saw that the last judgment for God’s people would be a great blessing. The heavens and earth would be remade, and a New Jerusalem would descend from heaven as the capital city of the new earth. This revels that in the new heavens and new earth, God will dwell among his people. God did this in the past in the Garden of Eden, in the tabernacle, and in the temple. And now he dwells with us in Christ. But in the new heavens and new earth, our fellowship with God will be even greater, because he’ll manifest his glory among us, and we’ll live in his physical presence forever. What I love to emphasize here is the fact that we have a new heaven and a new earth, that when the Lord does come again and does bring everything to a close, we’re going to not only have a new earth, but even heaven itself is going to be touched by a newness.
Let’s move to his vision of the wife of the Lamb. This vision is recorded in Revelation 21:9–22:5. In his fourth vision, John was lifted onto a high mountain. According to Revelation 21:9, this vision concerned the bride, the wife of the Lamb, which was the New Jerusalem. This vision described the never-ending beauty, peace, health, prosperity and enjoyment that will exist after the world has been cleansed from the influence and presence of all God’s enemies. And when John’s original audience read about it, they would have been encouraged to pursue God’s blessings by living according to its ideals, and looking forward to the fullness of salvation that will come when Christ returns.
The New Jerusalem is described in Revelation 21:9-27. It was prepared in heaven, and then brought to the new earth. The city was shaped as a perfect cube. In the Old Testament, the Most Holy Places in the tabernacle and the temple were also cubes. Correspondingly, just as God manifested his holy presence in the Most Holy Places, he’ll reveal his glory to his people in the New Jerusalem.
Both the dimensions and descriptions of the New Jerusalem frequently mention the number twelve. In the Old Testament, this number is associated with the twelve tribes of Israel, representing God’s people in that age. And in the New Testament, the number twelve is associated with the twelve apostles, representing God’s people in the current age. This suggests that in the New Jerusalem, God’s people are present in all their diversity and distinctive cultures.
Within the New Jerusalem, the river of life flowed from God’s throne through the middle of the city. It nourished the tree of life, whose leaves brought healing to all the nations. This symbolized the fact that in the new earth, the curse of sin will be eradicated from creation. The entire world will be fully renewed and healed from all the conflicts with sin that have plagued fallen human throughout our history.
Finally, John saw that the New Jerusalem shone with the glory of God. The jewels and precious stones of the city reflected his richness, beauty and splendor. And beyond this, God’s splendor filled the city, so that it didn’t need other sources of light — including a sun or moon.
The question is, “Will the current heavens and earth be destroyed in order to make room for the new heaven and earth promised in Revelation 21?” Certainly, the new heavens and the new earth will be radically different than this heavens and earth that we’re a part of now in that the curse will be removed, the effects of the Fall won’t be here anymore.
Revelation is a timeless message from God to his people. Regardless of our perspective on the timings and fulfilments of John’s visions, all Christians should agree that the book of Revelation is as relevant today as it was when John wrote it. Our circumstance may be different, but our God hasn’t changed. And the values and perspectives John taught are still binding on us today. We can be encouraged by God’s goodness in the past, present, and future. We can be confident in his love for us and his control over history. And we can respond to him in faith now and for the rest of our lives.
Throughout this lesson, we’ve seen that Revelation assures us of God’s final victory, encourages our perseverance, and increases our longing for Christ’s return. Our future blessing is certain. And it can give us comfort and determination when we’re tempted or even persecuted. God never intended this book to divide Christians over our theological differences. He intended it to encourage every believer in every age to live in faithful obedience to him, and to hope in the glorious return of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
One of the scenes that we see concluding the book of Revelation is the emergence of the new city, the New Jerusalem, which comes to this earth. So, it comes to this terrestrial plane. And we also notice that one of the key images of this new reality is the tree of life, which is a clear reference back to the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1. So, in one sense, creation begins in a garden, but in another sense, it’s going to end in a city; but it seems to be connected some significant way.