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Overview of Revelation: Christ Matters More Print E-mail
Sunday, 29 July 2012

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I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed preaching through the book of Revelation. In fact, I am sad that this is my last sermon in the series. Most preachers are excited about preaching a book like Romans or Hebrews, but Revelation can be a challenge. And when I began I was unsure about how I was going to handle certain passages. Of course, I am still not sure how to deal with all of the imagery and symbolism in the book. But I have learned that although book may be difficult at points, it is a book that we cannot afford to ignore or pay little attention to because of its difficulties. As with the rest of the Bible, we need this book. Personally, it has been such an encouragement to me over these past seven months to be laboring to understand and preach this book faithfully. I pray it has encouraged you as well.

In our time together this morning, I simply want to give us one final overview of the book.  As far as an outline is concerned, the book begins with an introduction in chapter 1.  Chapters 2-3 are the seven letters to the seven individual churches in Asia and chapters 4-5 are John’s vision of the throne-room of heaven.  Then the book moves to what we called the three cycles of seven and the interludes: seven seals (ch. 6:1-8:5), seven trumpets (ch. 8:6-11:19), the extended interlude of the unholy trinity (ch. 12-14), and the seven plagues (ch. 15-16).  Chapters 17-18 told of the fall of Babylon.  Chapter 19 described the wedding supper of the Lamb and His return to make war on His enemies.  Chapter 20 described the millennium and the white throne judgment.  And the final two chapters (21-22) described the eternal state and offered some final thoughts.  Thus, the book is not that difficult to outline. 

Likewise the main exhortation of the book is not hard to identify either.  John repeatedly calls his readers to endure in the faith.  We see this exhortation in the letters to the churches (ch. 2-3) and in several places throughout the book.  In the extended interlude of chapters 12-14 John says twice: Here is a call for the endurance of the saints (13:10b, 14:12a).  John wrote the book to encourage Christians to not give up in following Christ.  The original readers, like us, were tempted to take the easy road.  They were tempted to compromise on their faith if it meant they could avoid suffering and persecution and other unwanted consequences.  Sure, they wanted to follow Christ, but they wanted comfort and ease as well.  John writes to encourage them, and us, to refuse to give in to such temptations.  We are to endure to the end.  I want to spend our time this morning considering three themes in the book that I think support this exhortation to endure.

The weight and extent of sin:

One recurring theme that surprised me was John’s teaching on the weight and extent of sin.  It is so tempting in our culture to simply believe that everyone is ‘pretty good.’  Sure, people make mistakes and nobody’s perfect, but for the most part, people are not that bad.  This is not the picture that the book of Revelation (and the rest of the Bible) paints.  We are sinners through and through.  And we live in a world that has been completely corrupted by sin.  It is not just ‘out there’ it is ‘in here.’  And it is not in just ‘some places’ it is in ‘every place.’

How does John teach us this?  First, we see that five of the seven churches were in serious trouble.  Ephesus had forgotten how to love.  Three of the churches were embracing false teaching.  Laodicea was lukewarm.  We cannot make the mistake of thinking that once a person professes faith in Christ then everything will be easy.  No, these churches and their struggles demonstrate that sin is subtle and pervasive.  We cannot hide from it or pretend like it is not there.  No, we must stand and fight.  By God’s grace and strength, we must endure. 

Second, we see the extent of sin in the fact that no one was worthy to open the seals.  Look at 5:2-4.  All of humanity was corrupted, save one.  The finishing of redemptive history hung in the balance and no one among men was found worthy to act.  No one except the Lord Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, which also points to the weight of our sin.  We could not be saved apart from the slaughtering of the Lamb of God.  It took the blood of God’s only Son to save me from my sins.  There is no other remedy, no other salvation, apart from faith in Him.  Third, we see that even after God had sent terrible judgments, men were still unwilling to repent (9:20-21, 16:9, 11).  They rejoiced (exchange presents) at the killing of the saints (11:9-10). 

Finally, John teaches that sin will only be eradicated completely in the New Heavens and the New Earth (20:11, 21:27, 22:3).  All of this (and more) points us to the weight and extent of sin.

So then, how does this encourage us to endure?  Such teaching on sin prepares and equips us for life as believers.  We live in enemy-occupied-territory.  We should not be surprised by suffering and persecution.  We should expect it.  Likewise, even on the worst of days, we have the glorious promise that one day we will be free from the curse.  It will not happen in this lifetime, but it will happen.  We can be sure of that and look to it with hope, even as we battle in this life.

The book of ‘no mores’:

This world is temporary.  The circumstances, good or bad, that you are currently facing are temporary.  This life is fleeting.  We are here today and gone the next.  John reminds us of this truth in his book.  For the unbeliever, he tells them that their current state of power and freedom and ease and enjoyment is not going to last.  This is very clear in 18:21-24.  Look at that passage with me.  Babylon represents man’s collected rebellion against the Lord.  She enjoys her luxuries for a season.  But the time is coming when all those pleasures will be no more.  If you have refused to follow Christ because you are unwilling to give up some sin or pleasure, then you need to hear the truth this morning: it will not last.  Any joy or pleasure found outside of Christ is temporary.  Thus, I plead with you to turn from it and follow Christ today.

What about the believer?  Are there ‘no mores’ for the believer?  Absolutely.  Look at 21:4.  No more tears, no more death, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more fear, no more distraction, no more weariness, no more separation, etc.  On and on we could go with the list of things that will be ‘no more’ for the believer.  We will dwell in God’s presence forever and the former things will be no more.  We know that the Bible teaches the temporary nature of this life.  We know that it tells us that life is fleeting.  Unfortunately, we do not always live like that.  We get consumed with the things of this world.  We get distracted and forget that a Day is coming when the things of this earth will be no more.  Sometimes this happens in the midst of suffering and difficulty.  Sometimes it happens in their absence.  Yet, either way, we must constantly be grasping for what is eternal and letting go of what is temporary.  Invest your life in what will never be ‘no more.’  Spend your days on what will last even into eternity.  By doing so, you will remain steadfast in the faith and endure to the end.

Christ matters more:

The central figure in the book of Revelation is Jesus Christ.  He is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth (1:5).  He is the One who has freed us from our sins by His blood (1:5), the Lamb who was slain (5:6, 9), the One who has the keys of Death and Hades (1:18).  He is in the midst of His churches (1:12-13) and He calls them to follow hard after Him (ch. 2-3).  He is standing before the throne (ch. 5), receiving praise as the One who has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (5:9).  He grants that His people may conquer their enemies through the power of His blood (12:10-11).  He has given them His name and the name of His Father (14:1).  And He is coming back for them, His Bride (19:6-11).  And when He does, He will defeat all of His enemies (19:11ff).  He is Faithful and True (19:11), the Word of God (19:13), the King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16).  He has prepared glory for His Bride (21:9ff).  Yes, He is coming soon (22:7), He is coming soon (22:12), He is coming soon (22:20).

If you spend your life amassing wealth and honor and glory and fame on this earth, it will be nothing compared to Christ.  If you spend your life on trying to find joy outside of Him, you will never be able to equal the joy that is found in one day in His presence.  If try and spend your life on things that really matter, you will soon discover that Christ matters more.  Likewise, if you suffer the loss of ease and comfort in this life, or the loss of temporary pleasures, or the loss of material blessings, you will learn to say with the joyous throng around the throne: ‘Christ matters more.’  John encourages us to endure by showing us that Christ matters more than everything else in this life.  Suffering will come.  Loss will come.  Pain will come.  But none of these can diminish the worth of knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord.  If you are to endure in the faith, then you must ever remember the value of the Lamb.  He is the treasure.

I cannot tell you how much the Lord has used this simple but glorious truth to encourage me in the faith over the past months.  I feel it a great privilege to dive into the text, week after week, to see over and over again how great our God truly is.  We will have dark days.  We will have hard times in this life.  We will have moments, days, and doubt.  We will face times of brokenness and humility, anger and frustration, weariness and impatience.  Those days will come.  But none of them will compare with the joy that is coming when Christ returns.  Paul said that even if you add up all of the difficulties that we face in this life, it pales in comparison to the glory to come (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  When the trumpet blasts and Jesus splits the skies, all the sorrow and all the suffering and all the pain, will be swallowed up by the glory of our Savior.  And we will know, finally and forever, that Christ matters more.

People often strive to find heaven on earth.  They do all they can to find lasting joy in the stuff of earth.  But John tells us that it will never be.  Temporary joy perhaps, but not lasting joy.  Yet, he does point us to how we can find lasting joy in this life.  How is that?  To forsake this world, to forsake our sin, and to follow hard after Jesus Christ.  This is the path to true joy in this life and this is the path to true joy in the life to come.  If you are not on that path, then you must turn from your sins and believe in Christ’s death and resurrection for your sins.  If you are on that path, then I encourage you with John: endure in the faith.  Make war on your sin, knowing that we will one Day be rid of it.  Spend your days on what will last.  And treasure Christ above all things, for He is coming soon.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 11 August 2012 )

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