Revelation chapter 1 is one of the most amazing passages in all of Scripture. So much rich theology and prophecy is given in just a few short verses that it will take more than this lifetime to understand it all. All we need to know is this: Jesus is coming back . . . and when He does, people will finally see Him for who He is!
“Not Just a Hunch”
An Australian church of God pastor has written a book entitled 2008, God’s Final Witness.
In it he claims to be predicting, literally, the opening of the bowl judgments on the planet. He believes we are already in the tribulation period.
He mixes truth from Revelation with his own bizarre and arrogant claims. He combines scientific threats to the planet – including cracks in the Earth’s magnetic field, the eruption of super-volcanoes s, sunspot radiation, tsunami’s – even the collapse of the World Trade Center – he ties that all up in the judgments of God on earth during the tribulation and concludes it’s already upon us.
He writes, “God’s two witnesses – His two prophets, are established to witness to the whole world about the greatest phase yet of His plan and purpose for mankind. It is now with boldness, confidence and great clarity that I give to you what God has given me. I am to announce, through God’s direct revelation, that I am one of the two witnesses [in Revelation].
He writes, I know the timing of the events as the Seals of Revelation are opening. I know the 6th seal has already opened. I know the exact day the First Seal was opened.
He writes, over the past 6,000 years, only 144,000 people have been . . . molded, fashioned and trained by God so that they could rule with Jesus Christ in His Kingdom.
The author/pastor’s name is Ronald Weinland.
He claims that the Apostle John wasn’t allowed to reveal everything that was going to happen and that it would be up to him as God’s final witness.
In fact the blurb on his book congratulates the fact that while the Apostle John was given the task of recording prophetic events, he was given the task by God to reveal the truth.
Never mind that this Book in the Bible isn’t called the Recordings of John . . . did you notice that? It is rightly called the Revelation to John.
And never mind that the Apostle John said that if anybody added one more word to biblical prophecy they would go to hell forever.
What I really found fascinating, and helpful, is that this author declared in his book, which was published in late summer, 2006, that by the Fall of 2008 the United States will no longer exist as a nation.
Many of his followers have already sold all their belongings and are living in caves and temporary shelters.
He has, evidently, quite a following in Russia among untrained believers and many are already living in caves, having sold everything, now awaiting the judgment of God on the earth, hoping to survive it.
This is much like what we saw with the publication of the 88 Reasons book that declared the rapture would occur in 1988. Korean believers especially followed this man’s calculations and sold their homes, put their pets to sleep and quit their jobs, all waiting for the rapture to occur in 1988.
Its’ one thing to make calculations . . . although it isn’t advisable; it’s another thing to say you are God’s final prophet.
He is God’s final prophet and those of us living in the USA, we might as well quit cutting the grass and working on those projects, and working to win our neighbors because it’s too late anyway and they’re probably not part of the 144,000 and besides, it’s all gonna end as we know it in 2008.
He will be exposed in about 11 months – 2008 is already ticking. And what I hope his followers do to him if his prophecy doesn’t come true – for causing personal loss and great confusion – not to mention the tremendous strain on the church particularly among those who believed him – what I hope they do is take him outside the city limits, wherever he lives and – and you’re thinking stone him to death, right? No, that would be too quick – I think they ought to make him live in Russia, in one of those caves for the rest of his life.
The truth is, he’s just the latest guy to sell his dateline.
And people flock to it . . . they want to know the future with more specificity that God allows.
Do you remember Y2K?
Remember the panic? Remember the books at the Christian book store announcing that this was the time of Christ’s return?
I knew churches that were stocking grain in their basements. I knew Christians who were considering moving away from the city. I know of one couple that was promoting buying windmills to power their estate.
The only people I knew of who were really ready were the Amish. They could smile at the rest of the world.
The truth is, we want to know if He’s coming for the church in our lifetime, right? Those who love the Lord, love to consider His soon appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). They long for the coming kingdom and the new heaven and new earth.
There’s something good about that . . . and I trust that our study will make us all long to walk with Christ more closely and long for His kingdom more dearly.
Let’s avoid the extremes. Let’s not refuse to see what’s happening around us as indicators that the world is moving closer to a global community that will foster a one-world economy and a one world leader – there are those Christians who say, “Bah humbug” at any discussion revolving around the developments in our world and how they might play perfectly into the one-world church and ruler.
But let’s avoid the other extreme of setting dates for it.
It is correct to say, “His coming is closer now than ever.” Just don’t torture the text to say it’s gonna be in 2008.
And beloved, avoid those and their writings claiming to have another word from God when God already said through John the Apostle, this is the final word. (Revelation 22:19).
The truth is, the human heart craves knowledge of the future.
That’s why there are millions of connections every week into horoscope phone lines and internet sites. In New York alone it’s around 1 million a week who take the movements of the stars as indicators of their future.
One of the authors I was reading told of an event where a believer was pressed by a fortune teller to give him some money and she would tell him his future. He said, “You mean to tell me that you can tell me what I’m going to be doing this time tomorrow?” She said, “Absolutely”. And he responded, “Tell you what, I’ll pay you double what you’re asking if you can tell me what I was doing this time yesterday.” She smiled and walked away.
Adapted from John Phillips, Exploring Revelation (Loizeaux Brothers, 1991), p. 18
Until the development of medicine, it was generally believed throughout the Middle-Ages, that a person with curvature of the spine had a special link with the demonic world. In fact, malformation of the spine that resulted in a hump as in a hunched back was considered to be a mark of great psychic powers. These people were believed capable of seeing into the future. We don’t believe that anymore because we understand now that curvature of the spine has nothing to do with psychic powers or demons that reveal the future. But the word has sort of lingered around to this day for we still call a sense of future events or some premonition to be a hunch.
Webb Garrison, What’s In A Word (Rutledge Hill Press, 2000), p. 190
I’ve got a hunch . . .
Well, I’ve got good news for you. We don’t have to rely on false prophets with new revelation . . . we don’t need to sell everything and head for Russia and we can operate on more than just a hunch.
We have the revealed word of God. And even though we are not told all of the “when” we are given much of the “what” and the “where” and the “whom” and even much of the “why”.
We are uncovering together what is much more than a hunch.
How do we know?
How can we trust John the Apostle?
Well, you can’t help but notice that before John reveals any of his vision, he makes sure we understand who the real Author is.
The first 8 verses of Revelation chapter 1 are simply one phrase after another, authenticating the revelation as coming from the triune God.
It began, you might look again at verse 1, with these words, “The revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Think of it this way.
Often someone will come up to me after the service, or out by the bookstore with one of my books and they’ll ask me to sign it.
Sometimes I’ll kid around and say, “Do you want me to sign it, Chuck Swindoll, or John McArthur or somebody who’s famous? “No, they say, you sign it.”
And I’ll open to the front of the book and sign it as neatly as I possibly can.
What you have in the first 8 verses – here in the flyleaf of the Book of Revelation is the signature of God.
Ray Stedman, God’s Final Word (Discovery House, 1991), p. 11
- This is the publication of the Triune God
Notice verse 4. John to the seven churches that are in Asia; Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come.
This is the signature of God.
In the Hebrew language, His name, Yahweh, was simply the verb “to be”. You can translate it, “I AM”. I AM sounds like a statement referring only to the present tense, but within this verb is the expression of all the tenses.
This is the Book of revelation from I AM who was . . . and I AM who is . . . and I AM who is to come.
The Father is present in the past and our future is His present.
We are immortal. We will never cease to be, but we did have a beginning.
With God, He had no beginning and no ending. And to Him all things are at the same time past, present and future.
This is the declaration of eternality. This is the announcement of deity.
And by the way, the signature of God the Father is interchangeable with God the Son for they are equally God.
That’s why Christ created such a stir when He chose this verb to announce Himself. He said, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.”
Jesus wasn’t telling them or us He was a prophet as Islam believes – or a child created by the sexual act between God the Father and Mary, as the Mormon’s believe.
He was saying, “I AM God and I have no beginning. (John 8:58) That explains why the next verse says they picked up stones to throw them at Him. We need to put this blasphemer to death – they clearly understood that He was declaring equality with God the Father as equally divine.
If you look at verse 8 you read the signature, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God.
Most believe this is Christ speaking here. In my Bible it’s in red letters, so it’s gotta be Jesus speaking – that settles it. John didn’t have a black pen and a red pen – the ink color isn’t inspired. I know that really messes things up for you – I’m sorry. In fact, I’ll show you in the very last chapter of Revelation where the English publishers got it wrong. Not now . . . you’ll have to come back in a couple of weeks.
In the last chapter of Revelation chapter 22, the Lord Jesus is clearly the one speaking and He refers to Himself as the Alpha and Omega. I am A to Z!
What’s really amazing is to recognize that Christ is speaking back in verse 8, and titles for Jesus Christ and God the Father are used interchangeably for both of them clearly revealing they equality of attributes and essence within the Triune God.
In fact, notice the beginning of verse 8 again that the one who is “the Alpha and Omega” is also called the Lord God.
Further notice that the verse ends by the Alpha and Omega referring to Himself as the Almighty.
This is the Greek counterpart to the Hebrew name, Shaddai.
Jesus Christ can legitimately lay claim to the divine title of omnipotence – Shaddai.
This is the title of divine power and might.
By the way, throughout the Old Testament, Shaddai was often the name linked with God’s ability to fulfill any promise He made to His people. It first appeared when God reinforced His covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:1.
Larry Richards, Every Name of God in the Bible (Nelson, 2001), p. 33
Isn’t it interesting that at the outset of this prophecy, Jesus Christ would remind John the Apostle that all these promises of prophecy, though impossible as they might seem, will come true for Shaddai has spoken.
This is not just a hunch from John . . . these things will come to pass.
The next person of the Godhead to sign the flyleaf of this book is the Holy Spirit.
Notice in verse 4 that this is a publication of prophecy, coming not only from God the Father, but from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.
For the first time we read a significant number in the Book of Revelation. The number 7. Whenever you encounter seven of anything in this book, it is a symbol of completeness and perfection.
In fact, this number 7 in reference to the Holy Spirit comes right out of Isaiah 11:2 where the prophet speaks of the perfection and completeness of the Spirit of God coming upon the Messiah.
Isaiah describes the Spirit in a 7-fold manner:
- He is the Spirit of the Lord;
- He is the Spirit of wisdom;
- He is the Spirit of understanding;
- He is the Spirit of counsel;
- He is the Spirit of strength;
- He is the Spirit of knowledge and;
- He is the Spirit of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2)
The seven-spirits is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in His sevenfold completion and perfection and fullness.
Stedman, p. 6
The third person within the Godhead to officially sign His name to the flyleaf of this Book is Jesus Christ.
This Book is a publication not only from God the Father, and God the Spirit, but God the Son.
And He is described in three ways:
First, He is the faithful witness.
Secondly, He is the firstborn of the dead.
Thirdly, He is the ruler of the kings of the earth.
- He is the faithful witness.
This has to do with His responsibility.
The Apostle John was passionate to reveal the authentic testimony of Christ.
He described Christ as the one who came into the world to explain the person and plan of the Father (John 1:18)
He recorded how Christ stood before Pilate and said, “I came into the world to testify to the truth.” (John 18:37)
When Jesus Christ speaks, He speaks the truth - the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Like a witness on the stand, Christ stands as the blameless faithful witness declares the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6)
- Christ is also called next in verse 5, the firstborn of the dead.
It isn’t a reference to Christ being God’s first baby boy and many more baby boys and girls were born later who were raised from the dead.
The Greek word refers to His supremacy in conquering death and rising from the grave. Firstborn does not refer to time sequence, but preeminence as the One who conquered death forever.
Adapted from MacArthur, p. 25
- Christ is the faithful witness – this refers to His responsibility;
- Christ is the firstborn from the dead – this refers to His resurrection;
- And third, Christ is called the ruler of the kings of the earth – this refers to his reign over all.
He will reign on David’s throne over all the kings of the earth.
- In Psalm 24:7 He is the King of glory
- In Daniel 4:37 He is the King of Heaven;
- In Matthew 2:2 He is the King of the Jews;
- In John 1:49 He is the King of Israel;
- In 1 Timothy 1:17 He is the King of the ages;
- In Revelation 15:3 He is the King of the saints;
- And in Revelation 19:16 He is the King of Kings.
This is not just a hunch from John, this is the Publication of the Triune God – and all three have signed their name to it.
And John breaks out in a hallelujah – a doxology of praise.
The Publication of the Sovereign leads to:
- The Praise of the Saint
Listen, what do you do after discovering that God the Father and God the Son and God the Spirit have so moved to reveal the supremacy of Christ and the glory of the Father and the perfection of the Spirit; what can you do but praise the Lord.
That’s what John does here . . . here he is, exiled on the little Island of Patmos by the Roman emperor Domitian who hated Christ and everything about Christians.
And John says, “I’ve just heard from the heavenly emperor, Domitian . . . you’re not it. You’re not the ultimate ruler . . . you’re temporary . . . Christ’s reign shall be eternal. Do your best to stop Him but He shall rule over all as King of Kings.”
Look at the three stanzas of John’s doxology:
You ought to circle them.
- He loves us.
This is present tense. We tend to think that God loved us – somewhere in the distant past.
No, my friend, He loves you, now.
In Ray Stedman’s commentary on this doxology, he told the story of a trip he was taking through Virginia. He was traveling with the well known pastor and author, Dr. Harry Ironside, who pastored Moody Church for many years. They met another pastor, an older man who told them his testimony of conversion to Jesus Christ. He was a student at Cambridge University in England when D. L. Moody was invited to speak to the students. He and many other university students were furious that such a distinguished institution as Cambridge would invite an unschooled American preacher to give a lecture. Moody murdered the king’s English so badly that his critics were constantly amazed at his effectiveness in preaching. The night of Moody’s speech, a group of guys sat on the very front row, waiting for just the right time to humiliate Moody with jeers and mocking. Just before Moody stood to preach, Ira Sankey sang. As he sang, the restless audience grew quiet and respectful. Immediately after the song and without any introduction, Moody walked to the lectern, pointed his finger at the young men in the front row and said, “Young gentlemen, don’t ever think God don’t love you, for He do.” It was perhaps the most ungrammatical sentence ever uttered at Cambridge University. Yet there was such power in Moody’s face and passion in his voice that these young men in the front row listened as God’s love was declared in the gospel. Throughout the course of his message, he would repeat at different times that same phrase, “Don’t ever think God doesn’t love you, for He do.”
Stedman, p. 8
Bad grammar . . . great theology.
His love is present tense. Not, He did; not, He might; not, He will one day; but He does.
Second stanza: He not only loves us . . .
- He released us.
v. 5b. He released us from our sins by His blood.
To those who have believed the gospel of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, you have been released.
My sin, Oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord oh my soul.
Horatio G. Spafford, It Is Well With My Soul
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free,
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
Charles Wesley, O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing
So sang Horatio Spafford and Charles Wesley
And so sing the saints.
He loves us . . . He released us.
- And third, He assigned us.
Verse 6. And He has made us to be a kingdom – that is we’re now assigned as royalty, members in His kingdom – and priests to His God and Father – to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
We are now a holy priesthood (I Peter 2:9)
What did the priests in the Old Testament do? They brought people near to God. So also we believers, bring people the gospel which by the power of the Spirit draws people near to God.
Priest’s sacrifice . . . what are we to sacrifice?
We are to offer to him our bodies, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. (Romans 12:1, 2)
It was messy, but easier for the Old Testament priest to offer animals that were killed. Offering a dead sacrifice is easier than offering a living sacrifice.
Dead sacrifices don’t have the ability to crawl down off the altar.
So we must offer ourselves daily to this One who is worthy.
Hebrews 13:15 informs us that we are to continually offer up to God the sacrifice of praise.
You, beloved, are all, by faith in Christ, a company of priests.
And we are exercising our occupation even in here as we offer to God our lives and our time and our treasure and our praise.
No, this is the publication of the sovereign, which leads to the praise of the saints.
- What happens next is The Prediction of the Savior
Notice verse 7. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
Listen, the rest of the Book of Revelation does little more than reveal the details of this one verse. This is the revelation of the coming of Christ.
John says, “This is not just a hunch . . . this is the promise of the revelation, signed by God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.”
One rabbi told a pastor, “What you Christians believe is that when the Messiah comes, we’re going to say ‘Welcome’ and you are all going to say ‘Welcome Back.’
According to this text that isn’t exactly true. For all the people who survive the tribulation – especially the huge number of Jews who came to place their faith in Christ, the Messiah, they will also see Him coming – and we the Bride will be with Him, coming in His glory and victory and all the earth will look upon Him and they will know – it is not “Welcome” . . . but “Welcome Back!”
John Phillips, the British Bible teacher and author wrote in his commentary called Exploring Revelation, one of the most stirring pages in English history. It told of the conquests of Richard I, the Lionhearted. While Richard was away in battle, his kingdom fell on bad times. His sly and graceless brother, John, usurped all the rights of the king and misruled the realm. The people of England suffered, longing for the return of the king and praying that it might be soon. Then one day Richard came back. He landed in England and marched straight for his throne. Around his return, many tales are told, woven into the legends of England like the legend of Robin Hood. In reality however, the obstacles placed in his way by John, Richard knocked over one by one until he reached his throne. The people shouted their delight. They rang peal after peal on the bells. The Lionhearted was back. Long live the King.
Phillips went on to write, “One day a King greater than Richard will lay claim to a realm greater than England. Those who have abused the earth in His absence, seized His domains, and mismanaged His world will all be swept aside. What a day that will be.
Phillips, p 22
This is not some wild calculation. This is not just a hunch. This is the truth and God has signed His name to the flyleaf – Father, Son and Spirit.
So what shall we do? Offer Him our bodies, our lives, our loyalty, our devotion and our continual sacrifice of praise.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen.