Broadman & Holman
On January 6, 2002, Stuart Rushton and his nine-year-old son Adam left for a father-son fishing expedition. The day looked like any other day near their hometown in Dalton-in-Furness, forty-five miles north of Liverpool, England. But, like so many days on the northwest coast of England, the fog can strike a deadly blow to unsuspecting fishermen. Tragically, that is what happened.
Minutes after walking out on a sandbar to cast their fishing lines, Stuart and Adam found themselves trapped by a thick fog rolling in as quickly as the rising tide. Thankfully, Stuart had his cell phone to call his wife so she could call the Coast Guard. Then he phoned the Coast Guard himself.
Unable to tell which direction to head for shore, Stuart made increasingly desperate calls to the police and Coast Guard. Emergency personnel in lifeboats, a helicopter, and Coast Guard headquarters worked feverishly to pinpoint the location of the stranded pair as the tide continued to rise.
Within thirty minutes, the water was up to their necks and Adam was sitting on his father’s shoulders. The emergency personnel could even hear the rushing water over the cell phone. And sadly, officers on the shore could hear the cries of the pair, but they were unable to swim to save them because of the treacherous tides. Five hours later the search was called off, and the bodies of Stuart and Adam were found days later.
So close—and yet they were unable to be rescued! Here was a father and his son headed for a good time of fishing, when a fog rolled in. They could not tell which direction to swim to safety.
This tragic story is paralleled in America every day. A worldly fog of temptations is blinding fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters. Once blinded, they find themselves unable to rise above the tidal wave of immorality. They don’t know where to turn, so we must go to them. In the words of Fanny Crosby, we are to:
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
I am so thankful for the Book of Revelation that dispels the fog and gives a hope that is steadfast and sure. But there is someone who hates this book. And his name is Satan. In fact, there are two books in the Bible he especially hates—Genesis and Revelation, the first and last books of God’s Word.
Why does Satan hate these two books? In the Book of Genesis, Satan’s doom is prophesied, and in the Book of Revelation, Satan’s doom is realized. There is no devil in the first two chapters of God’s Word, or in the last two chapters of God’s Word. For every child of God, these are books that tie the gospel message together.
In Genesis we see the creation of the heavens and the earth; in Revelation we see the creation of the new heavens and new earth. In Genesis we see the first Adam reigning on earth; in Revelation we see Jesus, the last Adam, reigning in glory. In Genesis we see an earthly bride brought to the first Adam; in Revelation we see a heavenly bride brought to the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam.
In Genesis we see the beginning of death and the curse; in Revelation the Savior brings us to a state where there is no more death and no more curse. In the Book of Genesis man is driven from God’s face in sin; in the Book of Revelation we see God’s face in glory. In Genesis Satan appears for the first time; in Revelation he appears on earth for the last time. The Book of Revelation is the golden clasp that seals God’s Word in holy, divine perfection.
Now, let’s begin our study of Revelation with four simple truths that I want to lay upon your heart.
I find Jesus wherever I look in the Bible. He is the heart of the entire Bible. He is the Rose of Sharon. He is the Lily Fair. If you read the Bible and you don’t see Jesus, you need to reread it. Indeed, Jesus is the hero of the Bible and especially in the Book of Revelation. Revelation 1:1–2 tells us that the central person of the book is Jesus and the testimony of this book is Jesus: “The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John, who testified to God’s word and to the testimony about Jesus Christ, in all he saw.”
When the world begins to wind down, we will not be looking for something to happen; we will be looking for someone to come. And His name is Jesus. Sometimes people call this book “Revelations.” It is not Revelations. It is Revelation, singular. It is the revelation of One—the spotless, glorified Lamb, Jesus Christ.
The English word revelation comes from the Greek word apokalupsis. It is the word from which we get our English word apocalypse. It literally means “an unveiling.” Have you ever seen the unveiling of a work of art? It is an important occasion where dignitaries are present, and someone pulls a drawstring and the artwork is publicly seen for the first time as the artist intended. That is exactly what this word means.
I saw a headline in my newspaper one day that caught my eye: “Elder Bushes Unveil Sculpture with Pride.” The article said, “With parental pride, former President George Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush unveil [apocalypse], a sixteen-foot concrete sculpture of their first son, the nation’s current leader.” Right before former President Bush unveiled the statue, he said, “This means a lot to a very proud mother and father.” Can you imagine the heartbeat of God the Father when His Son is unveiled in all His glory to the world—“Here is the unveiling of my dear Son who is not the president of the United States, but who is the King of kings and Lord of lords!”
The second coming of Jesus will be so different from His first coming when His glory was veiled. He came the first time to a crucifixion; He is coming again to a coronation. He came the first time in shame; He is coming again in splendor. He came the first time to a tree; He is coming again to a throne. He came the first time and stood before Pilate; He is coming again and Pilate will stand before Him to be judged. He came the first time as a servant; He is coming again as a sovereign.
Today, Jesus is abused, misused, neglected, and scorned. He does not have His rightful place in society. After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush called for a day of prayer at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Thousands watched it on television. If you may recall, they sang Martin Luther’s hymn (which may be my favorite hymn),“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” What you may not remember is that they left out the following verse:
Did we in our strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
During this ceremony, Dr. Billy Graham preached about the cross of Jesus Christ, and yet National Public Radio omitted part of his message. When asked about this, NPR responded, “We were changing the tape.” You be the judge. When Jesus returns, not one word will be omitted. We will behold His unveiled glory, not as He was, but as He is—the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Revelation 1:1–2 says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John. Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw” (KJV, emphasis added).
Only God knows the future, and the clear purpose of Revelation was for His Son Jesus to show His servants the future. This word servant in verse 1 is the Greek word doulos, which means “bondslaves”—those who willingly become the slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the ones who have understood what Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
Are you a slave of Jesus Christ? Have you bowed your knee to Him? Have you crowned Him Lord of your life? If so, the Holy Spirit who resides within you will give you a rightful understanding of this book. If you are not a child of God, then you do not have the Holy Spirit to give you understanding of this book. The Bible is a closed book to those who have never bowed their knee to Jesus Christ.
The great historian, H. G. Wells, wrote a book entitled The Fate of Man in which he said, “Who, except cranks and lunatics, reads the Book of Revelation?” I must disagree. God has given us divine insight into the future and a message in the Book of Revelation that He is in control. Ephesians 1:11 says that God “works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will.” God is not wringing His hands in heaven and wondering what He is going to do. The holy Trinity never meets in emergency session. God is in control, and His will most certainly will come to pass.
Don’t get the idea that some people have—that the devil knows the future. The devil does not know the future. If the devil knew the future, he would know that he will never be exalted above the stars of God. Put it down big, plain, and straight—Satan is a knucklehead! He is brilliantly stupid and hideously beautiful. One of these days he is going to hell. He is not in hell yet, but he is destined for hell. And when he gets there, he will not reign in hell.
Where do people get the idea that Satan knows everything? I believe it is from what I call “round robin” theology. Many are preaching doctrines that are not from the Word of God. We need to be getting our theology from the Word of God, not from the hearsay of others.
Every morning about 11:30, the telephone operator in a small Nevada town would receive a call. The man on the other end would ask, “What time is it?” The telephone operator would give him the time. This happened day after day until one day, she got up enough nerve to ask the man, “Why do you call every morning at this time and ask what time it is?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m the foreman at the local sawmill and I blow the whistle at 12:00 noon for lunch break. I want to make certain that I blow the whistle at the exact time, so I call you.” She laughed out loud and said, “Sir, I set my clock when you blow the whistle.” Friend, we need to trust in the Word from above, the Word from Almighty God.
Why do we have the Book of Revelation? To show us things to come. The things that are spoken of in the Book of Revelation have not already been fulfilled in the first century as some theologians teach. And Revelation is not an outline of history, beginning in the first century and continuing to the present day. The book is also not a spiritual allegory, comparing the battle of evil and good.
Revelation deals with the consummation of the age to come. When you’re certain of your future, you can concentrate on your present.
There is a blessing in the Book of Revelation: “Blessed is the one who reads and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near!” (Rev. 1:3). Read it. Revelation is a blessing book if you will read it and keep it. Some people will tell you to ignore what it says, but it brings a special blessing. Do you want to be blessed? Then read the Book of Revelation. God will not bless you by osmosis.
Hear it. It is one thing to read the Book of Revelation; it is another thing to hear it. Jesus said, “If any man have an ear, let him hear” (Rev. 13:9 KJV). Did you know that you can read this book and still not “hear” it. Do you remember your parents or teachers ever saying to you, “Do you hear me?” They were not asking if you heard them with your eardrums; they wanted to know if you understood what they were saying. Did it sink in?
Keep it. Many people are curious about the future. But God wants more than just a curious mind when you read the Book of Revelation. There are commands in this book for you to obey. For instance, one command is for you to bring souls to Jesus. Revelation 22:17 says, “Both the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Anyone who hears should say, ‘Come!’ And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.”
You are to get your head out of the clouds of prophecy and put your feet on the pavement of soul winning. Because if you really believe that the end of all things may be close at hand, you will not be casual about sharing Christ with your unsaved family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers.
We are to read it, hear it, and keep it; then we will be blessed. The Bible is the only book I know of that can bless you. You can study books on science and technology, but they will never bless you. Albert Einstein said, “All our lauded technological progress—our very civilization—is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal.” Vance Havner, evangelist and preacher, said, “Civilization is like a chimpanzee with a blowtorch in a room full of dynamite.” Scientists and programmers may have made the world a neighborhood, but they have not made it a brotherhood.
Books on sociology are not the answer. Sociologists are just repainting and redecorating the Titanic, trying to make the world a better place to go to hell from. Books on politics are not the answer either. We win wars, we have peace, we get into another war, we have peace. The circle seems never-ending.
Let’s look at three blessings you will receive by studying the Book of Revelation.
It Will Unlock the Mystery of History
In eastern religions, history just goes in a cycle. That is why adherents of these religions believe in reincarnation. Religious followers keep coming back until they get it right. But Bible history is not cyclical; it is linear. Christians are moving toward a goal.
What are you trying to do when you play checkers? Move your man into king’s row and say, “Crown him.” That is just what God is doing. He will move His Son, the Lord Jesus, into king’s row and say, “Crown Him.” Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!”
The world is in such a mess today because things are out of place. The King (Jesus) belongs on His throne. The bride (the church) belongs with the groom. The criminal (Satan) belongs in prison. One of these days, when the King is on the throne, the bride is with her groom, and the criminal is in prison, we will understand the way things are meant to be. Revelation unlocks the mystery of history.
It Will Bring Sense to Our Suffering
What do you say to a Christian brother or sister who is suffering such unbearable pain that even the strongest medicine cannot take it away? What do you say when you stand beside a husband at the graveside of his darling bride, and he holds the hand of their only child? What do you say to a mother when her little baby is carried away by the angels to heaven and her arms are empty?
I will tell you one thing you can say—“This is not God’s final plan.” Revelation 21:4 says: “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will exist no longer; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.”
It Will Bring Stability in Chaotic Times
Have you listened to the news lately? The days in which we are living are absolutely incredible. And yet, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty’” (Rev. 1:8). Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Someone gave me a little plaque that reads: “Adrian, trust Me. I have everything under control. Jesus.” He is the Almighty.
It doesn’t take a college degree to understand that knowing God brings stability in chaotic times. The simple can understand it. The learned can understand it. All it takes is the Almighty to give us that understanding.
One day a man who loved the Book of Revelation and had no theological training was criticized and ridiculed by much “wiser” theologians. They said, “You don’t understand that book. It’s an enigma—a puzzle. Nobody can understand it.” He said, “I understand it.” They said, “Oh yeah? Then, what does it mean?” He said, “It means we win!”
Jean Francois Gravelet, the Great Blondin, was a master tightrope walker. In fact, on June 30, 1859, he was the first man to cross the gorge of the Niagara River on a tightrope. Someone once asked him, “How do you manage to do that without falling?” He said, “Go and look on the other side in the direction in which I am walking. Do you see that silver star? I placed it there. I never take my eyes off of it. I put my eyes on that star, and I walk toward it. That’s what gives me stability.”
The second coming of Jesus Christ, our Bright and Morning Star, can give you stability if you look forward to His coming. The Book of Revelation is a blessing because it is a stabilizing hope in these days in which we live.
The Certain Prophecy of Revelation
The time is at hand. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (KJV, emphasis added). What does John mean that the “time is at hand”?
It does not mean that the time is immediate. It means that it is imminent. Jesus Christ can come at any moment. We are not waiting for some event to take place before Jesus can return; He can come whenever He chooses. We are always living on the edge of eternity. And we are to be living on ready. Jesus may come this afternoon. Read what these men inspired by God wrote more than two thousand years ago:
Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be clear-headed and disciplined for prayer (1 Pet. 4:7).
Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:11).
Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near (Phil. 4:5).
You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near (James 5:8).
Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).
“Now wait a minute,” you may be saying. “These men are saying that Jesus’ return is at hand. Were they wrong?” No! They were right. We have been living in the last days for more than two thousand years. The apostle Paul expected Jesus Christ in his lifetime. He was not wrong to believe that way; he was right. Every Christian should be living in the light of the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we study Revelation, we will see that there are some who say that Christians will go through the Great Tribulation before Jesus can come. But I disagree. Christians are not waiting for the seven vials of wrath or the mystery of Babylon to be unfolded—we are waiting for Jesus! At any moment He will give the shout and burst through the blue skies. And we need to be ready.
Just because we are not waiting for an event does not mean that there are not signs of His coming. Revelation tells us that some horrific things will happen, such as a one-world government and an amalgamation of all the world’s religions headed up by Satan’s superman, the Antichrist. There will also be an incredible increase in knowledge. The world will be systematized as every person will be given a mark, a number, and they will not be able to buy or sell without that. We are seeing pieces of these prophecies happening today.
Richard Swenson was on James Dobson’s program, “Focus on the Family.” He was discussing how history is coming to a climax. He spoke of a principle called exponentiality, which means that our civilization is getting faster and faster. Things are coming at us so quickly that it feels like we are drinking water from a fire hose. Because of the speed of these changes, Swenson believes we are unable to reverse them. For example, we cannot un-discover things that have been invented, such as television, the internet, genetic engineering, robotics—they are all quickly filing into the memory bank.
Swenson shared the following illustration. If you were to take a sheet of paper and fold it one time, then fold that fold another time and fold it like that forty times, how high do you think it would be? If you folded this sheet one hundred times, Swenson said that the folded paper would reach past the Milky Way to the far recesses of the universe!
Here is another illustration of the principle of exponentiality. The Pacific Ocean is sixty-four million square miles and has an average depth of fourteen thousand feet. If you put all of the continents on earth in the Pacific Ocean, you would still have room for another Asia.
Furthermore, Swenson explained that if you drained the Pacific Ocean one drop of water at a time, then doubled that amount eighty times and kept the remainder each time, in just eighty times you would refill the Pacific Ocean. On the seventieth drop it would only be less than one tenth of one percent full. On the seventy-ninth drop it would be one-half full. On the eightieth drop it would be full. On the eighty-first drop you’d have two Pacific oceans. That’s the principle of exponentiality, and that is what is happening in our society.
If we drew a line of technological advancement of knowledge from zero to 1975, that line would be relatively flat. But from 1975 to the present day, the line would go straight up. One scientist said that in the next one hundred years science will have progressed as much as it has in the last twenty thousand years.
We are living in a day that is quickly coming to a climax. Think how the world changed following the tragedies of September 11, 2001. One day we went to work, the sun was shining, and everything was normal. Then everything changed just like that. The security of every man, woman, and child on American soil became threatened. Airports became fortified with countless security portals. Access to any large event became more strictly regulated.
Someone asked Ernest Hemingway, “How do you go into bankruptcy?” He said, “At first, slowly, and then quickly.” That is the same way our world is escalating today. But you may ask, “Aren’t all the advancements in medicine, communication, and technology for our good?” Well, it depends. We are living in an era when weapons of mass destruction can fall into the hands of a relatively few people. This is an unprecedented moment in the world’s history.
The archangel Michael said in the Book of Daniel, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 12:4 KJV). The Bible also says, “In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12–13).
Someone has said, “When little men cast long shadows you know the sun is about to set.” As the end draws near, we will witness more and more degradation and sin. We must ask ourselves, How long can the world as we know it exist before it implodes from evil? Am I being pessimistic? No, I am a glowing optimist because I know that the kingdoms of this world will be the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (see Rev. 11:15). I also know that all of the things prophesied in God’s Word will come to pass. How grateful I am that God gave us His Word to give us comfort, guidance, and assurance of His sovereign plan!
Years ago the moviemakers of Hollywood produced many western movies. One of the singers in the background music of these westerns was a talented cowboy singer/songwriter named Stuart Hamblin. Stuart even appeared in a few of the movies, but he was probably more notoriously known for his hard living.
One day God changed all that. Stuart learned about the salvation of God through His Son Jesus Christ. A young actor named John Wayne noticed a change in Stuart’s life and asked him, “Stuart, what is your secret?” His answer became a beloved hymn performed by thousands and translated into several languages. He said, “It is no secret what God can do.” The chorus of this song says it all:
It is no secret what God can do.
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.
It is no secret what God can do.
Do you want to be ready when Christ returns? The only way to do that is to receive the One who came and died on a cruel cross for the forgiveness of your sin and the salvation of your soul. It is no secret what God can do. What He’s done for me, He’ll do for you.