Pastor Scott Andrews | June 25, 2023
Exactly 15 months ago – March 27 – we began our study of the book of Revelation. I had no idea how long we would be in the book, and little idea where I would end up while teaching it. I not-so-secretly prayed Jesus would come back before I started or even finished the book, so I could say, yeah, that’s what it meant. I also told you, quite honestly, that I approached the study with some degree of trepidation, and now end the book with a great degree of relief. I feel I do have a much better understanding and trust you do as well. In that first sermon, I gave all the pertinent introductory information: who wrote it, when he wrote it, to whom he wrote it, why he wrote it, what kind of literature it was, and the different ways scholars interpret it. If you were here, I’m sure you remember all the pertinent details of that scintillating introduction.
I finished that sermon 15 months ago with these words: This book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. If you leave at the end of our study with the images figured out, the numbers figured out, and the timeline all completed, and you do not fall at the feet of Jesus, I have failed. Chapter 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” If I have indeed failed in that purpose of exalting our Lord and His Christ, I have one last chance this morning, because today, we finish the book – the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
I won’t review the whole outline, but the book began with a prologue in its first eight verses, and it ends with an epilogue in the last 16 verses, citing many of the same themes. In other words, John tells us at the beginning why he wrote it and reminds us at the end why he wrote it. You may remember, the prologue said this:
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ [which was John’s title to the book], which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants [that’s us], the things which must soon [the word soon is a key word] take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,
2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.
3 Blessed [this is the first of seven blessings in the book] is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. [notice, not only read, but heed what it says]
4 John to the seven churches [which makes this work, in addition to apocalyptic prophecy, also an epistle] that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits [which is simply a reference to the perfect Holy Spirit] who are before His throne,
5 and from Jesus Christ [notice the Trinity], the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. [This caused John to break into doxology] To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—
6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, [a quote of Daniel 7 which reminds us this book has more OT quotes and allusions than any other NT book] 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.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” [the first of three times that title appears in the book – this one by the Lord God] says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” [another favorite title in the book – nine of its ten NT appearances are in Revelation, the last of which is near the end of the book, chapter 21.]
And so, from that prologue, we learn some key themes: this is the revelation of Jesus Christ, it came ultimately from God through His prophet, John and is therefore trustworthy; it concerns events which will soon take place, and culminates in the second coming of Jesus Christ. And every eye will see Him as He comes in both judgment and redemption. We’ve seen those themes repeated throughout the book. When Jesus comes, He will judge the unrighteous and rescue and vindicate His own.
Which brings us to the epilogue in the last chapter this morning. Read that with me – Revelation 22:6-21. Pay attention to the repeated themes, in almost the same words.
If there has ever been a time for us to say, Come, Lord Jesus, it is now. If there has ever been a time we need His grace to endure until He comes, it is now. Oh, I am not suggesting the church around the world through the last two thousand years has not suffered greatly, in most cases more than we. I am suggesting we have not seen such societal rebellion and potential opposition, even persecution, as we see now. Heretofore, it has been easy to be a Christian in this country – those days have quickly faded. It will cost to stand up and be counted. And so, I believe we should and will long for the coming of Christ now more than ever before.
I trust you noticed many of the themes introduced in the prologue, then expanded in the book, are now repeated in the epilogue. The outline will follow some of those themes:
- Authority of the Book (6-10)
- Preparation for the Return of Christ (11-17)
- Preservation of the Book (18-19)
- Plea for the Return of Christ (20)
- The Benediction – Grace Until the End (21)
I know that’s a lot of seemingly disconnected points, but I think you’ll see they go together, as we move quickly through the text. Starting with the authority of the book. This is clearly a theme introduced in the prologue. There, John made it clear what he wrote wasn’t his imagination – it was from God through His Son, then an angel, and then to him. As a result, the words are true and faithful and trustworthy. I know, they seem farfetched, right – the stuff of Narnia or Middle Earth. But in apocalyptic imagery, it communicates that which is true – trustworthy – faithful. These things, while imagery, not imaginary – imagery – will most assuredly take place.
You see, the angel said to John in verse 6, “These words are faithful and true.” Which words? Most agree as John closes the book, this declaration is regarding the entire book – it is faithful and true. How do we know? Because the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets sent His angel to John to show His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. Again, that’s right out of the prologue.
A couple of additional thoughts about that. First, we find the Lord is the God of the spirits – that is, the human spirits of the prophets. God is the One who inspired the prophets – both Old and New Testaments, to write what they wrote. I know there is lots of discussion about that today – such an old book, and outdated book, written my men and therefore fallible. No to all that. God, the infallible God, inspired His inerrant Word. Remember, II Peter 1 says,
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty….
Peter goes on to talk about seeing His majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration. He continues,
20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
The prophets didn’t write as an act of their own wills, but the Holy Spirit moved them to write what they wrote. So what they wrote is true, faithful and altogether trustworthy. The moment the enemy can get you to question the Word of God – like he did Eve – is the moment you begin deconstruction. Apostasy. This book is altogether faithful and true. And in it, God revealed what must soon take place. This is first of several times the word or concept soon appears in the epilogue. These things will soon take place, I am coming quickly, the time is near. There’s a purpose – all of this is imminent – it could happen at any time, so we must always be ready.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – come on, Scott, it’s been two thousand years. How is that soon? Further, if we’re not careful, we will be distracted by the things of the present and forget – or even dismiss or deny – the promise of His coming. Peter also said in his second letter (3):
1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,
2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,
4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
We must not be among the mockers who question His coming. Even if we don’t say it aloud, if we live like it won’t happen, are we not living like the mockers and the skeptics? Jesus said He is coming back. He is coming back, so be ready – a main theme of the book.
Now, what does this soon mean, given that it has been two thousand years? Well, it simply means the next thing to happen on the prophetic calendar are the events of the end and the second coming of Christ. We are in the last age – the last days – stretching from the ascension of Christ to the return of Christ. And in Peter’s letter, while the mockers were mocking, he reminded them judgment came before in the flood, and it will come again. He told them, God doesn’t count time like we do – for Him, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. He is simply being patient, giving time for people to repent.
That’s why the next verse, Jesus speaking, says, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” This is the sixth of seven blessings in this book. First was in chapter 1, blessed is the one who reads the prophecy of this book, now, having read it, blessed is the one who heeds the prophecy of this book – that is, takes it into account, believes it, and prepares for the coming of Christ.
John goes on, I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. He told us that in the prologue where he testified to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus – all that he saw. He tells us again. The revelation came to me, and I saw and heard and wrote it down. At this moment, he is so overcome by what he has seen and heard, he falls down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed him these things. He had done that in chapter 19 and was reprimanded there. Apparently, he didn’t learn his lesson.
There, after the angel told him to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb,” John fell as his feet to worship, again, overcome by what he had seen and heard. The angel said, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.” You see, the only one worthy of worship is God. And yet, throughout this book, we find people from every tongue, tribe, kindred and nation as well as the myriads of angels in heaven worshiping the Lamb. Exactly. Because Jesus is the Son of God, and God the Son. We worship a triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit. By the way, notice this time in chapter 22, the angel refers to John’s brothers, the prophets, indicating that John is indeed a NT prophet.
He then says to John, do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. This is the opposite of what the angel said to Daniel in Daniel 12, where we read, “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time…” We don’t know exactly when Daniel was given permission to release the words of his prophecy, but we know that they were to be sealed until the end of time came closer. With John, the end of time was nearer yet, because he was living in the last days.
And so are we. Which brings us to our second point – most poignant for the days in which we live – Preparation for the Return of Christ. The angel continues speaking – in fact, it is the last thing he will say in the book, “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”
That’s interesting – the angel does not say, the one who does wrong will still do wrong as if a statement of fact. You know, evil people will do evil things. No, it’s a command – let the one who does wrong, keep on doing wrong. Let the one who is filthy, keep on being filthy. What’s the point? It’s meant to shock the readers into reality. If you’re going to be evil and do wrong, keep on doing it. If you’re going to be filthy, which speaks of moral filthy, keep on doing it. But understand, as we’ve seen in the book, judgment is coming.
And so here we are, having studied this book for the past 15 months. Like a dripping faucet, we’ve heard over and over the wrath of God in severe judgment is coming. So, what have you done about it? Nothing? Well, if you want to do wrong, be filthy, go ahead. But know that judgment is coming. Listen, I’ve had several say to me, this has been a hard book. Several parents have said their kids are tired of hearing Revelation. So am I. I covered bigger sections than ever before – I didn’t want to live in the wrath and chaos and destruction for months on end. The question is, what are you going to do about it? You’re heard the warnings over and over – today is the last of the book. You want evil and filth – go for it, but the wrath you’re tired of hearing about awaits you if you do not repent. Do not be like the people of this book who saw the wrath of God, grit their teeth, and refuse to repent.
One author writes, “I think these commands are given here to scare us into changing our ways…God wants you to repent. God gives you this command not because he wants you to keep doing what is evil and filthy but because he wants you to realize what you are doing. He wants you to know for certain that there is a difference between what is evil and what is right, between what is filthy and what is holy. He wants you to perceive that difference, recognize that you are evil, feel your inability to change yourself, and cry out to him for help. He wants you to be desperate. You are wretched, and he wants you to realize it.” (James Hamilton)
Conversely, those who are righteous and holy, keep on being righteous and holy. To be clear, this is not a works-based salvation. People are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ – what this book calls having your robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb. But, having been saved, we’re new creations. Our lives are forever changed. We prove the reality of our faith by good works. Again, good works don’t save us – but being saved produces good works. If you don’t have good works, you’re still dead. Faith alone saves, but faith that saves is never alone. That’s the idea. You’ve been doing holy works of righteousness, keep on doing them.
Because, Jesus says it again in verse 12, Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward (or recompense as the case may be) is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. Too often we just breeze over that. One commentary suggests we don’t preach this enough. We loudly proclaim that salvation is by grace through faith – and so many people believe, but their lives are never changed. They seek to make Jesus Savior, without making Him Lord or Master. And throughout this book, especially in the last few chapters, we find Jesus will judge us according to our works. Because, those works – wrong or filthy, righteous or holy – demonstrate the reality of faith. And we will be rewarded for those good works, or recompensed for evil works, performed by unbelievers. You see, our evil works – sin – will have been atoned by the work of Christ. He absorbed the recompense on our behalf. But we will still be rewarded for our necessary, faith-proving good works.
In verse 13, Jesus gives His qualifications for judging, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” All three of those titles basically say the same thing – that Jesus is first, the cause of all things, and the end of all things, and the meaning of all things in between. We’ve seen that before. He was called the first and the last in chapter 1. But the One who sits on the throne – God the Almighty – is called the Alpha and the Omega in chapter 1, and the Alpha and Omega, and the beginning and the end in chapter 21. But now, incredibly, Jesus takes those titles – especially Alpha and the Omega, upon Himself. This is either the height of blasphemy, or Jesus is equally God with God the Almighty, the Father – since remember, they share the same throne. The deity of Jesus in this Revelation of Jesus Christ is clearly proclaimed.
And so, since Jesus as God is coming back to judge, verse 14, blessed – the seventh of seven blessings – blessed are those who wash their robes – we saw earlier washed in the blood of the Lamb – who wash their robes by the gospel – that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter the gates into the city. Yes, He is coming in judgment, and so blessed are those who have been saved by the work of Christ – because they and they alone will enter the New Jerusalem and eat of the tree of eternal life.
Conversely, on the outside of the city – stop right there. This is imagery – we know that. John is not saying everyone goes to the new heaven and the new earth, and only the redeemed are permitted into the New Jerusalem, and everyone else has to live outside the city. No – we already saw in chapter 20 that the unrighteous are judged and thrown into the lake of fire. This is simply another image to demonstrate that only the righteous will live in the presence of God.
The unrighteous will not live there. Outside the city will be the dogs – a term used of all unclean people, and then John gives a vice list we’ve seen before – the evil and filthy actions of unclean people: sorcery, immorality, murder, idolatry, falsehood. Now, while some of those may describe who we were, it does not describe us now. We have been washed, cleansed, by the blood of the Lamb. We remember the words or Paul in I Corinthians 6,
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,
10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Hallelujah, we are not who we were, and the new heaven and the new earth – and the New Jerusalem await. And we can count on it – no matter how long it has been. Because verse 16 says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you of these things for the churches [the seven churches? Yes, but also representative of all churches].” Further, you can count on it because I have the necessary Messianic credentials – I am the root and the descendent of David [proven by His genealogy in Matthew 1 and promised in II Samuel 7 and Isaiah 1], and I am the bright morning star [prophesied and promised in Numbers 24].”
So listen to the invitation to you this morning, verse 17, “The Spirit [the Holy Spirit mentioned in the prologue and now mentioned again in the epilogue, the Spirit] and the bride [that is, the redeemed people of God who are the bride of Christ] say ‘Come.’” Are you listening? Are you hearing the words of this book and keeping it? Believing that the way to forgiveness, reconciliation to God, eternal life in the city God has prepared, is through having your robes washed by the blood of the Lamb? “And let the one who hears [and presumably keeps] say, ‘Come.’” That would be me – and others here who have heard and believed – we too issue the invitation to come. “And let the one who is thirty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” It will cost nothing to come, believe in Jesus, and join us in eternal life.
Very quickly and simply then, point three, verses 18-19, the Preservation of the Book. To those here this morning and the past 15 months, those who have heard the words of the prophecy of this book – don’t add to it, don’t take away from it. If you add to it, God will ultimately give you the plagues – speaking of His wrath – found in this book. If you take away from it, God will take away any access to the tree of life in the new, holy city. These are stark warnings.
How do we add too or take away from this book? Two ways – first, we hear it, we read it, but we don’t heed it, we don’t keep it. Second, we dismiss it – it’s not only imagery, it’s imaginary – I don’t believe it. Or there are parts I do not accept. I don’t believe in a judgment where people will be cast forever into the lake of fire. As hard as it is to receive, we must believe it. You cannot sit as judge over God’s word, or He will sit as judge over you.
Last two points, and our conclusion – the plea for Jesus to come quickly, and the promise of the necessary grace until He comes. In verse 20, Jesus – the One who has testified through His angel to the truth of this book – says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Over and over, we see the promise of imminence. All this has been promised, and could unfold at any time. So, be ready. Our response should be, Amen – so be it, it is true. Come, Lord Jesus. Again, we see the plea of His followers as things continue to get worse and worse – as we see the world around us crumbling, our plea is, come Lord Jesus.
Last verse – verse 21. This is not just an epistolary goodbye – which interestingly enough means God be with you – no. This is an intentional reminder to the readers, to us, that grace – saving, sanctifying, strengthening grace of Jesus will be with us in the midst of this chaos until He comes. Amen. And so ends this 15-month journey, but by it, I trust, will impel to righteousness and hope and faith till the end.