Pastor Skip Heitzig: Behind me is Westminster Chapel in London, England; G. Campbell Morgan and Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached here. Today many of the great churches that once flourished throughout England are in decline. As we approach our flight over the book of Revelation; we'll come to warnings from Jesus to His church. So let's prepare for our flight with this information.
Peter Benson: Amazing land is ahead as we approach the book of Revelation; you will certainly want to tighten your sit belts for this one.
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Well, this book fortunately names itself, in verse 1, as you can see it's the Revelation of Jesus Christ; this is His unveiling. That's what the word revelation means; it's the Greek word, apokalypsis, which means to take the veil off, or to make something clear, and this is the idea I want you to get in your mind about this book.
It pictures some great statue that has been draped over; it's in front of the public building, there is a gathering, the band plays, the mayor speaks, and the artist stands up and talks about what he was thinking when he made the statue, then suddenly as the music stops, the drape or the veil is lifted off and the statue is for all to see. That's the idea of the word, the revelation. And I'll tell you why that's important, because the word itself is in contrast to what a lot of people think this book is. Oh, this is a hard to understand book, it's mysterious, it's shrouded in mystery. No, it's not; it's meant to take the veil off, so we can see Jesus clearly as the glorified judge of all the earth and the coming King.
Louis Talbot wrote these words about the book of Revelation, "The devil has turned thousands of people away from this portion of God's Word. He does not want anyone to read a book that tells of His being cast out of heaven. Nor is he anxious for us to read it would be ultimate triumph of his number one enemy, Jesus Christ. The more you study the book of Revelation, the more you understand why Satan fights so hard to keep God's people away from it."
This book was penned by John, we have been studying John's writing the last couple of weeks, First John, Second John, Third John. John was very old when he wrote this, and this book was written in the last part of the last decade of the first century. So somewhere between A.D. 95 and 96, John on a craggy, rocky, desolate, isolated island called Patmos, about 25 miles off the coast of Asia Minor, it's an island that's 6 miles wide by 10 miles long; I have been to Patmos by the way, it's a beautiful island today, it wasn't back then, but they'll show you the Grotto of Saint John, they call it, where supposedly John received this revelation.
You will notice in verse 1, then "the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave Him, [that is God the Father gave it to Jesus, who gave it His servants] to show His servants things which must shortly take place and He sent and signified by His angel to His servant John. Who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all that he saw." You see the word in verse 1, 'shortly' "these things must shortly take place" that has stumbled a few people. They say, well, wait a minute, this thing was written a couple of thousands years ago, and he said it's going to shortly take place, isn't 2000 years like not shortly but longly, distantly? The Greek construction is en tachai, 'shortly' en tachai and we get our word tachometer from that. It's an instrument to measure velocity, and the idea is that when these things happen, they are going to happen very rapidly in a short period of time, and once they do happen, and they are not happening yet, but once the tribulation begins, it's a set period of time and it will happen very, very rapidly. In the last days of history, God is going to put it in high gear, high velocity, en tachai, very quickly, they'll come to pass.
Again just notice in verse 1, revelation is singular. This isn't the book of Revelations, plural, it's the book of Revelation, singular. It's not a bunch of revelations about the future though they are there, it's mainly the revelation of one particular person, and that is Jesus Christ; that's the theme of the book; it reveals Jesus.
So in chapters 2 and 3, we will see Jesus as the resurrected, glorified King and Priest ministering to the churches. In chapters 4 and 5, we will see Jesus as the glorified Lamb of God in heaven. In chapters 6 through 18, we will see Jesus as the coming judge. In chapters 19, we will see Jesus as the returning ruler to the earth, and in chapters 20 through 22, as the bridegroom with His bride, it's all about Jesus Christ and reveling Him.
Verse 3; "Blessed is he that reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it: for the time is near." Notice that this book of Revelation is prophecy. It is not allegory, it is prophecy, and one-fourth of the Bible is prophetic literature, but notice it's a special kind of prophecy. It's a prophecy that uses signs or symbols. For you'll notice it says, "He sent and signified it [or used signs] by His angel."
And we find a lot of signs, symbols in this book. We find lamp stands, trumpets, bulls, beast, seals, we will see Jesus as the judge where a sword, two edged sword comes from His mouth, all sorts of symbolic language is used in this prophecy. And the question is, why the use of such symbolism, why is the book of Revelation written like the book of Zechariah with signs or significations or symbols?
For a few reasons; number one, they'll stand the test of time. It seems that symbols transcend time, language, and culture. If you write about something in a symbolic way, it doesn't matter what the culture is, or how it progresses or what the culture and customs are; it will transcend that.
Here is a second reason why it's used. I believe symbolism arouses emotion like nothing else. See it's one thing to say there is coming a world dictator. You can say that or you could put it in a symbolic way that connotates and demands more emotion, and I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. You can speak about a world corrupt religious system, or you can talk about Babylon the great, the harlot over all the earth; it arouses strong and deep emotion.
And here is a third reason because all of the signs and symbols in the book have their roots somewhere else, and you know where that is? The Old Testament. We read Revelation, and we go, huuh, what, what could that mean? But if you lived with the Jewish background of the Old Testament scriptures, a lot of those symbols will ring bells and flags in your mind, you'll go, I remember reading that somewhere. In fact, it's been said that of the 406 verses of scriptures in the book of Revelation, there are 360 references or inferences or allusions to the Old Testament. So for us it sounds foreign in symbolism, but in the First Century, it was closer to home and more easily understood.
Now notice what it says, notice the special blessing, saying Skip, at this rate, you're not going to cover 11 chapters, trust me. Notice the special blessing, "Blessed is he or happy is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep it." A special blessing is pronounced for those who read it, those who listen to it, and those who keep it. So what this tells me is, rather than us saying, oh, I'll just leave this book to the theologians to figure out. I won't read it, I'll read Psalms or one of the Gospels, it's a whole lot easier.
There is a special blessing for those who read it, hear it, and keep it. You know what that blessing is I believe? I think it's the blessing of seeing Jesus clearly, and the clearer that you see Jesus, the happier that you will get. You see Him clearly, you see the future glory of Him coming and ruling over the earth, and reigning in glory over His creation and ultimately with His bride in heaven. And the clearer you see Jesus, the blessing comes, you'll be happier. Why? Because you'll understand God has a plan for this world, it's going somewhere. And instead of flipping out like people do today with the economy, you can go, it's all in God's hands; this is going somewhere, and I have read the end of the story, we win.
So you'll have hope; so as you read Revelation, you'll get more blessed or you will get happier. But there is one portion of this that is sort of hard to understand, it says, "And who keeps this book." How do you keep the book of Revelation, how do you obey this book? You have all this information that's in symbolic language, it's one thing to hear it, one thing to read it. How do you keep it? I think simply by coming to a choice in light of this book, to live in the light of eternity, rather than the temporal world, rather than making your decisions and planning your day and planning your life, based upon temporal reality, which is transitional, it will be on eternal values; that's how you keep this book.
Notice, down in verse 19 of chapter 1, the book also comes with an outline. "Write the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this." That is the key verse to this whole book, that verse is the outline of the book. The book is given to you based upon chapter 1 verse 19, that's how John writes it. So write the things which you have seen; that is the vision of Jesus Christ that is in chapter 1.
John sees a vision of Jesus and he writes what he sees. Then notice, and the things which are, John does that; in chapters 2 and 3, he writes about the condition of seven churches in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. And then the things which will take place after this; after the church comes chapter 6, where he is caught up in the heaven and he writes about the future.
Now it's a very -- I would say critical, I would say important couple of words that I want to bring your attention to. If this is the outline and to this, because that's how the book is laid out, there is a couple of words where it says, "will take place after this" the words 'after this' in Greek, Meta Tauta 'after this' or after these things.
Now when we get to chapter 6 after the church is written about, and the heavenly scene of chapter 4 and 5 is over, these two words pop up again, Meta Tauta, 'after this'. So John writes about the vision of Jesus Christ chapter 1, he writes about the church, which is the church age I'll explain and then he writes what happens after the church age, beginning in verse or chapter 6. So let's look at the first swath of this, the things which you have seen. Notice the vision of Jesus Christ in chapter 1, and I'll read relatively quickly verse 9.
"I John, both your brother, and companion in tribulation, and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on an island that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice as of a trumpet. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and, "What you see, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches that are in Asia; to Ephesus, to Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to His feet and girded about the chest with a golden band."
"His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; and His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead, [good move]. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, who was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death.""
This is the first part, this is what John has seen, he writes that first. He sees Jesus Christ and incidentally he sees Jesus like he had never seen Jesus before. John was an apostle; he walked with Jesus, he saw Him as the Nazarene walking from town to town, teaching from place to place. He saw Jesus also on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah. Later on, he sees Jesus after He rises from the dead, and then ascends into heaven, but here he sees Jesus differently than he has ever seen Him before.
Here John is in the Spirit, and he sees Jesus Christ as the righteous judge of all the earth, and this language is symbolic of that, the glorious judge. John saw it, unfortunately a lot of Christians don't see it. They say, well, I picture Jesus as always smiling, patting young children on the head, embracing everyone, tolerating everything anyone would want to practice, I prefer to think of Jesus that way. That's good, He was loving, He was merciful, He was embracing, but get the full picture. Blessed, happy is the one who gets the full picture of Jesus Christ as the ultimate, glorious, righteous judge who will put an end to all evil and judge every form of it ultimately; that's what John sees here.
Now there is symbolism, there are stars, and there are lampstands, and we don't even have to guess what those are, because in verse 20, notice "the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angles of the seven churches." Angeloi, angels or literally messengers of the seven churches, it could refer to the pastors, He holds them in His hand. "And the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches." That's a fitting description of what the church is to be, a lampstand, we are to show people the way out of darkness into the light.
Now Jesus said He was the light of the world, but He also said to His disciples, you are the light of the world. Our task as the church isn't just to get together a couple of times a week and glow together, God, I love the glow, I not only love the glow, I love the after glow afterwards. That's great, we want you to glow, but we want you to go as well. And so we have here the lampstands, the showing of the way from light into or darkness into light. Notice of Jesus, it said, His eyes are a flame of fire, His feet like fine brass as if refined in a furnace, all about His judgment language, fire and brass are symbols of judgment.
You remember in the tabernacle, the altar that was the altar of sacrifice was made out of brass; the altar for worship and the inner sanctum is made out of gold, so brass becomes a symbol of judgment. Here is Jesus as the righteous judge. So that's the first part of Revelation, the things which John sees.
Chapters 2 and 3 are the things which are, going back to our outline in verse 19, "The things which are." And he describes seven churches with real names that really existed 2000 years ago in Asia Minor or modern day Turkey. What are these seven churches? There is a few different applications, number one as I said, they are real churches in real towns; I have visited those towns. Now they are a pile of ruins for the most part.
There were seven real congregations with seven real conditions, that are wrotten, wrotten about, they were wrotten about right here in this book, that are written about here in the Bible in a letter by Jesus. By the way, I prefer not to call them seven letters, but seven postcards; they're very short; they're just little snippets, quick little evaluations.
So number one, real life situation. Number two, I think they represent a historical application. I do believe that these seven churches represent seven periods of church history, from the apostolic church all the way to the apostate church in the end. And then third, I think there is a timeless application to all churches, all eras. In fact, I can even think, think you can break that down, and say that in every single congregation there are people that represent these seven conditions.
For example, there maybe some in here tonight like the church of Ephesus, that are very busy, very active, very discerning, but you've lost of spark of true intense love and devotion for Jesus Christ. Or some of you are like the church at Smyrna, you are suffering, and I mean suffering for your faith in Jesus Christ because you are a Christian you are being hassled, tormented, mocked, but you are holding on tightly to Him. Others are like the church at Pergamos; you're Christians but you are compromising Christians; you're tolerating things like false teaching, false doctrine.
There maybe some in here like the church of Thyatira, you are a little bit loose morally and loose spiritually, and you lack discernment for truth. Others could be like the church at Sardis; you don't want to be like that; these were spiritually dead people; they had the name of Christian, but they were dead. Others might be like the church at Philadelphia, you are experiencing personal revival, you're keeping His word. And then finally, some maybe more than a few are like the last church, at Laodicea, lukewarm, not hot not cold, but sort of complacent, sort of apathetic, whatever not a big deal.
Now look back at chapter 2 verse 1, we're just going to take a few quick snippets. In each postcard to the seven churches, in each one, Jesus introduces Himself borrowing a portion of the vision of chapter one. He will take part of the description of chapter 1 and introduce Himself to one church, take another part of that description in chapter 1 and introduce Himself to another church, and in each of these seven postcards he uses the phrase, "I know your works."
So look at chapter 2 verse; "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks into seven golden lampstands, I know your works.'"
Verse 8; "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and who came to life, I know your works.'"
Verse 12; "To the angel of the church at Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword, I know your works.'"
Verse 18; "And to the angel of the church at Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass, I know your works.'" That's what He does to each of those seven churches.
Go down to chapter 3 now, verse 14 through 22, the church at Laodicea, look at verse 20; "Behold, I stand at the door, and I knock, [that's Jesus, I am knocking at the door]. If any man hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and he with Me." How often is that verse quoted to unbelievers? Look, if Jesus standing at the door of your heart right now, trying to get in, open up your heart, and that is true, but that is not the context here. The context here is Jesus is on the outside of His church, a church that bears His name but He is trying to get in; He's trying to get close and they are not letting Him.
So He's knocking; He's not forcing Himself, He's asking, "Open the door, I'll come in, and I'll dine with you." Now you got to understand, dining, eating in the Bible was a sacred form of intimate fellowship. They didn't do fast food 2000 years ago. They had no in and out Falafel stand. To have a meal was a lingering thing, and I have had Middle Eastern meals where it's hours, because you are sharing yourself with another person. They believe this, the food that I eat is the same food that you eat, and because the food goes into my body and breaks down and becomes a part of my body, and becomes a part of your body, we are becoming one with each other; so it's intimate. Jesus is saying, "I want intimacy with you; I want closeness with you."
So here is Jesus on the outside trying to get in; I want to dine with you. Something I discovered about Jesus too that I really like, Jesus Christ loved to eat. Hallelujah! In fact, sometimes He got in trouble for it. He had a reputation, oh, He likes to eat with sinners and publicans, right? He had that reputation. But remember the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus walking through Jericho and there is that short little guy, he is up in the tree, looking at Jesus, and Jesus stops at the tree and goes, Zacchaeus, let's go, come on down, we are going to your house for lunch, loose translation, and they do. They go over there, and they eat; Jesus love to eat; Jesus loves that intimacy and close kind of fellowship.
Now chapter 4 onward is the third part of the book of Revelation; we're not going to finish it tonight, we're just going to chapter 11. The things which you have seen in chapter 1, the things which are in chapters 2 and 3, and now the things which will take place after this, after these things. Notice the last verse of chapter 3, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
And then chapter 4 verse 1; "After these things, [Meta Tauta]. Question what things? Answer, these things. But what are these things? The things of chapters 2 and 3. The things to the church at Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Laodicea, Philadelphia, after these things come other things of the future.
Now I drew your attention to the last verse of chapter 3, because this is the last time in the book of Revelation where you read the word church or churches. You'll not find it again until chapter 22 because the churches mentioned is not in view here, it's over. The things of the church are over; the church age is over, and now he writes about things future. Everything from here on out is future.
Chapter 4 and 5 is adoration in heaven, and then chapters 6 through 18 tribulation on the earth; chapter 19, the second coming of Jesus from heaven to earth; chapter 20, the millennium or you might say, heaven on earth and chapters 21 through 22, the new heaven and the new earth, the eternal state.
So verse 1, chapter 4; "After these things I looked, and, behold, a door standing opened in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place [Meta Tauta] after this." Immediately, I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne set in heaven, and one sat on the throne." Now this sounds strangely familiar, like you know, I have heard this language before, in fact, I think I remember Paul writing something like this, exactly. John is experiencing envision form what Paul wrote about in First Thessalonians chapter 4.
"He said, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ will rise first. And we who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air." So here's the voice of a trumpet, come up here; immediately John is caught up, and I believe that is a beautiful indicative, prophetic picture of the rapture of the church. From here on out John will see things from a heavenly perspective, from the throne room perspective. He'll see judgment upon the earth, but it will be from this perspective.
Verse 3; "And he who sat there was like the jasper and sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne, were twenty-four thrones and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting clothed in white robes and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are, the seven Spirits of God. In front of the throne was something like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center of the throne, underneath side of the throne were four living creatures full of eyes, [weird], full of eyes in front and in back."
First thing that catches John's eye when he's taken immediately in the spirit up to heaven, isn't long lost friends or relatives, but God. Now I know for certain, that when you get to heaven, you will see your relatives and friends who were believers, who went before you, and you'll recognize them. But I think the main attraction of heaven won't be reuniting with your mother or father or son or daughter or friend, but seeing God. He will occupy, and be the greatest part of what you see when you get to heaven. It's God, it's really Him, I am really here, check it out, and He sees the throne. It's the place from which He rules and reigns and calls the shots. This is the perspective that John will have throughout this book.
Around the throne were other thrones. There were twenty-four elders, very similar to a king in a court with subjects around. Now these twenty-four elders, who are they? I think it's best to see them as representative of God's people, representative of God's people. You remember back in the Old Testament there were course of priests, i.e., there was a group of priests that served their week throughout the year, how many courses of priests were there altogether? Twenty-four. Twenty-four groups of priests. The priests were representatives of the nation of Israel before God, they represented the whole nation. These twenty-four elders are representative of God's people caught up into heaven, just like the priest in the Old Testament represented.
Now it could be that this is representative of the church, or here's another possibility, they could represent Old Testament saints, as well as the church, and I say that, because when we get to the New Jerusalem in chapter 21, 22. John sees the city of Jerusalem with twelve gates, and above the gates are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the city has twelve foundations, and they're named after the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. So you have twelve and twelve which is twenty-four, either one is plausible, but they're representative, a representative group of people. Also notice there are four living creatures. These four living creatures are what? Any guesses? Be safe. How about angels?
Right. That'll be good, we don't have to worry about which class of angels. These angelic beings are angles that are in God's presence and will administrate the judgment that is coming on the earth in the great tribulation period.
Chapter 5, verse 1, you all doing okay so far? Alright, good, good. We're going fast I know, and I'm talking really fast, I know, like a kind of a car salesman, no offense if you are a car salesman, because I'm being one right now [laughter]. "And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne, a scroll written inside and on the back sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose the seals?" And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look at it." "So I wept much."" A better translation with great convulsions I wept.
Great display of emotion. "I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."" Anybody familiar with Old Testament, especially Jewish documentation would make a guess that this is the title deed to the earth. Title deeds were written on scrolls, there were the stipulations of the deed of property, the rights of property on the inside and the outside, and then it was sealed with a wax seal. This is a seal with seven seals, and as each one is peeled off, it will represent a judgment.
Now in ancient times, property in Israel was never lost permanently. The land, if you had to forfeit it for whatever reason, could be redeemed, purchased back. But you had to qualify, there were three qualifications. Number one, you had to be a relative, a kinsman, go'el, the Hebrew word, you had to be related, you had to be in the family. Number two, you had to be able, that is, you had to have the money to do it. Number three, you had to be willing to do it and the great illustration of that is the book of Ruth, you know the story.
Naomi marries a guy named Elimelech. There is a famine in the land, they leave Bethlehem and they go to Moab. But in Moab Elimelech dies, her two sons, Naomi's two sons Mahlon and Chilion die, and so now you have these three women, Naomi and Ruth and Orpah, they're left. Orpah, decides to stay, Ruth decides to come with mother-in-law back to Bethlehem. She is a servant in the field. They've lost their property to forfeiture, because they left the land, but there is a kinsman-redeemer, a go'el named Boaz, who is a relative, will pay the price, and is willing to do so. It's a beautiful story of redemption and this is the title deed to the earth.
John weeps, who is worthy, is the question. Who has the right to rule? Who has the authority to finish God's plan upon the earth and redeem it back? No one, except one, and that is Jesus Christ, who takes the scroll and unlooses the seals. Here's the deal; God created the earth; it was His, belongs to Him; we become stewards of that. But what happened? Adam, Adam forfeited the land; Adam forfeited the earth to Satan who was the usurper. And what does Romans chapter 5 say?
"Through one man, sin entered the world and death through sin, and death spread to all, for all have sinned." Adam was like the Benedict Arnold who gave away the title deed to the earth, to Satan, who was called incidentally in scripture, the god of this world. And even when Jesus was being tempted and the devil said, "Hey, if you bow down and worship me, I'll give you all of these kingdoms." Now listen to what he says, "For they are mine, and I can give them to whosoever I will."
Now Jesus didn't dispute Satan, He didn't say, they are not yours, because in a sense they were. Yeah, they were Gods by creation, but the title deed was given over by the fall, Jesus came to the earth, shed His blood, but this is the final takeover. This is where the title deed gets back to God and that will come through the tribulation period; God will judge the earth, purify it, cleanse it, and fully redeem it back.
So what happens? Rest of chapter 5 is about worship; verses 8, 9, and 10, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, worship. Verses 11 and 12, the angels join in and worship. Verses 13 and 14, every creature will also join and worship. Now beginning in chapter 6, all the way to chapter 18, actually part of chapter 19; is the tribulation period; the tribulation period. Let me break it down for you; there's three sets of judgment in these chapters; seals, seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls, they represent a series of judgments that will happen very, very rapidly upon the earth.
With each set of judgments, it gets worse, gets more intense, very rapid, very hard, in a very, very short period of time. I mean, three-and-a-half years. The earth is going to go through its worst period ever in the future, and it will happen very quickly. It won't be, it won't be prolonged, it won't be dragged out. For Jesus even said, "unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved but for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened."
Now when these three sets of judgments are finished, seals, trumpets, and bowls, God's wrath is finished, it's over with, and then He just takes over. So chapter 6 tells us the opening of the seven seals. Okay, now I need your mind just for a minute, I am going to give you chapters 6 through 18, 19 very quickly. Chapter 6 begins the first set of judgments called the seals. Chapter 7 is a parenthesis; where additional information is given. Then chapter 8 and 9 continues the chronology, the trumpet judgments. But chapters 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 is a parenthesis where additional information in details are given to that time period.
Then chapter 16 resumes the chronology of the tribulation judgments where we have the bowls being poured out, but chapter 17 and 18 are a parenthesis. Then, chapter 19 will end the chronological order of the book of Revelation in terms of the tribulation, it's over. It is pretty easy to follow it chronologically, you just have to know that you have six seals and then a parenthesis for additional information, and then a seventh seal, the seven seal ushers in seven more judgments, called trumpet judgments.
You have a six of those, and then there is a parenthesis with additional information. The seventh trumpet ushers in, the last seven judgments called bowl judgments. That's how it works, that's how the rest of the book is laid out.
So chapter 6 verse 1; Now, "I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, 'Come and see'. And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, 'Come and see'. Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat to take peace from the earth, the people should kill one another, and there was given to him a great sword."
"And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come and see'. So I looked and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures say, 'A measure of wheat [or a quart of wheat for a day's wage] a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a day's wage. [I think the inflation is bad now]. And do not harm the oil and the wine."
"He opened up the fourth seal, and I heard a voice of the fourth living creature saying, 'Come and see'. So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth."
This is the tribulation period; there's not a time like it in the world. It will be the worst period of time in human history. Now Jesus did say this, in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. In that verse, the tribulation He was talking about are the trials and tribulations we have everyday, everybody goes through them, this is different.
The tribulation that we go through everyday, comes from as its source the world, and the prince of this world, the devil, which just likes to have hassle everything and everyone. In the future, the great tribulation doesn't come from the world or from Satan, it comes directly from God on a Christ rejecting world. It's the worst time in history, worst than the Dark Ages, worst than the Holocaust in World War II, worst than the Great Depression, a whole lot worst than this present recession we are going through. In fact, did you know that more space in scripture is devoted to the tribulation period, than even the second coming of Jesus Christ, all throughout scripture?
Jeremiah 30, "For that day is great, [the day of the Lord], so that there is none like it. It is the time of Jacob's trouble.
Daniel chapter 12 verse 1; "There will be a great time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time."
Matthew 24 verse 21; "Our Lord Jesus said, "And there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.""
Now just in case you are thinking, well, I mean how bad could it be? I mean, we have seen a lot of bad times, how bad could it be? Really bad, there's smoke, there's fire, there's hailstones that weigh about 125 pounds, careening from heaven to the earth, there's the abyss, the bottom was pit that is open and belches out demons all over the world that bring torment for months upon the inhabitance of the earth, green things are destroyed, fresh water is destroyed, a fourth of mankind is wiped out, another third of mankind is wiped out, really, really bad.
Chapter 7 is a parenthesis, but chapter 6 is the first set of judgments. Chapter 7 is a parenthesis between the sixth and then seventh seal. Chapter 7 answers the question that is posed in chapter 6, look at verse 17 of chapter 6. "For great is the day of His wrath [or for the great day of his wrath] has come, [here is the question] and who is able to stand?"
Now chapter 7 answers the question, there are two groups that are able to stand. There is one hundred and forty-four thousand, and there is an innumerable multitude of gentiles from all over the earth. Verse 1; "After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea. Saying, do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand [now please notice the rest of this sentence], of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed."
In verses 5 through 8, will list the tribes by name that are sealed. I have been fascinated throughout the years to see how many groups want to identify themselves as being part of the one hundred and forty-four thousand? Herbert W. Armstrong at one time, false cult at one time they have since reformed, claimed to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand. Seventh-day Adventists have claimed to be the one hundred and forty-four thousand. The Jehovah Witnesses that one time said, they were the one hundred and forty-four thousand. This is before they were one hundred and forty-four thousand, Jehovah Witnesses.
And then once they had that number reached, and there were more, they had to recalculate a whole new theology. But anytime somebody says, I am part of the one hundred and forty-four thousand, my question to them is very simple, which tribe are you from? And they typically go, "Huh?" And I take them to this verse, here is the tribes that are listed. Which tribe of Israel do you belong to? It tells us who they are; these are Jews, not JWs. They are Jews, they are Jewish, they are messianic Jewish people who were protected by God during the tribulation period miraculously as judgments fall upon the earth, one hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish people who believe Jesus as their Messiah. How did they get saved? I believe, by a couple of people who will be introduced to in chapter 11 called the two witnesses.
The two witnesses seem to have evangelized and do signs and wonders and convince one hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish people to be messianic Jews, and the messianic Jews, the one hundred and forty-four thousand, they witness to people in the tribulation period, and there is an enumerable multitude of Gentiles that are saved.
I think the greatest evangelism in history will take place in the great tribulation period. It will be horrible, it will be hell on earth, but there will be people saved; a lot of them. Now I say that for two reasons; one is a theological reason, and one is the logical reason. The theological reason is the reason Jesus Christ gave in Matthew 24 verse 14. "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations and then the end will come."
It doesn't mean we are going to evangelize the earth, us, and then the Lord will come at the rapture. It means in the tribulation period, there is going to be an everlasting angel that flies though heaven, there is going to be two witnesses that do signs and wonders, and that's going to bring one hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish converts in, and I don't if you have ever seen a Jewish believer, but they are pretty persuasive, they are pretty on fire and pretty zealous. Imagine one hundred and forty-four thousand of them babies around the earth, it makes sense, and enumerable multitude would come, and they do.
And the logical reason, is because these are the two groups mentioned in this chapter that are associated together. Notice verse 9; "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nation, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands. And crying out in a loud voice saying, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!""
Chapter 8; the seventh seal is broken, and that ushers in the next phase of judgment, which are the seven trumpet judgment, trumpets were used to announce things, and they announced judgment. The first four announced natural judgment, natural judgment; there's judgment upon the land; there's judgment upon the ocean; there's judgment upon fresh water sources; there's judgment upon the luminaries, the heavenly bodies. The next three trumpets announced supernatural judgment, because in chapter 9, demons are led out of the abyss, and they fill the earth and they torment men for five months on the earth with some kind of pain, some kind of inflammation that is so bad that people want to die, but the Bible says, " Death will take a vacation." Death will not happen for five months, people won't be able to die. But there will be tremendous suffering during that period of time.
Well, by now we are well into the tribulation period. And can I just say very quickly before we bring this to a close in chapter 11, there is no need to spiritualize this. I take it literally; I know they are signs and symbols, but I take it as a literal event that are tied to signs and symbols. I think you do yourself damage, and I will explain why? If you try to spiritualize everything, because once one hundred and forty-four thousand doesn't mean a one hundred and forty-four thousand, once Jews don't mean Jews, once seven doesn't mean seven, then what does it mean?
And here is the answer; no one knows. Once you depart from the literal interpretation of it, you just make stuff up, and that's what the amillenialists has done, and I don't have time to get into it. I will distract from where we were at. Okay, chapter 10 and 11 is the parenthesis, remember, the interlude, so there is six seals an interlude, the seventh issues in seven more judgments, six come, there's an interlude which is chapter 10 and 11 before the seven trumpet, and then chapter 11 verse 15, the seventh trumpet beings. Look at chapter 11, verse 3; "I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy, [notice how literal this is], a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." That happens to be 42 months, or it happens to be three-half years, if you go by their prophetic calender of 360 days a year.
Verse 4; "These are the two olive trees, and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies and if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that rain doesn't fall on the days of their prophecy; they have power over the waters to turn them to blood, they strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire."
The question is who are these guys? To help us understand who they are, it says in verse 4, these are the two olive trees; you say, I'm not helped by that. [Laughter] Well, if you remember the book of Zachariah, remember these are symbols that are the roots in the Old Testament, it will ring a bell. Chapter 4 of Zachariah, Zachariah has a vision, remember? He sees in his vision, a lampstand, the menorah, the golden lampstand, above it is a golden receptacle, a bowl with pipes that go into the seven lamps, on either side of this lampstand or menorah, are two olive trees, and the olive oil goes directly from the olive trees into the golden receptacle and flows into the lampstand, into the menorah; it's an automated menorah. And then the angel says, Zachariah, what does that mean? He goes, I don't know. And he says, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord."
So Zerubbabel, the governor and Joshua the priest were the two witnesses at that time in Jewish history. God was saying, I know it's hard to be back in the land. I know it's tough to rebuild the temple and the nation, but I am going to keep this thing going. I am going to use these two to finish the task. So like those two who in the Old Testament, were used by the spirit, powerfully to finish the task and be a witness to the nation, these two will in the future tribulation, through the hardship, be infused by the Spirit of God and be God's witness to the Jewish nation out of which the one hundred and forty-four thousand believers will come. Who are these two witnesses? I am going to guess. I don't know, but I am going to guess that one is Moses and one is Elijah. What better two witnesses could there be for the Jewish nation, than to have Moses and Elijah? Why do I say that?
One number, because of their past. Notice the miracles that these two witnesses do; they sound very similar to what Moses did and Elijah did. Didn't Moses turn the Nile River to blood? It's that what they do here. Didn't Elijah call down fire from heaven on the Second Kings chapter 1 and the men who tried to arrest him? So because of the past.
Number two, because of prophecy, because of prophecy. Concerning Elijah, Malachi chapter 4, the prophet said, "I will send you Elijah before that great and terrible or awesome day of the Lord." That's why every Passover the door is open, and a chair is kept for Elijah, because of the prophecy.
Number three, I say, I believe it's Moses and Elijah, because of precedence, they did it before. On the Mount of Transfiguration, who were the two that appeared with Jesus? Moses and Elijah. What were they doing? Talking about the future kingdom. They were seen in a glorious state in the future. And finally I believe it because of the way they passed from this world; both had very unusual life endings. Elijah didn't die; he didn't die; he was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. And Moses when he died, there was this unusual argument over his body, right? Jude chapter 9, Michael the archangel, disputing with Satan over the body of Moses, who cares about a body unless God has future plans for it.
So my guess, it's Moses and Elijah, you might have your own guess, whatever, we don't know. So you can go over and say, I know who it is I think; we don't know; we can only guess. Verse 14 and we'll close; "The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly." And beginning in Verse 15, comes the seventh trumpet.
That will now usher in the last part of the tribulation period, the seven bowls judgments. We are into the final months of the tribulation, and we will cover that next week into the second coming of Christ, and then the new heaven and the new earth, etcetera.
Let's have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, boy, we move quickly tonight and we thank You for Your grace to enable us to do that. Thank You Lord for such a great group of believers who have sat so attentively and so firmly to this. Lord, I pray by Your grace, we would understand not only the things that You have said to Your Church that pertain to the Church, but the things You have said to us about what is in store for this world, so that we would keep the words of this Book. We would live with the eternity in mind, and be gripped by heaven, rather than grip by this world. That we would make our choices based upon eternity, rather than the temporal world.
Lord I can't help but go back to that little verse in Revelation 3:20 of Jesus standing and knocking, and it could be that You are knocking on hearts tonight, it could be that You have been knocking for a long time, and some haven't let You in. I pray Lord tonight that they would make You Lord of all, because of what is happening, what will happen to this planet earth, Lord, You are going to judge it, and you are going to destroy it eventually, and You are going to create a new one. And I pray Lord that we would live our lives in the light of that future reality. For we ask in Jesus' name, Amen! Let's all stand and worship together.