A Future Worth It All

A Future Worth It All

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Dr. Jim Denison

Revelation 21-22

We are on the preparation committee, not the planning committee. Three times in our passage in this study, Jesus promises us, “I am coming soon.” The first Christians took this promise to mean that he would return in their lifetimes; of course, he did not. Even they tended to be more interested in planning than in preparing. Let this final study help us to be prepared for Jesus to return, whenever he chooses to come.

But first, there are two questions from last week I’d like to address briefly. The first is the idea of “double fulfillment”—could Revelation have both a first-century application and an end-of-time interpretation and fulfillment?

Sensus plenior. Seen in Scripture; example is Hosea 11.1, “Out of Egypt did I call my son,” used by Matthew 2.15 for Jesus.

But be careful seeing double fulfillment where the Bible does not clearly say that it is so; this is speculative. And be careful not to see a second fulfillment which requires a completely different interpretation of the passage. I think Revelation intends to be understood as symbols, whether those symbols applied only to the first century or also to ours in an historical way (the locusts were not and are not army helicopters!).

The second question relates to the “book of works” (Revelation 20.13: “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books”). Did I mean that Christians will not face this judgment? Not at all.

Scripture is clear: Christians will be judged for our works as well. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3.11-15 is explicitly clear; 2 Corinthians 5.10 is clear as well: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” The referent is obviously Christians (“we”).

My point was that we will not gain heaven by it, for no one can. Our names in the “Lamb’s book of life” are what give us eternal celebration in heaven with God.

Now, to a description of that heavenly future, we close our study of Revelation with chapters. 21-22.

An outline of Revelation

I. Prologue (1.1-18)

A. Preface (1.1-3)

B. Author and recipients (1.4-5)

C. Doxology (1.6-8)

II. The first vision (1.9-3.22): the glory of Christ and letters to his churches

A. The vision of the risen Christ and commission of the book (1.9-20)

B. The letters to the seven churches (chs. 2-3)

III. The second vision (4.1-16.21): judgments on the evil powers of the world

A. The vision of God in heaven (ch. 4)

B. The vision of the Lamb who breaks the seals (ch. 5)

C. Seven seals (6.1-8.1):

1. White horse of conquest (6.2)

2. Red horse of war (6.3-4)

3. Black horse of famine (6.5-6)

4. Pale horse of death (6.7-8)

5. Altar of slain faithful (6.9-11)

6. Great earthquake of the wrath of the Lamb (6.12-17)

Interlude—the sealing of the 144,000 (ch. 7)

7. Silence in heaven for “about half an hour” (8.1)

D. Seven trumpets (8.2-11-19):

Interlude: the angel with incense, the prayers of the saints (8.2-5)

1. Hail and fire—1/3 of earth burned up (8.7)

2. Huge mountain thrown into the sea—1/3 of sea to blood, 1/3 of

its creatures killed, 1/3 of its ships destroyed (8.8-9)

3. Great star fell on 1/3 of the rivers, turning water bitter (8.10-11)

4. 1/3 of sun, moon, stars struck and turned dark (8.12)

5. First woe: Abyss opened, scorpions released to attack all without

the seal of God (9.1-12)

6. Second woe: four angels released to kill 1/3 of mankind

(9.13-21)

Interlude: the angel with the little scroll (ch. 10),

two witnesses (11.1-14)

7. Praise of God by heaven and the 24 elders (11.15-19)

E. The seven signs (12.1-14.20)

1. The woman (12.1-2)

2. The dragon (12.3-13.1)

3. The beast out of the sea (13.1-10)

4. The beast out of the earth (13.11-18)

5. The Lamb and the 144,000 (14.1-5)

6. The three angels (14.6-13)

7. The harvest of the earth (14.14-20)

F. The seven plagues (15.1-16.21)

Preparations (ch. 15)

1. First bowl: ugly and painful sores on those who had the mark of

the beast and worshiped his image (v. 2).

2. Second bowl: the sea turned to blood, and all life in it died

(v. 3).

3. Third bowl: rivers and springs of water became blood, while the

angel praised God (vs. 4-7).

4. Fourth bowl: the sun scorched people, but “they refused to

repent” (vs. 8-9).

5. Fifth bowl: poured on the throne of the beast, and the world was

plunged into darkness but refused to repent (vs. 10-11).

6. Sixth bowl: Euphrates was dried up “to prepare the way for the

kings from the East”; demons gathered the kings of the

world “for the battle on the great day of God Almighty”

(v. 14), “the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (v. 16).

7. Seventh bowl: the greatest earthquake in human history;

Babylon (Rome) was destroyed as God “gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath” (v. 19). 100-pound hailstones fell upon men, and “they cursed God”

(v. 21).

IV. The third vision (17.1-21.8): victory over the evil powers of the world

A. The mystery of Babylon (ch. 17)

B. The fall of Babylon (ch. 18)

C. The praise of heaven (19.1-10)

D. The victory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (19.11-21)

E. The millennium (20.1-6)

F. Satan’s final doom (20.7-10)

G. The judgment of the dead (20.11-15)

V. The fourth vision (21.1-22.21): the future blessing of the faithful

A. The new creation (21.1-8)

B. The new Jerusalem (21.9-27)

C. The river of life (22.1-6)

D. The promise of Jesus’ imminent return (22.7-21)

The new creation (21.1-8)

There are three promises here:

•Fellowship with God (21.1-8)

•Protection by God (21.9-26)

•Provisions from God (22) (Summers 212ff).


A Home in Your Microwave

A Home in Your Microwave

Luke 10:25-37

Dr. Jim Denison

The microwave oven for homes was first sold in America in 1952, and it’s changed our lives so much that sociologists call us the “microwave society.”

I’m old enough to remember when popping popcorn meant getting out the popper, putting in the oil, stirring in the kernels, and waiting five or ten minutes. Then the world discovered Jiffy-Pop, popcorn and oil inside the foil, ready to shake over a stove. When’s the last time you saw some Jiffy-Pop? Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Today popcorn comes in microwave bags. And we get impatient that it takes two minutes to cook.

This morning I bring you this thesis: the greatest threat to our families and relationships today is the microwave. Not in our kitchen—in our hearts.

Restaurants now have entire rooms for cell-phone users, so people can eat and work and thus save time.

“Sink Eaters Anonymous” is an actual support group for people who are so busy they eat their meals standing over the kitchen sink.

John P. Robinson, director of the Americans’ Use of Time project at the University of Maryland, says that the value of time has clearly surpassed the value of money in our society. Tell us something we don’t know.

As we begin looking at relationships today from a biblical perspective, let’s begin with their place in priorities. What does our culture value today? Doing more, faster, better, so we can have more and be more. But Jesus disagrees. According to him, our cultural values are exactly backwards. And unless we get our priorities right, our relationships will forever be wrong.

So, what should we value most today? Let’s ask Jesus.

From Jericho to Dallas

The lawyer asks Jesus the famous question: “Who is my neighbor” (v. 29). And Jesus replies not with principles but with a parable, the greatest story in all of Scripture.

A man is “going down” from Jerusalem to Jericho—2,300 feet above sea level to 1,300 below, a drop of 3,600 feet over 20 miles. This was one of the most dangerous highways in the world, and is still so today. I’ve traveled it twice, and felt safe in a bus during the day; I wouldn’t want to walk it alone, even today. Especially today.

But this man does (v. 30). And you know what happens to him.

But there’s good news—a priest is coming! The “church pastor,” the “man of God” has arrived. The man who stands before God in the temple, bringing the sacrifices of the people to him. Suppose your car is broken down in a parking lot near the church, and you see me come by. You’d expect me to stop and help, and you should.

Well, perhaps you shouldn’t. Not long ago I saw a woman trying to change a flat tire on her car outside Walgreen’s, down from the church. I stopped to help—we got the car on the jack, up in the air, and the old tire off. I was just about to put the new tire on when the jack collapsed! It was not a good thing. No one was hurt, fortunately, and my call from mechanic to minister was strongly reinforced.

Well, this priest doesn’t even stop. Why not? Numbers 19:11 says that if he touches a dead body, he’ll be ceremonially unclean for seven days. This wounded man is getting in the way of his job, his religious responsibilities. So he leaves him to die.

But all is not lost—a Levite comes by next. The man who keeps the temple, who helps the priest. A staff member, deacon, Sunday school teacher today. But he’s too busy to stop as well—he has work to get done.

In one of John Maxwell’s books, he tells about a new staff member at his church who walked by a group of people on Sunday morning to get to his office. He later confronted the man, who said, “I had work to do.” Maxwell responded correctly: “These people are your work!” This priest and Levite didn’t get it. Many of us don’t.

Finally a Samaritan comes along. Now all hope is gone.

As you know, the Samaritans hated the Jews, and vice versa. This man will probably rob what the wounded traveler has left, maybe kick him or beat him, certainly leave him to die. But no. He is “filled with pity.” He uses his own clothes to bind the man’s wounds, and pours his own oil and wine (very expensive first-century medicine) on his injuries. He puts him on his own donkey (while he walks), placing himself at the mercy of these same robbers. He brings him to the inn, pays for his room, and promises to pay any other charges the man incurs.

Imagine that your car breaks down near the church—I stop by, fix it so it will drive, go with you to the repair shop, pay for the repairs, and promise to pay for any other work the car ever needs. Has anyone ever done that for you?

Jesus says we should “Go and do likewise.” How? What does his story say to our “microwaved” homes and hearts and lives?

Choices to make today

How do we “go and do likewise”? There are several simple choices we must make today. Our first decision, foundational to all the others: value people as God does.

People are eternal; nothing else in this world is. Not our jobs, our possessions, our status or significance. One day the only real estate we’ll possess is a little piece of ground, six feet deep. And even then someone else will tend it, because we’ll be gone.

So we are commanded to value people, for only they have eternal souls. The Samaritan got this right. He valued this wounded Jew more than his clothes, or oil and wine, or donkey, or safety. He valued this man as God does.

So must we. People come before possessions. Listen to this remarkable statement from the Song of Solomon: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned” (8:7). In other words, wealth cannot buy love. Put people before possessions.


Easter Is Not an Island

Easter Is Not an Island

John 20:1-9

Dr. Jim Denison

On average, they stand thirteen feet high and weigh fourteen tons. The largest of them weighs as much as 165 tons. There are 887 of them on the island. And no one is sure why.

In 1722 a Dutch explorer discovered their island. It happened to be Easter Sunday, so he named his discovery Easter Island. Here the explorer found the famous “moai” of Easter Island, giant statues which guard the beach and dot the island. You’ve undoubtedly seen them in pictures—huge stone figures, mostly faces, standing mute and stoic for centuries. We’re not sure how the people of Easter Island made them, or how they moved them. Theories abound, but no one is certain. Easter Island is in a sense a fascinating miracle.

Easter Day can be like Easter Island for us—a miracle, but an island, isolated from the continent of life. An annual religious observance and little more.

Last year, the Baptist churches in our area experienced a 50% decline in worship attendance from Easter Sunday to the next week. Our own experience was identical to theirs. Clearly many people see Easter as an island, unconnected to the rest of the year. A religious event with little relevance to our daily lives.

But our lives and souls need more. We need a transforming daily experience with the Christ who rose on Easter Sunday. And so, today, I want to show you the factual reality and the personal relevance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why Easter is not an island we visit, but the home where we live.

To do that, I need you to take two walks with me.

Celebrate the reality of the resurrection

The first takes us back twenty-one years, to early spring of 1980 and a college retreat I was attending. My father had just died a few weeks earlier. In a few months I would graduate from college, marry Janet, and move to Southwestern Seminary to begin preparations for a life in vocational ministry. And my world came crashing in on me.

I’ll never forget that Saturday morning. I was about to spend the rest of my life preaching the gospel and serving the church. Was I sure about this? Was Christianity real? Was it more than Sunday school lessons and church services? Was I about to give my life to a religion, or to a reality?

I took that Saturday morning off from the retreat, and went for a walk. I can still see the stunning blue sky, hear the birds as they sang in the warm sun, feel the leaves and pine needles crunch beneath my feet. I walked and walked, as I thought about everything I had come to know about this Christian faith.

Perhaps you need to take that walk with me today, for yourself or to help someone you care about. Before we can see if Easter is relevant, first we must know if it is real.

As we walk and talk together, we begin where I started twenty-one years ago: with the fact that everything about the Christian faith hinges on Easter, on the resurrection. Jesus said he would rise again from the dead—if he did, his word is true and he is our living Lord. If he did not, the Bible is just a book and Christianity is just a religion.

Paul was clear: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). If someone were to find a skeleton and prove that it was Jesus Christ, we would disband this church, sell the property, and give up the faith. Christianity hinges on the reality of the resurrection.

So let’s start here as we consider the reality of Easter. What explanations make the resurrection just a story, an island and nothing more?

One option: perhaps the first witnesses to Easter went to the wrong tomb, found it empty, and proclaimed Christ raised from the dead.

But in our text, Mary Magdeline was the first to arrive, and Mark 15:47 says she saw where Jesus was laid. Joseph of Arimathea, the owner of the tomb, certainly knew where it was. And assuredly the Romans knew where they had placed their guard. No, they had the right tomb.

A second possibility: perhaps these disciples wanted so much for Easter to be true that they imagined it was so. But Mary didn’t expect Jesus to be gone: “we don’t know where they have put him!” (v. 2). In verse 11 she’s still crying; in verse 15 she thinks Jesus is the gardener and appeals to him for the body. Verse 9 is clear: “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

A third option, related to the second: maybe this was a hallucination, a mirage, a dream. But the tomb is still real, and empty. The Roman historians tell us that Christ was crucified by Pontius Pilate. His death and now-empty tomb are very real. More than 500 saw the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:6), and 500 people don’t have the same hallucination. No, Easter is no wish fulfillment or hallucination.

A fourth approach: perhaps the women or disciples stole his body and announced him risen. This was the Jewish authorities’ explanation for Easter. But people don’t die for a lie. And they don’t keep a secret, either. Just a few conspirators hatched the Watergate plot, and they couldn’t keep the secret more than a day or so.

A fifth answer: maybe the authorities stole the body. But they would undoubtedly have produced it the moment the resurrection was first preached by the disciples. And a body has ever been found, though skeptics for twenty centuries have looked.

When our tour group visited the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul three weeks ago, we saw on display hair and teeth from Mohammed. None are on display anywhere in the world for Jesus.

A sixth option: perhaps Jesus didn’t die, but swooned on the cross and later convinced his disciples that he had been resurrected. This is the thesis of Hugh Schonfield’s best-selling book, The Passover Plot. But verse 7 is fascinating rebuttal: “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The Greek original is clearer: the cloth around Jesus’ dead head was collapsed in on itself, not unfolded as it would have to be if he or anyone else had removed it from his body. And a swooned victim of crucifixion could never overpower guards, walk through locked doors, and ascend back into the heavens. This theory won’t work.


Facing North When the Market Goes South

Facing North When the Market Goes South

1 Kings 17:7-16

Dr. Jim Denison

Today we want to address the subject of finances and family, the economic downturn and its effect on our lives and relationships. Financial challenges are something I know something about. Trust me when I tell you that Janet did not marry me for my money.

Our first home was a duplex in Arlington, renting for $330 per month. We struggled to make that payment each month. Our kitchen table was an old inlaid checkerboard table Janet’s grandfather had made. It was missing several of the checkers, so we put a tablecloth over it to hide the holes. But I knew where they were; when people would come over, I’d put my water glass in the holes just to watch it tilt and see the people’s reactions.

I drove a 1966 Ford Mustang, with a leaking power steering cylinder. It would have cost $35 to fix, so I cut off the belt and drove it manually. Janet worked at our church, then became a teacher. While finishing my master’s degree, I worked as a graphic artist part-time and as a janitor on Mondays, and we addressed the church newsletter on Tuesday nights for extra money.

Few problems challenge a family more severely than finances. But few circumstances can make our relationships stronger and more godly than the spiritual renewal which financial pressures can bring. The choice is ours.

If your relationships are not facing financial stress, they likely will be. Let’s ask God for practical help together. Walk with me through this remarkable Old Testament event, then we’ll gather up some lessons for life today.

The king who ruled a dust bowl

Elijah the prophet appears suddenly and without introduction in 1 Kings 17, walking into the middle of the greatest spiritual crisis his nation has seen since the wilderness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel have led the people to worship Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility and rain. All sorts of unspeakable sexual immorality and heinous spiritual adultery have resulted.

1 Kings 16:33 makes this horrific statement about him: “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.” Of all their corrupt, decadent kings, he was the worst.

So God raises up this prophet Elijah to show the nation who is really Lord.

Rain was crucial to this drought-plagued, agriculturally dependent country. Without rain they could not farm, eat, or survive. You know what happens to us when the electricity goes out; far worse came to them when it did not rain.

Baal was supposed to be the god of rain. So the real God shows the people who’s truly in charge of the rain and the world. He send Elijah to tell wicked King Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

God kept his word. For 3½ years there was no rain in the land. The nation looked like the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. We suffered through a few weeks without rain last summer; imagine what would happen to Dallas if it didn’t rain until November of 2004.

The eventual result of this standoff between Elijah and Ahab, between Jehovah and Baal, was that the people returned to their worship of the one true God, and the wicked regime of Ahab and Jezebel was destroyed. God’s power prevailed, and the nation was saved. But along the way, innocent people would suffer the consequences of their leaders’ sinfulness, as they always do.

This is where our story picks up.

A strange way to feed a man

Elijah has been living by a brook in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan river. But the brook dries up because of the drought. “Then the word of the Lord came to him . . .” (v. 8). Not “before” but “when.” God never reveals his will to us ahead of time. Now that the crisis has come home to Elijah, God gives him his word.

And a strange word it is: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food” (v. 9).

Zarephath was a commercial center located 20 miles north of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast of ancient Phoenicia. The small town of Surafend is there today.

Going to Zarephath was a bad idea. The drought had hit them hard as well, so that they have no more water than Elijah does. Jezebel’s father is still king of the region, and we know what she thought about Elijah. And these are pagan, Baal-worshipping idolaters. Why go there?

To make things even worse, he is to depend on a “widow” in the town. She is the least likely person to survive this drought. She has no husband and no other family; there is no welfare system; she and her son will likely die.

But Elijah goes anyway: “So he went to Zarephath” (v. 10). His life, and hers, would depend on his obedience to the word of God. Obedience is the theme of this entire text, and of its relevance to our lives.

He finds the woman at the city gate; someone has said that “coincidence” is when God prefers to remain anonymous. She’s “gathering sticks,” twigs, really. To make a fire for cooking—this must be a good sign, Elijah thinks.

So he asks her for some water, and she consents. Then he asks for some bread, assuming that she will have what he needs or God wouldn’t have sent him to her.

Then comes the shock: “As surely as the Lord your God lives, I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug” (v. 12a). To make matters worse, she says, “I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (v. 12b).


Getting Ready for the Final Exam

Getting Ready for the Final Exam

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Dr. Jim Denison

Revelation 15-20

Overview of Revelation 1-14

I. The revelation of Jesus Christ (ch. 1)

II. The letters to the churches (chs. 2-3)

III. The revelation of heaven (ch. 4)

IV. The scroll and the Lamb (ch. 5)

V. Seven seals (6.1-8.1)

VI. Seven trumpets (8.2-11.19)

VII. Seven signs (12.1-14.20)

Seven angels with seven plagues (ch. 15)

Seven angels are revealed with “the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed” (15.1). Those who were victorious over the beast, image, and number worshipped God with harps and song (vs. 2-4).

The seven angels came out of the “tabernacle of the Testimony” (vs. 5-6). The “tabernacle” was the dwelling place of God during the desert wandering of the Israelites. It contained the two tablets of the Testimony brought down from Sinai.

One of the four living creatures gave them “seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God” (v. 7). The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, so much so that no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues were completed (v. 8).

The seven bowls of God’s wrath (ch. 16)

First bowl: ugly and painful sores were on those who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image (v. 2). (CF, the sixth Egyptian plague in Exodus 9).

Second bowl: the sea turned to blood, and all life in it died (v. 3).

Third bowl: rivers and springs of water became blood, while the angel praised God (vs. 4-7).

Fourth bowl: the sun scorched people, but “they refused to repent” (vs. 8-9).

Fifth bowl: poured on the throne of the beast, and the world was plunged into darkness but refused to repent (vs. 10-11). “Throne” is mentioned in Revelation 42 times; once it refers to Satan’s throne (2.13), and here it is the throne of the beast. The other 40 times it refers to the throne of God.

Sixth bowl: Euphrates was dried up “to prepare the way for the kings from the East”; demons gathered the kings of the world “for the battle on the great day of God Almighty” (v. 14), “the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (v. 16). The Hebrew was Har Mageddon, “the mountain of Megiddo.” Many see no specific geographic location here, but a reference to the final overthrow of evil by God.

Seventh bowl: the greatest earthquake in human history; Babylon (Rome) was destroyed as God “gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath” (v. 19). 100-pound hailstones fell upon men, and “they cursed God” (v. 21).

The woman on the beast (ch. 17)

One of the seven angels showed John the punishment “of the great prostitute” (vs. 1-2).

Her description:

Sitting on a scarlet beast.

The beat was covered with blasphemous names and had 7 heads and 10 horns.

She was dressed in fine clothing and jewels, and held a golden cup filled with her abominations.

The title on her forehead: “Mystery / Babylon the Great / the mother of prostitutes / and of the abominations of the earth” (v. 5).

She was “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus” (v. 6).

The beast “once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction” (v. 8). The seven heads are seven hills “on which the woman sits” (v. 9). They are “also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while” (v. 10).

Rome began as a network of seven hill settlements on the left bank of the Tiber river. Her designation as the city on seven hills was common among Roman writers, including Virgil, Martial, and Cicero. The beast “is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction” (v. 11).

The ten horns “are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast” (v. 12). They will “make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them” (v. 14).

The waters where the prostitute sits are “peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” (v. 15). The beast and the ten horns will “hate the prostitute” and “bring her to ruin” (v. 16). This woman is “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (v. 18).

The fall of Babylon and joy in heaven (18.1-19.10)

Another angel shouts, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!” (v. 1). Another voice calls God’s people to “Come out of her” (v. 4). The “merchants of the earth” will “weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more” (v. 11).

Then a mighty angel picks up a boulder the size of a large millstone and throws it into the sea, saying, “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again” (v. 21). A “great multitude in heaven” shouts their hallelujahs and praise to God (19.1-8).

An angel says to John, “Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (v. 9). John tries to worship him, but he refuses and directs his worship to God alone (v. 10).

The rider on the white horse (19.11-21)

The rider is called “Faithful and True” (v. 11). He wears many crowns and a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God (v. 13). The armies of heaven follow him; out of his mouth comes a sharp sword “with which to strike down the nations” (v. 15). His title: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (v. 16).

The beast and the kings of the earth gather their armies to make war against him, but the beast is captured and with him the false prophet (v. 20). The two are thrown into the lake of fire, and the rest are killed with the sword which came out of the mouth of the rider (v. 21).


How to Stand for God

How to Stand For God

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Dr. Jim Denison

Revelation 10-14

Seals, trumpets, and signs

I. Seven seals (6.1-8.1):

A. White horse of conquest (6.2)

B. Red horse of war (6.3-4)

C. Black horse of famine (6.5-6)

D. Pale horse of death (6.7-8)

E. Altar of slain faithful (6.9-11)

F. Great earthquake of the wrath of the Lamb (6.12-17)

Interlude—the sealing of the 144,000 (ch. 7)

G. Silence in heaven for “about half an hour” (8.1)

II. Seven trumpets (8.2-11-19):

Interlude: the angel with incense, the prayers of the saints (8.2-5)

A. Hail and fire—1/3 of earth burned up (8.7)

B. Huge mountain thrown into the sea—1/3 of sea to blood, 1/3 of

its creatures killed, 1/3 of its ships destroyed (8.8-9)

C. Great star fell on 1/3 of the rivers, turning water bitter (8.10-11)

D. 1/3 of sun, moon, stars struck and turned dark (8.12)

E. First woe: Abyss opened, scorpions released to attack all without

the seal of God (9.1-12)

F. Second woe: four angels released to kill 1/3 of mankind (9.13-21)

Interlude: the angel with the little scroll (ch. 10), two witnesses (11.1-14)

G. Praise of God by heaven and the 24 elders (11.15-19)

III. Seven signs (12.1-14.20)

A. The pregnant woman (12.1-2, 5-6, 13-17)

B. The red dragon which wars against her (12.3ff)

C. The beast out of the sea (13.1-10)

D. The beast out of the earth (13.14-18)

E. The Lamb and the 144,000 (14.1-5)

F. The three angels condemning Babylon and calling for faith in God

(14.6-13)

G. The harvest of the earth by the “son of man” and his angels (14.14-20)

The angel and the little scroll (Revelation 10)

The purpose of this interlude: to answer the perennial question of the martyrs. Those who suffer and die for Jesus will not die in vain; their pain is known, and their victory assured. The purposes of God “will be accomplished” (v. 7), despite current appearances.

The angel’s identity: “Another mighty angel”—cf. 5.2, “I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice….” The rainbow above his head signifies God’s pledge never to destroy the earth again with a flood (Genesis 9.8-17), using symbols from Ezekiel 1.26-28. His legs “like fiery pillars” recalls the pillar of fire which guided (Exodus 13.21-22) and protected (Exodus 14.19, 24) the Jews during the exodus and in the wilderness. He stands both on sea and on land, showing that his message is for all of creation and all the world. By taking his stand on earth, he moves the focus from heaven (4.1) to earth.

His “little scroll”: Not the same scroll as in chapter 5, which was intended to reveal its contents; this scroll is to be eaten by John. Some see this as the vision of chapter 11, others as a second revelation which begins with chapter 12. In the Ezekiel context (cf. 2.8ff), it seems most likely that this is a general commission to preach a message of judgment for sin and condemnation upon Rome (Summers 161-2).

The thunders which accompanied him: “The voices of seven thunders spoke” (v. 3). Their voices were legible, so that John was about to write down their messages. Then he was prohibited from doing so by “a voice from heaven” (v. 4).

In Revelation, thunder is typical of warning (cf. 8.5, 11.19, 16.18). Elsewhere they are a premonition of judgments of divine wrath. But here they are not to be recorded, because there is no more warning: “There will be no more delay!” (v. 6).

His oath: He “raised his right hand to heaven” (v. 5), a practice in Jewish oath taking (cf. Genesis 14.22-23, Deuteronomy 32.40). He “swore by him who lives for ever and ever” (v. 6), encouragement to those facing martyrdom. He promised that “the mystery of God will be accomplished” (v. 7a). And he connected this “mystery” with the message of the prophets (v. 7b).

His gift to John: John asked for the little scroll, and was told to eat it (v. 9), symbolic of grasping fully its contents. It was “sour” in his stomach, indicative of hardship and suffering to come. But it was “sweet as honey” in his mouth, showing that it is ultimately good news for John and his people (cf. the scroll in Ezekiel 3.3, “It was in my mouth as sweet as honey”).

Applications

God and his message are sovereign over the world, appearances notwithstanding today.

We are to speak as God speaks to us, and to be silent where he commands it. We are to announce the full counsel of God’s message—both the bitter and the sweet. We are to tell people of sin and judgment, as well as salvation and grace. The bitter makes the sweet relevant. We must be willing to sacrifice our comfort to obey Jesus.

The two witnesses (Revelation 11)

The reed for measuring the temple (1-2): The “reed” was a bamboo-like cane which often grew to a height of 20 feet and was an excellent and typical measuring rod. John was not to measure the outer court of the Gentiles (approximately 26 acres in size).

This is clearly symbolic in nature, as the actual temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. But dispensationalists see this as a promise that the temple will be rebuilt for or during the “Great Tribulation.” Many are engaged in efforts to bring about this rebuilding even now.

Dr. John Newport sees this temple as reference to the church during the Great Tribulation—its existence and protection. It seems to me that the vision shows us that the real temple of Jesus Christ is indestructible: the believer in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 3.16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”).

The assault on the holy city (v. 2): Their assault would last 42 months. When the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes (168-165 BC) assaulted Jerusalem, his desecrations lasted for three years. This may be the meaning of the vision.


Why a Good God Lets Bad Things Happen

Why a Good God Lets Bad Things Happen

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Dr. Jim Denison

Revelation 6-9

An outline of Revelation (placing our study in context)

I. Prologue (1.1-18)

A. Preface (1.1-3)

B. Author and recipients (1.4-5)

C. Doxology (1.6-8)

II. The first vision (1.9-3.22): the glory of Christ and letters to his churches

A. The vision of the risen Christ and commission of the book (1.9-20)

B. The letters to the seven churches (chs. 2-3)

III. The second vision (4.1-16.21): judgments on the evil powers of the world

A. The vision of God in heaven (ch. 4)

B. The seven seals (5.1-8.1)

1. The vision of the Lamb (ch. 5)

2. The first six seals opened (ch. 6)

3. The “sealing” of 144,000 (ch. 7)

4. The seventh seal opened (8.1)

C. The seven trumpets (8.2-11.19)

1. The trumpets introduced (8.2-5)

2. The first six trumpets sounded (8.6-9.21)

3. Interlude: the mighty angel and the little scroll (ch. 10)

4. The two witnesses (11.1-14)

5. The seventh trumpet (11.15-19)

D. The seven signs (12.1-14.20)

1. The woman (12.1-2)

2. The dragon (12.3-13.1)

3. The beast out of the sea (13.1-10)

4. The beast out of the earth (13.11-18)

5. The Lamb and the 144,000 (14.1-5)

6. The three angels (14.6-13)

7. The harvest of the earth (14.14-20)

E. The seven plagues (15.1-16.21)

1. Preparations (ch. 15)

2. The seven bowls of God’s wrath (ch. 16)

IV. The third vision (17.1-21.8): victory over the evil powers of the world

A. The mystery of Babylon (ch. 17)

B. The fall of Babylon (ch. 18)

C. The praise of heaven (19.1-10)

D. The victory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (19.11-21)

E. The millennium (20.1-6)

F. Satan’s final doom (20.7-10)

G. The judgment of the dead (20.11-15)

V. The fourth vision (21.1-22.21): the future blessing of the faithful

A. The new creation (21.1-8)

B. The new Jerusalem (21.9-27)

C. The river of life (22.1-6)

D. The promise of Jesus’ imminent return (22.7-21)

God rules the elements (Revelation 6)

Note that all seven seals must be broken before the scroll itself can be opened; thus these are preliminary signs before the final stages of the kingdom can be revealed. These seals parallel closely Matthew 24.1-35 and Mark 13.1-37, and correspond to the “beginning of birth pains” Jesus describes in the Olivet discourse.

These events could begin in John’s time, and extend to the end of history (cf. 1 John 2.18: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour”).

The first seal: the white horse (1-2)—conquest

Hal Lindsey: the white horse represents an European Antichrist who is going to head up the Common Market in Europe from the city of Rome. Many interpreters believe this rider is Christ or his cause on earth. White is commonly a symbol in Revelation for Christ or spiritual victory (cf. Revelation 1.14, 2.17, 3.4-5, 4.4, 7.9, 20.11). No “woe” is mentioned as with the other riders.

My interpretation is this rider represents the conquest of the Roman Empire. The Parthians were the Romans’ most dreaded enemies, and their rulers rode white horses.

Their warriors used a bow; the Romans did not. Their rulers wore crowns; the Romans did not. And so Jesus is promising these persecuted Christians that their persecutors will one day be destroyed, and their faith will be vindicated.

The second seal: the red horse (3-4)—war

Hal Lindsey contends that this is Russia, making alliance with the Arabs to invade Israel; he bases this assumption primarily upon the color of Russia’s flag and nationality. However, red is the typical apocalyptic color for judgment and wrath. The rider’s power to “take peace from the earth” makes clear that war will follow conquest in the future of the Empire.

The third seal: the black horse (5-6)—famine

War creates famine. The costs reflected in the text are twelve times the normal prices for food.

The fourth seal: the pale horse (7-8)—death

“Pale” denotes a yellowish green, the paleness of a dying person. His name and work show that death follows the conquest, war, and famine which will come to the Empire.

Hal Lindsey and others interpret these “riders” as doing their work only at the end of history (Lindsey interprets vs. 7-8 as the results of a nuclear war). But most commentators through Christian history have seen these as warnings of coming catastrophe for the persecuting Roman Empire, and assurance to the Christians that their future is secure in an insecure world.

The fifth seal: the martyrs (9-11)

Some interpret these verses to speak of those martyred for their faith during the Great Tribulation. Others point out the fact that if the Spirit is “raptured” during this Tribulation, how could people become believers and then be martyred?

The verb tenses seem to indicate that these are those who have already been martyred by the time John writes Revelation. Thus this passage refers to first-century Christians who have died for their faith. They seek vengeance from God, in keeping with Scripture: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12.19). They are given the white robes of victory and promised that judgment will one day come to their enemies.

The sixth seal: the earthquake (12-17)

Some see these as signs of the end of history; others as symbols of ongoing tribulation until Christ finally returns. Note the non-rational nature of these symbols: “the stars in the sky fell to earth” (v. 13), but our planet is smaller than any one of these stars; “the sky receded like a scroll” (v. 14) and “every mountain and island was removed from its place” (v. 14), yet people hide among the “rocks of the mountains” (v. 15). And later “a third of the stars” turn dark (8.12), though all of them have already fallen to earth (6.13).