Category Archives: Resurrection

REVELATION 22:6 -21 -GROWTH GROUPS DISCUSSION NOTES

As we come to the end of the series on the Book of Revelation it is helpful to recall the historical perspective that lies behind this wonderful book. This is summed up by Paul Barnett in his commentary Revelation: Apocalypse Now and Then at page 153:

Revelation leaves us in no doubt: the great end-time battle of God does not lie in the future but in the past. By his death and resurrection Christ has conquered the twin evils of guilt and death. As a consequence, God’s kingdom is now, a present reality. These are perhaps the most important keys to the mysteries of this book.

As for the evils that the original Christians (and Christians ever since) were facing, Barnett reminds us:

The book repeatedly portrays God as not the source of evil. In his mercy he limits the extent of satanic destruction to provide rebellious humanity with the opportunity to repent of the worship of demons and idols, and their breaking of his commandments (9:2). In the face of this evil, Christians are continually called on to display patience and faithfulness to Jesus. And it is by endurance and faith that believers share in the completed conquest of the Lamb who was slain.

So what is there left for us before we become fully glorified in the presence of the Lord as depicted under the imagery of the new Jerusalem and the bride adorned for her husband?

The answer of course is the second coming of Jesus to bring this age to a close and to bring about the fulfillment of his ultimate plan for his people.

That is what chapter 22:6 is all about.

QUESTION ONE: Rev. 22:7 quotes Jesus as saying, ‘Behold, I am coming soon’. Given that 2,000 years have passed, how would you explain the meaning of the word ‘soon’?

QUESTION TWO: From your knowledge of the New Testament, what do you know about its teaching about the return of Jesus?

QUESTION THREE: How are we meant to prepare for his coming?

QUESTION FOUR: The book of the Revelation ends with a prayer, ‘… Amen, come Lord Jesus.’ It is rare for such a prayer to be heard in worship services today and it is probably rare for it to be uttered in the private prayers of most believers. Why is this so and how can we change our thinking to follow the example of this verse in beseeching Jesus to come quickly?

Revelation 19:19-20:15

Armageddon and the Thousand years

Discussion Question

What is your favourite book? (In this study we will see all the books opened that will be used to judge all of humanity and yet there is the Book of Life – this may become our favourite book!)

Or

Can you think of a story of anti-climax? Like the Y2K bug? All the hype that came to nothing!

Background (Context)

The book of Revelation has been filled with visions from God given to John to write down. We have heard some spectacular things. Chapter One gave us the flavour of the book with its vision of the throne of God. Chapters 2 and 3 contained seven letters to seven churches and we discovered that being faithful to God and holding fast to his promises would return a crown. Chapters 4 and 5 displayed the glorious throne room of our God, declaring that he is worthy and powerful. Chapters 6 to 19 have described the history of the world under the curse of sin while it awaits the return of the King who alone is worthy. Three types of characters appear in the book: those who oppose God (described as beasts and dragons and prostitutes and so forth, they are aligned with Babylon and are tricked by the beast), those who praise God (sometimes called the martyrs or those who survived the tribulation, whose names are written in the book of life) and lastly there is God and his heavenly agents.

Armageddon was mentioned back in Chapter 16 Verse 16  (see VV12-17ff) and as part of our context, we will begin by reading Revelation 19:19-21 to see that it matches the same event as Armageddon.

Read Revelation 19:19-21

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The beast and the armies of the world rise up! (19)
  • But they were all captured and destroyed (20-21)

The beast and the armies of the world rise up! (19)

“…gathered together to wage war…” Compare this phrase in Verse 19 with 16:14 and 20:8. There is one event in mind here and it is a picture of all the worlds strength in attack against God and God dismantling all their efforts in a heartbeat. This is not new to Revelation. Ezekiel 38-39 is alluded to in these verses as is Zechariah 12-14 and Zephaniah 3. A final war of history is described but surely, like the rest of Revelation, they are a picture of how final and effortless the Judgment of God will be on that Day. The emphasis is not on how scary and brutal are the enemies of God but on how swift and final is the Word of God.

Another surprising OT reference is Psalm 2! “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed…The One enthroned in heaven laughs…You will break them with a rod of iron…” Psalms 1 and 2 set the agenda for the whole of the Psalms and give a theme of the entire scriptures. Psalm 2 declares that there is no king besides Jesus (or David in its immediate context) and we need to get right with Jesus before it is too late!

But they were captured and destroyed (20-21)

“But the beast was captured, and with it…” As was mentioned last week, the beast who has lured humanity away from God is defeated – just like that.

“…who had performed the signs on its behalf…mark of the beast…” Rev 13:12 refers to the activity of the beast and the signs that deluded many. The mark of the beast sounds like a branding. We will not get drawn into equating this image with barcodes or something else. This is not how we have been reading Revelation and we won’t start now. The picture language is about being enticed to side with the rebels instead of with God and humanity are tricked in all manner of ways. We are not going to accidentally be marked by the beast by using a certain credit card or something like that. But one can find themselves so distracted by the things of this world that they cannot say they are marked out by Jesus. We ought to take our eyes off avoiding the beast and rather set our eyes on the One who can put our names in the book of life.

“…thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphuric.” We will return to this in Chapter 20.

“…killed with the sword coming out of the mouth…birds gorged…” The judgment comes from the word of God coming from the mouth of Jesus who rides on the horse. The sword is not a metal blade but a word of judgment. The birds remind me of something Jesus said in the gospels, when he was speaking about the end times (Luke 17:37). They are an image of the aftermath of war where the slain are left for the birds to eat – there is no one to bury them.

Read Revelation 20

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • I saw the dragon bound (1-3)
  • I saw the saints at the first resurrection (4-6)
  • Armageddon? (7-10)
  • The books are open (11-15)

I saw the dragon bound (1-3)

“…having a key…and holding in his hand a great chain.” The theme of holding someone against their will is introduced.

“…the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan…” Four identities given to Satan and linking us right back to Genesis 3. We did not know that the serpent was Satan in the garden but this is clear now. I love to remind people that the bible is one complete book. Themes introduced in Genesis have grown across the pages to give us a complete image – just as much as the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 could not have been known to be Jesus until the whole of scripture was revealed.

“…bound him for a thousand years.” It will be interesting to hear each group discuss what the thousand years represents. These thousand years have created a debate about which Millennial view the bible holds: a Premillennial view refers to a Thousand years which begins after Jesus’ return; a Post-Millenial view refers to a Thousand years which ends when Jesus returns and then there is the A-Millenial view which maintains that there is no actual Thousand years but are, again, an image supplied by Revelation to teach us who is in power. Notice how Satan is bound by chains and by time. He is not at all in charge of this cosmos.

There is a timeframe in which Satan is held back from deceiving the nations.

I saw the saints at the first resurrection (4-6)

“…they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” We further our investigation of the Millennial views as this thousand years is not in addition to the previous but superimposed. The question remains, is it an actual thousand years or a metaphor. If it is a metaphor then what does it tell us? The sequence of events seems to follow the sequence in Ezekiel 37-48 (resurrection of God’s people; messianic kingdom; final battle against Gog and Magog and final vision of the new temple and new Jerusalem). The thousand year reference can simply point to a time that has far extended any kingdom that has ever been before. David’s reign was limited by death. Adam’s life fell short of a thousand years. This new era is stronger than any other.

“This is the first resurrection.” The first resurrection refers to the resurrection of Christ. Note that the rest of the dead, those who have not put their faith in Christ, do not participate in this first resurrection. With the power of the gospel, Satan is bound for the same period. He cannot steal or take away what has been claimed by the blood of the Lamb.

“The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God…” This is you and I who have come to Christ. We have full assurance against the judgment to come – do you have full assurance? You should and you can! In this “thousand year reign” that commenced with the resurrection of Christ, we are priests who bring people to God. Jesus said to Peter: I give you the keys to the kingdom! The gospel unleashes security to those who know it and live it!

Armageddon? (7-10)

“When the thousand years are over…” So, despite there not being a literal thousand years (the amillennial view which I hold), there is a storyline of what happens after the resurrection of Christ and after the period that we live in now is over.

“… Satan will be released…go out to deceive the nations…Gog and Magog – and to gather them for battle.” Verse 7 and 8, as mentioned earlier, allude to Ezekiel 38-39 where Gog and Magog are both mentioned. They appear here to represent cities who have bought the lie of the beast and sided with him rather than with the Lamb. The phrase, “gather them for battle”, occurs at 16:16 and again in 19:19 and helps us to see that this is the same event retold again and again. The beast gathers the nations by deceiving them that they can do better than God. God takes them down with his breath. The whole thing ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. This is Armageddon. (I’m-a-gettin’ out ‘o here!)

“In number they are like the sand on the seashore.” The enemy ramps up in power like they intend to smash down God with their might! The description of the enemy is big. Get ready for a BIG battle!

“…but fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” If it weren’t talking about the Day of the Lord it would be funny! God received no scars from this battle. He didn’t even leave his throne room. This took no effort. It is ridiculous to think that we can oppose God. 

“They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” The ‘they’ refers to the devil and the beast and the false prophets. The description is of eternal conscious punishment. Revelation contains imagery that we have learned to not take literally (like the beast and the dragon and the four living creatures etc) but the message of Revelation is real. There will be a Judgment to determine the future of all. And here, for the devil and co, there is what we would perhaps call hell. So what about everyone else? Are they, who have not been washed clean by Jesus, ‘devoured’ like in Verse 9? Let’s read on.

The books are open (11-15)

“The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” This is one of my favourite verses in the bible because it is so mysterious and subtle. The heavens is not ‘heaven’ but the space above the earth. Just as easily as the enemies of God were struck down effortlessly, the earth and all that we know of this reality will simply be gone – without a trace. This is well worth our time meditating on regularly.

“…and books were opened.” Revelation 20:11-15 gives a classic and concise account of what every living human needs to look forward to. There is no mistaking the bible to say that we will all give an account of what we have done. Romans 14:12.

“Another book was opened…” The book to take notice of, however, is the one titled: Book of Life. It’s not the “This is your life” book but the “Jesus has saved your life” book. As Revelation says, if your name is in that book, then you don’t need to be concerned about what is in your personal book. I recall Aslan speaking to Lucy after dealing with Edmond’s unfaithfulness. Lucy was told that there is no need to speak of it any more.

“…and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them…” the point is that no person is exempt from Judgment day. The sea, death and Hades are simply three names for the region of the dead.

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” Death no longer has any sting. The very concept of death has an end – it is also subject to God.

“The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Noting firstly that if your name is not in the book of life, the conclusion is that your own life story will not get you saved. We all need saving! The big question is: do Verse 15 and Verse 10 refer to the same punishment? I don’t see how they cannot!

The human race is faced with a decision: turn to Christ and rely on His pure record to avoid the lake of fire or cross your fingers that you have a clean record written in the book of your life. According to Revelation (and therefore the word of God) you cannot pass the test because you have already failed it. There won’t be a party in hell for all who couldn’t care less about Jesus. ‘Tormented day and night for ever and ever” is the description in Verse 10.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

There is no stopping the kingdom of God as it is the most powerful kingdom in all history and beyond. There is no avoiding hell on our own merit. As Psalm 2 says: Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction…blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Premillennialism has no future. The only text in the bible that refers to a thousand year reign is this one in Revelation and it stands against much of what the New Testament has to say about judgment day. That is, that it will be swift and come like a thief in the night (see actually Revelation 16 where this is quoted in the context of Armageddon). If there is a thousand years that happen after Jesus’ second coming, then it will also include death and the curse of sin. To take the thousand years as literal is to begin to take the whole book of Revelation literally too, with swords coming out of mouths and feet blazing with fire. What we have reflected on in these notes is that the Resurrection inaugurated a new reality which constrains Satan who cannot destroy those who are alive in Christ.

Topic B: The reality of hell. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). There is an urgency in the bible to get right with God. Jesus said it would be better to not be born than to betray the Son of Man (referring to Judas). He also said that it is better to enter life a cripple than to have two feet and be thrown into hell (Mark 9:45). There is a view in Christianity that final judgment may result in eternal unconscious punishment, otherwise known as annialation. This is a big area of discussion and no theologian is excited by the doctrine of hell – but we can get excited about the doctrine of salvation by grace alone! How easy is it to avoid!

Topic C: The book of Life. There must be no greater book that this one. I know, it’s a metaphor, but it points to the reality that when you are with Christ, there is no more condemnation! The book of Revelation has talked about the saints being robed in white, given a stone with a secret name on it, being crowned. There is no such language as ‘hoping for the best.’ I pray that all who are involved in Growth Group ministry can fathom the wonder of full assurance. The thing that matters most is not, which millennial view you hold (although it does matter), nor which view of hell you hold (although that also matters) but whether you have run to the Son who saves.

Revelation 1

A vision from God to the churches

Discussion Question

What would you rather: to know all the details of a holiday before you go on it (the events of every day right down to all the problems that will occur) or to have a guide that promises you will be fine and to just go on the journey?

Background (Context)

We are at the very end of the bible and in a book that gets way too much attention for the wrong reasons. Being the last book of the bible, we must consider all that has gone before it! Creation, the Fall, the promise of salvation, the suffering servant-king, the gospels, the spread of the church with the message of resurrection, forgiveness of sins and persecution. The Bible, as a singular book, ends with a vision of all that is and will be. Whenever it is treated as an isolated book it is mistreated by the reader.

The scope of these notes will not be exhaustive on the book of Revelation. As we have always done, we will take each chapter at a time, each section at a time and uncover what the author wants us to see and hear and how to respond. There is no end to the amount of commentaries written on parts of the bible but there is no substitute to the bible itself for gaining understanding and good context.

A note on apocalyptic writing. Readers can get stuck in this book whenever symbols and ideas emerge that spark our imagination. While the genre of Revelation is different, it still uses the same constructs of language. Words build up sentences which build up a message which, in context, can be understood when we look for the clues. We will see in chapter one that questions are raised in the text and then resolved – in the text! We may not always know what exactly is meant but we will avoid jumping to whimsical conclusions.

So, Jesus has come to this earth and laid down his life. John 3:16 is not a prophecy but history. In this book we will remember that there is no greater truth than that Jesus is King and He’s going to take care of everything.

Read Revelation 1

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • The revelation (1-3)
  • Grace and peace from the Triune God (4-8)
  • Write what you have seen (9-19)
    • The writer to the churches (9-11)
    • What he saw (12-16)
    • How to respond to Revelation (17-20)

Part a (1-3)

The revelation (1-3)

“The revelation from Jesus Christ…” The bible does not waste words. These three verses and the rest of this chapter give us great insights to uncover the whole of this book. We start by reading that this book is about a revelation from Jesus Christ. A revelation is simply the uncovering of something previously unknown. Jesus is revealing something to John, the writer, and to us. The whole bible is a revelation – knowledge of God that would otherwise be unknown to us.

“…which God gave him…” So the revelation is from Jesus but it was given to Jesus from God. The doctrine of the Trinity does not simply state God is One but that God is One and Three. Throughout the book of Revelation we will be amazed at the revelation of the Trinity in action! Jesus is a servant of the Father.

“…to show his servants what must soon take place.” It is a little bit exciting to know that we read this book knowing that certain elements of it are still yet to be fulfilled. We are reading the finished bible with still hope for what God has promised. We will see, I hope, that the book is not forecast for a sequence of events that will devastate us all but that the events to take place all involve the consummation of the work on the cross. This is a book filled with hope for those who love Jesus and fair warning for those who do not. 

“He made it known…” John, an angel, Jesus Christ and God are all involved in the writing of this book. John’s hand is used to give exactly what he heard from the angel/messenger sent by Christ to convey the word of God. Although there are many hands in this kitchen, the authority of God is not bent. Again, the whole bible follows this kind of pattern.

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud…and who hear it and take to heart what is written in it…” We hold in our hands a message from God that is promised to be a blessing to those who take it to heart. We may very well pray for our church right now that we will take these words to heart and do more than treat it like a toy or puzzle to solve but to love God more dearly as we hear him speak to us.

“…because the time is near.” Jesus claimed not to know the hour when he would return but told his disciples to be ready. They died before his return. Many have died before Jesus’ return. The time is still near. We must not get trapped in the popular thought that the days are getting closer now. Everyday is one day closer of course. But the day has been near even in 90AD.

So, The Revelation is new and it is more of the bible. God has spoken, Jesus has served as the Word of God and with the help of messengers and writers, the things that God wishes to reveal to us have been made known.

Grace and Peace from the Triune God (4-8)

“John…” This is John the disciple whom Jesus loved. Perhaps not that Jesus had a special relationship with John but that John, the author of the 4th gospel, loved that Jesus loves him, and chose to refer to himself by that identity rather than just his name. Tradition tells us that John was the last disciple to die and died of old age, although suffered as much as the other apostles. He wrote three epistles and is known to have been ‘imprisoned’ on Patmos for his faith.

“To the seven churches…” The churches are listed in Verse 11 and are the focus of Chapters 2 and 3. The whole letter of Revelation is addressed to these churches. 

“Grace and peace to you from…and from…and from…” Like many of the letters in the New Testament, grace and peace set the tone of the greeting. This means that there is no war between the writer and the recipient. Even when Paul writes stern words to a church and when John here writes rebuking words to the seven churches, it is in the context of grace and peace. You see, we are not at war with one another. The gospel sets us free from that. There are no higher and lower orders of people but we are all servants of Christ and indebted to him for the grace received. We are at peace now with God and must be at peace with one another. The status we share is grace and peace – the reality must be matched as far as we are able.

“…from him who is, and who was, and who is to come…” This can be applied to Jesus specifically and will be done later on, but because Jesus is mentioned a few clauses later, this must refer to God – Father and Trinity. The eternal one. Probably no simpler identifier of God is that he just is. He is independent in every sense of the word. See Exodus 3:14-15.

“…from the seven spirits before his throne…” What is this? With the mention of the eternal One before and the Christ after, it is tempting to see this as somehow the Holy Spirit. And  perhaps it is. The term, “seven spirits” appears in 3:1 held along with the seven stars (which are the angels of the seven churches according to 1:20); in 4:5 described as seven lamps; and in 5:6 described as seven horns and seven eyes which are sent out into all the earth. You would know that seven is a perfect number in Revelation but what do we make of all this information? We may not be able to conclude that this refers somehow to the Holy Spirit but there is a will of God behind every metaphore provided in this list. Grace and peace are sent from the seven spirits and they seem tightly bound to both God and to the church. I won’t speculate any further.

“…from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Jesus is the promised Messiah, the one who does everything that the Father desires, the resurrection and the Lord of Lords. This is Jesus. Let’s not overlook this person. He is God’s promise. He is God’s faithful one able to represent God and man. He conquered death in a way that promises the same resurrection to us and he is the boss. Jesus is number one. In Bible study, this is not something to treat as theory but we follow Him, we praise Him and we thank Him. While He is the messenger and faithful witness here in Chapter one, He will continue to take centre stage in the story of salvation and the end of all things as we know it.

Write what you have seen (9-19)

The writer to the churches (9-11)

“… on the Lord’s day, I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” There is not much normal about this although it sounds normal coming from John’s mouth! The Lord’s day? Is this Sunday? Is it, like many will content, the Sabbath? In the Spirit? Was he in prayer? He pre-empty the rest of the story with the classification that he was not just sitting in a cave but he was engaged with God somehow – not with reality but with God.

“…write what you see and send it…” The vision is not intended for John to keep to himself. This vision and Revelation is not for John’s personal spiritual benefit alone. John is a messenger and scribe for the benefit of the church who are firstly the seven churches (that number seven again – why these seven and why only seven except that it represents the whole of the worldwide church) and then us.

What he saw (12-16)

“…I saw seven golden lamp stands…His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” There are two many elements to list and go through. We will hear these elements reappear. It is easy to see, however, the imagery of purity and power at the same time. There is strength but life giving – not entirely terrible. Jesus is of course standing in the middle of the churches. What John saw was a kaleidoscope of imagery mashed together to tell a story of one who upholds and speaks, he is nothing like a human and yet is one like a son of man. This is Jesus.

How to respond to Revelation (17-20)

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” One might expect John to respond in reverence and awe but he is stunned into submission – like one who is dead!

“Do not be afraid.” This is the juxtaposition of Revelation: at the same time terrifying and peaceful. When you are on the side of Jesus, you are on the side of the one who stands with his face as brilliant as the sun!

“I was dead…I am alive for ever and ever.. I hold the keys of death and Hades.” The whole New Testament teaches this. Jesus is the centre of our faith because he died and is NOW alive and wil never die BUT he holds the key to the eternal death of others. There is not rival to Jesus’ power and authority. Our God does not fight with other gods for who owns hell etc. Jesus is the king of everything. The book will talk more of death and Hades later. Who wouldn’t want to know the One who has the key to death in their hands?

“Write, therefore…” Again, this vision is not for John’s binge watching alone but news to be written down. What we find in this book, however, is not a brand new ending but the ending that the gospels and Epistles point to also.

“The mystery of the seven starts that you saw…” Here we have some clues provided. Not everything in Revelation is like this. We need to listen to the imagery, sometimes referenced elsewhere in the book, sometimes it is an Old Testament reference we need to relearn. It is helpful to know the overall story of the bible when reading this book and it is helpful to have a bible word-search tool.

“…angels of the seven churches…” It is not for us to conclude that every church gets its angel. An angel is a messenger and the whole book is metaphor, simile and apocryphal/pictorial language. The churches do not stand in isolation but are provided for by God by messengers. Jesus is at the center and He holds all the ingredients in his hands: the church which is purchased by his blood (to come later in the book), the messengers of the church who presumably bring the gospel, and the keys to death and hades. Jesus is not a spectator but the power behind what is, what was and what will be.

We respond to Revelation by avoiding mystery and fear and running to Jesus in awe and wonder. The imagery is out of this world but that is also the future that we are called to. Keep in mind that everything is picture language that point to real truths. 

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Christianity will not die out with the last remaining Apostle. God has got more to say to the church of Christ to confirm that Jesus is still alive, he is the king and he holds everything in his hands. We are not to be afraid when there is someone eternal and all powerful who has already provided victory over death and Hades. We must be ready to listen properly to this book so that we can be blessed by it.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Reflect on the person of Jesus. Take a breath and reflect on how central Jesus Christ is to all eternity. Take your eyes off your worries about tomorrow and consider that Jesus holds tomorrow in his hands. Ask yourself, is there anybody else in all the world and time and space worth knowing more than Jesus Christ? Respond to these reflections with praise and prayer.

Topic B: What questions do you have of God? As we get ready to read the rest of the book, what do you want to know from God about the future? If he were to list you a chain of events to be prepared for or give you confidence in a Person who has already defeated eternity, which would be better information to hold? Will it disappoint you to not have every question you have answered but be assured that God has already won? The image of Jesus in Verses 12-18 is of a divine man who has already won. He is to be feared but touches us gently and says, do not be afraid.

Topic C: Because the time is near. This is scary and comforting. Jesus warned his disciples while in Judea that they need to be ready. He told parables about bridesmaids and invitations to feats. He warned us that if we get distracted by this world and forget the kingdom of God then the kingdom of God may forget us. And so, Revelation instructs us to hear this word and to take it to heart. Pray that we will do just that.