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Archive for the 'Gems in Revelation' Category

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Gems in the book of Revelation
(Authored by Roger Kirby)

Part 151 - Revelation 22:1-21
Come, Lord Jesus

So we come to the final chapter. The key word of this last chapter is ‘come’ but before we get there, John has some further thoughts on the glories of his vision of the last things. This is where we expect to arrive after the second creation, the recreation of this world of ours. It is the time when it connects with the other world in which the Lord God and Jesus live.


To explain it he borrows the vision of Ezekiel from his 47:1-12. The river in Ezekiel’s vision flows from under the door of the temple, where the Lord was thought to dwell more specially than anywhere else. John changes that to be a direct flow from the throne of God and the Lamb. As with Ezekiel’s river the emphasis is on the fertility that it brings to all on its banks.

We have no cities in this country where water flows down open gutters at the sides of the streets all the time. Yet they are a wonderful feature where they do exist. We have seen them in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan where they bring a delightful freshness to the feeling of the street. But those gutters are at the side of the street; John’s water flows down the very centre of the main street of the city. This water is more important than anything else. The emphasis is on the fertility flowing from the tree of life for ‘the healing of the nations’ (22:2). That seems to suggest that many will be healed that we might not expect to be. Not everybody will be healed. There is an awful list later in the chapter of “the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” they have to remain outside for ever. But the basic picture does seem to suggest we may get some real surprises when we see who has been healed and is reigning for ever and ever.

We are coming to the end of this strange and wonderful book. There is so much about heaven and the new earth we can never understand however it is explained to us. John has done a wonderful job in showing us as much as he can and challenging our thoughts and imaginations, stretching them to their outer limits. As he says his words are trustworthy and true (22:6). This chapter is a mix of words from John, an angel and then, from 22:12 to the end, actual words of Jesus himself.

Before we get to those final words we have some warnings. 20:11 suggests that there is an eventual cut off point after which no one will be able to change their destiny. If we have set out to follow Jesus there is no moment when we may say ‘I’m done’. We should seek to follow him to the very end of our lives. As an old song says in quite different circumstances ‘keep right on to the end of the road’.

The other warning-which is a rather worrying one for anyone who, like me, sets out to try and help other people to understand this book. Hopefully, as I have not tried to include everything that this book says, I cannot be said to have taken any words away from the scroll (22:19)!

The final message of this book is quite clear-it looks for the final moment when Jesus returns to earth, not quite this earth but the new, restored, redeemed earth. Jesus says he is coming. The Spirit and the bride (all God’s people) and last of all John himself ask him to come. And he will. Be ready. It might be tomorrow!

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Gems in the book of Revelation
(Authored by Roger Kirby)

Part 150 - Revelation 21:1-27
Final Destination

Where are we going when we die? The immediate answer is the presence of the Lord. He called it ‘paradise’ to the man crucified with him on the cross. Paul says “to be with Christ is better by far” (Philippians 1:23). But that is not the end of the story. Our final destiny is the resurrection, following Jesus who unexpectedly led the way being resurrected ahead of time. Ezekiel says in his 37:12, 13 “ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.”

Or as Jesus said in John 5:28, 29 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”

Chapter 21 is John’s picture of what that will be like. We, in our resurrected bodies, will return to earth, a new glorious earth closely linked to heaven. This is what we pray for when we say “your kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven”. This is John’s picture of the final days of the Kingdom that began in the gospels when Jesus walked this earth for the first time.

The best place John knew on earth was the city of Jerusalem before it was destroyed by the Romans, most probably before he was writing, so he enhances that to the most glorious vision he can think of. It is now a great cube 2200 kilometres in each dimension - a very unlikely shape for a city, but no matter, it is the perfect shape. The walls and streets are all made of gold. The gates were special, made of pearls. The foundations were all of precious stones.

It is brilliant - but totally impractical. It is a vision after all and like almost all the pictures of Revelation meant to convey a meaning rather than a reality. I think that means we can have our own visions of what this final earth and heaven will be like. If, like me, you do not like cities and avoid them if you can, then we can create our own image of the most lovely place on earth where we would like to be for ever. For me that is like a Scottish hilltop in the spring. Blue sky overhead, crisp snow, barely taking a boot mark, underfoot, clear air and a vision of range after range of snow covered hills stretching away into the distance!

That is my vision. What is yours? Let your imagination fly although you know the reality will be even better when you get to it.

Having excited our imaginations with his vision John tells us some important things about it in the final paragraph of the chapter. There will be no temple there (21:22) because there will no longer be any need for any sort of intermediary between us and the Lord. There is no need of the lights in the sky because the Lord God and the Lamb will lavish so much grace upon it, upon us. There is no limit to the access - the gates are not shut at night, as they would have been in the earthly Jerusalem - all those from any nation whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life can enter at will. All that is true, is noble, is right, is pure, is lovely, is admirable, all that is excellent or praiseworthy is welcome there. What a prospect, what a future, and it is ours!

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Gems in the book of Revelation
(Authored by Roger Kirby)

Part 149 - Revelation 20:1-15
 
Cleansing and Judgment


And so we come to the great but perplexing chapter on judgement. We are glad to read of the final demise of the dragon and the beasts, which reflect all the evil on the earth, but it is difficult to know what to make of some of the circumstances. We have to remember that it has been fairly impossible to take almost anything in this book literally so far. It is strange if we can suddenly start to do so here.

I have neither the space nor the desire to say anything about the possible implications of the thousand years which have caused so much argument over the centuries. There are 3 major approaches known as the pre-millenial (the events described and those possibly discovered elsewhere in the New Testament occur before the thousand years), the post-millenial (the events occur after the millenium, and the a-millenial (the thousand years are not to be taken literally).

There are at least 5 things that follow from what is written in this chapter regardless of which belief (or none!) that you hold as to how it is all going to happen.

1. At some date in the future all evil will be eradicated from this world of ours. (Revelation 20:10)


2. This will not happen all at one clean sweep. There will be many problems before that final, very desirable, event occurs. (Revelation 20:1-9)

3. It will not all happen at the cosmic level. Human beings will be involved at certain stages before the evil is completely eradicated. (Revelation 20:4, 9)

4. Once evil is removed there will be a time of judgement. No one will be exempt from this. (Revelation 20:12, 13) My picture of how this will happen is: arrival at an airport in your home country. First you have to show your passport. If you have the right passport (we are citizens of heaven says Paul in Philippians 3:20) you are immediately welcomed into your home country, but you still have to go through the luggage checkpoint to see that you have no contraband in your cases. So, we too although welcomed because we are justified by faith - we have been promised now that we shall be welcomed by the Lord when we go to meet him - we are still to give account of what we have done in the years allocated to us since we set out to follow Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12). Like all illustrations, that one of mine is not perfect but it should help you to see what the scripture is saying. It is not the case that we are born again and need worry no more that all our future is without concern. That is a popular misunderstanding of the implications of being ‘born again’.

5. Not everybody is guaranteed a comfortable after life. (Revelation 20:15) what exactly will happen to them is much debated. A literal ‘lake of fire’ scarcely seems compatible with a God who is Love.

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Gems in the book of Revelation
(Authored by Roger Kirby)

Part 148 - Revelation 19:11-21
The Messiah appears

One of the key words in Revelation is ‘open’. A door was opened (4: 1); the first seal (6: 1); the seventh seal (8:m 1); God’s temple (11: 19); the tabernacle (15: 5); and finally heaven (19: 11). And this is much the most important opening because it reveals the Messiah. So far throughout the book heaven and earth have been somewhat mixed up in the images presented. No more - apart from the short picture of the great white throne (20: 11 - 15) the action from now on is going to be on earth, a renewed, cleansed, revitalised earth to be sure, but definitely this earth on which we live.

The Messiah will come. Jesus will return.

After nearly 2000 years that is a little difficult to really grasp and hold on to. It is all too easy to glibly assert that we believe he will be back, but to really believe it in our heart of hearts is rather more difficult. His name has a very human ring to it - ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ suggest earth, not heaven. It isn’t made any easier by the description we get here. Here are the first 7 verses of the picture John paints:

All the following verses seem a bit blood thirsty. There are some quite good reasons for that though. The picture is drawn by linking together Biblical references - many of which are rather bloody. The overall picture is drawn from Isaiah 63: 1 -4 of a warrior striding into view with his garments all spattered with blood, though a closer look shows that that was a martyr’s blood. The sword in the Messiah’s mouth is the rod of Isaiah 11: 4. The iron sceptre is from Psalm 2: 9. This is all imagery. It does show very clearly there is a judgement to come; that words are very important; that the judgement will be one based on Truth; that we, dressed in our white garments of purity are but onlookers; that there is such a thing as the wrath of God which is not to be forgotten.

John’s picture is very much in line with what Jesus said “blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6: 20). The whole picture is about the way that the leaders of society are vulnerable when it comes to the day of judgment. They are closely associated with the dragon and the two beasts.

It is all too easy to think of the return of Jesus as a time for celebration with much joy and street parties etc.. Perhaps so, but perhaps not. It is not clear whether that moment will be entirely designed and carried out by the direct hand of God or whether we, humans, will have a hand in it with our nuclear weaponry. If the latter we have clearly moved much closer to the possibility in recent years!

Live as though Christ died and rose yesterday, is walking with us today, and will return tomorrow.

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Gems in the book of Revelation
(Authored by Roger Kirby)

Part 147 - Revelation 19:1-10
4 Hallelujahs

We left this remarkable book in chapter 14. We are now at chapter 19, which is the next one that anything encouraging can be found i7. The intervening chapters have given a harsh but accurate view of human nature and how human societies work. Rome has been called Babylon to connect it with the worst city, from a Jewish perspective, of the Old Testament. Only now do we find some ‘hallelujahs’ as John unfolds his vision of the future. To quote just one of them:
“Praise our God, all you his servants,
you who fear him, both great and small!”

Most of the intervening chapters are taken up with the fall and doom of Rome/Babylon. There is a dreadful warning here. Our world could not do without cities. As the number of people in country after country rises the size of cities grows. When I was a boy the population of London was 7 or 8 million, which made it one of the largest cities in the world. Now it is about the same size and a small city by international standards. The way human societies work cities are inevitable. They are necessary concentrations of expertise and workforces. In commercial terms they are therefore a good thing. But in spiritual terms their value is much more suspect. That is what the chapters I am skipping over are all about. The world would surely be a much more spiritual place if it was all small country towns - as it will have been in Old Testament times.

My reason for saying this is largely because we get a newspaper from London, reflecting London values, which are far different from those evident in a small country town. They are more ‘advanced’ in matters of ethics and spirituality. And such is the influence of London on the whole country that those standards will eventually come to us. There is a curious doctrine widely believed and seldom challenged that today’s ideas are always superior to yesterday’s. The world must be progressing. In particular old ethics such as we believe the Bible teaches are considered to be inferior to modern ethics, even when it is very clear that human happiness is not being increased by the changes. It is in cities that the rich dwell. In our world the gap between the rich and the poor or even the only moderately well off, is increasing all the time. This cannot go on forever but it seems to be doing so at the moment. Again, human happiness is not increasing in most of the world we live in.

John gets it right. After all those chapters about the fall of the city we have this chapter with no less than 4 hallelujahs ( = praise the Lord) in it. We live where we live and if that is in a city it is very unlikely that we will be able to do anything about it. What theses chapters bring to our attention, and what we must not overlook, is what is happening. We, the Lord’s people, do not set our standards by the standards around us. We live in the light of Jesus and walk in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5: 25).

March on - with Him.

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Gems in the book of Revelation
(Authored by Roger Kirby)

Part 146 - Revelation 14:1-5
The army of God

The picture of the Lamb standing on Mount Zion takes us straight to Psalm 2:6-11 where we read:


“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.
8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.

What John has written here is clearly a pictorial representation of how that prophecy will be fulfilled. Here we have 144,000 marshalled as the army of the Lamb. Not of course an army, which is to go out with Kalashnikovs etc. but one, that is to fight with love and mercy for the glory of the Lord. As before this number is carefully judged so that when it was first written it might not be so big a number that everyone who heard it might presume that they would be included and not so small that they might worry that there was no room for them. Now it has to be several billion to have the same meaning for all the Christians alive today. They are a mighty army heralded with great natural sounds of water and thunder and great human sounds of harps and singing. In the early days when a Jewish army had to go to war they were instructed to abstain from sexual relations so that they might be symbolically as pure as possible. That is what is referred to here in the statement that the Lord’s army were to be virgins. It should not be taken literally. They are to be followers - the word so often used in the Gospels to refer to those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah.


Once again this chapter will be read between by those Christians in countries where faith is a nice comfortable way to live your life and in a very different way by those who live where to believe in Jesus puts them into an unwanted category and possibly constant danger.

Even in the comfortable countries there are points to note here. 14:4b-5 talk about following the Lamb wherever he goes - not just on Sunday mornings! And goes on to remind the followers that they have been purchased - at a terrible price; that they are but part of a mighty army - now found throughout the world in all except its most hidden corners; and that purity expressed as absolute honesty in every word is the mark of the true believer.

For the uncomfortable countries there is the promise of a future judgement when all the greatest citadels of evil will be destroyed and there will be eventually a terrible display of the wrath of God against all the wickedness and failure to worship the true and only God.

Perhaps the most important thing of all to note in this chapter is that after the great description of the Lord’s army we are not told that it was ever used. All the action is carried out by spirit beings. We are not to go to war on behalf of the Lamb.

However those days will call for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who are to keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

Dear Lord, please, may we so live that you count us amongst those, we pray.

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