David Jeremiah - The Exile
Our world is a wonder-filled place. From space, the Earth appears quiet, serene, and breathtakingly beautiful, but contrary to how it appears, if we take a closer look, we find a world far from perfect. War, political chaos, immorality, extreme weather, cataclysmic acts of nature, famine, and the ongoing threat that a nuclear war or super disease could annihilate our entire population. We may live on a planet that gently rotates on its axis, but it's also the same world that seems to be spiraling out of control. Could it be that these potential cataclysmic events are precursors to Earth's final hours? Are we living in the last days? Are the events occurring in our world today a fulfillment of biblical prophecy? The answer is yes. Bible prophecy addresses what is happening to us today and in the future.
It may surprise you that to see into the future, we have to begin by looking to the past, very far into the past. It's the year A.D. 95, and we find ourselves not in the Holy Land but on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. There, on the isle of Patmos, lives not a Greek but a Jew, banished to live in exile as a result of anti-Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian. For this Jew has professed Jesus Christ as his King; not the emperor of Rome. Hunched over from 90 years of life, most of which have been spent proclaiming the gospel, he walks the sun-drenched shoreline by day and huddles for warmth in a fire-lit cave at night.
Even though this man is a prisoner in exile living far away from his home in Galilee, he will not be silenced. For he is about to receive a revelation from God, an apocalyptic text that will form the final book of the New Testament and give voice to God's ultimate judgment for this world: the book of Revelation. Found in this revelation are the signs and symbols, both human and superhuman, detailing this world's future, a prophetic vision of the Earth's final days, the end times, the apocalypse. So just who is this man, this exiled Jew, the last living disciple of Jesus' original 12? Who is this beloved old creature who Jesus still loves? John, an agent of the apocalypse.
The book of Revelation is unique because in the very first few verses, it tells us what kind of book it is. This is the kind of book that John was told to write, and this is what we know about it, just by reading the first few verses of the first chapter. First of all, we discover that it's a prophetic book. Verse 1 says: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place"... This is not a book about what's happened in the past or what's going on in the present. This is a book about what's going to happen in the future. In fact, the book begins with the key word. It's the word apokalypsis. It's not a word we use in our language today, but if you look at it carefully, you can see it's where we get the word "apocalypse", and often when you hear that word today, it's in some movie that's coming out.
Have you noticed how many times they use that word for the scary movies? The apocalypse. And when you think of that word like that, you think of some dark thing, some disaster associated with the end of the world. But interestingly enough, the Greek word apokalypsis has nothing to do with that at all. The word "apocalypse" means an unveiling. It literally means a manifestation, an uncovering. So the book of Revelation, though it tells us about the end times, is primarily a revelation. And notice at the top of your Bibles, if you have a Bible like mine, it says, "The Revelation", what? "Of Jesus Christ". The book of Revelation is the apokalypsis; it's the revelation of Jesus Christ. So amidst all of these warnings and these visions, the ultimate purpose of the book of Revelation is to unveil for us the glory and power and sovereignty and victory of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's a prophetic book, and then it's a personal book. Verse 2 says: "John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw".
Now look in your Bibles at verse 11 and notice what it says. Christ said to John, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia". And then He lists them: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. And if you read the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, you'll find all those letters, one right after the other, short little letters that were written by John to individual churches. Notice, as you look at the map on the screen, that these places are in a semicircle so that if you were on the isle of Patmos, which you see there, and you were John, you could look out over there and visualize these churches, which all were churches that he ministered to, that he was caring for.
And so if you were to deliver these letters to those churches, you would start at Ephesus, and then you would travel north to Smyrna and Pergamum, southeast to Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia, and finish your journey at Laodicea. John wrote these seven letters given to him by the Lord to these seven actual churches, and though those churches are historic, in terms of they took, actually were real churches back then, the letters that were written to those churches are very important because they tell us what Jesus thinks about the church. And if you read these letters...
In fact, I tell young pastors this: you want to know what's wrong with the church today? Read the seven letters that Jesus wrote to the seven churches in Revelation, and you will discover almost all of the same problems that we have in our churches today. If we would just take note of what Jesus said to those churches, we would save ourselves a lot of trouble and get ourselves out of a lot of messes that we get in because we don't hear the word of the Lord.
So it's a prophetic book, and it's a personal one, but here's the one that gets most people. It's a picture book, a pictorial book. In verses 1 and 2, we read: "...He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John". I want you to think about that word "signified". Take it apart and say it the way you would if you took it apart. He sign-ified. What is a sign? It's a symbol, and in the book of Revelation are a lot of symbols, and these symbols are really important. Why are there so many symbols in the book of Revelation?
Well, one of the reasons is that symbolism is not weakened by time. In other words, a symbol allows us to apply the lesson today just as it was applied back then because symbols are not affected by time. A beast in the first century is a beast in the last century. And when John writes these words that were given to him by the Lord, the Lord gives him some signs to use. Now, don't be mystified by that, because, listen carefully, the book of Revelation is the most self-interpreting book in the Bible.
What I mean by that is, if you read something you don't understand, just be patient and keep reading. It will probably tell you in a few verses what it means. The symbols and the signs of the book of Revelation are there so that the message will convey the same thing to us that it conveyed to the people who heard it the first time. And it imparts values, and it arouses emotion. There's something about a symbol that explodes in your mind. For instance, that man's a dictator. That's all right. He's a tyrant. That's a little better. He's a beast.
Did you know that in the book of Revelation, there are two beasts, one that comes out of the sea and one that comes off of the land? They're two incredibly evil people, and the Bible speaks of them as "beasts", because it arouses a different emotion in you when you hear that. For instance, in the book of Revelation, Satan is symbolized... You know how he's symbolized? He's a dragon. Whoa. You can read the book of Revelation and not understand it, but you cannot read it and ignore it. It gets into your head. It gets into your mind, and it makes you want to know, "What does this mean"?
It's a prophetic book, a personal book, a pictorial book, and then here's one of the great things about this book: it's a profitable book. The book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible, that I'm aware of, that has a blessing associated with it for those who will read it, and it's not in the book of Revelation just once; it's in twice. It's at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book. Let me show you the verses. Revelation 1:3: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near". At the end of the book, in verse 7 of chapter 22, we read it again, "Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book".
The Bible says that when we study and we learn and we keep the words of the book of Revelation, almighty God will bless us, and I have watched that over the years. God blesses those who study and understand this book. This book is profitable for personal application. The book of Revelation is not just some prophecies about the future; it's filled with instruction and encouragement for us in the present. When we read this book, it should change the way we live. It should govern our conduct. Revelation puts everything in a perspective. This book is profitable for public assembly. Public reading and exhortation were an integral part of the gatherings of the early church. And then it was profitable for prophetic anticipation.
In Revelation 1:3, the verse ends with the phrase "the time is near". Revelation 22:10 says: "...the time is at hand". A lot of people have taken those phrases and said, "Well, you see, Jesus is coming back". Then they'll get crazy and they'll actually predict when it's gonna happen. The Bible tells us that no man knows when the coming of the Lord will happen. Only the Father in heaven knows that. Not even Jesus had that information while He was on this Earth. The angels don't know, and I promise you, there's no preacher who knows. We know the time is near, we see the signs that it's approaching, but no one knows the day nor the hour when Jesus comes back. But when the scripture says, "His coming is near at hand", or when it says, as we've mentioned, "the time is near", all that means is that His coming is the next event on the prophetic calendar, that there's nothing else that has to happen before that, that He has to come and it's the next major event. So we should anticipate that He's coming and not try to predict when it happens.
And then, notice, as we continue this, that the book of Revelation is a practical book. I think this is one of the most exciting things about studying this book. This book is practical. First of all, when you study this, it empowers you to live a productive life. How many of you know that if you know for sure where something's going and how it's gonna end, it affects what happens in between? And in Matthew 24:46, we have this little phrase: "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing". Or "he will be faithful". And this is at the end of a story where he's talking about a man going away and leaving his servants in charge and believing that his servants are gonna represent him faithfully while he's gone, and he says, when he comes back, that servant is blessed if his master finds him doing what he's supposed to do. And that's the point of prophecy.
When we know He's coming, we want to look after things the way we should if He would intercept our lives before we leave this room. We want to live every day in light of the fact that we believe the Master's coming, and we're supposed to be serving Him and living for Him and let Him not find us, you know, goofing off. When you really believe that Jesus is coming back, it is a motivating factor in your life. Studying prophecy empowers us to live positive lives. The book of Revelation promotes a positive mind-set.
As you study it, you begin to realize that everything that is happening in our world today is heading somewhere. In the book of Revelation, as in no other book, we see God's sovereign hand upon the affairs of the world. We see Him in control, even though so much here on Earth looks like it's totally out of control. And John says that Jesus Christ, verse 5 of chapter 1, is: the ruler over the kings of the earth. Now, this is not a statement about the future reign of Christ. It's a statement about His present reign. He is today, this very hour, the ruler over the kings of the Earth. Now, I don't know if you've been noticing, but the kings of the Earth have been doing some pretty strange things lately. But the Lord God is in charge.
He's the King of kings, and He's the Lord of lords, and, ladies and gentlemen, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen? So if you really believe that, if you really believe what I've said and you believe that's what happens when you study this book, here's a couple things I need to tell you. You don't need to walk around with your head down. You know, I know a lot of Christians are discouraged these days. I talk to them all over the country, and I receive thousands and thousands of emails every month from people telling me about all the kinds of problems you can never even believe. So many of them are testimonies to God's grace, but many of them are just saying, "This is what's going on in life".
There's a lot of reasons, if you want to be discouraged, to be discouraged, but you can't be discouraged if you really understand prophecy, because if you understand prophecy, you realize that whatever you're experiencing right now is just for a short time and there's something better coming, and that's why you read in the words of Jesus: "...look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near". It doesn't say, "Look down. Bend your shoulders. Walk stooped over, discouraged". No, no, it says, "Look up, lift up your head, because your redemption is drawing near". Paul, who after teaching us about the coming of Christ, at the end of his passage, says, "Comfort one another with these words". With what words? That Jesus Christ is coming back. And then studying prophecy empowers you to live a pure life.
Let me just touch on this quickly. Here's a verse of scripture that teaches that, 1 John 3:2 and 3. Listen to what it says, "...when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure". What does that mean? Well, let me put it down on the lower shelf. Is there anything about your life that you would change if you knew you were going to stand before Jesus Christ this afternoon? Well, that's it. When you know Jesus is coming back, it makes you want to live a life that's honoring to Him. When He comes back, I want Him to find me doing the right things. I don't want to be backslidden when Jesus comes back. I don't want to be walking afar off. I want to be walking in fellowship with Him. I want to be living... When I think about the Lord coming back, I don't want to be embarrassed at His coming. I don't want to be ashamed at His coming. The coming of the Lord is a strong motivation to live a righteous life. Just think about that as you have opportunity.
And the last thing, this book is a purposeful book. Revelation is a book that's written on purpose. It's written to tell us about two things: the return of the King and the reign of the King. First of all, it says that Jesus Christ is coming back. There's going to be a King on this Earth one day. Revelation 1:7 says: "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him". This is just one of many verses that tell us that Jesus Christ is coming back. Daniel saw it in his prophecy in the Old Testament. He wrote it like this (Daniel 7:13): "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven". And in His Olivet discourse, Jesus spoke of His coming in similar terms. He said (Matthew 24:30): "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory".
And John expanded upon Jesus' words, and he said, "When He comes", listen to this, "every eye will see Him". And it's going to happen. The King's coming back, and when He comes back, He's going to set up His kingdom and He's gonna rule. That's what it says. He's going to reign. Verse 8, He says: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End', says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'". He's the first and the last. He's the beginning and the end. He is, and he is who was, and he is who is to come. He is the almighty. When He comes the second time with His saints, He's gonna set up His kingdom on this Earth, and for 1.000 years, there will be a rule of righteousness on planet Earth. And the Bible says if we're followers of His, we will reign with Him. We will rule with Him on this Earth.
It's no wonder to me that after John wrote all these things down in this book that was given to him just from the Lord, at the end of the book, do you know what he said? Listen to this (Revelation 22:20): "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"! I think that's what I would have said. In fact, that's what I say now. The more I understand about what God has in view for us as He comes back, my heart says this, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus". How many of you know that it seems like, in our current situation, there may not be any other answer? Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Yet while we wait, we still need the revelation from Jesus that He gave to John. It's a revelation which changes everything. It's a revelation that God is on His throne and He is working out His strategies from the control room of heaven and one day, He is sending His Son Jesus Christ back to this Earth, and He will make all things right.
And I praise God that I know that in my heart. And every day when I get up, if I'm tending to get discouraged, takes me a little while, but I finally get around to the fact that the God I serve has got it all in control. May seem out of control to me, may be out of control to me, but it's not out of control to Him, and He loves us, and He's cared for us, and He's provided a way for us to be a part of everything He wants to do going forward, and He tells us that if we put our trust in Him and we give Him our lives and ask Him for forgiveness of our sins, we become a part of His future plan, that one day, He's gonna come back and immediately take us up to be with Him and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
If you don't know that, when you hear about the return of Christ, I hope it puts within your heart a deep motivation to make sure that things are right between you and your maker. It's too late to do that when you die. You don't get to come back and get it right the second time. You got to make things right during the time that God gives you. If you're not a Christian today, this would be a great time to become one.