Jack Graham - Revelation: What it Means and Why it Matters?
The title of today's message is "Revelation: What it Means and Why it Matters". What it Means and Why it Matters. It matters because first and foremost, this is the Word of God; this is God's Word and all of God's Word, the Bible from beginning to end, from the end to the beginning is His story. It includes the history of mankind and the destiny of mankind, the beginnings and the ends of all life as we know it, and life beyond. It's God's Word, and all Scripture is breathed out by God. And, of course, Revelation is God's final word. It is the last word, the last book in the Bible. And there is a special promise given to those, as we'll see in just a moment, to those who read and heed the Revelation. The word revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ means uncovering, apocrapha or apokalupsis or the apocalypse comes from this word.
Unfortunately apocalypse has the connotation of being chaos and catastrophe, but really apokalupsis, the apocalypse means the unveiling, the uncovering. It also describes the fulfillment of a story, the resolution of a story. And that's what we have in the Revelation. It's not revelations, though there are many visions and revelations that come from the Word of God here, but it is the Revelation, because through and through the Bible is His story and the Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ!
Let's dive in at verse one, chapter one of Revelation: "The revelation of Jesus Christ". The disclosure, the unveiling. It's like the unveiling of a statue or a portrait, "of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place". That is, must quickly take place. When it happens, it's going to happen very quickly, these end-time events. It made, "He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw". And here's a promise, verse 3, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near". We're on the edge of eternity. "John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, Seven spirits is the sevenfold Spirit of God".
In this passage we read the name of Jesus in the first chapter, I believe, 14 times. We also see God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, eternal God is present here. Verse 5, "And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen". And verse 7, if you want to know what the Revelation means, here it is. Verse 7, "Behold", look, "he is coming with the clouds, and with every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him". Revelation 22:20, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus", says John at the end of the book. Even so. Amen. He's coming in the clouds, and every eye is going to see Him.
You know what that means when it says he's coming in the clouds? That means Jesus Himself is coming in the sky. Just as He ascended into the heavens, as the angel announced in Acts chapter 1 and verse 11: "This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven will so come as you've seen Him go". Just as He ascended in the skies, He's coming again in the skies in the clouds in the air! And we will see Him face to face. Everyone, those who believe Him, those who rejected Him, even those who pierced Him, who crucified Him and still crucify Him today in words and deeds, will see Jesus Christ! He's coming in the clouds!
The Bible also tells us about a great cloud of witnesses, and I believe that's Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 1: "A great cloud of witnesses". That cloud of witnesses speaks of those who are already in heaven, our heroes of faith in heaven, and that includes you and me when we go to heaven. We're coming in the clouds with Him! We're going to be with Him, and when He returns at the end of the age, we are coming with Him in great glory and power and victory! The Bible tells us that, 1 John 3:2, "We will be with Him, we will see Him as He is and we will be with Him"! What is the application of all this to our lives? As we work our way through these last days scenarios what does it mean today? Why do we study prophecy? Why is Revelation relevant? I want to give you several reason why.
Number one, we read, we study the Revelation to praise our living Lord and Savior Jesus, that our Lord is to be seen and shared in all of this. It's all about Jesus. I don't even want you thinking just yet, okay, get to the juicy part. Get to the tribulation part! Get to the antichrist part. No, I want you to see first and foremost Jesus in all of this. It's not about the antichrist! It's about the Christ! It's not about just prophecy; it's about the One who's prophesied. It's all about Jesus, that our God is the sovereign God of the universe. He holds history and humanity and destiny in His hands. And my goal from start to finish in this series is that at the end and throughout that you would love Jesus more and more, that you would have a greater love for Him and a greater longing in your heart to see Him when He comes again!
There is a crown, a reward promised just for those who love His appearing, who long to see Him face to face! That's what we need to see, that's the goal, is to have a greater love and devotion. That we would worship Him the One who is worthy! That we would behold Him, that we would see Him with eyes of faith, and believe in Him in all of His might and all of His majesty! And in the midst of all the signs and the symbols and the sensational events, don't miss Jesus! Because that's who the Revelation is about! It's the Revelation of Jesus Christ! That's why this series is going to be a life-changer for so many. So many people know about Jesus. You heard of Jesus, but you don't know Jesus. To you Jesus is someone who lived long ago, maybe a baby back in the manger, back at Christmas. Or to some of you Jesus is a religious teacher or a moral leader or a prophet of old.
The Muslim world believes that Jesus was a prophet. I'm speaking to many of you literally around the world right now in Muslim countries who have a heart, a desire to know God and you're looking for what I'm talking to you about now, and that's Jesus! We're on Iran alive right now, speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a Muslim country in Iran. More people have come to faith in Jesus Christ in Iran in the last 20 years than in the last 2000 years combined. The Gospel is for every tribe and every tongue and every kindred! Jesus is for every tribe and every tongue and every kindred; every nation! That's what the Revelation is about! And not only because of who He is, we want to exalt Jesus in this series, but because of what He has done!
Look again down at verse 5. It says: "To him who loves us", that's present tense! Do you see that? Not "loved" us, but "To him who loves us"! Sometimes I think because of our love for Christ and what He did for us at the cross, back then and there, at the cross where God declared His love and demonstrated His love for us and poured out His blood, because of the cross we often stay at the cross and think, "Okay, looking back I know He loved me". But we're told here and throughout the Scriptures as well that His love is present tense, that His love is eternal! "I love you with an everlasting love"! Human love fails! Human love is conditional and circumstantial, and sometimes carnal! But God's love is not conditional; it's unconditional.
Another reason for the Revelation study is we're going to point our lives upward and onward to our hope in Jesus Christ. I've already told you this was a Hope Book. But when we read the Revelation, we see the eternal things that matter. We matter the most in this life when we understand the next life. When we have settled the questions of eternity, we can begin to settle the questions of life. Your life will matter most when you live upward and onward in hope and the eternal things. This world is temporal, this world is going away, it's burning up. But the world that is to come, the life that is to come is eternal. And that is why we are on tiptoe with expectation, or should be.
Like the early Christians who greeted one another and encouraged one another with the words, "Maranatha! The Lord is coming"! With excitement and anticipation! I tell you the longer I live, the longer I get to know Jesus, the more I love Jesus! And the more I love Jesus, the more I want to see Jesus! I want to see Jesus face to face! And so the Revelation puts us in the heavenlies! It puts is in eternity! It tells us that we're to set our affections on things above and not on things below. It doesn't mean we don't have a life, but our life here now will matter more when we settle the issues of eternity. So the Revelation study will prompt us or point us due north, as we live for Jesus.
Thirdly, to prompt us to live holy and godly lives in a wicked generation. John tells us in 1 John 3, verse 3: "He who has this hope in him purifies himself". We are motivated and moved to live godly lives in the power of the Holy Spirit because we know Christ is coming soon. We know we're gonna need to get ready and get as many people ready as possible to go with us, including our family and our friends. John also tells us in 1 John 2:28: "Abide in Him, little children, that when He appears you may have confidence and not shrink back or not be ashamed at His coming". Frankly, there are many Christians, people sitting in churches today, that if Christ were to come today, you would be ashamed, ashamed at the way you've been living, ashamed, regretful of the life that you've been living! And you would want to crawl under a pew if Christ came today, saying, "I wish somebody had told me You were coming, Lord. I'd have gotten ready"! Well, I'm telling you, He's coming! Jesus is on the way! It affects the way we live our lives if we know that any day now we're going home. "Soon and very soon we're going to meet the Lord".
Next, number four, the reason for the Revelation is that we would proclaim the whole counsel of God, all of it! The Bible, and of course, the Revelation includes many woes and warnings, and the wrath of Almighty God. That's the whole counsel of God. Someone told me in the atrium after the first service, "I like your preaching cause you're an old school preacher". Now, I don't know if I'm old school or new school or what school, but I know I'm a Bible teacher and Bible preacher, and if I'm going to preach the Bible that includes all of it! The good news and the bad news! The fact is Revelation warns us that judgment is coming to this world! That the wrath of God is going to be poured out on an unbelieving world! Judgment! At the end of the book we're going to see a great White Throne Judgment! Wrath!
Fact is I believe America is already being judged. All God needs to do to judge America is to take His hand off of us. And I believe He's done that. We need to pray for a great awakening, a third great awakening in America. We need to pray that God would stay His hand, or put His hand back upon us, that God would bless us again. That we would repent and renew our faith in this country, that this country is under the judgment of God right now. But there's a greater judgment coming when actual bowls of wrath, swords of judgment and terror will come unlike anything we've ever seen on earth! I'm telling you, it's coming! That can be old school, I think it's Bible, I know it's Bible! And so if I am going to be honest with you, if I'm going to tell you the truth in love, it includes the judgment of God. But thank God, in the midst of judgment there is hope and the promise of salvation to all who believe.
Number five, to prepare us, to prepare God's people for these latter days, for these last days. Now I know somebody might be thinking right now, "You preachers are always talking about the last days. Ha, well, where's the promise of His coming"? They asked that in the New Testament as well. 2 Peter 3:4, "Where is the promise of His coming"? Where is this Jesus? "All you preachers talk about doomsday and last days and judgment". Well, not all anymore but some of us. "It's been 2000 years"! The Scripture tells us that He's coming soon, that He's coming quickly. You know what that means? That means that when it happens, says in verse 1 His coming is near. It says, "These things must come to pass quickly". It doesn't mean that the coming of Jesus is necessarily immediate, certainly not in that day. But the coming of Jesus is imminent, which means it could happen anytime.
There's no sign, there's no event, there's no circumstance that has to take place in order for Jesus to come right now. We have been living in the Last Days for 2000 years. These are the Last Days! And so when Christ chooses to come at any moment it's going to all unfold. The Revelation will just reel like this. It's sort of like pushing the fast-forward button on your DVR or you know, dominos, line up a domino train and tipping that one domino and bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam it goes! That's the way it's going to happen at the end of time. It's going to happen very quickly, very suddenly! And when it happens it's all going to break loose. Scientist talk about the word exponentiality which means the advance of sudden change. We're experiencing exponential change in our own lifetimes.
Think about it. In just our lifetime the exponential change in communication and transportation, in medicine and in travel. Most people in our grandfather's day never traveled very far from home, but today we've gone globe. We're flying everywhere, we're going everywhere. It's a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel a thousand years or so before the Revelation which said in the last days many will travel to and fro throughout the whole earth, and knowledge of many will grow. Knowledge will be exponential. Travel will be here and there and everywhere. We're seeing that. The events of these last days will happen very, very quickly, just like that. And so we need to get prepared. We need to prepare our children, we need to prepare our grandchildren. A lot of people talk about a legacy. I don't know if there's going to be much legacy left. Get ready!
So I'm praying that our Revelation study will prepare us for persecution which is already happening in the world to many Christian today, to opposition to suffering and whatever comes, that we will be like the sons of Issachar in the Old Testament, 1 Chronicles 12:32, "who understood their times" and acted accordingly. We need to understand our times, be smart, Matthew 10:16, "wise as serpents and harmless as doves". And one final thing, to propel us to a more aggressive evangelism. Our personal witness, knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men, Paul said. That we would go aggressively and actively to the ends of the earth to fulfill the Great Commission in our own lifetime, to overcome evil with good and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's the rest of the story that we're going to read.
I don't know how many of you read the book Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini. I read the book, also went to the movie. Some of you have been to the movie. I liked the movie, it was a good movie. But I left the movie thinking, is that all? It just seemed that the story wasn't really resolved, that Louie Zamperini whose story was he was an Olympic athlete who went to the Second World War, went down in the Pacific Ocean, was days and days and days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean only to be captured by the Japanese and tortured at a prison camp, just one beating, one humiliation after another. He was unbroken through all of that, and then he comes home. And the story just sort of ended there in the movie. But if you read the book, you read the rest of the story, he was broken; just the years of torment and battle fatigue and all the rest. He also took to drink. He was drinking heavily, became an alcoholic, partying and all that went with it.
As a result he was losing his wife, his wife that he loved, his beautiful wife was done. She was ready to leave him, divorce him, a broken man. But she begged him to go to hear a young evangelist in Los Angeles in 1948. It was his first major crusade. His name was Billy Graham. And Lou Zamperini went to a big tent, heard Billy Graham the first night that he was there, and he was so angered he left early; he just stormed out. But for some reason he decided to go back the next service, the next night and that night his life was changed. He met Jesus Christ. He said, "I was immediately transformed. I no longer wanted to drink. I haven't drunk anything since. I was delivered from being an alcoholic, I was set free. My marriage was restored". He began a ministry that served people. He lived well into his nineties. That's the real story! That's the rest of the story of Lou Zamperini. It's resolved. The plot is finished. The Revelation, the real story of Revelation is that God finishes the story. God tells the whole story and we get to be a part of it.