Robert Jeffress - Back to the Future
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Every single day brings you and me closer to the epic finale of human history, and that is the return of Jesus Christ. And God has revealed exactly how those end time events will unfold. Today, we're going to travel back in time 2.000 years to a tiny island in the Aegean Sea where the apostle John received a detailed preview of the future that awaits all mankind. Today, we're beginning our brand new study in the Book of Revelation in a series I'm calling "Final Conquest". And today's study is titled "Back to the Future". On today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
In the summer of 1998, the executives at the New Line Cinema company took the biggest risk in film history when they gave filmmaker, Peter Jackson, $330 million to make, not just one film, but three films. If the first one was a failure, then the other two would flop, as well. Well, the first one wasn't a failure. In fact, that $330 million investment on those three films has earned over $3 billion today and still counting. By now, you probably know the trilogy of films that I'm talking about, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. In one scene in the two towers, the hobbit, Frodo, is commissioned with the nearly impossible task of destroying the object of ultimate evil, which is the one ring. And he tells his companion, Sam, "I can't do this".
Sam's response is both realistic, but also filled with hope. He says, "I know it's all wrong. By all rights, we shouldn't even be here, but we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will shine out the clearer".
Isn't that a great description of the world that we live in right now? It is becoming darker and darker. We think how could things ever go back to the way God originally intended? But this darkness is only a passing shadow. One day, the darkness will pass. A new day will shine clearer, and our long awaited King of kings and Lord of lords will return and mark his Final Conquest. That is the theme of the Book of the Revelation, and today we're beginning our study of those events that will lead up to the return of our king, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Revelation 1, beginning with verse one. Now, I know some of you are chomping at the bit and want to get into the text itself, but remember even J.R. Tolkien, when he wrote his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, provided a map for the readers to help them work through the labyrinth of middle earth. And in the same way, we need a guide to help us through this book.
Let me begin by talking about the subject of Bible prophecy in general. You know, whenever a series is announced on Bible prophecy or the Book of Revelation, people are naturally interested. I have found that people want to study the Book of Revelation usually for one of three reasons. One reason is sensationalism. They've never read the Book of Revelation themselves, but they hear there's some pretty exciting things in the book. Let me remind you that it's not just the Book of Revelation that's exciting. 2 Timothy 3 says, "All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness".
A second reason people sometimes want to study Revelation is intellectualism. Intellectualism. They are interested in filling up their three ring binder with notes and notes and notes. They get excited about knowledge, Bible knowledge, and unwrapping the mystery of the Book of Revelation. But you remember what Paul said about knowledge alone in 1 Corinthians 8:1? He said, "Knowledge puffs up". If you just get head knowledge about the Bible, it not only doesn't help you, it can hurt you, as well. Intellectualism is not a reason to study the Bible.
The third motivation for studying the Book of Revelation is the only right one, and that is obedience. Obedience. As we're going to see, this book, the Book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible that has a special blessing attached to everyone who reads and heeds what is in this book. Look at verse three of Revelation 1, "Blessed, happy, is the one who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and heed, that is obey, the things that are written in it for the time is near". This is a book filled not just with symbols and fantastic events in the future. It is a book that we are to obey.
Now, before we get into the text itself, I thought it would be helpful for us to get a 30.000 foot overview of the Book of the Revelation. And we find such an overview beginning in verse one. First of all, the title of the book. The opening verse of this book provides us with the title, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him, Jesus, to show to his bond-servants, the things which must soon take place: and he sent and he communicated it by his angel to his bond-servant, John". This is about the unveiling of something, the unveiling, the removing of the covering.
Now, what is it that he is unveiling to us? Not a series of events. This is the unveiling, the apokalypsis of Jesus Christ. Now, let's look at the author of the book. Who is this John? He is the apostle John. He's the one whom Jesus especially loved. He's the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother, Mary, to on the cross. We know from secular history that eventually John left Jerusalem because of persecution. He went to pastor the church at Ephesus. Late in life as an old man, he wrote the Gospel of John and also the epistles 1, 2, and 3 John. But he also wrote the Revelation and the Revelation, the circumstances of the book, are found in verse nine of chapter one. "I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance, which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus".
Patmos is a tiny island: it's about six miles wide, 10 miles in length, 25 miles away from Ephesus, it's in the Aegean Sea. And John, the pastor of the church at Ephesus at that time, refused to say, "Caesar is Lord". And because of that, he was banished to work in the mines on the island of Patmos. That is what happened with the apostle John. He was faithful to the end. Who are the recipients of this letter? Look at verse 11. This is a letter sent to a certain group of people. "Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches. To Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea". These words, this Book of the Revelation was sent specifically to seven churches in Asia Minor. He commends them for the things they're doing well and he condemns them for the things that they don't do well. This book was written to seven churches, as well as to our church.
Now, there are two specific characteristics of this book that will help you understand it better. First of all, the references to the Old Testament. According to one scholar, there are 404 verses found in Revelation. Out of those 404 verses, 278 of them are an illusion to some passage in the Old Testament. A second characteristic of this book is symbolism. This book uses symbols. Now, that throws a lot of people. People think because something is used symbolically, it must not be real. Don't confuse a symbol with a metaphor or a symbol with an allegory.
Why does he make such use of symbols in this book? Let me give you three reasons for symbols.
First of all, symbols were used as a code for first century Christians. They were under persecution. If John just came out and said everything clearly, it would have led to needless persecution of the church. Rome could use it as evidence of sedition and there's no use in inviting unnecessary persecution. So it was used as a code for believers.
Secondly, symbols were used to communicate the unfamiliar. Now think about it, John lived in the first century and yet God granted him a vision down the corridors of the future, thousands and thousands of years into the future, and he had to write down what he saw in terms with which he was familiar. I mean, think about John looking at the Battle of Armageddon. Think about John being transported to see helicopters flying around. How would a first century person describe a helicopter? No wonder he was using symbols. He was using what was familiar to communicate the unfamiliar.
And finally, symbols are used to arouse emotion. Arouse emotion. Remember, he was trying to motivate the readers to do something, to be aroused and understand what was going to take place and to order their lives around those facts. But what I want you to remember is this, just because Revelation is filled with symbols does not make Revelation less real. Actually it makes it more real. These things are so fantastic, phenomenal, that are going to happen, there's no way I can describe them except through symbols. Now, let's look at an outline of the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:19. The angel said to John, "Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things would shall take place after these things".
Did you catch that three point outline? First of all, "John, write down the things which you have seen". That's Revelation 1. What John has just seen is Jesus Christ standing in front of him in his glorified state. That's chapter one, "The things which you have seen". Then the angel said, "Write down the things which are". That's the present, the condition of the seven churches that's found in Revelation 2 to 3. "The things which are," the condition of the churches. And finally he said, "Write down the things that will take place". That is the future. That's chapters four all the way to chapter 22, the events that will culminate with the return of Jesus Christ.
Now, let me say a word about the message of the Book of Revelation. Remember this book was written to persecuted Christians and the theme is very simple. John says, "Remain faithful to Jesus Christ in the midst of persecution". Why? Because Jesus is coming again soon to reward the righteous and to punish the unrighteous. That's the message of the Book of Revelation. Remain faithful in the midst of persecution because Jesus is coming again. The focus of the Book of Revelation is on Jesus Christ himself. Jesus Christ is not incidental to the action of Revelation, he is it's chief subject.
I want you to notice three things about Jesus Christ that the Book of Revelation unveils. First of all, the person of Jesus is unveiled. We see his humanity in Revelation 1:13. In the middle of the lampstands are one like a son of man. Jesus is called the son of man, talking about his humanity. We don't serve some space alien up there who doesn't have a clue about who we are or what we go through. Jesus lived on earth. He experienced the same trials and temptations you and I experience, and yet without sin. That's why Hebrews 4 says we can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace in our time of need.
Secondly, Revelation reveals the deity of Christ. When we get to Revelation 22, notice what we'll see. "And he showed me a river of a water of life, clear as crystal, coming down from the throne of God and of the lamb". We not only see God the Father, we see the Lamb of God on the throne, as well. I don't understand that. God is one and yet in three persons, but we see Jesus' deity portrayed in this book. And finally, we see his eternality. In Revelation 1:8, Jesus says, "I am the alpha and omega". Remember that term, "I am"? Yahweh, the most holy name for God in the Old Testament. The Jews wouldn't even speak it. It referred to the eternality of God. Jesus claims that for himself, "'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'".
We see his person: secondly, we see his power. You know, the fact is some of us have various kinds of power, but Jesus has all kinds of power, all kinds of power all the time. When we talk about the power of Jesus, there are two kinds of power. And I think this is going to be an encouragement to you. There's what we call inherent power. That's just what oozes out of his pores, it's who he is inherently. But then we talk about his effectual power, his ability to accomplish something, to effect a change through his power. We see that throughout the Book of Revelation. He has the power to destroy kingdoms. He has the power to destroy the unsaved.
We've talked about the person of Jesus. We've talked about the power of Jesus. This Book of Revelation also reminds us of the purpose of Jesus, the purpose of Jesus. The purpose of Jesus in the Book of Revelation is twofold. First of all, we find his immediate purpose, the removal of evil. But that is only the immediate purpose. Did you know God has a purpose beyond the removal of evil? His ultimate purpose is found in Revelation 21:3-4. Revelation 21 begins with the words, "And I saw the new heaven and the new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away". And then look at verse three, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he shall dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be among them".
That's the ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose that we might have fellowship with God once the barriers have been removed. Isn't that the day we all long for? A day not only that spells the end of sin and sickness and sadness and death, but the end that includes our fellowship, our perfect fellowship with the one person in the universe who knows us best and loves us most, the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who came and gave his life for our redemption. And in the end, that's what the Book of Revelation is about. It's not about a series of events. This book is about the person, Jesus Christ, who came and died and rose again and is coming back again to reclaim the earth and the people who belong to him. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. Come quickly. That's the message of the Book of the Revelation.