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Apr 24, 2016

Time's Up! - Ch. 31

Time's Up! - Ch. 31

Passage: Revelation 1:1-22:21

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Story

Category: New Testament

Keywords: holiness, judgment, persecution, perseverance, suffering, worship


This message seeks to grasp three of the main themes of the teaching of the book of Revelation: suffering & persecution call for perseverance, God's judgments will be many and righteous against evil doers, and all-consuming worship is our calling as God's people, now and forever.


Time’s Up!

The Story—Week #31

INTRO:  I’ve always been a slow test-taker.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been the first one done in any class with any test.  Truth be told, I was usually the last one out the door on test days. And I particularly hated hearing, “O.K. class. Time’s up!  Put your pencils down and hand in your tests.”  (The only good news is that my grades were usually better than my test times.)

            Time is a strange thing.  It can move like lightening when you want it to slow down…and like molasses in January when you want it to speed up.  Life seems to be a series of unexpected pronouncements that “time is up.” 

  • You just get used to being a baby and, “time’s up”; you start going to preschool with a bunch of runny-nosed kids you’ve never met before.
  • You just figure out by 4th or 5th grade that being a kid is a pretty good gig and, “ding”, your hormones start flooding your body and “time’s up” on childhood.
  • You just barely stop being the smallest kid in junior high, and “time’s up”! You go to the back of the line as a lowly freshman in a ginormous high school.
  • You just get your driver’s license, start making friends and start figuring out what a sweet deal high school really is and, “Time’s up!” You have to start working for the rest of your life… or get out of the house and really start learning something in college.

Unless you go to the University of Washington, apparently. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to show you a short video that demonstrates just how stupid college can make you these days if you let it. 

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho

So, where was I?  Oh yes, “Time’s UP!”  You’re dismissed!  No, not quite yet.  J

What’s going to be the ultimate “Time’s up!” of each of our lives?  It’s going to be when God determines it’s time for us to take that momentous journey across the river of death, out of time, and into eternity. 

  • That could be when the drunk driver crosses the center line while your family is driving on vacation.
  • It could be when you feel that pain grip your chest and crumple to the floor.
  • It could be when the doctor says, “There’s nothing more we can do for you.”
  • It could be when your plane goes down…or your age goes up…or that blood clot finds its way to your lungs or brain.

Every one of us is going to hear God’s divine “time’s up” someday.  We just don’t know what day that will be.  Which is why every one of us should not only be ready for that final second; we should be ready for the eternity that will follow.  The reality is, what comes next, whether in world history or eternal future, should significantly impact what we do here and now.

Our Savior Jesus didn’t want any of us to be surprised by the winding down of human history and the starting up of eternity. So he gave us a book, the book of Revelation, through the Apostle John, to tell us WHAT the end of time is going to look like. 31 weeks ago we looked at Genesis, the beginning of time.  Today we’re looking at what God has to say about the end of time, HOW to prepare for it and how to live IN it.  Ours, very honestly, could be the generation that is here when Jesus returns to this earth. And if it’s not, this book should still significantly impact how you and I live until the moment God says, “Time’s up!”

  • So, who wrote the book of Revelation? Three times in this book, the Apostle John tells us he wrote it (see 1:4, 9; 22:8).  Additionally, all the early church fathers said the same. 
  • Where was John when he wrote it…and does it really matter? Check out 1:9—“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Patmos was a small, desert island in the Aegean Sea west of Turkey and East of Greece.  It was a bit like Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay. Prisoners of the Roman Empire were sent there to work in the mines for whatever crimes crazy Emperor Domitian, who was in power at the time, determined should be punished.  Domitian proclaimed himself god, something that didn’t set particularly well with the Roman Senate.  His reign lasted from 81-96 A.D. (one of the longer rulers of Rome) but was ended by a bit of a coup when he was assassinated by court officials.  The Roman Senate immediately condemned him to oblivion, his name was scrubbed from monuments and unfavorable histories were written about him by his contemporaries, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger. 

APP:  This is almost inevitably what happens in cultures where people reject the knowledge and authority of God Almighty. Something or someone must take God’s place.  In Rome at the time, it was Domitian.  In our culture, it’s every individual who proclaims they are the ultimate arbiter of truth.  If you’re a white male and say you are an Asian woman, so be it!  Good on you!  Rejecting God’s truth will ultimately lead anyone to deny even the most self-evident truths just so they can continue to believe they are god—the determiner of truth. 

  • And what inevitably happens to those who refuse to drink the Cool-Aid and maintain that there really is a God to whom we all must one day give account? As we are seeing in our own nation, they will eventually be pushed out of the public square and punished for their belief in a God who doesn’t change with the moral decline of that culture. 
  • ILL: Take Eric Walsh for example.  He was a California physician and former director of public health for the city of Pasadena, Calif. He’s also a devout Christian, a Seventh-day Adventist, who sometimes preaches in his church. Walsh, a former member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, had accepted a job in Georgia as a district health director when Georgia officials became aware that he’d delivered a number of “controversial” sermons on his own time — sermons where he articulated orthodox biblical positions on, among other things, human sexuality, Islam, evolution, and the corrupting influence of pop culture. 

So they assigned various other state employees to listen to those sermons and take note of offensive, not politically correct statements. He was fired shortly thereafter, against the counsel of other state personnel who told their superiors it was against the 1st Amendment to fire someone based on religious belief. 

  • Walsh now joins another prominent African-American Christian, former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who was fired this spring after city officials discovered he’d written a book… on his own time… articulating an orthodox Christian view of sexual morality.This in the state (GA) where the Governor just vetoed legislation strengthening protection for religious freedom issues like this. 
    [Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434297/eric-walsh-georgia-public-health-doctor-fired-chri]stian-beliefs]

This is the kind of culture in which the first-century church and the Apostle John found themselves in when this book was written.  John was the only Apostle to die a natural death.  But that didn’t mean he was a stranger to persecution and suffering. Quite the opposite:  the longer the life, the more the trials.  

As Revelation 1:9 says, John was “…[our] brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus….”  If you plan to live your life in Christ, plan to experience the highs of the “kingdom” and the lows of “suffering…and patient endurance.”  The days of the American church being free from both are coming to a close.  So Revelation has much to commend itself to any of us… any follower of Jesus…who will experience suffering for our faith that requires “patient endurance”. 

            For today’s time in God’s word, let’s look at some of the major themes of Revelation that God revealed so that we can live more fully and faith-fully in Him. 

And here’s your 1st assignment for this week:  read through, in one sitting, the entire book of Revelation. It has amazing vistas of God’s glory, of man’s sinful rebellion, and of a future for every one of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. 

The 1st theme that I’d like to point out to us today is that we, God’s people, will suffer greatly before Christ returns…so PERSEVERE!

            That suffering isn’t just limited to those who will pass through the Great Tribulation. Revelation 1-3 are personal messages to 7 of the many first century churches in Asia Minor.

Here are some of the terms and phrases God spoke to them about their calls to experience Christ IN suffering:

  • To the Church in Ephesus (2:1-7): “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance….You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”  Hardships for the name of Jesus Christ—they come in many forms.  We all face them.  We all need to learn to persevere through them. Would you write down right now 1 life experience you are going through right now that is calling for perseverance and strength (not “growing weary”)? 
  • To the Church in Smyrna (2:8-11): “I know your affliction and your poverty…I know about the slander [against you]….Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution…Be faithful, even to the point of death….”
  • To the Church in Pergamum (2:12-17): “You remain[ed] true to my name.  You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.”
  • To the Church in Thyatira (2:18-29): “I know your…perseverance….  To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.”
  • To the Church in Sardis (3:1-6): No words about trials.  Hold onto that little fact for a moment and we’ll figure out why.
  • To the Church in Philadelphia (3:7-13): “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.  I am coming soon.  Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”
  • The Church in Laodicea (3:14-22)

The only 2 churches, Sardis and Laodicea, who didn’t get calls to persevere in suffering, didn’t get that admonition because they were about to disappear if they didn’t repent from their lukewarmness and deadness towards God.  They weren’t being pressured and persecuted because they weren’t a threat to Satan or the world.  That’s a horrible reason to be free of trials. 

APP:  Now, find 2-4 people around you and, in less than 30 seconds (each), share one “hardship” in which you need perseverance right now.  If you’re not experiencing a hardship, I’ll let those around you pray that you will!  J  No, seriously, share in less than 30 seconds.  Go! (Take a timed 90 seconds.)

Now, pray for each other briefly, as the Scripture commands us to do in James 5:16.  One of you can volunteer to pray…or all of you can pray…or you can all pray silently if you have difficulty praying out loud.  But since praying is what God’s people are called to do when we come together as God’s temple…especially under pressure… let’s “get used to it.”  Let’s BE a threat to Satan and the kingdom of darkness because of our passionate praying and love for Christ. 

Just a couple more passages about the trials & tribulations we, God’s chosen people, are going to experience. 

Rev. 6:9-11—This is part of the 7 seals Jesus as the Lamb of God opens.  Listen to this, the 5th, seal.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Rev. 7:14-17—Now we’re into a glimpse of what will happen to those who come through the Great Tribulation that is still to come.  Listen.  “And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

WOW!  We haven’t experienced anything yet! 

  • If you ever find yourself hungry because you love Jesus, rejoice! The most unimaginable amazing banquet is yet to come. 
  • If you ever find yourself denied enough to drink because you have chosen to drink of the water of life in Jesus, rejoice! You’ve no idea the refreshment bar that await you in heaven. 
  • And if you ever find yourself thirsty or sun-beat in some desert or concentration camp or prison because of your faith, remember that the Lamb of God who suffered in the hot sun on the cross of Calvary has springs of water that will be better than the best glass of cold water on the hottest day you’ll ever experience. [See also Rev. 12:12b, 17; 13:5-7, 10b; 14:12-13]

Time to be surprised about suffering, persecution and hardship is over!  We’re living every day in a world more like the world of the Apostle John…and more like the world Jesus’ said must happen before His return.  So strengthen yourself in the Lord and get ready!

The 2nd major theme I’d like us to observe in Revelation is this: God’s JUDGMENTS will be many and righteous against evil doers (be they demons or people).  This took visual form in John’s visions of seals on a scroll, trumpets held by angels and bowls of judgment poured out on the earth.  (Explain graphic.) The first are 7 seals:

  • 6-8—The 7 Seals of the Lamb
    • #1--6:2—White horse and rider with bow, “a conqueror bent on conquest.”
    • #2--6:4—Red horse and rider, with “the power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other.”
    • #3—Rev. 6:5—Black horse with rider holding a pair of scales >> famine?
    • #4—Rev. 6:7--A pale horse with a rider named “Death” with hades following close behind. Power to kill ¼ of the earth by war, famine, plague and wild beasts. 
    • #5—Rev. 6:9-11--Full number of martyred saints
    • #6—Rev. 6:12-17--Great earthquake, sun darkened, stars fall to earth, mountains and islands wiped out.
    • #7—Rev. 8—introduces the 7 angels with 7 trumpet judgments.
      • 1st angel and trumpet (8:7)—hail and fire mixed with blood. 1/3rd of earth burned up.
      • 2nd angel and trumpet (8:8-9)—like a huge mountain thrown into the sea >> 1/3 of sea turned into blood, 1/3rd of living creatures in sea die, 1/3rd of ships destroyed.
      • 3rd angel and trumpet (8:10-11)—great falling star, 1/3rd of rivers and springs turned bitter with the result that many people die.
      • 4th angel and trumpet (8:12)—1/3rd of sun, moon and stars darkened; 1/3rd of day and night darkened.
      • 5th angel and trumpet (9:1-12)—the Abyss is opened, sun and sky darkened by its smoke, locust-like “scorpions” that burn all vegetation, 5 months of torturous agony and suffering where people want to die but can’t.
      • 6th angel and trumpet (9: 13-21)—releases 4 angels kept for this very hour to kill 1/3 of mankind. Massive war that inflicts catastrophic destruction (fire, smoke and sulpher). 

Just what is the purpose of all these judgments?  Let’s read 9:20-21.  Even in judgment, God’s heart is for repentance of sinners and reconciliation to them.  But what will people do living under that kind of judgment? 

20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

While God does and will judge evil of every kind, even his judgment comes with the desire that sinners repent and come back to Him.  But the tragedy of human hearts that refuse to submit to anyone but their own choice is people who choose more judgment rather than less, more pain rather than less, more independence from God rather than dependence on God!

APP:  That’s why, when you hear God calling you, don’t turn a deaf ear.  Don’t walk away; walk towards God.  Don’t deny your sin; admit it.  Don’t rebel more; repent more. 

  • 7th angel and trumpet (11:15-19)—God begins to reign, the time of judgement of the dead begins, tremendous lightening, earthquake and hailstorm.

Chapters 13-14 talk about the “beast” or anti-Christ that deceives the whole world, all except God’s people.  The end of chapter 14 has the great “harvest” of all humanity.  The imagery used is of a huge winepress where the grapes (people) are thrown in and experience the wrath of God.

19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” (About 180 miles.)

Following this are the 7 Bowls of God’s Wrath in chapter 16.

  • 1st Bowl (16:2)—ugly, festering sores.
  • 2nd Bowl (16:3)—seas to blood, all marine life dies.
  • 3rd Bowl (16:4)—all rivers, streams and fresh water to blood.

Now if this seems a bit too gruesome to you for a loving God, listen to what “the angel in charge of the waters” says:

“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
    you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”

And I heard the altar respond:

“Yes, Lord God Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments.”

If you and I are one of the thousands of saints martyred for our faith, we will know how “just” and “fair” God really is…and we will applaud Him.  What is it about us that always seems to want justice in this unjust world…but when God does bring justice, we don’t seem to like the way it comes? 

  • 4th Bowl (16:8-9)—scorching sun and heat. Talk about climate change! It will be man-induced but it won’t be because of carbon emissions; it will be because of sin-commission!    16:9--They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.”
  • 5th Bowl (16:10-11)—Darkness. It will be a truly ugly darkness.  Listen to the description in 16:10b. “People gnawed their tongues in agony 11and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.”
  • 6th Bowl (16:12-15)—demonic spirits that deceive all the world leaders to gather together for the battle of Armageddon.
  • 7th Bowl (16:17-21)—the world’s worst earthquake that collapses the great cities of the world, levels mountains, sinks islands; plus 100-pound hailstones.

Chapters 17-19 conclude God’s great judgments on this world’s godless powers and systems which is simply called by the name Babylon.

All this brings us to the last theme I want us to see today in Revelation.  It is that God’s people will experience overwhelming WORSHIP in every age and for all eternity. 

From the beginning in chapter 1 with the start of Jesus’ church to the end of time and the beginning of eternity in chapter 22, God’s angels and God’s people are seen constantly praising, worshipping, singing, bowing down, glorifying and honoring the One and only, true and magnificent God of all ages. Listen to their…our… praises.

1:5-8To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

4:2-11-- At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

5:8-14“And when he [the Lamb] had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,  and they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

On and on this kind of worship goes, chapter after chapter, until finally, when time is truly up, when the last page of human history has been written, when the new heaven and new earth have launched us into an experience of God we can only dream about now, John ends with this last vision of the greatness of God and the wonder of what life with Him will be like.

Rev. 22:1-5-- Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

Worship God always…take comfort in His judgments…perseverance in suffering.  That is our calling!  That’s OUR future.  That’s what God has called us into.

How about we sing one passage we’ll be singing forever as our close? 

SONG: “To Him Who Sits on the Throne & Unto the Lamb”