5th Sunday after Pentecost Sermon Series: “What a Revelation!”
July 10, 2022 Part 1 Introduction, Rev. 1:1-8, 17-19
(from Rv.Victor Marxhausen bible study 94/08)
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Some years ago I attended a workshop offered by one of our churches in the Twin Cities. It was on the book of Revelation and taught by a retired pastor Victor Marxhausen. I took notes for the purpose of teaching & preaching. I divided those notes into 9 parts. In the Church Year calendar, we are in the Pentecost Season. At this time, we are not building toward any major church festival, such as Christmas or Easter. So, this is a good time to fit in a series of related sermons.
So for the next number of Sundays, we will take a look at the Book of Revelation; it’s purpose and features. There is much confusion about this book and there are some who misunderstand it and teach falsely with it. So many people avoid the book as if it is too scary or hard to understand. But, is that how we should treat a book of God’s Word for us? I do understand the feeling tho. I’ve heard it quoted by authors & radio & tv preachers. This book has been quoted out-of-context in order to prove their own false ideas of some 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth, or to explain what’s happening over in the Middle East with oil, or with Jews & Arabs & Iranians & Russians, & whatever is the political problem of the day.
Sometimes they want to scare us into buying or clicking on the websites. They continue in these vain attempts to predict events & wars, & political issues, & the end of the world. And they continue to be wrong with their short-sighted guesses & deceptions.
This last book of the bible is not a number of ‘revelationS’ by which we can predict what’s coming. But it is one, glorious revelation, one vision, to show the overall plan & purpose & power & promise of the Almighty. It is not meant to be ‘scary,’ but it’s to be a blessing to God’s Church! Listen to the Prologue, the first 3 verses: (included in your bulletin handout)
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Just because it’s a different kind of book, an abstract on, and one with a lot of symbols, and seems to go around and around, even so, it is a promised blessing to you and me. And, of course, it does not stand on its own, it’s connected to the rest of the Scripture. It is a fantastic description of historical things. Primarily God’s things, not worldly things. Its symbols can be explained by using other parts of the Bible.
And it does not simply find its fulfillment in our times and our events. To think it’s about us makes us more important than we are in creation’s 6,000 year history so far. Yes, certain broad strokes in history may be seen, but we can’t approach the book in such a self-centered way and be able to make any real sense of it. And that’s a common element of the vast confusion today. We’ll never ‘get it’ if we vainly believe we or our time now is the center of its mystery.
Some people want to see in it Hitler, or Stalin, communist China, or Russia, Sodom Hussein, ‘9/11’, covid, or the United States. But that’s not its purpose. It is God’s book to show us God’s plan, His whole purpose throughout history, His power thru His work in history, and His promise in Christ Jesus the Savior, and the fact that the End is now near, because Jesus’ work is largely done. Are we ready for Him to return? That’s the question of the Revelation.
God’s creation is not focused on little worldly governments & nations that come & go, or on our wars & disasters thru little time-periods. This vision shows creation as a whole in relation to the Creator, and the mega-problem of sin, and the glorious defeat of sin by Jesus, who has restored creations’ relationship with its Maker. This vision assures us of the imminent, ultimate restoration of what was perfect in the beginning.
This book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ, The One who made all things, restored all things by His death and resurrection, and now is ruling all things in power & majesty & glory forever and ever. In the book, we hear Jesus speaking; He’s the same loving, kind Savior of the Gospels. Maybe people get scared of this book because they realize it is talking about the End of all that we are familiar with and see around us. But in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, our end is true victory & life & fulfillment.
The blessing for you & me is that what Christ has done, and will do, is large enough to include little ol’ you and me; individual souls. The wonder of this revelation from God is that in the big picture, God encourages our little pictures. As He speaks to His whole Church in history, He is also speaking to individual souls for their peace and encouragement in remaining faithful Him, the Almighty God of all.
It is a blessing to be humbled with a large view, and to rightly fear Him who is in control of all things, and still loves & cares for each of us.! In the following weeks, I’m going to attempt do just that: to encourage you in faith, because the One in whom your faith rests is the only One; the Saving One & Loving One. In this, His revelation, He wants to wake us up in these Last Days, and keep us from falling into laziness, fruitlessness, and a Christianity of ‘the mouth’ only, but not of faithful life, behavior, & Christian purpose.
We will be strongly warned that ‘words only’ is a dead faith. But as we see before our eyes God’s larger purpose in history, His own Holy Spirit in us will mold us and motivate us to faithful action & obedience, and to the bringing of others into His Church with trust & confidence in Christ. To know our worth & purpose in this life gives us a true peace of mind.
No doubt, some of you have studied Revelation. If you’ve read this book, called ‘the apocalypse’, which means ‘unveiling’, you may have been confused, discouraged, and then given up on it. I hope & pray I can change that discouragement, because for most of you, all you need is the correct angle going into it.
What I mean is this: The book has a certain pattern to its writing, which is unique among all the books of the Bible. It is not written as a regular, straight-forward account of history from a beginning to an end. That’s the wrong approach of many of these confused teachers. But that approach can’t make sense in light of other Scripture passages and historical events. That’s why it’s be confusing for many. It cannot be read like the Gospels, where in the beginning, Jesus is born, lives, dies, is resurrected, and then ascends & promises to come again at the end. Revelation does not give an account of present & future events in on chronological line, leading up the Second and final coming of Christ. Reading it like that like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Now, I’ve already told you what the first part of the key to understanding is: that this one vision is an unveiling of the Creator’s relationship to His creation. That relationship has had many events throughout its 6,000 years. This book talks about those major events as to their spiritual significance in His plan.
This book doesn’t care about who was king of which land, and how long this or that government was in power. The other books in the Bible chronicle those events with some details. And the fact that God closed His Bible long before the United States came into being should give us an idea of what significance we are in salvation’s history.
This book has a ‘large view’, and in the large view of God’s working thru His creation’s history, we are shown the truly significant events, and their eternal purpose in His plan. In this kind of writing, symbols are used so that we mortal beings will be able to glimpse immortal things. It’s God’s way of helping us grasp His eternal power & purpose; and His teaching method works. It is picture language so young and old can understand. He used symbols so that people 500 years ago could understand God’s plan, & so will people 500 years from now.
There is one other thing besides knowing that this book steps back from worldly detail and looks at the spiritual past, present, and future of God’s creation as a whole. This book does that large new 7 times, in 7 slightly different ways.
Imagine it this way. In Los Angeles, some of their expressways are 7 lanes wide (or more.) Imagine a seven lane road going between Walker and Bemidji. All the lanes begin at one town and end at the other. In each lane there is a car, but each car is different. There’s a Ford, a Chevy, a VW, a Toyota, a Lexis, a Cadillac, and a Kia. Each is different but also very similar. Each has wheels, an engine, windows, and seats. And all are going from Walker to Bemidji. It’s the same trip for 7 different cars.
The book of Revelation is like this. Basically there are 7 different sections, talking about the same basic events thru history; going in the same direction, yet the trip is a little different in each case.
God unveils His working & purpose & power 7 times, with 7 different sets of symbols. When you’re aware of that, reading the words of this prophecy is not scary = it becomes a blessing as God reveals Himself to you. Now, because this book has 22 chapters, & is pretty long, our goal will be 2-fold. One, each time, I’m going to remind you of the overall purpose & perspective of the whole book, if you want to read it at home. And #2, in these sermons, we are going to focus mainly on just the first 3 chapters.
That way, we won’t be overwhelmed, & we will still be encouraged. In the first 3 chapters, John is told to write seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Jesus Himself tells him what to write. He is to write to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Some believe that these towns & churches are just symbols of time periods and didn’t really exist. Pastor Victor Marxhausen, years ago, went to Asia Minor and visited these towns, or the ruin of those towns & churches, and verified their historicity, and explained to us how the letters accurately depict their own blessing or destruction. God uses that history to teach His people of every time & place about the faith, and the destructiveness of sin, and about His gracious salvation in Jesus Christ.
The number 7 is a favorite of God’s. It is a symbol for completeness = wholeness. And in Asia Minor, these 7 towns are in a circle, which is another symbol of completeness.
So, God in His wisdom & instruction, has woven together historic detail, and also a complete picture of all His churches throughout Christianity. In the weeks to come, we will look at the letters to the 7 churches; that’s trip #1 (or lane#1) in this vision. And by God’s own promise, we will be blessed by His words & instruction there.
I’m going to close by reading some of that Introduction to the vision. Before we do that, I invite you to read thru the book sometime, now that you have this key perspective to understand it. You now know ahead of time that you are going to take the same trip thru God’s history & salvation & purpose 7 times, with 7 different sets of symbols, which tell salvation’s story; and each trip ends in victory.
And by doing so, you will see how broad & deep & high & rich is the love & purpose & power of your Creator and Savior, the Almighty God. That reading will be a blessing to you, and will put your life & troubles in proper perspective. If you don’t want to read it on your own, we will be reading it together in our Sunday Adult Bible Study. On your own or together, either way, we will have God’s promise of receiving courage in this faith and in our eternal victory to come.
So now, I pick it up at chpt.1 vs.4.
4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 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.
7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,”[b]
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”[c]
So shall it be! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
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. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels[e] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.