Recap of Chp 31
“Yes, I am coming soon.” —Jesus.
Of the original apostles, only John remained to hear these words. He had experienced the climax of salvation history, but God was not yet finished. He had one more message to share with John and the growing churches to show His servants what must soon take place.
John was exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith in Jesus. It was here that the glorified Christ appeared to John with a message of His second coming. John saw someone “like a son of man” dressed in a priestly robe and ready to judge. He fell like a dead man at His feet. This John who had leaned against Jesus’ breast (Jn. 13:25) could not even stand before Christ’s unveiled glory. Jesus presented Himself as the resurrected One who has authority over life and death. He stood among seven golden lamp stands which represent the seven churches located in the province of Asia Minor on the mainland close to the island of Patmos.
Jesus had messages for each of these seven churches. From the three churches addressed in this chapter, a pattern emerges. First, there’s a unique description of Jesus that is related to the message. Then each message contains both a word of commendation and a rebuke for the congregation. He then gives an instruction or warning before an encouraging promise to those who listen and overcome the problem. Jesus who stands among the lamp stands was carefully watching His churches.
John then saw the throne room of heaven where he was shown visions of future events. God sat upon His throne in unimaginable splendor and beauty. He was surrounded by living creatures and elders who worshiped Him without ceasing. He held a scroll that no one was found worthy to open, causing John to weep. But John’s hope was restored when he saw the Lamb standing as if slain. For the Lamb was worthy to open the scroll and also to receive power and glory and honor and praise!
Shortly thereafter, the bride who symbolizes all faithful believers was ready, wearing clean linen and prepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb. Then John saw heaven opened, and Jesus descended in full glory on a white horse ready to wage war and judge mankind. The King of Kings was ready to rule with blazing eyes and a blood drenched robe, a sharp sword and filled with the fury of God’s wrath. He was accompanied by the armies of heaven. His appearance is a dramatic reminder of the awfulness of God’s coming judgment upon those who reject the Lord. God’s final judgment from His great white throne is the final event of human history as we know it. The dead stand before Him in judgment. Those not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire.
Then John saw the New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem. In this future re-creation, God dwells among His people where He wipes away every tear. Many themes from His redemptive Story find their culmination in this place where all things are made new. The majestic and glorious New Jerusalem will be home to all the redeemed. Nothing impure will ever enter it. The water of life flows from the throne of God, the tree of life bears much fruit, and all are invited to partake. This place is the hope of every believer, for it is where God’s Upper Story and His Lower Story finally merge into one. It is here that the redeemed will enjoy the presence of God and of the Lamb forever. As Jesus concluded His message to John, three times He said, “Look, I am coming soon!” No wonder we are called blessed! Our King is coming! Come, Lord Jesus, come!
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Hear and Overcome
John the Apostle had a longer history with Jesus than any of the other apostles. He was probably a first cousin of Jesus, the son of Salome (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40) the sister of Mary (Jn. 19:25). John, along with his brother James, and Peter became the most trusted of Jesus’ disciples. He had an especially intimate relationship with these three men who would later play significant roles in the life of the early church. John was the “beloved disciple.” He was there when Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter. He witnessed firsthand the glimpse of Jesus’ glorification at the Transfiguration. John and Peter were charged with preparing the Passover supper (Lu. 22:8) where he later reclined against Jesus’ breast. Hours later, he saw the agony of Gethsemane. John was at the cross and it was to him that Jesus entrusted His beloved mother and gave John to her as a son (Jn. 19:26-27). After the ascension of Christ, he was a “pillar” as a leader in the young church (Gal. 2:9). He outlived all the other apostles and is probably the only one of the original disciples who was not martyred for his faith.
Yes, John had a long history with Jesus. They were more than familiar, they were intimately close. But none of that prepared him for the vision that he saw on the island of Patmos many years later. The unveiled glory of Jesus took his breath away! He could not stand in the presence of this One who stood amongst the lamp stands. He fell to the ground in fear like a dead man.
The One who stands among the seven golden lamp stands is none other than the glorified Jesus Himself. John describes Him with similar details to the Ancient of Days described by Daniel (Dan. 7:9). God the Son has the same wisdom, purity, eternity and piercing judgment as God the Father. No wonder John fell at His feet like a dead man! The Apostle Paul had a similar response on the road to Damascus and Peter fell on his face at the Transfiguration—a glimpse of Christ in His glory. Jesus described Himself as the Living One, once dead but now alive forever! He alone has the keys to death and Hades. The Christian’s fate is not in the hands of Satan, evildoers or chance. Our life, death and resurrection unto eternal life is at in the hands of Jesus alone—the Worthy One!
Jesus stands among the lamp stands which He interpreted for John as the churches (1:20). He is not distant in His ascension and glorification. He is present and watching over the churches, for they are His body. He is the judge who has the right to encourage, admonish and correct each church community. But He is also the sovereign ruler who has the power to reward those who have an ear to hear!
I. Learning Activity: Charting the messages to the churches: Charts are an excellent way to organize the Scriptures, discover patterns and then analyze and synthesize them.
Messages to the Seven Churches (Rev. 2-3)
If you struggle with the chart please let me know I have one that is filled out I can send you
II. Lessons from the seven churches:
A. What relationship do you discover between Jesus’ description of Himself to each church and the message to that church?
B. What were the strengths of each church?
C. For what did Jesus rebuke them?
D. Which church would you have wanted to be a member of and why? Not a member of?
E. Do contemporary churches experience these same strengths and problems?
F. Do you think Jesus still stands among the lamp stands (churches) today to commend, judge and correct them?
G. What lessons can we apply today?
III. Who are the overcomers and what are they promised?
Are the promises to overcomers in these letters to the churches limited to those people in those churches at that time in history, or could we be included in these promises? Let’s explore some other Scriptures that talk about overcomers to see who they may be.
A. First John is a letter written by the same author—John—who wrote the Gospel and Revelation (also 2nd and 3rd John). We should expect that the same author would use the same words in largely the same way. Therefore, we should not be surprised that he talked about overcoming five times in this letter.
- 1 Jn. 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.
- 1 Jn. 2:14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
- 1 Jn. 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
- 1 Jn. 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
- 1 Jn. 5:5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
B. He who sits on the throne explained to John the inheritance of the overcomers.
- Rev. 21:7-8 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
- What are “these things” that the overcomer inherits? The New Heaven and New Earth and New Jerusalem! The contrast between “he who overcomes” and the “unbelieving” tells us that all believers are overcomers! All believers—you and I—will inherit the unspeakable blessings of this eternal kingdom wherein God will be our God and the overcomer will be His son.
- By contrast, those who do not believe and practice the sins of unbelief will be excluded from the inheritance and judged with the lake of fire that was prepared for Satan and his demonic minions (Rev. 21:8; Matt. 25:41). This place of righteous punishment is a place of torment day and night forever (Rev. 20:10).
- What would a person miss if he was not an overcomer?
- Then how does someone become an overcomer?
- Are YOU an overcomer?
IV. Applications and Implications
A. Christ is coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
B. Jesus watches His churches diligently. He is not absent or distant.
C. Individual churches have people in them who are redeemed believers and also some who are not. Therefore, the message to repent and turn to God by faith must go out.
D. From Ephesus, we will continue to serve the Lord by hard work and good deeds but service does not replace a relationship with Jesus. I will not get so busy with “good deeds” that I substitute them for the best thing.
E. From Smyrna, I am willing to suffer for Christ in this life because I know that eternal life awaits me. When I am not suffering, I can provide prayer support and financial support to persecuted Christians around the world.
F. From Pergamum, I will test all teachings against Scripture so that the purity of the gospel is not stained by idolatry.
G. From Thyatira, I will continue to grow in faith, service and love but I will not tolerate immorality and idolatry within the church community.
H. From Sardis, some people in the church can look good on the outside but be dead on the inside because they lack the life-giving Holy Spirit.
I. From Philadelphia, I will persevere in all those things in the church and in my own life that are good.
J. From Laodicea, those Jesus loves, He reproves and disciplines. I will honestly assess myself to see if I am lukewarm. But blindness may not give me a true assessment of myself, so I need a trusted “hot” believer or two in my life to be honest with me in my walk with the Lord.
K. As an overcomer, I will keep God’s Upper Story in view. I look forward to the rewards and benefits of the eternal kingdom even when the Lower Story seems overwhelming.
L. I will heed the warnings of these churches and overcome by faith any areas in my life that mirror those things that Jesus rebuked.
M. Setting my hope on the New Heaven and New Earth motivates me to holy living now.
Bride of Christ, Royal Wedding
Revelation 19:6-10; John 3:16-36; Matthew 9:14-17; 22:1-14; 25:1-13
I can’t believe this is our last Bible study of “The Story.” I don’t know about you but I have been learning just as much as I have been teaching. For the last time in this series, let’s open up the pages of Scripture and see what God is going to teach us today. We focus in on the last book of the Bible; Revelation.
The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible; it is God’s last inspired word to mankind, and concludes His message in a glorious shout of victory. A few snapshots from John’s masterpiece are brought together in chapter 31 which wraps up ”The Story” God sent this message to encourage the Church however John uses a form of writing that is unique to the New Testament and more common to the Old Testament (Ezekiel, Daniel etc.). Layers of repeating metaphors that intertwine make interpretation of the book very difficult. But one thing rings clear: God’s promise in Genesis—that Satan would be crushed—comes true through the work of Christ, and God will reunite with His creation. Then the victory party will begin “because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).
I. The Bride.
Weddings, brides and grooms, and married love may resonate with people today.
Three women are mentioned in Revelation: the mother (12:1-17), the harlot (chapters 17—19), and the Bride of Christ, (19:8 through the end of the book). The metaphor of the bride is not new in Revelation; it has been a running theme throughout God’s Word, and we have followed it through “The Story.” Discover what we can know about the bride.
1. What does Paul use to teach about the relationship of Christ and his church? Ephesians 5:22-32
2. Ezekiel 16 describes God’s love for his people in violent terms that are hard to read. What is revealed about the “bride” and what does God do about it?
3. How much does the groom love the bride? Ephesians 5:25-27; Isaiah 49:16
Psalm 45 was commissioned for the wedding of the king’s son but, “he felt himself commissioned by the Spirit of God to write about the heavenly King, the Messiah, taking a bride” (Elwell).
4. How does the bride look? Psalm 45:11-14
5. What is her wedding gown made of? Revelation 19:8
6. In Revelation 21:2 and 21:9-21 we see two metaphors layered together. What is the bride and what is she compared to in John’s description of the “bride and wife of the lamb”? How is she adorned in these two passages?
II. The Bridegroom. John 3:16-36; Matthew 9:14-17, Revelation
Discover the clarification about Jesus that John gave to his disciples from John 3:16-36:
1. Describe the actions and desires of God, the lover of mankind? John 3:16-17
2. What terms does John use to describe his own relationship with Jesus? John 3:27-29
3. What terms does John use to describe Jesus? John 3:28-29
4. How does he then explain Jesus’ superiority? John 3:30-31
5. What is John’s warning? John 3:32-36
Discover the clarification that Jesus made about himself to John’s disciples from Matthew 9:14-16:
6. How does Jesus describe His followers? Matthew 9:15
7. How does Jesus describe Himself? Matthew 9:15
In weddings of our day the bride usually steals the show. But in Revelation, the groom is most important because he is the Lamb of God. What do the following passages say about the bridegroom?
Revelation 5:6, 9
Why is it so important to see that the lamb and the bridegroom are one and the same? (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19)
III. The Wedding
Some familiarity with traditional Jewish wedding customs helps us understand the wedding metaphor. The marriage begins long before the wedding! There are four parts to the process. The betrothal is an agreement between the groom and the father of the bride that is much more serious than our engagement. When the agreement is made they are man and wife. A waiting period follows during which the groom pays the dowry or provides a service equal to the amount owed to the father of the bride. The bride is occupied as well; during this time she prepares herself for the wedding. After the agreed upon interval the groom, along with a procession of his friends, takes the bride from her home to his home, or to the home of his parents. At last the celebration begins with a wedding feast that may last seven to fourteen days!
Match the following scriptures that correspond to a part of the Jewish marriage:
_________________“I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” 2 Corinthians 11:2; Hosea 2:19-20.
_________________ “In my Father’s house are many rooms….I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” John 14:2-3.
_________________ “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” Matthew 25:6 (from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25:1-13, also see 25:31-33).
_________________ “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” Matthew 22:2ff.
It’s no accident that men and women are ‘wired’ to need a loving relationship. God makes no apology for His desire to have a loving relationship with his creation. Jesus knew his role because the bride and groom are God’s idea! It is right and good to celebrate a wedding because it is the picture of the great celebration to come, when Jesus and His church can be together, face to face, for eternity.
IV. The Bride of Christ: A Saved Church or Saved Individuals? YES!
If the church is the bride of Christ, how do we fit in as individuals? In 1910, Scottish theologian, Peter T. Forsythe explained God’s love for the whole world as love “directed upon the world in such a way that it should be taken home in every individual experience”. The church is the bride of Christ but we have the assurance of God’s Word that Jesus is the lover of each soul.
1. Fill in the blanks to learn about the relationship between the lamb and His bride:
“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him, though he is not far from ___________ _________ of us.” Acts 7:27
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5
“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to __________ ________, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:11
“You should keep your relationship with God to yourself.” Sadly, this false teaching even confuses believers. But we cannot simply be “satisfied with a personal union with Christ, securing our own future. The gospel deals with the world of men as a whole” (Forsythe).
2. Determine how the individuals who make up the “Bride of Christ” relate to one another:
I Corinthians 12: 12-31
3. Explain in your own words how the church, made up of many individuals, is the Bride of Christ.
William Hendriksen explains in More than Conquerors that the Bride of Christ was chosen from eternity and for eternity. “And now, after an interval which in the eyes of God is but a little while, the bridegroom returns and, ‘it has come, the wedding of the lamb’. The church on earth yearns for this moment.”
Key Question: Are you a part of the Bride of Christ, prepared to join the lamb for the wedding feast?
For additional reflection:
1. Paul explains in Romans 2:6 that “God will give to each person according to what he has done”. (See also, Psalm 62:11-12). From the context and from our study of the Bride of Christ, what is the most important thing for each one of us to do? (Hint: Romans 3:21-26)
2. How can you make more room in your heart and life for God’s Treasure?
3. What righteous deeds will make up the “fine linen” in your wedding gown?
4. What meaningful truth have you discovered in your journey through “The Story?”