Revelations Revisited

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 9, 2007 under Ask the Pastor | Be the First to Comment

A visitor to our website writes:

“When will the events described in the Book of Revelation happen?”

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Dear friend,

Thanks for your question. Ever since we started the “Questions to the Pastor” section of our website, it’s been surprising to me how often people write to ask about the Book of Revelation.

Let me begin with a basic answer. I believe that the Book of Revelation is describing events that will take place in the future. Much of the book uses highly symbolic language; but it is symbolically describing literal future events. When the Apostle John was given a vision of the Lord Jesus at the beginning of the book, Jesus told him, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19). This gives us the basic outline of the Book of Revelation: “the things” which John “saw” refers to the vision of Jesus he had in 1:9-20; “the things which are” refers to the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2-3; and “the things which will take place after this” refers to the main body of the letter, from chapter 4 all the way to the end.

If you look at the first verse of chapter 4, you’ll read, “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” And so, whatever those chapters speak of refers to events that take place after the context of the seven letters to the seven churches.

If the Book of Revelation is describing future eventsI believe that’s very important to remember, by the way. Many very foolish predictions have been made, and many false teachers have arisen.

Things that people often associate with the ‘end of the world’, were things that Jesus said are NOT necessarily signs that the end was near. He said, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8).

When the attacks of 9/11 occurred, many very upset people were calling and asking me if I thought it was the end of the world. It was a horrible time that we’ll all always rememberThat’s not to say that Jesus hasn’t given us some signs to watch out for, however. He described many events that would indicate that the time was drawing near. Jesus went on to say, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (vv. 9-10). One indicator is, I believe, a world-wide and intense hatred for believers. It will be a desperate time of persecution and tribulation. The church has always suffered persecution somewhere in the world; but when we see this beginning to happen in an unprecedented, world-wide, and murderously intense scale, we should consider this a sign that Jesus’ return is soon to occur.

Along with that persecution will be the rising up of an unprecedented number of false prophets and false teaches who lead people into intense lawlessness and ungodliness. “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (vv. 11-12). The end-times will be characterized by an overwhelming departure from the truth. When the prevailing culture becomes characterized by a complete loss of love and compassion for one’s fellow man; and when false doctrine so prevails that it seems as if the truth is about to be crushed into exinctionA third signJesus described other events that are signs His return would very, very immanent. These would include the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the setting up of an abominable idol in that Temple. Many of the signs already mentioned would occur during that time, but would be greatly intensified (vv. 15-28). And there will also be disturbances in the heavens: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (v. 29). The most obvious indication of all is contained in these words: “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (vv. 30-31).

Jesus indicated that there would be a general carelessness about the times; and that people would be living as if His return was never going to happen at all (vv. 37-41). The apostle Peter, who was present to hear those words from the lips of Jesus, also said the same thing: “. . . that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). He said, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night . . .” (v. 10). The apostle Paul likewise said, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). I believe that a general disbelief in the Lord’s literal return would prevail during the time just preceeding that return. When people increasingly mock the idea of His coming, they don’t realize that they’re becoming a sign that His return is very near!

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So; those are the signs of His return that the Lord has given us. But I stress that they only indicate the general character of the end-times to us. They do not give us a specific date or an era. Jesus has told us only what we need to know in order to live faithfully for Him in the present, and to keep on looking toward His return. I suspect that that’s by design. If we knew the specific date, my guess is that we would be living carelessly and unfaithfully up until the last minute. We should be grateful that the Father has kept that date to Himself.

And by the way; that ought to lead us to the thing Jesus wants us to do in response to all He has told us about the end-times. He hasn’t told us a specific date for His return; but He has commanded that we be continually on the alert and “watch”. I believe that that one word sums up what we’re to be doing<”watch” in a spirit of faithful readiness. He said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42-45). He told His disciples, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13). And His words include you and me: “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37).

“Watching” doesn’t mean we have our heads cocked backwards, staring up into the clouds. It refers to an attitude of faithfulness and expectancy in the way we live. Paul summed it up for us very well: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefor comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11).

May we keep on the watch until He returns!

In Christ’s love,
Pastor Greg

(All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version.)

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