The Book of Revelation Ends the Same for Everyone — God says, "Checkmate!"

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by Reverend Anthony R. Locke
Sermon Series in Revelation # 01

Revelation 1:1-8
English Standard Version

1     The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

2    who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

3    Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

4    John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,

5    and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

6    and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

7    Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. 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.”[1]
 


 
The final book of the Bible is meant to stir our imagination concerning the good things that God has prepared for those who love Him. All these good things proceed through the person and work of Jesus Christ. So the book is about the exploits of Christ on behalf of His people.

Some sections need very little explanation and other sections represent truths revealed  but not explained. To illustrate: the Jews had lots of information about the birth of Jesus, but most missed it. We have lots of information about the Second Coming of Jesus, but we will not understand it all.

Verse 1

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ  – It proceeds from the Father by the Son. It covers what God considers important to strengthen our faith. Foolish and vain questions will not be covered.  

which God gave him  – This revelation is part of the inheritance of truth and knowledge that the Father has given to the Son and intended for His people. While Jesus is omniscient, He has submitted the limit of His knowledge to the will of the Father, which is why He was able to say that only the Father knew when He would be coming back Matthew 24:36.

to show  – These are future events which are being unveiled.

to his servants  – We reveal ourselves to be servants of the Kingdom by our obedience.

the things that must soon take place.  – These things MUST take place because of the Old Testament promises. Without the final book of Revelation the promises are in vain and we of all men are most miserable 1 Corinthians 15:19.  Soon means sudden, not ASAP.

He made it known  – These future events are made known by signs and symbols. There’s lots of poetic and prophetic literature in the book of Revelation which will be hard to understand.

by sending his angel to his servant John  – Many people assume the angel Gabriel was sent.

Verse 2

who bore witness to the word of God  – Notice John does not consider himself to be creating the Word of God. He bears witness to it. Why the nuance? Because the Bible is eternally written and preserved in heaven 1 Peter 1:25, Psalm 119:89. Jesus is that eternal Logos personified.

and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.  – This is John’s comprehensive understanding of the person and work of Christ as reflected in His Gospel and Epistles.

Verse 3

Blessed  – This is the first of seven blessings promised in this book Revelation 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7, 22:14. They are all connected to Jesus and His work.

is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy,  – There is a blessing set aside for instructors and teachers who pledge to study, within the life of the Church, these hard sayings.

and blessed are those who hear,  – I know a lady, in her 70s, that started memorizing the book of Revelation, believing that if there is a promise of blessing for reading the book, then there must be an even greater blessing for those who memorize the book.

When I was a teenager I bought Alexander Scourby’s KJV Bible on tape and played it while going to sleep to try and maximize the blessing. I no longer think that’s what God meant.

and who keep what is written in it,  – Here is the real key to receiving the blessing. Becoming a know it all won’t do us, or anyone else, any good 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13. As our love for Jesus grows, as reflected in our obedience, we find the seven fold blessing that God intended.

for the time is near.   – I remember a book entitled 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988. A year later was the sequel, which didn’t sell as well, 89 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1989. We should not allow ourselves to be enticed to waste our time with these kinds of books.

We should spend time thinking about the doctrine of imminence. Defined: the period of time when these things must take place is next on God’s calendar. All other prophesies are complete. Nothings stands between us and this next period of time.

Verse 4

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:  – This is not John the Baptist who died by beheading. This John leaned backwards during the Lord’s Supper to ask Jesus who would betray Him. This John gave us the Gospel of John and the three Epistles that bear his name.

There were seven provinces for the distribution of mail in Asia and John is writing a letter that he intends be distributed all over the region.

Grace to you and peace  – The Christian Greeks understood their need for grace. The Jews had a deep appreciation for the declaration of peace between them and the Father. The Apostle Paul used this opening in his earliest writings 1 Thessalonians & Galatians, yet it probably preceded him within the Christian community.

from him who is  – Jesus is the Great I am. He is always present. Jesus always exists.

and who was  – Jesus existed before all things. He is eternally begotten. He had no beginning.

and who is to come,  – Jesus will continue to exist after all things have reached their final state. Jesus, like the Father, is timeless.

and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,  – I am not sure what the seven spirits are which are before the throne. Here is our first example of revelation which is not explained. Maybe they are arch-angels. Maybe these are the seven ministers. Maybe this is the diverse enabling of the Holy Spirit for ministry. Then again, it might be a metaphor for something else entirely.

Verse 5

and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness,  – There is a capital punishment case being held before the throne of Heaven and your eternal life is at stake. And Jesus is going to speak the truth about you and your life choices. Jesus would never lie. That should strike fear into all of us.

the firstborn of the dead,  – But the testimony of Jesus centers not on our actions, but on His actions on our behalf. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.

We sinners are dead in our trespasses and sins. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And Jesus came into that people group and identified with us. He died the death we will all die, and then He overcame that death by His resurrection. He is the beginning of a new creation.

and the ruler of kings on earth.  – All power and judgment has been given to the Son by the Father. Our eternal security, and the security of the new creation, is held in the hands of Jesus.

To him  – What is to Him? Majesty? Praise? Glory? Power? Tribute and Worship? And more!

who loves us  – How comforting to learn that God loves us.

Personalize it. God loves you. Cast off all your fears of the future. Jesus holds your future. He is preparing your enjoyment of that future, and His disposition is Grace and Peace and Love.

1 Corinthians 13 instructs us that nothing abides without love. There is no eternal blessing without love. All the revelation in this book profits nothing unless God loves us.

And God opens this revelation with this truth – Jesus loves you. Therefore, you will enjoy His blessings beyond your imagination because it all flows from His love for you.

and has freed us from our sins by his blood  – Jesus unshackled the bonds of our sin by His death and resurrection. We are no longer bound by sin. We are free forever by His love.

Verse 6

and made us a kingdom,  – We rule by serving, and serve by ruling. The evidence that we are part of His kingdom and ready to rule is in our self-sacrifice.

priests to his God and Father,  – God is making us messengers of this kingdom. We are given the ministry of reconciliation. We are to be leading people into the truths of the kingdom by our life and testimony. Anything less reveals that we are not participating at the level God requires.

to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. The glory of God is revealed in the world around us. The sunrise, moon and stars. When a young woman pushes the hair out of her eyes or a young man does something selfless.

All glory is a reflection of the glory of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus has glory in and of Himself.

Jesus exercises an eternal dominion. People exercise dominion by their money, social class, influence, knowledge and by their position of authority. Jesus has dominion by His humiliation and service to His people. The Father has seen the obedience of Jesus, all the way to the cross, and therefore God lifted Him up to the right hand of the throne from which He rules forever and ever.

Verse 7

Behold, he is coming with the clouds,  – This is not atmospheric clouds but the heavenly clouds of glory seen over the mercy seat in the holy of holies in the Old Testament. The glory and presence of God was revealed by His shining radiance in the clouds.

and every eye will see him,  – Every person on the earth will be confronted with the glory of Jesus. Every person will be overcome by His power and glory. The power and dominance of His presence will conquer every heart of the universe. All knees will bow!

even those who pierced him,  – There will be great sadness on the day that sinners realize that the most blessed and beautiful person was treated so terribly at the hands of us sinners.

and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.  – Zechariah 12:10 -13:1 tells that story in more detail. Every tribe, every family and every person in that family will see Jesus and be broken hearted that Jesus suffered and endured such a tragedy of justice.

I believe that we will all weep when we see Jesus. We will be cut to the bone with sorrow for what He suffered. And Jesus will wipe the tears from our eyes with hands of forgiveness and healing before we enter heaven. “Tears will never stain the streets of that city.”

Even so. Amen. This is a congregational affirmation since verse 1-8 can be used as a responsive reading.

Verse 8

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

The full revelation of all that God intends to say to us is contained between the first and last letter of the alphabet. Jesus is the A to Z. Nothing that can be said, or needs to be said, is not stated for us in the person of Jesus Christ and His revelation found in this holy book. He is the ultimate. He is the almighty. He is the pinnacle of all that is worthy of our attention.

Let me wrap this up with a personal illustration. The only memory I have of my mom’s dad is playing chess in the basement of his home during the holidays. He owned a split level home. We played in the downstairs next to the fireplace.

My grandfather was American Indian. He had the jet black hair and flat nose to match. He was a striking man to see. And he never let me beat him in chess. He always won.

As I reflect on those memories I find comfort in his winning. Occasionally, I would think I was getting the upper hand. But in the end it was always checkmate. He was always in control.

I am glad I didn’t have the ability to out-think my grandfather. I am glad he always won.

That’s what God is telling us in Revelation. You may think God is not in control, but in the end it is checkmate for everybody. Jesus wins. God gets the glory, and things work out for our benefit.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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