Category Archives: Revelation

The New Heaven and New Earth

tulip_9095cpThe Christian takes profound comfort in the knowledge that even death does not separate him from his Savior. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In Revelation 21:1-8 John takes you to an even deeper comfort. He shows you, and all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, what happens to you after the final judgment.

“‘All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth and sky and sea.’ To sing that line from this well-known hymn is to confess that the present praise of creation is not merely pre-eschatological, destined in the end for the silence of eternal extinction. The present creation awaits the eschatological voice it will receive when, free at last from its ‘bondage to corruption,’ it will ‘obtain the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.’ With this obtaining together with the sons of God, creation’s praise— beyond all sighing and in a manner beyond present comprehension— will heighten their enjoyment of that freedom and glory in the new creation of God. (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “What ‘Symphony of Sighs’” in Redeeming the Life of the Mind, pp. 160-161).

According to Scripture the present world will neither continue forever nor will it be destroyed and replaced by a totally new one. Instead it will be cleansed of sin and re-created reborn, renewed, made whole. While the kingdom of God is first planted spiritually in human hearts, the future blessedness is not to be spiritualized. Biblical hope, rooted in incarnation and resurrection, is creational, this-worldly, visible, physical, bodily hope.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, p. 715).

[A]ll who overcome the dragon, the beasts, and the harlot through humble, persevering faith are heirs of everything. The homestead they inherit is not the first heaven and earth, sin-stained and curse-infected, but the new heaven and earth in which every impurity, pain, and sorrow has ceased to be.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 307).

Keep the reality of the new heavens and earth in mind as you look for comfort in the face of death. Keep it in mind as you struggle with temptation, as you endure suffering. Nothing that you face can possibly be compared with the glory of the direct presence of God in the new heavens and earth. Take courage! Stand firm! Overcome!

From the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.

Books Were Opened

Rv2012“The big one is coming. We all know that. We also know the big one might turn out to be the very big one. The 700-mile-long Cascadia subduction zone that’s just off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington will, sooner or later, produce a mammoth earthquake, scientists say.” So writes Douglas Perry in the Oregonian last Friday. Historically, the big one has come at roughly 300–500 year intervals, and the last big one was in 1700. Telling people it is coming (8.7 to 9.2 on the Richter scale) is one thing. Getting us to take some kind of action is another. It may happen soon, or it may not happen until you have been dead and buried for a couple hundred years—in which case you likely will not notice. In Revelation 20:11–15 John writes of an event that will most certainly happen, though we do not know when. And it will involve, not only the living, but also the dead—every single person who has ever lived will stand before God’s throne.

“Injustice and suffering never escape God’s eye. Those who persecute and those who practice injustice can never win. God will judge every deed, all wrongs will be righted, and all attempts to dethrone God and enthrone oneself will be completely frustrated. The prospect of final judgment ought to be a terror to God’s enemies and a fountain of assurance to the saints.” (Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King, pp. 182–183).

“The ‘life’ granted the saints in association with the book comes from their identification with the Lamb’s righteous deeds, and especially his death, which means likewise that they are identified with his resurrection. . . . The Lamb acknowledges before God all who are written in the book. . . .” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 1037).

From the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.

Satan’s Doom

Rv2005a“[I]n this reprise of the last battle the conflict ends almost before it starts (20:9). the besieging forces gathered on breadth of the earth surround ‘the camp of the saints.’ Like ancient Israel, the church on earth is a wilderness community, camping by not at home in the earth. The church does, however, have a lasting identity despite it present temporary status as sojourners, so John adds a second description, ‘the beloved city.’” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, pp. 295–296).

“The major point is that Satan will be finally defeated, and that even before that time God takes care of his saints and gives them enjoyment of the benefits of his triumphant rule. This assurance ought to comfort us, whatever our millennial position.” (Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King, p. 178).

John reassures suffering Christians that even their death, from Christ’s perspective, is the first resurrection. Sometimes Satan uses the discouragements of your daily life to try to make you give up hope. Perhaps you ask, does it really matter if I continue to trust in Christ? Does it make any difference if I continue to serve him? Again, the answer is yes. That doubt is part of Satan’s tactic of deception. Christ is victorious, and he does give hope to his people.

Quotes used in the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.

King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Rv1911As North Americans we may be fascinated with British royalty when it involves princesses, princes, and weddings, but we have a history of being less appreciative of kings. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a declaration, which alleged: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.” Included in the list that follows was, “He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” One might wonder what the members of that Congress would have thought of our present Federal bureaucracy in comparison to the one that triggered their war, but I digress. Although Independence Day is this week, this morning’s message is not about that event. Rather, it is about the great, final battle fought by the King of kings, as recorded in Revelation 19:11–21. Our history may make it difficult to appreciate the importance of a true king, but both Lewis and Tolkien, with strong Christian roots, make clear in their fiction that for things to go right, the true king needs to be on the throne: sons of Adam and daughters of Eve on the four thrones in Cair Paravel, and Aragon in Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor.

“The wars of earthly armies typically leave much unjust suffering and destruction in their wake. This war, however, is utterly just, because of the supreme power and justice of the One who wages war.” (Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King, p. 174).

“Throughout Revelation we have been forewarned that the cosmic conflict is not only between Satan and his beast and God and his Christ. Rather, each stands in the midst of a community, and the destiny of each community rests with the success or failure of its champions. . . . [J]ust as Christ’s white horse promises his certain victory, so the white horses of the riders who follow him assure the church that his triumphs will be ours as well.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 275).

“[T]hat no one knows the name mentioned here except Christ means that the prophecy of Isaiah 62 and 65 has not yet been consumately fulfilled. But Christ’s ‘name’ will be known to his people when they experience the fulfillment of prophecy in a new, consumated covenantal marriage relationship with Christ.” “In the OT to know a name means to have control over the one named. Therefore, the confidential nature of the name here has nothing to do with concealing a name on the cognitive level, but alludes to Christ being absolutely sovereign over humanity’s experiential access to his character.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, pages 953, 956).

Quotes from the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.

A Wedding Invitation

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Do away with the idea that eternal glory is some kind of ephemeral, hazy existence. It includes a real banquet, rich food, aged wine. The triumph of Christ over death is a real victory and results in real celebration. John’s imagery gets complicated. The bride is the church, but those who receive the invitation are also part of the bride. Thus it is no accident that when the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, he did so at the Passover Feast. The small piece of bread, the cup that we drink, not only point back to his suffering and death, but also give you a foretaste of a much richer banquet that you will enjoy in perfect fellowship with him in the new heavens and earth.

hallelujah_6500c“The saints offer praise only to God because he alone deposed Babylon and deserves glory for this deed, which accomplished ‘salvation’ for his people and demonstrated his ‘power.’ This hallelujah and those to follow stand in stark contrast to the laments in 18:9–19.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 926).

“The culmination of God’s redemptive plan is often pictured in Scripture as a feast overflowing with joy and rich food and drink. . . . Weddings and feasting belong together (Matt. 22:1–14), and the blessed guests who are invited to the Lamb’s wedding feast are themselves included in the bride who is so honored by her Husband’s love.” (Dennis. E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, p. 264).

From the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church

EXIT!

Ayear0806pc“Looking back to the exodus from Egypt, Isaiah foresaw a future exodus from exile and showed Israel that God’s promise of deliverance entails his summons to separate from all that defiles. . . . The sky-high compost pillar of her sins has not escaped God’s notice, for he has ‘remembered her iniquities’ (Rev. 18:5; cf. 16:19). The new covenant promise that God will ‘remember no more’ the sins of his people assures us of both forgiveness and release from punishment (Jer. 31:34). By contrast, the assurance that God ‘remembers’ Babylon’s sins means that he holds her fully accountable, so that her punishment is inescapable.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, pp. 254–255).

Revelation 18 speaks of the might of the God who judges. That is true. But he is also a God who is mighty to save. Notice how many of the expressions used in describing judgment here in Revelation are used in the Old Testament as part of descriptions of God’s mercy. The sins of Babylon pile up the heavens—but Psalm 103 reminds you of God’s love for his people that is as high as the heavens are above the earth. The double is used in Isaiah 40 to emphasize God’s comforting mercy to his people. Whom does God command to come out? His people, echoing the language of Hosea. How can a God who is holy enough to punish cruel Babylon or Rome be merciful to you, a sinner? He cannot ignore your sin. He cannot simply turn off his holy wrath against it—for his holiness is part of his character. But what he can and did do was to send his Son into this world, so that you might escape from the judgment to come upon it. The wrath of God against your sin was borne by him. The only way to flee from God’s wrath is to flee to him in the person on his Son.

From the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC

A Mysterious Name and a Battle with the Lamb

Rv1714bPerhaps you say, “Nothing surprises me anymore.” That may be true, but don’t lose the ability to be astonished with John, to be taken aback, not just at the the horrible wickedness of rebellion, but also at the awful punishment which it brings. Stand firm in the face of both temptation to engage in sin and in the pressure to conform to a rebellious world. Live as what you are: a follower of the Lamb!

“Our modern cities, with their wealth, false religions, and sexual exploitation, are modern forms of Babylon. . . . Little babylons also operate in the recesses of our heart. . . .The Beast controls his subjects through fear; the Prostitute seduces people by playing on their lusts with the enticements of illicit pleasures. However subtle the remaining sinful tendencies in the Christian’s heart may be, they also involve fear and lust.” (Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King, p. 161).

“Since the woman in ch. 12 and the bride in chs. 19 and 21 represent the church throughout the ages, so the harlot counterpart represents satanically infused economic-religious institutions throughout history.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 859).

“At its root every pagan world empire is another incarnation of the same satanic spirit that will reach full intensity just before it shatters before the glory of the Lamb and ‘goes to destruction’ (17:8, 11). The final conspiracy is also symbolized in the ten kings (ten horns) who receive authority with the beast ‘for one hour,’ for the sole purpose of putting that authority at the beast’s disposal as it launches its last desperate assault on the Lamb and his ‘called and chosen and faithful followers’ (17:12–14). . . . Jesus’ followers must be prepared for a period of unparalleled, intense persecution at the end, when evil forces now restrained will be released to work their worst against the church. Yet that time of trauma will be brief, and our enemies final conspiracy will end not in the downfall of the church, as they expect, but in their destruction.” (Dennis E. Johnson, Triumph of the Lamb, pp. 251–252).

Quotes used in the Reflection for Trinity Presbyterian Church of the OPC.