Getting Ready for Revelation


Series: Revelation

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Before we dive into the Book of Revelation, it's worth taking a moment to understand how we're going to approach the text and why we're going to approach it that way, and to familiarize ourselves with the differing primary views on this amazing book.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Welcome to our study of the Book of Revelation. I am so glad that you're here for this, whoever you are, whether you're a skeptic, if you're someone who's not even a Christian or you're someone who's been a Christian your whole life. I'm just glad you're here. And I think you're going to be blessed. You're going to be challenged and you're going to be grown through the process of studying this incredible book from the Bible. You know, there's a well-known saying, Jack of all trades, master of none.

That quote actually comes from Benjamin Franklin. And it's a misquote, if you can believe that the actual quote says, Jack of all trades, master of one, jack of all trades, master of one. And the idea is that everyone should be able to know a little bit about everything, but everyone should have an area of specialty, an area of expertize. And if you're a Christian, if you're any type of Christian, not a lifelong Christian, a young Christian, a paid Christian, a volunteer Christian, if you're any type of Christian, your area of specialty should be the Bible.

And wherever you are, if you're a follower of Jesus, you want to be on the path toward making the Bible your area of specialty, the thing that you know more about than pretty much anything else in your life. That's what we're called to. And so today, before we get into the actual text of revelation, I wanted to take one message to explain how we're going to approach the Book of Revelation, why we're going to approach it that way.

And you're going to learn a lot of interesting things about just how to approach the Bible as a whole and how to study the Bible as a whole. As we go through today's message, if you're not a believer or you are a skeptic, hang with us, because when we get to Revelation chapters two and three, things are going to get really, really interesting for you, because if you're wondering why should I take the Book of Revelation seriously, why should I take anything the Bible says about the future seriously?

Surely the best way to answer that question would be to look at the predictions the Bible has already made about the future and then judge whether those that are supposed to have come true have actually come true. And when we get to Revelation chapters two and three, we're going to find that over the past 2000 years, the Bible has made prediction after prediction after prediction that has already come true. It's already come to pass. And so if you're a skeptic, you're going to get a small glimpse of the Bible's perfect track record of predicting the future through prophecy.

So hang with us for that. You know, I was 16, if I'm remembering. Right. And I was riding in a Chevy Suburban packed with friends from my church's youth group. We were talking about crazy things in the Bible as teenagers and youth group are apt to do. And it wasn't long before somebody said, dude, have you ever read Revelation? There's dragons in there and beasts coming out of the sea and angels of death and just all kinds of crazy, wild stuff.

And we all laughed at one of Christianity's classic inside jokes that nobody really knows what's going on in the Book of Revelation. And for most believers, that inside joke holds true for the rest of their lives, because while you can jump into almost any other book of the Bible and pretty quickly figure out what's going on, Revelation can feel like you're dropping in on someone else's apocalyptic LSD trip. In the rare instances when I would come across a church or a pastor teaching from the Book of Revelation, they would very selectively pull out the few verse is they did understand and then sweep away the rest of the book with a comment along the lines of, Listen, Jesus wins in the end.

And that's really all that matters. Over the years, I gleaned a few snippets of information from books and low budget Christian movies and the odd sermon. But after walking with Jesus for years, my understanding of revelation still sounded something like I'm pretty sure Jesus comes back at some point in the future. I think there's a rapture in there somewhere. There's an Antichrist, a battle of Armageddon, something to do with 666 and lots of bad, scary stuff that's going to happen.

My knowledge of what the Bible says about the end times was scattered and lacking any semblance of cohesive understanding. I felt like I had seven pieces of a 100 piece puzzle I. Couldn't see the big picture, and I had no idea how the few pieces I did have fit in with the rest of the puzzle. Perhaps you can relate then at the age of 23, I took a position at the church that would change my life and my and my understanding of the Bible.

When I joined that church, the pastor was about halfway through a message series on the Book of Revelation. And when I found that out, I remember I asked someone, Oh, you mean the parts we can understand? And they said, well, no, actually, the whole thing we're going through the whole book, verse by verse. I was floored. I couldn't believe it. As an employee of the church, I tried not to look completely confused.

So I politely nodded while I thought, I don't understand. How is that? How is that possible? I listened attentively through the rest of the series and then went back and listened to the first half of the message series, the messages I had missed. And by the time I reached the end of the series, I couldn't believe it. I actually understood it. I understood the Book of Revelation. I understood every chapter and pretty much every verse, and it changed my life.

Let me tell you how the first word that we need to learn is eschatology. Eschatology. That's a good, smart sounding word to add to your vocabulary. It's the term for the theological study of Bible prophecies related to the end of the world, the end times, the last days. So if you're studying eschatology, you're studying end times, Bible prophecies, which is what we're going to be doing in this message series within Christianity, there's a frequently repeated critique of those who love to dig into eschatology.

And the critique goes something like this. If you're too heavenly minded, you'll be no earthly good. I remember opening a prominent Christian music magazine and reading their review of a concept album that a well-known Christian artist had just released. All the songs were focused on heaven and the coming of Jesus for his church, and it was and is a brilliant album. But this review felt the need to accuse the album of, quote, suffering from our Flyaway syndrome and quote.

Both critiques that I mentioned are rooted in the belief that Christians who are focused on the heaven will neglect all the things they should be doing for Jesus on the earth here and now. Those who make this critique believe that Christians who are focused on heaven will live useless lives as they waste away their days longingly gazing toward the heavens when they should be sharing the gospel and occupying themselves with the work of the kingdom on the Earth. My testimony and the testimony of countless others is that Eschatology has the complete opposite effect on a person because the reality is that you won't be any earthly good until your heavenly minded.

Most Christians are familiar with concepts like storing up treasure in heaven and the importance of living for eternity rather than the temporal nature of our earthly lives. What revelation does is it actually moves that knowledge from the head down to the heart. Instead of having a blurry concept of the end times, revelation shifts your understanding into gloriously detailed high definition to such a degree that the reality of what is to come overwhelms you in the best way possible. Imagine if I told you that if you worked hard and sacrificially saved money for 50 years, you'd have a nice retirement.

Knowing that would motivate you. But but only to a certain degree. But imagine if I told you the same thing. Except this time I also gave you a special pair of glasses that you could put on whenever you wanted. And these glasses would allow you to see your future in detail. Imagine putting those glasses on and and seeing yourself laughing and smiling with your spouse, surrounded by your adult children and your grandchildren in a wonderful house, in a beautiful setting.

Imagine being able to see your comfort and feel how good things are going to be. Your motivation would increase exponentially in the here and now because you had received a greater revelation of what your future is going to look like. Any time you were feeling uninspired or tired of the work and sacrifice and discipline, you could simply put the glasses on and take one more look at that glorious future and find fresh motivation. That's what revelation does for the person who reads it and understands it.

It makes the reality of heaven and eternity so vivid that it inspires a deeper level of wholehearted sacrificial living for Jesus here and now in one's earthly life. That's why the time that you're taking to study this book is going to be one of the most profitable investments you will ever make. Trust me on that. Now, I feel a responsibility to let you know up front that eschatology is not a salvation issue, our beliefs regarding the Rapture, the tribulation, Antichrist, et cetera, have no bearing on our eternal destination.

We are saved by placing our faith in the substitutionary life, death and resurrection of Jesus, not by perfecting our eschatology. There's a myriad of reasons to study what the Bible has to say about the end times, as we shall see. But salvation is not one of them. So please relax and know that if you don't hold my views on the Book of Revelation, but you do love Jesus, we're still family. We're still on the same journey, seeking to know and understand more of our Lord.

I want to repeat something I often share with our church, don't believe anything I say simply because you hear me say it, do your own research, dig into the scriptures for yourself. Our goal is to be like the Syrians who, when visited by the apostle Paul himself, did not take anything he said at face value, but rather search the scriptures for themselves to see if what Paul was teaching was the truth. And Paul commended them for doing so.

We want to be like those billions. If you don't hold our view on eschatology, I'm glad you're here and I applaud your desire to know God's word more deeply. I believe that it's always good to familiarize oneself with other theological perspectives because the truth is capable of standing up to whatever scrutiny we place it under before we get into Revelation itself. Thought it might be helpful to just give a brief overview of the three most popular eschatological views. One of the positions has three suppositions as well, but we'll explain that when we get there.

And don't worry, this explanation includes pictures on your outlines. I know we're going to be a little bit academic today and some of this stuff, but I want you to know that this is as academic as our study through Revelation is going to get. It's never going to be more difficult than this. And this is honestly much more academic than the rest of the study is going to be. So hang with me. These are going to be broad, generalized explanations, because if they weren't, they would take up the entire message series.

So regardless of what view you currently hold, please know that I'm doing my best to represent each of these views accurately, but briefly. When it comes to how Christians view the end times, the first divergence of views takes place around the issue of what's known as the millennium. The millennium is spoken of in in many parts of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. But most famously, it shows up in Revelation Chapter 20, where we read this and I saw Throne's and they sat on them and judgment was committed to them.

Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God who would not worship the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Now I know for many of you, if you haven't studied Revelation, you're like Jeff. I understand almost nothing in there. Don't worry. We're going to explain it when we get to Revelation 20 in about six months. But for now, all I want you to notice are those explicit references to this time period of a thousand years. That's the millennium that we're talking about when we talk about this first divergence of views on the end times within Christianity.

And when it comes to this specific revelation mentioned in Revelation 20, there's some significant disagreement among Christians over what exactly it is. But all Christians agree that it's something because it's right there. It's explicitly in the text of the Bible, just as all Christians agree that the Bible is clear that Jesus is going to return to the Earth at some point in the future, that concepts all over the Bible, also in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in the words of Jesus himself in the Gospels, the three main views on eschatology within Christianity get their names from how they view the relationship between the Millennium of Revelation Twenty and the future return of Jesus to the Earth.

And this will become clear as we go through each position. How you interpret the Millennium of Revelation Chapter 20 or drive your interpretation of the whole Book of Revelation if you believe this millennium is not literal, that it's allegorical or spiritual or metaphorical or mystical or something like that, if you believe this millennium is figurative in some way, then you're going to interpret the Book of Revelation as primarily figurative allegorical literature. If you believe this millennium is literal, then you're probably going to interpret most of the Book of Revelation, literally.

So let me try and briefly lay out the three main views on this millennium. The first view is the pre millennium view, pre millennial pre meaning before so before the millennium pre millennial. This view holds that Jesus is going to physically return to the Earth before the millennium begins. Jesus will return to the Earth with this church and reign with them from a throne in literal Jerusalem for a literal thousand years. During this time, the Earth will return to an Eden like state and Satan will be bound.

At the end of that literal thousand years, Satan will be released to offer a final choice to mankind, which will result in the battle of Armageddon, the final judgment and the eternal damnation of Satan and his legions. The universe will then be destroyed, and a new heaven and a new earth will be created. That's the pre millennial perspective. The second view is the post-millennial perspective post meaning after. So after the millennium, this view holds that Jesus is going to return after the millennium.

They believe that the Gospel is going to spread across the Earth with increasing success to such a degree that eventually almost everyone on Earth will become a Christian. This gospel movement is going to culminate in a golden age of a literal thousand years in which Christian ethics and character will rule humanity because almost all the earth will be Christian and there's going to be this literal. Thousand years, a golden age where all governments will be made up of Christians who love Jesus, and then after this post millennium, Jesus will physically return to the Earth to conduct a final resurrection and judgment.

That's the post-millennial view. The third view is the millennial view or a millennial view, a or meaning no or none. So this view holds that there isn't really any kind of literal millennium. They believe that it's allegorical, mystical, spiritual, but it's not literal in length or in detail. Rather, it refers to the whole period of the church age which began on Pentecost in Acts Chapter two, likely in the year 32 A.D. and continues up to the present day.

The time period from Pentecost up till today is known as the church age. And so the millennial perspective essentially believes that the millennium is a reference to the whole church age. They believe that Jesus reign during this millennium is spiritual. As the gospel spreads across the earth, all things are being redeemed, all things are being made new. And the crescendo of this redemptive movement will be the physical return of Jesus to the Earth to oversee a final judgment and rule over a new heaven and a new earth Bible geek.

Side note, Frederiksholm is the view that the events described in Revelation all took place around the fall of Israel. You know, the fall of Jerusalem took place in 70 A.D. and and Israel was pretty much totally wiped out by 120 A.D.. And so the Predator Eastview teaches that everything described in the Book of Revelation is really figurative allegorical language. Speaking of the fall of Israel and Jerusalem that took place in the late first and early second centuries, technically, Frederiksholm falls under the millennial view.

So while there are detail and nuances to each position that I didn't mention that that's the broad overview. And I've done my best to explain that accurately. When we reach the conclusion of our study through Revelation, I believe you're going to understand why I hold the view that I do. But while we're here, I want to share a few quick thoughts about post-millennial millennialism and al millennialism and let you know why I don't hold either of those views. If you'll recall, all millennialism is the view that there is no literal millennium.

They believe it's entirely allegorical or spiritual in nature. The Gospels spreading across the earth, all things are being made new. The church's call to partner with Jesus in that work, of redeeming all things and making all things new here and now things are trending up and will continue to do so until practically the whole world is redeemed, at which time Jesus will return to the Earth. Post millennialism is pretty close because it believes pretty much the same thing, except it holds that there will be a literal thousand years of the church raining on the earth before Christ's return.

Now, as respectfully as I can say this, I feel like the last 2000 years of human history emphatically disproves the notion that we are trending up in morality and enlightenment from a moral and spiritual perspective here on planet Earth. And I think that anyone paying any type of attention to the world around them over the course of their lives would be inclined to agree. And if you've been paying attention over the last decade or two, I think you would be inclined to agree with me that things are not getting better.

All you have to do is look out of your window, walk the streets, watch the news, hop on the Internet, and it's obvious things are not getting better. We are not trending up. Even nonbelievers overwhelmingly feel like things in the world are getting worse and have been for some time. They feel like the world is increasingly spiraling out of control. And so in summation, I believe that observable reality over the course of our lifetimes and history over the past few millennia emphatically disprove the post-millennial and our millennial view.

And we have to be honest about observable reality. We cannot adopt a theology that is disproved by observable reality. And that's why I'm just. Not inclined to take either of those views very seriously, if I'm being honest, but let me share a little bit more about the history of our millennialism. Oregon was possibly the most important father, so to speak, of the allegorical approach to eschatology while living and working in Alexandria in the early third century. He was part of a school of Christianity that enjoyed the relative favor of the ruling Roman officials.

But it turned out that Rome didn't really like it when Christians thought that the kingdoms of this world were destined to fall away and be replaced by the kingdom of Jesus and that all the authority was destined to fall away under King Jesus. You have to remember at this time in the Roman Empire, the view was that Caesar was a God. And so this sort of teaching was insurrectionist. It was causing trouble. It was blasphemous in the Roman Empire. And so in order to protect the political favor that he and his colleagues were enjoying at that time, Oregon decided that the best solution was to simply begin to allegories.

All these texts that talk about Jesus coming as the conquering king and the kingdoms of the earth falling away. And instead he decided to start teaching that Jesus was going to come and rule in the hearts of men. And that's all the Bible was talking about, because this was a doctrine that posed no threat to rulers with God complexes. And then in the fourth century, Augustine ran with Oregon's approach and it evolved into most of what we know today is a millennialism now most not all, but most churches who hold to a reformed theology.

This would include our Calvinist brothers and sisters, hold to and our millennial eschatology. They don't believe in any type of millennium. Unfortunately, the truth is they have no choice but to adopt that belief. And I say that because those who hold to reform theology tend to hold to another doctrine which forces them to allegories and times Bible prophecy. The doctrine I'm talking about is often referred to as replacement theology. Basically, it's the belief that the church has completely replaced Israel.

God is done with Israel. He's through with the Jew. And all the promises that God made to Israel now belong to the church. The problem with end times Bible prophecies is that Israel is all over them, all over them. This creates an obvious problem for those who hold to replacement theology. How can God be done with Israel if Israel shows up in all these unfulfilled end times? Bible prophecies? The only option to solve a problem like that is to take the position that every time Israel is spoken of in eschatology, it's really a reference to the church in some sort of allegorical sense.

The only way to solve this textual problem is to paint all end times prophecy with a broad allegorical brush because you can't just allegories one little section where you need to do that and then take the rest literally. They really don't have a choice. They have to allegories Israel and in order to allegories Israel, they have to allegories, pretty much all eschatology. So anyone who holds to replacement theology, I really want you to understand this. Anyone who holds to replacement theology.

Cannot evaluate end times Bible prophecy objectively because they are pretty committed to viewing it allegorically, they have no choice or they create a contradiction with their own theology. Let's talk about the second divergence of eschatological views which are centered on the rapture of the church. The rapture is the term given to a literal future event when Jesus will remove all those who are his collectively known as the church from the Earth, meet them in the clouds and take them to be with him an instant.

And all this will happen in the blink of an eye. The most well-known verse is on the Rapture are found in First Thessalonians four, beginning in verse 16. I'll read it to you. Paul writes this for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of an angel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

And thus we shall always be with the Lord. So there are three main views on the Rapture, and they all fall under the view of pre millennialism. The Millennialist and the Post millennialist do not believe in any type of rapture. If you believe in a rapture, this might be news to you. Most Christians do not believe in any type of rapture. Only those who hold to a pre millennial eschatology believe in any type of rapture. And so under Premal in any millennialism, there are these three different views on the rapture, and they all have to do with the issue of the timing of the rapture.

That's where they get their names from, specifically where the Rapture falls in relation to the seven year tribulation period described in Revelation Chapter six through Revelation Chapter nineteen. All your questions will be answered when we get there in our study. For now, let's just be content to understand the tribulation, to be all the bad stuff that happens in Revelation. So these different views of the Rapture have to do with where does the Rapture happen in relation to the seven year time period where all this bad stuff is happening.

If you look at your notes, your outline, you'll see the three suppositions, sub positions and what each of them believes. Firstly, we have a post tribulation view or poster view. This is the view that the church will be raptured after the tribulation period. So at the end of those seven years, the second view is the tribulation view or mid trip view. This is the view that the church will be raptured, you guessed it, at the halfway point of the tribulation, the middle point, three and a half years into those seven years.

And then finally, we have the pre tribulation view, the pre trip view that the church will be raptured before the tribulation begins. So there's a simple chart on your outline that helps us understand these different eschatological positions regarding the bottom of the diagram, where you see this weird word that you might not know how to pronounce the word is pronounced hermeneutics. And it's the technical term for how we approach the task of interpreting scripture, how we approach the task of interpreting the Bible.

And so you can have a very allegorical or soft hermeneutic or you can have a very literal or very firm hermeneutic. Generally, a soft hermeneutical approach is going to lead you to take the scriptures, especially prophecy, with the assumption that it's allegorical or idiomatic or mystical or something like that. In other words, you're going to view much of the Bible, especially Bible prophecy, as being word pictures and metaphors and things like that. And you're almost going to start with that assumption, whereas a firm hermeneutical approach is going to cause you to dig into the scriptures, starting with the assumption that the Bible is speaking literally.

And so if you look at that chart on your outline, you can see that if you favor and allegorical approach to Bible prophecy, then you're probably going to hold an all millennial eschatology. You're probably not going to believe in a rapture. If you favor a literal approach to reading the Bible, you're probably going to hold a pre millennial eschatology and you're probably going to believe in a rapture. You're hermeneutics have a massive impact on your theology, but especially your eschatology.

So just. To be up front with you about where we're going in this study, we will be employing a firm hermeneutic which is going to lead us to conclude a pre millennial pre tribulation eschatology. And if that's not currently your view, let me just ask you to stick with us so that you can see how I reach that conclusion. And then once you've seen and heard the evidence, you can evaluate whether my conclusion is reasonable. You can come to your own conclusion.

So why start with a firm hermeneutic, though? Why why would we begin by assuming that the Bible is speaking literally? Firstly, because conveying specific literal meaning is the primary reason words and language exist. It's the reason we invented languages is because we wanted to convey things with specific meaning that was represented by specific words. And if you think about it. We start by taking all text and conversation literally, unless there is a compelling reason not to. Here's what I mean.

If you come up to me and say, Jeff, do you know where I can get a cup of coffee? None of us begin by assuming the other person is speaking metaphorically. I would be crazy to begin by assuming that by cup of coffee you meant something else, like the meaning of life or purpose. Any reasonable person begins with the assumption that the other person is speaking literally, not metaphorically or allegorically. And so it only makes sense to approach the Bible with the same rationale.

We begin by assuming the Bible is speaking literally, unless there is good evidence, a good reason to suggest that the text is speaking with some type of visual language. For example, when Jesus is telling his audience something that is described as a parable, we know that it's a fabricated story. We know this because the Bible tells us that it is a parable. That's a good reason to not take Jesus's words literally in that instance. And there are many other good reasons to not take a text literally, but beginning with an assumption of literalism.

Both these words, until contrary evidence appears, is always the most logical approach to any text or conversation. Secondly, we know that in the Old Testament there are over 300 prophecies that speak of Jesus's first coming the incarnation. We know that the overwhelming percentage of them are literal. We know because Jesus fulfilled them literally in his first coming. The Bible contains significantly more prophecies relating to Jesus's second coming. Now, if the prophecies relating to Jesus's first coming were fulfilled, primarily, literally, why in the world would we not expect the prophecies that speak of a second coming to also be fulfilled?

Literally, what justification do we have for completely changing our hermeneutical approach to Bible prophecy when it comes to the prophecies regarding Jesus's first coming and the prophecies regarding his second coming? What's our justification for taking the first set? Literally, but the second set allegorically? Or is the reality that we have no justification and we simply find all the prophecies about the end times, too fantastic, too offensive, too embarrassing or too hard to understand? If you hold a primarily allegorical view of end times, Bible prophecy, let me challenge you with this very specific question.

How do you justify that in light of the literal nature of the prophecies concerning Jesus's first coming? How do you justify that view, there are those who will say, well, Jeff, John is writing in the style of secular, apocalyptic literature at that time. Really? Really. Are you telling me that there weren't any savior or messiah like mythology's in play in other ancient Near Eastern cultures during the thousands of years before Jesus came to the Earth? Are you telling me that that other cultures, when the prophets were writing the messianic prophecies, are you telling me that other cultures at that time didn't have their own mythologies and prophecies about savior figures that were going to come about leaders, about chosen ones that would arise and lead their people the glory?

Of course they did. Of course, other cultures had those prophecies and mythologies. Does that mean that all the Old Testament prophecies written about Jesus Christ were not true? They weren't literal just because there were other ancient Near Eastern cultures writing prophecies at that time? Of course not. Of course not. We know that those prophecies about Jesus's first coming were true and we know that they were literal. So let me ask you again, if you hold a primarily allegorical view of end times, Bible prophecies, how in the world do you justify that in light of the literal nature of the Bible prophecies that speak of Jesus's first coming?

How do you justify that? I want to ask you not to simply skip over that question, if you hold to an allegorical view of end times, Bible prophecy now, as I mentioned, there are many good reasons to not take a text literally. But the problem in the church is that so many people approach the subject of Bible allegorically when there's not a good reason to do so. I want to share just a few bad reasons to approach a biblical text allegorically.

And by the way, this applies to all of the Bible, the miracles in the Book of Exodus, the miracles in the Gospel, everything. So here are some bad reasons to take a biblical text allegorically. And again, will have to be brief in order to keep things moving first. Bad reason. It's too hard to believe. It's too fantastic, Jeff. It's just too out there. It's too supernatural. Many people struggle to accept some of the things that are written in the Bible because they seem impossible, perhaps they violate the natural order or the rules of physics that we know.

And and this creates an intellectual obstacle for the reader. This person does not have a problem with revelation or Bible prophecy. This person has a problem with the Bible. Because scripture is packed with supernatural miracles, so that person is going to have to allegories the miracles of the early church in the Book of Acts, they're going to have to allegories, almost the entire ministry of Jesus, the plagues of Egypt, the exodus of the Israelites, and on and on and on.

So where does it stop? This is a path that, if followed to its conclusion, inevitably leads one to have to allegories, even the resurrection, which is the entire point of Christianity. The Bible begins with an overwhelming supernatural miracle in Genesis one one where we read in the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth. It's been well said that if you can believe Genesis one one, you'll have no problem with the rest of the Bible if you can believe that God made the entire universe everything that exists out of nothing.

Then you'll have no problem when you read about God working other miracles, because the one who established and created the laws of nature must be able to rationally transcend them. If you can accept that God created the universe out of nothing, ixnay Nilo exactly the way he wanted to. Does it not logically follow that he is equally capable of ending it exactly the way he wants to, the beginning of our universe was astonishing. And its end shall be no less from a Christian perspective, it doesn't make any type of sense to reject a view of the end times solely because it seems too fantastic by that logic.

You'll have to also reject divine creation, the resurrection and countless other biblical miracles. And even from a scientific perspective, no views should be rejected simply because it seems unbelievable. At one time, the idea of the Earth rotating around the sun seemed unbelievable. Every proposed view must be approached and evaluated based upon the evidence. Second, bad reason to allegories. A Biblical text. It offends me or it's embarrassing to believe that I'll keep this one brief. Our feelings are irrelevant.

They're irrelevant when it comes to this issue. God is God, and he is not looking for any suggestions on how the end of the world should go down. And he's certainly not concerned with whether or not his plans meet with our approval. Furthermore, our feelings have absolutely no bearing on what is and is not true because the truth does not bend to our will or our opinions if you want to pursue the truth in any field. You must check your feelings at the door.

And then the third bad reason to allegories, a text. I don't understand it. Doesn't make sense. To allegories, a biblical text, because we don't understand it is quite simply pure hubris, it is absolute arrogance because it means that we've esteemed ourselves so highly that we're willing to claim, well, if I can't understand it, then there's only one possible explanation. It cannot be understood. Therefore, it must be allegorical or something like that. This approach leaves no room for the simple explanation that we might not know everything.

We might not know everything, there might be knowledge that we have yet to acquire that if we did would open and unlock our understanding of the text without having to reduce it to a vague metaphor. There are good reasons to not view a text, literally, but the three reasons I just mentioned are not good reasons. Unfortunately, they're probably the most popular reasons for not taking biblical prophecy literally. I want to say one more thing regarding the perspective of those who say I believe that revelation is allegorical.

And in order to understand John's figurative language, you have to be well versed in the ancient Near Eastern apocalyptic literature of John's day. And if you're not, you're really just wasting your time trying to make sense of revelation. And my problem with that philosophically. Is that that type of thinking implies that God has chosen to limit and withhold the ability to understand the Book of Revelation from ninety nine point nine percent of Christians who have lived over the past 2000 years, because it implies that those poor Christians who weren't blessed with an academically elite pastor had no hope of understanding the Book of Revelation.

When we read the Bible, when we read the Gospels, do we encounter Jesus conducting his ministry or the Holy Spirit empowering the church based on intellectual merit? No, it's not how the kingdom of God works. This view implies that when missionaries plant churches and when we share the gospel with people who don't know Jesus, we might as well be handing out Bibles where all the texts related to the end times are removed. We might as well save a little weight in a few pages by pulling out the Book of Revelation because they're not going to be able to understand it unless they have somebody who has a seminary degree and some academic expertize in ancient Near Eastern apocalyptic literature.

And because I don't want to give it all away, I'll also just tell you that this view is incompatible with the first three verses of Revelation, which we'll discuss in our next study. Listen, certainly knowing historical literature, knowing archeology and all those cultural things add a richness and they can add new layers to our understanding of scripture, but the truth remains that the Bible and Bible prophecy were written for all believers. They were written for believers in places where all they have is a Bible, not even one commentary.

The Bible is for them as well. And if Jesus's selection of the disciples tells us anything, it's that he doesn't need highly educated men to get his message across. Praise God, you and I do not need to be highly educated in order to understand the message of the scriptures and even Bible prophecy. The Bible tells us that the word of God makes wise even the simple, I don't know about you, but I'm so glad that the word of God was written even for the simple, because it means there's some hope for me.

This is the last subject I'm going to talk about here. Then we're going to wrap this up. I want to talk about how to evaluate your current eschatology, how to evaluate your current beliefs about the end times. I want to talk about some questions you can ask and approaches you can take that will help you determine the integrity of your current eschatological views. Firstly, every view of end times prophecy takes some of the text. Literally, every view and every view takes some of the text figuratively.

The percentages of each vary wildly based upon whichever view you take, but they all take some scripture literally and some figuratively. Whatever your current view, here's the first thing you need to be able to do. You need to explain why you view the parts of scripture as being literal that you do, and you need to be able to explain why you view the parts of scripture figuratively that you do. And when it comes to the parts that you take figuratively, the reasons can't be because it's too hard to believe it offends me or I don't understand it.

As we journey through Revelation, we're going to see and understand why we take some specific parts literally and why we take some parts figuratively. Why would you take the second coming of Christ literally, but hold the millennium to be mystical? What's the reasoning? What's the justification for that, especially when both of those things appear in the same chapter of the Bible? What is your justification and reasoning for switching gears and saying this is literal but this is figurative, even though they're pretty much next to each other in the same chapter?

Why allegories the rapture, but hold to a literal view of a new heaven and a new earth? You got to know why you believe that. Whatever your view, does it pass this test? Can you explain why you take some parts figuratively and why you take others literally? And if you're saying I don't I don't know. I don't know. Listen, that's a good thing. That's a good thing because all of us need to be willing to recognize where we do and do not have a solid understanding on different areas of the Bible and theology.

I am rock solid, 100 percent sure of my belief in the essentials of Christianity. Jesus dying in my place on the cross, rising from the grave in my place, the security of my salvation, being by faith in Jesus alone and all those sorts of things. But there are non-essential areas of scripture and theology that I'm not 100 percent sure about yet. There are some areas where I'm 50 percent sure about my view, to be honest. Others where I'm 60, 70, 80, 90 percent sure.

I'm still working a lot of stuff out. There are a lot of theological areas where I want to read more, I want to study more. I want to have more conversations because I'm not satisfied with the current understanding that I have. And that's OK. That's OK. But we need to be honest and realistic about where we are in our views. And if you're only 10 percent sure of your views of the end times, it's a good thing to know that you're only 10 percent sure, because if you think you're 100 percent sure, then you're really not going to be open to hearing anything else.

I'm not trying to pick a fight with anybody. I'm just trying to provoke us into asking good questions about our current beliefs. And I want to propose another test for any eschatological view. And I suggest to you that that this test will allow you to conclude which view of the end times is most accurate. In fact, this is a test, an approach that will help you evaluate any area of theological study, any belief system related to the Bible.

If you're trying to evaluate different views on soteriology, the theology of salvation, new mythology, the theology of the Holy Spirit, or in this instance, eschatology, the theology of the end times, this test will help you evaluate the different belief systems in those areas of theology. Here's the simple test. Does the view, does the doctrine, does the position, does that perspective work everywhere in the Bible? Does it work everywhere? You see, one's eschatology has to be affirmed, not contradicted by the rest of scripture.

In other words, if a doctrine is true, it will make sense everywhere that it shows up in the Bible. It won't work only in the New Testament, but not in the Old Testament. It won't work well with the writings of Paul, but not so well with the writings of Jesus. If it's true, it'll work everywhere in the Bible. And I'd like to emphasize that it will work well, because sometimes there are some positions where people will say, well, there's there's not a direct contradiction here between my view and this verse, but there is what I would call textual contortionists.

And these are explanations and perspectives where you're looking at a verse in the Bible, but you're really having to stretch its meaning, you're having to twist it. You're having to contort and manipulate the text and put it through some elaborate machinations in order to make it harmonize with the doctrine that you hold. So when you're evaluating these different theological views, that's good to ask. Which view works better across the whole text of the Bible? But then also, which view allows for the plainest reading of scripture?

Which view requires the least textual contortion, the least twisting and stretching of scriptures, which one just makes the most sense and works best everywhere in the Bible, the subject shows up. While there are end times, prophecies all over the Bible, there are four super texts. I call them super texts that any serious student of Bible prophecy must study. That's right. When we're done revelation, you've begun your journey to understanding the end times, but there's more work to do if you want to be a serious student of Bible prophecy.

Your starting point is studying the Book of Revelation, the epistles of First and Second Thessalonians. The Olivet Discourse, which was taught by Jesus in Matthew 24 to 25, Mark 13 and Luke 21, and then you also need to study the back half of the book of Daniel. And so the most accurate eschatological view is going to be the one that best harmonizes all of those texts that works best in all of those places in scripture. Hopefully you're still with me.

And hopefully we can agree that beginning with a literal approach to the text is the most logical approach, because that's what we're going to do. We're going to start with a literal approach, depart from it when there is good reason to do so. And then we're going to see where that gets us. Your homework this week is to get a journal, to get a notebook. That's just a good thing to have as a Christian anyway. And I want to challenge you to write down any questions that you have about the end times, anything that you would really like to grow in your understanding of that.

You would love the Lord to show you, write down all those questions and then begin praying into that. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see, ears to hear and to open your understanding of his word. And then let's just see how faithful God is going to be as we study through the scriptures to begin to answer all those questions for you. If you'll do that, I think you'll find that your faith is going to be really deeply built up through this series.

So that's your homework. Last Sunday, our church heard testimonies from six different people whose lives have been forever changed by Jesus. And then we experience the joy of watching them be baptized. You know, for me, baptisms are like attending a wedding because they take my mind back to the time when I went through that same ritual. I remember where I was, who was there and how it happened. I was baptized in Cape Town, South Africa, in a poorer pool in a church, which is a little portable pool that has like wire mesh around the outside.

And the pool was heated with bare metal rods connected to electricity. So if anyone to touch the water while they were heating it, they probably would have died. But it worked. And that's the situation that I was baptized in. And it was it was wonderful. I remember it vividly. And last Sunday, I was thinking about what I would say to the 11 year old me if I could go back in time to the day that I was baptized.

And and I realized that what I would say is, listen, Jeff, as wonderful and as good and as loving and as kind and as gracious as you think God is right now. I want to let you know that he's even more of those things than you could ever possibly imagine, and you are going to experience his goodness in the years to come over and over and over again in ways that will move you to tears. And as we get ready to undertake this study of the Book of Revelation, the one thing I would say to you is that however good you think God's plans are for those who love him.

The truth is they're even better. He's even better, and so we're going to close with these precious words from Jesus to his disciples in John Chapter 14. I love these verse is so much. They're all in your outline. Jesus says let your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also. And where I go, you know. And the way you know. Thomas said to him, Lord, we do not know where you're going and how can we know the way Jesus said to him. I am the way the truth. And the life. Did you buy your head and close your eyes and pray with me?

Jesus, thank you for the good plans that you have in store for your church. Thank you. That they are more glorious than we could possibly wrap our heads around. And, Lord, as we embark on the study of the Book of Revelation, I thank you for the way that you were going to build our faith, the way that we are going to be blessed as we encounter and receive new and fresh, glorious revelation of who you are and what your plans are for our world.

And we thank you that as we look out our window and see a world descending into chaos, the truth is really that everything is coming together and everything is on schedule and everything is unfolding according to your plans. And it's your desire to share those plans with us because you love us, because you've chosen to call us friends. We love you for it and we can't wait to learn about all that you have in store. Jesus, we bless you in your precious name, we pray Amen.

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