Unveiling of the Bride – Rev 21:9-10

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God – Revelation 21:9-10 ESV

The last two chapters of Revelation are primarily concerned with a description of the new Jerusalem, the Holy City. While this city is not directly linked to the Babylon that occupied chapters 17 & 18, the contrast between them is hard to miss. Babylon, the great prostitute that feeds on the blood of the saints and is destroyed by God. And Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, glorious and radiant, the dwelling place of God and the saints.

Jerusalem is described as if she were a physical city descending to the new earth, an immense and glorious city. This city is directly linked to both the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament, encompassing all of God’s people. And dwelling within the city is both God the Father and the Lamb.

But is this really a city? The angel tells John he is going to show him the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, and then shows him this city descending from heaven. I don’t believe the Lamb is marrying a city. Rather this description of the city is a metaphoric description of the church, the bride of Christ, who has been prepared and purified and is now ready for marriage (Eph. 5:27). We will not be walking on streets of gold, we will be the golden streets (1 Pet. 1:7), as well as the other living materials used to form the Bride.

Which city will you be a part of? Babylon? Or Jerusalem?

A Millennium Kingdom? – Rev 20:4

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. – Revelation 20:4 ESV

The millennium kingdom; Christ’s reign with tribulation martyrs for a thousand years. The major categories of how people understand the end times are identified by how one understands these 6 verses. Is it a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth that happens after his second coming? Is it a spiritual reign on earth leading up to his return? Is it something else all together? Or is it really all that important what we believe it to mean? Personally I tend toward the latter view because the rest of the Bible gives me no help in understanding this passage; and if it was critical, I would expect it to be more clearly taught elsewhere.

What is important? Christ is returning to claim his chosen ones, including those who have physically died while waiting for his return, and we will be with him forever. Those who have not come to Christ in faith will face judgement and eternal destruction. Just how a millennium kingdom might be wedged into that is unknown to me. I tend toward not taking it as a literal 1000 reign on earth because 1) I don’t find it taught elsewhere in Scripture, 2) I don’t understand how to fit it into what I see the rest of Scripture teaching about Christ’s return, and 3) it is hard for me to picture what purpose it would serve. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what I believe about it. God will do what he has planned. So thankful that he is in charge and not me.

Carrying Out God’s Purpose – Rev 17:17

And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. – Revelation 17:16-17 ESV

It would be easy to miss this ‘behind the scenes look’ at what is happening in Revelation. Much of what is going on happens at God’s direction. But there are other actors, like the dragon and the beast, who appear to be acting in opposition to God. Yet in this passage we see that God’s purpose is being accomplished even in the actions of those who are opposing him.

Chapter 17 describes a prostitute sitting on a seven headed beast with ten horns. The chapter describes the prostitute along with the heads and horns of the beast, and there are any number of explanations as to who they represent. But what is clear is that the prostitute is not very nice, is leading the world astray, and is drunk on the blood of the saints. The ten horns make war on the Lamb and are defeated and then seem, in union with the beast, to turn on the prostitute and destroy her. And they do this because God puts it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose.

I do not believe in divine determinism, that God directs and causes every action that occurs throughout the universe. But I do believe that God has a purpose that he is directing creation toward, and that he uses people and nations to accomplish that purpose. And that is clearly seen here as even the beast (the Antichrist) and those associated with him, are unknowingly working to carry out the purpose of the one they are trying to overthrow. That should give encouragement to us when we see the world getting worse and worse. God is really in control, and is using all that happens for his ultimate good.

Bowls of Wrath – Rev 16:1

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” – Revelation 16:1 ESV

In chapter 15, seven angels are given seven plagues that will finish the wrath of God. And in chapter 16 the angels are told to pour out their bowls of wrath onto the earth. Five of these plagues describe what appears to be environmental disaster, the sixth is massive conflict and with the seventh the earth itself convulses mightily. What are these plagues? Are they directly and suddenly caused by God? Or are they, especially the first five, describing ongoing environmental deterioration caused by humanity? I really don’t know. But what is clear is that ultimately God is behind this disaster, and that it is an expression of his wrath against a rebellious humanity. A rebellious humanity that will refuse to repent (vv. 9, 11), and will curse God for what is happening (v. 21).

We should not be fooled into thinking that the world will go on forever and that life on earth will continue to improve. If we take nothing else away from Revelation, we should realize that God will hold humanity accountable for our rebellion against him, and that judgement is coming. How or in what form that judgement will come is secondary. That it is coming and that we need to be ready is of primary importance.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).

Conquering by the Blood – Rev 12:11

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Revelation 12:10-11 ESV

We generally think of Satan as a tempter looking for ways to keep us from Christ, or to cause us to stumble in our walk with Christ. But here he is pictured as one who accuses us before God. While Jesus elsewhere is pictured as our Advocate (1 John 2:1), or defense attorney, Satan here is pictured on the other side of the heavenly courtroom as the prosecuting attorney. And in this courtroom scene we find that we are able to overcome the accuser by two pieces of evidence. The first is the blood of the Lamb, the blood that washes away my sin. The second piece of evidence presented in my defense is my testimony, representing a life transformed by the blood of the Lamb and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Regardless what Satan may do, or accuse us of, we have victory over him, not because of ourselves, but because of what Jesus did for us, and is doing in us.

The Last Trumpet – Rev 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15 ESV

The past few chapters of Revelation, as well as many of those yet to come, are filled with images of judgement and/or the activity of the evil one. But the five verses starting with this one are a bright ray of hope; at least for God’s people. The seventh trumpet blast announces a divine takeover of the earth and the beginning of Christ’s reign, not for 1000 years, but for eternity.

It is interesting that in three other places in the New Testament we see trumpets sounding at the end. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the trumpet call of God accompanies Christ’s return to gather his elect. In Matthew 24:31 a trumpet call also accompanies the gathering of the elect. And in 1 Corinthians 15:52, the last trumpet sounds to announce the resurrection of believers. Is the trumpet in this passage the same as the other three? Many will say no because the timing is contrary to their view of end times. But they sure seem to be the same to me. All four trumpet passages announce a transformation, the transformation from this life into eternity. The transformation of believers from mortal flesh to immortality, and the transformation of this earth from the old to the new (Rev 21:1-2).

And this is the hope that we have in Christ; a hope that we should be eagerly looking forward to; and a hope that can sustain us in the challenges and difficulties inherent in this life. Hold onto that hope. Never let it go.

Reading and Keeping the Words of this Prophecy – Rev 1:3

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. – Rev. 1:3 ESV

To me, Revelation is the most difficult book to understand in the New Testament. If you were to read 20 commentaries on the book you would likely come away with 30 different understandings of some parts of it. As a young man I invested an inordinate amount of time in studying this book, and thought I had it mostly figured out. As an old man I do not invest much time in it and feel like I generally have no clue what much of it is about.

But, as confusing as Revelation may be, and as tempting as it may be to skip over it when reading through the Bible, John cautions us against that. Blessed are those who read aloud and who hear the words of the prophecy. This was written at a time when few people would have copies of the Scriptures, and most people would listen as it was read to them. But still, blessed are those who open up their Bibles to Revelation and read it. And not just read it, but also keep those words that they read.

How does one go about keeping the words of Revelation? Often ‘keep’ is used in the sense of obedience, but that would be challenging here since there is not all that much instruction for daily life. But ‘keep’ also has the sense of holding onto, as expressed in Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Read the words of this prophecy and hold them in your heart and mind. It may be confusing and scary in places, but if you read the ‘back of the book’ you will find that those in Christ ultimately come out on top.

Looking Forward to a New Creation – 2 Peter 3:11-13

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:11b-13 NIV

We all have things we look forward to: birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, vacations, retirement, marriage, grandkids, and so on. But how much do we look forward to the end of the world? According to Peter we should be. This world and all it contains is temporary and is facing destruction at some time in the future. But the good news is that its destruction makes way for a new and improved heaven and earth. In some ways it is like demolishing an old run down shack and replacing it with a mansion. As believers we should be looking forward to our new home. And as we do, we should live holy and godly lives now, which in some way serves to speed up the date of the remodel.