First Thoughts about Last Things

First Thoughts about Last Things

“First Thoughts about Last Things”

(Revelation 1:1-3)

Series: Understanding The Book Of Revelation

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Church, Henderson KY

5-21-06 (AM)


  • Let me invite you to take your Bible and turn to the book of Revelation.


Revelation is an easy book to find.  Just go to the very end of the Bible and you’ll find it.  It’s appropriate that Revelation is found at the end of the Bible because it is a book about the end, about end times, about last things.  The big fancy theological word for the study of end times or last things is the word “eschatology,” the study of the eschaton, or the end of the age.


This morning we’re beginning a new series of messages in our Sunday morning worship services entitled, “Understanding the Book of Revelation.”  Lord willing, we will make our way, verse-by-verse through the 22 chapters of this great book.  The choosing of the series title is very intentional.  I could have gone with something like, “The Second Coming of Jesus Christ,” or, “Our Coming King,” or, “What the World is Coming to,” and so forth.  But I have chosen the simple title, “Understanding the Book of Revelation” because I think most Christians would really like to understand the book of Revelation and I believe God wants us to understand this book.


There has been a lot of interesting conjecturing concerning the contents of Revelation over the years, especially since a popular book came out over 35 years ago.  The book was Hal Lindsey’s 1970 first edition of The Late Great Planet Earth.  In many ways, the publishing of that book ushered in a new genre of popular American Christian literature and movies on the end times.  When one reads the first edition of Lindsey’s book, he cannot help but think that Lindsey believes the Lord will return before the end of the 1980s.  Lindsey dated a generation as 40 years and believed that 40 years after the Jews returned to Israel in 1948, the Lord would come again.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  I think a lot of the success of end-times discussions during the 1980s was aided by the ongoing cold war and the threat of nuclear disaster.


Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, published a book entitled, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.  And most of us can readily conclude that he, too, was wrong.  I remember in the 1980s some were even saying that Ronald Reagan was the antichrist because his full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, contains six letters each, hence: 666, the number of the beast.  So there was a lot of this conjecturing over numbers and numbering systems, and so forth.


It reminds me of the three old men who had gone to the doctor for a memory test.  The doctor asked the first old man, “What is one plus one?”  He said, “Two hundred seventy-four.”  The doctor said to the second man, “It’s your turn. What is one plus one?”  He said, “Tuesday.”  The doctor then turned to the third man, “Okay, your turn. What’s one plus one?”  He said, “Two.”  The doctor said, “That’s great!”  He said, “How did you get that?”  The third man said, “Simple.  I just subtracted 274 from Tuesday!”


My prayer is that we’ll avoid that kind of reasoning as we study this book together.  I have a conviction that God wants us to understand this book.  In the words of the hymn-writer William Cowper, “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.”


  • Please stand in honor of the reading of the word of God.


1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

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

3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.


  • Pray.




My message is entitled, “First Thoughts about Last Things.”  I am taking the occasion of this first message to present an introductory overview of the book.


So before we talk about the main points that come out of these verses, let me make a few general remarks about the book.  First it is the book of Revelation.  Singular!  Second, the author of the book of Revelation is identified for us as John.  You see it there in verse one: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.  And He sent and signified it by His angel to whom?  To His servant John.”


This John is the same John who wrote the Gospel According to John, and the letters of first, second, and third John.  The book tells us later that John is writing from the island of Patmos, and island in the Aegean Sea, about 70 miles Southwest of Ephesus.  John is being held there as an exile.  He is exiled to Patmos during the latter part of the reign of the evil Roman Emperor Domitian, who ruled from AD 81-96.  This places the date of the book of Revelation somewhere between AD 90-96.


Christians in John’s day were facing fierce persecution.  The Christian church began to feel week and vulnerable.  Some even began to compromise their convictions.  The purpose of the book of Revelation is primarily to encourage these Christians and to remind them that Jesus Christ is the Victorious King who is, indeed, coming again to right all wrongs and to reign on earth.  While the primary audience was the early Christians of Asia Minor, the audience includes Christians of all time periods.


There are three main sections of the book identified from verse 19 of chapter one.  You see there in 1:19: past (chapter 1), “things which you have seen,” present (chapters 2-3), “things which are,” and Future (chapters 4-22), “things which shall be.”  Now, later, chapters 6-19 deal with a time known as “the tribulation.”  Basically you have in chapters 6-19 three series of judgments.  They are three series of seven judgments: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.



Now, next week I plan to provide you with a couple of handouts that illustrate one way you can outline the chapters of the book as well as a chart contrasting the various ways scholars have interpreted its contents.  I am going to be presenting what is known as the futurist view and, more specifically, the premillennial view.  The premillennial view asserts that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return before a time period known as the millennium.  Jesus Christ will return prior to the 1,000 year reign described in chapter 20.  More about that later.


I have already said that I believe God wants us to understand the book of Revelation.  He wants us to really know what He is teaching here in this book.  He doesn’t want us to get lost in the details.  I’ve told you before about the man who drove into a large city looking for Main Street.  Having difficulty finding it, and realizing he was lost, he noticed a boy standing on the street and called out to him: “Young man, do you know where Main Street is?”  The little boy shook his head and said, “No.”  The man asked, “Well, do you know where First Street is?”  Again, the little boy nonchalantly shook his head and said, “No.”  Getting a little frustrated, the man asked, “Well, do you know where this road leads?”  And again, the little boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “No.”  Exasperated, the man shouted, “Boy, do you know anything!?”  The little boy said, “I know I’m not lost.”


God doesn’t want us to get lost in the details of this book.  He wants us to really know, to really understand this book.  After I finished getting my outline together in my study time, I noticed that two of my favorite preachers, Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines, had very similar outlines.  That encouraged me not so much because it put me in the same camp as those guys, but because it shows how plain these points are in these first three verses; that anyone could find them.


**What God Wants Us to Know About Revelation:


I.  The Principal Person of the book (1)


1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ,


That says it all, “the revelation of Jesus Christ!”  Jesus is the principal person of the book.  I shared with you a moment ago that the author of the book is John.  For that reason, some of the King James Versions of the Bible have a title at the top of the page: “The Revelation of St. John, the Divine.”  But this book is not a revelation of John.  It is a revelation of Jesus Christ.


The word “revelation” is the Greek word “apocalypse.”  While that word typically brings to mind synonyms such as disaster, destruction, day of reckoning, and so forth, the Greek word literally means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.”  So it’s helpful here to read the first verse, “The unveiling of Jesus Christ.”


When I was in Nashville last year at the Southern Baptist Convention they were going to show everyone a prototype of a statue made in honor of Billy Graham.  So they had this miniature statue down there on the platform and it had a veil over it.  Before unveiling the statue they showed a video about the life of Billy Graham.  And after the video, the anticipation heightened as the lights turned upon that small figure there on the platform covered up with a veil.  Then, at just the right moment, someone removed the veil and everyone could see this beautiful statue of Billy Graham.  That’s the idea here in the first verse.  The revelation of Jesus Christ is the unveiling of Christ that the world may see His glory and splendor.


When Jesus came the first time, much of His glory was veiled.  He came as this humble carpenter from the obscure town of Nazareth.  Many people in his hometown rejected Him because he was just a “local boy,” nothing special about Him.  His family rejected Him.  The Jews, at large, rejected Him.  His glory is veiled.  You see that as you read through the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And then little, by little, it becomes increasingly apparent to His disciples that this Jesus of Nazareth is more than a man.


And when you get to that incredible event on the Mount of Transfiguration, for just a few moments Peter, James, and John see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ unveiled as brilliant white light shines right through the body of Jesus Christ.


But in large part, the glory of Jesus was veiled during His first coming.  When He comes again, things will be very different.  He came the first time in humiliation.  He will come the second time in exaltation.  He came the first time in a humble stable in Bethlehem.  He will come the second time in unveiled glory from heaven, coming with His mighty angels.


The principal person in the book is Jesus Christ.  And let me say again that Jesus Christ is the principal person of every book of the Bible.  I’ve said more than once that the Bible is a “Him” book.  It is about Him.


The Old Testament saints were saved the same way you and I are saved.  Not by our works, but by grace through faith.  We look back 2,000 years to the cross and see God’s Son.  The Old Testament saints, such as David and Solomon looked ahead 2,000 years to the cross.  In faith, they believed God would send His messiah and by faith looked ahead to that promise.  And in faith, you and I believe God sent His messiah and look back to Calvary.  Salvation is the same in both Testaments, Old and New.  Our salvation is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Him.


And this book is about Him.  He is the principal person of the book.  The unveiling of Jesus Christ.  Now, the Greek construction there can mean both an unveiling “about” Jesus Christ and an unveiling “from” Jesus Christ.  Jesus is at once the One unveiled and the One doing the unveiling.  This brings us to the second point in our discussion.  Not only does God want us to know the principal person of the book but secondly, God wants us to know


II.  The Prophetic Purpose of the book (1-2)


The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,

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


The “unveiling” of Jesus Christ God gave to Jesus Christ to show His servants—Christians—to show them what?  “things which must shortly take place.”


The book of Revelation is about “things which must shortly take place.”  The book of Revelation is a prophecy.  It unveils the glory of Jesus Christ by telling about God’s program through future events.  Remember the structure from verse 19.  The Lord Jesus says to John, “write the things which you have seen” (Past; Chapter one), and the things which are (Present; Chapters two and three), and the things which will take place after this (Future; Chapters four through twenty-two).


The book of Revelation is about “things which must shortly take place.”  First, they “must” take place.  They must.  God is guiding the events of history.  Nothing happens by mere chance.  Nothing will hinder God’s purposes.  These things absolutely must take place and God will see to it that they do.  And these things must “shortly” take place.  That is, they will take place soon.  The faithful early Christians looked for the Lord’s return to happen soon.  They prepared for His coming.


We are to live the same way today.  We must always live our lives in such a way that we are ready for the Lord’s return.  Some will say, “Well, a lot of time has past since the Lord’s first coming.  He doesn’t seem to be in any hurry.”  Well, He’s not in any hurry.  He knows the exact time.  Remember these things “must” take place.  Someone says, “Why has He not yet come?”


That’s the same question Peter addresses in 2 Peter 3:8-9.  He says, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack (slow) concerning His promise, as some count slackness (understand slowness), but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”


God has planned the exact moment that our Lord Jesus Christ will return and His return will happen at a time we do not expect.  Peter says to the Lord a thousand years to us is just a day to God.  He is not bound by our time table.  He’s operating on His own.  So Peter says God is not slow in fulfilling His promise.  If it seems to you that much time has past as we await our Lord’s return, Peter says understand that this delay is because of the loving grace of God who is allowing the delay that more people should come to repentance and be saved.  Don’t toy with the time God is giving you.  Be about the business of preparing to meet our Lord.  Make sure you are ready and make sure your family, friends, and acquaintances are ready.


Then the Bible says about this revelation in verse one that Jesus “sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”


It’s best to read that word “signified” as “sign-ified.”  Did you catch that?  Sign-ified.  The revelation or unveiling of Jesus Christ through prophetic future events is given by way of symbols and signs.  That may be for two reasons.  One, it may be that because of the fierce persecution of John’s day that biblical truth was given in symbols so that those doing the persecution wouldn’t understand what it was about.  After all, the revelation is given to Christ’s “servants,” not to just anyone.


But it may also be that the contents of the book of Revelation, the unveiling of Jesus Christ through future events, was given in symbols and signs because it was the best means to convey spiritual truth.  The unveiling of future events may be difficult to convey in just words.  Have you ever caught a glimpse of something you just could not describe?  You end up saying, “Well, you just had to be there.”  That may be what John encountered as he was presented the unveiling of future events.  So with God’s help we will be interpreting these symbols and signs in the weeks ahead.


God wants us to know the principal Person of the book.  God wants us to know the prophetic purpose of the book.  And thirdly, God wants us to know


III.  The Precious Promise of the book (3)


The book of Revelation is the only book of the Bible with this precious promise.  Look at it again there in verse 3:


3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.


This verse shows that the early Christians assembled on the Lord’s day for the public reading of Scripture.  The preacher would come before the people with the Bible and would read the Bible and give the sense of the passage read.  So blessed is he who reads (the pastor) and those who hear the words (the congregation).  I am blessed as I read and you are blessed as you hear the words of this prophecy.


This book is a blessing to read.  Isn’t it ironic, then, that it is the one book of the Bible that is so often not read?  I got to thinking about that this week, and I thought about some of the reasons we don’t read this book.  One reason may be, quite frankly, that we don’t read it because we don’t understand it.  And one of the reasons we don’t understand it is because we really don’t know our Bibles well, especially the Old Testament.  It’s interesting: John never quotes the Old Testament insofar as chapter and verse is concerned, but he alludes to and makes reference to the Old Testament somewhere around 300 times.  Some scholars even estimate that as much as 75% of the book of Revelation is to be understood by knowing the Old Testament.


But I also thought that one of the reasons we do not read Revelation is perhaps owing to spiritual warfare.  The devil doesn’t want us reading this book.  He doesn’t want us to be blessed.  And this book prophesies his doom.  Revelation is the final book that records the final days of Satan.


The book of Genesis is a book of beginnings.  The book of Revelation is a book of endings.  In Genesis we have the entrance of sin.  In Revelation we have the ending of sin.  In Genesis the devil enters as one destroying.  In Revelation he exits as one destroyed.  Satan doesn’t want you reading this book.  He doesn’t want you to be blessed.  So he’ll do what he can to keep you from reading it.  He’ll do his best to keep you from coming to these morning worship services to hear the preaching of this book.


But if you and I go through this book a blessing will follow.  Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy—but not just reading and hearing!  The Bible says “and keep those things which are written in it.”  In other words, we must obey what we read here in the Book of Revelation.


God wants us to know the precious promise of this book.  I am praying for a great blessing to follow our preaching through this book.  I am praying for a spiritual harvest of committed believers to the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of our studying this book together.  So invite the folks you work with to come be with us.  Invite your un-churched friends and acquaintances.  Let’s get ready to receive the precious promise of this book; a great spiritual blessing as we read and hear the words of this prophecy because, as verse three ends, “the time is near.”


Conclusion / Invitation:


The time is near.  That statement is meant to encourage Christians.  The time is near.  Hang in there.  Jesus Christ is coming again.  You’re going to make it.  Stay the course.  But the phrase also applies as a warning.  The time is near.  Be ready.  Make sure you are spiritually prepared for the events in this book that will unfold before your very eyes.  Be ready when our Lord returns.


As I was driving to the hospital the other day, God impressed upon my mind the need to be spiritually prepared at all times.  The Lord may not return again for several years, perhaps even decades.  The odds are that most of us will die before He returns.  When we die we will face an immediate judgment whereby our souls will go immediately either to heaven or to hell.  Immediately.  There is no “soul sleep” or purgatory.  The Bible teaches that our souls go immediately to one of two locations.


Are you ready to meet the Lord, whether He returns first, or whether you die first?  Can I say that there is no more important question than that?  James 4:14 says that you and I do not even know what tomorrow brings.  James says your life is like a vapor.  Your life is like the upward steam from a hot cup of coffee.  You see it for a moment and then it is gone.  Your life is like that.  You see it for a moment and then it is gone.  That’s why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Now is the time.  Today is the day of salvation.”


Some of you do not have peace with God and if you leave this morning that way you are taking the chance that you’ll live another day.  “I’ll make peace with God another day.”  No!  Don’t delay.  Your life is a vapor.  It will be over very soon.  Now is the time.  Today is the day of salvation.  Come by faith this morning to Jesus Christ and be saved, for the time is near.


  • Stand for prayer.


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