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A VISION FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW Revelation [Series]

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GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

1. THE WORD TO EPHESUS

Passage: Revelation 2: 1 - 7

 

 

 


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

2 THE WORD TO SMYRNA

Passage: Revelation 2:8‑11

Introduction: This is the shortest of the seven letters. Smyrna was one of the most important cities of the province, rivalling with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title of "First of Asia". It was beautiful and large and a model of town planning. At the ends of its famous Golden Street stood the temples to Cybele and Zeus while along it were located temples to Apollo, Ascelepius and Aphrodite. It was extremely wealthy. It fervently followed Rome and was a great centre of Emperor worship, being the first to have the privilege of building a temple in honour of Tiberius Caesar. It also contained a large Jewish population, fanatically anti‑Christian.

l. Their Confidence (8):

Here is the basis of their assurance in the midst of a hostile environment, in the face of their own fears, hesitations and uncertainty. See how  the reigning Lord identifies himself. It relates back to the introductory vision (1:17,18). It also relates to the specific thrust of the message to the Church. It is not civic pride or the imperial cult which is first. He is first. He was before them all. He will endure after them all. He is Lord. He overcame death itself and is indeed the ever‑living one.

* DISCUSSION: Share what it means to you that Jesus is the first and the last ‑ the Living One.

2. Their Condition (9):

“I know your afflictions and poverty”, says the Lord. Is this an echo of Israel in Egypt when the Lord says he has seen their trouble and heard their cries? God cares about us. Their tribulation and poverty is certainly bound up with their Christian  faith and lack of money. In such a situation they are the minority, disadvantaged, deprived, powerless and vulnerable. Yet they are "rich" ‑ in the things of God, in faith, love and hope, in grace and in the Spirit. Whatever else we might or might not have, are we rich in these things? They, not their accusers, are the true Israel. Can you think of a verse in the Gospel or from Paul that would bear that up? The opposing Jews are "a synagogue of Satan" ‑ opposing rather than loyal, false rather than true.

* DISCUSSION: Like believers in Smyrna what are the pressures on the Church today to conform to the society and culture in which we are placed?

 

3. Their Continuance (10‑11):

Difficult times are predicted ‑ harassment, imprisonment, even possibly death. Notice the phrase "ten days" implies limited duration. They are urged to maintain their discipleship and their testimony ‑"Be faithful unto death". The one who urges such fidelity is himself the victor. He will help them. The promise is sure. “I will give you the crown (stephanos) of life”. This is the garland which signifies victory, joy and faithful service. Such faithful overcoming means that not even the second death can touch us.

* DISCUSSION: Listen to what the Spirit is saying! In what specific areas do you think the Spirit is calling us today to be faithful unto death?


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

3. THE WORD TO PERGAMUM

Passage:   Revelation 2:12 ‑ 17

Introduction: Rivalled by both Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamum was in fact the Roman provincial capital. One commentator says: "If Ephesus was the New York of Asia, Pergamum was its Washington! It was the political power base of the region. It had a magnificent library, excelled only by that of Alexandria. Because of the fame of the Temple  of Asclepios and the pilgrims who came seeking healing, the city has been called "the Lourdes of the Province of Asia". Other temples honoured Dionysius, Athena, Demeter as well as Zeus. Morever, Pergamum was a notable centre of emperor worship having, some say, three temples for this purpose. Thus Pergamum exemplefies “an alternative society” to the Kingdom of God, catering for the body, mind and spirit. Throughout all the machinery of the State, the political institution, the Spirit of Rome was the dominant heart‑beat.

1. The Tribute the Church received (12‑13):

The Lord who addresses his own is described as having "the sharp two‑edged sword"‑ a symbol of authority and judgement. (Rome had given to Pergamum the rare power of capital punishment). Thus the glorified Lord is the One who, ultimately, has the power of life and death over people. Note 1:16 ‑ the sharp two-edged sword is equated with the words/message Christ utters [cf. later in 2:16]. They are commended [13] for their faithfulness in a difficult situation - “I know where you dwell”.

·        See the reference not only to Satan's presence ("where Satan dwells") but to Satan's power and authority (“Satan's throne”). Again we are reminded of Eph.6:12ff. Some have seen the throne concept as being a reference to the physical description of the City built on a hill dominating the plain, or to the cult of Asklepios, whose sign was the serpent or to the fact of Caesar‑worship.

·     See the reference to persecution and the death of Antipas. Note how he is described and  compare with 1:5!

·        See the reference to their loyalty. They held fast "my name" and did not deny/renounce “my faith”. They held up under pressure.

DISCUSSION: How would you describe the pressures of our environment today in Aotearoa New Zealand? How can we show we hold fast His name?

2. The Tolerance they condoned (14‑15):

"But I have a few things against you", recalls the word to Ephesus, although there is a marked difference in the content. Satan is truly at work. He not only persecutes, he deceives ‑ hence the reference to Balaam (cf Judges 31:16; 25:1‑3). The Church not only suffers, it is seduced from the truth. The distinction between the Church and the world becomes blurred. Can there be too much tolerance in the Church and not enough firm discipline? Remember Matthew 5:13. To effect a working compromise with the world undercuts Kingdom‑effectiveness. The call to "repent" means the faithful must take action to reprove and restore the erring. Otherwise the Lord himself will come to judge the faithless. (Note the use of "you" and "them" in 16).

DISCUSSION: "How narrow is the safe path between the sin of tolerance and the sin of intolerance?" - Comments.


3. The Triumph the Church is promised (17):

Listen to what the Spirit is saying. Those who persevere, the faithful, the overcomers, will receive ‑

·        “the hidden manna” ‑ a  reference to partaking of the heavenly kingdom‑banquet, rather than pagan feasts.

·        “a white stone” - variously thought of as a vote for acquittal by a jury, or the symbol of a happy day, or a kind of ticket of admission to public banquets or entertainment, or eve, the symbol of victory in the Games.                Or even the symbol Of victor

·        “a new name” ‑ either refers to a new revelation of the divine name, or more likely, a new name for the person who receives it. Think of all the people who were given new names by God in the Bible as the sign of a new relationship with himself.

This is our future hope. We are secure in his victory and promise.

DISCUSSION: "Does all this make heaven sound like "pie in the sky”? How is our future hope a proper part of our faith?


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

4. THE WORD TO THYATIRA

Passage: Revelation 2:18‑29

Introduction: Some forty miles south east of Pergamum, on the overland route to Sardis, lay  the  town of Thyatira. Since its founding by Seleucus I, one of the four successors of Alexander the Great, it had served virtually as a military frontier garrison town. Originally settled by veteran Madedonian troops, the links with that country remained over the years. Thyatira had no natural fortifications and survived or held out only so long as the personal valour of its citizen‑soldiers lasted. The patron god of the city was Tyrimnos (represented on coins as a warrior on horseback armed with a battle‑axe) identified with Apollo the Sun god. Under the Roman peace and the political stability that followed, Thyatira grew and prospered. Not least among the variety of skills flourishing in the city were the manufacture of the famous purple dye and working in bronze. (Remember Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Europe ‑ Acts 16:14ff?) Of this word to Thyatira one commentator has said: “The longest and  most difficult of the letters is addressed to the least known, least important and least remarkable of the cities” .

 

1. The Devotion they have portrayed (18-19):

The one who knows their works is “the Son of God” - the only occurrence of this title in the whole Book. This dignity, and its attendant splendour (18 cf  1:14) does not belong to Apollo, or even, to the emperor. They are Christ's. The burning eyes discern the truth. They penetrate facades of falsehood. They see into situations. They see through motives. All this the word to the church will demonstrate. For all this word is one of the most solemn utterances any church could receive, notice how it begins with genuine praise. The “works” which are known are motivating forces,  and the results that follow them.

·    Love issues in ministry and service. Shouldn’t it always?

·        Faith leads on to and is demonstrated by “patient endurance” or “perseverence”. What is the link between faith and faithfulness?

·        The risen Lord goes on to praise the church for its continued progress. Its works are growing both in excellence and number. Here is a sign of life indeed!

DISCUSSION: Share with one another what evidence you would claim shows that your group or our church is “growing” in the things that matter.

2. The Danger they have permitted (20‑24):

"But I have this against you..." Strong words are used to alert them to the dangers of their situation. Have they been lulled into a false sense of security. Their danger is not from the outside, from society around them. It is insidiously growing from within. Like some dread disease working unseen ‑ even unsuspected within, the sure outcome is death. See the factors in this solemn warning:

* Indifference to wrong teaching. It is the content and tenor of  the message which is rebuked, not the sex of the messenger. The Jezebel reference (cf. 1 Kings 16:31 etc) is to

emphasize the results of such a thing. Such false teaching "beguiles" (RSV) and   “misleads” (GNB, NIV) the people who are described as "my servants". So there is a double   wrong ‑ falsehood is presented as truth, and such a ministry is a betrayal of the leader's   stewardship. Is there a lesson for us here today? They have been lured astray by talk of “the deep things” (cf24).

* Accommodation with the world, its attitudes and standards. What was being set forth was a first‑century brand of “holy worldliness” or “worldly holiness”. The prime factor behind it in Thyatira, persumably, was the trade-guild with its patron deity, feasts and attendant sexual immorality. Remember it was a matter of one's livelihood - no membership of the trade-guild meant no practising of one’s trade. What about the families of such people? Af ter all, an idol had no reality. What would it matter? Sound familiar?

* Necessity of repentance. ‘Jezebel’ has been given opportunity to repent of her error. Notice her stubborn self‑will - “She refuses to repent”. Her followers likewise must repent - acknowledge their error and return to the Lord and his truth.

* Prospect of Judgement - See verse 23 which has links with verse 18. The Son of God is both Saviour and Judge. He is the Lord.

DISCUSSION: What are the elements of truth in the idea of “holy worldliness”; and what are the elements of error?

3. The Diligence they must pursue (25-29):

They are to “hold fast” (25) what they have, both in terms of the foundational truths of the Christian message and the insights they have been given to misleading teaching and compromising actions. They are specifically reminded that the Lord will return again. They

have to overcome (26), and here it is described as keeping Christ’s works - ie steadfastness of belief and continuance in his will. Such Christian perseverence is 'until the end', whether by our death or by his return. The  overcomer receives “authority over nations” (literally ‘shepherding’). The morning star (28) refers either to Christ himself (cf 22:16) or to the resurrection hope (cf Dan.12:3?)

* DISCUSSION: Share with one another what you think we really need to hear from this word to the church (29).


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

5. THE WORD TO SARDIS

Passage: Revelation 3:1 ‑ 6

Introduction: Sarlis stood at the junction of five great arterial routes linking Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum with the high country of Asia Minor. It had been the ancient capital of the kingdom of Lydia, one of whose kings was Croesus (560 BC) and in his time modern money came into being. It was a cosmopolitan place and a by-word for pleasure, luxury and decadence. The city was noted for its acropolis, a virtually impregnable citadel with its nearly sheer cliff walls soaring 1500 feet above the lower valley. Other features of the city were the great temple to Artemis (Cybele) equalling in size the famous temple in Ephesus, and the impressive necropolis. Possible references to these notable 1andmarks may be seen in the word to the Church. Ramsay has written of Sardis: “It was a city whose name was almost synonymous with pretensions unjustified, promise unfulfilled, appearance without reality, confidence which heralded ruin.”

1. The Utter Complacency of the Church (1):

What a stirring indictment to receive: “I know your works; you have the have of being alive, and you are dead”. Not for this Church the pressures of society outside on even the perils within of the Balaam, the Jezebel or the Nicolaitans! They have grown flabby in spirit, lethargic in action or service, and smug in self esteem. They are drowning in complanency and self‑congratulation. The lesson of Sardis is a solemn one. Their reputation is for life. The reality is death, a dreadful sleeping sickness of the soul. They were not what the world would call a dead church. Even the other churches regarded them as a “live” church. They were busy, bustling and even successful. One writer describes them as “ perfect model of inoffensive Christianity”. The One who thus speaks to them possesses both the star of the needy church and the Holy Spirit who brings new life. He will renew, if they will heed.

* DISCUSSION: What does this verse say to you about Greyfriars and its ministry?

2. The Urgent Call to the Church (20):

If the Church is complacent and comfortable, the reigning Lord is urgent and radical. Notice the five imperatives in these verses:

·        "Awake" (RSV) "wake up" (NIV) or more literally "be watchful". It is a military metaphor. Vigilance, not lethargy, should he the attitude of the soldiers of the Kingdom!

·        “Strengthen” ‑ look after, nourish, reinforce what is on the point of dying out. Why? They have failed to persevere. Their works, deeds, service do not measure up to God's standards.

·        “Remember” ‑ keep on remembering ‑ never forget ‑ the message you received, the Good News of the Gospel.

·        ''Keep that'' ‑ continue to keep it, continue to put it into practice - ie obedience.

·        "Repent!" The need for a decisive return to the Lord, to his ways, to his Word, to his standards. The alternative is judgemebt.

DISCUSSION: What we the things you feel WE need to be vigilant about?


 

3. The Unique Clothing of the Church (4‑6):

* The white garments (5) of the overcomers are in contrast to the soiled garments (4) of the unfaithful believers in Sardis. However in the present (4) the faithful members have not soiled their garments. Thus in (4) clean or white raiment stands for consistent holy living in the world. In (5) white raimecnt represents festal joy and victory.

* The overcomer will never find his name deleted or removed from the citizen's roll of the Kingdom ‑ "the book of Life".

* The Lord himself will confess his name before the Father (cf Matthew10:32). This is the reward of faithfulness.

* DISCUSSION: Share with one another the message you hear in these verses.


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

6. THE WORD TO PHILADELPHIA

Passage: Revelation 3:7 ‑ 13

Introduction: Philadelphia was another city occupying a strategic location. The imperial post route from Rome via Troas passed through Philadelphia and on to the east. It was a city of commercial importance. It stood where the borders of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia met. Founded by either Attilus II in 140B.C., or his  brother Eumenes, king of Pergamum, the city's name certainly commemorates the loyalty and devotion of Attalus to his brother, which earned him the name “Philadelphos”. It was intended that Philadelphia serve as a "missionary city" to the regions of Phrygia and Lydia to spread the Greek language, the Greek way of life, and the Greek culture and civilization. Prosperous as it was, not least because of its agriculture and vine-growing on the fertile volcanic plain, Philadelphia had the major  drawback of suffering from earthquakes. With other cities it was extensively damaged in a great earthquake in AD17. In gratitude for the aid of the Emperor tiberius in the restoration, the city took the name of Neocaesarea.

1. Called to Believe with boldness (7-8):

No rebuke is addressed to this Church, only praise and promise. Consider these significant features in this section:

·        Their Situation: The risen Lord mentions their weakness. They have “but little power” (RSV), “little strength” (NIV). However they have remained true to Christ. They have kept his Word and not denied his name.

·        Their Strategy: “I have set before you an open door”. Obedience leads to greater opportunity. The door is either to the Kingdom for themselves (cf. Jn.10:9) or, a door of service for others (cf.1 Cor.16:9). Philadelphia is to be not so much a missionary city of Hellenism as a missionarycommunity of the Kingdom.

·        Their Saviour: The descriptions of verse 7 do not relate to the earlier visions of the glorified Saviour (ch.l). He is the Holy One - an echo of a title of God himself(cf Is.40:25). He is the True One in the real and genuine sense, rather than illusory or spurious or deceptive (cf. John 1:9; 6:32; 15:1 etc). He has “the key of David” (cf. Isaiah 22:2Off). It speaks of the Kingdom authority delegated to the Lord by the Father. When he opens it stays open. When he shuts, it remains shut.

DISCUSSION: What specific doors of opportunity do you discern opening before us in Greyfriars?

2. Called to Behave with faithfulness (9-11):

As in Smyrna, there is the intense opposition of the Jewish community ‑ “the synagogue of Satan”. Accusing the believers of false claims, they will in time acknowledge the truth. The Church is the new Covenant people. They will “learn that I (emphatic) have loved you”. The call is for continued faithfulness under pressure. Notice verse 10 “because you have kept .... I will keep you”. There are difficulties in this verse regarding the relationship between "the Rapture" (the removal of believers from earth to glory) and “the Tribulation” (the time of great trouble over the earth). At the very least they are promised security and preservation in the midst of such trouble. Encouragement to fidelity is emphasised again in verse 11. “I am coming soon” ‑ refers to Christ's return at the end of the age. "Hold fast" urges dedicated discipleship. Barclay says no one can take our crown from us - we can only forfeit it through our own weakness or infidelity.

DISCUSSION: What do you consider might be the specifics of a call to spiritual faithfulness today?

3. Called to Belong with joyfulness (12-13):

The encouragement to persevere concludes with a further promise for the future. The reward of faithful service is God's approval and the sense of belonging to his eternal community ‑ the everlasting Kingdom. Notice the symbols of the overcomer:

·        “a pillar in the temple of my God” - in earthquake‑ridden Philadelphia often the only things surviving devastation were the pillars in the Temple. Hence stability and permanence. Similarly the reference to going out no more - the populace fled outside the city at the first sign of a tremor. Some also suggest the pillar signifies honour paid to faithful service.

·        the threefold inscription is in effect a sealing of believers - that they belong to God, belong to God’s city, and belong to God’s Son (cf Ex.28:36-38; Rev 7:3; 14:1; 22:4). How’s that for ­eternal security?

·        “Listen to what the Spirit is saying" about such belonging!

DISCUSSION: Share with one another what you feel the Spirit is saying to you through this Word to the Church.


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

7. THE WORD TO LAODICEA

Passage: Revelation 3:14‑22

Introduction: Laodiaea, the last of the seven Churches, was another important city. It commanded the entrance to the narrow valley of the River Lycus, in which stood its sister cities Hierapolis and Colossae. It was also one of the richest commercial centres of the ancient world, as well as being an assize town in the Roman provincial administration. It was famous as a banking centre, for its woollen cloth and clothing industry. It also boasted a school of medicine and its famous “Phrygian powder” eye-salve was manufactured and distributed there. The city's major weakness was its lack of a convenient and adequate source for water. Its poor water came via a six‑mile long aqueduct from the South. Notice that all four ‑ wealth, clothing, eyesalve and water ‑ feature significantly in the Word addressed to the Church.

1. Their Condition Deplored (14‑16):

Notice how the glorified Lord is described (14). Amen ‑ the Word of response to divine truth or action. Christ's reponse to the Father's will was perfect obedience and suffering. He is "the faithful and true witness". Moreover he is the "beginning" (RSV) or “ruler” (NIV) of God's creation. Notice the link with Colossians 1:18. Christ is the source and origin of all creation. This one now speaks words of unrelieved condemnation to the Church. They are an insipid, compromised Church. They are ineffective in discipleship and useless in mission to the world. Do they stand as a warning against formal, institutionalized, nominal Christianity ‑ like Sardis, “a perfect model of inoffensive Christianity”?

* DISCUSSION: What warning do we need to heed in these verses?

2. Their Confusion Described (17):

Again, like Sardis, there are overtones of spiritual conceit, congratulation and complacency. "We have arrived", "We’ve got it made", "Look at us"! Notice the irony, "You say". They live in a dream. They think they have everything. They have got it all. In reality they have nothing. The truth is "that you (emphatic) are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked''.

* DISCUSSION: What does this verse say to us as a Church?

3. Their Correction Desired (18-9a):

They are counselled to buy from Christ (again emphatic) what they require to make up their sorry lack.

·        “gold refined in the fire” - the true wealth which comes only from knowing Christ.

·        "white garments" ‑ robes of righteousness and joy. In the Bible nakedness was a symbol

of judgement and humiliation, the lot of a captive (cf Isaiah 20:1‑4; Ezek.16:37‑39), while the gift of fine clothing was a sign of honour (cf Gen.41:42; Esther 6:6‑11).

    

·        "salve to put on your eyes" ‑ they need vision and perception in spiritual things.

Notice the principle of God's love in his dealing with his children.  It is love - not hate or indifference ‑ which rebukes and disciplines.

DISCUSSION: Based on these verses, what spiritual realities do we need to come back to?


4. Their Consecration Demanded (19b-22):

Even for Laodicean Christians there is hope if they will respond to the living Lord of the Church.

·        “Repent” - Here it is again. No more yprevarication! Don’t play at Church any longer! Decisive return to the Lord is required.

·        “Be Zealous” ‑ Continuous action is described. The remedy for lukewarmness is repentance which leads to passion in discipleship. Become heated ‑ get on fire for the Lord.

·        "Behold, I stand at the door and knock'' - Here is the offer of renewal. Christ needs to be let in. Has he been outside so long? Let him in to our lives, to our Church, to our Ministry!

·        To the overcomer ‑ victory and not only a place in his Kingdom, but a place in his throne (cf  2Tim 2:12).

DISCUSSION: Share with one another something personally meaningful or challenging from these verses.


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

8. ADORATION and WORSHIP

Passage: Revelation 4:1 - 5:14

Introduction: Chapters 4 and 5 not only form the introduction of the vision sequence about the Scroll and the seven seals (4:1‑8:1) but dominate the entire vision. The door open in heaven gives John insight into a different reality to Patmos and the messages he must send to the Churches. One commentator suggests his role is rather like that of an onlooker in the control‑room of Supreme Headquarters and the room is full of maps with battle positions and troop movements indicited by pin flags. “The strange and complex symbols of John's vision are, like the flags in the parable, the pictorial counterpart of earthly realities.” Someone else has picked up this illustration and said, “the visions which begin here are a heavenly map of the total war and not just a schedule of proposed operations”. What is the heaven into which John looks? At this stage it is not the consummated Kingdom. Rather, it can be suggested, it is the "heavenly places" of Ephesians, which denote "not a place without evil, but the sphere of spiritual reality where both good and evil are seen for what they really are".

1. The Setting:

The dominant feature of this part of the vision is the throne. (We'll come to the One on the throne in a moment.) Then there are the elders and the creatures. Some see these as superior orders of the heavenly court. The elders are always associated with the four living creatures engaging in acts of worship. Others see the 24 elders as a symbol of the whole people of God in every age (12 sons of Israel and their descendants together with the 12 Apostles and their spiritual successors). Notice their dress. (4:4) The aura of glory is increased by references to the rainbow round the throne ‑ remember the rainbow in Genesis? The references to thunder and lightening (4:5) evoke memories of the giving of the Law at Sinai. In the temple in Jerusalem there had stood the seven‑branched candlestick and the great bronze basin for ritual cleansing (called "the sea") ‑ Are these recalled in 4:5‑6? Others prefer to regard the reference to “the sea” as a vast crystal‑like expanse stretching out before the celestial throne.

* DISCUSSION: Compare the setting of this vision with the prophetic visions of Isaiah 6:1‑8 and Ezekiel 1.

2. Songs to the Lord‑God:

Praise and wonder echo and re‑echo through these chapters. Notice the theme of the Song of the living creatures (4:8) ‑ God's holiness power and eternity, attributes which are central to the book of Revelation. Notice the praise and worship of the elders differs from that of the living creatures in that it is addressed directly to God. He is worthy of glory and honour. His sovereign purpose prevails as demonstrated in his creation.

* DISCUSSION: Share with one another how you respond to these hymns.

3. The Songs to the Lamb:

Chapter 5 continues the drama of.the Court of heaven. There is the enigma of the great Scroll written front and back and sealed with Seven Seals. Surely its mystery is the plan, purpose, goal and consummation of all history. Who can be found worthy to open the Scroll? At this point the risen, glorified Jesus is revealed. Notice how he is described in 5:5 and in 5:6. What are the themes of the “new song” in verses 9 and 10? All these hymns in chapter 5 interpret

the symbolism of the Scroll and the Lamb. To the praise of the elders is added the whole  company of heaven (11) and in this final song of praise the whole created universe joins in worship of the Lord God and of the Lamb.

* DISCUSSION: “The centre of gravity (of this chapter) lies in the three hymns”. What is their effect on you?


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

9. SECURITY and SALVATION

Passage: Revelation 7 

Introduction:  Revelation continues its robust message of warning and encouragement. It is written to inspire faithfulness in discipleship, rather than to intrigue or titillate our fancy, far less to bemuse or bewilder us. The context of these verses is the vision of the seven seals. The features and the course of world history are revealed. The four horsemen of the apocalypse ride on their dread way. War, famine, violence, the persecution of a the Church, and the cataclysmic events which herald the end of things as we know them. Rather than following this cycle of events, but within it stands the interlude, the vision of chapter 7 with its message of hope.

* 1. The Tranquility Christians can Know (1-8):

The vision opens with the concept of judgement about to be unleashed on the earth. The dominant feature however is that an angel comes forth “with the Seal of the Living God”. The other feature is the 144,000 persons ‑ 12,000 from each of the Twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve appears to be the number of the Church in Revelation, so doubtless this figure represents the completeness of the people of God. They are at risk in the world - weak, powerless, oppressed and vulnerable. What does the Sealing of the Church signify? Compare

Ephesians 1.13; 4:30

·        It signifies ownership ‑ We belong to God. He is our Lord. We are his people.

·        It denotes authenticity ‑ the seal shows something is genuine. We demonstrate we are genuine disciples by our love for Christ, and for one another. We show it too by demonstrating a rich harvest of the Spirit (Gal 5:22f).

·        It assures security -  The Holy Spirit within us is the guarantee of all God has in store for us in the fulness of his Kingdom.

* DISCUSSION: The sealing protects and preserves believers in difficulty or danger. How? What does it mean?

* 2. The Triumph Christians will share (9-12):

The scene has shifted. No longer are we in the arena of life with its attendant dangers. Now we are before the throne. What a celebration of praise abounds! One writer suggests the great multitude which no man can number is still pouring in from all tribes and peoples and tongues to swell the worship. Notice their dress again (9) and their words of worship (10). See the response from the angels, elders and living creatures. The great "Amen" sounds out (12). Truly, our God reigns!

* DISCUSSION: What has this section to teach us about celebration, praise and worship?

* 3. The Testimony Christians must bear (13‑17):

Who are this white‑robed company? In the midst of tribulation they have been faithful to their Lord. See how our faithfulness to God is repeatedly stressed in Revelation. Think of some of the letters to the Churches. Similarly God’s faithfulness to us is also emphasised. See the rewards of faithfulness -

·        God's presence (15)  Forever we shall be before the Throne, conuinually serving Him in praise and prayer.


·        God's Provision (16)  Here is the final fulfilment of our Lord’s words ‑ see Matthew 5:6 and John 4:14.

·        God ' s Protection (17)  The Lamb becomes our Shepherd - cf John 10 and Psalm 23. He guides, leads and comforts. Tribulation produces tears. Even the memory of past pain will be obliterated in the fulness of his presence (Psalm 16:11).

* DISCUSSION: Share with one another how you see the Cross as the focal point of these verses (14).


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

10. VISIONS of FINAL JUDGEMENT

Passage: Revelation 14 

Introduction: Following upon the visions of the seven seals and the seven trumpets comes the drama of world history. Always in Revelation it is interpreted history. The main characters and plot are the dragon (Satan), the woman (standing for the people of God, first as expressed in Israel and latterly in the Church) and the child, together with the conflict between them. The subordinate allies of the dragon are the two beasts (ch.13). The beast from the sea (13:1) related back to the OT visions in Daniel 7 and has to do with political power, the state - or false, counterfeit society. The beast from the earth (13:11) having a lamb-like appearance but a dragon-like voice is concerned with worship, and represents false, counterfeit religion. This perversion of Christianity is the ideology giving breath to any human, social structure organised independently of God.  He is “the message” and in 19:20 is described as “the false prophet” (cf Deuteronomy 13:1-3). He speaks deceiving words about the first beast  - the system. The success of the counterfeit community and the counterfeit religion is seen in the widespread use of the mark of the beast. Now comes chapter 14 and its message.

* 1. The Lamb and the Redeemed (1-5):

Notice the contrast: the dragon stands on the shore of the sea (13:1) while the Lamb stands on Mt. Zion.  Commentators differ on whether this is an earthly centre of the messianic kingdom or heaven itself. Note Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. These companions of Christ are in sharp contrast to the followers of the beast. For example, believers have the mark or sealing of the Father while the others have the mark of the beast. Incidentally, what do you think that phrase implies? In examining this section and comparing it with verses 10‑11, what other contrasts can you find?

Revelation is noted for its repetition to give emphasis. We see it here in the reference to their singing “a new song” (3). As well as the seal and the song the company of the saints is described as

·        "redeemed" (3,4)  - their relationship through the Cross ‑ cf 5:9f.

·        "firstfruits for God and the Lamb" (4) ‑ their relationdhip to the Father because of the Cross.

·        righteous ‑ their purity and chastity do not refer to sexual sin but to their theological, religious and ethical fidelity.

·      faithful disciples ‑ they "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (4). 

·      there is “no lie" in them ‑ referring to the lying deception of the beast? cf. Rom.1:25; Rev.22:15, cf 21:27.

* DISCUSSION: What does the reference to “a new song” in this passage say to you in your present circumstances?

* 2. The Three Angels (6‑13):

·        The message of the Gospel (6,7) ‑ It is a simple message. It is a call to recognise God for who he is ‑ Creator, Sustainer and Judge. “Fear God and give him glory” - “worship him”.

·        The message of doom (8) - the proclamation of the downfall of Babylon. It is another symbol for the beast, the spirit of godlessness which deceives humanity from the truth. This is elaborated later on  -  see 17:1-19:10.

·        The message of challenge (9-11) - here is a solemn warning on what awaits those who identify with the beast - the godless world ideology. They share the judgement of “Babylon the great”.

Notice verses 12 and 13 show the results of identifying with Christ and seeking his Kingdom. We are called to endure and persevere both in obedience and fidelity (12). If persecution leads to death, we still prevail; for it is not destruction but victory (13).

* DISCUSSION: Compare the contents of this section with John 16:7-11 and the message of “sin, righteousness and judgement”.

* 3. The Harvest of the Earth (14-20):

What will be the outcome of the cosmic struggle between  the Dragon and his followers and the Lamb and his followers? Revelation says “judgement” - “the harvest” (cf Matt 13:30,39). Who is depicted (14) - a superior angel or the glorified Christ (cf Daniel 7;13f)? Most regard the figure of the grain harvest (15‑16) as the gathering in of the righteous into the consummated Kingdom (cf Matt.9:37‑8; Mark 4:29; Luke 10:2;  John 4:35-38). Although we need to remember the parable of the wheat and the tares. So do we have a general picture of the coming judgement? Now, the vivid figure of the vintage (17‑20) portrays the awesome prospect of divine judgement (cf 12-17).

* DISCUSSION: Do you consider judgement is spoken about  too much today or not enough?  Why?


GREYFRIARS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Minister: Rev John Oliver Evans

“A VISION FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE”

Studies in Revelation

   

11. THE FINAL VICTORY 

Passage: Revelation 19:1 - 20:3  

Introduction: The vision of the seven bowls (chapter 16) is a presentation of God's judgements. The next major segment depicts the judgement of "Babylon", the organised present world‑system standing in opposition to God and afflicting his people (chapters 17 and 18). Persecuted Christians of the first two centuries certainly equated "Babylon" with imperial Rome. At any rate, so far as Revelation is concerned, the overthrow or downfall of Babylon accelerates the end of things. We need to tread warily in interpretation here ‑ not least because Christians sincerely hold different viewpoints. Also even our attempts at simplification can have dangers.

* 1. The Harlot and the Bride:

This is the first great contrast. Consistently throughout chapters 17 and 18, Babylon is described in terms of harlotry and its associated concepts. (The other significant feature is that of the organisation, structure, life, power and wealth of a great city. Later on, that will be contrasted with another "city". Old Babylon will be replaced with the New Jerusalem!) Following the passing of the harlot, the new focus of attention is on the appearance of the bride. The contrast in the character of both extends to the garments. Instead of the gaudy and flashy, we have simplicity and purity. Note how praise, worship and celebration dominate these verses. The theme of the first is God's righteous acts of judgement (1‑3). The second celebrates God’ s righteous acts of redemption, and clearly God reigns (6‑8).

* DISCUSSION: What speaks to you from the contrasts in this section?

* 2. The Marriage Supper and the Great Supper:

It is quite permissable in apocalyptic writing to mix the metaphors. Thus the church is depicted in the first supper as both the bride and the wedding guests. Again, see the note of blessedness, joy and celebrating together. Again people are invited to what has been prepared, thus demonstrating the grace of God's provision, and of God's invitation.

By contrast, “the great supper” of verse 17 is very different. The call to the carrion birds of prey is “a macabre parody of the invitation to his other banquet”. Again provision has been made. The outcome of history is certain. Rather than peace, security and felicity, the connotations of these verses are conflict, defeat and judgement.

* DISCUSSION: What do you feel about the contents of verse 10, noting the testimony at the end?

* 3. Christ and Anti‑Christ:

The opened heavens (11) reveal a white horse and the awesome figure of its rider. Verses 11‑16 describe the King of kings and Lord of lords. See his various titles. One commentator has pointed out that there is no future tense in any of the verbs in these verses. “They describe not what Christ is going to do but what he is; conquering King, righteous Judge, Captain of the armies of heaven.”

The opposition gathers (19). We are at Armageddon (cf 16:16). Satan’s allies ‑ the beast (the secular, political power opposing God and his people) and the false prophet (deceiving, counterfeiting false religion) are overthrown.

Now comes the difficulty. How to intepret the time‑sequence. Chapter 20 speaks of 1,000 years ‑ a millennium, and the various interpretations focus on the placing of the 1,000 years in God’s purposes.

·        Pre‑millennial views regard Revelation as fairly literally true especially as regards description and sequence. The return of Christ in power and glory deprives Satan of his power. The Christian dead are raised. After Christ’s earthly reign of 1,000 years Satan emerges from imprisonment for a final contest and is destroyed. This is followed by the resurrection of the wicked, the great white throne, the judgement and the making of a new heaven and a new earth.

·        Post‑millennial views regard the period as a special and outstanding era of spiritual advance, perhaps even including the widespread conversion of  the Jews and worldwide evangelization. Then Christ will come - ie after the millennium.

·        A-millennial views consider that the 1,000 years refers to a figurative time and not a literal time at all ‑ usually the entire period between Christ's first coming and his second. They understand Revelation symbolically rather than literally. They reckon on one day of the Lord, the return of Christ which will end all things. This they see in chapter19. Chapter 20:1‑6 they regard as flashback.Why? - because Christ was really victorious over Satan on the Cross (cf Col.2:18; Hebrews 2:14; 2 Tim.1:10). Broadly speaking, Revelation shows (a) a long period of advance for God’s people - the three and a half years of 11:3 (cf 12:6,14; 13:5),  (b) a short period of ascendency of Satan ‑ the three and a half days of 11:9, and (c) the final overthrow of all evil (11:11).    

Thus the main parameters of the Book of Revelation are the ongoing conflict with evil in the world, the present sovereignty of God, the sure coming again of Christ, the final downfall of Satan,  the resurrection of the dead, the judgement, the consummation of the ­Kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth.

* DISCUSSION: Explore further Bible Dictionary articles, etc, the various broad views of interpreting Revelation.

FOOTNOTE:      This is the final study sheet for this series. Morning Service preaching topics will be:

 25th Nov. The Final Victory

                          2nd Dec.  “I make all things new”  -  Rev 21

                          9th Dec.   “Behold I am coming soon!”  -  Rev 22:6-21

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