The Apostle John And His Writings
VI. The Revelation of Jesus Christ
Again we have a book written at the end of the apostle's life. We have already said in speaking about his life that he spent time in exile. As far as we know he was the only one of the apostles to die a natural death, after leading a life that was not only long but in which he also had to suffer for the Lord's sake. The Lord had asked John and his brother James whether they could drink the cup that He was about to drink or be baptized with the baptism that He was about to undergo, and they had said, "Yes" (Matt. 20:22-23). James was the first of the apostles to be martyred and John lived and suffered much for the Lord's sake although, as far as we know, he was not one who died a martyr's death. Instead, he was exiled to the isle of Patmos, probably during the reign of the emperor Domitian. Now in Revelation 1 we have the historical account, the setting for this book.
"I John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and patience, in Jesus, was in the island called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus" (1:9).
This is as much as John says as to what had been done to him, 'I was there for that reason'. This is similar to how the apostle Paul began some of his epistles, "I Paul prisoner of Jesus Christ" (Eph.3:1, Phile.1). Paul was a prisoner of the Roman Empire but he was there for the Lord's sake. John wrote very similarly. He referred to himself as "I John, your brother". We considered Diotrophes in 3 John who wanted to lord it over his brethren (and there have been many similar people since and it still happens today - and not only in 'churches', it can happen in any gathering of the Lord's people where man wants to have the pre-eminence) but John, who was an apostle, to whom the Lord had committed apostolic authority, wrote as an elder or here as a brother.
Other Christians were persecuted too. John was exiled to this island. Others had, perhaps, given their lives, and still others were suffering in various ways, but he did not make much of what he was undergoing for the Lord's sake. He simply wrote, "your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and patience". The Lord Jesus is patiently waiting for that day when He can come back and set up His kingdom, and waiting for that day a few years prior to that when He can take His bride home to Himself. We sometimes think of how patient we are but let us be content to share in His patience. How much greater His longing must be that these things which have been promised Him should come to fruition. So often we do not think of these things but the Lord Jesus has this much on His heart.
Personally, I would feel that John had not been on the island of Patmos long. No matter where the apostle Paul was as a prisoner it seems he was chained to somebody, and in this way God very graciously gave him a captive audience. One after another of these men that he got chained to seems to have been led to the Lord so that after he had been in Rome for a while he could send greetings to the Philippians from the household of Caesar (4:22). This was a term that was used for the Praetorian Guard which guarded the emperor and served as the city guards in Rome and who had the custody of the official state prisoners and so on; it is not that it was necessarily Caesar's family.
John probably had not been on Patmos very long because he was all by himself, but the Lord had promised His presence: "For where two or three are gathered together unto My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt.18:20). Men had taken this old brother and put him on an island by himself. They had tried to isolate him from his fellow believers. But it seems he must not have been there very long, for if he had had contact with people some of these would have been Christians with him. He was near the beginning of his time there, and as an old man getting somewhat feeble, humanly speaking, but certainly not in regard to spiritual things.
".. I became in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, What thou seest write in a book, and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." (1:10-11).
The Lord's day meant something to John. I wish that Christians in their relations with their fellow Christians would think of the Lord's day as a little more than just 'Sunday'. John was in the Spirit on the Lord's day. There may have been no one else to have fellowship with but is it not precious that one who is suffering for the Lord, who is deprived of the fellowship of his brethren, is not deprived of the Lord's fellowship. The Lord came to this old brother.
"Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, to show to His bondmen what must shortly take place; and He signified it, sending by his angel, to his bondman John." (1:1).
This book is not to be a revelation of John, and I do not want to speak a great deal about him, although in giving the setting I think we need to know a little about him. If you look at the title in your Bible it might read, 'The Revelation of St. John the Divine', but the first verse givers us the true title, "Revelation of Jesus Christ".
Then it goes on to say, "Which God gave to Him, to show to His bondmen what must shortly take place". For many people this is a mysterious and confusing book and they use all kinds of uncomplimentary terms about it, but this is a revelation of Jesus Christ, a revelation that God gave Him, and one reason people say what they do about the Revelation is because most of those speaking do not qualify as "His bondmen". One who is not a true bondman of the Lord Jesus, who has not been bought by Him and one who has not realized that we are His to serve Him is not going to gain much from the Revelation.
This is to be a revelation of Jesus Christ. Many people read the book of Revelation with the idea of finding out what the future holds, and, of course, in our USA people are always wanting to find out where America is going to be in the coming events, and so on. But the Revelation is not given to give us all the details of what is going to happen. It is a revelation of Jesus Christ in the sense that we have not seen the Lord Jesus in this new character elsewhere in Scripture. We have statements elsewhere in Scripture that He is the One who will judge (e.g. John 5:27), but how is this going to come to pass, what is going to happen, how is He going to undertake this? This is what we have in the Revelation. The Lord Jesus is presented to us in this book in His judicial majesty and as the coming King, the One who will put down all the powers of this world, all the powers of evil that Satan can muster together. He will deal with them by the word of His mouth. There is an intimation of this in the Gospel of John, "Jesus, having said these things, went out with His disciples beyond the torrent Cedron, where was a garden, into which He entered, He and his disciples. And Judas also, who delivered Him up, knew the place, because Jesus was often there, in company with His disciples. Judas therefore, having got the band, and officers of the chief priests and Pharisees, comes there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus the Nazaraean. Jesus says to them, I am He. And Judas also, who delivered Him up, stood with them. When therefore He said to them, I am He, they went away backward and fell to the ground" (18:1-6). They fell over backwards with just one word. He had the power with that one word "I am" to destroy the group, but no, He willingly submitted Himself to be led to Calvary. But the time comes in this book when He executes judgment. The presentation of the Lord Jesus in this book is always at a certain distance.
This is a book that is given for encouragement. First of all for John personally, the revelation that he was given was for his own encouragement as he was suffering on Patmos. The Lord was with him and opened up the future. We have detailed in this book the final victory, we find that things are going to come out right, so it was for John's encouragement. It is also for our encouragement. Whether we understand all the details as to what is meant by all the various seal and trumpet judgments and so on is immaterial in one sense. If we see the overall picture that the Lord Jesus is the Victor, the Worthy One, the One whose kingdom will be set up despite all the opposition that has come through all the ages and will come from every direction at that time, then there is blessing for us. If that is what we see then we see a little of what God wants us to see. This book is not given to us so that we can work out the schematics, all the details of what is going to happen, I believe it gives us much of that, but the real picture is "the revelation of Jesus Christ". It is not the revelation of the sequence of future events.
At the end of verse 1, "He signified it, sending by His angel, to His bondman John, who testified the word of God. This word "signified" really means He gave it in signs, and I believe there was adequate reason for that. Even from a human standpoint, when we get into the content of this book, what it says particularly in regard to the downfall of the Roman Empire was needful. Daniel had already spoken of the four world empires and how the stone cut without hands would smite the great image and smash the whole thing to pieces, grind it to powder, and then that stone would become a great mountain (Dan.2). This too is symbolic language describing the setting up of the kingdom of the Lord. God shows us in this book how Rome, and the power of Rome, is going to come to an end and the earth is going to be judged. Many terms are used that allude to Rome at that time, such as the great harlot sitting on seven mountains (Rome was built on seven hills) (Rev.17). If this book had been written without using symbolism, if it had just given its message in plain everyday Greek it would have been a very revolutionary book and a very dangerous book for a Christian to have, but God in His wisdom gave it in signs. He was not giving this revelation as a sensational exposé to be a best seller in the Roman Empire, no, this was "to show to His bondmen what must shortly take place". The prophet Amos tells us, "The Lord Jehovah will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets" (3:7). The Lord does not do things just unexpectedly without warning, if they affect His people, whether Israel of old or the Assembly today, or whatever may be in the future, the Lord gives warning first so that it is brought to bear upon our lives. "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). So the Lord was going to tell His bondmen what was ahead.
I remember once hearing a series of addresses for two weeks on the chart 'The Course of Time from Eternity to Eternity'. A brother not long saved came to the speaker afterwards and said, 'I hope that in three or four months you can come back and give a series of addresses on Revelation. I would like to understand something of that book'. The speaker replied, 'No, I will not do that, you are not ready for that yet. In order to understand the Revelation you have to have some understanding of the sixty-five books that go before it. It uses symbols that are introduced to us in Ezekiel, in Daniel and in various other prophetic books and it draws together the loose ends from all Scripture'. He would not come back to give addresses on the Revelation in a few months. I have often thought on that. The Revelation is a thoroughly interesting book, but the background is in the rest of Scripture and we often forget this. If a symbol that is not used elsewhere in Scripture is used in Revelation it is explained immediately. One example of this is in chapter 1, verse 20, "The mystery of the seven stars which thou hast seen on My right hand, and the seven golden lamps. - The seven stars are angels of the seven assemblies; and the seven lamps are seven assemblies". We have no assemblies in Old Testament prophecy, the Church was something that was only revealed in New Testament times through the apostle Paul (Eph.3) and so we cannot expect to find the Church in the Old Testament. So if a symbol is going to be used to represent assemblies the Lord has to explain it here in Revelation. If we do not have an explanation of a symbol in Revelation then we will have to dig for it further back in Scripture.
"John, who testified the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, all things that he saw." (1:1b-2)
This book brings God's Word to its victorious conclusion. It is part of the Word of God.
"Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written in it; for the time is near." (1:3)
Notice how this is emphasized. They must shortly take place, the time is near. This is a tremendous encouragement to know, and there is a special blessing attached to reading this book, to hearing the words of the prophecy. There were many people in those days (as there are in these days also) who were unable to read; are they to be deprived of this blessing? No, they can hear the words of the prophecy. Then they (and we) must "keep the things written in it".
"John to the seven assemblies which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth." (1:4-5a)
The custom of letter writing in those days was according to this pattern: the writer came first (not at the end), then who it was addressed to and then the content. But notice the Lord Jesus is presented in a different guise right from the beginning, as is God. God is presented as "He who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty" (v.8). This is nothing new for us, but it is not the way that God is ordinarily presented. John did not write, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" as did the apostle Paul. Here God is presented in the majesty of His Person, 'The Existing One', the One who always has been and the One who always will be. Then in the seven Spirits we have the seven-fold witness or the seven-fold Personality of the Holy Spirit just as we have in Isaiah 11:2. The "seven Spirits" are the fullness of the Spirit of God. It is not that there are seven Holy Spirits or a gradation of Spirits, but it is the Holy Spirit in His fullness.
Jesus Christ is referred to here as "the faithful witness". John had to suffer because of his witness to the Lord but the Lord Jesus Christ is pre-eminently "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth". This last title was a title that the Roman emperor took for himself. In the history of Rome centuries before this they had tossed out a succession of Etruscan kings and had set up a republic. Julius Caesar was assassinated because some of his closest friends thought that he wanted the title of king. This title was repulsive to the Romans because of the history they had had with kings. Therefore Julius Caesar's nephew Octavian, Augustus Caesar as he is called in Scripture, when he became ruler would not take the title king (he was politically too savvy for that), but he allowed himself to be called princeps (a Latin word derived from the root 'first head'). That is the word from which our word prince in English is taken, "the prince (or 'first head') of the kings of the earth". Herod and Agrippa were kings over some areas, but the emperor was over them all although he did not call himself a king. Rather he called himself "the prince of the kings of the earth". Here that very title, at the beginning of the book, is given to the Lord Jesus and this put Him directly in conflict with a human emperor. Who is the "King of kings and Lord of lords"? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. From the start His dignity and His supremacy over all human kings is asserted.
"To Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father: to Him be the glory and the might to the ages of ages. Amen" (1:5b-6)
He loves us. It is in the present tense. He loved us in the past but He still loves us now. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and to the ages to come" (Heb.13:8). The Revelation presents the Lord Jesus Christ in His dignity and majesty and power. These only come out momentarily in the Gospels, for example, on the Mount of Transfiguration or in the Garden of Gethsemane, but here in the Revelation He is fully presented. When we see the Lord Jesus in His glory what do we do? The first thing is to worship Him. John cannot write about this without his heart overflowing in worship to the Lord Jesus. This One who is "the Prince of the kings of the earth" is the One who loves us, the One who has washed us from our sins in His own blood. This is most precious. The Prince of the kings of the earth loves us. John, an exile on an island, can write with an overflowing heart.
"Behold, He comes with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they which have pierced Him, and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him. Yea. Amen." (1:7)
This does not describe the rapture but the appearing, the second coming very literally. This One whose servants were persecuted, put on lonely islands or even put to death, is coming with clouds. He is coming as the final victor and every eye shall see Him, and they who pierced Him - Roman soldiers, Gentiles, and all the tribes of the land - shall weep. Israel is really responsible for His being pierced (Zech.12:10). So we see that the Revelation ties in with many other Scriptures.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, He who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty . And I turned back to see the voice which spoke with me; and having turned, I saw seven golden lamps, and in the midst of the seven lamps one like the Son of man, clothed with a garment reaching to the feet, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle: His head and hair white like white wool, as snow; and His eyes as a flame of fire; and His feet like fine brass, as burning in a furnace; and His voice as the voice of many waters; and having in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword going forth; and His countenance as the sun shines in its power." (1:8, 12-16)
John saw the Lord Jesus in a way that he had never seen Him before. When we read this description of the Lord Jesus in the Song of Solomon and read this description, we have quite a contrast. In the Song of Solomon the bride speaks prophetically of the Lord in this way, "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the finest gold; His locks are flowing, black as the raven; His eyes are like doves by the water-brooks, Washed with milk, fitly set; His cheeks are as a bed of spices, raised beds of sweet plants; His lips lilies, dropping liquid myrrh. His hands gold rings, set with the chrysolite; His belly is bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires; His legs, pillars of marble, set upon bases of fine gold: His bearing as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars; His mouth is most sweet: Yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, yea, this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem" (5:10-16). The same Person is being described here, but here He is seen in His judicial majesty. Take one point for example: Until 150 to 200 years ago judges and important men in our country wore powdered wigs when they were to 'sit on the judicial bench'; they would have white hair regardless of their age or experience, for they were to sit there in dignity. In England judges still wear powdered wigs. They are there as those who represent the authority of the state and so these men have to put on some dignity, but here the Lord is seen in His intrinsic judicial majesty.
This one who had walked so many years with the Lord, who loved Him so much, who had appreciated being "the disciple whom Jesus loved", when he saw Him fell at His feet as dead. He recognized Him but he had never seen Him before in this way.
Now if you are lying at my feet as dead and I want to put my right hand on you, you are either going to need to rise or I am going to have to stoop. Here we see the tender grace of the Lord Jesus to His own. The presentation of the Lord in all His dignity in a public way is seen, but on the other hand we see these glimpses of His love and tenderness. The majesty of the Lord shines out here and there in the Gospels, as when He calmed the storm on the boat or on the Mount of Transfiguration, but in lovely contrast in the Revelation here and there are instances where His tenderness and care for His own shine through.
"Write therefore what thou hast seen, and the things that are, and the things that are about to be after these. The mystery of the seven stars which thou hast seen on My right hand, and the seven golden lamps. --The seven stars are angels of the seven assemblies; and the seven lamps are seven assemblies" (1:19-20)
Here we come to the outline of the book that John was to write:
i) "What thou hast seen" - chapter 1. This is the description of the vision of the Lord, His introduction to the book, and that which we have already spoken of.
ii) "The things that are" - chapters 2 and 3. These describe conditions in existing assemblies at that time, but these in their fullness describe a prophetic picture of the whole dispensation of grace in which we live. There are things written to each of the assemblies that are applicable in each of the others because at the close of each letter we have the words "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies." It does not say "to your assembly". To me that verse seven times repeated is one of the most powerful verses against the thought of an assembly being independent of other assemblies. The thought of independent assemblies is not countenanced here in the Revelation. "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies"; they were each one of many.
iii) "The things that are about to be after these".
The Lord had something for John to do. The Roman emperor might think that John was useless now by his putting him where he could do nothing for the Lord or for His people, but John had a pen and the Lord wanted him to write.
"To the angel of the assembly in ______ write .." (2:1,8,12,18, 3:1,7,14)
In chapters 2 and 3 the Lord dictated seven letters to these seven representative assemblies in the Roman province of Asia. If you go from one to the other in the order they are given here you are going in a circle. In each letter the Lord presented Himself in that character that corresponded to the need of that assembly and also of that period of time in church history that that assembly characterizes.
Firstly He presented Himself (which was the custom in those days) and then He immediately commended what He could (and we do well to follow this example). He could not commend in every case, but anything good that He could commend He did. Then He took up any problems He saw (and He sees all) that needed to be addressed. If we were to work in that order we would be much more successful in helping with problems, but so often when we jump into the problem we have long since lost sight of anything good in our brother or sister; we are just taken up with their problems.
Then the Lord appealed to all and finally addressed Himself to the overcomer, the one who by His grace would seek to rise above these problems. In the last four letters the Lord reversed this order and addressed the overcomer first and then says to the overcomer, "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies". Things in a general way were too far gone to address the whole group. We could go into a lot of detail on these chapters, but books have been written on them and I will let you study these for yourself.
"After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard as of a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here, and I will show thee the things which must take place after these things." (4:1)
The third part of the book very definitely begins here. John being told to "Come up here" may be a veiled reference to the rapture. The rapture is not before us as such in this book, but John is told to go up to heaven and is given 'a ring-side seat' as it were to view the things that were going to happen "after these things", that is, after the church dispensation comes to its close. This is why it is a prophetic book. There then follows a rapid conclusion of the book in terms of a rapid chronological survey of things that are going to happen until we come to the conclusion of this book in chapter 11.
"And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet: and there were great voices in the heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world of our Lord and of His Christ is come, and He shall reign to the ages of ages. And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, Lord God Almighty, He who is, and who was, that Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast reigned. And the nations have been full of wrath, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead to be judged, and to give the recompense to Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to those who fear Thy name, small and great; and to destroy those that destroy the earth. And the temple of God in the heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail." (11:15-19)
With the Lord setting up His Kingdom this is, in one sense, the conclusion. When we read the rest of the book there are a series of 'flashback close-ups'. If we have seen films of ball games then we will know that certain things that certain players do are more important than other things that they or others do, and what the player with the ball does is what really counts, and so when there is a crucial play the cameras replay it in slow motion. We see the arm going back to throw the pass, we see the details of what he did, but in slow motion. The most important things are shown in detail. That is what we basically have in the second part of the Revelation. A number of things are looked at in detail. Revelation 21:1-8, for example, gives us a picture of the eternal state, almost the only picture we have in the Revelation of what eternity is going to be like. It is very important and very beautiful, but even before that the Lord will have taken His rightful place so here is one added detail that God can give us. Similarly we have the great harlot (ch.17), the contrast to the wife of the Lamb (19:7-9), the city, Rome (called symbolically Babylon here, meaning 'confusion' - ch.18), contrasted with that glorious city that comes down from heaven from God, the New Jerusalem (ch.21). We have the false pretender and the true Church each pictured as a city and as a wife, and we have the details of the judgments of God with providential and direct judgments. Many times we read of a fourth of the earth or a third of the earth. The parts of the world that are exposed to the truth of God very directly will come under greatest judgment. We are judged in proportion to the light that we have received and that we have rejected. These are some of the details. The Revelation seems so different from the rest of John's writings but it has a different purpose, it is to give us one more view of the Lord Jesus, a view that we are waiting for.
"And one of the elders says to me, Do not weep. Behold, the lion which is of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, has overcome so as to open the book, and its seven seals. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God which are sent into all the earth: and it came and took it out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne. And when it took the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, having each a harp and golden bowls full of incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open its seals; because Thou hast been slain, and hast redeemed to God, by Thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth." (5:5-10)
This heavenly scene in Revelation 5 occurs at the beginning of the tribulation time, and while it is not the eternal picture nevertheless it is a beautiful picture with the throne of God at the center. Think of Busch stadium in St Louis; the playing field is in the center and all the seats are arranged in a circle around it so that no matter where you sit you have to look forward to the center. In heaven it is the same. Who has the 'box seats', the best seats? The four living creatures, representative of God's attributes in judgment and in government of the world, but then we have twenty-four thrones and twenty-four elders seated on them dressed as priests and crowned. These twenty-four elders represent the saints of God in glory. We are closest to the Lord. It is one of these elders who later on continued the tour that John got of heaven and of future events and so on, and he was able to explain in chapter 5 why there was weeping. We will have an understanding when we are in the glory with the Lord of many things we cannot explain today.
What is the center? A Person, One who is viewed in a double character of the conquering lion of the tribe of Judah and as a Lamb freshly slain. The Lord Jesus is in the center of God's throne and He is soon to take His place here on this earth. The book sealed with seven seals is the title deed to the world and all that it has. In order for the Lord to take over this world He has got to cleanse it, He has got to execute judgment and He is the only One worthy to do so. In the following chapters we see Him beginning to do so.
The first judgments are the seal judgments and they seem to be very providential. The later judgments are very directly from God and there is a great deal of detail in both the chronological sequence and also in the series of flashbacks later on. That series is mostly in chronological order but not always. For example, after the eternal state is depicted to us in chapter 21 we go back and look again at the millennial picture of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven for, in our present condition of body and understanding with all its limitations, how can we really appreciate anything beyond the earth being reconstituted, the things being made wonderful, the environment being cleaned up, justice coming in, the Lord ruling in righteousness and putting down evil? So far as the eternal state is concerned, when the tabernacle of God shall be with men and God will dwell among them and be their God and they shall be His people, these things are told us but we are not given a description in detail of things that we are just not capable yet of entering into.
"Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written in it; for the time is near. And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." (1:3, 22:7)
There is special blessing attached to the study of this book. It is the only book that presents us with details as to the Assembly's future. We are told that to depart and to be with Christ is far better (Phil. 1:23) and we know that our future is with the Lord, but here we are given some details. Just as the bride of a king will be pleased to see every honor that is to be brought to her husband, to see him conquering his enemies, putting down evil, and so on, and to rule with him at his side, we too should treasure this book. We will be at the Lord Jesus' side, we will be following Him. We read of the marriage of the Lamb in chapter 19. What occurs in the tribulation time on the earth when we are in the glory, the remnant of Israel and those whom they have reached from among the Gentiles, people that will be brought to the Lord, these things do not directly concern us but they are His interests and that is why we are interested in them. It is not directly our future but it is His future, and as we love and appreciate Him and have this wonderful relationship with Him we are very interested in what will happen. We are not just going to be so 'intoxicated' with our delight in Him in heaven that we will be oblivious to everything else; no, we will be there intelligently entering into all that concerns His interests.
There are more glimpses of heaven in this book than in any other, and yet it is a book essentially of judgment. There are majestic descriptions of worship (the verses I read out of chapter 11 are part of Händel's Messiah as well). The focus is on the area that John was acquainted with, the area that had the gospel presented to it. The Lord's nearness, His coming and His reign are emphasized. There are appeals to assemblies and to individuals in assemblies, to heed the Lord's evaluation. We are not told things in Scripture just to fill our heads with knowledge, just to have an intelligent understanding: there is to be application. It is a wonderful book, a powerful stroke against the greatness of Rome, presenting the One who is far, far greater.
"Behold, I come quickly, and My reward with Me, to render to every one as his work shall be.. He that testifies these things says, Yea, I come quickly. Amen; come, Lord Jesus." (22:12,20)
The book ends on a very beautiful, tender note. John had been shown all these things. Then repeatedly in the last chapter he is told by the Lord Jesus, "Behold, I come quickly". Virtually the final words of this book are, "He that testifies these things says, Yea, I come quickly" and then there is a response "Amen; come, Lord Jesus." If we can read the Revelation without responding in this way then we have missed the point.