Every Eye Shall See Him: Our Need, Task, & Hope – Revelation 1:4-8


The text for the sermon today is Revelation 1:4-8. Our text can be found on page 1028. These are the words of God:

4 John to the seven churches that 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 who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. 
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (ESV)


These verses are John’s greeting to the 7 churches in Asia. They speak to the needs of those churches. They help frame and define the task of those churches. And, most importantly, they identify the great hope those churches have as they seek to fulfill their mission. The need, the task, and the hope which enables them to complete their mission.

But before we examine those three, let’s take a moment and consider verse 4:

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

If you’ve read the other letters of the New Testament, you have seen this kind of customary introduction before. (Gal. 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:1-2) Rather than sending this letter to a single church, John addresses Revelation to seven churches in what is now western Turkey. There were more than 7 churches in Asia when John wrote these words, but he chose these seven for several important reasons.

First, if you read chapters 2-3, John addresses these churches by name: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia (not that one, though it could use some help too), & Laodicea. Not only does he address them by name, but he also pinpoints their spiritual health or sickness. He encourages and rebukes as needed. These were all real churches, with real church members, and real challenges. We’ll examine those churches in great detail in the coming weeks. But there is another reason John chooses to write to seven churches.

Revelation is a book that communicates through symbols, and numbers carry special symbolic significance throughout this book. One of John’s favorite numbers is seven, and it’s a number that denotes fulness, or completeness throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, Priests would sprinkle the blood of a sacrifice 7 times to symbolize a complete cleansing of sin. Those who were unclean would stay outside the camp for seven days in order to be fully cleansed. All of this is rooted in the very first chapter of the Bible, in which God completed his creative work in seven days.

John uses this Old Testament symbolism. In writing to seven churches, John is writing to the full or complete church—to every church in every age. In fact, if you look at a map of these seven churches you notice they are in a rough circle, yet another figure of completeness. So, in addressing these seven churches, John is effectively saying, “Every church in every age has the same needs, is called to the same task, and shares in the same hope.”


Consider the challenges faced by the early church. Immediately following the resurrection of Christ, the book of Acts records the initial spread of the gospel in the Mediterranean in and around Israel. Most of that book is the story of the first apostles being jailed for preaching the gospel. In Jerusalem, the apostles were jailed by the Jewish authorities. By the end of the book, in A.D. 62, Paul is awaiting trial in Rome. Through the end of the 60s, Emperor Nero would set Rome on fire, blame Christians for it, and institute the first government-sponsored persecution of the church. By the time John writes Revelation, in the late 90s, Domitian is the new emperor and requires everyone to refer to him as “Lord and God.” Those who refused are killed. This government-sponsored antagonism against Christianity will continue in Rome for another two centuries.

Not only did Christians face political challenges, but they also faced economic challenges. Rather than multi-national companies, commerce in the empire was run by local trade guilds. Each guild, or union, had its own patron pagan deity. Each year, to be a member in good standing, you had to confess your loyalty to the deity. Christians couldn’t do that, and many were expelled from the guilds; they could no longer buy and sell in the markets. Their stores were boycotted.
In chapters two and three, John highlights the trials and frequent failures of the seven churches. Christians in Ephesus had forgotten Christ as their first love. Smyrna in particular was threatened with martyrdom. Pergamum fell into false teachings. Thyatira compromised on sexuality. Sardis had become so comatose concerning their sin. Philadelphia was faithful to Christ, and that faithfulness meant greater pressure from their persecutors. Laodicea had become useless in the task of gospel living and proclamation. All of them troubled. Some of the trouble was of their own making, some came from the surrounding culture. But none of them had it easy. John, our older brother and apostle in Christ, laboring for the strength and endurance of the church, writes in verse 4:

Grace to you and peace (v. 4)

Many letters of New Testament begin with this greeting. The great need of every church, the great need of Lake Wylie Baptist is the grace and peace of God. No, we are not being fed to lions, yet. But I do know Christians in this church who have left jobs because they held the teachings of Christ more dearly than their career. I do know students in this church who have risked losing scholarships because their commitment to the truth was greater than their commitment to their school.

This grace and peace find their origin in the Triune Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Grace and peace come, first:

from him who is and who was and who is to come

This is God the Father, the changeless, eternal, sovereign architect of all history. This is a constant flow of grace and peace because the well from which it is draw is and was and is to come.

Are you tired of being a Christian? Tired of being told you are a bigot? Anxious about the future? Friend, your Father is the one who is and was and is to come— the future is already present and past to him. His rule will outlast this week, this month, this decade, this nation. Grace and peace also come from:

from the seven spirits who are before his throne

The seven spirits is a symbolic description of the Holy Spirit of God, the third member of the Godhead. In Isaiah 11:2 we’re told that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of:

1. The Lord

2. Wisdom
3. Understanding
4. Counsel
5. Might
6. Knowledge
7. Fear of the Lord

The grace and peace of God are grace and peace which equip you—with wisdom, with counsel, with power, with fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit has been given to all true believers and his ministry is to fill you for faithfulness to Christ. Grace and peace, finally come from:

Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

The threefold description of Christ summarizes his entire ministry:

• In life he was a faithful witness.

• He was raised by the power of God having been offered as a sacrifice for his people.
• He has now ascended and rules over every earthly king.

What is your great need? You could say, “I need a new place to live. I need a better job. I need better health.” What is the need of Lake Wylie Baptist Church? We could say that we need more space. We need more rooms. We need more volunteers. What is the need of the global church? We need more missionaries. We need more church plants. We need more pastors.

But friends, above all of these needs, there is one great need. We need an experience of the all-surpassing grace and peace of our triune God. The Father, giving you his changeless favor. The Son, giving you his perfect righteousness and taking your guilt upon himself. The Holy Spirit, giving you a new heart, giving your faith, granting you repentance so that you may receive all that Christ has done. This promise of grace and peace is not a promise that you will get a better job, but that you are adopted into the Father’s family. It is not a promise that you will avoid trials, but that the Spirit will indwell you and empower you to face every trial imaginable. It is not a promise that you will not be anxious, but that even in the deepest anxiety, you will not be forsaken because Christ was forsaken in your place. If we are going to endure the trying times set for us in the good providence of our God, we need to hear him declare his intention to grant us his grace and peace.

Not only does this passage show us our need. It also shows us our task.


The greeting shifts from the grace we receive to the glory we give. The great task of the church, as we await that day, is to glorify God. Look at the end of verse 5:

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Grace to us. Glory to him. Our job today as Lake Wylie Baptist Church in the year 2023, is the glory of God. What does that mean? Are we to sit around singing hymns all day long? “Sorry, honey I didn’t fold the laundry. Had some hymns to sing.” On a practical level. How do we glorify God? John says, Christ, having saved you, had made you a kingdom, and priests. This language of “kingdom” and “priests” first shows up at the founding of Israel as a nation. God had redeemed the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt and spoke these words to them in Exodus 19:6

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

With God as their sovereign king, Israel was to obey his commands as loyal subjects. And, as priests, they were to offer sacrifices for sin. And notice, this was conditional for Israel: “If you will obey…” But here in Revelation, it is already accomplished for the church. John writes in the past tense: “has freed us… has made us a kingdom… has made us priests.” In essence, John is saying, “the church is the new Israel.”

Romans 9:6

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring

Galatians 3:7

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

1 Peter 2:9

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Church, there is no other way to put this: when Jesus Christ came, the covenant that God made with Israel became obsolete, and the true Israel of God is no longer an ethnic nation. The church is the kingdom of Christ. We glorify him by living in accordance with his commands. We read and obey the Sermon on the Mount. He has made us priests. We don’t offer animals. We proclaim the death of Christ as the only sacrifice that truly covers and atones for sin. This is our task. We are to obey Christ and proclaim Christ. This is how we glorify God. We obey his commands and we call others to believe in the work of Christ.


When I was a little boy, I remember my dad getting a paper copy of the Bass Pro Shops catalogue. We flipped through the pages looking at fishing rods and reels. Then my dad selected one for me. This was before the internet, so everything was ordered by mail or by phone. This was also before two-day shipping so you never quite knew when your order would arrive. Over the next week my little boys mind could not contain itself. I couldn’t sleep. I just knew that maybe tomorrow it would come. John writes to persecuted, marginalized, ostracized, exhausted Christians and he knows that they need more that a fishing rod to motivate them. So, he writes:

7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

The same Jesus who was a faithful martyr, the firstborn of the new creation, the ruler of the kings of the earth will return. And no one will miss his return. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that Christ’s return will be accompanied by a cry of command, the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. When Christ returns, every eye will see him. Every ear will hear him. Every sinner who through their sin made his death necessary for our salvation will look on him whom they have pierced.

Not only is our hope in a future event, our hope is in an eternal person. The passage concludes in verse 8 with these words:

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

In verse 4, God the Father was described as the one who was and is and is to come. Now those words are spoken by Christ of himself. How do we know this is Christ speaking? Because Christ speaks the same words at the end of Revelation, sealing its promises to us:

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Our hope is not in ourselves. It’s not in success as we might define it. Our hope is in him who is, was, and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty. Friends, I have walked with Christ for 31 years. And yet I still get tripped up in sin. I’m amazed at how quickly I can still give into behavior that dishonors Christ. You may be right there with me. We are all still under construction. Our hope is not in ourselves. We all daily face challenges that if unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit are insurmountable. Our church, baptizing more Christians, growing every month faces challenges. Our culture bent on silencing the truth will not give up. But the success of our task does not ultimately depend on our faithfulness, but the faithfulness of the Almighty. Not on our abilities, but his. Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.

He maketh the rebel a priest and a king,

He hath bought us and taught us this new song to sing:
Unto Him who hath loved us and washed us from sin,
Unto Him be the glory forever. Amen.

(Arthur Pierson, A New Song to Sing)

Dogged Commitment to the Word


Every good pastor has a set of principles and values he brings into his ministry within the church. These principles and values ultimately shape and define the life of the church. If you were to ask me, “Jonathan, what is priority number one for Lake Wylie Baptist Church,” I would, with zero hesitation, respond, “The Word of God.” The Word of God must be central if our church will be found faithful to Jesus Christ. This is not worship of the Word. Rather, it’s a focus on the Word because only the Word reveals the name of the One we are to worship.


To the law and to the testimony:
If they speak not according to this word,
It is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)


I could give you scores of passages that exhort us to pay close attention to the Word of God. I could list verse after verse that explains the authority, necessity, sufficiency, and clarity of God’s Word. This verse, like so many others, communicates a simple and essential truth: whatever disagrees with the Word of God is false. Period. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Isaiah was called to preach to a people who refused to listen. God’s Word was not hidden from them; rather it was made plain. They rejected the Word of God to their own ruin and collapse. Consider a different scenario years after the ministry of Isaiah.

And the king… read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord… Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. (2 Kings 23:1, 2, 15)

When Josiah reigned in Judah, a member of his government found an old scroll that had been lying around in the temple: it was the Law of Moses that had been forgotten in Judah. After reading the Word of God, Josiah instituted reforms. Idols were toppled. Right worship was restored: an example of the Word’s power to convict and transform.


Examine any historic reform of the church and a common thread is a rediscovery of the Word of God. I’m currently reading through a history of the Reformation in England and I was struck by the conversion story of Thomas Bilney, who at the exhortation of a Roman Catholic Priest, had fasted, held vigils, attended masses, and even purchased indulgences yet had no peace within his soul. Bilney wanted to purchase a New Testament to read for himself but was told by his priest that the book contained heresies. Read the words of church historian, Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné:

“At last he took courage. Urged, said he, by the hand of God, he walked out of the college, slipped into the house where the volume was sold in secret, bought it with fear and trembling, and then hastened back and shut himself up in his room. He opened it— his eyes caught these words: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. He laid down the book, and meditated on the astonishing declaration. “What! St Paul the chief of sinners, and yet St Paul is sure of being saved!”

God creates by his Word. And God makes us new in Christ by his Word.


Each week our sermons plod through books of the Bible. We explain, proclaim, and apply the Word to the entire church. If you come to me for counseling, I will counsel with the Word. When our children run back to their Sunday School classes, they are running back to rooms filled with the Word. There is no substitute or replacement for the Word. And beginning this week we’ll begin another year of the Bible Reading Challenge. From September to May, we’ll read the entire Bible. It’s no small task, but it is worth every minute you spend in the Word.

Decades from now, when we all are long gone, I pray that the legacy we are planting, one of Word-centeredness, remains. If the Lord delays his return and you were to attend a worship service at Lake Wylie Baptist in 2123, I pray you would find a church doggedly committed to reading, preaching, and obeying the Word of Christ.

Laden with guilt and full of fears,
I fly to Thee, my Lord,
And not a glimpse of hope appears,
But in Thy written Word
The volumes of my Father’s grace
Does all my griefs assuage
Here I behold my Savior’s face
In every page.

– Isaac Watts

The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Introducing the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:-3)


The text for the sermon today is Revelation 1:1-3.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (ESV)


Imagine that tomorrow morning you were moving to a strange country you knew nothing about. One of the first things you’d have to do is learn a language. Vocabulary, sentence structure, colloquialisms. You’d also encounter a new culture: customs, dress, habits, gestures, holidays. You might be left-handed and learn that no one uses their left hand in your new home. You’re used to pointing with your finger, but your new neighbors find it highly offensive. It wouldn’t take long before you realize how much you have to learn. It would require patience and practice.

In many ways, we need to approach the book of Revelation the same way we’d approach moving to a new country. If you’ve only read the gospels or the NT letters, Revelation may sound like a completely different language. It’s full of symbolic numbers and visions of otherworldly creatures. At times is seems to lack any sense of chronology or logical arrangement. But, just like moving to a new country, if you will commit to being a learner, if you will be patient and practice reading this book, you will not only learn how to speak the language but your life will also be shaped by its message.

Many avoid the book of Revelation. Some are frightened by it. Images of beasts and dragons and plagues. Others are intimidated by it. There is no other book in the Bible like it. It’s difficult to read and interpret. Many are discouraged by the division it can cause between Christians who disagree over how to interpret the book. But John tells us that those who do read, hear, and obey it will be blessed. So, this book is not given that you might fear, fail, or faint. It’s given that you might be faithful.

The first three verses of Revelation give us the title of the book, as well as a summary of the book’s content as well as how we ought to approach this book so that its message can be clearly heard. As we wade into these initial verses we’ll unpack their meaning by seeing how they answer 4 questions:



The first five words of the book tell us exactly what we are reading:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Revelation is a translation of the Greek word apokalupsis, from which we also get the word apocalypse. Unfortunately, for us, “apocalypse” has come to mean “a world-ending event.” Maybe you’ve read a post-apocalyptic novel in which a cataclysmic event has ended the world as we know it. But the Greek word apokalupsis doesn’t mean world-ending event. Rather, the word literally means “unveiling or uncovering that which was formerly hidden.” If you rolled up your sleeve you would bare your arm; uncovering that which was previously hidden.

In other words, even though Revelation is filled with symbols and visions, it was not written to be obscure, elusive, or enigmatic. Revelation was written to make something clear, plain, and obvious. Verse 1 says that God gave this revelation in order to show his servants. The goal of the book is to show, not hide, to reveal, not conceal. So, the visions of this book are not concealing information, they are revealing information.

Not only is this book an unveiling. We are told it is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. The book identifies itself as the revelation of Jesus Christ. This expression might mean a revelation with Jesus Christ as its source. Or it might mean a revelation with Jesus Christ as its principal content. Both possibilities express important truths.

This book reveals Jesus Christ. In Luke 24:27 we’re told that Jesus began with Moses and all the Prophets and he interpreted in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus is the key that unlocks all of the Bible, therefore he is the key that unlocks Revelation. As Joel Beeke put it: “This vision is about Jesus Christ, not the pope, Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Saddam Hussein, or any other person in world history.”

Certainly, it has much to say about world history, governments, motives and methods of world leaders, but first and foremost it is a revelation about Jesus Christ, and what God has accomplished in his resurrection in the past, and what God will accomplish at his Second Coming in the future. Rather than reading world histories and historic figures into the book, we ought to read history and historic figures in light of the main message of the book: that God is the author of history and will bring it to its final culmination on the day of Christ.

Revelation is not a horoscope, a Ouija board, or a cipher that must be decoded. Jesus is the theme of the book: the one who is revealed. He is the author of the book, for the Spirit of Christ inspired John to write it. Jesus is the revealer of the book, as verse 1 says “the revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to show his servants.” It is not always an easy book to understand, but God is not hiding its meaning from you. Revelation declares that God alone is the author of history, and will bring history to its culmination through what Christ has done in his death and resurrection, the spread of the gospel, and the return of Christ to judge.


Let’s look back at verse 1:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

Follow the chain of action: God gave this revelation to Christ to show his servants things which must soon take place. Jesus in turn gave this revelation to an angel who then relayed it to Jesus’ servant, a man named John, who in turn wrote it down for Christ’s other servants, the church.

Revelation was likely written in the late 90s A.D.. Several decades earlier, the church had endured one persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. That was the persecution that resulted in the beheading of the Apostle Paul. Now, at the end of the Apostolic age, the Roman Emperor Domitian increases the persecution of the church to such a degree that to even be a Christian was a crime punishable by death. These servants, to whom John is writing, are walking precisely in the footsteps of their master, Jesus Christ who promised in John 15:16, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; for I have overcome the world.”

The human author of this letter gives us only one name. No title. No biography. We are only told that the angel delivered this message to a man named John. Of course, we know who this is because there is only one person in the time around Christ who could introduce himself as “John” and know that the church would understand who was writing. This is the brother of James, the son of Zebedee. Indeed, this is the same man who left his nets on the shores of Galilee to follow Christ as a fisher of men. This is the same author of the Gospel of John and the 3 letters of John at the end of the New Testament. This is the same John who sat with the mother of Christ at the foot of the cross. This is the same John who eventually made his way to minister in the city of Ephesus and there took care of the aging mother of our Lord. But the rise of Domitian’s terror meant that John could no longer preach freely about the gospel. In verse 9, John tells us where it is that he received this Revelation of Jesus:

9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Just as Christ suffered, so did John, and so did all of the church under the reign of Domitian. So, the book of Revelation is for the church, but more precisely the book has a special meaning and message of a church in tribulation.

Friends, every year that passes we find ourselves in a nation more and more opposed to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. And, because they cannot go up to heaven to attack him, they attack his bride on earth, the church.

A Biblical understanding of marriage is under assault. During 2020 we saw several governments unequally target church meetings as non-essential as pot dispensaries and abortion clinics remained open. Our society worships the state, and the state worships itself. There is no humility. There is little honesty. We are a nation that has blasphemed the name of God and forsaken his laws.

Sadly, we find most of the churches in our nation either compromised or apathetic. We have lost our prophetic voice. The teaching of the church no longer threatens the powers of the state. In the 16th Century, the Reformer John Knox said, “Give me Scotland or I die.” To which the Queen Mary said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than the assembled armies of Europe.” No heads of state fear the prayers of the church. Instead, today they mock and scorn them. The servants of Christ have forgotten their first love, embraced the world and its desires, and conceded on the truth in order to avoid ostracism. A few have kept the Word of God, and through difficulty, they will prevail with Christ.

By the end of the book, it becomes clear that God has given Revelation to bless every church in every age who reads this book.

6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” 

7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:6-7)

Friends, this book is not for a future generation, it’s for us. It’s for every servant of Jesus Christ who must endure tribulation as they patiently wait on the return of the King.


As we study this book, we have to make sure that take the proper approach to understanding its message. For the next few minutes, I am going to overview the 5 predominant ways Revelation has been interpreted. I appreciate how the commentator Joel Beeke summarizes these views and helps us see the benefit of them all. He writes:


First is the preterist approach. This view sees Revelation wholly in terms of the circumstances that transpired in John’s day prior to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, without any reference to future events. The word preterism is derived from the Latin word praeteritum, meaning “that which is past.” Preterists believe that any interpretation of Revelation must be confined to the historic past rather than projected into the future.

This view interprets Revelation’s opening words, “things which must shortly come to pass,” as events that happened in John’s own time. Preterists argue that, just as the seven churches of Asia were real first-century churches to which letters were addressed, so the entire book of Revelation contains only things that came to pass in John’s day or shortly thereafter, with the exception of chapters 21–22, which clearly refer to the time of the new heaven and new earth.

The strength of this approach is that it strongly affirms the operative framework of the book as “things which must shortly come to pass.” Its weakness is that Revelation then has little to say to the church today in the midst of her struggles


Second is the historicist approach. This view, which was held by most of the sixteenth-century Reformers, sees the book of Revelation as a symbolic representation of the panorama of church history, from the first coming of Christ to His second advent at the end of the world.

A historicist might say that the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2–3 do not refer to seven particular churches in Asia Minor but to seven ages of church history. They would then conclude that today we live in the age of Laodicea or the era of the lukewarm church. They thus view Revelation as a chart of church history, offering a series of historical pictures moving from Christ’s first coming to the end of the present age. In Revelation 13, the beast rising from the sea could be the rise of Islam in the seventh century, while Revelation 17, several centuries further along, may refer to the Roman Catholic Church and the rise of the papacy.

The strength of this approach is that it embraces all of church history; its weakness is that it too easily assumes that Revelation prophesies a linear movement through church history, with no recapitulation of events seen from different points of view.


Third is the futurist approach. This was the most popular view of evangelicals at the beginning of the twentieth century, especially premillennial dispensationalists, but it has lost ground in recent decades. The futurist believes that the visions of Revelation 4–22 refer to events that are still future, but that they will transpire immediately prior to and along with Christ’s second coming at the end of history, ushering in the millennial age. Most futurists are premillennial; that is, they believe that Christ’s return will precede the millennial age.

The problem with this view is that it reads the book as almost entirely without reference to the needs and struggles of the churches to which John first sent this book. It also affords little consolation for the suffering church at any other point in church history, including today, because it is exclusively focused on events surrounding Christ’s second coming. The strength of this view is that it emphasizes the ultimate victory of Christ and His elect over the world at His second coming.


Fourth is the idealist approach, sometimes called the poetic or inspirational approach. This position is sometimes called iterism, from the Latin verb itero, meaning “to repeat,” because idealist interpreters hold that the events described in Revelation are repeated from time to time in the experience of the church from age to age.

This approach teaches that Revelation is relevant for everyone since it deals with principles and symbols that are always valid in our personal history and experience. The idealist scarcely wrestles with the problem of chronology in Revelation, preferring to see this book and its symbolism as a tract written for persecuted Christians of any period. The symbolism is interpreted loosely, in a very general way, to give comfort and encouragement to persecuted Christians.

The strength of this approach is its applicability to the church of all ages; its weakness is that it is difficult to affirm this view exegetically, based on the description “things which must shortly come to pass” (1:1).


In accord with many Reformed theologians, I propose an eclectic approach that accents the idealist or iterist approach. This approach has also been called the parallel or cyclical view of Revelation. Imagine a man with a video camera who is recording a church congregation. He pans over the people, starting on one side of the church and going all around. Then he goes up into the gallery and does the same thing. Then he goes to the back, comes from behind, and pans over everyone again. That is what we see in Revelation. The book offers us views of the entire history of the church but seen from different vantage points.

I believe there are seven parallel sections in Revelation. Each section offers a different view of the church in history, as we will see as we make our way through the book. With this parallel or cyclical view of the book, we will see how each section spans the entire dispensation of the gospel, from the first coming of Christ two thousand years ago down to His coming again at the last day.

Here are the 7 parallel sections of Revelation:

  • The Seven Churches (1-3)
  • The Seven Seals (4-8:1)
  • The Seven Trumpets (8:2-11)
  • The War with the Dragon (12-14)
  • The Seven Bowls of Wrath (15-16)
  • The Fall of Babylon (17-19)
  • The Victory of Christ & His Bride (20-22)

One of the interpretive keys, if not the most important interpretive key to unlocking the message of Revelation is found at the end of verse 1 when John writes:

He (Jesus) made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

That phrase, “He made it known,” may appear in your Bible as he “signified it.” It’s means to signify by symbols and is a direct quotation from Daniel 2:28 in which God has just given a symbolic vision to the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar.  In other words, here in the first verse, John is telling us how to read and understand. This book is symbolic. Some ignore this book saying, “It’s too difficult. So many have gotten it wrong. I can’t possibly understand it.” Other obsess over this book, associating every detail with a geopolitical leader or event. Years ago, they found Henry Kissinger in Revelation as the anti-Christ, then it was Mikhail Gorbachev, then Saddam Hussein.

Dear church, there is a better way. You don’t have to ignore this book. It can be understood and applied. But you need not, indeed, you are not to treat it like a key to unlocking the politics of the Near East. Revelation is not a puzzle book. It is a picture book.

John’s witness to the revelation of Jesus Christ is not intended to be a secret, concealed curiosity, but an exhortation about how God wants Christians to live in light of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ above all earthly powers. I love how Vern Poythress puts it: “Revelation is not intended to tickle our fancy, but to strengthen our heart.”

The goal of Revelation is not to solve a puzzle, it’s to behold a picture of that which is being revealed: Christ as the conqueror. It is his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and rule in the heavenly places, his Spirit empowering his church, his gospel, his mercy, his pardon, his truth, in all ages, and his soon return to judge the living and the dead.

If you keep Christ at the center, you will read and understand this book.


God promises to bless those who read this book.

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

In the earliest church services, it was customary for one of the elders to publicly read aloud the writings of the Old Testament, or one of the letters of the Apostles because there were limited copies of the Scriptures and because many were illiterate. Verse 3 is an encouragement to pastors to read and church members to listen, and all to obey.

What is the blessing of reading, hearing, and obeying? John tells us in verse 3 that this book is a prophecy. Revelation 1:1 says God gave this revelation to Christ “to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” At the end of verse 3, we are told that “the time is near.”  Revelation is not about some distant future. It’s about today. It was applicable the moment the ink dried on John’s papyrus. The New Testament says the onset of the last days was marked by Christ’s pouring out His Spirit on the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). That is when Christ inaugurated His kingdom, which is now spreading to the ends of the earth. The last days include the days in which we are living. (Beeke) The church is to proclaim Christ to the ends of the earth. Satan has no power to stop that proclamation or deceive the nations any longer. But he can persecute the saints. He can pursue the saints through wicked rulers and governments. He can tempt the saints with doctrinal compromise and spiritual complacency. He can thwart the evangelistic purpose of the church by sowing seeds of disunity all while this lost world careens towards hell.

And Revelation throws back the curtain on our lives so that we see what’s going on. There is a cosmic war being waged. Everyone must take a side. There can be no riding the fence. This book presents us with horrific pictures of beasts and dragons in order to portray the spiritual gravity of our present circumstances. The blessing of this book is that it wakes you up. Those who have ears to hear will perceive the seriousness of this situation and cease compromising. (Beale) Revelation speaks to spiritually anesthetized saints, through symbols, in order to shake and sober us to the reality that God rules history, and will bring it to its consummation in Christ.

Conversely, to neglect the reading, hearing, and obeying of this book is to be cursed. To fall prey to Satan, the lies of this present evil age, and to fail to prepare for the coming of Christ.

As we embark on this journey through Revelation, how should we respond?

Dear church, read this book. Do not neglect it. Read it with faith. Read it to build spiritual muscle and courage. Don’t wait until the time of tribulation is upon you. Dig the well of endurance before you are tested.

Obey Jesus Christ. The blessing of this book is not found in reading alone. It is not found in greater knowledge but in greater commitment to Christ. If you can speak as an expert on Revelation but have not love for members of the church, you’re a clanging cymbal. If you can trace every detail of this book, but you do not pray, you are nothing. If you can unravel the mysteries of Revelation, but take no time to disciple your children in the fundamentals of the faith, you gain nothing.

Be prepared for Christ’s coming. Examine yourself to see if you are truly in the faith. Have you been made right with God through faith alone in what Jesus Christ has done at the cross? Friends, the time is near, indeed it is at hand. The war of the cosmos is raging and you have a few short years to settle your accounts with God. After that, there will be no future opportunity.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.
(C.T. Studd)

Why Revelation?


Our study through Revelation may be the single most important sermon series I’ve preached in my 7 years at Lake Wylie Baptist. In fact, I would say that I’ve never felt as compelled to preach a book as I have felt compelled to preach through Revelation. But why? Let’s begin with a text from Revelation itself. In Revelation 13 John describes a beast rising out of the sea which is given great authority by the dragon, Satan. We’ll pick up the text in verse 6:


“It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also, it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain… Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Rev. 13:6-8, 9b)


Instead of trying to precisely identify who or what this beast is, focus instead on what the beast does. The beast blasphemes God, wars against the saints, and wields global authority. John’s original audience understood this beast as symbolic of the ancient Roman Empire with its imperial cult; a cult which coerced the worship of Caesar. Christians, who declare that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” suffered immense persecution for their refusal to obey this beastly government. They were ostracized from society, their businesses were shunned, and many were fed to lions.

While our current world governments may not result in the final beast before the return of Christ, there can be no doubt that a godless spirit rules the day. Laws and public policies militate against a Biblical view of marriage, the bloodshed of legalized abortion continues to stain our nation, and in 2020 many churches were selectively shut down by power-thirsty officials as non-essential while pot dispensaries remained open. Beyond all this, global elites gather to plan what the rest of us can eat, how we can spend our money, and what products we may or may not purchase. Friends, in many ways, the nations of this world act like the wicked Roman empire of John’s day and the beast of Revelation 13. They do not honor God but instead, blaspheme him. Their policies wage a cold war against the saints. Their heads are swollen with pride, believing they are the saviors of the earth.

John ends his vision of the beast with an exhortation: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints.”


In light of these recent difficulties, many Christians are wondering, “What do we do? How are we to live in a nation so antagonistic to our beliefs?” Revelation gives us the answer. More than any other book of the Bible, Revelation ministers specifically to saints in times of tumult.

This book, filled with visions of beasts and dragons, harlots and angels, wakes us up to cosmic realities. There is an ongoing war between Satan and the church of Christ, and sleepy saints are easy prey. Complacent, compromised, and cold churches can easily be conquered. We are studying Revelation precisely because it’s a call for the endurance of the saints. This book teaches us that although a beastly government may, for a time, wield vast authority, ultimately God alone unlocks history and brings it to its final culmination in and through Jesus Christ the Son.

Revelation teaches us that the church conquers in exactly the same manner as our Savior, Christ. We overcome “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Rev. 12 11) What is it that will outlast the kingdoms of this world? What is it that will prevail over tyrannical and megalomaniacal rulers? Only an unrelenting faithfulness to the testimony of Christ.

In the end, every beast and Babylon will fall. The saints will sing the words of Revelation 19:3, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” In the meantime, our church is responsible to faithfully endure these years of tumult. We are to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of Christ. Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord. The church must preach the gospel of Christ which leads to joyful obedience to the law of Christ. We must regain our prophetic voice in this nation. Our power does not lie in our numbers or our ability to lobby Congress. Our power lies in the Word of Christ. We declare to this world, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” And there is no beast that can withstand that power.

I pray you will prioritize weekly worship with us on the Lord’s Day. This study through Revelation will challenge all of us because it will call us to greater love of Christ and more costly faithfulness to his commands.


Reset: Becoming Prayer

Charles Spurgeon once remarked, “Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer.” In a similar fashion, Francis of Assisi is reported to have said, “We should not seek so much to pray but to become prayer.” I would add that if a Baptist minister and a Roman Catholic both say the same thing there may just be some truth to it. What I believe Spurgeon and St. Francis are teaching us is this: the real substance of prayer is dependence upon God. Prayer, at its most fundamental, is an inner leaning upon the Lord of Heaven and Earth, looking to, adoring, and petitioning Him for all the needs of the body and soul.

If Spurgeon and St. Francis weren’t enough, I believe the Apostle Paul communicates the same truth in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which tells us to “pray without ceasing”. How can we possibly do this? Do we not need to pause to eat or sleep? Are we not also supposed to educate our children or work diligently at our jobs? John Bunyan, the Baptist Puritan wrote, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” All of these authors are helping us reset how we think about prayer.

Too often, Christians think of prayer only in terms of a daily time of prayer in which we lay out our petitions and requests to the Lord. We ought to think of prayer as both an activity of the mind and mouth, but also as a posture of the soul. Of course, we should vocalize our requests to the Lord (Phil. 4:6), but silence before the Lord is just as necessary to prayer as words. (Ps. 62:1)

You and I are to cultivate a whole life awareness of and dependence upon God. When we wake up to a busy day, we ought to depend on the Lord to strengthen us for the task. When we go to sleep and the anxieties of life threaten to keep us awake, we ought to trust our cares and souls into his Fatherly hands. When we sit down to eat and enjoy a hearty meal, our praise and gratitude for the meal ought to well up into praise and gratitude for the Lord who daily feeds us. Many Christians who struggle to have a vibrant “prayer time” heap needless guilt on themselves. There are many who are unable to persevere through an hour of prayer, yet who pray continually because they have cultivated a moment-by-moment awareness of the Lord.

How might you cultivate greater awareness and dependence upon God? A few practical suggestions:

1. Read Theology. I know this is not what you expected to hear. But, learning some theology will help give you the categories of thought that increase awareness. What do I mean? If you learn more of God’s sovereignty and providence (theology) you will recognize his purposes in places you may have overlooked. Read about his omnipotence, his omniscient (knowledge), or his omnipresence, and your awareness of his reality, power, and presence will increase. You will “see” him everywhere and in every circumstance.

2. Read Prayers. Confession time: I often find it easier to read the prayers of others than to vocalize my own prayers. If you feel the same way, begin with the Psalms. Read them as if they were your own prayers. Along with the Psalms, read a collection of prayers by saints of old. You can easily find collections of Charles Spurgeon’s prayers online for free. Reading these prayers is like having Hakeem Olajuwon teach you how to move your feet in in the post, or having Michelangelo guide your hand as you paint.

3. Make a List. Many of us keep a list of prayer needs, but how many keep a list of gratitude? Make a list of every good and perfect gift in your life that God has given. (Jas. 1:17) Slow down and make a concerted effort at gratitude. Just after Paul’s exhortation to pray without ceasing, he tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18) Prayer and thanksgiving are inseparable. The Psalms of greatest sorrows often contain the shouts of deepest gratitude.

One final thought: none of us live in a perpetual awareness of the Lord. This does not come easily but through attentiveness and Spirit-empowered effort. In other words, it comes by grace. Any single moment that you are aware of God and your dependence upon him, that’s a gift. So, thank him for that too.

The Name of the Lord — An Exhortation Concerning the Third Commandment

The third of the 10 Commandments declares:

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

To take the name of the Lord in vain means to use God’s holy name as if it were cheap or worthless. How is this done? Human beings take the name of the Lord in vain when they curse God, also known as blasphemy, but there are other ways of mistreating God’s name.

We take the name of the Lord in vain when we attach his holy name to a promise we know we aren’t going to keep. When you swear by God’s name, it must not be a false promise.

We take God’s name in vain when we use his name to ascribe a false sense of authority to our plans, dreams, or feelings. We ought to be careful about using the phrase, “God told me…” To casually use God’s name to justify yourself or your plans is perilous.

Neither ought we to use God’s name carelessly. Prayer to God and in the name of Jesus ought not to be a flippant or phony practice. Christians may have differing convictions over phrases like, “Oh my gosh,” but every Christian ought to take seriously how they use the name of God.

You are called Christian—you bear the name of Christ, the Son of God. Your purpose is to bring greater reverence and care and attention to the name of your God.

So, hear God’s third command to you:

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sin, so let us pray.

Reset: Worship as Warfare


Throughout the year there are seasons that lend themselves to a reset. Every January many of us reset our values, priorities, and especially our diets (gotta lay off those holiday sweets). August also lends itself to resets. School is starting back. Summer travels come to an end.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of short articles on resets and today I want to reset our thinking on worship. Specifically, I want to explain the fundamentals of our worship on the Lord’s Day.


Let’s begin with a passage of Scripture to help focus our thoughts:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)


Although we live in a material world, we are all engaged in a spiritual war and we win that war only if we use the right weapons. The church cannot win this spiritual battle using physical weapons. Rather, the fight can only be won if we wield the spiritual weapons that Christ has given to us. In this age, Christ’s kingdom is spiritual and is advanced with spiritual weapons. The church doesn’t advance the kingdom through the sword (like Islam), nor do we win through political power (like Big Pharma).So, what are the weapons we use? They are the ordinary means of worship. The spiritual weapons that have divine power to break spiritual fortresses are the preached Word of God, the prayers & songs of the saints, & the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As one preacher said, the church advances the kingdom through Spirit-empowered Words, Water, Bread & Wine.

How does the church break down the stronghold of unbelief? We preach Christ because faith comes by hearing the Word. (Rom. 10:17) How do we mortify the devilish enemies of bitterness and jealousy? By praying prayers of confession and extending the forgiveness of Christ. How do we welcome former enemies of Christ into our ranks? We baptize them as a sign of their death and resurrection. How do we bombard the towers of envy, pride, malice, and prejudice? We all sit at the Lord’s table and share in the same meal.

Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Cor. 10:17 (ESV)

When you arrive on a Sunday morning, you are assembling in Jesus’ name with the ranks of Heaven. When we sing, we are taking the battering ram of the gospel and throwing it into the gates of unbelief. When we confess our own sinfulness and need of pardon, we are carpet-bombing the bunkers of self-sufficiency. As the Word is preached, the Spirit of God is killing sin, and raising the dead into new life.

Nothing and I really mean this, nothing is as essential to our church health as your weekly attendance and joyful engagement in our worship services. It is the hub in the center of the wheel. If our church were a rocket, Lord’s Day worship would be the propellant. As the kingdom of Christ advances, the ordinary means of worship are the divinely powerful weapons that conquer the unbelieving world.


I want to conclude with several concise and pastoral exhortations:

• Men, lead the way in singing hymns and spiritual songs. We need every hand on the battering ram. If you are redeemed by Christ, sing. I get that some of you aren’t singers. But Jesus, in his Word, commands you to sing. So, obey him.• Parents, practice saying we “get to” go to church, not we “got to.” Model joyful attendance and model faithful attendance.

• Say, “Amen,” loudly. When a prayer is concluded, the congregation ought to echo with a hearty, “Amen.” Teach your kids to do this too.

• Look around the room. We pack as much light into the room so that you can see one another. Lord’s Day worship is not an individual exercise. It’s an army, assembled.

• Don’t rush out. When the service concludes, hang around and get to know others. Even better, share something from the service that ministered to you personally.


We live in a microwaved culture. We want instant results, instant gratification, instant satisfaction. But spiritual growth can’t be microwaved. Most Christians overestimate the power of a single prayer, a single counseling appointment, or a single devotional time. And they underestimate the cumulative power of weekly church attendance over a long period of time.

This Autumn, prioritize the local weekly gathering of the saints. Take up the weapons of warfare that Christ has given. Sing, pray, hear the Word preached, and eat that the table Christ has set for us. Trust that the church, established by Jesus Christ, will conquer the world with the preaching of the gospel.