The Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation is written to the church, the body of Christ. In chapters 2 and 3 Jesus addressed the 7 churches in Asia. Seven is a number of completeness, so this is to the complete church (the universal church).
Some people see the seven churches as the church throughout the ages, ending with the church in Laodicea, which many see as the apostate church of the last days. I believe that the seven letters are to be applied to the church of today as they apply, i.e., according to where the message fits.
In five out of the seven letters Jesus chastised the church for some failure on their part to live up to their calling in Christ Jesus. In four out of the five letters he had both positive and negative remarks. But to the church in Laodicea, he had nothing good to say about them.
The kinds of things he had against the five (the majority) are that 1) they had abandoned the love for Jesus they had at first, 2) they had people among them who were following false gods and false teachers/prophets who were leading the people into sin, 3) they were tolerating false teaching and doctrines which were seducing people into sexual immorality, 4) they had a reputation of being spiritually alive, but they were mostly dead spiritually, and 5) they were neither hot nor cold spiritually but were lukewarm.
To the five churches where Jesus chastised them, he also called them to repent of their sins or else to face divine judgment of some kind. If they did repent, then he promised them eternal rewards. And then in chapters 6 through 19 we have the declaration of the judgments, which include the persecution of the saints of God. Quoting from the ESV:
Revelation 6:9-11: “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”
Revelation 12:17: “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.”
Revelation 13:6-7: [The beast] “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.”
Revelation 14:12: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”
To the other two churches Jesus spoke tenderly words of comfort and encouragement.
To #1: He knew their tribulation and their poverty (could be poverty of spirit – humility), but they were rich in faith in Christ Jesus. He knew those who claimed to be God’s children, but who were not, but were of the synagogue of Satan and were guilty of slandering the Lord’s saints.
So, he encouraged the saints with these words:
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10 ESV).
To #2: He said, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Rev 3:10-11 ESV).
If I were to apply these two to the church today, to the church that is in the minority, not the majority – to the church that is following Jesus Christ with their lives wholeheartedly and who are not denying Jesus by their lives –
I would say that this is an indication that some genuine followers of Christ will remain during the tribulation, and they will be persecuted, while others, perhaps those who have already suffered much persecution, will be removed, probably through death before the time of tribulation.
Matthew 24 ESV
Someone today asked me if I would explain Matthew 24. This person had heard from someone that Matthew 24 only applied to the Jews. So, I said I would get back to her on this, but the Lord led me to Revelation first, then to discuss Matthew 24 in light of the book of Revelation.
My first response to her was this: “One of the biggest keys to correct biblical interpretation is context. To whom is it written? When was it written? What is the context? In this case Jesus is talking to his disciples, and he says, ‘then they will deliver YOU’ (Christians) ‘up to tribulation.’” He said,
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
But this wasn’t just about the Great Tribulation. Jesus taught this and his apostles taught this all throughout the New Testament that the life of the follower of Jesus Christ is a life of suffering, and that we will be hated and persecuted as Jesus was hated and persecuted and was put to death.
[1 Pet 4:12-17; Matt 5:10-12; Matt 10:16-30; Lu 6:22; Lu 21:10-19; Jn 15:18-20; 2 Tim 3:11-12; Ac 8:1; Ac 11:19; Ac 13:50; 2 Thes 1:4; Matt 24:9-10; 1 Jn 3:13]
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt 24:21-22 ESV).
Oceans / Hillsong United
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown…
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
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