As we come to the closing portion of the Book of Revelation we need to remind ourselves why it was God gave these visions in the first place: it was to warn seven churches in Asia Minor during the first century. These congregations needed this information in order to be overcomers because they were heading into a season of violent persecution at the hands of the Roman empire. To help them endure what was ahead, but also to help them resist temptations being brought into their churches by false leaders, John is shown the events of the great tribulation which will take place just before the return of Christ. He is also shown the eternal life which will follow. Though the last generation of believers will experience persecution more severe than any in history, many will be victorious and inherit amazing blessings. Their example should encourage us all whether we live in Asia Minor during the first century or America during the 21st century. Wherever and whenever believers face the spirit of antichrist these visions will help us overcome.
A. Heres why you should believe these revelations:
1) A glorious angel showed them to me (John)
The God who inspired the great prophets sent him (v 6).
The angel was so glorious and real that at one point I became confused and tried to worship him (v 8).
But he proved he was not a deceiving spirit because he refused to be worshipped (v 9).
2) Jesus Himself spoke to me and confirmed these words
He said those who heed these prophesies are blessed (v 7).
He told me He is the One who sent the angel to me (v 16).
3) I, John, the Lords apostle testify that:
I personally heard and saw these visions (v 8).
Ive recorded the visions accurately and if anyone undermines their clear meaning so that people stumble in their faith, they will be held accountable (Mt 18:6, 7).
B. Heres why God sent these revelations:
1) The time is near (v 10).
The first century church was facing the antichrist spirit in the form of emperor worship demanded by the Roman empire.
Heres the church Jesus said would suffer the worst persecution of all, yet they overcome. Let their example inspire you to overcome though the Roman empire demands you worship its empire or die.
Throughout history believers have suffered persecution at the hands of antichrist-like governments. These are totalitarian governments which violently oppose Christ and demand loyalty to a false religion instead (they exceed their God-ordained role to support law and order, Ro 13:1-7). So John was told not to seal up these visions because their message was needed right away, and would continue to be needed down through the centiuries.
Here is a perspective youll need in order to remain loyal to Christ. It may appear you have much to lose by remaining loyal to Christ, but the truth is you have much more to lose by denying Him (vs 14, 15)
2) I am coming quickly (vs 7, 12, 20)
Jesus is not only the great judge to whom all will give an answer at the end of history, He is now actively at work encouraging and disciplining His church (Rev 2:5, 16, 21-23; 3:3, 10, 19). His final return will be sudden and unexpected by the world (though not by believers who recognize the prophetic signs, Mt 24:33). However, at any time He may suddenly enter into seasons of discipline with His church, if they cease to be faithful. Judging from chapters two and three, He evaluates us congregation by congregation. His discipline will come swiftly.
Believers need to realize Jesus knows everything we do and will reward us for obedience and discipline us for persistent disobedience. (v 12)
3) Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong
Persecution doesnt change the heart. Instead it exposes and reinforces what is hidden there (Dan 12:10; Eze 3:27).
God will honor to the end a persons freedom to choose, and tribulation forces choices to be made. Though God may warn the rebellious to repent, He will not force him or her to do so. He has given us a terrible freedom. As persecution increases repentance grows more difficult. The price one must pay gets higher. In fear of the consequences they face if they believe in Jesus, many harden themselves and join the persecutors. Those who choose Christ are also strengthened. They have been forced to count the cost and have chosen to follow Him (Lk 14:25-35).
1) What has it cost you to be a believer in Jesus Christ?
2) If you werent a Christian today what do you think your life would look like?
3) Have you ever been persecuted for your faith? What effect did it have on you?