In 1957, Jack Warner’s movie “The Spirit of St. Louis,” about Charles Lindbergh’s first-ever flight across the Atlantic Ocean, came out at the theaters. Interestingly, the real Charles Lindbergh took his wife Anne and their three youngest children to see the film. Despite a few deviations from the truth for dramatic or comic effect, Lindbergh was pleased: he found the movie true to the spirit of his journey. The audience surrounding him that day was enthralled. “About halfway through the film, during one particularly tense moment in the flight, (Lindbergh’s eleven-year-old daughter) Reeve clutched her mother’s arm and whispered, ‘He is going to get there, isn’t he?’” (A. Scott Berg, Lindbergh, p. 503)
Well, of course they DID know he was going to get there — the man in the flight was their father, who was sitting right there with them that day! They KNEW the end of the story. They could be confident in how it was going to end.
And that is what this Book of Revelation has done for God’s people throughout history: it has assured us that “we are going to get there” — because we know how it ends; we know how it is going to turn out.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we understand everything about this book.
Dionysius, who lived about 250 A.D., wrote this about Revelation:
“… since my intellect cannot judge it properly, I hold that its interpretation is a wondrous mystery. I do not understand it, but I suspect that the words have a deeper meaning. Putting more reliance on faith than on reason, I have concluded that they are too high for my comprehension. I do not reject what I have failed to understand but am rather puzzled that I failed to understand.” (Eusebius, The Church History, p. 243)
So if you have some difficulty understanding some of the Book of Revelation, you have good company. Ever since the first century, good people have struggled with understanding this Book. But here’s the thing: we may not understand every detail, but what we do understand helps us know that, as Lindbergh’s daughter declared: “We’re going to get there;” everything is going to be ok. AND it gives us total confidence in the One this Book points to: Jesus Christ; the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End. More than anything else, this Book points us to HIM. And that’s the first and most important thing we see in the opening verses of this first chapter.
We are beginning today a study of the first chapters of the Book of Revelation — at least chapters 1-3, perhaps on to chapters 4 & 5; we’ll see how the Lord leads us. These chapters give us the most glorious pictures of Jesus in the whole Bible, as well as some very convicting words to His churches that we need to hear as well. Let’s look at what the first verses tell us by way of introduction to this amazing book:
I. The Focus of the Revelation
Many people call it “Revelation,” or “Revelations” or “The Revelation of John,” but :1-2 say this is “the Revelation of JESUS CHRIST, which God gave Him to show to His bond servants.” What does this tell us about this Revelation? “It is THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.” It’s about HIM! So let’s get this straight right off:
This book is not primarily about the Antichrist,
This book is not primarily about the tribulation
This book is not primarily about Russia or Iran, or China, or the United States of America. It’s not even primarily about the nation of Israel.
This book is primarily about JESUS. HE is the focus of this Book.
The focus of Revelation is not even just on “the future.” The focus of Revelation is on the One who HOLDS the future! Throughout this book, the focus is on HIM:
— whose head and hair are white like snow
— whose eyes are like a flame of fire
— whose feet are like burnished bronze, glowing in a furnace
— whose voice is like the sound of many waters!
This book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
HE holds the future. He holds the stars in His hand. He walks among His churches. HE holds it!
HE is what this book is about. It is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
More than anything else, it shows us JESUS. HE is our hope. HE is our glory. HE is our future. HE is our eternal home.
In Charles Dickens’ classic Nicholas Nickleby, Nicholas found himself in a wretched school with a harsh schoolmaster who beat the boys for the least infraction. Along with Nicholas in the school was a disfigured young boy named Smike, who had been repeatedly beaten and oppressed by the schoolmaster, but Nicholas Nickleby took Smike under his wing, and cared for him when no one else did. Finally, when the schoolmaster was beating another young man, Nicholas Nickleby had enough. He grabbed the rod from the schoolmaster and beat him with it; now he was leaving the school. Smike is afraid of what is going to happen to him. But Nicholas tells him: “Do not be anxious. Before I do anything. I will get you to your home. Where is it?”
Smike looked at Nicholas and told him: “YOU are my home!”
“YOU are my home.” Nicholas was the only one who ever loved and cared for him, and stood up for him. Whoever Nicholas was, THAT is where Smike’s home would be. He WAS his home. He was his life, his friend, his everything. He was his home.
And that’s how it is with Christians and the Lord Jesus Christ. HE IS OUR HOME. HE is our life; HE is our future. For us, it’s not as much about the future, as it is about our Lord. It’s not as much about “heaven,” as it is about Him.
— Where HE is, is heaven! (Where He’s not, is NOT heaven!)
— What HE commands, is the future!
Our hearts should not just long after “heaven,” or “the future,” as much as they should long for JESUS. HE is the One who holds the future; HE is the One who makes heaven, heaven. HE is our home. HE is our Revelation. This book points us all to Him; it focuses on HIM.
And we are going to see a lot about HIM in this book:
— It calls itself “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”
— :7 says “He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see HIM”!
— later in this chapter John sees Him in the most magnificent, glorious vision: His eyes a flame of fire, His feet glowing like bronze;
— He says “I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end; the Living One
— HE walks among the candlesticks;
— HE holds the stars in His hand
— HE speaks to the churches in chapters 2 & 3
— HE is the only Worthy One is chapter 5
— And HE comes with the clouds on the white horse when all the history of this book ends.
It’s all about HIM!
So let’s get this straight right off: the real focus of this book is not “the future.” The real focus of this book is JESUS. So let’s make sure that He is OUR focus too!
Sadly, I read where the #1 watched sermon on the internet, does not even mention the name of Jesus in the text of the message. How can you have a so-called “Christian sermon,” and not mention the name of Jesus?
But let’s bring it home: how often do WE mention Jesus? How often do we talk to Jesus, and read about Jesus, and thank Jesus, and tell people about Jesus, and OBEY Jesus? Let’s make sure that our own lives are not like that message, omitting Jesus. Jesus is the focus of this great Book of Revelation. Let’s make sure that He is OUR focus, too!
II. The People of the Revelation
The first verse says “This is the Revelation of Jesus which God gave Him to show TO His bond-servants.”
So this “Revelation of Jesus Christ” is given TO a people. Who are the people to whom this Revelation is given? It says it is given “TO His bond servants.” The NASB reads “bond servants,” some other translations say “servants.” But as Bro. Grozdan from Bulgaria mentioned briefly last Sunday when he was with us, this word literally means “slaves.”
This Book is written to the slaves of Jesus Christ. Who are the “slaves” of Jesus Christ? YOU are, if you are a Christian! You are Jesus Christ’s slave.
In Luke 1:38, when the angel appeared to Mary and told her she’d bear the Christ, she said “Behold Your bond servant”/Your slave; do with me as you will. Mary said she was the Lord’s slave.
— In Romans 1:1 Paul said he was “a bond servant of Jesus Christ”
— James 1:1 James says he is a bond servant of Jesus Christ
— II Peter 1:1 Peter says HE is a bond servant of Jesus Christ
— Jude 1:1 says HE is a bond servant of Jesus Christ
ALL of these say: “I am a bond servant/a slave of Jesus Christ.” If you are a Christian, you are slave of Jesus Christ.
That means you obey HIM over anyone and anything else:
— In Acts 4:29, when the authorities had threatened the apostles and told them to preach no more in the name of Jesus, they prayed and asked God: “grant Your bond servants to speak Your word with all confidence.” They were going to please GOD and not men; they were HIS slaves.
— Paul said in Galatians 1:10 if he was still trying to please men, he would not be a bond servant of Jesus Christ
To be a “bond servant” means to be a SLAVE. To obey your Master. To please HIM and not men, as Paul said.
And we are His slaves because we have been BOUGHT by Him.
All of us had sinned against God, and we deserved to be separated from Him forever in hell. But God loved us, and sent Jesus to earth to die on the cross — He is “the Lamb who was slain” as the sacrifice that paid for our sins. So as we follow Him as our Lord & Savior, as I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, we need to remember: “You are not your own; For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify GOD with your body.” Jesus BOUGHT us. We are His. I Corinthians 6 says we are NOT free to do whatever we want to with our body. The world proudly proclaims: “My body, my choice!” NOT so for the Christian. Jesus bought us. We are His. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price — that price was the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on the cross. We are not our own. We are, literally, “Jesus Christ’s slaves.” We don’t do our own will, but His. We are His slaves.
Now, that’s not a bad thing, to be a slave of Jesus Christ. Because the choice is not: will you be a slave of Jesus, or will you somehow “free.” No, if you are not Jesus’ slave, then you will be the slave of the devil. Ephesians 2:1 says before you come to Christ you were walking “according to the prince of the power of the air (the devil) the spirit that is now working/energizing the sons of disobedience.” So the real question is NOT “will you be a slave,” but WHOSE slave will you be: the slave of the devil and his demons, or the slave of the Lord?
Jesus is a good Master. He says “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) Jesus is the best Master.
I was just reading in a history of North Carolina, of a slave whose master became convicted that slavery was wrong, and so he set this slave free. But the slave told the master, I love you; I love it here; I want to stay here in your house, and continue to serve you. And the master allowed him to stay as his servant. That man was obviously a good master.
As Christians, we have the BEST Master. Our Master LOVES us. He loves us so much that when we had sinned against Him, and sold our souls to the devil, He came to earth as a man, and died on the cross, and poured out His own blood to pay for our sins, to buy us back to God. Jesus LOVES us. And His great desire is to take us to His glorious home in heaven, to live with Him there forever.
But until that time, we are here on earth to serve Him. We are His “bond servants;” we are Jesus Christ’s slaves. That means we don’t do whatever we want to do here on this earth. That means we don’t do what we “feel” like doing with our lives. As I Corinthians 6 says, “we are not our own.” We have been bought with a price. It’s not “our body our choice.” It’s HIS body. We don’t do our will; we do HIS will. We don’t say “I don’t ‘feel’ like doing that.” We obey. We don’t say “That’s not in my job description;” we do whatever He commands us to do. We don’t say “this is MINE; you can’t have it.” No, everything we have is HIS. Our life is HIS. We are Jesus Christ’s slaves.
And that’s a good thing. That’s the best thing. All the blessings of this book; all the glories that Revelation describes that are waiting in heaven, are for the “bond servants of Jesus Christ.” The question is: are those things waiting for YOU? ARE YOU His bond-servant? Have you ever come to a time in your life when you admitted your sin to God, and asked Him to forgive you because of Jesus’ death on the cross, and have you ever committed your life to Him as your Lord & Master? Are you Jesus Christ’s slave? If you aren’t, then your life is being controlled by an evil being who hates you, and who is doing his best to destroy you through any means he can — which may explain a lot about what’s happening in your life right now! If you never have before, give your life to Jesus today. Become a “bond servant of Jesus Christ” — and begin to discover all the blessings Book talks about, that will be YOURS forever. The people who will inherit the blessing of Revelation are “His bondservants” — the “slaves of Jesus Christ.”
III. The Timing of the Revelation
“About the things which must soon take place.”
What are we to make of this, where it says: “things which must soon take place”? This book was written almost 2000 years ago. How is it that it “must soon take place.”
– For one, the word “soon” here can mean “quickly,” it is going to happen fast. When it happens, it will happen quickly. Many will not be ready for it.
– And then also, historically, some of these things DID take place quickly, especially what we read in the next 2-3 chapters.
– Other things, further into this book, have indeed taken longer, and have not happened yet
– But truly ALL of them are “quickly” in God’s eyes — II Peter 3:8 helps us understand that when it says: “With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” The Bible tells us there that God’s perspective on time is a lot different than ours.
But here’s the thing that WE need to remember: The worst attitude you can have about this is to say: “Oh, all this isn’t going to happen any time soon. They’ve been saying that forever.”
Now, I will admit: I understand where some of that comes from. There has been a lot of teaching — and quite honestly, there has been a lot of WRONG teaching — on the return of the Lord. Dates set, countries mentioned, contemporary figures portrayed as the Antichrist, and so on.
I was reading a history of Europe not long ago, when Napoleon was ravaging Europe with his army, and many believed in those days that he was the antichrist. When Hitler arose in Germany in the 1930s and 40s, many thought HE was the antichrist.
And that has continued to more recent years. I personally remember as a young college student, at the Falls Creek youth camp in Oklahoma, laying in my bunk at camp late at night, thinking: “THIS will be the year the Lord comes back!” We all knew it: Israel became a nation in 1948, and Jesus said “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” and the prophecy experts said He was talking about a generation from the time Israel became a nation; a “generation” is 40 years, which makes it 1988, take out 7 years for the Great Tribulation, and “Voila!” Jesus is coming back in 1981! It felt awesome; it was very sobering. Jesus was coming back that year! But, as you know, He didn’t.
More recently it was the “blood moons” — you remember that? All these “prophecy experts” were saying the series of blood moons was going to be a signal of the end. Whatever happened with that? Nothing? (Does anybody hold these guys accountable for all these false prophecies?)
But all this can make you a bit leery of these predictions, can’t it? And I think to some extent, it SHOULD, in light of all the “missed predictions” that have been made over the years. It can be easy to think, “It’s just not going to happen. I don’t need to worry about it.”
And I understand that attitude to some extent — many of us have been “burned” by these false prophecies over the years. But there’s something you need to think about: This attitude of “it’s not going to happen,” is EXACTLY what II Peter predicted people would be saying when the end comes!
II Peter 3:3-4 says: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue just as they were from the beginning of creation.”
The Bible specifically says, “IN THE LAST DAYS,” people will mock, and say: “Where is the promise of His coming? … all things continue just as they were from the beginning …”. THAT NOBODY BELIEVES JESUS IS COMING, IS ONE OF THE VERY BEST SIGNS THAT IT MAY BE SOON!
All that means is that the return of the Lord is closer now than it has ever been before.
Jesus IS coming. Things will NOT continue as they have been, forever. Things are going to change. And they may change SOON. Right HERE where we are, in the twinkling of an eye. The question is: when it happens, will you be ready for it?
Do you remember March 2020? A team of us from First Baptist Angleton went on a mission trip to Mexico that month — and overnight while we were gone, we began hearing on the news about a virus that began to spread all over our country, that changed the world while we were away. We had no idea before we left that this would happen. We had made no preparations for it. Cheryl & I had no groceries in the refrigerator when we got back. I walked into HEB to get some food and the shelves were empty. I thought, “I left and came back to a different country!” We didn’t know that all of the sudden, the world would be changed, and that everything would be different when we got back …
And that’s how it is going to be with the return of the Lord. Everyone’s just gonna be going about their own business: going to work, going to school — going on mission trips, maybe? — but in the blink of an eye, everything is going to change.
The question is: will you be ready for it — and what will you be found doing when Jesus comes? Wouldn’t it be neat to be found on a mission trip, when He came? Jesus said, “Blessed is that slave whom his Master finds do doing when He comes.” Be found serving Jesus in the ministry He called you to do, when He comes. And make sure you are NOT doing anything you should NOT be doing, when He comes. How devastating that would be!
And most important of all: make certain that you are HIS, when He comes. Make sure you are His “bondservant.” Make sure He is coming for YOU, to take YOU to be with Him in the glory this Book describes, forever. We’re going to look at that glory some more, over these next weeks. But for now, let’s bow our heads together …
– As we saw, Jesus is the focus of this book: Is He the focus of your life? How important is He to you; in your thoughts; in your daily life; in your conversation?
- Are you His bondservant? Are you serving Him by doing what He called you to do? What if He came back now — what would He find YOU doing?
- Have you become lackadaisical or apathetic about the return of the Lord?
- Do you know for certain that you are His bondservant, His slave? If you never have before, you can do that today.