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Is John’s Revelation for Christians Today?

Monday, August 21, 2023

In the teen class, we are studying the Apocalypse (Revelation) of John. We noticed in the book’s introduction some helpful pointers as to how we should interpret the contents.

A map of the worldDescription automatically generatedThe Time Is Near

Christ showed John “things that must soon take place” (1.1) and that “the time is near” (1.3). The original recipients of the letter were seven churches in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (1.4, 11). John was to send Jesus’ messages to each church. How do you think they heard “things that must soon take place”? Do you think they thought, “Well, to God one day is like 1,000 years and 1,000 years is like a day, so when God said ‘soon’ and ‘the time is near,’ He probably means a couple of thousand years in the future”? No, God does not confuse His people. The first century Christians would have naturally understood that their generation would see the things revealed in the book.

Jesus used similar language in Matthew 24.34, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

It is funny how every successive generation seems to think they are the target time in which the prophecies of Revelation will be finally realized. Perhaps it speaks to our narcissism.

Revealed in Visions

John bore witness to “what he saw” (1.2). What follows is a series of visions Christ gave to John. The beloved apostle was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” when he heard a loud voice behind him saying, “Write what you see in a book” (1.10–11).

Anyone familiar with Old Testament prophecy (such as Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc.) understands visions can be pretty weird, and they often demand explanation. For instance, Daniel saw a series of beasts in Daniel 7. The fourth beast had 10 horns, and another little horn popped up and uprooted three other horns. Daniel didn’t know what to make of it, so God explained what the beasts and the horns represented. They were not to be taken literally, but each detail was a sign or symbol of something real. The beasts represented kingdoms, and the horns represented individual kings.

To rightly interpret the visions of Revelation, you should study Old Testament visions. Listen closely to God’s explanations in the texts, and it will greatly aid you in understanding the signs and symbols of John’s Revelation.

Meant to Be Practical

“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” (1.3).

The Christians were not to hide this book or keep it a secret. They were to read it aloud so all their people could hear it and keep what it commanded.

Many today overlook the practical nature of Revelation, as they misinterpret the visions to fit various historical periods, and they bog themselves down with theories on what political power or person is the beast and what the mark of the beast is going to look like.

But Jesus intended Christians to hear the things in these visions and repent and be faithful!

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do thing works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (2.5)

“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, I and I will give you a crown of life.” (2.10)

“I have a few things against you…therefore, repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (2.14, 16)

“Hold fast what you have until I come.” (2.25)

“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (3.3)

“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.” (3.10–11)

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (3.19)

Is It for Us Today?

Is it practical for modern readers? If most of what was prophesied has already taken place, why should we worry about it?

  1. We study Old Testament prophecies even though they have mostly been fulfilled. We study them because they build our faith and teach us of God’s unwavering faithfulness and about how He thinks and works.
  2. John’s visions have mostly been fulfilled, but the principles endure. Revelation concerned a specific judgment upon Jerusalem, but the lasting principle is that God judges individuals and nations. The call to repentance is just as important to hear today as it was to the early Christians.
  3. We might ask why those Christians in Asia should have been worried about God judging Jerusalem. What did it matter to them? The Jewish nation serves as an object lesson to all of God’s people—if Israel failed to receive God’s blessing because of their faithlessness, how much more shall we expect judgment for our unbelief and rejection of the Lord Jesus?
  4. Christians still wait expectantly for the visions in Revelation 20–22 to be fulfilled. There is still the final judgment of Satan and his forces and all who are on his side (not written in the Book of Life). There is still the New Heaven and New Earth in which God will make all things new.

So, yes, God’s people should continually read aloud, hear, and obey this great book!

The Renewal of Our Minds and Hearts (Ephesians 4.17–24)

Monday, December 12, 2022

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that
you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,
in the futility of their minds.
They are darkened in their understanding,
alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them,
due to their hardness of heart.
They have become callous
and have given themselves up to sensuality,
greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

When Paul says Christians should “no longer walk as the Gentiles do,” he reveals a couple of truths. First, we who name the name of Christ used to walk as the Gentiles. We were among the nations of the earth, “following the course of this world” and “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2.1–3). Second, the Gentiles continue to walk this way. We are surrounded by men and women who have veils over their hearts, who do not understand spiritual things, who are ignorant of things concerning life, and who have wholeheartedly enslaved themselves to their own senses and pleasures.

We should never wish ourselves back in that situation with the world, and we should pity those trapped by their own passions and lusts. They are bound in absolute slavery. A slave to an earthly master can be free with regard to the Lord—he may own nothing of physical value but own everything in Christ. Likewise, one who has never been a slave to another man may be in a locked box constructed of his fleshly desires, impure thoughts, and sensual passions—he may be the richest man in town yet in abject spiritual poverty.

Notice the state of their minds. Futility. Darkness. Ignorance. Their minds are locked in this futility because their hearts are hard toward the Lord and towards his righteousness.

Notice their way of living. They are callous, having built up hard skin to shield themselves from the pain of guilt and the warning of shame when they break God’s holy law. They give themselves up to whatever makes them feel good at the time and then block out the nagging conscience trying to break through in the background of their minds. They lie to themselves. “She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong’” (Prov. 30.20).

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him,
as the truth is in Jesus,
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life
and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and to put on the new self,
created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Notice how we have escaped that life of slavery to sin—we learned Christ, we heard about him, and we were taught in him. The truth is in Jesus! Our minds had to change from being focused on pleasing ourselves to being focused on pleasing our Lord. We learned true freedom this way.

We learned to take off that old man, to stop walking in our old ways. We repented of our sins and our old manner of walking.

But simply taking off the old jacket will not suffice—we still get cold. Therefore, we must put on a new self. The old way of walking must be replaced by a new way. It starts with a renewal of our minds in Christ, and then we can put on the new self which is created in the likeness of God himself! We learn what true righteousness and holiness are because the truth is in Jesus.

If the new self is “created after the likeness of God,” is this something we do unilaterally (by ourselves)? We do not create—God reserves that power for himself—so this creation is something God does in us. But we do take off the old self and put on the new, do we not? Yes! This walk with God is something we do together with him. Once God has shone his light of grace into our hearts (2 Cor. 4.3–6) and woken us up from our spiritual stupor, then we joyfully walk beside him in repentance, even as he continues to work on us, creating a new heart and a new mind—renewing us in Christ Jesus.

It happens as we learn, as we hear, as we are taught in Christ.

In the next installment, I plan to consider specific activities we should take off and what we should put on to replace them, as we finish Ephesians 4.

The World Does Not Dictate Our Morality

Monday, October 10, 2022

I have done it and didn’t even realize what was happening. I would speak out against some sin, and someone would push back: “You’re a Christian; you have to be tolerant,” or “You’re a Christian; you have show love,” or “You’re a Christian; you have to turn the other cheek while I smack you on the other side.” Shamefaced, I would shut my mouth and wonder at how quickly I had violated my own standards. Had I offended someone? Jesus would never do that.


To the contrary, Jesus often offended His enemies. He made His own disciples uncomfortable at times…many times (see John 6 for a good example).

Why do we Christians so often fall victim to worldly people telling us when we ought to speak and when to shut up? Why are we so sensitive to the feelings of everyone around us?

Western society has pounded this into our heads: it’s good to tolerate everything. We Christians always want to be on the side of good, so when we don’t tolerate something, it hurts us to know that others think we are bad. The world has made us feel like sinners for speaking out against sin.

What a load of garbage we have bought! We have lost the vision of the early church, who, even in the face of heavy persecution, were accused of turning the world upside down (Acts 17.6). They didn’t coddle their listeners, nor did they snip off the less digestible bits from the gospel so it would go down smoother. No, they straight up told people they were sinners in need of repentance, lost in need of a Savior, blind in need of supernatural healing.

Do we avoid hot-button issues like sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, infant murder in the womb, drunkenness, spousal abuse, child abuse, male and female roles, disciplining our children, wives submitting to husbands, husbands loving their wives, the proper use of the tongue, etc.?

I used to think we should “just preach the gospel” (by which I meant to just tell people they needed Jesus, I suppose). After all, people are not going to hell because they are homosexual; they are going to hell because they have not bowed the knee to Christ. Yes. However, they must understand the sin in their homosexuality. Their Creator roundly condemns their lifestyle, and they are guilty of rebellion against the one true and living God. They must understand and confess their depravity before they can come to the cross.

John the Baptizer preached repentance to the people and gave the people practical advice on what they needed to quit and what they needed to start (Luke 3).

When someone from the world tells us we should quit preaching Jesus because we are offending them, we should push back on their “should.”

We could say: “Do you understand you are using the language of morality when you say I should not offend you? You are saying I am wrong. Where are you getting your standard of morality, pray tell? I have a mandate from God on high to preach and teach the truth. Where is your authority?” Isn’t that what Jesus did after He overturned the tables in the temple and the chief priests and elders challenged Him (Matt. 21.12-17, 23-27)? There are only two authorities: from heaven or from men.

We should not let the world tell us what is right and wrong, and when we stop preaching the truth because they demand we not offend them, we do exactly that.

Of course, we may be guilty of a wrong heart while we preach against sin. Our brothers and sisters in Christ can help give us moral direction, but the world is not qualified to spiritually guide us.

So let us speak and write boldly, with moral clarity, and with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world does not dictate our standard—Jesus does!