启示录的信息 The Message of the Book of Revelation by Rev. Carpus Yip 葉華牧師/Bilingual Edition ( 简体中文 Simplified Chinese and English)
PROPHECY OF THE END TIMES — REVELATION 1:1-3
The Bible is an amazing book, many of its prophecies about the end times have already been fulfilled, so we can be sure that the remaining part of the prophecies will definitely be fulfilled.
Prophecies about the future are often written in symbolic language. Revelation is like a jigsaw puzzle, if some parts of the human history are unclear, we just have to look for the missing pieces and put them together, that way we will be able to see God’s perfect plan. We just need patience to put the puzzle together.
Some people think that as long and they are good Christians and witness for the lord, they do not need to study the prophecies in the Bible. In fact, if you really want to be a good disciple of the Lord, or be witnesses for Him, you have to study the prophecies in the bible very carefully. Why?
BECAUSE IT IS THE REVELATION OF GOD
1 The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him.
It is the revelation of God and the revelation of Christ. To reveal means “to uncover”. There are many mysteries hidden in God’s treasure-house. God wants to uncover them so that people may know what they are. Only God knows what will happen in the future. Only He can tell people what will happen 100 years or 1,000 years from now. Isaiah 46:10 says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” Nobody knows the future, but God wants us to know what will happen beforehand. God does not intend to hide things from us.
When Bible scholars study the Bible, they pay attention to the theological thoughts of each book. Paul and John each have their own theological thoughts. Their writings bring up their own distinguished features, their own vision and their own views. Their message was directed towards a specific group of people and their spiritual needs. When you look at the writings of the Gospel of Luke versus the Gospel of John you will find that their styles are very different.
Many scholars, when they study each book, they have to think about to whom the book was directed to at that time. What were the needs of the readers? What kind of message was given to them? Therefore, some scholars believe that Revelation was written for those Christians who were suffering and going through tumultuous times under the rule of the Roman Empire. The parts in Revelation that were difficult to understand were due to the fact that Christians were afraid of the Roman government so they used hidden language in their writings. Therefore, as long as they can find the message of comfort and encouragement for the believers at that time, then that is enough.
But the book of Revelation is an amazingly unique book. When Jewish people write letters, they do not mention their own names, but in this book of Revelation the author writes his name, specifying that it was the Revelation of Christ to him.
For this book, we do not have to study the theology of John because from beginning to end, this book does not contain John’s own words. He said it clearly that this book is Christ’s own words to him, or visions showed to him by an angel sent by Christ. So we do not have to know what his views of future events are, we just need to know what he saw.
ALL THE PROPHECIES WILL DEFINITELY BE FULFILLED
1 to show his servants what must soon take place.
All the events in this book are prophecies. Many Bible commentators tell us to ignore this fact, and to treat this book as the other books of the Bible. They tell us to look only for the spiritual lesson, and not to worry about how things will happen or when they will happen. They are wrong, because this book clearly states at the beginning of it that it is a prophecy. Since is it is a prophecy, we need to know how it will be fulfilled. A prophecy is different than a prediction. When the Olympic Games are held somewhere in the world next year, people might be able to predict that the prices of hotels will increase. Will this definitely happen? Not really. If the country where the games are to be held gets into a civil war, is boycotted by other countries, or suddenly faces a natural disaster, the Olympic Games might be canceled, and the hotels might have to have big price cuts. So what was predicted might not happen. The prophecies of the Lord will definitely take place soon, they will not change.
This does not mean that God predestined those things to happen. It is a prophecy because God has already seen the future; He is just letting us know beforehand what will happen. It is something that mankind cannot understand. Because we live inside time, we have to follow a timeline. God lives outside time; He can see the whole entire history as it unfolds in front of Him. Of course He can tell us what will happen in the future.
Some people say that this book contains too many symbols; it is too difficult to study. What does it mean when it mentions a Beast with seven heads, unclean spirits and locusts, Babylon or the Great Harlot? Also there are too many catastrophic and horrifying events; therefore they are too afraid to study it. But we have to remember, the reason why our Lord wants us to know these events beforehand is to comfort us, not to terrify us and to let us know that He is God and He is in control of everything.
When we know in advance that the future outcome will have a perfect ending, though the midst of it might seem alarmingly dangerous, we should not worry. Many things that are happening in the world might make people angry, but we know the truth of how it will end, therefore we can face things calmly. He reminds us, look further away; whatever we encounter today is not the end. After suffering the pains of childbirth, the newborn baby will come into the world, and then it will be a happy ending.
So our hearts are comforted and encouraged, no matter what happens, not matter how great the pain and suffering, we have to be loyal to our Lord. The seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls, depict the scourges on earth; only at the sound of the seventh trumpet will the mystery of God be accomplished, good tidings (10:7). That for sure will be the time of the rapture when the believers are caught up to be with the Lord in heaven, the joy among the tribulation.
THE PROPHECIES OF THIS BOOK ARE WRITTEN FOR US, THE BELIEVERS
1 To show his servants.
The Lord revealed the future to John, not only for him to know about it, but for him to show us, His servants, what must soon take place. Therefore, the purpose of this book is for us to read it so we can know how to be prepared. If it clearly states that we must read it, how could we not read it?
But we have to ask: “Why is it so hard to understand?” There are many reasons why we do not understand this book:
1) It was written 2000 years ago in another language, which was ancient Greek. Ancient Greek has not been used for many years and that is one of the reasons why it is so hard to understand. Even if it was written in ancient Chinese or in oracle bone inscriptions, it would have been very difficult to understand.
2) Imagine John from 2,000 years ago watching a 21st century movie. I am sure he did not recognize any of the things that he saw; he would not even know how to describe those objects. If he saw airplanes flying in the sky, how would he describe them? He would probably say they are like locust with breastplates of iron, with a tail with stingers like a scorpion and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. In those times people did not even know what gunpowder was, how could they describe the weapons of war that we use today?
3) There are a variety of visions in Revelation: Visions of things on earth, in heaven and in the spiritual realm. Like people looking at different styles of paintings, some are realistic paintings, some are abstract, others are impressionistic paintings, and each style must be appreciated in its own way. Likewise, different parts of the book of Revelation might need different ways of interpretation, some parts have to be explained literally and other parts spiritually.
GOD USED MANY DIFFERENT WAYS OF REVELATION
1-2 He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
God’s revelation includes (1) the Word of God, (2) The testimony of Jesus Christ, (3) and everything that John saw. God showed John the things that were going to happen in the 21st century as if he was watching a movie.
John said the words “I saw” forty four times in the book of Revelation. There is no other book in the Bible like the book of Revelation that contains so many prophecies. God uses many ways to reveal Himself to humans throughout history:
1) God spoke to Moses face to face. Moses could not see God because God used clouds and fire to cover His own glory.
2) God took Paul to the third heaven. Paul and a few disciples had an out of body experience and were able to hear inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
3) God used visions, dreams and angels to relate messages. Like what Daniel, John, Peter and others saw. Joseph received instructions from an angel of what to do in his dreams many times. The ways of revelation mentioned above are very special cases which God used to give a clear message to certain people.
4) Inspiration. After being moved by the Spirit, the writer would use his own words to record the message. The prophets and many books in the Bible are inspired by God this way. Their writings have a strong personal style.
5) Inner feeling or voice, which is God’s most basic way for speaking to people. Usually is right or wrong, red light or green light, no specific message, like the Urim and Thummim from the Old Testament.
This book uses most of the ways of revelation: Being taken to the third heaven, visions, message from an angel. John’s own views are very few, they are all words spoken to us by God. How could we not read this book?
THOSE WHO READ THIS BOOK AND FOLLOW IT WILL BE BLESSED
3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Those who read this book, those who hear it and those who take to heart what is written in it will definitely be blessed because they will be prepared for when these things will happen and will live a watchful life.
Like an unexpected exam, many will not pass it because they were not prepared for it. Those who are always prepared will for sure pass the exam. The Lord told us to be watchful, “Be careful, or…that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21)
The Lord commands us not to be conformed to the patterns of this worldly life or to the temptations of this world because He will come like a thief in the night and will not announce Himself beforehand. The Bible tells us over and over again to be alert, therefore we should be watchful. In Revelation there are seven “blessed” words and all of them are related to being watchful.
What does it mean to watch and wait? It does not mean to quit our jobs, wear a white robe and stand on top of a mountain to wait. Let us be prepared like a bookkeeper who has nothing to hide when someone comes to audit his books.
“Because the time is near”, these words have been spoken for more than 2,000 years, so when is the time really near? We know that the events have already started to happen, when the last angel sounds the trumpet, we will be caught up to be before the Lord.
“About times and dates” (1 Thessalonians 5:1) Paul uses two words to describe the timing. One refers to a sequence of events like during worship time; prayer comes after singing the hymns. At that time we will know what event will take place next. The other word sometimes is translated into season, or timing. The times and dates does not refer to the hours or minutes of a day.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14). This is the time to maturity. Like the harvest time when the grain becomes ripe. Not according to the calendar but according to the maturity of the grain.
The Bible prophecies were not written to satisfy the curiosity of the people but to show the people how to live. If people knew that a hurricane would be coming tomorrow, today you would do some preparations. Revelation begins with a promise: Blessed are those who hear it and take heart what is written in it.