Monday, April 20, 2009

The Future and Returning King: Revelation 1:1-20

I remember playing in the backyard, climbing on my jungle gym, climbing the tree, playing "Space 1999" and "Star Trek" with my friends. The universe seemed to be a much safer place back then as we jetted around our backyard assisting our space captains in capturing aliens and promoting the good morals of Planetary Federations. Ah, the future. One particular weekend trip to my grandparents house (a six-hour drive), I was laying on the top of the back seat of the car against the rear window gazing out watching the stars, Star Trek communicator in my hand, talking with my fleet in orbit . . . I never dreamed that communicators would be so readily available as an adult with pre-paid calling plans from Alltel and that our atmosphere would be choked with satellites. I never saw the future coming, though Gene certainly did. The most outstanding memory I have concerning future dreams came at the World's Fair in 1982--touch screen technology! It blew my mind (and everyone else's).

Technology and the future have long been thrust together in an awkward relationship. A tour through Epcot Center in the 1970's was a trip down future lane, to be sure, but we are nowhere near the projections of yester-year. We don't have automated houses, flying cars or personalized rocket packs. The Jetsons are not our next-door neighbors, but we've been talking space tourism for years. The moon race is on again. We have hybrid and electric cars, a gazillion channels through fiber-optics, remote or robotic surgeries--and have you seen Blue Ray? Those who live in what used to be known as "third world countries" are providing our tech support and the Internet is more readily available than food. "Global" is now "glocal." Some people seem to have future vision while others do not (I am writing this on a lap-top computer, by the way):

1. “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”-Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949;
2. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”-Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943;
3. “But what … is it good for?”-Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip;
5. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”-Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

Already politicians are discussing the next presidential election. Footballers are counting the days until the next Superbowl. What will the next great medical achievement be? The economy will be like, what, tomorrow? Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics at Yale in 1929 said, "Stockes have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." We are consumed with thoughts about the future. Isaac Asimov gave us billions of years of human history in the Robot and Foundation series, celebrating not so much a godless and eternal empire ruling the universe, but accomplishments of humanity itself. The whole plot of futuristic Star Wars thrives on "long ago" and "far away" with humans at the center.

One might suggest that mankind is so interested in the future because mankind feels he can control it to benefit mankind; but, man can't control his body functions, so it remains a mystery as to why we think we can control the future or the outcome we expect of it. The truth of the matter is that we don't like uncertainty. We like to feel in control and not knowing means lack of control. Is it possible to get a glimpse of the future? People try through horoscopes, mediums and spiritists; but, suggest that they might consult the Bible and people go into an uproar! "You can't trust the Bible," they say, "it was written by men!" Where do horrorscopes come from, and what is a medium? When we study the scripture, we learn a startling lesson: the future is not about man, but about the glory of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is most unsettling, but this is the truth.

The beloved apostle wrote that the time was near (Rev. 1:3). What was does this mean, "the time is near?" We would be amiss to recognize there is a blessing with becoming intimately familiar with what has been revealed concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, specifially through this writing. Sherlock Holmes would always be teaching Dr. Watson one lesson he was never able to master (to the great Detective's dismay) that though he may see, he has never fully observed; that is, becoming so fully acquainted that a matter will explains itself if one "consumes" what is before him. The apostle John was inspired to communicate that all doubt, unsurity, uncertainty concerning the future is vanquished when we understand, observe (not merely "see") who the future is for and what the future is to accomplish for Him. Those things that God has revealed in the past is no longer a mystery and must even be obeyed.

"The time is near." Measurement has been made, an allotment given. There is a "rightness" concerning what is happening, a specific occasion is about to happen. An opportunity is knocking. Things are about to take place concerning our Lord Jesus Christ and His servants. Mankind will be carrying on with everyday business: eating, drinking, marrying, if the return of Christ would never happen, or as if it were forgotten (Matthew 26:36-39). Here's a sure way to tell He is coming: people are mocking and questioning the day of His coming (2 Peter 3:3-4).

John gives us some peculiar descriptions:

Concerning the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: like a good Jewish writer, John gives the reader the whole story before he gives the details--he tells us what he is saying before he says it: "He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him." (Revelation 1:7) His coming will be cloud-swathed. The Watchtower of the Jehovah's Witnesses say that only 144,000 will be able to see Jesus/Michael; but the Bible actually teaches that every eye will see Him when He returns, including those who caused His death, and there will be great mourning. There is a particular relationship mankind has with the second coming in that there is a finality in this event. Every person dead and living will see Him at the final battle. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon." (Zechariah 12:10, 11).

Concerning our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, John records an astounding vision. He shows Himself to be (Revelation 1:8-18):
Alpha and Omega, beginning and end (2x);
The Lord;
Who is, who was and who is to come;
The Almighty;
The first and the last (2x).

Physically, He is like the son of man with head and hair white like wool, like snow; fire-flaming eyes; feet like refined brass; a voice like the sound of many waters; star-holding hands; mouth with a sharp two-edged sword; sun-like countenance.

He is the one who was dead and alive forevermore.
The key-holder of death and hades.

When John saw Him, he fell at his feet as a dead man, just as did Abraham (Genesis 17:3); Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:22); Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8); Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28); Saul/Paul (Acts 9:4). Seeing Jesus is not a light matter. I wonder sometimes if we know what we are in for when we sing, "Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus. . ."

Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things." (Revelation 1:19) This verse is key to understanding the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The things seen, the things that are and the things that will take place are all related in that all things seen and heard are about Him, the first-born of the dead and ruler over the kings of the earth. Philippians 2:5-11 helps us understand what should be incomprehensible: God stepped into time and space and lived as a man in His creation for the purpose of obedience to death on the cross. The things that were, are and to come enhance the glory that is all God's in Christ Jesus because in Him God's purpose was accomplished to do the unthinkable: provide a covering and payment for sin. The Revelation gives us what Paul describes as the name of Jesus bringing the bowing of all knees in heaven, on earth and under the earth, every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

When our Lord Jesus Christ returns, the nations will be judged as He sits on the throne. Mankind has already been judged at the cross. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:30-31) "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory." (Matthew 25:31)

Considering the identity of "the living one" (Revelation 1:18):

The book of Revelation has two bookends concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. These bookends speak directly to any questioning His person and role. Though we've already looked at these elements above, we've not yet observed the depth of this description. The Lord God describes Himself as the Alpha and the Omega; who was, is and is to come; the Almighty (1:8). At the end of the book, He describe Himself as the one who is coming quickly bringing reward, "to render to every man according to what he has done." (21:12a) and the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (21:12b) Who is the first and the last? The Lord God.

Back in the first chapter, note what the Almighty says of Himself: "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One." (1:17-18a). Then He says, "and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." (1:18b) When did the Almighty die and why would He be alive forevermore? This could only happen if Jesus Christ was God. For further study, look up the following verses: John 1:4; 11:25; 14:6; Romans 6:9; Hebrews 2:14; 7:16; 1 Peter 3:18.

Well, John was inspired to write there would be a blessing for those who read, hear and keep the things that are in it, because the time is near (1:3). What can we find to apply so far? Generally speaking, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ demands a response, and there is only one, so we can either sumbit to Him as sovereign, savior and Lord and be released from the penalty, power and presence of sin; or, reject of Him as sovereign, savior and Lord. Either way, our one response will be a bowed knee and confession that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. When He returns He will either gather those that are His by virtue of His salvation, or consummate judgment on those who reject Him. Whatever your choice is, be ready for His return.

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