Good morning everybody. Happy March to everybody! I’m still not signing my checks right; I’m still signing them 2019, and it’s already March! But I’ll catch up eventually.
Let’s take our Bibles this morning, if we could, and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 22 looking at verses 6-17 (maybe, probably not). The title of our message this morning is “How to be Blessed.” Is there anybody in here that does not want to be blessed? Can you put your hand up? We all want to be blessed, don’t we? And unfortunately, a lot of times you turn on so-called Christian television, and they’ll tell you how to be blessed. It usually relates to sending money to their ministry. But you know, to be blessed in God is pretty simple. We have actually a direct word on it from the Lord here in our passage.
We continue on in our study through the Book of Revelation, having actually finished the vision that John saw, the things he saw before the tribulation, during the tribulation, after the tribulation. And so all of that is now past. When we get to Revelation 21 and 22 we see three things: the new heavens and new earth–check, we studied that. The new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven–check, we studied that. And what we’re left with here is what’s called the epilogue; there’s got to be an epilogue because chapter 1, verses 1-8, if you can remember that far back, was a prologue. A prologue kind of introduces the book; the epilogue just sort of summarizes and takes us to the end of the book.
And so, we can take this epilogue, verses 6-21, and we can divide it into three parts: words of comfort (verses 6-17), words of warning (verses 18-19), and then there’s (just like we have at the end of our services) a benediction. You’ve got a little benediction there in verses 20-21.
Notice these words of comfort. There are several things, actually, to talk about here, so we may not make it through verse 17 today. But you’ll notice first of all the fact that John is reminded that these are faithful words. Notice, if you will, Revelation 22 and verse 6, “And he said to me, ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.” The first part there of verse 7, “And behold, I am coming quickly.”
John, at this point, has received this vision on the island of Patmos of this global apocalypse that’s on the horizon, resulting in the deposing of Satan’s kingdom and the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth. Probably the whole thing, seeing all of this in a vision, has overwhelmed him. He probably thought to himself, like many of us do as we read this book, I mean, are these things really going to happen? Or is it just sort of like a Star Trek, science fiction kind of thing?
And to counteract those thoughts, there is this exhortation or this reminder that these words are “faithful and true.” Everything that God says in this book is going to happen exactly like it says. Of course, Revelation 19:9 says the same thing,” These are the true words of God.” [Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
Revelation 21:5 said the same thing. “These words are faithful and true.” How could they not be “faithful and true” when they come from Jesus Christ, who is the quintessential description of what is “faithful and true.” [Revelation 21:5, “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”]
We know from Revelation 19:11 that Jesus is described as faithful and true. [Revelation 19:11, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”] So, everything He says–God cannot lie–must be “faithful and true” as well.
If you’ve been tracking with us on Wednesday nights (I would encourage you to come out for that Bible study or at least try to track with us via live streaming, internet, etc.), we came to 2 Peter 1:19, (studying 2 Peter on Wednesday nights). Peter writes this: “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, [to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”] “Made more sure to what? Well, in context he’s talking about eyewitness testimony. Testimony as an eye witness is the most powerful testimony you can introduce in a court of law.
And Peter says “the prophetic word” is “more sure” that even eyewitness testimony, and we would do well to pay attention to it because it functions as a lamp shining in a dark place. It gives us hope in a hopeless age, reminding us that these things are going to happen. Everything God spoke, everything God says, will materialize just as He said it would. And right now, our faith is being tested because we live in a dark place, in a dark world. And yet we’re reminded in the Scripture that things that are happening today, as dark as they are, are just temporary. The morning star, we’ll talk about that a little bit later as time permits, is destined to arise.
He goes on and he talks after reminding us about His faithful words he talks about the fact that Jesus Christ is coming back soon. You’ll notice what it says there in verse 6, “and the LORD, the God of the Spirits of the prophets.” [Revelation 22:6, “And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.”]
It’s interesting to get into details about prophecy–and there’s nothing wrong with that–but it’s easy to get your eyes off of who the prophecy is about. It’s about Jesus Christ. In fact, we’re reminded here in verse 6 that the Lord God “is the God of the spirits of the prophets.” If you’re studying prophecy and you miss Jesus, you’ve missed the point of prophecy. Revelation 19:10 says, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” He is the point, He is the one who is going to bring a great conclusion, a great climax, a great summation, if you will, to our world. And He obviously wants us to know about this because it says there in verse 6 that He “sent His angel to show His bondservants the things which must soon take place.” As we have studied going through the book of Revelation, there’s an actual chain of communication here.
Now we’ve all played the telephone game, haven’t we? [It’s] where one person whispers one thing in someone’s ear, and then that person whispers what they think they heard into the next person’s ear, and you go all the way down the line and the guy at the end says here’s what the message is. And we all get a big laugh because that message is totally different than what was originally said. I mean, how do we know this is not the telephone game? How do we know this is an actual transmission of what God says? Because the chain of communication, Revelation 1, has been established for us. The message was from the Father to the Son, then to an angel, then to John, then into a book to a reader or a preacher of various churches in Asia Minor, then to the listener or those in the congregation of those seven churches.
And so, we know that this is true because John got this from an angel. An angel got this from Jesus and Jesus got it from the Father. Now this is going to get John into some trouble. It has gotten him into some trouble and will get him into some trouble (as we will see a little bit later) where John is so enthralled by this vision that he just worships the entity that gave him the vision… the angel! When in reality the angel is just a messenger; that’s what the word angel means, an angelos, a messenger. We ought to be worshipping Jesus, the source of the vision, not a mere messenger of the angel. There is a human weakness in people wanting to worship the instrument God uses rather than God Himself. More on that in just a little bit.
But why was this information given to John? Why is it given to us? Why do I have the privilege? Why do you have the privilege of reading this book and knowing the future? Well, if you look at verse 6 it says “to show his bondservant the things which must soon take place.” One of the things to understand is we are bondservants of the Lord. The Greek word for bondservant is doulos, a common servant. The apostles, when they introduced themselves say things like this in their various writings. 2 Peter 1:1, “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Chris….” Even before being an apostle, I’m a bondservant, or I’m a slave. A bondservant doesn’t exist to execute his own will; he exists or she exists to execute the will of their master. In this case the Lord Jesus Christ is our master.
You know, it’s interesting in modern day Christianity when people promote their ministries or promote their resumes, they talk about themselves a lot. These are the degrees I have; this is the experience that I have; these are the successes I’ve had. They sometimes tout the sizes of their churches, and sometimes the number is a little exaggerated. We call that evangelistically speaking. And it’s interesting how Peter doesn’t do anything like that. Even before he touts the credential of an apostle he just says I’m a bondservant, I’m a slave. And that’s how we need to look at ourselves. We’re not here to execute our own will; we’re here to execute the will of God.
Verse 3, last week we saw that the bondservant (that’s us, doulos) will be in the eternal state in the New Jerusalem, worshipping (verse 3), serving (verse 3), reigning (verse 5). That is sort of like an oxymoron when you think about it. How can you serve as a bondservant and reign? Aren’t those two ideas that contradict each other? It’s kind of like saying black white top, jumbo shrimp, Microsoft works, government intelligence, helpful service—these kinds of things. And so, we take this service as a bondservant has nothing to do with reigning; reigning has nothing to do with service. But we’re reminded of the words of Christ. He says if you want to be the greatest, you have to become the greatest what? The greatest servant.
Being a bondservant of the Lord has its privileges. And one of those privileges is knowledge. When you become a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ…Now I’m not talking about salvation; salvation is by faith alone through Christ alone, by grace alone. Down at the end of verse 17 it is drinking from the water of life without cost. [Revelation 22:17, “… let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”] What I’m talking about here is the Christian who’s regenerated by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit starts to tap you on the shoulder and say, well, this needs to change in your life, and this needs to change in your life, and this needs to change. And we say to the Lord, well Lord, I don’t know how this sin pattern or this bad habit is going to be broken, but You’re going to have to help me to do it. And you start to appropriate moment by moment by faith to divine resources that God has given us for growth. And you start to take steps of obedience towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now you’re no longer just a believer who’s got their fire insurance paid up, but now you’re moving in the direction of discipleship. You’re moving in the direction of being a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. You’re coming to a point in your life where you’re saying my will and my ambitions and my desires are really not the most important thing. The most important thing is the ambitions and the desires of my commanding officer. You exist to execute the will of somebody else, in this case the Lord. Now you’re becoming a bondservant and as you become a bondservant what you learn is that has privileges. One of the privileges that starts to happen to a person moving in that direction is they start to see things and they start to understand things that they didn’t understand last week, last month, last year, last decade.
Because if you look very carefully at verse 6 the Lord sent His angel to show His bondservant “the things which will take place.” [Revelation 1:19, “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”] You start to walk with the Lord and you start to understand things that you didn’t understand before. Amos 3:7 says this, “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” John 15:15, Jesus said to eleven saved men in the Upper Room, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Isn’t it interesting how as we begin to obey the Lord, we graduate from being just a believer to being a friend of the Lord, where the Lord actually begins to make known things to us that we didn’t know before.
Can I ask you a question, and I have to ask myself the same question any time, has my Christianity just sort of plateaued out? I mean, is there no new revelation, no new insights, no new excitement about the things of the Lord? I just come and go, and it’s just the same week after week after week after week. May I just say to you that that could easily be happening in our lives and it doesn’t relate to intelligence, it doesn’t relate to a lack of study time (although study time is very important). It relates to obedience; there are things that we do in disobedience as Christians that short-circuit the illumination process.
We learn in the Bible that God is in the business of disclosing things, illuminating things to us as we move out into being a bondservant or a doulos, or a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s why we’re told here in verse 6 that this entire vision was given, not just to the casual person, or the casual Christian, or sort of the cafeteria Christian, but to the bondservant as their mind of bondservant is now enlightened in a way that it would not be enlightened other times.
Being a servant has its benefits, not the least of which is ruling and reigning with Jesus Christ one day, but it’s also walking in a greater understanding of things. Perhaps it’s not brand new understanding, maybe you’ve known that verse for a very long time but now there’s a deepening of it. That’s a good sign if that’s happening in your life because the Word is showing you more and more things and you’re walking out the walk of a bondservant.
He says there at the end of verse 6 and the beginning of verse 7, he’s showing his bondservant “the things which must,” not might, “must soon take place.” And then he says, Jesus speaking in verse 7, “and behold, I am coming quickly.” Now, we’ve been spending just a little bit of time on this for the simple reason that the Book of Revelation has within it certain passages that make it sound as if this book had to have been fulfilled two thousand years ago. It’ll use words like “quickly,” which is the word tachéos, where we get the word tachometer from, which measures speed. It will use words like near or at hand, which is the Greek word ἐγγύς (eggus), and it will use words like about to, on the point of, which is the Greek word σημείο (onmeio). And you’ll see those words mostly in Revelation 1 and Revelation 22.
And on account of these words, many people think, well, the Book of Revelation is not dealing with something in the future; it’s dealing with something in the past. Revelation 1:1 talks about “the things which must soon take place.” Revelation 1:3 says “the time is near.” [Revelation 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”]
And it’s because of verses like this that there is a movement today called preterism. Preterism was taught by the late R. C. Sproul, and essentially preterist is the Latin word for past, meaning the Book of Revelation already transpired. And R. C. Sproul was very careful in his articulation of this. He would say, well, I’m a partial preterist, meaning I still believe Jesus is coming back but everything else in the book is in the past.
The problem is when you look at the passages that R. C. Sproul uses, [the words] shortly, quickly, near, at hand, about to, or on the point of, those don’t just appear in Revelation 1, [but] they also appear in Revelation 22. And so, if you believe that Revelation 1, those verses indicate the Book of Revelation already was fulfilled, you can’t be a partial preterist; you have to be a full preterist because the same words appear at the end of the book. And so, there’s this little game that’s played where they want to still hope for a return of Christ, and they have to do that or you’re not even an orthodox Christian if you don’t believe that. But they’re inconsistent in their interpretation; everything else they say already happened, primarily arguing from these words—shortly, quickly, near at hand, about to, or on the point of—tachus enges and [can’t understand word, sounds like and no-oh].
But may I just say to you that there’s a completely different way to understand those words. For example, taking that word tachus just for a minute, it could be used as an adverb. You say oh no, he’s going into seventh grade English. An adverb, what is that? An adverb modifies a verb; it typically ends in l-y; I ran quickly. Quickly is describing the verb how I ran, and in my case, I should say I ran slowly, but at least I’m still running. But that’s how tachus is used. You’ll notice it’s used sometimes to refer to something that has to happen chronologically fast, as in 1 Timothy 3:14, I have come to you soon. But it’s also used as an adverb. Acts 22:18, leave Jerusalem “quickly.” [Acts 22:18, “and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’”] In other words, as you leave make sure you’re moving fast. It’s like when you’re putting gas in your car, it wants your credit card, and it says “remove card quickly.” It’s describing the speed in which the card comes out. And that’s how tachus is used, meaning that when these events start to take place—and they will take place because these words are faithful and true—it’s going to be rapid fire. It’s going to come upon the earth so fast and so quickly that the unbelievers are going to be as children of darkness; they’re going to be caught completely off guard by these things.
Now taking a look at some of those other words. Engys or Mellō, those words, and you can see it how it’s used in Philippians 4:5, “The LORD is near,” Mellō: “and one who will share in the glory to be revealed.” [1 Peter 5:1] Those are communicating imminency. You say, well, what does that mean? Imminency is the idea that there is no prophetic sign that must take place before these events will occur. They can occur at any moment; they can occur at any second. It’s like taking a baseball, they used to have those plastic balls with Velcro sort of wrapped around them and you would take them and you would throw them up on the ceiling. And you don’t know exactly when that baseball or that plastic ball is going to come down but it can come down at any second. It can some down at any moment. And that is what is communicated through Engys; that is what is communicated through Mellō. [Mellō: “and one who will share in the glory to be revealed” (1 Pet 5:1)
And by the way, when these events happen, they’re going to happen rapid fire. They’re going to happen instantaneously. Now that’s a very different definition than you’re going to get from R. C. Sproul in his book, The Last Days According to Jesus, where he tries to argue that these things mostly already happened back in the first century. That is not what the Book of Revelation is teaching. This is a futuristic prophecy and those so-called priming words don’t chance that interpretation if you understand what those words can mean.
So, we are told here that “these things” are going to happen and they’re going to happen soon; faithful words, Christ is coming soon. And then we see our third part here of our outline that there’s a blessing for obedience. That’s why we entitled this sermon How to be Blessed. How do we get blessed exactly as God’s people? Well, there’s no real secret to it; it’s right there in verse 7.
Notice what it says there in verse 7. “And He said, ‘Behold, I am coming quickly, Blessed is he who he who heeds,” say “heeds.” Can you say that with me real loud? “Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” You’ll notice that the blessing comes from studying, not your favorite best-selling author, not your favorite lecturer, not your favorite You tube channel, not your favorite cable channel, but it comes from studying this Book. If you are not a student of this Book then you can’t receive the blessing. This was spoken, not just at the end of the book but it’s spoken at the beginning of the book, the same exact thing. Revelation 1:3, “Blessed,” the Greek word makarios, “is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy” and watch this, “and” what? “heeds the things which are written in it for the time is near.” [Revelation 22:7, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” You put Revelation 22:7 together with Revelation 1:3 and you learn that the blessing comes to a person who is reading the Bible, in particular reading the Book of Revelation, and perhaps it’s a setting where you’re being taught this Book of Revelation—so you’re reading or you’re hearing, or hopefully both, “the words of this prophecy.”
And then it goes on and it says there in verse 3 of Revelation 1 and in verse 7, it’s not just a matter of reading and hearing, it’s heeding or keeping, which is another way of saying obeying. [Revelation 3:1, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:7, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:”] In fact, in Revelation 22 if you go down to verse 9, towards the end of verse 9 it talks about “those who heed” same word, “the words of the prophecy of this book.” [Revelation 22:9, “But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”
How is it that a person, as a Christian, becomes blessed? They begin to read this book, Revelation, hear this book, and you know what? They’re not just a learner; they’re not just someone with knowledge. Knowledge is good because you can’t apply what you don’t know. But God never gave knowledge as the last step; God gave knowledge as a first step. Knowledge has to be applied to life or it’s of no value. If you don’t take the knowledge that you’ve gained and apply it to your daily life as the Holy Spirit convicts you of certain things and convicts me of certain things, what we learned earlier is that we’re so stuck in the same understanding we had last month, and last year, even though it is a regular Bible study. Well, there’s been a short-circuiting in the illumination process because based on the passages we saw earlier the insight comes to the bondservant. And if you want to be blessed in this life as a Christian, which we all do, then read the Book of Revelation, hear the Book of Revelation and beyond that heed the Book of Revelation.
One of the weaknesses of a Bible church, and I’m very proud of the fact that we are a Bible church, but every kind of ministry has its pet weaknesses. One of the weaknesses of a Bible church or a church that places a strong emphasis on Bible exposition and Bible teaching is people can receive a misunderstanding that their spiritual maturity is measured by how much they know. Can they pass the exam? Do they pass the Bible literacy test? Do they understand the content? Now you know me well enough to know that those things are absolutely critical, but they are not the last step; they’re a first step. Maturity comes from not just learning things about God, learning things about the Bible, but by listening to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.
When something is being taught in the Bible and the Holy Spirit says you know, this isn’t right in your life over here, or you need to this over here. And then you say, well, Lord, I’m not strong enough to do that or to turn away from that. And the Lord said well, I’m strong enough and the resources are inside of you; now you take a faith step in obedience. Just like Peter, just step out on the water. And when that starts to happen in your life consistently, regularly, suddenly you watch your spiritual I.Q. go right off the chart because the Bible is very clear that He who is faithful with the little things can be trusted with what? A bigger thing. [Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”]
So how is the Lord supposed to trust you with more understanding when you haven’t even been faithful to the limited understanding that you have? Well, pastor, I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible. None of us do. But you know something. Have you been faithful to that single little thing that God has told you or given you to do? And now you’re moving into the walk of the disciples, now you’re moving into the walk of a bondservant, and consequently, suddenly you’re learning more and you know what’s happening is makarios—you’re being blessed.
John 13:17, Jesus summed it up as well as it could be summed up. Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you…” what? “…do them.´” The blessing doesn’t come from knowing. Interesting that John is the one that recorded those words, John 13:17, and in his other books at the very end he says the exact same thing. James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers” watch this, “who delude themselves.” Why would they be deluding themselves? Because they’re learning all of these facts and they’re learning all of these figures and they’re learning all of these different views and they think they’re becoming more spiritual as a result. That’s a delusion if knowledge is not applied as wisdom.
All the way through the Book of Revelation there have been seven beatitudes; we’ve studied five so far, two to go, coming from the word “blessed” Makarios. There’s a blessing upon the reader and heeder of the Book of Revelation, Revelation 1:3. [Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heeds the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”]
There’s a blessing upon the tribulation martyr, Revelation 14:13. [Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”]
There’s a blessing upon the spiritually prepared, Revelation 16:15. [Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”]
There’s a blessing upon the marriage supper invitee, Revelation 19:9. [Revelation 19:9, “Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”]
There’s a blessing on the one who participates in the first resurrection, Revelation 20:6. [Revelation 20:6, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”]
And now the list continues, there’s a blessing upon the hearer, not just the reader, in fact, reading isn’t even mentioned, it’s on “heeding” the book. Thus, we’ve entitled this sermon how to be blessed. If we think the road to spirituality is so complicated, because the church by and large has made it complicated, and yet it’s not complicated at all. It’s like you’re a manager in an office or you’re the owner of a business, and who do you entrust the company secrets to? Someone that’s been on the job a week and has a very bad track record in that one week? Or someone that is has been with you for a long time, that has a demonstrated character of faithfulness? That’s the person you entrust the secrets to. That’s the person you promote. And it works the same way with the Lord. That’s how to be blessed.
We move into verses 8 and 9 where we learn here that God is the only one that deserves to be worshipped because John is so overwhelmed at what he’s seeing that he does a no-no. He worships the messenger rather than God. Notice if you will verses 8 and 9. “I John…” Now John is important because he wrote five books. What are those books? The Gospel of John, First John, Second John, Third John and the Book of Revelation.
If you want to understand the Book of Revelation you have to understand a lot of the things John is saying, particularly in his other books, particularly the Gospel of John, “I John am the one who heard and saw these things…” Now this is back in the first century on the island of Patmos, “…and when I heard and saw I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.” Whoops! Verse 9, “But he” that’s the angel, “said to me, ‘do not do that, I am a fellow worker’” or “servant of yours.” Look at that. I’m a bondservant, too, John. You’re a bondservant; I’m a bondservant. What are you worshipping me for? John is rebuked by this angel: “But he said to me, Do not do that for I am a fellow worker of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed” look at that, “the words of this book. Worship God.” Get up; I don’t want to be worshiped. I want you to worship the Lord.
As we mentioned before, there is a chain of communication. John is the fourth one down there, so he worships the third one rather than where the worship should go, the second or the first in the chain. Now that’s a problem. It’s a problem no matter how you slice this because God is zealous for glory. And He deserves it, does He not? Because He’s what? He’s God!
Isaiah 42:8, God says, “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another,” including angels, “nor My praise to graven images.” And a person puts himself in a very precarious position when they do, not like this angel, but receives that worship. You notice this angel just deflects the glory. A lot of people aren’t like that; they receive the glory. I mean, gee, Lord, I was up late working on this sermon and I went to seminary to learn Greek and Hebrew. And you know Lord, You are so lucky to have me on your team, and where would you be without me? And God says I used a donkey in the Old Testament. [Laughter] And beyond that I can speak through a rock. Remember what Jesus said, if the disciples do not save me, I’ll get the stone to do it. And we sort of delude ourselves into thinking that we’re so indispensable to God when the reality of the situation is we’re not indispensable to Him at all.
Why does God even use us? It’s a lot like my daughter, very little, years back emptying the dishwasher, trying to train her young. And she was so little she would grab things in the dishwasher and she could barely reach up to the counter, and I thought to myself, you know, it would be so much easier if I just did the whole thing myself. But then as a parent you don’t do the whole thing yourself because you realize you’re depriving them of the opportunity of contributing to the household.
Why does God use any of us? Because He loves us so much He wants to give us the privilege—not the right, the privilege—of being used by Him to extend and expand His eternal purposes on the earth. And yet what happens many times is the vessel gets in the way and starts to receive some of the glory. Acts 12:21-23 says, “On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them.  The people kept…” in other words they kept doing this, “The people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Boy, there’s some presidential candidates that this reminds me of. [Laughter]  “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. You know, the Apostle Paul went out there on his first missionary journey into an area called Lystra in Southern Galatia. And what happened in Acts 14:8-18 is people started worshipping Paul.
God was using Paul, people were worshipping Paul. It says in verse 14, “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out  and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to serve the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” In the generation gone by He permitted the nations to go their own way, yet He did not leave Himself without a witness. In fact, He gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”  Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.”
Boy, we need people like that today. We don’t need people that step into the limelight and assume that they did something that only God can do. You know what I used to do before services? I used to look into the back and see how many people were coming in, and then finally the Holy Spirit said to my heart, why are you doing that? You don’t have any control over it; just relax and enjoy yourself. It’s a worship, not a show. I never called you to build the church. What I called you to do is to be faithful to what I’ve given you today. So now I sit up here like a stone face, and I don’t talk to anybody. It’s just straight forward. I don’t have any control over who comes or who doesn’t come, how big the parking lot is going to be, did the budget come in the way it used to come in, what are the offerings? I have ZERO control over any of it, and it took me probably at least ten years in ministry to figure that out. In fact, I would sit there, when I first came to this church, and I would look at all the financial reports. And I would say the offering went down that week, but then it went up this week, and maybe I didn’t preach something good that week, but I preached something good the other week.
And this is where being married to the right person helped me, because my wife sees me with all this financial stuff and she says “what are you doing?” I said, “Well, I’m looking at the financial report” and dah, dah, dah, dah. And she said, “Well, is that what Moses would do?” I mean, would Moses sit there and say, well, you know? How about Paul, would he do that? What you need to do is to be faithful with what God has called you to do and leave the building of the church to Jesus Christ.
By the way, Jesus has been pretty good at building the church the last 2,000 years. Where is it that we think we can somehow contribute to what He’s doing? And so we need people that just leave the projects to God and give God the glory which He deserves. By the way, it doesn’t say in the Bible “Well done thy good and successful servant.” Did you notice that? It says, “Well done thy good and” WHAT? “faithful servant.” That’s what’s rewarded. Be consistent, be faithful. What God needs are fat Christians. F—Faithful. A—Available. T—Teachable! Is that you? Faithful, Available, Teachable. Just simple servants of the Lord. Not boasting in ourselves, not taking credit for things that God is doing. And John apparently lost sight of that. It’s interesting that John, at the end of his book of 1 John, chapter 5 and verse 21 writes these words: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” What is an idol? An idol is anything that we worship instead of God. And isn’t it interesting how you can learn something and you can articulate something and you can write something down, even under divine inspiration, and yet in the pressure of the moment you forget the whole concept. The very man who said, “Little children, guard yourself from idols” became an idolater, right here in Revelation 22:8-9. [Revelation 22:8-9, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.  But he said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.” For the testimony
And if that weren’t bad enough, he did the same thing, you might recall, in Revelation 19:10. He does it twice within the span of a few chapters. It says, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he” that’s the angel, “said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
So, what do you do when people come up to you and say that was just the greatest sermon I’ve ever heard and my whole life has been changed? Do you sort of say, well, it was pretty good actually. Or do you have something in mind that you do to deflect glory off of yourself. I have something I use, I just say “Well, praise the Lord.” Boy, great study in angelology. Praise the Lord, because it’s not my material anyway; it’s God’s. And any gifting I have comes from God, and the Holy Spirit that makes it understandable comes from God. If God can use me as one little tiny microcosm in His universe to expand His truth it’s not because He needs me or needs you; it’s because He loves you and wants to use you in the place of privilege—not right, privilege—to expand His purposes on the earth.
We come here to the next point and here we learn that the message is to remain unsealed. Look at verse 10. “And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” Now you recall that we studied the Book of Daniel. Do you recall that? Daniel is the basement; the Book of Revelation is the ceiling. We studied both books back-to-back. I know this has been about a ten-year process but that was the logic of it. And you get to the end of the Book of Daniel, and it says the exact opposite. Daniel 12:4, “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” Daniel 12:8-9, “As for me I heard but could not understand, so I said LORD, what will be the outcome of these things.” Daniel had profound visions of the future just like John did. “Go your way” Daniel, “for these things” or “these words are concealed and sealed to the time of the end.”
Daniel, you’ve done your job; you’re going to rise in the resurrection. Don’t worry about it; every-thing is on schedule. But I don’t know what all this means? Close it up; seal it. You did your part, and now enjoy the rest of your life in Babylon, Persia, etc. Yet you get to the end of the Book of Revelation and it says the exact opposite. Revelation 22:10 once again, “And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” Why is Daniel told to shut the whole thing and John is told to open it up? Well, it has to do with when Daniel received his vision six centuries before Christ. When did John receive his vision? He received it after the death, burial, resurrection, ascension of Christ, after the church age had started, and after God had disclosed everything that needed to be disclosed in what is called the New Testament canon.
So, Daniel, you’ve got a jigsaw puzzle that has pieces missing. But John, because you have access to Daniel’s writings and a completed Old Testament, now have a completed New Testament, you don’t have a jigsaw puzzle box with pieces gone. You’ve got something that Daniel didn’t have. You’ve got all the pieces so assemble the data. Put it together, just like you would assemble a jigsaw puzzle. And unseal it in the sense that proclaim it, teach it, don’t be embarrassed by it. Shout it to the roof top because Jesus is coming soon.
And may I just say to you that the current state of the evangelical church is completely and totally failing in this message, because how many churches are there in Sugar Land, how many churches are there in Fort Bend County, in greater Houston, that are teaching the Book of Revelation and doing it with any degree of depth? You can probably count them on one hand. In fact, I run into pastors who tell me this: “I will never teach the Book of Revelation from my pulpit.” Well, why is that, pastor? Well, it scares people. Well, it’s supposed to scare us first of all. And it confuses people. Well, un-confuse it! Preach it; teach it; proclaim it. Don’t hide it.
You know, you go back all the way to the time of Augustine and how he took the prophecies of the Bible and just spiritualized them out of existence. And so many churches are like that. They just won’t talk about it; they won’t teach it. They’ll preach a part of the Bible but not the whole Bible. And consequently, they are going directly against the command of God here in verse 10, that the time is near, so don’t be like Daniel and seal it up. Unseal it, proclaim it, and teach it.
Rick Warren in his Purpose Driven Church, pages 285-286, says this: “When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly changed the subject to evangelism.” No, He did not! When they wanted to talk about prophecy, He taught them openly about prophetic things. It’s called the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24 and 15. Jesus said, according to Rick Warren, the details of My return are none of your business. I’ll give anybody a million dollars if they can find that verse for me. And, of course, if you’re into Bible prophecy, you must be one of those crazy date-setters. Rick Warren says, you’re “speculating on the exact timing of Christ’s return…” No, we’re not! No date has been given. The only thing I’ve said is the events could start in the next split second—imminency. The events could start before this sermon is over. Some of you may be praying for that to happen. If you’re into Bible prophecy you’re distracted. Satan…” wow! We’re going to bring Satan into this? “Satan is using you.” You’re not serious about your mission and you’re not even ‘fit for the kingdom of God. “
This is what passes today for a Christian best seller, in terms of its open and brazen attack on the systematic teaching of the Word of God, in particular Bible prophecy. Mark Dever of the Gospel Coalition says this: “So if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to me, and you understand me correctly if you think I’m saying you are in sin…” Now, Dever says sin; Rick Warren says Satan—the harshest terms you can imagine are being employed against people that want to learn the future. …“you are in sin if you lead your congregation to have a statement of faith,” a doctrinal statement, that requires a particular millennial view.” If you post your eschatology on your website, you’re in sin. This isn’t coming from humanists, atheists, evolutionists.
This is coming from the rank and file leadership within evangelical Christianity. I’m not trying to come out and attack people; I’m trying to get people to understand concerning how FAR we are from verse 10, where it says “unseal it and teach it.” Do you think that it’s a sin to post your views of the future on your website? Then we here at Sugar Land Bible Church are the chief of all sinners, because we proudly say, number one, that we are pre-tribulational and premillennial. We’re “pre- pre!” In fact, we’re so pre pre, we don’t even need to approach [can’t understand word].
And yet, we’re told that simply putting it out there, identifying what your church believes in terms of eschatology, is a sin. You’re unfit for the kingdom of God if you do that. You’re distracted from your mission. You’ve metamorphized into some sort of crazy date-setter. May God help us to understand what’s going on and how, if there ever was a time to be talking about the end from God’s perspective, this would be it. And you know what? The world out there wants an answer. The world, I’ve noticed this, will give you a millimeter appearing when you can explain the future in a cogent way and tie current events into that future as disclosed by God. They want to hear that. And during a time when all of these signs are materializing all around us, the church wants to go silent and not unseal the great truth of God.
Faithful words; Christ is coming soon; blessings for obedience; God deserves the worship; and unseal that prophecy—because the day is coming when destinies are going to be [can’t understand word]. You remember Billy Graham’s magazine, The Hour of Decision, I think it was a radio program, something along those lines. Do you know the day is coming when people won’t be able to make decisions anymore? We think there’s always going to be an opportunity. That’s not what verse 11 says, which we’re out of time and can’t get into. That’s why God wants us to proclaim, because He wants people to know that the day of decision is now! The hour of decision is now!
Today is the day of salvation because Jesus is coming soon. Do you believe that? So now why aren’t you saved? I mean, if these things are as imminent as we think they are, why would you gamble on your future. Why not just trust Christ now? If the Spirit in any way is convicting you or any of us of our need to trust in Christ for salvation, the exhortation is to do it now. Jesus stepped out of eternity into time, as we celebrated at communion this morning, to pay a debt that we could never pay. And He simply asks us to believe or trust in Him. It’s that simple. It’s not a matter of joining a church, walking an aisle; it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you hear the gospel and you trust in that message and person and consequently your future becomes determined, the glorious future. By simply postponing it, acting like these things are never going to happen—postponing the day of salvation is just gambling; that’s what it is! Why would you gamble with your eternity? If the gospel is something that you want to receive and you need more explanation on it, I’m available after the service to talk.
Father, we’re grateful for even these few verses that we spoke of today, verses 6-10 and what they reveal to us concerning the epilogue as the book is being summarized. Help us to take these things to heart for the time is at hand. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!