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New Wine for the End Times
Chapter 21
The Lost Blessing of Reading Revelation

How many Christians today believe that reading Revelation gives them a special blessing? Many pastors won’t touch Revelation. Pastors are fearful of it being taught in their churches. They fear “unnecessary divisiveness.” Yet Revelation itself promises a special blessing for those who read it, or who hear it read and take to heart what is being read.

Revelation 1:3 NIV Blessed is the one who reads 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.

Did Jesus Christ give this special blessing simply as an incentive to read his book? Or is there a reason why the reading of Revelation, and taking it to heart, will give us a special blessing? How can reading about a third of man being killed, and the antichrist ruling over every nation, tribe, people, and language, give us a special blessing? Or perhaps you could argue that Revelation has praises of God and other virtues that would give us this blessing. No, Revelation 1:1 gives us the reason why the book was written. It was written to “show his servants what must soon take place.” And the reason for the blessing is given as well. Verse 3 says we are given the blessing “because the time is near.” Revelation teaches that Christ is coming soon – hopefully in our lifetimes. But Revelation also teaches that great tribulation comes first. And this teaching is the true blessing of reading Revelation.

But is this blessing really important? Is the study of Revelation and the end times of any importance? Is the study of Revelation as important as say, Paul’s teachings about grace in Romans? Most pastors would say no. Many pastors are fearful of Revelation being taught in their churches. We teach, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “Blessed are those who mourn.” But we don’t teach, “Blessed is the one who takes to heart that which is written in Revelation.” Pastors say it’s just not an issue of salvation. Or is it?

There are four schools of thought about the great tribulation in Revelation. (1) One is to use allegorical techniques to bring the great tribulation into the past. This is called the Preterist view of Revelation. (2) Another is to use allegorical techniques to say the great tribulation of Revelation will never literally happen. This is called the Spiritualist view of Revelation. (3) Another is to use allegorical techniques to say the great tribulation of Revelation has been happening throughout Church history. This is called the Historic view of Revelation. (4) The fourth is to skip right over it with the pre-tribulation rapture. This is called the Dispensational Futurist view of Revelation. These are comfortable beliefs about Revelation. But they take away the blessing of its reading, because they don’t allow for a near-future time (Revelation 1:1-3) reading such that we could personally experience great tribulation and death. Neither of these views takes “to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

Look at it this way. At the Last Supper, Peter promised the Lord that he was willing to die for the Christ. But when the test came, Peter denied Christ three times. Peter saw great tribulation when Jesus was put on trial. Peter was not spiritually prepared to really face death for Christ.

If you grow up believing in a pre-tribulation rapture, you don't expect to face this trial. Likewise, if you take the preterist view of Revelation and the preterist view of the Olivetti Discourse, you don’t expect to face this trial. When this trial comes, will you really be ready? Or will you be like Peter and fail the test?

Many will fail the test because they have been told a distorted gospel. When you understand, believe, and accept the truth, and seriously overcome sin, you become spiritually prepared for this test. Many of those who fail this test will wind up taking the mark of the beast and will be condemned. Those who fail this test may understand all forms of eschatology quite well. But they could be blotted from the Lamb’s Book of Life for taking the mark of the beast.

Matthew 24:11-13 NKJV Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (12) And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. (13) But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

I have seen how people can stretch Scripture into saying anything in order to allow this one delusion to continue. The delusion is that the church will somehow be able to avoid the great tribulation before Christ returns. There are different forms of this delusion. There are different ways to tell the same lie of Satan. It takes a great love of Scripture to actually believe what it says, even if it means understanding that we as Christians are called upon to be ready for great persecution and tribulation and even death for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

21.1) The False Doctrine of Imminence

Suppose you believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, but then you realize the abomination of desolation has already occurred. If your deep-set reason for believing the pre-tribulation rapture is that you don’t want to face this test, then you will certainly fail the test. Those who don't have the true love of God’s Word, and are faced with death, will fool themselves into twisting Scripture again. Satan will be right there helping them figure out some way to do it. And they probably won’t even realize they are lying to themselves yet again.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-13 ESV Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false , (12) in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (13) But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

How can believing a lie cause one to be condemned? Does God condemn anyone for believing a false doctrine? Or does the false doctrine cause one to think they will be saved, when in fact they will not be saved? In the New Wine System, the only way to be condemned is to harden one’s heart against the voice of Christ. During the great tribulation, taking the mark of the beast is to reject Christ’s salvation. The strong delusion, therefore, must be a lie that causes people, even Christians, to take the mark of the beast.

Yet, the mark of the beast cannot be something subtle, like a computer chip implant. It must involve the deliberate rejection of Jesus Christ. If a Christian must choose between denying Christ and hunger or death, how many will really choose hunger or death? Peter thought he would follow Christ to death. But he denied Christ. During the great tribulation, those who deny Christ will not get another chance. But those who have a false doctrine will simply tell themselves that their names cannot be blotted from the Lamb’s Book of Life, and therefore Christ will forgive them if they were to deny Christ. If one allows one deception of denying the expectation of great tribulation, then these other deceptions easily take hold.

Look at the verse again. Those who are not fooled by the strong delusion are those who do so, “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” In other words, we must mature in Christ by the Spirit in order resist temptations during the great tribulation. And we must have a love for the truth of Scripture that is greater than our love for our own lives.

What problem was Paul dealing with when he wrote 2 Thessalonians 2? There had been some letters or reports, supposedly written by Paul, saying that the day of the Lord had already come. And this false teaching was concerning the return of Christ, and our being gathered to him. I don't think anyone believed they had already been gathered into the clouds. And likewise, I don't think anyone believed Christ had already come. They were simply saying that the day of the Lord had already come. Thus they were giving the impression that Christ would return at any moment now in order to gather the elect. They were teaching Imminence.

Therefore, in 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul was arguing against Imminence. He was giving all these things that must happen first, before the day of the Lord would come. And he was using prior Scripture for his arguments. Back then, the delusion was not so strong. It was based on supposed reports from Paul. So all Paul had to do was write the letter, and this weaker delusion was silenced.

But Paul tells about a strong delusion that comes in the end-times. By context, it would also be about Imminence. There will most likely be other lies told by the world during the great tribulation. However, based on context, the strong end-time delusion Paul seems to be referring to is most likely similar in nature to the delusion he was correcting at that time.

Paul said that they would believe the lie (of Imminence) and thus be condemned. But can believing in the pre-tribulation rapture cause you to lose your salvation? Well, can believing any lie cause you to lose your salvation? No, the only way one could lose their salvation would be to harden one’s heart against Christ. During the great tribulation, those who take the mark of the beast will lose their salvation. It matters not whether one considers themselves to be a Christian. If they take the mark of the beast, they will be condemned. Their names will be blotted from the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The issue of Imminence would be irrelevant to those who don't consider themselves to be Christians. So these are people who believe they are Christians. They believe they are in the Book of Life, and cannot be blotted out. (This is also a part of the strong delusion.) However, they have not yet matured in Christ. They are still slaves to sin. Those who are no longer slaves to sin are those who truly understand the meaning of taking up our cross and following Christ. Our very physical lives are nothing. We would be willing to die for Christ. But many Christians down deep have not turned their entire lives over to Christ. For them, the idea of going through the great tribulation is fearful. Hence, the strong delusion of the pre-tribulation rapture draws them. The strong delusion of imminence by way of preterism also draws them.

When persecution comes, those who are immature in Christ could easily wind up hardening their hearts against Christ in order to avoid the persecution. That’s exactly what the book of Hebrews warned against. Jewish Christians were considering turning back to Judaism because of persecution.

What does church history show us about tribulation for God’s people? Tribulation purifies the Church. Christians, who are not willing to give their lives for Jesus, fall away during times of tribulation. God often tells martyrs, such as Polycarp, that He wants them to be martyred because it can strengthen the Church. Tribulation can make the Church pure and holy. During times when life is easy, the yeast tends to work its way through the dough (Matthew 16:11-12, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Galatians 5:9). So when do you think Christ will return? Will Christ return when the Church is full of yeast, or when the Church is pure? (Ephesians 5:27, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Revelation 19:7)

Jesus himself said not to follow those who teach, "The time is at hand" (meaning Imminence) (Luke 21:8). But these very teachers are saying it's not an issue of salvation. The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine makes it more difficult for Christians to forsake their own lives to the point of death. It teaches that they won't go through tribulation. And those who don't forsake their own lives to the point of death are in grave danger of taking the mark of the beast. Any false doctrine that makes it more difficult to understand the true cost of salvation needs to be elevated to the state of a salvation issue. People can easily get upset at my suggestion that the pre-tribulation rapture is a salvation issue. But this doctrine must be challenged if people will be being condemned who could have been saved.

21.2) Understanding All the Symbolism

Is the complete understanding of Revelation necessary for all Christians? Do all Christians need to understand all the symbolism in Revelation in order to receive the blessing for reading Revelation? While Revelation has a lot of difficult-to-understand symbolism, the basic theme of Revelation comes through without understanding the symbolism. The seven letters to the seven churches are easy to understand. The message that the saints will be turned over to the beast (antichrist) for 42 months is easy to understand (Revelation 13:5-10). And it’s easy to understand that many Christians will become martyrs (Revelation 6:9-11, 14:13).

You don’t have to understand all the details of Revelation in order to understand the theme. And if you miss it in Revelation, you can find it in Matthew 24. It’s the theme that brings holiness. It’s the theme that forces us to consider whether we are willing to be a martyr for Christ. But if we have been told that Revelation is not about us personally, then the blessing is stolen from us. All Christians can understand Revelation well enough for its message to have this blessed impact on our lives.

Think back to other Scriptures about the time of Christ’s return. Daniel 7, Daniel 9, Daniel 12, Zechariah 14, Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 5, 2 Thessalonians 2, and the book of Revelation all have one thing in common. They all speak about the coming of the Messiah, immediately preceded by great tribulation for God’s people.

21.3) The Theme of Revelation

Many people treat the seven letters to the seven churches, in Revelation, almost like a separate book from the rest of Revelation. The seven letters is viewed as holiness messages to churches. The rest of the book is viewed as things that will happen during the great tribulation. Sermons have been preached on the seven letters, stopping when chapter four is reached. Additionally, there are Futurist and Preterist studies of the eschatology of Revelation, without paying much attention to the seven letters. However, if one does not consider these two as one topic, the reader can miss the overall theme of Revelation.

Each of the seven letters to the seven churches has one common message. To those who overcome (or to those who conquer) Jesus will give a gift. The gift is different for each of the seven letters. Here is a list of the seven gifts. All are various aspects of inheriting the kingdom.

1.       The right to eat of the tree of life , which is in Paradise. This is a clear allusion back to the Garden of Eden. The Septuagint uses the word Paradise for the Garden of Eden. Those who overcome sin will inherit eternal life.

2.       Will not be hurt by the second death . For there to be a second death, one must have died the first death as well. Therefore, for those who die a second death, there must have been a resurrection. Those who overcome sin in this age receive spiritual bodies and are promised they will not die a second death. The wicked, however, will eventually come to life and die a second death.

3.       Hidden manna, and a white stone. On the stone is a new name that no one knows except he who receives it (Rev. 2:17). Jesus is the bread of life, which is the hidden manna (John 6:31-59). It is hidden because many do not understand (verses 60-66). The new name would seem to be an allusion to Isaiah 62:2. “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.” The new name is also found in the letter to the sixth church (Rev. 3:21). After we mature in Christ with the Bread of Life, we will be given a new name. The new name seems to be associated with a new purpose, which is to be exalted over the kings of the nations.

4.       Authority over the nations. Also, the morning star. John quotes Psalm 2:8-9, where God is promising his “Son” that he would make the nations his inheritance. Jesus says those who conquer sin will rule with Him. Peter says that we have “the prophetic word … as a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts” (2 Peter 19:4) Therefore, the morning star refers to the age to come. We will rule in the age to come. Revelation 22:16 also refers to the son of David as being the “bright morning star.” Again, this is in reference to the Messianic Kingdom, when Christ will reign on earth.

5.       Clothed in white robes. Name will not be blotted from the Book of Life. Jesus will confess our name before the Father and the angels. White robes are symbolic of holiness. Those who are holy, who overcome sin, will not be blotted from the Book of Life. This implies that others will be blotted from the Book of Life.

6.       Made a pillar in the temple of God . Write on him the name of God, and the name of the city of God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down from God out of heaven and my own new name. The temple of God is the New Jerusalem. It will be in orbit around the earth. To be a pillar is not literal. It means those who overcome sin will have a new purpose (new name) in the New Jerusalem.

7.       Sit with Christ on His Throne. This is compared with Christ who conquered, and was thus given the right to sit on the Father’s throne. To sit on the throne simply means to be given authority. Christ didn’t have to conquer personal sin. But Christ did conquer the wages of sin for the entire world.

In summary, those who conquer sin in this age will inherit eternal life, no death, a new name, authority over the nations, honored as holy, new purpose in the New Jerusalem, and will reign with Christ on His throne.

The problem is that the Church is not ready for Christ to return. The Church, as a whole, has not overcome sin. The remainder of Revelation is all about how God gets the Church ready for Christ to set up his kingdom. One could view Revelation as an allegory about the fight between good and evil in every generation. But this should not deny the explicit literal teachings about literal events that will occur in the literal years just prior to when Christ sets up his earthly reign. The Church must get ready. The theme of Revelation is that the Church must overcome sin before we can be given authority to rule the nations.

This theme can also found at the end of Revelation. Those who conquer will inherit (the spring of the water of life). The context of this verse is after the Great White Throne Judgment, after the millennium.

Revelation 21:7-8 ESV The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (8) But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

The saints must conquer sin prior to Christ’s earthly reign. However, this is not all the conquering that is happening during this time. The beast makes war on the two witnesses, conquers them, and kills them (Revelation 11:7). The saints are turned over to the beast, who is allowed to make war on the saints, and to conquer them (Revelation 13:7). The beast and the false prophet will also make war on the Lamb. But the Lamb will conquer them (Revelation 17:14).

Of course there is a difference between the conquering victory of the saints, and the conquering victory of the beast and later of Christ. Our battle is with sin. These other battles are literal wars. Nevertheless, Revelation shows us the relationship between these two types of battles. We will live victorious with Christ only when even our own literal deaths are of no consequence, as compared with our need to conquer sin. The soldier must be willing to lose his life in order to win the war.

Matthew 10:38-39 He who doesn't take his cross and follow after me, isn't worthy of me. (39) He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.

Also see Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 9:23-25 which are almost identical.

John 12:24-25 Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. (25) He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life.

This is the theme of Revelation.

Revelation 12:10-11 I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now is come the salvation, the power, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. (11) They overcame him because of the Lamb's blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life, even to death.

21.4) Watch and Be Ready, For the Time is Near

There is no question that the early Church believed the time is near (Matthew 10:23, 16:28, 24:34, 1st John 2:18). Paul was including himself when he said, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). And there is no question they believed tribulation would come first. 70 AD had not yet come, so there was no way to say that Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 had already taken place.

People had to ask the hard question of whether or not they were willing to be martyred for Christ. And in that generation, many were martyred for Christ. When the Church believes that great tribulation is near, it brings purity into the Church. And when there is purity in the Church, it grows quickly (Acts 2:42-47).

The bottom line is that Scripture teaches Christians of all generations to expect great tribulation just prior to Christ’s return. Christians of all generations are to believe that the time is near. This belief produces purity, holiness, and great growth in the Church. So, when we read Revelation, and take it to heart, we are blessed with purity. We take seriously the hard question of whether or not we are ready to be martyred. Thus, we are blessed when we take Revelation to heart.

Today, the Bride of Christ is not ready for the rapture. The Bride of Christ is still full of yeast. Christ’s return has been near for all generations. But no generation has been ready. Many individuals have been ready. However, it will take the events of Revelation for the entire Church of one generation to become ready.

The theme of Revelation is God’s plan to allow great tribulation so that the Bride will make herself ready (Revelation 19:7). All the popular views avoiding the tribulation distort this theme, and remove its blessing. The Church will not skip over the great tribulation. And the great tribulation is not an allegory, nor is it symbolic of events in the past.

Philip Brown
www.newwine.org

Dividor

If you find this book to be of interest, please send an email with a link to this website to all your Christian family and friends.  You could even include one to your pastor.

Thanks,www.newwine.org
Philip Brown     Click to email me.

If you find this book to be of interest, please send an email with a link to this website to all your Christian family and friends.  You could even include one to your pastor.

Thanks,www.newwine.org
Philip Brown     Click to email me.

If you find this book to be of interest, please send an email with a link to this website to all your Christian family and friends.  You could even include one to your pastor.

Thanks,www.newwine.org
Philip Brown     Click to email me.