AND THEN I SAW - Revelation 20 - April 23, 2023
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC
Cliff on the Island of Patmos in North of Greece
It was black – ink jet black. No moonlight. No stars. No glow from nearby life. Not even shadows from my boat’s inoperative running lights, as I tried to navigate ocean waters to an island that was as hidden as the night. Also hidden were submerged rocks I knew were in the area. What made it worse was that my small boat was carrying far more cargo than it should which had me way too low in the water. If waves picked up, I didn’t have much clearance between safety and disaster. And so I kept my head down, eyes watching what surrounded, ready to bail.
And then – a flash. Miraculously. Light appearing from an island that had been hidden in black.
And then I saw. In a millisecond – all I needed to see. All I needed to steer to safety was given me in that momentary flash.
In some ways this is exactly where we have been walking in our study of the book of Revelation and the turbulent waters of the end times when, in a day to come, God will bring His judgment upon His creation before the victorious return of His Son. At times what we’ve looked at has felt dark – oppressively so but then we come into Rev 19 and 20 when John repeatedly uses a phrase that changes everything – “And then I saw”. A revelation beyond any revelation!
Let me show you something I’ve used once before with you to illustrate in a different way what we are looking at this morning. Gorilla video www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo
Interesting isn’t it?, ‘seeing what we are prepared to see’. The question is, what are we prepared to see as we’ve worked through this book, this morning’s focus in Rev 20 that speaks of the millennium – a 1000 year period of time in a new, sin free world? Though some believe this time period to be understood figuratively, I believe what we’re given here speaks of a literal time of a 1000 years that is to come that follows the 7 year tribulation and the return of Christ where God dwells with those who have come to saving faith in Jesus. This timeframe of 1000 years is emphasized as it is repeated 6X in 20:2-7. Of note, :1 points out, this 1000 year period begins and will end with an incarceration. So that as introduction, understand there are 3 prevalent views concerning the Millennium.
• AMILLENNIAL (no) - in short, this is the belief that the millennium is not a literal 1000 year earthly reign of Christ and that OT passages about a future kingdom such as we have in Dan 2,7 etc. are to be understood spiritually and that Christ and His church are presently establishing His reign. This view was widely held in the 3rd-17th Centuries and still by many today. It gained momentum by Augustine’s 'The City of God’ which taught that the church is the messianic kingdom prophesied and that the millennium began with the first coming of Jesus.
The POSTMILLENNIAL view believes that the Millennium will not be established supernaturally at the 2nd coming of Jesus, but that this 1000 year kingdom of God on earth comes through the increasing influence of the church. Therefore, the church has the responsibility of bringing Christ's rule worldwide through the preaching of the gospel, that people would own Him as King and bow the knee. This view was prominent in the 18th & 19th C as the gospel spread across the world with missionary endeavours where it seemed that the world was getting better rather than worse. However this belief was hit with shock waves with the evils of WW I & WW II.
PREMILLENIAL - before. Christ returns to earth in His second coming and establishes His kingdom - 1000 literal years on earth where He will rule together with His saints. This was the prevailing belief in the 1st two Centuries after Christ (Ignatius, Polycarp disciple of John, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, tutelage of Polycarp.) Polycarp and Irenaeus warned against the allegorizing, the spiritualizing, of Old Testament kingdom prophecies and applying them to other things.
Admittedly, what I have just outlined is inadequately brief but regardless of the view held, all point to a coming time when God’s rule and reign will set right a world that has tragically gone wrong. And in the final righting of that wrong, in the portion of Scripture we are looking at this morning, John brings into view 5 ‘Gorilla’ picture-imperatives God wants him to see beginning in Rev 19:11 marked off by the words, “Then I saw”. These picture are of: AN OPENED HEAVEN; A PROCLAMATION FROM HEAVEN; THE CONVICTION AND SENTENCE DELIVERED BY HEAVEN; GOD’S KINGDOM ESTABLISHED ON EARTH; and finally, GOD’S FOREVER KINGDOM.
Let’s begin with our 1st And then I saw 19:11 that we saw last week - An Opened Heaven with a spectacular view of God’s heaven sent conqueror - the rider on a white horse, His robes dipped in the blood of battle but that blood also giving reminders of His blood of purchase, when His blood was given, not taken. First and foremost, it is the blood of the Victorious One. His name - The Faithful and the True – standing in stark contrast to the deceiver of whom it is said, “the truth is not in him”. This Conqueror is the rightful occupier of the throne, not the deceiving rider we saw in Rev 6 who came to destroy. This rider is King of kings and Lord of lords whose presence, power and authority stand over all.
This picture we’re given to see before Jesus descends, is The Conqueror positioned in the heavenlies standing over all – His Lordship undeniable; His rule unchallengeable! Then just And before His descent to earth, we are shown our 2nd And then I saw picture 19:17:
A PROCLAMATION FROM HEAVEN - an angel standing in the sun – an image of blinding radiance and from this place a proclamation of the victory that is to come. Again, our view is taken heavenward to see things from where John looks. A view FROM above looking down on what is below. That perspective determines everything. From below, in the places we now live, the enemy looks powerful. From below, the enemy looks unconquerable. From below – random shootings commonplace; the not yet born never making it to life; the exploitation where profit tramples morality. From below, all we see is what surrounds. But from above, the enemy is as nothing. This is the view in 2 Kings 6 Elisha’s servant was allowed to see, when surrounded by an invading army, God opens his spiritual eyes to see, a heavenly army full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. The enemy – now The Conquered! In this, then I saw, God’s proclamation sounded, His judgment come. And with this, the beast and false prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire - never to escape, never to be let loose.
From there John takes us to his 3rd And then I saw 20:1 THE CONVICTION AND SENTENCE DELIVERED BY HEAVEN - an angel coming from heaven who holds the key to the bottomless abyss. In these first 3 pictures, we are Heaven focused and Heaven directed. Heaven deciding how long the deceiver’s reign will be and when his reign will end. Here we see an angel acting in God’s authority. Some speculate this is the mighty archangel Michael but wouldn’t it be more like God to send ‘Clarence’? My intent here is not to be flippant rather the issue is this – when God’s authority speaks, His will IS accomplished; His might - not in the power of the one sent, but in the power of the One who sends. Like God’s might in a small boy against a huge giant; like His might in the stretching of a very small staff over a very large sea; like His might in a barely seen light in a ‘what difference will that make’ cradle. I’m not actually suggesting this angel will be something less than, rather that the One who sends is SO much greater than – greater than all who oppose, greater than our circumstance, greater than the pit we are now in.
His might wanting to speak into our lives when life doesn’t make sense. That’s why John, when he falls down to worship an angel in Rev 19 is told, Don’t do that. I’m only the messenger. God SO much greater over all. His authority when the bottom falls out and we feel helpless. His authority in situations that feel too big, too overwhelming. His authority and might still true even when we cannot see and do not understand - HE holds the keys to the present and to the future.
It’s that authority that speaks as the great enemy, Satan, is rendered as nothing. :2,3 tell us, He (the angel) seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a 1000 years and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer. Once this lockup is secured, God establishes His Kingdom reign on earth. (The Bible uses several terms to identify this time: times of refreshing and restoration Acts 3:19-21; the kingdom of heaven Mat 3:2, 8:11, and the kingdom of God Mk 1:15.)
• This time of Jesus’ 1000 year reign on earth will be characterized by RIGHTEOUSNESS, JUSTICE, JOY AND PEACE. Isaiah tells us, And it shall come to pass … that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established …. And many people shall go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths…. And He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Is. 2:2-5
Or his words in Isaiah 11, With righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth…. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them …. for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Is 11:4-9
• Jesus’ 1000 year reign on earth will be characterized by the ABSENCE OF DISTRESS AND PAIN.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a 100 years old, and the sinner a 100 years old shall be accursed. Is 65:19,20.
Note this differentiates the millennial kingdom from a time later we are told of in Rev 21 and 22 of God’s eternal kingdom when there is NO more death, no more sin, no more rebellion.
• Jesus’ 1000 year reign on earth and God’s eternal kingdom is WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED AT HIS BIRTH -- He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Lk 1:32-33 Or what Zechariah tells us: The LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. Zech 14:9
The Millennial kingdom, not Christmas, is actually what the writer of Joy to the World was referencing when he wrote, Joy to the world, the Lord has come. No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove - the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.
But :3 ends with, After that he must be released for a little while, then :7 And when the 1000 years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations.
This will be Satan’s last hurrah – he still acting according to his character – deceiving and destroying because that’s who he is. He will gather those, who have been surrounded by all that is good but refuse to bow to the One that is good, and they will be deceived to follow Satan into battle. Those deceived will be children of believing mothers and fathers born during this perfect millennial kingdom but, who have not been ‘reborn’ as followers of Jesus and so deceived by a briefly released Satan, their hearts will be revealed as they join Satan to destroy all things ‘God’.
We aren’t told why God permits Satan’s release but most believe it is to show us that: • the reigning presence of Jesus does not transform man. • A picture perfect environment does not change man. • Living by right principles does not change man. What changes man is a changed heart and a changed, sinful heart is something only Jesus can do. We aren’t sinful because of a sinful environment or even Satan himself; we are sinful because of a sinful heart. What lies within.
And a sinful heart means, coming to Jesus with repentance, bowing and acknowledging their sin. Not minimizing, not denying, not excusing but bowing. Confessing sin and surrendering their lives to Him – to the One who said I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me. Repentance that is a matter of our will.
The 4th And then I saw GOD’S KINGDOM ESTABLISHED ON EARTH 20:4 thrones* and on them, those to whom the authority to judge was committed. God fulfilling His promises. To Whom? Well, the Bible tells us, to those:
- beheaded and those who didn’t worship beast brought back to life & reigned with Christ 1000 years :4. Trib saints raised at the end of the tribulation. (anastasis – 40X in NT bodily)
- OT saints of the Most High shall receive the Kingdom. Dan 7:9,18
- Disciples Lk 22:29-30 I appoint unto you a kingdom as my Father has appointed … that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.”
- Us 1 Cor 6:2,3 Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world? and that we are to judge angels? 2 Tim 2:11,12 If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. Rev 5:10 redeemed (they shall reign on the earth)
Which brings us to the last picture John is given. It’s at this picture many want to close the book and turn from what John has to describe. They’d much rather depend on a 3 year old’s description of Jesus riding on a rainbow coloured horse or a doctor’s capture of being surrounded by technicolored butterflies. The post death experience - all glorious, all beautiful. John was shown something quite different.
The 5th And then I saw 20:11 GOD’S FOREVER KINGDOM. A Great White Throne and him who was seated on it :11
This is a scene John likely would have wanted to turn away from because it is not a scene anyone wants to think about. And yet, as we are shown what John sees here, we have before us a scene that the world is convinced, What gorilla? So caught up dressed in their white shirts, counting on their ‘good life passes’ that all will be well in the end. Because really – what gorilla? - seeing what they are prepared to see. How about you? Are you doing the very same? Banking on your white shirt, counting all the ‘passes’ you think should add up to something good? while ignoring what God has clearly said? that as :5 tells us:
There is a judgment ahead when the unsaved dead are brought to life at the end of the 1000 yrs to join with the living as :12 points out, to stand before God’s Throne.
This is the time Heb 9:27 warns of when is says, It is appointed unto men once to die and after this, the judgment. :12-14 reveals, I saw the dead, great and small, standing there before the throne and the books were opened. Then another book was opened which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them according to what they had done. Ashes spread far and wide, God bringing all together to stand before Him. Rev 20:12-14
Jesus spoke 3 words about hell for every word about heaven, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Mt 25:41, 46; Mk 9:43-45 Unquenchable fire; 2 Thes 1:9 everlasting punishment & eternal separation from God; Rev 14:11 smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night. 7x in NT weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Books were opened and another book was opened which is the Book of Life. No greater book has ever been made – the Lamb’s book of Life Rev 13:21:27 names of all those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. Those of us who know Jesus as Saviour will never stand before the Great White Throne – God’s throne of judgment because of God’s Book of Life – referenced from Genesis to Revelation, all pointing to the same thing, - life everlasting for those who know Jesus and everlasting judgement for those who don’t. And God’s conclusion 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So what Gorilla? Well One whose presence has never been hidden but is too easily ignored - not seen in our refusal to see Who stands before us. Not seen in our determination to see what we are prepared to see. And yet this morning?
Your invitation to see differently with a bowed heart that declares,
AND THEN I SAW!