Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Revelation Bible Study Lesson 3 - Revelation 1:7-9

Behold, 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. Even so, Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (NKJV)

What are three key elements regarding Jesus’ return are revealed?

Jesus’ Return

It seems that Jesus’ return is one thing that is acknowledged by many people, believers, and unbelievers alike. You can read the magazines at the grocery store checkout stands and almost every week there is a headline promising some new revelation about the return of Christ. They claim that these revelations come from such various sources as Nostradamus or even from the Bible. So what does the Bible say about His return?

First, verse 7 says that He will be coming back with the clouds and this is in keeping with the way He left.

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!" (Acts 1:9-11 NLT)

I can imagine that it will be very much like running a video backwards. There will be at least one cloud in the sky and it will part, revealing Jesus who will then descend back to the earth. In Acts, Jesus had been standing on the Mount of Olives with His disciples giving them His last minute instructions. It makes sense then that He will return and stand on the Mount of Olives as is confirmed by Zech 14:4.

On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. (RSV)

The importance of Him coming back with clouds is both prophetic and symbolic. The prophecy is in Dan 7:13-14 when One like the Son of Man is ushered into the presences of the Ancient of Days and He comes with the clouds of heavens. He is given dominion over all and forever. Jesus quoted this prophecy to His disciples (Matt 24:30) and when He was asked who He was at His trial (Matt 26:64). The symbolic nature of the clouds can be seen in Rev 19:14 as He returns with the armies of heaven all mounted on white horses.

Second, everyone will see His return. This is important to understand that when Jesus comes back to put His foot down on the Mount of Olives, it will not be a sneak appearance.

How do you think it will be possible for everyone to see Jesus’ return?

Is it possible that a massive cloud formation will appear over Jerusalem and that it will be broadcast all over the world? Do you think that Jesus will slowly descend so that TV cameras and web cams will catch the action? Perhaps, since there will probably still be people living in primitive areas, God will provide a vision or apparition in the skies for everyone to see. What is important is to not limit His appearance to our technology or our abilities. The glory goes to the Father through Jesus, not to our inventions even if He chooses to use some of them. This will be a demonstration of His power and authority.

When He returns, it will be with authority and power.

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. (Matt 24:30 KJV)

This theme is repeated in Matt 26:64 and is also recorded in Mark 13:26, 14:62. When He left, only a handful of people saw Him go. They were still unsure of what His plan was since they were still asking if “now” was the time He would restore the Kingdom to Israel. There will be no doubt that He has returned to establish His Kingdom when He comes again as all nations will be able to see Him. Some will mourn because of His arrival while there will be rejoicing for others.

Why do you think the people on earth will mourn when Jesus returns?

Third, the tribes of the earth will mourn when Jesus returns. This phrase “tribes of the earth” is a key that will later be repeated in various forms in the Book of Revelation. It refers to those who are living on the earth, but have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. There are only a couple of reasons why anyone would mourn when Jesus returns. The first is that they had not believed in Him and are now facing a terrible judgment. The other reason is that their eyes have been opened to who He is and they are mourning because their ancestors had missed His first coming and were responsible for His death.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him,  as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zech 12:10 ESV)

These Jews will receive grace from our Lord indicating that they will be saved; however, they will mourn as a people because their ancestors rejected Jesus when He came the first time. Mourning for the sins of our fathers is a concept that we don’t have in our culture; however it is understood in the historical Jewish culture. (Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 9) They may also be mourning because they will be entering the millennial reign of Christ as mortals instead of having resurrected bodies. Being mortals, they will still be subject to the ability to sin. They will have to wait until the end of Christ’s millennial reign before they will be completely free from sin. It will be interesting to find out the timing of these events to see when the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem are no longer classified as “tribes of the earth” but become believers in Jesus.

What do you think the day will be like when Jesus returns? See Zech 14:6-7.

There has always been a lot of speculation about the day Jesus will come back. One of the things that bother people is that every eye will see him. How can that be if He returns to the Mount of Olives? Other problems deal with the fact that He will be coming with the clouds. How can that happen when there are so many places in the world that are sunny while it is cloudy elsewhere (Seattle)? And there is this “sign of the Son of Man” that will appear in the sky (Matt 24:30). What is that and does that mean that everyone will be able to see it? The only thing that I can say is that the Lord has already told us that it won’t be like anything we have ever seen before.

On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime — a day known to the Lord. When evening comes, there will be light. (Zech 14:6-7 NIV)

A lot of Scripture suddenly made sense when I realized the implications of these verses. We have to think “outside of the box” to fathom any part of it. He will take care of all the details and answer these questions in a way that will be unexpected. His sovereignty His power can overcome any of the problems we may have with understanding how He can do anything.

John’s Situation

Describe John’s situation at this time in His life.

John was not immune to suffering. He was on the island of Patmos because he had been exiled for the Word of God and his testimony about Jesus. In the Roman Empire, John didn’t enjoy freedom of religion. While we do have a great degree of freedom in the U.S., this is not the case in most of the world now or in the past. By the time John had written this, he was the only one of the original twelve apostles that was left alive. All had been martyred for their faith. Apparently the Roman government didn’t want another martyr on its hands and instead, tried to minimize his influence by isolating him after he had been tortured. It is worthy of note that his exile wasn’t because he was standing up for some cause such as freedom of religion, his opposition to slavery or the violence in the gladiator games. It was simply because he was preaching salvation through Jesus Christ.

What is there about John’s situation that would lead you to believe that this message isn’t just for his time?

Many believe that this book was written only for John’s era and should only be studied as history. However, John’s identification as a brother in suffering spans all ages. I think it shows that there will always be persecution. For this reason we can study the Book of Revelation as history with application for the present as well as God’s plan and warning for the future. In verse 8, the eternal nature of God is described and adds to the confirmation that this book is for all ages.

Why shouldn’t we look at the Book of Revelation only to make sure Christians will escape the Great Tribulation? See 1 Peter 5:8-9.

One thing is for sure; there will be suffering in the future just as there is now. We shouldn’t look at the Book of Revelation simply to try to figure out whether or not Christians will escape the Great Tribulation described later in the book. The fact is that there are currently Christians who are undergoing tribulation that rivals the problems in Revelation. More important than the fact that suffering occurs throughout history is our attitude toward it. We can learn a lot from John’s attitude.
He identifies with all others in the kingdom of Christ who are suffering when he states that he is our brother and companion.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV)

Peter also understood our need to identify with those who are suffering. It is a kingdom thing. We belong to either Christ’s kingdom or Satan’s. As a part of Christ’s kingdom, we will have opposition from the enemy, which in various parts of the world manifests itself in persecution. One way of being alert and resisting the devil is to remember that others have the same or worse problems than we do. We need to be holding them up in prayer.

Why does suffering and tribulations come to Christians?

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12-13 NASB)

We have been told over and over again in the Bible that we will suffer because of our relationship with Jesus.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (Matt 5:11 KJV)

However, there is joy and blessedness in participating in the sufferings of Christ and we need to be prepared for it.

If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Rev 13:9-10 NKJV)
Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Rev 14:12 NKJV)

Two more times in the Book of Revelation, the phrase that John used for patient endurance (here is the patience) is used to let the saints know that they will have to be patient and endure suffering.

What should our attitudes be in the face of suffering, tribulations, and persecutions?

The battles we endure tempt us to give up, complain or fight back with worldly weapons. John suffered with patient endurance.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near. Don't grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:7-9 NLT)

We need to be like farmers who continue to plant and wait year after year. Some farmers watch their crops burn up in drought or destroyed by insects, yet they continue to plant because they know they won’t receive a harvest if they give up. When we identify with others who are undergoing suffering, we are more apt to be able to stand firm in our faith and continue to plant seeds from the Word of God. If we start grumbling about our situation, it is likely that we will eventually grumble about everything, including other brothers and sisters in Christ and end up being judged for that instead of reaping a harvest.

 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (Ps 37:7-8 RSV)

Many people are becoming extremely anxious as they watch the world economy crumble. They are concerned about the leaders of their nations and the evil direction they are heading. This isn’t the first time in history that evil has threatened. It may be the last but no one knows for sure. If we are fretting over evil then we need to examine our relationship with the Lord. He tells us over and over to wait patiently for Him. When we get upset and angry we don’t accomplish God’s work because our anger only leads to more evil. James 1:20 tells us that man’s anger doesn’t accomplish God’s righteous desires.

News Alert: Christians will not resolve the evil in the world by political means. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to establish godly laws, but the ultimate victory isn’t going to be accomplished by man’s efforts. We need to wait patiently.

What is your relationship with Jesus? Are you ready for His return?

John says that both suffering and patience are the results of our relationship with Jesus. Does the thought of Jesus coming back in the clouds give you joy or cause you to mourn? Are you ready to greet Him with great joy as a close friend who has been away on a long journey? Do you fear His return because He is coming back with power and authority to judge? Is it possible that you want to see Him come back again, but you don’t want it to happen now because you have things to do, goals to achieve? If you can relate to either of these last two situations, then I would urge you to get your relationship with Jesus straightened up - something is dreadfully wrong that will have eternal consequences.

When you are suffering for any reason, not just persecution, what is your attitude? Do you consider others who are suffering? Do you suffer with patient endurance or grumbling? If you aren’t suffering, are you willing to suffer for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus? You may have to.
Let’s work on our relationship with Jesus so that regardless of the situation we will have patient endurance and would welcome His return right now!

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