|Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 5, Number 35, September 29 to October 4, 2003|
In the last study we considered the way the Book of Revelation reveals Jesus as the resurrected and Living King and the hope for all of God's people. We begin this study by considering how the Book of Revelation begins by revealing Jesus as Coming Judge and King in Revelation 1:5b-8:
Revelation 1:5b-8: ...To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
One of the reasons why God inspires the Apostle John to write the Book of Revelation is to reveal Christ as coming Judge and King. The people of God are a missionary outpost of heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). We are seated positionally with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), but we live our life before a dying world here.
As a sinful people we have been redeemed from the way of life we used to live in the flesh and now we live unto God here as witnesses before this dying world (Eph. 4:21ff). As John writes in Revelation 1:5b, Jesus is the One who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Jesus came on his mission to save a people (Heb. 2:10ff), to lay down his life for his people, his church by shedding his blood for their sins. Jesus shed his blood and paid the penalty of death that was required of our sins. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
...And Injustice for All?
Wherever you turn, both Christians and non-Christians long to see justice. People made in God's image know things aren't as they should be. There is injustice all around them. The powerful get more powerful and weak continue to be oppressed. Death comes to us all but during our time here on earth many men and women sinfully abuse their privilege of living in God's world and live unrighteous lives and unjust lives. Some babies today do not even make it out of the womb because of the idol of "self-centeredness", and some babies that do make it out of the womb suffer from a drug addition, or from parents who abuse them. We all know things aren't as they should be.
The non-Christians asks: "If your God is all loving and all powerful then why doesn't he do something about all the injustice in the world?" "Doesn't he watch the news?" "Doesn't he know that women are being raped, that racism is still a popular form of ignorance and hatred, and that human beings, in most parts of the world, are still sold for profit?" These are the questions they ask. This reveals something about all men. We long to see justice! Justice on God's terms is what the Book of Revelation reveals. However, the justice of God is not as non-Christians would like to see. It is not within their own self-centered time frame and it is directed against them- - not as the victims, but as part of the sinful problem. We don't need a Beat poet, a song by Bob Dylan, or another march in America in order for things to change, we need repentance for our sins!
The Book of Revelation reveals a picture of God's just vengeance against all those who have sinned against his holy character and have not loved, obeyed and worshiped him as they ought to have. Revelation makes it clear that we are a sinful people and part of the problem of injustice until the Holy Spirit comes into our life, resurrecting our dead unloving hearts to life by His grace (Eph. 2:4-8).
When we believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven before God and we have a mediator who we can approach in awe, reverence and fear because He is the Holy One. We ought to be offended at all the injustice we see from day to day around us, but we must weep and wail that we are not offended in the same way at the profanation of God's name, the hatred of God Almighty, the sin against his holiness, and the unrighteousness that is allowed in our generation!
The Rider on the Storm...
Revelation reveals a picture of Christ as Judge and the One who will make all things right when he righteously judges according to God's standard. The Great Judgment of Jesus to come will be bringing justice where there is injustice and punishing all the kingdoms of men who have sinfully tried to "make names for themselves" rather than lifting up the Name of the LORD God (Gen. 11:4; cf. Gen. 12:2; Deut. 9:14). In the Book of Daniel, Daniel sees the throne room and judgment seat of God Almighty in his vision. In Daniel's vision, the Ancient of Days gives to the Son of Man all authority over all of the kingdoms of man once the other unjust kingdoms have been judged.
Daniel 7:9 As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11 I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
The Book of Revelation uses the imagery of Daniel and reveals Jesus not as the gentle Teacher and Savior who opens his arms to welcome those who would come to him. Revelation reveals him as the One who will come on the clouds!
What is the significance of Revelation 1:7 that says he will come on the clouds? It is that Yahweh, the LORD, the Great LORD of Hosts, was the Rider on the Clouds. This revelation of Jesus reveals him as the Great God and Savior who will judge. The following Scriptures below give us an idea of this description of both the LORD God and how Jesus himself used the imagery of the clouds to speak of his own great judgment as Savior:
Psalm 18:11-12: He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. 12 Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
Psalm 97:2: Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Ezekiel 30:3: For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.
Joel 2:2: a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.
Nahum 1:3: The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
From these Old Covenant Scriptures it is important to note the context. The LORD God's judgment is described with clouds. The cloud was God's visible appearing when he revealed himself and led Israel through the wilderness from Egypt. The cloud descended upon Mount Sinai when God gave the Law (Ex. 20). This is what is called a Theophany, or an appearing of God [Note: from two Greek words: Theos: God and Phaneo: to appear, thus "appearance of God, or "theophany"]. When God made an appearance it was in all his holiness and righteousness and he reveals himself to judge the world as to whether they are keeping his law. When God appears as the rider on the clouds, he appears as the Great Judge.
Also in Daniel 7:13 when Daniel speaks of the Son of Man who is to come, we learn of the imagery of the clouds. Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man in the Gospels and even tells the court of the Sanhedrin that they will see him again coming on the clouds. I believe this is what John has in mind when he says in 1:7 that "every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him." Read the following Scriptures and compare:
Daniel 7:13: I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
Matthew 24:30: Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Matthew 26:64: Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."
This helps Christians in every age who are attempting to live faithfully one more day for the Judge and King to be encouraged that even though they may be persecuted now, the time will come when God will rescue them ultimately to be at his side and will judge those who committed injustice and crimes against his people in God's world. In fact, those who trust the LORD Jesus, the Righteous Judge and King, will be called up to meet him in the clouds away from His judgment that will wipe out all sin and evil (1 Thess. 4:17).
In revealing Jesus as Judge, the Christians here at the missionary outpost of this world get a view of Christ ruling in heaven. As Christians of this world, we are encouraged to see that when heaven is opened, all injustices will be made right on the Day when men will be held accountable to God's Word! Christians, although beset by difficulties and evils now, are part of a grander and greater story. The story of which we are a part is revealed in Scripture as the world that is to come when Christ comes, judges the wicked, and brings those whom he loves into his presence forever.
And now...the Rest of the Story
When I was young, my father enjoyed listening to an elderly man on the ABC Radio Network named Paul Harvey who told fascinating stories. When he would come on the air he would ask a intriguing question, or tease the audience with an unknown fact that would cause our ears to perk up. Then, Mr. Harvey would say, "I'll be back after this important message to tell you the rest of the story." The "rest of the story" caused Dad and I to pay attention to the broadcast so that we could hear more when he returned. The Book of Revelation is like this. During our day to day difficult lives, we get caught up in our own story here on earth where all we see around us is like the Teacher in 'Ecclesiastes'. We too say "Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless."
Every now and then many of us have had the thought and small voice inside our heads that asks: "Is the Christian life worth it?" We think: "It seems everyone around us prospers who are evil and live their own way. It seems I never get recognized, I don't feel loved, the persecution is too difficult, and I am getting tired of pressing torward to the mark." For these thoughts during difficult and trying times there is the "rest of the story". The Book of Revelation teaches what is to come and to place our hopes continuously in Jesus, being watchful, soberly awaiting his return as we are obedient and faithful to his Word.
It is important to think of our lives in the way of "story". Many philosophers today are thinking in terms of "story" and how each individual has, or tries to created one's own story. Yet for the Christian, he has been recreated and is in the process of a transformation from obedience to and the love of sin, he is part of a much grander story that is in reality "out of this world" (or more precisely the Christian's story will the day when sin, death and the devil are permanently wiped 'out of this world').
Sometimes life can be difficult and we don't know the next "chapter" in each of our individual stories. What we do know and can be confident of from Revelation is that our story ends with our Great God and Savior coming to make all things right and to punish the wicked for their sins against a holy God, wickedness of living for themselves, and the many other sins that arise because of their disregard and denial of the Living God. The Christian story, no matter how bad things can be (or might get!), is that we have hope because the Book of Revelation teaches us the rest of the story. As John teaches us in 1:8, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of God's Grand and Wonderful Story!
The Story to End all Stories
In the Book of Revelation, John teaches Christians of every age to continue to stand for Christ's truth and not to be ashamed of the gospel in the face of difficult persecution. The story that God reveals to us in Revelation is that the Coming Judge, was the one who died for our sins, shed his precious blood at the hands and judgment of men. This same Jesus was resurrected from the dead to take the throne that belonged to him upon his completion of perfect obedience to the Father's will. This same Jesus who was judged guilty so that those who believe might be judged "not guilty" will return to Judge "those who pierced him" as John teaches in 1:7. Those who pierced him are those who literally crucified Jesus, both Gentile and Jews, as well as all of those who have rejected the LORD Jesus Christ and His reign throughout history (Acts 2; Zechariah 12:10).
Additionally, in Revelation 1:6 John instructs Christians of every age to know their identity of who they are in Christ's Grand Story. Christ in his substitutionary work on our behalf has made us a kingdom and priests. Let this grip you! No matter how difficult life may be at times; no matter how challenging the persecution God calls you to, you can overcome. How? By remembering that no matter how many people, be it family, friends, or even other people who call themselves Christian, treat you ill, you can stand confidently knowing that you are a king and priest (Ex. 19:6; cf. 1 Peter 2:5ff).
We do not see our full identities as those who reign with Christ. This is because we do not see all things subjected to Christ (1 Cor. 15:25ff), even though he has won the full victory already. We don't realize how we represent God before man as priests are called to do. We don't fully see the good we do living according to the Word of God before a dying world. Yet we can be confident according to 1:6 that we are indeed a kingdom now, as well as priests before God who witness with our lives before a world lost in sin and misery.
Remember that it is important to meditate upon the truth of Revelation and sometimes to remind yourself that you know the "rest of the story".
Bauckham, Richard. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Bavinck, H. The Last Things: Hope for this World and the Next. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.
Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Press, 1999.
Kline, Meredith G. Images of the Spirit. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998.
Ladd, G. E. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Press, 1972.
Longman, T. and Reid, D. God is a Warrior. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 1995.
Martin, R. P. and Davids, P. H., editors. Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Downer's Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
Poythress, V. S. The Book of Revelation: A Guide for Understanding (V. 2.0). Unpublished Manuscript, Westminster Theological Bookstore.
Russell, D. S. Divine Disclosure: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Pastor Charles R. Biggs
Ketoctin Covenant Presbyterian Church
Post Office Box 628
Round Hill, VA 20142-0628