The Book of Revelation
By Ed Young
April 3, 2016
Revelation is unquestionably one of the most intriguing books of the Bible. For centuries, people have studied it, debated it, and critiqued it. But how often do we look at the overall picture of this book and understand what it means in our lives?
In this message, Pastor Ed Young gives us a panoramic picture of Revelation. As he unpacks the principles, prophecies, and promises found in the last book of the Bible, we discover how it can help us get the most out of every day of our lives.
I’m sure you have one of those panoramic features, the panoramic pictures. You know, I love to take panoramic pictures but to be totally candid I don’t use that feature enough. It’s time consuming. And then when you’re scrolling through your pictures it’s sort of difficult to see the essence of a panoramic picture.
ILLUS: But several years ago Lisa had this bucket list trip. She said, “Honey, would you please take me to the Grand Canyon?” I did and we did a panoramic view. We went with a couple of tourists in this helicopter, Maverick Tours, if you’re ever in the area. We flew down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, had a little lunch.
I took the panoramic picture. And the panoramic picture looks good on these giant screens but who has screens that big in their home? I don’t. Maybe you do. There’s no way you can capture the essence of the Grand Canyon unless you’re there, literally there on the floor of this wonder of the world. But a panoramic view, a panoramic picture does help. But an old-school Polaroid, that’s kind of pathetic.
Well today I want to talk to you about a panoramic picture of a different kind. I want to talk to you about the panoramic picture of prophecy. Prophecy, the end times. Prophecy, what’s going to unfold in the future. A panoramic view of prophecy and specifically I want to go through a panoramic view of the book of Revelation.
What does Revelation mean? What is Revelation about? It’s very confusing. It’s compelling, it’s full of symbolism. And here’s what I love about the book of Revelation. Basically the book of Revelation has one message. We win.
So I’m not going to do this series to scare you. I’m not going to do this series just to inform you. I pray that this series conforms you into the image of Christ. What can happen is we can get so caught up in the book of Revelation, about the who and the why and the when, that we miss the do part, the “so-what? principle.” In other words, here’s the book of Revelation. Here’s the end times. How does it affect me where I live today? That’s the most important thing. We are, though, going to get into some of the unique stuff, some of the symbolism, and some of the futuristic things that I believe will cause us to go wow! Because the book of Revelation means the reveal. The interesting about the reveal is Jesus is the one doing the revealing.
Do you ever watch the HG network? Anybody? Yeah, it’s all about the reveal. There’s something about the reveal. Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! It’s so… We love the reveal, don’t we? Jesus reveals himself. He’s showing himself. The gospel, the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, tell us a lot about Jesus from different eyewitness accounts, yet the book of Revelation we learn more and more about Jesus.
ILLUS: Anybody here been watching March Madness? A little basketball? Oh yeah. I love basketball, played basketball a long, long time. Here’s what I discovered, though, about March Madness and basketball in general, but especially I saw this play out when I was watching some of the games.
You’ve got the clock, the clock is ticking down. 5…4…3… and many times the players, they’re backing their opponent down and they’re mesmerized. Some of them look at the clock and they’re looking at the clock, they’re watching the clock melt. They’re watching… 2…1… and they’re so mesmerized and so focused on the clock now and then they forget to play. You know what I’m saying to you? They can get so focused on whooo! We have… is that 7.2 seconds or 7.7 seconds? Dude, shoot the ball!
So we get so focused on the clock we forget to play. That’s what’s so tempting about the book of Revelation. We want to break down so many symbols and so many things and so many chronological events. We’re so focused on the clock that we forget to play.
That’s why I want to do a panoramic view of the book of Revelation to show you how practical this book is. Because, again, the Bible says, and I love this, when we read the book of Revelation (not understand it, it says), when we read it we’re going to get blessed.
When you walked in you were handed some message notes. I’m severely ADD, I admit it. If I start boring myself I’ll come up with some sort of sound effect or some story because I have to pay attention to myself. If not I’ll bore myself. These notes help me, especially going through a series as deep and as profound as the book of Revelation. Remember, write this stuff down. It helps me to write stuff down. I mean, I like computers and all that stuff but I just like going old-school and writing stuff down. Because thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through someone’s lips, through our fingertips. The dullest pencil is sharper than the sharpest mind. So write this stuff down. Use a pen, pencil, eyeliner, whatever you have to do to write it down. And you can refer back to these notes later, and these notes will build each and every week as we talk about the reveal.
T.S. It doesn’t take someone with a theological degree like I have, it doesn’t take someone who’s gone to seminary for four years like I have, to see that we’re moving toward the final days. I mean, the credits are about to roll. The lion is about to roar. The custodial staff is getting ready to clean up the theater because the Bible says those of us in Christ will be raptured. One day, boom! I’m outta here, Jack! It’s the instantaneous, just taken away by those of us who are followers of Christ. The times are set for this to happen. Once again, I’m not trying to freak you out, I’m trying to build your faith and my faith.
But think about some of the things we see. I’ll put them on the screens. The natural disasters. The Bible talks about more and more natural disasters happening as a sign of the end times. Think about tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornados, and floods like we’ve never seen before.
Also, the pushing for peace, right? World peace! One world government, one world religion. There’s this one-world figure known as the antichrist who will emerge, a very charismatic figure. Everything is about peace and he will usher in peace.
Christians being killed. I talked to someone recently and they’re like, “Well, I know the book of Revelation says one day we’ll have to choose between Jesus or not. And if we choose something other than Jesus we’ll be spared but if we choose Jesus we’ll be killed. Man, I don’t want to be around when that happens!” People say that to me. “If I choose Jesus I’ll be killed. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to see that.” That’s happening right now. Go online. If you go old school, read the paper. Christians are being killed, they’re being murdered. They’re being massacred. Buddhists aren’t, Hindus aren’t. Christians.
How about an increase in lawlessness, sinfulness? That’s another sign of the end times. Is it just me but as I look around what’s right is wrong, and what’s wrong is right. It’s like, really? And these people are supposed to be so educated and things of that nature? Are nation, we spend more on education than any country, yet look at us. Look at the murder and the mayhem and the immorality. A sign of the end times.
How about the ability to enforce the mark of the beast? We’re going to talk about that. I think about our dogs, you know? I love animals. Lisa and I love them and our dogs have chips in them. Some are mutts and some are purebred. They get lost and they end up at some clinic, oh do they have a chip? Yeah, they have a chip. Maybe your dog has a chip. More and more, I’ve read this that we’re going to have chips one day. I don’t know how it’s going to happen but everything we do is going to be tracked. Just think about what is unfolding. We’re being tracked. It’s a sign of the end times.
An increase in knowledge. I am blown away by, you go online, boom! All this knowledge and this information and oh, wow! Some information. And some knowledge and facts, and facts and knowledge, and data so often that doesn’t really matta’. OK, so information, I guess we’ll be better people. I don’t know. Education? I don’t know. Legislation? I don’t know. Heart transformation! That’s what the book of Revelation talks about. So just look around, a panoramic view. Don’t get so lost in the trees that you can’t see the forest. Just take a step back. You’ll see the Grand Canyon, not the essence of it because we’re not in Heaven yet, but you’ll see this panoramic view.
This is a good series. It’s not a bad series. I believe we’re going to be taken out of here, those of us who are believers, before all this goes to Hell. And we’ll discuss that later. But let’s write down some stuff, real quick, real quick. Now I’m going to talk fast. I’ll have wind gusts up to, I don’t know, 15-20 miles an hour as I go through this, but I have to because I have a time limitation. My lovely wife, Lisa, is on the front row. We’ve been married 33 years and she usually gives me a sign of the end of my time. She closes her Bible. And when she does that… If you start going, man, I’m starting to get a little bored. Just watch Lisa. If you see her do that it means it’s time for me to shut her down.
I hate to admit this. Many times I’m hard headed. I don’t even look at Lisa. I’m just… I’ll just… I’m saying it!
Let’s talk about this. What’s the book of Revelation about? What’s the Bible about? The Bible is 66 books. The Bible is about the redemptive work of Jesus. So the first thing you need to write down is the unbelievable person of Jesus. The unbelievable person of Jesus. The Bible has one villain, Satan. One hero, Jesus. One message, Jesus saves, Jesus rescues. Isn’t that great news? So we’re just reading and studying about we win. We’re going to be in Heaven. And Heaven is not going to be a place where we just sit there. Heaven is going to be a place where we do things, our gifts and abilities, in a perfect environment.
John wrote the book of Revelation, it was John. John was one of the 12 disciples, one of Christ’s clique, one of his squad. He was on the island of Patmos. Just think about John, just kicking back, sipping tropical drinks, looking at the palm trees, maybe saying to himself, “I’m going to climb that tree and get a coconut.”
He was on Patmos because he was preaching the gospel and the Romans didn’t dig it, so they said, we’ve got to get this guy out of here. So they pushed him to Patmos.
Well, he was more effective for God on Patmos than he was when he was on the streets preaching because he wrote this book, the reveal. This book was given to the seven churches, stay with me now, and we’ll talk about the seven churches. And this book of Revelation was circulated in a clockwise fashion and read as sermons to all of these churches. So that’s how it was dispersed, and then it was directed of course to Christians worldwide.
Many times people will say, “wow, what am I doing in this nowhere job? What am I doing in school? Or what am I doing way over here? It’s just kind of a small thing.”
Well, God has you where you are for greatness. If you’ll just look up and go, wow! That’s your Patmos. That is your area. Maybe you’re in a little cube at work, I don’t know. Maybe you’re in the middle of nowhere. But if I’ve got before more people… God has you there for a reason. You be faithful and you watch and see what happens. That’s what happened to our boy, John. So John’s talking about Jesus, the unbelievable person, Jesus.
Let’s read Revelation 1:1-2. “The Revelation (in other words, the full identity) from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servant what must soon take place.”
We’ve got to realize when it comes to God, time is now. We’re like, oh, yesterday… 10 years ago… uh, a couple of years… No, it’s now to God. Once these things start happening, once the dominos start falling, it’s going to be quick. Here’s what soon will take place.
“He made it known by sending his angel (that’s right, to Patmos) to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw…”
And again, John is using words and phrases. This is 2,000 years ago. He didn’t understand everything he saw. Just like I don’t understand everything there is to know about the Bible. The Bible is not a book of proofs, it’s not. The Bible does not tell me what I want to know, it tells me what I need to know. So we have the 4-1-1 before the Lord has to call 9-1-1 and it’s right here.
“… who testifies to everything he saw – that is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
The Word of God. What is the Word of God? The Word of God is the Bible. Theopneustos. The Bible is God-breathed. Using personalities from all different authors to write one theme: Jesus saves.
If you think about it, it doesn’t take someone who is that bright to realize there is an evil force. There is a person. There is the devil. There is the man who is called the man of lawlessness, Satan. I believe there is a dark, sinister force wreaking havoc in our world today. How do you explain what’s going on? Because your diapers were put on too tight? A damaged chromosome here or there? You’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve got to be kidding me.
When people say, “I don’t believe in the devil.” I go, “man, I do…” and I just kind of explain it. Because evil has to have an explanation. Good has to have an explanation, and we just see it. The devil, though, the devil hates several books of the Bible. He hates the whole Bible but he hates several books of the Bible. This is kind of extra credit. He hates the book of Genesis and the book of Revelation. Those are the two books he hates the most.
In the book of Genesis, for example, the devil is announced. In the book of Revelation the devil is trounced.
In the book of Genesis you have the first Heaven and the first Earth, in the book of Revelation you have the new Heaven and the new Earth.
In the book of Genesis you have the first Adam reigning on Earth, and in the book of Revelation you have the last Adam, Jesus, reigning in Heaven.
So in the book of Genesis, so you see the comparisons, don’t you? You have the bride brought to the first Adam.
In the book of Revelation you have the bride, the church, brought to the last Adam.
You have in the book of Genesis the curse and in the book of Revelation you have Satan leaving in a hearse. You see the difference.
In the book of Genesis, for example, you have man driven from God’s face, and in Revelation you see God’s face as we win.
So he hates the book of Genesis and he hates the book of Revelation. He hates to see, “OK, this is what’s going to happen to me.” He doesn’t dig it. So he doesn’t want us to study it. We need to know he’s the father of lies and he is all about evil and that’s who he does and that’s what he does.
So we know that legislation is not the answer. It’s great to have good legislation but it’s not the answer. Education, I’m all for that. It’s not the answer. It is heart transformation, and that’s what should happen as we study the book of Revelation. So it’s about the unbelievable person of Jesus.
Also, #2, it’s about the unquestionable position, the ruler. Now here’s where it gets really, really crazy. John is hanging out on the island, just relaxing, you know? And this angel comes to him in this vision by the Holy Spirit. He sees the future. So Jesus now is going to invite him somewhere. Let’s read it.
Revelation 4:1-3, “After this I looked and there before me was a door standing open in heaven (wow!). And the voice I first heard (you can write the word Jesus on voice) speaking to me like a trumped said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone (this is God) sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”
Now very quickly, there are three levels of heaven. The first level would be what we see in the clouds and whatever, heaven. The second level would be where the angels and the demons reside. The Bible says there are forces, wars, principalities going on that we cannot see with the naked eye. The third level is going to be the level where God resides. So Jesus, this is just crazy! This is unbelievable! Jesus is like, “John, come here. Come here come here come here. I want to show you God’s room.”
I mean, here is the Lord, sitting on the throne. Notice this. John had access because of Jesus. He could get into this room because of Jesus. And the Bible says in the book of Hebrews that Jesus is our (I love this) high priest. That means, talk about total access! That means as a believer whenever I pray I literally can go into the throne room of God!
ILLUS: I was thinking, how can I explain that? How can I explain that? It’s hard to wrap our pea-brains around. In the throne room of God. How can I explain that? Then I thought, a while back an owner of a professional football team, not Jerry Jones, invited me to sit in his suite and it was sweet, to watch this game. I’m thinking, this owner of an NFL team invited me. I would be an idiot to say, “Uh, no, I can’t make it.” I was there.
This guy’s box, we were in the end zone, it was like, and I’m sure I’m exaggerating a little bit but it seemed like the entire end zone. Going through all this security, look at the badge, Ed Young. I’m like, whoa! They’re just looking at the badge, they could care less if I’m a pastor or whoever. They’re like, OK, all right, access, access. So I got up in this suite. The artwork in the suite, priceless. And I walk in, former president of the United States, Secretary of State, Nolan Ryan and his wife (#humbled) and I could just walk up and talk to the owner any time!
“Ed, great to have you! How’s Fellowship doing?”
“Oh, great… you know.”
Anything you want, caviar, champagne, filet mignon. It was unbelievable. And I’m looking down on the other people in the stadium – or as Jerry Jones says, stay-djum. And they’re in these cramped seats eating overpriced junk food and drinking expensive beer. And I’m going, “hahaha! Wow! Look where I am!” I didn’t say it. You kind of feel like whoa! I’m here and you’re there! Hahaha!! Wow. I felt that, just for a second. I just want to confess that, just for a second. I felt… mmm! That confidence, just being there.
And then the owner asked, “Do you want to go on the field?”
“Yes, sir!” Private elevator… all these security. I’m walking on the field in my best pimp limp. I’m thinking to myself, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this!”
So we go back. The perspective of this game, being up there. I mean, the monitors and the food and it’s just, oh! It’s just ridiculous!
I thought to myself, how many times as a Christian have I bought just a typical seat in the stadium, walked up to the nosebleed section, passed the owner’s box and said to myself, “Must be nice.” Sat there, nacho cheese dripping all over my face, drinking a diet Coke, when as a follower of Christ I know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? As a follower of Christ I have access to the suite! To the box! I can have access to God through Christ. I can eat his food, do his will, watch life play out before me!
I have to ask you, what are you doing? You have an opportunity, an opportunity each and every day to enter the throne room because of the access of Jesus! It’s not because of my merits. Good isn’t good enough but God is God enough. Are you going to talk to God in prayer? Are you going to ask him? Are you going to listen to him? Are you going to worship him? That helped me kind of understand the throne room, John, right there.
Oh here, #3. I gotta go fast now. Fast, fast, fast. The unlimited personality. So you’ve got the – and I have to do outlines like this to keep myself studying to pay attention like alliteration and rhyme, I love it. The unbelievable person, the unquestionable position, now the unlimited personality, God. What’s the personality of God? What is God like? Jesus. I mean, really what is he like?
How many people in here have pets? I talked about pets a second ago. If you have a pet lift your hand. Well we’re going to look at some creatures and if these creatures were our pets it would really be something.
Revelation 4:5-8, “From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. In front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the seven fold spirit of God (write in your margin, the Holy Spirit). In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass sparkling like crystal.”
That represents the holiness of God, the magnificence of God, the purity of God. Some scholars believe this refers to obedience. This sea refers to baptism. Interesting. Baptism is about obedience, right? First of all we become a follower of Christ, we’re baptized. So some of those images, let those marinate for a second.
“In the center and around the throne were four living beings…”
Now this gets really crazy. Again, here is John. He’s just chilling on Patmos 2,000 years ago so this is the best he could do. I mean, obviously the Holy Spirit inspired him but he’s trying to describe stuff in the future. So some are like, oh, I can’t believe it. It doesn’t make sense. Think about that! Think about what he was seeing. I mean, God doesn’t want us to know everything so he’s just going to tell us some of these things.
“In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a human face.” OK. I see that. “And the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out.”
What if you had a pet covered in eyes? You pat him, you’re just patting eyeballs. Can you imagine the Visine bill?
Now what does this mean? This means you’re talking about the attributes of God here. We know that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful. The Bible says this. So when we tell God something in prayer God’s not like, “Oh, I didn’t know that! Thanks for giving me the information!” He knows it all even before we’ve done it, yet within that we have a freedom of choice. We’re simply seeing the fact that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-everywhere. There is nowhere where he is not, and we’re seeing that these creatures somehow help (it’s not that God has poor eyesight), I don’t know. No one knows for sure. Yet here is the take-home. Here is the do-factor of this text, before I read the rest of the text. We see the character qualities, the attributes of God.
Very quickly, fill in the blank. The lion. What does that represent? The power of God. We have access because we have access to the owner’s box, to the power of God. You need some power? Some are like, “Ed, I feel so weak over this addiction. I mean, this alcoholism is about to kill me. I’m addicted to this. I’m addicted to that.” The first step in a 12-step program, admit you’re powerless. It comes from Scripture. The 12 steps are all from Scripture. Admit you’re powerless. And we can tap into the power of God in his throne room.
“Yeah, but I just don’t feel like God is near.” Well, who do you think moved? The power of God. We need power. Maybe you need power at work. Maybe your boss is acting like a jerk. I need power! It’s available for you. The lion.
The ox, the faithfulness of God. An ox is faithful. Johnny-on-the-spot. Ox is strong, commitment-laden. So often I talk to people and they tell me, “I just don’t feel like going to church,” or, “I’ve not been able to go to church.”
One of the biggest things we can do is just show up. God’s going to bless you! It’s that muscle memory. So often I don’t feel like working out. And you can tell I’m a competitive body builder. I don’t always feel like working out, but I’ve got to do the three-hour workout I do every day. I just sometimes just show up. Oh, I can do that in rhythm. Watch this. <beat boxing> I’ve had too much caffeine. Man!
OK, man. That equals intelligence. Now some of the wives are going, “You’ve got to be kidding me! He’s intelligent?” Yeah, here in this context he’s intelligent. Maybe you need some wisdom.
And here’s the problem about Revelation. Some people who talk about Revelation all the time, they’re weird. You know some of those people who say they’re Christians but they’re just, mmm… kind of weird. We’re not going to be weird. We’re not weird. We’re giving wisdom. Maybe you need wisdom as you negotiate the maze of life. Maybe you need wisdom on what career path to take. Maybe you need wisdom in a dating relationship. Maybe you need wisdom in dealing with your rebellious teenager. You need wisdom, I need wisdom. It’s right there, total access! I’ve got a badge! I don’t deserve it! I didn’t deserve to go, I just through a strange set of circumstances had the opportunity. He invited me, I said yes.
Also, the eagle. We have an eagle, we have an eagle’s nest at our camp at Allaso Ranch. Amazing. There’s no bird like an eagle. Eagles can fly over stuff. You know the other stuff… <panting>… eagle… <whoomp!> Right? So often in my life I get so immersed, I am so concentrating on the trees that I miss the forest. So concentrating on the shot clock that I forget to play. When I bring my request to the throne room, God gives me that <eagle cry> perspective. Perspective, man. Sovereignty. So the lion is power, the ox is faithfulness, the man is intelligence, the eagle is sovereignty.
Last thing, then we’re done. We’re spurring the horse to the barn. And we’re going to talk about the white horse of Revelation. The undeniable promise, the undeniable promise. There are so many promises of God in his word, and when God gives us a promise, I’m telling you he’s going to make good on it.
Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud (again, doesn’t understand it, we don’t have to understand it) the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take it to heart what is written in it because (let’s say it together) because the time is near.”
ILLUS: In one of my theology classes in seminary, it was taught by this guy. He was Mensa brilliant. L. Russ Bush, Dr. L. Russ Bush. He was one of the editors of the Life Application Bible, etc. And he would start his lectures. He wouldn’t say, “All right, how is everyone doing today?” He would just start talking. So here’s what he said one day.
He walked in and he goes, “You know, children’s books have some amazing theology and eschatology.” Well, theology is the study of God, eschatology is the study of the last things. I’m thinking, “this guy reads children’s books?” You know, I enjoy reading children’s books because of the theology and the eschatology.
He said, “You know, children’s books end with, “and they lived happily ever after. We’re made for that.”
And I started thinking, isn’t that true? If you asked me, “Ed, what are your favorite movies?” They lived happily ever after. Many times I’m reading a novel or I’ve seen a movie that just stops abruptly and I’m like, really? It kind of leaves you with some angst and anger like, man, I could have written a lot better ending than that! That’s pitiful! You know?
I want you to have this ending in the ever-after. I want you, and our team wants you, our church wants you, to live happily ever after. Not to have this abrupt ending, you’re like that’s it? Because we’re all moving toward the last days in our lives or with this world. God promises us, though, if we establish a personal relationship with him – I’m not talking about religion, I’m talking about relationship. Jesus will infiltrate our lives and we’ll live forever and ever with him. The invitation is yours to have total access, the owner’s box! What are you doing eating nachos? What are you doing sipping diet Cokes and overpriced junk food and beer? It’s time to dine on the caviar, food in perspective of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Revelation 4:5-8, I read almost all of them but I left out the last part of verse 8 that I want to conclude with. You know these creatures with all the eyes, the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle? Day and night, “Holy, holy, holy (that means set apart) is the Lord God the Almighty, the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”
I just gave you the outline of the book of Revelation. When you’re reading the Bible, the Bible will outline itself. Who always was… that phrase? That’s chapter 1. Who is… that’s chapters 2 through 3. Who is still to come… that’s Revelation 4 to the end of the book. The end. T-H-E-E end.
God wants you to know him. He wants you to dine with him. He wants you to have fellowship and relationship with him. It happens when you receive his invitation. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]