The Book of Revelation
By Ed Young
April 10, 2016
The book of Revelation has many aspects to it that many people find it confusing and confounding. But the fact is, the central theme of the book is comforting and can conform us to the life God wants for us.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young breaks down the central focus of the book and the fact that it was originally a letter written for specific people, in specific places, at a specific time. But that letter can also speak clearly to us today as well. As we look at the words penned to the seven churches of the province of Asia, we discover just how they can impact and improve our lives today.
ILLUS: The final round of the Masters is today. How many here have ever been to Augusta National Golf Course? I haven’t but lift your hand if you’ve been to Augusta National? Arguably the most beautiful course in the world. That’s right, the final round is today. The tension mounts. Someone will win the Masters. Somebody’s gonna win the Masters. I’ve been talking about a book in the Bible that’s sort of like the final round of the Masters.
I’ve been talking about the book of Revelation. It is the most compelling, controversial, and mysterious book in all of the 66 books of the Bible. It’s the golden thread that ties everything together.
In the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we learn a lot about Jesus. Yet Jesus was sort of veiled in the gospels. He had moments where he unveiled himself. In Revelation he has revealed himself. It’s almost like a sculptor has made this beautiful, beautiful bronze and it’s draped. Then you take the drape off and people are like, “whoa!”
That’s the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is the reveal. It’s about the final things. We get the word apocalypsis from the book of Revelation. Sometimes I say that word and people are like, “whoa! Apocalypsis, man. You talking about the end times.”
I’m not doing this to scare anybody. I’m not doing this to freak you out. I’m doing this to build our faith. I’m doing this to give us comfort.
ILLUS: Did you watch the National Championship game? I’m jumping to basketball now, from golf to basketball. Did you see that? Villanova had the ball. Time was melting off the clock. They did a beautiful job of time management. The guy took the shot and when he took the shot time was melting off the clock, and literally when the ball went through the rim and went through the net the buzzer sounded and the Villanova Wildcats won the National Championship.
I think that’s what we should think about as we’re studying the book of Revelation. One eye on the clock, yet so many people, when they study Revelation, are so into the clock. “When’s it going to happen? When’s the end of the world? And how about this? And maybe our president is the antichrist and then Putin is his helper. And the horse with 17 spots and seals…”
It’s so easy, isn’t it? To get lost in the trees that we forget the forest. We need to have our eyes on the game clock. Understand time is melting off the clock. But also we’ve got to play. We’ve got to shoot the ball. The theme of Revelation is we win. We win!
So, I’ve been doing a panoramic view of the book of Revelation, all of us have a panoramic feature on our phones. You can take the panoramic view. It takes a while to do it. I don’t use the panoramic that much but when I use it, it’s cool. It’s kind of awkward when you’re scrolling through photos. You see these little strips of photos and they’re kind of weird looking. You can blow up a panoramic photo and it looks good and all that, but I think it’s sort of overrated. Anyway, when it comes to the Bible this panoramic view when it comes to Revelation is not overrated. We need to understand about it.
Now over the ensuing weeks I’m going to talk about some very interesting subjects. Next week I am talking about a general timeline for the end times. I’m talking about that final round of the Masters. I’m talking about the clock as it’s ticking toward the end times. It does not take someone who has a genius IQ, who is a member of Mensa, to realize that we’re moving toward the end. The curtains are about to close, the credits are about to roll. The lion is about to roar. The custodial staff is waiting to clean up the popcorn boxes and the soft drink cups. Everyone sees we’re moving toward a one-world government, a one-world leader. And some say, “well maybe one of the presidents, maybe one of our presidents could be the antichrist?” No, they’re not smart enough. They’re not handsome enough. They’re not articulate enough. No, no. I’ll just tell you no right now. Let’s do, though, talk about the book of Revelation.
Today we are going to talk about the 7 churches. You might be going, “Why 7 churches, Ed? 7 churches, you mean there are 7 churches?”
Back when Revelation was written there were 7 churches, the 7 churches of Asia Minor. These churches several thousand years ago were in existence. Today they’re not. However, as we study them, we can discover individually what kind of people that we are to be in the church. Because the Bible says the moment we become followers of Christ we’re a part of the universal church. All Christians, all around the blue planet, all over the place, we are part of the church universal. Also, when we become believers the Bible commands us to become a part of a specific local church. I love how Jesus is so specific about these 7 churches. He names them. He even names church members. So as I talk about this, I want you to consider the question, what kind of member am I? What kind of member am I?
“Ed, that kind of sounds weird, member?”
Well, the church is called the body of Christ. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “the human body has many parts but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
Think about our bodies. Every member of our body matters. And if you don’t think every member matters just hurt one of the members and you’re like, whoa!
ILLUS: I have a hurt ankle and I’ve been rehabbing my ankle. I hurt this ankle fishing and I was filming something, believe it or not, for something we’re going to do as a church in the fall. It shows me actually injuring my ankle and it was a pretty bad injury.
You don’t think about your ankle. I mean, like, when I’m walking around I don’t go, “Oh, my ankle. I guess my ankles are doing well.” But you hurt your ankle, you jack your ankle up and it’s like, “Oh, I’m thinking about my ankle so much!” Every part matters when it comes to the body of Christ.
I think Fellowship Church is the greatest church in the world. I’m biased. I think everybody should join Fellowship Church. I know, though, you have freedom of choice. And membership is important. Make sure you join a church. Sometimes I meet people who go, “Well, I’m not a member of a church. I’m just a Christian.”
That’d be like me going, “Well, I’m a part of the NCAA basketball program.”
“Well, what team are you on?”
“No, I just kind of skip around. Villanova, the U, A&M, Texas…”
No, you’ve got to be part of a specific team. So Jesus again is underscoring and highlighting the importance of the church. So as I delve into the 7 churches, and I’m going to do a flyover, a panoramic view of them, I want you to think about something. I want you to think about the word surrender. Say that with me. Surrender. That’s what it’s about.
The Christian life is not about “I have to try harder. I’ve got to pull myself up with my own bootstraps. I’ve got to work. I’ve got to get on the treadmill.”
It’s not about that. It’s about surrender. Because surrender is the position of strength. So in these 7 churches we’re going to see surrender.
Now the first church I want us to talk about, and the churches took the book of Revelation, they circulated them in a clockwise fashion throughout Asia Minor, the 7 churches were in effect. Also Revelation was written to Christians everywhere. The first church is the church of Ephesus.
And here’s what I want you to fill in. Write something down, please. Lipstick, mascara, a pencil, a pen, write it down. Because thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through someone’s lips to our fingertips. I was researching last night once again how much more we remember when we take notes. And I saw study after study that said it’s great to take out your phones, it’s great to take notes on a laptop or whatever, but these new studies say we learn more when we go old school and write it down. Just like when the guy from Villanova shot the game-winning shot, the scorekeeper, he wrote it down. So write it down. Because the dullest pencil is sharper than the sharpest mind.
Now the first thing I am going to talk about is romance. Return to Romance. The book of Revelation, the first church is the church of Ephesus. Romance. Ephesus was a unique church. It was a big church, it was a mega-church. It was a good church but Jesus said, “Guys, you’ve lost that loving feeling.” He said, “Return to romance.” Say it with me. Return to romance. You might want to write in your margin the word heart. Heart. Surrender your heart. Revelation 2:1-2, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus…” This term angel means messenger. It’s translated pastor. You probably didn’t know I was an angel, did you? Lisa calls me angel. I am an angel. No really, the word angel is messenger. It’s used in this context. Not a literal angel like Michael or Gabriel. It’s kind of a little joke, a little Biblical humor.
So Jesus is talking to John. He’s saying, “John, check this church out at Ephesus.” And he says in verse 2, “I know your deeds, your hard work…” etc., etc. Then in verse 4 he gets up in our grill. “I hold this against you. You have forsaken the first love you had at first. Consider how far you’ve fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first.”
Isn’t it easy once you become a Christ follower, you’re fired up. I’m a new believer! Yeah, I’m in love! And then after a while you can lose that loving feeling. It’s like marriage. The honeymoon. Someone said the honeymoon is that time period between ‘I do” and “You’d better.” Have you ever seen a guy open a car door for a girl? You ever seen that? Two things are usually happening. #1 – it’s either a new car or #2 – it’s either a new wife. That is normally how that happens.
So to continue to have that romance between the husband and wife we do the things we used to do. That’s why we talk about having a date night, taking trips together. You return, right? To the basics. Here’s the basketball, the golf club, the ball. I mean, people at the Masters, they go back to the basics. The Villanova Wildcats, they went back to the basics. We’ve got to go back to the basics. What are the basics?
Matthew 22, Matthew 28, Jesus said love God with all your heart, then if you do that, you’ll love people. Then he said “tell people about it.” Even as a pastor I sometimes struggle with this.
ILLUS: The other day I got this text and this really meant the world to me. This guy, he said, “Thank you for leading me to our savior and Lord Jesus Christ exactly 28 years ago today.” He signed his name. Phil Elders. That meant so much to me because in the midst of studying for the book of Revelation, in the midst of trying to lead this massive church it’s easy to get lost in the trees and forget the forest. And like, whoa! That’s what it’s about! That’s what it’s about!
So where’s your heart? Where’s my heart? It’s a great question. Have you surrendered your heart? Return to romance.
The church at Smyrna, that’s the second church. Face your fear. Face your fear. They were dealing with fear. And I want you to write the word feet by that. Feet, feet. Surrender your feet. Now this is the only church that Jesus didn’t really give a challenge to. He just applauded them. And this church is what I call a poor little rich church.
Revelation 2:9-10, “I know your afflictions and your poverty yet you are rich. I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.” There was a sect of Jews that were after these believers. I mean they were all up in their grill. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” They were going through some suffering.
In the Christian life we’re going to get persecuted some. People sometimes will misunderstand us. Persecution purifies. Let me say that again. Persecution purifies. Part of the will of God is going through tough times. God doesn’t cause tough times, he allows tough times to purify us.
Maybe you’ve been overlooked for a promotion because of your stand for Christ. Maybe, just maybe you’re not a part of the clique or the squad or the in crowd because of your stand for Christ. That’s OK. God is purifying you.
I remember back to my junior high school days, my high school days, my college days. I remember that I didn’t always get invited to all the parties. I didn’t always get included in this group or that group. You’re not gonna be invited on all the trips, all the stuff. That’s OK. God is using that to purify, purify.
So which way are your feet pointed? They should be pointed toward Jesus. Surrender your feet! Lord, I don’t know which way to go. Whenever I go my way I trip up. I surrender my feet. So face your fear, because when you face your fear it will falter and you’ll grow and go to the next level.
#3 – Pergamum. That’s a unique name for a place and a church. How specific was Jesus here? Cancel your compromise. Cancel your compromise. Now write the word ears there. We need to surrender our ears. What are you listening to? How do you spell relief? Well there was this guy who was a member of Pergamum fellowship named Antipas, and Antipas was martyred for his faith. He was killed because of his commitment to Jesus.
I read a couple of days ago that in 2015 there were more martyrs and more recorded persecution of Christians than in any other time period of the history of the world. Some people are like, oh, Revelation, that’s when everything is going to get chaotic and that’s when people are gonna get killed for following Jesus. And that’s when the church Is gonna be persecuted. Over the last century we’ve had more martyrs than in all of the other 1900 years combined. So it’s happening now! It’s happening now. Go online. Read the paper.
So this Antipas guy was martyred. But then Jesus is saying, “now some of you are compromising. On one hand you’ve got this guy dying for me and then on the other hand you guys are holding to the teaching of Balaam.”
Not to get too historical or too hysterical, Balaam was this false prophet who tried to tempt and test Israel. It didn’t work. It’s a unique story that I’ve spoken about before. Basically the big idea is compromise.
What does compromise mean? It’s not about cooperation. I mean, we cooperate with everybody but we can’t compromise. We can’t have a blending of two things. I’m talking about compromise in a negative sense. I’m not talking about when you’re doing a deal in the business world and you’ve got to compromise. Not that. I’m just talking about when you compromise morally. Where you compromise your speech. Where you compromise your stance. Where you compromise the truth. That’s what I’m talking about. Because Jesus wants us to live pure lives. Not because of some legalistic stuff, because at the end of the day I’m a sinner, so are you. Jesus wants us to live pure lives because he commands it, he knows what’s best for us, and he can use us in the greatest way. And we’re showing our love to him.
So it’s not like, “Oh, can’t drink, can’t smoke, can’t cuss, can’t chew. Can’t run around with girls that do.” It’s not that. No! It’s out of a love relationship. I live a pure life, a loving life, because I choose to love Lisa and I make decisions based on that love. The same is true in this relationship we have with Jesus.
Now here’s what Jesus says, and he uses the R-word a lot. Repent. That’s an about-face, right? Repentance. In verse 16 he says, “Repent, therefore, otherwise (he’s talking to Pergamum again) and I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Wow! So Jesus when he came first was our Savior and is our Savior and he says when I come again, I’m going to be sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
So the sword, the word of God, the Bible is the sword. Isn’t that great? It’s a defensive weapon and an offensive weapon as well. The sword. The sword of judgment. It’s not popular to talk about but the Bible talks about judgment. And you hear people all the time say, “oh, don’t judge me, man! You’re judging me! Don’t judge me!”
What does that mean? Because no one can, I can’t judge you. You can’t judge me. I’m not God. You’re not God. When people say that here’s what we’re saying: Don’t point out anything wrong in my life. Don’t point out that, OK, OK, OK?
So what’s wrong with pointing out stuff and just saying, “OK, here’s what the Bible says.” “Oh, you’re judging me, man!” No, we’re not judging you. God’s going to judge. One day Jesus is going to judge.
And here’s something that is not talked about very much. You’ll not find this on T-shirts or coffee mugs, or if you go to some Christian book store and look in the Jesus junk section you’re not gonna see this. Christians will be judged.
“Wait a minute, Ed! I thought we were going to Heaven!”
We are! We’re going to Heaven. I’m going to Heaven, so are you if you’re a believer. Yeah, we win! But… again it’s not talked about very much. Christians, and I will talk about this during the book of Revelation, Christians will be judged based on what we did with what God has bestowed upon us. OK. I have gifts that are unique. I can do things in the church, I can do things that you can’t do. You can do things that I can’t do. So everyone here is unique. We’re one of a kind, we’re creative geniuses. God, at the end of the hunt, will say “all right. I gave you this responsibility. You had the ability, whatever. To sing, to speak, to make money, to lead, to greet, to host people, whatever! How did you do with what I gave you? What did you do? How did you do life with that?” So we’ll have this big honkin’ awards ceremony. Won’t that be great?
But, my man Eric Clapton, who in my opinion-one of the greatest guitarists at all time. I mean many people would say that. Clapton talks about the song Tears in Heaven. There will be tears in Heaven, though, because a lot of us will go “mmm!! Wow, I should have taken advantage of that! God, you put that family in my path for a reason and that situation, and I could do that unique thing! I could write and I didn’t!”
We’re going to talk about that. We’re still going to Heaven but that should cause you and me to go, whoa! Man, the clock is winding down. I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to sink every shot. I’m going to try to make every putt.
You see what I’m saying to you? Not out of legalism but because one day we’re going to be held accountable. Again, I’m not talking about punishment. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. I’m just talking about accountability.
Now the next aspect of judgment, I’m just talking Bible here. Bible 101, will be those people who are not believers. And I’m doing a whole talk on this. That’s why you’ve got to be here for this. Sometimes I talk to people. “Well, I just can’t follow a God who slam dunks people to Hell, man. You know, I just can’t dig that. I don’t know.”
Well, here’s the good news. God doesn’t slam dunk anybody to Hell. Hell, read about Hell, is not even made for people. Did you know that? It’s made for the devil and the demons! So if I go there, if you go there, we go against the will of God. We make that choice. So at the end of the hunt, or when we clock out, we’ll face God. And God will say, “You know what? You kept me at a distance on planet Earth and I’ll give you a greater measure of that in eternity.” That’s Hell, separation from God. That’s what the Scripture says.
Now the Bible also says every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. “Ed, how do you square that with what you just said?” Very simple. The last sight that the people who go to Hell will have will be Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So you either bow now or bow later. The judgment of God.
Again, it’s not popular. It’s popular to talk about let’s be happy and peppy and bursting with love. I’m just happy, want to be happy all the time. And that’s great to be happy, I’m all about being happy. Happiness is not mentioned in the Bible, it’s obedience. And then when we’re obedient, then we’re going to be happy.
Let’s talk about the fourth church. I’ve got to fly now, Thyatira. If I pronounce any of these words wrong cut me some slack. There are many, many hard words. Thyatira or Thyatira, whatever. Revelation 2:18-21. Here’s the blank. Inspect for immorality. Inspect for immorality. “To the angel of the church at Thyatira write, ‘These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds (and he’s talking about the good deeds), love and faith.’” Then he says, “’You tolerate that woman Jezebel…”
And if you know your Bible, if you don’t it’s cool because I’ll explain it to you. Jezebel was the most evil woman who ever lived. Pit viper. I mean, she was a bad, bad girl.
I ought to do a series one time called Bad Girls of the Bible. That’d be good, wouldn’t it? There are so many bad guys. Ladies, I’ve done lots of them on bad guys but that’d be pretty good, wouldn’t it? Bad Girls of the Bible.
Jezebel was bad. And here she is, this girl was in the church teaching people, yeah, sexual immorality is cool! And if you study what she was about, Baal worship, they had these ungodly temples. They would have these Ashtoreth poles, these platforms where when you would go to worship, naked women would walk out and dance around the poles and guys would put money at their feet. Man, I’m glad that happened 2,000 years ago and not in today’s world! That was good, wasn’t it? That was really funny. It’s true. It’s true. It’s true.
So anyway, that’s what Jezebel was into and Jesus was like, what? That’s not! And then he says in Revelation 2:26, “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.”
Isn’t that interesting? So as we live pure lives, as we do sex God’s way, he’s gonna give us leadership.
Here’s what God says about sex. “It’s great.” That’s what God says. I’ve written books about it. Sex is great. It was given to us by God. We’re sexual creatures, yet here’s the deal. We have to do sex God’s way. If we do it our way it’s not gonna work the way it should work. If we do it our way, yeah it’ll be fun for a while but it can lead to guilt. It can lead to the destruction of families, marriages. It can lead to disease, it can lead to all sorts of mayhem. We can see that. If we do it God’s way it’s gonna be amazing. What is God’s way? One man, one woman, together in marriage. The covenant. Sex, sex. So, we need to inspect our immorality and right there, mind.
The battlefield is in the mind, the mind. You know, we’re going to appreciate someone beautiful or someone handsome of the opposite sex. It’s not the first look that gets you into trouble. It’s the 2nd, 3rd, 4th one that will mess you up. People are like, I just shouldn’t even… oh that girl’s beautiful. Or if I’m a girl, that guy’s hot or whatever you say. Yeah, you’re gonna say that. What’s wrong with that? But it’s that…. That’s where it gets you all messed up. So, anyway, inspect for immorality. That’s your mind. Surrender your mind. God, I want to think what you want me to think. I want to feed on this stuff. I want to feed on righteousness and encouragement. It’s amazing.
OK, #5 – Oh, I can do it. Time is melting off the clock. They’re telling me, “Go, Ed, go!” Why don’t you help me? Go, go, go. OK, I feel it. Thank you.
#5 – Sardis, another word, Sardis. Stop your slumber. This church was asleep basically. Have you ever been in a church and you’re like, <snoring sound effect>? I have. When you get tired my eyes would start doing like this.
You know what my friends tell me? My friends tell me this. They go, “Ed, whenever I’m with you and you start rubbing your hair, it’s time to go.” For some reason when I get tired I start doing that.
But here’s the thing about sleep. You don’t know you’re asleep when you’re asleep. You only know you’re awake when you’re awake. So when I’m awake I realize I’ve been asleep, but when I’m asleep I don’t know I’m asleep. And I’ve been in a lot of churches and I’ve thought to myself, these people are sleeping! It’s so boring! <snoring> It’s all about the eyes, it’s all about the eyes, right? Keep your eyes wide awake.
You know the devil loves to put us to sleep. Sing lullabies to us. Rock-a-bye Christian in the treetop. Snoozing will cause your growth to stop. Ignore the alarm and stay in bed, you won’t accomplish jack, you sleepyhead. Until you’re dead. My name’s Ed.
Revelation 3: 1, 3, Jesus is talking about this and he says, “You have a reputation for being alive but you’re dead. Wake up! I will come like a thief and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
Another thing I’m going to talk about is, and this is freaky, the rapture of the church. The instantaneous snatching away of believers. In other words conversations will end in mid-sentence. Somebody’s flying a 777. He will look over, or she’ll look over to the co-pilot’s seat. It’s empty. Quarterback goes back to pass, receiver’s gone. The instantaneous snatching away. And we’re going to try to see and people will try to explain it, all the talking heads and everybody will try to go, why have all these people left? We’re going to talk about the rapture of the church. So Jesus will come like a thief at night, the Bible says. We don’t know. That’s why we’ve got to be ready.
#6 – The church of Philadelphia. Operate in obedience. As I said a second ago, the secret of the Christian life is obedience. So stop your slumber, surrender your eyes to God. Operate in obedience, surrender your hands to God. And this is a cool verse, Revelation 3:7, last part of verse 7, it says, “What he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open.” That’s how to become a Christian. The door is open and when it’s open you can’t shut it. But once the door is shut you can’t open it. We have an opportunity to become a follower of Christ. The door is open. We’ve got to run through it. It’s an open door, boom, I’ve gotta hit it.
How do you become a Christian? By being a good guy, a good girl? By keeping your nose clean? By paying your taxes? Those are great things but that does not make you a Christian. Because good isn’t good enough but God is God enough. God sent Jesus to live a perfect life, die a sacrificial death, to rise again. We become a Christian by making a decision.
Thirty-three years ago I said ‘I do’ to Lisa. I made the decision. As I say all the time, I’m still realizing the implications of that decision each and every day. The same is true when you become a Christian. You say ‘I do’ then you realize the implication. But it starts with a decision. So one day the door will be closed. I don’t know when it’s going to be closed for you but I would say walk through the door. The Bible says today is your day of salvation. Today is your day.
So your hands, and Jesus said you should have kept my word and not denied my name. We keep the Word, we keep the Word of God. We keep doing what God wants us. We keep driving our lives by this owner’s manual.
The 7th church, the church of Laodicea. Turn up the temperature! Turn it up! And that’s the mouth, the mouth, the mouth. Jesus, and this is kind of a gross section of Scripture, because Jesus says in Revelation 3:15-16 and 19, he says, “You’re neither hot nor cold (talking about this church), you’re lukewarm. I want to just spit you out of my mouth.”
Lukewarm coffee? Lukewarm espresso? Lukewarm soup? Lukewarm steak? Lukewarm soft drink? Really? Lukewarm? Don’t you know people who are kind of just there? Yeah, I’m a Christian, just totally apathetic. You know? I would rather talk to somebody who hates God or who has all these questions than somebody who’s like, “yeah, whatever. I don’t know. It’s OK.”
You know what I’m saying to you? So that’s what Jesus is saying. We need to be hot. And I’m so glad that Fellowship Church is a hot church. We’re on fire, man, we’re on fire! And the temperature is hot! That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we do what we do. But again, the big overarching principle that I want you to take home, your handle, is surrender. Surrender your mouth, surrender your hands, surrender your eyes, surrender your mind, surrender your ears, surrender your feet, surrender your heart. Just think. God wants you to be the ultimate, ultimate believer. And the Scripture says in Revelation 3:19, and this is Jesus talking, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” Not punish, discipline. “So be earnest and repent.”
Are you a member of the body of Christ? Are you a member of a local church? I think Jesus has told us today membership has its privileges. Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]