Today is our last free day in our 2021 journey of a lifetime reading. If you have made it this far CONGRATULATIONS!!! Now you have the reading schedule so you can choose a different Bible and begin reading all over again. Perhaps you want to read chronologically this time. I have a few copies of the chronological daily walk Bible if anyone is interested. This is the Living Word of God, and each read through, God reveals different things for us to ponder and embrace. And if your old reading sheet is a bit tattered, we have more. It has been a great journey in a challenging year. But God is good all the time and all the time God is good. So here are some final thoughts.
Rome has played a sizable part in the Book of Revelation. Economic gain was the driving force of Rome’s imperial expansion. Egypt for instance supplied much of the grain for Rome, while Judea provided items such as fish and balsam wood. Colonial governance, military peacekeeping efforts and the extensive system of Roman roads were all designed for Rome’s material benefit. Local people who joined forces with Rome also profited from the imperial enterprise. So it makes perfect sense that the merchants would weep and mourn over Babylon because no one would purchase their cargo or goods any longer. In Revelation John was especially concerned about Roman economic exploitation through the trade in luxury goods. John’s list of goods in verses 18:12-13 was modeled on the listing of cargoes mentioned in the lament for the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 27. John adapted it to the realities of the Roman Empire. Items like gold, silver, cinnamon, and citron wood were luxuries, not necessities for the Roman elite. Taken in this light, Revelation was not only a prediction of doom for the wicked kingdom of Babylon but also a challenge to any nation that focuses on wealth and luxury while rejecting the rule of God.
Interpreting Revelation has caused and continues to cause much debate. At least four standard methods for interpreting the book have developed. Preterists view the book as referring almost exclusively to first century events, like the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Historicists view the book as referring to the unfolding of church history until Christ’s second coming. Idealists see the book as symbolizing the eternal conflict between good and evil. Futurists see the book as mainly about the end times. Sometimes interpreters blend two or more of these approaches. There are the premillennialists who believe that the current age between Christ’s first and second comings will end when He returns to inaugurate a literal 1,000-year rule on earth with His holy people. After that Christ will execute the final judgement and inaugurate His eternal kingdom. The amillennialists believe the 1,000 years represents the current age between Christ’s first and second comings, in which Christ reigns spiritually with His people. At the end of this age, Christ will return, execute the final judgement, and inaugurate His eternal kingdom. The postmillennialists believe during the current age following Christ’s first coming, Christ will establish through the church an age of peace on earth, represented by 1,000 years. Then Christ will return, execute the final judgement, and inaugurate His eternal kingdom. Differences over these different perspectives have caused conflict among Christians. Regardless of where you fall in what all of this means all believers can agree on the message of Revelation. Christ will visibly return and rule in an actual new heaven and earth. A real spiritual warfare is taking place. Hell, like heaven, is real and all people will be judged by God’s standards. The prophecies of Revelation offer hope to God’s people in the midst of pain, suffering, and confusion in the world.
We have seen many judgements in the Book of Revelation, and they are there for a purpose. They are not just about destruction thought it may seem like it. There were many tormented sufferers with the fifth trumpet but instead of turning to God, they sought death. Many prefer to die rather than admit their sin. But this judgement was a chance for people to repent and turn to God. In the sixth seal the people cried for rocks to fall on them to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. By seeking escape from judgement, they showed fear rather than trust in God. At the end of the sixth seal, in spite of all the plagues, people still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. For some people, it doesn’t matter what happens to them. They won’t change, even under pressure. Revelation emphasizes the ultimate justice of God and the principle of retribution. Believers and unbelievers alike will receive exactly what they deserve. The judgements are a part of God’s mission and offer a last chance to repent. The judgements, like the plagues in Egypt, disprove the power of the earthly gods and of God’s enemies. The judgements are God’s partial answer to the prayers of the Saints for retribution. Judgement occurs in God’s time, not ours. Even though God has made it clear that sin is wrong and judgement is coming, many people still refuse to repent and accept God’s grace. Even in the final days, when Gods sends His witness to prophesy concerning the coming destruction, many people will prefer to align themselves with evil forces and will gloat over the demise of God’s prophets. Those who so oppose God and flee from Him will eventually be excluded from His presence. Judgement against disobedience and evil ways is inevitable, even in the church. God, however, patiently waits for repentance and offers His grace.
Much has been made of the Roman rulers during the first century so here is a snapshot of eight of them. Octavian ruled from 27BC-14AD. He was given the name Augustus. This was Caesar Augustus who was in power when Jesus was born. He became the first Roman emperor after defeating Marc Antony at the battle of Actium in 27BC. The title Augustus initiated emperor worship. He was succeeded by his adopted son Tiberius who reigned from 14-37 AD. He was a wise and humble ruler. It was Tiberius who appointed Pontus Pilate as governor of Judea. Next was Gaius or Caligula. He was the son of Augustus’s general Germanicus. Caligula was nicknamed “little boots” for his military attire. He went insane, squandered the treasury, ruled as a despot, and was assassinated. He was followed by Claudius. He ruled from 41-54 AD. He was Tiberius’s nephew, proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard after Caligula’s death. He was a friend of Herod Agrippa I. He ended the persecution of Jews in Alexandria but in 49AD he expelled all the Jews from Rome. He married Nero’s mother Agrippina, who poisoned him. Nero comes next. He was adopted by Claudius and succeeded him. Nero ruled from 54-68 AD. He spent his time on pleasure. He loved to build things and set the city of Rome in fire in 64 AD so he could rebuild it the way he wanted. Paul appealed to him, but Paul also instructed the Romans to submit to him. Later Nero murdered his wife and his mother. He was the first persecutor of Christians. Nero was succeeded by Vespasian who ruled from 69-79 AD. He was a successful legate (general) and the son of a tax collector. Vespasian began the Jewish war by invading Galilee in 67 AD. As emperor he reformed Rome’s finances, reorganized the armies, and ruled with a reputation for justice. He also began the construction of the colosseum. Vespasian died of an illness. Titus was the son of Vespasian. He ruled from 79-81 AD. Titus ended the Jewish war with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. As the emperor he completed the colosseum, gave disaster relief after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, and a fire in Rome in 80 AD. He died of a fever. Domitian was the younger son of Vespasian who grew up in Titus’s shadow. Domitian coveted power. He was a capable administrator. He rebuilt damaged parts of Rome. He proclaimed himself divine and demanded to be worshiped as god. He also extorted new taxes and relentlessly persecuted Christians. He was the ruler when John wrote Revelation. Domitian died by assassination.
As the last book of the Bible, Revelation draws on all that has gone before and depicts the ascended and heavenly Jesus in the splendor God the Father promised to Him and to those who trust in Him. The visions of Revelation show that God’s people will face suffering in this sinful world. Christ will return in judgement. He will rescue all who call on His name. Scripture repeatedly underscores that one of the greatest blessings of the new heavens and new earth is that restored humankind will once again behold God face to face and live in His immediate presence. How awesome is that?!
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.