Paul Johnson in his History of the Jews says that the Jews of the 18th century had to decide whether the Torah defined their life, or whether it was merely part of their lives. If the latter, then the Jews would eventually be assimilated and lose their identity. If the former, they would always be marginalized and live in a ghetto – either physically or intellectually. Zionism and the return of Israel to the Promised Land solved their dilemma.
Christianity faces the same dilemma, with the difference that the gospel is trans-cultural; the individual does not have to change cultures in coming to Christ. The Torah influences a person’s culture, while the gospel influences a person’s values. The hope of the former is temporal, the latter eternal. Thus, the believer finds himself living with an eternal hope, causing him to be out of step with the rest of society. The Jew can be isolated by the Torah while embracing the values of the world – the very thing that caused them to be hated; they played the world’s game better than the Gentiles. Judaism lived alienated from all other cultures and thus created their own Jewish state in Palestine. The committed believer lives alienated from all cultures, and finds commonality only with those rare individuals that join him in embracing an eternal hope – irrespective of the culture from which these committed ones originate.
Reflections on Revelation
The only apocalyptic book in the New Testament, the author assumes that “the time is at hand” when Christ will return, bringing to a close human history as we have known it.
Writing to the Seven Churches, John reminds them that believers look “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.” Notice how he ties the death of Christ with our inheritance as “kings and priests unto God.” To each of the Seven Churches Christ gives to the “overcomer” promises that relate to the eternal – some by implication and some specific:
To Ephesus He promises, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” To Smyrna Christ promises, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life… He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” To Pergamos He promises, “…To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
To Thyatira our Lord promises “…and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works… And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star.”
Christ promises Sardis, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” To Philadelphia the Lord promises, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”
And finally, to Laodicea He promises, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Note that every encounter Jesus has with the Seven Churches, every judgement pronounced upon them, implies the return of Christ – e.g.: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”
Beginning with Revelation 4, John introduces his readers to the future, most of which transpires in heaven. Thus, Revelation 4-5 begins: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.” When an angel asks who is worthy to open the book sealed with seven seals, John discovers that “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” Only Jesus can open the book, for He redeemed God’s people with His blood.
Revelation 6-19 covers the seven year period of the Tribulation, “for the great day of His wrath is come…” In the midst of the horror, we catch glimpses of our eternal hope: “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?.. These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Again, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” And again, “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” Finally, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”
John devotes Revelation 20 to the Millennium, the rebellion of Satan, Gog, and Magog, and to the Judgment of the Great White Throne: “…and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works… And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21-22 deals with the new heaven and earth. Note that the Jew – Gentile distinction remains.
This last work of John does not dwell on the propitious death of Christ, although it forms the basis for all that takes place during the last days. Jesus’ death for our sins, however, does not annul eternal accountability, as seen in the above quotes. The angel instructs John, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
It seems to me that people face three maladies in life: purposelessness, pain and poverty – in that order. God often uses one or more of these to draw people to Himself. Thus, the secular mind sees the three as intrinsically evil, while the regenerate mind sees them as expressions of God’s grace.
Having said that, however, most find it difficult to keep this truth in focus. The plethora of references to an eternal hope in the New Testament, in general, and Revelation in particular, help in maintaining our bearing when the hurts of life come our way. God placed us in this life for one purpose only, to prepare us for an eternity with Him. Reviewing the myriad of references to our hope, while claiming the promises therein, will help us not to lose sight of why God has us living here on planet earth.
In the next issue we will summarize what we have learned on the subject of eternal hope, and bring this series to a close.
Eager for His early return,
 Revelation 1:3, KJV
 Revelation 1:5-6, KJV
 Revelation 2:7, KJV
 Verses 10-11, KJV
 Verse 17, KJV
 Verses 23, 26-28, KJV
 Revelation 3:5, KJV
 Verses 11-12, KJV
 Verse 21, KJV
 Revelation 2:5, KJV
 Revelation 2:16, KJV
 Revelation 3:3, KJV
 Revelation 4:1-2, KJV
 Revelation 5:9-10, KJV
 Revelation 6:17, KJV
 Revelation 7:13-17, KJV
 Revelation 14:13, KJV
 Revelation 15:2-4, KJV
 Revelation 19:7-9, KJV
 Cf. Ezekiel 38:2 – 39:16
 Revelation 20:12, 15, KJV
 Cf. Revelation 21:12-14
 Revelation 22:10-12, KJV