On the isle of Patmos, John had seen and heard many things pertaining to the end of the first things. The first things are what we know now – the first heaven and the first earth. John, in his vision, saw also the ushering in of the new things, that is, the New Heaven and New Earth. In this last of his visions given in the book, that is, when he saw the throne room of God, the first heaven and earth had already passed away. We also saw earlier how he also witnessed the holy city, the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven.
I am sure that it was to the best of his ability that John described all these things to us. But as I mentioned at various times earlier, he was working with some substantial disadvantages. First of all, he saw creatures that defied description and witnessed events that surpassed any human understanding. He was shown buildings and formations unlike any that that he had ever before seen. Several times in the book of Revelation, John himself had to be given an explanation for what he was witnessing, since he had no understanding about it whatsoever.
These were only the first of his problems... (to continue reading press READ MORE button below) Added to these difficulties is that fact that he was limited in his explanations to using human words to describe what he saw. Of course he needed to use words that he could actually understand, and that we can understand. (to continue reading, please press the READ MORE button below
Descriptions and Explanations
Even in our own experience with the things that we see perhaps every day, we know that explaining them accurately to someone else is often an impossible task. As I write this blog post, I am sitting on the back porch of our home, facing toward the western horizon. The sun is just setting. I could describe it to you to give you an idea what the sunset looks like on this particular evening. I could tell you of the colors that are in the sunset. I could explain how some darker clouds have blanketed part of the horizon, and tell of the few defiant rays from the sun that refuse to allow themselves to be restrained by the clouds and are streaming across the heavens. These rays have broken free of the clouds are at this moment angling down to where I sit on my porch.
If I am good enough with my words, I might be able to put some sort of picture into your imagination that approaches that which I see. What I can say about it may help you to reproduce in your mind what I am actually witnessing at this moment, and perhaps you have seen enough sunsets yourself that it may also help you to picture it.
As I explain, you can get an idea, but even if I would go into very great detail, what you picture in your mind can never approach what I am actually seeing. The image that you begin to build in your mind can never be exactly the same as what I am seeing at this moment. My words will inevitably fail to describe various nuances and features and fall short of the glory of the sunset of this evening.
Now, if you would add to that the fact that John was trying to explain something that he had never before seen, and we, reading his explanation, also have never seen any similar thing, well…you can see the difficulty. John, given his severe disadvantages, is explaining what he is seeing the best that he can. And we, as we read his description, naturally relate his words to the things that we have seen in our own experience. In our minds, we began to form a mental image of his explanation. We also do the best that we can. Quite honestly however, I am sure that any depictions that we have formed in our minds in reading the words of John, in no way approach the reality of what we will one day see when we also see the throne room of God.
Nevertheless, even though we are not able to envision what John writes, the angel who was showing John these things told him, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Not Understandable, Yet Important
Despite our inability to understand many things that are written in the book of Revelation, God thought it important that we have them and that we read them. I do not think that we need to be concerned that we do not understand everything right now. When the time comes when it is important for us to understand, those who are faithful in their study of the Word of God, will understand. God will give us enlightenment of these things.
The greater danger for us in the present is that we do not be assertive and dogmatic about things concerning the future that are beyond our understanding or which have not yet been fully revealed. This would most certainly lead us into error. The best that we can do is to read the words of this prophecy, try to imagine what is written, but not hold onto our impressions too firmly. Then, we must wait for the Holy Spirit to one day reveal these things to us. The important thing for the present is that we remain diligent in our study. The Holy Spirit does not reveal truths to people too lazy or too preoccupied to read the words of Scripture or too indifferent to pay attention what is said.
Some Things are Left Unsaid
Although God revealed these visions to John and instructed him to write down the descriptions of what he saw and heard, John has not told us everything. There was at least one thing that he had heard in these visions of the Revelation that he was not allowed to tell us. Earlier in the book, John wrote this concerning what he saw at that point
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs like pillars of fire, and he had a little scroll open in his hand. He set his right foot on the sea, his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. When the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” (Revelation 10:1-4)
Thus, John did not write what the seven peals of thunder had said. He only wrote that, after the seven thunders sounded, the angel who stood with one foot on the sea and one on the land, then lifted his right hand to heaven and swore to “Him who lives forever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it,” that there would no longer be any delay. The culmination of the age was now indeed very near. Whatever it was that John heard in the thunder, it had to do with the very last of the days and something that we are not yet permitted to know.
Things Unsaid by Daniel
The Old Testament prophet Daniel, in the vision that he had been given, had a similar experience to that of John. Daniel was shown something by some sort of a being who does not seem to be an angel, at least he does not call him an angel. He instead calls him, “one who resembled a human being,” and “one with a human appearance” (Daniel 10:16, 18)
This individual, in whatever way one would describe him, said to Daniel, “As for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
After he was told this, Daniel continues:
Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?”
I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.
As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?”
He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. (Daniel 12:4-10)
This was not the only time that Daniel was shown something that he was not allowed to share. He also wrote about “the vision of the evenings and mornings,” which he was told was true, but which he was to keep secret, for it pertained to “many days in the future.”
After that vision, Daniel said that he became exhausted and sick for days. He later returned to his daily work, but he said, “I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it” (Daniel 8:26-27).
The Haters Keep On Hating
In Daniel’s vision that took place on the riverbank, he was told much the same thing as was John was in his vision about the last days. Daniel was told in those last days, many will be purified, but there will also be those who will continue to act wickedly.
After the angel told John about those prophecies which he was not to seal up, he said this: “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy” (Revelation 22:11).
What the angels were saying both to Daniel and to John was that in the final days, it will become quite obvious who it is who are followers of God, and those who are not. In the present, we are still able to mislead many people. From all outward appearances, one can put on a front to appear to be a righteous person, but inwardly, he may still harbor an evil and rebellious attitude. That will change in the very last days. All pretense will be gone. It will be impossible to have a “secret sin.” We will be known for what we are.
The reason for this is that in the very last days, the choices that we will have to make will be of such major consequence, that our decisions concerning them will cause a stark demarcation, indicating what we believe and what is truly in our heart. I do not know that the fact that one of the beings in Daniel’s vision stood on one side of the river and the other on opposite side is meant to illustrate this obvious division. Or, in John’s vision, the angel stood with one foot on the land and the other in the sea. I frankly do not know if these are illustrations of that clear division that those of the very last days will see, but perhaps it is so.
We have the saying in our vernacular of one who “sits on the fence.” This is someone who does not commit to one side or the other on a crucial matter or refuses to voice a definite opinion. It is still possible to sit on the fence when it comes to our beliefs concerning Jesus and his teachings. It is for the present, but I think that we can see that, even in these days this is becoming increasingly difficult. In the very last days, it will be impossible.
Advice for the Indifferent
The book of Revelation begins with messages that God had given for the seven churches of Asia Minor. The last of these messages was to the church in Laodicea.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot,” God wrote to them. “I wish that you were cold or hot, but because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
This is actually a warning to the church more than it is an empty desire. Although we do not know very much at all about the church in that city, this message gives the impression that it consisted largely of self-satisfied and self-righteous people who saw no need to become serious about their spiritual lives. They did not see the situation as it actually was.
God told that church, “You say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ but you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
It may have been that the people of this church of Laodicea were wealthy, at least in monetary terms. It may be that this monetary wealth gave them a feeling of superiority and self-sufficiency. They needed help from no one.
But God is not talking about literal monetary wealth. He is talking about spiritual wealth. The people of the church in that city also viewed themselves as being very superior in their spiritual lives. When it came to their spiritual walk, they also saw themselves as being independently wealthy. They had no need of anyone to come to their assistance.
Their view of themselves was far from the reality. God called them “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” I cannot think of a more pitiable description.
God then told them this: “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (Revelation 3:18).
The metaphors here are quite obvious. It takes a complete change of one’s view of reality. It often seems like the entire focus of this world is on acquiring money. It is on wealth. We sometimes have the perspective that if we would just be able to get more money, all of our problems would be solved. "If I would only win the lottery..."
That is a wretched way to think. It is a miserable way to think. One who thinks in these terms is poor, and blind, and naked. He needs his perspective changed.
Some Changes Come Hard
This change of perspective often does not come easy. It is not as uncomplicated as simply deciding to change. We sometimes need an intervention.
“Those whom I love,” the Lord says, “these I reprove and discipline.”
The reasons things happen to us in our lives are seldom as easy to discern as simply thinking in terms of cause and effects. The truth of the matter is, we usually do not know why things happen the way that they do. It is not my intention to give you the impression that when something terrible is happening to you, it means that God is disciplining you for some specific thing that you have done. Frankly, I do not think that God operates in that way.
However, he will discipline us with the motivation to improve our lives. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” writes James, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
First a Knock, then a Talk
However, discipline is never God’s first choice, just as you, as a father or a mother, would never discipline your child sharply if they just need a milder correction or reminder. Sometimes a knock on their bedroom door, going in and sitting on their bed to talk about things is all that is necessary. If they do not have a rebellious spirit, it will be. They will listen.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” Jesus said to the church in Laodicea. He also says it to you and to me. “If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
These last chapters of the book of Revelation help us to realize that our existence as individuals is a very long one. We are now living in this present age. At the present, it may seem to us that this is all that there is. But we know that it is not. You will continue to exist long after this present stage of your life is over. If God is knocking at your door right now, it means that he wants to come in and talk to you about a couple of things. Things that you will need to know about your eternal existence.
What will you do? You really have just two options. You can remain mad at God and refuse to let him into your life, or you can get up from your bed where you are lying in self-absorbed pity, and go over and open the door.
Which of these will you do?
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear (or her hear), what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”