Article 2021-12 The Grand Finale
Chapter 69: The Grand Finale
We have come to the last chapter of our course, dealing with the last Bible book. Yet, it is not an ending: the content is still largely to be fulfilled. The world has yet to see the tremendous climax of history, which takes place when Christ returns to earth in full glory. Visions of this as well as the times preceding and following it we see in the book of Revelation. It is a difficult book, but we will understand more of it as time progresses and the great climax approaches. What are the most important things for us, missionaries, to understand from this book for our ministries now and in the near future?
There will be victory over Satan and his kingdom. Jesus will totally erase even the memory of evil. Before that, the Church preaches the gospel to all people groups on earth. The Lord reveals His plans if His children are willing to execute them. Revelation increases when former revelation was obeyed. The Church triumphs through suffering, gathering fruit through blood. Keenness to lay down his life for Christ is the missionary’s most vital asset. Believers, unprepared for suffering, are unprepared for the end times.
We see in the book of Revelation that all ten themes have come to full fruition: all are totally fulfilled in this book, that describes the last part of world history and part of the magnificent future that awaits all who trust Christ.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters … out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (Rev. 1:14-17)
Church persecution was intense under the rule of Emperor Domitian, the cruel Roman potentate. John had been exiled to the isle of Patmos, off Turkey’s west coast. For years he served churches in and around Ephesus and sent missionaries to different places. He wrote his gospel and three letters and was much appreciated because of his love, wise counsel and the superb stories he told about Jesus’ time on earth. To the churches’ sadness their senior leader had been removed in an attempt to scatter the members. Nobody heard from him for almost a year. Some thought he had died. In fact, John had been more alive than ever. He saw the invisible and heard the unheard-of.
Now the beast of Rome was dead and the strict rules that enforced persecution had relaxed. None of the local authorities saw the use of banning the old man any longer and John was permitted to come back to Ephesus. Rumors travel fast and when the exiles disembarked, many believers gathered to meet their old pastor. After a meal and some rest the church met, packed. Sentries had been posted. They could not let security slip. Certainly not tonight. The people waited in eager anticipation of what John had to say. With the frailty of a ninety year old, John climbed the platform. He greeted ‘his beloved children’. If he could have hugged them all he would have done it!
He spoke with an incredible vitality and told the church how he had met Jesus, and how magnificent He looked in His glorified state. At first that had scared him almost to death. But Jesus had touched him, put him upright and started to reveal what would happen in future ages. John told about the messages he had received for the churches in Asia. He felt that they were meant for all churches in the world, now and in future as well.
He told how he had met Jesus, went in and out of Heaven, saw angels, awesome creatures, thrones, crowned elders, flashes of lightning and so on. He explained about the extremes of victory and redemption on one hand and the horrendous judgments and damnation on the other. He spoke about seeing the Bride of Christ in her beautiful glory and the whore of Babylon in her despicable filthiness, and how radiant armies clashed with dark ones. He described how the devil was locked up in the pit, followed by a long time of peace. Then he described the city of God descending from Heaven in its splendor.
John was silent for a moment, reliving his experiences. Then he looked at his audience. He saw question marks in their eyes and bewildered gazes. He had lost them. He had told them too much in such a short time. He needed to bridge the gap between what they knew and what they needed to know about the future of the church.
Hardly did he realize how future generations would feel the same bewilderment when they read or heard his words, whether young believers or seasoned Bible scholars. John wrote his experiences down in the weeks after the meeting. It became the last Bible book, describing the years of the church era, before a new phase in God’s plans would start.
In a way John’s words are like explaining earthly life to an unborn child. It hears voices and music, but sees nothing yet. It knows that there is ‘more, out there’, but its understanding is limited. It needs to grow to a completeness before its birth. Even then, there will first be the stress and pain. Only then the newly born’s senses perceive and help it understand the new dimensions of life that were formerly undreamt of.
… with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9)
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9)
The Story, continued
John described to the church the crowd, the multitude, representing all people groups on earth. This huge human mass stood before God’s throne, praising Him in an international song of redemption. All the families of the earth were there. This was the completion of God’s plan, as promised to Abraham: ‘In you all the families of the earth will be blessed’. It had been a spectacular view. Only then did John understand the full impact of what Christ said, that “God so loved the world, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, and that He is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world”. This was the completest form of the entire world participating in God’s salvation. The God of Israel had now become the God Who was worshiped by the whole world, and Jesus had stood there, reveling in the fruit of His sacrificial ministry.
John explained that such a beautiful vision could only be born through pain and suffering. When a mother gives birth, she suffers birth pangs, stress and anxiety. The area around the labor room keeps its breath when the cries of pain break forth. It is a period of fear, anxiety, apprehension and spilling of blood. During the last era of the church, it is even worse. Then there will also be an angry dragon, spewing fire, to try and snatch the child to devour it. The devil will never overcome the church or her descendants, but he will try. Therefore, the church must always be prepared to face persecution for the sake of Jesus.
Many believers nodded in agreement. Several had been in prison, were beaten up, had lost jobs, but all of them had been belittled and maltreated. The church knew persecution first hand. In Pergamum Antipas had been killed for his faith. They knew that it might happen to them too. Some older folks recalled that Paul told them the same things, years before, and how he had hardly escaped the riots in Ephesus, initiated by Demetrius.
They overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death (Rev. 12:11)
… this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints … and the time came when they possessed the kingdom (Dan. 7:21,22)
He [antichrist] will destroy the mighty men and the holy people (Dan. 8:24)
He [the beast] was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them … he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (Rev. 13:7)
The Story, continued
John continued, telling that Jesus will return to end all persecution. Until then, he said, they need to be prepared to submit to beatings, imprisonment and death. The ‘child’ of God’s new time cannot be born unless through suffering persecution. God’s Kingdom always broke forth in new areas at the cost of disciples who sacrificed their comfort, health or even their lives. All John’s fellow-apostles were killed for their faith. It becomes worse when the end times approach. When the Israelites were still in Egypt, they suffered most during the Plagues, just before Moses led them out. Daniel’s friends could not have defied the king of Babylon if they hadn’t been willing to sacrifice their lives for God’s honor. The Lord saved them out of the fiery furnace, but first they were thrown into it. They might have died, but didn’t care. They were prepared for the worst. Daniel said that in the end times the saints would be overcome by hostile forces. They must always be prepared to be overcome, knowing that the Lord is on His way to turn the tide and bring forth a complete victory.
The devil will be locked up for a millennium. The universal church will rule the world with Christ. After that the devil must be released for a short time. He will incite a last rebellion, together with them that never submitted to Christ. The Lord will defeat even that last bunch. Then another stage in God’s plan takes shape, when the New Heaven and the New Earth appear. There will be no more pain, grief, sickness, tears, injustice or death. Even the memories of past suffering will be erased. Never again will there be sin. It will be one big, international happy family of people, redeemed by Christ. God and His saints will live in the New Jerusalem, that comes down from Heaven.
John urges us to make sure that all people, near and far, hear the good news of Jesus Christ. All peoples, nations, tongues and tribes must hear the gospel of the Kingdom. Otherwise the King will not return, as He said. We will not see His face again until the last of His brothers has been brought into His Kingdom. This can only become reality when the Church is on fire for God and His Kingdom, and make the evangelization of the nations her priority. Once He comes back, there will be an end to all suffering. There is no other way. Trying to eradicate the suffering in the world now will not succeed; bringing back the King will. And so John ended his passionate plea for world missions.
Normally, God reveals His plans to His servants. In this book we see something very big that applies to the whole world. God reveals His plan and the steps to its final stage. He reveals how, when, where and by whom certain missional actions must take place. God revealed His plans to Jesus, Paul, Peter and John, as well as to many servants throughout history. Without that we would do our own thing, without impacting the world as we might have. We must pray for revelation of God’s missionary plans continually.
Did we work in the past according to what was revealed, or did we neglect it? Then we cannot expect new revelation. It only increases at our obedient response. Revelation means: seeing what God does, hearing Him tell you what to do, feeling His heartbeat for that ministry and joining Him. Without such revelation one runs wild. True revelation is a conviction, strong enough to die for. Without it no missionary survives long in the field. The first part of any revelation has to be a meeting with the Revealer and maintaining a relationship with Him. Nobody without this is able to reveal God’s will to others.
The Holy Spirit is pictured as ‘seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out into all the earth’. The two-fold ‘seven’ means that the Holy Spirit’s missionary range, expressed by the words ‘sent out’, is complete: the seven spirits cover everything and overlook nothing (‘seven eyes’). This comprehensive ministry is executed by Christ (the Lamb) Who has ‘seven horns’ – expressing ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’. This perfection results in a representation of all ethnic families on earth before the throne. Christ and the Spirit lead the Church to reach that goal in all its completeness.
Always, when the gospel advances, there are Satanic attacks, trying to destroy God’s work and His people. Missionaries at the frontlines must reckon with these. They conquer when they don’t ‘love their lives unto death’. Willingness to lay down one’s life for the gospel may become the most valuable asset a missionary can have. Such preparedness should be the common characteristic of all true brothers. As long as it does not become general, the Church is not ready to face the challenges of the last days.
The last war-scene before the Millennium is Christ’s triumphal ride with His army. We see many pictures of the Church in Revelation which speak of her different missions. The Church’s mission as the Woman is to bring forth offspring. The first is the Male Child, called to rule, which is his mission during the Millennium. Another is that of the Bride: her mission is to develop the love relationship with Jesus. The mission of the Army is to join its supreme Commander, defeating His enemies. A similarity between the Bride and the Army is their clothing: white linen, the color of righteousness.
With the mission to rule, God’s original design for mankind has materialized. Clearing away the last pre-Millennial enemies, the new era begins. At its end there is a short war; then we see the last of the devil. During the white throne judgment all who prefer darkness over light will be doomed and the New Heaven and Earth appear.
The Church’s mission is to be ready and to save whoever can be saved, as long as there is time. Priority should be given to people groups who have never heard the gospel. It must be made available where it is not yet. Only in that way will the Kingdom be extended with maximum speed and the Lord’s return be hastened.
Discussion & dialogue
- In ten small groups, determine how each of the ten themes finds its final fulfillment in the book of Revelation; then report back in a plenary session