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Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

Everything You Need to Know before Preaching Revelation

  • Dr. Roger Barrier Preach It, Teach It
  • 2016 26 May
  • COMMENTS
Everything You Need to Know before Preaching Revelation

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].

Dear Roger,

Give me the best! I need to preach Revelation, simply and thoroughly. Can you help?

A Young Pastor

Dear Pastor,

Here are my notes on Revelation 1:9-20. I hope it helps!

Revelation was basically written to Christians under persecution to encourage them to persevere. Don't give up! Things are not as they appear on the surface. Jesus Christ is going to win!

John wrote Revelation at a time when both he and the early church faced impossible problems.

The Roman Emperor Domitian was on the throne when John wrote the Revelation in 95 AD. History records him as one of the most cruel and wicked of all Roman emperors. He declared himself to be God and sentenced those to death who refused to worship him. 

The Roman government was not always so horrible. 

30 AD – Jesus said: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s."

55 AD – Romans – Pax Romana – “Government is ordained by God” – “Obey the government.”

60 AD – 1 & 2 Peter – Good government like Romans – Brings peace – “Submit to leaders.”

95 AD - John writes Revelation. Rome had gone sour. John calls Rome “Babylon, the great whore…” All knew who he meant. God needed to destroy this government.

This is apocalyptic. Prophecy says, we can fix the government. Apocalyptic says: we need new government.

Caesar Nero came along in 65 AD. Nero was insane. He murdered his friend when he was a teenager.  Nero callously watched him bleed. He murdered his brothers…poisoned his mother. Nero began to believe that he was god.

He developed an Empire-wide system of priests: “Caesar is Lord.” Citizens must offer a pinch of incense and then have their own gods. 

Christians could not swear allegiance to Caesar. They followed another as Lord.

“Jesus is Lord.” 

Caesar Nero = The Antichrist =666 

John writes about another Beast, the Whore: we are talking about Roman Emperor Domitian. 

The early Christians refused to worship him and were sentenced to die by the thousands. Some were thrown to the lions in the Coliseum; some were burned at the stake. Others were wrapped in the skins of wild animals and fed to the dogs; some were dipped in tar, crucified and then ignited as torches for the emperor’s night-time gardens. Some mothers were crucified with their murdered babies draped around their necks.

It may bother you that I said the Antichrist, 666, has already come. Is Revelation only history? I thought 666 was still to come. 666 is past. But 666 is the future. 

Revelation had a context in the first century and it has a context still in the future. Both the Double Fulfillment and Mountain Peak Principles of Prophecy are important. 

The mountain peak effect has to do with the distance between two prophetical events. For example, you may look at a mountain range and see one up close and one at a distance; however, it’s impossible to tell from that vantage point how far those two mountains are apart. In the same way, in Bible prophecy, many events that seem back-to-back are really separated by many years. 

The Double Fulfillment of Prophecy refers to an event that happens in the present and then the same event occurs in the future. For example, Antioches Epiphanes slaughtered a pig on the altar in Jerusalem about 250 A.D. One day, during the final days on earth, the prophecy regarding the Antichrist, 666, will be fulfilled.

Revelation is apocalyptic more than prophetic. 

Most of the symbols are really not hard to understand. 

Revelation is an open book: not the hiding of information. God intends for us to understand it.  

Revelation 1:9 "John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."

Who is this John? There was some discussion as to author: It is a different kind of Greek from the gospel, etc, after all is said and done, Revelation was penned by John the Apostle—one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. 

John was the Brother of James, the first martyr for Christ.

This Son of Thunder was transformed into the Apostle of Love.

He was asked by Jesus on the cross to look after his mother Mary in her old age.

John moved to Ephesus with Mary. Mary died there.

 When Revelation was written, John is 95 years old. He was increasingly aware of the aging process. Think of his challenges; the physical toll on the human body. 

He probably knew the pain of arthritis, insomnia, dullness of hearing, sight and weakness that comes with old age. 

Revelation 1:9, "John, your brother and companion..."

There is something disarmingly simple about his opening lines. “I am your brother.”

Here is a man who could have said, “I walked three years with the Lord Jesus. I was one of the three closest apostle friends he had. I witnessed the transfiguration. I am the one who cared for his mother when He died. None of that.  He simply says, “I am John. I am your brother.” 

And companion (Greek: Sun koinonia: idea of a fellow sharer..) I am one with you in three areas.

First, in tribulation. Thlipsis. The pressure of life. This describes a boulder falling and crushing whatever is underneath.

Domitian demanded that everyone call him Lord. And John called another Lord.

He was exiled to the tiny 6x10 mile island named Patmos, 38 miles off the coast of present-day Turkey.

Several early church fathers tell us that Patmos was a Roman penal colony. John was forced to labor in the mines.  Some relate that he was burned with oil just after sentencing.

Hopefully that banishment would silence him forever! He just left us with the Gospel of John, three letters, and the book of revelation. Not bad for a little time on an island.

He gave us the Gospel to give us tell us what to believe (John 20:31).

He gave us the three letters to help us be certain of our faith (1 John 5:13).

He gave us the Revelation to make us ready for his return (Revelation 22:20).

That ought to encourage some of you who are up in years, bodies hurting, that life is never over until it is over. 

John was exiled to Patmos. What impresses me, he is not writing a word of complaint, not a word of bickering. He didn't say:

"What kind of treatment is this, Lord? I walked with you, I served with you, I took care of your mother when you died. I was closest to you with James and Peter…."

First, he is a co-sharer in the persecution. He was on the island because of his unequivocal, uncompromising commitment to the Word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

Second, he is also a co-sharer in the kingdom. The same king who rules over his life, rules over your life.  We bow before the same Lord, anticipate the same coming.

Third, he is also a co-sharer in endurance.

Hupomone (Under, abide = to abide under) Used of a beast you load up before a long trip and the beast because he does not buckle at the knees is said to be a hupomone beast. He abides under the load.

What is your Patmos? A hospital bed, a workplace where you are the only Christians? A small house full of small children? A rest home for elderly? A new city or new job? There are different kinds of Patmos. 

Revelation 1:10: "On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

It's not Sunday – but refers to the Day of the Lord."

"I Was In The Spirit...." I take it he was caught up in a vision inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“I was in the Spirit and he transported me to see the Day of the Lord!” 

The trumpet got his attention. It was not a trumpet. It was like a trumpet.

Revelation 1:11: "which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.'"

Why only these seven? There were many more churches in Asia Minor than these seven. Read the list and be intrigued: Where is Colossae? Where is Corinth?

These are representative of the ages—same struggles of churches in every generation. 

It was like a postal route (Patmos and the seven cities where churches were)

Revelation 1:12: "I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands"

What are the lampstands? Read Revelation 1:20: "the seven lampstands are the seven churches."

What great symbolism! “You are the light of the world.” The church is to radiate God’s light in a world of darkness. Every church that’s true is a lampstand in the midst of darkness. A golden lampstand! Not tin. 

Revelation 1:13: "...and among the lampstands was someone 'like a son of man,' dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest."

John did not yet recognize Him as Jesus.

“...robe reaching down to His feet” is the description of the high priest of the Old Testament.  A priest ministering in the temple.

 Keeping the lamps lit – no church has light of its own. He pours in the oil.

In John’s day the churches were experiencing great problems of pain, persecution, and pressure. John sees Jesus in the midst of the lampstands. Do you know that Jesus draws near to those who are suffering?

Revelation 1:14: "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire."

“White hair” reveals His wisdom. 

“Eyes of Blazing fire” represents anger. It is easy to see he is angry with sin. But there is more.  He was angry with the suffering of believers in the early church, as well as with John’s own suffering.

Zechariah 2:8: “We are the apple of God’s eye.” The apple of the eye is the pupil. When someone or something hurts you it is as though someone has tried to stick a finger in God’s eye! 

Revelation 1:15: "His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters."

The feet of King stand for judgment. A King is always elevated. A subject was brought beneath His feet - symbol of authority and judgment. 

This is the same little voice that whimpered in the manger. Now, it is the sound of mighty waters.

Revelation 1:16: "In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."

What are the seven stars? Read verse 20, jump ahead: the "angelos" of the seven churches.

The word means messenger. Probably not angels, these are the pastors of the seven churches.

Our world has its stars. Tell you where the real stars are. Right in the hand of Jesus.

Our world doesn’t know what the true stars are.

“I’d like to be a star” You can be. Read Daniel 12:3 – turns many to faith and be a star. 

Double-Edged Sword

Rhomphia a battle sword- Held with two hands used for whacking off heads. This is judgment.

Another sword, makaira, - dagger get close and cut off head and wouldn’t know it until you sneezed. Hebrews 4:12 - Word of God. Sharp and piercing like a scalpel: It means "convicts."

Face Like Shining Sun: It's a picture of unveiled glory.

Revelation 1:17: "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead."

John fell like a sack of sand. He was overwhelmed. He has witnessed unveiled Deity. 

If Revelation teaches us nothing else, it teaches us to place in the highest regard the person of Jesus Christ—in His glory.

Jesus Christ isn’t a great big pal upstairs. Don’t go there ever again. He is the risen, magnificent matchless sovereign Savior of the world—who when He speaks, we are muted, we have nothing to say. And when we see Him, as we will someday see Him we will fall at his feet.

When we see Him for who he really is it is like the nursery rhyme, we all fall down.

What does it mean to fall prostrate before Christ as though you were dead?

A person who falls prostrate is silent. I never heard a dead man speak. To fall at the feet of Jesus means that there is no more discussion about what you think He should do or not do—no more argument about His will—no more rationalization about your behavior—no more excuses for your sin.

Falling prostrate means that you are silent before Christ, dead silent.

A person who falls prostrate is still. I never saw a dead man move. To fall at the feet of Jesus means there is no more wrestling with Him for the will of your life, no more pursuit of your own plans, walking off in your own directions.

Falling prostrate means that you are dead, dead still. 

John is experiencing Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

It is at this point that fullness of life with Christ begins. His glory becomes personal. 

Falling prostrate means that you surrendered, dead surrendered. 

Revelation 1:17: "Then he placed his right hand on me…"

Christ in judgment still has time to stop and touch the one He loves. 

Revelation 1:17b-18: "I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." 

Listen to the identification: Alpha and Omega!  

Christ is there in moment of our birth and our death.

Death has gates. (Psalm 9:13; 107:18; Isaiah 38:10). And Christ has the keys.

 What does this mean to me?

1. Our faith must rest in the person of the resurrected Jesus Christ—not the teachings or the things we can or cannot understand.

Faith is in the person of Christ, not figuring out all the answers in John 6. 

There comes a time in our spiritual growth when we transition into faith in the Person of Christ. I have more questions now than ever! 

2. The deeper our commitment to the person of Christ, the deeper will be the truths He reveals.

Look at Revelation 1:12: “I turned to see” = blepo = John at the vision.

The Greek word means to glance—like scenery as you drive by. It is not that significant, see that tree, sign, turn off. You just see it.

Travel back to the empty tomb at the resurrection. John and Peter had a foot race to the tomb.

John 20:5: John looked in = blepo. He glanced in but did not go in.

John 20:6: Peter goes in and saw the mummy like wrapping and the napkins. The word “saw" is a different word = theoreo.  We get our word theorize from it. Peter is trying to theorize what happened. Where did He go?

John 20:8: John went in and he “saw and believed.” Another Greek word = arao.

It means, I got it! I perceived the reality of what occurred. John immediately perceived the reality and truth of the resurrected Christ. 

Look back at Revelation 1:17: When I saw him, I fell at His feet though dead.” It is arao.

When I perceived the truth of Who He is, I fell at his feet. I was floored.

I want that for us in all its beauty and reality. When we come to this place in our lives where the vision of the living Christ becomes that real and we leave humbled and submissive, we haven’t arrived but you are well on your way. 

Join me in praying:

Close your eyes, in darkness get a good look at yourself—all your dreams, hopes, disappointments, addictions, areas of sin, there you are.

See the risen living Lord in your mind’s eye and he is touching you and saying to you, “I love you, I forgive you, I am here for you." You are the reason that I came and I was dead and I came back to life—and if you have never before turned your heart and soul over to him this is the moment.

Submission begins at the foot of the cross:

By faith alone you and I come to Christ—alone—and when we do we are forgiven and enter into a relationship with the living God which is in no other way possible. He is the way, the truth and the light.

This is an invitation offered to you to come by faith to Christ, right where you are sitting, to fall at his feet in trust.

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: May 26, 2016


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