Hope for the Future and Courage for Today

revelation.pngAn exposition of Revelation 20:1-10. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered a Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, November 2, 2008.

We are all fascinated, to one degree or another, with the future. We long to peer into the future and find some fascinating tidbit. What if we did know the future? How would it affect the way we live? Would we try to alter the future? Can the future be altered? I think it is fun to go back and read things written in the 30s and 40s about life in the “distant” future. Much to their surprise we’re not all riding around in “space cars” or commuting to the moon. Yet in other ways we are doing far more than they could have ever imagined. Speculation about the future is as old as man. Seers have long prophesied about future events. Some of those prophecies are vague enough as to be interpreted so many different ways we are bound to find at least 1 fulfillment. Others are now laughable for how far off they proved to be. Still we search for some clue, some insight into what the future holds. Of course as the people of God we are not “afraid” of prophecy. God has revealed future events. God spoke through the prophets of old and foretold, in great detail, of the coming of Messiah. We are told about his birth even naming the city in which he was to be born. There were prophecies concerning his life, his ministry and even his death. And of course there are prophecies concerning his return. It seems there is no end to the writing of books and conferences charting and detailing God’s program for the end of the age. The problem is no everyone agrees. Good and godly people interpret these passages differently.

This morning in our trek through the book of Revelation we come to a pivotal text. Revelation chapter 20 is a dividing line in biblical interpretation. This is the text that speaks of the millennium. In this text we find the only reference to a “millennium” in Scripture. Jesus did not say anything about it. Paul did not say a word about it. Nor Peter or any of the other apostles – other than John and then only in Revelation 20:2-7. That does not, at all, suggest this is not an important subject. It does not belittle its place in the discussion of our Lord’s return. It does however demand that we think carefully before we construct our view of the millennium and its application to the church and the kingdom of God.

John the beloved was the bishop of Ephesus. He was a pastor who dearly loved his flock. A pastor who was concerned about their spiritual and emotional well being. He wrote to encourage and inspire. This meant something to them. It is addressed to the churches of Asia Minor. It said something to them in their context as well as speaking to the future. I’m convinced that…

Thesis: A proper understanding of the Kingdom of God provides hope for the future and courage for today.

When reading the New Testament you keep finding language that speaks of this age and the age to come. You read of a future Kingdom and yet it is clear that Christ reigns now. Thus you find a tension between the Kingdom now and the Kingdom not yet. We have the hope of a glorious future with Christ and yet in another sense we are seated with Christ now in heavenly places. We are assured of future glory and we find boldness and confidence to live today.

As we work our way through this text I want to point out three things. Three things that spoke to those persecuted believers in first century Asia Minor and continue to speak to us today.

I. Frightened believers find courage in the knowledge that Satan is bound. (20:1-3)

What is the context? Rome is marching on. Growing in strength, power and influence. Rome stands squarely in contrast to the Kingdom of God. Caesar is worshiped as god while the church of the Lord Jesus is on the verge of annihilation. The saints are crying out, “How long O sovereign Lord before you do something?” Frightened, confused and struggling to understand they gather for the reading of this letter from their beloved bishop. The message throughout is that the Lamb has conquered and you will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony.

We have to ask is this 20:1-3 literal or symbolic? Can a “spirit being” be bound by a chain and a room? Clearly this is symbolic. By the way symbolic doesn’t mean he isn’t bound! Rather it is a matter of how or in what way is he bound. Let’s begin our consideration by asking why he is bound. Our text says “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” So that he cannot blind them to the reality of Christ and the things of God. He is bound to allow for the spreading of the gospel and the revelation of God. Now when did that happen?

Look at Matthew 12:28-29 – (same word “binds”)
Luke 10:17-19 – “I saw Satan fall…”
John 12:31-32
Colossians 2:15
Hebrews 2:14-15
1 John 3:8

Satan is bound by the work of Christ and the cross. He is bound through the preaching of the gospel. Prior to Christ’s coming and the cross the good news was limited to Israel with a few exceptions. And even then not all Israel believed. But since the cross the gospel is worldwide and people from every nation, language and tongue have been birth into the Kingdom.

What about the millennium? What about the 1000 years? Again context. Is the key literal? The chain? If everything surrounding it is symbolic why would we demand the reference to 1000 be literal? 10 is the number of completion. And this multiple of 10 speaks of the time of fulfillment set by the Father between the 1st and 2nd advents. Yes you did understand me – I think we are living in the millennium! Can you see how this would have been encouraging and inspiring for the church in their condition? But let’s keep going.

II. Threatened believers find hope in the knowledge that to die is again. (20:4- 6)

What of those who have been martyred? What of those who’ve paid the ultimate price for their devotion to Christ? “I saw thrones.” Of the 47 uses of “thrones” found in Revelation all except those dealing with Satan and the beast are in heaven. Who are they who occupy these thrones?

20:4 – those who had been beheaded (Roman form of execution) and who refused the mark of the beast. These are those who die in Christ.

This is the “first resurrection”?

1 Corinthians 15:20-23
The contrast in this passage is between the 1st resurrection and the second death.
Note 20:6 & 20:14 – second death = eternal judgment. The contrast is between saved and unsaved, believers and unbelievers.

Can you see how this would encourage and inspire? Rome thought they killed the troublemakers. They thought the put an end to their power and influence. They just exalted them to a truer life, a glorious reign with Christ! Frightened saint take heart Satan is bound. Threatened believer find courage death is gain. There is one other thing I want to point out.

III. Oppressed believers find peace in the knowledge that Satan’s doom is sure. (20:7-10)

When the time of completion is come Satan will be loosed for a “short season” (20:3 “for a little while). He will again deceive the nations. Gog and Magog are from Ezekiel 38- 39 and represent evil forced bent on destroying the people of God. The nations gather to make war on the Lamb. They come from the 4 corners of the earth and they number is like the sand of the sea.

During this time there will be an intense activity on the part of Satan. There will be the appearance of the antichrist, man of lawlessness. There will be a great apostasy or falling away. Concerted worldwide persecution of the Church. The Church will be preserved by the return of the Lord Jesus.

The devil, the red dragon – the power behind the beast and his prophet will then be cast into the lake of fire and be tormented day and night forever and ever.

That is the message of this book. Take heart you frightened, threatened oppressed and dearly loved children. Satan is bound. Death is gain. And Satan’s doom is sure. And soon I’m coming to bring you home.

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