I remember when I was a young girl looking at the photographs in Life Magazine of the 5 martyred missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador. That was one of the early seeds that God used to bring me to Him, for I thought, Why were they willing to risk their lives like that?
The word “martyr” means “to love unto death.” The most famous of those missionaries was Jim Elliott, whose life and quotations were made known through the writings of his wife, Elisabeth. If you listened to her radio broadcast, “Gateway to Joy,” this woman, who surely knew suffering, always began with:
You are loved with an everlasting love,’ that’s what the Bible says, ‘and underneath are the everlasting arms.’”
There is much in Revelation that is obscure, and there are three main different perspectives that scholars take and which disagree in part, but they all agree on this: “God rules history and will bring it to its completion in Christ.” There is no doubt who will win, and there is great hope for believers who trust and persevere. This message enabled the early Christians to face the terrible persecution of Nero and to die with confidence, even with joy.
I am not going to wade into the disagreement about when the rapture will happen, or if it will happen at all. (Many Reformed scholars interpret 1 Thessalonians 4 as referring to the 2nd Coming of Christ rather than the idea of a rapture.) We do know He is coming back and we must be ready — and that is as far as I am going with that. The purpose of Revelation, I believe, is not to predict His return but to prepare for it. By taking to heart God’s holiness, love, and final victory, we can be overcomers in this seismic battle with Satan. As our own Sharon said: “Revelation is not about head knowledge of end times, but growing in my relationship with my Savior and how to be prepared in being an overcomer…”
We have six weeks before Lent begins, and that will give us time to look at the beginning, middle, and end of Revelation, giving us a good grip on the keys to overcoming trials and temptations. The theme of Revelation is overcoming, and there are many promises to those who overcome. Watch for them!
There are three ways to participate in this study, so ask God how He would lead you. I’m hoping many might dare to choose the third way, but seek God!
- Join in with us here, on this blog. If you are new, just make a comment and give us your name (and a middle name too if your name is not terribly unique) and your e-mail. Your e-mail will not show up. The first time I will need to approve you to make sure your are joining us for the right reason and not to sell us soap, porn, or lead us into a cult!
- Do this study silently on your own, recording your answers in a notebook.
- Facilitate a zoom or small live study with your friends. You can direct them to the right week to read the opening, where there are pictures and audio/video clips. Then, after the opening, I will provide a link to a word document that has all the homework so they can print it off before or after they fill in the answers. You don’t have to be on our timetable to do this — you just need to direct your group to the right study so they can read the opening. At the end of the six weeks, Lord willing, and technology cooperating, on Sunday, Feb 7th at 3:00 Central time, whoever wants to join me on zoom can click on the link given that morning (or paste it in) to join me to reflect on what we learned. I am praying some of you will do this and God will show you whom to invite!
Whether God instigated this shaking the world is going through, or has given permission to Satan to do it, God is in control, and He closes His Bible with wisdom on how to overcome in a time of trouble. I believe many will not return to church when Covid is over, for God is pruning, but this study will help us to be among the faithful. Revelation does make it clear we are in a cosmic battle with Satan, but we are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
We will begin this week by looking at some of the key themes of Revelation. I have a couple of helpful resources I will recommend to those who want to go deeper, and one is a free online resource recommended by The Gospel Coalition. I’d like you to read its opening this week, so you may want to download it on one of your devices. It is: The Returning King by John Frame and Vern Poythress:
As we have learned so many times in the past, the key to overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil is not to try to do it in our own strength, but to draw near to Him, to worship Him, to abide in Him so that His strength will flow through us. Worship is certainly more than singing, it is what we do with our mind and body all day long. But music can help us with that. Our key song for this journey is this one, but I’ll be lookin for others from you!
An optional but helpful sermon that will help you get your bearings is this from Kevin Cawley of Redeemer in Kansas City. This is an ACTS 29 church I attended while living there. You’ll have an opportunity to share your thoughts and comments on Day 5. You’ll be hearing sermons from many different pastors whom I respect during this six weeks.
Before we begin, I want to share something that I hope will cause your heart to wonder as you anticipate Revelation. We know the Bible is not a series of unrelated moral lessons, but is ONE story of a great King whom God planned to rescue us even before the foundation of the world. Revelation is chock full of references from Daniel, Ezekiel, and all of Scripture, for it is the culmination of this great story. Our own Laura mentioned her favorite part from Songs of Hope this Advent was from Poor Bishop Hooper. They go through the genealogy leading up to Christ and it is especially meaningful to read along in Matthew 1 as they do. And here is the truth that stopped my heart: Matthew tells us there are 3 groups of 14 generations leading up to Christ. That means there are 6 groups of 7 generations leading up to Christ. Why is this important? Because it means Jesus was the 7th 7! Seven represents the number of perfection, of completion, of God! And you will see it again and again and again in Revelation: 7 churches, 7 angels, 7 trumpets, etc. How is it that Jesus is the seventh seven? Because this was God’s plan from the foundation of the world and this plan culminates in Revelation. (I hope this is meaningful to some of you — I excitedly told one relative about this discovery recently and he shrugged and said, “So what?” 🙂 )
Word Document for Lesson 1 (Love in a Time of Covid)
(The above is for those who wish to print the following questions off, before or after they answer them.)
Day 1: Getting Started
(If you are doing option 3 and are in a separate online or live group, introduce yourself to the group and share one way God has been a light in the darkness to you during this time of Covid.)
- What stood out to you from the above and why?
- Read Revelation 1:1-3.
A. In verse 1, who received this revelation and why?
B. What promise is given in verse 3?
C. The phrase “take to heart” is used in John’s gospel in John14:15 and translated “keep.” What evidence is there in a life when head knowledge has dropped to the heart?
D. Share a command from God you have taken to heart and how it has impacted your life.
3.. Read Revelation 1:4-7
Seven is God’s number, and you’ll see it throughout Revelation. Seven spirits represents the Holy Spirit.
(Matthew Henry explains this represents His diversified gifts and operations.)
A. How can you see the Trinity in verses 4-5?
B. What three names are given to Jesus in verse 5? Take one and share your contemplations.
C. What do you learn about believers in verse 6?
D. Challenge question: How can His blood free you not just from the penalty of sin, but strengthen your heart in your ongoing battle with the power of sin?
E. What future event is described in verse 7 and why will there be mourning?
This refers not only to those who actually crucified him but those who pierce him anew with rejection.
F. Compare the above to Daniel 7:13. Thoughts and contemplations?
Keith Mathison says Revelation can be “regarded as a vision of the fulfillment of the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Day 2: Can We Understand?
4. In “The Returning King” read the Introduction up to “Can We Understand?” and share the author’s main point.
One of the themes of Revelation is that Satan has a counterfeit unholy Trinity — and the third member of that Trinity is the false prophet who spreads deceit and confusion. Most commentators believe the “last days” refers to the time between Christ’s ascension and return, though the deceit and trouble will increase, as His return draws near, like the birth pangs of a woman in labor.
5. Read 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Paul addresses a few false teachings here that would happen in the “last days.” What were they? What was the lie? What harm did they cause?
6. What false teachings do you see happening in recent times, even within the church? Share one, along with its lie, and the harm it causes.
7. Now read Can We Understand?
A. In their diagram “It’s Simple” and the paragraph below, what point do the authors make?
B. What did you learn from the illustrations given of both the 12-year-old and the janitor?
C. What wisdom is given in the closing paragraph and illustration to anyone facilitating a study on Revelation?
Day 3 The True and The Counterfeit
My favorite book of 2020 was Alysa Childer’s Another Gospel. It is about the tremendous threat and growth of “Progressive Christianity” which indeed, is not Christianity at all, but a counterfeit. It’s primary appeal is not to atheists or secular people, but to people in the church. This is one of the primary warnings of the book of Revelation – to be alert to the counterfeit. This is from “The Returning King.”
8. Read Revelation 16:14-16
A. How are the three counterfeits described in verse 13?
B. Who is behind them according to verse 14?
C. What warning is given to believers verse 15?
9. In John’s 1st letter, he continually uses a phrase that will help us discern the real from the counterfeit. Find it in 1 John 2:24.
10. The “false prophet” will witness and propagandize, but with the counterfeit. Again, John gives some clear warnings on how to spot him in 1 John 4:1-6.
A. What is a clear warning sign of the false prophet according to verses 2-3?
B. What is another clear warning according to verses 5-6?
C. What promise is given in verse 4?
11. There is also a counterfeit bride. You can find her in Revelation 17-18. How is she described in Revelation 17:5-6?
12. Read Revelation 18:1-4
A. Who is she “a home for?”
B. Who has worshipped her?
C. What does a voice from heaven tell us? (verse 4)
Day 4. The Power of Worship
The counterfeit bride is called the Prostitute and represents the worship of sex, money, and pleasure. One of my favorite quotes about overcoming our heart idols is: “We worshipped our way into this mess, and we will worship our way out.” Revelation has so much about worship, and we will, indeed worship the Lamb who is worthy!
13. We must not think of worship as just congregational singing, confined to a place and time. How does Jesus make this clear to the Samaritan women in John 4:21-24?
14. Ways to worship:
A. How can we worship with our minds according to Colossians 3:2? How could you better do this in 2021? Be specific.
B. Music can indeed help us. Listen or sing-along with Andrew Peterson’s Is He Worthy? (above) and share what impacts your heart. (Feel free to share songs that help you, though realize sometimes links mean I will need to approve your comment — and it is very haphazard which ones trip the warning!)
C. “Worship” comes from a word that means “weight” — we worship what we see as having value or weight. Revelation can help us realize the weight of Jesus. Read Revelation 1:4-8 and share a few ways that Jesus has weight.
D. Good books and sermons can help us worship. Share your comments from the above optional sermon from Kevin Cawley if you listened.
Day 5: Take To Heart
Because our hearts are deceitful, it is so easy to study Scripture for the wrong reason: to feel good about ourselves or to impress others with our knowledge. Satan delights in wrong motives so that it never gets to your heart and transforms your life. Many have misused Revelation, and those abuses can cause us to be fearful of studying it. Much is hard to comprehend, but we know God wants us to be holy, to give Him weight, and to see the depth of His judgment and mercy, so we will take it to heart and be ready when He returns.
15. Read Revelation 1:4-8 again and contemplate with these contemplation questions from Tim Keller:
A. How can I praise Him on the basis of this text?
B. How can I confess my sins on the basis of this text?
C. If this is really true what wrong behavior, what harmful emotions, and what false attitudes happen when I forget this?
D. What should I be aspiring to — reaching for?
E. Why are You telling me this today?
16. What is your take-a-way this week and why?