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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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10 Lessons I Learned from Preaching Revelation

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In June I concluded a series of 38 sermons in the book of Revelation. As I reflect on my time in this remarkable book, 10 truths stand out.

Spoiler: the things that had the greatest effect on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium.

1. Persecution Is Part of the Christian Life

Christians in this present age can expect to suffer intense persecution at the hands of an unbelieving, idolatrous world. No one is exempt.

To suffer is not an indication of God’s disappointment with us but of our identification with Jesus.

To suffer is not an indication of God’s disappointment with us but of our identification with Jesus. When embraced with humility and courage it can be a tremendous way to make known the sufficiency and beauty of all that God is for us in Jesus.

2. God Is Sovereign

God is absolutely and comprehensively sovereign over all the affairs of all mankind. Not even the most wicked stand outside of God’s providential power.

It often appears that the entire world reels with one blow after another. In Egypt, dozens of Christians are killed when ISIS detonates a bomb on Palm Sunday. Bloody civil wars continually erupt around the globe. Racial strife continue in our country.

The world, by all appearances, appears horribly unstable, chaotic, and out of control. Revelation is God’s word to us that he is in complete control.

3. Christ Is King

Jesus Christ is pre-eminent above all earthly powers and persons. At the heart of human sin is the tendency to exalt as god anything or anyone above or in preference to Jesus Christ. But he is King over all kings and Lord over all lords.

Jesus is alive from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, reigning and ruling and exercising absolute sovereignty over all the kings of the earth, all the events in the Middle East, throughout Central and South America, and even in the plans of North Korea, China, and Russia.

As “the ruler of the kings on earth” he mysteriously governs and regulates what all earthly kings and presidents do, sometimes restraining them from doing evil, sometimes frustrating their plans, but always ordering events so they might serve his purposes. We can’t figure out how he does it, but he does. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:25 that Christ “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” So don’t just read the newspaper or scour the internet. Read and reflect with the eyes of faith on the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all things.

4. All Things Will Culminate in Jesus

We have assurance that God will accomplish his purposes and bring all things to their consummation in Jesus. No matter how bad circumstances may become, no matter how oppressed the church may be, no matter how successful and powerful the world and its wicked ways appear, nothing can derail or disrupt God’s purpose in history to bring a Bride to the Bridegroom at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

5. The Church Will Appear Dead

As the global oppression of the church spreads and intensifies, there will come a time when it will appear that the church has been destroyed. For a time, its voice will be silenced and its presence barely noticeable. But this is only in appearance, as the church will rise up in power, as the catalyst for a global harvest of souls. If you wonder where I find this point, I encourage you to listen to my sermons in Revelation 11.

6. Satan Is a Formidable, but Defeated, Foe

Satan hates God and hates you and hates the church. He will do all within his power, under God’s sovereignty, to undermine your confidence in God’s goodness and lead you to abandon your faith. But we are assured complete and final victory as we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our testimony, and as we do not love our lives even unto death (Rev. 12).

7. Christians Will Be Preserved by God

Although the wrath of God against sin and idolatry will intensify and expand as we approach the second coming of Christ, no Christian will be the object of it. We will be preserved eternally safe and secure. God has sealed his servants, all of them, with the Holy Spirit—and no amount of suffering or hardship can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

8. We Can’t Comprehend the Great Things that Lie Ahead

Neither eye has seen nor ear has heard the marvelous blessings God has in store for his people in the new heavens and new earth. As Paul put it in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

9. Justice Will Be Served

The one thing that will guard your heart from becoming cynical and pessimistic is the repeated assurance in Revelation that a time of reckoning is coming when God will bring justice to bear on the earth. Truth will be vindicated; evil will receive its rightful recompense.

10. Christ Is Coming Soon

Amid all the argumentation over this book with its symbolism, the question of Israel, the rapture, and the tribulation, may we never lose sight of what is pre-eminent: the physical, personal, bodily return of Jesus Christ to consummate his kingdom. That is our blessed hope!

So remember: although some will tell you that you are wasting your time reading and meditating on Revelation because it’s too difficult and obscure, Jesus tells us otherwise:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3)

Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. (Rev. 22:7)

The book of Revelation is not beyond your ability to understand and believe and obey. Don’t miss out on the blessing promised for all who keep what is written in it.

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