It’s not the first book I recommend to a new Christian. Maybe it would be the best. It’s the favorite of my special-ed daughter, Naomi. It’s a picture book. It starts with Jesus addressing seven real churches in what is now Turkey. He commends, corrects, and comforts according to the vitality of each church. Some are doing well; others are barely surviving.
We remember many of those messages. He told Smyrna, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). He affirmed the church of brotherly love, Philadelphia, and promised to keep them “from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole world” (3:10). He warned lukewarm Laodicea that they were about to be spit out of his mouth (3:16).
Then comes a long section–visions of judgment upon a world in rebellion (chapter 4-18), most of the book. The suffering church is called to endure, a key word. The victorious ones are those who “loved not their lives even unto death” (12:11).
Chapter 19 gives us a glorious picture of the triumphant king whose “judgments are true and just” (2). This king rides a white horse and triumphs over the powers of darkness, holds the Great White Throne judgment, and gives the verdict that sends some into everlasting bliss and others (most) into the lake of fire. Among the first to go are the devil and death. He then ushers in the new heaven and new earth for the redeemed to enjoy for eternity, closing with a message given three times, “Behold, I am coming soon!”
John the author, writing in exile, doesn’t paint a picture of the church taking over the world. He says, “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patience endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). He tells his readers, including us, about “the things that must soon take place” (1:1). He promises that Jesus “is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (1:7). His return is our consuming hope (I Peter 1:13).
The following truths come through:
- The end-time church is not winning a popularity contest. Most of the world has chosen its hero, the antichrist. The church is promised a place with the glorious king if it holds out faithful to the end.
- Some make it, most don’t. The lie of universalism (that all eventually will) is exposed in this awe-inspiring book. The church does not present to the Bridegroom a largely converted world. As Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).
- The answer to the woes in the world is not a victorious church but a triumphant King with fire in his eyes. When the suffering increases, we are told to lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28)! He is the ultimate answer. He deals with the race in rebellion, not the church.
Some teach a more “positive” end-time picture. Is this one pessimistic? No, because it is truth. Read the Book! It focuses on the exalted Christ who overcomes, who says what He will do–and does it. Our trust is centered in the Lamb–alone! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!