Programming Note: I come to a place in our text where I ask–What is John going to see when he turns? And then I say something like … Not this … I am referring to an 8 1/2 X 11 printout I have of Warner Sallman’s “Head of Christ.” This is the very popular depiction that you have probably seen many times. I compare “that Jesus” … which was conceived in the mind of Warner Sallman in 1924 to our Lord “who is and who was and who is to come.” 🙂
We can pour over historical background and word usage and charts and diagrams and dig into the customs and culture of the times, but what is it that we absolutely, without a doubt, must come away with in our study to understand what God would have us to understand?
What is it that we must know? Simple. But not really. We must know who Jesus Christ is, and I would be speaking of Jesus Christ as revealed in his holy word, the Bible.
It can almost seem at times that everyone has his or her idea of who Jesus is or should be, a Jesus that fits our individual expectations, and we build from that concept the product we have imagined, while ignoring the only valid source of revelation, the word of God. And too often we don’t know because we simply don’t want to know, as knowing might get in the way of our plans.
What is our expression? It is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission? But you must understand that the person who constructs their own Jesus has it all wrong. They’re thinking, “Jesus understands. He will forgive. And I will live my life as I think I should and make do and things will be okay in the end. I’ll make a deal when the time comes.”
But here is the irony of that reasoning. A Book, a Holy Book, has been written that covers the entire subject matter, a Book that takes the guesswork out of the equation, and … this person could actually read about “how things go down in the end.” And if said person chose to do this, then he or she would be much more likely to see Jesus opening one of the seal judgments of God’s great wrath rather than winking at their sinful defiance.
You see, in the Book, the Holy Book, there is only one Jesus Christ who lasts for the entire story. And … spoiler alert … he is not the Jesus of your imagination. The Jesus in the Holy Book is going to finish his plans and fulfill his Father’s purpose, not our plans and not our purpose.
This Jesus will judge all those who do not know him. No substitutes allowed. In fact one day, those who believed in the personal Jesus of their imagination, the construct of their mind, will hear these words from the Jesus Christ of Scripture:
(Matthew 7:23 GW) Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.’
Second question … How?
How is this going to happen? Three things here. 1) God is going to send us a message. 2) God is going to authenticate the message. 3) God is going to commission the method.
Message: “The Jesus Christ God Wants Us to Know!” Message Text: Revelation 1:1-20
The Bible gives us very clear instruction concerning the Jesus Christ that God wants us to know, who is in fact the Jesus Christ we need to know if we are to be saved and if we are to serve him effectively. This revealing happens over the entirety of Scripture but especially in the book of Revelation where it is the overarching theme of the book and is clearly stated at the very beginning: “The revelation of Jesus Christ.”
However, it seems that even “good Christian folk” are hesitant to embrace the message of Revelation. It seems that many prefer a more tame Jesus. Jesus at his first coming meek and humble and riding on a donkey is much easier for people to accept. They have misconstrued this Jesus also but for those looking for a lesser Jesus who is a much better fit for their life and their religion, then that Jesus is an easier starting point.
But as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need a grander vision of our risen Lord if we are to receive the call to service that he has put before us. The Apostle John, from the prison island Patmos, is given this vision and was told time and again to write it down so he could send it to the seven churches of Asia Minor and ultimately to us.
Message: “The Jesus Christ God Wants You to Know!” Message Text: Revelation 1:1-20
In the Greek the first three words are: “Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ”. Transliterated it is “apocalypse Jesus Christ,” and in our English translations we read—“The revelation of Jesus Christ.” These three words tell us everything we need to know as to how we are to approach this last book of the Bible, and through these three words we discover God’s intended message to us as he outlines the final chapter of Earth’s history and the transition to eternity.
The meaning of the word apocalypse in the Greek is to reveal, to uncover, unfold, disclose, to bring to light. Our English Bibles without exception capture the meaning very literally in verse one: “The revelation of Jesus Christ.”
No other book in the NT begins by stating God’s clear intention as Revelation does. I reviewed the first few verses of every NT book, and the only introduction that even comes close to the brevity and clarity of Revelation is Luke’s stated purpose to Theophilus in Luke 1.
The intended purpose of God in Revelation is to reveal Jesus Christ. And we will see that it is in fact Christ revealing himself to us as we make our way through the promises, the prophecies, the warnings and the judgments of the book. We are directed to view everything in the book of Revelation through these words—“The revelation of Jesus Christ.”
As we study Revelation, we must understand that our approach is everything. For example, many people have tried over the years to predict when Jesus Christ is coming. In the mid-1980’s one man put together a pamphlet he called: “87 Reasons Christ Is Coming in 1987.” And when Christ didn’t come in ‘87, he wrote … yes he did: “88 Reasons Christ Is Coming in 1988.” True story. We were in Wyoming at the time. He caused quite a stir. His misdirection twisted his study, if you could even call it study.
We have prophecy wackos everywhere—TV, radio, books, magazines, internet. And they have a tremendous following. However, the big question is not WHEN Christ is coming, but will we be READY when he does come.
And many over the years have spent their time and energy trying to identify the anti-christ. These people override God’s purpose with their own agenda, and the results are a foolish mixture of the weird and the heretical.
The revelation of Jesus Christ. This is so relevant to our times, as it has been outstandingly relevant for every generation of humans who have ever walked the planet.
We do not need to know who the anti-christ is, but we do need to know who the Christ is. I will repeat that. We do not need to know who the anti-christ is, but we do need to know who the Christ is.
Not the palatable Christ of your imagination or the compromised Christ of your pragmatic, sensible religion or the Christ for whom you have somehow generously found the time to carve out a small niche in your crowded, busy life. Not the Christ that keeps you in good standing in the community. Not the man upstairs. Not the abridged, edited version of some liberal theologian or college professor. And certainly not the image represented by some picture on the wall.
We need to know the revealed Christ, the One who is coming with the clouds, the Christ of glory, the Lamb who was slain and who will one day peal the seals away from the scroll of God’s terrible judgments and wrath.
No one other Christ will do. Revelation is all about revelation. The revealing of Jesus Christ, glorified and coming again.
Message: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ!”
Message Text: Revelation 1:1-3
(Revelation 1:1 ESV) The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.
The first three words in the Greek NT: Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Transliterated: Apocalypse Jesus Christ.
Our English Bibles: The revelation of Jesus Christ.
Imagine that. The book of Revelation is a book of revealing, not concealing. We need to see everything through this lens: The revealing of the glorified Christ.
We are given the central idea–the revealing of Jesus Christ, and a stated purpose–make this revelation known to his servants in the first three verses.
Also … amazing comparison and contrast as we look at Jesus, born as an infant boy, coming into this world the first time via a manger and a human birth, hidden from the eyes of the world … TO HIS ENCORE PERFORMANCE as he enters with the clouds where every eye will see him.
And I am just getting started.
Compare the lamb of Isaiah …
(Isaiah 53:7 ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
… with the revealed Lamb of glory in Revelation …
(Revelation 6:15–17 ESV) Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
When asked about the upcoming presidential election in a recent Q&A session, John MacArthur stated, rather matter of factly:
“What happens in America, politically, has absolutely nothing to do with the kingdom of God.”
Now, if you’re used to John’s teaching and ministry, the direct and absolute nature of the statement probably comes as no surprise to you. Still, you may be asking yourself, can that be true? How could the leader of the most powerful nation on earth—the commander and chief of the globe’s largest military—have nothing to do with God’s kingdom? Could it be true that such a powerful, wealthy nation has nothing to do with God’s global agenda? Is that really what John meant?
Well, to answer simply, yes!
John elaborated: “It has nothing to do with the kingdom of God, because the kingdom of God is built one soul at a time, as a sinner puts his trust in Christ.”
Political Systems Provide False Hope
John’s comments highlight one commonality that’s present in all political systems: They simply cannot meet man’s greatest need. The only true hope for humanity is not found in a political leader or system of government. Man’s only hope is to have the Lord of the universe save him, transferring him from the domain of darkness into His glorious kingdom.
In contrast to God’s kingdom, earthly political systems sell a utopia that’s simply impossible in a fallen world. Libertarians seek a paradise where all people live in harmonious freedom and act in their own self-interest. Socialists promise a perfect world where everyone is equal in status and wealth, assuring peace and happiness. Progressives work toward an evolutionary ideal where the future is always better than the past, and conservatives promise to return to the glory of the “good old days.”
The trouble with those—and every other political variation that could be mentioned—is that they all fail to account for the fact that we live in a fallen world filled with a depraved humanity. Sin renders those promised utopias unattainable. There is no lasting hope for mankind in any earthly kingdom, no matter how it’s constructed. The only hope is found in God’s kingdom.
MacArthur sums it up well in his book Why Government Can’t Save You:
We can’t protect or expand the cause of Christ by human, political, and social activism, no matter how great or sincere our efforts. Ours is a spiritual battle against worldly ideologies and dogmas that are arrayed against God, and we achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. . . . We can do that partly by desiring the improvement of society’s moral standards and partly by approving measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, unchastity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is controlling society. But in all our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God’s methods and maintain scriptural priorities.  John MacArthur, Why Government Can’t Save You (Nashville: Word, 2000), 12-13.
It’s possible to use the rights and opportunities that this world gives us to make a positive impact and promote righteousness. But we can’t allow the moral “progress” of society to be our ultimate goal. We must be focused on God’s kingdom work and be careful not to misplace our hope in the political institutions of this fallen world. They offer only hopelessness.
God’s Kingdom Offers True Hope
There is good news, however. The utter hopelessness of human politics is a sobering reality—one that ought to make us long for the glory of heaven. A day is coming when God will set all things right—a day when the depravity of this world will be done away with, when creation will see the glory for which it now groans (Romans 8:22). As MacArthur describes in The Glory of Heaven:
The new heavens and new earth are seen blending together in a great kingdom that incorporates both realms. The paradise of eternity is thus revealed as a magnificent kingdom where both heaven and earth unite in a glory that surpasses the limits of human imagination and the boundaries of earthly dimensions. . . . It is a real place where people with physical bodies will dwell in God’s presence for all eternity; and it is also a realm that surpasses our finite concept of what a “place” is.  John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 77-78.
Oh what joy should fill the heart of every believer when we consider the future glories of heaven that await us— especially when we see that hope in contrast with the hopelessness that worldly systems have to offer. We will one day dwell bodily with God—the only righteous King. We will one day be part of His perfect kingdom, with no more boundary lines, no more wars, no more political strife. We will one day worship and fellowship with our Creator in the perfection of the new heavens and new earth. Still, our heavenly hope is not limited to future benefits. Our citizenship in the kingdom of God will not only be realized in that glorious day still to come. As John MacArthur explains, there are aspects to be enjoyed here and now.
There’s another important sense in which heaven transcends normal time-space dimensions. According to Scripture, in a very real sense the kingdom of God—incorporating all the elements of heaven itself—is the spiritual sphere in which all true Christians live even now. The kingdom of heaven invades and begins to govern the life of every believer in Christ. Spiritually, the Christian enters into heaven with full rights of citizenship here and now, in this life.  The Glory of Heaven, 78.
If we misplace our hope in the government systems of this world, we risk missing the incredible blessings of our current spiritual reality. Our citizenship is not determined by where we reside. It is determined by who reigns as Lord and Master of our life. In Christ—and in Christ alone—there is hope, not only for the future, but for our daily lives.
As has been the case in every election cycle before (and will likely be the case in every one to come), over the coming weeks you’re likely to hear grand promises from politicians of all stripes. Many people will be led astray by the lofty rhetoric and utopian promises. This ought not be the case, however, for believers. We must not put our hope in the promise of politicians or political systems.
We must fix our eyes on Christ, fix our hope on his eternal promises, enjoy the heavenly benefits we get to experience here and now, and look forward with great expectation to the indescribable glory of heaven.