Now, you know, we have been involved in a series entitled A Bible Survey and what we've been doing is going through the books of the Bible and we've been looking at each of them and talking about who wrote them and what they're about and then a so what from each one of them. And when we got to the New Testament, we decided to slow down a little bit and take each of the New Testament letters one at a time or two at a time because they really form the nucleus of our faith. Well, we're all the way done until the very end and today we want to talk about the final book in the Bible, the book of Revelation. So are you ready?
All right, good. Let's talk about a few basic facts first about the book of Revelation. Revelation chapter 1 verse 9 says, I, John, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Now, as soon as we say the word John, we're immediately confronted with one of the most well-known people in all the Bible.
So let's take a minute, if we can, and just review his life. John was a fisherman who lived on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. He was also the youngest of the 12 disciples that the Lord Jesus called. And John was also a part of the three inner circle disciples. We're talking about Peter, John's brother, James, and John himself, people who went certain places with Jesus that the rest of the disciples didn't get to go. What you might not know is that John's mother, Salome, was actually Mary's sister. That is Mary, the mother of Jesus, her sister, which made Jesus and John cousins. And this may explain why of all the disciples that from the cross, Jesus asked John to take care of his mother because they were related.
They were blood. Now, Church Father Irenaeus tells us that after the resurrection and the ascension of the Lord Jesus back into heaven, John lived in Jerusalem for a while. And then he took Mary, the mother of Jesus, and he and Mary moved to Ephesus around 55 AD. Irenaeus also tells us that John became sort of the bishop, if you will, of the church in Ephesus and the churches around the city of Ephesus.
And in 94 AD, as part of a widespread persecution of the church throughout the Roman Empire, Emperor Domitian exiled John for two years to the island of Patmos. There's a cave there where John lived for his two years on the island and over the entrance of the cave. You can see the mosaic where John is dictating to Prochorus, his scribe, and his scribe is writing down the book of the Revelation. And then you see a picture of the cave itself on the bottom.
So this is where John spent two years. And the Bible says Revelation Chapter 1, verse 10, I was in the spirit on the Lord's Day Sunday, and I heard a loud voice like a trumpet, which said, write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches. This voice, of course, was coming from the risen Christ. And the seven churches are commonly referred to as the seven churches of the Revelation. They existed in a semi circle around the city of Ephesus. And they're the cities of Pergamum and Thyatira and Sardis and Laodicea and Smyrna. And all those letters are in Revelation Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.
Finally, when Domitian died in 96 AD, John was allowed to return to Ephesus, where around 100 AD, John died at the age of 95. So let's summarize. Who wrote the book of Revelation? John. Right. Where did he write the book of Revelation? On the island of Patmos. Yeah. When did he write it?
Sometime around 95 AD. And why did he write it? Well, to tell us about Revelation 1 19, the things that will take place later, meaning in the future. Now, when it comes to interpreting the book of Revelation, there are about four major approaches as to how to interpret this book. And I want to tell you about them because you will run into people who are using one of these various approaches.
And I want you to know what they are. Number one, approach number one, we call the Preterist or the bygone approach because the word Preterist come from a Greek word that means bygone or over because this approach says that everything in the book of Revelation is over. It's all bygone. It all simply dealt with the historical events of John's time, the conflict between the Jews and the Roman Empire.
And it's completely fulfilled. Not many people hold to that, but I just thought I'd mention it to you. Number two is that the book is allegorical, meaning that the entire book is symbolic only, that the good people in the book are Christians and Christianity and the bad people in the book are the Roman Empire and pagans. The third approach is the approach that we call continuously historical.
Listen to what this means. It means that the 1000 year millennium started at the resurrection of Jesus and has been continuously unfolding historically over the last now 2000 years. You say, but wait a minute, the Bible says it's 1000 years.
Yeah, well, according to this approach, that was just symbolic. It doesn't really mean a literal 1000 years and that all the events of church history are being told to us in the book of the Revelation. This was a common view of the reformers where the reformers saw themselves as rescuing Christianity and where they blame the Catholic Church and the papacy and call them the antichrist. And it's the common view of covenant theology, reform theology and five point Calvinism. So you may run into people who believe this view.
Now, look here. The one thing all three of these first approaches have in common is that all three of them deny that the Lord Jesus Christ is returning to this earth at the end of the age, bodily, visibly, literally and actually to set up a 1000 year millennial kingdom and rule over that kingdom here on this earth. The problem with that is what the angel said to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, the day of Jesus ascended back into heaven.
The angel said, Acts one eleven men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come back. Say the next four words with me in the same way as you have seen him go into heaven. Friends, how did Jesus go into heaven? He went into heaven bodily, visibly, literally and actually.
And the angel says this is precisely how he's going to come back bodily, visibly, literally and actually. And that leads us to approach number four. And finally, which is the literal approach. This approach says that the entire book of Revelation is literal, that it says what it means and it means what it says, that the first three chapters are written to the seven churches surrounding Ephesus, just like the Bible says. And then in beginning in Chapter four, we launch into future events. Chapter four, verse one. After this, I, John, looked and before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice I had heard, the voice of the risen Lord, said, Come up here and I will show you what must take place.
What's the next word? Hereafter, meaning in the future. We're not talking about the seven churches anymore.
Now we're talking about down the corridors of time. And here at McLean Bible Church, we take approach number four. We believe that the antichrist and the tribulation period are literal. We believe the return of Jesus to the earth in Revelation 19 is literal. We believe that the one thousand year millennial kingdom in Revelation Chapter 20 is literal. We believe the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation Chapter 21 is literal. Now, we don't understand every event at the Book of Revelation is saying is literally coming to be.
In fact, this is why in thirty four years I've never preached a series on the Book of Revelation here at this church, because I don't understand the Book of Revelation. I don't know what the vials are. I don't know what the trumpets are. I don't know what the seals are. I don't know what the horsemen are. So why in the world should I stand up here and pretend like I do know what they are? By the way, nobody else knows what they are either. I don't care what they tell you.
Nobody knows what all of that is. But whatever it is, we believe it's literally going to happen just the way the Bible says it's going to happen. I remember a great story that Chuck Swindoll told about when he was in seminary down at Dallas Theological Seminary. And he said that he and a bunch of seminary students used to go play basketball one night a week at a local high school gym.
And they would go in. And of course, there had to be a custodian there, you know, while they were in the building. And the custodian would always sit on a chair outside the gym with his Bible on his lap open reading the Bible.
And he was so intense in his reading of the Bible that he caught the attention of the seminary students. Finally, after a few weeks, Chuck's curiosity caught up with him. And as they were leaving after they finished playing, Chuck went over to him and said, What are you reading?
And the gentleman said, the custodian said, Well, I'm reading the Book of Revelation. And Chuck said, Really? He said, Do you understand what you're reading? And the man said, Oh, yeah. Well, this caught Chuck a little by surprise because he had seminary professors with doctorates who confessed they didn't understand what the Book of Revelation was all about.
So Chuck asked him, he said, Well, can you explain to me the meaning? And the gentleman said, Of course, he said, it means that in the end, Jesus wins. Hey, how can you get a better explanation of the Book of Revelation than that? Friends, if I were to preach a sermon to you on the Book of Revelation, it would only have about five words in it in the end, Jesus wins, that I know from the Book of Revelation. And that's the best I can tell you once we get to chapter four going forward.
But how what great news, huh? In the end, Jesus wins. Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord. Now, let me just say, if you're here, and you've never trusted Jesus as your real and personal Savior, this is really important information for you to know. Because what this means is that every other religion in our world is a false religion, that every other religious leader in our world is a false prophet, and that only the Lord Jesus Christ is the right way to God, the true Son of God, and the true way to heaven. And that means if you want to be on the winning side, when all the dust clears in eternity, you have got to be on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ. No other side is still surviving at the end of the Book of Revelation but Him. And if you haven't given your life to Christ, folks, I urge you, I urge you to give up all of those false religions and all of those false prophets and even trusting in your own human effort and get on if we could use the term the winning side by following Jesus Christ with all of your heart and all of your life.
Nothing to think about. Well, that's the end of our talk about Revelation, but we have a very important question we need to ask now, and you know what this is. So all of you guys at Loudon and all you guys at PW, everybody at Tysons and on our internet campus and here at Bethesda, are we ready? All right, now this has to be really good today.
I don't know why, but it does. Okay, so are you ready? Here we go. One, two, three. Oh, beautiful. You know, over the last, I'd say six months to a year, the Lord has really been dealing with my life using four verses out of the Book of Revelation. And they come out of chapter two, out of His letter, Jesus's letter to the Church of Ephesus, and I'd like to read them to you.
Here's what they say. Chapter two, verse two. Jesus said, I know your deeds and your labor and your perseverance, verse three, and that you have labored for my name's sake and have not grown weary. Jesus says to the Church of Ephesus, hey, you guys have been a good church. You've been a faithful church.
You've been a hard working church. I know that. Nevertheless, I have this against you, Jesus said. You have left your first love. Now, who's their first love that they left? Well, the Lord Jesus Himself.
Yeah. Verse five. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen and repent and do the things you did at first, when you were first saved, when you first came to Christ, when you were brand new in the faith, when the wonder of the cross dominated your heart and when the service of the cross was your highest aspiration in life. And as I said earlier, the Lord has really been taking me to the woodshed on these verses, because I remember in my early Christian life when I first came to Christ, I remember what it was like to have this kind of love for Jesus. I mean, I was passionate for the Lord. I was on fire for the Lord. I was so in love with the Lord that I told everybody about the Lord, even though I couldn't answer one theological question.
If they'd ask me one question, I didn't know anything. I was a few days old in the Lord. But but when the wonder of the cross and and and my sinfulness and God's love all hit me, suddenly there was a love for Christ in my life that said, I don't care whether I can answer a question or not. I'm telling people about Jesus anyway. There was a time in my life when I was totally in love with Jesus.
There were no rivals whatsoever in my heart for him and his rule in my life. And my conscience, a time in my life when my conscience was so acutely sensitive to sin that the accounts I kept with the Lord were like instantaneous and short. Folks, I started my Christian life hot, but then I got busy. I got distracted.
I got lost focus and other things. I mean, good things even began to occupy a place in my heart that only Jesus belong, that these these things didn't belong in this place. And a slow erosion began to take place in my heart. I mean, I didn't go apostate. I didn't deny the faith. I didn't forsake the Lord. But that inner fire, that all out consuming love for Jesus cooled down in my life. And, you know, the really sad thing, the really sad thing is that I got so used to being lukewarm that I stopped even noticing it.
It became the new normal in my life. Now, I'm wondering, you don't have to raise your hand or say anything, but I'm wondering if any of you guys can relate to what I'm saying here. I mean, can you remember a time in your life where you would just so you burn so hot for the Lord that people around you actually could could feel it? And people around you got lit up just because they were around you.
You remember those days in your life maybe? Well, my point is that as a church family, we are really serious about reaching Washington for Jesus. And we are really serious about seeing God strike this city with a movement of the Holy Spirit, such as I've never seen in my life, such as maybe you've never seen in your life. We're serious about seeing our entire church family at every campus ignite and burn really hot for the Lord Jesus Christ so that people can walk in the lobby and walk even drive in the parking lot. And the presence and the power and the movement of the Holy Spirit is so palpable that they can feel it.
They don't know what they're feeling, but they know they're feeling something that they don't feel when they go to work in the morning. But friends, none of this can happen unless it happens first inside of us. And so you say, well, Lon, if I can relate to what you're saying about burning hot once and not anymore is hot, well, what should I do? Well, friends, what does Jesus say to do? He says, repent. He said, repent.
Make a U-turn. Take an honest evaluation of where you stand spiritually. And if this is true in your heart, then, friend, be willing to admit that Band-Aid treatment is not what you need.
It's not what I need. We need radical surgery by the Holy Spirit to get us back to where we once were and to be courageous enough to get on our knees and ask God to do that in our life. Folks, I got to tell you, this is what God's been doing with me.
And it's been hard and it hasn't been fun, but it's been really, really good in my life. I started my Christian life hot and I've been asking the Lord now in His mercy to let me end my Christian life hot. I feel badly that there were years in between where I didn't burn hot, but I can't change those.
I can change going forward, though, and get hot again. So hot that the heat I'm putting off for Jesus and my love for Jesus, that the Spirit of God is creating inside of me, ignites people around me, and the fire in me ignites a fire in them. And, folks, this is my prayer for you as members of our church family, that God would so reignite you that the heat inside of you begins to heat up people around you, your children, your friends, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your coworker.
Just being around you, they begin to heat up for the Lord because of the heat that you're putting off. And this is what I'm praying for our church family and for other Christ-centered churches here in Washington, that spiritual revival will strike us and spiritual revival will strike them and spread to all of this city. This is my prayer.
Now, we're going to do some things to help with this. You know, revival burns on basically two logs. The log of repentance, number one, and repentance is something that we don't talk about much in the Church of Christ today, and it's something we don't do much of, and it's something we don't call people much to do, but we're going to do that because you can't have revival without repentance, friends, can't be.
And so this summer, we've put together a special series. We're going to tie the summer together, a series entitled Recapturing Our First Love, and we're going to talk about, first of all, what repentance is, how you do it, and then about some areas in life where all of us need to take a hard look at our life and say, Lord, do I need to repent there? Do I need to repent here? And the other log that revival burns on is the log of prayer, and God has really convicted me, just speaking of myself now, of my own prayerlessness over the last years, not completely but badly. And so I've gotten a prayer partner who meets me at my house, 930, every morning, and we pray for a half hour.
I did this because it was a great accountability tool. Whether I feel like sleeping in or not, whether I feel like an extra cup of coffee or not, whether I want to do email or not, 930, the doorbell's going to ring and somebody's coming over and we're going to get on our knees and pray together. And I urge you, if you have a problem with this, get a prayer partner like that that's going to hold you accountable and you're going to hold them accountable. But even if your prayer life is great, friends, as a church family, our prayer life isn't. We really need an upswing in the prayer life of this church, and I take the responsibility for that. It's my fault that we're a prayerless church as badly as we are, but we're going to take steps to fix that, friends. Yesterday before I went in to preach at 530, I'd ask a small group of men to meet me early over at the Tysons campus and get on our knees together and pray for this weekend.
And this is what we're going to do at all of our campuses. We're going to begin gathering before services, between services, whatever works at each campus, you with your campus pastor or me with me if I'm here that weekend. And we're going to get on our knees together and we're going to pray for this church and we're going to pray for the services coming up. And we're going to pray for the needs of this church family and for revival in Washington, D.C. And with my staff, we've taken an hour out of our daily schedule every Thursday and I've said, hey, all of you who want, it's not compulsory, but if you want, I'm going to be in the room on my knees in prayer, you come join me. And we're going to fast a day a month for the people of our church and our elders, the same thing, that we are praying. It used to be we'd go in, have a perfunctory word of prayer, launch into business, no more. No, we're going to spend half an hour or more on our knees and we've already got days of fasting set up. So I was at the gym the other day and they had this thing come on the TV.
You know the TVs at the gym. And it was it was started by saying, I aspire. And then they had one person say, I aspire to swim in the Olympics and I aspire to be a triathlete and I aspire and I aspire. And I was watching that and I was thinking, OK, Lord, so if I am able to go 10 more years here, 15 more years here, whatever you give me at the end of my ministry here, what do I aspire that would be true of McLean Bible Church? More than anything else, one single thing that would be true of our church family. And, you know, I had to take some time to think about that.
And I finally decided I know the answer. Friends, I aspire that at the end of my time at McLean Bible Church, that we would be a church where everybody in this church would be more in love with Jesus than they've ever been in their life. Because, you know what? Everything else will work out if we're in love with Jesus. Sharing our faith will work out if we're in love with Jesus. Living a pure life will work out if we're in love with Jesus. Helping one another and serving one another will work out if we're in love with Jesus. It all comes from having Jesus as our first love.
That's what I aspire to. And that's what I'm going to spend the rest of my ministry here trying to work in partnership with you and the Holy Spirit to achieve. So let me just say in closing, last night behind stage before I went out to speak, I was praying and I said, well, Lord, here we go. If I go out here and say this this weekend, Lord, you and I, we've crossed the Rubicon here, Lord.
There's no going back from this. So I told the Lord, I said, Lord, actually, I'm a little scared to go out here and say this because I'm not really sure that I'm man enough to lead this church through what I'm talking about. I'm not sure I'm a man of God enough to lead this church through where I'm going to talk about. And so, Lord, you know, I'm really nervous about getting partway into this and then my own carnality just causing me to backslide and making a complete mess out of this whole thing.
And it's really interesting. The Lord, I felt saying to me, hey, Lon, let me tell you what I told Moses when he wasn't sure he could do it. And let me tell you what I told Joshua when he wasn't sure he could do it. And let me tell you what I told Jeremiah when he wasn't sure he can do it. Lord said, I told every one of them, do not fear for I am with you.
And I said, OK, fair enough. I'll take that and we'll run at it. So let me just say in closing, I really covet your prayers for me. This is an awesome undertaking for all of us.
And I do have doubts. I'm so sinful and I backside so easily that I do have doubts about my ability to really be the kind of leader I need to be and lead us through this. But you pray for me, please. And just pray that I can be that kind of leader and that God will keep me burning hot for the Lord so that we can all burn hot for the Lord.
I would really appreciate that. And I'm excited about the days ahead for McLean Bible Church. I think we're a sleeping giant friends and that we need the Holy Spirit to wake us up and empower us to go into this city and do what God's called us to do. And that's what we're going to trust God to do.
Let's pray together. Lord Jesus, we are humbled before you today by the wonder of the cross that you would take people like us, that you would even want people like us and that you would give your life for us. God help us never lose the wonder of the cross because the wonder of the cross is what lies at the heart of our love for Jesus.
We love you because you first loved us. And when we lose sight of how much you first loved us, Lord, it affects our love for you. So restore to us the wonder of the cross and bring us to the place, Father, over these next weeks and months where one by one the people of our church family will start to ignite for Christ. Help me be the man of God I need to be to lead us. And Lord, break out in a mighty way here in our church family and set people on fire for Christ like they once were. May it be so palpable that people feel it when they're around us. Only you can do this, Lord, but we can prepare the ground with repentance and prayer.
So help us do our part and then we'll trust you to do your part. Lord, make us a mighty church for Christ, not for our glory, but for your glory. And we ask these things in Jesus' name. And God's people said... Amen. Amen. Amen.
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