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Revelation Revisited Series

Revelation Revisited psot 57

The Book and the Books

Revelation 20

The book of Revelation starts with a depiction of God the Father, sitting on His throne with a book (scroll) in His hands, and it ends with Him opening a set of books.

We are drawing very near to the end of the Revelation Revisited series and so before I explain the significance of the books of Revelation 20:12, I once again need to present a glimpse of the big picture. Actually, the part of Revelation we are currently looking at, Chapter 20, provides an excellent basis for doing just that.

Revelation Revisited in Article ImageJohn provides a graphic portrayal of a mighty angel seizing Satan and binding him for 1,000 years. The thousand years stands as a symbol for the long period of time between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The devil was effectively bound when Jesus died and rose again from the grave. From that moment onward Satan’s authority was stripped from him and he lost the right to control the lives of all who follow Jesus and are born again of His spirit.

‘You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; he cancelled the unfavourable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.’ TEV. (Colossians 2:13-15)
Revelation 20:4-6 presents those who become disciples of the Lord Jesus, die and go to be with Him in heaven where they reign with Him. As part of what he called ‘a trustworthy saying’, Paul wrote that ‘If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…’ (2 Timothy 2:11-12). Revelation 20:5 describes this as ‘the first resurrection’. I have written about this in a previous post  but essentially the allusion is to the fact that when a believer dies physically ‘in Christ’ then he or she is then and there resurrected to spiritual life with Jesus in heaven. When Christ returns these believers will accompany Him and receive, along with all other people, transformed physical bodies (the second resurrection).
Shortly before Jesus returns to judge and reward, the devil is ‘set free for a short time’. He will deceive the world into thinking that he is The Christ and will mobilise against the true church of the Lord Jesus.
This is the period of great tribulation and great revival the book of Revelation points us to in passages such as 7:14 and 11:1-14.

When Jesus comes again it is to reward His disciples and to judge all others. This event is portrayed in Revelation as the opening of books, and another book which Revelation 20:12 describes as ‘the book of life’. God will judge all people, saved and unsaved alike, by what is in the record of our lives. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10, ‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad’.

Here is how I imagine it will be. You will stand before the great throne of God and He will open the record of your life. As He does so, you will see, in vivid holographic reality, everything you have ever done, spoken or even thought.

As you review your life in the awesome presence of Almighty God you will realise with clarity that there is nothing in the records that merit your acceptance by Him and your continuing existence with Him. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is so hard for us to own now, but we will see it so clearly then. But then The Lord will open another record, the Book of Life, and search for your name. This ‘book’ is written in blood, the blood of the Saviour, and if your name is inscribed in it then, despite your lack of earned merit, you will be deemed acceptable to God and worthy of eternal life. The entry in the book is made when you repent of self-serving rebellion against God, confess this to Him, cry out to Him for mercy, acknowledge that in Jesus Christ alone can you have eternal life, and then receive the rebirth of your spirit as a gift of grace received by faith.

This is the eternal Gospel, the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus.
 

 

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Watching destruction

End-time harvests

End Time Harvest in Revelation Revisited

The church of the Lord Jesus Christ stands before the beasts of Humanism and Religion and proclaims the Eternal Gospel. This is vividly presented in Revelation Chapter 13 and the first 13 verses of Chapter 14, but then the scene shifts to two dramatic end-time events, the gathering in of the church and the judgement of the godless. The visionary picture John uses to present these events is that of harvest, the gathering in of the wheat and the crushing of the grapes.

There were two major harvest times in ancient Israel; the grain harvest in April/May and the grape harvest in September/October. Passover was linked to the wheat harvest and the Feast of Tabernacles to the grape harvest. The two harvests of Revelation 14:14-20 draw on this familiar imagery.

John sees a vision of ‘one like a son of man’ harvesting the wheat. He has already applied this ascription to the Lord Jesus and the description he gives in Revelation 1:13 is very similar to Daniels description of ‘The Ancient of Days’ (Daniel 7:9-10). There is little doubt in my mind that Jesus himself, and not an angel, is in view here in the wheat harvest scene of Revelation 14.

This wheat harvest symbolises the gathering in of all followers of Jesus who are physically alive when He returns in glory. Matthew 13:24-29 records Jesus’ parable of the wheat harvest as representing the church and we can make a connection here to the harvest of Revelation 14.

The message conveyed by the grape harvest in this passage of Revelation is equally clear, but a lot more graphic. An angel swings his sickle on the earth and the grapes are gathered and thrown into ‘the great winepress of God’s wrath’. Once again, it is clear that the harvest depicted here is of people and not produce because it states that ‘they were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia’ (Revelation 14:20). The primary source of this imagery is Joel 3:12-14, and I am reproducing it in full here because it is worth reading in the context of Revelation 14.

‘Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow — so great is their wickedness!’

There is a small detail in Revelation’s description of the grape harvest that we need to note; the ‘trampling’ takes place outside the city. In Old Testament times Jerusalem was the ‘city of God’, the place of His temple which represented his presence in the midst of His people. The crushing of the ‘grapes of wrath’ references those who are not within the ‘city of God’. It is a judgment scene, a depiction of great punishment. We, as followers of Jesus Christ are often corrected and sometimes chastised, but we are not the objects of God’s wrath and judgement. The wheat is gathered and brought into God’s storehouse but the grapes are crushed outside of God’s storehouse. This is an important distinction to make as we come to the end of Part Four of Revelation because the next two chapters are all about the plague bowls of God’s wrath and we need to understand that believers are not in view here.

I want to return to Jesus’ parable of the wheat harvest that I cited earlier because it contains two vital lessons for us. It reads as follows:

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Lesson 1

The first lesson to draw from this is that the church of our day contains both wheat and weeds, saved and unsaved, true disciples of Jesus but also those who are mere professors of His lordship. Just being a church member does not make one ‘wheat’, and nor does church attendance or adherence to rites and rituals. What makes the difference between ‘wheat’ and ‘weeds’ is the regenerating action of the Holy Spirit when He gives new birth into Christ. When we are ‘born again’ of the Spirit (John 3:1-11) then we are incorporated into the body of Christ and become His followers, His disciples, His family.

Lesson 2

The second lesson is that it is not for us to attempt to judge who within the church are ‘wheat’ and who are ‘weeds’, let alone attempting to root out those we consider weeds. We do not know the hearts of others (half the time we don’t even understand our own hearts) and if we attempt to do what Jesus has expressly prohibited, then we will damage the church. We will become critical and legalistic and will undoubtedly censure many people who are true believers passing through difficult spiritual times.

 

Perhaps you have heard the story of the man who died and went to heaven. When he arrived there he was greatly surprised to see so many people whose deaths had preceded his whom he didn’t expect to see in heaven. But what shocked him the most was the looks of utter surprise that appeared on their faces when they caught sight of him.

 

In my next post, I hope to introduce the 5th section of the Book of Revelation… why don’t you read chapters 15 to 18 in preparation keeping in mind that if you know Jesus as Saviour and Lord then you are not a subject of the Bowls of Wrath described in these chapters!

 

 

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.