Revive Our Hearts Podcast

See Nancy quote Revelation chapter one on the Isle of Patmos, above.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss describes how the book of Revelation ended up in our Bibles.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God gave it to Christ to give to His angel to give to John to give to us. It’s an eyewitness account. John saw these things. He heard these things. I think that’s part of what makes it so compelling to us today.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, September 8.

There are few books of the Bible that generate as much heat as Revelation. It’s been a source of controversy, debate, novels, and movies. Well, Nancy is going to show you how the book can be a source of practical encouragement for your life today.

She’s beginning a series called A Vision of the Glorified Christ.

Nancy: I have a friend who, for years, has been reading through the Bible to her children. In fact, they’re on their second time through the Bible. She has John MacArthur’s one-volume commentary, and at the beginning of each new book of the Bible, she’ll read to the children the introduction from that commentary to give a little bit of the background of the book.

They came to the book of Revelation on their first time through. In his introductory comments, John MacArthur says that Revelation is the greatest book ever written. One morning, Carrie was telling me after they were a few chapters into reading the book of Revelation, their five-year-old son, Benjamin, said, “If this is the best book ever written, well, I just don’t know.”

He was a little skeptical as they got into some of the complexities of the book of Revelation. And perhaps you’ve had that feeling at times: “This is the best book in the Bible? I don’t know about that.”

I’ve shared before on this program that at the beginning of 2008, as I was getting ready to turn 50, I felt led to embark on a study of the book of Revelation. Since then, I have spent months immersed in this book, living in it, studying it, meditating on it, memorizing it.

It’s been a great, great joy. I’m not through with that study yet. I’m still working my way through, and I don’t know how long that will be. But it’s given me a whole new perspective on so many things about life—my own life, situations that my friends are going through, and the times in which we live.

So many aspects of life the book of Revelation has helped me to see more from God’s point of view. I’ve been uplifted; I’ve been encouraged and blessed; I’ve been challenged; I’ve been sobered.

There are some sobering things in the book of Revelation, and people tend to have one of two extremes in their approach to the book of Revelation. Either they ignore it and skip over it, as some are prone to do—and I probably would have been in this first category during the earlier years of my Christian life—saying, “This just doesn’t make sense to me. Let somebody else study this.”

For others, and especially at certain times in the history of the church, people become obsessed with the book of Revelation, trying to figure it all out, develop precise sequences and chronologies and timetables for all of these future events—the Rapture of the church, the Tribulation, the Millennium.

There are whole books written on when these things will happen and what they will look like. I’ll just tell you up front that I may be the first person to study through the book of Revelation and to attempt to teach it who will come to the end with you still not knowing whether I am pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib—because I don’t know.

I’m not going to speculate on something that people wiser and smarter than I have not been able to figure out in years and years. I have opinions on those things, and you probably do too.

But there is so much we can be sure of as we look into the book of Revelation. One of the things we can be sure of is the fact that there are some mega-themes. There are some big, overarching themes that we need to be aware of as we live here in the 21st century.

The book of Genesis, as of course you know, is the first book of the Bible. In the beginning, if you start at the beginning of the Bible, you find the creation of the world, the creation of man, the fall of man, all of the first things. It’s the beginning of things. Well, Revelation is the end of the story. Genesis is the beginning, and Revelation tells us how it’s all going to end.

The purpose of Revelation is not so that we can live with our heads in the clouds or have some sort of escape from the pressures and problems of here and now. The purpose is for us to know how to live in between Genesis and Revelation—how to prepare for what’s coming. That’s why God gave us this book.

In this book of Revelation, we see a cosmic battle between Satan and Christ. And we learn that the outcome is sure. It’s a fierce battle. At times, as Satan fights against the followers of Christ, he is even given permission to win victories over believers for a short period of time.

For a period of time, it looks like he’s winning. But we know the outcome. In the end, there’s the overthrow of Satan and all his followers, and Christ will rule and reign forever and ever.

That gives us hope. That gives us encouragement. That gives us perseverance in the here and now.

Then, as we think about mega-themes in the book of Revelation, there’s the very sobering theme of the ultimate eternal judgment of those who are unrepentant. This should be a scary book to people who are not willing to bow the knee and acknowledge Christ as Lord. It should also encourage us as believers to be getting the gospel out, to be appealing to people to repent and believe the gospel, because we know that in the end, those who do not believe will be under God’s eternal wrath and judgment.

There’s a theme not only of the judgment of the wicked, but also of the eternal reward and blessing of believers. We may suffer now—we do suffer now; we will suffer in this life—but we know that for those who have put their faith in Christ, who have bowed the knee, who have waved the white flag of surrender, there is eternal joy and bliss.

The day is coming when there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more death, no more dieting, no more whatever! These things that are part of life in this fallen world—they’re all over. They’re all done.

We have this to look forward to. That’s what can get us up in the morning, in hard days, in hard times. We press on because we know there is that eternal day coming in the presence of the Lord.

Over the next couple of weeks, I want us to walk through the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. I want to encourage you to be reading these chapters for yourself because God wants to speak to you through His Word. So take the chapters and read them again and again and again. Meditate on them, and perhaps memorize portions as I have been doing.

The first chapter, which we’ll concentrate on for the next several days, is an introduction to the book. It gives us the setting of the book. It gives us what may be the most spectacular vision in all of Scripture of the glory of Christ—the resurrected, ascended Christ.

You’ll see Him in a way that is just magnificent. We’re going to look at that vision.

Then in chapters two and three, we’ll come to the letters that were written by Christ, or sent by Christ, to the seven churches in Asia Minor.

So let me encourage you to open your Bible to the book of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 1. The first three verses are sort of a prologue, and we begin in verse one: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.”

The first word in the Greek text, revelation, is the word from which we get our word apocalypse. Now, Revelation is intimidating to a lot of Christians.

One woman heard I was recording this series on the book of Revelation this week, and she said to a friend, “Oh. I don’t know if I’m really interested in that.” She had a response like, “I’m not sure I want to get into that.”

Revelation can be very hard to understand. There are parts that are very confusing, complex. Some of it seems extremely strange. You have imagery of lions and lambs, demons and angels, seals and trumpets and bowls. A lot of those spark a lot of debate.

But the word translated revelation or apocalypse actually means “to uncover.” It means to show something, to make it known. That helps us understand that God is not trying to conceal things from us. He’s not trying to confuse us. He wants to show these things to us. He wants us to see in the book of Revelation things that otherwise would have been hidden.

So this is the revelation—the unveiling, the uncovering, the displaying—of Jesus Christ. The revelation of Jesus Christ. That can mean two things, and I think it probably means both. First, the revelation of Christ means that Christ is the one who gave this revelation. It’s come from Him to us. But it also means that it’s the unveiling, the revelation, of Christ Himself—pulling back the curtain so that we can see a glimpse of the glory of Christ.

Revelation the book, from start to finish, points us to Christ. It is what theologians call “Christocentric,” which is what our lives were intended to be: Christ-centered.

All of history is moving toward the consummation of that time when Christ will reign and rule—the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, on His throne as King forever and ever. He’s the starting place of history. He’s the ending place of history. He is the one who controls and manages and directs everything in between.

As we get a vision of heaven in the book of Revelation, we realize that everything in heaven revolves around Christ. It points us to Christ.

And how desperately the believers in the first century needed this revelation of Christ. This was at the end of the first century. As we’ll see later in our study, believers were suffering intensely. They needed a revelation from Christ and a revelation of Christ so they would have hope—so they could persevere and so they would know it was worth it, even if they were called to lay down their lives for the sake of the gospel.

This is the greatest need of every believer from all eras throughout the world: to see Christ and to hear from Him.

We have a woman here today whose five-month‑old child is in critical condition in a hospital not too far from here. She’s taken a break to come to the Revive Our Hearts recording session. She needs today a fresh vision of Christ. You need a fresh vision of Christ in whatever you’re facing today or whatever you’re going to face tomorrow. We need to see Christ.

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants,” the first verse says. This revelation is for the servants of God. You say, “Is it not for unbelievers?” The problem is that unbelievers do not have eyes to see Christ. They don’t have faith to believe what He says. But God has given us spiritual eyes. He has put faith in our hearts so that we can see Christ, and we can hear and believe His Word.

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place.” Must. I like that word because in this life there’s a lot of uncertainty.

There’s a lot we don’t know, like what’s going to happen ten minutes from now or tomorrow or next month or next year. We don’t know. But we do know that the things that are talked about in this book must take place. They will take place.

There’s a ring of certainty about this whole passage from Revelation. It’s not something speculative. People have made movies, and they talk about apocalyptic visions, as if this is something that’s very strange and imaginary and fictitious.

Listen: There’s nothing fictitious about the book of Revelation. It is certain that these things must take place.

He made it [this revelation] known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw (verses 1-2).

John was a servant of Jesus Christ, like we are, and he was given this message so that he could share it with other servants of Christ. He was one of the original 12 apostles, as you remember, the brother of James, the son of Zebedee. He was the author of the Gospel of John and the three New Testament epistles that bear his name: First, Second, and Third John.

John was the last living apostle. Many of the others had been martyred. All had died by this time, at the end of the first century. John was approximately 90 years old when he was given this revelation.

As I said, the revelation was given toward the end of the first century, toward the end of the Roman emperor Domitian. Now, Domitian was a cruel, autocratic dictator. He declared himself to be lord and god, and he demanded to be worshiped. Anyone who refused to worship him was persecuted.

As you can imagine, this created a tough situation for those who said, “Caesar is not lord; Domitian is not lord. Jesus is Lord and God, and we will not bow the knee to any Roman emperor or any other emperor. We will only bow the knee to Christ.”

So the believers were harshly persecuted under Domitian’s rule. Nero had begun those first persecutions 25 years earlier, which had mostly centered in Rome, but when Domitian came to the throne, he initiated a more systematic, thorough persecution of Christians throughout the empire.

That was the world in which these Christians were living. It’s a world in which I anticipate we may come to live within our lifetime. We need to be prepared to know how to bow the knee to Christ alone when the world says other lords are in charge. So it’s a very relevant book for us in the 21st century.

“John bore witness,” it says, “to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” And you’ll see this word. He saw this. He heard this. This is not something that somebody else passed on to him. This was not whispered down the lane, and by the time it got to John, it had been all distorted and confused. God gave it to Christ to give to His angel to give to John to give to us. It’s an eyewitness account.

John saw these things. He heard these things. I think that’s part of what makes it so compelling to us today. This is something John experienced, and it reminds me that the most compelling witness we can give of our faith is not just something we have heard about from others but something that we have experienced personally ourselves.

My prayer is that through this study, you will come to have a more firsthand encounter with Jesus Christ than maybe anything you’ve ever experienced before.

Verse three says,

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.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy. The word here translated “to read aloud” implies that you’re reading it to others, although some of your translations only say, “Blessed is the one who reads.”

The implication is somebody who is reading out loud to others who are listening. That makes sense, because this initial letter of revelation would have been read in all the churches of Asia to whom it was addressed. Believers would not have had their own copies of the Scriptures as we do. I look around the room, and you all have your own copy of the Bible, open to the book of Revelation. You can read it for yourself, but in the first century, you would not have had a Bible sitting on your lap.

So the pastors, the elders, the leaders and shepherds of the churches would read perhaps in small gatherings like this one—in little house churches and group gatherings. These local assemblies would have read this letter.

The Scripture says the one who reads it aloud to others is blessed. It shows the importance, by the way, of the public reading of the Scripture. I’m so thankful that at our church we have a habit, a pattern, a practice, of reading aloud from the Scripture at every Sunday morning service.

We stand for the reading of the Word of God. Scripture says the one who reads it aloud is blessed, and that could of course mean a pastor, an elder, or someone who stands to read to the congregation. You may have heard a pastor read or preach through the book of Revelation, as I have.

But I don’t think this blessing is just for pastors. I think it’s also for moms, like my friend who has been reading the Scripture aloud to her four children since before they were really old enough to understand what they were hearing.

There’s a blessing promised to that mom. There’s a blessing promised to grandmoms who read Scripture to their grandchildren. There’s a blessing promised to friends who read the Scripture to others.

I have a walking partner, and as we walk, sometimes we will quote Scripture to each other that we’re memorizing. And I’m blessed as I quote. She’s blessed as she quotes. I’m blessed as I listen to her quote. She’s blessed as she listens to me quote. There’s a blessing attached to reading aloud the Scripture and then hearing the Scripture. “Blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it.”

The book of Revelation ends with a repetition of this very blessing. Chapter 22, verse 7: “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

I’ve kind of puzzled over that as I’ve been studying and immersed in the book of Revelation, thinking, “Blessed is the one who hears; I can understand that, but blessed is the one who keeps? How do you keep the book of Revelation?”

Well, I’m still pondering that, but it does say to me that the main point of Revelation is not a puzzle that we’re supposed to put together. The main point is a revelation of and from Christ that we are to obey. We’re supposed to obey what Christ says as He reveals Himself—and not only in the book of Revelation, but in the entire book, because it’s all the Word of God.

One of the reasons I want to record and teach this series is because I want a blessing, and I want you to get a blessing. And you will get a blessing as you hear, but not just as you hear. James says, “Don’t just be hearers of the Word. Be doers also” (1:22, paraphrased). And you will be blessed as you do what you hear over these next days.

So there’s a blessing promised in this book to those who read it, to those who hear it, and to those who keep it.

By the way, those two blessings in chapter 1 and in chapter 22 are just two of seven blessings, seven beatitudes, in the book of Revelation.

  • I’m blessed on the day I die in the Lord from now on.
  • Blessed are those who are invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb;
  • Blessed are those who wash their robes so that they may have a right to the Tree of Life and that they may enter the city by the gates.

Blessing, blessing, blessing. (See Revelation 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, and 22:14.)

It reminds me of Genesis chapter one, where the Scripture says God blessed them after He created them. It wasn’t until Genesis chapter three that the curse came into the world with sin, with man’s rebellion against God.

Then came the curse. And what we see in Revelation is the abolishing of the curse and the restoration of God’s eternal blessing on those who read, who hear, and who keep what is written in this book.

I want to be blessed by reading these words aloud, and I want you to be blessed by hearing and keeping what is written in this book.

Leslie: I think a lot of listeners approach the book of Revelation with the type of skepticism Nancy Leigh DeMoss mentioned a few minutes ago. Revelation can seem frightening or just plain confusing.

So, Nancy, I’m eager to hear the rest of this study on Revelation and find out why it has been such a blessing to you.

Nancy: Well, Leslie, I had the privilege of spending over a year immersed in the book of Revelation as I was developing this series.

And I have to tell you, it was an incredibly meaningful and impacting experience in my own life. That’s why I look forward to exploring the first three chapters of this book in several back-to-back series on Revive Our Hearts this fall.

The series we began today is called A Vision of the Glorified Christ. It’s so important to have that vision if we’re to have a proper perspective on all the things we see and hear in the news that can be otherwise so troubling.

During this series and our other series on the book of Revelation that will follow over these next weeks, I hope you’ll take the time to study and grow in your appreciation of the book of Revelation. I want to particularly encourage you to be reading the first three chapters—not just once, but over and over again until they become a part of your life, as they become a part of my life.

To help you gain some fresh insights from those first three chapters of Revelation, our team has developed a booklet called Ears to Hear: Learning from the Churches of Revelation. This is a tool that will help you go a little deeper into the things I’m teaching on, and it will help you practically apply the messages contained in these letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

I want to encourage you to get a copy of this booklet and then to use it over these next few weeks as we explore not only what Jesus had to say to the churches in the first century, but what He has to say to the churches and to us today.

Leslie: We’ll send you the pamphlet Ears to Hear when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We know that God is everywhere. But what does it mean to say God is near? It’s an important concept that has big implications for your life, and we’ll explore it more tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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