Editor's Note: a lightly edited transcription of the attached audio file will be found at the end of this original written introduction. Appreciation for this transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
A personal note
For years I have wanted to write a Bible Study on the seven churches of Revelation. As I began to finally write this study, I soon realized what an overwhelming and challenging task I had taken on. The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism and information about the end times, which we don’t fully understand or even agree on. Yet, as difficult as this book is, there are many lessons for life in these seven letters that are relevant to us today, and we should pay close attention to what Jesus wanted to communicate through them.
The study is titled, “Rekindle the Fire.” Most of these churches had strengths in certain areas, and yet were displeasing to God in other areas. Some had lost their passion and zeal for Christ. My prayer is that regardless of where you are in your relationship with the Lord today, that you would never become complacent and apathetic in that love relationship with Him; that you would always be rekindling the fire in your heart for Jesus Christ. I pray that our passion and zeal for Him would never flicker or die out.
There is always a concern about writing a study that may become too academic. I pray that you would not just learn more head knowledge, but that as you spend time studying His Word, you would fall more in love with Jesus and long for the day when you will spend eternity with Him face to face.
In light of His imminent return, let us live lives that would please Him every day until He returns. Keep the fire going, and, if need be, rekindle the fire of your passion and love for Christ.
Rekindling the fire in my own life,
How to make the most of this study
This study is designed to help you consistently spend time in God’s Word. Yes, you could probably do all the lessons in one sitting, but you will gain more from the study if you do it day by day, taking time to reflect on each day’s passage and main thought(s). It is important to ponder and meditate on Scripture, allowing God’s Spirit to speak to you and work in you through His Word.
Each week is divided into five days, and each day is divided into four sections. “Looking to God’s Word” and “Looking Upward” direct you to the Scripture for that day, guiding you through observation and interpretation questions. “Looking Deeper” is optional. It is for those who want to go further in their study of the lesson. It will direct you to other related passages to deepen your personal study. This section is not required and will not be discussed in your small group time unless the group as a whole decides to include them. However, if you have time to go deeper, this section can enhance your personal study. “Looking Reflectively” is designed for application and reflection on the lesson. Each day I have given a “nugget” on which you can meditate throughout the day. This area of the study is designed to take the head knowledge and make it heart knowledge.
The Word of God changes lives. I pray that each of us will see life change as a result of His Word working in us.
Good morning! I have been waiting for this day for quite some time. It is such a joy to stand here and to look out to see many older faces. I do not mean by age, but faces that are familiar. Also, it is a joy to look out and see so many faces that I do not know and I have not seen. We are glad you are here today. I am excited about the next eight weeks together and I pray that God will change our heart as we study a book, part of a book, that is not very often studied or taught. I think we have a lot in store for us as to what God wants to do in our lives.
I want to begin with a picture. Do you recognize this city? It is the city of Jerusalem. It is seen from standing on top of the Mount of Olives. I am curious? How many of you have been to Jerusalem? Quite a few of you. Well, several years ago I went with a group from my church. We spent two weeks in Israel and Petra. I will never forget the day that we drove to the top of the Mount of Olives and I got my first glimpse of this city. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I just burst into tears. I could not talk. In case you are thinking it was just a hormonal thing, I will tell you that all the men were crying, too. There is something about this city.
We spent three days there. We looked at the Dome of Rock which is a famous shrine there on the temple mount where the Holy of Holies was. There was something that moves within your spirit and I would cry every time we would ride by the Mount of Olives. People have graves all along the side of the Mount of Olives because they want to be the first to be resurrected when Jesus comes back. I did not want to leave Jerusalem. I cried as we left the city. There was just something emotional inside about being in the city of Jerusalem. As we were leaving, I asked the leader of our group. I said, “Keith, what is it about this city that stirs the emotions inside your heart?” He said, “Crickett, it is because it has so much to do with our future. With our future hope in Jesus’ returning and it should stir our spirit as a believer as it is our future.” As believers, we have much to look forward to. We are told in Titus 2:13 that we should be looking for the blessed hope of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus.
Now, we live in a world with much uncertainty. Today is September 11, the anniversary of a turning point in our nation where uncertainty began to be prevalent. But, there is one thing we can know for certain without any doubt: Jesus Christ is coming back. That is our blessed hope. That is what we look forward to. We ought to live our lives as if He were coming back today. Look for it. Long for it.
Well, this week we begin our study on the seven churches of Revelation in chapters 1-3. Before we delve into these chapters, it is important to understand the Book of Revelation as a whole. We need to understand the background surrounding this book. So, my purpose today is a very small one. It is to give you an overview of the Book of Revelation and an overview of eschatology, which is known as the doctrine of the end times. That is a lot to do and we are going to do that in 30 minutes. So, hang on, girls, fasten your seatbelts because we are going to fly through this.
A good place to begin, though, is by addressing what do we believe as a Church? What do we at our church here believe about eschatology, the end times? Well, I did a little research. I looked on the website at our “Articles and Beliefs” because I thought “what is it that we say we believe concerning the Second Coming of Christ?” There are only two things that were on there. The first one says, “We believe that our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus, will personally return and set up His kingdom wherein He will rule and reign in righteousness.” The second thing that is stated in a few places down is that “we believe in the bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust.” So, that is all that is said.
We, the Church here, believe that He is going to personally return. We believe that He is going to set up His kingdom and He is going to reign. We believe that we will be resurrected. That all bodies, all of us, will be resurrected. Three “Rs” if that helps you remember: His return, His reign, and our resurrection. That is all that our Church gives us. So, that leaves a lot of room for differing opinions concerning the return of Christ and His reign.
I would guess that there are quite a few different opinions in this room. I may be wrong, but I would guess that people have different views of how you think that Jesus will return or the Millennial Kingdom will work out. That is okay. You may be sitting there going “I don’t even know what I believe about it.” “I hadn’t really thought about it.” “Why does it really matter?” It is okay. I am not going to spend time and I do not think we should spend time arguing about what we believe about the end times. These are issues about which there are a lot of varying opinions. We do not need to argue over them. I will share my views, but I would never want you to take my views simply because they are mine. You need to adopt your own. That is my challenge to you, as I do think that we need to know what we believe and why—because it does affect us. Some people say, “but what is really matter?” Well, it does matter in the sense of how you look forward. For instance, if you believe that Jesus Christ could come back today, you will live with a sense of urgency. You will not think that you have to wait until the seven-year tribulation is over. If you think that He is not coming back until after then, then you do necessarily not feel that sense of urgency. So, whatever you believe on this, it is fine with me. Yet I would encourage you to determine where you stand and why, because it does help you look ahead on how you are living life today.
Before we can get into our study of the book of Revelation there are some things we need to first understand. So I am going to take you through a lot of material today. We first need to understand the four major interpretive approaches to looking at the book of Revelation because the approach you take will determine how you will interpret this book. Not everybody interprets this book in the same way.
The first approach is called the “Preterist” approach. This interpretation understands the events of Revelation to have been fulfilled in the past. The contents of this book will all have to do with the past. There is nothing in it that has to do with future events. That is how they view Revelation. They would say that all the events in Revelation either were fulfilled in the First Century, in AD 70, when Jerusalem fell, or they would say all these events have been fulfilled at that time and in the fifth century with the fall of Rome. So, when they read this Book, they do not think it has anything to do with the future. It has all been done. This is just meant to encourage believers. That is all the purpose it has for us today.
The second approach to interpreting this Book is called the “Historicist” approach. This view interprets the events of Revelation as unfolding in the course of history. They view the events in this Book as referring to actual events that have taken place in history or that are presently taking place in history. They look for the fulfillment of the events in Revelation throughout Church history. For example, the reformers really liked this view, this interpretation, because they could say “oh, the Pope, he is the antichrist.” That is what this text is referring to. The Pope is doing this deception. So, that is their view. Again, they do not look at this in a future interpretation. It is all through history or presently.
The third interpretation is called the “Idealist.” This view interprets the Book symbolically, not literally, not historically. It is just all symbolism. They look for little timeless truths from this Book. It is symbolic of the conflict that is ongoing between good and evil.
Then, the fourth view is the “Futurist” view. This is the view that all these chapters from Revelation 4-22 refer to future events that have not been fulfilled yet. But, they will be fulfilled in the end times. This is the view that I hold: that these events will happen in the future. Sensationalism falls under the futurist view. However, I will tell you up front that I am a dispensationalist. I know that that has come up even in the candidacy for Cole [new pastor search] and him being asked about end time views. I think most of us who have graduated from Dallas Seminary are dispensationalists. So, I view and I interpret scripture through that lens. The hallmark of dispensationalism has been its commitment to a literal interpretation of the prophetic scripture: Daniel, Ezekiel, Zachariah, Revelation. We tend to interpret it as literally as possible. That does not mean that everything in those texts is literal, but we look at it from a more literal viewpoint than others do.
This literal perspective has resulted in three well-known tenets being held by dispensationalists. So, I want to go through these quickly to help you understand the view that I am coming from. In fact, which I will teach these next eight weeks.
The first thing that we are known for in the dispensationalist view is that we maintain a distinction between Israel and the Church. When God says “Israel” in the Bible, He means Israel. When He says “the Church,” He means “the Church.” The Old Testament prophesies made to Israel are not fulfilled in the Church. They will be fulfilled, but not in the church. In other words, the Church has not replaced Israel in the plan of God. In other philosophies there is the idea of a “Replacement” theology. This is a “Covenant” theology which believes that the Church has replaced Israel. That is not the belief that I hold to.
A second tenet of dispensationalism is that dispensationalists are pre-Millennial. That is, we believe that Jesus Christ will come again after the Tribulation and He will set up a temporary 1,000-year reign on earth. He will rule through Jerusalem. He will come back before the Millennial kingdom.
A third tenet we generally hold is that we believe in the pre-Tribulation Rapture. That Jesus will return for His Church before the Tribulation. Now, as I said, I am going to be teaching this book from that lens, from that viewpoint, from the Futurist viewpoint that these are all future events in this Book. I will be coming from the viewpoint and the lens of a dispensationalism just because I view scripture in that literal way. I am not expecting you to necessarily agree with me. I am not telling you that you have to look at it the way I do. There is room in this church for different views and different lenses of looking at end times events, but this is the viewpoint that I take. The main thing we need to agree on is that He is coming back. That is what matters. He is returning.
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately the extant recording for this lesson and the next one end incomplete. Thankfully the following messages were better preserved.