Do Not Seal This ScrollSeries: An Eschatological Mix
DO NOT SEAL THIS SCROLL
Sermon By Terry Siverd / August 15, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
We're glad to welcome you to our time of Bible study this morning! We are always gratified when others choose to join with us for a study from the Word of God. Thank you for accessing today's livestream sermon.
This morning, as we continue with our current sermon series, An Eschatology Mix, I want to offer what I hope will be a helpful introduction to the book of Revelation. Should you want to read some of our weekly essays, our church website is: www.cortlandcoc.org. Open your Bibles to the last book in the Bible. Although it may be listed as the last book, chronologically speaking, there is more than ample evidence that the book of Revelation is not the last book of the Bible. While many study Bibles feature notes that assume a late date for the writing of the book of Revelation (c. AD 96), there is an ever-enlarging and widely-scattered cadre of scholars that are now promoting an earlier, pre-70 AD date. Among the churches of Christ some 40-50 years ago, only a handful of men could be found who had published books arguing in favor of a pre-70 date for the authorship of the book of Revelation. e.g., Franklin Camp/The Work Of The Holy Spirit In Redemption; Max King/The Spirit Of Prophecy and The Cross And The Parousia; Art Ogden/The Development Of The New Testament; and Foy Wallace/The Book Of Revelation (commentary). The publication of John A. T. Robinson's book, Redating The New Testament, in 1976, (in which he boldly claimed that the New Testament in its entirety was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70) kicked opened a previously snuggly-closed door and continues to persuade many Bible scholars to reconsider New Testament chronology. A storehouse of articles supporting a pre-70 AD date for Revelation are now archived online providing a virtual library of literature on this important topic. Somewhere out in cyberspace you can find a series of essays that I wrote back in the 80's, Dating The Documents. For most of my preaching career I have touted the book of Jude being the last NT book written. Jude vs.3 states - - Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for THE FAITH, which was ONCE FOR ALL DELIVERED to the saints. For many decades now it has been readily assumed that Revelation was the last-written of the New Testament canon. This past week, I read an impressively-researched article online, written by Alexander Gibb in the United Kingdom. He makes a strong case that both Hebrews and 2Peter appear to be written after the book of Revelation. If I'm remembering correctly, Arthur Ogden makes a similar a argument in The Avenging Of The Apostles And Prophets.
With these opening remarks now behind us, let's look for a few minutes at the text of the book of Revelation. Actually, for this morning we want to look briefly at both the opening and closing chapters of Revelation (chps.1 & 22). The book of Revelation is titled, The Revelation To John. It is that, in that it was a God-given disclosure delivered (revealed) to John the apostle, but it is much more. Let's read from Rev.1:1-3 - - The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
From these three opening verses we can deduce the following. It is a revelation of Jesus Christ … given by God ... communicated by His angel … to His bond-servants. It is a revelation - - a revealing, an unveiling, a disclosure - - the apocalypse. This revelation had a very specific aim & audience: it was a revelation of the things which must shortly take place.
According to Jn.16:13, this is precisely what Jesus had promised regarding the work of the Holy Spirit during His absence. When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you in all truth...and He will disclose to you what is to come. As recorded in Jn.14:2-3, Jesus had assured his apostles: I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. The time between Jesus' first coming and His coming again (2nd coming) was the the last days of Judaism (Heb.1:2). These last days began with the preaching of John the baptizer and ended with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. In His Olivet discourse Jesus clearly connected Jerusalem's fall with the the end of the (Jewish) age. cf. Mt.24:3.
The contents of the book of Revelation are not future to us. The angel spoke to John, who lived in the four decades following our Lord's ascension back to heaven. John taught among the Lord's disciples prior to Jerusalem's fall AD 70. In speaking to that generation, the message was about things SHORTLY to take place: the time is NEAR. No one in their right mind hears this exhortation of things shortly to take place...the time is near and thinks L-O-N-G. SHORTLY NEVER MEANS A LONG TIME. NEAR NEVER MEANS SOME FAR-DISTANT ERA.
When John the baptizer came preaching in the wilderness declaring, the kingdom of heaven is at hand/near (Mt.3:2), all competent Bible students rightly understand that John was affirming the imminent arrival of Jesus. It is mind boggling to imagine that shortly & near could mean soon in one text, but might mean 2,000+ years in another. The fact is, it doesn't!! It means the same in both text. Those who would tell us otherwise are misleading us. Some feel compelled to make this outrageous argument because they can't harmonize Rev. 1:1-3 with Rev.1:7 - - Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn... Keen students, however, will notice an undeniable parallel between Mt.24:29-34 and Rev.1:1-7. When Jesus spoke of His coming, He stated that that generation would not pass away, until all those things took place. These similarities help us to realize that The Revelation of Jesus Christ is but an expansion of The Olivet discourse.
In conclusion, I want us to note carefully how the book of Revelation comes to a close. To complement today's sermon, I would like to ask you to please read my essay in today's FamilyMatters: From Hideaway to Headlines. Before we read Rev.22:10, I want us to revisit Daniel's prophecy. Daniel prophesied of events that were some 600 years in his future. Notice Dan.8:26 and 12:4 - - The vision of the evenings & mornings which has been told to you is true; but keep the vision secret, for IT PERTAINS TO MANY DAYS IN THE FUTURE...As for you, Daniel, conceal these words and SEAL UP THE BOOK until the time of the end. Now, let's return to the book of Revelation and take note as to how it closes - - Rev.22:6 &10 - - And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to his bond-servants the things which must SHORTLY take place. And he said to me, 'DO NOT SEAL UP the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is NEAR. In addition, please note that the content of Rev.22 highlights a thrice-stated declaration: I am coming quickly!
Daniel speaks of events 600 years in the future and is told to seal it up. Many argue that the fulfillment of the book of Revelation is yet future. If so, why wasn't he told to seal it up? Indeed, John is directed to not seal up the book because the time was near!! Next Sunday, I want to expand on this intro to Revelation with a sermon that I'm titling, The Fall And Rise Of Jerusalem. I'm confident that it could prove to be the best summary of the book of Revelation you've ever heard. For now however, I want you to dwell upon this important observation. The book of Revelation is book-ended with words that clearly tell his first-century audience that he is writing about things shortly to take place … the time is near. These unmistakable time tags apply to everything in the book, from the opening lines to the final Amen. These God-given time tags will not permit us to arbitrarily isolate or edit some sections of Revelation as being yet future. This is going to impel us to reconsider Rev.21 and its depiction of the new Jerusalem, but so be it. Our task is to faithfully follow the text, which might require that we set aside some of our preconceived notions.