God’s Big Picture Unit 9: The Perfected Kingdom (Revelation)

God’s Big Picture Unit 9: The Perfected Kingdom (Revelation)

-A curtain drawn back to reveal the truth
behind human history. -The judgment of Babylon, the beast and the
false prophet. -And our King, slain but now triumphant, ushers
in a whole new world. This is God’s Big Picture: The Perfected Kingdom –God’s Big Picture
Bible Overview Course The perfected Kingdom- UNIT 9– In these studies we’re looking at the big
picture of the Bible’s story. And today we’ve reached the last book of scripture, Revelation.
We’ve been tracing the theme of the Kingdom of God through the Bible and we’ve finally
reached the summit: ‘The Perfected Kingdom’. But before we go there let’s recap on the
story so far. God’s promises, foreshadowed in Old Testament
history and announced by the prophets, are fulfilled in Christ. He introduced the kingdom
of God through his life, death and resurrection and in the last days he sent his church to
proclaim the good news throughout the world in the power of the Spirit.
By the Spirit, Christ’s people have already received some of the blessings of the kingdom.
But the fullness of salvation awaits his second coming, when, in the new creation, in the
‘perfected kingdom’, he’ll put everything right. So let’s look now at the book of Revelation… –THE BOOK OF REVELATION – Revelation was written by the apostle John
probably towards the end of the first century at a time of persecution for the church.
It belongs to a type of literature known as ‘apocalyptic’, which uses symbolism to convey
its message. ‘Apocalypse’ means ‘revelation’ or ‘unveiling’.
God gives John a series of visions in which he draws back the curtain to reveal what’s
going on behind the scenes of human history. These visions are designed to strengthen believers
to persevere, despite their suffering. We’re invited to lift up our eyes from the struggles
of living for Christ in this present world and look instead at his kingdom, both present
and future. So the book begins with letters from the Lord
Jesus to seven churches in Asia Minor, which represent all God’s people, urging them to
stay faithful. Then John is shown a vision of a throne:
“At once I was in the Spirit and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting
on it”. What a relief that must have been for a suffering
believer! At times it looks to our limited vision as
if everything is out of control. But there is a throne in heaven and it isn’t
empty. God is in charge. John also sees
“a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne”.
That’s Jesus, the lamb of God, who died for us. He’s the divine king of the universe.
He has suffered and triumphed; and his death guarantees that all those who suffer for him
on earth will also triumph with him. We may not understand what he’s doing in the
world, but we can trust him. The elders in John’s vision respond to that
truth in the only appropriate way, with worship: “To him who sits on the throne and to the
Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever!”. If we’re wise, we’ll follow their example
and worship the Lord Jesus here on earth, whatever the cost. –a SERIES OF VISIONs– The next few chapters of Revelation are dominated
by a series of visions of divine judgments: seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls. Included within them are some of the famous
characters of the book like the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the beast. There have been many different attempts to
interpret what they represent and when between the first and second coming of Christ they
happen. Some have argued that the symbols refer exclusively
to events at the time John was writing the book of Revelation. That’s known as the ‘preterist’
view. Others see the book as presenting a chronological
account of the different eras from the 1st century to the second coming where the seals,
bowls and trumpets refer to events that happen consecutively (the ‘historicist’ view). Still others assert that the book only describes
events that are yet to happen in the short period just before the return of Christ. (the
‘futurist’ view) In my opinion each of those positions has
problems. I suggest it’s best to see all but the last
few chapters of the book (which focus on the very end of time) as a number of sequences
arranged in parallel. The seals, the trumpets and the bowls don’t
follow on from one another; they all describe the same period.
Revelation isn’t written to give us a time chart of history. It rather describes what
we can expect in the whole of the last days between Christ’s ascension and his return. So, for example, the four horsemen of the
apocalypse have been active, and will continue to be active, throughout the last days.
They represent the warmongering, economic instability and death that will mark every
age until Christ returns. Christians will have to hold firmly to the
vision of the throne in heaven if we’re to persevere through such hardships. And we’ll
need to remind ourselves that they won’t go on forever. PAUSE The last few chapters of the book take us
to the very end of time when Jesus will destroy evil and establish the perfect new creation…
but before that comes the final judgment. –THE FINAL JUDGMENT- In those makeover programmes on television,
when a team go in and transform someone’s home, the first part of the procedure is always
destructive. The shabby furniture, peeling wallpaper and unfashionable kitchen units
have all got to go. It’s only once they’ve been taken out and piled onto the tip that
the creative work begins. Out with the old, and then in with the new. It’s the same with the world. God can’t introduce
the new creation until he removes all that spoils the old. Chapters 17-20 of Revelation use picture language
to describe God doing exactly that. One by one the forces of evil are judged and
destroyed. Revelation 17 introduces us to a woman identified
as “BABYLON THE GREAT/ THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES”. She represents what the Bible refers to elsewhere
as ‘the world’; non-Christian society organised without reference to God. Babylon is an obvious name for her, because
that was the location of the Tower of Babel, a symbol of human arrogance and pride, as
well as the capital of the empire that destroyed Judah and took her inhabitants into exile. She’s called a prostitute, because she seduces
people into unfaithfulness, to live for her, rather than be faithful to God. We’ll certainly be tempted to do that and
just fit in with everyone else, but we’d be wise to resist, because she’s heading for
destruction. One day a voice will cry out,
“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the great!” God will also destroy his other arch enemies
at the end of time: the beast (who represents anti-Christian powers),
the false prophet (that’s anti-Christian ideology) and the devil too.
They’re all thrown into a lake of burning sulphur, where they can do no more harm. And those who continue in opposition to Christ
will also be judged: “Anyone whose name was not found in the book
of life was thrown into the lake of fire”. This judgment is terrible, but it’s also good
news. Justice is done and evil is destroyed. As a result God’s final work of salvation
can now be completed. –THE NEW CREATION- Having seen God’s judgment, John is given
another vision: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and earth had passed away’.
God is committed to the world he made. Everything has been spoilt by sin, but God isn’t going
to throw it away because of that. No, he’s determined to restore everything; not just
our souls, but our bodies too, and the whole created order. The final hope for Christians isn’t going
to heaven when we die. (Heaven is where we’re kept safe until the second coming.) Our ultimate
destiny is to be raised on that day to join him in the perfect new creation, with new
bodies in a physical world. It will be a place in which all that spoils
life on earth has been removed. God “will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things
has passed away”. PAUSE In the new creation the perfect relationships
that marked God’s original creation will all be restored. Human beings and the natural world will enjoy
harmony once more. We’ll rule over the created order, as God
had always intended, not in opposition to God, but under him and so nature will flourish. Revelation 22 uses imagery taken from Genesis
2 to describe a vibrant, fruitful world. A river flows from the throne of God and of
the lamb. “On each side of the river stood the tree
of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the
tree are for the healing of the nations’. Eden is restored. There’s harmony too between human beings.
The new creation is described as a dazzling city in which people dwell together in community,
“the new Jerusalem”. Revelation 7 verse nine depicts
“a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language”. God’s people will be a multiracial, multicultural
society uniting those that are so often divided in this fallen world. And at the heart of everything is a perfect
relationship between God and his people. The church, the bride of Christ, is united
with her husband and a voice says, “Look! God’s dwelling- place is now among
the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be
with them and be their God”. And John tells us there’s no temple. Of course
there isn’t. There’s no need for one. God is everywhere and his people enjoy intimate
communion with him. At last, all the promises of God are fully
and finally fulfilled. The kingdom of God is made perfect: ‘The Perfected
Kingdom’. -God’s people, from all nations, -live in God’s place, the new creation, -under his rule and enjoying his blessing
for all eternity. If we have even a tiny sense of the wonder
of that glorious future, we’ll join in the prayer of God’s people in the penultimate
verse of Revelation, “Come, Lord Jesus”. In the meantime we’ll need God’s help to persevere
in faith and obedience…. so it’s appropriate that the Bible ends (and
we’ll also end our studies) with these words: “The grace of the Lord be with God’s people.

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  1. You don't separate out the tribulation from the millennial reign and after.
    You seem to miss outvtye millennial reign entirely.
    We will be ruling with Christ during the millennial reign of saved Christians.
    Suggest you learn how to correctly divide the bible.
    Good effort otherwise.

  2. To teach an literal 1000 year millennial reign one must be a Dispensationalist. It appears this fellow is thankfully not Dispensational. I agree that Revelation is a series of parallel unveilings of the time between Christ leaving and coming back not a chronological one. Great work!

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