THE BOOK OF REVELATION
THE CHURCH'S TRIUMPH THROUGH CHRIST
A Supplement to Our Understanding of the Book of Revelation - The Millenium
Sermon #59 - "The Christian View of World History" - Selected Scriptures
INTRODUCTION - Revelation 20 introduces us to a variety of subjects to consider. Here we are told about the binding of Satan, the thousand year reign of Christ and His church, the Great White Throne judgment, the first and second resurrections, and the Lake of Fire. Central to this chapter is what has come to be known as the Millenium. The word comes from the Latin "mille" (thousand) and "annum" thousand, simply meaning, one thousand years. The reference to a thousand years is only found here in Revelation 20, however our understanding of what the Millenium is can be derived from other portions of Scripture. Also central to this chapter is our understanding of "eschatology" or "last things." In theology, eschatology deals with those subjects that concern the end of time. Here we are interested in the subjects of the end of the world, death and resurrection, heaven and hell, the return of Christ, judgment, and the state of those in eternity. Revelation 20 brings several of those subjects to our attention. How then do we approach these great subjects of the millenium and eschatology? Over the next few weeks we shall be doing a little background work so that we might understand this chapter better. People often turn to the book of Revelation to begin their study of last things, but it should actually be the last book to be studied. Instead, biblical history and revelation, beginning with the book of Genesis, will teach us much about what to expect in the progress of time. The first thing we need to do in our study of eschatology is to determine -
1) THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF WORLD HISTORY - How do we view the world? How do we view the history taking place? Where are we going? Does the Christian have a biblical view of history? Is there a plan and purpose to all things or is history just going in an unknown direction?
A) THE PAGAN VIEW OF WORLD HISTORY - Much of the pagan world held to a cyclical view of history - everything is just one big, endless circle. History has no real beginning and no real end. Events are all part of a great circle and you start your life out by getting on this wheel. You are really going no where and when you die someone else will just take your place in the cycle. Certainly there is much futility in such a view. There is really no purpose or meaning to such an existence. The book of Ecclesiastes illustrates this pagan concept as it describes life as a vain circle with nothing new happening (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11; 3:1-4). Life is an endless cycle of uselessness. If this is true, then life is a comedy of emptiness. Such an idea will lead to depression and hopelessness. Eventually, Solomon shows us in Ecclesiastes that purpose in life can only be explained when God is included. Life apart from God is vanity. When man remembers and fears God, his life is given meaning (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13). God made us for His glory and He is the One who gives purpose for all that we do.
B) THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF WORLD HISTORY - HISTORY IS A LINE - Rather than being a circle which leads no where, the Christian view of history is a line with a beginning and an end. Genesis starts us off and Revelation brings us to our conclusion. God has a plan and it is moving through time. We do not believe He has detached Himself from this universe, rather, He is intimately involved in the most minute features of life. His providence rules and guides history according to His plan and purpose (Isaiah 46:9,10; Matthew 10:29,30; Acts 17:28).
C) THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF WORLD HISTORY - HISTORY IS A LINE HEADING IN AN UPWARD DIRECTION - History is not a flat line, nor is it a line going downward, as if we are heading to defeat and destruction. Christians often take a cynical and depressive view of the course of this world. Perhaps in our gloom we are denying the sovereignty and providence of God in history. Sometimes we judge the course of the world through the events which occur around us. If things are going bad, we tend to think that the world is coming to a terrible end and all we can do is hang on till Jesus comes again. Yet we must realize that our view of life and history should never be determined by the events going on around us. We certainly should not adapt such a principle in deciding the outcome of our Christian experience. Are our lives not full of defeats, troubles, sins, and trials? Do these things become the guide to interpreting our lives and where we are heading? No! Instead, the Christian knows that God is working all things out for his good. He knows that no matter what happens, God has a good reason for it. The Christian knows that it is through trials and struggles that holiness develops. With each passing trial we become more like Christ. Our attitude is not to be one of defeat, but victory in Christ. Why then do we apply such defeatism to the world around us when we see history going through struggles? If God's sovereignty guides all things, then surely we should expect victory and not defeat. How do we determine the plan of God for history? How do we know that He is moving history in an upward line toward its conclusion? Let us consider the beginning of history, for it is here that we shall see the ultimate end which God has in mind.
2) THE ELEMENT OF THE UPWARD PROGRESS OF HISTORY SEEN IN THE ADAMIC COVENANT
A) THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH MAN WAS CREATED - Genesis 1:26-30 - God made the world with a purpose - His glorification (Romans 11:36). Man was made in the image of God and the calling of man, the purpose of man from the beginning, was to dominate and subdue this world for God's glory. This has always been the purpose of Man and this command has never been revoked by God. Even after the fall, the creation mandate is repeated to fallen man - subdue and dominate the world for God's glory (Genesis 9:1-7). Christians have forgotten this today, believing that the world is evil and that we are to have nothing to do with it. Yet the command of God to His people still stands - subdue all of life for My glory. Only the redeemed of the Lord can carry out that command through the working of the Gospel.
B) THE FALL - THE BLEAKEST POINT IN MAN'S HISTORY - Genesis 3:1-7 - At the fall, the order of God's world was overturned. Left in this condition we would have to say that all of history would have become a vain and hopeless existence. If God had not intervened, life would have remained a useless cycle leading to death and judgment.
C) GOD'S COVENANT OF GRACE WITH ADAM - THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVE UPWARD - Genesis 3:15 - This verse is the foundation for all that follows in time. Genesis 3:15 is the Gospel. The world will be divided into two groups, the devil's seed and God's people. One will come, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will crush the head of the serpent. This is the first eschatological statement of Scripture. It is the first statement telling us about the progress of history and its outcome. Notice that history is going to be filled with struggle. God has declared war. Yet the struggle is moving upward, to the time when Christ comes and defeats the enemy. Thus we see at the very beginning of time, victory is to be the theme of history. Satan will not be victorious in history, Christ will, and this triumph will be brought about through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Thus, the Christian view of history from the very beginning is one of triumph. History is an ascending line, moving in an upward direction, and finding its triumph secure in the work of Christ. There will be struggle and conflict, but ultimately, history will be filled with the triumph of Christ. This is the Christian hope in our present world!