There are some troubles God will not save you from. What if the coming year does not bring relief from this years troubles, but only adds new ones to your present load?
This morning we are in the book of Revelation, our last Sunday in the My Bible Year series. Turn with me to chapter 13. Let’s read.
What is the purpose of the book of Revelation? Ultimately, like every other text in the Scriptures, Revelation was inspired to reveal Jesus Christ. What about application? What are we supposed to DO with Revelation?
I think verse 10 may be the key.
If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Revelation is a call to endurance and to faith.
According to dictionary.com, endurance is the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.
Endurance continues, it lasts, no matter what conditions it faces.
Wikipedia expands on the concept of the word, defining endurance as the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue.
Endurance is active, it moves and keeps on moving. Why do we have Revelation? Because there are troubles God will not save us from and we will need courage and resolve to keep moving forward through those troubles.
Endurance and faith. The word can be translated as faith or faithfulness.
Faithfulness is the act of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something, and putting that loyalty into consistent practice regardless of extenuating circumstances.
Faithfulness maintains loyalty and affection, no matter what conditions is faces.
This is the call of Revelation – endurance and faithfulness.
Now let’s look at the context of this call. Revelation 13 places the endurance and faithfulness of God’s people in the context of a war. There are three enemy combatants in this war: a dragon, a beast from the sea and a beast from the land.
Revelation 12 explains the dragon. It is the great serpent, Satan, the deceiver of the brethren who wages war against heaven. Chapter 12 tells us that the dragon was defeated in heaven and cast down to earth, where he vents the fury of his wrath against the people of God.
The beast which rises from the sea is his visible representative. Chapter 13 tells us that is tyrannical – it has been given great power and authority. The beast is idolatrous, it leads the world astray into worship of the dragon. This beast is the anti-Christ and gains influence over the masses of the world through an apparent resurrection from death.
The beast which rises from the land is the false prophet of the Anti-Christ, who displays miraculous powers to deceive the world in the name of the first beast.
The identity of the dragon is straightforward. The question is, who are the beasts? And when are the beasts?
We don’t have time to get into the details of these questions.
There are 4 primary frameworks used to interpret Revelation.
The spiritual interpretation views the events of Revelation as figurative and not historical. The characters involved and the relationships and events described are timeless.
The preterist interpretation views the characters and events of Revelation as historical events, witnessed in the time of the first century. The Roman imperial cult, its brutal persecution of the church and its destruction of Jerusalem are seen as the fulfilments of the Revelation prophecies.
The historical view of Revelation also views the characters and events of Revelation as historical events, but understands them to take place in a gradual unfolding, over thousands of years.
The futurist view of Revelation sees the prophecies in the book taking place in a future time, at the end of days.
After twenty years of studying the apocalyptic literature in the Scriptures, I am unable to neatly fit them into any simple framework. It seems that most of the prophetic works of the Bible exist in multiple time frames. They are spoken in the immediate context, they speak of the first coming of the Messiah and the events of the first century and they also look ahead to the last days and the second coming.
D.A. Carson sees the Anti-Christ who rises from death as a recurring figure in history, manifesting in the emperor Nero, in the German Fuhrer and in other inexplicably evil men.
I agree with Carson. And in Revelation 13 I see that someday a final and ultimate manifestation of the anti-Christ will rise to wage the dragon’s final war against the people of God.
This will mean trouble.
In verse 7 we are told that the beast will be given power to make war against the saints and even to conquer them. The false prophet will persecute the saints by requiring worship of the beast as a prerequisite to participation in commercial and economic activities.
The first Christians experienced trouble like this through several waves of persecution at the hands of Roman rulers. Christians in various parts of the world today experience trouble like this at the hands of totalitarian rulers.
Christians today in communist China, Hindu India and Muslim Afghanistan experience tremendous hardship – social isolation, the confiscation of property, torture, imprisonment and often death.
Some day this kind of persecution will experience a global intensity.
There is an inevitability to this. Verse 10 communicates that to us. Some will be imprisoned. Some will be killed. This is inevitable.
There are some troubles God will not save you from.
This calls for endurance and faithfulness.
Notice that verse 10 does not call us to prayer and giving to achieve victory over our troubles. It does not tell us that if we believe and give, God will give us material victory over our enemies. There is no place for the prosperity gospel in Revelation 13.
Trouble is coming and it is inevitable.
It’s not hard to imagine the rise of totalitarianism in the Western world today. The totalizing influence of identity and race politics are sweeping across the West with incredible speed. We see news of small business owners forced out of business because they will not transfer their ultimate allegiance from Christ to the values of humanistic identity worship.
It’s not hard to imagine a near future time even in America when we will be forced to make difficult decisions and require endurance and faith in our allegiance to Christ.
Notice that the call is not to arms and active resistance. The call is not to stockpile ammunition and weapons. The call is to trust.
The victory of God’s people is a victory of faith. It is the victory of Betsy ten Boom, laughing in the concentration camps at the victory her fleas had given her over the guards. It is the victory of those dear sisters gathering soul after soul into the light of eternity out of the grip of darkness.
Should we resist evil totalitarian influences? Absolutely. It is good and right that the allies rose in arms against Hitler. But Christians as Christians, the church as the church have not been given the weapons of bombs and bullets. We have been given the weapons of trust and endurance.
Troubles are coming that God will not save you from. You will need endurance and faith.
It that it? Does this mean that I just have to suck it up and take it?
In a sense, it does. Life is hard. There are troubles God will not save you from. When it does, you need to be strong and keep moving forward. You need to suck it up, gather your gather your courage and take the next step.
But Revelation is not only a call to suck it up. It calls us to endurance and faithfulness in the context of trouble, it also offers us the consolation of perspective.
Revelation shows us what is invisible to us. It shows us the perspective of heaven and the perspective of time.
From the perspective of heaven, we are shown something wonderful. Revelation 5:8 and 8:4 show us that when God’s judgment comes in the end, it is accompanied by the prayers of the saints rising up to heaven.
These prayers represent the stored up prayers of God’s troubled people. Our prayers for health that never came, our prayers for deliverance that never arrived. The prayers of the persecuted in prison.
God has heard every one of those prayers and he has stored them up.
Prayers of sadness and sorrow. Prayers of doubt and despair. Prayers through sin and shame.
God has heard everyone and some day they will rise to his presence and usher in the end. They become a pleasing aroma God breathes in as he prepares to destroy forever the enemies of his people, the dragon and his beasts.
Revelation shows us the perspective of time, but showing us a glimpse of the end. Chapter 14 calls us to listen and hear the glory of the song of God’s triumph and the deliverance of the persecuted. And it calls us to watch in as the faithless experience the justice coming to the world.
God sees. God cares. God judges.
As we look ahead to a new year, do not pray for an easier year. Pray for endurance and faith to face whatever trouble comes this year.
Let the resolution of Habakkuk be yours this new year.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown