The New City

Discussion Guide for Revelation 21

One of my favorite parts of ministry at Venture Church is to meet people visiting the church for the first time. It is very satisfying to hear the reasons why they enjoyed visiting and want to come again soon.

Those reasons usually revolve around four things that we as a church try very hard to do well:

  1. Preach the entire truth of the Bible in a way that people can understand it
  2. Sing praises to God in a worthy manner
  3. Bury people with kindness when they come in the door so that they know that we love them and are happy they are here
  4. Treat kids with love while we teach them the Bible.

When a person comes to a church that is good at fulfilling its calling, they often describe the experience as a little piece of heaven on earth.

  • What aspects of church give life to your soul?
  • What parts of church stress you out?
  • In your experience, how does the church resemble heaven? 

As we come toward the end of the book of Revelation, Satan and all of his work have been judged and eternally destroyed. Those who live deceived by Satan have been cast into the lake of fire with him. What remains of the earth is made new, without any of the taint of sin. Just like Revelation 19, the language of a marriage covenant permeates this entire chapter.

We have to get our theology of marriage right in order to properly understand heaven. Revelation 22:1-5 illustrates a recreation of the Garden of Eden. The Garden was a place of life where man and woman dwelled in a perfect marriage and a perfect relationship with God.

Bible scholars point out the book of marital love, Song of Solomon, also likens marriage to a delightful garden. The ancient interpretation of Song of Solomon as an allegory of the love of God for the church may bear some truth.

In Revelation, the new Jerusalem is prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The man and woman were innocently naked before each other and God in the Garden. In the new creation, all of the shame of sin and death will be cast away. All of life will be lived in the presence of light.

Adam and Eve were created to help God rule over the Garden. The church is a new creation to help God rule over the renewed earth.

Marriage is all about a man and woman dwelling together in unity. The New Jerusalem is about a place where God dwells (tabernacles) with his unified people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

We could literally write books and books that would parallel heaven and marriage.

  • Does your marriage prepare you for the New Jerusalem?
  • What can you do this week to help your marriage reflect the union of God and His church?
  • How does the union with God have even greater significance for a person called to live in singleness?

Much is often made of the presence of jewels and pearls and crystal and gold. I hate to throw cold water onto the typical southern gospel singing where they go on and on about the physical riches and beauty of heaven, but that is not the point of this passage.

A person who is interested in heaven because of the gold and jewels is not interested in the heaven of the Bible, and probably is not interested in the savior who is the way to heaven.

Heaven is the place where God decides to dwell in an eternally abiding covenantal relationship with His bride, the church. The point of heaven is that we get to spend our eternity in the presence of God! This reality is only a comfort to those of us who know and love Him.

The description of riches is to convey the point that God’s presence has infinitely more value than anything this world has to offer.

The cubic shape brings to mind the shape of the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple, where the presence of God continually dwelt in the midst of the people of Israel. The dimensions of 12,000 stadia correspond with the dimension of the known Grecian world of John’s time.

The implication is that the presence of God will fill the entire earth and will not be withheld from any of those who are washed clean and given a place in the eternal city1.

  • What does the word covenant mean to you in regards to your relationship with God?
  • Do you believe the shallow nature of our relationships with other people in modern western culture makes our relationship with God more or less meaningful?
  • What does it mean to thirst for the spring of the water of life?

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The Millennium

Discussion Guide for Revelation 20

I will be the first person to admit that my knowledge to write this discussion guide with confidence falls way short.

There are doctrinally-solid, Bible-believing Christians who have many different theories about the Revelation 20 millennium. When I listen to different factions debate Revelation 20 using solid sources from other Scripture, I almost always walk away saying about all them “yep, that’s what I believe.”

The Christian views on the millennium fall into three general categories: Premillennialism, Amillennialism and Postmillenialism. 1

  • Premillennialism – The millennium follows the return of Christ. Jesus will rule the earth with his saints for 1,000 years (literal or figurative perfect length of time), during which time peace will reign, the natural world will no longer be cursed and evil will be suppressed (though not completely abolished). After a final rebellion, God will crush evil forever; judge the resurrected, non-believing dead; and establish heaven and hell.
  • Amillennialism – The millennium is not a specific period of time. Instead the millennium refers to the heavenly reign of Christ and his departed saints. The return of Christ will occur at the end of history. The church has always lived in “the last days.”
  • Postmillenialism – Christ will return following the millennium. The millennium is brought to fruition through the ever-increasing influence of the preaching and teaching of the Gospel by the church. Evil will diminish through conversions, the increasing role of the church, earthly prosperity, and Christian values solving social ills. Christ’s return and final judgement will end evil forever.

Even within our Church, Austin holds to the Premillennial view while I (Jonathan) tend be Amillennial.

I hope that you can see there is merit to all three views. For example, if you see that secularism, genocide, persecution and worldliness are making things worse on the earth with every passing year you would likely be sympathetic to Premillennialism. If you conclude that there are certain eschatological themes present in a study of every age of church history, but no future event is necessary to precede the return of Christ, you would tend to agree with the Amillennial viewpoint. If you observe that two thousand years of church history has gradually diminished the evils of slavery, hunger, disease, poverty, and the subjugation of women you might be more inclined toward Postmillennialism.

Biblically, a lot depends on whether Revelation 20 should be read as a chronological continuation of Revelation 19 or the beginning of a seventh cycle of judgments. This is one of those debates where a single minor presupposition can determine which “camp” you ultimately land into.

We must keep our eyes on that fact that the purpose of Revelation 20 Is to unite and encourage the church, not to sow discord and division.

There is no way I can possibly address every potential question you may have about Revelation 20 in one discussion guide. Please feel free to reach out to us on Facebook or through our contact page and we’ll be glad to help you find answers.

Revelation 20 is the only place in the NT where the phrase “thousand years” is used to refer to the kingdom of Christ. This does not mean that the millennium isn’t a primary concern of Scripture. On the contrary, the kingdom of God is THE primary concern of the New Testament. If you don’t believe me just do a google search of the word “kingdom” in the New Testament.

In Revelation we view another angle of looking at the kingdom of Christ and the defeat of the reign of Satan.

The point of the Bible’s emphasis on the Kingdom of God is that Jesus is King! Living in a democracy we often have to put on our thinking caps to understand what is involved in being king. We don’t have anything in our lives that presently compares to this absolute righteous monarchy.

The sovereignty of King Jesus is demonstrated in two broad areas:

  1. Jesus’ power to destroy to destroy Satan and his work and
  2. Jesus’ absolute prerogative to righteously judge all men who have lived in the past, present, and future.

In destroying Satan’s work, the greatest thing defeated is death. In destroying that Jesus will resurrect the dead — both those who died believing in Christ and those who died as unbelievers.

The martyrs and the church are invited into ruling with Christ. Those who stand before Christ without names written in the book of life will be cast into eternal fire.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you fear about Christ establishing his kingdom?
  • What aspect of the kingdom do you long to see?
  • How does the fact of the resurrection of the dead affect your life today?
  • How would you rate your confidence in Jesus’ ultimate victory of Satan’s work?
  • Should the torment of the lake of fire cause us to live differently as witnesses in this present age?
  • Who in your life needs to come to terms with the reality of the Great White Throne?
  • How can you be a witness to that person?

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The Marriage

Discussion Guide for Revelation 19

I hope you have seen throughout the study of Revelation the supernatural ability of John to tell a riveting story. We should not be surprised. After all, Revelation is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The truth apparent in Revelation is the same truth apparent throughout the other 65 books of the Bible: God rescues His people from His just condemnation.

God communicates the truth of the Gospel by giving us a compelling story in which we are active participants. There is no greater experience in life than worshipping God through his Word. This is a big part of what it means to participate in worship.

The appearance of the King resembles the entrance of the hero in many of our favorite movies. My personal favorite is the scene in Braveheart where William Wallace rides onto the battlefield, gives the “they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom” speech, and then takes charge of the army.

These entrances are crucial to telling a great story because of the longing in every human heart to be swept up in a story of rescue.

  • What is your favorite movie scene of the hero’s entrance?
  • Why do you think that scene is so compelling in consideration of the way Jesus appears here?

Revelation 19 can be summed up in one simple Hebrew expression, “Hallelujah.”

This is the only use of Hallelujah in the New Testament — and it is used four times. The expression means, “Praise Yahweh.”

When God’s people receive our ultimate redemption, our response is to simply praise God for his rescue.

Question one of the Westminster Catechism sums it up like this: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This is precisely what is taking place in Revelation 19.

The imagery in Revelation 19:6-10 recounts one of the Bible’s powerful recurring themes. It is the picture of marriage as the union of God and his people.

The church should make a big deal out of marriage (as Venture will in our next sermon series) because God makes a big deal of it.

Our marriages reflect what we believe about salvation. In the marriage feast (Rev. 19:6-10) we have rejoicing and exultation. It is the greatest celebration in the history of the universe. We (the church) are the bride in a wedding secured, bought, and paid for by the groom (Christ). Even our wedding garments (righteousness) have been given to us as a free gift.

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus spoke of his coming as the bridegroom. Our only job in life is to be prepared in patient expectation of the day of our wedding!

  • Why do you think righteous deeds are portrayed as fine white linen wedding garments?
  • Why are we commanded to clothe ourselves in light of the coming wedding?
  • How do we clothe ourselves?

The remainder of Revelation 19 is a battle scene. This battle, however, does not typify what we usually see in the movies. It is all one-sided!

The important piece of this passage is the depth to which it goes to give us the true identity of Christ.

It’s interesting to note that the bowl judgements are what compelled the kings of the earth the to gather together to oppose Christ. What seemed like the victory of Satan turns out to be the victory of God’s judgement because he was simply gathering the kings together for their flesh to be feasted upon by the birds.

Discussion Questions

  • What can we learn about Jesus from this passage?
  • Does this identity reflect the way Jesus is treated in the church?
  • Does this identity reflect what people typically think about Jesus in the world?
  • Do you think people will be surprised at the slaughter?
  • Why do you think the sharp sword comes from Jesus’ mouth?
  • Do you comprehend how powerful is the Word of God?
  • How do we celebrate our rescue without celebrating the awful fate of a world that is being judged?

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The Fall of Babylon

Revelation 18 Discussion Guide 

We have established over the past two weeks that the fall of Babylon is not so much about the fall of a particular city. It is the total collapse of the ethos by which the unbelieving world has operated. As with all Biblical prophecy, there are many layers of

As with all Biblical prophecy, there are many layers of application. The churches of Asia were able to see these things take place immediately in the first century. Some saw the foretelling of the fall of Rome a few hundred years later. Many commentators see a great parallel between Revelation 18 and Jeremiah 51 as they speak of the sudden and abrupt fall of a pagan city. We can look forward to a total and final collapse of the kingdom of Satan that will take place in the future when Christ replaces the counterfeit throne with one that is true and lasting. All Christians of all ages should have their faith strengthened and their wariness of the seductiveness of the world system heightened.

Christians of all eras can have their faith strengthened and their wariness of the seductive world system heightened by Revelation 18.

I want to highlight how one of the most important theologians in the history of the church dealt with the reality of the fall of Babylon in his own time. His name is Augustine of Hippo.

When the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 AD, the reaction throughout the empire was very similar to the shock throughout the United States after 9/11. Many Christians were sure that this event was sign of the soon return of Christ. The fact that Christian churches were spared the brunt of destruction further spread an apocalyptic view.

The separation of the empire between Constantinople (in Asia Minor) and Rome brought about the very decline in trade that is foretold in Revelation 18. People were asking difficult questions:

  • How could this happen?
  • Is God not on our side?
  • Aren’t we a Christian nation?
  • Is this the judgment of God?
  • Is this the judgment of the gods of paganism?
  • Does Rome have a future?
  • Is this what was prophesied in Revelation 18 (the majority view of church history has been to equate Babylon with Rome)?

In his magnum opus, The City of God, Augustine is not able to adequately answer all of the questions surrounding the calamities of the decline of Rome. He does, however, give Christians a theology of history that allows us to see and contrast the City of God (Jerusalem) with the City of Man (Babylon) throughout every age of Biblical and post-Biblical history. He challenges the reader to set their sights higher than a mere earthly empire.

Read more about Augustine at

In our own day, we should be able to identify many of the goods of Babylon that cannot satisfy and will not last. These are all summed up in power, privilege, pleasure, and value.

I believe that the consumerism of today is certainly in view among the things that the people of today prostitute themselves toward. Folks find their value and pleasure based on the fashion, cars, foods, real estate, and entertainment they consume. People pursue power in their families, in the workplace, and even at church. The privilege of social standing becomes the all-encompassing pursuit of the lives of others.

In John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, he allegorizes all of the worldly goods of Babylon by creating a place he called Vanity Fair.

Our young adult Life Group is being greatly enriched by discussing Pilgrim’s Progress every week. I highly recommend it as a short classic to put on your reading list.

The fall of Babylon certainly involves economic collapse. Plagues destroy any sense of the pleasure and satisfaction that people sought to buy from the wares of the city. Trade comes to a halt. Incomes vanish. Jobs go away.

Verse 19 tells us that in one hour the rich city has been laid waste. Many of us received a taste of what this feels like in 2008. Jobs, investments, homes, cars, and all of the nice things that money can buy disappeared in a matter of months. Times like this can cause great anguish and depression — especially for people who worship the power, privilege, pleasure, and value of Babylon.

The message for the church is clear: Babylon is an incredibly seductive place. We must be constantly watchful if we are going to remain separate from this worldly ethos and focused on the worship of God.

I can give example after example of born-again Christian who have seen their lives shipwrecked by consumerism, debt, sexual immorality, worshipping of titles/positions/jobs/sports/education, and love for the raw power of leadership positions.

We can NEVER assume that we won’t be sucked into the ethos of Babylon and have our lives upended in an instant when the great city falls down.

Discussion Questions

  • Where does the American church struggle with putting power, pleasure, privilege, position, and value before Christ?
  • What is consumerism?
  • Do you think consumerism is a particularly powerful form of spiritual prostitution in America today?
  • How do you live as a wealthy person without being suddenly consumed by that wealth?
    Note: If you make $38,000/year you are in the top 1% of income earners in the entire world. Almost every American alive is wealthier than the average person in the world.
  • Where do you struggle with the temptations of power, pleasure, privilege, position, and value in your own life?
  • Is it possible to “trade” with Babylon and not subscribe to her ethos? How?
  • Do your value systems sometimes seem weird to those around you? Is it because your value systems put Christ at the center?

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Harlot and the Beast

Discussion Guide for Revelation 17

Have you ever heard the saying “everybody has their price?”

This statement is popular because it is absolutely true for an unregenerate world in its rebellion against Christ.

The child of God is different. We have seen throughout the book of Revelation that the children of God, whose names are written in the Book of Life, will persevere in the midst of temptation and persecution. Every man in the world may have his price, but the child of God will cling to Christ at any cost. He sees that the true King is worth more than all the riches of this world combined.

Nowhere is the condition of the lost world more on display than in Revelation 17. The world owes Yahweh a debt of respect, gratitude, and worship for his Creation. Instead, the world system has played the harlot and sold itself for gold, jewels, and clothing.

Those in covenant with Yahweh have a fundamentally different relationship. The world sells itself to the bidder who offers the most appealing price at the moment, but God does not deal with mankind on a temporary transactional basis. A relationship with God is covenantal — it is eternal and offers far more than meaningless momentary pleasure.

Our teaching and preaching on Revelation 17 intentionally focuses on the spiritual lesson behind the harlot and the beast more than on the names, times, dates, and places of this chapter. There are so many possible explanations it can make your head spin.

Keep in mind that this is a form of Biblical prophecy which tends to contain both immediate and longer-term fulfillments of itself. The prophecy is equally applicable to the people alive who are hearing it for the first time as well as readers in the future who are being warned about promised events. This is certainly true for the identity of the harlot.

Verse 5 identifies the harlot with Babylon, which carries a unique role as a place of spiritual significance throughout all of the ages of Scripture.

In Genesis 11 Babylon is associated with the thwarted schemes of the people of Babel. In the story of Abram, it is associated with the land he left behind to pursue Yahweh. In the age of the kings and the prophets, Babylon becomes a place of judgment, a place of exile, and ultimately a place where Yahweh demonstrates his sovereignty over all of the nations of the earth.

I remember during the first Gulf War people were wondering if Saddam Hussein was the anti-Christ because he had supposedly begun to rebuild Babylon and was trying to position himself as the reincarnation of a Babylonian empire. I have no idea if this is even true, there was no internet to fact-check in the dark days of the early 1990s.

Babylon in the immediate context of Revelation referred to Rome. All of the miniature prostitutes who were seducing the people and persecuting the church were doing so because there was an emperor in Rome compelling them to do so. In the age of Protestantism people were convinced that the Rome was the beast and the prostitute was the pope. (It’s seldom noted the role that fear of Rome played in the founding of the United States. One impetus in forming colonial militias was that colonists did not believe King George was going to continue to offer adequate protection against the Catholic powers of France and Spain in North America. Americans would later make alliances with these two countries against Britain, but they initially were afraid that the

In the age of Protestantism people were convinced that Rome was the beast and the prostitute was the pope. In fact, fear of Rome actually played a role in the founding of the United States.

One impetus in forming colonial militias was that colonists did not believe King George was going to continue to offer adequate protection against the Catholic powers of France and Spain in North America. Americans would later make alliances with these two countries against Britain, but they initially were afraid that the Catholic countries were hopelessly under the influence of the great prostitute and would shed blood in persecuting American Protestants if they were left undefended. Many of the founding fathers were descended from French Huguenots and grew up hearing stories of the persecution of the true church by Louis XIV at the behest of Rome.

We are safe to say that Saddam Hussein is not specifically in view in Revelation 17. But, we could be reading a prophecy of the spirit of pride and arrogance prevalent in our current world system.

Almost all of the leaders of the world are more than willing to sacrifice justice and submission to Yahweh for money, power, sex, and fame. And this doesn’t just refer to political leaders. This prophecy can apply to practically all of the world’s systems – politics, business, military, education, pop culture, media, religion, etc.

Like all temptations, none of the things that people pursue are intrinsically bad. They become an object of spiritual prostitution only when pursued outside of glad submission to Christ.

Babylon represents a world system that has sold any allegiance to God to receive whatever is convenient at the moment.

Innocent people are crushed. The gullible are led astray. Enemies of Satan are persecuted.

Revelation 17 encourages us that despite its apparent pride and strength, this world system will eventually come to its own ruin.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you identify with Babylon and Rome in the world today?
  • In what ways have you seen the world prostitute itself?
  • What things do the systems of the world pursuing today that are in conflict with Christ?
  • Why is prostitution a fitting analogy?
  • Why does the siren song of the prostitute still carry temptation for Christians?
  • Do you see your own heart as pursuing Christ or pursuing the cheap thrills of the world?
  • How do we remain aware of our affections?
  • How does Revelation 17 give you hope for justice in the future?

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Don’t Go to Sleep

Discussion Guide for Revelation 16

Just this morning I have been listening to a new song from my favorite Christian hip-hop artist. He very straightforwardly makes his view known in calling out other Christian hip-hop artists for de-emphasizing the Gospel as they have gained a wider audience and acceptance in the pop culture of America. Many of these artists state that they have been fulfilling a call to take Gospel themes to a wider audience in the hopes of influencing non-believers toward the Gospel. Shai Linne’s critique is that you have shied away from the preaching of the Gospel if anything in your message is emphasized more than the Gospel.

What strikes me about this discussion, which takes place in public through the media of YouTube and Twitter, is that it is a discussion as old as the church itself. How can the church be a lampstand pointing the world to Christ while not standing in unity with a world that is in full-on rebellion against its Creator.

The rules for engagement are very seldom black-and-white. We must be students of the Word as well as students of the culture so that we can effectively know which elements of the culture to embrace and which elements from which to remain separated. We then have to understand the best way to communicate our separation so that people can see us pointing them to Jesus.

I am very encouraged to see this age-old dialogue taking place in the realm of Christian hip-hop. But, you don’t have to be a hip-hop fan to understand that the issue in the dialogue is the same exhortation that John gives in Revelation 16:15.


I don’t know how to deal with seven bowls of wrath in Revelation 16 and not feel anything other than terror at the extent of the wrath of God. If you didn’t listen to Steven Lawson’s sermon on the wrath of God last week, I highly recommend it for getting a sense of how completely consistent these bowls are with the nature of the Person of God.

One important thing to note is that the bowls of wrath are not God’s discipline. We often encounter limited aspects of the judgment of God in our own lives in order for God to call us to repentance and to live in glad submission to Him. None of this is happening in Revelation 16. Those who already belong to Christ rejoice at his justice. Those who are experiencing the full brunt of His wrath are further hardened in their opposition.

This pretty well illustrates the two camps into which all of humanity fall both now and into eternity: one camp is indwelled with hearts of worship toward the God of justice while the other camp rages against His wrath or attempts to conquer it without acknowledging its justice. These realities will be the difference between eternal heaven and eternal hell. Doug Wilson ascribes two statements to atheists: “There is no God; and I hate him.”

Bowls 1-4 are biological and ecological disasters poured out on the earth in measures never seen. Judging by the responses of people today to natural disasters we can surmise what their responses will be to the bowl wraths.

As Christians, we understand that God in creation gave man and woman a place of dominion over the earth to care for it. Creation is not God, Man is not God. Man’s job is to follow God’s design for the earth and to trust that he will provide for mankind the same way that He provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

The modern environmental movement has taken some dark twists that place man as the ultimate arbiter for the success or failure of the environment and place the environment as the ultimate reality rather than God. This is philosophically nothing more than old-school pantheism (think Greek mythology or Hinduism). It’s easy to imagine people vainly calling on the EPA for salvation rather than the God who is the source of the bowl judgments.

Bowls 4-7 represent God’s wrath attacking the very institutions of human political power. Much more will be said in the coming weeks about the fall of Babylon. This city has been the representative for the sinful pride of human civilization unified in defiance of God since the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Just as God brought the civilization of Babel down to spectacular chaos, so will he suddenly and spectacularly lay low the unified forces of the world’s superpowers that are arrayed against Him.

As with all of the Book of Revelation, this is not simply a story to sit back and enjoy. This unveiling is a message to spur the Church on to greater faithfulness to Christ. The exhortation in verse 15 is to tell us there is a blessing in staying awake and ready for action in the midst of a cosmic battle between God and the pride of mankind.

It’s very easy for us in the church to look around at the sinful aspects of the system of the World and believe that we are part of that system. There is a clear line drawn in the sand and the people of God are called to stand firmly on His side, which is the side of justice.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you struggle with being a witness to the world while remaining separate from the world?
  • How do you recognize the difference between God’s punitive judgment and his disciplinary judgment?
  • Why do you think repentance does not result from the bowl judgments?
  • Do recent disasters make people think about the bowl judgments?
  • What does it mean to fall asleep spiritually?
  • Why is spiritual sleep such an easy trap?
  • How are some of these bowl judgments reflected in the world today?
  • How will these judgments be worse in the future?
  • Do you grieve over the condition of the lost world?

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Justice rightly consumes a lot of the public discussion of our current events. Everybody claims to long for justice, to be on the side of justice, and to be working to bring justice to every corner of the earth. But, despite all of this attention and clamoring, injustice abounds.

Everybody claims to long for justice, to be on the side of justice, and to be working to bring justice to every corner of the earth. But, despite all of this attention and clamoring, injustice abounds.We don’t have to look very far to see things in our own community that make our blood boil.

We don’t have to look very far to see things in our own community that make our blood boil.Children go hungry while their parents buy drugs.

  • Children go hungry while their parents buy drugs.
  • Rich people get away with crimes while poor people get convicted.
  • Hard-working people get taxed while lazy people get a free ride.
  • Underprivileged kids get a subpar education while kids with the right last name get away with cheating.
  • Racial discrimination is allowed to continue.
  • Honest people get punished while liars go free.
  • Millions of innocent babies are aborted.
  • Good people meet tragedy while evil people prosper.

I don’t bring this up to suggest that America is somehow a cesspool of injustice. In fact, I believe this is probably the one place in the history of the world that has come closest to achieving justice for all types of people.

The fact that we still see so much injustice in the justest place on earth should tell us something about the extent to which justice has been perverted by man’s sinful condition.The feelings we have about injustice are no different than others throughout the history of the world. The justice of God is a central concern in Scripture because there is no other place that people have been able to find it.

The feelings we have about injustice are no different than others throughout the history of the world. The justice of God is a central concern in Scripture because there is no other place that people have been able to find it.Take, for example, the way that Christians have historically justified war. In two thousand years of Christian theology, there are some generally accepted principles that must be followed for a Christian to believe that a war is just:

Take, for example, the way that Christians have historically justified war. In two thousand years of Christian theology, there are some generally accepted principles that must be followed for a Christian to believe that a war is just: It’s a last resort

  1. It’s the last resort
  2. It’s waged by a legitimate civil authority
  3. It’s for a just cause
  4. There is a probability of success
  5. The war is waged to establish peace
  6. Only the amount of violence necessary to succeed should be used
  7. Civilians must be distinguished from military forces.

War is horrible and has never accomplished lasting peace because it has been imperfectly executed by sinful individuals, even as they have sometimes pursued right aims. In two thousand years, there has never been a war in which these principles were perfectly followed. When God makes war, he will completely and totally accomplish justice on the earth.

What are we speaking about when we try to conceptualize a God who pours out violent wrath in perfect justice? It is certainly not something that can be replicated. While Satan has been enraged to War against Christ’s church, his violence cannot compare with God’s wrath because God’s wrath is perfect, just, and holy. God’s wrath cannot be withstood as we continue to unfold the rest of the book of Revelation. There is much more to say about the just wrath of God, and the Bible certainly says much more than we are comfortable with in our modern American mindset.

Steven Lawson of Ligonier Ministries recently released a sermon summarizing the Biblical concept of the wrath of God. I highly commend it to you in preparation for this discussion.

Revelation 15 is giving John an introduction to the total unrelenting wrath that will be poured out on unredeemed humanity from God’s indignation against all injustice. The song of deliverance in Revelation 15 is only made possible because God is a perfectly just judge. God’s people have conquered the beast because God does not allow his kids to be chased forever. As God delivered his children from the injustice of Pharaoh through plagues and the hand of Moses, so the church will be ultimately delivered through the hand of Jesus and the plagues about to be poured out on the earth.

God’s wrath highlights his perfect justice, which makes our deliverance sparkle with an even greater luster for worship.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you noticed non-Christians longing for God’s justice?
  • How does the idea of God’s justice make you feel?
  • How does the idea of God’s wrath make you feel?
  • What are some ways that Christians work for justice in the world today?
  • Why is it good for Christians to serve as civil authorities (police, military, judges, elected officials)?
  • When is it permissible for a Christian to participate in war?
  • Why does war never bring about perfect justice?
  • What will be different about God accomplishing justice through wrath?
  • How does God’s justice highlight the cross?

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The Harvest

Discussion Guide for Revelation 14

In Revelation 14 we see the reappearance of the 144,000 sealed saints from Revelation 7.

We must remember that Revelation is not a chronology, but a picture meant to strengthen the church to endure. Therefore, when we see images from prior scenes repeated we need to immediately be drawn to the underlying truth which is necessary for our encouragement in the faith. It is so necessary that the Holy Spirit through John saw fit to underline it for us in the text of Revelation.

I do not hold to the common assertion that the 144,000 are necessarily post-Rapture Jewish believers. Nothing in the text of Revelation 14 indicates this. This is especially true if we do not hold Revelation to be a rigid chronology of future events.

The 144,000 is probably not even meant to be taken as a literal number. Remember that numbers have symbolic meaning in Revelation. 144,000 is 12 x 12 x 1,000, which represents the total number of God’s people.

Twelve is the number of the people of God. In the Old Testament, there were twelve tribes of Israel. In the New Testament, there are twelve apostles.

These 144,000 represent the multitude of God’s elect who have been redeemed to live a pure life in the midst of a world that is totally opposed to the Lordship of Christ. My interpretation is that we who are in Christ today should count ourselves among the 144,000.

Redeemed Christ-followers have a night and day contrast with the rest of those on planet earth who are marked with the number of man. While the rest of the world has followed the beast and engaged in sexual immorality (v.8), the 144,000 have kept themselves chaste.

Sexual immorality is a common sin used in the Bible as a representative for all sorts of idolatry. The way we treat our sexuality says everything about the reverence we have for God, who created us as sexual beings. The sexual intimacy of a husband and wife within the covenant of marriage is God’s right and proper plan for sex.

While the rest of the world worships the beast, the 144,000 sing a new song (v.2). While the rest of the world follows after the lies of the beast, the 144,000 go forward as the firstfruits of God’s first harvest (v. 4-5).

This means that they are the ones who proclaim the Gospel to a condemned world and that God uses their preaching to redeem many from the clutch of the beast. Even if it costs the 144,000 their lives, the effort will reap a harvest of even greater eternal value.

The first harvest of grain ought to call our attention to John 4:35. In the sovereignty of God’s plan, there is a full number of elect who will be redeemed from the earth by grace through faith.

Our proclaiming the Gospel is part of God’s plan to bring about the coming of Christ. When you share your faith at home, at school, and at work you are part of coming harvest of Jesus.

The second harvest comes about in Rev. 14:17-20. This is a harvest of judgement upon the earth.

One important aspect to note is that it is a harvest of the grapes of wrath that have already been planted by the world and its system.

Have you ever heard the saying “he who lives by the sword will die by the sword?” Hosea prophesied of those

who “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). This is a pretty good summary of what the judgement of God will look like.

All of the vileness of sinful hearts, self-worship, immorality, and violence will be harvested, poured into a vat, and then spewed out over the earth in the same measure that the earth has been a party to it.

There is no such thing as undeserved judgement when it comes to God. Those who do not submit themselves to the umbrella of Christ’s mercy will reap the full natural consequences and judgement for the sin in which they have participated.

Discussion Questions

  • How do you feel that you relate to the 144,000?
  • What role does worship play in the life of the redeemed?
  • Do we play too great or too small of an emphasis on worship in our own lives?
  • Why is the sexual purity of the 144,000 such a big deal?
  • Why does the beast use sex to lead hearts into idolatry?
  • Do you ever get discouraged into wondering if living a pure life and proclaiming the Gospel is worth the effort?
  • Does this text encourage you?
  • How does the angels’ message of judgement fly in the face of much preaching today?
  • Do you think it is valid to say that the second harvest of the grapes of wrath are the deeds of the wicked being poured back on the wicked?
  • How do you see this playing out in the world today?

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The Great Counterfeiter

Discussion Guide for Revelation 13

“Falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after it…” – Jonathan Swift

There is one important truth that defines the Book of Revelation: God is victorious in the end. The reason we must keep this in mind is that Satan is the great father of lies and his falsehoods seem to carry the day for a very long time.

This should come as no surprise to anyone acquainted with humanity.

  • Marriages are wrecked by total breakdowns of trust.
  • Employers cannot give their employees the benefit of the doubt.
  • Investors lose their life savings to banking schemes and credit ratings that were built on lies.
  • Parents have to discipline children who can tell a lie as easily as they tell the truth.
  • Teachers have to remind students not to trust all the information they read on the internet.
  • Voters try to make important decisions without the ability to trust much of what they read or see in the media.

We don’t have to look very far to see the effects of the reign of Satan in the world around us.

People replace the truth and goodness of following Christ with the false experiences of Satan. The specifics of what Satan offers will follow in weeks to come. But, the focus of Revelation 13 is to identify the source of all of falsehood and counterfeiting in the world.

Sinful man will always be willing to pursue an idolatry that imitates God but doesn’t demand the absolute allegiance that God demands.

We need to note that Satan is ultimately trying to offer an alternative to God. He will never be successful in this mission because there is only one God with ultimate sovereignty and majesty.

Satan will, however, be successful in deceiving men. This is possible because men, blinded and cursed by sin, do not have the desire or the ability to know or understand the true God. Wherever there is an absence of the knowledge of God, it will always be replaced with an idol.

The idolatry in Revelation 13 even goes so far as to counterfeit the Son and the Holy Spirit. Satan will mimic the cross and resurrection of Christ and mimic the supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit.

We live in a day and age where many Christians are deceived into thinking that because something is spiritual or supernatural then it must be from God. We must be careful to also understand that Satan is a spiritual being who has the ability to do great signs and wonders in the spiritual world. Only knowing and trusting God for who He truly is (having one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life) and pursuing Him daily can offer protection from being deceived into worshipping idols.

One way that we can identify the beast is that he is at war with the church (those who confess Jesus as Lord). He will use the economic systems of the day to exert pressure on faithful Christians to either renounce Jesus or be killed. But rest assured, all who truly belong to Christ will persevere in the faith, even if it costs them their lives.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you noticed that people are far more willing to follow a lie than the truth? Why do you think that is? Does Revelation 13 give clues to explain why that is the case?
  • What clues from the text lead you to see that Satan is trying to offer an alternative to God?
  • Why is the world so willing to accept Satan’s alternative?
  • How do you understand the mark of the Beast? (use sermon notes)
  • Does being a follower of Jesus bring us closer to the world economic system or drive us away from it?
  • How can we be faithful followers of Jesus while working in a fallen world economic system?
  • How can the believers in Revelation 13 trust in God for sustenance instead of the beast, given that they are shut out of the economic system?

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The Woman & The Dragon

Revelation 12 Discussion Guide

Genesis 3:15 is a key Old Testament text that gives the backdrop to Revelation. You may be familiar with Genesis 3:15 and the term protoevangelium. This means the first good news. When Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of the serpent and were first placed under the curse of sin, God in the midst of their cursing also proclaimed their ultimate redemption.

“I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.”

The serpent and his offspring are the kingdom and works of Satan. The kingdom of Satan proves to be a counterfeit (later sermons will explore that), but that does not mean that Satan’s kingdom does not have real destructive consequences for the world today.

The offspring of the woman is the only one to have no earthly father: Jesus Christ. Though Satan may seem to be in a position to destroy Jesus and render mankind hopelessly lost, the best he can do is to bruise his heel. Just when Satan seems destined to win, Jesus’ victory destroys Satan and his work.

Revelation 12 is best understood as yet another telling of the glorious cosmic story of the redemption of God’s people. David Platt puts the Good News of Revelation 12 beautifully:

“The Birth of Christ on that day in Bethlehem inaugurated the death of this ancient serpent, just as it had been promised back in Genesis 3. The birth of Christ declared the death of the ancient serpent; the death of Christ defanged the adversary.”1

Psalm 2 is the other OT text that provides context for Revelation 12. The kings of the earth are an evil world system that rages in opposition to the righteous system of the reign of God. The messianic Davidic Son of Yahweh will be sent to subdue the kings of the earth with a rod of iron.

Despite Satan’s guaranteed and looming defeat, James Hamilton likens his reign on the earth to the violent destruction of a rabid animal. The animal’s death is sealed, but he walks about temporarily to cause death and carnage. We learn many things about the nature and character of Satan from Revelation 12.

  • He has no standing with God (v. 8).
  • He is the deceiver of the whole world (v.9).
  • He is the accuser of the saints of God (v.10).
  • He hates the divine miracle of birth. He hates babies.

Satan’s inability to conquer the Messiah causes him to rage against all the God declares as “Mine.” Genocide and racism against entire groups of people and persecution of the church give testimony to the tremendous power that Satan has to accomplish the destruction of men on the earth. Many theologians have noted the particular Satanic influence that has resulted at various times in history in people embracing the evil of infanticide. I don’t believe it is a stretch today to ascribe the same demonic influence to the movement has resulted in millions upon millions of babies aborted in the womb every year throughout the world. I believe we can only make sense of white supremacy and every other form of racial hatred by seeing it as the work of Satan to destroy what God has made and called “good.”

  • He will not give up without a fight (v.17).
  • God demonstrates his sovereignty over the earth when he causes the earth itself to thwart the destructive plans of the devil (vv. 13-17).

Discussion Questions

  • Where do you see Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 2 in the text of Revelation 12? Do you think it is legitimate to view Revelation 12 as a retelling of those texts?
  • How is the influence of Satan present in the evils of abortion, infanticide, racism, and genocide?
  • How can we speak the Gospel of Jesus to fight against those evil world systems?
  • How do you see the truths about Satan in Revelation 12 present in your daily life?
  • Why is Jesus such a threat to Satan?
  • Why does Satan turn to attacking the people of God?
  • How have you seen God save his people from the attacks of Satan?

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