Awaiting Advent / Advent; Second Coming / Revelation 22:10–13
George Orwell’s parody of Communism, Animal Farm, basically provides an outline of how certain dictators have responded to COVID. In chapter five, Napoleon decided to end Sunday meetings where all the farm animals would vote on various decisions. He began making decisions for the farm among a small private committee. Squealer shared the news of this transition with the rest of the animals.
No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?
It is easy to feel defeated when it appears the wicked are able to accomplish their will without any hindrance or retaliation. While the Church struggles to survive, businesses with godless motives thrive. We see the same thing in our personal relationships. The frustration that results can lead to a compromising approach to our Christian calling and sanctification.
Oftentimes, we experience these frustrations and doubts because we actually envy what the wicked are able to get away with. We think that we are missing out on some superior way of living. But, we rarely see the fearful emptiness that accompanies the wicked.
We all have an important lesson to learn: Your longing for perfect justice will never be satisfied in this fallen world. It is quite possible that faulty expectations have compounded our frustrations in 2020.
This morning we will further analyze our condition and consider how Scripture leads us toward a hopeful response.
We will see our critical need for God’s revelation in order to rightly understand and respond to the frustrations of living in a fallen world. We must live with a view towards the final judgment at the end of this present age. Ultimately, the revelation of redemptive history prepares us to face our future judgment with hope.
Read Revelation 22:10-13.
Act According to Your Age (10-11)
Although I’m playing off the saying that all parents give to their oldest child, “Act your age!”, I’m actually referring to the present age of redemptive history. There is a certain level of freedom to live in ways that are contrary to God’s revealed will, but the time of judgment is near. This reality ought to temper any expectations we have prior to Christ’s Return and encourage our perseverance to the end.
The Old Testament prophet, Daniel, was told to seal up the words of his prophecy until “the time of the end” (Dan 8:26; 12:4, 9), but John is encouraged to keep the words of his prophecy unsealed (Rev 22:10). Revelation is meant to be read and understood by the Church throughout this present age, “for the time is near.” A time that was distant for Daniel has arrived for John.
The fact that these words remain unsealed indicates their importance for our present condition. Revelation is a critical component to our ability to persevere.
The Church is supposed to consider Christ’s return as an imminent possibility. The events portrayed in Revelation have already begun, but they are not consummated until Christ’s Return.
Those living in this present age have gained a great deal of insight into the detailed plan of God’s redemptive purposes. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ provide confirmation that we are living in the latter days where the fulfillment of OT prophecies has been inaugurated. It also reveals an ongoing expectation of tribulation.
George Ladd’s comment on this passage is helpful for our present struggle.
A Commentary on the Revelation of John VI. Epilogue (22:6–21)
John’s prophecy outlines the spiritual struggle between God and Satan (chap. 12) which expresses itself wherever the state exceeds its divinely ordained role as the supporter of law and order (Rom. 13:1–7). Therefore, while the book is primarily concerned with the climax of the Struggle in the appearance of Antichrist, it is also relevant to Christian experience wherever and whenever the antichristian principle of totalitarianism manifests itself.
Generations are largely defined by major events that occurred in their lifetime and effected a majority of the population. The Greatest Generation survived the Great Depression and WWII. They believe in personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith. The Silent Generation is defined by the Korean War and the Cold War. They stood up to Communism and began the civil rights movement. The Baby Boomers enjoyed the years after WWII. They saw war, but also enjoyed testing the limits of their freedom with indulgence in sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Gen Xers, Millennials, and Zers have all experienced various degrees of economic and technological change, but few of them understand the struggles of living under a totalitarian regime. Many of them possess a naive optimism that is utterly ignorant of history.
In 2020, we are seeing the ongoing manifestation of the spiritual struggle between God and Satan. In America, we are seeing the beginning stages of a soft-totalitarianism, but few people under the age of 56 seem worried about the threat.
The reality is, this present age is filled with people acting according to their nature (Rev 22:11). Verse eleven serves as a declaration of this present darkness. Those united to evil and filth, will act accordingly. Those who—by faith—have been united to Christ, will do right and be holy.
This also alludes to Daniel.
Daniel 12:10 ESV
Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.
We never move beyond this battle between good and evil in this present age. This is true even within the community of professing believers. The weeds continue to grow in the midst of the wheat. However, the great day of harvest is coming when the two will be forever separated from one another. The wheat will be gathered into the barn while the weeds are burned up (Mt 13:30).
When we consider the situation the churches faced in Asia Minor at the end of the first century, we can understand how urgent this revelation was for them. They were on the verge of compromise, to the point that Jesus was about to remove the lampstand of his gospel light from Ephesus altogether (Rev 2:5)!
They were condemned for their loss of love for others, both inside and outside the community of saints. While they possessed a commendable love for the truth of God’s Word, they struggled to love one another.
They needed to understand that a church which fails to love is on the verge of losing its light. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit applied these words of prophecy to the church community so that they might come to repentance and renew their love.
Of course, this was not merely a message for the church of the first century. It contains wisdom, rebuke, insight, and comfort that all churches need to hear. Because we live in this present darkness, where righteousness is always mixed with filthiness, we need God’s Word to frequently remind us to walk by faith and not by sight.
Where do you find your comfort in the midst of a pandemic? How do you respond when every news channel seems to exaggerate the statistics, and the government remains determined to make health decisions for your family?
Are you grateful that God has given us His word to study and equip us to live in the midst of a world that is broken by sin? We have the privilege of living in an age after the first coming of Christ. We benefit from knowing about the ministry and suffering of our Savior.
Wickedness and righteousness exist alongside one another, even within the context of the Church. What sets us apart from the world is not where we go, but what we believe. May we not settle for attending Church, but may it equip us and spur us onward throughout the week to live in light of the blessings that flow from our salvation.
We may or may not face the same kind of persecution that the original audience faced in Asia Minor, but we are united to the Catholic Church across time and space. May these words ground the Church and comfort her in times of tribulation. May they drive us to repentance that leads to reconciliation with God and others.
› We are to act according to this present age in light of the…
Judgment According to Your Works (12-13)
Once again Christ begins to speak. He had previously exhorted his readers to keep the words of Revelation because He is coming soon (Rev 22:6). Now he reiterates that sentiment, acknowledging the possibility of his return at any time.
Christ’s purpose for coming is to bring about the final judgment according to works (Rev 22:12). Based upon the previous verse, the recompense and repayment that is in view is universal in scope. Everyone will face judgment, the evil as well as the righteous (cf Rev 20:12; 2 Cor 5:10; Isa 40:10).
The Christ of the Covenants Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace
Scripture consistently indicates that the final judgment of man shall be according to works. While salvation is by faith, judgment is by works.
The topic of the final judgment has been confusing for Christians. What exactly is being judged at this time? Well, there are several important truths to keep in mind.
1. Judgment of Works for Men and Angels (WCF 23.1; WLC Q.88). The Greek word “μισθός” is usually translated “rewards” or “wages”. Coming on the heels of v.11, this “recompense” will be based upon the deeds that are done. Works are a necessary consequence of the salvation that Christ has purchased (Eph 2:6-10; 1 Cor 3:13-15). Because we have been saved by faith, we will produce the fruit of good works.
2. Believers Will Be Acquitted of their Guilt (WCF 23.2; WSC Q.38; WLC Q.90).
3. Unbelievers Will Be Condemned (WCF 23.2; WLC Q.89). The evildoer and filthy will receive their wages, which is eternal destruction (2 Thes 1:8-9).
This does not mean that we place our hope on the last day in the good works that we have done. Our righteous deeds cannot earn favor or pardon from God, even though they are graciously rewarded. Our hope is in the One who is bringing the judgment.
The One who is bringing judgment is the One who has been present to witness everything that has been thought, said, and done from the very beginning (Rev 22:13). Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega is the last (A to Z). If Jesus was represented at the beginning and the end, then He is also present at every point in between. And that is the grounds for His authority to bring about perfect justice.
If Rev 22:10-11 gave us the encouragement to devote ourselves to God’s revelation in light of this present age, then Rev 22:12-13 provides the motivation. Since Christ’s Return is near and will be unexpected, we must live as if it could be today. That doesn’t mean we don’t plan for the future or fight for issues of temporary justice. But we do all things with the recognition that ultimate justice is coming soon!
Ultimate justice can only be carried out by Jesus Christ! Jesus was the only human to perfectly fulfill the righteous demands of the law. Yet he suffered under the wrath of his Father, taking upon himself the penalty that our sin deserved. He was separated from the love of God for the first and last time.
Ortlund: Would it not have been the withdrawal of God’s love from his heart, not the withdrawal of oxygen from his lungs, that killed him? Who could hold up mental stability when drinking down what God’s people deserved? “In the presence of this mental anguish,” wrote Warfield, “the physical tortures of the crucifixion retire into the background, and we may well believe that our Lord, though he died on the cross, yet died not of the cross, but, as we commonly say, of a broken heart.” It was the suffering of Christ’s heart that overwhelmed what his physical frame could handle…
But why would he go through with it? Why would he step down into the horror of hellish condemnation when he was the one person who didn’t deserve it?
[John 13:1] tells us. “Having loved his own…he loved them to the end,”…He set his heart on his own. They are his. “There is not the meanest, the weakest, the poorest believer on the earth,” wrote Owen, “but Christ prizes him more than all the world.”
Are you certain of the acquittal that awaits you on that day? Do you live in the assurance that Christ’s heart is filled with love for you? If you are, you will anticipate his return with hope.
Hebrews 6:11–12 ESV
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Not only that, but hope spurs us on to love and good deeds. Because we are united to a righteous and holy Savior, one who knows everything from beginning to end, we delight to honor him.
We need the help of God’s revelation to live in light of the coming judgment. As God’s children, we do not cower in fear of this judgment, but we actually look forward to the day of our final acquittal and the gracious reception of rewards.
The only thing you deserve is eternal judgment, but Jesus offers eternal life! There is no greater reward than that. However, our gratitude extends further because Christ has promised to crown his gifts that our enjoyment might be overflowing for all eternity.