March 18 - 24
Blessed Assurances in Revelation
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Rev. 1:1-3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.
MEMORY TEXT: "Behold, I am coming as a thief, blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHTS: The book of Revelation presents us with seven beatitudes or pronouncements of blessing for those who persevere to follow Christ until the end. These beatitudes serve also as assurances that Christ will never abandon His faithful disciples.
THE BLESSINGS OF GOD IN THEIR TOTALITY. The last book of the Bible brings seven beatitudes which begin with the first chapter (Rev. 1:1-3) and conclude with the last (Rev. 22:14). Christ will reward His faithful followers with His abiding presence all the way, even in death, and will vindicate and honor them at last.
The seven blessings reveal a progression from John's time to the time of the end and the second advent of Christ. Consequently, these beatitudes may be seen as a summary of Revelation's message. Together they represent the complete blessings of God for all His faithful and persevering children. Death has no power over such, for they love their Lord, keep His words, receive and live His righteousness. The marriage supper of the Lamb awaits them to celebrate this grand victory with Him. As we study these assurances of God this week, may the Holy Spirit help us to apply their saving and sanctifying power in our lives. May the promised glorious future with Christ renew our love to Him.
Why does God promise His blessing on all who hear, study, and keep His words in Revelation? Rev. 1:3; 22:7.
"When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience. They will be given such glimpses of the open gates of heaven that heart and mind will be impressed with the character that all must develop in order to realize the blessedness which is to be the reward of the pure in heart. One thing will certainly be understood from the study of Revelation—that the connection between God and His people is close and decided." "If our people were half awake, if they realized the nearness of the events portrayed in the Revelation, a reformation would be wrought in our churches, and many more would believe the message."—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 114, 118.
In order to understand the book of Revelation better than we do now, we must approach its symbols correctly. This means that we must use correct principles of prophetic interpretation before we apply a symbolic prophecy to history. The General Conference has provided some important guidelines in this respect through the seven volumes of the "Daniel and Revelation Committee" (from 1982-1992). These enlightening studies by our qualified Bible scholars are quite helpful in understanding these two books. Regarding our subject at hand we have Symposium on Revelation (F. B. Holbrook, editor; Biblical Research Institute).
How are we to regard the book of Revelation? Rev. 1:3; 22:18, 19.
To understand this symbolic book, we need to realize first that its symbols continue the traditional Hebrew images and terms. This connects Revelation closely with the Old Testament. These connections have to be established so that we can study each apocalyptic symbol in its original setting and meaning. There is a spiritual unity in God's revelations and works of redemption and judgment found in God's two witnesses of the Old and the New Testament This brings with it a deeper insight and conviction of truth.
The other important principle of prophetic interpretation is the application of the gospel of Christ to all Hebrew symbols and images for the Christian age, because Christ is the center of all hope.
What did Christ accomplish for us by His shed blood? Rev. 1:5; 5:9.
Notice the imagery Isaiah used to express his own saving experience: "I delight greatly in the Lord..... For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness" (61:10, NIV).
Explain why Christ counsels the church in Laodicea to "buy" from Him "white clothes to wear"? Rev. 3:18, NIV.
Do you see a connection between these symbolic "white clothes" and "wearing" them? Do you discern a close connection between justification and sanctification here?
What is a believer to do after he has accepted from Christ His "white clothes"?
We may consider Revelation 7:14 as the key text to understand the meaning of the seventh beatitude in Revelation 22:14. It explains to some extent how we can wash our character robes to be white again. It keeps the attention riveted on the present privilege and duty of Christ's followers: they need to keep washing their robes of character.
Most modem versions of the Bible accept the reading, "those who wash their robes" (Rev. 22:14) as preferable; however, the King James Version renders it, "they that do his commandments." The SDA Bible Commentary harmonizes the two: "In actual fact both readings suit the context and are in harmony with John's teaching elsewhere.... Our title to heaven is the righteousness of Christ imputed: our fitness for heaven, the righteousness of Christ imparted, represented by the washed robes."—Vol. 7, p. 897. It is also represented by the outward evidence of doing His commandments. "Hence the two ideas of washed robes and obedience to commandments are closely related."—Page 897.
In this way the believer keeps a living connection between participating in the atoning cross of Christ and preparing for future salvation in Paradise restored.
|How do you apply the shed blood of Christ daily to your conscience?|
What kinds of people in Jesus' parables were invited to the wedding banquet? Matt. 22:9, 10; Luke 14:23.
It is important to know that the king in Jesus' parable invited not only the good people to the wedding feast, but also the bad ones (Matt. 22:10). They represent all nations in the Christian church (Matt. 28:19). "It points to the mixture of true and false—i.e., obedient and disobedient—disciples in the church and sets the stage for the further addition of vv 11-14 (cf. 13:24-30)."—R. H. Gundry, Matthew (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982), p. 438.
Why was at least one man who was invited not allowed to take part in the wedding feast? Matt. 22:11-14.
The king came in to see the guests before the actual wedding occurs. An interesting application is presented by Dr. S. Kistemaker: "The guest who did not have wedding clothes at the royal banquet unmistakably represents the self-righteous sinner. He wants to make it known that he does not need the sacrificial death and atoning blood of Jesus to enter heaven.... It is an utter impossibility to appear before God without the protective clothing offered by Jesus Christ."—The Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1980), p.l, 5.
What clarifying note does John add regarding the meaning of "fine linen"? Rev. 19:8. Why do you think he does that?
The larger setting of the unit of Revelation 17-19 shows the contrast between the "harlot" and the "bride." Their different dresses indicate different behaviors. In opposition to the evil deeds of the harlot (see Rev. 17:4-6), John points to the "righteous acts" of the bride of the Lamb. This indicates a Christlike character!
When will the wedding supper of the Lamb take place? Matt. 26:29; 1 Cor. 11:26. Do you see a relationship of this to the Lord's Supper? 1 Cor. 11:28, 29.
|In what ways are you preparing yourself for the wedding supper of the Lamb?|
What is the time-setting of the beatitude in Rev. 14:13?
If we recognize the specific context of the pronouncement of blessing, we have moved forward in time to the preaching of the last warning message of God to all nations (Rev. 14:6-12). This means that the blessed dead of 14:13 are those who kept "the faith of Jesus" (14:12, NKJV) during the testing time. The phrase "from now on" does not point to the moment of death, as some commentators say, but refers to those who die in the Lord while witnessing with the restored faith and obedience to God's commandments (14:12). They do this in the face of the threats of the beast and his allies (Rev. 13:15-17). This special blessing is assured by the resurrection of Christ, who holds "the keys of death and Hades" (Rev. 1:18, NIV). Notice the remarkable confirmation by the Holy Spirit: "Yes,... they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them" (14:13, NIV). These "deeds" are not independent entities but the expression of a living faith in those whose lives correspond to their profession.
What is the time frame of the beatitude of Revelation 16:15? (See Rev. 16:1.)
Again we are moved forward in history, now to the time of the seven last plagues. Although these plagues will fall only after probation has ended (Rev. 15:1, 8), Christ inserts here a special alert signal to His end-time people: "Behold, I come like a thief!" (Rev. 16:15, NIV). This must be understood in the light of Christ's earlier warnings (Rev. 3:3; Matt. 24:43, 44; Luke 21:34-36). Their purpose is to arouse God's people to be ready before probation ends. "It is precisely because the followers of the Antichrist are not awake to God and his gospel that the day of God for them is a day of doom instead of a day of redemption."—G. Beasley-Murray, Revelation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983), p. 245.
What do you think is the meaning of the blessing of staying awake and keeping one's clothes found in Revelation 16:15? (See Matt. 22:11.)
|"Are my sins forgiven? Has Christ, the Burden-bearer, taken away my guilt? Have I a clean heart, purified by the righteousness of Jesus Christ?"—Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Nov. 27, 1900.|
What is the most comforting assurance for the future of the saints? Rev. 20:4-6.
This blessed assurance goes beyond that of 14:13. Its fulfillment must come before the saints can enter the wedding supper of the Lamb in 19:9. Here we find also the reassuring answer to the question What will happen in the judgment to those who have died in the Lord? How and when will they enter heaven and enjoy its glory? By a new act of creation! The faithful ones will be resurrected along with those who will be translated to take part in a new responsibility, to judge the world (see also 1 Cor. 6:2, 3).
This is a fulfillment of what the prophets had already promised in the resurrection for the saints (see Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2).
Who are the "holy" ones that are blessed with the first resurrection? Rev. 20:6.
We need to realize that the term saints [hoi hagioi, in Greek] is the regular title of all believers in Christ (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). This title does not denote primarily a moral qualification, but a calling to belong to God as His chosen people (see Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12). But then the Spirit of God leads them into a life of holiness (Rom. 8:14; 1 Cor. 6:11) to make them fit for heaven (Col. 1:12), to make their "calling and election sure" (2 Pet. 1:10, 11). Peter explains the moral implications in this regard (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
For our purpose, we need to consider also the larger context in Exodus 19:6 and Daniel 7:9, 21, 22, 25. The background of Daniel 7:22 is illuminating for understanding Revelation 20:4-6. The saints in Daniel 7 are those who remain faithful in persecution and witness faithfully about the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
How did Jesus describe death? How did He correct Martha's belief in the resurrection? John 11:11, 23-26.
"In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. 'He that hath the Son hath life.' The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life."—The Desire of Ages, p. 530.
|Discuss Paul's certainty of faith in 2 Timothy 4:6-8.|
FURTHER STUDY: Study about the divine act of forgiveness portrayed in Zechariah 3:3-5. Discover what the risen Lord knows about the deeds of His people (Rev. 2:2, 9, 19, 23; 3:1, 8, 15). Can you detect a relation between Revelation 14:13 and Isaiah 57:1, 2, 10? For the expression "shamefully exposed," see Revelation 17:16 and Ezekiel 23:24-29.
Ellen G. White strongly urged all members of the church to restudy the prophetic portions of Scripture, especially Daniel and Revelation (see Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 112-119).
Read The Desire of Ages, the chap. entitled "Lazarus, Come Forth," and Christ's Object Lessons, the chap. entitled "Without a Wedding Garment."
"When the king came in to view the guests, the real character of all was revealed. For every guest at the feast there had been provided a wedding garment. This garment was a gift from the king. By wearing it the guests showed their respect for the giver of the feast. But one man was clothed in his common citizen dress."—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 309.
A helpful comment on Revelation 22:14 is found in Problems in Bible Translation (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1954), p. 261: "In the last analysis, it makes little difference which of the two renderings we accept, as far as doctrinal teaching is concerned. It is evident that those whose robes have been washed from sin will naturally, through the indwelling Christ, be obedient to God, and hence will keep the commandments of God. Furthermore, those of whom it is said that they keep the commandments of God, do so only because their robes have been washed by the precious blood of Christ."
SUMMARY: The book of Revelation gives the church seven promises of blessing, a complete assurance of salvation. The marriage motif becomes the dominant emphasis, together with a strong witness to all peoples to come to the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Mathurin Dellev is a farmer on the beautiful island of Martinique in the Caribbean. But for him farming is simply a means to earn a living. His real love is evangelism.
Although he grew up in a religious home, as a teenager religion never stopped him from doing the things he considered fun, such as going to movies, dances, and cockfights. "Life was good," he said. "And I planned to get the most out of it!"
But when he was 19 years old, he met Jesus Christ, and everything changed.
When his family was invited to attend evangelistic meetings, Mathurin decided to go. He was deeply moved as the speaker revealed Jesus Christ from the Bible. But he had no intention of becoming an Adventist and having to give up cockfights and dancing.
Then he learned about the Sabbath. He asked his priest why some Christians keep the Sabbath and others don't. The priest responded honestly. "The Sabbath day is Saturday; we observe Sunday to honor Jesus' resurrection."
Mathurin was troubled. He wanted to be saved, spared from the eternal fire reserved for Satan and his angels. But how could he be saved if he did not obey God's law? He tried to ignore these new truths, but his conscience would not let him. Finally he surrendered his life to Christ and was baptized. The rest of his family soon joined him.
Today Mathurin's family finds their greatest joy in seeing others come to know Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life. They sell farm products, including goat milk, to their neighbors. Often they include a book, a magazine, or literature with their milk deliveries.
One customer has a sign on his house that says, "No Jehovah's Witnesses or Adventists allowed." Mathurin had given the family magazines before, but they had seemed unreceptive. Then last year the family was not getting milk deliveries and did not receive the gift books Mathurin gave to customers. When the family resumed milk deliveries, they asked if they could get the gift books as well! Mathurin says that the family is more open to receiving other literature. He looks forward to the day when their milk deliveries will include Bible studies.
Mathurin Dellev is a lay leader in the Verrier Church in Bellefontaine, Martinique.
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