Six Pictures of Unseen Reality Revelation 19-20

The book of Revelation is written in apocalyptic language. It looks ahead to the coming end of days in language which is more often pictorial and symbolic rather than literal. It points to events which are going to happen and at the same time to events which are already happening in the lives of the original readers at the end of the first century, and to the kinds of events which will continue to occur in the life of the church until Jesus returns in glory.
Some parts of Revelation are very difficult to understand. Chapter 20 mentions the thousand years, the millennium, and Christians have been arguing about what exactly that chapter means for almost 2000 years. We will think about the millennium next week but before we do that I think it is important we do not lose sight of the central truths that chapter proclaims which are easy to understand. So this evening we will pick out six points from Revelation chapters 19 and 20. We cannot see it, but the Bible reveals to us the way the world really is. Six pictures of unseen reality.
19 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

Jump to v 6
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
9 Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’

Here is the message at the heart of the Book of Revelation. Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Our God reigns! It doesn’t usually appear like that. We see so many problems and so much suffering in the world, and for folk in the church, and often in our own personal lives. But too often we don’t see the full picture. With Big Ben we only see the hands moving – we can’t see all the vast mechanisms going on inside that giant clock. Even more so with the universe. We can’t see the wood for the trees. But the book of Revelation gives us a look “behind the scenes” of the history of the world at what is really going on. In Revelation 19-20 there are six separate pictures each introduced by the words “I saw.” Six pictures of unseen reality. They aren’t photographs, they are only paintings or pictures. In fact it may be best to see these as cartoons where figures are symbolic representations of reality. In political cartoons we see the bulldog and that is usually a representation of Britain. We see and eagle and that is America, and a bear represents Russia. So we won’t dwell on specific details in these pictures but just get the overview – what is going on unseen behind the history of the world?
THE COMMANDER OF THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN
The first picture introduces the hero of the whole story. We met him earlier in chapters 5 and 7 as the Lamb who was slain, but in this chapter He is revealed in all his glory.
Revelation 19 11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Last week we saw from Revelation 12 that there’s a war on. A heavenly battle between the dragon, that ancient serpent, the devil, and the brothers and sisters of the child, those who hold fast to the testimony about Jesus. Here is something we need to remember in all the battles we may be experiencing. We are not alone in our war against the world, the flesh and the devil, against the temptations in our own lives and all the evil in the world around. We are not alone. We are just a tiny part of the armies of heaven who stand behind the on who rides on the white horse, the one who is faithful and true, the one who is named The Word of God. We are following the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! And the commander of the armies of heaven leads us and protects us and wins the victory every time on our behalf. And we are not alone because we ride alongside the armies of heaven, the saints in glory, the saints around the world and all the armies of angels. So we are not alone. If God is for us, who can be against us?
HIS VICTORY IS CERTAIN
Revelation 19 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in mid-air, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.’

Here is the truth the devil wants us to forget. The truth that the commander of the armies of heaven is indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords and His victory is certain, 100% guaranteed! The outcome of all the battles we and Christians everywhere may be fighting is already known and decided. The birds of prey are already circling ready to devour the corpses of those who will be defeated.
One particularly striking moment from our holiday in Tanzania was the point where we noticed a tree with maybe a dozen birds on the top. They were vultures. And looking in the sky we could see more vultures circling overhead. Then we looked down to the river bank and saw a group of lions stalking their pray. The wildebeest hadn’t noticed the lions creeping up on one of their calves. And the lions had not struck yet. But the vultures were already gathering. The outcome of the contest was obvious. And in the last battle, the outcome is certain. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords will be victorious! Because the Lamb who was slain has already won that victory on the cross. And Christ shares that triumph with all who trust and follow him. Victory is certain!
HIS ENEMIES ARE DOOMED
Revelation 19 19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Sometimes it seems as though there are so many powers at work against God. The beast, the false prophet, the kings of the earth and all their armies. Let’s not get bogged down in the detail of who the beast represents and who the false prophet is. There have been beasts and false prophets in every generation and there will continue to be different beasts and false prophets until Jesus returns. Nations and organisations and individuals who fulfil these prophecies by rebelling against God and leading the world astray. Don’t spend your life worrying about whether the mark of the beast is your credit card number or your google password. Keep focussed on the big picture. Which is that in the end all of God’s enemies are defeated, captured and punished. All God’s enemies are doomed! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is triumphant! All the human beings who rebel against God will be judged. But more than that
THE DEVIL IS CONDEMNED
Revelation 20 1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient snake, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

Christians have always been confused about the meaning of this thousand years, the millennium. Churches have split over the meaning of Revelation chapter 20 and we aren’t going to solve this conundrum tonight. We will come back to the millennium next week. For tonight, let’s stick with the big picture. And that is that the devil is defeated. The devil is doomed. The devil may seem so powerful to us, and we should not underestimate how evil and sneaky the dragon, the ancient serpent, actually is. He deceived adam and Eve and he will try to trick and deceive us. But look behind the scenes at the unseen realities of history and see that the devil is defeated. The Lamb who was slain is victorious. The devil is doomed and condemned and judged. One day the devil will be history – thrown into the Abyss and out of the picture forever! Praise the Lord! And in that day,
THE CHURCH WILL BE TRIUMPHANT

REVELATION 20 4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The church will be triumphant. When will these things happen? If you think there will be a period of a thousand years of Christ’s rule on this earth BETWEEN the Second coming and the Final Judgment then you are a PREmillennialist. If you think there will be be a period of a thousand years of the kingdom coming and the church ruling the earth BEFORE Christ returns then you are a POSTmillennialist. If you think that this period of a thousand years is all symbolic with no literal significance in human history then you are an Amillennialist – like me, and so I congratulate you. But different Christians have held all of those views over the centuries and we don’t want to miss the wood for the thousand trees. The central point is that in the end Christ’s enemies will be destroyed and the church WILL be triumphant. The church will reign with Christ and the devil and the beast and the false prophet and all the powers of evil will face eternal judgment in the place God has prepared for them. The church will be triumphant!
Revelation 19:6 ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’
…. Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’

One final warning. JUDGMENT DAY IS COMING
Revelation 20 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Here is the dark side of hope. All have sinned and fallen short of the judgment of God. All will have to give account of their lives and their deeds before the judgment throne of God. All will be found guilty. All will face eternal judgment – the second death. And there is only one hope for any of us – only one way of escape. And that is the Lamb’s book of life. Only those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb will escape eternal punishment. Only those who put their trust in Jesus and his death on the cross, the Lamb who was slain who takes away the sins of the world. That is the dark side of hope.
So these six glimpses of unseen reality present a terrifying picture for people who do not know Christ. But for those who hold fast to the testimony of Jesus they bring us hope and assurance and joy and encouragement.
The commanded of the armies of heaven is king of kings and lord of lords and his victory is certain. His enemies are doomed, the devil is condemned and the church will be triumphant. But Christians should be doing everything we can to warn everybody – because judgment day is coming!
‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!

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