The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 10 : The Revelation (Commentaries on the Revelation)

[Chapter 2-4] (Revelation 2:8-11) Be Faithful until Death

(Revelation 2:8-11)
 
During the Early Church period, many Christians were wandering the land, looking for a safe place where they could escape from the persecuting hands of the Roman authorities. The Roman Empire continued with its policy of persecution even after the demise of the Emperor Nero, as the Christians kept defying the authority of the subsequent emperors. The early saints accepted and recognized the worldly authority of the Roman emperors, but they refused to recognize it when it required them to give up their faith. Because they stood up against such a demand of the Roman authorities, the annals of the Early Church were filled by persecution and martyrdom.
We should ask ourselves whether the Word of Revelation has any particular relevance for today’s believers. After all, it was written almost two thousand year ago, not now, and to the seven churches of Asia, not to us. How could it be relevant to us?
It is relevant because it is the Word of God that reveals to us the secrets of what is to come in the future. We should realize that we are now living in the era of the black horse, the third era of “the eras of the four horses” described in Revelation 6. Having passed the eras of the white and red horses, we are now living in the era of the black horse, almost at its end. The whole world will soon face great famines, both physical and spiritual. Actually, it is probably safe to say that this era of famine has already arrived. When the present era of the black horse, the era of famine, passes, the era of the pale horse will arrive.
The seven seals spoken of in Revelation 6 mean that God has planned in Christ a total of seven eras when He first created the universe. The first era, the era of the white horse, is the era of the gospel; the second era, the era of the red horse, is the era of Satan when the Devil brings great confusion to the world, wages wars, and continues to antagonize the church of God. These eras are followed by the era of the black horse, the era in which physical and spiritual famines ravage the world. This era of the black horse has already begun a while ago.  
When this era is over, the era of the pale horse will begin, in which the Antichrist will emerge, as well as the plagues of the seven trumpets described in Revelation 8 will begin. When the last of the seven trumpets is blown, the saints will be raptured, and this will be followed by the plagues of the seven bowls. There will then be the marriage supper of the Lamb in the air for the raptured saints, and when all the plagues of the seven bowls end, the Lord will return to the earth with us and begin His Millennial Kingdom. The Millennial Kingdom will then be followed by the New Heaven and Earth that will descend upon those saints who had lived in the Millennial Kingdom by their first resurrection.
Thus the passages of the Book of Revelation, such as “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life,” and “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death,” are all directly relevant to us. The Word of Revelation, in other words, is critically relevant to the Christians who are living in today’s world. Were Revelation not relevant to us, all this Word of God would have no meaning.
The plan of the seven eras that is revealed in the Book of Revelation is implemented and completed in Christ our Lord. When the era of the pale horse arrives, the Antichrist will make his appearance. We need to find out from the Word of God what plan our Lord has for us for that time. It is absolutely critical that we all understand from the Word of Revelation how God has set up His overall plan for us and how He will complete it—what plagues will descend upon the world, what will happen to the believers, what disasters will plague the unbelievers, and so forth. You must accept and believe in the utter importance and relevance of this Word of prophecy for you.
You must also have a sound understanding of what the Book of Revelation speaks of, such as the seven-year Great Tribulation and the second coming of Christ. Many of today’s Christians believe in the doctrine of pre-tribulation rapture, which first appeared in England in the 1830s and was subsequently made widely popular by a scholar named C. I. Scofield, a professor at the Moody Bible Institute.
This theory postulates that the rapture of the saints will take place before the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation begins. In this view, the Gentiles would be raptured first, and then God would begin His work of salvation for the people of Israel. Also, the rapture of the saints would precede both the emergence of the Antichrist and the plagues of the seven bowls.
In general, most Christians believe in either amillennialism or this theory of pre-tribulation rapture. But these are mere hypotheses that were built from unsound knowledge and deficient understanding of the Bible. Instead of answering the many questions that the believers have about the Book of Revelation, these hypotheses have done more harm than good by raising even more questions and doubts about the Word of Revelation.
If the theory of pre-tribulation rapture were correct, what relevance would the Book of Revelation have for the Gentile believers? The Great Tribulation and the series of events that are prophesized in Revelation would have no relevance for us, for we would all be raptured beforehand. This is why many people often take the Word of Revelation as a matter of curiosity rather than faith.
But we must realize that the Word of Revelation is critically relevant to us who are living in today’s world. Let me ask you this: do you believe in the Word of God, or do you believe in the words of scholars? There are plenty of theories on the end times, from amillennialism to post-millennial rapture, post-tribulation rapture, pre-tribulation rapture, mid-tribulation rapture, and so on. These theories proposed by the scholars are just that—they are no more than mere hypotheses, postulates and speculations.
Which among these theories do you believe in? Many people say that they believe in the theory of pre-tribulation rapture because that is what they had been taught by their pastors. But let me tell you clearly and definitively: you and I will go through the plagues of the seven trumpets and live in the midst of the Great Tribulation. Because we are destined to go through the Great Tribulation, our faith must be true and strong enough to overcome the trials and tribulations that await us.
What would happen if you had, believing in the theory of pre-tribulation rapture, thought to yourself, “I’ll be raptured before the Great Tribulation; I couldn’t care less about it,” and did not prepare your faith for the end times? When the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation comes as the Word of God says it will, those who did not prepare their faith for the Tribulation will be engulfed in great confusion, suffering, and perhaps even death—that is, their very faith in Jesus might be all shaken up. Many of them would not be able to overcome the Tribulation and end up losing their battle of faith.
Prior to the appearance of the theory of pre-tribulation rapture, many Christians had actually believed that they would go through all of the seven-year period of Great Tribulation, and that they would be raptured only afterward its end when Christ makes His second coming. Thinking that they had to bear through every year of the seven-year period, they prepared their faith in eagerness, but also in great fear. Going through all the plagues must have been a terrifying prospect for them, as it should indeed be so for anyone. But such belief was also only an academic theory, a product of the ignorance of the Word of God.
Then there are the conservatives who believe in amillennialism. These people see the Millennial Kingdom as symbolic. They view it as a symbolic representation of the peace that the believers in Christ gain through their salvation. Were such academic theories true, we couldn’t care less about what happens to the world, for we would all be lifted up to the air by God before the Tribulation begins.
But if they were not true, what would happen then? Facing the Great Tribulation without having prepared our faith, we would be seized by immobilizing fear. We would be unable to defend our faith, capitulate before the waves of trials and tribulations, and end up flowing down in the same current as the rest of the world. But God has told us that those whose names are written in the Book of Life—that is, those who are born again by water and the Spirit—will never surrender.
God tells us in His Word of Revelation that those who are born again will overcome the trials of the Great Tribulation by faith, and that it is in the midst of the Tribulation that He will lift them up in the air. The theory of pre-tribulation rapture thus departs from this biblical truth, meaning that this claim is only a man-made postulate. It is, in other words, a lie, not the truth.
Yet many people throughout the world have now accepted this theory of pre-tribulation rapture. Those who believe in Scofield’s teaching of pre-tribulation rapture believe in the following:
1. The seven-year period of the Great Tribulation will begin after the emergence of the Antichrist in the end times.
2. The Antichrist will rule over the world during the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation; for the first half of the seven-year period, he will rule as a benevolent ruler, and the latter half as an evil tyrant.
3. The Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt and sacrificial offerings will resume once again.
4. The Antichrist will make a seven-year covenant with Israel.
5. After the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will break this covenant with Israel.
6. The following three and a half years will be a time of great tribulations and persecution for the Israelites. During this period the gospel of Millennial Kingdom will be preached instead of the gospel of grace.
7. Among the Israelites, 144,000 will survive the Tribulation.
8. The Tribulation will end with the battle of Armageddon.
Having defined the Great Tribulation in the above terms, Scofield made no mention of what would happen to the Gentiles during the Tribulation. Scofield, in other words, argued that all the Gentiles who believe in Christ would be raptured before the start of the Tribulation, and that only after their rapture would God begin to work among the people of Israel. His work would be completed with the deliverance of 144,000 Israelites, and with it, He would finish His work of salvation. The Millennial Kingdom would then begin.
The source of influence on Scofield and his claims of pre-tribulation rapture was John Nelson Darby, the founder of a group known as the Plymouth Brethren, who began espousing this theory after meeting a Pentecostal leader. This leader was actually a fifteen-year-old girl named Margaret MacDonald of Scotland, who claimed in 1830 that she had a vision from God in which she saw Christians being raptured just prior to the Great Tribulation. It is after having visited this girl that Darby began to teach the theory of pre-tribulation rapture.
Darby’s teachings were then passed onto Scofield, an American theologian. Scofield, who had spent his entire life working on his widely used Scofield Reference Bible, was at the time pondering upon the question of whether rapture would occur before or after the Tribulation. When Scofield heard of Darby’s theory of pre-tribulation rapture, he was completely immersed in it, and having been thoroughly convinced of its claims, he embraced this new theory by including it in his Scofield Reference Bible. This is how Scofield came to believe in and argue for the theory of pre-tribulation rapture, and how many of today’s Christians came to follow it as well.
Before the theory of pre-tribulation rapture was expounded upon by Darby and Scofield, most Christians had believed in post-tribulation rapture. But Scofield, who was a professor at the Moody Bible Institute in the United States, had a tremendous influence on doctrinal issues, particularly with the impact of his Scofield Reference Bible. It was because of Scofield and his influence that the theory of pre-tribulation rapture became so widespread in the Christian communities throughout the world.
Unfortunately, as a result, many of today’s Christians are now fast asleep in their faith. They are asleep because they mistakenly think that the rise of the Antichrist would have nothing to do with them. They see no need to prepare their faith for the era of the Great Tribulation, as they believe that they would be raptured before it begins. But our Lord has told us to be always awake, for no one knows when the groom would come. Yet sadly, those who disregard the Word of God and instead rely on the teachings of pre-tribulation rapture remain deeply asleep.
But now is the time to wake up. Now is the time for you to cast away your mistaken belief in pre-tribulation rapture and believe in the Word of truth. Neither the theory of pre-tribulation rapture nor the theory of post-tribulation rapture has any biblical foundation; you must return to the true Word of God. The Word of Revelation (6:8) tells us, “So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”
It is said here that the name of the one sitting on the pale horse, the Antichrist, was Death, and that Hades followed with him. This means that the Antichrist is a murderer who leads his victims to hell. It is also said here that he would be given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth. The Antichrist, in other words, would commit the same atrocities as the Roman emperors—only this time even worse—to kill, abuse, and persecute the Christians and to destroy their faith.
You should realize that the era of the pale horse is the era of the Antichrist. The Lord tells us, “You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times " (Matthew 16:3). When we cannot discern the signs of the times, we cannot know what kind of faith we must have, and thus we can neither sow the seeds nor harvest the fruits—we cannot, in other words, work for the Lord. Today, the era of the red horse has passed, and we are in the era of the black horse. The world will soon be struck by great economic calamities and face the era of severe famine. Hunger and starvation will run rampant throughout the world. When all these things come to pass, many will regret in agony. Do not be one of them; instead, be the one whose faith can discern the signs of the times.
Today’s era is the era of the black horse. When this era of black horse passes, the era of the pale horse will arrive. The Antichrist, emerging in this period, will indiscriminately kill and persecute the saints, marking this era as the era of martyrdom.
Revelation 13:6-8 says, “Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The “he” here refers to the Antichrist. The passage tells us that one of the rulers of the world will be given the power of Satan to blaspheme God and to persecute the saints. This is the child of the devil, with the power of the dragon. With his power he will fight and “overcome” the saints. But by overcoming, it only means that he will make martyrs out of the saints. This refers just to the saints’ physical death; the Antichrist can never take away the saints’ faith itself.
What Scofield argued was that the saints would face no Great Tribulation at all. But without the seven-year Great Tribulation, there can be no Millennial Kingdom for the saints. The saints will come out of the Great Tribulation as martyrs. This prophecy of the Bible has all been planned in Christ Jesus from the very beginning of the world. All the history of the world will end in the works that Christ will accomplish.
You must be able to discern the seven eras that God has set for us. The first era is the era of the white horse, the era in which the Word of God begins its work. The second era, the era of the red horse, is the era of the devil. The third era of the black horse is the era of physical and spiritual famine. The fourth era of the pale horse is the era of the rise of the Antichrist. This is the era of the seven trumpets, the era of martyrdom. It is the failure to discern this era of the pale horse that makes people so confused.
Without knowing this era, we cannot properly live our lives as born-again Christians. If we remain oblivious to what awaits us, how can we ever be ready for the future? Even people who run businesses must know beforehand the changing trends of the times to be successful. How could we, the believers in Christ, be ready for His return when we have no clue as to what is awaiting us?
We must have a clear understanding of the Great Tribulation to be ready for it. The saints will live through the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, and it is during this time that they will be martyred. They will not go through all the seven years of the Tribulation, but only the first half, and then, with their martyrdom they will be resurrected and raptured. When the saints are raptured, it does not mean that Christ would descend to the earth, but rather that the Lord would lift them up to the air to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
This earth, meanwhile, will be engulfed by the plagues of the seven bowls. Those who return to the earth with Christ after the plagues are only those whose sins have been forgiven, as white as snow, by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit given by the Lord. This is why we must prepare our faith by understanding this era and its critical relevance and importance for us.
Our Lord told to the angel of the Church of Smyrna, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” From this passage, we can see that the Church of Smyrna had been heavily persecuted by the Jews. But the Lord said that these Jews were not really Jews, but a synagogue of Satan. He said this to not just the Church of Smyrna, but to all the seven churches of Asia.
There was a large Jewish community in Smyrna, which, despite the fact that the Jews worshiped the same God as the believers in Christ, nevertheless persecuted the saints of the Church of Smyrna, just as the Romans had done. To the saints facing this persecution, God said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life,” and, “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” God told the saints that they must overcome. Likewise, we, too, must fight the Antichrist to the end and overcome him in our battle of faith. Our Lord will then give us the crown of life—He will, in other words, bless us by giving us and allowing us to live in the Millennial Kingdom and the New Heaven and Earth.
Do you have the courage to be martyred? Now is the time for you to prepare your faith of martyrdom. And to do so, you must have the faith of redemption that wholly enables you to stand before the Lord—the faith that can embrace martyrdom without hesitation.
We must prepare this faith now. Our Lord has told everyone that no one can enter or even see the Kingdom of God without believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. He has told us that the faith in this gospel is the faith of the martyrdom in the end times.
If there is sin in people’s hearts, how could they be martyred? Far from being martyred, they are the kind of the people who would lead others to receive the mark of the Beast! Nothing but the gospel of the water and the Spirit can cleanse away our sins. Not even your prayers of repentance that you routinely and ritualistically offer can cleanse away your sins. Trying to cleanse your sins with prayers of repentance is only a waste of time and effort.
Those who try to do so believe more in what the theologians have said than in what the Word of God actually tells them. Does not the fact that the scholars, the very people in whom so many Christians put their trust, argue and believe in amillennialism only show just how ignorant of the Bible these supposed scriptural experts are? According to these amillennialists, there would be neither the Millennial Kingdom nor the martyrdom of the saints in the Great Tribulation. To those who believe in the theory of pre-tribulation rapture or amillennialism, the Book of Revelation would have no meaning at all!
The Word of Revelation is the Word of God. It is the Word of God written by the Apostle John, the most beloved disciple of Christ. No one can deny this.
I am not criticizing the established theories and doctrines of the theologians for no reason, but I do so to prepare your faith so that you would be able to be faithful to the Lord until death. It is to train you in the Word of the Scripture so that you would be ready to withstand the persecution of the Great Tribulation with a determined readiness to embrace your martyrdom.
To do so, you must prepare your faith with the gospel of the water and the Spirit now. Those who do not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, on the other hand, will capitulate before Satan and end up becoming God’s enemies, because those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will worship Satan. This is what the Word of God tells us.
God will have the saints be martyred in the middle of the Great Tribulation. When the first three and a half years of the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation passes, those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will be martyred. Shortly after their martyrdom will come their resurrection and rapture. This is the overall summary of the Book of Revelation, and this is why I am reiterating its key points.
You should remember that when the era of the Antichrist comes, there will be many who, shortly after being martyred for believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, will be resurrected and simultaneously raptured. When the era of the pale horse arrives, the flowers of faith will blossom with their martyrdom. True faith, when the right time comes, bears true fruits and blossoms with beautiful flowers.
There are certain plants in desert that sprout, blossom, and bear fruit in only a week’s time. This is because they have adapted to their desert conditions, where rainfall is far in between and water is scarce. They have to sprout, blossom, and bear fruit quickly because the scarce supply of water can last only so long.
The faith of those who come to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit during the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation are like these plants. For them to believe in, follow, and be martyred for this gospel along with us, only a short period of time would suffice. The madness of the Antichrist will reach its peak at the midpoint of the Great Tribulation, three and half years from its start.
This is when the martyrdom of the saints will occur. Even those who, having already heard of the gospel of the water and the Spirit, are yet to accept it into their hearts will still be able to have true faith and join us in our martyrdom, if they believe in this gospel later on during the time of the Tribulation, despite its shortness. This is why we are spreading the gospel, to wake up the Christians throughout the world from their spiritual sleep. We will preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to the end of the world until our very own martyrdom. If there were to be no martyrdom, what good would this gospel that we are spreading now serve? Those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit can be martyred in the end times. We must prepare our faith for it now.
If we do not prepare our faith to embrace martyrdom to defend the gospel of the water and the Spirit now, when we are at peace before God, we will only regret it later on. When the end times come, we will be busy with ourselves, saying, “Lord, I am too busy right now. Just wait a little bit more for me; I am repenting now.” If this is the kind of the faith that we hold onto until the end, the Lord would tell us, “Why don’t you just jump into the lake of fire yourself? You are more than qualified for it!” Those who have sin now must realize that they will end up like this at the end. This is why God said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
By the time the saints are martyred, the natural environment of the world would have been completely destroyed. Forests would have been burnt down; the seas, rivers, and springs would have turned into rotting blood; and the sun, the moon, and the stars would have lost their light, engulfing the whole world in darkness. Its inhabitants, ruled by evil spirits, would have lost their minds, their behavior would have become savagely violent, and their only goal would have become to round up and kill all the children of God that they can find. This is why you must understand and believe in the Word of Revelation.
Today’s churches are obsessed only with building bigger, larger, and taller churches. They spend millions of dollars to build their churches, and yet in their hearts is found only sin, not the faith that can embrace martyrdom for Jesus. These people must first have their hearts cleansed of their sins.
The world will soon enter the era of the Tribulation, the era of the pale horse. I hope and pray that you would have the kind of faith that can embrace martyrdom and remain faithful to Christ until death. We have to believe in the Word of Revelation after examining it seriously with the Berean spirit.