What in the World is Going to Happen - Part Three
Topic: Eschatology Passage: Revelation 19:11–19:16, Revelation 19:19–19:21
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Grace Community Church
March 31, 2019
What in the World Is Going to Happen? Part Three
This morning we’ll be wrapping up our message series on The Second Coming of Jesus Christ and we’re going to look at what happens after Jesus returns so let’s turn together to Revelation 19.
I find it interesting how popular end-of-the-world movies are. It seems like no matter what movie you go to see there will be at least three apocalyptic movies in the previews.Here are just a few end-of-the-world movies made over the last ten years or so (I could name dozens more):
- It Comes At Night
- Mortal Engines
- A Quiet Place
- I Think We’re Alone
- Turbo Kid
- 28 Days Later
- I Am Legend
- The Day After Tomorrow
- The Book of Eli
Many of these movies imagine what it would be like to try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world and it’s not a pleasant picture. Driving to the grocery store takes on a whole new dimension when you have to drive blind-folded or you will die before you get out of your driveway. Having a baby a far less joyful occasion when vicious creatures are out there waiting to kill anyone who makes the slightest sound. These movies all have one thing in common: the world after the apocalypse is a bleak and hopeless one.
You may not know this, but the Bible is the original apocalyptic story. In fact, the very last book of the Bible is called Apocalypse. Most of us know it by the Latin translation Revelation, but the Greek word is Apocalypse. And in the book of Apocalypse John sees a vision of God’s fierce wrath being poured out on the earth until the entire world is reeling like a punch drunk man, slammed with one catastrophe after another, some so massive that billions of people – not millions but billions – are killed at a time. In that sense it’s not all that different from the movies.
But in two major ways the Bible is very different from the apocalyptic movies: 1) the movies are fiction and the Bible is non-fiction. It says these things are really coming to the earth. And 2) rather than the bleak and hopeless post-apocalyptic future the movies envision, the Bible paints an incredibly hope filled post-apocalyptic future. The end of the world is really the beginning of the world. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about this morning. Before we jump in though, a quick reminder: the study of biblical prophesy is complex and difficult. I will be sharing my view of these prophecies, with the understanding that others have different views and that’s ok. Eschatology isn’t central to the gospel and there’s room for people to disagree charitably. I encourage everyone to do your own study so you know which view you find most biblically convincing.
Last week we looked at Jesus’ second coming in the clouds with power and glory. When he comes Jesus will gather his people to himself, first the dead in Christ will rise, and then those who are alive when he returns will rise to meet Jesus in the air and we will be with the Lord forever. But where will we be? In heaven? On earth? And what happens when Jesus comes back to earth? Is that when Jesus casts the devil and death into hell along with those who rejected God’s salvation through Christ? Is that when the story of fallen mankind with sin and Satan and death is over, and those who believed in Christ enter into an eternal existence in a perfect new world made by God?
It may surprise you to learn that the Bible says no. Jesus isn’t done with this fallen world or with sinful man yet. There is an intermediate period of time known as the Millennium. But before we get there we need to look at the battle of Armageddon. Let’s read Rev. 19
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords…19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Rev. 19:11-16,19-21
The beast, of course, is the antichrist and he and the false prophet assemble a vast army in a place called Armageddon to make war against Jesus, but basically the antichrist is no match for Jesus and his army and the battle’s over pretty quickly. The vast armies are slain, and the antichrist and the false prophet are thrown alive into the lake of fire. So now comes the judgment and we all enter the eternal state, right? Nope, not yet. Let’s read on in Rev. 20.
20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped 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 is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Rev. 20:1-6
Jesus throws the devil, Satan, who has provoked and instigated all the evil and brokenness and suffering this world has endured since the fall, into a pit and that pit is sealed for a thousand years. And then begins this amazing and unusual post-apocalyptic period of time on the earth. It’s called the Millennium because it lasts one thousand years. What I’m about to share is going to be hard for us to imagine because we’re so used to the world the way it is, but this world will be incredibly different than how things are now. For one thing, this whole question of “is there a God or isn’t there?” that today can only be answered with faith won’t exist because everyone will know there is a God cause they will see Him with their eyes. Jesus will set up his kingdom and rule physically over the entire world. Believers, whether they died before Jesus’ return, or were alive when Jesus returns, or were killed by the antichrist for their refusal to receive the mark of the beast, will be resurrected in glorified bodies and will rule with Christ for this thousand years. Those who died without Christ will remain dead for the thousand years.
So who will Jesus and glorified believers reign over? The Bible tells us that all those who join the antichrist’s army to make war against Jesus will be slain, but the entire world won’t be there. There will still be nations full of millions and millions of people still alive, and as chapter 19:15 says, Jesus will rule over them with a rod of iron (meaning absolute authority). We will rule over the nations with Jesus. It will be an amazing post-apocalyptic time! People who are in their resurrected bodies who can never die or get tired or hungry or thirsty living right alongside people who are in unresurrected bodies who can get tired and hungry and die. Glorified people living and working and fellowshipping with unglorified people.
The world during this time will be in an in-between state: it will be far better than it is now, but not as good as it will be when God does away with death and sin completely and makes a new heaven and earth. Here’s how Isaiah describes it:
“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. Isa. 65:20
So the world will be better but not perfect. The effects of the curse will be lessened but not completely removed. There will still be death, but far less of it because people will live a lot longer. The people who survive the apocalypse, and the babies born to them over the next 1000 years will live longer, but not forever. The person who dies at 100 years old will be considered to have died in their prime, the person who dies before 100 will be considered accursed. It will be more like in the early days of creation when it was not uncommon for people to live to 700-800 years. Best of all, after thousands of years of mankind living under the dominion of sin and Satan, Jesus will rule the world with peace and love and wisdom. The perfect king ruling over a nearly perfect world! It will be amazing! The people of the nations will also continue to marry and have children, so the population will grow over the thousand years. And these children will grow up knowing nothing but Jesus’ perfect rulership.
But here’s comes the twist: after 1000 years Satan is released from his prison and immediately leads a rebellion against Jesus, the perfect king. Let’s continue reading in Rev. 20:7:
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Rev. 20:7-10
This seems totally random! Why would God allow this to happen? Why release Satan from his prison? Why not cast him into the lake of fire with the antichrist and be done with it? Why allow Satan to come back and stir up a rebellion against Jesus and his people? And why would people who had lived under Jesus’ perfect rule for a thousand years ever listen to Satan and follow him?
I think it demonstrates the irrational power of sin and the fact that our rebellion goes far deeper than what we may think. It will prove that it’s not our environment that causes us to sin. All the excuses will be put to rest – all the “I sinned because of my mother or father or because I grew up in poverty or had a hard life or because I didn’t know there really was a God” excuses. They will have it all and God will walk among them and yet many will only appear on the surface to follow Jesus and will ditch him at the first excuse. Satan will come with his age-old lie and deceive them into thinking they can do a better job running their lives than Jesus. This goes to show our greatest need isn’t new circumstances, it’s new hearts. People aren’t converted by a trouble free environment and undeniable proof of God’s existence – people are only converted by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts and minds.
So a large group of people follow Satan and rebel, but Jesus quickly puts down the rebellion and then comes what we call the Great White Throne Judgment.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev. 20:11-15
Those who are still dead are resurrected and everyone stands before the throne of God to be judged. Books are opened – everything we ever did in life is opened up for review and we will be judged for what we did. And no one will have done enough to be saved because we are all sinners who fall short of God’s holy standards.
But another book will be opened…the book of life. This is the book that records all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for the cleansing of their sin and for their salvation. All those who have believed in Christ will find their names are written in the book of life. And here’s the most beautiful part of this post-apocalyptic existence: God will destroy this heaven and earth – purge it of all remaining vestiges of sin – and remake the heavens and the earth into something unimaginably beautiful and good. No imperfections. No fallenness. No pain, suffering, injustice, tears or goodbyes.And God and Jesus will be live among us. We won’t need a sun to light the earth, the light of God’s glory and Jesus’ glory will radiate around the world and there will be no night.
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21:1-5
Rather than bleak and hopeless, the Bible’s Apocalypse promises us bright and hopeful. An eternity bigger and better and more glorious than we can imagine. Someone might say, “How do I apply this to my life today? All this stuff about Jesus’ coming back and the antichrist and judgment on the earth and a new heaven and earth…it doesn’t help me with my problems today. It doesn’t pay the bills. Or help our marriage through a rough patch. Or make me a better parent or person.” But you’d be wrong.
The power of looking for Jesus’ return and God’s judgment of sin and Satan and the glorious post-apocalyptic world God will create isn’t that it fits into our daily lives, it’s that it transcends our daily lives! It’s bigger than our needs or our problems or our jobs or our marriages or anything going on in our daily lives! And we need that! We need something that transcends our lives to help us live hopeful and holy.
Hopeful because no matter how rough things get, we have an indestructible hope in us. We’ve read the end of the book and Jesus wins! And there is a glorious eternity that awaits us. All our pain and tears and loss and suffering will be a distant memory in the light of eternity. And we will live on this world but in glorified bodies that don’t experience aging or weariness or all the aches and pains we experience now. The lame will leap for joy, the blind will look into the face of Jesus. Looking forward to all this keeps us hopeful. It helps us live hopeful.
And it helps us live holy too. It helps us to see these brief years with a bigger perspective. We don’t want to be the unfaithful servant who was caught by surprise when his master returned. We don’t want to live for sin when we see the dead end road that sin is. We want to do everything we can to make these short years on this earth please our Savior and count for eternity. Looking for Jesus, for the apocalypse, and for the new heavens and new earth helps us live hopeful and holy lives right here, right now.
If you aren’t a Christian, I want to urge you right now to ask Jesus into your life. Don’t put it off – we don’t know how long we have to live on this earth and when it’s over, it’s over forever. The Bible tells us only one person has the power to open the seals, only one person has the power to unleash judgment, only one person has the power to write your name in the book of Life. That Person is Jesus. The Bible promises that all who call upon the name of Jesus will be saved. Don’t worry about what the person next to you thinks. You call upon the name of the Lord and trust His promise that He will be your faithful friend who will never leave you or forsake you and will save your soul for eternity.