The Searcher’s Guide to the Apocalypse is now available as a Kindle ebook. The book is a verse-by-verse quest to understand the Book of Revelation, the final book in the Bible and the first place many people go to seek answers about the future.
But the Book of Revelation is more than prophecy. It is rich with information about the first-century church. And it is relevant to 21st Century Christians who wait eagerly for the return of Christ.
Revelation promises a blessing to every person who reads, hears, and keeps the words of this prophecy, and The Searcher’s Guide aims to sort through various end-times scenarios, uncovering the rich and unchanging truths of God’s Word.
Rev. 20:12b – Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. (HCSB)
The book of life
In Revelation, the “book of life” refers to a divine record of all believers – those who live eternally with God in the new heavens and the new earth. This book is mentioned several times:
- In Rev. 3:5, Jesus promises the faithful in Sardis that He will never erase their names from the book of life – a comfort to those familiar with the common practice of erasing the name of a condemned criminal from the citizenship registry.
- In Rev. 13:8, we are reminded that unbelievers’ names have never been written in the book of life.
- In Rev. 17:8, we are told that those who live on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel when they see the beast whose fatal wound is healed.
- In Rev. 20:12, 15, we see resurrected unbelievers stand before the great white throne as books are opened in judgment, including the book of life; they are cast into the lake of fire because their names are not written in the book of life.
- And in Rev. 21:27, we see that only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life enter the New Jerusalem.
Additionally, in Luke 10:20, Jesus’ followers are assured that their names are written in heaven. In Phil. 4:3, Paul writes about his coworkers whose names are in the book of life. And in Heb. 12:23, the author tells of the “assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven.”
Rev. 20:1 – Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. (HCSB)
Sin spoils everything
“Sin spoils everything,” writes Chuck Swindoll. “It pollutes skies, encourages corporate greed, leads to physical and emotional illness, destroys marriages, prompts addictions, and inspires wars. Sin corrupts the legal system, corrodes governments, erodes economics, and promotes false religion. No area of society and culture has escaped its sinister influence. Just as sin destroys an individual’s life, so it decimates a community, country, and planet…. Yes, sin spoils everything … but one day Christ will redeem everything” (Insights on Revelation, p. 256).
The closing chapters of Revelation tell the story of how Christ sets things right. The Creator has come to earth as the Suffering Servant, giving His life as a ransom for lost people, conquering sin and death, and restoring spiritually dead men and women to life through an everlasting and unbreakable relationship with the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
He returns to earth as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, destroying the wicked, rewarding the saints, and removing the curse of sin from the cosmos. He begins setting things right in Revelation 20 by dealing with the source of all that is wrong: “the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan” (v. 2).
Rev. 19:9 – Then he said to me, “Write: Those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb are fortunate!” He also said to me, “These words of God are true.” (HCSB)
Those invited are fortunate
In verse 9 John is told, “Write: Those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb are fortunate!” But who are the ones invited? The bride, of course, is the church, so who are the guests? There are several views. One view is that the invited guests are the Old Testament saints. Another is that these are heavenly beings – angels, cherubim and seraphim – who gaze with wonder upon the work of God in redemption and yet are not the objects of salvation (see 1 Peter 1:12). Yet another view is that the invited guests are those who have responded positively to the gospel message. “If a person accepts the ‘invitation’ and goes to the marriage feast of the Lamb, his faith will make him part of the wife (the church). It is called a feast because it endures, beginning on the evening of the wedding and continuing for days” (HCSB Study Bible, p. 2225).
While there is merit to each of these views, the last view seems consistent with Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet in Matt. 22:1-14. In the parable, a king hosts a wedding celebration for his son. The invited guests, who initially say they will attend the banquet, change their minds when the king’s servants are sent to summon them to the festivities. Some, in fact, treat the servants harshly, killing them. Enraged, the king sends forth his army to destroy these insurrectionists. Since Jesus’ immediate audience is made up of the religious leaders of His day, the parable no doubt refers to Israel, which has dishonored both God the Father and His Son. In the parable, Jesus prophesies events that will happen 40 years later, when the temple is destroyed, Jerusalem is sacked, 1.1 million Jews are killed and the nation of Israel ceases to exist.
Rev. 18:9 – The kings of the earth who have committed sexual immorality and lived luxuriously with her will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off in fear of her torment, saying: Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in a single hour your judgment has come. (HCSB)
The kings of the earth
The declaration of the fall of Babylon the Great is recorded in verses 1-8. The next 11 verses form a litany of lamentation as kings, merchants, shipmasters, seafarers, and business people mourn the destruction of the great city where they have made their fortunes. There is a three-fold pattern to these laments: first, a cry of sorrow; second, a summary of what has been lost; and third, a confirmation of the suddenness of Babylon’s fall. A single verse follows – verse 20 – calling for a different response from heaven. The saints, apostles, and prophets are to rejoice because God has executed judgment on their behalf.
The first to mourn are the kings of the earth who have committed sexual immorality and lived luxuriously with the Mother of Prostitutes. The world system over which Satan is prince has seduced common men and women into becoming uncommon beasts who wield terrifying power over their subjects. While these rulers live in barricaded opulence, the people who look to them with hope live in squalor a stone’s throw away. From the cult of Caesar worship to the killing fields of Cambodia, rulers with a desire to make themselves like the Most High God become madmen who use Christians as human torches or slaughter millions in the name of ethnic or political cleansing. The kings of the earth gladly mix politics, religion and commerce to solidify their power and cement their place in history.