Angels, Prophets and Scripture
Scripture is far more than a source book of spiritual information. The Bible is God Preaching. It is teaching with a purpose; truth with an aim and goal. And the purpose is the salvation of many.
The end of this book is as if a great dramatic play has ended in v.6, the curtain has closed, the theatre lights have come on and now the Author steps onto the stage to challenge us, the audience, to respond.
The book we have just read is the work of a man, John, and it is a masterpiece from a purely human point of view. Great themes have been deftly handled by a man who was a master of the scriptures and prophetic images. The Revelation of John is all this and more besides. It is the word of God.
One mark of Evangelical Christian faith is our confidence in VERBAL inspiration. We believe every word of the original Greek and Hebrew in our bibles has come from God's mouth. This faith in the bible is not new - a strong belief in scripture has been characteristic of orthodox Christians through the centuries because the biblical writings themselves claim just this authority.
This glorious book of the Revelation ends with a series of ringing statements about its inspiration mixed with great promises and warnings about taking its words seriously as the voice of God.
The spirits of the prophets
When God chose to bring His word to men in a precise way He inspired the prophets, using angels to bring that word to men (Hebrews 2:2), and Revelation 22:6 tells us that He has done the same with John.
Although there is a fair amount of teaching in the bible about angels and they obviously play a very important role in executing God's will in the world most christians are very ignorant of their purpose and some of us are even sceptical about their very existence.
There are many misunderstandings about angels. They certainly are not the semi-naked flying babies of which painters and sculptors are fond. In fact they are glorious and frightening creatures which men mistake for gods! Twice John falls to his knees to worship and has to be commanded not to do such an idolatrous act! (See 19:10, 22:8.) If even John was tempted in this way, perhaps it is a good thing that angels hide their forms from us.
An angel (the word means "messenger") is able to perfectly communicate God's Word so that it is precisely His (v.16). Like a perfectly functioning television or radio, nothing is lost in transmission.
The unity of the prophets
In verse nine John is told that he is brother to all the prophets and a fellow-servant with the angels of revelation. This means they are all in agreement and share one task. The last book of Revelation does not in any way contradict the earlier prophecies of either Old or New Testaments. They all have the same infallible source and the same purpose of communicating the will of the One God.
This means that the Bible really is ONE BOOK. There is one purpose and message which comes from the prophetic brotherhood even though their combined ministry spanned hundreds of years. People who try to set one part of scripture against another or claim that only part is inspired are therefore setting themselves against God. The warning against tampering with this last book of the Bible (v18,19) therefore applies to the whole of scripture. It is HOLY scripture.
The authority of the prophets
The message of God demands a response. The Bible exists to change us and bring us to Christ. Therefore, it is meant to be published (v.10) and obeyed.
The blessings of the Revelation are only for those who repent and believe, so verse 17 is an urgent call from God and from the church to everyone who reads or hears - "Come and receive the free gift of God". The invitation is from God, the Holy Spirit. Not only the Spirit but also the bride, the perfected church calling from the future, invites us to join her. Thirdly, let the call be announced also by "him who hears"; whoever has understood the message of God has a responsibility to pass on that message and the invitation it contains.
The unity of scripture is a result of its ONE FUNCTION. The purpose of every prophet is to reveal Christ (19:10, John 5:39-40) and bring us to His feet (Rev.22:16-17).
Since the words of the prophets contained in the scripture have been inspired by the Spirit and perfectly mediated by angels they come with all the authority of God speaking to His creatures. The Kingdom of Christ and the high status of the bible are indissolubly linked because He rules his people through his word.
Some people claim to be christians while dishonouring scripture (like Modernist or disobedient believers) but the real disciple "trembles" at his word (Isaiah 66:2). Others claim to be "Bible-believers" without worshiping Christ (as in many cults) but they can not really be paying attention to the word if they do not honour Jesus as being fully equal to the One on the throne as the Revelation does.
If we recognise the authority of the prophets we will not worship them (or their angels!) but we will yield to Jesus Christ as our Lord and suffering Saviour.
Will we respond to this terrible, yet glorious, future which God has revealed? Will we wash our robes (v.14) by confessing sin and repenting of the sins of v.15 and placing our trust in the blood of the Lamb? Will we come to God for the free gift of the water of life (v.17) - the Holy Spirit who alone can renew our hearts and keep us on the road of faith?
This challenge calls on everyone to wait faithfully and hopefully for the day of Christ's appearing. Verse eleven warns us that evil people will persist in doing wrong. It is God's will that for the time being sinners will be able to carry on and sometimes seem very successful in their sin. But it is His will for us that we should continue to do right, resist temptation and so honour Him. We have seen the different ends to which these courses of life lead.
There is also a challenge to the churches to preach the gospel. The Spirit and Bride together make the great invitation of v.17. If we are to be the bride of Christ we should testify in unison with the Holy Spirit to the Death, Resurrection and Reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book." (v.7) The promise of blessing is given to all who will respond even if they deserve the curses of this book. The promise has three elements:
The washed robes stand for God cleaning away the sin of our lives and making us holy. Simply to be set free from the horrors of God's vengeance is a wonderful promise in itself. It is far more than just a psychological release from "guilt feelings" because it is a reprieve and full pardon from the Judge of the world. On the day of wrath we will be amazed to find we are completely shielded from the fire. Like the three men who were thrown into the furnace we won't even smell of smoke!(Daniel 3:27).
2. Eternal Life.
We will receive the full inheritance of Eternal Life when we share in the glorious new existence of the Resurrection. Then we will have the right to the tree of life (v14) - Eternal and Abundant Life which stands for all the blessings of perfect communion with God. Whilst we anticipate the joys of that wonderful new life it is also a gift we can taste now in part as we drink of the Spirit (v.17) and enjoy acceptance with God.
3. The New Creation.
The city (v.14) which we are allowed to enter is the new creation. As well as a living hope for our personal future we have a cosmic hope. A renewed earth, a renewed ecology, a creation more vibrant and beautiful than the one we know. The whole Universe will undergo a wonderful resurrection. Just as we shall be greater and holier than we can dream (though still human, of course) so our home will match our new condition. What new wonders of God's handiwork will we explore then?
All this is for the praise and glory of God. Great in creation, great in salvation. In that day we who believe will be in the throng of Revelation 7:9-10 and our great joy will be to shout with all our power "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb."
May all God's people praise Him.