This is the last posting of the quarter. It has been a joy to share the insights of my friend, Ranko Stefanovic, on the revisions to his lesson on Revelation in the Adult Bible Study Guide series. Below you will find his analysis of this week’s revisions, followed by his original manuscript. All the words that follow are his:
This is the final lesson of this year’s SS Quarterly on the Book of Revelation. For me, this quarterly has been a great educational experience. I received numerous emails, phone calls, and text and FB messages with different comments. About 95% of the messages were highly positive. It appears that both the standard and teachers editions have impacted both the minds and lives of many Adventists across the globe. All the glory to God for that. I want to express thanks to my friend Jon Paulien for his significant contribution to this SS Quarterly.
This final lesson has undergone some unnecessary alterations, although my original intention in the original manuscript has been retained in most cases.
The first half of the Sunday lesson was significantly altered. The following paragraphs have been replaced by a long quotation from Ellen White’s writings:
“As John described Christ’s return and his subsequent union with his people, he had ancient Jewish weddings in mind. The prospective bridegroom would go to the house of the bride-to-be for the betrothal. Upon payment of the dowry, the couple was considered married, but they could not live together. The groom would return to his father’s house to prepare a place for them. The bride remained at her father’s house to prepare herself. When the preparations had been made, the groom would return to take his bride to his father’s house, where the wedding would take place.
Two thousand years ago, Christ left His heavenly home to be betrothed to his bride on earth. After paying the dowry with His life at Calvary, He returned to His Father’s house to “prepare a place” for His bride (see John 14:2-3), while His bride remained on earth preparing herself. At the end of time, He will come back and take her to His Father’s house.”
The rest of the Sunday lesson has been edited, and in some cases, the edits improved the text.
The Monday lesson, except for the questions that begin and conclude that day’s content, has been completely altered, as the exegetical analysis of the biblical text was mostly replaced with a long quote from Ellen White.
The edits in the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday lessons did not change my intention in the original manuscript, but rather improved the quality of the text, except that the following sentences were removed from the middle part of the Thursday lesson:
“The New Jerusalem thus functions not only as the temple but also as the Most Holy place. In the earthly temple, only the high priest could enter the Most Holy place. In the New Jerusalem, this is a privilege granted to all the redeemed.”
Lesson 13 * March 23-29
“I Make All Things New”
Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 19:6-9; 20:1-15; 21:1-8; 22:6-21; John 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; 1 Pet. 3:10-13.
Memory Text: “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’” (Revelation 21:5, NKJV).
The destruction of end-time Babylon is bad news for those who collaborated with this apostate religious system for personal benefit and gain because Babylon’s downfall means their own loss. For God’s people, however, it is good news (Rev. 19:1-6). Babylon was responsible for inducing the secular political powers to persecute and harm them (Rev. 18:24). The destruction of this great adversary means deliverance and salvation. This salvation is possible only after the total annihilation of this opponent of God and enemy of God’s people.
With the destruction of Babylon, the prayer of God’s people in the scene of the fifth seal is ultimately answered. Their cry: “How long, O Lord?” represents the cry of God’s oppressed and suffering people from Abel to the time when God will finally vindicate His people (Ps. 79:5; Hab. 1:2; Dan. 12:6-7). The Book of Revelation assures God’s people that the evil, oppression, and suffering will come to an end.
With the downfall of end-time Babylon, it is now time for Christ to come and usher in His everlasting kingdom. The remaining chapters of the book describe the conclusion of the Battle of Armageddon to explain how the destruction of end-time Babylon will actually occur (see Rev. 19:11-21). This is followed by the destruction of Satan as the great archenemy of God at the end of the millennium and of those who sided with him (Rev. 20). The end of evil means a new beginning with the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom, which will be free of pain and suffering.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 29.
Sunday March 24
The Wedding Supper of the Lamb
The vision begins with a jubilant rejoicing in heaven celebrating what God has done for His people and an announcement that the long awaited union between Christ and his people is about to take place.
Read Revelation 19:6-9 along with John 14:1-3. How does a wedding appropriately illustrate the long awaited union between Christ and His people?
As John described Christ’s return and his subsequent union with his people, he had ancient Jewish weddings in mind. The prospective bridegroom would go to the house of the bride-to-be for the betrothal. Upon payment of the dowry, the couple was considered married, but they could not live together. The groom would return to his father’s house to prepare a place for them. The bride remained at her father’s house to prepare herself. When the preparations had been made, the groom would return to take his bride to his father’s house, where the wedding would take place.
Two thousand years ago, Christ left His heavenly home to be betrothed to his bride on earth. After paying the dowry with His life at Calvary, He returned to His Father’s house to “prepare a place” for His bride (see John 14:2-3), while His bride remained on earth preparing herself. At the end of time, He will come back and take her to His Father’s house.
How does the symbol of the bride appropriately describe God’s people as they await Christ’s return? What does the statement that the bride was “granted” to be arrayed in fine and clean dress suggest about salvation (see Isa. 61:10; Phil. 2:12-13)?
Revelation 19:8 states that the fine and clean linen were given to the bride by Christ. This shows that God’s people do not claim any merit for their deeds. The robes of God’s people represent “the righteous acts of the saints.” They are supplied to them by Christ, not made by them, and are washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14). Jesus told a parable about a wedding. However, one of the guests preferred to wear his own attire instead of the wedding garment provided by the king, and was expelled from the wedding (Matt. 22:8-14).
Revelation 3:18 shows that the robes provided by Christ is the greatest need of God’s people living at the time of the end. That Jesus offers the Laodiceans to “buy” from him that robe shows that he asks for something in exchange: our self-sufficiency and trust in ourselves and our good works.
Revelation portrays God’s end-time people both as the bride preparing for the wedding and the invited guests? What truth do these two symbols convey to you personally?
Monday March 25
The Conclusion of the Battle of Armageddon
In Revelation 5, John watched as Christ was bestowed with authority to rule. However, His rule has been constantly defied by Satan’s usurping claims. The time has come for Christ to fight the decisive battle against Satan and his forces and assume His rightful rule.
Read Revelation 19:11-16 along with 16:12-14. What does Christ’s name as “the Word of God” and the fact that the sword comes from His mouth suggest about the nature of the final battle?
Christ is accompanied by “the armies in heaven” who are pictured as riding on white horses and “clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” This is the robe of the end-time saints signifying their righteous deeds (see Rev. 19:8). Revelation 17:14 shows that the end-time saints will accompany Christ in the final battle. In Revelation 7, they are portrayed as the militant 144,000 ready to enter the final battle. While in reality on the earth waiting for translation (1 Thess. 4:16-17), God’s people are spiritually already in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). They are portrayed as joining Christ in defeating the enemy’s forces.
Read Revelation 19:17-21 along with 6:15-17. The link between the two texts shows that the destruction of the wicked occurs in the context of the Second Coming. The scene here reflects ancient battlefields following a decisive battle. Compare the gruesome language here with the vision in Ezekiel 39:17-21, which describes the judgment of the pagan nation Gog.
In the sixth plague, the satanic triad entices the world leaders to engage in the battle against God’s end-time people. A worldwide confederacy is formed (Rev. 16:13-16). At that point, Christ appears on the scene (Dan. 12:1) and overthrows the satanic confederacy. Revelation 6:15-17 pictures the mighty men running in panic to hide from the Lamb’s wrath. The two members of the satanic triad—the beast and the false prophet—are cast into the lake of fire. The lake of fire here refers to the earth destroyed by fire, denoting the ultimate end of all rebellion against God.
The rest of the people are killed by the sword proceeding from Christ’s mouth. Paul explains that they are destroyed by the glory of Christ’s appearance (2 Thess. 1:8-10). The whole earth now resembles a battlefield filled with dead bodies. The defeat of the evil confederacy is total and complete.
Chapter 19 describes two suppers. Readers have a choice either to eat at the wedding supper of the Lamb or to be on the menu of the scavengers at the great supper of God. All have to make a choice.
Tuesday March 26
The Battle of Armageddon ends with the complete defeat of the satanic confederacy. Satan’s two allies are thrown into the lake of fire while the rest of the people are slain, awaiting the final judgment. The only person left is Satan.
Read Revelation 20:1-3 along with Jeremiah 4:23-26. During the millennium, how does the desolated and depopulated earth resemble Palestine during the exile? In what way is Satan bound by chains?
The 1,000 years (or millennium) begin with the return of Christ. At this time, Satan and his fallen angels are chained. The chaining of Satan is symbolic because spiritual beings cannot be physically bound. Satan is bound by circumstances. The plagues have desolated and depopulated the earth, bringing it into a chaotic condition resembling the earth before creation (Gen 1:2). In such a state, the earth functions as Satan’s prison during the millennium. Since there are no human beings to tempt and harm, all Satan and his demonic associates can do is contemplate the consequences of their rebellion against God.
Read Revelation 20:4-15. Where are the saints during the millennium? What happens at the end of the millennium? How is Satan unchained? In what way will Satan’s ultimate defeat occur? How will the final judgment take place?
Revelation shows that God’s people will spend the millennium in the heavenly places Christ prepared for them. John sees them sitting on thrones as kings and priests, judging the world. Jesus promised the disciples that they would “sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Paul stated that the saints would judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
This judgment concerns the fairness of God’s actions towards His creation. Throughout history Satan has raised many doubts concerning God’s character and His dealings with the beings He created. During the millennium, God allows the redeemed to access the records of history in order to find answers to all questions concerning the fairness of His decisions regarding those who were lost as well as questions dealing with His leading in their own lives. At the conclusion of the millennium, all questions regarding God’s justice are forever settled. God’s people are able to see beyond a shadow of doubt that Satan’s accusations were unfounded. They are now ready to witness the administration of God’s justice at the final judgment.
Do you have some questions regarding the farness of God’s dealing in your personal life as well as in the lives of others? Does it help to know that one day we will get answers to those questions?
Wednesday March 27
“No More Sea”
With the eradication of sin, eternity begins. This earth is to be transformed into the home of the redeemed. In portraying the new earth and life on it, John draws much of the language from Genesis 1-3.
Read Revelation 21:1. In your view, why is the first thing that catches John’s attention the absence of the sea on the new earth?
The Jewish people knew three heavens: the sky, the universe, and where God dwells (see 2 Cor. 12:2). In Revelation 21:1, the earth’s atmosphere is in view. The contaminated earth and the sky cannot endure God’s presence (Rev. 20:11). The word “new” in Greek (kainos) refers to something new in quality, not in origin and time. This planet will be purged by fire and restored to its original state (2 Pet. 3:10-13).
Particularly interesting is that the first thing John observes on the new earth is that there is no longer any sea. While the oceans will undeniably cease???? to exist, the fact that John refers to “the sea” (with the definite article) shows that he had in mind the sea by which he was surrounded on Patmos, which became for him a symbol of separation and suffering. The absence of that sea on the new earth for him meant the absence of pain and suffering.
Read Revelation 21:2-8 and 7:15-17. What parallels do you see between the descriptions of the new earth and the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2? Why do you think life on the new earth is described in terms of what it will not be?
A life free of suffering and death on the restored earth is guaranteed by God’s presence among His people. This presence is realized with the New Jerusalem, “the tabernacle of God” where God will dwell among His people. The presence of God makes the city the temple of the restored earth.
God’s presence guarantees freedom from suffering: no tears, death, sorrow, crying, or pain, which are all the consequences of sin. With the eradication of sin “the former things have passed away (NKJV).” This idea was well articulated by Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, NKJV). The sisters knew that death could not exist in the presence of Christ. In the same way, the abiding presence of God on the new earth will secure freedom from the pain and suffering that we now experience in this life.
What does it mean for you personally that God will on the new earth dwell among His people?
Thursday March 28
The New Jerusalem
John now describes the new-earth’s capital. While a real place inhabited by real people, the New Jerusalem and life therein are beyond any earthly description (see 1 Cor. 2:9). The city is portrayed in terms of ancient fortified cities, the Old Testament temple, and a restored Eden.
Read Revelation 21:9-21a. What are the exterior features of the New Jerusalem? Why do you think the city is pictured as surrounded by colossal walls even though there is nothing on the new earth to harm it?
The New Jerusalem is referred to as the bride, the Lamb’s wife. In Revelation 19:7-8 this metaphor is applied to God’s people. The New Jerusalem is the place where Christ will ultimately be united with His people.
The city is surrounded by a high wall with twelve gates—three gates on each of the four sides allowing entry from any direction. This points to the universal scope of the city. In the New Jerusalem, everybody has unlimited access to God’s presence.
The city is further pictured as a perfect cube; it is 12,000 furlongs or stadia in length, width, and height. The cube consists of twelve edges. Thus, the city totals 144,000 stadia, which is the number of the totality of God’s people (Rev. 7:4). In the Old Testament temple, the Most Holy place was a perfect cube (1 Kings 6:20). The New Jerusalem thus functions not only as the temple but also as the Most Holy place. In the earthly temple, only the high priest could enter the Most Holy place. In the New Jerusalem, this is a privilege granted to all the redeemed.
Read Revelation 21:21b-22:5. What interior features of the city remind you of the Garden of Eden? What is the significance of the statement that there will be no more curse in the city (Rev. 22:3)?
The most prominent feature of the New Jerusalem is the river of water of life flowing from God’s throne (see Gen. 2:10). In contrast to the river in Babylon at which God’s people were sitting as captives longing for Jerusalem (Ps. 137), on the banks of the river of life in the New Jerusalem, God’s wandering people of all ages have found their home.
On both sides of the river is the tree life with leaves for “the healing of the nations.” This healing does not refer to disease, as on the new earth there will be no disease. It refers to healing all the wounds caused by the barriers that have torn people apart throughout history. The redeemed of all ages and from all nations now belong to one family of God.
Friday March 29
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Desolation of the Earth” and “The Controversy Ended,” pp. 653-678, in The Great Controversy, pp. 653-678.
The Book of Revelation concludes with what was introduced at the very beginning: the Second Coming of Christ in power and glory and the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom. The return of Christ, when He will finally be united with His bride, is the climactic point in the book.
However, the book does not want to put these events in an unrealistic context. That Jesus is coming soon is the first reality. The second reality is that we are still here waiting for His return. While waiting, we must have a clear understanding of the messages of Revelation by reading it again and again until the end of all things comes. The messages of the Book of Revelation constantly remind us while waiting not to look to the things of the world but to fix our eyes on Him who is our only hope. The Christ of Revelation is the answer to all human hopes and longings amidst the enigmas and uncertainties of life. He holds the future of this world and our own future in His hands.
The book also reminds us that, before the end comes, we are entrusted with the task of proclaiming the message of His soon return, first to the members of our own family who do not have a relationship with Him, then to our neighbors, to people where we work, or as missionaries throughout the world. Our waiting for His return is not passive, but active. Both the Spirit and the church call: “Come!” (Rev. 22:17). We must join that call. It is the good news, and as such, it must be proclaimed to the people of the world.
What lessons do the description of the new earth in Revelation speak to you? How does it impact your life and your preferences in life?
Many times Christians are accused of talking much about the future and spending little time focusing on the present. How has your study of Revelation helped you understand that, while looking forward to the fulfillment of the blessed hope, you can have a fulfilling and content life today?
Revelation 1:3 promises blessings to those who listen, read, heed, and keep the words of the prophecies of Revelation. As we conclude our study of this book, what are the things you have discovered that you need to heed and keep?