9 Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."
10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
For the past year, I have been meeting with a small group on Friday mornings to study the book of Revelation. This is a longstanding study group, some of them having been meeting for decades to delve into various books of the Bible, but I came into the group just last year as they started a study of that final book of the Bible. In participating in this study of John's Revelation of Jesus Christ, I have learned an awful lot about the Bible itself. As it turns out, most of what I have learned can be summed up in the words of the angel quoted above: "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
There is a great misperception in the public mind that prophecy is about doom and gloom, or that it is only about predicting the end times. We must admit that there is some gloomy stuff found in some prophecies in the Bible, and looking at some of the Bible's minor prophets might lead one to think prophecy is all about predicting destruction and death. But the Bible is never meant to be read in bits and pieces, and so we must never forget the end that is in mind. And what is that end?
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
5 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."
That's pretty good news, don't you think? So why all the doom and gloom before that? Because "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
Ask yourself, what IS the testimony of Jesus Christ? It is the gospel itself, the good news of our salvation through His blood, the testimony that He died for our sins so that we might not die, the witness that He rose again on the third day and ascended to the right hand of God. And we must not forget this very important set of verses:
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
It's verse 18 that's the clincher, because "he who does not believe in Him is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." The doom is not for believers, it is for those who love darkness rather than light, for those who, even when given the choice between life and death, would rather choose death than choose to love God. And that is the spirit of prophecy, the testimony of the prophets who constantly present us with the choice between life and death, between God and the world, between light and darkness, between being so loved by God and refusing that love.
Of course, some would say that all that prophecy is simply metaphorical, that the destruction foretold in Bible prophecy is not meant to be taken literally. Yes, tell that to the Jews who had their captivity in Babylon foretold by prophets of God. Tell that to the thousands of martyrs who have given their lives rather than renounce Jesus Christ--persecution that was foretold by Old and New Testament prophets alike. Tell that to the millions of Christians living in places even today where their lives and families are forfeit if they worship God in public, just as Jesus told us would happen:
11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
The testimony of Jesus is that those who believe in Him will be persecuted in this life but be rewarded with eternal life, and that those who do NOT believe in Him still have an opportunity to choose life. But, as in the days of the prophets who predicted the fall of Jerusalem, a time is coming when there will be no more room for mercy, when God will shut the doors of heaven and pour out His judgment on the world. (Revelation 15:5-8)
Yesterday, we read this Psalm before starting our study of God's wrath in Revelation chapter 16:
1 To the Chief Musician. Set to "Do Not Destroy." a Psalm of Asaph. A Song.
We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.
2 "When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.
3 "The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved;
I set up its pillars firmly. Selah
4 "I said to the boastful, 'Do not deal boastfully,'
And to the wicked, 'Do not lift up the horn.
5 "Do not lift up your horn on high;
Do not speak with a stiff neck.'"
6 For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
7 But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup,
And the wine is red;
It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
Drain and drink down.
9 But I will declare forever,
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 "All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off,
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted."
We have the choice. From which cup shall we drink, the cup of salvation in Christ's blood, or the cup of God's wrath and judgment?
2 Peter 3:13
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
The testimony of Jesus Christ is the gospel itself, the call to repentance from sin and faith in the only begotten Son of God. The spirit of prophecy is the hope that we have in Jesus, the promise of eternal life, that final ending of the Book where we see Jesus Himself wiping away our tears. Prophecy is only doom and gloom for those who do not believe. For those who believe, prophecy is the promise of joy unending in a place where righteousness dwells.
Holy Lord God, we thank You for this day wherein we can reflect upon Your Word. Joy is to be found there, and Life. We praise Your holy name, and we praise Jesus Christ, through whom we have access now to that final world where Your righteousness reigns. Amen.