19 Conclusion — Your Responsibility
I have made some challenging statements and offered some startling suggestions. Now it rests with you. It is for you to decide whether you are profiting by the book of Revelation; whether you are making the best use of the divine message that has been provided to prepare you for the Lord's return.
You must also decide whether the method of interpreting latter-day prophecy adopted in this book is scriptural and reasonable. The conclusions presented, the tentative ones and those that are expressed more confidently, will need checking carefully. If any of the conclusions presented are true, then they are also important.
A warning has been sounded about the dangers of prejudice. Please take this warning seriously.
Lest a mass of detail should have obscured the main points which you are invited to ponder, they are briefly re-stated here:
1. The whole world will soon be engulfed in trouble on an unprecedented scale.
2. Israel will be invaded and overwhelmed by a vast international force. For a short time the nation will suffer greatly. (This is not the Gogian invasion of Ezekiel 38.)
3. That power called the beast will dominate the political scene. The reader must himself decide whether the beast could be a revived, antichristian Israel. Whatever the identity of the beast, it is time to make mental and spiritual preparation for its tyrannical rule.
4. Some of the saints will be called upon to witness powerfully for Christ to Israel and the world, and they will be specially equipped to do this work. When their witness is completed, they will be suppressed by the beast.
5. The beast and the ten kings will destroy that massive organisation called Babylon before they are themselves destroyed by Christ. The reader must decide whether the ten kings are Arab powers, and whether Babylon is Rome.
6. The Gogian invasion of Ezekiel 38 must not be thought of as a sign of the Lord's return. It will occur after the Kingdom is established in Israel.
7. The day of reckoning is coming soon. Nothing less than complete discipleship is acceptable to the Lord. Especially do the saints need to fortify themselves against the materialistic idolatry of this age. The Lord's recommendation, "Seek first the kingdom of God", has a special relevance to this generation of believers.
The Bible — our guide
Now is the time for preparation. It will be too late to start preparing when the crisis is upon us. This is one of the lessons of Revelation.
We may suddenly discover that the extra time we were reckoning on is not there:
"Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22: 10-12).
It is the duty of all responsible Christians to stress the importance of regular Bible reading. A warning also needs to be sounded against the dangers of reading mechanically, as a ritual rather than a means of enlightenment. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness . . ." (2 Timothy 3:16).
Those who have tasted the blessings of studying prophecy should encourage others to turn to the Scriptures for light in these difficult days. The book of Revelation has been provided to show God's servants things that must shortly come to pass. God's intention is that we should read it diligently for the purpose of understanding the future. It has been neglected too long.
Co-operating with God
This is not all. We must also develop a responsive attitude to God's guidance in life. First there must be an awareness that God is working things out; then a spiritual sensitivity — a reluctance to move without God, but an instant recognition of, and response to divine prompting.
The Lord Jesus had an amazing sensitivity to the will of his Father. From the Scriptures he learned what he was required to do and, at the precisely correct time and in exactly the right way, he did what was required. With a keen awareness of God's consummate planning, by prayer, patience and spiritual alertness, he played his part to perfection.
We can also learn from the example of lesser men — Joseph the patriarch, for instance.1 Through dreams God had revealed to him the purpose he was destined to fulfil. Then, by bearing the yoke in his youth, Joseph was prepared for his ultimate responsibilities. At an appropriate time, God gently intimated to him that he had not been forgotten.
Joseph played his part by humbly accepting the quota of affliction measured out for him by a wise and understanding Heavenly Father. And he co-operated with God by keeping in step, so to speak. He neither dragged his feet nor dashed ahead; he required neither spurring nor restraining. When he was offered the rulership of Egypt, he accepted it. But when he was made ruler he resisted a temptation that nearly everyone else would have yielded to. He did not pre-empt Providence by sending a message to tell his father that he was alive and had been blessed. God had given convincing evidence that He was working out a plan, and Joseph was prepared to wait. There were nine extra years to wait, but when reunion with his father and brothers took place, it was an authentic divine operation, and Joseph was prepared for it.
At the time of the Lord's first coming, a handful of dedicated people were ready to do what God required of them. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Anna, Simeon and just a few others had patiently prepared for this great occasion, and when it came they were in the right place doing the right thing.2 There was nothing chancy about it. God took their attitude into account and worked through them accordingly. Even these worthy characters were surprised by some of the things that happened, but they were prepared.
Those who had not prepared themselves lost their sense of direction, and most of them never found it again.
It is so easy to get sidetracked by events and attitudes. Remember Lot's wife.3 Remember the two hundred who followed Absalom "in their simplicity and they knew not anything".4 Remember how Joab and Abiathar followed Adonijah instead of Solomon and found themselves in an irretrievable position.5 Remember the multitude who were fatally trapped in Jerusalem because they had not heeded the Lord's warning.6 Remember his urgent admonition concerning false Christs and false prophets . . .7
Can we expect God to rescue us from the consequences of our ignorance when we have refused to receive instruction?
Preparation for persecution
It is a pity that so many appear unwilling to take prophecies concerning future persecution more seriously. One gets the impression that they regard religious persecution as a phenomenon that belongs to the deep past.
They hardly seem aware of the fact that at this very time many Bible-loving people are suffering grievously in countries behind the Iron Curtain. And why do they close their eyes to the evidence provided in Scripture (referred to in this book) that more persecution can be expected? Is the prospect so unpleasant that they would prefer not to think about it?
That could well be the reason! Persecution is frightening to contemplate. Most of us are cowards at heart.
How can we prepare for persecution? By measuring our powers of endurance against the ugly possibilities that loom before us, and then proceeding to nerve ourselves to take more and more pressure? By massive resolutions and monumental self-discipline?
There is a better way! Of course resolution and self-discipline are important, but there is something infinitely more important. We must learn to put our trust in God.
It is for God's sake that His people will be called upon to suffer. He will not abandon those whose deep desire is to honour Him.
God understands us through and through. He knows the weaknesses of each of us; our breaking points. We can rely upon God to provide those who trust Him with the strength to endure. More, He will enable them to endure joyfully. Remember how Paul and Silas sang praises to God in that dark Philippian dungeon?
Now is the time to get to know God. Those who are not learning to trust God now will not feel able to trust Him then. But those who have cast all idols out of their hearts and learnt to rely on God now will be able to turn to Him as a Friend when the crisis comes. They will have a deep conviction that He will never leave them.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:5,6).
1. Genesis 3 7—50
2. Luke 2:25-38
3. Luke 17:32
4. 2 Samuel 15:11
5. 1 Kings 1
6. Luke 21:20,21
7. Matthew 24:4,5,11,23,24