Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Christ Our Complete Assurance in Tribulation

by Rev. Nollie Malabuyo

Scripture Readings: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1
Date: March 20, 2005
Text: Revelation 1:5-6


“It’s confusing.” “It’s so complicated.” “Only theologians can figure it out.” These are some of the comments one hears when Christians talk about Revelation.

Some say that Revelation is a mysterious book, and thus difficult to understand. To make it understandable requires elaborate charts and maps and timelines. The liberals say they are mere dreams and visions that are not relevant to Christians today. Conservatives, on the other hand, say it is to be taken as literally as possible, with the news about the Middle East in one hand, and the Bible in the other. And the most popular teaching is that it's about being secretly raptured away to escape the Great Tribulation.

The Purpose of the Book of Revelation

But contrary to all these popular ideas, the book is also called The Apocalypse for a reason. The word apocalypse is taken from a verb that means to expose or reveal to full view what was before unknown, hidden, and secret.

This means that Revelation was written not as a puzzle pieced together from all kinds of sources taken out of context. Or to be interpreted using a mysterious code to unlock its hidden messages.

And if we concentrate on the numerous details of the book, then we get bogged down and lose sight of the big picture. And as complicated as it may seem, the big picture in Revelation is summarized by a New Testament scholar in one simple sentence: “Revelation is a book about Jesus Christ's victory over Satan and all his allies, as John describes the redemptive drama on earth from a heavenly perspective.”

John says in verse 3: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” We are not to avoid reading and studying this book. In fact, we are not only to read this book, but we are to take it to heart – study, keep, and obey its instructions.

The book also addresses seven real churches in seven real cities in Asia. Thus, Revelation is not irrelevant to us. It addresses real problems in the church not only during the first century, but also all throughout this age – apostasy, idolatry, false teachers, persecution, sexual immorality, false assurance, and apathy. And so these are real problems that confront the church today.

John says to the seven churches in Asia that the events in this book are about to unfold. And they have already been unfolding – from the time of death and resurrection of Christ until he comes again in glory. And throughout this book, these events are a picture of the church struggling in this fallen world of sin and suffering. But while the church struggles, Christ is present with his people – encouraging, comforting, and building them up.

Because he is the Truth, we can trust his word and his promises. He is our complete assurance in tribulation. In verse 5, Jesus is revealed as “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” He is our complete Savior, because he lovingly and perfectly fulfills his work as the mediator between God and his people:

Our Faithful Prophet

The Greek text emphasizes Christ as the faithful witness: “the witness, the one who is faithful.” His testimony about God and himself is faithful and true, because he is the Truth. John so trusts the words of Jesus that he writes everything he sees and hears on a scroll.

Because he declares God’s word, Jesus is a prophet. Hebrews 3 says that he is better than Moses and all other OT prophets. In fact, he is the perfect prophet who was to be like Moses in Deut. 18:18: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” As a prophet, Christ reveals God’s perfect will for his people. Therefore, we are to listen to him, as God commanded during the baptism of Jesus in Matt. 17:5: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Do you listen to the words of our Faithful Prophet? Do you obey his commands? To love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength? To love your brethren and your neighbors as much as we love yourselves?

To you who reject Jesus as the True Prophet, and disobey his commands, there’s a warning in Deut. 18:19: “And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” When Jesus comes again in glory, you will give an account of your rejection of him, and Jesus will reject you before God, as he said in Matt. 10:33: “Whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

But when you listen to Jesus, he reveals God’s word to you. And you are to speak his words to others. In this, Jesus makes you a “prophet” – one who declares the gospel and proclaims God’s glory to others. All believers are prophets “called out of darkness into his marvelous light,” so that we may declare God’s praises to the world.

As prophets, it is our duty to call others to repentance and faith; to encourage believers to a holy life; to call others in the congregation to acts of love and mercy toward one another, and toward those who are hungry, thirsty, needy, sick, and in prison, whether here in Escondido or in Indonesia. And we are to encourage missionaries who preach the gospel in the remotest parts of the earth. Let us not be content with sending financial support to them, but be more directly involved in their work.

Jesus calls us to be prophets like him, who proclaimed the words of his Father in heaven throughout his life. And he was also obedient to his Father, even unto death. He willingly went to the cross for you and I. In this, he is not only our Faithful Prophet, but also our Merciful Priest.

Our Merciful Priest

First of all, being “firstborn from the dead” means that he died and rose from the dead for the sin of his people – for you and me, and all those who put their faith in him. Verse 5 says that Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” His love and mercy compelled him to willingly die on the cross for us. And by his resurrection, God confirmed that Christ’s sacrifice for his people was a pleasing aroma to him. His resurrection also proved that he is God’s Son, and that he will judge the world. His resurrection means that Satan is defeated, and death is conquered. This means that Jesus is God’s guarantee of our own resurrection and glorification.

But this is not all. Being firstborn means that he is the privileged heir to all heaven and earth, and that “in everything he might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). This means that all who belong to Christ are also heirs of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” – chosen by God, adopted as children of God, redeemed through his blood, forgiven of sins, and guaranteed heavenly inheritance. We are no longer aliens in God’s kingdom, but are fellow citizens and members of God’s household (Eph. 2:19; 3:6).

A Kingdom of Priests

In verse 6, John says that Jesus made us “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” This is a reference to Exodus 19:6, where God separates Israel from the world to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (A clear passage affirming that the “Israel of God” today is the church, not the nation Israel. See also 1 Pet. 2:9.)

Jesus is our High Priest today. This is why in verse 13, he is “clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.” This is the same priestly robe that Aaron and the Old Testament priests wore (Lev. 8:7).

But in the Old Testament, only the priests were able to enter the presence of God in the Most Holy Place. Now, because of Christ’s priestly sacrifice, “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy place,” and we can “draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance” (Heb. 10:19-20). Whenever we come to the worship service on the Lord’s Day, we come to the presence of our Most Holy God in the Most Holy Place, the assembly of God’s people.

Do you have confidence to draw near to God? Do you have confidence in bringing all your praises, your confessions, your thanksgiving, and your requests to the Father in heaven?

Only by faith in Christ will you be able to draw near to God in heaven, because Christ is in heaven interceding for you as our great High Priest. And his Spirit is walking among us here on earth.

The Seven Golden Lampstands lampstand

In the Old Testament, there was a golden lampstand in the tabernacle – a lampstand with seven oil lamps. The priests were to keep the lamps burning throughout the night. These lights symbolized the marvelous presence of God lighting the dark world.

As our priest, Jesus walks among the lampstands, keeping them lighted at night. When he came into the world, he came as the true light to enlighten the world. In verse 20, Jesus says that the seven lampstands represent the churches. We are the lampstands.

So even if he is now in heaven, Jesus still walks among us, his people. Through the Spirit of God and through his Word, he dwells among us – encouraging us, watching over us, guiding us.

And Jesus is in heaven not only as our Faithful Prophet and Merciful Priest. He is also there as our Glorious King, “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

Our Glorious King

The second coming of Jesus as our glorious King will be characterized by two things:

A Visible and Audible Appearance

In verse 10, John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…” Here, John refers to “the Spirit,” not “seven spirits of God” in verse 4. Is he talking about the same Holy Spirit?

Yes, because numbers play a significant role in the book. Their use is almost totally symbolic and numbers represent important concepts. If you notice, the numbers twelve, ten, and seven are all over the book of Revelation. And in this book, the number seven is usually symbolic of perfection, completion, or fullness: seven churches, seven bowls, seven trumpets, the Lamb’s seven horns and seven eyes, seven heads, and seven kings. The seven spirits of God then is symbolic of the perfection and fullness of the one Holy Spirit.

The loud trumpet reminds us of the fearful trumpet blast when God gathered his people at Mount Sinai to make a covenant with them. Here, the trumpet voice announces the appearance of Jesus. Paul also tells us about this loud trumpet sound at his appearing: “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:52). And again in 1 Thes. 4:16: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

When this last trumpet is blown, both believers and unbelievers who are in the graves will be resurrected. This is crystal clear in Scripture. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). Daniel also foresaw one general resurrection on that last day: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Dan. 12:2).

Note that John says, “an hour is coming” (a better translation than “time” in the NIV). The resurrection of both believers and unbelievers will take place “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” All of these contradict the most popular teaching today that there will be two resurrections separated by 1,000 years. As we shall see later in Revelation 20, nowhere in Scripture will you find two resurrections separated by a literal 1,000 years.

Five times, John emphatically repeats that believers will be raised on the "last day" (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). And the wicked will also be judged on the "last day" (John 12:48). The "sheep" and the "goats" will be judged simultaneously, on the same Judgment Day when Christ comes again (Matt. 25:31-46). When John says six times that Judgment Day and Resurrection Day is the last day, do you think he wants to drive home a point or what?

Verse 7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.” Since there is only one Second Coming, what this means is that there will be no “secret rapture.” All people on earth, good and evil, will see him in his glory: the good will rejoice, but the wicked will mourn and fear. But at his coming, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is King of Kings!

His second coming will not be a secret coming.

A Glorious Appearance

When he came into the world the first time, he was born in a lowly manger, and lived a simple life as a carpenter. He was beaten, mocked, and suffered the curse of God on the cross.

But not so in his second coming. He will come again as the glorious King and Judge. And as Almighty God, the Alpha & Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end. His head and hair are white like wool, as white as snow, and his face is like the sun shining in all its brilliance – symbolizing his great age, holiness, and purity. His eyes are like blazing fire – nothing is hidden from his sight. His feet are like bronze glowing in a furnace – he is powerful and immoveable. His voice is like the sound of rushing waters – a frightening voice, as the voice of God at Mount Sinai.

And out of his mouth comes a sharp, double-edged sword. The voice and the sword symbolize the word of God in judgment, “living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

This is one of the clearest statements in Scripture of the deity and glory of Christ. Because in Dan. 7:9-10, we find a description of God, the Ancient of Days, that is very similar to John’s description of Jesus: “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him.”

Daniel continues to describe the ascension of Jesus to heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God as the Ruler of all, in vv. 13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, God gave him dominion and rule over all the earth. He is reigning now, and all believers are now reigning with him. What a comfort to the first century Christians! Because they knew that even if the Roman Emperor didn’t submit to Christ, he is under Christ’s rule. What a comfort to us today! Because we know that evil men and rulers are under Christ’s rule. Everyone will eventually kiss the Son, or else be destroyed.

And John’s vision of Jesus’ second coming is very similar to Daniel's vision: he is “like a son of man coming with the clouds.”

We Shall Also Reign With Him

The believer's kingship is confirmed when Ephesians 2:6 says that we are already seated with him in the heavenly places. As kings, God appointed us to be good stewards over all creation – trees, plants, beasts of the earth, birds of the air, and fish of the sea. Revelation 20:4 says that our loved ones who have gone before us are already reigning with Christ in heaven. But our reign now is only a foretaste of what is to come. When our Lord comes, we will reign with him in glory forever.

Do you look forward to the blessed hope, the appearance of the Son of Man? Do you look forward to that day when the trumpet will sound and a voice from heaven will shout, “Come up here!”? Do you look forward to that day of resurrection, when we will be given glorified bodies – bodies that are not subject to sin and death?

Or does the second coming of Jesus terrify you because you know it’s judgment day for you? Are you one of those who will mourn at the appearing of the eternal Judge? Then, acknowledge that Jesus is the only Savior and King of your life!


The Holy Spirit says that you are blessed if you read the book of Revelation. You are blessed if you guard and obey what is written in it.

Do not be confused, afraid, or cynical of this book. Because in it you will find hope and encouragement in the sufferings of this world, just as John and other first century Christians did. These persecution and sufferings will always be with us until Christ comes again. Let us not be deceived that Jesus will take us out of this groaning creation to escape toil and tribulation.

But be patient! Just as Christ endured sufferings, and was exalted, so shall we persevere  in Christ and be glorified. We have full assurance that as we suffer in this world, we have a Savior who is in heaven as our Faithful Prophet, Merciful Priest, and Glorious Lord and King.

In heaven, he makes known to our Father all of our needs and troubles. From heaven, he is reigning over all, good and evil. And he is reigning forever and ever. Amen.

Thou shalt subdue the kings of earth with God at Thy right hand;
The nations Thou shalt rule in might and judge in every land.
The Christ, refreshed by living streams, shall neither faint nor fall,
And He shall be the glorious Head, exalted over all. (Psalm 110)
© Copyright Nollie Malabuyo, February 2005 - Rev. Nollie Malabuyo is a missionary serving in the Philippines under Wycliffe Bible Translators, a graduate of the University of the Philippines (B.S. in Mechanical Engineering) and Westminster Seminary in California (M.Div.). In May 2008, Rev. Nollie Malabuyo was called and ordained as an Associate Pastor by Trinity URC in Walnut Creek, California, with an assignment as a missionary to the Philippines.

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