CHAPTER 3 – Revelation 1:9-11 建造中的天國KINGDOM UNDER CONSTRUCTION

很多人的印象,啟示錄是描寫末世災難的預言。其實啟示錄的主題不是講論末世的災難,乃是天國的完成。天國在耶穌的時候已經開始建造,現在仍然是在建造之中。

Many people think that the purpose of Revelation is to describe the prophecies of the end times. Actually, the main theme of Revelation is not about the disasters of the end of the world, but the completion of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven began its construction during the times of Jesus and it is still under construction today.

有人對於天國的認識很模糊。有說將來主回來後才建天國。其實耶穌早說天國已經開始。上文說,基督的使命是使我們脫離罪惡,又使我們成為祂父神的王國,成為父神的祭司,都用過去式,表示基督已經開始祂的工作,也就是說天國已經開始建造,只是還沒有完工而已。

Some people are very confused about the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven. Some say: The Lord will build the Kingdom of Heaven after He returns in the future. In fact, Jesus already said in the beginning that the Kingdom of Heaven had already started. We already talked about what Christ did for us in an earlier section. He freed us from our sins, and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His Heavenly Father. All the verbs are in the past tense. Christ already began His work ; in other words, the Kingdom of Heaven is already under construction, but it has not been completed yet.

天國已經接近完成階段。到本書中間與後面部份,不斷重覆告訴我們,天國正式完成了,君王基督正式執掌王權。現在仍然在建造的過程中,雖然有不同的困難與意外事件發生,但我們知道,參與建造的人,總要面對變幻與動亂。但主已經藉著這本書,預告我們知道將要面對的事,我們就不會手足無措。我們有了準備,就知道怎樣去應付這種種困難。這里短短幾節經文,可以給我們先看一看這天國幾件重要的事。

The Kingdom of Heaven is nearing its completion. In the middle part and towards the end of the book of Revelation, it repeatedly tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is formally completed, Christ the King is officially reigning. Right now we are still in the construction process. There may be many difficulties and unforeseen circumstances on the way, as those who participate in the construction process will be facing changes and turmoil. But the Lord has already told us beforehand about the hardships we may encounter so that when these things happen we will not be caught by surprise. If we are prepared, we will know how to confront these difficulties. Here are a few short Bible verses which can give us a first look at some important things in the Kingdom of Heaven.

天國的合夥人

PARTNERS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

9 我約翰,就是你們的弟兄,和你們在耶穌的患難、國度、忍耐裡一同有分,為神的道,並為給耶穌作的見證。

9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

約翰本來在以弗所牧養教會,當時的皇帝Domitian 不准他傳道。在公元95 年把他囚禁在拔摩小島,去開礦作苦 工。那時約翰也大約有95 歲,還要做這些粗重的苦工。到了96 年,那皇帝死了,接任的皇帝 Nerva 把他釋放。他再回到以弗所教會牧會。一共被囚禁了18 個月。

John was originally pastoring a church in Ephesus when the Emperor Domitian forbade him to preach the word of God. In the year 95 AD he was sent to the island of Patmos as a prisoner to do hard labor in the mines. At that time John was approximately 95 years old, but he still had to do such strenuous work. In 96 AD Domitian died and Emperor Nerva succeeded him and freed John from prison, then John went back to pastoring the church in Ephesus. He was imprisoned for 18 months.

那拔摩島是一個長窄的小島,寬不到一英哩,長約五六英哩,很小的火山島。在島上,約翰所做的工,都是苦工,因為他是囚犯。

The island of Patmos is a very small, long and narrow volcanic island, less than one mile wide and about five or six miles long.

在世人眼中,他是囚犯。但他怎樣看自己才重要。他說:「我是你們的弟兄。」也就是說,我們是一家人。我與你們是一樣的人。雖然他有非常特別的身份,是12 使徒中一個,其他使徒都過世了,只剩他一個。他可以很自豪的說:「我是唯一一個剩下的使徒。」但他卻很謙卑地說:「我是你們的弟兄,也是你們的 partaker 、partner 。中文比較難翻譯,所以譯作一同有分。原來是名詞,改譯成了形容詞。

In the eyes of people, John was a prisoner. Yet, the most important thing is how he looked at himself. He said: “I, your brother.” He is saying we are family, we are the same. John had a very special status, he was one of the original twelve disciples; and he was the only one left, all the others disciples had already died. He was the youngest one of all, yet he was not persecuted or murdered by the enemy. He was 95 years old. He could have been very proud of himself and could have said: “I am the only one left of all the apostles.” But instead he was very humble and said: “ I am your brother, and your partaker/partner . ”

現代做生意的合夥人叫股東,但在天國里面,我們沒有股份這種東西,當然不能叫股東。可以勉強叫做「合夥人」。合夥人有大家拿出一些東西湊合起來的意思。其實這字的原意是我們大家都分享這幾方面的東西,是分享者,或分擔者。分享、分擔什麼呢?這裡說是在幾方面的分享、分擔者:是「患難」、「天國」、「忍耐」的分享、分擔者。

Today business partners are called shareholders, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, we do not share company stock, so we cannot call it “shareholder”. You might call it “partner”. A partnership means that everyone comes up with something and puts it together. In fact, the word means that we all share in something together, to share or to partake. Share and partake of what? Here are a few aspects of sharing: Sharing in the suffering, sharing in the kingdom, sharing in patient endurance .

天國的分擔者、分享者

COMPANIONS/PARTNERS IN THE KINGDOM

到底是什麼意思?我們是其中一個主人嗎?是其中的董事嗎?是內閣人員嗎?天國的分擔者是一同建造天國的人,一同推廣天國,發展到全世界的人。我們不只是一個天國公民,也是建立天國的官員,是把這天國的福音傳遍世界的建造者。約翰在老年、接近一百歲的時候,還被禁止傳道,地上的門雖然關了,天上門卻開了。

What does this really mean? Are we one of the owners? Are we a board member? Are we one of the staff members? Companions/partners in the Kingdom of Heaven are those who take part in the construction of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that it expands all over the world. We are not just citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; we are officers who take part in building the Kingdom of Heaven in order to spread the Gospel throughout the whole world. John was forbidden to preach the Gospel when he was about 100 years old, the doors on earth where closed but the doors in heaven were still opened.

患難的分擔者

PARTNERS IN SUFFERING

天國的建築材料就是患難。天國最後建造完成出現之時,也是在患難之後。患難是不能缺少的原料。最初期的教會建立起來,因為經歷很多的逼迫患難。經過猶太人的迫害、羅馬皇帝的迫害,教會就建立起來了。中國教會能夠建立起來也是因為患難,因為民間的迫害,因為政府的迫害,因為文革的迫害,造成今天強壯的教會。


The building material that the Kingdom of Heaven is made of  is suffering.  When the Kingdom of Heaven is finally built, it will be after the great tribulation. Trials and tribulations are the raw materials that the Kingdom of Heaven cannot do without. The early church was established and grew as a result of great persecution by the Jews and by the Roman Emperor. The Church in China was also established through adversity. They were persecuted by the people, by the government and by the Cultural Revolution; all these sufferings made the church to become stronger today.

忍耐的分擔者

PARTNERS IN PATIENT ENDURANCE

為什麼這個王國總是跟患難、忍耐相連?因為這個建造過程以見證為主。作主的見證人,就要背十字架,要經過艱難。經過艱難的人必定認識忍耐。患難生忍耐,這種忍耐是從聖靈來的素質。聖靈所結的果子就是忍耐。凡屬主的信徒,能夠靠聖靈的忍耐度過艱難,沒有聖靈的人遇到患難,會大聲咒罵、怨天尤人。我們卻是忍耐的分擔者。

What is the reason that this kingdom is continuously linked to tribulations and endurance? It is due to the fact that the building process gives priority to witnessing. To be a witness for the Lord, you have to carry the cross; you have to go through difficulties. People who have gone through difficulties will know about endurance. Trials and tribulations produce patient endurance. This kind of inner quality comes from the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is patience. Any believer who belongs to the Lord can depend on the Holy Spirit for endurance to overcome difficulties. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit will curse loudly, complain and blame God for everything bad that happens to them. We are indeed partners in patient endurance.

也是「為神的道,並為給耶穌作的見證」。希臘文的Martus 是見證人,Marturew 是作見證之意,變成今天英文之殉道者。因為當日的見證人,都成為殉道者。這天國的partner 不容易做。不過也不是人人有資格做殉道者,是祂所特別揀選,也是祂額外加給能力的人才有資格。

Another reason is because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The Greek word “ Martus ” means witness, “ Marturew ” means to bear witness. In those days all the witnesses were martyrs. It is not easy to be a partner in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not everyone is qualified to be a martyr, only those who are specially chosen by the Lord and who have been given additional strength.

雅各約翰兩兄弟曾經問主,能不能坐在主的左右。主問:「我所喝的杯,你們能喝嗎?」祂所喝的杯是苦杯,能喝祂苦杯的必得大榮耀,在天國里必有特別位置。不能喝苦杯的人,就不會得到這一種榮耀。

Two brothers, James and John, asked the Lord if they may sit at His right and at His left in His kingdom. The Lord asked them: “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”(Matthew 20:22) The cup that Jesus was about to drink was a bitter cup; those who can drink His bitter cup will have great glory and a special place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who cannot drink the bitter cup will not receive that kind of glory.

天國的領域

THE TERRITORY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

9 曾在那名叫拔摩的海島上。10 當主日我被聖靈感動,聽見在後面有大聲音如吹號。

9 Was on the island of Patmos… 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.

每一個王國都有一個範圍。中文的「國」字,有一個方格,中間一個「域」字。太平天國的時候把中間的「域」字改成「玉」,簡單易寫。現在的簡體字也跟著他們這樣寫,其實本來是領域的域。美國的領域,東至大西洋,西至太平洋。

Every kingdom has a territory. The Chinese character for country/nation 「國」(guo2) is made out of a square and inside the square the word 「域」(yu4) which means boundary/domain. During the times of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom the word inside the square 「域」(yu4) was changed to 「玉」(yu4) which means jade/precious stone for simplified writing. Simplified Chinese today uses this word 国 for country. But originally the character in the center of the square was 「域」(yu4) which is the character that forms the word 領域( ling3 yu4) which means boundary/domain/territory. The territory of the United States has its boundaries; it is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.

天國的國界在哪裡呢?是否就在拔摩海島上?其實全地都是魔鬼的國土,它試探耶穌的時候就曾說:「祢只要拜我一下,全世界都歸祢所有。」因為全地都歸魔鬼掌管。耶穌卻在魔鬼的領域裡建造起天國。天國的地到底有多大?那就要看聽王命的人有多少。順服主的人在哪裡,哪裡就是國土。基督像在魔鬼的地上建立起一個大使館一樣。

Where is the territory of the Kingdom of Heaven? Is it in the island of Patmos? In fact, the whole world is the territory of the devil. When the devil tempted Jesus in the desert, he took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and said: “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.” In fact, the whole world is under the rule of the devil. But Jesus is establishing His Kingdom in the devil’s territory. How big is the territory of the Kingdom of Heaven? That depends on how many people obey the command of the King. Wherever there are people who serve the Lord that is where the Kingdom of Heaven is. It is as if Christ would have established an embassy inside the devil’s territory.

這事在什麼時候發生?是在主日。耶穌升天之後,他們開始在七日的頭一日聚會,而不在過去的安息日,用來記念主復活之日。保羅的時代,即50 年代,稱聖餐為「主的晚餐」,90 年代稱七日的頭一日為「主日」,以後教會都是這樣用。因為禮拜天就是主耶穌復活的日子。「主日」,就是主的日子。

When did this happen? It happened on the Lord’s Day. After Jesus went back to heaven, the believers started meeting together on the first day of the week, not on the Sabbath Day but on the Lord’s Day, because that was the day of the resurrection of the Lord. During the times of Paul, until the year 50, the Holy Communion was called “The Lord’s Supper”, in the  year 90 the first day of the week was called “Sunday”, and the church continued to use these terms up to the present times. Sunday is the day that the Lord Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. Sunday is the Lord’s Day.

有人以為安息日的目的是要我們一星期休息一天。其實安息日有兩個目的:「休息」與「尊為聖日」,不單放下工作,也用來敬拜神。到了新約,還加上了天國君王向我們頒布旨意的時候。耶穌復活之後,每次向門徒顯現都在主日。約翰得到主的啟示也在主日。主日成了基督徒重大的日子,是天國開大會、萬王之王頒布祂旨意的時刻。

Some people think that the purpose of the Sabbath is for people to take one day of the week to rest. Actually, the Sabbath has two purposes: to rest and to keep it holy by setting our work aside and dedicating that day to worship God. During the New Testament times, it was also when the King of the Kingdom of Heaven would issue His decree to the people. After Jesus resurrected, every time that He appeared to His disciples it was on a Sunday. John received the Lord’s revelation also on a Sunday. Sunday is a very important day for the believers, it is the time of General Assembly in the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is the time when the King of Kings will let us know His imperial decree.

這王國的地點不重要,時間反而更重要。約翰被囚在荒島,沒有教堂,沒有會眾,但他照常在主日敬拜主。結果他「被聖靈感動」。

The location of this Kingdom is not that important, what is more important is the time. John was imprisoned in a desert island, without a church and without a congregation, but he worshiped the Lord on Sunday as usual. As a result, he found himself “in the Spirit”.

所以真正的天國范圍不是在地上。對於他來說,當時的外面世界已經消失不見,他再不是在荒島裡,像是到了另外一個空間,被聖靈提到另外一處。所以我們可以說,我們聚會都會在同一個地方。這地方在哪裡?其實不是最重要,最重要的是我們都在聖靈裡面,在另外一個空間與主相會。好像有無線網絡,接通天地線一樣。我們與主,與其他眾聖徒有所交流,好像到了另一個領域,見到、聽到平常聽不到的東西。所以他所見的異象,比以賽亞先知在聖殿中所見的異象更大、更深奧。

So the real scope of the Kingdom of Heaven is not on the earth. For John, the outside world had already disappeared, he was no longer on a desert island, and he seemed to have gone into another dimension, taken by the Spirit to a different place. Thus, we can say that when we gather together we are meeting in that same place. Where is that place? Actually, that is rather not that important, what is important is that we are all in the Spirit, we are meeting with the Lord in another dimension. Like a wireless network connecting heaven and earth. We have fellowship with the Lord and with other saints, like going into another territory; we can see and hear things that we cannot usually hear. The vision that John saw was much larger and more profound than what the prophet Isaiah saw in the temple.

聽見在我後面有大聲音如吹號。

“I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.”

以前用吹號來召集遠處的人,因為它的聲音夠強,傳得夠遠,就像今天的擴音器。所以這裡說「像」吹號,不是真的吹號,是感覺上有非聽不可的聲音。這聲音使他有很強烈的領受,覺得一定要聽從,覺得這聲音有權柄,一定要跟隨祂的話。所以神的國到底在哪裡?就是在人聽從祂旨意之處,在人覺得神的聲音比其他一切聲音更強大的地方。

In the old times, a trumpet was used to gather people from a distance because the sound of a trumpet is very loud and can travel very far, like the loud speakers that we use today. What John heard was not the actual sound of a trumpet but a loud voice like a trumpet. The voice was so strong and full of authority that compelled John to listen and obey. So where is the Kingdom of God? It is where people listen and obey God’s will, where His voice is more powerful than all other voices.

天國的文告

THE PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

11 你所看見的當寫在書上,達與以弗所、示每拿、別迦摩、推雅推喇、撒狄、非拉鐵非、老底嘉那七個教會。

11 “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

19 所以你要把所看見的,和現在的事,並將來必成的事,都寫出來。

19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

全書共有12 次吩咐他「寫下來」,這是第一次。皇帝禁止他傳道,但不能禁止他寫作。約翰本仁也是在坐牢的時候得異夢,寫下偉大的天路歷程。神的僕人雖然被囚禁,但神的話語卻不被囚禁。

John was told twelve times in this book to write down what he saw; this was the first time. The Emperor prohibited him from preaching the word of God but he could not prohibit him from writing. John Bunyan was also in prison when he had a dream which inspired him to write the best known and the most remarkable great book called The Pilgrim’s Progress. The servants of God may be put in prison, but the Word of God can never be held captive.

他寫下的就是天國的文告,讓所有天國的成員知道,要等候天國的降臨,要同心建造天國。所以都不是壞消息,是好消息。這啟示錄的信息,是主耶穌親自吩咐約翰寫下來,給我們讀的文告,使這本書成為最特別的書,是不可不讀的書。而且要按著正意來讀它與解釋它,這本書是給全部所有各教會去讀的。

What John wrote down was the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven announcing to the members of the Kingdom to wait for its coming, and to build the Kingdom of Heaven in one accord. So it is not bad news but good news. Jesus Christ Himself told John to write down the message of the Book of Revelation for us to read it. It is the most special book ever. It is a book that must be read. Furthermore, it must be read and explained with the correct interpretation. This book is to be read by each and every one of the churches.

為什麼這裡只選七個教會呢?這七個教會不是特別有名,不是特別大,也不是在大城市裡,不見得特別屬靈。當時很多其他的城鎮,都有教會,為什麼單選這七個?因為這七個教會代表這二千年來的教會,代表所有教會。這七個教會情況非常不同,示每拿教會受大苦,卻充滿生命;撒狄有教會之名,卻沒有生命;老底嘉自以為非常富有,但福音傳不開。非拉鐵非自覺力量小,但蒙主稱讚,蒙主大大使用,把福音傳到地極。怎麼會有這樣大的分別?

Why were these seven churches chosen? These seven churches were not particularly famous, big, or situated in large cities; they were not even particularly spiritual. At that time, other cities and towns also had churches, why were these seven churches chosen? These seven churches were chosen because they were a representation of all the churches during these two thousand years. The circumstances of these seven churches were very different, the Church in Smyrna suffered great persecution, but it was full of life; the Church in Sardis was called a church, but it did not have life; the Church in Laodicea thought it was rich, but could not spread the Gospel. The Church in Philadelphia was conscious of their little strength, but was greatly praised and used by the Lord to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Why such a big difference?

不單各地教會不同,各時代教會也非常不同。我們現在正處在最後的階段,正在迎接末日的來臨。地震、天災、瘟疫、戰亂種種情況,都是按照聖經所預告的發生。美國正在衰退,如果美國不衰退,預言中的獸,那末後敵對神的大帝國出現,就成為不可能的事。現在歷史正朝著那方向穩步前進。我們讀聖經預言,會覺得非常奇妙,似乎是不可能的事,卻真的根據聖經的預言在發生。

Not only churches from different places are unique, but churches from different eras are also very distinct. We are living in the final stages, anticipating the arrival of the end times. Earthquakes, natural disasters, pestilence, chaos caused by war, all these things are happening according to the prophecies of the Bible. The United States is in decline, if it was not so, the beast from the prophecy would not rise. This beast is the great kingdom that is against God. History is moving steadily towards that direction . We feel completely amazed to see how the events which at first seemed impossible are beginning to come true according to the prophecies of the Bible.

另一個不可能的事,就是中國教會的興起。中國人拜偶像超過一千年,佛教深入人心,所有佛教的國家都必定貧窮落後。看中國過去一千年的歷史,它像走到盡頭,必像其他拜偶像的國家一樣慢慢消滅。誰知忽然之間,神感動西方宣教士前仆後繼的湧到中國來,有人甚至夢見地圖上一點,覺得是神叫她到那地方做宣教士。這如果這不算是聖靈的作為,到底是什麼力量?

Another event that seemed impossible was the rise of the Chinese Church. Chinese people have worshiped idols for more than 1000 years; Buddhism had deeply infiltrated their hearts. Buddhist countries are poor and underdeveloped. Looking back at 1000 years of the history of China, it seemed that this country would soon come to an end like other Buddhist countries that fade away little by little. But unexpectedly, God moved western missionaries to come to China, advancing wave upon wave. Someone even dreamed of seeing a map pinpointing China and felt that it was God’s calling for her to go to that place as a missionary. If this was not the work of the Holy Spirit, what kind of force was it?

廿世紀後期,看見很多台灣、香港來的基督徒學者,他們受感動投身在查經班與教會的事工上。他們有自己事業,但每週花卅小時以上做教會福音工作、文字工作。全美各地都有這些專業人士為主作工,這還不是聖靈的工作嗎?

By the end of the 20th century, many Christian scholars came to America from Taiwan and China; they were moved to serve the Lord in Chinese churches and in Bible study groups. They had their own career, but spent more than thirty hours a week doing evangelistic work and writing Christian articles. These professionals were working for the Lord throughout the United States. If this is not the power of the Holy Spirit, then what is it?

中國教會遭遇大逼迫超過一百年時間,像使徒時代教會一樣。受人民迫害、受政府迫害,但越受迫害,發展越快,教會更加強壯。現在終於到了豐收的時候。普世發展最快的教會,是在中國的家庭教會,以及海外的華人教會。美洲、歐洲教會普遍衰落、老化、關門之時,中國教會卻越開越多,越開越大,世界各地的華人教會也是一樣。

The Chinese Church suffered persecution for more than 100 years, like the times of the early church with the apostles. They were persecuted by the people and by the government, but the more they were persecuted, the more the church grew and got stronger. Now , at last, it is the time of the abundant harvest. The churches that are growing the most are the house churches in China as well as the Chinese churches overseas. The American and European churches are in decline and aging. On the other hand, there are more and more churches in China that are being established and are growing at a steady rate. Chinese churches all around the world are also growing.

為什麼華人教會特別蒙福?因為在神計劃中的外邦人日期裡面,也是分時段的。先是歐洲的外邦人,再是美洲的外邦人,最後是亞洲的外邦人。

Why is the Chinese church particularly blessed? It is due to the fact that the plan of God for the time of the gentiles is divided into different periods: first the European gentiles, then the American gentiles, and finally the Asian gentiles.

傳福音其實就是傳達天國的文告,執行天國君王的旨意。所以天國的成員,必需要認識神的通告,聽清楚神的宣言,執行神的旨意。

To preach the Gospel, actually, is to convey the message of the Kingdom of Heaven and to carry out the will of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, the members of the Kingdom of Heaven must know the proclamation of God, hear clearly the declaration of God and carry out God’s will.