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.
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.
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.
PARTNERS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
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.
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 . ”
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 .
COMPANIONS/PARTNERS IN THE KINGDOM
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.
PARTNERS IN SUFFERING
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.
PARTNERS IN PATIENT ENDURANCE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
“I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.”
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.
THE PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
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 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.