Surprise! – Revelation 16:15 05/16/21

Surprise! – Revelation 16:15 05/16/21

In our text today we have a brief break in the bowl plagues, and instead we have the exalted Lord Jesus speaking. This is the first time this has happened since He addressed the seven churches of Asia back in chapters 2 and 3.[1] The text is Revelation 16:15 ~

15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”[2]

The final great conflict of the Tribulation period has arrived. This is the final event, the litmus test, indicating that the time for Jesus to establish His kingdom has finally come.[3] However, we can easily imagine how difficult it would be to not be terrified by everything that’s happening. You could easily be coerced into making compromises. It is for this reason that He, Jesus, reminds us that we need to be, we must be, it is imperative that we be, ready for His coming.[4]

So let’s think about what Jesus says. He says He will come unexpectedly, but He also says that, for those who are ready, His coming will result in blessings. The Scriptures suggest that we will have an inkling of when this will happen, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4. We’re not in darkness, and this warning in Revelation is a reminder to not be in darkness, to not be surprised. In fact, this is an exhortation to be alert and ready, and therefore not surprised. At the same time, none of the events, none of the time markers, none of the persons described, are clear enough to allow God’s people to precisely identify when “the great day of God Almighty” will actually take place.[5] Therefore, we’re called upon to be continually ready.

Now for the world, His return (whenever it is) will be a shocker.[6] In fact, the Scriptures tell us they will not believe, and they will be stunned; 2 Peter 3:3-4. Now, the fact is that this, Jesus’ return, this long waited for event, is not an “if” statement. It is a “when” statement. It will occur on “the great day of God.”[7] Jesus’ followers know that He will return to gather His people to be with Him.[8] The details are, I believe, intentionally foggy. Because of this, He calls upon us to remain alert and faithful, watching for and avoiding satanic deceptions.[9]

Now, the way we’re supposed to “watch” is to “keep our garments.”[10] This is the only place in Revelation where we find this “keeping” one’s robes.[11] In the Hebrew Scriptures, “nakedness” and “shame” were closely associated.[12] In the ancient Near East, it was common for conquering armies to parade their prisoners of war naked through the streets as a sign of their defeat, helplessness, and shame.[13]

In the context of chapter 16, to “watch” and to “keep one’s garments” would be to refuse to yield to the requirements of the Beast… which is to worship him.[14] That is, we refuse to compromise. There will be great temptation to yield and have an easier life. When we see events taking place that seem to be end-time prophesy fulfilled we cannot allow ourselves to panic.[15] Our calling is clear; Revelation 16:15 ~

15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”[16]

We know what we’re supposed to be doing. But here’s the thing, the warning to remain alert and faithful need not be limited to eschatological events such as we see described in Revelation.[17] The battle we’re called to is a daily one... right now[18] The appeal to steadfast loyalty is relevant and needed at any time.[19] Our lives must reflect our readiness for Jesus’ return...[20] right now. Yet, I suppose the reasonable question, at a practical level, is what does it mean to “keep our garments”?

Fundamentally, this speaks to life orientation. It speaks to a life free of compromise. It means living as He did.[21] Christianity is not some static collection of doctrines that we follow, as if you could learn a set of creeds, decide you believe them, and then you’re done. Christianity is a life characterized by singleness of intention, it is a life centered on Christ.[22] It is a life lived in relationship with God.[23]

But it’s more than that, more than just an external relationship, we live in Him,[24] and He lives in us. The Spirit replaces our life with the life of Christ,[25] a life of power and purpose. This is true because it has always been God’s intent that our lives would be united with His life.[26] And as we do so, we go from being a creature of God to being a child of God.[27] We’re renewed, regenerated, in short, we’re changed.[28]

This is a change we cannot produce ourselves.[29] Our part is simply to cooperate and allow God to do what He desires.[30] God asks that we offer ourselves to Him, and receive the new life He grants us.[31] He brings conversion, change, to our lives. This consists of constant reliance on God’s grace and power.[32] The life of Jesus is lived in you.[33] We must learn to listen and be led by the Spirit, we musty train ourselves to more consciously follow His leading.[34] In the process we