Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

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God's Forgotten Book

2 Dec 2005, Dr Barry Wright

(Barry is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)


The great global war in Europe was over. It ended just two days before Russia was to declare war on Japan. On August 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima destroying the city and killing 78,000 people. On August 9 the second bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki in Kyushu destroying the whole inner city area and killing an estimated tens of thousands of people. While the destructive power of the atom effectively ended the war, many Europeans were to share a pessimistic outlook for the future.

As early as March 1944, the Italian philosopher Bernadetto Croce wrote in his diary that 'We must not expect the rebirth of that world (pre-1914)...but we must expect an interminable sequence of clashes, and upsets and ruin due to revolutions and wars... We must...get accustomed to living a life without stability...' Unfortunately, these predictions were to be proven correct, particularly in the early post-war years.

It was to be in 1948, the year I was born, that Winston Churchill published a book called The Gathering Storm. The cold war, that was to be a war of words, a war of diplomacy, the stockpiling of destructive weapons was just beginning, and the nations who had been allies during the last great global conflict were now separating into two opposing camps. Russia and her satellites were on one side, and England, the United States, and the Western world on the other. No one could predict the outcome. As Churchill noted, the future of this planet was to be as perplexing as 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma' (something that cannot be explained). (Dept of Ed, 1974: 11).

As we move into a new Century it takes little observation by thinking men and women of all classes to recognise that the world is being gripped by problems of almost staggering proportions. So much so, that Commentators have referred many times to this period of earth's history as an 'Age of Despair'.

During this time of unparalleled scientific advance and exploding knowledge, we find the Christian Church struggling for its very survival, often unsure of its goals and its future.

How will the church survive?

How will it survive in a time that is described by the apostle Luke in Ch. 21: 26 as a 'time when men's hearts will fail them for fear of the things which are coming upon the earth'?

Let me assure you that when a person's heart fails them for fear we are talking here about the results of overwhelming problems in a life without God. A ship without an anchor. It is within this context that the hearts of men will fail them for fear of the things that are coming upon the earth.

How then will we survive?

As believing Christians, we all need a hope and we all need an assurance that God is for us - not against us - that God is in control over the affairs of this old world. We all need that assurance.

Dear friends, this morning, I am going to suggest that we can find that hope and we can have that assurance. This can be found in the word of God and, particularly in the last book of the scriptures that I am going to refer to this morning as God's Forgotten Book - the book of Revelation - God's Forgotten Book

Why do I call it that?

For the majority of Christians, the Book of Revelation remains a sealed book - one that is believed to be unintelligible and difficult to read. Hence, for many, its pages remain unread and misunderstood.  Satan has done his work well.

However, it has been interesting to note that there have been voices raised from time to time in the Christian world admonishing the faithful to open its pages. One such person of recent times was a man called Wilbur Smith, eminent Presbyterian scholar and minister. In his opening address to the annual Evangelicals Convention in Los Angeles he urges his hearers to 'Study the book of Revelation. Study it, he says, as you have never studied it before. Then go to your Churches and preach it. It is the one book above all others that demands our study today'.  He earnestly continues, 'I have had many burdens through the long years of my ministry, but I have never felt so strongly about anything as I now feel about this. Please! Please! Study this book.

The year was 1977 (29 Years ago).

We need to remember that over 100 years ago Ellen White, encouraged the fledgling SDA Church to place this book in such a pre-eminent way that it would become foremost in the minds of God's people. She says that nothing else '...should be allowed to engross our attention' (White, 1944: 302).

What did this mean? What was she saying? Ellen White was talking here about priorities- about what we value most - About where you place God in your life? It needs to be recognised that secular man believes in a God -it is just that he places Him in such a low priority - God becomes of little importance to his everyday life. Is this the way it is with you and me? It is very easy to do because we live in a world that seems to provide for our every need from the cradle to the grave. Who needs God?

Where do you place God in your everyday life?
Is he still important to you today?
If he is, then we need to turn our attention to this forgotten book of the scriptures.

Let me ask you a number of questions:

How many of you still earnestly believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ?

How many of you believe that he is coming soon and that time is running out?
The most important question
Are you ready to meet him?

If you are not sure - If you have been listening to the words of the scoffers found in 2 Peter 3: 4 that cry out, 'where is this coming He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation' If you have been listening to these voices that have sounded down through the ages then the message of the book of Revelation is for you and you need to study its pages.

Let me assure you, in the strongest possible terms, that the message of the book of Revelation was given by God to enable you to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ - The second coming of your Lord and your Saviour who loves you with a love you will never completely understand this side of the Kingdom.  

The scriptures tell us that the Second Coming of Jesus will end the reign of sin. It is the great climactic event of the age-long conflict between good and evil that began when Lucifer challenged the character and government of God.

That's the first reason why the message of this book is important for you. That's why it is important for me.

The very word 'revelation' means to reveal or to 'unveil' and this tells us that this book was meant to be read. Let us turn to Revelation 1: 3 and this is what it says:

'Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein;  (Why) for the time is at hand'. The unfolding of these prophecies began in John's day and continues right down to the present. (Repeat the first part)

Mankind today desperately needs the blessings promised in this book. It needs these blessings because of the great depth to which the world and the church have fallen away from the ' which was once delivered unto the saints' (Jude 3). It is high time for the Church and all the world to catch a glimpse of our Lord Jesus Christ as He directs the final events of this world's history towards his second coming and the setting up of his glorious kingdom.

Those who read, and those who hear, and those who live in harmony with what is written in this book have been given God's assurance that they will receive his blessing now and his ultimate blessing at the end of time.

The very fact that Jesus himself passes on this message to you through his beloved disciple John was to wake you up and build a hope for you  in his soon return. We are told by author Ellen White in the book Patriarchs and Prophets p.366 that ever since the entrance of sin, all communication between heaven and earth has been through Jesus (White, 1958: 366). Jesus is the one essential link in this chain of divine communication. Without Him there would be no word from God (Ibid).

The very first verse in Rev. 1: 1 tells me that '...God gave unto Him (Jesus) to show unto His servants things, which shortly must come to pass...'

Jesus himself has passed on this message to you

The second major reason to open the pages of this final book of scripture was that it was designed to encourage and inspire spiritual dependence upon Jesus Christ as the only means (The only means) for making ready for His return. Getting ready for the Advent is not something that you can do in your own strength. It is the result of allowing the Lord to work in and through your life.

This book was designed to turn your eyes upon Jesus to look full into his wonderful face

We are reminded in this book that we would see Jesus.  Many of you may remember the words of that old Hymn of that same title.

Listen to what it says

We would see Jesus,
for the shadows lengthen across the little landscape of our life
We would see Jesus,
our weak faith to strengthen for the last conflict, in this mortal strife

We would see Jesus,
Rock of our salvation whereon our feet were set with sovereign grace
Not life, nor death with all their agitation,
Can thence remove us, gazing on His face

We would see Jesus,
Other lights are paling, which for long years we did rejoice to see,
The blessings of this sinful world are failing,
We would not mourn them in exchange for Thee

We would see Jesus,
this is all we're needing-Strength, joy and willingness come with the sight
We would see Jesus,
dying, risen, pleading, Soon to return and end this mortal night.

(Hymn 494. SDA Hymnal)

What beautiful words. My prayer today dear friends is that we would see Jesus in a real and very personal way.

In our study of Revelation we find that all the scriptures focus on this book - All prophetic, doctrinal and spiritual teaching are brought together in one last major finale that directs our attention to what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has done for you and me. It is through our relationship with Jesus, fostered by daily Bible study, diligent prayer, and a proper assimilation of God's truth that will prepare us for ultimate triumph in His Kingdom. These are the resources God has provided for us so that we may face the coming crisis and be ready for His return.

Don't neglect them

At this point it may help us to know something about the man that God was to entrust with this last vital message to mankind?

The scriptures tell us that God was to place this heavy responsibility on the shoulders of a man called John. But which John are we talking about?

This John was believed to be the son of Zebedee - one of the sons of thunder - It is this description that tells us something about the character of John before his conversion - We need to remember that the Lord can create miracles in any life.  He was a brother to James.  Believed to be a cousin to Jesus.  One of the twelve disciples.  A member of Jesus inner circle - John was often referred to as 'John the Beloved'

There are many that would suggest that Jesus had favorites, but we need to remember it was John's loving response that brought him into a closer relationship with Jesus as a result of his own understanding of the love that God had shown to him. His was a special relationship with Jesus - John the beloved

This was the same John, who in his late 70s, was to be executed by being boiled alive in oil by order of the Roman Emperor Domitian (Dept of Ed, 1974: 7).

Domitian was determined to exterminate Christianity whose rapid growth in the then known world was beginning to threaten the Roman Empire and to threaten his own strongly held belief in Emperor Worship (Ibid).

John was falsely accused and then sentenced to be executed by being placed alive in a cauldron of boiling oil. But, the God of heaven saw fit to preserve John as He did the three Hebrews worthies in the fiery furnace (White, 1911: 569,570).

John was unharmed - a miracle of God, and as a result, was eventually exiled to the lonely island of Patmos where God was to give him the overwhelming privilege of viewing the closing scenes of earth's history - of taking him into the very presence of God. The island of Patmos, used as a Roman penal colony, was a rocky volcanic outcrop located in the Aegean Sea about 100 kms off the coast of present- day Turkey. The island was approximately 16 kms long and 10 kms wide at its widest point. A fitting place to put a troublesome prisoner like John where he could have no contact with the outside world.

John was the last living disciple and the only one to escape a violent death - all the others had been stoned, put to the sword, hung, beheaded or crucified.

What better person could God have chosen for Jesus to communicate with and with whom to place this heavy responsibility. As the last of those spiritual leaders who had actually walked and talked with Jesus he could not be more qualified to communicate the messages he was to be given. 

John had been given the privilege of seeing Jesus in human form along with the marks of the nails in His hands and feet that our Lord will bear throughout eternity. But now, on this lonely isle of Patmos John was permitted again to behold his risen Saviour but, this time Jesus was to be clothed in as much glory as a human being could withstand, and yet still live. I also believe that it was no coincidence that Jesus, as Lord and Creator of the Sabbath, came to John on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath was as precious then as it was when first instituted in Eden.

This was to be Sabbath day vision and the book of Revelation was to be the report.

How does John describe the presence of Jesus that day and how was he to respond?

Let's read Revelation 1: 9-19.

John was struggling to describe the scene in earthly terms so that we might, in some small way, understand the glory that surrounded this visit and of Jesus Himself. He was so frightened when he saw Him that he fell down as though he were dead. However, while it is of interest to note John's description of Jesus, it is more important to understand what the Lord is saying to him and to us.

Let us turn to His opening words in Rev 1: 17, 18

'...Fear not; I am the first and the last (the alpha and the omega - the beginning and the end): I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death'.

These are powerful words. Christ here was assuring John's future and was ensuring the future of all those who were to read these words.

Death is an intruder into the life and was never part of God's divine plan.
It is a tragic consequence of disobedience.
It robs life of meaning and purpose.
It is cruel and senseless.
Death is our enemy

Let me make this very clear

Jesus holds the keys of hell and death and because He does, you and I can face tomorrow with courage, confidence and positive conviction.

Because Jesus lives and holds these keys, you and I can face the past without regret and the future without fear, by trusting ourselves to his care.

Whatever the circumstances of your life, our risen Lord hears your cry and supplies your need. Since He has gained the victory over the forces of evil. He holds the key to your eternal destiny.

The power of Jesus to transform lives was never made clearer than on a bright and clear November day in 1945, just 3 months after the cessation of hostilities of the Second World War.

Chaplain Henry Gerecke, age 52, a farm boy, come Lutheran Minister, from St. Louis, Missouri, was to take on an awesome responsibility leading to one of the most amazing untold stories of the War.

Not far away in Nuremberg, top Nazis close to Hitler were awaiting trial for war crimes and one of the accused, Gross Admiral Raeder, one time Commander-in-chief of the German Navy had asked his American jailer for the services of a spiritual advisor. This unexpected and unusual petition was eventually accepted and Henry Gerecke was chosen as the person most suitable. Somewhat shaken and perplexed this one time farm boy wondered how he would make any impression on the disciples of Adolf Hitler. As a Chaplain, how would he approach these hated men with the message of Jesus Christ and the Cross? How would they treat him?

As he searched his heart, he found plenty of reasons for bitterness towards them.

Consequently, Gerecke prayed as never before that he would see these incarcerated men just as lost souls in need of help and he concentrated all his efforts toward hating the sin and loving the sinner. How does one show love to some of the most despised men of his time?

The list of men awaiting trial read like a 'Who's who' of the nazi regime. While not all the men were assigned to his care, he was given responsibility for the following people:

Hermann Goring - Reich Marshall and Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe (The powerful air wing of the German war machine). He was described as a vain, power hungry, flamboyant egotist. A large man, weighing in at 20 stone, he was also the founder of the Gestapo and the first concentration camps. Sentenced to death at Nuremberg, he cheated the hangman by taking a capsule of poison. Goring continually refused to accept Gerecke's pleadings to repent and turn to Christ and would have died with the knowledge that his little daughter had been praying every night, in her own words, 'that God would open my daddy's heart and let Jesus in'. Hermann Goring's last words to Gerecke were that '...she believes in your Saviour, but I'll take my chances'.

Rudolph Hess -Deputy Fuhrer until 1941. A strange man, subject to bouts of amnesia, an astrological slave who shared with Adolph Hitler this new religion, which programmed much of his life. At the time Gerecke met him in his cell he was in a state of mental disarray and, as such, refused the Chaplain's offer of spiritual help. While Gerecke continued his visits of approx 4 times a week Hess remained unmoved and was later sentenced to life imprisonment.

Wilhelm Keitel - Field-Marshall and Chief of the High Command of the Armed forces (O.K.W.). This 62-year old intelligent Prussian Officer had given unquestioned obedience to Adolf Hitler, whom he considered a military genius. It was a stance that made him unpopular among his military colleagues and earned him many nicknames from them. It also earnt him a place in the top list of Nazis drawn up by the Allied Powers. The first words made to Gerecke on entering his cell came in response to a question as to what he was reading. Holding up a Bible, he said to his near speechless visitor, 'I know from this book that God can love a sinner like me'. Over a 12-month period Gerecke was to see the wonder of God's grace and forgiveness at work. Keitel's last tearful words to Gerecke were, 'May Christ, my Saviour, stand by me all the way. I shall need Him so much'. His last wishes to be buried near a Church were not possible as the Allies, to avoid any future veneration of burial sites, incinerated all these condemned men in the ovens of the former concentration camp at Dachau. However, it would seem that with Keital, God had made his first victory.

Erich Raeder - Grand Admiral of the German Navy. Now 69 years of age, this quiet, fussy man, who was proud of his physical fitness, had sold Hitler the idea of building a strong navy, placing a special emphasis on the pocket battleship. However, his failure to check Allied successes singled him out for the full wrath of the Fuhrer. Hitler was to replace him with Admiral Donitz who had been in charge of one of the mightiest submarine fleets the world had ever seen. Raeder was the one responsible for Gerecke's presence at Nuremberg and he responded to the spiritual nurture his visits were to give. After struggling with his own doubts, it was to be in the spring of 1946 that Erich Raeder opened his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, accepting Him as his Saviour. His sentence was to be life imprisonment.

Karl Donitz - Grand Admiral of Germany's navy and for 23 days after the death of Hitler on April 30 1945, became leader of Nazi Germany, supervising the surrender of the German forces to the Allies. At age 54 with a brilliant Seaman's career behind him, Donitz told Gerecke that 'If he had the courage to come here...I think you will be able to help me'. His sentence was 10 years imprisonment and right up until his death on Christmas Eve, 1980 he was accepting Christian literature from F.T. Grossmith who tried to carry on Henry Gerecke's ministry after the Chaplain's death on October 11,1961.

Joachim von Ribbontrop - Hitler's Foreign Minister. He was seen as an unfriendly man, arrogant and snobbish and strongly anti-Semitic. He considered the Jews to be a useless breed of people, disfiguring their stay on earth by thieving and murderous intents. As Gerecke noted on his first visit, 'This was a hard man to love'. He was then 52 years of age. Von Ribbontrop remained friendly so long as Gerecke stayed off the subject of Christ's salvation. However, for nearly a year this disciple of Hitler had heard the chaplain proclaim Christ as the answer, talking of the cross and the power of the blood of Jesus. Von Ribbontrop could hold out no longer. He was to seek God's forgiveness and opened his heart to Jesus Christ. His wife did everything she could to dissuade him from this decision. On his way to the gallows Gerecke heard him say '...that he put all his trust in the Blood of the Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world'. Across the yard hangman John Woods, an American army sergeant who had already hanged 347 people, awaited him. Von Ribbobtrop's final words to Gerecke were 'I will see you again'.

Fritz Sauckel - Nazi Chief of Slave Recruitment. This 52-year old son of a Postman was the father of 11 children and was described as 'the greatest and cruelest slaver since the Pharaohs of Egypt'. As chief labour organiser he was responsible for the deportation of some eight million people from their homes to Germany. Documentary evidence shows he wanted humane treatment but at minimum financial cost. Though, he was to raise no objection to the resulting disgusting conditions that prevailed in many of the labour camps. Gerecke left cell 11 with the conviction that here was a soul who really needed him. After receiving the death sentence and the promise by his wife to keep their children close to the Cross of Jesus Christ, Fritz Sauckel with a final prayer, was quickly dispatched into eternity.

Alfred Rosenburg - Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. This 52-year old philosopher held a pantheistic view of God and rejected the Christian Gospel proclaiming Jesus as the Way of Salvation. This resulted in his bitter attacks on Christianity. His evidence of a Jewish conspiracy for world domination was responsible for many of the views held by Adolph Hitler. He was given the death penalty and had to the end refused all spiritual help from Gerecke. When Gerecke asked to say a prayer for him he smiled and said, 'No thank you'. He lived without a Saviour and that is the way he died. The black hood was pulled over his face, the knot with thirteen coils adjusted behind his head and Alfred Rosenburg dropped through the trap door into oblivion.

While many of these men refused spiritual help from this unknown army Chaplain, it would seem that Gerecke was used by God to bring hope where hope was not to be found. Only God knows the heart, but all indications point towards the fact that a number of these men accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.

As Gereke witnessed the power of God working on the hearts of these men, he felt he could hear and apply the Saviour's words:

'Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be found in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance'.

Let me repeat again that:

Jesus holds the keys of hell and death and because He does, you and I can face tomorrow with courage, confidence and positive conviction.

Because Jesus lives and holds these keys, you and I can face the past without regret and the future without fear, by trusting ourselves to his care.

Whatever the circumstances of your life, our risen Lord hears your cry and supplies your need. Since he has gained the victory over the forces of evil, He holds the key to your eternal destiny.

The book of Revelation, 'God's Forgotten Book', has been provided to reveal to your understanding the work being carried out for you by your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This book is to help prepare you for His Second Coming.

Everything heaven can do will be done. The Lord wants you to be in the kingdom and he will do everything possible to see that you are there.

I commend to you this morning God's forgotten book of the Scriptures. The blessings promised in this book can be yours, for now and for eternity.

Open your hearts to the pleading of your Saviour today because He is the one who holds the key to your eternal destiny.



Department of Education, General Conference of SDA  (1974)  Tomorrow. Breakthrough with God's Word.  Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.

Grossmith, F. T.   (1988)  The Cross and the Swastika. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing

White, E. G.  (1944)  Testimonies Vol 8. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.

White, E. G.  (1958)  Patriarchs and Prophets. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association

White, E. G.   (1911)  Acts of the Apostles. Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association.

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