Introduction to the Books of the Bible
BOOK : Revelation
Description : A revelation of the End Times
Author: John the apostle
Date written : Probably about AD95
Chapters : 22
Interpreters of Revelation normally fall into four groups:
1. Preterists understand the book exclusively in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.
2. Historicists take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos to the end of history.
3. Futurists place the book primarily in the end times.
4. Idealists view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.
Instead we recommend you read the book, verse by verse, and see what it says to you, using the basic Bible Study questions, “Who, what, when, where, how, why” and also asking what would it have said to John's readers then, and how do principles within it apply to me today? Especially note that Jesus is in control throughout. ‘He is the Lord' is the overall message!
Note that the book sometimes gives its own interpretation of a number of symbols –
stars are angels, lamp-stands are churches - 1:20
a particular woman with 12 stars - Israel 12:1
red dragon 12:3, is the devil - 12:9
male child 12:5 is Jesus - 12:17
"the great prostitute," 17:1, is " Babylon " [ Rome ?] - 17:5,18;
and the heavenly Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb - 21:9-10
Seven in biblical numerology is considered the perfect number and appears 52 times in this book.
Note there are
seven beatitudes (see 1:3, 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14)
seven churches (1:4,11),
seven spirits (1:4),
seven golden lamp-stands (1:12),
seven stars (1:16),
seven seals (5:1),
seven horns and seven eyes (5:6),
seven trumpets (8:2),
seven thunders (10:3),
seven signs (12:1,3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20),
seven crowns (12:3),
seven plagues (15:6),
seven golden bowls (15:7),
seven hills (17:9) and
seven kings (17:10),
as well as other sevens.
It may be, therefore, that this is biblical shorthand in some cases for saying that, as well as being the exact number 7, it may mean that the right number occurred to perfectly fulfil God's perfect will.
Some Key Verses:
Where John received this revelation
1:9 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.
It was first a revelation of the ruling Jesus Christ
1:17-19 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
John is given a view into the throne room of heaven
4:1,2 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.
He sees the end time scroll and only Jesus is worthy to open it
5:3-6 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne.
Jesus starts to unroll the end times
6:1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals.
One set of judgments flow on to the next
8:1,2 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
Despite the judgments, the hardness and stupidity of sin means failure to repent
9:20,21 The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts
Despite the judgments, the hardness and stupidity of sin means continued failure to repent
16:8-11 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.
Eventually Jesus will return as a conquering king
19:11-16 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
At the very ‘end' God will make all things new.
21:1-5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City , the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
So much could be said but with the nature of the book the more that is said about it, the more disagreements about its interpretation arise.
Instead we will tell two (true) stories to counter the impression that this is a difficult book to read.
First, many years ago the author was involved in a children's mission and during it a young lad of about ten came to the Lord. The next day he came back asking questions all about the book of Revelation. He had gone home and read it right through with no problem – but he did want help on some points!
Similarly, many years ago the author was involved with a boys Bible Class and over the space of several months, a group of about six thirteen to fourteen year olds went through this book verse by verse, once a week – and couldn't get enough of it!
The letters (Ch.2 & 3) are easy to read, as are the description in the heavenly throne room (Ch.4 & 5). Difficulty arises in the following chapters to know whether the various judgments follow in chronological order or whether they are expanding repetitions (those who are definite in their opinions, simply have never heard other opinions!) What is incredible though, is that although the judgments appear to gradually get worse (rather like those in Exodus) the hardness of sin means failure to repent. No one will ever be able to say they were not warned or given opportunity to turn to God.
It can be read at one sitting but our advice is to take the bold headings in the Outline above, and focus on a section at a time.
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