SUMMARY OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
(Saturday, August 15, 2020)
Most of us don’t like and take interest in reading the Book of Revelation for various reasons. There are some who regard this book as simply a puzzle. Revelation is to our modern mind a very weird and fantastic book full of angels, and trumpets, and earthquakes, of beasts, and dragons, and demons of the pit. Well, it’s a puzzle to Martin Luther. He never wrote a commentary on it. He says, “My spirit cannot accommodate itself to this book. There is one sufficient reason for the small esteem in which I hold it, that Christ is neither taught in it nor recognized.” As a matter of fact, Calvin didn’t write a commentary on it, and Zwingli said it’s not a book of the Bible. On the other hand, there are those [like Philip Carrington] who think of it as a masterpiece and tendered the book the ultimate compliment. Well, whether we think of it as a puzzle or whether we think of it as a masterpiece, we surely will agree that it’s an unusual work. One might ask, “What is the importance of this book?” Some people go through their whole ministry never expounding the book of Revelation, never even studying the book of Revelation in some detail. This is the concluding book of the Bible and is one of the most valuable books for Christian life. Why is it important? What is the importance of it? Well, first of all it provides the necessary capstone and climax to the word of God. This is the greatest revelation for humankind where Father God, Glorified Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Angels and MAN [John] were engaged to write and convey the messages to Christians. It is a revelation given to Christ by the Father God. I won’t for the moment speak about what that means when we say God because Jesus Christ is God, too, but the trinitarian God is the author of the revelation. The Lord Jesus Christ is the executor of it in the sense of the second person, the mediator. And then it is given to an angelic messenger who in turn gives it to the servants of God, specifically the Apostle John. So the triune God, the mediator, the angel, and the apostle [who was guided by the Holy Spirit], what an unheard of, someone has said, what an unheard of authority lies back of the prophecy of the revelation. The triune God, the mediator, the angelic being, and the apostle [who was guided by the Holy Spirit] standing back of these words. In fact, it didn’t even originate with Jesus. As John explains further, Christ received it from his Father, and having received it from the Father, Christ gave it to an angel to reveal to John, so there are, in all, five stages of transmission. And what a pure channel of communication it is, from the Father to the Son to the angel to the apostle [who was guided by the Holy Spirit] to the church, to the readers. So this is a book that has great authority behind it – the trinity, the angels, the apostles. Incidentally, that would indicate that when he says the revelation of Jesus Christ it does not mean the revelation about Jesus Christ, but the revelation that Jesus Christ has because it has been given to him. So he writes, “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to shew.” So it’s Jesus Christ’s revelation, which God gave to him, that explains what it is, “to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” It’s a revelation of Jesus Christ. It belongs to him. And notice the process. God is where it begins.
The book of Revelation has fascinated both believers and unbelievers ever since it was written. But different interpreters understand the symbols and imagery of the book in very different ways. The strange creatures, the cosmic battles, the plagues and judgments — some interpreters find these images so confusing that they lose all hope of understanding this part of Scripture. But the truth is that much of this confusion stems from our unfamiliarity with the historical context of the book. So, in order to learn how to interpret and apply Revelation rightly, it helps to understand something about its history. According to Revelation 1:9, John wrote the book of Revelation while he was on Patmos, a small island in the Aegean Sea, approximately forty miles southwest of Ephesus. Patmos is a rocky and barren place, virtually devoid of trees. Its unpleasantness made it a good location to punish popular people who were perceived as threats to the civil order of the Roman Empire. And Revelation 1:9 strongly implies that John had been exiled to Patmos. While John was enduring these harsh conditions, he received several visions from Christ. And the book of Revelation is John’s record of and commentary on these visions. Listen to John’s account in Revelation 1:10-11: On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:10-11). Here, and in other passages like Revelation 21:5, John made it clear that he wrote in obedience to this command from God. God was going to show him a vision, and John was to record this vision and send it to these seven churches in Asia Minor.
In Deuteronomy 12:32 we read, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it”. The Book of Revelation is the only book that says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:7) as well as says, “…..if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19). One of the Evangelists of the 19th century and early 20th century L.W. Munhall said, “I have read the Book of Revelation every six weeks in my life as a Christian because I did not want to miss that blessing.” That’s a worthy goal and aim. So it’s not simply enough my friends to hear the words of the prophecy, one must also keep them, obey them. Fundamentally, this is a book designed to influence our activity, our lives, not simply our minds, not simply that we might have some insight into the future. But all prophecy was ultimately morally directed. In fact, that’s the suggestion of keep, hear it and keep it. This is the first of seven blessings, or beatitudes, in the book of Revelation. It is a book of blessings, which means it is a book with moral force. There’s probably no book in the Bible that causes more fascination and curiosity than Revelation does. But it’s not written to satisfy our curiosity; it’s not written to satisfy our minds alone, but to affect our conduct. It will bless us, we’re told. It is written for the believers [Churches], not for the non-believers. This is written for ordinary people with its practical purpose so that they can prepare themselves for the welcoming of glorified Jesus to earth, reign on earth with him, and qualify themselves in His judgement. It has about 56 predictions, which is the highest number of predictions revealed in the New Testament and encourages us to live in Faith, Hope & Love. Moreover, Revelation 22:12-13 says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”.
Out of the four hundred and four verses of the Book of Revelation, two hundred and seventy-eight of them come from the Old Testament, refer to the Old Testament in a clear way. That’s almost sixty-nine percent of the Book of Revelation is related to the Old Testament. So there’s past, present, and future to this book. The vision that John sees in chapter 1 is past when he begins to write. And as he begins to write the book, he addresses it to the 7 churches of Asia Minor in chapters 2 and 3, and that’s present. They were in existence while he was writing. In fact, as we’ll point out as we go through a study of those churches, they were historical churches, but they are representative of churches in every age. The problems they face, the challenges they face, the incentive that Christ gives to them – that all applies today. We face the same kind of problems. So that is the present. Chapter 4 on is yet future, and so the book from chapter 4 to 22 is a book about eschatology – about last things, about the future – maybe the near future; maybe things that are soon to begin to occur in this world. This, then, is the pure Word of God. It is therefore necessary reading, and reliable reading. We can count upon the things of this book being true. John then explains it. He says, “It is about events which must soon take place.” It is a prophecy. There are other answers, better answers. It may mean that when the events begin to happen, they will happen soon. They will happen quickly. They will happen suddenly. Suddenly these things will begin to unfold. Or we’re to understand “soon” from the prophetic perspective. You’ve heard it stated, you’ll be familiar with the analogy that prophets, when they looked through time, saw events much like one would see mountain ranges. We look at a mountain range, and we can see a line of mountains, and then there’s one behind it, and we really can’t get the right perspective on it. They don’t seem distant to us. It seems like one’s right behind the other, and we don’t see the valleys between. And that’s much the way the prophets looked at events. They’ll be events that have years, thousands of years, between them.
The book of Revelation begins with a short introduction in 1:1-8. Following this, the body of Revelation consists of four central visions:
- Vision of Christ in 1:9–3:22
- Vision about coming events in 4:1–16:21
- Vision describing the punishment of the Great Prostitute in 17:1–21:8
- Vision of the bride, the wife of the Lamb in Revelation 21:9–22:5.
After the four central visions, the book ends with a conclusion in 22:6-21.
2.0 CHAPTER 1: HEAVENLY CHRIST AND EARTHLY CHURCH
The sketch that the LORD gives us in Revelation chapter 1 through chapter 22 is a sketch not of Messiah’s early life in Palestine but his ascended life in heaven and then ultimately again upon the new heavens and the new earth. One is the continuation of the other, however, for as you well know Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Looking broadly at the Book of Revelation, it’s plain that LORD presents Jesus as the overseer of the local church.
When we read Revelation 1, one of the most striking things about that chapter is the vision we see there of Jesus Christ. The first thing we ought to say is, clearly, this is a symbolic picture of who Jesus is. This is not a picture that is to be drawn or taken literally. But we remember that John wrote this book, which is a letter, a prophesy, and also apocalyptic literature, he wrote this book to suffering believers who were, some of them, giving their lives for Jesus Christ and for the gospel. And they were all living under that threat of losing their lives for the gospel. In chapter 1, we have this glorious picture of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man, and we have various descriptions of Jesus there. He is wearing a priestly robe. He is the means by which we enter into God’s presence. John pictures him as having white hair, white as snow, which is quite interesting because he is drawing there on Daniel 7, and the person with the white hair in Daniel 7 is Yahweh. Yet John applies that to Jesus, showing that Jesus is equal with Yahweh, that he is fully divine. In this picture we have Jesus having a sharp two-edged sword in his mouth, which is obviously not literal, but it emphasizes the power of his word that can cut and destroy his enemies so that the church can take comfort in Christ. We’re told there his face shines with glory, that he is the glorious Lord. Jesus says to John, “He holds the keys of death and Hades.” This is what the church was facing. They were facing possible death, and so they were worried, naturally, about their future. And John emphasizes, doesn’t he, that Jesus is sovereign, that he is the resurrected one, he is the living one, he is the first and the last, he has conquered death, they need not fear. Does it look as if Nero or Domitian, whoever you think the emperor was at the time — that’s debated — but whoever the Roman emperor was, does it look like that emperor was in control, or the political authorities were in control? They’re not in control. Jesus reigns, Jesus rules. Everyone will have to reckon with him. So Revelation is fundamentally a book of comfort for the suffering church, a call to persevere, a call to trust that Jesus is the Sovereign, the glorious Lord. He’s walking in the midst of the lampstands. They should be comforted and strengthened and continue to hope and to trust in him.
3.0 CHAPTER 2-3: THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT ON EARTH
In chapters 2 and 3 when the letters to the seven churches are given it’s quite evident that he is the one who has absolute authority over the local church. He holds the seven stars in his right hand. Now, that is LORD’s way of revealing to mankind that which Paul affirmed, that Jesus Christ is the head over the church. He warns about the idolatry and immortality existed in the churches.
Revelation 2 and 3 are absolutely key to the letter of the book of Revelation because they give us in many ways the application points for the church, the characteristics that the churches are asked to manifest. And one special one is found in the refrain at the end of each of the messages to the church, which is to overcome — “to the church who overcomes.” “To those who overcome,” it says. And that reminds us of the need to persevere. But there’s other overarching themes as well, so one of the words that you’ll encounter as you’re reading through those two chapters a number of times is to repent, for those churches who are falling short of what the Lord is calling them to, they are to repent. Should it be that they’ve lost their first love, should it be that they’ve been following the teachings of a sectarian group or really a heretical group within the church, they’re called to repent from that as well. And so the Lord is calling them back to himself in that moment. But he’s also calling those who do love him to continue and those who are persevering to continue in that as well, and to stay true to the faith, but to stay true especially to the worship of the Lord.
The similarities between the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 alert us to the main ideas in this section. Christ was addressing these churches as their rightful king. He was aware of their present circumstances and had the authority to evaluate them. He offered blessings and he threatened curses to encourage their faithfulness. And he reminded them that eternal salvation was only for those who overcame trials and temptations. Not surprisingly, these themes also play a major role throughout the main body of the book of Revelation. These chapters can be summarised as follows:
- Corrupted world
- Compromised church
4.0 CHAPTER 4-5: THINGS ARE ALRIGHT IN HEAVEN [CREATION AND CREATOR]
In chapter 4, what we have is picture of our Lord Jesus Christ as the supervisor of human affairs generally. Not simply head of the church, but the head over all of human affairs. As he himself claimed before he ascended to the right hand of the father, “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Revelation 4:1:11 describes a scene in God’s heavenly throne room, and resembles similar visions in Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, and other Old Testament passages. God was sitting on his throne, and was being worshiped by heavenly creatures — including four that John described in some detail. Each of the four was covered with eyes and had six wings. But they had different overall appearances: one resembled a lion, another an ox, another a man, and another an eagle. They probably represented all the creatures of the earth giving praise to God.
John’s vision also showed twenty-four elders surrounding God’s throne, probably numbered according to the twelve tribes of Old Testament Israel and the twelve New Testament apostles. These elders symbolized the people of God throughout history. Whenever the four creatures praised God, the elders bowed down, acknowledging his majesty and authority, and promised him their submission, obedience, and reverence. Beyond the elders was a myriad of angels that extended the praise of God outward, and also praised the Lamb of God. This scene also contains many images from the Old Testament descriptions of the tabernacle and temple: lamps were blazing before the throne; incense depicted the prayers of God’s people; there was a glass sea, more perfect than the bronze one in the Old Testament; and there were songs of praise like those offered by Levitical singers. This symbolism indicated that John was given a view of God’s heavenly throne room, from which he rules over the entire universe and renders his judgments. And this told John’s readers that the vision dealt with matters of great importance.
The heavenly vision continued in Revelation 5:1-14. God held a scroll in his right hand, representing his plan for the destiny of the world. But none of the members of his court could open the scroll. In other words, none of them could accomplish his plan. Then one of the elders told John that the Lion of the tribe of Judah would open the seven seals and read the scroll. These chapters can be summarised as follows:
- God is on the throne [All of History]
- Jesus is in charge [End of History] 24 Elders- 12 Tribes [Prophets] and 12 Apostles
5.0 CHAPTER 6- 18: THINGS WILL GET MUCH WORSE BEFORE THEY GET BETTER [BIG TROUBLE / WORSE
A. 7 SEALS [MAN made Disasters]
- White Horse – Aggression [Military]
- Red Horse – Bloodshed
- Black Horse- Famine [Malnutrition]
- Green Horse – Disease
- Persecution & Prayer [Believers]
- Tremors & Terrors [Unbelievers]
- Silence [Earthquake]
B. 7 TRUMPHETS [Natural Disaster]
- Scorched Earth
- Polluted Sea
- Contaminated Water
- Reduced Sunlight
- Insect Plague
- Oriental Invasion
- Kingdom Come [Earthquake]
C. 7 BOWLS [Unbearable Final Troubles]
- Boils on Skin
- Blood in Sea
- Blood from Springs
- Burning by Sun
- Universal Catastrophe [Earthquake]
The Chapters 6-18 can be summarised as follows:
- For the world [ War, Bloodshed, Famine, Disease, Natural Disasters, Many Deaths]
- For the Church [Big trouble (3 1/2 years), Unholy Trinity (Satan, Antichrist and False Prophets), City of Babylon (Prostitute), Many Deaths- martyr]
6.0 CHAPTER 19-22: THINGS WILL GET MUCH BETTER AFTER THEY GET WORSE
- Return of Christ to earth [ 1st Resurrection]
- Reign of Christ on Earth [1000 years]
- Day of Judgement [Rest Resurrection]
- Second Death [Lake of Fire]
- New Heaven and New Jerusalem [Bride]
Throughout the Chapters, we’ve seen that Revelation assures us of God’s final victory, encourages our perseverance, and increases our longing for Christ’s return. Our future blessing is certain. And it can give us comfort and determination when we’re tempted or even persecuted. Revelation is a timeless message from God to his people. Regardless of our perspective on the timings and fulfilments of John’s visions, all Christians should agree that the book of Revelation is as relevant today as it was when John wrote it. Our circumstance may be different, but our God hasn’t changed. And the values and perspectives John taught are still binding on us today. We can be encouraged by God’s goodness in the past, present, and future. We can be confident in his love for us and his control over history. And we can respond to him in faith now and for the rest of our lives.
As per the God’s calendar we are at the conclusion state of CHAPTER 6-18, more specifically in the era of 7 trumpet & 7 bowls. We can foresee what is going to happen in coming days.