(last edited 2/8/18)
The final book of the Bible is the one book of prophecy in the New Testament. Revelation (not "Revelations," as many mistakenly call it) is a series of visions with much horror, mystery and symbolism. In this book all the plot threads winding through the entire Bible are drawn together. We learn about God's great plan for the ages, stretching into eternity. We read of God's justice and the final judgment, of Satan's final rebellion, and the defeat of Satan, Satan's man (the Antichrist), and evil. We learn the fulfillment of the prophecy about Satan and the Messiah made in Gen. 3:15. We read of the day of God's wrath (the seven years of tribulation), Christ's second coming and His thousand-year reign on earth--the fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham about the future of his people in Gen. 12:3 and in numerous Old Testament prophecies about Israel's glorious future. We learn of the end of the world, the new heavens and new earth, and the New Jerusalem--the future home of the church--where believers will dwell with God forever in their sinless immortal state.
God reveals Himself to us in His Word, so the better we know it, the better we will know our Lord--who He is, what He's like, what He did, what He is going to do. Many question how a good God could allow evil in our world; the Bible explains how sin came into the perfect world God created, how He gave each of us free will to choose right or wrong, and how God will deal with sin. The world looks as if it is out of control, but the Bible assures us of God's sovereignty over everything that happens. Globalism is man's attempt to create a one-world government without God; the Bible tells us that there will indeed be a perfect one-world government in the future--Christ's kingdom.
The Bible is similar to a great novel, with Genesis introducing the main characters: God, Satan, man, a particular line of men, and the promise of one to come in that line--the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We have the setting: earth, created in perfection but now under the curse of sin, which will affect everything that happens on it. The Bible focuses on one particular spot on earth--Israel, and its capital city, Jerusalem. God promises this land to a particular people He chooses--the nation Israel, through whom He will reveal Himself to the world.
Then we have the plot: the spiritual warfare between God and Satan, played out on earth in the lives of men, who have fallen into sin but who have been offered the way back to God through faith and the blood sacrifice of animals, which points them to the future blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God--God's Son, the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. Many times during the story, it appears that all is lost and that Satan will win.
Earlier in the book, we see what may appear to us as many seemingly unrelated characters, problems and events, but in the end, the skillful Author shows us where He had been going the whole time. The final chapter of the story--the book of Revelation--brings together all the conflicts, themes, and main characters into a satisfying conclusion. It is a story that no human could have thought up or told before it happened.
Here are some of the threads that will come together in Revelation. We have been studying straight through the Bible; quiz yourself to see if you know where to find the Bible's main teachings on the following topics.
1) Jesus Christ. Where is the first reference to and prophecy of Jesus? Gen. 3:15. Two other key Old Testament passages about Jesus are Psalm 22 and Isa. 9 and 53.
2) The church. Where do we first see the church? Acts 2. The church is not found in the Old Testament, although there is foreshadowing, as in speaking of the future salvation of the Gentiles. The church is not even found in the gospels, but again, there are hints and foreshadowing.
3) The rapture of believers. What are the main New Testament passages? John 14:1-3, I Cor. 15:51-52, I Thes. 4:15-18, Rev. 3:10. What about the resurrection of unbelievers? Rev. 20:11-15.
4) The tribulation. The Old Testaments prophetic books and Psalms contain much teaching about the tribulation. Where are the main New Testament passages? Mat. 24, (parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21), Revelation.
5) Satan/evil. Where are the main Old Testament passages? Gen. 3, Isa. 14, Eze. 28, Job 1-2.
6) The Antichrist (he goes by various names in the Bible). Daniel, II Thes., Revelation.
7) The state of Christianity just before the endtimes. II Tim., II Peter, Jude.
8) The second coming of Christ. Mat. 24, Rev. 19. In the Old Testament, God did not clarify to the prophets that the Messiah's coming would actually involve a first coming and a second coming. Jesus made the distinction when He read from Isa. 61:1-3 in Luke 4:17-21.
9) The times of the Gentiles. Where do we find this phrase? Luke 21:24. It begins in Jer. 39. What does it mean? Read Daniel.
10) Israel's covenants. Can you name them? Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, the New Covenant. The Mosaic covenant is conditional; what happened because of Israel's disobedience? Dispersal. The other three are unconditional, so Israel must be regathered and inherit the promises.
What is the main theme of the entire Bible? Jesus? God? How about: knowing God, through Jesus Christ?
Here is a brief summary of the endtime events according to the literal/historical/grammatical interpretation (which leads clearly to a dispensational, pre-millenial, pre-tribulation position) and which will be described in Revelation:
The Antichrist (referred to in Revelation as the beast) is a real man, and will appear in conjunction with the rapture of the true church. He will unite Europe into a single power, make a treaty with Israel, then break it after three and a half years, at that point setting himself up as a god. There will be several massive battles, and Israel will be invaded. After seven years, Jesus will return to earth physically, crush the beast and his forces, bind Satan for 1000 years, establish a redeemed Israel as the ruling earthly nation, and rule from Jerusalem for 1000 years--the earthly millenial kingdom. Then Satan is released briefly, there is a final uprising and battle, Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, the universe is destroyed, and there is a new heaven and new earth.
A study of endtimes events involves bringing together threads from various parts of the Bible. You might want to check out my notes on Daniel and Matthew (especially chapters 24-25) and also my Endtimes Study.
Revelation is arranged chronologically, and divides into a series of sevens: seven seals, seven trumpets, seven personalities, seven vials or bowls of wrath. In the Bible, seven is a number denoting completeness.
Revelation is full of symbolism. Donald Barnhouse points out that what is symbolic is clearly indicated to be symbolic, and the rest of is literal. The Bible will interpret its own symbols. Use a concordance, look up every reference to that word, and compare context. We may not be able to determine what every little thing means, but we can get an idea. This study is not a commentary on every detail of Revelation, but seeks to help us understand the book, how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and how it applies to our lives. There are obviously many interpretations of this book, and not every reader will agree with mine, but I will try to support my positions from the rest of Scripture.
Prophecy often has two levels of meaning: literal and symbolic. An indication of God's sovereignty: He causes natural events to happen which have supernatural meaning. Does that constitute a miracle? Perhaps only in the matter of divine timing.
Some Bible scholars point out that the first use of a given word in the Bible tends to be important, and gives the key to its meaning. (In Greek, the first use of the word in the New Testament.) I Cor. 2:13 says to compare spiritual things with spiritual. We can't expect to understand everything. Our minds are finite and our understanding is limited because of the effects of the Fall; God is infinite.
We will find much Old Testament in this book--an important key to understanding it. It helps to know the rest of the Bible first. A good tool for studying Revelation is Strong's Concordance: look up many words! Like any other book, reading the last chapter without reading the rest just wouldn't make sense.
Some do not believe the pre-trib rapture approach. The allegorical interpretation claims Revelation has been mostly fulfilled in history; this view (preterist) denies the prophetic aspect, denies the rapture happens before the tribulation, and denies a future one-thousand-year earthly millenial kingdom. It sees the church age as being the millenial kingdom, which Christ now ruling. This group denies that Israel is distinct from the church and has any further place in God's scheme of things; rather, that Israel has lost its promised blessings because of its disobedience, and only the church is in view now and in the book of Revelation. The allegorical approach is subjective, with numerous interpretations.
Old Testament prophecies of Israel's 70-year captivity were literally fulfilled. The first 483 years of Daniel's prophecy (see Dan. 9), regarding 490 years, were literally fulfilled--the 70 weeks (or "sevens") of years. There is no reason not to assume that the last seven-year period is not also literal, and will be literally fulfilled. Revelation repeatedly refers to Israel, so we believe it means Israel, not the church. Only the literal view of the future makes sense and is truly biblical; hence it is also called the futurist view.
It is important to note that the church is not in view for most of this book; most of the book concerns Israel. The literal/grammatical interpretation pays close attention to the Bible's terminology to accurate distinguish various groups of believers throughout the Bible. Are Old Testament believers "Christians"? No; they were not followers of Jesus Christ. Christians are "the church"--referring to all who have believed in Christ following His resurrection. They were first called Christians in Acts 11:26. Other terms for Christians, or the church, are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit, those who are in Christ. Those terms are never used of Old Testament believers.
Believers are also called saints (holy ones, ones who are called out or set apart for God's purposes). Unfortunately, the Catholic church has confused this term by applying it in a way the Bible does not teach. The Bible also calls believers the "righteous," since in God's eyes, they are. Likewise, unbelievers are often called the "wicked," which they are in God's eyes, even though some of them are nice, humanly speaking.
This terminology becomes important in interpreting the book of Revelation. Those who believe the church will be removed (snatched up, raptured) before the tribulation point to the fact that after Rev. 3, the terms "church," "Christians," "body of Christ," "bride of Christ," "indwelling Holy Spirit," are not mentioned again until the physical return of Christ in Rev. 19, where we find the bride of Christ in 19:7. During the tribulation, Revelation refers to "those who had been slain because of the word of God," 6:9; their "fellow servants" and their "brethren," 6:11; the "bond-servants of our God," 7:3; "those who were sealed," 7:4; "the ones who come out of the great tribulation," who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," 7:14; "the saints," 8:3; "the saints and those who fear Your name," 11:18; "our brethren," 12:10; those "who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus," 12:17; "the saints," 13:7; those who "do not worship the image of the beast," 13:15; "the saints," 15:6; "the saints," "the witnesses of Jesus," 17:6; "the called and chosen and faithful," 17:14; "my people," 18:4; "saints," 18:24; and "His bond-servants," 19:2,5.
Those who do believe the church will be on the earth during the tribulation point to the fact that there are believers mentioned all through Revelation, therefore the church must be there. Those who believe the church will be raptured believe that many will believe during the tribulation, but that they are not part of the church. Like the Old Testament saints, they do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit; in that period, He came upon people or filled people temporarily to enable them to fulfill a job. During the tribulation, the Holy Spirit will continue to be active on the earth as He was before the church age, and He will be at work drawing men to faith in Christ, but His role of indwelling believers ceases at the removal of the church, II Thes. 2:7. His indwelling of believers is currently acting as a restraint of evil, but when the church is removed and His restraining of evil ceases, literally all hell will break loose as the antichrist, the "lawless one," is revealed, II Thes. 2:8-10.
The author of Revelation is the apostle John, who wrote it while in exile on the isle of Patmos, probably around 95 A.D. This last book of the Bible was the last to be written. He writes of a revelation that he was given, so he often uses eye-witness language of what he saw and heard. Revelation (not "Revelations") is the only New Testament book of prophecy. Prophecy is not given that we might know in advance exactly how everything will play out; God tells us the future ahead of time so that when it happens, just as He said, people will know this was the finger of God. It speaks to the inspiration of Scripture and its human writers. Isa. 42:9, 45:21, 46:9-10, 48:3-7.
1-2 Many Christians think we should not attempt to read or understand this book, that it is too hard to understand or even irrelevant; what does God say about that? The revelation is from who, to who, via who? We will read much about angels and angel activity. Does he claim to be a credible eye-witness to this revelation? "Soon" in the Greek refers to speed, not how soon these things might happen. When they begin to happen, they will all happen quickly, not spaced out over a long period of time.
3 Why should we read this book? The blessing is for those who do what three things? In studying this book, we will learn much about the Bible and about God's big plan, especially for the end times; besides factual knowledge, we also hope to learn to know the Lord in a deeper way that will change the way we think and live. This verse speaks specifically to John's revelation--does it also apply to the whole Bible? The Bible teaches that the rapture could happen at any time; what phrase speaks to this doctrine?
4 John opens with a greeting to the churches he is writing to; "grace and peace" come from who? Do you see the Trinity in 4? What phrase tells us God is eternal? This phrase will come up several more times in Revelation, but is used nowhere else in the Bible. We will find many references to the number "seven" in Revelation. In chapters 2 and 3, John will talk about seven specific churches. But we really wonder about the "seven Spirits" before the throne. So we wonder: is "seven" used here literally or symbolically?
What might "seven" represent in the Bible? The first appearance of a word often gives clues to its meaning in the Bible. What does "seven" speak of in Gen. 2:2-3? The day God rested, ending His work of creation; it speaks of completion, perfection. Seven and multiples of seven are found frequently in the Bible. A series of sevens are found in Revelation--the final book of the Bible, the book that completes the Bible. Not every seven is significant in a symbolic way, but its frequency and often its context draw our attention to this number.
John speaks of "the seven churches" in Asia; were there really only seven churches in Asia? No; this causes us to wonder if the number is not just literal. Many believe the seven churches in the next two chapters are representative of the entire church--the complete church. Some believe they represent the church through the ages; some believe they represent different types of churches. Some believe that all of those are possible at the same time. We will look at those possibilities when we get to the churches.
What about the "seven Spirits" before the throne? The Bible speaks only of "the" Holy Spirit, not seven spirits. Is there any biblical reference to seven regarding the Holy Spirit? How does Isa. 11:2 speak to this question? Some refer to this description as the sevenfold Spirit--the perfect, complete Spirit of God.
5-6 As John explains who this message is from, do you see the Trinity in 4-5? What important information does John remind us about Jesus? About us--the church? Why does he say "Amen"? Does it mean "the end"? No, it means, "so be it--yes!" He is strongly affirming the truth of what he just said.
7 As we will see throughout Revelation, much of John's information is drawn from the rest of Scripture. He begins with a quote from Dan. 7:13, then quotes indirectly from Zech. 12:10-14.
Is John speaking here of the rapture or the second coming? Compare the description of the rapture in I Thes. 4:16-17; we (the church) will be caught to the clouds to meet the Lord in the air--nothing is said about the rest of the world seeing Him. Then compare Mat. 24:27-30. This chapter speaks of the tribulation and appears to be in chronological order; the abomination of desolation, in the middle of the seven years tribulation, is spoken of in 24:15, the second coming is spoken of in 24:27, and 24:30 specifies that ALL will see Him coming in the clouds. We will find this event described in Rev. 19:11-16.
Some believe that the rapture is found in Mat. 24, but as we have established in our journey through the Bible, following the literal, historical, grammatical, dispensational approach, we saw that Christ did not teach or reveal the rapture but revealed it later to the church through the apostle Paul. The gospel of Matthew was written to the Jews and deals mainly with God's plan for Israel as they were looking for the kingdom promised to them in the Old Testament.
As we have been going through the entire Bible, we have often looked at the evidence for the literal dispensational approach. We will not take the time in our study of Revelation to restate all that evidence, but we may refer to some of it. For those who are interested in studying the evidence for this approach, or who question this interpretation, please refer back to my notes for other books of the Bible, including the document entitled "Endtimes Study," on my website, www.jansbiblenotes.
Here John not only tells that every eye will see Him, but relates that particularly to who? The Jews, who were responsible for crucifying Christ. Zech. 12:10 tells us that Israel will mourn for Him at His return, but John's revelation expands on that and tells us who else will mourn? We will learn more about this as we go through Revelation.
8 Who is speaking? What do those two Greek words mean? They are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; how does that apply to the Lord, and to everything in between? How do the facts in this verse affect our daily lives?
9-10 Who is speaking now? We need to notice all through this book who is speaking. Where is he? Patmos was a prison island about 10 miles by 6 miles. Why is he there? He was about 92 years old, living to a much greater age than the other apostles. "In the Spirit" implies more than just living and walking in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit; how might Eze. 3:12-14 shed light on the meaning of this phrase?
"The Lord's day" is a phrase not found elsewhere; what day do we call this today? This terminology began to be used for Sunday after the times of the apostles. The early church met on what day of the week, Acts 20:7? Saturday was still the Sabbath, the day of rest, pointing to the God of creation (creation being the defining act of God in the Old Testament). Meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week, commemorates what event--the defining act of God in the New Testament? What might John have been doing on a Sunday, before he heard the voice? "The Lord's day" is not the same as "the day of the Lord," which refers to what? It begins with the tribulation and goes through the millenium. (It is sometimes referred to as "the day" or "that day.") Did John hear a trumpet behind him? What important word tells us so? This important word is often used in Revelation.
11 The KJV begins with the same words found in 8, but other versions leave those out; not all manuscripts include them. What is John to write? The letters to these seven churches comprise chapters 2 and 3. The rest of the revelation is written down; compare John's comments at the end, Rev. 22:8-10,18-19.
12-16 Is this what Jesus looks like? What repeated word speaks to us of symbolism? What does the symbolic description tell us about Jesus? What comes out of His mouth? Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12.
17-20 What was John's reaction to being in the presence of God? Many people tell stories of near-death experiences and tell how they met Jesus; do they fall on their faces, overcome with a sense of their own sinfulness and God's majesty? Gen. 17:3, Isa. 6:1-5, Dan. 8:17 (in the presence of an angel), Dan. 10:7-11. In the Gospel of John, John knew Jesus in a familiar way and did not fall on his face; what is different? Jesus is in His glorified state. What key fact about Jesus are we reminded of in 18?
What time words do we find in 19, organizing the book of Revelation? Three divisions: chapter 1, chapters 2-3, chapter 4 to the end. In 20, how does Jesus interpret the symbolism? Stars sometimes symbolically represent angels in the Bible, just as the term "hosts of heaven" seems to have that same dual meaning. We also know that the word "angel" in the Bible can be translated "messenger," which could speak of a human messenger. In Rev. 2-3, the angel of each church is given a message for that church; it's unclear if the meaning is human or heavenly messenger. If each letter is addressed to a heavenly being associated with a certain church or with believers in a certain city, then it would appear that the message is given to the church through the angel. If the angel is a human, it would not appear to be pastor (pastors/elders are never called angels) but perhaps a messenger from each of these churches that received and carried John's message to his church. Revelation mentions various types of heavenly beings (good and evil), not all of which are called angels. We will look at them as we come to them. In the Bible, what does "mystery" refer to? A who-dunnit? Rather, something now revealed that had not been revealed earlier.
Back in 1:19 we saw the timeline breakdown of this book. In chapter 1, John recorded "the things which you have seen." Now he writes of "the things which are"--the church age. Rev. 2-3 are letters to seven churches of John's day; the literal historical interpretation tells us this is the primary meaning. They also appear to be representative of seven types of churches which have been present in all ages, and of the church age as it progressed throughout history. Remember that "seven" in the Bible often speaks of perfection, of completion--the entire whole of the church. This layering of meanings is common throughout Scripture, especially in prophecy, where there is an obvious literal meaning for the reader of that day, and a "near" and partial fulfillment. Then there may be other meanings, such as a later, greater, complete fulfillment in the distant future, and possibly even other implications and applications, none of which contradict each other. This is one of the wonders and mysteries of God's Word. It is like an onion with many layers.
We will notice that the seven letters contain similar features, with a few exceptions. The opening addresses the angel of that particular church; perhaps a literal angel, perhaps a human messenger. Jesus identifies Himself by certain terms to each church--terms taken from His description in chapter 1. Then an "I know..." statement about each church, sometimes followed by a "But..." statement. There is usually a warning or comment about those in the church, or influencing the church, who are deceivers or unbelievers; many of the epistles warn the church of this danger. He reminds each church of the possibility of His coming to them; those who need to do some repenting may not be looking forward to that event. He closes with a promise to those who "overcome" and the final instruction: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Does this sound as though all believers, or all in the church, listen to the Spirit? Are some in the church not true believers?
Who are these overcomers? Is this speaking of super-Christians? Are Christians walking in close fellowship promised things that other Christians are not? It never says they overcome something in particular. In comparing things promised to overcomers, it appears that "overcomer" refers to a true believer. Compare I John 5:4-5. (Strong's) overcome: to gain the victory. Like the old hymn says, our victory is in...Jesus! Since Jesus makes a promise to those who are overcomers in each church, apparently not all in the church are overcomers. Does each church (then and now) consist of a mix of true believers and unbelievers or false believers? It can be seen that everything promised to overcomers applies to all Christians.
1-7 The letter to the church at Ephesus, historically speaking, could be speaking of the early church. What does Jesus say He "knows" about them? He notices these things. What do we learn here about apostles--is anyone who claims to be an apostle an actual apostle? How are apostles recognized? As we have seen elsewhere, they were eyewitness of the risen Christ, and chosen by Him. They are not self-appointed, nor is there any evidence of further apostles after the twelve. How does Jesus describe these men? How is a church to respond to those who are false? This church hates evil and that which is false; a church that loves truth pleases Jesus.
Yet what do they lack, 4? Does He speak of losing or leaving? Is He talking about their initial feelings of love? Does He tell them that the answer is to hold a revival in their church, or to pray for revival, to pray for the Spirit to move in their church? What do they need to do, 5? What does that mean? To feel sorry? To think differently. What might it mean to have their lampstand moved from its place? Their light before others? Compare the terms Jesus used to introduce Himself in 2:1. It's not clear who the Nicolaitans were or what they did, but what does Jesus commend them for (like with the false apostles)? What awaits true believers? Where is Paradise? Luke 23:43. Where do we read about the tree of life? Gen. 2:9, 3:22-24, Rev. 22:1-2,14.
8-11 This short letter to Smyrna speaks of the martyr period of the church, 100-314 AD. What does Jesus say He knows about them? In what way were they rich? Was false teaching a problem in this church? Today many Christians falsely believe that the church is now Israel, and the promises God made to Israel are now to the church. What admonitions does He give them, 10? What does He say about suffering? Who is behind persecution? Can we stop him by rebuking him, as some today teach? What is the purpose of tribulation? Testing, to develop faithfulness. The New Testament speaks of rewards, and of five crowns in particular; what is this crown called? What is it for? So why might Jesus have chosen the introductory description He did? What does He state about true believers--those who overcome? The one who is born once will die how many times? The one who is born twice will die how many times?
12-17 What does Jesus know about the church in Pergamum, 13? Some think there was some sort of pagan temple, or perhaps this was a center of emperor worship--at any rate, great evil went on there. 14-15, "but" what? Was false teaching a problem in this church? Was sexual looseness and idolatry a problem in the church? Is it still? If they didn't start thinking differently about these things, how would Jesus do battle with them? What did Jesus have in 12? What can believers look forward to? What was manna? Who is the bread of life? What was written on white-washed stones in Deut. 27:2-3? God's law is now written on our hearts. The new name may be a reference to Isa. 62:2-4, speaking to Israel; whose name are we called by? Perhaps, like Peter and Paul, our names may be changed. This church typifies the period of 314-590 AD; under Constantine, the church became mingled with worldliness.
18-29 Thyatira pictures the church in the Dark Ages, in 590-1000 AD; the Papacy became a secular power and many Catholic doctrines were formalized in this period. What does Jesus "know" about this church? Isn't this the opposite of 2:4-5? Every church and every believer has different problems and issues. "But" what do they tolerate? 20-24 speaks of the false teaching going on--a woman, possibly being likened to the wicked Jezebel of the Old Testament. If women are not to lead and teach in the church, I Tim. 2:12, one wonders how this deception came about. Women preachers have already shown they are willing to disregard Scripture, so why would anyone want to hear anything they have to say? What woman is a major figure of false teaching in the church in Catholic doctrine?
How does Jesus describe Himself in 23? Does that comfort us or bother us? 18 speaks of His eyes--perhaps speaking of being all-seeing and all-knowing. The last line is explained in I Cor. 3:12-15 and II Cor. 5:10. How does this apply to unbelievers in the church? They will not be caught up in the rapture and will remain on earth during the tribulation; if they do not accept Christ at that time, their judgment, following the thousand-year earthly reign of Christ, is described in Rev. 20:11-15.
What do we learn about the future of believers--the church--in 26-27? To these overcomers, is Jesus adding a condition? "...and he who keeps My deeds until the end." Perhaps this is just another way of describing a true believer; do all Christians keep His deeds? Or might He be saying that certain higher rewards await those with extraordinary obedience? 23 and 26 both teach what we have seen in various other passages, that believers will give account for their deeds--not for the loss of salvation, but for the giving or withholding of rewards, such as the amount of responsibility we will be given in Christ's kingdom. 27, the rod of iron, perhaps points back to 18, His feet of bronze. Who is the morning star that overcomers will receive, Rev. 22:16?
1-6 The church in Sardis pictures the time of the Reformation in church history, the time of Martin Luther and the rise of Protestantism, 1517-1800. What does Jesus "know" about them--is there much good to say about them? What do they need to do? What is a dead church? Unsaved? Or lethargic? Are they looking for Him? If He came to them, would they be eagerly waiting and ready? Are there churches and Christians like this today? Who among us are "worthy," 4? What makes anyone worthy? Who wears white garments, what are they, and how do we get them? Mat. 22:11-12. So in this church, were most of them saved?
What will not happen to overcomers--to those dressed in the righteousness of Christ? Believers names are written in the book of life; will overcomers (believers) ever lose their salvation? No, as we read in many places in Scripture. Does this imply that some people might have their names erased? Let's see what we can learn about this book and how it works.
Several books are mentioned in Revelation. John is told to write what he sees in a book, 1:11. John sees in heaven a book sealed with seven seals; Christ alone can open the book, 5:9. An angel in Rev. 10 has a little book. Rev. 13:8 and 17:8 tell that the names of some are not written in the Lamb's book of life. At the great white throne judgment, Rev. 20:11-12, which is for unbelievers only, the book of life is opened along with another book. What happens to those not written in the book of life--all unbelievers? The holy city, the new Jerusalem, is described in Rev. 21; who can enter it? Only believers. Rev. 22 speaks several times of the book John is writing; what do we learn about those who would take any words away from John's book, 22:19? And by implication, since Revelation is at the end of The Book, the Bible, surely this also applies to taking away any words from Scripture. What can we infer from these references to the names in the book in Exo. 32:32-33 and Psa. 69:28? Some think that all people's names are initially in the book of life, but if they do not accept Christ, their names are erased upon their death.
7-13 Philadelphia represents the church that is true to God's Word; does it receive any word of condemnation or rebuke? What does Jesus "know" about them? Have they given in to the deceivers? This the church will not go through what? Not only the testing, but the hour (the time, the season) of testing. The "hour of testing" which is about to come upon who? "Those who dwell on the earth" is a phrase used multiple times in Revelation to refer to the godless world system--to those on whom God has poured out His wrath--in contrast with believers, whose citizenship in where? Phil. 3:20. The church is heaven-dwellers; they will be dwelling in heaven during the time of testing on the earth-dwellers. The time of testing that is about to come upon the whole world--the tribulation--is not for believers but for unbelievers. This statement is a good indication that the letters are not just to the historical churches of John's day but have a larger application. The "open door" in 8 may relate to Acts 14:27, or it may refer to Rev. 4:1, which opens to where? Might it include both meanings? No man can shut this door; might Gen. 7:13-17 give any clues here?
According to this passage, will believers--the church--be here on earth for this hour of testing? Some who believe the church WILL be here to go through the tribulation look at this passage and say that it means we are kept or preserved "in" or "through" the hour of testing, but what does it say? Kept "from." According to the literal interpretation of the Bible, words are important, and we can't just change them. Rev. 3:10 is a key passage teaching that the rapture of the church takes place before the tribulation. We have been noticing that Revelation is organized chronologically. Philadelphia speaks of the true church, the last of the church age before the rapture, the church that will be raptured before the tribulation; the last church, Laodicea, would be the one that is left to go through the tribulation; it is NOT the true church, but is the false, institutional, liberal, apostate church.
This chronological order is also seen in I Thes. 4:15-5:11, which says those who are alive will be caught up, then the day of the Lord comes. The same order is found in I Thes. 1:10. Another key passage teaching that the rapture happens before the tribulation is I Thes. 5:9; the church is not destined for what? God's wrath. (See my notes on that passage.) God's wrath does not speak of hell, but of the tribulation of which John writes, Rev. 6:16-17. How does I Cor. 12:27 describe the church? If the church was on earth during the tribulation--the time God pours out His wrath on the earth--He would be pouring out His wrath on Christ, for we are the body of Christ, who indwells us. Christ bore the punishment for our sins once for all time, as Heb. 9-10 repeats six times.
Some teach that only faithful, obedient Christians will be caught up in the rapture--that only part of the church will be raptured. They point to the beginning of 8 and say that our deeds will determine if we are raptured. They point to the beginning of 10 and say that only those Christians whose deeds qualify them, will be raptured. But in each letter, Christ uses the pronouns "you" and "your." The context makes it clear that He is addressing the church as a whole. The Bible is also clear that OUR faithfulness is not what saves us, but HIS faithfulness, in spite of our unfaithfulness, II Tim. 2:13.
Christ mentions the possibility of His coming to the other churches, but here He words it a little different; what does He promise them? Looking at the word "quickly" in Strong's Concordance, we find this expanded meaning: shortly, that is, without delay, soon, or (by surprise) suddenly, or (by implication of ease) readily, lightly, quickly. So "quickly" does not necessarily mean "immediately." This wording, which is not found in the letters to the other churches, appears to speak of the rapture. Christ relates His coming to a crown. Several crowns (rewards) are mentioned for different things; a crown is promised in II Tim. 4:8 to who? Crowns are rewards for deeds done in this life for Christ and we are reminded to be diligent.
It is interesting that the things promised here to overcomers (true believers) speak of the church's destiny following the rapture: the new Jerusalem (described in Rev. 21-22), the temple (Rev. 21:3, 22:22), and the mention in 12 of the "new Jerusalem," the heavenly city described in Rev. 21 where the church will primarily reside. The pillars in the temple could relate to I Pet. 2:4-5.
14-22 If indeed the Philadelphian church is the one that will be caught up before the tribulation, then it appears the Laodicean church is the one that is left to go through the tribulation--the false, institutional, liberal, apostate church. They are nominally Christian; they will trust in their religion but are not truly saved because they did not trust in Christ. Laodicea means "ruled by the people." What should a church be ruled by? Today we are seeing a move away from the authority of Scripture, and man's ideas taking its place. It's interesting that Jesus mentions creation to this church, seeing how the biblical view of creation is under attack, and the church in this age has compromised on the creation/evolution issue. He is the source of creation--He is the Creator. What does Christ "know" about them, 15-16? Some believe these are lukewarm believers, or are they unbelievers? Could He say this of true believers? They are not for Him (believers) or against him (anti-religious) but, like we see many today, are tolerant of all beliefs--whatever you think is true, is true for you. Christ counters this false teaching by describing Himself in 14 as what and what? They are neither. Can true believers be lukewarm? Why?
Is there any "but..." for this church? Why? Is there any word of commendation for this church? So there is no "but..." to balance the commendation; it is all condemnation. 17, do they think they are fine? They are self-deceived. What does poor, blind, and naked (lacking white garments) indicate? Unsaved. Jesus says in 20 that He stands OUTSIDE the door of this church. The Bible never pictures Jesus standing at the door of our hearts, knocking; what door is He knocking on? The church that has left Him out. Jesus speaks of the possibility of coming to each of the other churches; why doesn't He mention it to this church? He has already come; this church has been left behind after the rapture. Some in the left-behind church will believe and become overcomers; the church is told we will reign with Him.
Jesus doesn't discipline those who are not His own, so 19 must speak of those in this church who believe on Him. In the second half of 20, will some hear His voice? He does not come in to this church, but will some individuals open to Him? When or where might He dine with them? Following the tribulation will be the second coming, when Christ returns to earth with His bride; what happens at that time, Rev. 19:9? Following His second coming will be the millenial kingdom; apparently the wedding feast takes place at the beginning of the kingdom. Jesus speaks of this event in Mat. 22:1-14; a marriage has taken place. Who is putting on the wedding feast? For who? Does everyone come who has been invited? This parable is about Israel, and how they were invited but did not accept; therefore, others (Gentiles) were invited. 11, what was required in order to attend? Have we read about these in Rev. 3:5 and 3:18? What is this clothing? Isa. 61:10, Phil. 3:9.
What two thrones are spoken of in 21? So are there two thrones in heaven where they sit side by side, or where are these two thrones? The Father's throne is in heaven; where will the Son one day sit on a throne? 21:3,5, Isa. 9:6-7, 24:23 (note context, Isa. 24 is about the tribulation), Mic. 4:7 (note context, 1-7).
To each of these seven churches, representing the problems of individual churches as well as the churches in all ages, Jesus had some things to say. We see that He does not tolerate, or want us to tolerate, evil or any type of false teaching in the church. He does not want us to tolerate any nonbiblical, unbiblical, extra-biblical religious ideas or practices. Many think that if a church has problems, is dead or asleep, is slacking off, etc., that it needs revival. They plan revival meetings and pray for revival. Is that the answer Jesus has for churches? What "r" word does He have for all of them instead? Praying for "revival" (a practice not found in Scripture), praying for a "moving of the Spirit," puts the responsibility on God to change our church. Repentance puts the responsibility where?
What is the last thing Jesus says to the seven churches? What is the last word? This is important, because the church is not mentioned again until we see the bride in 19:7, returning with Christ at the second coming. Notice the many references to the church in Rev. 2-3. In the outline Jesus gave to John in 1:19, what time period is he talking about? The things which are: the church age. What is the third part of the outline Jesus gives him? The things which will take place after these things--after what things? Church things--the things of the church age, of the age of grace. We have here a clear time transition between dispensations. The dispensation of grace ends here.
Understanding this is key to understanding the book of Revelation. At the end of the church age, all true believers in all churches will be caught up in the rapture; none of the church will be left on earth at the beginning of the tribulation. Later in Revelation, the important players of this drama will be clearly identified; surely if the church were still on earth, she would be identified clearly also. Actually, the false church of Laodicea remains on the earth, and as one of the clearly identified players, is referred to, not as a church, but as the "harlot." The Old Testament prophets often spoke of spiritual harlotry--being unfaithful to God by giving one's self to other lovers.
We also know this from our study of Daniel, particularly the 70 "weeks" of Dan. 9 (see notes on Daniel) which God has decreed regarding Israel, 9:24. The last "week"--the last seven--is the final seven years spoken of in Dan. 9:24-25 (and in Revelation), and takes place after a time gap of unknown length--the church age, which is an unspecified period of time. Then the prince who is to come (aka the Antichrist), 9:26, signs a seven-year covenant, 9:27, which he will break half way through, after three and a half years. This seven years--the tribulation and the Antichrist's rule--is the last seven years of what God has decreed for Israel. It is God's dealing with Israel (not the church); it is a time in which they are refined, purged and purified, Dan. 11:35, 12:10.
The church is removed before the beginning of the seven years, leaving only the unsaved. God pours out His wrath on evil men, and through this time--the prophesied day of wrath--His purposes for Israel are fulfilled. Many who are left behind (both Jews and Gentiles) will believe during this awful seven years; they are not the church, because the church age is over. They do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit to seal and empowers them; the Holy Spirit did not indwell the righteous in the Old Testament either, but sometimes came upon individuals with power, Judg. 3:10, 6:34, I Sam. 11:6, 16:13, II Chr. 24:20. He came upon them temporarily and could leave them, I Sam. 16:14, Psa. 51:11. Following the departure of the church, and the Restrainer who indwells them, II Thes. 2:6-7, the Holy Spirit will still be omnipresent and active on the earth, as He has always been. It will not go well for the tribulation saints; many will be martyred for their faith and for their refusal to worship the beast (aka the Antichrist).
Understanding what the Bible teaches on the timing of endtime events, particularly regarding the rapture taking place before the tribulation, is not just a matter of what theological position you take. The Bible teaches that there is a very important practical reason to look for the any-day-now possibility of being caught up to meet Christ in the air. As we have been going through Scripture, we have seen this application over and over in the epistles--the letters to the churches. Rom. 13:11-12, I Cor. 1:8, 15:51-58, Phil. 1:10, 2:16, 3:21, 4:5, Col. 3:4, I Thes. 1:10, 2:19, 3:12-13, 4:17-18, 5:8-11,23, II Thes. 2:1,5-8, II Tim. 1:12, Heb. 9:28, 10:25, James 5:7, I Peter 1:6-7,13, 5:4, II Peter 3:12-14, I John 2:28, Jude 20-21.
1 What is the third division of Revelation, 1:19? Chapter 4 begins the third section. What important time word opens this section? After what? Jesus has been talking to who? Churches. After the church things. What time word ends this verse? This has now been repeated three times, so it must be important. John gets our attention, "behold," then what is the next thing he sees after the church things? What is said to him about the door in heaven? Who is the speaker--whose was the first voice he heard, and how was it described in 1:10?
We have a scene change; John, although "in the Spirit," 1:10, had been on earth, where the church was located. Now he is in heaven and will be speaking and writing from there. Is the door open in heaven and the voice saying, "Come up here," for John only, or is this speaking of the church also? John speaks in symbols and types; could he be a symbol or type of the church? Where did we just read of an open door? 3:8. The true church--true believers--at the end of the church age were promised an open door. The next time the door of heaven is opened is seen in 19:11, when the bride returns to earth with Christ. The English word "rapture" is not found in the Bible, but the term "raptura" comes from the Latin Vulgate, an early translation of the Bible: to drag off, snatch, destroy, seize, carry off. The Greek term in the New Testament is "harpazo": to seize, catch away, catch up, pluck, pull, take by force. It is found in Acts 8:39, II Cor. 12:2, 12:4, I Thes. 4:17, Rev. 12:5. Each time it is translated as "caught up."
2-4 What time word do we see first? It appears that both John and the church are caught up through the door open in heaven, immediately at the end of the church age--the dispensation of grace. What John sees in heaven in this chapter will help answer the question of whether the church is now in heaven. God is on His throne; does John describe a figure? We wonder if this is the Father or the Son; this will be clarified in the next chapter.
Who else is in heaven? We wonder who these 24 elders are. What clues can we find in the Bible for this symbolism? Could the elders speak of the church? Paul appointed elders in every church, Titus 1:5. 24 may point to the mystery of the church including both Jews and Gentile: the 12 tribes and 12 apostles. There were 24 divisions of the Levitical priesthood; the church is now a priesthood, Israel is not. Compare the garments, 4:4, to Rev. 19:4,7-8. The elders are sitting on thrones; the church is to rule and reign with Christ, II Tim. 2:12. They can't be angels; angels are never said to sit on thrones, and are never described as elders. They can't be the Old Testament saints; they are not resurrected or rewarded until the end of the 70 "weeks," Dan. 12:1-2. The church is promised various crowns as rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, I Cor. 3:10-15, II Cor. 5:10 (angels do not have or get crowns); 4:10 shows us the purpose of this reward.
The church is already in heaven before the tribulation begins (in Rev. 6). Because we are told that this book is laid out chronologically, and we know from various other places in the Bible that the rapture precedes the beginning of the tribulation, we can see where the rapture fits into Revelation.
5 Again we see the seven-fold Holy Spirit. Thunder and lightning often indicate the presence of God, as on Mt. Sinai, Exo. 19:16.
6-8 Who else is in heaven? Compare them to the seraphim described in Isa. 6:2 and the cherubim in Exo. 25:17-22 and Eze. 1 and 10 (the entire chapters). The KJV calls them "beasts" while the NASB calls them "living creatures," which is the meaning of the Greek term "beasts." The word could also be translated "animals." This is apparently a term for some sort of angelic creatures. This is interesting because later in Revelation, a key player will come on the scene, who is referred to as "a beast" and "the beast." He is known by many names in the Bible, but is commonly called the Antichrist. Perhaps he is not a man but an angelic creature. Satan was created as the highest of the angels, Eze. 28:12-17.
The four faces have been likened to the four kinds of living creatures created in Gen. 1: lion/wild beasts, ox/domesticated beasts, man/humans, eagle/birds. They have also been likened to the four aspects of Christ depicted in the four gospels. Matthew: lion/Jesus as king, the lion of the tribe of Judah. Mark: ox/Jesus as the perfect servant. Luke: man/Jesus as the perfect man. John: eagle/Jesus as divine, the man from heaven. The many eyes seem to speak of knowledge. What do these angels do? Why is "holy" repeated three times? Do they sing? Did the angels sing at Jesus' birth, Luke 2:13?
9-11 What do the 24 elders (the church) do? Here, as often in Scripture, we see the word "worship" defined as it is used with what parallel phrase? "Fall down." Worship is not gathering with other believers, or singing, but is the personal response of falling down before the Lord. The idea is not so much the physical position as what it implies: prostrating one's self before the Lord, in reverence and homage. Notice the parallel terms used with "worship" in Dan. 3:28. Why do they cast their crowns before Him? We may receive crowns or other rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, but are WE worthy to receive any glory or honor for what we have done for Him? What aspect of God is emphasized in the second half of 11?
1 The Father has a book--a scroll--sealed with what? Again we see the number "seven." Parts of Zechariah resemble parts of Revelation; Zech. 4 speaks of a lampstand with seven lamps, as did Rev. 1. Zech 5:1-4 speaks of a flying scroll; what does 3 say about the scroll?
2-4 We will see many angels--good and bad--in Revelation. There were the angels of the seven churches--possibly actual angels, but possibly human messengers. In Rev. 4 we saw beasts/living creatures around the throne of God that resembled seraphim and cherubim (very high-ranking angels). How is the angel described here? So we can infer that there are different ranks of angels. Compare Rom. 8:38, Eph. 3:10, 6:12, Col. 1:16.
5-6 Who else is now identified in this scene, 6? So is Christ the one on the throne? It must be the Father. At that time, He is standing; what is He doing now? Heb. 8:1. And what is He doing there, Heb. 7:25, Rom. 8:34? Why is He not sitting and making intercession for us in Rev. 5:6? Why is the church no longer in need of intercession? Here is further evidence that the church is raptured before the tribulation. If we were still on earth, we would still be in our mortal sinful state, still in need of His intercession.
Does the Bible ever describe the physical attributes of Jesus as a man: his height, weight, build, hair color, eye color, etc.? How is Jesus described in 5? These are all Old Testament terms. The church is now out of the picture; these names indicate His relationship to Israel, who He is dealing with now. How is He described in 6? Could these be literal? We see that "seven" speaks of God's perfection and completeness. "Horn" is often used in the Old Testament as symbolic of power. II Sam. 2:10, Jer. 48:25, Eze. 29:21, Dan. 7:20,24, 8:21, Zech. 1:21. "Eye" speaks of knowledge or wisdom. Prov. 5:21, 15:3. The Bible teaches that God is omniscient and omnipotent. What phrase at the end of 6 speaks of His omnipresence? Are "Lion" and "Lamb" speaking of the animal world, or the Messiah? Which was He at His first coming? Which at His second coming? These two symbols speak of His two main purposes in coming: to shed His blood for the sins of the world, and to return as King, to receive the earthly kingdom that has been promised to Him.
7-8 Who has the book? Who takes the book from Him to open it? We see how the Trinity operates: God the Father decrees, Christ the Son carries out His decrees and appears as God in physical form. What does the harp represent? Psa. 150:3. There are many Old Testament references to praising God with the harp--a small lap-sized stringed instrument, sometimes called a lyre, portable and easy to play (somewhat like our guitar). What do the bowls of incense symbolize? Exo. 30:1,8, Psa. 141:2. Here we have the first use of the term "saints." These would be the believers on earth--those that have believed since the rapture. What might these tribulation believers be praying? So here worship includes what two "p" activities?
9-10 Do they sing about how they feel about God, or what they are doing for Him, or what they promise to do? Do they sing about how much they love Him? Who/what do they sing about? What will believers do (some time after this point of John's revelation)? This speaks of the millenial kingdom.
11-14 So far we have only seen the high-ranking angels around the throne; now who do we see in heaven? Do they sing? Do they say the same thing the elders did? How many things do they ascribe to the Lamb? Why do they leave out the second part of 9, and 10? Does that apply to angels? 13, how could every created thing say this? Does John always speak literally, or sometimes symbolically? How might Psa. 19:1-4 and Rom. 1:20 shed light here? All of creation testifies to God's glory.
1-2 What time word begins this chapter? (NASB) Then. Who initiates the events the follow the breaking of the seal--the events of the tribulation? Christ begins to break the seals of the book; the breaking of the seals will take us up through Rev. 18. Although we saw Him described as both the Lion and the Lamb in 5:5-6, He will be referred to throughout the book as the Lamb, not the Lion. The Bible does not tell how much time there is between the rapture of the church and the beginning of the tribulation (the opening of the seals). It could be anywhere from moments to years.
The seven seals seem to cover the entire seven-year period. Following the seven seals, we are told of seven trumpets, seven personalities, and seven vials (bowls of wrath). Events in Revelation appear to be given in some sort of chronological order, but that could mean several things. It's possible that the sevens follow one after another exactly as we read them, chapter by chapter. It's possible that John is giving several scenarios--describing disasters, demonic activity, key personalities, etc. Each of these scenarios is given in chronological order, but the scenarios may be seen as overlays. It's possible that John was given the different scenarios separately and he is describing them as they were given to him, rather than as they literally happen in a time frame. It's possible that all the sevens cover the same period and are told from different perspectives. We should not to be dogmatic in developing a timeline but consider various possibilities. In this chapter, six of seven seals are opened; we do not know if they happen one after the other, or all at the same time, overlapping.
Some say the rider on the white horse is Jesus returning, but that event happens in 19:11. Revelation follows a chronological order. The breaking of the seals covers the seven years of the tribulation; the second coming takes place at the end of the seven years. The rider is unnamed; what does he carry, and what does he wear? What does Jesus have, 1:16? Does the rider have any arrows? This may or may not be significant, or arrows could be implied. It's possible the rider may be the beast.
Comparing the riders on the next three horses, they could be the spirit of events that take place; if so, perhaps this rider is conquest, which will characterize the world now. But if the rider is indeed the beast, then we must wonder if the other riders are also individuals. Every mention of horses in Revelation is in the context of war. Even if the first rider is not the beast, the riders may all be individuals. A parallel passage in Zechariah may shed some light. Zechariah speaks prophetically of many of things we see in Revelation. Zech. 1:8 speaks of horses of four colors; the riders are those who the Lord has sent to patrol the earth, 1:10. Zech. 6:1-8 also speaks of horses of four colors; their riders are "the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth." They patrol the earth, 6:7, and to appease the Lord's wrath, 6:8. So they might be angels; in Revelation we see much angel activity.
3-4 The red horse brings the cessation of peace--perhaps war, perhaps chaos, anarchy, cruel persecution, torture. Men will "slay" one another--a term used nowhere else in the Bible. Strong's: to butcher, slaughter, violently maim-- perhaps some terrible type of killing one another that is new and different, or more violent and ugly than at any other time in history. What kind of sword was given to him?
5-6 The black horse brings famine or some sort of food shortage, perhaps due to economic collapse or destruction of infrastructure--easily possible, as we read today's news. What might oil and wine represent? Perhaps there will still be plenty of luxuries for the rich and powerful.
7-8 The ashen/pale horse brings more death. Pestilence could easily be one of the super-bugs we have been hearing about, resistant to modern drugs. Wild beasts could be talking about animals harming men, or bringing diseases (like rabies), or harmful insects, but since it is the same word used of "the beast" in 13:1, perhaps it is talking about demonic creatures; possibly it includes both meanings. The Greek in Rev. 4:6 speaks of "beasts" but this word speaks of "wild beasts." The Greek word for "ashen/pale" is "chloros"--the root of our word "chlorine." Perhaps this implies the use of chemical or biological warfare.
As already mentioned, Zechariah has some similarities to Revelation. The four horses of the Apocalypse, as they are often called, seem to also be found in Zech. 6:1-6. As we read the Bible and compare it to the news, we see developments that appear to be setting the stage for the tribulation. Some think that everything in Revelation must involve supernatural events directly from God, but it is certainly possible that God will work through natural events and the latest technology; because God is sovereign over all these things, His timing will cause all things to fulfill His exact plans and purposes.
9-11 The breaking of the first four seals sends the four horses and riders. The fifth seal speaks of tribulation martyrs. This probably takes place during the entire seven years, but intensifies in the last half. Will people be saved after the rapture, during the seven years of tribulation? Some Christians are indignant at this possibility, scornfully calling it a "second chance" (as if God never gave THEM a second chance, or third, or...?) The Bible speaks of many believing during the tribulation, and it never calls it a "second chance." Here they are called "souls" and are given robes; they will not receive their resurrection bodies until the start of the kingdom. They have not yet received rewards--no crowns, as the church has already received. What category of people are referred to again in 10?
Many Christians have the idea that when we are caught up, that means the last person has been saved--that if you have not believed before that point, you are lost. This is obviously not true. Rather, when the church is caught up, the last person who is part of the church, the bride of Christ, has been saved. When there is a mass disappearance of believers, surely many of those who had been skeptical or had avoided admitting their sin and need for a Savior, will at this point believe and become the first wave of new Christians. Their jaws will drop, their eyes will get big, their hearts will jump into their throats, and they will say, "It was TRUE!" Just as the early church was fanatical to the death in their faith, having seen the risen Christ, so this group will be fanatical to the death in their faith, having seen their friends or family disappear right before their eyes and knowing the truth, regardless of the beast's lying explanation of this event.
12-14 The sixth seal speaks of natural disasters--a massive earthquake and cosmic events that impact the earth. Note the use of "like" or "as." Mountains and islands will be moved; there could be major tectonic changes, or those terms may be used symbolically, as they sometimes are in Scripture. Compare mountains in Isa. 2:2,12-14. Compare islands/isles/coastlands in Mat. 12:18-21 and Isa. 42:4 where those words in the Old Testament are translated in the Greek of the New Testament as "Gentiles."
15-17, is it clear to the earth-dwellers that God is behind all this? Do they repent? All are gripped by fear and panic as everything comes crashing down around them. Can anyone hide from God or His wrath? This seven-year period, Daniel's 70th "week," is the "day of wrath"--not a 24-hour day, but a period of time, spoken of often in the Bible. "Wrath" does not generally speak of hell. Hell is about punishment, not wrath--two different things.
1-4 In Revelation we find a series of sevens, with an interlude between the sixth and the seventh. What time word again indicates some sort of chronological order? After. In the scene in heaven, we saw four beasts/living creatures which we saw were high-ranking angels; here we have more fours--four what? Are the corners literal? Obviously not; this is a common figure of speech, meaning what?
So then we might wonder if the four winds are literal or symbolic. Perhaps they speak of general worldwide upheaval, or of all the wind on the entire earth. There are four major jet streams on the earth: two polar jets and two sub-tropical jets. Since we saw in 6:12-14 a major earthquake, celestial objects falling and impacting the earth, and the possibility of major volcanism and tectonic movements on the earth, which could affect the rotation of the earth on its axis, might weather patterns be affected? Could the four winds speak of both significant weather changes AND worldwide upheaval?
These winds are going to hurt what three things? Again we wonder if this is meant literally, symbolically, or both. So we see if there is any biblical precedent for such symbolism. We have already seen trees symbolizing nations. "Sea" is also used symbolically, Isa. 17:12, 60:5, Dan. 7:2-3; this is related to the similar idea we looked at in 6:14 as isles/islands/coastlands speaking of Gentile nations. In contrast, "earth" sometimes speaks symbolically of Israel, Exo. 15:19. So will the winds of God's wrath hurt all the nations of the world?
What must happen before these disasters, 3? To who? Some who allegorize the Bible, and who believe the church will be on earth during the tribulation, claim they represent the church, which they call "spiritual Israel," but how does the Bible identity these servants? 144,000 Jews (further identified in the next verses). So before the winds of God's wrath hurt the earth, these servants (ones that serve God) are sealed; for what purpose? To protect them. Apparently these servants will preach Christ and witness to the truth.
Only in the New Testament do we find that people are sealed--by who? II Cor. 1:21-22, Eph. 1:13, 4:30, II Tim. 2:19. The church is sealed by the Holy Spirit, who indwells us. Believers before and after the church age are not sealed or indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But this particular group of believers in the tribulation are sealed; are they sealed by the Spirit? Who seals them? With what? We don't know what the seal is--if it is visible or not; it isn't important for us to know. Some teach that this means these 144,000 tribulation believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; does it say this? Sealed by an angel with the seal of God is not the same as being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Many who believe during the tribulation will die, but these will be supernaturally protected. If these were the church, then all believers would be protected through the tribulation, but we will see later in this chapter that this does not happen. Some teach that these are not the church, but that this shows that all tribulation believers will be sealed; not only does the Bible not say this, but we will soon see why this cannot be.
It's possible that the events of the six seals of Rev. 6 have already taken place, and these servants of God are now to be sealed before further events are about to happen. Or it is possible that this is an interlude in John's narrative--not an interlude in the chain of events. John can't tell everything at once; he can only tell us about one aspect at a time. So perhaps John told us first of the opening of the six seals that he saw in the vision, and now is telling that before the six seals brought that worldwide upheaval that affected all the nations of the earth, the 144,000 had to be sealed.
Whatever is about to happen, are things at this point "just happening"--is the world out of control? Who is in control of these disasters? Who is He using to execute His plans?
5-8 Those who claim the 144,000 are from the church, or represent the entire church, have to explain away these verses, which identify these Jewish servants very specifically as Jews beyond a shadow of a doubt. They are not the church because the church is already in heaven, and because they are clearly Jewish. They are not the select group of Jehovah's Witnesses who will make it to heaven, as they claim, because they are clearly Jewish. We will read more about them in Rev. 14. In Rev. 14:4 we read that they are celibate; if they represent the church, we would not only have the church going through the tribulation, but the individuals in the church would all be celibate the entire period. The Bible lists the 12 tribes of Israel in various ways; this list leaves out Dan. Joseph's two sons are usually listed as the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh; here we have Manasseh and Joseph. We see that there are no lost tribes. These Jewish servants of God point to the fact that God is now dealing once again with Israel, and no longer with the church. The seven years of tribulation are the final seven years spoken of in Dan. 9:24-27, the final "week."
9-12 "After" what things? After the sealing of the 144,000. Now another group appears in heaven--is this the church? At first one might wonder--multitudes from all nations. Why are they wearing white robes? The righteousness of Christ. Do these have crowns? These carry what? Where in Scripture do we read about this? Lev. 23:20, where Israel is celebrating a feast, and John 12:13, where Jesus is presenting Himself as what? King over what? The earthly kingdom--the millenial kingdom, which follows the seven years of tribulation in which God is purging and purifying His people that they might recognize their King when He comes again. God's plan for the church is over, and He is completing His plan for Israel, fulfilling the promises He made to them in the Old Testament. We see this group of people praising and worshiping God, just as the angels and the 24 elders do.
13-14 John seems confused as to who this new group is in heaven. One of the elders sees that he is confused and speaks to him about it. Did John have this problem in Rev. 4-5 where we saw the church, represented by the 24 elders? Apparently John recognized the church, as he himself was part of that group. The Greek verb is "coming"--a continuing action. These believers apparently start arriving in heaven "after" the beginning of the ministry of the 144,000. Their ministry begins just before the four angels send the winds upon the earth. All this supports the idea that the events at the beginning of Rev. 7 actually take place just before the events John described in Rev. 6.
Some teach that the seven years is the tribulation, but that only the last 3 1/2 years is "the great tribulation," but is that what we see in 14? Apparently the entire seven years is "the great tribulation." In Mat. 24:15-21, Jesus says there will be "great tribulation" in the last 3 1/2 years, but He does not call that period "the great tribulation."
These are said to wear white "robes." The church in 4:4 is said to wear white "garments"--a different word, for some reason. Who washes their robes? In the Old Testament, under the Law, much was said about clothing being washed if the person had contact with leprosy, which is a "type" of sin. This may point to their works playing a part, but is anyone saved by works? All are saved by faith, but under the Law, certain works were required as evidence of faith. Remember that the dispensation of grace is over; it seems that as God now deals again with Israel, that these seven years operate under the Old Testament dispensation of Law.
So are people going to be saved after the rapture? Great multitudes will believe, and many of those will face death. God's plan for salvation continues on through the seven years of tribulation and for another thousand years, through the millenial kingdom. Salvation does not end at the end of the church age. Some claim that believers in the tribulation will be supernaturally protected; does this passage support that? Only the 144,000 are protected (and later the two witnesses).
15-17 These serve God; it does not say what this service is. They serve Him in the what in heaven, 15? The church is never connected with a temple, Rev. 21:22. How should 16 encourage us in the trials of life? Earthly trials may seem huge, but they are temporary. Because this is speaking of those coming out of the tribulation, might this be implying that many of them suffered from, and possibly died from, hunger, thirst, and exposure? They will be running and hiding; not only the government will be after them, but bounty hunters will be lurking, even within families, Mic. 7:1-8, Mat. 10:21-22, 35-42. What paradox do we see in 17? The Lamb is the what? Where else do we read of the water of life? John 14:4, Rev. 21:6, 22:1. Will tears be in heaven? Either this is a way of saying there will not be, or it could be saying that God will literally wipe the tears away when we get there.
1-6 Again we see many sevens. Why the silence? Possibly pointing to the seriousness of what is about to happen, or anticipation of what is to come next. Or perhaps it points to a lull in the action. Why is it not normally silent in heaven, based on what we have seen in the last few chapters? We see more angels with special jobs. Trumpets were very important in God's dealing with Israel, but only spoken of regarding the church and the rapture; Christ's voice is like a trumpet, Rev. 1:10.
Compare 5 to 16:18, the seventh trumpet, and to 11:19, the seventh vial (bowl). Is this an indication that the sevens are parallel, not following one after another? That each seventh seven is bringing about the conclusion? That John is telling the same story from different angles, different points of view, covering different aspects? Here, the opening of the seventh seal includes the seven trumpet judgments. 3-5 stress the importance of what? Of who? Believers on earth--those who have believed during the great tribulation, those who have believed following the catching up of the church. Their prayers are to God like the pleasing aroma of incense in the temple service. God hears their prayers and is preparing to answer them.
7-12 These trumpet judgments could be supernatural, or they could be related to cosmic disturbances--perhaps something (like a comet or meteor? or?) colliding with or falling on the earth. In each instance, how much is affected? Note in 8, "something like/as it were." "Blood" could be literal blood or the color of blood. "Wormwood" means "bitter." These events are hard to picture from where we stand today, but at that time, these verses will line up exactly with what happens.
13 How many angels have sounded their trumpets so far? How many are left? How many woes are coming? The Bible speaks of three heavens: where the birds fly, where the celestial objects are, and where God's throne is. Which heaven would this be? Some translations say "angel" rather than "eagle." The woes are coming on whom? We have seen this phrase before, and will see it again. Its context lets us know it is not referring to all people on the planet. Many of those are now believers; "those who dwell on the earth" are NOT citizens of heaven. They are the wicked.
1-12 The first woe: the fifth angel sounds his trumpet. Apparently these last three trumpets are woes because they specifically target people, not the earth as the first four mainly did. What in 1 tells us that this star is not a literal star? Stars sometimes speak of angels in the Bible, Dan. 8:9-11; the host of heaven speaks of both angels and stars. Compare 1 to 1:10. The abyss is not hell but where certain wicked angels are confined, II Pet. 2:4.
Locusts in the Old Testament, as today, often bring destruction. So we wonder if these are normal locusts, abnormal locusts, demonic beings, or symbolic of something John sees and is struggling to describe, such as some type of modern weaponry. John tells what he sees in the revelation; he does not editorialize for our benefit. What do locusts normally do? Who do they attack, 4? All but the 144,000; they are sealed and protected. Yet 8:13 tells us that the three woes are targeted at "those who dwell on the earth." Many horrors taking place on the earth as God pours out His wrath on evil men will also impact and kill tribulation saints. What repeated word in 7-10 hints that these are not actual locusts? What in 11 tells us this? Compare Prov. 30:27. Who is king over these locusts? Not Satan; he appears later and is clearly identified. This is a high-ranking demon or angel.
13-19 The second woe begins, and takes us through 11:15. What does the sixth angel with the trumpet do? What clue tells us that these are probably fallen angels, not good angels? They were bound. Is God sovereign over Satan, over the fallen angels? Are the 200,000 horsemen human or demonic? Nothing speaks of them being human. The number could be literal, but some think it represents a massive number. Are these actual horses? How many die? Some think John saw modern warfare and is describing it in terms of his day, as it appeared to him.
20-21 We see some of the sin that was rampant. What resulted from this woe?
The fifth trumpet was the first woe, so the sixth trumpet will be the second woe, and the seventh trumpet will be the third woe. We again have an interlude between #6 and #7.
1-11 Is the strong angel Jesus, as some say? Is Jesus an angel? Or would He be called an angel? Elsewhere, Jesus is clearly identified as Jesus. This is another of many powerful angels (good and bad) we see in Revelation. The scroll may or may not be the same scroll we saw earlier, but the Greek word is different: this is a "small scroll." Here is the only place in Revelation that something is concealed; we wonder why, and what. God doesn't tell us everything in the Bible, only the things we need to know. As in 4:11 and 5:13, what aspect of God is the focus in 10:6? The seventh angel will bring about what? Mystery: something revealed that has not previously been revealed. In what way is God's Word both bitter and sweet?
11 Some say this angel is Jesus and this is the second coming; they believe this covers the seven years, and John is now going to give the seven years prophecy again, this time culminating with a more detailed version of the second coming in Rev. 19. They believe that the seven years are covered in chronological order twice. Others see Rev. 4-18 as covering the whole seven years in chronological order. There are other views also. Is it crucial that we know?
This is a difficult chapter. Again, we wonder if John reveals all these events and groups of seven in the order in which they were revealed to him, although many must be happening simultaneously, but cannot be recorded simultaneously. When the seventh trumpet sounds in 11:15, we are then given an explanation over the next two chapters about characters and events that have been around for centuries before this. The seventh trumpet does not introduce an event that begins at that time. It seems rather to introduce more of John's vision.
1-2 We are still in the interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets. Who is speaking? Some think this angel is Jesus, but it seems unusual to call Him an angel here when He is clearly identified elsewhere in Revelation. What is being measured? Is this the heavenly temple or is it on earth? What will the Gentiles do? What city is that? For how long? Which is how long? This is most likely the second half of the tribulation. Will the Jews be in control of the temple during this period? This will be the period of most intense persecution. Why must there be a temple on earth at this time? So what prophesied event can take place, Mat. 24:15-16? When will this happen, Dan. 9:27? Measuring seems elsewhere to indicate possession or judgment. What goes on at the temple seems central to the plot.
3-6 Who do we meet now? What are they given? What will they do? They speak messages from God. For how long? How long is that? Sackcloth speaks of what? Repentance--sorrow and lamentation for sin. Prophets in sackcloth speak of Israel, not the church. 4 appears to be a reference to Zech. 4:2-3, speaking of Joshua and Zerubbabel. Who is speaking in 3? It could appear to be the Lord, or it could appear to be an angel; this is one reason some think the angel is Jesus. Does God identify these two? Therefore, it is probably not important that we know, but some of the most common guesses are Moses, Elijah, Enoch, Joshua, and Zerubbabel. Moses and Elijah did miracles; Elijah and Enoch did not die but were caught up to heaven. What important time period is mentioned twice? How do we find this same time period in Dan. 9:27? Can anyone harm them? The fire could be literal or figurative, Jer. 23:29.
7 At the end of the 1260 days (3 1/2 years) what does God permit to happen to them? Here is the first mention in Revelation of the beast (commonly called the Antichrist). Some see this point as a transition from the first 3 1/2 years to the second; others see this is speaking of the concluding events of the second 3 1/2 years. Does it say that at this point the beast ascends from the pit, or does it identify the beast as the one that ascends from the pit?
Actually Revelation has already mentioned four beasts, or living creatures, depending on your translation. In Rev. 4:6, we saw high-ranking angels referred to as beasts. The Strong's number for the angel/beasts is #2226, the Greek word "zoon"--a live thing, beast. Here in 11:7, the Greek word translated "beast" is #2342, "therion"--a dangerous animal, venomous or wild beast. This gives us several clues about the beast. The term "beast" implies a high-ranking angelic creature; the slightly different Greek term tells us of his wicked nature, therefore demonic. Where did he ascend from? This is the abode of demons, not humans; it is not hell or hades, nor the lake of fire (the final destination of the wicked). For more on biblical information on his identity, see my notes on Genesis 6:1-4 and Matthew 24:37-39 and my Endtimes Study.
8-10 Where does this take place? Would this be speaking of what has been going on in Jerusalem at that time, or throughout its history? How does God feel about Jerusalem? Jer. 13:27, Mat. 23:37. How can all these people see them for the entire three and a half days? Only in the past century has technology made this possible; it's possible that even more advanced technology may be in place at that time. How will everyone feel about them? Who did they torment? There is that important phrase again, twice in one verse.
11-13 Imagine their feelings when this happens. 11 may be an allusion to Eze. 37:10. Then what happens, 12? Where have we heard this command before in this book? 4:1. This lends weight to the belief that we see the rapture of the church in 4:1. They ascend in a cloud, as people watch; who else did? Acts 1:9, I Thes. 4:17. Could this imply that the rapture might happen in the same way, rather than, as many think, the church instantly vanishing in thin air to join the Lord in the clouds? What happens right after this? Why would these wicked--those who dwell upon the earth--give glory to God? Does that mean they get saved? This must be right at the very end of the tribulation; they may recognize who God is but if they have taken the mark, can that be undone? NO. But perhaps now they understand what they have done; they are filled with what? Fear. Perhaps there are some who have not yet taken the mark, who can still be saved at this point.
14-15 The sixth angel's trumpet was the second woe. Now the seventh angel sounds the trumpet. The seventh trumpet introduces the final seven vials or bowls of God's wrath, introduced in 15:1 and carried out in chapter 16. As before, between #6 and #7 we have an interlude, where seven characters will be mentioned and we will be given explanatory material about them. The events of the seventh angel's trumpet will culminate in what event, 15? How will these last judgments happen, 14?
16-18 What is the response of the 24 elders? What does the Bible teach that worship is? They speak in the past tense; we have seen this elsewhere, where future prophecies are spoken of in the past tense, in what commentators call "the prophetic past tense." It's as good as done. They mention God's eternal nature. In 18 they summarize all the endtime events. What will happen to those who fear God?
Who will God destroy? Today we hear much from the "elite" about environmentalism and how we are destroying the earth; have we read anything in Revelation that says this has anything to do with God's judgment? We know that God's wrath is being poured out upon who? The wicked, the godless--"them that dwell upon the earth"--the earthdwellers. So here we learn that they are also doing what? Perhaps it is speaking specifically of the beast, who is referred to as the "son of destruction" (NASB), also translated as "son of perdition" (KJV). The word here for "destroy" can also be translated as "corrupt, ruin, decay, pervert, rot thoroughly." We will read more about him in chapters 13 and 14.
19 What does Heb. 8:5 tell us about the earthly temple? It is patterned after the heavenly one, which we saw in Rev. 7:15. Some think the ark here is the heavenly one, after which the earthly ark was patterned. Others think this is the actual ark, and that it is now in heaven.
Compare the second half of this verse to 8:5, at the seventh seal, and 16:18, at the seventh vial (bowl). Is this an indication that the sevens are parallel, not following one after another? That each seventh seven is bringing about the conclusion? That John is telling the same story from different angles, different points of view, covering different aspects?
Again there is an interlude between the events of trumpets #6 and #7. In this interlude, John gives us more information, actually in the form of another seven: seven characters or personalities.
1-2 Character #1 is the woman in heaven; John calls this a sign/NASB or a wonder/KJV. Compare her description to Gen. 37:9-10. The woman appears to symbolize Israel--the nation through whom God chose to reveal Himself to the world. Who is the child that comes from her? Character #2. This is a "great" sign; are these two characters two of the main characters in the Bible? What is the reason for the troubles, 2, that Israel has had? Disobedience, Deut. 28.
The Catholic church interprets the woman as Mary, but the rest of this chapter clarifies that she is Israel (who is often spoken of as a woman). Might Satan use an "apparition" of "Mary" to deceive many into believing his lies during this time?
We have seen throughout the Bible that some things are true on several levels or time frames. While the introduction of Israel and the Messiah are obviously the important point here, some have pointed out that on Sep. 23, 2017, a sign meeting this description will actually appear in the heavens, due to an unusual positioning of heavenly bodies. Some think this means that rapture could be on that day, even though the Bible teaches that the rapture is a signless event and can happen at any time. Another possibility is that the rapture may happen before this celestial event, and the tribulation may be starting; the beast may point to this event as a "great sign," compare Mat. 24:24. Or it may have nothing to do with any endtimes events.
3-5 Who is the dragon (another sign)? Character #3. He will be referred to in Revelation a number of times as a dragon. Is this literally what Satan looks like? "Dragon" in the Greek can also be translated as "a fabulous kind of serpent." How does he appear in Gen. 3:1? Satan's description is found in Eze. 28:12-13,17. What do we learn here about Satan? We have seen that stars sometimes speak of literal stars and sometimes of angels; which does the context indicate here? The fallen angels--demons. Where is their abode, following their rebellion? But according to Job 1:6-7, do they still have access to heaven?
The Old Testament and the gospels record the story of how, following the prophecy of Gen. 3:15, Satan tries to destroy or at least corrupt the line leading to Christ, to keep the prophecy from being fulfilled. How did he try to sabotage Christ's mission in the temptation in the wilderness? How did he try to use the cross to foil the prophecy? What happened instead? What is his agenda now in the lives of unbelievers? To keep people from believing. What is his agenda in the church? To keep believers from being effective witnesses for Christ, by what methods? The New Testament warns us over and over about self-deception and infiltration of the church by deceptive false teachers.
What two important aspects of the life of Jesus are mentioned in 5? The word for "caught up" is the same Greek word we find in I Thes. 4:17, for the rapture--the church is caught up just before the day of the Lord and the rise of the beast (I Thes. 5:1-11). What future event does 5 speak of? Psalm 2:9, His reign over the earthly millenial kingdom, following His second coming. How will He rule the nations? Will it be a democracy or a dictatorship? What kind of a dictator will He be? Perfectly just and perfectly righteous.
Satan is described in 3 as having what? Where else in the Bible have we already seen this? Dan. 7:7-8,19-28. What do the heads and horns represent? Nations and powers. In Dan. 7:4-7, Daniel saw four great kingdoms like beasts; each beast has a head, but the third beast, 7:6, also has what? The fourth beast, 7:7, has ten what? The dragon's seven crowns speak of kings, reigning over the seven kingdoms. Satan is behind these seven kingdoms and their kings.
He also has ten what? Compare the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Dan. 2:40-42 and Daniel's vision of beasts representing kingdoms of the world, 7:23-24. He will also be behind the final kingdom, the future beast kingdom, which apparently will consolidate ten European nations--nations that were once part of the Roman Empire, which was never destroyed and which many have tried to revive. So although we do not find this exact wording in Scripture, this is why commentators speak of the beast as ruling over the "revived Roman Empire."
Are 1-5 giving the events that follow in the chronological order of John's series of sevens? No; we see him reaching back in time, showing how all Scripture has been telling the story that is now coming to its prophesied climax.
6 What happens to the woman now? We also read of this in Mat. 24:15-21. Dan. 9:27 clarifies the time period as the second half of the tribulation. Both passages speak of "the abomination of desolation." We also read of this event in Dan. 11:31 and 12:11. Something or someone will desecrate the Holy of Holies; something will be set up there that is an abomination to God. During the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus Ephiphanes, seen by many as a "type" of the beast, desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig, then setting up a statue of a Greek god in the Holy of Holies. This takes place at the midpoint of the tribulation; this is when the beast takes total control and the worst persecution takes place.
She flees; this word can also be translated "escape, vanish." How do we see God's sovereignty here? The woman will be fed or nourished; when and how did this happen to Israel in the past? Gen. 16:4, 17:6. What are two ways God provided for Elijah in I Kings 17:1-16? Some believe Israel will be protected in the rock city of Petra. Isa. 61:1-7, 42:11-16, Psalm 60:9-12. Sela is the Bible name for Petra, in Edom, meaning "rock, stronghold." Eze. 20:35-38 may be speaking of this time also.
What in this verse specifically tells us that now John is speaking of the seven years of tribulation that he sees in Revelation? Several times he has spoken of a period of three and a half years, but using different terms. Here he speaks of one thousand two hundred sixty days, as he did back in 11:3; both instances refer to God's people. He uses different terminology in 11:2 and 13:5. There he speaks of the same three and a half year time period but calls it forty-two months, both times in reference to the wicked. There could be significance to the different wordings, or perhaps John said it several different ways to make this specific time period crystal clear--that none could say, "oh, that's not what it really means, it's just a symbolic number."
7-9 John has returned us to the period of the tribulation by his specific time reference in 6. What significant event happens now in the spiritual realm, with an earthly result? Might this result in increased demonic activity in the second half of the tribulation? If you only looked at this verse about Michael, Character #4, you might assume he is the highest angel, since he and his angels are pitted against Satan and his angels. But other passages make it sound like there is more than one archangel. Dan. 10:13 refers to him as "one of the chief princes" so it appears that would be referring to archangels. Dan. 10:21 and 12:1 make it sound as though Michael is the prince in charge of Israel, as 10:13 mentioned a fallen angel being the prince of the kingdom of Persia.
This would not be the original fall of Satan, which is found in Eze. 28:14-16. We know that he and his fallen angels were not cast out of heaven because of Job. 1:6-7. But at the mid-point in the tribulation they are. We are not told what that war entailed; we can only imagine. What is some of the information 9 gives us? What is repeated three times? Why?
Several names are given for Satan which clarify his character. "Great" (exceedingly, high, mighty, strong) "dragon" (a fabulous kind of serpent, perhaps as supposed to fascinate). "That old" (original, primeval, of old) "serpent" (a snake as a type of sly cunning, an artful malicious person), (related to a word with these meanings: to gaze with wide open eyes; intensive, earnest, continued inspection; watching from a distance). "The Devil" (false accuser, slanderer). "Satan" (the accuser, the devil), (related to a word with these meanings: opponent, the arch enemy of good, to withstand). He deceives the whole world. Deceive: to cause to roam from safety, truth, virtue; to go astray, err, seduce, wander, be out of the way. This is our enemy and these are his tactics. What are the different implications in 9 of "world" and "earth"? World--all people. Earth--the terrestrial globe, now their sphere of influence.
10-12 Is this Jesus speaking? How do we know? It must be either the church, the tribulation martyrs, or both. What else do we learn in 10 about Satan? This is what he has been doing all along (see Job) and is still doing. To whom does he make his accusations about us? Are we guilty? Who defends us? What is His defense, in the face of our guilt? So we see a courtroom scene: who is on the witness stand? who is the judge? who is the prosecuting attorney? who is the defense attorney?
Is 11 speaking of all believers in general, or those still on earth, or both? How do we overcome Satan? Why is the Lamb's blood so important? Many do not see this as important. Many scoff at the hymns and prefer songs that are new, but the hymns speak much of the blood and His love for us; newer songs tend to focus more on how much WE love HIM. Our testimony is the evidence that we believe what? The truth of the Word, and that our sin has been forgiven by His shed blood. So even if we die for Christ, we still overcome? In Rev. 2-3 we saw that overcomers were true believers.
What two groups of citizens does John speak of in 12? We have seen these two contrasted in Revelation. Who is it that has rejoicing? Who has woe? This is the third woe: Satan cast to the earth, which will result in the satanic activity of the beast (next chapter). Who has great wrath? How will he show that? Can he still accuse believers to God? What will he do more of now? God's wrath and Satan's wrath are both being poured out now.
13-14 Where in this chapter did we just read the information in 14? In the Bible, repetition indicates importance or making sure we understand; the woman--Israel--flees/flies to the wilderness, where she is nourished/fed, for a period of 1260 days/three and a half years. The wings of the eagle may represent an aircraft, or some sort of divine assistance. Where else in the Bible have we seen the period referred to as a time, times, and half a time? Dan. 7:25, 12:7, both in connection with the second half of the seven years. (A time = a year. Times = two years. Half a time/the dividing of time = half a year.) There will be great anti-semitism at this time. Why does Satan hate Israel?
15-17 The flood of water may or may not be literal. The literal earth may or may not swallow up a literal flood of literal water. Or the flood of water may picture an army, or both, or something else. It's hard to say from our vantage point in time, but it seems like some sort of divine protection. Who would be the remnant/rest of her seed, Character #5, that Satan targets since he can't get to Israel who is hidden and protected? Do the last two phrases define who? Tribulation saints? Jews and Christians will be in great danger.
1-2 The NASB says the dragon stood on the sand of the sea and John saw a beast coming out of the sea; the KJV says "I" (John) stood on the sand and saw a beast coming out of the sea. The sea represents the Gentile nations elsewhere in the Bible. Where did 11:7 say the beast came from? Is he a man that is given power from Satan, or is his power from Satan because his nature is demonic? The Greek for "the abyss" or "bottomless pit" includes the idea of "the deep"--the very deepest part of the ocean. The beast from the sea is Character #6. The Greek is actually "wild beast."
What does the beast have, 1? Is this the same description as in 12:3? There Satan was presented as being behind seven kingdoms and their seven kings, and the future ten-nation kingdom described in Daniel. Now, at the mid-point of the tribulation, a "beast" has similar characteristics, except now those ten horns have ten crowns--ten kings or leaders--apparently the ten-nation confederacy we saw in Daniel. We also see the seven heads as having what? In comparing this section with Rev. 17, it appears that the seven heads are seven empires throughout history, with the seventh being the revived Roman Empire. We also see the individual referred to as the "beast" as being the head of that seventh empire.
Back in 12:3, in comparing to Daniel, we saw pictured a revived Roman Empire. Here, the beast kingdom will have some of the characteristics of the earlier kingdoms we read about in Dan. 7:3-7 (notice "like" and "as"). Is Satan overseeing the beast kingdom forming out of the Gentile nations? He gives the beast kingdom what?
3-4 What had the deadly wound that was healed? 1 speaks of his seven heads (empires), and 3 refers to one of his heads (which would be the seventh one). In 17:9-10, an angel tells John that the seven heads are seven mountains with seven kings. The beast is spoken of as an empire, but also as a person; 13:12 and 14 sound as if the person was healed of a deadly wound. Note "as it were/as if" (KJV/NASB); maybe it isn't truly a deadly wound but deceptively appears to be. Does it say he "died" or was "killed"? What then happened? We don't see the word "resurrection" but if this is speaking of the man, the implication is of being brought back to life, or perhaps a deception of something like it. What are we warned of in both II Thes. 2:8-10 and Rev. 12:9?
"All the world/the whole earth" then did what? Wondered, marveled, admired. We know that true believers stay true to Jesus; apparently all the unbelievers in the world admire and follow him. 4, they actually do what? And what? Do they know where his power comes from? Compare 4 to Psalm 113:5. Apparently up till this point, the world is engaged in the one-world religion of New Agey tolerance for anything "spiritual" (except for biblical Christianity).
5-6 Now the beast sounds like a person. What "b" word from 1 do we have repeated three more times? What does that tell us? We tend to think of blasphemy as evil words about God, like curse words, as in the Old Testament; how does the New Testament present blasphemy? Mat. 9:2-3, John 10:33. How long does his power extend? Three and a half years. His great power over the whole earth begins mid-tribulation, but according to Dan. 9:27, he is already on the scene at the beginning of the seven years, so 13:1 doesn't necessarily mean he first appears at the beginning of the final 42 months. Does it say he "had" a blasphemous mouth? The wording is interesting: it was given to him by whom? He speaks for Satan. He is Satan's man.
The seven heads of 13:1 had names of blasphemy on them. The monarchs of the world empires claimed deity for themselves and demanded worship. Is this their blasphemy, that they claimed to be gods, claiming the role and powers of the true and living God?
How does he blaspheme the tabernacle? Compare Dan. 9:27, 11:31, Mat. 24:15. When does this take place? Mid-point in the tribulation. Who are "those who dwell in heaven"? Those who have died and are in heaven? Those taken in the rapture that he has lied about? Believers on earth?--those who do not worship him because they are citizens of heaven, and are not of the "earth-dwellers"? Perhaps all of these?
Compare Jesus' words in Mat. 10:25. Looking at the context of this passage, it is quite possible that Jesus is speaking prophetically of the time period we are reading about in Revelation. Often the Bible presents prophecy on two levels: a partial fulfillment in the immediate future, and a greater fuller fulfillment in the distant future. What is Jesus doing in Mat. 10:1? He is sending out His disciples, His chosen witnesses, to preach what message, 10:7?
Jesus came to present Himself as Israel's Messiah, to tell them the time of kingdom was at hand. Because they rejected Him, the kingdom was postponed. He warns the disciples that they will encounter difficulties, but His warning applies to an even more dangerous time--the tribulation. After His initial instructions in 10:5-6, it appears the rest of the passage finds its greater fulfillment in the tribulation. Because He is giving instructions to His disciples who are going out to preach the good news of the kingdom, maybe those in Rev. 13:6 are specifically His chosen witnesses at that time, preaching the gospel and the message that the kingdom is at hand; who are those? The 144,000. Mat. 10 appears to shed light on what they will be doing and what conditions will be like. Read Mat. 10:5-42.
This in turn sheds light on Jesus' words in the passage on the sheep and goats judgment. Mat. 24-25 presents a chronological teaching of Israel's endtimes scenario. Mat. 24 presents the tribulation followed by the second coming in 24:30, then warns about paying attention and being ready. Mat. 25 speaks of the criteria for who will then enter the kingdom. In the light of Mat. 10:5-42, read Mat. 25:31-46. Jesus, speaking of His "brethren," could be referring to the Jews in general, or the Jewish witnesses--the 144,000.
7-8 What phrase is used twice in 7? Who gave to him? What two things characterize the last three-and-a-half years? Great martyrdom of believers, worldwide power. Compare Dan. 7:23. What do the earth-dwellers do? In contrast to whom? Those who are citizens of heaven. Worship (Strong's): to kiss like a dog licking its master's hand, fawn, crouch, prostrate oneself, do homage, adore. Who alone is to be worshipped? Why are all these willing to worship him? He claims to have the powers of God--to be God.
How are the earth-dwellers further described? The Greek here can be translated with two possible meanings: 1)the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, 2)the names are not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life. Rev. 3:5 and 22:19 make it sound like all names are initially written in the book, being erased if they do not believe. But a comparison with Rev. 17:8 sounds as if their names were never written in the book at all. How could this be? We will discuss this more in connection with verses 13-18.
We have quite a bit of information in this chapter about the beast. At this point it might be useful to review some of the other passages that talk about him. Read Dan. 2:31-45, all of 7, all of 8, 11:21-24,31-39. The wild beast is the little horn of Dan. 7 and the small horn of Dan. 8. He will have power over the whole world, Dan. 7:23. Also review II Thes. 2:8-12. He will be fierce, cruel, destructive, crafty, deceitful. He is referred to throughout the Bible by various names (depending on your translation): the king of Babylon, the Assyrian, the little horn, the small horn, the king of fierce countenance, the prince that shall come, the vile person, the willful king, the one that shall come in his own name, the man of sin, the son of perdition, the lawless one, antichrist, the beast.
9-10 As in all the series of seven, there is a lull between the sixth and seventh. Before we read of the seventh personality, we have a brief interlude. The wording in 9 was seen seven times in Rev. 2-3, but followed by what phrase that is missing here? Why is it missing? Here is further evidence that the church is no longer in the picture, because it was caught up to heaven. Why is it important that the tribulation saints hear what God has to say in 10? Here the KJV seems to catch the meaning better than the NASB; "he that leadeth into captivity" rather than "if anyone is destined for captivity." What is God assuring these believers of, regarding those who are taking them into captivity and killing them? They will reap what they sowed; judgment is coming. We may not get the satisfaction of seeing how God judges the wicked, but what do we know? Believers who face trials and even martyrdom need what two things?
11-12 Who is character or personality #7? The beast coming up out of the earth is more commonly known as the false prophet; he is not called that here, but we know him by that name from 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10. Usually when people talk about "the beast" (meaning the antichrist) they are speaking of the first beast, but both are called "beasts" (Greek: wild beast). Based on what we already know about the term "beast," might this indicate that he could be some sort of angelic (demonic) being?
If the first beast comes up out of the sea which could also be the deep, and 11:7 says he comes up out of the abyss, and if they are both beasts (demonic in some way), then we might wonder if the origin of the second beast is similar. Where does he come from? Compare the similar wording in I Sam. 28:13-15. Is he a human who has already died and is in his immortal state, coming up from the dead, or is he also something other than completely human? As we have seen in the last handful of Epistles, are false prophets easy to spot? What characterizes them, II John 1:7?
Compare this beast to Mat. 7:15. What does his speaking tell us about him? We don't normally associate horns with lambs; there is one other passage in the Bible mentioning both, Rev. 5:6, describing whom? We have seen that horns speak of power; Christ had seven horns--all power. This beast has only two. He is also described as being "like a lamb." Who is the Lamb? In some way he impersonates Jesus or His power. But are his words from Jesus? More deception.
He apparently has some power of his own, but whose power does he exercise? Where does he exercise it? And where does HIS power come from? Somehow he causes the earth-dwellers to do what? Which means the first beast claims to be w ho or what? Again, the first beast is identified in connection with his supposed deadly wound that is supposedly healed, 13:3, "one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed." Whatever this deception is, it is quite powerful and helps him to exercise global control.
13-18 The "wound of the sword" and "comes to life" in 14 sounds as if the "deadly wound" that was "healed" is talking here about the person, not the empire, and about a "resurrection." Compare II Thes. 2:9. Do people fall for these deceptions? Now we have some sort of image, likeness, or representation of the first beast, that "speaks" and has "life" and has the power to kill. How do we know that the beast claims to be God, 15?
The worship of the beast will involve a mark, a name or a number. Much debate centers around what this will be, or what the 666 means. The Bible doesn't tell us; those people at that time will understand what these verses mean. This information is for them, not us. It will be very clear what the mark is; no one will take it by accident.
Some worry that we could take the mark today without realizing it, or that some current technology we are using could be the mark of the beast. This thinking comes from not interpreting the Bible in the literal, grammatical, historic manner, but rather taking the allegorical approach. The allegorical interpretation does not generally understand the rapture to precede the tribulation, and the tribulation to be a literal seven-year period, followed by the return of Christ, followed by His thousand-year earthly reign over His earthly kingdom, as prophesied throughout the Old Testament.
Those Christians wonder if we are in the tribulation now, if the beast (antichrist) is some person we must identify now, if the mark is lurking now, how to avoid it, etc. Those who don't believe the church is raptured before the tribulation are trying to figure out how to survive the tribulation without taking the mark; because they know they won't be able to buy and sell (if they are left behind as they believe), many of them are "preppers," storing money, food, water, and ammunition, maybe buying a secluded place to "bug out" and stocking it ahead of time.
Faulty endtimes understanding comes from a faulty view of the entire Bible. The Bible is clear that some time following the removal of the church, the beast will sign a seven-year covenant with Israel, which is the beginning of the seven-year period we call the tribulation--the seventieth "week" of Daniel 9. The world today is moving rapidly toward globalism: one government, one religion, and one economic system. The Bible tells us it is just around the corner.
Given what we know about the beast, think again about what the blasphemous names, 1, could be. The name "antichrist" has the prefix "anti-" which has two meanings: against, or in place of. "Against" would imply the opposite of Christ--evil. "In place of" would be like impersonating God, claiming to be God, or putting himself above God (as Satan did). What characteristics or powers of God might he (and/or his empire) claim to have? Sovereignty: omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. Creating life? The power of resurrection? Immortality? The "I AM"? Between technology, deception, and power from Satan (lying signs and wonders), these are all possibilities.
This helps us possibly answer the question of why those who take the mark are not written in the book of life. Rev. 14:9-11 clarifies the issue: "Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
All who take the mark are destined for hell. The taking of the mark cannot be repented of; it cannot be undone. We know God desires all to be saved, I Tim. 2:4--why would He not allow this one group of people to repent and be saved? This is said of no other people in the Bible; something is different with this group of people. Apparently taking the mark permanently changes the individual in some way that makes them ineligible for eternal life. This can be demonstrated by looking at Gen. 6; Jesus likens the endtimes destruction of mankind to the destruction of man in Noah's day in the worldwide flood, Mat. 24:37-38, Luke 17:26-27.
In Gen. 6:1-2, "the sons of God"--wicked angels--married human women. Note that Jesus does not say in Mat. 22:29-30 that angels are sexless; angels always appear as men, in normal men's bodies (the homosexual men of Sodom desired them for sexual relations). The angels in heaven--the good angels--do not marry, but apparently the wicked angels do as they please. I Pet. 3:18-20 and II Pet. 2:4 confirm that some of wicked angels, in the days of Noah, 2:5, sinned in a way that caused them to be confined in the pit. Jude 6-7 tells that they engaged in strange, sexual immorality.
They produced unnatural offspring--the "mighty men of old, men of renown," Gen. 6:4. It is interesting that mythology records the existence of ancient demigods, super-humans who were the offspring of humans and gods. Gen. 6:4 calls them the Nephilim. These offspring were neither human (and redeemable) nor angelic. Even though Noah preached for 120 years as he was preparing the ark, no one believed--only his immediate family was saved. Why did no one respond to his preaching? Apparently all mankind but his family were evil and corrupted by their very nature, 6:5. God had to destroy these multitudes whose very nature, whose DNA, was corrupted and apparently changed into something not fully human. He had to intervene in Satan's scheme to destroy mankind in order that He might preserve the future of mankind, that His promise of a future Redeemer, Gen. 3:15, could be fulfilled and Satan could be defeated.
Jesus' comparison lends weight to the idea that once again, mankind will be corrupted at an elemental level, so that none who receive the mark can be saved. Again, the future of humanity is at stake, and God must intervene: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved," Mat. 24:22. Could this be alluded to in Isa. 13:12? "I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold and mankind than the gold of Ophir." All those who have taken the mark will be removed to judgment, and the tribulation saints will be left on earth, in their mortal bodies, to inherit the earthly kingdom and to continue procreating.
The original sin was based on the desire to be god-like, Gen. 3:5. Mankind still hopes to accomplish this goal. Evolution and humanism claims that man is evolving, and the next step up the evolutionary ladder is to evolve beyond our human limitations into a higher state, a post-human state. Today's computer technology holds out the possibility, in the near future, of combining man and machine, so that man will be a hybrid human/machine. Could something like this scenario explain the mark of the beast and the inability of those who take it to repent?
The beast will control a powerful cashless global economy and the power to buy and sell. He might offer people the power to become super-human, like him; he could virtually force it on people by controlling their ability to buy and sell. If, as it appears possible, that the beast who came up out of the abyss is not truly human, and if the blasphemy mentioned in this chapter is his claim to be god-like, even to be God himself, and to be immortal, perhaps the human/machine technology he offers them comes with the promise of immortality.
But would a human/machine hybrid still be human, with a soul that is redeemable? Would this change humanity on a fundamental level so that these "people" are no longer able to repent or be saved, as those whose humanity was tainted in the days of Noah? This group of people does not have their names written in the book of life but are all destined for eternal fire and brimstone. If all names are initially written in the book, being erased if they do not believe, then all men have the choice to repent right up to the time of death. But these do not. It seems that God knew from the beginning that all who will be taking the mark will not repent before they take the mark and will not be able to after they take it; their names are not even in the book of life. Satan has always tried to thwart God's plan for saving mankind, and desires to take as many as possible away from God and with him to his final destination. For more information on the mindset and the technology leading in the human/machine direction, search the internet on the topic of "transhumanism."
It is possible that such technology is already known and being secretly experimented with. Was the "Borg" of "Star Trek" an innocuous introduction to the concept, to prepare people to accept this technology when it is offered by the beast? And if so, could this be confirmation that the generation that was exposed to this series is the generation that will see it come to pass? Compare what we know from Scripture with the following quotes about the Borg, excerpted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borg_(Star_Trek):
Humans become Borg by being "injected" with "microscopic machines" called "nanoprobes." Their mantra is "resistance is futile." They "gradually developed into a partially synthetic species in an ongoing attempt to evolve and perfect themselves." Compare Rev. 13:16-17, the mark of the beast, and 13:8, 14:9-11, 17:8, those who take the mark cannot be saved.
"Borg commonly have one eye...replaced with a sophisticated ocular implant which allows them to see beyond the human visual spectrum...They also usually have one arm replaced with a prosthetic one, bearing one of a variety of multipurpose tools in place of a humanoid hand...the arm may be specialized for medical purposes, or weaponized for tactical usage." Compare Zech. 11:17, "the worthless shepherd...A sword will be on his arm and on his right eye! His arm will be totally withered and his right eye will be blind."
"The most important cybernetic component of any Borg is their 'cortical node,' which controls every other implanted 'fixed location' cybernetic device within a Borg's body, and is most often implanted in the forehead above the usually retained organic right eye." They "surgically receive implants connected directly into the brain (cannot be removed without death)... Compare Rev. 13:16, the mark of the beast will be given on the right hand or the forehead and apparently cannot be undone.
"Nanoprobes are microscopic machines that inhabit a Borg's body...The probes perform the function of maintaining the Borg cybernetic systems, as well as repairing damage to the organic parts of a Borg. They generate new technology inside a Borg when needed, as well as protecting them from many forms of disease." They were used to repair someone's body and revive him almost an hour after his death. Compare Rev. 13:3, the beast's fatal wound that was healed, amazing the whole earth.
The fictional TV Borg may or may not have anything to do with the beast and the endtime scenario, but the parallels show us how this technology is already well-thought-out and how something similar is within the realm of possibility. From our vantage point, reading Revelation before these events take place, and with the advances in technology that will define future events, we can't know what it all means, but the Bible gives us many clues.
In studying the Bible, we see that we may not get the entire teaching of Scripture from any one isolated passage, but we must read and compare all Scripture to get an accurate picture, especially when it comes to endtimes prophecy. Perhaps God has scattered clues throughout Scripture so that only the serious student of the Bible will dig to find them and see how the pieces fit together.
An understanding of the rest of the Bible is the key to making sense of Revelation. If you aren't all that familiar with the rest of the Bible, you can still gain a basic understanding of the events of Revelation, but bringing together threads from the entire book shows how amazing the Bible is, on so many levels. No man could have written this book! To think that it was written by 40 different men, many unknown to each other, over a period of 1500 years, speaking of the same themes and truths, using the same symbols, and never contradicting itself, is truly mind-boggling, and builds our faith and trust in God who is over all things.
1-3 It seems that, from some future point, John may be looking back at what took place, giving us an overview of events. The Lamb is where? On Mt. Zion. We get more details about the 144,000 which we first saw in 7:4-8, where they were numbered from each tribe and described as servants of God, sealed on their foreheads. What is the seal? (Some versions say his Father's name, some say His name and His Father's.) Who else, earlier, was singing a new song with harps before the throne? 5:8-9. The 24 elders, representing the raptured church. Yet their song was unique to them; these are not the church.
4-5 More details about the 144,000. They are unmarried and without sexual sin; as we see in our world today, this is becoming more and more rare, even among believers. Apparently they have devoted their lives to the Lord, remaining unmarried. Why might celibacy be preferable to marriage for them? Compare Jer. 16:1-4, I Cor. 7:26-35. "Redeem" is a common Old Testament term--to ransom or buy back; the Messiah is frequently referred to as Israel's Redeemer. Might Isa. 51:11 speak of this passage?
They follow the Lamb; is He on earth during the tribulation? When does He return? So it sounds again like John is seeing and describing their special role in the kingdom that follows the tribulation and the second coming. What are they called at the end of 4? So their salvation is the beginning of the harvest of Jewish souls during the tribulation. 5 describes their commitment to holiness; how are they contrasted with what characterizes the rest of the world? Guile/lie: trick, craft, wile, deceit, bait, decoy. Could this comment have anything to do with II Thes. 2:9-11? (whatever "the lie" is)
6-7 We see the first of six angels in this chapter. Midst of heaven: as used elsewhere in the Bible, apparently the visible sky (not God's abode). This is the only place the Bible uses the phrase "everlasting gospel." In what way is the gospel everlasting? The angel preaches the message to what group of people that we have seen mentioned a number of times? "Them that dwell upon the earth": earth-dwellers, those who are part of the godless world system. All will hear; all will be without excuse. We wonder if this is a heavenly being, or if "angel" is used in the sense of "messenger"; J. Vernon McGee wonders if this could speak of the airwaves (radio, TV, cyberspace, or whatever technology is current). The angel's voice is "loud": mighty, strong, large, great, high, fearful, exceedingly.
In 13:12, they are being compelled to worship who? Who does the angel tell them to fear, glorify and worship instead? They are told that what time is upon them? Is this speaking of the final judgment. Does it sound like anyone is going to innocently be caught up in the mark of the beast? Does everyone worship something? Does worship involve making choices? What aspect of God is emphasized in 7? Perhaps the beast's deceitful miracles and claims are even mimicking God's power of creation, of His power over death; he is both against Christ and mimicking Christ.
8 What does the next angel/messenger warn about? The fall of Babylon is recorded in Rev. 17 and 18--apparently the final event of the tribulation, just before the battle of Armageddon; why might the angel say it has happened? The Bible often speaks of prophesied future events in the past tense. The identity of Babylon is debated; some think the literal ancient city of Babylon will be rebuilt and influential at this time. Some think it speaks figuratively of Rome or Jerusalem or some other key city. Some think it speaks not of a particular city, but of the corrupt world system in general. What has Babylon done that brings God's judgment? How does wine figure into this picture? Its addictive power creates a desire for more and more; it results in drunkenness, which results in all kinds of evil. How is fornication and passion a picture of Babylon's activity?
This is John's first mention of Babylon. The Old Testament speaks much of Babylon, both historically and prophetically. Let's look more closely at Babylon, whose time of judgment is coming. We will see that Babylon--the city, the kingdom, the world system--is a major thread in the Bible. What is so important about Babylon? It is first mentioned in II Kings 17:24, but the word "Babylon" is related to the word "babel" which takes us back to what event in Gen. 11:9? Let's see why God took this drastic step.
What was the first world-wide judgment? Why did God do this? Mankind gets a new start after the flood, but another major judgment is just around the corner. The flood had destroyed all mankind except for Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives; what did God command them in 9:7 as they left the ark? Gen. 10 gives the overview of the lines of the three sons--Ham, Shem and Japheth--and how they eventually spread throughout the earth. Just as Gen. 1 gives the overview of creation, followed by Gen. 2 which focuses on a specific relevant incident of the creation story, so the Gen. 10 overview of the dividing of families, tongues, and nations is followed by the explanation in Gen. 11 of how this dividing of mankind came about.
According to 9:20-27, Ham was a base fellow, and the Bible records how his descendants were like him, beginning with his son Canaan (whose name means "humiliated"). Apparently personality characteristics were already known to be passed down. The Canaanites became enemies of Israel and were known for their immorality and baseness. Another of Ham's sons, Cush, begat Nimrod, who is introduced in 10:6-10 and expanded on in Gen. 11. His name is from a Hebrew word meaning "let us revolt." As we saw in Gen. 6:4, "mighty one" has evil connotations: powerful, warrior, tyrant, champion, giant, chief, strong, valiant. Compare Eze. 32:12. "Before the Lord" can be "over against" which fits the context of the next chapter. "Mighty hunter" is not a complimentary term but includes the idea of hunting men, which is related to the establishing of his kingdom, called what, 10? He built cities in the land of Shinar.
We know Gen. 11 does not follow Gen. 10 chronologically because 10 spoke of the dividing of families, tongues and nations, yet 11:1 says what? Here is the explanation of the origin of languages. As men were multiplying (rapidly, due to long lifespans), some came to what place, 2? Whose kingdom was there, 10:8-10? Why did they want to build a city, end of 4? Yet what had God commanded in 9:7? We saw the same pattern of rebellion and disobedience in Cain; compare 4:12 and 4:16-17. Does God force people to obey Him? The first city mentioned in the Bible was founded in direct disobedience to God. What is the second city mentioned in the Bible, 10:10? It too was founded in direct disobedience to God. (Obviously there were other cities at that time than the two mentioned, but it is significant that the Bible mentions these two in this particular context.)
What else did they build besides a city? The words "may reach" (KJV) or "will reach" (NASB) are not in the manuscripts but added for clarity. Many picture a very tall tower, and wonder why God would want to stop them, since we know that it would not be possible to build a tower that high. What else could be the purpose of a tower unto heaven, that would concern God? This was most likely a ziggurat, like the pyramids. Wikipedia: ziggurats were believed to be dwelling places of pagan gods, they were believed to connect heaven and earth, were first built in Mesopotamia several thousand years before Christ. The Greek form of the name in the Septuagint is from the Akkadian, "Gate of the gods." Some say "babel" means "confusion" while others say it is related to the Hebrew word "balel" which means "confusion." So we see that the settling in a permanent city, under a king, and pursuing false religion were done in defiance to God.
Nimrod was the first to attempt a one-world government, complete with emperor worship (of himself). He is a type of the beast. He is against God, and sets himself up as a god (according to other historical sources). His tower was probably for worship and sacrifice. The name of the city is what, 9? The Bible says what happened there? It's interesting that evolution has no explanation for the origin of languages. There are historical records of Babel, or Babylon, around 23 BC. It became famous under an early leader, Hammurabi, and later became a significant empire in the Bible record under Nebuchadnezzar. Historical lore tells us that goddess worship originated through Nimrod's wife Semiramis, "the queen of heaven," who the Bible speaks of along with other names from the Babylonian mystery religion: Ashtaroth, Baal/Bel, Marduk/Merodach, Tammuz.
Imagine how men could collaborate if there were no language barriers; it is extremely possible that earlier in history, closer to the time of creation, man's brain capacity was great, not yet having time to be corrupted by accumulating mutations; today our brains only function at about 10% of their capacity. Man's plans for a godless world system were brought to a stop by God's intervention, but that desire has always been present in the heart of godless world leaders. The language barrier has interfered with man's plans, but today once again all mankind can easily communicate, thanks to the computer. Globalism (one-world government) appears to be just around the corner, and God is about to pour out His wrath on godless man and the godless system represented by Babylon.
Does Revelation speak of Babylon as a literal rebuilt endtime city (which some would even identify as, not the ancient Babylon rebuilt, but perhaps Rome or Jerusalem), or does it speak of Babylon as a symbol of the world system? Very possibly both; the Bible often speaks with more than one level of meaning. Babylon is called "the great city"; perhaps Babylon symbolizes cities as the seat of commerce, commercialism, materialism, greed, which Col. 3:5 calls idolatry--another major Bible theme, a sin God hates. The first use of an important word in the Bible often provides context for its understanding; we saw that both the first and second mention of a city were negative and in direct disobedience to God.
Isaiah 23-25, Micah 6:9-13, Nahum 3 support the negative implication of "the city." Tyre was the center of commercialism at that time, and similar comments are made about Tyre as we will find in Rev. 17 regarding Babylon. Both sit "on many waters"--many peoples and nations, Isa. 23:3, Rev. 17:1,15. Both Tyre and Babylon are harlots commit immorality with all the kings of the earth, Isa. 23:17, Rev. 17:1-2. In Revelation, the tribulation showing God pouring out His wrath on "the city" and all the evil it represents.
9-11 The third angel speaks; what will happen to all who take the mark of the beast? Their doom is sealed. Can it be undone? Can they change their minds later? Even though the Bible does not support this, some teach that it can be undone and those who take it might still be able to be saved later. None will take it inadvertently or against their will; is God's judgment always just and righteous? So we know that He would only doom those who could make a choice. Calvinists teach that God will doom many who did not reject Him, but that God doomed them before they were even born; those who are doomed for hell have no chance of repenting and being saved. This is completely against God's nature; what does He desire, I Tim. 2:4?
We speak of hell being eternal punishment, but not exactly. When unbelievers die, they go directly to hell, or Hades; at the Great White Throne judgment, Rev. 20:10-15, following Christ's thousand-year kingdom, what happens to them? What do we learn in 9-11 about this awful place? Some falsely claim that the Bible does not teach eternal punishment, but that after a time of punishment, those souls will be extinguished or annihilated (i.e., annihilationism). Apparently people believe this because they find it difficult to believe that God would punish people like that. Does God send people to hell, or do people make choices, in spite of all God's efforts to save them?
12-13 Perhaps the dire warning of the third angel is what will encourage the tribulation saints to hold onto their faith even though they will be sorely tested. Might some be tempted, out of hunger, fear of death, or whatever, to yield to the beast and take his mark? If they do, will the consequences be more horrendous than whatever painful trial they must undergo? 13, will death be the fate of many believers in the second half of the tribulation? Death will bring what? These verses speak not only of faith but also of what and what?
Some believe these are indications that following the rapture, believers no longer have eternal security (assurance of salvation no matter how they sin or fail the Lord). The indwelling Holy Spirit was only promised to the church, not to believers before or after the church age. The church is told we are sealed by the Spirit; might this indicate that those without the indwelling Spirit are not sealed? Some believe that even in the Old Testament, believers had eternal security, but others believe that they didn't, that although they were saved by faith, their faith must be demonstrated by their works. Is this why Paul made such a point of telling the church that WE are saved by GRACE, NOT by works?
14-20 Is this Jesus Christ in 14? Some say yes, some say no. Reasons for: the description is obviously Him, and He is obviously the one who will do the reaping as described in the next few verses. Reasons against: "like" could mean it is not Jesus but a powerful angel, nowhere is Jesus ever described as sitting on a cloud, Jesus would not be taking orders from an angel to begin reaping, angels are said to reap in Mat. 13:39. What happens in 15-16? What happens in 17-18? Do both speak of the same thing, or something different? It's hard to say. Reap/gather, harvest/collect--compare Lev. 19:9, Mark 4:9. So it sounds like John's overview is taking us to the final events of the seven years; the bloodbath of 20 must be Armageddon. Some think the 200 miles speak of a distance from Jerusalem, or a radius around it, where the world's armies will be arrayed, Rev. 16:14-16. A river of blood that size, as high as the horses' bridles, does not seem possible; it may speak of the splashing of blood. But it is possible that events at that time will prove this a literal river of blood.
1-4 This short chapter introduces the last series of sevens in the pouring out of God's wrath. 2 speaks of the beast, his what, his what and his what? Apparently these are separate but related. Are the people on earth or in heaven? How do they get the victory? What is their song about? Is this actually a prayer? How do our prayers compare to this? This song/prayer resembles the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, focusing on who God is, His holiness, His plan, the coming of His kingdom, His will being done. How does their song compare to the song of Moses, Exo. 15:1-19? Glorifying God for what He has done.
5-8 What happens now? What is in the seven golden vials/bowls? As in the Old Testament, we see the glory of God filling the temple. What are the angels wearing? Who is described in this same way in 19:8? This same phrase is also used in 19:14; some claim 14 speaks of the bride, but we see it could just as easily speak of the angels. The bride/church is never described as an army, but angels often are. Josh. 5:13-14, I Kings 22:19, II Kings 6:15-20. Host: a vast number of person, organized for war; soldiers. The Bible speaks of the host of heaven, God of hosts, the heavenly host.
1-4 Angels pour out the first three of the final seven--seven vials, or bowls of wrath. All seven angels are told to pour out their bowls, and all these are so severe that it seems these could all be quite near the end of the seven years, but perhaps they just happen during the second half of the tribulation. The first targets those who what and what?
5-7 What do the angels say then? Why especially do they deserve these judgments? What about God qualifies Him to take these actions? What key terms do we see in this passage? Do all know what is going on and who it is from?
8-9 The fourth bowl of wrath causes what to happen to the sun? How do men react?
10-11 What is the fifth bowl of wrath? What is the response? Compare the words of Jesus in Luke 21:25-26, the prophecy in Isa. 24:1-6, Joel 2:1-3, Mal. 4:1.
12-14 The sixth bowl of wrath opens the way for what climactic event? Has God dried up waters before? Who is the "unholy trinity" we see in 13? Who is the dragon? He seeks worship that belongs only to whom? The beast seeks to rule the world, but who is that kingdom promised to? The false prophet (the second beast, 13:11-17) glorifies whom? which mimics the ministry of whom? the Holy Spirit, who glorifies whom? We see a great deal of demonic activity at this point. Who will be convinced by their miracles? Are the nations gathered by the demons, or by God? We see that God often uses and works through unbelievers, and here, even demons. Why would Satan want to gather them all? To destroy Israel.
15 Who is speaking in 15? Jesus interrupts the narrative to insert these important words. Does the Bible say, as is so often quoted, that He comes for us (the church) like a thief? Compare I Thes. 5:4, which follows the rapture in 4:13-18. Believers are warned to be watching and ready, that they might not be humiliated at His return. This warning must be to those believers who are still alive at this late hour, just prior to the Lord's return (the second coming). Again, some believe this warning is another indication that believers are no longer sealed as the church was, that salvation can be lost.
16 Har-Meggido or Armageddon is not an area large enough to accommodate the armies of the nations, but they must spread out around this central location. 14 speaks of the demons gathering the nation's armies, but before John is told anymore about this final battle, we had a special message from Jesus. So we see that the final event is about to take place, and Jesus gives the final warning and invitation to those who would watch for His return.
17-19 When the final bowl is emptied, what does the great voice say? The final events are literally earth-shattering. How is the earthquake described? The phenomena in 18 remind us of 8:6 and Exo. 19:16-19. What is the special recipient of God's wrath, 19? The next two chapters give us the details of the destruction of Babylon, the great city. 19 mentions "the great city," which in 11:8 referred to Jerusalem; others think it could be speaking of Rome. "The cities of the nations" and "Babylon" are all part of the same judgment. We will see Babylon called "the great city" several times in 17 and 18. "Great" is used several times at the end of the chapter; the great crescendo of events speak of the final outpouring of God's wrath: "it is done."
20 Along with the great earthquake, we see other great tectonic movement and upheaval in the earth, just as there was following the worldwide flood (the global judgment in Noah's time). Apparently in both time frames, the earth needed to be restructured, both to wipe away damage from the past and to prepare for something new; the Old Testament speaks of great changes in the earth in the millenial kingdom. As in the pre-flood world, lifespans will be long, animals will not be carnivorous or dangerous, and the land will be extremely fertile, Isa. 40:1-5, 65:19-25, Amos 9:13-14. As we saw in 6:12-14, mountains and islands are also referred to symbolically in the Bible, speaking of the nations and of the Gentile nations, so could easily be both literal and symbolic.
21 The Old Testament records numerous instances of God using hailstones for His purposes, Josh. 10:11, Job 38:22-23, Isa. 28:2,17, Eze. 13:11-13, 38:22-23. What is the punishment for blasphemy? Lev. 24:16.
1-2 Rev. 17 and 18 deal with the destruction of Babylon. Many teach that Rev. 17 speaks of the judgment of religious Babylon, but a reading of the text does not seem to support that idea. One of the seven angels of the previous chapter takes John aside and explains to him what is happening, or from our point of view, what we read about in the previous chapter. As we discussed back in Rev. 14, we see this format elsewhere in the Bible, where one chapter tells of an event, and the following chapter then gives a more detailed explanation of that event or how it came about. We saw a woman back in chapter 12; now we see another contrasting woman. What is she called in 1? What might "many waters" refer to? 17:15. Who and who have drunk of her wine?
3-4 Who is she sitting upon? Is this the beast of 13:1? Scarlet often represents kingly authority and power. What is her cup full of? Compare 4 to Jer. 51:7. 1-2 seem to refer to all of earth's history, while 3 refers specifically to the tribulation. She sits on a scarlet beast, 3, dressed in purple and scarlet, colors of authority and power. The description of the woman in 4 leads many to conclude that she represents the Roman Catholic church, Rome, and the pope in this chapter, yet that view of the woman is too limited, as we will see.
Because she "sits on" the beast, 3, many claim she (as the RCC) controls the beast or the beast's kingdom; maybe, but that may be reading into the text more than what is there. If she is sitting on it, then perhaps it is holding her up and carrying her. We have seen the theme of Babylon throughout the Bible, long before the Catholic church came on the scene. Babylon encompasses all false religion of all time. The RCC is merely one manifestation of the harlot. Apparently the RCC view is the source of the idea that this chapter speaks of religious Babylon.
5-6 Many refer to the woman as "mystery Babylon," but it says "and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth." A mystery is something revealed that was not previously revealed. The Bible has spoken extensively of Babylon and how one day it will be the object of God's judgment. Babylon was a literal city and apparently will be rebuilt to function as the headquarters of the beast's kingdom; Zech. 5:6-11 has an angel telling of a time in the future of a woman and an ephah (speaking of weights and measures--commerce), representing wickedness, being taken where? Shinar is the land of Babylon. There, she will be set on a what? And what will be built for her? The mystery appears to be that she represents more than the literal city; my view is that she is both the rebuilt city of Babylon as well as the godless economic system spoken of throughout the Bible.
The Old Testament gives clues indicating that this city is representative of all cities--of commercialism and greed, which is addressed in chapter 18. Babylon and all she represents has been a major player in the world since the beginning. Is the RCC the mother of this abomination? The mystery of Babylon--the godless economic system--is anti-God and has always persecuted God's people, even to the death.
Think about the state of true biblical Christianity today in the U.S.; does the threat to true and faithful believers and believing churches come from organized religion, or from the political system, which continually makes laws designed to punish and eliminate the expression of true Christianity? Why do they try so hard to accomplish this? This has gone on since the beginning of Babylon, shortly after the flood that wiped out the previous evil that prevailed upon the earth. Other religions are acceptable because they do not speak of what truths? Islam is a religion that kills those who refuse to convert, but it is also a totalitarian political system. Why are there "state religions"--why do governments desire to control religion? Can a government have total control if people are allowed to believe what they want, and to operate on a different code of right and wrong than the government?
John is greatly astonished as he sees the mystery revealed: Babylon's true nature and the source of these activities. What do Nebuchadnezzar's words in Dan. 4:30 reveal about the attitude behind Babylon? A clear picture of Babylon is found in Jer. 51, especially 6-7,13,24-25,45,49,53.
The Bible portrays Babylon as evil and in rebellion against God. Whose power is behind man's kingdom? God's original plan was a perfect world inhabited by perfect men--a perfect kingdom. But what happened? The entire Bible is the story of what happened because of that, and of how God dealt with fallen/sinful man in a fallen/sinful world. Besides Gen. 3, two other Old Testament passages, Isa. 14 and Eze. 28, give us key information about Satan, and how he fits into what is taking place in Rev. 17.
Isa. 14 is about the king of Babylon, which in the historical Old Testament account would be Nebuchadnezzar. But we have a couple of clues in this chapter that something more is being spoken of. In 1-4 the immediate context (a partial fulfillment) is the time when Israel returns to their land, after the Babylonian captivity. The future context (the complete fulfillment) is when Israel is in their land in fulfillment of the promises about the kingdom. 4 speaks of the literal historical king; he pictures, or is a "type," of someone else, a more powerful "king." 4 speaks of a time when he has "ceased," so he will not rule forever. 4-21 goes on to rejoice over this fact. 9 speaks of his descent to Sheol, the place of the dead, and 12-15 speaks of his arrogance.
No human king of Babylon has actually fallen from heaven, 12; only Satan was in heaven and has fallen from heaven. We see how God's message about a historical king uses him as a "type" of someone else, starting out talking about the literal person, then changing the language to indicate that now someone else is actually being referred to; we find this literary device used in other places in the Bible. The KJV says, "Lucifer, son of the morning." According to Strong's Concordance, Lucifer is the morning star, bright shining. In 13-14 we find five "I will's." Satan desires to be like God, even to usurp Him, just as we saw in Gen. 3. 4-11 will only completely be fulfilled in the future, when Satan is confined to the abyss for a thousand years, then thrown into the lake of fire.
So we see how the literal historical king of Babylon and his powerful empire are a type of a greater symbolic Babylon and a greater king who rules over it. Eze. 28 gives us even more details that fit the picture here in Rev. 17. Eze. 28:1-10 addresses the prince (leader, ruler) of Tyre--the center of commercialism in that day. This man has great pride, wisdom, and riches (by his "trade"). God promises that one day he will be brought down.
In Eze. 28:12-19, the king of Tyre is now addressed. As powerful as that prince was, there was someone above him in power--Satan. He was in Eden, he was in God's presence as the anointed cherub--apparently the chief angel. He was created sinless, but then he sinned: pride. 16 and 18 relate this to his violent and unrighteous "trade." Apparently the ruler of Tyre, the leader of the world's commercial system at that time, was under the control of Satan. God hates and will pour out His wrath on the godless corrupt economic system--commercialism--that has characterized the earth's history, and in Rev. 17-18 we see its final destruction. It is inspired and controlled by Satan, because of man's desire for wisdom, riches and power, which they think would make them godlike. This system is characterized in the Bible as Babylon, "the city," and has existed at least since the kingdom of Nimrod and Babel, Gen. 10.
The godless world system is hostility to God and independence from Him. Does His plan still include the kingdom of God? Ruled over by whom? All this was promised to Israel; Jesus came proclaiming that the kingdom was at hand. Because Israel did not recognize her Messiah, what happened to the promise of the kingdom? It was postponed and has not yet come about. Revelation tells how it finally comes about and how God deals with man's kingdom in its final, most powerful, most aggressive, most evil form. The great harlot has tainted the rulers and nations of all time. Man's final kingdom is not just influenced by, but completely controlled by the anti-God thinking symbolized by Babylon.
7-14 The angel explains to John what he is seeing. The rest of this chapter is the angel's explanation. Even so, these next few verses are difficult to understand, and commentators differ. 8-14 speak of the beast; 15-18 speak of the woman. Is it speaking of the beast as a man--the world ruler? Or of the kingdom with seven heads and ten horns? As in 11:7, the beast arises from where? So is it speaking of a demon? And where will the beast go? Does this sound like a kingdom, a man or a demon?
The beast "was," "is not," "shall ascend out of the bottomless pit," and shall "go into perdition" in the future. This time frame could be in reference to when John wrote this, or it could be in reference to the future time period of which the angel is speaking. 13:3 speaks of one of the seven heads "as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed." This seems to speak of the beast as the individual, who was, 13:3, "as it were wounded to death." When he ascends "out of the bottomless pit," does he come back as demonically possessed, satanically controlled? Who, 8, will be impressed and amazed by this apparently miraculous happening? As in 13:8, we are told that "those who dwell on the earth" are not written where? (Refer to comments under 13:7-8.)
The comments about the mind with wisdom and understanding in 9-10, and 13:18, hint at something not easy to understand, and possibly not really to be understood until that time. Some believe Babylon symbolically refers to Rome, partly because of 9. Others believe Jerusalem is the city in view. Rome is known as "the city on seven hills," and its hills are really just little hillocks. But 9 speaks of mountains, not hills, and relates the seven mountains to seven what? As in 1, she sits on many waters--many Gentile nations. We have seen that the Bible often uses mountains to symbolize governmental powers. Since the woman has always been a key player in world events, the sevens seem to refer to the great empires throughout history, which have all been hostile to God.
While it seems probable that the literal city of Babylon could be rebuilt and be the beast's headquarters, the mystery of Babylon cannot be just the city. The Bible often utilizes double meanings: literal and symbolic, or present and future, where both are true. Five kingdoms have already come and gone at John's time, probably Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece; which empire "is" when he wrote this? The Roman Empire. One more is future to John's time. After the fall of the Roman Empire, has there been any other empire with worldwide power? So what empire is yet to come? That of the beast, during the tribulation. How long will this empire last compared to the others, 10?
11 The angel just explained to John in 10 the seven heads/mountains/kings. He said the seventh one has not yet come but is future and is short-lived--the beast empire ruled by the individual, the beast. Apparently at the mid-point of the tribulation, at the abomination of desolation, when he "dies" and "comes back to life" and declares himself to be god and claims worldwide worship, the Roman Empire is no more, and morphs into the eighth kingdom--the beast kingdom, ruled by the beast, who also ruled the seventh kingdom. Hence, he is "of the seven," and "he is the eighth." What is the end of this empire and this individual?
12-13 So what are the ten horns? We read of them in Dan. 7:7-8,20,24 and Dan. 2:40-43. Why does it say they have not yet received a kingdom? Because they are part of the seventh head--the seventh empire, the end-time revived Roman Empire which has not yet happened. Would "one hour" be literal, or figurative for a short time? Are they vying for power among each other? But, Dan. 7, what happened to three of them?
14-16 The angel tells of the battle of Armageddon; compare Dan. 8:24-25. Who is with Him when He returns? His army of angels, and here, His bride--the church. Where does the harlot sit?
The ten kings which give their power to the beast, and the beast, will hate her, perhaps meaning they will "love her less" than the beast system they bring in at the mid-point of the tribulation. We will read more about this in the next chapter. They make her desolate--she will come to nothing. They will eat (destroy) her flesh; perhaps this speaks of the changing from human flesh to human/machine hybrid that takes place in all who take the mark of the beast, who had previously been engaging in her immoral system. The beast system of buying and selling now takes the place of the harlot system that has ruled the world up to that point. We will read more about her burning in the next chapter.
17-18 The Bible tells us what will happen in the future; does God override free will and make people do things which are not their own choice? Do they act on their own free will? We can't understand how God can give us free will and yet bring about His own purposes in the world. But the Bible tells us both are true. Our finite human brains, tainted by sin, cannot comprehend such a powerful God. Will everything the Bible foretells, be fulfilled exactly? Can we trust everything in His Word? Again we are told that the woman--the harlot--is the "great city," both the literal city of Babylon and also the harlot-system of the ages that has reigned over all the kings of the earth, corrupting commerce, power and worship of the one true and living God. Is there a warning for us here to not be caught up in the world system? We are "in the world" but we are told to not be what? Of the world. "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' thru..." Where is our true citizenship?
1-3 In the previous chapter, John saw things which amazed him; an angel gave him a detailed explanation of what was happening. In this chapter John again records things he sees and hears. We have seen many angels, some presented as quite awesome and powerful. Today's popular version of angels as sweet cherubs and comforting females do not match the Bible's version of angels--masculine, strong, mighty, fear-inspiring, warlike. The previous chapter told of the mystery now revealed: Babylon is not only a city and an ancient kingdom, but encompasses all the cities and kingdoms of all time--The Great City. It is represented as a woman, a whore, committing fornication with all the kings of the earth.
Today we express it this way: government and business are in bed with each other, as well as organized religion (here we do not include the true and faithful church, which has always been a small remnant of "religion"). We see the corrupting influences of money and power. We try to fight it in the courts, but too often, even the legal system is corrupted by it. We detest it, but the Bible assures us that God hates it too and one day soon He is going to bring it to an end. It appears to be getting worse, more and more rapidly; how does Mat. 24:8 indicate that this a sign that we are getting very close to the time of the final beast kingdom, to the rapture which must come first, and to the time God will bring an end to evil and bring in His righteous earthly kingdom? So as we see the birth pangs increasing in severity, should we be discouraged or encouraged?
The previous chapter gave the overview of the identity of Babylon the great, the harlot, the great city, and the big picture of world history--past, present and future. Now we are told more about her demise. After her fall, what will take place at Babylon? Does the context speak of Babylon that encompasses all history, or Babylon the city? (Birds often symbolize evil in the Bible.) Babylon the great is summed up in the key words in 3: all nations, immorality (KJV: fornication), kings, merchants, rich, wealth, sensuality (i.e., luxury). In this context, does immorality/fornication seem to speak of sex? Does it speak of lust/greed/unrestrained desire, of lack of morality? Does morality speak of rules or a sense of right and wrong?
4-5 Another voice speaks; it may be Christ, as He speaks of "my people." We might wonder when this warning is given; are we reading of the final moments of the tribulation, or of an earlier point, and how much earlier? If it is the final moments, where would the surviving believers be--those who refused to take the mark? Would they be in the literal city of Babylon, and are being warned to leave? Not likely. They must be in hiding, trying to survive while not being able to buy or sell. They are already outside the Babylon system, having refused the mark, so why tell them to get out? So when might this warning make sense? Perhaps at the mid-point, when the mark is introduced. Where else have we read about Babylon and something reaching to heaven? Gen. 11:4.5 Is God forgetful? The implication, 5, is "to punish." Remembering would speak of actively, purposefully thinking about.
6-7 What basic law has God built into life, for believers and unbelievers alike? Gal. 6:7. Our sins are forgiven and will not keep us out of heaven, but on earth, might we reap the consequences of what we have sinfully sown? The Babylon system--the harlot--is pictured as boastful, haughty, cocky, proud. Read Zeph. 2:15, Isa. 47. She even claims the name "I AM." Read Jer. 44:16-20.
8-10 Are the kings of the earth, who lament her burning, the ones who hated and burned her in 17:16? Apparently "the ten horns" are different from "the kings of the earth." The ten horns are the ten kingdoms that give their power to the beast. The kings of the earth are the rest of the kings. These two groups of world leaders have different feelings about the harlot. The ten horns are on board with the system that the mark brings in; the rest of the kings of the world, who are not in on that, only know how to operate in the existing system--"Babylon, the strong city"--which has been the source of their power. When the existing system goes down, their power is gone, and the beast and his kingdom have all the power.
Many see in 10 a destruction in one literal hour. Did we also read something about "one hour" in the previous chapter? Does 17:12 seem to be speaking of one literal hour? Rather, a short time. So it seems possible that the same term used a few verses later has the same meaning: a short time, not necessarily a 60-minute hour. After the beast's fatal wound is healed, he demands worship--the taking of the mark, which is now the power to buy and sell. Apparently the old system of economics is quickly replaced by a totally new technology, over which the beast has a monopoly.
11 Who else has much to lose by the change in economies? The merchants of the earth--all those whose living depends on commerce. The old money-based system is gone, and they are out. They are no longer part of the loop of buying and selling and making money.
12-16 Have the merchants of the earth been getting rich by supplying basic needs, or by supplying "wants"? The things listed may not all seem like things people lust after today, but John may be speaking in terms of what would be considered luxuries in his day.
17-19 Twice more it is emphasized that this change takes place very quickly, and that all whose livelihoods are connected with the merchants--with buying and selling and making a profit, with "the great city"--are devastated.
20 In contrast with those on earth who lament what has happened, what are those in heaven doing? Why? God said He would judge, He would avenge. What does Rom. 8:19 tell us about taking our own vengeance? Is our vengeance righteous? Is God's? That's why we can rejoice in it.
21-23 "That great city Babylon" is finished. The merchants--those who got wealthy from her--were the "great men"--the lords, the rulers, the movers and shakers of the earth. What two words at the end of 23 tell us this was not in a good way? Deceived, sorceries. Sorceries could speak of magic, of occult practices. The word for "sorceries" is "pharmakeia" which is where we get our word "pharmacy"--so it could imply what is also involved? This could speak of those who immorally gain wealth from the sale of illicit drugs and prescription drugs. Big Pharma has much power and little concern for human life, and their wealth and influence is protected by high-powered attorneys who settle many of their cases out of court to keep inconvenient facts from being made public.
24 This harlot system is responsible for what? The lust for power and money, the desire to control government, business and religion is opposed to God and persecutes and kills those who are His. The beast will be dealt with in the next chapter.
As mentioned earlier, there are various views on Revelation, and we can only make educated guesses about what may happen in the tribulation and when it may happen; it is not important that we know in advance exactly how and when things will happen. Prophecy's main purpose is not enabling people to know exactly what will happen in the future; it is mostly for the purpose of showing those who see it fulfilled that God revealed it in advance, proving that He is God, Isa. 48:3-6. Our purpose is mostly to show how all Scripture fits together and never contradicts, and to show that we can have confidence in God's Word, including every word of prophecy, and in His big plan for the ages, whether we understand every detail or not.
1-2 The scene changes to what location? John again records what he sees and hears. What is the reaction to the judging of the great harlot? Hallelujah: praise to Jah (Jehovah). This does not mean that the tribulation is now over,; who still must be dealt with? But one of its purposes has been accomplished. The corrupt world system is destroyed. God's true and righteous vengeance has been taken. How is God described in 2?
3-4 Whatever caused the burning of the Babylon's destruction will go on for how long? Like the scene in heaven back in chapters 4 and 5, we see who and who? What do they do? As we have noted many times in going through the Bible, what two terms often go hand in hand, 4? Worship is falling down before God--yielding and submitting completely to Him, recognizing Him as Lord and King. What does "amen" mean? So be it! We are not told the source of the voice from the throne, but it doesn't seem to be God Himself.
5-6 What is equally true for all believers, no matter who they are, or were, in their earthly state? What will it be like when all who are in heaven praise God? What facts are we told about God, end of 6? These facts are a major theme of the Bible. The events recorded in the Bible are proof of them.
7-8 What important character appears now? When was the last time we saw her? Has the church been mentioned since Rev. 5? Saints have been mentioned, but not the church, not the bride. The saints are tribulation believers. The few that are left alive are still on the earth, looking for the return of Christ--the second coming. The church on earth was the subject of chapters 2-3; then we saw the open door at the beginning of chapter 4, and the church in heaven, symbolized by the 24 elders.
Now she is called what? The NASB has "bride" where the KJV says "wife." The Old Testament speaks of Israel as the wife--the unfaithful wife--of Jehovah. In the New Testament, we see numerous references to the bride, often alluded to by Christ being referred to as the bridegroom: Mat. 9:15, 25:1,5,6,10, John 3:29, and upcoming references in Rev. 21:9 and 22:17. In II Cor. 11:2, how does Paul speak of the church as a whole? A pure and betrothed virgin being presented to her husband speaks more of a bride than a wife. And here, since the marriage has just now come, again "bride" seems more correct than "wife." How does this last woman contrast with the harlot? What can we conclude from the color of their clothing? How would a bride make herself ready? Some think the marriage takes place immediately following the rapture; others think it takes place at or just before the second coming, based on this verse.
9 Who is "he"? Apparently an angel; since he is not specifically referenced or identified, it would seem that he might be the same angel that had been explaining things in John in chapter 17. Some think the marriage supper takes places in heaven; some think it will take place on earth following the second coming, which 9 seems to point to. Who are those who are invited? All believers, before and after the church age, who are not the bride (the church)--Israel and the Gentile nations. Why are they blessed? Because they are those who will enter the kingdom--some will still be in mortal bodies, some in their resurrected bodies. Mat. 8:10-12. What does the angel assure John? All these things are true; they are God's words. They will all come to pass. Does this refer to just the words in 9, or is he probably referring to all that he has been telling John?
10 Why would a Christian as mature and knowledgeable as John do such a thing? From John's response to those last words, it appears they refer to more than just the last sentence. Perhaps John was so overcome with what the angel had revealed to him that worship seemed the only natural response; John may have been temporarily confused, or perhaps barely able to control his natural human urge to worship someone or something so majestic. It is interesting that John does the same thing in 22:8; why do you think John chose to record both of those mistakes of his? If someone like John could make this error in the presence of a holy angel, what does this tell us about ourselves?
Does a holy angel accept worship? Would Satan or his angels? Why would they desire worship? According to this verse, what is an angel's created purpose? To serve God by serving who? Everyone? Or just believers? Is our created purpose the same--to serve God? Note three terms parallel to "worship" in Dan. 3:28. The last phrase in 10 must be related to an explanation of why John should not have worshipped the angel. What phrase is repeated twice? Testimony: evidence, report, witness. So prophecy testifies of and points to Jesus--not to the one who reveals or explains that information.
11 Back in 4:1 we saw a door in heaven opened to receive the church which was raptured. Now heaven opens as Christ returns to earth. What is He riding? He could just appear on earth; what were horses used for in Bible times? War. Today from our point of view, Christ riding a white horse signifies a majestic king, but in Bible times, kings rode donkeys or mules, unless they were going to war. What battle is in view? The battle of Armageddon. What facts do we learn about Him?
The only white horses mentioned in the Bible are this one, white horses in 19:14 carrying the army of angels who accompany Christ, and the white horse in 6:2 at the breaking of the first seal, carrying the beast, whose appearance is the first event of the tribulation. The beast was also riding a warhorse; he had a bow, a crown and "he went out conquering and to conquer." In each of these instances, might white represent victory? (The white horse of 6:2 may also be referenced in Zech. 1:8 and 6:3,6. Zechariah parallels Revelation in many ways.)
12-13 Just as the dragon and the beast had been described, with heads, horns, diadems, the dragon being red and the beast scarlet, Jesus Christ is described in contrast with them. The beast had a name and a number of his name; Christ has many names in Scripture. One here is unknown; which name has been used by John a number of times? The blood could be His own, or the blood of His enemies; which does the context point to? Compare Isa. 63:1-6. Perhaps His eyes are mentioned to contrast with the comments about the beast's eyes in Dan. 7:8,20. (Here he is referred to as the little horn.)
14 Many see the church here returning with Christ; do "armies" speak a bride or the angels, the heavenly host? Horses are animals of war. Christians love to picture themselves returning on white horses because of this verse, but that may or may not be the case. We do return to earth with Him (we are "ever with the Lord," I Thes. 4:;17), but we do not seem to be pictured here. One reason many see the church here is the "fine linen, white and clean," is the description of the bride in 19:8, but what do we find in 15:6? Since both angels and the bride are dressed like this, what might it represent? Righteousness? Sinlessness? Compare also Mat. 17:1-2, Mark 9:3.
15-16 Christ's mouth is also contrasted with the little horn--what is said about it in Dan. 7:8,20? Does a physical sword come out of Christ's mouth, 19:13, Heb. 4:12? What does His Word do? What did His Word do in Gen. 1:3,6,9, Psa. 33:9? When will He "strike down" (KJV: smite) the nations? The battle of Armageddon. When will He rule the nations with a rod of iron, Psa. 2:9? The context of Psa. 2 speaks of kings and rulers conspiring against the Lord's Anointed who is ruling from where, 2:6? Which places this chapter during what time period? The millenial kingdom. On treading the winepress, compare Joel 3:13-14 and Rev. 14:19-20. Compare His name, and the immediate context, to Rev. 17:14.
Other passages speaking of the second coming are Gen. 49:10, Deut. 30:1-3, Job 19:25, Dan. 2:44-45, 7:13-14, Zech. 14:1-9, Mal. 3:1, the parallel passages in the Gospels (Mat. 24—25, Mark 13, Luke 21), Acts 1:11, 1 Thes. 3:13, 2 Thes. 1:7-10, Jude 14-15, Rev. 1:7.
17-21 In 17-18, who has a message for whom? What do we learn from this message? Mat. 24:27-28, Job 39:27-30, Zeph. 3:8. A great many birds of prey will be gathered there. In 18, what word is repeated five times? What do you suppose is the significance of that? What does the Bible teach about the flesh? 19, what is taking place? 20, then what happened? 21, what happened to the rest who were mentioned in 19Does it say anything about fighting or doing battle, or the army of angels doing anything? What is the sword? Read Zech. 12:1-9, 14:12-15.
What two suppers are mentioned in this chapter? Who are they for? Bible commentator William Newell points out that there are four suppers: 1) The supper of salvation, alluded to in Jesus' parable (Luke 14:16-24). 2) The Lord's supper, a commemoration of Jesus' sacrifice. 3) The marriage supper of the Lamb. 4) The supper of the great God. If you reject the first supper, the second supper will mean nothing to you. Then you will not be present at the third supper, but will be present at the fourth supper. Everybody gets to attend at least one of these suppers, but some will eat and others are eaten at the suppers.
This is the first reference to the lake of fire; these are the first to be thrown into the lake of fire. No one joins them there until the end of the millenial kingdom, and we will see that they are still alive at that point. So where do the unsaved dead go? Hell (also referred to as Hades, Sheol, the grave, the pit). More is said about it in the next chapter, and we will talk more about it there.
How does Dan. 9:27 summarize the events of Revelation in one verse? How does Daniel's timeline fit with the events we have been reading about? One week = one seven = seven years (the tribulation). What event defines the beginning of the seven years? Middle of week = middle of seven = three and a half. What event happens three and a half years into the tribulation? The abomination of desolation; how does the angel word it? This goes on until what happens to who?
Compare also Daniel's explanation of the final kingdom pictured by the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, in 2:31-35, 40-43. The mysterious comments about the toes partly of iron and partly of clay (flesh?), mingling in the "seed of men" (DNA?), seem to fit with the possibility that the mark of the beast changes humanity into something no longer completely human. Or it could symbolize two conflicting things going on that will not blend together. What will happen then, 2:44? We will read of this kingdom in the next chapter of Revelation. What is the stone? What will it do? The stone becomes a mountain, 2:35, that does what? We have seen that mountains often symbolize what? Governments, kingdoms.
We find a similar timeline in Dan. 7:7-14. Who is the Ancient of Days? Who is the one like the Son of man? What is given to Him? How long does it last? If the knowledge of these things is difficult to process, don't feel bad; note Daniel's reaction in 7:15. In 7:22-21, who "came"? But isn't this speaking of Christ's coming? So here Christ (the Son) is referred to as the "Ancient of Days" (the Father)--this speaks of the Trinity.
In 7:26-27, who is the kingdom given to? This would not be the church--the church was not in the Old Testament; this would be Israel. There are many Old Testament prophecies telling that one day Israel will receive her kingdom and rule over the whole earth, under the rule of the Messiah. Again, what is Daniel's reaction, 7:28? In Dan. 8:25, how will the "insolent king" (8:23) be broken? 8:26, Daniel is assured that this will take place in the distant future; what is his reaction, 8:27? What does Dan. 11:44-45 tell about the fate of this "king" (11:36)?
Paul speaks of this time in Rom. 11:25. Israel experiences "blindness in part" (KJV), or "partial hardening" (NASB). What word tells us it is temporary? Until when? Israel has been temporarily set aside and God is dealing with the Gentiles throughout the church age and the tribulation. But when His purposes with the Gentiles have been fulfilled, He will once again turn to Israel, and they will turn to Him. Zech. 12 explains this; what do we read in Zech. 12:10?
What results, Rom. 11:26-27? Does this mean that every Jew throughout history is a saved person? No, we have seen that many Jews did not believe, even though God chose their nation to be the people through whom He revealed Himself--in the Law, the prophets, and ultimately the birth of the Messiah. But when Christ returns, those Jews alive at that time will accept Him--they will all be saved. All the Jews who survive the tribulation will believe, and will enter the kingdom in their natural bodies, to inherit the kingdom promises God made to their nation.
Those who have not really read the Bible tend to think that someday, perhaps even any day now, out of the blue, Jesus will return in the second coming. At that time, all the dead will be raised at once, Jesus will divide the good guys from the bad guys, one group goes to heaven, and the other group goes to hell. Then eternity in heaven begins. Not so. We have already seen proof in Scripture that the next event is the rapture, not the second coming; following that is seven years of great tribulation, of God pouring out His wrath on evil. The seven years begin when an individual signs a covenant of seven years involving Israel; this event identifies this person as the beast (commonly referred to today as the Antichrist). The seven years that follow are the worst days ever experienced on earth.
God speaks of two purposes for the tribulation; one (the one we have mostly looked at) is to pour out His wrath on evil, to bring man's kingdom to an end in preparation for the kingdom of God. What is the other, according to Dan. 11:35, 12:10, Zech. 12:10, 13:9? Israel as a nation will be purified, and through this process, comes to recognize her Messiah at His return (although not every individual will, Mat. 25:14-30--we will discuss this passage below. (Daniel does NOT speak of the church needing to be purified through the tribulation, as many teach; the angel is speaking of Israel. The church is not found in the Old Testament; it is not found until Acts 2.)
1-3 At the end of the previous chapter, we had the second coming, the conclusion of the battle of Armageddon, and the judgment of the beast and the false prophet. The account of the next events is brief, leaving us with some questions. First we will talk about what we read in this chapter, then we will read between the lines, compare Scripture with Scripture, and try to answer those questions.
What happens now? Is the scene in heaven or on earth? Does Jesus bind Satan? Amazingly, who does? In other places, we read of "mighty" angels, but this just says, an angel. Nor does it say anything about Satan putting up any kind of struggle. Would it seem that "key" and "chain" are literal or figurative? How could we know? The Bible is fairly clear about when figurative language is being used: can physical objects like chains and keys contain spiritual creatures? What do they tell us about the bottomless pit--the abyss? Are its inhabitants free to come and go? What did we read in 9:1-2?
What four synonymous names are we given in 2? Strong's gives a fuller view: dragon--a fabulous kind of serpent, perhaps as supposed to fascinate; serpent--idea of sharpness of vision, a snake, figuratively a type of sly cunning, an artful malicious person; devil--a traducer (one who makes false and malicious statements), false accuser, slanderer; Satan--the accuser, the devil.
What in 3 tells us what he is doing now? Deceive--to cause to roam, from safety, truth, virtue; go astray, seduce, err, wander, be out of the way. What time period is mentioned twice in this passage? Following Christ's second coming, something takes place for 1000 years. Is there any evidence that we should not accept this number literally, to mean just what it says? Many believe it does not actually mean one thousand. What important information do we find in 3 about this time period? What do we learn from the time words "until" and "after that"? For how long will he then be released? Why does it say he "must"--whose plan is being carried out? Is he bound now? What is he doing now? We might also wonder who are these "nations," and who is living on the earth during this time period--we will discuss that below.
4-5 Since 2 and 3 both spoke of a 1000-year period while Satan is bound, and Satan is bound in 2-3, we are now looking at events during that 1000-year period. After Satan is bound, what does John see, 4? Where else in Revelation have we read of thrones (plural--not God's throne)? In 4:4 and 11:16--who is sitting on the thrones? (The KJV uses "seats" in both places, but it is the same Greek word translated "throne" elsewhere.) Since these are the only other reference to "thrones," who would be "they/them" in 4? Apparently the 24 elders--the church. What was given to them?
What other group of people is spoken of in 4? How and when do they come to life? Tribulation martyrs are resurrected following the second coming, so that they may do what? For how long? We might wonder who is being judged, and who is being reigned over; just what is happening on the earth during this thousand-year period? We will discuss this below.
5-6 Who would "the rest of the dead" include, 5? Old Testament saints--all believers who died before the church age began in Acts 2? The unsaved dead? The unsaved dead are resurrected for judgment later in this chapter, at the end of the thousand years. There is no reference in this chapter to Old Testament saints, so we must compare other Scripture references to confirm that they are resurrected at this time also.
Although Job is not the first book of the Bible, this book is considered to predate the patriarchs, dating shortly after the flood. In Job 19:25-27, what information about the future is already known by those who believe in the true and living God? How will Job see God? In his flesh--when he is resurrected. Where will this take place? On the earth. And who will he see there on the earth? His Redeemer. How did that knowledge make him feel? After all the revelations given to Daniel about the future, what did the angel tell him about his resurrection in Dan. 12:13? The KJV says "stand in they lot," where the NASB more clearly says "rise again for your allotted portion." Also Eze. 37:12-14. The promises made to Israel--of an earthly kingdom under their Messiah--will be fulfilled at the end of the age, and they will be resurrected to receive those promises. Job is thought to predate the patriarchs, so he would predate Israel; all the Old Testament saints will also be resurrected along with Israel.
The gospel of Matthew was written to the Jews, who were looking for their Messiah and the coming of the kingdom promised to them by the Old Testament prophets. Matthew contains many references to the kingdom. In Mat. 8:11, who does Jesus say will be in the kingdom? The patriarchs will be resurrected to "recline at table" (NASB) or "sit down" (KJV)--apparently a reference to partaking of the marriage supper of Christ and His bride, the church. Rom. 11:25-27 speaks of the time when God will fulfill His covenant with Israel in the future. Eze. 37:13-14 confirms this.
This is called the "first resurrection." Has anyone else already been resurrected? Who was the first? Christ. (Some were raised from the dead before or at the resurrection of Christ, but died again.) Who was next? The church, at the rapture. So this can't be saying this is the first resurrection to take place; apparently all these fall into the category of the first resurrection. All these are referred to as what and what? In other word, the saved. These will not be touched by what? What is the second death? So, if you are born once, you die how many times? But if you are born twice, you die how many times? The saved who have been resurrected for the kingdom--the church, the tribulation saints, and the Old Testament saints--will do what and what? John said both these things about the church in Rev. 1:6 and 5:10. We will speak more of this in a few minutes.
Compare Mat. 24:45-47, noting the context of 24: first the tribulation, then the second coming, then the kingdom. Chapter 25 goes on to give more information about the start of the kingdom, such as 25:14-17. Luke records the same teaching in 12:42-44, 16:10-11, 19:11-19. So how does our present life relate to our role in the kingdom? After our death and rapture/resurrection, are we going to spend all our time sitting around heaven or on clouds, singing and playing harps? Are the trials and events of this life maturing our faith and preparing us for responsibilities in the kingdom? Might this perspective help us to accept difficult trials, instead of questioning why God allows stress, pain, and suffering?
7-9 This is the sixth time this time period has been mentioned within seven verses, yet many choose to not believe it actually means one thousand years. It is clear that God doesn't want us to miss this number. What happens at the end of the thousand years? Does he escape? Can Satan thwart God's plan? Can anything WE do thwart God's plan?
Compare 8 to what was said in 4. Who are the nations, and why are they deceived? How is this part of God's big plan? We will discuss this in a minute. How long does this deception go on? What are the four quarters or corners of the earth? Does the Bible teach a flat earth with four literal corners? Some critics actually say this. It means the whole earth--the four points of the compass. Why are they gathered? How many of them are there?
Who in particular is mentioned? There is much speculation on who these are. We look to see what else Scripture has to say about them. We find Gog in I Chron. 5:4 and Eze. 38:3,14,16,18, 39:1,11. Magog is found in Gen. 10:2 and Eze. 38:2,13, 39:3,9. Some believe that Eze. 38-39 describes this event at the end of the thousand years, but the details do not match; rather, it is a major event that takes place near the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. Gog appears to be a ruler; Magog appears to be a people, a nation, a land. Ezekiel and Revelation cannot be speaking of the same individuals in events over one thousand years apart. Perhaps the battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel is such a famous event that centuries later, those names are used to refer to a major battle, to the rulers and their peoples.
Who is "they" in 9? Those of the nations of the earth who are among the deceived. They surround what and what? What is the beloved city? The saints (the faithful of Israel and any other nations) are camped for battle around Jerusalem, and are surrounded by their enemies. Apparently no battle takes place; rather, what is the enemy's fate?
10 Again Satan is identified as the one who does what? In 1 he was cast into the abyss; following the last rebellion, where is he cast? What happens to him there? For how long? Does it say the lake of fire is where the beast and false prophet "were"? So is this a place where they burn up and that is the end of them? Some people think Satan is in hell now, but what does the Bible say he is doing now? I Pet. 5:8. And what had he been doing in these last few verses? The Bible assures us that his day of judgment will come.
How long are they tormented in the lake of fire? Some believe eternal torment is not eternal but temporary, that after a period of time, the wicked are annihilated, hence the term "annihilationism." What does the term "forever" mean in John 6:51,58, I John 2:17, Rev. 22:5? Eternal life is how long? Here we read that eternal punishment is how long? Some try to soften this idea because, regardless of the words of Scripture, their human reasoning and feelings tell them that a just and loving God would not do that, or allow that. The Bible also teaches that there are degrees of punishment, although we don't understand how that would work: Mat. 10:15, 11:22,24, Luke 12:47-48. Compare Mat. 25:41, Mark 9:47-48, II Thes. 1:9.
We have looked at what has been said here; before we study the last half of this chapter, let's take a few minutes to flesh out our questions a little more, comparing Scripture with Scripture. Why is Satan bound so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years be fulfilled? Why is he released for a short while at the end of that time? Who are the nations spoken of? Judgment is given to those on the thrones--the elders--but who are they judging? When the resurrected tribulation saints reign with Christ a thousand years, who do they reign over? The saved who have been resurrected for the kingdom--the church, the tribulation saints, and the Old Testament saints--are priests of God and Christ, and reign with Him a thousand years--over who? What is happening on earth during this period? Who are the nations that are deceived at the end, and why are they deceived? How is this part of God's big plan?
Much teaching about what happens is not found in Revelation. John is sketching out events that happen in the endtimes and gives a time frame for them. God desires for us to have an idea of His plan for the future. He wants us to get the Big Picture of the Bible. He has revealed His plans to us--as much as He thinks we need. Believe it or not, this chapter, which brings together so many threads from the entire Bible, is extremely controversial. Here we find the greatest divergence between those who interpret the Bible literally and those who interpret it allegorically. We will take the literal interpretation as we discuss it; then we will look at the differing views and talk about why they differ. Then we will go on to the last half of the chapter.
The thousand-year period spoken of six times in this chapter is referred to as the millenial kingdom or the millenium (which means 1000 years). The words "millenial," "millenium," and "kingdom" are not found in this chapter. How do we know Rev. 20 is speaking of the Messiah's earthly kingdom as prophesied in the Old Testament? Because 20:4 speaks of thrones, judgment, and reigning with Christ, and 20:6 speaks of reigning with Christ. Rev. 12:10, speaking of the events happening during the seven years of tribulation, tells us the kingdom is coming. We saw in Rev. 17-19 how God destroyed man's kingdom and the evil men of that kingdom; the way has been cleared for the kingdom of God to begin.
One of the questions that came up earlier in this chapter was: who populates the kingdom at its inception? Many tribulation saints died during the tribulation but a few have been left alive--we don't know how many. We saw at the end of Rev. 19 that the armies massed against Jerusalem are destroyed, but surely there are many unbelievers on earth that are not part of the armies. We know that many Jews were also slaughtered during the tribulation, but many were saved alive in the place of protection, 12:14. In the Olivet Discourse, found in Mat. 24-25, Jesus tells what happens now.
Mat. 24-25 presents events in chronological order; 24 presents the tribulation and the second coming. 24:40 (which many mistakenly think speaks of the rapture) says some are taken; then the rest of the chapter speaks of what happens to those who are awaiting the master and those who aren't. If those who are taken are not taken in the rapture, what is happening at this point?
The Mystery Parables Discourse in Mat. 13 has the answer. Jesus gave these parables in teaching about the kingdom (note references to "kingdom" in numerous verses). He came to present Himself to Israel as their prophesied Messiah and told them that the prophesied kingdom of heaven (as opposed to the kingdom of man) was at hand; did they accept Him as their Messiah? Did God know this would happen? This did not frustrate or change God's plans for His kingdom. The kingdom would not happen then--it would be postponed and Israel would be temporarily set aside as God brought about something new: the church, a body of Jews and Gentiles that would come into being following the resurrection.
The parable of the wheat and tares is found in Mat. 13:24-30, and its explanation in 36-43. Who are the two groups of people? The good seed (the sons of the kingdom) and the tares (the sons of the evil one), 38. When does this take place, 39? Angels do what, 41-42? Who is left, 43? Where are they left? The kingdom. Just in case anyone missed what He is saying, Jesus gives a similar parable in 47-50. What happens in 49-50?
Mat. 25 continues chronologically after Mat. 24 to give more details about this sorting of good and evil at the end of the tribulation, in preparation for the kingdom (25:1, 34). The parable of the ten virgins, 25:1-13, takes place when the bridegroom returns for what event, 10? (The ten virgins are not the bride--not the church, as some teach.) So would this be before or after the wedding with the bride--the church? Some go in, but the door is shut on others.
25:1 relates this to the kingdom. In the story of the master and the slaves, we see that some were doing his will while he was gone and were commended and rewarded on his return; others were punished. What term describes them in 25:26,30? These first two parables are probably dealing with Israel. 25:31-46 deals with "the nations"--all the Gentiles left alive at Christ's return. What three groups of people are mentioned? Sheep, goats, brethren (Jews). Works are evidence of salvation or lack of salvation.
So, who will populate the kingdom at the beginning? Tribulation saints who are still alive--both Jews and Gentiles. We don't know how many that might be. What two groups of people in 20:3? The church and the tribulation martyrs. Earlier we looked at evidence that the Old Testament saints will be there also. What kind of bodies will all these people have? Tribulation saints will still be in their mortal bodies. The church, the tribulation martyrs, and the Old Testament saints will be in their immortal sinless resurrected bodies.
Will those in mortal bodies continue to reproduce? For how long? 1000 years--until the time Satan is released to instigate the final rebellion. The initial citizens of the kingdom will all be believers; will all their children and descendants also become believers? Population will increase rapidly: lifespans will be much longer, the curse of sin will be partially removed, the earth will become extremely productive, sickness will be minimal, few will die, living conditions under the Messiah's administration will be ideal, wars will not decimate the population. Are believers usually in the majority or the minority of the population? Hence, after a thousand years, the large number of rebels in 20:8. Isa. 65:19-25, Hosea 2:21-22, 3:4-5, Amos 9:13-15, Mic. 4:1-8, 7:18-20, Hab. 2:14, Zeph. 3:11-20 (the short book of Zephaniah capsulizes what is covered in Revelation), Zech. 8:12, 9:10, 10:6, 14:10-11. Some teach that the kingdom Jesus spoke of is only a spiritual kingdom, but these Old Testament prophesies refute that. For more whether the kingdom is spiritual or physical, see my notes on Matthew.
Meanwhile, what are those doing who are in their immortal bodies? The church and the tribulation martyrs are ruling and reigning with Christ, helping Him administer His world-wide kingdom of righteousness. David, in his resurrected body, will rule under the Messiah. Old Testament saints are raised to inherit the kingdom promised to them. God had temporarily set Israel aside because of their rebellion; He brought forth the church and has been dealing with her. The church age is the time gap we see in Daniel's seventy weeks, between the sixty-ninth and seventieth "weeks" (sevens).
Some will function as priests, Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 20:6. There must be a temple in the kingdom. Eze. 40-48 describe a temple; it is not the Old Testament temple, because it had been destroyed. It is a future temple, 43:7. Rev. 21:22, there is no temple in the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city where the church, the bride of Christ, will dwell--the Lord and the Lamb are its temple. Jerusalem and the land of Israel are described as being the dwelling place of Israel in the millenial kingdom.
Eze. 38-43 speaks of the place where burnt offerings and sacrifices were prepared. This brings up a big question: why sacrifices in the Millenium? Weren’t sacrifices done away with after Christ’s death on the cross? Remember, the temple is a copy of heavenly things, an earthly picture. Did sacrifices take away sin? They looked forward in faith to what? The Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world. So apparently these sacrifices will be for a visible physical reminder of what Christ did. During the church age, the church was not to offer sacrifices but to observe the Lord’s supper; this is to cease when, I Cor. 11:26? Rom. 9:4, the temple and its rituals were given to Israel, not the church, and when God is again dealing with Israel, this will continue.
But following the rapture, God will once again deal with Israel, and we see the fulfillment of the seventieth "week" (the last seven years). God made promises to Israel which have not yet been fulfilled, and must be fulfilled, or God is a liar. Israel will be a nation forever. They will be restored to their land and possess it forever. There will be a national repentance. Their Messiah will return. Their oppressors will be judged. Israel will be the primary nation and their Messiah will rule from Jerusalem. All nations will be blessed through them. They will have a king and a throne forever, in the line of David. They will receive many blessings from God. Jer. 30:9, Eze. 34:24, 37:24-25, Zech. 8:3,8, Luke 12:42-44, 16:10-11, 19:11-19, II Tim. 2:12, Rev. 20:3,6, 2:26, 5:9-10.
We read a few clues about life in the kingdom. Whatever the economy is at that time, apparently Christ's kingdom will not be based on the system which God just judged and brought down--based on corporate power and greed. There are many comments about how the earth will flourish following changes in topography, Isa. 40:4; the curse is partially removed, and climate may become more moderate worldwide. At least at the first society appears to be agrarian; God created Adam and Eve to be farmer/ranchers so that was His original plan. The Messiah will be a righteous and benevolent dictator. (At first, all will be righteous, so perhaps instead of doing much judging at first, those in their immortal bodies will be helping build and set things up, rebuilding cities, clearing debris, etc.)
We are not told why Satan is bound during the kingdom age--why God puts a stop to his deception for 1000 years; what are some possible reasons? The Messiah's kingdom is to be a time of peace and righteousness; how might Satan's absence play into that? How different will life be for individuals without Satan to deceive, attack, set snares for them, seek to devour them? Will they sin less, or not at all? Can they blame Satan for temptation? Will all become believers in Christ? The curse will be partially removed: animals will not be dangerous, the earth will flourish, illness and death will be uncommon. But will men in their mortal bodies still have a sin nature? I Cor. 15:51-58. As men multiply on the earth, first as families, then as tribes, and finally once again as nations, unbelief will also multiply, although sin will be kept in check by those ruling and reigning with Christ in their sinless state, and by Christ ruling with a what, Psa. 2:9?
In each dispensation, God administers His affairs and dispenses His grace (salvation) in a different manner, as He has progressively revealed Himself through the ages. Whether or not you use the term "dispensationalism," the Bible is clearly the account of mankind being tested in circumstances that vary in different time periods. The word, and the concept of, "dispensation" (or "stewardship" or "administration," depending on your translation) is found in: 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10, 3:2; Col. 1:25. At first, in the garden, man was guided by his conscience. Then following the flood, God instituted human government to guide man. Then, through Moses, He gave the Law. Now in the church age we are under grace, not law, and have been indwelt and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. In the kingdom, man will have Christ Himself to physically govern them and Satan will be removed from the picture. In each of these stewardships, God is proving that no matter the conditions, man is unable to satisfy God's standard of holiness.
The reason we are taking such a long detour to discuss the issues raised in this chapter is that this chapter is crucial to your interpretation of Scripture. Those who do not use the plain-sense dispensational interpretation take an allegorical approach to this chapter and to much of Scripture. Some of their teachings: They believe the thousand years are not literal, there is no kingdom after the second coming, but instead, following the second coming is the judgment and the eternal state. The kingdom spoken of in the Bible is spiritual not earthly, Jesus is reigning now over His kingdom through the church, and Satan is now bound, on a very long chain. Israel is permanently out of the picture and the church is primary, receiving the kingdom promises, and is to reign over the world.
Some say the church is actually Israel now. So the church must become greater and larger, and its best days must be ahead; many teach that a great revival is just ahead, although the Bible teaches just the opposite. They may believe that Revelation is an allegory, or that almost all prophecy has already been fulfilled in past history. Some teach that the tribulation is an allegory, or that we may possibly be in that allegorical period now; we need to be wary of modern technology that could actually be the mark of the beast, and the antichrist could be one of many possible public figures today (since they don't believe the literal tribulation begins when the literal beast literally signs a literal seven-year covenant). Some believe that the beast is an allegorical figure, not an actual being. Others teach that the tribulation and the beast are ahead and that the church will not be raptured first but will go through the tribulation and should be preparing to do so. All these false teachings or misinterpretations result from not using the literal-grammatical-historical interpretation, in which we compare Scripture to Scripture and do not add to it or subtract from it.
Why are so many against the dispensational view? Why do so many hold different endtimes views, which are not supported by a consistent study and application of all Scripture? The division is not so much about differing endtimes views, but I believe it is more about differing views of Scripture interpretation. Human nature prefers the allegorical approach to Scripture, where you can soften Scripture by making it mean pretty much whatever you want. Scripture becomes subjective, rather than objective truth. A well-known Bible teacher who took the allegorical view was teaching through Revelation on the radio; when he got to Rev. 20, he did not even read verses 1-10. He said, "WHERE do people get this silly idea of the thousand years?" When you allegorize one doctrine, then what basis do you have for insisting that any verse or doctrine in the Bible be taken literally? This becomes a slippery slope. Would Satan like people to take a soft view of Scripture?
Some claim that because there are several views, we can't know which one is right, so we shouldn't study it and confuse ourselves and maybe get it wrong; we should just prepare for the worst--prepare to go through the tribulation. Some try to excuse or legitimize this thinking by "jokingly" saying they are "pan-millenialists," meaning, we can't know, but it will all "pan out" in the end. But if you read the Bible with a consistent literal-historical-grammatical dispensational view, you realize we can indeed know for sure that the rapture must take place before the tribulation.
Some accuse pre-tribbers of escapism--that we hope God will rescue us from tribulation before it gets too rough. But "tribulation" is different from "the tribulation." Jesus promises us that we (the church, true believers) will indeed have tribulation (trouble) in this world, John 16:33. But "the" tribulation is about God pouring out His wrath on evil that has finally run its full course, and before He does that, He removes those who in Christ. If He did not remove the church, then He would be pouring out wrath on Christ Himself, for we are the body of Christ.
Also, many who do not believe Jesus will physically reign over the earthly kingdom with Israel as the primary nation either don't understand the promises God made to Israel are not for the church, or else they are actually anti-semitic. They believe the church has replaced Israel in God's plans and will receive all the promises God made to Israel regarding their future. Might such anti-Israel sentiment be inspired by and encouraged by Satan? Might this account for the vehemence with which many oppose the pre-trib view and all it implies?
Back to Rev. 20. The scene in 11-15 is referred to as the great white throne judgment. Who is on the throne--the Father or the Son? Back in Rev. 4-5 we saw the Father on the throne; the Son sits on His throne in His earthly kingdom. At the time of the judgment, what happens to earth and heaven? John will speak more about this in the next chapter. Who stands before Him? What are they being judged on? Where is this information found? What do the two books record? Book of life--for salvation. A book recording their works. Most people think their "good list" outweighs their "bad list," and that will get them into heaven; what does this passage say about that? Will anyone's works get them into heaven? Why not? Unbelievers chose not to believe on Christ and what He did for them; they chose to trust in themselves. They will be judged just as they preferred. (The word "resurrection" is not used here, but is used elsewhere of this event.) Where do unbelievers go when they die? Is hell/Hades the place of eternal punishment?
John speaks of books. What can we infer from these references to the names in the book in Exo. 32:32-33, Psa. 69:28, Phil. 4:3? We are not given much detail about the book of life, but some think that all people's names are initially in the book of life; if they do not accept Christ, their names are erased upon their death. Rev. 3:5, who will not be erased from the book of life? Overcomers = believers. 13:8 and 17:8 tell us that those who take the mark of the beast never were even written in the book. The book is also mentioned in 21:27. Some think the book of life is different from the Lamb's book of life, but there isn't any real evidence to prove that.
Are Christians judged according to our works, for salvation? Why not? Does this passage speak of the church? Following the rapture, we appear at the judgment seat of Christ for what purpose? II Cor. 5:10, to be recompensed according to what we have done, whether good or bad. Does that mean we will be punished? Why not? It could very well speak of how much we will be rewarded, with crowns or with responsibilities in the kingdom.
15 sounds like it could be possible there were some present whose names might have been written in the book of life; who could these possibly be? What believers might have died since the resurrection of the righteous at the beginning of the tribulation? Believers who might have died during the thousand years? We don't know if any actually die during that time of long lifespans and minimal sickness.
Some teach there is one general resurrection when Christ returns, that the righteous and the wicked are all judged at that time, then the eternal state. But we have seen that the church has already been raptured and received their immortal bodies, with the dead in Christ being resurrected at the same time. Then there is the resurrection of the just following the second coming and just before the kingdom. Then there is the resurrection of the unjust at the end of the thousand-year kingdom.
If you are interested in looking up some Old Testament prophecies about the tribulation, the beast, God's judgment and the pouring out of His wrath, and the kingdom that follows the return of the Messiah, here are a few selections. (Some OT prophecies had a partial fulfillment in the near future, but a greater, complete fulfillment in the distant future. Note references to "the day," "that day," which speak of "the day of the Lord.")
Psalms: Psa. 2 (the kingdom), 9:5-6, 10 (about the beast), 14:7 (second coming), 17, 21 (the Messiah), 24 (the Messiah), 6 (the Messiah), 7 (trusting God in the tribulation), 8 (tribulation), 29 (the kingdom), 45 (marriage of the Lamb), 46 (tribulation and kingdom), 47-48 (kingdom), 50 (judgment before millenial kingdom), 52 (the wicked, bringing in the kingdom), 58:10-11, 64-68, 72, 75-76, 79, 85, 91 (could this be God's protection on the 144,000 who are sealed?), 93-94, 96-99, 110, 124 (tribulation).
The major prophets: Isa. 1:24-26, 2, 4 (millenium), 10-14, 23-27, 28:15-2 (Israel's covenant with the beast), 29, 30-35, 40-43, 47-49, 51-55, 59:15-21, 60-66, Jer. 3:15-17, 4:13 (alluding to modern weaponry?), 13-31, 6, 10:10, 16:14-18, 23:1-6, 24:6-7, 25:27-38, 29:10-14, 30-33, 46:27-28, 50-51 (Babylon, compare Rev. 17-18), Eze. 7 (and WHY will God do all these things to Israel? Dan. 11:35, 12:10, to purify them), 16:60-63, 20:33-44, 22-23, 26-28 (the city, the harlot--compare Rev. 17-18), 34:13-31 (David prince, curse partially lifted), 36-39, 40-48 (millenium, temple, esp. 43:7, compare 47:12 to Rev. 22:2).
The minor prophets: Hosea 3:4-6:3, 14:4-7, Joel 1:15-20, 2:1-11 (does this passage, speaking of a locust invasion, describe a future army invasion or even an army of robot/soldiers?), 2:18-3:3, 3:9-17 (tribulation, Armageddon), 18-21 (millenium), Amos 9:8-15, Micah 5:5-6, 10-15, Oba. 1:15-21.
1 Where did we just read this phrase? So what does the context tell us about the time period? The new heavens and new earth happen at the time of the final judgment, at the end of the thousand years. Many believe that, 1) Rev. 21-22 follows in chronological order, speaking of the eternal state following the millenial kingdom and great white throne judgment of Rev. 20. Others believe that, 2) 21-22 give details about the millenium, and that the Bible does not give us details about the eternal state. We will take the first view, of the eternal state, but both views bring up their own questions. We will make a few observations later about the second view.
Would this "heaven" be where God dwells, or would it be the atmospheric heavens and outer space and its heavenly bodies. Jesus spoke of this event in Mat. 5:18 and 24:35. What do both these passages teach? All prophecy, all Scripture, WILL be fulfilled. Do these two passages support the allegorical view or the literal view? It speaks of "words" (and even smaller details of Hebrew writing).
Where else in the New Testament do we read about this event? II Pet. 3:10-13, which relates this to what time period, beginning of 10? As we saw in studying through the Old Testament, the prophesied "day of the Lord" (sometimes referred to as "that day" or "the day") is a time period that includes both the tribulation and the messianic kingdom. It begins with the time of "Jacob's trouble" and goes on to include the time of great blessing upon Israel. Just as the Jewish day begins at sundown, the day of the Lord begins with a time of darkness, followed by the rising of the "Son" and the light that He brings to the world. Also, some Old Testament prophecies seem to mingle the millenium and the eternal state, but remember that the prophets were not given the ability to see all future events clearly; they spoke of but did not distinguish clearly between the events of the first and second comings of Christ.
Following the kingdom and the final judgment is the eternal state; why aren't the old earth and heaven suitable for eternity? Compare I Cor. 15:53-54. Just as our corruptible bodies must become incorruptible, so the corruptible elements must become some sort of new, incorruptible elements. What time period does II Pet. 3:13 speak of? The time of righteousness--the time when sin has been done away with. Christ's kingdom is a righteous kingdom because He rules righteously, but is sin still present in the kingdom? Now that is done away with. Psa. 102:25-27. The earth experienced great restoration in the millenium, but now it is completely new.
What other major change does John tell of, end of 1? What did John just say about the sea in 20:13? What great event of judgment involved death and the sea? What else gave up their dead? Is the sea presented in this context as positive or negative? As harmful and dangerous, a place of what? Death. When Old Testament prophecies speak of the sea, they would be speaking of the millenium, not eternity. John is now speaking of the time following the Messiah's thousand-year kingdom: eternity. This new earth will go on for eternity. The sea is what percentage of the earth's surface? 75%. What are some ways the lack of seas might affect the new earth? Climate, travel, population capacity.
2 Where does this city come down from? Does John say the city is the bride of Christ? The church is the bride of Christ, and this city is our future home, Heb. 13:14, Rev. 3:12. It is compared to a bride, in what way? The city "was prepared"--by whom? Where do we read of this? John 14:2-3. There are different views about when the church takes up residence in the New Jerusalem; some think at the beginning of the kingdom, some think at the end of the kingdom, and some think that is immediately the church's home following the rapture, since Jesus said He was going to prepare our home, implying that is to be our home when He returns for us.
What does "holy" mean? So in what way is this a holy city? What city did John just spend a lot of time talking about, in Rev. 17-18, that was not holy? So we have two cities contrasted. What period of time did Babylon cover? From after the world-wide judgment of the flood until what event? The world-wide judgment at the great white throne, at the end of the history of mortal man. What period of time will this city cover? The eternal state that follows. Why is this Jerusalem called "new"? So another important city in the Bible, and in God's plan, is the original Jerusalem. It was chosen by God, I Kings 11:13,36, but was it always holy? Again we see Revelation bringing together major threads from the entire Bible.
3 What word is repeated three times in this verse? According to John 14:17, where is the Holy Spirit now, in the church age (the dispensation of grace), and where was He in the age before that (the dispensation of law)? In the dispensation of the millenial kingdom, God in the flesh--Jesus Christ--will dwell among men, and we see that here in the eternal state. We tend to associate "tabernacle" with a church or temple building, but it means "habitation." Where was God's earthly dwelling in the Old Testament--where did He meet with man? The tabernacle--specifically, what part of it? In the Holy of Holies, at the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. In this dispensation, our bodies are called what, I Cor. 6:19? God's Holy Spirit did not dwell with or within individual believers, but came upon, or filled, certain individuals with power to accomplish some purpose of His.
4 What will not be present when we are in eternity? So "first things" must refer to the first earth; what phrase is used both in 1 and at the end of 4? What caused those things to be present in the first earth? Is this present now? The curse--apparently of sin--has been removed forever. We don't know if our sad memories will be removed, or if instead we will look at our previous lives without sadness as we see them from God's point of view. <5> What will the new things be like? John tells us a little in this chapter and the next, but what does God say in I Cor. 2:9? We have no idea what He has for us! Who told John that these words are true?
6 It is done; where else do we find similar words, "It is finished"? What was finished at the cross? The defeat of death. Finished from our point of view, or God's? When do WE see it finished? When death is actually banished--following the last judgment, at the passing away of the first earth. What does alpha and omega mean? The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Because God is eternal, He knows both the beginning and the end; what does Isa. 48:3-5 say about fulfilled prophecy? Where else have we read about the water of life? John 4:14, 7:28. What was the cost of our salvation? So who paid the cost?
7 John spoke to each of the churches in Rev. 2-3 about overcomers; this terms speaks of who? Believers. We will inherit what? All the promises that have been made. Who inherits what belongs to the father? The sons. So this relationship is emphasized again.
8 In contrast to overcomers, to sons, who does he mention here? Sinners of all sorts. Does this say that if you have ever acted in a cowardly way, you won't make it to heaven? Or if you have ever been immoral or told a lie? How do we know it doesn't mean that? Because we have the context of the rest of the Bible; can sinners be saved? This speaks of those who are unrepentant sinners. Their destination is not hell/Hades, which was temporary; just as our final destination is the new heaven and new earth, what is their final destination? Note Rev. 20:14.
Some wonder why the cowardly are mentioned; apparently this refers to those who were too cowardly to take the name of Jesus, regardless of the consequences, but feared men rather than God. What did Jesus say in Mat. 10:28, and in Luke 9:24-25? What phrase from the middle of 20:10 is repeated here at the end of 8? What phrase from the end of 20:14 is repeated here at the end of 8? "Burns" speaks of continual. So we are not to miss this information.
9-11 Who speaks with John now? Compare 17:1. This is likely the same angel that explained things to John in detail. He has more things to show John and say to him, through 22:11. Who did he show John in 17:1? Who now? So in these last few chapters of the Bible, of God's revelation to us of the big picture, we see what two important women contrasted, and what two great cities? These are two great themes of the Bible. The marriage of the Lamb has taken place; the bride is now the wife.
Just as we saw that the harlot Babylon spoke of both a literal city and the godless world system, so the Bible speaks of the new Jerusalem as both the bride and the home of the bride. Compare the beginning of 21:10 with 17:3. We see this also said in 1:10 and 4:2. What happens at the end of 10? Didn't this already happen in 2? Does the heavenly city come down twice, or is this another example of what we have seen many times in the Bible, where first we are given the overview, then we are given a more detailed account of that event? If you look through Rev. 21 and 22, you will see that the things mentioned in 21:1-8 are spoken of again in more detail in 21:9-22:17. What is present in the city? Some think the jasper spoken of here corresponds to what we would call diamond.
12-14 What do we learn about the city's twelve gates? And its twelve foundation stones? So what two groups of believers are represented in the city? Here again we find two major threads of the Bible brought together. Some today claim the church is now Israel and Israel is no longer in God's plan; how does this passage disprove that? Again we learn that there are only "the" twelve original apostles, that there are no further apostles. We are reminded that the apostles served what purpose, Eph. 2:20? The apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrection and the church was built on their testimony. After their generation, there were no more eyewitnesses. Might there be symbolism in the fact that Israel was the "gateway" to the church?
15-17 What is the shape of the city? Apparently a cube. Its sides are approximately the north-south dimension of the United States. Some suggest possibly a pyramid shape, but it is interesting that what else in the Bible is cube-shaped, I Kings 6:19?
18-21 If this city is beyond our comprehension, Heb. 11:10 tells why.
22-24 Why is there no temple there? We see the Almighty and the Lamb being the same: the Trinity. Some think there will be no sun, and that this means the city will revolve around the new earth. Does it actually say there is no sun or moon? The city is the home or the headquarters of the church; who do we see on the new earth? So some reside where, and others reside where else but have access to the city? Is this speaking of the church (the nations, the Gentiles) operating in both places? Israel must be operating mainly in its promised land and eternal kingdom, but must have access to the city, since the gates hold the names of the twelve tribes.
The "nations" seem to be distinguished from Israel (12); we have seen that the Bible often speaks of "nations" as synonymous with "Gentiles." Might the nations be Gentile believers from the millenium, receiving their resurrection bodies and living on the new earth? Does the Bible specifically say they receive resurrected eternal bodies following the millenium? For this reason, some think it is possible that those spoken of in 24, "the nations of them which are saved," are believers in their natural bodies--those who were faithful to Christ in the final deception at the end of the millenium. We are not told in Rev. 20 what happened to them. 22:2 speaks of the tree of life--where did we first read of this? What was God's original plan? Might His final plan be the restoration of His original plan--sinless men eating the tree of life so that they might what, Gen. 3:22? If this is so, we don't understand how that might work, but God has many wonders in store for us.
25-27 Why is there no night there? Does it say there is no night on the earth? These verses clarify who comes into the city. Again we are told of who, 26? What one word could we use to summarize those mentioned in 27? Sinners. If this is indeed speaking of the eternal state, will there be any sinners in the new earth and the New Jerusalem? Why--where will the sinners be? John restates this truth in another way, end of 27; what is a term for those who are written in this book? Believers. There will only be believers, in their eternal sinless state, in the new earth and the New Jerusalem. Sin has been a major theme of the Bible; now we know the rest of the story--once we are in our eternal state, sin is done away with forever.
1-2 The angel continues giving John a tour of the city and an explanation of what he is seeing. Earlier in Revelation, we saw the Father's throne in heaven, then the Son ruling over the earthly kingdom; we know from elsewhere in Scripture that He rules from Jerusalem, so His throne was there. What do we see now? What do we learn about this in Luke 1:32-33? So now we have the Lamb's throne in the heavenly city; David is probably reigning from Jerusalem. The thousand years has ended, but the kingdom continues eternally, as we read earlier.
What passage in John does the river and the Lamb make us think of? John 4:10-14. Where did we first read of the tree of life? Here we are given details about its what and its what?
Who would benefit from its leaves? Again we read of "the nations," and we wonder who this is speaking of. It seems that either following the great white throne judgment, everyone is now in their immortal bodies, or else some are still in earthly bodies; if so, apparently these would be those believers alive at the end of the millenium. If all are in immortal bodies, why would those bodies need healing? If some were in earthly bodies, could these healing leaves be for their benefit?
These questions cause us to speculate about God's original plan in the garden; Adam and Eve were created sinless--what might have happened if they had obeyed and not eaten of the tree of knowledge? At the end of Gen. 3, we learn that what might have happened if they had eaten of the tree of life? Might that fruit would have caused physical changes in them? Might they be enabled to live forever in mortal bodies? This view raises as many questions as it solves. Some of our questions will not get answered in this life! We really don't know what all this means, but we are told as much as God wants us to know at this point, or as much as our finite minds can comprehend.
3-5 What curse is this speaking of? What resulted in the curse spoken of in Gen. 3:14,17? The Bible never actually uses the term, "the curse of sin." What information do we find about the throne repeated from 22:1? The term is used numerous times in Revelation. Who are these servants, 1:1? According to 19:10 and 22:9, they also include who? "Serve" includes the idea of worship. So will we spend eternity just singing songs, sitting on clouds, and playing harps? We will have work to do. Will we see the Father's face? Why not, John 4:24? The second person of the Trinity is the only one who appears in physical form. John 14:9. The KJV says His name will be "in" our foreheads; the NASB says "on." Compare 3:4, 7:3, 14:1. As we have already seen, the kingdom does not end after the thousand years but goes on forever on the new earth.
6-7 Who is "he" in 6? The angel is still speaking to John. His tour and explanation is done; how does he summarize in 6 what he has been telling John? Under whose authority has he been speaking? He has been speaking to John; why is "servants" plural? What word in 6 is one of the key words of the Bible? Note the similarity of 6-7, the closing of the revelation, to the opening verses, 1:1-3. What blessing is promised? The very "words" are said to be important; hence, the literal interpretation is verified. Who speaks in 7? The words of Jesus Himself are interspersed through this final chapter, in several "I am" statements. What does "I am" signify?
Shortly/soon (KJV/NASB) = a brief space of time, in haste, shortly, speedily. Are we told that anything needs to happen before Jesus comes? How or when will He come? This is said three times (12,20) in this closing of the Bible. "Shortly" in 6 is a related form of that same word. Have all generations of believers expected the Lord's returned? Some are bothered by that, knowing that 2000 years have passed, and thinking He has misled us. God operates outside of time--a concept we cannot comprehend; perhaps it is not that His coming is at a certain future point in time, but that Christians of all time have been moving parallel in time to this event, so that it has always been "at hand" and thus could happen to any generation.
8 How does John establish the veracity of his account? But immediately after acknowledging his eyewitness status, what does he do? What had happened back in 19:10? It's hard to believe someone like John could make this same mistake twice! Is any Christian beyond temptation or sin? We don't know if Satan was behind the temptation to do this--perhaps. In both instances, what was said just before John did this--19:9, 22:5-8? Both times the angel had just told John that these were the true words of God. Why might Satan attack or tempt at that point? Or, why might John be vulnerable to temptation or self-deception at that point? If God has been using you, or maturing you, does that strengthen and insulate you from sin, deception, spiritual weakness? How does it make you vulnerable? Pride, eyes on Self, feeling strong instead of leaning on Him for strength, etc.
9 How does the angel's response compare to his earlier one, 19:10? So angels are what, according to these verses? Who do they serve? See also Psa. 103:20-21. Angels are not to be worshipped. Why not, Rom. 1:25? Angels are created beings. What does Gal. 1:8 say about angels? So is it possible an angel might do this? Could one of the angels in heaven do this, or what this be a fallen angel? Do we know of instances of this happening? Jehovah's Witnesses say Jesus is an angel, not the Son of God; if so, would He be worthy of worship?
10 What does the angel tell Daniel in Dan. 12:4,9 about the information that had been revealed to him about the future? Until when? Why doesn't the angel tell John the same thing? Again, we have the teaching of imminency--that somehow, in God's sovereign time scheme, these events could have happened at any time, even though we don't understand how that could be. We are to be prepared at all times for these events to take place. Understanding that the rapture could happen any day should cause us to live how? We have seen that teaching all through the Epistles. So is the book of Revelation meant to be read and understood? Many teach that it is not! And now in the light of Revelation, can Daniel's prophecies be understood? Yes! Why? Because ever since the church age began, we are in the time of the end.
11 We see here a clear distinction between what two groups of people? When all has taken place, as has been revealed to John, will any be able to change their eternal status? Will there be a second chance? Some teach there is, but the Bible says no. In what way are believers righteous and holy? Only because we have Christ's righteousness, and only because God has set us apart as holy for His purposes. Those who put off salvation may find that, suddenly, it is too late to repent. Since it doesn't speak of these sinners repenting, but continuing in their sin, perhaps it is speaking of those in the tribulation whose names are not written in the book of life and will remain evil and unrepentant.
12-13 Who is speaking here? How do His words in 12 compare to His words in 7? His coming will be quick--sudden. The events following the rapture will happen quickly. How does 12 shed light on II Cor. 5:10? Are we told we will receive punishment for our bad deeds? Why won't we? We are to look forward to seeing Christ, not fear. We will be given responsibilities according to how we did in this life--apparently a training ground for the kingdom. Salvation is a free gift, but rewards are according to our works. But who WILL be punished according to their words when He returns? Rom. 2:5-10.
"Alpha and Omega," "first and last," mean the same thing; what do they tell us about Jesus Christ? Isa. 41:4, 44:6, 48:12. The Bible does not contain the phrase "Jesus is God," but we are told of this in many, many ways. Why don't we read in the Old Testament of God being the Alpha and Omega? Because those are the first and last letters of the alphabet of what language? And the Old Testament is written in what language?
14-15 Apparently the angel speaks again. The KJV speaks of "they that do his commandments." What are the commandments of Jesus--the Law? Mat. 26:32-40, John 6:29. Those who have believed may what? But the NASB translates this phrase as "those who wash their robes"--in what? Christ's blood? 15, the others may not. This is not speaking of dogs as animals; it was a derogatory term for homosexual sin. Where will sinners be? The lake of fire.
It almost sounds like the city--the New Jerusalem--has gates, and some on the new earth, who we read about, will be able to go in, and others (these just mentioned) won't. But wouldn't that mean that sinners are still present in eternity on the new earth? Obviously that won't be the case. In fact, this makes it clear that all living on the new earth have access to the city. Those who don't get to come in to the city are all those who have been relegated to the lake of fire.
Some think that Rev. 21 and 22 up to this point speak of the millenium, not the eternal state. The comments about the nations and the gates of the city, as well as the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations, seem to fit with this view. Isa. 60:11-12, a parallel passage to Rev. 21:24-27 and 22:14-15, seems to support this view, since the context in Isaiah is about the millenium.
In this view, the comments in 21:1 about the first heavens and first earth passing away would be seen as speaking of the renewal of the earth in the millenium, as spoken of in the Old Testament, and Peter's words in Acts 3:21. In II Pet. 3:10-12, Peter speaks of elements melting with fervent heat, the earth being burned up, these things dissolving, and a new heaven and new earth. So this could mean that Peter is not saying these things would disappear completely, but that through some sort of dramatic event at the Lord's return, involving fire and heat, and events in the heavens. Or he could be saying that at the Lord's return, the heavens and earth are changed from their corruptible form to their incorruptible eternal form. We know that in the millenium, the earth will be greatly changed. Apparently events of the tribulation are in preparation for these great changes.
Rev. 21:1 says there is no more sea, yet the sea is spoken of in millenial prophecies, Isa. 60:5,9, so this is problematic to this view. And the big question is whether or not there is death in the millenium. Lifespans will be long, but Isa. 65:20 seems to speak of the possibility of death. Rev. 22:3 says there is no more curse but the context seems to be about the earth, not man's sinful condition; perhaps that doesn't speak of death but of the curse of sin on the earth that took place back in Gen. 3:17. We must not be dogmatic in our views of the endtimes; we are given enough information to let us know God has a wonderful plan for the future, and it will all happen as He has said. We need not understand the exact details or timeline, but that is OK.
16 Jesus speaks. "I Jesus" is a phrase found nowhere else. His words seem to say that one particular angel is the one who has been telling these things to John. Jesus authenticates the revelation. Who is it for? The churches--all believers. Note this is the first mention of churches since the letters in Rev. 2-3. He again uses terms from Rev. 1. He is the one prophesied throughout the Bible, the one to come in the line of David. How can He be both the root and the offspring of David? What does this tell us about Him? Morning star, compare 2:28. The bright morning star heralds the morning of the new day.
17 Apparently the angel speaks again. Why "the Spirit and the bride"--where is the Holy Spirit now? Indwelling the church--the bride. What is to be our prayer? We are to be eagerly looking for the Lord--the rapture. Would we be told to pray this if there were other events that we were looking for first, that must happen first? Are we also inviting the thirsty to come? Here is the final invitation. Anyone that is not yet a believer, but who hears and believes and comes to the Lord, should also desire the Lord's coming. The offer is still open but this could change at any moment. What is the water of life? John 4:14. Come to Christ; He is coming quickly to us! How much does this water cost? It cannot be purchased. Who may come, end of 17? God has not chosen certain ones to come and said the others may not come; all may exercise free will (given to us by God).
18-19 Again we are told that the very "words" of Scripture are important. What two things are we warned against? God's math: if you add something, God adds something, and if you take away something, God takes away something. Compare 22:7.
Is this speaking of the book of Revelation, or of the book of the Bible? We speak of the "books" of the Bible, but would this writing, this revelation given to John to share with the churches, be called a "book" by those people? It seems to speak primarily of Revelation, but we have seen numerous times that the Bible often contains more than one level of meaning, with each being equally true. "Book" speaks of the written Word--the centrality of the Bible to the church. Surely being placed last, revealed last, and written last are significant, and point to the entirety of the Bible being included in these warnings. Do other Scriptures support this meaning? Gal. 1:8-9, Deut. 4:2, 12:32, Pro. 30:6, Jer. 26:2.
The penalty is severe; could a believer lose their salvation for doing this? Obviously not; the Bible teaches salvation cannot be lost. Would a true believer do this? Is this the same as ignoring parts, or purposely leaving out parts when teaching, or playing with the meaning of Scripture. The Catholic church and the Mormon church actually add to Scripture, as do others. Many claim to receive prophecies--words from the Lord; is this adding to Scripture? Some merely restate information found in Scripture; some are different, and many claim that such new revelations from God supercede Scripture. Only God can judge at what point someone is guilty of Rev. 22:18-19. Why might the penalty for taking away from the Bible be more severe than that for adding to it?
20 What is His answer to the prayer of the Spirit and the bride? He starts with a strong affirmation; how many times has He said in this chapter that He comes quickly? What word follows? What does it mean? What is our response? So what is the last prayer Jesus taught us to pray? What is the first prayer He taught us to pray? Mat. 6:9-13. Compare all the closing words of Jesus in this final chapter of the revelation to His opening words in 1:8,11,17-20; what do you notice? He pretty much says the same things. What are we told in 1:7 that we have seen repeated? We know these promises are not speaking only of the second coming, because we have been told that certain events must precede the second coming. These many promises of coming suddenly must speak of the rapture, which can happen any moment. We see the epistles to the churches speaking often of His coming, of looking for it, of how it should be impacting our daily lives.
21 What is the grace of the Lord Jesus? The free gift of salvation that God provided through His Son's death and resurrection. Who is it for? Not just a few. It is for all who will come to Him, all who believe. What a fitting ending to the Bible, summing up what it is all about. Amen--so be it; will everything happen that God has said will happen?
Copyright 2016 Jan Young
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