The book of Revelation closes the canon and history of the New Testament. It was not the last book written, but it records the climax of the struggle of the change in Covenants.
The book of Revelation is a part of the Apocalyptic literature of the Bible. Apocalyptic literature was often produced in difficult times when there was persecution and oppression. It may have been produced in anticipation of such a time as well. The purpose was to bring comfort to those suffering for their faith. It was characterized by the desperateness of the present situation and an intense hope for divine intervention in the future; the use of symbolic language, dreams and visions; the introduction of celestial and demonic powers as messengers and agents in the progress of God's purposes. The prediction that catastrophic judgement would come upon the wicked and the righteous would be supernaturally delivered; the pseudonymous designation of the writing to a prominent character in Bible history. The book of Revelation has most of these characteristics. The author however, declares his name and assumes he is known not as a past celebrity but as a present active participant in the affairs of those to whom he speaks.
There are at least 12 distinctive features in the book:
1. It contains the last recorded and direct words of the Risen Lord.
2. While the Old Testament contains sixteen books that are distinctively prophetic, Revelation is the only one in the New Testament.
3. Lamb is a favourite title of John's for Christ. In his gospel He is the suffering Lamb (1:20). In this book the Lamb is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
4. It has more references to angels (70) than any other book of the Bible.
5. A good principle to abide by is that every symbol in the Book of Revelation is explained by some other portion of Scripture.
6. There about 265 verses that contain Old Testament language and about 550 references to Old Testament passages. The Book of Revelation would be confusing and unintelligible without the Old Testament. It can also be said that without the Book of Revelation the Old Testament would be an unfinished story.
7. Daniel is said to be the Revelation of the Old Testament and Revelation the Daniel of the New Testament. Daniel deals with the inter-testamentary period and a little beyond while Revelation deals from basically A.D. 70 and beyond. There is overlap between the two books.
8. Revelation means an unveiling, an uncovering, and presentation. God intended the book to be understood. The lack of understanding is the result of human and satanic deception that have crowded out the truth.
9. There is a special blessing for those who hear, read and obey the prophecy of the book.
10. A special curse is pronounced upon those who add or subtract for the book.
11. The book of Revelation centres on the person and work of Christ.
12. Revelation is the climatic book of the Bible. It is like a railroad terminal with all the lines of truth from various parts of the Old and New Testaments flowing into it. It is the grand finale of the Bible. Because of its contents the only logical place for it is last. If any other book were placed last in the Bible it would be anti-climatic.
The interpretation of the book falls into four basic categories.
First: The Preterist School:
Those who are of the Preterist view hold that the symbolism of the Book of Revelation relates only to the events of the day in which it was written. In their view the most of the book is already fulfilled in the early history of the church. The imagery of seals, trumpets and vials has no relationship to the future. The writer was expressing moral indignation about the abuses of his day and spoke of judgment to come as a result of those abuses. Both liberal and conservative scholars hold this view. Futurists feel that this view does not make allowance for predictive prophecy, but that is because they don't understand the view.
Second: The Idealists School:
The Idealist view is close to the Preterist view. It sees Revelation as a symbolic picture of the continuing struggle between good and evil, Christianity and paganism. According to this view the symbols cannot be identified as historic events past or future, but are trends or ideals.
The Idealistic interpretation focuses on the ethical and spiritual truth of the Book, rather than the debatable aspects of its symbolism. In the process this view under rates the symbolism as a predictive vehicle. The "spiritualization" strips away all predictive value and disassociates it from any historical consummation. Judgment day becomes a time whenever a moral issue is decided. It is not a final climax when the reigning Christ consummates His kingdom.
Third: The Historicist School:
Historicists hold that Revelation outlines in symbol form the entire course of church history from Pentecost until the return of the Lord. The symbols portray in sequence the great events that have taken place. The seals picture the break up of the Roman Empire, the locust from the bottomless pit portray the Mohammedan invasions. Each vision, seal and vial are seen as successive historical events. The end part of the book is yet to be fulfilled in connection with the return of Christ. The major events of Christendom are broadly foreshadowed so that the book of Revelation was and is a calendar of events written in advance.
The view is more literal than is the Idealist's view but those who advocate it have never reached unanimity as to what the individual symbols mean. It seems that each commentator has his own interpretation. All these views cannot be right so there is a possibility that the methods are wrong.
Fourth: The Futurists School:
Futurists hold that the first three chapters of Revelation apply either to the day in which it was written or that the seven churches of Asia represented seven eras of church history from the Apostolic age to the return of Christ. To this degree Futurist are Historicists.
The futurists hold that the major portion of the book, from chapter 4 to the end of 19 refer to the ending of the present age, and thus is still future to us. Some of these events will happen prior to others at the coming of the Lord. Chapter 20 brings us into the millennium and the final judgment of mankind. The last two chapters bring us to the new heaven and the new earth. The book is interpreted literally or perhaps I should say carnally, and is seen as completely future to the present time.
The Futurist's view is of relative recent times. The first recorded futurists view of the book was given by a monk named Ribera who proposed this view as a defence against the Reformers charge that the pope was the antichrist. It was made popular by being the view of John Darby, and especially as the view of the Scofield Reference Bible. It is linked with eschatological views that are clearly against the teachings of the church historically and the Scripture itself.
There are four other views that reflect on one's understanding of the Book of Revelation. These are based on a particular understanding of the meaning of Revelation twenty. They centre on the matter of whether the thousand years is to be interpreted carnally or figuratively and whether they precede or follow the second coming of Christ.
The Postmillennial View:
The postmillennialists holds that the thousand years are figurative and refers to a long interval before the coming of Christ. The period begins with the triumph of the gospel over the nations and will bring in a reign of peace that will continue until Christ returns in final triumph and judgment.
The Amillennial View
The Amillennialists holds that the thousand years is a figurative time between the ascension and return of Christ. Some believe that it refers to the intermediate state of the dead. Christ may return at any time, He will then judge the world and bring in the eternal state of blessing for the righteous.
The Historic Premillennialist
The Historic Premillennialist holds that the thousand years is a literal period of one thousand years. The events of Revelation happens over a long period of time, with a tribulation of unknown but short period of time. The church goes through the tribulation. At the coming of Christ the saints are resurrected and raptured, the Anti-Christ is destroyed and Christ sets up His kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem. They have no special place for the Jews.
The Dispensationalist holds that Christ will come to initiate His kingdom. The first phase of the coming is the secret coming in the air. The dead in Christ will be raised and the living saints translated to meet Him in the clouds. Seven years of tribulation follow and God's wrath is poured out upon the earth. The second phase of His coming (7 years later) is when He comes to earth with His saints, to reign one thousand years. He will reign from David's throne in Jerusalem. After the thousand year reign there will be a final rebellion, of the vast majority of the world's peoples, which is suppressed by a miracle of fire falling from heaven. The wicked dead are raised and judged, the eternal state will begin. This is a modern theory about 150 years old, and would not have gained credence had not Scofield popularized it in his Bible reference notes.
There are two other position that we should mention as they relate to the book of Revelation and especially what is called the great tribulation. The Pre-Tribulation rapture is part of the dispensational view and has been described already.
Mid Tribulation Rapture
The first three and one half years of the tribulation is for the purifying of the saints. When things are very bad, the antichrist is revealed and Christ comes for His people. The second three and one half years of the tribulation is God pouring out His wrath. Then Christ will return and reign with His saints.
Post Tribulation Rapture
They hold there is no difference in the Coming of Christ. He comes at the end of the tribulation. The saints are protected in, although they suffer, the great tribulation.
1. The book contains 22 chapters consisting of 404 verses.
2. The author was the Apostle John. He gives his name four times in the book (1:1,4,9; 22:8). In the introduction he says he bore record of the Word of God, so identifies himself as the writer of the fourth gospel and 1 John. External evidence also collaborates this. Justin Martyr, about the middle of the second century, attributes the book to the Apostle John. Ireneaus about the last half of the second century knew the book and attributed its authorship to John the Apostle.
3. There is a dispute among scholars as to the exact date of the book of Revelation. The two periods proposed are A.D. 69 or earlier and A.D. 96 or later.
Those who hold to the earlier date believe that John wrote it under the persecution of Nero. The date of A.D.69 or earlier, allows the prophecies to find their fulfilment at the beginning of Christianity. We would have prophetic references to the Roman persecution of Christianity (A.D. 64-68), the Jewish War with Rome (A.D.67-70), the death of Christianity's first Roman persecutor Nero (A.D.68), the Roman Civil Wars (A.D.68-69) and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (A.D.70).
The time and space necessary to prove the dating of the book is insufficient here and we have worked on that elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the internal and external evidence seems to be in favour of the earlier date. [See Dangerous Writing Date Of Revelation]
Those who hold to the later date believe it to be written under the reign of Domitan. The problem is that there is no certain record of extended persecution under Domitan. He did insist that he be worshipped as deity and the increasing tyranny of his dictatorship would bring him into conflict with Christianity. Another evidence given in favour of the late date is the ecclesiastical organization of the churches mentioned in the opening of the book indicates they had been in existence for some time. A statement by Ireneaus about John seeing the Revelation in Domitan's time is uncertain in meaning when taken in context. He could have meant John who saw the Revelation was seen.
When we consider the internal evidence and then look at external evidence it seems clear that the earlier date is most likely the correct one. There is historical evidence in support of this date as well.
4. The visions of Revelation were given while John was on the isle of Patmos. It is generally believed that he wrote the book in the place he received it. The island of Patmos was in the south east Aegean Sea. It is quite a small island, ten miles long and about 16 miles wide. It is mountainous and almost barren. John states he was on the isle of Patmos.
The theme of the book is the victory of Christ and of His Church over Satan and his forces.
Christ is seen as coming One, the beginning and the ending, the Son of man, the great Judge, the everliving One, the Head of the Church, the All Knowing One, the great King, the Lamb, the Lion of Judah, the Conquering One, the Bridegroom, Faithful, True, Righteous and the Word of God.
The key words are Lamb , angels, read, hear, keep, and overcome(th). The words such as beast, elders and worship have considerable significance in the book, as are earth, nation, harvest, wrath, blessed, and death.
Rev.12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.
1. The main purpose for the book is to bring comfort to the church in its struggle against the forces of evil.
2. It pictures things as they seem on earth but pulls back the curtain and shows the realities of heaven.
3. Another purpose is to reveal the authority of the resurrected Christ in human affairs.
4. It is used to reveal the workings of the power of satan in human events.
5. It shows that God rules in the affairs of earth, even when it seems like His cause is lost.
6. It was given to show the ultimate victory of the church.
7. It declares the ultimate reward of the wicked.
8. It was given to show the Church as God sees her.
Events and Characters
1. The book begins with a statement that it is to reveal Jesus and inform them of things that are coming to pass very shortly. It gives a glorious description of the resurrected Christ who has redeemed us, made us kings and priests, and is coming again. John is to write what he sees and send it to the seven churches of Asia. He sees Christ in the midst of the churches, regardless of how they were and what sins had attacked them. He held His messengers in His right hand.
Each church received its commendation except Laodicea and a qualified commendation for Sardis. Each church except Philadelphia was rebuked for allowing error. He knew what was happening despite the appearances they had established.
2. He received a vision of the throne of God in its majesty, with all the elders and servants around. The Lion of Judah prevailed to open the seals but when he looked it was a Lamb. It was Christ fresh from Calvary. He was worthy and he opened the seals. Christ goes forth on the white horse with the conquering power of the gospel. The other horses of judgment on the rejectors of the gospel soon follow. More persecution was to come and there was upheaval in the earth. Before the opening of the seventh seal the people of God were sealed in their foreheads. They were identified as belonging to the Lamb. It is pictured under the 144,000 and the number no man could number.
3. The seventh seal was opened there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then the prayers of the saints were seen as incense before God. Fire from the altar was poured out on the earth, and judgment resulted. The trumpets were blown and great destruction came upon the earth, sea and other waters. The waters were made bitter and caused death. The rulers of the heavens were smitten and there was sorrow on earth. The bottomless pit was opened and locust came out and were commanded to leave the vegetation and inflict torment on those who did not have the seal of God upon them. The way of the east was opened and great hordes of the enemy swarmed over the land but still there was no repentance or turning to God.
4. A little book was opened, thunders sounded and John was commanded not to write what they said. He ate the book and was told there was yet more prophecy to flow from him. He was told to measure the temple but not the court of the Gentiles. The two witnesses gave their message and were protected until the time was right. They were killed, which caused rejoicing, but were resurrected and caught up to heaven. Then there was earthquake and destruction. The seventh angel announced the kingdom of Christ was over all and the temple was opened in heaven. The sign of the woman giving birth shows the enemy seeks to destroy every visitation of God but that a God works protection and preserves His purposes.
5. The Roman beast arises and cause his followers to be marked with his mark. He persecutes the saints. The Lamb with His followers rise above the torment of the beast and sing the song of the redeemed. Judgment comes upon the earth, and both Babylon and the beast come to the destruction of the One who reaps the harvest of the earth. He treads the winepress of the wrath of God and gives them what they deserve. The wrath is given in seven plagues, but before the action takes place once again he sees the redeemed rejoicing in God's presence, they come from all nations. The wrath brought sores on human beings, the waters were turned to blood, the sun became oppressively hot, there was great pain and enemy evil spirits were released to bring great destruction. The city received justice for the havoc she had wrought on the church. Babylon the great whore, and mother of harlots, had been drunk with the blood of the saints, now was receiving her just reward, she was destroyed. The beast and his kingdoms would turn on her but they would also turn on the church and seem to be successful. The Rider on the white horse would come with His saints and the beast would attack with his armies but they are overcome. The Rider on the white horse brings victory to His people.
6. Satan who had been the instigator of it all is now bound and the saints rule with Christ. They have part in the first resurrection and are delivered from the second death. There is one more final rebellion but the result is defeat for the forces of evil. Christ comes in judgment to reward the righteous and to bring retribution on the wicked. Then comes a new heavens and earth that is filled with righteousness. The New Jerusalem is a as a bride prepared to meet her husband. All things have changed, she is the Lamb's wife. The imagery of the city brings beauty to the description of the bride. There is also immense protection by the very size of it. The gates remain open so that all can enter in. Evil will not enter but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
7. The city has the river of the Spirit that brings healing and life to the nations. All darkness is gone for Christ is the light and His reign is eternal. The prophecy is not to be sealed for the fulfilment is about to happen. The invitation is come and take of the water of life freely. Everyone is warned not to add or subtract from the prophecy or it will effect his place in the book of life and in the holy city.
Lessons to Remember
1. No matter what the circumstances appear to be Christ rules overall.
2. We can turn persecution and opposition into opportunities for revelation.
3. Christ still identifies Himself as in the midst of the church regardless of the fact she is not what she should be.
4. We are presently ruling with Christ.
5. We have a responsibility to be faithful to the position to which we have been called.
6. We, by the blood of the Lamb, are sealed and therefore identified with Him.
7. The enemies of God and the church will be destroyed.
8. God protects those who put their trust in Him.
9. We can rejoice in tribulation because we know He works all things according to His purpose and our good.
10. The power of sin and satan has been broken as far as the Christian is concerned.
11. The church is a creation of beauty, strength and safety.
12. The present may be difficult but the future is bright beyond words.
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I. The Vision of Christ 1
II. The Letters to the Seven Churches 2 - 3
III. Heavenly Scenes 4 - 6
IV. The Seven Seals 6 - 7
V. The Seven Trumpets 8 - 11
VI. Unique Portrayals of Persons 12 - 14
VII. The Seven Vials 15 - 16
VII. The Woman On The Beast 17 - 18
IX. The Conquering Rider 19
X. Saints Rule and Final Judgment 20
XI. New Heaven and New Earth 21 - 22
I. Prologue: Christ Communicating 1:1 - 8
A. Title 1:1
B. Agent 1:2
C. Commendation 1:3
D. Destination 1:4 -5a
E. Dedication 1:5b -6
F. Motto 1:7
G. Imprimatur 1:8
II. Vision I: Christ in the Church The Living One 1:9-3:22
A. The Portrait 1:9 - 20
B. The Messages
1. Ephesus 2:1 - 7
2. Smyrna 2:8 - 11
3. Pergamum 2:12 - 17
4. Thyatira 2:18 - 29
5. Sardis 3:1 - 6
6. Philadelphia 3:7 - 13
7. Laodicea 3:14 - 22
III. Vision II Christ in the Cosmos The Redeemer 4:1 -16:21
A. The Scene in Heaven 4:1 - 5:14
B. The Seven Seals 6:1 - 8:5
1. The White Horse 6:1 - 2
2. The Red Horse 6:3 - 4
3. The Black Horse 6:5 - 6
4. The Pale Horse 6:7 - 8
5. The Souls of the Martyrs 6:9 - 11
6. The Signs in Heaven 6:12 - 17
7. The Sealing of the Saints 7:1 - 17
8. The Silence in Heaven 8:1 - 5
C. The Seven Trumpets 8:6 -11:19
1. Hail, Fire, and Blood 8:7
2. Sea turned to Blood 8:8 - 9
3. Star Falling upon the Waters 8:10 - 11
4. Sun, Moon, Stars Darkened 8:12 - 13
5. Opening the Bottomless Pit 9:1 - 12
6. Loosing of Four Angels 9:13 - 21
7. A Parenthesis 10: -11:14
a) The Little Book 10:1 - 11
b) Measuring the Temple 11:1 - 2
c) Two Witnesses 11:3 - 14
8. Announcement of Consummation 11:15 - 19
D. The Signs 12: - 6:21
1. The Personages 12:1-14:20
a) The Woman 12:1 - 2
b) The Dragon 12:3 - 4
c) The Man-Child 12:5 - 6
d) Michael, the Archangel 12:7 - 17
e) The Beast from the Sea 13:1 - 10
f) The Beast from the Earth 13:11 - 18
g) The Lamb on Mt. Zion 14:1 - 5
2. Parenthesis: The Angelic Messages 14:6 - 20
a) Call to Judgment 14:6 - 7
b) Fall of Babylon 14:8
c) Warning of Wrath 14:9 - 12
d) Blessing of the Dead 14:13
e) Call to Harvest 14:14 - 16
f) Reaping Grapes of Wrath 14:17 - 20
E. The Seven Bowls 15:1-16:21
1. Scene in Heaven 15:1 - 8
2. Judgments 16:1 - 21
a) Sores on Mankind 16:2
b) Turning of Sea to Blood 16:3
c) Turning of Fountains to Blood 16:4 - 7
d) Increase of Heat of the Sun 16:8 - 9
e) Darkness 16:10 - 11
f) Unclean Spirits 16:12 - 15
g) Consummation 16:17 - 21
IV. Vision III: Christ in Conquest: The Warrior 17:1 -21:8
A. Destruction of Babylon 17:1-18:24
B. Rejoicing in Heaven 19:1 - 10
C. Overthrow of the Beast 19:11 - 21
D. Binding of Satan 20:1 - 3
E. Reign of the Saints 20:4 - 6
F. Final Rebellion 20:7 - 10
G. Judgment of the Dead 20:11 - 15
H. New Heaven and New Earth 21:1 - 8
V. Vision IV: Christ in Consummation The Lamb 21:9 -22:5
A. City of God 21:9 - 21
B. Worship of God 21:21 - 27
C. Blessings of God 22:1 - 5
VI. Epilogue: Christ Challenging 22:6 - 21
A. To Obedience - Will 22:6 - 9
B. To Reward - Intellect 22:10 - 15
C. To Fellowship - Emotions 22:16 - 20
D. Benediction 22:21
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