The Book of Revelation

I enjoy reading and studying the book of Revelation for many reasons. I benefit from it because of the prophecy, as well as the description of what heaven is going to be like. And of course I love it because the book is all about Jesus … the unveiling of Jesus.

The word revelation is translated from the Greek work apokalypsis, which means to reveal, disclose, and unveil. The book of Revelation is the revelation (unveiling) of Jesus Christ. In Daniel 4:4, Daniel is told "roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. The book of Revelation is the un-rolling of these scrolls.

If you have a tough time understanding the book of Revelation, remember that when the Bible uses symbols, the pictures may not portray a lesser reality, but a far greater reality than our minds can comprehend.

When I think about the book of Revelation, three key scriptures come to mind. The first two scriptures are similar in that it tells us we are blessed to read and study the book of Revelation:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
Revelation 1:3 (NIV)

"Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll."
Revelation 22:7 (NIV)

There are blessings to those who study the Book of Revelation. We are told to not just read it, but take it to heart. As Christians, we need to be able to not just read scripture, but understand it, and see Jesus in the picture. We need to see a picture of Jesus in the book of Revelation as well as being able to see Jesus in the stories of the Old Testament. And then we need to be able to point others to see Jesus in the picture, too.

Revelation is about blessing, not just fear, doom, and gloom. The blessing of prophecy is that it proves the Bible is true. This brings peace to those who read the Bible with understanding. One of the points of Revelation is seeing and understanding Jesus. Revelation 19:10 states "For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus."

The third verse of Revelation that I pay attention to is:

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
Revelation 1:19

In Revelation 1:19, John was told to write the things you have seen, the things that are, and the things that will be "after this". The Greek phrase for this is meta tauta, which literally means "after these things". Many see this verse as dividing the book of Revelation into three distinct parts. Therefore, Revelation 1:19 is a key verse that outlines the book of Revelation.

The first part is what John had seen and described in chapter one during the Lord's visit to him on the Isle of Patmos.

The second part is the "things that are" that comprise chapters two and three. John describes seven actual churches that existed during John's lifetime. Chapters two and three can also be considered to be descriptions of different churches in the current church age throughout the years or in the present age.

The third part is the things that will be "after this" as described in the rest of the book of Revelation, chapters 4-22. John opens Revelation chapter four with "meta tauta" which again means "after this". By using this term, John is telling us that is the beginning of the prophetic portion of the book, after the Church age.

An outline of the book of Revelation may look something like this:

Revelation 1: John's vision of Christ
Revelation 2-3: Church history
Revelation 4-5: A vision of the raptured church in heaven
Revelation 6-19: The tribulation
Revelation 20: Millennial Kingdom
Revelation 21-22: New heaven and new earth

Here's a brief overview of Revelation, chapter by chapter.

Chapter One

We learn that John's message was not his own, but the "revelation from Jesus Christ". We read about John's vision of Christ. We see the number seven used multiple times - starts, lampstands, angels, churches. All throughout the Bible, seven is the number of completeness, fullness, and perfection.

Chapters two and three

John is describing the current state of seven churches that existed in his time. That is known fact and agreed upon by all. But does a description of the seven churches also have another meaning? Some believe that the seven churches are a chronological history of the church age. Some believe that the last church described (Philadelphia) is not only a description of the Philadelphia church in A.D. 50 but a valid description of the present day state of the church right now. Others believe that all seven churches describe the current state of seven different churches that are present and alive today.

Regardless of what you believe, there is information to be gleaned from studying each of the churches. You can find a historical application, prophetic application and a personal application.

Chapter four

John is called up to God's throne, for a view into heaven. John sees a door open in heaven and he is taken up. We need to remember that if we open the door to our heart, He will open the door to heaven.

We see the sights of heaven described - glorious brilliance, unapproachable light. We see the sounds described - trumpets and thunder. And we also see majesty, brilliance, and power of God described.

In verse four, we learn about the 24 elders, each sitting upon a throne. In verses six through nine we read about four living beings described as intelligent and insightful, giving glory to Jesus and worshipping Him. They describe God as "Holy, Holy, Holy". Repeating Holy three times emphasizes and underscores God's glory and brilliance.

Chapter five

We find out that Jesus, the lamb that was slain, is the only one worthy to open the scrolls and get back the "deed" of the earth. In Genesis 1:28 - God gave the "deed" of the earth to us. But Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit ceded the deed to Satan. Because of that we live in a fallen world. It's ruled by Satan (god with a little "g"). Satan is the cause of death, pain, and all bad things.

In verse 11, we see that the church is safely deposited in heaven. No other group is purchased by the blood of the Lamb for God, taken from every nation and people group, to become Kings and Priests who will reign on Earth.

Chapter Six

We see the start of the great tribulation. It's a time of God's wrath and great trouble for the world. It's a time when many of the unsaved realize that Jesus is God and was slain for the sins of the world. Many will surrender their heart to Him during the tribulation, but many will still reject the truth. For those that do surrender to Him, God will wipe away every tear.

The first four seals are represented by horses carrying a rider. First we see a white horse. Although Jesus arrives on white horse in Revelation chapter 19, this is not Him. This is a false christ and he is out to conquer. Remember that Satan is always a poser, a duplicator. Sometimes he tries to duplicate Christ, as in riding a white horse.

We see a red horse that brings war, bloodshed, and death. We see a black horse holding scales. This signifies that there is great imbalance between the rich and the poor, which could be due to any number of factors, including famine and inflation. We see a pale horse representing death and Hades, the place of the dead, departed souls.

The fifth seal reveals that we see martyrs slain because of the word of God. They want God to carry out judgement, to avenge their death. They are told to wait just a while longer as God doesn't want all to perish. He is patient and loving and wants to see all saved.

The sixth seal is opened and great atmospheric upheaval begins. Earthquakes, the moon turning to blood, and stars falling. In verses 15-17, we see that everyone is afraid of the wrath of the lamb.

Make note of the similarities between Matthew 24:1-8 and Revelation 6:1-8. Jesus says that many will come to deceive us. Many will says they come in His name, such as the Antichrist. Jesus also speaks of wars, famines, earthquakes, and calamities that cause death.

There are different indicators that we are getting close to end times:

Nature: wild weather, excessive heat/cold, earthquakes, droughts, floods, volcanoes, tornadoes
Signs in the sky: unusual things happening with the moon, sun, stars, and the sky
Negative Spiritual signs: false prophets, apostasy in the church, false teaching, movement towards on a one world religion, persecution of the church
Positive Spiritual signs: worldwide evangelism, to all corners of the earth
World political signs: wars, rumors of wars, political unrest, terrorism, geo-political issues
Acceleration signs: increases in knowledge, population, violence, intensity and frequency
Signs of Israel: fulfilled prophecy, unrest

Chapter Seven

Before the seventh and final seal is open, we read about four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds. The wind is a picture of God's judgement. The angels are holding back God's wrath at this time.

Before God's fury is unleashed on earth, the focus is shifted to the protection of the faithful still on earth. We see that 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are sealed. This protects them from the terrible judgements that fall on those who do not love God.

The view then shifts back to heaven. We then read about the great multitude in white robes. The Bible states that they are from every nation, tribe, people, and language and are standing before the throne and the lamb. They are too numerous to count. An elder says they are those who have come out of the great tribulation.

Chapter Eight

The seventh seal is opened and there was silence in heaven for about a half an hour. The silence is twofold perhaps. It may be to recognize the magnitude of what is about to happen and the cataclysmic affects that are about to happen to the earth. But the silence also could be that God is silencing everything for Him to zero in on the prayers and intercession being offered to Him. After the silence, an angel hurls a golden censer, filled with fire from the altar at the earth. With that comes thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and earthquakes.

Then seven angels with seven trumpets prepare to sound them. As each trumpet sounds, devastation occurs.

First trumpet: there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

Second trumpet: something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

Third trumpet: a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

Fourth trumpet: a third of the sun was struck, so that a third of the moon, and a third of the stars turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.

There is worse yet to come. An eagle calls out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

Chapter Nine

When Satan (Lucifer) fell from heaven (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, and Revelation 12) one third of the angels went with him and become demons. This is important to note as the first verse in chapter nine is referring to a fallen star, Satan.

With the fifth trumpet, supernatural happenings begin. This is understandable when Satan's demons are released from being chained up in the bottomless pit. There is a swarm of locusts. Theories abound what John is trying to describe. Are they really locusts or something else? Whatever they are, these locusts were given power like scorpions and are allowed to torment the un-saved for five months.

When the sixth trumpet sounds, four fallen angels (demons) who were bound, are released. They have supernatural power over an army of 200,000 that wages war. From John's heavenly vantage, he can see the demonic realm affecting the nations. A third of mankind is killed by plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur that results from this war.

Verse 20 tells us the rest of mankind who were not killed as a result of the plagues, did not repent. They continued to worship their idols. Some translations mention the people worshipping idols of metal and wood. Do you think people today sometimes worship their cars and houses?

Chapter Ten

There is now an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets (the first and second woes). A mighty angel comes down from heaven. This angel is characterized by splendor, brightness, and strength. By standing with one foot on the sea and one on the land, the angels conveys that God is taking possession of the earth, and showing His sovereignty over the this planet.

John hears the angel proclaim the seventh trumpet, but is told not to write it down. Instead he is told to seal it up. He is then instructed to take the little scroll that the angel had with him. John is instructed to eat it. It will be sweet as honey, but it will turn his stomach sour (bitter). The little scroll is God's word.

The command to eat the word may seem odd to us, but it shouldn't. Ever heard of people who "devour" books? Eating the word is partaking of God. The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). Take this bread and eat, this is my body (Matthew 26:26). We are saved and that makes the Bible sweet to read. However, parts of it are bitter because it contains judgement and wrath. We should also experience conviction of our sin when we read the Bible and that should cause us to feel bitter in our stomach.

Chapter Eleven

We are now at the halfway point of the seven year tribulation. God will appoint two witnesses to prophesize for three and half years in Jerusalem. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain; power to turn waters into blood; powers to unleash plagues and strike the earth as often as they want.

Who are these witnesses? Most believe that it is Elijah and Moses. Elijah had the power to stop rain (1 Kings 17) as well as the power to call fire from heaven (2 Kings 1) Moses had the power to unleash plagues (Exodus 7-11). Elijah and Moses appeared at the transfiguration with Jesus (Matthew 17). Elijah never died, but was taken up to heaven by God (2 Kings 2). Although Moses died and was buried, no one knows where (Deuteronomy 34). Satan and Michael the archangel argue over the body of Moses (Jude 9).

When they finish their testimony, the beast will kill them. For three and a half days, their bodies will like in view public view and the whole world will see them. The world will gloat and celebrate over their death because they did not want to hear the truth that these witnesses preach.

However, after three and half days, God will breathe life back into them. They will arise to stand on their feet. They will then be taken up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. Then a mighty earthquake shakes Jerusalem. A tenth of the city is destroyed and seven thousand perish.

An angel sounds the seventh trumpet, which is the third and final woe. The twenty four elders, who are seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worship God. God's temple in heaven is opened and within that, the Ark of the Covenant is seen.

Chapter Twelve

In verses one through five, we learn about a woman (Israel) who gives birth to a child (Jesus). Israel went through great birth pangs (400 year of being enslaved by the Egyptians, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness) before giving birth to Jesus, who was born of the tribe of Judah.

We also read of the dragon who is Satan. Verse four speaks about Satan's tail taking a third of the stars out of the sky. This is referring to when Satan was first cast out of heaven and he took with him a third of the angels. Verse four also speaks of Satan trying to devour the child (Jesus). This is referring to Satan (King Herod) tried to kill all male children two years and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

It's important to note there is a pause between verses five and six. The pause is the church age, before Daniel's 70th week. Thus, when the woman fled to the wilderness for three and half years, it's referring to the last three and half years of the tribulation.

Some commentators believe that Satan still has restricted access to the heavenly realm. They believe he is able to accuse us of our sins before God in a very limited manner. In verses seven through thirteen, Satan is kicked out of heaven for good.

Other commentators believe that Satan was kicked out of heaven for good when Jesus arose from the grave. They believe that verses seven through thirteen are referring to Christ's resurrection as the point when Satan was hurled from heaven.

Verse 17 talks about Satan being enraged at the woman (Israel) and because he cannot destroy her, he goes after the believers of Christ. These are those who have accepted Christ as their savior during the tribulation, but after the rapture of the church.

Chapter Thirteen

The first part of the chapter describes the beast (antichrist). He is an imitator and duplicator of Christ, but not the real thing. The beast comes from Satan, as Jesus came from God (yet one in the same). The beast will have great power and authority, as well as a throne. He will even have a seemingly fatal wound that will be similar, but not the same as Jesus rising from the grave.

The second part of the chapter describes the second beast (false prophet). He will be a religious leader of a one world religion, just as the antichrist will be the leader of a one world government. He will exercise the authority of the first beast, and persuade people to worship the antichrist. He will perform signs and wonders, trying to duplicate God's powers. He will also force all people to take the mark of the antichrist (666) on their right hands or forehead.

Together with Satan, the antichrist, false prophet and Satan will form an "unholy trinity".

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter 14 is a parenthetical chapter; it looks at a broader overall picture. It describes events that are happening over the next few chapters of Revelation.

Verse one speaks of Jesus standing on Mt. Zion with 144,000. Some believe this vision comes at the end of the tribulation during Jesus second coming. He is on Mt. Zion in Israel, and the 144,000 are the Jews that preached the gospel, as mentioned in chapter seven. Others believe this vision is in heaven. Mt. Zion is the temple, and the 144,000 are not the same as described in chapter. These 144,000 are martyrs that died during the tribulation.

We do know they are redeemed. They are pure and blameless. They are the first fruits offered to God and the lamb. They are blessed. They have a song in their heart as God delivered them through or from the tribulation.

Verses six through nine describe the three angels warning those still left on the earth. The first angel proclaims the gospel to every nation and tribe, warning that the time for judgement has come. The second angel states that Babylon has fallen, both the religious Babylon and the commercial Babylon. The third angel warns that if anyone worships the beast and receives his mark, they will feel God's fury and be tormented.

Verses 14-20 tells of how Jesus is going to harvest the earth, and separate out those who rejected Christ. The unsaved are represented as grapes. Jesus will trample in God's winepress of judgement and their blood will flow from God's winepress of wrath. The winepress of judgement has always been example of God's judgement in the Bible.

Chapter Fifteen

John describes those who were victorious over the beast. He sees them standing on a sea of glass, mingled with fire. The water here could indicate humanity and the fire represents God's judgement. It could be interpreted that they are walking on water. They sing the song of Moses, the first song of the Bible, from Exodus chapter 15. The song of Moses is a song of deliverance from the world. Every time it's mentioned in the Bible, people are rescued.

John sees the heavenly temple opened, also known as the tabernacle of covenant law. John sees seven angels with the seven golden bowls come out of the temple. The bowls are the last seven plagues. After these last plagues have occurred, God's wrath is completed.

Chapter Sixteen

A description of the seven bowls of God's wrath being poured out is detailed. It's important to note how similar some of the bowl judgements are to the plagues of Egypt in the book of Exodus. Ugly festering sores and boils are similar. The sea and rivers turning to blood is similar to the Nile turning to blood. Plagues of darkness and hail occur in both Exodus and Revelation 16.

John sees spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of Satan, the beast, and false prophet. These demons are telling the world leaders to go to Armageddon. It's there that they will gather for the battle of the great God Almighty.

When the seventh angel pours out the final blow in the air, we hear a loud voice from the throne say "It is done!" Flashes of lightning and thunder ensue. An earthquake to end all earthquakes occurs, which alters the whole landscape of the earth.

Chapter Seventeen

John sees a woman sitting on the beast. There is much speculation about who this woman is. Some say it is referencing Jerusalem or Israel. Some theorize that it's another city, such as Rome. I don't believe it's any of those.

After the rapture of the church, but at the start of the tribulation, a false religion will arise. It's called a prostitute, whore, mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. It is also called religious Babylon.

This false religion is described as looking rich and fabulous, as well as prosperous. We see it riding on the beast. However, the beast is carrying it to further his power. He will employ this false religion system to serve his own agenda. He uses this false religion to unite kings and political leaders under his authority.

This false religious system will persecute and kill people who have turned to Christ during the tribulation. Religious Babylon will make war with the Lamb.

However, by the end of this chapter, the beast and rulers will turn on this false religion system. Whereas it looked like religious Babylon was riding the beast, it turns out the beast was taking her for a ride. This false religious system ends up naked and desolate. She will end up having her flesh ate and be burned with fire.

Chapter Eighteen

Whereas chapter 17 described religious Babylon, chapter 18 describes a different type of Babylon. It's a city, but it's more than that. It may also be referring to commercial, economic, and political Babylon.

We read that kings of the earth committed adultery with this city of Bablylon. It's described as having excessive luxuries.

However, this city will face God's judgement. It will be quick. In one hour it will be brought to ruin. Because this city was key to economic and commercial aspects of the world, many will lament her, from leaders to merchants.

Chapter Nineteen

We read about great multitudes in heaven shouting "Hallelujah!" which means "Praise the Lord." Everyone in heaven is falling down and worshipping God and proclaiming His greatness. Heaven starts to celebrate the marriage of the lamb (Jesus) and his bride (the church).

We see a picture of Christ riding upon a white horse. He is described as eyes blazing like fire, and on His head many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but He himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. He is wearing some type of banner across his robe and thigh that says:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

Jesus wages war against the nations and strikes them down with the word of God, symbolically a sharp sword coming out of His mouth. The beast and false prophet are thrown alive in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Those who took the mark of the beast are left to face God's winepress of fury and birds gorge on what's left of their flesh.

Chapter Twenty

Chapters 6-19 primarily focused on the seven years of tribulation which ultimately lead to God's wrath on those that rejected Christ. Chapter 20 focuses on Satan's ultimate demise, the tale of two different resurrections, and the judgement that will take place before God's mighty throne.

We read that Satan is bound and thrown into an Abyss, where he is locked away for 1000 years. When the 1000 years is over, Satan will be released from his prison and will have a small opportunity to deceive the nations of the earth again. However, this will be short lived. Ultimately Satan will be thrown in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and fast prophet had been thrown.

The first resurrection is not a single point in time, but something that is continually happening right now. It starts with the Resurrection of Jesus, and continues with those who believe in Jesus and have since died, believers living at the time of rapture, and those who are martyred during the tribulation for their refusal to take the mark of the Beast. It also includes the Old Testament saints who believed in Yahweh, but died before Jesus death and resurrection.

The second resurrection is the judgement of the dead, those who are both physically dead as well as spiritually dead because they rejected Christ. This is the great white throne judgement. Hades is the holding place for all those that have died without accepting Christ. It is also known as Sheol. It is referred to as the place of the dead, as well as the place of departed souls/spirits.

During the second resurrection, these people are resurrected to be judged before Christ. Books are opened that list their deeds. However, because they rejected Christ, they are thrown into the lake of fire.

The lake of fire, also known as Gehenna, is an eternal place of burning, torment and darkness.

Chapter Twenty-one

We learn about a new heaven, new earth, new Jerusalem, and the bride of the lamb. We read the first heaven and first earth were passed away, as well as the former things are passed away. We see details of the new Jerusalem, such as the pearly gates, and the streets of gold. Some liken the new Jerusalem to a giant cube that is 1500 miles long, 1500 miles wide, and 1500 miles high.

God will dwell with us in the new Jerusalem. He makes all things new. He will wipe away all the tears from our eyes. There shall be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain.

Although most of this chapter talks about the splendor and glory of God, there is only one verse that is bad news. Verse eight tells us that the unbelieving will be tossed into the lake of fire.

Chapter Twenty-two

The final chapter of the Bible tells of the river of life and the tree of life. There will be no more curse. Those in heaven will see the throne of God, the lamb, and the face of God. There will be no more night, and no more sun, for light of God will light everything.

We are told that "blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book."

We read that the time is at hand, and we should behold as Jesus will come quickly. He brings rewards with Him, to give every man according to his work. Blessed are they that do His commandments and they have a right to enter through the gates into the city, and have access to the tree of life.

We see an invitation to those who are thirsty, to come, and drink freely of the water of life. The second to last verse of Revelation says "Yes, I am coming soon". That should bring comfort to us, no matter what struggles we face in life.