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New Testament Survey

Revelations



LOOKING AHEAD TO . . .

Revelation

Key Verse(s):

Key Chapter(s):

Key Word(s) or Concept(s)

Consider:

Is there a key theme to the book?

How is Jesus presented?

Do you find this book to offer great hope and comfort?

Suggested Reading beyond the Key Chapter(s):

Revelation

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We come to the end of our New Testament survey by studying the book which in the past four or five years has raised more interest than any in the Bible. The Revelation or Apocalypse is the story of THE END. With the approach of the new millennium, many soothsayers, prophets, and doomsayers have appeared on the scene with works of terror and mayhem. Some jump on the bandwagon simply to cash in on the public fascination of the next millennium. Others have used situations such as the Y2K computer issue to predict ill-fortune for all.

At the same time, one must remember that Revelation has grabbed the hearts and minds of commentators and the public over the centuries. While Christ assures us no one knows the day nor the hour (Matt 24:36), entire groups come and go and come again based upon predictions of the Second Coming.

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In 1818, William Miller, a Baptist minister, confidently taught that Jesus would return between March, 1843 and March, 1844. Needless to say, this did not happen and the Millerites regrouped by proclaiming the belief Christ would return on the 10th day of the seventh month, October 22, 1844. Following the failure of this event, the group basically disbanded. One part of this group developed the theory that Christ had returned to a heavenly sanctuary and was at work judging His people. A second group developed the concept of observing the Sabbath and commenced to worship on Saturday. A third group developed “the testimony of Jesus” which was present in the surviving remnant of the church. This last group was led by James White and his wife Ellen G. White. Between 1855 and 1860 these three groups combined to form the Seventh Day Adventist Church! 11.

We must remember the eschatological conclusion of history is the great hope of all the New Testament writers. It is the Resurrection which provides the great hope of salvation, but all of Scripture looks forward to the return of the Lord. Remember the progression in the endings of the Gospels? John’s ends with the promise of the return of Christ. Luke’s Gospel contains the words we should live by in the meanwhile.

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And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
Luke 19:13

The mystery book of the Bible represents this end, the story of the finalization of God’s judgment of mankind and the entryway into eternity.

Theme and Purpose

 By his own admission, the author writes from the Isle of Patmos, the prison island of Rome. He writes to a church being persecuted, an event that most likely is the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. This dates the work at A.D. 95/96, close to the end of John’s life. All evidence as to authorship supports the premise that John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, is the author of this work.

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John writes to seven churches in Asia Minor. These churches are in the midst of persecution and the Apostle writes to offer them comfort. This comfort lies in the completion of the prophecies of the Old Testament – the return of God, in the form of His Messiah, Jesus Christ, to deal with the enemies of God. The Revelation, then, is not a work of judgment (although it certainly is this), but rather is a work of great hope and blessing as God completes the plans laid forth throughout Scripture, the gathering of all His people to His bosom for an eternity of great blessings.

This book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1). Our English title comes from the Latin translation, the Vulgate, revelatio which means "to reveal or unveil that which has previously been hidden." This title is essentially the same as the Greek title, Apokalupsis, a word which has the same meaning and is found as the first word of the Greek text.

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It is at this point that the difficulties begin. No other book of the Bible has produced so many theories of interpretation or controversies of meaning. Four basic schools of thought exist.

The historical approach was widely used by a variety of reformers in the first couple of hundred years following the Reformation. This allowed them to relate the events of their day to events in Revelation. Thus, the French Revolution became an event predicted by the Apocalypse. Sound familiar?.

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Not surprisingly, how one outlines the book, how different events in the work are interpreted, as well as one’s views on the Rapture of the Church and the existence of an actual millennial kingdom, are dependent upon where one sits on the above views. These differing postures are usually classified as premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism.

Postmillennialism teaches that the preaching of the Gospel message will result in the continual improvement of life until the earth enters a “golden age.” Christ’s return will follow this “golden age.” Obviously, the “golden age” is the millennium, so Christ’s return is “post” or after the millennium.

Amillennialism does not believe in a literal return of Christ to the earth. Christ’s rule over the church is a spiritual millennium. Under this view, Satan is already defeated and the believers reign in this current life by Christ.

Premillennialism believes in a literal return of Christ before the actual reign of Christ on earth. The millennium is an actual 1,000 year “golden age.” The church will reign with Christ on earth during this period. premillennialism has two schools connected with it. The Historical premillennialists believe exactly what is stated. Dispensational premillennialists see God’s dealings with mankind as being a series of ages or “dispensations.” Christ’s return will occur in two stages, the Rapture of the church and the return in victory at the end of the Great Tribulation.

We have already looked briefly at the Rapture in the chapter on 1 Thessalonians. To better understand this view, let us take a brief side journey into the land of Dispensations.

There are really only two key elements here. First, God has dealt with mankind in a series of progressive instructions. There are (depending upon one’s view) six-to-nine dispensations. In general, these are from Adam to the Fall, from the Fall to the Flood, from the Flood to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ, the Church age from Christ to the Tribulation, the Millennial Kingdom, and Eternity. In each dispensation, God reveals new knowledge to man. Man attempts to understand and apply this new knowledge. Man fails in his efforts. God chastises man. God commences the cycle all over again. All of this is designed to teach man and to demonstrate the utter futility of life without God.

The second key element is that in God’s dealing with mankind the Jewish Nation and the Church are two separate and distinct groups. God’s Old Testament covenant with Abraham runs to the Jewish Nation and God will deal with the Nation and fulfill this covenant in the future. Revelation is primarily the story of God’s final chastisement and offer of salvation to Israel.

Third, in order for God to deal with Israel, He must first remove the Church. This is the Rapture, the taking home of the body of Saints. It sets the stage for the actions of the Anti-Christ. God uses the Anti-Christ much as He used Pharaoh. God will demonstrate His power, and in the process, will save the Jewish remnant.

Fourth, within premillennialism there are also differences of opinion over the timing of the Rapture.

Pre-Tribulation sees the Rapture as described above, as an event which must occur prior to the Tribulation. This is based the concept that God will not allow the church to undergo the judgments of the Tribulation. This is the view of Dispensational premillennialism.

Mid-Tribulation sees the Church being part of the Tribulation, but not part of the terrible, final judgments. The Church is Raptured home midway through the Tribulation.

Post-Tribulation views the Rapture as coming at the end of the Tribulation. This ushers in the Millennial Kingdom. This is basically a historical premillennial view.

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Having given you all of the definitions, I will state that it is the position of this chapter and my belief that what Scripture teaches is a premillennial, pretribulation, dispensational position.

A review of any literature on Revelation will strongly show that your view of the interpretation of the book is based upon your position with regard to the above issues. If you are an amillennialist, you will not find the Rapture or the millennial kingdom in this book. Likewise, if you hold a premillennial, pretribulation position, you will find breakpoints which relate to this interpretative view. Since this is the position taken in this course, all of the following discussion is based upon this interpretative position being the correct view. This doctrinal position arises from several other doctrinal positions which incorporate an entire viewpoint upon all of Scriptures. At the risk of repeating myself, the key points of this posture are:

Having set forth the ground work for the interpretative model of this book, I believe it may be best to provide you with the outline of the book first and then to discuss the important issues.

Outline

Special Considerations and Interpretative Comments

Chapter 1 forms the interpretative basis for the book. This is particularly true of 1:19.

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Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
Revelation 1:19

The opening verses show the special blessing of this revelation from God (1:3). The uniqueness of this blessing lies in the concept that this is the final revelation. This book is the final prophecy and closes the New Testament. John is the last of the Apostles and with him a very special era comes to a close.

In 1:19 the prophecy is broken down into three time frames, the things which have been, the things which are, and the things which will be. The things which have been are found here in this first chapter. Jesus the God-man has come to earth, sacrificed Himself, been Resurrected from the dead, and has returned to heaven to rule with the Father. The description given in verses 9-20 provides a vivid description of the Risen Christ.

The second section is that which discusses the things which are. This involves chapters 2 and 3. These chapters set forth seven letters to seven churches located in close proximity to each other in Asia Minor. Their location forms a loose circle. They were the natural centers of communication for all the inner districts of Asia Minor. One would go north from Ephesus to Smyrna and Pergamum, then return south through Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and, finally, Laodicea.

Tradition holds that these are the churches for which John was the overseer.

The seven letters follow a similar pattern.

There are many thoughts on the purposes of the seven letters. Foremost, it must be remembered the letters have been written by John to seven existing churches to warn and exhort them about their current practices. But is there a second meaning to the letter?

One school of thought views the seven letters as a prophecy of the church age. Under this view, the church age looks like this:

Revelation itself speaks against this interpretation. Remember that the seven churches did not suffer these problems in succession, but, rather, all of these spiritual conditions existed simultaneously. As such, the secondary purpose of these letters should be viewed as a picture of the types of churches and the types of problems Christians will face during the current age of grace, the “Church Age.”

Beginning with chapter 4, Revelation looks forward to the things which will be, the future. Christ has already dealt with the Church and will now deal with the Jews and Israel, judging the Gentile nations in the process. These chapters become confusing because:

In general, however, beginning with Chapter 4, the book seems to be chronological in its presentation.

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One of the great difficulties of Revelation is the extensive use of symbolism and imagery used by John. Since some of this may have been specifically directed to the circumstances of the time, you must be careful not to attempt to read too many modern details into the prophecy. The book portrays throughout a conflict of earthly personalities and people directed and energized by demons, especially Satan, in order to overthrow Christ&s rule on earth. The book reaches its climax with God&s ultimate triumph through Jesus Christ overthrowing evil and establishing His Kingdom. This climax is accomplished by John taking the reader behind the scenes to see the power which rests in the line of Judah, the Lamb that was slain, the throne room of God, and by addressing judgment (14:7; 20:11-15), redemption (1:5;5:6; 7:14; 12:11), and the Kingdom (5:10; 11:17; 12:10; 20:4; 22:5).

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After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
Revelation 4:1

These verses may picture the Rapture of the Church, symbolized by John being taken to heaven.

This section can be divided into three parts:

A second difficulty with Revelation is the timing or fit of the three series of judgments. Are they completely chronological? Do they merely occupy the same general time frame, but run simultaneously? Or is there some other fit?

This is an interpretative issue and I would urge you to remember three points.

First, the basic order of the balance of Revelation from chapter 4 onward is chronological.

Second, it is best to apply the plain, normal meaning to the words of this books (as with all of Scripture), accepting that many symbols used by John are designed to convey meaning to the readers.

Third, there are over 350 Old Testament quotations or allusions in this book. The purpose of Revelation is to “wrap up” all the teachings of God.

On this basis, the judgments should be viewed as chronological in nature. They follow each other since the seven trumpet judgments come from the seventh seal (8:1) and the seven bowl judgments come from the seventh trumpet (11:15; 15:1, with an interlude occurring between 11:19 and 15:1).

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God is the Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25). He is, indeed a God of justice (Mal 2:17). All of this flows from God’s character traits of love, mercy, truth, and righteousness, for the judgment of God is not some abstract event. This judgment is a strongly personal, vigorous action against evil. The Old Testament prophets yearn for the day when God will judge the unbelievers. This becomes a prominent theme of the Old Testament writings. God, in His infinite wisdom, has turned all judgment over to Jesus Christ (Matt 3:11ff; 10:34; John 3:19; 5:30; 8:12, 16; 9:39). The aspect added by the New Testament is that most of the judgments will be eschatological in nature with Christ Himself being the Judge (John 5:22; 12:47ff; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:8).

There are several judgments envisioned by the Scriptures. One of these has past, two are present, and the balance lie in the future events of Revelation.

A Brief Account of These Chapters

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Chapter 6 introduces the seven seal judgments. These occur during the first half of the Tribulation. The first four seals represent the spirits of conquest, war, famine, and death. The fifth seal shows God’s people present with Him and the sixth seal looks to the coming Divine judgment. While some want to find these events as existing through the centuries, thus, being preludes to the Tribulation, this requires these seals be in existence continually. This removes them from the “things which will be.” It is better to understand these as the conditions which exist during the first half of the Tribulation period.

6:2 introduces us to the rider on the white horse. Since Christ is in heaven, this must be our first introduction to the Anti-Christ, the man of sin. He comes as a man of peace to seduce the world, and in particular, the Jewish nation. The four horsemen of these verses are frequently referred to as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

The great prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 sets the time table for the Tribulation. This is the prediction of the Seventy Weeks. Without getting into too much detail, it can be demonstrated that the first 69 weeks ended with the Crucifixion of Jesus. There is then a gap until the commencement of the Tribulation. The Tribulation is the 70th week. In this context, each “week” represents a period of seven years.

Chapters 6 and 7 represent the first half of the Tribulation period, or three-and-a-half years.

In Chapter 7, there is an interlude. God seals His witnesses to the Jewish nation, the 144, 000 from the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, the seventh seal is broken to reveal the seven trumpet judgments (chapters 8 and 9). The second half of the Tribulation has commenced. This is the Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Notice that the judgments of this next period, the time of the seven trumpets, are only partial judgments. God still desires that the Jewish nation, as well as members of the Gentile nations, would come to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. God still seeks to bring all men to repentance.

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The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9

In the Old Testament, two different words are translated as repent or repentance. One carries the idea of being sorry or changing one’s mind, while the second means to turn back or return. The Greek word used in the New Testament carries much the same idea, meaning to change one’s mind so as to regret or feel remorse. The biblical idea of repentance, then, is a turning away from sin back to one’s dependence upon a merciful God.

Chapters 10 and 11 represent the second interlude. In chapter 10 a commentary on the Bible is presented. God’s Word is a book which will become bitter to anyone for whom it holds judgment rather than life. Chapter 11 presents the consummation of this era or age.

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And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 11:15

Chapters 12-to-14 represent a third, separate interlude. Here, partially in a historical review, the players of Scripture and of the end times are presented.

The players are:

Chapters 15 and 16 present the bowl judgments. These judgments are complete in their nature and are against mankind right from their commencement (as compared to the earlier judgments which were also against nature). The sixth bowl prepares the way for the final battle of Armageddon.

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And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Revelation 16:16

Armageddon in Hebrew means the mountain of Megiddo. The valley or plain is generally believed to be the plain of Esdraelon (Joshua 17:11; 1 Chron 7:29). Here, Solomon walled the city (1 Kings 9:15). It is the valley where Deborah defeats Sisera (Judges 5:19). Ahaziah dies here (2 Kings 9:27) and Josiah is slain here by Pharaoh-neco (2 Kings 23:29,30; 2 Chron 35:22-24). It has been the site of important battles ever since, including one fought by Tuthmosis III in 1468 B.C. and that of Lord Allenby in 1917. The “mountains of Israel” witness Gog’s defeat in Ezek. 39:1-4, which is most likely this same valley.

The seventh bowl judgment, the last, leads to the fall of Babylon and the final consummation (16:17-21). Chapter 17 describes the religions of the earth and their final fall. Chapter 18 describes the materialistic kingdoms and systems of the earth and their final defeat.

 Chapter 19 is the great battle of Armageddon and the final defeat of world empires. The opening verses show us Jesus and the Church, His bride, at the marriage feast of the Lamb. Then, verse 11 depicts the Second Coming of Christ in Victory!

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Revelation 19:11-21

Outline of the Judgements

The Judgments of Revelation
Judgement Series

 

 

 

The Seven Seal Judgements

6:1-8:6

1. Anti-Christ

2. War

3. Famine

4. Death

5. Martyr’s Prayers

6. Great earthquakes









7. Opening of the Trumpet judgments

 

The Seven Trumpet Judgments

8:7-9:21

 

1. One-third of the vegetation burned

2. One-third of the sea plagued

3. One third of the fresh water attacked

4.One-third of the heavens darkened

5. Demon activity increases

6. The army from the East invades Palestine
















7. The Bowl judgments are opened.

The Seven Bowl Judgements

15:1-16:21

 

 

1. Malignant sores

2. The sea is turned to blood

3. Fresh waters are turned to blood

4. Men are scorched with fire

5. The beasts throne is judged

6. Invasion of Palestine from the East

7. The greatest earthquake of all time

 

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Chapter 20 is the Millennium. This word simply means one thousand, or in this case, one thousand years. This is the earthly kingdom of Israel with Christ ruling on the Throne of Earth. Satan is cast into the bottomless pit for this time period so that men on earth are not tempted by the great tempter, Satan. At the end of the thousand years Satan is loosed for a short time (20:7). It is clear that only those who accepted Christ as Lord and Savior entered into the Millennium. All of His enemies were destroyed at the end of the Tribulation. But, many of those born during this time will not come to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Satan gathers these together to make one final attempt against God. This effort is short lived as God reaches out from heaven to defeats this vast army. The Devil is cast into the lake of fire, the second death (20:8-10)!

This sets the stage for the Great White Throne judgment, the judgment of all unbelievers. All of the dead and hell itself are cast into the lake of fire (20:11-15).

In Chapters 21 and 22 we see eternity and life with Jesus Christ. This phase of God’s story is finished. All believers will now live with Christ. The new heavens and new earth have arrived!

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20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Revelation 22:20,21

Tomb and Cross

Footnote: 11. It is to be noted that the basic doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventist is conservative and orthodox. For example, salvation is obtained solely by faith in Christ. It is to be admitted that some of their other doctrines are mixed up or incorrect, but many students of the cults do not consider this group to be a cult. Of course, that also means many do.

 

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