Book 27 - BOOK OF REVELATION
With people, places, definitions, map ......
In 2 Parts
Writer: The apostle John in exile
Date: EITHER c AD68-70 following the persecutions of Emperor Nero, but before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70; OR c AD90-95 during the persecutions attributed to Emperor Domitian at the end of his reign AD81-96
Where written: The Aegean island of Patmos off the west coast of Asia Minor
Reader: The seven named churches of Asia, and the entire Church of Christ
Why: An apocalyptic book describing the revelation Jesus Christ gave to John. The beginning of the Bible (Genesis 1-11) is a prologue describing the downfall of mankind and his separation from God. Revelation is an epilogue in which God and man are reconciled through Christ
Apocalyptic - Greek for "uncover", "reveal". The revealing of great or violent events and especially the end of the world, often described in Jewish apocalyptic literature. The word is applied especially to the Book of Revelation which bears comparison with the Old Testament Books of Daniel and parts of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah.
According to Some Modern Scholarship: Written towards the end of the 1st century by a close companion of John known as John the Elder, or by another follower. The earlier date of c AD68-70 for the apostle John would help account for the differences in style and language between Revelation and the later Gospel of John
Revelation was written .....
To warn and encourage the churches of Asia as they underwent internal problems and external persecution within the Roman Empire (chapters 1:1-3:22). It then describes how Jesus Christ the Lamb of God is the "instrument" of:
(1) God's judgment on the whole universe (chapters 4:1-19:10);
(2) The final defeat of evil (chapters 19:11-20:15), and:
(3) The coming of a new heaven and a new earth - the new Jerusalem (chapters 21:1-22:5).
It closes with Christ's final appeal to all mankind (chapter 22:6-21).
In the Book, John describes a series of highly symbolic, mainly Old Testament-type visions, many of which incorporate the sacred and perfect number "seven" - seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven angels, seven last plagues. Much of the Book appears to be in sequence but many of the events may overlap. Some of the contents and characters seem straightforward; others are confusing and difficult to understand.
The attempts to interpret Revelations are beyond measure but here the aim is simply to clarify how the different stages in the Book develop and to identify the variety of "beings", objects and events the reader encounters.
In making sense of the Book, it can prove helpful to view it at three levels:
(1) John wrote Revelation when the seemingly all-powerful Roman Empire with its cult of emperor-worship was persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. It was also widely expected that the dead emperor Nero would come back to life to take revenge against the Rome he once ruled. The Book is therefore a product of that period in world history 2,000 years ago;
(2) How mankind behaved and ruled in Roman times is no different from any other period in human history in any other part of the world, right through to the end of time - whether the empire or way of life is Ancient Indian, Chinese, Persian, Islamic, Holy Roman, Incan, Napoleonic, British, modern American, European, Pacific, world government, or some other form of future empire. Certainly the parallels between Rome and the present are striking;
(3) Most importantly, God is sovereign. He will destroy all forms of evil in his own time and everyone will face a final judgement. Only faith in Jesus Christ can give us life to the full on earth, no matter what trials we may go through, followed by eternal life with Him in heaven - the new Jerusalem.
However in keeping with this arrangement of the New Testament, the reader is recommended to read Revelation not as a book to be analysed and understood, but as a spiritual book to feed upon, and through it, to better understand the power of God and the place of Jesus Christ in his scheme of things. Later, he or she can study the Book knowing they will never plumb its depths nor make much difference to their Christian lives.
More likely, they could find themselves "engaging in stupid arguments, genealogies, controversies and quarrels (over the Law)" that Paul warned Titus to avoid.
As Paul continued "They settle nothing and lead nowhere" (Titus 3:9-10).
Map - John Writes to Seven Churches in the Province of Asia
Map Key: Letter from 1 to 2
Part 1 of 2, chapters 1-11
I - PROLOGUE
GOD CHOOSES JOHN TO RECEIVE AND TESTIFY TO THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
Revelation 1:1-3 - This is a Revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him (Christ) so that he might show his servants (such as John) what must very soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who is the witness of all that he saw - the message of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Happy is the man who reads this prophecy (... the Book of Revelation) and happy are those who hear it read and pay attention to its message; for the time is near (when God will judge the world and establish his kingdom on earth. As this has not yet happened, this suggests that some of the visions in Revelation represent events that have already taken place, some refer to events that subsequently existed or continue to exist in the world, and others to events that have yet to happen).
JOHN'S GREETINGS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES IN THE PROVINCE OF ASIA
Revelation 1:4-6 - John (normally living in Ephesus and ministering to the Christians of Asia), to the seven Churches in Asia:
Grace and peace be to you from him who is and who was and who is coming (... God the eternal Father), from the seven Spirits before his throne (... possibly the Holy Spirit described as an Old Testament-type sevenfold Spirit), and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, first-born of the dead, and ruler of kings upon earth (... Jesus Christ the Son). To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins through his own blood, who has made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and power for timeless ages, amen.
THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS
Revelation 1:7-8 - See, he is coming in the clouds and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him, and his coming will mean bitter sorrow to every tribe upon the earth. So let it be!
"I am Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the beginning and the end, the alphabet from which all words, the Word, are formed), says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty."
II -THE FIRST VISION OF CHRIST
JOHN RECEIVES HIS FIRST COMMAND FROM JESUS TO WRITE TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES IN ASIA
Revelation 1:9-11 - I, John, who am your brother and your companion in the distress (and persecution), the kingdom and the faithful endurance to which Jesus calls us, was on the island called Patmos (as an exile) because I had spoken God's message and borne witness to Jesus. On the Lord's day (a Sunday) I knew myself inspired by the Spirit, and I heard from behind me a voice loud as a trumpet-call saying, "Write down in a book what you see (in a series of visions), and send it to the seven Churches - to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea! (lying on a clockwise circular route from Ephesus on the coast to Laodicea inland)"
HE DESCRIBES THE AWESOME APPEARANCE OF JESUS CHRIST
Revelation 1:12-16 - I turned to see whose voice it was that was speaking to me and when I had turned I saw seven golden lamp stands (representing the seven churches, in turn representative of all churches), and among these lampstands I saw someone
'like a Son of Man' (Daniel 7:13).
He (Christ, now described in essentially Old Testament priestly terms) was dressed in a long robe with a golden girdle around his breast; his head and his hair were white as snow-white wool, his eyes blazed like fire, and his feet shone as the finest bronze glows in the furnace. His voice had the sound of a great waterfall, and I saw that in his right hand he held seven stars (representing the angels, or possibly guardians or leaders of the seven churches). A sharp two-edged sword came out of his mouth, and his face was ablaze like the sun at its height.
CHRIST REPEATS HIS INSTRUCTIONS, AND EXPLAINS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STARS AND LAMPSTANDS
Revelation 1:17-20 - When my eyes took in this sight I fell at his feet like a dead man. And then he (Christ) placed his right hand upon me and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the living one. I am he who was dead, and now you see me alive for timeless ages! I hold in my hand the keys of death and the grave. Therefore, write down what you have seen, both the things which are now, and the things which are to be hereafter. The secret meaning of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands is this: the seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches and the lampstands are the Churches themselves."
III - SEVEN COVERING LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES OF ASIA
FORMAT OF THE LETTERS
All seven named churches receive the entire Book of Revelation, but each with its own covering letter. Each letter is in three parts
(Part 1) A greeting from Christ, using some of the imagery of chapter 1, to the "angel" of that church - possibly the guardian or leader
(Part 2) A summary of the church's strengths and weaknesses, together with encouragements and warnings. The problems collectively faced are both
internal - false prophets and teachers, lack of love for God and each other, sexual immorality, apathy and complacency and
external - paganism, Roman emperor-worship, Jewish hostility, persecution.
As so often in human affairs, most of the problems are internal, with the possible exceptions of Smyrna and Philadelphia
(Part 3) A closing promise of the rewards for those individual Christians who endure the trials their churches face
TO THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS - STEADFAST, BUT LACKING IN LOVE
- Ephesus is already known from Paul's visit there (Acts 17:19-21), his three year stay (Acts 19), and his Letter to the Ephesians:
Revelation 2:1-7 - (Part 1) "Write this to the angel of the Church in Ephesus: 'These words are spoken by the one who holds the seven stars safe in his right hand, and who walks among the seven golden lampstands. ....
(Part 2) ... I know what you have done; I know how hard you have worked and what you have endured. I know that you will not tolerate wicked men (... false teachers), that you have put to the test self-styled 'apostles', who are nothing of the sort, and have found them to be liars. I know your powers of endurance - how you have suffered for the sake of my name and have not grown weary. But I hold this (internal problem) against you, that you do not love as you did at first. Remember then how far you have fallen. Repent and live as you lived at first. Otherwise, if your heart remains unchanged, I shall come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Yet you have this to your credit, that you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans (little is known of them, and there is no reason to link them with Nicolas of Antioch, one of the first deacons, Acts 6:5), which I myself detest. ...
(Part 3) ... Let every listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches: 'To the victorious I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which grows in the paradise of God.'
TO THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA - TROUBLED AND POOR, BUT RICH IN SPIRIT
Revelation 2:8-11 - (Part 1) "Write this to the angel of the Church in Smyrna: 'These words are spoken by the first and the last, who died and came to life again. ...
(Part 2) ... I know of your tribulation and of your poverty - though in fact you are rich! I know how you are slandered by those who call themselves Jews, but in fact are no Jews but a synagogue of Satan (because they reject Christ as the Jewish messiah of prophecy). Have no fear of what you will suffer. I tell you now that the devil is going to cast some of your number into prison where your faith will be tested and your distress will last for ten days (... symbolically a short period). Be faithful in the face of death and I will give you the crown of life. ...
(Part 3) ... Let every listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches: 'The victorious cannot suffer the slightest hurt from the second death (when mankind is finally judged).'
TO THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM - FAITHFUL, BUT SOME FOLLOW FALSE AND IMMORAL TEACHING
Revelation 2:12-17 - (Part 1) "Write this to the angel of the Church in Pergamum: 'These words are spoken by him who has the sharp two-edged sword. ...
(Part 2) ... I know where you live - where Satan sits enthroned (... a large altar to the god Zeus dominated Pergamum, which was also a centre of Roman emperor-worship). I know that you hold fast to my name and that you never denied your faith in me even in the days when Antipas (an early named Christian martyr, about whom nothing more is known), my faithful witness, was martyred before your eyes in the very house of Satan.
Yet I have a few things (of an internal nature) against you - some of your number cling to the teaching of Balaam, the man who taught Balak (king of Moab) how to entice the children of Israel into eating meat sacrificed to idols and into sexual immorality (... the full story of Balaam is found in Numbers 22-24 and summarised in Numbers 31:16). I have also against you the fact that among your number are some who hold just as closely to the teaching of the Nicolaitans (as in the Ephesus church). Repent then, or else I shall come to you quickly and make war upon them with the sword of my mouth. ...
(Part 3) ... Let the listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches: 'I will give the victorious some of the hidden manna, and I will also give him a white stone with a new name written upon it which no man knows except the man who receives it.
TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA - HARD-WORKING, BUT SOME REMAIN PAGANS
- Thyatira was the home town of Lydia, converted by Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:14):
Revelation 2:18-29 - (Part 1) "Write this to the angel of the Church in Thyatira: 'These are the words of the Son of God whose eyes blaze like fire and whose feet shine like the finest bronze: ...
(Part 2) ... I know what you have done. I know of your love and your loyalty, your service and your endurance. Moreover, I know that you are doing more than you did at first. But I have this (internal problem) against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess (.. apparently a local woman who is a contemporary version of the pagan wife of King Ahab who seduced Israel into idolatry and immorality. The story of Ahab and Jezebel can be found in 1 Kings 16:29-22:40, and Jezebel's fate in 2 Kings 9:30-37), but who by her teaching deceives my servants into sexual immorality and eating idols'-meat. I have given her time to repent but she has shown no desire to repent of her immorality. See, now, how I throw her into bed and her lovers with her, and I will send them terrible suffering unless they repent of what she has done. As for her children (or followers), I shall strike them dead. Then all the Churches will know that I am the one who searches men's hearts and minds, and that I will reward each one of you according to your deeds.
But for the rest of you at Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, and have not learned what they call 'the deep things of Satan' (.. a secret, and it was claimed, superior knowledge of God known as Gnosticism - a major Christian heresy), I will lay no further burden upon you, except that you hold on to what you have until I come (... the burden John is referring to, is the guidelines laid down for Gentile converts at the Council at Jerusalem, Acts 15:28-29. John was no doubt present when they were drawn up)!
(Part 3) To the one who is victorious, who carries out my work to the end, I will give authority over the nations, just as I myself have received authority from my Father, and I will give him the morning star.
'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces' (Psalm 2:9).
Let the listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.
TO THE CHURCH IN SARDIS - APPARENTLY ALIVE, BUT MAINLY DEAD
Revelation 3:1-6 - (Part 1) "Write this to the angel of the Church in Sardis: 'These are the words of him who holds in his hand the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ...
(Part 2) ... I know what you have done, that you have a reputation for being alive, but that in fact (your problems are internal, and ...) you are dead. Now wake up! Strengthen what you still have before it dies! For I have not found any of your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember then what you were given and what you were taught. Hold to those things and repent. If you refuse to wake up, then I will come to you like a thief, and you will have no idea of the hour of my coming.
Yet you still have a few names in Sardis of people who have not soiled their garments. They shall walk with me in white (... a symbol of purity), for they have deserved to do so. ...
(Part 3) ... The victorious shall wear such white garments, and never will I erase his name from the book of life. Indeed, I will speak his name openly in the presence of my Father and of his angels. Let the listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.
TO THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA - WEAK IN POWER, BUT LOYAL
Revelation 3:7-13 - (Part 1) "Then write this to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia: These are the words of the holy one and the true,
'He who has the key of David. He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens' (Isaiah 22:22).
(Part 2) I know what you have done. See, I have given you a door flung wide open, which no man can close! For you have some little power and have been faithful to my message and have not denied my name. See how I deal with those of Satan's synagogue, who claim to be Jews, yet are no Jews but liars (... as in Smyrna, persecution came from local Jews, not pagan Gentiles)! Watch how I make them come and bow down before your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Because you have obeyed my call to patient endurance I will keep you safe from the hour of trial which is to come upon the whole world, to test all who live upon the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have - let no one deprive you of your crown. ...
(Part 3) ... As for the victorious, I will make him a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he will never leave it. I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down out of Heaven from my God. And I will write upon him my own new name. Let the listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.
TO THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA - WORLDLY SUCCESSFUL, AND COMPLACENT
- Laodicea is referred to in Paul's Letter to the Colossians, 4:15-16:
Revelation 3:14-22 - (Part 1) "Then write this to the angel of the Church in Laodicea: 'These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation: ...
(Part 2) ... I know what you have done, and that you are neither cold nor hot (as a church). I could wish that you were either cold or hot! but since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I intend to spit you out of my mouth! While you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and there is nothing that I need', you have no eyes to see that you are wretched, pitiable, poverty-stricken, blind and naked (in God's sight). My advice to you is to buy from me that gold which is purified in the furnace so that you may be rich, and white garments to wear so that you may hide the shame of your nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes to make you see. All those whom I love I correct and discipline. Therefore, shake off your complacency and repent. See, I stand knocking at the door. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will go into his house, and dine with him, and he with me. ...
(Part 3) ... As for the victorious, I will give him the honour of sitting beside me on my throne, just as I myself have won the victory and have taken my seat beside my Father on his throne. Let the listener hear what the spirit says to the Churches."
Revelations continues with vision's of God's judgements and the defeat of evil:
SUMMARY OF THIS CENTRAL PART OF REVELATION
The seven letters to the churches of Asia are followed by GOD'S JUDGMENT ON THE UNIVERSE.
The heart of this major section is three sets of sevenfold judgments:
(1) The opening of Seven Seals (chapters 6:1-8:1);
(2) The sounding of Seven Trumpets (chapters 8:7-11:15);
(3) The pouring out of Seven Plagues (chapters 16:2-16:21);
Sometimes preceding, sometimes interposed within, sometimes following these judgments are a variety of other visions and deeds:
(1) The opening of Seven Seals (chapters 6:1-8:1):
- The opening of the First Seal (6:1) is preceded by John's vision of heaven and the Revelation that only Christ, the lamb of God is worthy to open all Seven Seals (4:1-5:14);
- Before the Seventh Seal is opened (8:1), there is an interlude in which the Jews of Israel and a multitude of mankind are marked or identified for rescue before God's final judgment (7:1-17);
(2) The sounding of Seven Trumpets (chapters 8:7-11:15):
- Before the First Trumpet sounds (8:7), an angel appears with an incense burner. The incense and the prayers of the saints rise up before God (8:2-6).
- Before the Seventh Trumpet (11:15), another angel hands John a "little book" to eat and he is told to prophesy (10:1-11). The Temple is measured (11:1-2), two witnesses are killed by Satan but taken up into heaven (11:3-12), and an earthquake takes place (11:13-14);
(3) The pouring out of Seven Plagues (chapters 16:2-16:21):
- After the Last Trumpet sounds (11:15) but before the First Plague is poured out (16:2), there are a number of major visions:
11:16-19 - God is worshipped and the ark of the covenant revealed;
12:1-17 - A woman and a dragon appear; the dragon attempts to destroy her;
13:1-18 - Two beasts appear - one from the sea, one from the earth;
14:1-20 - The Christians saved in heaven are described; six angels make a series of pronouncements;
15:1-16:1 - Seven more angels prepare to pour out seven plagues:
- Between the Sixth Plague (16:12) and the Seventh (16:17-21) a great struggle, the Battle of Armageddon takes place (16:13-16)
- The pouring out of the Last Plague leads to the Fall of "Babylon" and approaching victory for those Christians who endured (17:1-19:10)
The Conclusion of Revelation, Chapters 19:11-22:21 has its own Introduction
IV - VISION OF HEAVEN
THE THRONE OF GOD
JOHN'S VISION - THE THRONE OF GOD, THE 24 ELDERS, THE SEVEN SPIRITS
Revelation 4:1-6a - Later I looked again, and before my eyes a door stood open in Heaven, and in my ears was the voice with the ring of a trumpet, which I had heard at first, speaking to me and saying, "Come up here, and I will show you what must happen in the future."
Immediately I knew myself to be inspired by the Spirit, and in my vision I saw a throne had been set up in Heaven, and there was someone seated upon the throne. His appearance (could not be described in human terms, but ...) blazed like diamond and topaz, and all around the throne shone a halo like an emerald rainbow. In a circle around the throne (of God) there were twenty-four thrones and seated upon them twenty-four elders (... possibly 12 patriarchs and 12 apostles representing the entire Church and all mankind saved by God) dressed in white with golden crowns upon their heads. From the central throne come flashes of lightning, noises and peals of thunder. Seven lamps are burning before the throne, and they are the seven Spirits (or sevenfold Holy Spirit) of God. In front of the throne there appears a sea of glass as clear as crystal.
THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES, WHO WITH THE 24 ELDERS WORSHIP GOD ETERNALLY
Revelation 4:6b-11 - On each side, encircling the throne, are four living creatures (or "beings", perhaps representing all living creation) covered with eyes in front and behind. ...
- The four living creatures are similar in appearance to the Cherubim (heavenly angels) of Ezekiel 1 and 10, and the Seraphim (heavenly beings or attendants) of Isaiah 6 in the Old Testament -
... The first living creature is like a lion, the second is like a calf, the third has a face like a man, and the fourth living creature appears like an eagle in flight. These four creatures have each of them six wings and are covered with eyes, all around them, and even within them. Day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is coming."
The ceaseless worship of Heaven
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanksgiving to the one (God) who sits upon the throne, who lives for timeless ages, the twenty-four elders prostrate themselves before him who is seated upon the throne and worship the one who lives for timeless ages. They cast their crowns before the throne and say, "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things and by your will they exist and were created."
THE SEVEN-SEALED BOOK, AND JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD
THE BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS IN GOD'S HAND; THE CALL FOR ONE WORTHY TO OPEN IT; THE LION OF JUDAH IS PROCLAIMED WORTHY
Revelation 5:1-5 - Then I noticed in the right hand of the one (God) seated upon the throne a book (presumably containing the world's destiny - God's final judgment) filled with writing both inside and on its back, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel who called out in a loud voice, "Who is fit to open the book and break its seals (and release God's judgments)?"
And no one in Heaven or upon the earth or under the earth was able to open the book, or even to look at it. I (John) began to weep bitterly because no one could be found fit to open the book, or even to look at it, when one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. See, the lion from the tribe of Judah (... one of Christ's titles), the root of David, has won the victory and is able to open the book and break its seven seals."
JOHN'S VISION OF THE SACRIFICED LAMB WHO TAKES THE BOOK; THE CREATURES AND ELDERS WORSHIP HIM
- Christ appears not as a mighty king but as the gentle, slaughtered Lamb of God:
Revelation 5:6-10 - Then, standing in the very centre of the throne and of the four living creatures and of the elders, I saw a Lamb that seemed to have been slaughtered. He had seven horns and seven eyes (symbolically holding all power and all wisdom respectively), which are the seven Spirits (Holy Spirit) of God and are sent out into every corner of the earth. Then he (the Lamb) came and took the book from the right hand of him (God) who was seated upon the throne.
The new hymn of the created and of the redeemed
When he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp, and they had golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sang a new song and these are the words they sang, "You (Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God) are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."
THE WHOLE OF CREATION PRAISES AND WORSHIPS THE LAMB
Revelation 5:11-14 - Then in my vision I heard the voices of many angels encircling the throne, the living creatures and the elders. There were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, crying in a great voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!"
Then I heard the voice of everything created in Heaven, upon earth, under the earth and upon the sea, and all that are in them saying, "Blessing and honour and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!"
The four living creatures said, "Amen", while the elders fell down and worshipped.
V - THE SEVEN SEALS ARE BROKEN
THE LAMB BREAKS THE FIRST FOUR SEALS - THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE ARE RELEASED
- The first horseman represents the desire for empire and power, leading on to war, famine, and death:
THE FIRST SEAL IS BROKEN BY THE LAMB - A WHITE HORSE APPEARS, ITS RIDER "CONQUEST"
Revelation 6:1-2 - Then I watched while the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice of thunder, "Come out!"
I looked, and before my eyes was a white horse. Its rider carried a bow, and he was given a crown. He rode out conquering and bent on conquest (empire and domination).
THE SECOND SEAL IS BROKEN - A RED HORSE, THE RIDER "WAR"
Revelation 6:3-4 - Then, when the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature, cry, "Come out!"
And another horse came forth, red in colour. Its rider was given power to deprive the earth of peace, so that men should kill each other. A huge sword was put into his hand.
THE THIRD SEAL - A BLACK HORSE, "FAMINE"
Revelation 6:5-6 - When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come out!"
I looked again and there before my eyes was a black horse. Its rider had a pair of scales in his hand, and I heard a voice which seemed to come from the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a shilling, and three quarts of barley for a shilling (... a day's wages for one man's food for a day) - but no tampering with the oil or the wine!"
THE FOURTH SEAL - A SICKLY GREEN HORSE, "DEATH"
Revelation 6:7-8 - Then, when he broke the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth living creature cry, "Come out!"
Again I looked, and there appeared a horse sickly green in colour. The name of its rider was death (from the disease and pestilence that follows hard on the heels of famine), and the grave (Hades or hell) followed close behind him. A quarter of the earth was put into their power, to kill with the sword, by famine, by violence, and through the wild beasts of the earth.
THE LAMB BREAKS THE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEALS
- The cries of the martyrs and the release of cosmic forces:
THE FIFTH SEAL - THE MARTYRS OF GOD CRY OUT FOR JUSTICE
Revelation 6:9-11 - When the Lamb (of God) broke the fifth seal, I could see, beneath the altar, the souls of those (martyrs) who had been killed for the sake of the Word of God (the Gospel of Christ) and because of the faithfulness of their witness. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell (in prosperity) on the earth?"
Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and of their brethren, who were to die as they had died, should be complete.
THE SIXTH SEAL - UNIVERSAL CATASTROPHE; MANKIND, IN TERROR, HIDES FROM THE ANGER OF GOD AND THE LAMB
Revelation 6:12-17 - Then I watched while he (the Lamb) broke the sixth seal. There was a tremendous earthquake, the sun turned dark like coarse black cloth, and the full moon was red as blood. The stars of the sky fell upon the earth, just as a fig-tree sheds unripe figs when shaken in a gale. The sky vanished as though it were a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was jolted out of its place. Then the kings of the earth, and the great men, the captains, the wealthy, the powerful, and every man, whether slave or free, hid themselves in caves and among mountain rocks. They called out to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of his wrath has come, and who is able to stand against it?"
INTERLUDE - VISION BEFORE THE SEVENTH SEAL IS OPENED
- There is now a pause before God's final judgments, while those who are to be saved are marked and identified:
GOD'S SERVANTS FROM THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL ARE MARKED FOR PROTECTION
Revelation 7:1-8 - Later I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding in check the four (destroying) winds of the earth that none should blow upon the earth or upon the sea or upon any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending out of the east, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who had the power to harm the earth and the sea: "Do no harm to the earth, nor to the sea, nor to the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads."
I heard the number of those who were thus sealed and it was 144,000 (or 12 x 12 x 1,000 - a symbolic number based on the square of twelve representing completeness or a great multitude of people), from every (one of the twelve Jewish) tribe(s) of the sons of Israel. Twelve thousand were sealed from the tribe of Judah; twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben; twelve thousand from the tribe of Gad; twelve thousand from the tribe of Asher; twelve thousand from the tribe of Naphtali; twelve thousand from the tribe of Manasseh; twelve thousand from the tribe of Simeon; twelve thousand from the tribe of Levi; twelve thousand from the tribe of Issachar; twelve thousand from the tribe of Zebulun; twelve thousand from the tribe of Joseph; and twelve thousand from the tribe of Benjamin.
THE EVEN GREATER MULTITUDE OF MANKIND WHO ARE SAVED BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
Revelation 7:9-17 - When this was done I looked again, and before my eyes appeared a vast crowd (of presumably the world's Gentiles, saved by God and carried to heaven) beyond man's power to number. They came from every nation and tribe and people and language, and they stood before the throne of the Lamb, dressed in white robes with palm-branches in their hands. With a great voice they shouted these words: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!"
Then all the angels (of heaven) stood encircling the throne, the (twenty four) elders and the four living creatures, and prostrated themselves with heads bowed before the throne and worshipped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength be given to our God for timeless ages!"
The countless host explained
Then one of the elders addressed me (John) and asked, "These who are dressed in white robe - who are they, and where do they come from?!
"You know, my Lord," I answered him.
Then he told me, "These are those who have come through the great oppression (or the tribulation and saved by God): they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they now have their place before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple. He who sits upon the throne will be their shelter. They will never again know hunger or thirst. The sun shall never beat upon them, neither shall there be any scorching heat, for the Lamb who is in the centre of the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
THE SEVENTH SEAL IS OPENED - SILENCE
- The opening of the Seventh Seal is followed by the release of seven more judgments:
Revelation 8:1 - Then, when he had broken the seventh seal, there was utter silence in Heaven for what seemed to me half-an-hour.
VI - SEVEN TRUMPETS ARE SOUNDED
SEVEN ANGELS BEFORE GOD ARE GIVEN SEVEN TRUMPETS
Revelation 8:2 - Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God, and seven trumpets were put into their hands.
THE EIGHTH ANGEL AND THE INCENSE-BURNER; THE PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS
Revelation 8:3-6 - Then another angel came and stood by the altar holding a golden censer (a pan for burning incense). He was given a great quantity of incense to add to the prayers of all the saints, to be laid upon the golden altar before the throne. And the smoke of the incense rose up before God from the angel's hand, mingled with the prayers of the saints. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it upon the earth (as a symbol of disaster). And at that there were thunderings and noises, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who were holding the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
FOUR ANGELS SOUND THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS
- The trumpets announce natural disasters which destroy a third of heaven and earth:
THE FIRST TRUMPET - HAIL AND FIRE DESTROYS A THIRD OF THE EARTH AND ITS VEGETATION
Revelation 8:7 - The first angel blew his trumpet. Hail and fire mingled with blood appeared, and were hurled upon the earth. One-third of the earth was burnt up, one-third of all the trees was burnt up, and every blade of green grass was burnt up.
THE SECOND TRUMPET - A FIERY MASS DESTROYS A THIRD OF THE SEA AND ITS CREATURES AND SHIPS
Revelation 8:8-9 - The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a vast mountain (a mass as large as a mountain) blazing with fire was thrown into the sea. A third-part of the sea turned into blood, a third of all live creatures in the sea died, and a third-part of all shipping was destroyed.
THE THIRD TRUMPET - A BLAZING STAR POISONS A THIRD OF THE WORLD'S FRESH WATER
Revelation 8:10-11 - Then the third angel blew his trumpet and there fell from the sky a huge star blazing like a torch. It fell upon a third of the rivers and springs of water. The name of the star is said to be Apsinthus (Wormwood). ...
- "Wormwood", a type of wood, "apsinthion" in Greek. A liqueur made from extract of wormwood is the French "absinthe". In Old Testament terms the bitterness of wormwood represents divine punishment -
... A third of all the waters turned into wormwood, and many people died because the waters had become so bitter.
THE FOURTH TRUMPET - A THIRD OF THE UNIVERSE IS DESTROYED
Revelation 8:12 - The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third-part of the sun, a third-part of the moon and a third of the stars were struck. A third-part of the light of each of them was darkened, so that light by day and light by night were both diminished by a third-part.
THE THREE CRIES OF WOE BECAUSE OF THE THREE REMAINING TRUMPETS
- The cries of the eagle separate the first four natural disasters which destroy a third of heaven and earth, from the last three which directly involve mankind:
Revelation 8:13 - Then in my vision I saw a solitary eagle flying in mid-heaven, crying in a loud voice, "Alas, alas, alas for the inhabitants of the earth for there are three more trumpet blasts which the three angels shall sound!"
THE SYMBOLS IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
The Book of Revelation is full of symbolism, no more so than in the remaining chapters. Some of the symbols are outlined here together with their possible interpretation, both contemporary and eternal:
THE SERVANTS OF GOD
THE PREGNANT WOMAN - possibly representing God's chosen people, both Jew and Christian; possibly the mother of the Messiah and the Church
JESUS CHRIST, THE MESSIAH - possibly the male child born to the pregnant woman. Also THE LAMB and THE RIDER ON THE WHITE HORSE (but not the rider of Revelation 6:2, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST; also THE BRIDE
ARCHANGEL MICHAEL - the Protector or guardian angel of Israel (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1)
THE SAINTS - God's people, Christians, the saved
POWERS OPPOSED TO GOD
THE DEVIL or SATAN - possibly the Star fallen from heaven, the Angel or star of the Pit, Angel of the Abyss; personified as "Abaddon" (destruction) in Hebrew or "Apollyon" in Greek.
Also THE DRAGON, the red dragon, the primeval Serpent who is called the devil or Satan, the Adversary, the Accuser
HELL or THE GRAVE - the fathomless pit, the Abyss, "Sheol" or "Abaddon" (destruction) in Hebrew, "Hades" or "Apollyon" from the Greek; the place of the dead, where fallen angels are imprisoned, eternal separation from God
DEMONS, EVIL SPIRITS - the locusts or scorpion locusts
Contemporary translation - possibly mounted Parthian archers who could shoot backwards from their horses on the gallop. The Parthian Empire across the River Euphrates was a major threat to the Roman Empire
THE ANIMAL FROM THE SEA - the Beast from the Sea, an anti-God power, an authoritarian godless state
Contemporary translation - the Roman Empire. The capital Rome was "over the seas" relative to the province of Asia where John was writing. Personified as the dead emperor Nero who "returns to life" as the Book of Revelation develops.
Eternally - any world empire or system, and its leaders.
THE PROSTITUTE OR HARLOT; also "BABYLON", THE WOMAN
Contemporary translation - the city of Rome.
Eternally - the centre or centres of any world power or powers
THE ANIMAL FROM THE EARTH - the Beast from the Earth, an anti-god power, state-sanctioned, state-dominated religion
Contemporary translation - the high priest of Roman emperor-worship, possibly centred in the province of Asia.
Eternally - the god's, their worship and the "high priests" of material, spiritual, cultural or religious gods in any age
(any notes following in the text on the Powers Opposed to God are in RED)
A NOTE ON TIMES
"TIME, TIMES AND HALF A TIME" - "one year, two years and half a year" from Daniel 7:25, the 3 1/2 year period 168-165BC when the Jerusalem Temple was desecrated. Also equal to:
1,260 days or 42 months
THE FIFTH AND SIXTH TRUMPETS
THE FIFTH TRUMPET - A STAR FALLS WITH KEYS TO THE ABYSS; THE FIRST WOE STARTS
Revelation 9:1 - The fifth angel blew his trumpet. I saw a star (... the Angel of the Abyss, possibly Satan), that had fallen down from Heaven to earth, and he was given the key (of Death and Hades) to the fathomless pit (... the Abyss)
THE ABYSS IS OPENED, SMOKE ASCENDS, LOCUSTS APPEAR WITH THE POWER TO TORTURE THOSE WITHOUT GOD'S PROTECTION
Revelation 9:2-6 - Then he (the Angel of the Abyss) opened the pit and smoke like the smoke of a vast furnace rose out of it, so that the light of the sun and the air itself grew dark from the smoke of the pit.
Then out of the smoke emerged locusts (evil spirits or demons) to descend upon the earth. They were given powers like those of earthly scorpions. They had orders to do no harm to any grass, green thing or tree upon the earth, but to injure only those human beings who did not bear the seal of God('s protection) upon their foreheads. They were given no power to kill men, but only to torture them for five months. The torture they could inflict was like the pain of a scorpion's sting.
In those days men will seek death but they will never find it; they will long to die but death will elude them.
THE APPEARANCE OF THE LOCUSTS; THEIR KING, THE ANGEL NAMED "DESTROYER"; THE FIRST WOE ENDS
Revelation 9:7-12 - These locusts (possibly now symbolising mounted Parthian archers as instruments of Satan's purpose) looked to me in my vision like horses prepared for battle, On their heads were what appeared to be crowns like gold; their faces were like human faces, and they had long hair like women. Their teeth were like lion's teeth, their breasts were like iron-breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of a host of chariots and horses charging into battle. They have tails and stings like scorpions, and it is in their tails that they possess the power to injure men for five months. They have as their king the angel of the pit (possibly Satan), whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek Apollyon, (meaning the destroyer).
The first disaster (or woe) is now past, but I see two more approaching.
THE SIXTH TRUMPET SOUNDS - FOUR ANGELS OF DEATH ARE RELEASED; THE SECOND WOE STARTS
Revelation 9:13-15 - Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a solitary voice speaking from the four corners of the golden altar that stands in the presence of God. And it said to the sixth angel who held the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates (... the eastern boundary between Rome and her enemy, the Parthian Empire)!"
Then these four angels who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month and the year, were set free to kill a third-part of all mankind.
A VISION OF 200 MILLION MOUNTED TROOPS; THE HORSE'S "BREATH" KILLS A THIRD OF MANKIND
Revelation 9:16-19 - The number of their horsemen (the possible Parthian invaders?) was two hundred million - I heard what their number was. In my vision I saw these horses and their riders, and their breastplates were fiery-red, blue and yellow. The horses' heads looked to me like the heads of lions, and out of their mouths poured fire and smoke and sulphur. A third of all mankind died from the fearful effects of these three, the fire, the smoke and the sulphur which pours out of their mouths. For the power of these horses lies in their mouths and in their tails. Indeed their tails are like serpents with heads, and with these they inflict injury.
THE REST OF MANKIND CONTINUES TO SIN
- With Six Trumpets sounded, and only one remaining, most of mankind still refuses to turn to the one God, and continues to worship the many gods of their own making:
Revelation 9:20-21 - The rest of mankind, who did not die in this fearful destruction, neither repented of the works of their own hands nor ceased to worship evil powers and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone or wood, which can neither see nor hear nor move. Neither did they repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual sins, nor of their thieving.
INTERLUDE - VISIONS OF THE POWERFUL ANGEL WITH THE LITTLE BOOK; THE TWO WITNESSES
ANOTHER ANGEL APPEARS, HOLDING A LITTLE BOOK; THE VOICES OF SEVEN THUNDERS SPEAK BUT ARE NOT REVEALED
Revelation 10:1-4 - Then I saw another mighty angel (like the "mighty angel" who called for someone to open the seven-sealed book, Revelation 5:2) descending from Heaven. He was clothed in a cloud, and there was a rainbow around his head. His face blazed like the sun, his legs like pillars of fire, and he had a little book ...
- Possibly the originally sealed scroll of Revelation 5:1 now open for all to see. Alternatively another scroll containing judgments specific to the "Roman Empire", rather than all mankind -
... lying open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea (Rome?), and his left foot on the land (the province of Asia where John is writing?), and then shouted with a loud voice like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted the seven thunders (perhaps another set of visions that John is told not to reveal) lifted their voices. When the seven thunders had rolled I was on the point of writing but I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Seal up what the seven thunders said, but do not write it down!"
HIS WARNING; WHEN THE SEVENTH TRUMPET SOUNDS, GOD'S PURPOSE WILL BE COMPLETED
Revelation 10:5-7 - Then the angel whom I had seen bestriding the sea and the land raised his right hand to Heaven and swore by the living one of the timeless ages, who created Heaven, earth and sea and all that is in them: "There shall be no more delay! In the days which shall soon be announced by the trumpet-blast of the seventh angel the mysterious purpose of God shall be completed, as he assured his servants the prophets."
JOHN TAKES AND EATS THE ANGEL'S LITTLE BOOK; HIS DUTY TO PROPHESY
Revelation 10:8-11 - Then the voice which I had heard from Heaven was again in my ears, saying, "Go, and take the little book which lies open in the hand of the (mighty) angel whose feet are planted on both sea and land."
So I went off towards the angel, asking him to give me the little book.
"Take it," he said to me, "and eat it up (... absorb the "little book's" contents and message). It will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth (... the sweetness of God's words, but the bitterness of his judgments)."
Then I took the little book from the angel's hand and swallowed it. It was as sweet as honey to the taste but when I had eaten it up it was bitter to my stomach.
John is instructed to prophesy
Then they said to me, "It is again your duty (John's) to prophesy about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."
THE INNER TEMPLE OF GOD IS TO BE MEASURED; THE OUTER COURT IS FOR THE GENTILES
Revelation 11:1-2 - And I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, "Get up and measure the Temple of God, and the altar (... suggesting the Temple is to be preserved and protected), and count those who worship there. But leave out of your measurement the (Gentiles) courtyard outside the Temple - do not measure that at all. For it has been given over to the (pagan) nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months (or desecrate it for "time, times and half a time")."
THE POWER OF THE TWO WITNESSES UNTIL THEIR TESTIMONY IS FINISHED
Revelation 11:3-6 - "And I will give authority to my two witnesses (... the minimum legal requirement in Jewish law. There are various theories about their identity, but they bear some resemblance to Elijah and Moses who appeared with Jesus at his Transfiguration ...) to proclaim the message, clothed in sackcloth for twelve hundred and sixty days ("time, times and half a time")."
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands (related to the message of Zechariah 4) which stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire issues from their mouths and consumes their enemies. Indeed, if anyone should try to hurt them, this is the way in which he will certainly meet his death. These (two) witnesses have power to shut up the sky and stop any rain from falling (as Elijah did, 1 Kings 17:1) during the time of their preaching. Moreover, they have power to turn the waters into blood, and to strike the earth with any plague as often as they wish (as Moses did with the plagues of Egypt, Exodus chapters 7-12).
THEY ARE KILLED BY THE BEAST OF THE ABYSS; MANKIND GLOATS OVER THEIR UNBURIED CORPSES
Revelation 11:7-10 - Then, when their work of witness is complete, the animal will come up out of the pit (... the first appearance of the Satanic Beast of the Abyss) and go to war with them. It will conquer and kill them, and their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is called by those with spiritual understanding, "Sodom" and "Egypt" - the very place where their Lord himself was crucified (... the great city is Jerusalem in this instance, but more likely Rome - "Babylon" in the rest of Revelation). For three and a half days (in return for three and a half years of preaching by the witnesses) men from all people and tribes and languages and nations will gaze upon their bodies and will not allow them to be buried. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will hold celebrations and send one another presents, because these two prophets had brought such misery to the inhabitants of the earth.
GOD BREATHES LIFE INTO THEM; THEY GO UP TO HEAVEN
Revelation 11:11-12 - But after three and a half days the Spirit of life from God entered them and they stood upright on their feet. This struck terror into the hearts of those who were watching them, and they heard a tremendous voice speaking to these two from Heaven, saying "Come up here!" And they went up to Heaven in a cloud in full view of their enemies.
AN EARTHQUAKE KILLS 7,000; THE SECOND WOE ENDS
Revelation 11:13-14 - And at that moment there was a great earthquake, a tenth-part of the city fell in ruins and seven thousand people were known to have been killed in the earthquake. The rest were terrified and acknowledged the glory of the God of Heaven.
The second disaster (or woe) is now past, and I see the third disaster following hard upon the heels of the second.
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET
THE SEVENTH TRUMPET SOUNDS - THE END TIMES HAVE COME; THE THIRD WOE STARTS
Revelation 11:15 - The seventh angel blew his trumpet. There arose loud voices in Heaven and they were saying, "The kingship of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Christ, and he shall be king for timeless ages (... the end-times and the kingdom of Christ have come)!"
THE TWENTY FOUR ELDERS WORSHIP GOD, AND GIVE THANKS FOR HIS JUDGMENT
Revelation 11:16-18 - Then the twenty-four elders, who sit upon their thrones in the presence of God, prostrated themselves and, with bowed heads, worshipped God, saying: "We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who was and who is to come, because you have taken your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should reward your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth!"
GOD'S TEMPLE IS OPENED AND THE ARK REVEALED; THE ELEMENTS RAGE
Revelation 11:19 - Then the Temple of God in Heaven was thrown open and the ark of his agreement (or covenant) within his Temple could be clearly seen (... the sacred and previously hidden ark of the covenant is revealed to all mankind with the coming of the Messiah). Accompanying this sight were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a violent storm of hail.
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