The Book of Revelation; nothing could be more timely to understand. Why? Because its execution is close; we are in the “last days.” Perhaps the best way to understand this book is to review its characters and events, and that is what this post does.
The Book of Revelation is a story of good versus evil, restoration and redemption, and destruction and re-creation. It begins with a letter to the churches and continues with the restoration of Israel and God’s mercy in a remarkable redemption of Tribulation and Millennium Saints. Next, it demonstrates Satan’s judgment, punishment, destruction, corrupt world system, Fallen Angels, and all “who dwell on the earth” rejecting Christ. It also affirms the reward and comfort of the Saints and heralds the return of the earthly kingdom to Jesus Christ, its rightful heir. Finally, it describes the cessation of our current world and system and the creation of a New Heaven, a New Earth, a Lake of Fire, and the eternal state.
- Chapters 1 – 3: Letter to the churches – from Christ to the Rapture
- Chapters 4 – 19: Judgment and Redemption – The Seven-Year Tribulation to the Second Coming
- Chapter 20: Kingdom Age – The 1,000-Year Millennium
- Chapters 21 – 22: Eternal Age – New Heaven, New Earth, and the Lake of Fire
Letter to Seven Churches
Jesus addresses seven explicit Churches that existed when Revelation was composed. It is evident that Christ knew intimate details of these specific churches; however, they are universal throughout history. Additionally, their historical parallels may more comprehensively explain the significance of these church letters.
- Ephesus (Zealous) – parallels the Apostolic Age – before A.D. 100
- the time of Acts and the Apostles
- Smyrna (Persecuted) – the Age of Persecution – 100 – 313
- Inside persecution through heresies
- Gnosticism – secret knowledge of salvation (false gospel)
- Marcionism – rejection of the physical universe and Old Testament (which prompted the Canon of the Bible)
- Modalism – denial of Trinity
- Montanism – women and special revelation from the Holy Spirit
- Outside persecution of Roman emperors from Nero to Diocletian (which God used to spread Christianity).
- Inside persecution through heresies
- Pergamos (Infiltrated) – the Imperial Church Age – 313 – 590
- The Roman Emperor Constantine, via the Edict of Milan, to Theodosius the Great, makes Christianity the state church, which floods it with false believers.
- Thyatira – (Adulterous) – the Rise of Papacy – 590 – 1517
- Middle age rise of Papacy to whom Kings bowed before.
- Sardis – (Dead Orthodoxy) – the Reformation Church – 1517 – 1730
- Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (on Indulgences), Calvin, Knox, the New World’s Pilgrims, and Puritans (1620)
- Philadelphia – (Open Door) – the Missionary Age – 1730 – 1900
- Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield set the stage for an Evangelical Revival in England and a Great Awakening in America.
- Laodicea – (Neutral) the Age of Apostasy – 1900 – 2nd Coming
- The rise of Rationalism (human reason) and Empiricism (the scientific method) begins to replace religious traditionalism. Known as the Age of Enlightenment.
- Theological liberalism rejects the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, recorded miracles in the Bible, the substitutionary atonement, and the bodily resurrection of Christ. (This was Martin Luther King’s position in his doctoral thesis.)
- New Evangelicalism, through leaders such as Billy Graham, who pursued universalism.
- Rise of False Prosperity teachers such as Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation Churches.
- Ephesus (Zealous) – parallels the Apostolic Age – before A.D. 100
It is interesting to note that we are at the time of the final church letter.
Additionally, from a “young earth” viewpoint, which derives its chronology from the genealogy described in the Bible, there were 2,000 years from Adam to Abraham, 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ, and 2,000 from Christ to the present time. In other words, the world is only 6,000 years old, and we are at the end of these 6,000 years.
Many places in the Bible reveal a 6, 7 progression. For example, Jesus created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. Israel worked for six months and celebrated on the 7th. For six years, the Jews worked their fields and allowed the fields to go fallow on the 7th.
Could it be that the world has toiled for 6 thousand years and that the 1,000-year millennium will be the 7th, a period of rest? Of course, this is pure speculation but certainly food for thought.
Of course, Christ Jesus, the Lamb and the Lion of Judah is the central character in the Book of Revelation – Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
John the Apostle
John the Beloved, and the only Apostle not to die as a martyr, is exiled around 96 A.D. on the Isle of Patmos, given a vision, and commanded in Revelation 1:11 to “…’ Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches…’”
The Unholy Trinity: Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet
After doing everything possible to defeat Christ throughout history, Revelation 19:20 and 20:1-3 and 20:7-10 addresses their demise “…the beast (antichrist) was captured and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire…then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon…who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit…after that he must be released for a little while…and when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released…and will come out to deceive…but fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The devil who had deceived them was thrown in the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Those Who Dwell On the Earth
In addition to the Unholy Trinity, “those who dwell on the earth” are the objects of God’s wrath, punishment, and vengeance. They are the humanity that continues to reject Jesus Christ.
Much like Luke 17:27, where the people at the time of Noah “were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all,” humanity at the time of the Tribulation will respond likewise as in Revelation 11:10 “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them (the death of the two witnesses), make merry, and send gifts to one another because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
They are characterized as rebellious sinners who refuse to repent, as expressed in Revelation 9:20-21 “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols…nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries (drugs) or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
Babylon refers to the corrupt religious, political, and economic systems that flourish now under the Unholy Trinity. Described as a harlot and prostitute, Revelation 17:5 illustrates this “And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of the earth’s abominations.” Revelation 18:2-3 continues, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons…for all the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings…and the merchants….”
The 24 Elders
Around the Throne of Heaven in Revelation 4:4, “…were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders…” this could represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. Exactly who doesn’t matter, as they merely represent all believers?
From the “angels of the church” in Revelation 2:1 (who could also be elders) to the four living creatures in Revelation 4:6 “…and around the throne…are four living creatures…” to Revelation 8:2 “then I saw the seven angels …and seven trumpets…” to one of the three witnessing angels in Revelation 14:6 “then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth…” to Revelation 12:7 where “Now a war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon…” to finally in Revelation 5:11 “around the throne…the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands…” angel/messengers are everywhere in the Book of Revelation serving Christ and at the behest of the Holy Spirit.
The Two Witnesses
In Revelation 11:3, Two Witnesses“…will prophesy for 1,260 days (3 1/2 years) …” sharing the gospel until they are killed midway through the Tribulation in Revelation 11:7, bring about Happy Dead Witness celebrations, and then are raised miraculously into Heaven after 3 1/2 days. We can only speculate about who these men will be, maybe “Enoch and Elisha” or “Moses and Elisha. They are part of the restoration of Israel and God’s merciful redemption during the Tribulation. They are also undoubtedly followed daily by all the mainstream media outlets.
The 144,000 Jewish witnesses
In Revelation 7 and 14, the 144,000 Jewish witnesses are tasked with bringing about a great revival and are sealed and protected. Currently, there are approximately 50,000 missionaries in the world; so this speaks to the magnitude of the 144,000. Although some believe that Revelation 14:3 indicates they were martyred after completing their task since they are “…singing a new song before the throne…who have been redeemed from the earth….” I think it is more reasonable to assume that the 144,000 actually survive the Tribulation and will walk into the Millenium as living humans.
Revelation 6:17 asks, “…the great day of their Wrath has come, and who is able to stand [live]?” Revelation 14:1 answers this “…the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000…” Although Hebrews 12:22 refers to Mount Zion as the “heavenly Jerusalem,” Isaiah 24:23 and Psalm 2:6 refer to Mount Zion as Jerusalem on Earth; “My holy mountain.” Joel 2:32, or Isaiah 11:9 – 12, always expected a rallying of the faithful at Zion when the Messiah came. Additionally, Zechariah 8:23 talks about “all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we’ve heard that God is with you.’” The implication here is that God specifically sealed the 144,000, which is well known among the earthly inhabitants during the Tribulation. Consequently, I submit that the 144,000 were sealed and protected throughout the Tribulation, “sing a new song before the throne” in Jerusalem on Earth and walk into the Millenium as living humans to continue their teaching and preaching ministry with those living and born in the Millenium.
The Great Multitude from Every Nation
Christ continues to show His Mercy, and the Great Multitude that occurs during the Tribulation is the great earthly redemption discussed in Revelation 7:9,13-14 “…a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…Who are these…these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In Revelation 6:10, “They cried out…O Sovereign Lord…how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” In Revelation 19:1-2, God answers their prayer “After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Finally, we see this group in Revelation 20:4 “…I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus…they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
The Armies Assembled to Make War
The Anti-Christ convinces the whole world to come against God and Jerusalem. This confrontation is expressed in Revelation 19:19 “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war with Him who sits on the horse and with His army.” This is more fully described below in the Battle of Armageddon.
The next big event on God’s calendar is the Rapture of the Saints. Although this is alluded to in Revelation 3:10 “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” the Rapture is more fully detailed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who remain alive will be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
The Bema Seat Judgment
2 Corinthians 5:9 and Romans 14:10 occurs right after the Rapture and are a rewards ceremony in Heaven for Church Age Believers based on their works of Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In Revelation 4:10, “they cast their crowns before the throne….” These crowns equate to responsibilities in the eternal state.
The Marriage Feast of the Lamb
Revelation 19:7 states, “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready….” This celebration probably extends into the Millennium and includes Christ as the Groom, the Church Age Saints as the Bride of Christ, the Old Testament Saints, and the Angels as guests.
The Old Testament Saints (Israel) are pictured as the wife of God – Jeremiah 31:32 “It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.”
God treats the New Testament and Old Testament saints, as well s the Tribulation and Millenium saints slightly differently. For example, the New Testatment Saints receive their glorified bodies upon the Rapture. Old Testament Saints receive theirs upon the Second Coming and the Lost receive their bodies at the Great White Throne Judgment to which Romans 9:22 elaborates “…God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…”
7-Year Tribulation Period and the 21 Judgments –
Back on earth, there are Seven Seal, Seven Trumpet, and Seven Bowl Judgements throughout the 7-year Tribulation, beginning with the Four Horses of the Apocalypse, which Revelation 6:2 describes as “…a white horse. And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer” which signified the rise of the Anti-Christ and his corrupt system. Many of the ensuing judgments parallel the Judgments of Moses on Pharoah.
The Restoration of Israel
Jeremiah 30:3 predicts, “…behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel, and Judah….” In addition to the Two Witnesses and the 144,000 Jewish Witnesses, Israel is depicted as “the women” in Revelation 12:6, where it is recorded that “and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.” This refers to the second half of the seven-year Tribulation in which some 1/3rd of Israel is restored and protected.
Christ’s 2nd Coming and Armageddon
We see this in Revelation 19:11-21 at the end of the Tribulation, where “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He [Jesus Christ] who sits on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness, He judges and wages war…and the armies (angels and believers) which are in heaven clothed in fine linen, white and clean were following Him on white horses. And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the Nations…then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war with Him who sits on the horse and with His army. And the beast was seized and with him the false prophet…These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire…and the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sits on the horse….”
Judgment of Sheep and Goats
The Judgment of Sheep and Goats occurs right after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and is described in Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” At the end of the Tribulation, God separates those who have accepted His salvation and haven’t been martyred as Sheep and divides the remaining non-believers as Goats described in Matthew 25:33,41,46 “…and the goats on the left…then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…and these will go away into eternal punishment….”
1,000-Year Millennial Kingdom
Revelation 20:1-4 describes the Millennium Kingdom whereby in vs. 2, “he laid hold of the dragon…who is the devil and Satan and bound him for a thousand years…then I saw thrones…and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded…, and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” The absolute peacefulness of this Millennial Kingdom is further alluded to in passages such as Isaiah 11:8 “The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.”
Satan’s Final Insurrection
Satan is granted one last insurrection, recorded in Revelation 20:7-10 “…when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released…and will come out to deceive the nations…to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Great White Throne Judgment and the Lake of Fire
After Satan’s final insurrection, Revelation continues with the Great White Throne Judgment. Here, those who have rejected Jesus throughout history are given a body fitted for destruction and punished according to their deeds. This is described in Revelation 20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sits upon it…I saw the dead…standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds…Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire…and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Creation of New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem
Revelation 21 describes the creation of a New Heaven, New Earth, and the New Jerusalem – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem coming down from heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Genesis and Revelation Contrasted
Only God has witnessed the world’s creation, and only God can prophesy the end of the world with total accuracy.
Here are some of the contrasts between Genesis and Revelation:
- division of light and darkness (Genesis 1:4) – no night there (Revelation 21:25)
- division of land and sea (Genesis 1:10) – no more sea (Revelation 21:1)
- rule of sun and moon (Genesis 1:16) – no need for sun or moon (Revelation 21:23)
- heaven and earth finished (Genesis 2:1-3) – new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1)
- cursed ground (Genesis 3:17) – no more curse (Revelation 22:3)
- daily sorrow (Genesis 3:17) – no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4)
- return to dust (Genesis 3:19) – no more death (Revelation 21:4)
- coat of skins (Genesis 3:21) – fine linen, white and clean (Revelation 19:4)
- kept from the tree of life (Genesis 3:24) – access to the tree of life (Revelation 22:14)
- redeemer promised (Genesis 3:15) – redemption accomplished (Revelation 5:9, 10)
- evil continually (Genesis 6:5) – nothing that defiles (Revelation 21:27)
A Christian Worldview explicitly holds that (1) God exists – Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth,”(2) salvation is only through Christ – John 14:6 says “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and (3) His word is truth – 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” and John 17:17“…your word is truth.”
The Bible must be interpreted literally unless an allegorical meaning is clearly implied. This is only logical since if the Bible were understood allegorically, there would be infinite meanings without clear direction. Nowhere is this more important than in understanding the first and last books of the Bible – Genesis and Revelation.
Revelation offers comfort for believers who will be raptured before judgment begins. But, as reassuring as this is, we should be burdened and committed to sharing the message of the Gospel of Hope. As true as God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, He will surely destroy the world and punish those who continue to deny Him. Additionally, God will continue to offer salvation to those that turn to Him but wrath and judgment to those who turn from Him.