THE BOOK OF REVELATION (BRIEF STUDY)
According to the testimony of Irenaeus, a church father of the second century, John the Apostle, one of the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, wrote this book during the persecution of the Church by the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). He was the son of Zebedee, and his family were prosperous fishermen (Matthew 4:21). According to the book itself, the author's name was John (1:4, 9; 22:8). He was a prophet (22:9), and a leader who was known in the churches of Asia Minor to whom he writes the book of Revelation (1:4).
Revelation is a unique writing in the New Testament, comparable to Daniel in the Old Testament. It is the type of writing called apocalyptic, a word meaning "to uncover," "to reveal," or "to disclose" that which has formerly been covered or hidden, that is, not understood. The term apocalypsis is, in the Greek text, the opening word of our book; it is the "Apocalypse (Revelation) of Jesus Christ." The main characteristics of the book of Daniel and Revelation were the following:
1. They were usually written during a period of trouble and persecution in order to afford encouragement and assurance to the people (Revelation 1:9; 2:9-10, 13; 3:10; 6:9-11). John the Apostle wrote this book during the persecution of the Church by the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). The Jewish nation had suffered under the onslaughter of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (605-562 B.C.), which gave rise to the book of Daniel (Daniel 1:1, 2; 3:19-23).
2. They assured the people of God's triumph over their (and His) enemies, and the establishment of righteousness in the earth. Those mentioned in Revelation who had been martyred for their faith (6:9) were assured of vindication (6:10, 11), and a "new heaven and new earth" would testify to God's victory (21:1-8).
3. Their message was couched in signs and symbols and came to the writer by means of dreams and/or visions (Daniel 7:1; 9:20-23; Revelation 1:10; 4:1, 2; 17:1-3; 21:9, 10).
3. The Style of the Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation is admittedly a difficult book to interpret, simply because it has much symbolism, and it is not easy to determine where the symbolism occurs and where something is literal. Some are inclined to say simplistically that everything in the book of Revelation is symbolic, but is "angel" symbolic? Is "heaven" symbolic? The words "dragon" and "serpent" are symbolic, but certainly the words "devil" and "Satan" are not symbolic, since the words dragon and serpent are symbols of Satan, or the devil.
Why the book of Revelation is written in symbolical language? The reasons are as follows:
1. To describe the future in terms adaptable to it. Thus giving the prophet a means of speaking about things to come that would be incomprehensible if he were given futuristic words to name things not yet in existence during the times when he wrote; and
2. For the sake of the dramatic. Apocalyptic prophecy engages itself with cosmic events that are of great significance, and symbolism gives a greater dimension to them.
4. Methods of Interpretation
There are four basic methods of interpretation, varying both in viewpoint and in approach to the book, which may be applied:
1. the preterist method;
2. the historicist method; and
3. the futurist method.
4.1. The preterist method
Relating the events of the book to the first century A.D., this method regards them as having been fulfilled in the Apostolic Age ending about A.D. 100 or shortly thereafter. It is evident that this view does not regard the book as truly prophetic, seeming to disregard the writer's definite statements in 1:3, 19; 22:18, 19.
This view attempts to retain the relevance of the book for its initial readership, and emphasizes that an understanding of the writing is gained by a reconstruction of the historical context. Its denial of "prohecy," however, is a serious weakness.
4.2. The historicist method
This method regards Revelation as a "continuous picture book" of the history of the Church in the world. Its events are being unfolded throughout the centuries and will finally consummate in the return of Christ at His second advent. The difficulty in equating the statements of the book with crucial events in the long history of this age is, however, the main weakness of this view. And, further, without a good knowledge of history one could understand little of the message contained herein.
This view emphasizes the relevance of the book to human history, that its message cannot be separated from the drama of events within time and space, and that the second advent of Christ will initiate the great climactic events of the age. It is questionable, however, whether we can separate the greater part of the book from the context of the end times, for the great series of judgments contained in chapters 6-9 seem to lead directly into the Messianic Age as stated in 11:15. "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."
4.3. The futurist method
This view have been widely accepted by the early churches. The emphasis of this approach is upon the future, particularly the end of this present age for the fulfillment of most of the events of the book. Usually chapters 1-3 are considered as a literary introduction, with chapters 4-22 announcing those events which "must take place after these things" (4:1). The many crucial happenings described throughout the book, and especially the dramatic second advent and the final state, a new heaven and a new earth (see 19:11-22:5), certainly seem to necessitate a yet future fulfillment.
In this view one may sense a relation to certain other key eschatological passages in the New Testament, such as Matthew 24-25; 2 Thessalonians 1-2, connected with the return of Christ and also the restoration of Israel in the future millennial kingdom as fortold in the Old Testament prophecies such as Daniel; Isaiah; Ezekiel; Joel and Zechariah. The magnitude of many of the events described seems to await a future fulfillment. And yet, one must beware of rendering the book irrelevant either to its original readers or any others throughout Church history, for its message was intended to bring comfort and assurance in the midst of trouble and persecution (for examples, Revelation 2:9, 10; 3:9, 10).
Of the three views, this one is probably the best. I will use this method to interpret the book of Revelation.
5. Outline of the Book of Revelation
A simple key to the understanding of the book of Revelation is to realize that it is divided into two main parts. The first three chapters have to do with the church age, in which we now live. The remaining nineteen chapters have to do with future events following the close of the church age. We may outline the book as follows:
1. The things which are - an outline of the church period from the death of the apostles to the time when Christ will take His saints to heaven (Revelation 1-3).
2. The things which shall be hereafter - an outline of future events from the Rapture of the church to the eternal state (Revelation 4-22).
An easy way to remember the contents of this second section of the book is as follows:
1. Chapters 4 through 19 describe the 7-year Tribulation. These judgments are described under the figures of:
(a) seven seals.
(b) seven trumpets.
(c) seven vials or bowls.
2. Chapters 20-22 deal with Christ's kingdom on earth, the judgment of the Great White Throne and the Eternal State.
In the Tribulation period, the seventh seal contains the seven trumpet judgments. Also the seventh trumpet contains the seven vials. I believe that the book of Revelation is basically written in chronological order. However, as the narrative proceeds, there are frequent interruptions to introduce the reader to various great personalities or events of the Tribulation period. Some writers call these "parentheses." Some of the principal parentheses are as follows:
1. the 144,000 sealed by God and the salvation of a great multitude (Revelation 7);
2. the measuring of the temple and the two witnesses (Revelation 11);
3. the woman and the dragon (Revelation 12);
4. the two beasts (Revelation 13);
5. the woman on the beast (Revelation 17); and
6. the fall of commercial Babylon (Revelation 18).
6. The Methods of Interpretation of John's Seven Letters (Revelation 2-3)
These seven letters may be interpreted in the following three possible ways:
1. They describe conditions that actually existed in the seven literal churches at the time John was writing.
2. They give a view of Christendom on earth at any one time in its history. The features found in these letters have existed in every century since Pentecost. In this respect, the seven letters bear marked resemblances to the seven parables of Matthew 13.
3. The letters give a consecutive view of the history of the church, each church represents a distinct period. The general trend of conditions is downward. Many believe that the first three letters are consecutive and that the last four are concurrent, each reaching to the time of the Rapture. See below table for illustration:
The church of the 1st century was generally praise-worthy but it had already left its first love.
From the 1st to the 4th century, the church suffered persecution under the Roman Emperors.
During the 4th and 5th centuries, Christianity was recognized as an official religion through Constantine's patronage.
From the 6th to the 15th century (also known as the Dark Age), the State Church largely held sway in Christendom.
The 16th and 17th centuries were the post-Reformation period. The light of the Reformation soon became dim.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were mighty revivals and great missionary movements.
The church of the last days is pictured as luke-warm and apostate. It is the church of ecumenism, modernism and liberalism.
In my opinions, all the above interpretations are correct as they are not mutually exclusive and they do not contradict each others. Each interpretation has its own theological significance and therefore should not be ignored. It is common for the God to use the existing simple examples to illustrate the great spiritual truth which will be ultimately fulfilled in the distant future.
7. Visions of the Glory of God in Heaven (Revelation 4)
We have now come to the second major division of the book of Revelation. The first three chapters described the church age from the time of the apostles until the Rapture. Beginning with chapter 4, the subject is "the things which shall be hereafter." There is a definite break between chapters 3 and 4. From this point on, the church (saints) is never mentioned as being on earth. What, then, has happened to the church? I believe that it was taken (i.e. Raptured) to heaven by the Lord Jesus at the end of chapter 3.
Once the saints have been translated to heaven, the Lord Jesus will resume His dealings with the nation of Israel. Then will begin the Tribulation described in chapters 6 through 19. This is a 7-year period of time (Daniel 9:27) in which the Lord deals with the Jewish people concerning their rejection of the Messiah and also deals with the Gentile people concerning their rejection of the Gospel. Those who turn to Christ during the Tribulation will be saved and will be allowed to enter His millennial kingdom on earth at the close of the Tribulation, whereas those who refuse Him will be destroyed.
Now chapter 4 introduces us to the beginning of the Tribulation period. The first scene is in heaven, where John is given a vision of the glory of God. John's entrance into heaven is a picture of the church's being taken home to be with the Lord at this time (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
John immediately sees the Eternal God sitting upon His throne in majesty and splendor. Human language cannot describe Him, so John merely compares His bright-shining to the colorful glory of precious stones.
In Revelation 4:4 John is given a vision of 24 elders who are seated on thrones, clothed in white raiment, crowned with golden crowns, and in heaven in the presence of God. The 24 elders could not be angelic beings, for angels are not crowned with victors' crowns received as rewards, nor are they seated on thrones. Inasmuch as Israel is not resurrected until the end of the seventieth week, nor judged nor rewarded until the coming of the Lord according to Isaiah 26:19-21 and Daniel 12:1-2, these must be representatives of the saints of this present church age.
In Revelation 4:6 we are introduced to another group in connection with the throne: the "four living beings." They are not ordinary angelic beings, for they are distinguished from the angels, who are mentioned as a class by themselves in Revelation 5:11. They seem to be angelic beings of the highest order or class as they perform the duties of both cherubim and seraphim:
1. like cherubim, they are the guardians of the throne of God (Revelation 4);
2. like seraphim, they worship God (Revelation 4, 5, 7, 19); and
3. they have special proximity and immediate access to the throne of God.
The similarities and differences among the four living beings, cherubim and seraphim are shown in below table:
Living Beings (Revelation 4)
Living Beings (Ezekiel 1)
v. 6 midst of and around throne
v.26 under throne
v. 1 under throne
v. 2 above throne
v. 6 full of eyes before and behind
v.18 rings full of eyes
v.12 full of eyes
v. 7 one face each:
v. 6 four faces each:
v.14 four faces each:
1. like a lion
2. like a calf
3. like a man
4. like an eagle
1. like a lion
2. like a calf
3. like a man
4. like an eagle
1. like a lion
2. like a cherub
3. like a man
4. like an eagle
v. 8 six wings full of eyes within
v. 6 four wings
v.21 four wings
v. 2 six wings
v. 8 "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty"
v. 3 "Holy, holy, holy, Lord of hosts"
v. 8 "which was and is and is to come"
v. 3 "The whole earth is full of His glory"
v. 7 feet straight
v. 8 hands under wings
v.13 likeness of fire
8. The Sealed Scroll (Revelation 5)
God is here holding a scroll which has seven seals binding it at different places. The scroll contains a record of the judgments that must fall upon the earth before the Lord Jesus can set up His kingdom. John weeps because no one is found worthy to unloose the seals. But then sees the Lord Jesus as a little Lamb which has been recently slain but is now alive. The Lord Jesus is worthy to unloose God's judgments on an unbelieving world.
Notice that the Lord Jesus is spoken of here as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David (5:5). This is significant because the following chapters have to do primarily with the nation of Israel instead of the church. Christ is the Root of David in the sense that He created David. He is the Offspring of David in the sense that He was descended from David through the virgin Mary. The first expression implies His deity, and the second, His humanity.
9. John's Description of the Seven-Year Tribulation Period (Revelation 6-18)
The heart of the book of Revelation is three series of judgments associated with the number "seven." There are seven seals broken resulting in a series of judgments of rather broad scope, a kind of description of the entire period under major headings. Next there are seven trumpets blown in which several other phenomena of cosmic proportions are described. Finally, there are seven bowls of God's wrath poured out which seem to be yet more intense judgments on the whole world. That this series of judgments is related to the seventieth seven of Daniel 9:27 is apparent from several references to periods of time equaling one half of the seven years:
1. 42 months (Revelation 11:2);
2. 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3);
3. 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6);
4. time, times, and half a time (Revelation 12:14); and
5. forty two months (Revelation 13:5).
9.1. The broken seals (Revelation 5:1-8:1)
In what appears to be an overview of the time of distress, Jesus breaks open the seven seals of a scroll, each which results in a series of major world events. The first four seals involve a series of horses, each a different color bearing a rider.
The first horse (Revelation 6:1-2) is white and carries a rider going forth "to conquer." With no outright war being depicted, it is probable that the mission of rider is to endorse peace in a world characterized by unrest and disturbance.
The second horse (Revelation 6:3-4) is red and rider wields a sword, that he might "take peace from the earth." Here war is clearly represented as the eventual failure of the rider of the first horse to maintain peace.
The third horse (Revelation 6:5-6) is black and the rider carries a pair of balances for weighing food. The symbolism is of famine, one consequence of war.
The fourth horse (Revelation 6:7-8) is pale and the rider is named Death and has the power to "kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
The fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11) reveals a picture of saints in heaven who are martyrs "slain for the word of God," the result of persecution.
The sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17) describes enormous convulsions of nature which devastate the earth (Matthew 24:7).
9.2. The trumpets (Revelation 8-11)
The trumpet judgments are more severe. Since Jesus indicated that the "Great Tribulation" began after the Abomination that causes Desolation which is the mid-point of the seventieth week of Daniel (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:4), this and other reasons lead many to believe that the trumpet judgments begin at this mid-point also. In the trumpet judgments seven angels sound and judgments follow.
The first trumpet (Revelation 8:7) affects one third of the trees and all green grass that are burned up.
The second trumpet (Revelation 8:8, 9) involves one third of the sea turning to blood and a loss of one third of the ships and sea-life.
The third trumpet (Revelation 8:10-11) is the falling of a great star (comet?) and the contamination of a third of the rivers.
The fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12) causes a third part of the sun, moon, and stars to be darkened.
The last three trumpet judgments involve more severe suffering in nature and are called "woes."
The fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1-12) concerns a great number of creatures called "locusts" which bring terrible torment on men generally except for the 144,000 who have the "seal" of God.
The second woe or sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-19) involves an army of 200,000,000 horsemen who kill a third part of men.
The third woe or seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19) ushers in the millennial kingdom which suggests that the entire group of trumpet judgments spans the period of the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel.
9.3. The bowl judgment (Revelation 16)
The bowl judgments are the worst of all.
The first bowl (Revelation 16:2) results in terrible sores breaking out on followers of the Beast (i.e. Anti-christ).
The second bowl (Revelation 16:3) is poured out on the sea and renders it lifeless.
The third bowl (Revelation 16:4-7) changes the rivers into blood and force those who shed the blood of the martyrs to drink blood.
The fourth bowl (Revelation 16:8-9) imparts power to the sun to bring widespread death by excessive heat.
The contents of the fifth bowl (Revelation 16:10-11) bring darkness on the kingdom of the Beast.
The sixth bowl (Revelation 16:12-16) causes the Euphrates River to become dry which facilitate the leaders of the world to gather their armies to fight the ultimate world war at Armageddon.
Finally, the seventh bowl (Revelation 16:17-21) brings about mighty convulsions in nature which fully overthrow the ordered affairs of men and bring the Tribulation week to a close.
10. The Interspersed Elements
Integrated among the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls are certain additional descriptions of other phenomena during the Tribulation. Included are:
1. the 144,000 sealed by God and the salvation of a great multitude (Revelation 7);
2. the measuring of the temple and the two witnesses (Revelation 11);
3. the woman and the dragon (Revelation 12);
4. the two beasts (Revelation 13);
5. the woman on the beast (Revelation 17); and
6. the fall of commercial Babylon (Revelation 18).
10.1. The 144,000 sealed by God and the salvation of a great multitude (Revelation 7)
The opening portion of the chapter (Revelation 7:1-8) pictures the 144,000 representatives of the godly remnant of Israel on earth in the Tribulation period. The latter part of the chapter (Revelation 7:9-17) describes a great multitude of martyred dead in Heaven, those who died as a testimony to their faith from every kindred, tongue and nation.
The natural meaning of the text places the sealing of the 144,000 Israelites just after the sixth seal. Revelation 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. This is proved by the change in tone from the subject matter of the sixth seal and by the delay until Revelation 8:1 in the opening of the seventh seal. At the sixth seal there has been chronological progression up to the mid-point of the seventieth week. The sealing comes to protect those who serve God from the effects of the trumpet judgments during the last half of the week.
The sealing of the 144,000 here does not mean that only that number of Jews will be saved during the Tribulation. Rather, this group seems to be marked for physical preservation during this period in order to spread the gospel world-wide during the Tribulation period (Revelation 7:1-8). Others, including Jews and Gentile believers, will be saved and will die as martyrs (Revelation 7:9-17). The latter will be raised at the end of the Tribulation to enjoy Christ's glorious reign on earth (Revelation 20:4-6).
Two tribes are absent from the list in Revelation 7:5-8:
1. Ephraim; and
They are omitted because they were leaders in idolatry among the other tribes (Deuteronomy 29:18-21; Leviticus 24:11; Judges 18:1-2, 30-31; 1 Kings 12:28-29). Also, it is commonly believed that the Anti-christ will come from the tribe of Dan (Genesis 49:17; Jeremiah 8:16). The tribes of Joseph and Levi are included in the list. Many think that Joseph takes the place of Ephraim.
The question has often been asked, "Will anyone be saved after the Rapture of the church (saints)?" The Scriptures clearly indicate that a great multitude of both Jews and Gentiles will trust in the Lord Jesus after the church is caught up to glory (Revelation 7:9-17). Though all genuine Christians living on earth will be raptured to the Heaven when Christ comes for His church, immediately a testimony will be raised up to the name of Christ through new converts among Jews and Gentiles.
There are many in the world who either have never heard the gospel or have not fully understood it. There is no reason to think that these cannot be saved during the Tribulation. By reading the Bible and related Internet resources regarding the Bible Prophecy, many Jews and Gentiles, for instances, will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. They will then go throughout the world (Matthew 24:14), preaching the gospel of the future millennial kingdom. All who believe in Christ will be saved and will enter the Millennium with Christ. Though these are never described by the term "church," they are constantly called "saints" in the book of Revelation, that is, those set apart as holy to God and saved through the sacrifice of Christ.
10.2. The measuring of the temple and the two witnesses (Revelation 11)
The temple mentioned here is presumably the temple which will be standing in Jerusalem during the Tribulation period. The act of measuring the temple perhaps signifies that God will maintain a remnant for Himself. One usually measures what belongs to himself. God will preserve what belongs to Himself while the rest will be trodden underfoot by the Gentiles and the Anti-christ.
The time limit of the ministry of the two witnesses is 1,260 days. It refers to the first half of the Tribulation, since it is the coming of the Beast (the Anti-christ) onto the scene with great power that terminates their witness (Revelation 11:7) The witnesses are miraculously preserved from harm. Fire from their mouths consumes their foes, and even the effort to harm them is punished by death. At the end of the period of their testimony, a beast from the bottomless pit slays them (Revelation 11:7). This beast seems to be the same as the one in Revelation 13:8, possibly the head of the revived Roman Empire. The dead bodies of the witnesses lie on a street in Jerusalem for three and one-half days. After three and one-half days, God raises them from the dead and takes them to heaven as their enemies watch. At the same time, Jerusalem is shaken by a great earthquake.
10.3. The woman and the dragon (Revelation 12)
The first sign is a "woman" (Revelation 12:1-2). The description of this woman is reminiscent of Genesis 37:9-10. The child is clearly Christ (compare Psalm 2:9; Revelation 12:5; 19:15)(individual sense) or the body of Christ i.e. His church (Revelation 2:27)(corporate sense) from the description of His ruling in Revelation 12:5, the woman must be the one who bore Christ, i.e. the Virgin Mary (individual sense) or Israel (read Genesis 37:9)(corporate sense). That she is Israel and not only Mary is corroborated by the fact that it is this woman (i.e. Israel) who is persecuted during the last half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12:13-17).
The second sign is a "dragon" (Revelation 12:3-4). The dragon is Satan (compare Genesis 3:1-15; Revelation 12:9). The use of a dragon to picture Satan indicates his intense cruelty. The adjective "red" indicates his murderous, bloodthirsty character. The "seven heads and ten horns" relate him to the Beast (Revelation 13:1), and the "diadems" on his heads show his authority and power. With his tail he swept away a third of the stars of heaven and "threw" them to earth. Stars refer to angelic beings (Revelation 9:1; Job 38:7). The event described is the ancient revolt of Satan in which he took with him in rebellion a third of the angels (Ezekiel 28:15; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6).
The woman is the Virgin Mary, and her child is the Messiah (i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ). Satan desired to destroy Him at birth (Matthew 2), but God protected Him through life and finally took Him back to heaven after His death, burial and resurrection. In corporate sense, the woman also typifies the nation of Israel (Genesis 37:9; Micah 4:8), and her child also typifies the body of Christ (i.e. the church) (Revelation 2:27), Satan desired to persecute the church during the Tribulation period, but God will protect the church by the Rapture event (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-9; Revelation 3:10).
The war in heaven takes place in the middle of the Tribulation period. Michael, the archangel, is closely associated with the affairs of the nation of Israel (Daniel 12:1). He succeeds in casting the devil down to the earth, and this may well cause the terrible events of the Great Tribulation. A portion of the nation of Israel flees from the land to a place of refuge in the wilderness. These people remain in hiding for a total of three and a half years, corresponding to the Great Tribulation. The dragon seeks to destroy the Israelites with a great tidal wave, but an earthquake drinks up the water, and the people are spared. Then the goes forth to attack other Jews who had remained in Judea.
10.4. The beast out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-10)
Both Daniel and Revelation speak of a future dictator of worldwide significance who will lead the revived Roman Empire into Armageddon. Daniel 7:8, 20-21 and 8:9-10 calls him "another horn, a little one," in Daniel 9:26-27 he is the "ruler to come," while in Daniel 11:36-39 he is the "king" who "will do as he pleases." References to his character, godlessness, and power all coincide to identify these references as one and the same individual. John (1 John 2:18) calls him the Anti-christ, a name that has tended to take over in usage among students of eschatology. Paul refers to him as the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 8-10. Finally, John in Revelation 13 and 17 calls him the "beast," and all these references in both Old and New Testaments have enough in common in their descriptions to make a strong case for the identity of them all.
Revelation 13:1-10 describes a "beast" out of the sea (the sea possibly symbolizing the nations). The dragon (Satan) gives him his power. In this passage he blasphemes God and exercises power for forty-two months (two and a half years). He "makes war" against the saints and conquers them.
10.4.1. His identity
"Having ten horns and seven heads." This monstrous representation portrays the nature of the end time kingdom, the final worldwide political system. "The ten horns" is a reference to the ten nation confederation of the future which will form the nucleus of this end time kingdom. After the fall of the empire, Rome was divided up into many separate kingdoms which became the European nations of modern times. But in the end times, these nations, at least ten of them, will confederate together as one, forming what is in reality a revived Roman empire. Please note the recent development in the European Common Market (previous), European Union (now), and European Currency which is implemented in 1999.
This system of the beast also has "seven heads." This is explained for us in Revelation 17:9-10. "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits and they are seven kings ... " The seven heads are seven mountains is a reference to the seven hill city of Rome. The seven heads are seven successive historic Gentile kingdoms which were connected with the nation of Israel and her enslavements. These were:
Egypt: This was the first great world empire and the cause of Israel's enslavement before entrance into the land.
Assyria: Historically this was the next great empire which took the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity in 722 B.C.
Babylon or the Chaldean empire: This is where Daniel's prophecies begin and where we have the captivity of Judah, the southern kingdom. In Daniel's prophecies he does not list the three preceding Gentile powers because his prophecies look forward only from his time in history to the final Gentile power and the return of the Lord. But Revelation 13 and 17 both look back (the seven heads) and forward (the ten kings).
Medo-Persia: This Gentile power followed Babylon and was the kingdom under which a remnant of Israel were allowed to return to the land to rebuild the city and the temple (cf. Ezra and Nehemiah).
Greece: This was the kingdom of Alexander and his successors who likewise ruled over the land of Palestine.
Rome: The Roman Empire of New Testament times was the empire of the emperors who reigned during the time of Christ: Augustus (30 B.C. - A.D. 14), to Domitian when Revelation was written (A.D. 81-96), and afterwards. During this time, Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews dispersed world wide (A.D. 70 - A.D. 135). Later the Roman empire divided into the eastern and western divisions (the two legs of the image in Daniel 2) and finally fell, becoming fragmented into many nations.
Revived Roman Empire: (i.e. European Union?): What about the seventh head? Revelation 17:10-11 explains the seventh head. It is really a future kingdom though it has historical roots in the sixth kingdom. Revelation 17:10 says "five are fallen." These five are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. "One is," which is the sixth, the Roman empire of John's day. "And the other is not yet come," this is the revived Roman empire in the form of European Union.
Anti-christ’s Imperial form of the Revised Roman Empire: It will be the ten nation confederation or the ten horns under the leadership of the Anti-christ (i.e. the beast) in the Tribulation period. Compare 17:11 with 17:8, "The beast which you saw was (refers to the first appearance of the Anti-christ in Revelation 13:1-2), and is not (refers to the death of the Anti-christ in Revelation 13:3, therefore it is not appear in the scene temporarily), and is about to come up (refers to the resurrection of the Anti-christ in Revelation 13:3; 13:12; 17:8)." Now in Revelation 17:11, this beast, the revived Roman empire represented by its king (i.e. the Anti-christ), becomes an eighth kingdom while at the same time being one of the seven, specifically, the seventh. The eighth refers to the imperial form of the revived Roman empire in the last half of the Tribulation under the power of the dictator, the Anti-christ who is also called the beast.
10.4.2. His fatal wound
One of the heads of this beast had a fatal wound that had been healed "astonishes" the world and compels the world to follow him. Since Christ died actually, it appears that Anti-christ will also die. In Revelation 11:7 he was seen as coming out of the bottomless-pit, and that coincides with his restoration to life here. He apparently dies, descends to the bottomless-pit, and returns to life on earth. No wonder the world will acclaim him. However, it will be an apparent death and resurrection to counterfeit and create an imitation of Christ's death and resurrection. This will not be a genuine death and resurrection because Satan has no power to give life.
10.4.3. His character and deeds
The composite nature of the beast is seen in the words, "the beast is like a leopard, . . . a bear, . . . and a lion (Revelation 13:2a). The description of this beast is a composite of the characteristics of the other beasts mentioned in Daniel 7. There the first three kingdoms are characterized by a lion (v. 4), a bear (v. 5), and a leopard (v 6). These animals represented the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. The characteristics of these kingdoms are combined in the last kingdom which will be the ten-kingdom Roman Empire. The Roman Empire in Daniel 7 was seen as indescribable because it was "diverse from all the beasts that were before it" (v. 7).
This empire, as seen in Revelation 13, will have:
1. all the brilliance, culture and swiftness of a leopard-a reference to the previous Grecian Empire;
2. will also have the tremendous strength, tenacity of purpose, and brutality of a bear -- a reference to the Medo-Persian Empire; and
3. will have the autocratic and majestic power of a lion -- a reference to the Babylonian Empire.
10.5. The beast out of the earth (Revelation 13:11-18)
Now another beast is revealed to John, only this one is distinguished from the previous since he comes out of the earth or land. This completes the trinity of evil - the dragon, the beast out of the sea, and now, the beast out of the earth. The land beast operates under the authority of the sea beast and is totally committed to promoting not himself, but the first beast. The beast out of the land is also called the false prophet in other places in Revelation (16:13; 19:20; 20:10), probably because he promotes the first beast.
10.5.1. His identity
The earth here may represent the land of Palestine (i.e. Israel), suggesting that this leader is a Jew. He has two horns like a lamb, giving the appearance of gentleness and harmlessness, and also suggesting that he impersonates the Lamb of God (i.e. Christ).
10.5.2. His character and deeds
This apostate Jew at first calls on men everywhere to worship the Roman beast. He causes an idolatrous image of the emperor to be placed in the Temple at Jerusalem in the middle of the Tribulation and demands that this idol be worshipped. This second beast has supernatural powers. He can perform miracles, even causing fire to fall from heaven on the earth. The second beast insists that men should indicate their allegiance to the Roman emperor (i.e. the first beast) by wearing the mark of the beast upon their forehead or right hand. In addition to this mark, the beast has a name and a mysterious number 666. Unless a man takes the mark or number of the beast, he will not be able to buy or sell. As a result of the decree to worship the beast and be branded with his mark, multitudes of believers will be killed directly because they do not have the mark and refuse to receive it or because they starve to death since they cannot buy or sell. Some will survive, however, by living off the land or because other believers who have food share with those who do not (cf. Matthew 24:15-25 and 25:31-40).
10.5.3. The mysterious number 666
Endless speculation has centered on this mysterious number 666. Through the God-given ability, the believers who alive during the days of the Anti-christ's reign, will be able to unravel the mystery of the number 666. We have two possible interpretations of the number 666:
1. John regularly uses numbers symbolically. The triple six has each digit falling short of the perfect number "seven" and so is the number of a man. The number 666 represents a false Trinity of the God. The first digit 6 represents the false God the Father (Satan), the second digit 6 represents the false God the Son (The Anti-christ) and the third digit 6 represents the false God the Holy Spirit (The False Prophet). This solution, however, falls short on two counts. It ignores the command to "count", and it overlooks the writer's intention that the number be understood well enough to identify an individual from it.
2. The word "calculate" is the Greek psefizo, "to count, compute." This word was used of calculating the numerical value of a word or number. That is to say, the way to identify the beast is by counting. Ancient languages, including Hebrew, Greek and Latin use standard letters from their alphabet as numerical signs. For example, alpha (α) in Greek stands for 1; beta (β) for 2; iota (ι) for 10; iota alpha (ια) for 11; and iota beta (αβ) for 12. The Hebrew alphabet also had numerical value. Alef (א) stands for 1; bet (ב) stands for 2; gimel (ג) for 3 and so on. Thus, a series of letters could form a word, and at the same time indicate a number. See below table:
However, the identity of the person represented by the number 666 should not be a subject of speculation until that person arrives on the earthly scene.
10.6. The woman on the beast (Revelation 17)
At the opening of Revelation 17, John is invited to view the destruction of a great harlot. This is a great religious system that includes all apostate Christendom and world religions. This false religious system is characterized as a harlot because she is unfaithful to the Lord Jesus. The great harlot (i.e. false religious system) is the "mother of harlots" because she will incorporate various denominations and religious groups (Revelation 17:9-10).
When genuine faithful believers are taken to heaven in the Rapture before the Tribulation begins, religion does not disappear from the earth. Indeed, it will flourish under this unfaithful religious system for the first half of the Tribulation, until destroyed by the Anti-christ at the mid-point of the Tribulation. Professing Christians (i.e. false Christians) who will not be raptured will remain on earth to form the base of this religious system. Tribulation saints, of course, will oppose this false religious system.
"She sits on many waters," indicating that her system will stretch around the world. "The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her," indicating that the false religious system will unite with the world political leaders. This religious system centers in the city of Rome and exercises great political influence. She will be a persecutor of the true believers in Jesus during the Tribulation and she will be successful in doing that.
The harlot is sitting on the Beast, indicating that she will have power over the Anti-christ during the first half of the Tribulation. At the middle of the Tribulation, the Anti-christ will see her as a challenge to his own power and program. So with his league of ten nations he will destroy the great harlot and set himself up as God, demanding to be worshipped.
10.7. The fall of commercial Babylon (Revelation 18)
Revelation 18, though it centers on the destruction of a great economic system called "Babylon the Great," informs us of an extremely interesting fact that incorporates an aspect of the future empire of the Anti-christ: economic power. Power today is integrally shared among three forces:
2. religious; and
In all three of these areas we are progressing rapidly toward this future global dictatorship in terms of a military force sponsored by the United Nations (largely consisting of United States military power), religion of an ecumenical nature, and a global economy affected by the smallest developments anywhere in the world.
11. The Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-10)
We now come to the marriage feast of the Lamb. This event takes place in heaven after the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). It occurs toward the close of the Tribulation. An angel announces the blessedness of all who are invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb. The church is the bride of Christ, those who are invited are the rest of the redeemed in heaven. These guests are the saints of the Old Testament and Tribulation periods.
12. The Return of Christ (Revelation 19:11-21)
Revelation 19:11-21 describes Christ as returning on a white horse. His appearance is reminiscent of the vision in Revelation 1 in which he was seen in his glorified state of judge of the church. His robe "dipped in blood" reminds the world of his sacrificial death. With him are the "armies of heaven" which may be either a heavenly host or the saints or both. His weapon is a "sharp sword" which proceeds from his mouth, symbolic of truth, for about to take place is a judgment (Matthew 25), something implied by the reference to the "winepress." Compare Revelation 19:11-21 with Zechariah 14:1-9 and Matthew 24:30-44.
13. The Binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3)
Before the Millennium begins, Satan is seized by an angel from heaven and bound in the bottomless-pit. He remains there for 1,000 years while the Lord Jesus is reigning on earth. At the end of the Millennium, he is loosed for a little while, as we shall see in 20:7.
14. The Two Resurrections and the Millennial Reign of Christ (Revelation 20:4-6)
14.1. The two resurrections
John teaches a gradual scheme of resurrections (Revelation 20:4-6). Essentially, there are two kinds, that of the just and another of the unjust. Revelation 20:4-6 provides the clearest evidence that the resurrections of the just and unjust are divided by a period of 1,000 years.
The resurrection at the beginning would refer to the resurrection martyrs who may represent all the just of all ages, the second at the end, the resurrection of the unjust of all ages, called the "second death" in contrast to the "first death" which would be physical death. This resurrection pertains only to the martyrs during the Tribulation period and does not attempt to refer to an earlier resurrection (i.e. the Rapture of the church) simply because it is not in view at this point in the narrative.
Revelation 20:6 and 20:14 calls the lake of fire the "second death," a contrast with the first death which is physical. One of the reasons why the saved people are not involved in the Great White Throne Judgment is this reference, because those who do not participate in the second resurrection or second death following the Millennium are called "blessed."
14.2. The millennial reign of Christ
All who are in the first resurrection will be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years. The Millennium is a thousand-year period when Christ reign over all the earth (Isaiah 9:6) with Jerusalem as His capital (Zechariah 14:17). It will be a time of peace and prosperity (Isaiah 2:4; Jeremiah 31:2). Man's life span will be greatly lengthened. The curse will be lifted from creation, causing the desert to blossom and the earth to produce bountifully (Isaiah 35:1-2). Thorns and weeds will be absent (Isaiah 55:13). Animals that are now wild will be tame (Isaiah 11:6-9). Israel will be the leading nation (Deuteronomy 28:13; Isaiah 60:12), and the Gentile nations will come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple there (Zechariah 14:16-19).
All those who enter the Millennium will either be saved or given outward allegiance to Christ as King. There are three groups of people will enter the Millennium:
1. the raptured church age saints - they are resurrected saints and therefore they cannot bear children (Matthew 22:30);
2. the Tribulation martyrs and Old Testament saints - they are resurrected saints and therefore they cannot bear children; and
3. the survivors of the Tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-40) - they are not resurrected saints therefore they can bear children.
Children will be born during the Millennium (Zechariah 8:5), and being born of the human family, they will need to be saved. The fact that not all of these will be converted is proved by the fact that some will rise in open rebellion against the King at the close of the Millennium (Revelation 20:7-10). Christ shall rule with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15) indicates that not all will be willingly subject to Him.
15. Satan's Final Rebellion and Doom (Revelation 20:7-10)
At the end of the thousand years of Christ's reign, Satan will be loosed from the bottomless-pit and will go to the four corners of the earth to recruit an army of ungodly rebels. With his army, he will march against Jerusalem. But fire will come down from heaven to consume his soldiers while the devil himself will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to join the Anti-christ and the false prophet.
It may seem surprising that Satan would be able to assemble an army of unbelievers at the end of the Millennium. However, it should be remembered that all children born into the world during Christ's reign are born in sin and need to be saved. Not all will accept Jesus as rightful King, and these will scatter throughout the earth.
16. The Great White Throne Judgment and the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15)
After Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire, the earth and the atmospheric heavens will be destroyed by fire. This apparently happens before the Judgment of the Great White Throne, since Revelation 20:11 speaks of the earth and sky as having fled away (compare 2 Peter 3).
Then there will be a resurrection of all unbelievers of all ages. The Lord Jesus is the One who will sit upon it as Judge. Two sets of books will be opened. First of all, the book of life will be opened. This contains the names of all who have ever turned to God in repentance and faith. All those whose names are not written in the book of life will be damned. The other set of books contains a record of men's deeds. This will determine the degree of men's punishment, depending on the opportunities a man had to hear the gospel and on the depth of wickedness to which he descended (Matthew 10:15; 11:22; Luke 12:47-48; 20:47).
17. The New Jerusalem and the Eternal State (Revelation 21-22)
John sees the "Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:2). It is not clear whether this new Jerusalem comes down from the third, celestial heaven, or the heavens of the starry outer space (the "second heaven"). One speculation is that this city has been in orbit around the earth prior to this and has been the abode of the saints during the Millennium.
The dimensions of this city are awesome. An angel measures it (Revelation 2 1:15) and it turns out to be square, "as long as it was wide." The measurement is 12,000 stadia, about 1,400 miles. If this seems oversized in relation to the earth itself one must remember that this is a new earth and may not be the same size but larger than the present planet. Speculation on the exact shape has it as either a cube, in which case it would be difficult to imagine its wall which constitutes the outer dimensions of 1,400 miles square, or a pyramid, in which case it would be possible to image a wall distinct from the main body of the city. The "square" dimensions actually may pertain to the floor plan and height, all of which are equal, thus not necessarily making it a cube.
Revelation 22:3 says that the curse (Genesis 3:17-19) which was not even lifted during the Millennium has been removed. Consequently, "nothing impure will ever enter it" and no sin can be found in it (Revelation 21:27). There is no temple (Revelation 21:22) as in the Millennium (Ezekiel 40-48). The illumination will not come from the present light sources, the sun, moon, and stars, but from the Lord himself (Revelation 21:23-25).
Finally, there is a "river of the water of life" and "the tree of life." At any rate, this description is the best the writer John can do with human language. The reality will probably far exceed the ability of language to express or our present minds to comprehend.
The outline of the book of Revelation is illustrated in the following chart:
(Source: The Book of Revelation - A Study of the Last Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture, p. 30, Sun Publishing Company, 1996 Edition, by Clarence Larkin)
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