Due to his unwavering stand for his Lord, John was also a hated man. The scripture points to the Word of God, to John's adherence to the Word and to the testimoney of Jesus as reasons for his forced exile to a neighboring island. The Roman authorities attempted to silence his witness and thus curtail the growth of the Christian church that found itself in direct competition and in an adversarial relationship with Rome.
The first massive persecution of the Church occurred under the neurotic emperor Nero. The secon wave of hatred from the government came at the hands of the emperor Domitian. Persecution is not an option for the fully devoted believer. Believers are twice born people in a once born world whose ethical code based upon the words of Jesus often comes into sharp conflict with the dominant worldview. America has her faults, but as of this writing, owning a copy of the scriptures is not an illegal act as it once was in the nation of Russia. John's new home on the Isle of Patmos was located in the Aegean Sea.
It was small in size and rocky terrrain jutted from the landscape. The island had little vegetation. Scholars believe that a cave tucked away in the island is the location where John sat as he penned the version of the Revelation he received from God. John suffered persecution but not without cause. Had God in His sovereignty not allowed for the exile of the beloved apostle He might have chosen another method for the recording of these prophetic words.
Secluded and along, John wrote profound words that continue to impact our society and world today. Sales of prophetic literature soar to incdonceivable levels as world tension increases. The terrorist attacks on America in September mushroomed the sale of prophetic literature by a whopping 80 percent. Why are believers persecuted today? Why did God allow persecution of such fierce intensity in John's day? In part, early believers were persecuted because they were evangelistic.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens turned to Christ and their allegiance to the Roman emperor became suspect. Conversion to Christ irritated the authorities and spurred Satan to rise up against the Church. Churches today who do not realize the conversion of people to faith in Christ are very little threat to anyone. Early believers experienced intimidation because they were also exclusive in their refusal to bow to Caesar as lord.
Roman authorities insisted that citizens of conquered countries verbalize the mantra, Caesar is lord. Rejecting the mantra and choosing not to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar resulted in intense governmental retaliation and often imprisonment or death. Believers were often subjected to killer animals in the arenas of Rome as sporting events meant to entertain the masses and force future believers to recant their faith and worship Caesar.
The emperor Domitian was bent upon destroying every believer on the face of the earth. Believers were also harassed because they were enthusiastic in the practice of their faith. Enthusiasm is derived from the two root words en and theos, signifying "in God". True heartfelt and outwardly expressed enthusiasm is not contrived or manufactured by human emotion but rather is rooted in the work of God in our hearts.
Believers today are often depicted by the media as lacking in intellect and duped into emotional frenzy. Our faith is not founded on groundless truths nor is it simply the emotional expressions of a simplistic and gullible mind. The truth of God rightly understood produces an emotional response guided by the High Spirit. Knowledge and zeal rightly practiced complement one another. John further reminds the reader that Jesus is coming soon, and as He does "ervery eye shall see him", a quotation taken from Zechariah The Bible does not indicate that every eye will see Him simultaneously or in the same manner.
The Church will see Him as He removes believers from the world in the rapture or in the snatching away while the rest of faithless humanity will see Him come in judgment. When He comes in the Battle of Armageddon as described in chapter 19, the masses will wail and cry in distress due to their failure to believe the claims of Jesus and follow Him.
Verses seven and eight prophesy concerning His coronation. Here Jesus is idntified as the "Alpha and Omega", the beginning and the end referenced by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The implication is that Jesus is the sum total of the person of God and the beginning and end of human history. He defies and transcends human history. He occupies history but initiated it as well. He is indeed the dominating character within the purview of human history-but in reality, He is history as well.
As a kingdom of priests, our Lord has given us the ability by His Spirit to endure and conqurer the difficulties we may encounter as aliens on this earth. This world is truly not our home. The word revelation refers to the unveiling or uncovering of Jesus Christ for others to see and worship. Due to the intensity of the presecution to which believers living in the first century were subjected, God offers in Revelation the gradual but sure unveiling of Jesus as a means of encouraging believers and motivating us to keep the faith.
The writer John, exiled to the Isle of Patmos received a specific vision from God while imprisoned on the island. Absolute rule by the Roman authorities was enforced by any and all means necessarty. John's claim that Jesus was the only Lord sent shock waves throughout the Roman political system.
Such public rhetoric bought John an unceremonious transfer to the remote island located southwest of Ephesus as a means to silence his influence. The message of the cross of Jesus Christ and its accompaning ethical and behavioral implications will forever run counter to the prevailing worldview of the day and will result in volatile conflict. The cross is a message of offense, the scriptures claim, and is often a stumbling block of those refuse to receive it.
Believers should experience no surprise when the cultural tide washes over them in an act of retaliation. Jesus said, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you" Luke John was subjected to the full brunt of the prevailing Roman worldview and was tossed onto an abandoned island as a result. He was exiled there as well due to the testimony of Christ and the fact that he bore no shame to be called a follower of Jesus Christ. Along in exile, he was away from friends, family, and the flock of God to which he had been assigned.
In that solitude he received the most breathtaking and influential vision man has ever received. God does not forsake His people. John was no exception. John described the circumstances surrounding reception of the vision, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day" Theologians have long debated the experience of living "in the Spirit.
Theologically, this state of being is known as walking in the Spirit. Christians are citizens of two worlds-alive in the flesh on planet earth and spiritual residents of heaven. Believers live with a sense of alienation from this temporary earthly residence. A careful balance of these two spheres of existence leads to spiritual health. The long-used phrase, "some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good" has a ring of truth. Some people think in spiritual terms to the extent of ignoring the needs of the body of Christ while others become materialistic and therefore miss the life of the Spirit.
A life of worship and a life of work may not interconnect and therefore our lives become dangerously compartmentalized, to use the modern vernacular. John is a fitting illustration that believers have the privilege to know the Spirit and to be led into all truth, a concept that John claimed in the gospel that he authored. In solitude on the island, John was transported in the Spirit from earth into the portals of Heaven.
He was informed during the midst of the vision concerning details and predictions of the future. Revelation concerns a first century man who envisioned twenty-first century events such as thermonuclear war, global mass destruction, and massive starvation. His recorded vision is breathtaking to readers as we investigate the accuracy of the prophecy and its implications for the future of our planetary system.
John was in the Spirit "on the Lord's day" Scriptures give priority to the Lord's Day. People who choose to treat the day of worship as any othger day of the week find that failure to prioritize their lives and provide times for spiritual rejuvenation have a high price to pay. The channel of communication with God becomes muddled and our hearts degenerate toward life in the natural, void of spiritual vitality.
A man who had watched a religious television broadcast expressed the opinion that hell was in our path because we failed to worship on Saturday. He failed to realize that under the law, the Sabbath was to commemorate God's work of creation and to honor God because He is the maker of all things.
Revelation: The Gospel Era Finale and millions of other books are available for $ Read with Kindle Unlimited to also enjoy access to over 1 million more . from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life There must be a common understanding in the body of Christ concerning the. As the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation brings to fruition symbolism The second time period includes the messages to the Seven Churches, 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they.
God commanded the Jews to honor Him on the seventh day. After the resurrection, however, the Old Testament requirement of the Sabbath was fulfilled. Jesus said, "I came to fulfill the law.
John is seen in Revelation worshipping alone on the Lord's Day meaning Sunday, interestingly the day on which God chose to give this incredible vision to him. It was on the Lord's Day at a Sunday evening service recorded in John , that the Lord appeared to his disciples who claimed to have seen the Lord. Doubting Thomas, who their astonishing claims.
John listened well as God lifted him into the realm of the Spirit and revealed things to him most of which had not been previously known. Life in the Spirit is available for any believer and is possible for all. No vision of the magnitude of John's vision is required to accompany that experience in order to claim a close relationship with the Spirit. Verse 10 records that the voice John heard behind him was "as of a trumpet.
John was instructed that the prophetic revelation of Jesus was to be recorded and sent to the seven churches in existence in Asia Minor. John must have gasped as he saw the vision of Jesus unfold before his startled eyes. Scripture records in 1: 14 - 16,. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
This amazing passage is one of the clearest enunciations of the concept of the triune God in all of scripture.
Critics today often claim that Jesus never claimed to be God. Jesus' claim as the Alpha and the Omega implies that God has always existed as the self existent One, and that Jesus has forever existed as well. Jesus existed before His birth in Bethlehem. As renowed preacher Shadrack Lockridge quipped, "He is older than His mother and the same age as His father!
Jesus is herein pictured as the reigning Christ. The clothing adorning Jesus is indication of His undeniable reign. His garment is shown flowing downward to His feet and around His chest is draped a golden girdle. While walking on earth as the God-man, the deity of Jesus was veiled by His humanity though the full nature of His existence was His all the while.
In this apokalypsis, or more full exposure, Jesus is here seen dressed as the God that He is, the Lords of Lords. Christ Jesus is also the righteous Christ. The prophet Isaiah in chapter 6 repeats the word holy three times in rapid succesion to underscore His essential nature.
Revelation describes his features, "His head and His hairs were white like wool. The color of white signifies His holiness. In Daniel chapter 7, the Ancient of Days, the Almighty God is presented in precisely the same manner as the risen Christ is reveale here in the revelation. He is also the revealing Christ. Revelation reminds us that "His eyes were like as a flame of fire," a significant use of a metaphor that speaks of His omniscience or His ability to know all things.
He possesses the unprecedented ability to see beyond the human facade, and with breathtaking and searing ability, peer into the hearts of man and reveal his or her thoughts. God knows our actions and more - He knows the motive that drive those actions as well. Our Lord is also seen here as the relentless Christ. Revelation records, "His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace" What significance should one attribute to His feet?
The 19th chapter of Revelation records in the judgment scene that Christ will tread the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God. The feet like fine brass speak of certain judgment because brass is a familiar symbol of judgment in the Bible. In a related episode, the book of Numbers records that poisonous snakes infiltrated the camp of the Isralelites and killed many of the people with lethal bites. God instructed the leader Moses to raise a serpent of brass in the middle of the camp and to inform the people that those who looked upon the serpent would live.
Thast brass serpent was a type of Christ in that it represented the future means whereby man would truly live because the sins of mankind would be laid upon Jesus. Such an act would atone for the sins of man and give to him eternal life. Jesus is pictured here as relentless in His desire to bring swift and sure judgment upon the earth.
The regal Christ Jesus is graphically portrayed as having a voice as the "sound of many waters" To illustrate, the heavy waters of the famed Niagara Falls crash to the rocks and waters below with such force the noise is deafening. The picture of the voice of Jesus as similar to the sound of roaring waters is of One who is majestic and glorious. With smilarity, Ezekiel 43 and Psalm 29 describe the glory of God as the sound of many rushing waters.
The gluttural roar of fast moving water creates a distinct awareness of His awesome power. The rule of Jesus is further described in the graphic picture of "seven stars" The stars are representative of the angels or pastoral messengers of the seven churches to which the words of the revelation are addressed.
The right hand signifies the hand of authority or the hand of power. The pastoral leaders of the seven churches were in the hand of our authoritative God. God has a unique way of directing the affairs of His pastors. His rule is providential and sovereign. As the revenging Christ, Jesus is pictured as taking seriously the matter of setting the score and righting the wrongs that have been perpetrated against His people.
John saw Jesus as have a "sharp two-edged sword" protruding out of His mouth Liberal theologians who doubt the total veracity of the scriptures and liberal politicans who either deny the existence of Christ or who reject the concept of the wrath of God strongly object at this juncture.
God is a God of love and would not inflict harmful judgment on mankind they insisst. In prophetic reality, the sword cuts in order to heal. Jesus is vivdly portrayed as the replendent Christ as wel. John saw in the vision of Jesus. To look into the radiant face of Jesus was akin to gazing into the face of the sun.
In , John turned his eyes toward Jesus and fell "as dead". The glory was so magnificent that John dropped to his knees in a weakened and submitted position. On the mount of transfiguration recorded in the gospels, the threesome of Peter, James and John reacted in a similar manner as the veil of humanity was lifted from the person of Jesus Christ. One day as we are in heaven, believers will gaze into the glorious face of Jesus without recoiling, yet we will recognize His full authority and reign. Jesus is also pictured here as displaying knd and loving compassion to the frightened John.
He says, "Fear not I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" The assuring promise of our life with Christ is He comes to us in moments of despair and speaks peace. Jesus herein reminds us of His eternal presence.
The "keys" that He possesses remind us that Christ is able to open to us the door of eternal life of which death attempts to deprive us. Death deprives us of physical life - but Christ opens the door of death and thereby presents us with eternal life. To know Jesus as Lord is to experience no permanent death. The physical death of the believer merely ushers in a new era of eteranl life.
Jesus robbed death of its sting and the grave of its goal. As John was nearing one hundred years old at the time of his writing, he must have found these loving words of Jesu to be words of sustaining grace. Truly Jesus is the One who removes all fear. Attempts to outline the book of Revelation are as numerous as the pebbles of sand on the seashore.
The most helpful outline, however, is the one as presented by the writer John in Revelation As Jesus is speakiing to John he says these words, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. In one smooth stroke, God outlined in simple terms the entire bok of Revelation for the reader. Essentially, the contents of the prophecy are given in three time frames of God's work in terms of the past, the present, and the future. John was eyewitness to the things that he had seen, referring to the words that have been recorded in chapter one that we have discussed previouly.
The things that are relate to the stern words written in Revelation 2 - 3 that relate to the seven churches that were the recipients of the entire prophecy. These bold words relate to the Church Age that is commonly defined as the time from the ascension of Jesus to heaven and continuing to the time in the future when Jesus will come and dramatically remove the Church from the world. The third era of time related in the book deals with events that occur hereafter. The bulk of the prophecy of the book falls into this category and is recorded in chapter four to the end of the book.
Again, I believe the appropriate hermeneutic for the book is to see it as prophetic since the bulk of its message has yet to occur. The movement in Europe to consolidate powers and created one great European government and economic power, the unrest in the Middle East, and the continuing saga of the collaspe of Communism and the reconfiguration of the Soviet Union are all paving the way for the fulfillment of what we read in these prophetic pages.
For example, we read that an army of two hundred million men will be fielded and will cross the River Euphrates into the land of Israel. Today, jutting into into the sky is a great dam on the Eurphrates River located in the country of Turkey.
The Bible says that the waters of the river will become dry and allow this hugh army to march across its bed. Further, to understand the meaning of the book, it is important to realize a critical rule of biblical interpretation. As symbols appear in the scriptures, it is wise to trace their meanings as given throughout the Bible. For example, Leviticus speaks of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the lampstand that was present in that holy place. The lampstand was to shine and thereby reflect the glory of God. When Jesus came, He claimed to be the light of the world yet also said to the disciples, "ye are the light of the world.
Perhaps the analogy of the sun and moon is ppropriate. The sun is light to the world in the day as is the moon at night. The moon has no light of its own but rather receives it from the sun. Similarly, the Church is the light of the world in that she receives light from the Son of God. Like the moon, we as believers merely reflect what we have received.
We are also reminded that He performs His works through the medium of the Church. The Church is Christ presence with His people and in the world. We read as well in these verses that Christ is vitally interested in the protection of His pastors. Here, He is pictured as holding seven stars in His right hand. Words written to actual churches addressed seven such congregations in existence in John's day. The number seven often has both symbolic as well as literal implications.
Seven is the number of completion and biblically refers to completion and perfection. Seven notes on the musical scale are necessary, for to play the scale and stop without striking the final tone leaves for the listener a sense of incompletion and emotional void. All of the vivid colors in the spectrum of the rainbow are needed to paint the sky in full splendor.
The "stars", mentioned in referring to the angels of the seven churches, are translated angellos in Greek writings or messengers to readers today. Scholars often agree that the pastors of the seven churches are viewed here as the primary messengers of God to His Church. God is fully capable of protecting His pastors but at times sees the need to rebukle and chastise them as well for the protection of His bride, the Church.
The ultimate chastening or rebuke of the pastor is an act thaty God reserves for Himself although human mediation may play a role as well in preserving accountability. Essentially, the word John received was complete and not lacking in any regard. The message to the seven churches recorded in blunt terms in chapters two and three have a primary, prophetic and practical meaning for today's believers. Contrary to popular assumption, the last word to the Church given by our Lord was not the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28, but rather the stern words given to the seven churches of this revelation.
For what reasons would the vision of God given to His scribe John be directed to the Churches? Like our Lord Jesus, John writes to compliment the church but also proceeds to warn and correct as well as would a loving father. Second, he writes to condemn the churches for lazy spiritual commitments that skew the message of the Church and hamper its witness. The two edged sword previously mentioned serves to cut as well to heal. Third, the purpose of the direct words to the churches was to counsel the churches. These visionary words were insightful and diagnostic in assessing the needed changes in the Church.
The basis of an diagnosis a church of today may need may be found in the pages of God's word. The church at Ephesus received a warning for its propensity toward formality that serve to douse the fires of excitement and passion in the church. They had truly lost their first love and were operating on the basis of human ingenuity rather than passion. The church at Smyrna endured great bouts with fear because of the fierce intensity of their persecution.
Concerning their suffering. John wrote that they should "fear not". John encouraged them their ability to endure heinous acts of retaliation would assure them that they would receive an appropriate reward in the end. The congregation at Pergamos faltered because of their lack of attention to doctrinal purity.
The demand of repentance on their part, insisted upon by our Lord, was stern and replete with special attention given to the false teachers who had infiltrated the church and wreaked havoc. Thyatira was home to a church that was false and hyupocritical in that the members gave external evidence of credibility as a church but were shallow in the spiritual commitment of their hearts. John's words to the few faithful members motivated them to remain true and loyal to the Lord.
The church at Sardis was dying. God communicated to this church that its role had not been completed and that their floudering mystery should be strengthened and preserved. They were furthermore warned that a failure to wake up would result in the Lord's rod of correction that would strike as quickly and unexpectedly as a thief.
The church of Philadelphia was feeble in that it was blessed with tremendousl opportunity in spite of its human weaknesses. Seen as faithful to the Word and refusing to deny the name of Jesus in favor of political or cultural approval, this band of believers was destined to see God use its weaknesses as displays of His power. The fellowship at Laodicea, the final church to which John directed the vision, was known as fashionable and culturally astute.
Perhaps the facilities in which the members gathered were adorned with the finest of decor yet their hearts were described by John as nothing material, they failed to realize their need for God. This seventh church is amazingly accurate in its representation of the condition of the modern Church. In our day, churches are often financially properous yet spiritually cold. Jesus often lingers outside the walls of the modern church longing to be allowed in.
Maybe even the prophets didn't understand. Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 12 about being caught up to the third heaven, and whether it was in the body or out of the body, he wasn't sure. I'm not sure that they really understood it, but it was evident and clear that God was placing them in a position, in a state, where they could receive visionary revelation quite out of the ordinary and that they could then bring that word to us through inscripturating, putting it down in the Bible in the words that the Spirit gave them to describe these visions and these experiences.
We'll explore each major section of the book of Revelation, beginning with the introduction in Revelation The introduction begins with a prologue in Revelation that stresses the book's divine authority. It originated from God the Father, was given to Jesus Christ, and was made known through an angel. And as Christ's prophet, John was an authoritative ambassador that relayed Jesus' message to his churches. Verses 4 and 5 contain a greeting, in which John identified himself and his audience. Specifically, he wrote to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia, located in Asia Minor. John also included a greeting: from God the Father, who was described as him who is, who was, and who is to come; from the Holy Spirit, whose fullness or completeness is symbolized as the seven spirits before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, whom John calls the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
In verses , John offered praise to God, and this praise revealed some of his central concerns for his audience. John praised God for his sovereignty, convinced that God was working all of history for his own glorious purposes. He praised God for redemption in Jesus Christ, because Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension were the basis for every hope John mentioned in his book.
And finally, he praised God for the promise that Christ would come again, the great future event when everything God has planned and promised will be fulfilled. Christians can respond to our future hope of full redemption in a spirit of hope. Hope is the confident anticipation of a positive future. And the remarkable, practical nature of hope is that it makes us buoyant, it makes us persevering, it makes us resilient, and it gives us in the present a kind of anticipative joy in the confidence that what is promised will become a reality.
It buoys us up further by the sense of assured inevitability of the outcome for which we labor now, in which, in the natural might be a little shaky or uncertain from our limited perspective. Glen Scorgie]. The final redemption that we are going to receive through Jesus is so unbelievably beautiful and glorious that our response has to be a sort of total response of our entire being to what God has done and promises to do for us in Jesus Christ.
That's what I understand 1 John 3 to be saying when John says, "We're now the children of God, but it does not yet appear to us what we shall be, but we know this, when he is revealed, we shall be like him. So anyone who has this hope in him purifies himself as he is pure. I don't know what that looks like; I don't know how it works, but Lord, make me into all that you can make out of me. I give you my all; I give you my life. I surrender all that I am to you. I don't want to live for anything else, anything less than your perfect and complete redemption at work in my life now.
Steve Blakemore]. After the introduction, we find the vision of Christ and its application to the seven churches in Revelation — The vision of Christ begins with a description of Christ and concludes with Christ's letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. We'll look at each of these sections separately, beginning with John's description of Christ in Revelation Before describing Jesus, John expressed his unity with his readers by identifying himself as their companion in: suffering, Christ's kingdom, and patient endurance. Suffering has always been a reality for believers.
But John insisted that in the New Testament era, our suffering has special significance. Christ suffered as he stood against sin. And because believers are united to Jesus, we suffer too. Even so, whenever we suffer, we have the consolation that God is present with us, and that he sovereignly rules over our situation.
In every circumstance — even martyrdom — we're obtaining victory over evil and death through the power of Christ. John also indicated that he received this vision while he was "in the Spirit. This is one of the ways God revealed himself to the prophets in the Old Testament, too, as we can see in passages like Ezekiel Finally, John concluded the preface by saying that a voice from heaven commissioned him to write visionary reports to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
John's actual description of Jesus begins in Revelation Jesus appeared as the "son of man" walking among the seven lampstands. These symbolized the churches who brought the light of God in Christ to the world still under the tyranny of darkness. The lampstands also would have reminded John's readers of the furnishings in the Old Testament tabernacle and in the temple and of the fact that Jesus is now in the heavenly tabernacle before the throne of God.
Already in , John drew a symbolic connection between the seven churches of Asia Minor and the seven lights of the lampstand before God. In the tabernacle and later in the temple, God manifested his glorious presence among his people. And just as God once dwelled among his people Israel, Christ now dwells among his church. Jesus was also dressed in a robe and sash, resembling the high priest in the Jewish temple.
His eyes were like flames of fire and feet were like burnished bronze. His voice was powerful, like the rush of many waters, and a double-edged sword came out of his mouth. And his face shone so brightly with his glory that he was like the sun itself. This appearance showed that Jesus was majestic, glorious, and powerful.
When we read Revelation 1, one of the most striking things about that chapter is the vision we see there of Jesus Christ. The first thing we ought to say is, clearly, this is a symbolic picture of who Jesus is. This is not a picture that is to be drawn or taken literally. But we remember that John wrote this book, which is a letter, a prophesy, and also apocalyptic literature, he wrote this book to suffering believers who were, some of them, giving their lives for Jesus Christ and for the gospel.
And they were all living under that threat of losing their lives for the gospel. In chapter 1, we have this glorious picture of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man, and we have various descriptions of Jesus there. He is wearing a priestly robe. He is the means by which we enter into God's presence. John pictures him as having white hair, white as snow, which is quite interesting because he is drawing there on Daniel 7, and the person with the white hair in Daniel 7 is Yahweh.
Yet John applies that to Jesus, showing that Jesus is equal with Yahweh, that he is fully divine. In this picture we have Jesus having a sharp two-edged sword in his mouth, which is obviously not literal, but it emphasizes the power of his word that can cut and destroy his enemies so that the church can take comfort in Christ.
We're told there his face shines with glory, that he is the glorious Lord. Jesus says to John, "He holds the keys of death and Hades. They were facing possible death, and so they were worried, naturally, about their future. And John emphasizes, doesn't he, that Jesus is sovereign, that he is the resurrected one, he is the living one, he is the first and the last, he has conquered death, they need not fear.
Does it look as if Nero or Domitian, whoever you think the emperor was at the time — that's debated — but whoever the Roman emperor was, does it look like that emperor was in control, or the political authorities were in control? They're not in control. Jesus reigns, Jesus rules. Everyone will have to reckon with him. So Revelation is fundamentally a book of comfort for the suffering church, a call to persevere, a call to trust that Jesus is the Sovereign, the glorious Lord. He's walking in the midst of the lampstands.
They should be comforted and strengthened and continue to hope and to trust in him. Thomas R. Now that we've examined John's description of Christ, let's look at Jesus' letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Christ addressed letters to seven churches located in Asia Minor, which is the western portion of modern Turkey. He arranged the letters in the order a person delivering them might travel. He wrote first to the coastal city of Ephesus, then to Smyrna to the north, then to Pergamum even further north. Next, he looked in a southeastern direction addressing letters to Thyatira, then Sardis, then Philadelphia, then Laodicea.
These letters record the words Jesus spoke in his heavenly courtroom, and were designed to help the churches understand and respond to the visions that followed. In general terms, these letters all follow the same basic pattern, with only slight variations in order. This pattern contains many elements that resemble Old Testament prophecies and reminds us that John was serving as Jesus' prophet to these churches.
First, each letter starts with an address to the angel of each church. Some interpreters have taken this as a reference to human messengers representing each church. But in this context of a heavenly vision, it's more likely that these were actual angels that Christ assigned to each local congregation. Second, there's a description of Christ drawn from his appearance in Revelation 1, emphasizing a characteristic of Jesus that's relevant to the letter. Third, there is a claim of knowledge, indicating that Christ knows these churches and the details of their lives.
Fourth, there is an evaluation of the church, consisting of commendations and often including rebukes. Fifth, there is a mixture of offers of blessing and threats of curse appropriate to Christ's evaluation of the church. Sixth, there is the promise that all who overcome will inherit eternal blessings. Seventh, each letter has an exhortation to obey Christ. The similarities between the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 alert us to the main ideas in this section. Christ was addressing these churches as their rightful king. He was aware of their present circumstances and had the authority to evaluate them.
He offered blessings and he threatened curses to encourage their faithfulness. And he reminded them that eternal salvation was only for those who overcame trials and temptations. Not surprisingly, these themes also play a major role throughout the main body of the book of Revelation. Jesus in the seven letters to the seven churches is wanting the church, the individual Christians, to show faithfulness to him, to be obedient, and regardless what is happening by way of opposition — and there is plenty of that — they remain faithful.
Now notice, there are seven churches. True, two of them were faithful, and I'm referring to the church in Smyrna and the church in Philadelphia, and Jesus has nothing but praise for these two. Now the others, Ephesus and Pergamum and Thyatira and Sardis receive praise, but also condemnation.
And then you have one more, number seven, and that it is the church of Laodicea, and there is not a word of praise for the church in Laodicea because it was self-sufficient. Simon J. We'll look briefly at each of these letters, beginning with the letter to Ephesus in Revelation In this letter, John introduced Jesus as the one who holds seven stars in his right hand as he walks among the seven golden lampstands. This description emphasized the light of Christ's glory and power. As their king, Jesus gave a mixed evaluation of the church in Ephesus.
They had commendable zeal for sound doctrine, and didn't tolerate wicked behavior. They were specifically said to have hated the practices of the Nicolaitans, a very early heretical group that may have mixed Christian faith with pagan eroticism. But the Ephesian church also received a strong criticism. In Revelation Jesus told them that they had forsaken their first love; they had lost their enthusiasm and zeal for Christ and his kingdom. So, Christ warned them that if they didn't repent and return to their earlier enthusiasm, he would remove their lampstand — their symbol of honor in heaven.
In other words, they would be disciplined and perhaps even disbanded. The letter to the church at Smyrna appears in Revelation It opens with a description of Jesus as "the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. This is one of only two letters that doesn't include a rebuke for wrongdoing.
It focuses entirely on sympathy and understanding for the church in Smyrna, which faced serious persecution, probably because of unbelieving Jews. We can see in Acts and in the other New Testament books that right away the claim that Jesus is the Messiah begins to divide synagogues, for example. And Paul is a great example of someone who's put out of the synagogue. For example in Ephesus he goes and teaches in a school hall, or we began to see Christians who are meeting in households instead of in synagogue gatherings. One of the things that puts a lot of pressure on that relationship early on is of course the claim that Jesus is the Messiah, but also the influx of Gentiles.
We began to see that those who are preaching Christianity are preaching Jesus as the Lord over all the nations. And we began to see Gentiles responding. And so the various sensibilities about the food laws, about circumcision began to add more pressure. And we see these sort of disputes break out like at Galatia, over whether or not these Gentiles are to keep the Law. The other thing that is putting a lot of pressure on this relationship is the way that both of them are relating to Rome and Rome's power.
We know of course, for example, that the Temple is destroyed in A. And even before that, that's because of Jewish revolution against Caesar, and so in the wake of that we see Jews trying to reestablish their identity. And they began to discuss that, and what that should look like. And that adds further to the separation between Christians and Jews. Greg Perry]. Despite the problems the Jews in Smyrna created for the church, Jesus exhorted his followers to faithfulness, and encouraged them to trust him because he had overcome death.
Next, Christ addressed the church in Pergamum in Revelation In this letter, John introduced Christ as the one who "has the sharp, double-edged sword. And this was directly relevant because his evaluation of the church was both positive and negative. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city — where Satan lives.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you Revelation Jesus followed his commendation with a rebuke: the church had failed to reject the Nicolaitans, as well as teachings that were associated with Balaam. These false teachers led many into pagan revelry and immorality. And Christ warned that he would discipline the church if they didn't repent. The letter to the church in Thyatira appears in Revelation Here, John described Jesus as a purifying fire, with eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze.
This description relates directly to the letter's content, because the church at Thyatira needed to be refined and purified. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.
By her teaching she misleads my servants Revelation Unlike the church in Ephesus, the Thyatirans hadn't lost their first love for Christ. Instead, their love had actually increased. But they tolerated the false teaching of a particular woman, whom Jesus pejoratively called "Jezebel. Just like the infamous Queen Jezebel who appears in 1 and 2 Kings, this woman seduced people into sexual immorality and idolatry — two closely related practices among pagans in Asia Minor. Jesus warned this church to reject these false teachings and to remain faithful to him.
I think love and zeal need to be, have to be, coupled with strong doctrine if it's going to endure, and if it's going to be Christ-like. I think some people have an emotional gift for love and for zeal, but that emotional gift without a strong understanding of what God has told us in these sixty-six canonical books I think can very easily go way out of whack. On the other hand, I think there are some people that have an emotional gift for study, and they want to understand, and they want to know what this doctrine has to say, and they definitely lack love.
Actually they can become pharisaical if they're not careful. They can know all the right things, but without that component of love, of passion, of zeal both for God and man, they're definitely missing the boat. Matt Friedeman]. It's important for us to reflect on the question of why our zeal and love for Jesus Christ needs to be combined with, shall we say, sound, biblically grounded doctrine. Indeed, this is an essential and very dynamic combination, when you get the passion of the heart combined with the clarity of truth in the head.
Immediately to my mind comes a reflection of the apostle Paul on some of his fellow Jews who had rejected Christ, who were very passionate in their pursuit of the goals of the Jewish faith, and the apostle says, "For I confess that they have a zeal, but it is not according to knowledge.
It's almost as though our zeal is the fuel in the tank of our car, and the doctrines are the steering wheel. If you are not headed in the right direction, the accelerator pedal actually becomes a dangerous instrument. And so we need to have that zeal channeled according to the truth, and then it becomes a very potent force for good. The letter to the church at Sardis follows next, in Revelation Here, John alluded to the seven manifestations of the Spirit and seven stars in Jesus' hand to remind the church at Sardis that Jesus had all power and authority.
John drew attention to the authority of Jesus because his evaluation of this church was so severe. You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God… [I]f you do not wake up, I will come like a thief Revelation The city of Sardis had a reputation as a strong fortress, but on two occasions it had been captured by surprise. And Jesus warned that he would do something similar to the church in Sardis if they failed to repent.
He would come as a thief, attacking them by surprise. But for those who remained faithful to him, Christ promised purity, vindication, and reward. Jesus' letter to the church in Philadelphia appears in Revelation In this letter, John introduced Jesus as the one who holds the key of David, meaning that Jesus can open the doors of David's kingdom to admit those he wishes, and lock the doors to keep others out. Jesus' words to this church were positive, but they also included an implicit warning.
I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name Revelation Christ had set before this church an open door, giving them an unobstructed opportunity to grow and develop spiritually. If they would take advantage of this open door, Christ would make their enemies bow down at their feet, and the Philadelphian believers would inherit the New Jerusalem.
And God's name would be written on them, meaning that they would be his forever. But by implication, if they didn't take advantage of this opportunity, they wouldn't receive these blessings. Next, we find Jesus' letter to the church in Laodicea in Revelation In this letter, John described Jesus as the one whose words are the ultimate Amen, that is, Jesus is the ultimate trustworthy authority. John also described Jesus as the faithful and true witness, and the ruler of God's creation.
This description was designed to make the Laodicean believers pay attention, because their evaluation would be very negative. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth Revelation Laodicea was a wealthy city located between the cities of Colossae and Hierapolis. Both Colossae and Hierapolis were well known for having special water supplies. Colossae had cool waters from mountain springs; Hierapolis had hot springs.
Both of these waters were thought to have healing powers. But the water in Laodicea was lukewarm, without any healing powers. Jesus drew from these physical realities to make a spiritual point: the Laodicean church was wealthy, but their wealth had taken away their spiritual strength. This church needed to repent, or Jesus would reject them.
I think Revelation 2 and 3 are absolutely key to the letter of the book of Revelation because they give us in many ways the application points for the church, the characteristics that the churches are asked to manifest. And one special one is found in the refrain at the end of each of the messages to the church, which is to overcome — "to the church who overcomes. And that reminds us of the need to persevere. But there's other overarching themes as well, so one of the words that you'll encounter as you're reading through those two chapters a number of times is to repent, for those churches who are falling short of what the Lord is calling them to, they are to repent.
Should it be that they've lost their first love, should it be that they've been following the teachings of a sectarian group or really a heretical group within the church, they're called to repent from that as well. And so the Lord is calling them back to himself in that moment. But he's also calling those who do love him to continue and those who are persevering to continue in that as well, and to stay true to the faith, but to stay true especially to the worship of the Lord.
Now that we've explored the vision of Christ, let's turn to John's vision of coming events, recorded in Revelation — According to Revelation , this vision takes place at the heavenly throne and reveals coming events that were still in the future in John's day.
It addresses all of the churches together, and primarily focuses on the future as a great struggle between the forces of good and evil. This vision was designed to encourage John's original audience to remain faithful throughout their struggles against sin and Satan, because God's future victory was certain. The first thing we should note about John's vision of coming events is that it consists of four series of smaller visions: the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven histories, and the seven bowls. Some interpreters believe that these series should be read chronologically, as if they portrayed consecutive stages of history.
But John never indicated that this was the case. For one thing, the temporal markers that link these series together — phrases like "after this" — refer to the order in which he was shown the visions, not to the order of the events revealed in the visions. For another, there appear to be a number of unique historical events in these visions that are mentioned in one or more series.
For this reason, our lesson will adopt an interpretive perspective that has sometimes been called "recapitulation. Generally speaking, recapitulation happens when a later passage restates or repeats an earlier passage. As it applies to the book of Revelation, this term specifically refers to the idea that each series of visions describes the entire time period between the first and second comings of Christ, but with its own distinct details and emphases. Recapitulation is actually very common in biblical prophecy. Old Testament prophets frequently used this technique, describing the same series of events in different passages.
Sometimes the recapitulation used very similar imagery, as in Jeremiah 30 and 31, where Jeremiah prophesied about the restoration of Israel. At other times, recapitulation used different imagery to describe the same events, as in Isaiah 9 and 11, where Isaiah talked about the coming of the Messiah. We see the same thing in the lawsuits God brought against Israel in Hosea 9— And there are many more examples, too.
So, when John used this technique in the book of Revelation, he was using a well-known, traditional, biblical strategy to convey his message. There are a number of clues in the visions themselves that strongly suggest that John was describing the same sequence of events from different perspectives. For example, John's visions refer to what we would call the final judgment three different times. In Revelation , which is part of the vision of the seven seals, the sun turns black, the moon turns blood-red, the stars fall to the earth, and everyone on the earth hides from God's judgment.
In Revelation , which is part of the vision of the seven trumpets, loud voices declare, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever! Each of these passages describes events that are associated with the return of Christ and God's final judgment on the earth. But each series of visions also includes other details that seem to precede the final judgment. For this reason, it seems best to read each series of visions as a distinct description of the entire history of God's kingdom prior to Christ's return.
Even though recapitulation is a widespread view among Evangelicals, it's important to recognize that some don't interpret the book of Revelation this way. So, in this lesson, we won't tie our interpretations too closely to the perspective of recapitulation. Even so, we should recognize that most Christian teachers believe it makes the best sense of the literary structure of John's vision of coming events, as well as of the content of those visions. As we've seen, John's vision of coming events divides into four major sections: the visions of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven symbolic histories, and the seven bowls.
We'll explore each series of visions, beginning with the seven seals in Revelation — The vision of the seven seals consists of two main parts, beginning with a description of God's heavenly throne room in Revelation 4 and 5. This section shows us an important scroll with seven seals, and sets the stage for the opening of those seals in chapters 6—8.
One of the things that puts a lot of pressure on that relationship early on is of course the claim that Jesus is the Messiah, but also the influx of Gentiles. Logos Research Systems. But we are afraid to be different. The idea of the Eucharist as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet is also explored by British Methodist Geoffrey Wainwright in his book Eucharist and Eschatology Oxford University Press, Nowhere in any scripture now had among men are there such pointed and persuasive explanations as to why we must overcome the world, and the attendant blessings that flow therefrom, as in this work of the Beloved John. The first step of discerning principles and truths in Revelation can be very complex, since the book teaches so many ideas.
Revelation describes a scene in God's heavenly throne room, and resembles similar visions in Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6, and other Old Testament passages. God was sitting on his throne, and was being worshiped by heavenly creatures — including four that John described in some detail. Each of the four was covered with eyes and had six wings. But they had different overall appearances: one resembled a lion, another an ox, another a man, and another an eagle. They probably represented all the creatures of the earth giving praise to God.
John's vision also showed twenty-four elders surrounding God's throne, probably numbered according to the twelve tribes of Old Testament Israel and the twelve New Testament apostles. These elders symbolized the people of God throughout history. Whenever the four creatures praised God, the elders bowed down, acknowledging his majesty and authority, and promised him their submission, obedience, and reverence.
Beyond the elders was a myriad of angels that extended the praise of God outward, and also praised the Lamb of God. This scene also contains many images from the Old Testament descriptions of the tabernacle and temple: lamps were blazing before the throne; incense depicted the prayers of God's people; there was a glass sea, more perfect than the bronze one in the Old Testament; and there were songs of praise like those offered by Levitical singers. This symbolism indicated that John was given a view of God's heavenly throne room, from which he rules over the entire universe and renders his judgments.
And this told John's readers that the vision dealt with matters of great importance. The heavenly vision continued in Revelation God held a scroll in his right hand, representing his plan for the destiny of the world. But none of the members of his court could open the scroll. In other words, none of them could accomplish his plan. Then one of the elders told John that the Lion of the tribe of Judah would open the seven seals and read the scroll.
The reference to the Lion of the tribe of Judah is drawn from Genesis , where we read these words:. You are a lion's cub, O Judah … The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his Genesis This prophecy indicated that Judah would rule over the tribes of Israel, and eventually produce a king that would rule the entire world.
But when John looked, he was surprised to find that the Lion of Judah was actually a lamb, looking as if it had been slain. Of course, the Lamb was Christ. He is the descendant of Judah, the King of Israel. And he became the Passover Lamb who gave himself as an atoning sacrifice, just as we read in John Jesus' ability to open the scroll indicated that he was the one through whom God would accomplish all his plans for the world.
When you look at Revelation 5, there is this great image of Jesus as lion and lamb. Now where does that imagery come from? Well the first thing we should note about that is the prophetic background of that image, that it's a prophetic image that John is giving us about Jesus. And as we look to the Old Testament background, we find that those are very rich themes. The lion, for example, should be associated with the tribe of Judah from Genesis 49 where it is prophesied that Judah will be a lion's cub and that a scepter will never depart from Judah, that he will rule over all his brothers.
And it's a victorious symbol, it's a very mighty symbol, that of the lion. Where does the lamb come from? Well, we might look to the Passover lamb in the Old Testament that is slain for the people and for forgiveness of sins. And we could also relate that to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, the one who is pierced and led like lamb to the slaughter.
And so John has taken these two images in creating for us a multi-perspectival image on who Jesus is. He's the Lion and the Lamb. He is a slain lamb, yes, but that slain lamb is one that overcomes, is one that is victorious. And we see that in Revelation 5 where he has seven horns. So the image of the lamb is not of a weak, destroyed, never-to-rise-again lamb, but it is of the conquering Lamb, the Lamb who is the Lion of Judah, and there was an association of these ideas with messianic hopes in Judaism.
And John is showing us how these images, the realities of these images, are fulfilled in Jesus. Brandon Crowe]. Genesis 49 speaks of a lion in the tribe of Judah, and this was developed in Jewish expectation, Fourth Ezra and elsewhere, referring to the conquering, warlike lion. And so John hears about this Lion from the Tribe of Judah who has overcome. But when he turns, what he sees is the antithesis of a powerful, conquering lion.
He sees a lamb, and not just a lamb which was considered the most powerless of creatures, but a slain lamb. And this brings us back to the heart of the gospel that we have throughout the New Testament, and that is that Jesus overcomes, particularly not by expressing power in the traditional sense, but Jesus overcomes by the cross, by dying.
God's power is made perfect in weakness. God's glory is revealed. His triumph is revealed in Jesus' suffering. Craig S. The second part of the vision of the seven seals is the opening of the seals themselves in Revelation — It presents the opening of six seals, followed by an interlude, and then the opening of the seventh seal. The first four seals released the well-known four horsemen of the Apocalypse that brought calamities on the world.
The imagery of the four horsemen is drawn from Zechariah 6, where horses of the same colors are said to be the four spirits of heaven. When the first seal was opened, a rider on a white horse brought conquest to the nations. The second seal brought a rider on a fiery red horse, representing slaughter. War is the most obvious form of slaughter, but the picture is broad enough to encompass other forms of human killing, too.
The third seal produced a rider on a black horse that represented famine. And the fourth seal brought a rider named Death, who rode a pale horse and represented death by sword, famine, plagues and wild beasts. As terrible as these calamities were, only a fourth of the earth was affected. Most escaped this part of God's judgment. When the fifth seal was opened, John saw a vision of Christian martyrs in heaven. These saints had been slain because they had remained faithful to God and his Word. They cried out for God to punish their murderers, but were told that God wouldn't bring all his justice to bear just yet.
They would need to be patient, until the number of those who were to be martyred was complete. When the sixth seal was opened, the entire earth experienced God's judgment. There was an earthquake; the sun turned black; the moon turned blood red; the stars fell to earth; the sky retreated; and every mountain and island was removed. This description recalls Old Testament prophecies about political upheaval, like the ones we find in Isaiah and Joel It was a way of saying that God was bringing final judgment that would destroy the present evil world.
One day humans will be held accountable and have no excuse before God. Those who fear God will respect him even more. But those who treat these things like a joke will face the future judgment. They won't even have the chance to pray. Their only hope will be to have the hills and mountains fall on them to avoid the coming wrath of God.
This warning of judgment is one that God prepared specifically for the chosen people, so that they will live out devout lives in fear. Stephen Tong, translation]. Between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals, there is an interlude in Revelation 7. This interlude describes the church in ways that highlight God's protection of his people. First, John heard an announcement that 12, people from each of the twelve tribes of Israel — , people in total — had been sealed by God as his special people. Although this , has been understood in different ways, the text of Revelation says that John heard an announcement of ,, but when he turned and looked, he saw something quite different.
There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb Revelation You'll recall that something similar happened in Revelation 5. John heard an announcement about a lion, then looked and saw a lamb. Well, something similar happened here. He heard an announcement about , Jews, then looked and saw an even larger crowd consisting of Jews and Gentiles together. In both cases, John heard words drawn from symbolism in the Old Testament — the lion and the tribes of Israel.
But when he turned to look, what appeared was much greater than what had been announced. The symbolism of the lion was fulfilled in Christ, and the symbolism of the tribes was fulfilled in a great multitude of believers from every nation. After the interlude, the opening of the seventh seal is recorded in Revelation But instead of a grand, climactic ending, there was simply silence.
Creation stood in awe. The silence created dramatic tension for those who first read John's visions. What was this mysterious final stage of history? The answer to this question remained to be seen in the visions that followed. Now that we've explored the seven seals, let's turn our attention to the second series of visions regarding coming events: the seven trumpets in Revelation — The vision of the seven trumpets consists of a series of angels blowing trumpets.
Each time a trumpet is blown, another judgment falls on the earth. It's important to see that the vision of seven trumpets is structured in a similarly to the vision of the seven seals. The vision presents six trumpets, followed by an interlude, and then the seventh trumpet. These trumpets recall the trumpets in Old Testament prophetic passages like Hosea , Joel , Amos and Zechariah They're trumpets that sound when God comes with his angelic armies, calling the heavenly host to war against God's enemies.
The first four trumpet blasts in Revelation signaled judgments through the angelic armies on the four major regions of creation. When the first trumpet was sounded, hail and fire mixed with blood was hurled on dry land. The second trumpet sounded and something like a huge mountain was thrown into the sea.
The third trumpet sounded and a blazing star was thrown into fresh water sources, making them bitter and undrinkable. And with the sounding of the fourth trumpet, the sky was damaged; a third of the day and a third of the night were without light. But as bad as these judgments were, only a third of each region was destroyed. At the end of this section, though, an eagle warned that even worse judgments were coming. The fifth trumpet blast is recorded in Revelation It set in motion an army of unnatural locusts.
John described these locusts as horses prepared for battle, having crowns of gold, human faces, women's hair, lions' teeth, and tails like scorpions. But their power was limited. They could only wreak havoc on the earth for five months, and they were only permitted to attack the wicked. The sixth blast of a trumpet is recorded in Revelation It released four angels from the Euphrates River, who proceeded to destroy a third of humanity.
These first six trumpets are followed by a two-part interlude in Revelation — In a scenario that resembled God's revelation of judgment to Ezekiel in Ezekiel —, John received a little scroll containing prophetic messages, and he was told to eat it. The scroll tasted as sweet as honey, probably representing the good news that God's plans for the world would be consummated without delay. But the scroll also turned his stomach sour, probably indicating that suffering would attend the consummation of God's plans.
The second part of the interlude records John's vision of two witnesses who died for the sake of the gospel. They performed miracles, called people to repentance, and warned of coming judgment. But then they were slain by God's enemies. John's vision of the two witnesses highlighted the most fundamental conflict in history: the conflict between Jesus Christ and his enemies. The two witnesses were supremely powerful, but their opponents were extremely hostile and they murdered the witnesses. This stark contrast highlights the reality that there is no middle ground in the conflict between Jesus and his enemies.
Every human being is either for Jesus or against Jesus. After the interlude, the seventh angel sounded the seventh trumpet in Revelation , closing this vision series. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever Revelation The seventh trumpet introduces the worship that will take place in God's throne room when his victory over all the kingdoms of earth is secure and when he renders his final judgment on all creation.
Christ will return to renew the earth; his glory will be fully revealed; and God's reign will be fully manifested throughout all creation. The third series of visions dealing with coming events is the seven symbolic histories in Revelation — Structurally, the vision of the seven symbolic histories mirrors the visions of the seals and trumpets: the first six histories are grouped together, followed by an interlude, and then the seventh symbolic history. But while the visions of the seals and trumpets focused on divine judgments, the seven histories portrayed the spiritual conflict between Satan and the people of God.
The histories in this series revolve around key symbolic characters: the woman, the dragon, the beast from the sea, the beast from the earth, the , believers, the angelic messengers, and the Son of Man. The first symbolic character is a pregnant woman clothed in the sun.
Her history is found in Revelation , and resembles the birth of Jesus and Herod's attempt to kill him. The woman, who represents faithful Israel, gave birth to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Her child was taken into heaven, which may refer to Christ's resurrection and ascension into heaven. But the woman remained on earth and was persecuted by a great dragon. God protected her so that the dragon couldn't defeat her, but she still suffered because of the conflict.
This symbolic history represents the fact that Jesus descended from God's faithful people, and that true believers continue to suffer because of Satan and his kingdom. John's original audience would have understood that this conflict was at the root of their problems, and would have drawn encouragement from God's protection and care for the woman. At the same time, they would have understood their need to persevere, since the struggles wouldn't end any time soon.
The next symbolic history revolves around a huge red dragon, and appears in Revelation This history is presented simultaneously with the woman's history, but is identified in Revelation as a separate sign. The dragon is described as enormous and red with seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads. And in verse 9 he is identified as Satan himself. In John's vision, the dragon's tail swept a third of the stars from sky and flung them to the earth.
This action may represent angels falling to become demons, or simply political upheaval as in Isaiah and Mark The dragon attacked the woman and her child, highlighting the intense struggle between Satan and God's people. In the dragon's history, there was also a war in heaven, in which Michael and the angels fought the dragon. Michael threw Satan and his angels down to the earth.
Once cast to earth, Satan pursued the woman to persecute her. But God protected her, so Satan turned to attacking her offspring — believers who obey Christ and keep the testimony of Christ. This symbolic history would have helped John's readers understand that they were being persecuted because of Satan's hatred of God, and in the course of a spiritual war.
Even so, Satan was already defeated, and the church would suffer persecution only until the dragon's limited time on earth was done. The third symbolic history revolves around the beast from the sea, and is found in Revelation This beast had the characteristics of a lion, a bear, and a leopard, similar to the beasts in Daniel 7 that represented idolatrous kingdoms. This suggests that the beast from the sea symbolizes all the political powers that oppose the kingdom of Jesus Christ. John also wrote that the beast had a horrible scar from a prior wound that should have been fatal.
The dragon gave the beast from the sea power and authority over all the kingdoms of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the earth worshiped the beast. He was even given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. John's readers probably would have associated this beast with the Roman emperor or Empire, as well as with emperor worship. They would have seen the need to resist the beast, and to remain faithful to Christ.
The fourth symbolic history centers on a second beast — one that rises from the earth. This history is found in Revelation The beast from the earth had two horns like a lamb, but spoke like a dragon. It served the beast from the sea, and performed miraculous signs in order to make the world worship that other beast.
It also forced people to receive the sign of the beast on their right hand or forehead. Together, both beasts attempted to conquer the entire world. John's readers would likely have connected this second beast with the Roman civic cult that coerced emperor worship, threatening to kill those who refused to worship the emperor. Like the history of the beast from the sea, this one would have exhorted them to resist idolatry and to be faithful to Jesus. The fifth symbolic history deals with , believers that belong to God, and appears in Revelation Based on the fact that God's name is sealed on their foreheads, they appear to be the same group mentioned in Revelation The seal of God's name on their foreheads contrasts with the mark the beast on the foreheads of those that obey the beast of the earth.
This symbolic history assured John's readers that true believers will ultimately escape the dragon and the beasts and receive God's blessing. Despite intense persecution, faithful believers will be found pure and blameless. The sixth symbolic history is a vision of three angelic messengers, found in Revelation In John's vision, the first angel proclaimed the eternal gospel, calling all people to fear God and worship him.
The second angel announced the Fall of Babylon the Great, the capital city of those who oppose the kingdom of Jesus Christ. And the third angel declared the final judgment of everyone that followed and worshiped the beast. These messengers communicated that Christ's gospel will triumph over every opposing kingdom, and that when Jesus returns his enemies will be eternally condemned. John's description of these angelic messengers should have encouraged his readers that, even though it sometimes looks like the church is being defeated, Christ's kingdom will eventually conquer his adversaries.
And if any of John's readers were considering worshiping the emperor in order to avoid persecution, this history would have warned them to resist that temptation. After the angelic messengers, John included a short interlude in Revelation In this interlude, John exhorted God's people to persevere — to resist the idolatrous culture around them. And voices from heaven proclaimed that those who remained faithful would ultimately receive God's blessing and rest.
The last symbolic history describes one "like a son of man," who sits on a white cloud and comes to reap his harvest. His history is found in Revelation The phrase "like a son of man" is also used in Revelation , where it specifically refers to Jesus. And it's clear from the actions and context of Revelation 14 that this son of man is also Christ. The imagery in this history is drawn from Daniel , where one "like a son of man" comes on the clouds in order to enter God's heavenly court.
In the first history of this series, the history of the woman, Jesus was pictured as a child that was taken up into heaven. But at the culmination of these histories, Jesus was pictured as the Son of Man reaping his harvest of faithful followers as one would harvest grain. Then a second reaper — this one an angel — harvested the remaining inhabitants of the world and crushed out their blood in the winepress of God's wrath.
This vision declared the ultimate future victory of Jesus. It showed that history is moving toward a grand climax, where those who are faithful to Jesus will be vindicated, but those who aren't will be destroyed. John's original readers should have found this encouraging. They would have recognized that their suffering wasn't worth comparing to the wrath God would pour out on his enemies. And they would have drawn hope and confidence from the fact that they would eventually be vindicated and blessed. We often feel the tension of addressing ourselves to the issue how a loving God can send people to hell including his enemies.
And I think one of the reasons that we struggle with that sometimes is because we have abstracted the attribute of God's love — which is a true attribute — we've abstracted it from his character, we abstracted it from the narrative of Scripture, and we overly sentimentalize it. We want to be careful not to dichotomize what is the holistic reality of God's character.
And if we take our understanding of God's love in conjunction with our understanding of his holiness, we realize that though hell is a sobering reality and final judgment is a sobering reality, God is absolutely right and just to judge the unrepentant in hell, and in fact, if he didn't, we wouldn't say that he was good. If God did not esteem the proper worship of the one true God the way that he does in Scripture, we wouldn't say that he was good if he looked askance at sin and treated it as though it were no big deal.