Perhaps you have been in one of those Bible classes I have only heard about. A class in which you study Matthew thru Jude, but when you come to Revelation you say “that’s too hard to understand”. So, then you go back and start over at Matthew. Well, we don’t want to do that. I don’t think God would mock us by giving us a book we could not understand. Surely, the Revelation is not an easy book to understand but neither should we think it is so difficult that we ignore it altogether. In fact, there is a blessing promised to those who will give heed to this book (Rev. 1:3).
One of the keys to help us in understanding this book is to realize it was written in apocalyptic language (1:1). The word revelation comes from the Greek word apocalypse which means an unveiling or uncovering, a revelation. This word came to be used of writings which were like Revelation in their use of symbolic language. Other books in the Bible such as Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah contain much apocalyptic language. An understanding of how the symbols are used in these other books will help us in understanding Revelation.
In the visions of John numbers (1-unity, 2-strength, 3-Deity, 3½-trial, 4-creation, 5-limited, 6-sinful man, 7-perfection, 8-revival, 10-completeness, 12-God’s people), colors (white-purity, red-bloodshed, black-sin, pale-death), animals (lamb, lion, dragon, frogs), cities (Sodom and Gomorrah, Jerusalem, Babylon), persons (Balaam, Jezebel, Gog and Magog) and other things (angels, demons, stars, clouds, winds, waters, fire, thrones, crowns, swords, chariots, armies, plagues, alters, temples, garments, trees, oil, wine, gold, silver, precious stones, ships, coins, books, musical instruments, eye salve, time periods) are all used symbolically. John sees vivid images which are meant to convey a message. You will read of a dragon that cast down stars from heaven and a flood that proceeds out of its mouth. Frogs come from the mouth of a false prophet and lead armies into battle. The sun is darkened, the moon becomes blood and the heavens are rolled up like a scroll. We must not get too bogged down in the details of the image that we miss the big picture. As is characteristic of most apocalyptic literature Revelation was written to comfort God’s people in their trial with the assurance that their enemies would be judged and that they would be victorious if they remained faithful (2:10).
SHORTLY COME TO PASS
Another key to understanding the book of Revelation is to realize that the things written in the book “must shortly come to pass…for the time is at hand” (1:1, 3). At the end of the book John is reminded that these things “must shortly be done” (22:6) and was instructed, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (v. 10). When Daniel received a revelation about 550 B.C. (Dan. 8:1) concerning the work of Antiochus Epiphanes in about 164 B.C. (vv.13-14) he was told, “Seal up the vision for it refers to many days in the future” (v. 26). Therefore, Revelation should not be understood as referring to things far removed in time from John’s day but to that which was soon coming upon the church.
Some believe Revelation is about what will happen at the end of the world when Jesus comes again. They see a rapture of the church, the rise of the Antichrist and Jesus coming back to earth to reign for a thousand years. This view ignores the fact that John writes of things which “must shortly come to pass”. Such a view would leave the book without any application to the ones to whom it was addressed and by which it was originally received. We must refrain from applying the symbols of Revelation to events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Another group sees an unfolding of history from the time of John until the second coming of Christ. They believe Revelation speaks of the fall of Rome, the apostate Catholic Church, Mohammed, Adolf Hitler, the reformation and the restoration movement. This view also places the major portions of the book too far removed from those to whom the message was originally given. Both of the aforementioned views lead to an arbitrary assignment of the symbols of Revelation.
Still others believe that Revelation does not speak of any specific historical events but of the conflict between good and evil in principle only. This view ignores the fact that the book was specifically addressed to the churches of John’s day and the obvious references to the persecution of Rome upon the church and its fall.
Others believe it is about the persecution of Nero upon the church and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. But the internal evidence does not readily support this position. The conditions of the seven churches seem to indicate a later date for the book than this view calls for. The book seems to speak of a much more severe, long lasting and widespread persecution than that of Nero’s day. The description of the city which falls best fits Rome, not Jerusalem.
I believe as many others that Revelation was written to encourage the saints who must endure the persecution of Rome by emphasizing the fall of Rome and the victory of the faithful. The message serves as an encouragement to every generation of Christians who face trial until our Lord comes again.
Rome ruled the world. The empire had many gods. Even the emperors were deified and the people were called upon to worship his image. Nero was the first among the emperors to persecute Christians. In order to shift the blame off himself he accused Christians of starting a fire in Rome. But it was not until the end of the first century that Domitian began to severely persecute Christians for their refusal to bow to the gods of Rome and the image of the emperors. During the next two hundred years thousands of Christians would be punished, tortured and slain for their faith. Early in the fourth century Constantine legalized Christianity.
Christians were looked upon by the Romans with suspicion because they met at night having to work seven days a week. There were rumors that Christians were cannibals because some misunderstood the communion of the body and blood of Christ. Their acceptance of only one God was seen as disloyalty to Rome. Whenever anything bad happened it was blamed on the Christians not worshiping the gods. Christians often could not do business, send their children to school, fight in the army or even go to the hospital because it would involve them in idolatry. As a result Christians were ridiculed, hated and persecuted by many.
THE DATE OF THE BOOK
John wrote Revelation while exiled on Patmos (Rev. 1:9, 11, 19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 10:4; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5), a small, rocky and barren island about seventy miles southwest of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea, near the end of the reign of Vespasian about 78-79 A.D. In the Syriac version of the Bible (second century A.D.), the book of Revelation is entitled: “The Revelation which was made by God to John the evangelist in the island Patmos, into which he was thrown by Nero Ceasar”. Nero was the fifth emperor of Rome, Vespasian was reigning when John wrote the book of Revelation, Titus would reign for a short term and then Domitian would revive the persecution begun by Nero (17:9-11).
Some date the writing of the book of Revelation about 96 A.D. This later date is based on a misunderstanding of an ambiguous statement from Irenaeus. Foy E. Wallace, Jr. in his commentary on the book of Revelation (pp. 25-26) gives this explanation from Professor Milton S. Terry concerning Irenaeus’ statement:
In speaking of the mystic number given in Rev 13:18, he says: “If it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the apocalypse; for it was not a great while ago that (it or he) was seen, but almost in our own generation, toward the end of Domitian’s reign.” Here the critical reader (of the Greek sentence) will observe that the subject of the verb was seen, is ambiguous, and may be understood either of John or the Apocalypse…But why should he say that the book was recently seen? The point that he aims to make is that the man who saw the visions of the Apocalypse had lived almost into the times to which Irenaeus belonged, and had it been needful to declare the name of the Antichrist he would himself had done it.
A BRIEF SURVEY
John sees Jesus among the lampstands which we are told are the churches (1). Each one is sent a letter from Christ (2-3). Then John sees God on the throne, not Caesar (4). Jesus is given a scroll which is sealed with seven seals (5). As the only One able to open the seals, He holds the future in His hands. Each seal is opened revealing thru various images the persecution that is coming upon the church and God’s judgement upon her enemies (6). Before the opening of the seventh seal, the 144,000 (God’s faithful) are sealed so that they do not come under the judgement of God and are next seen as a multitude rewarded with victory (7). With the opening of the seventh seal, six trumpets are sounded to announce and warn of God’s judgements on the oppressors of the saints but they refuse to repent (8-9). A mighty angel swears that God will not delay in completing His judgement (seven thunders) on the oppressor because he spurned the warning (10). The temple of God is measured (judgement begins at the house of God) and it appears that the church is defeated (two witnesses dead in the street) but ultimately she is raised to victory and the seventh trumpet is sounded (11).
In the last half of the book we are introduced to the enemy. A dragon, the devil, is pictured as a three time loser (12). The sea beast (Rome personified in her emperors) and the earth beast (the enforcer of emperor worship) are his workers (13). In spite of the horrible nature of these enemies, the church is singing a new song for as the rest of the chapter tells us the righteous are garnered in and the wicked are trampled in the winepress (14). The faithful saints are explicitly declared victors and await the pouring out of the seven bowls of God’s wrath (15). God’s complete wrath is poured out upon the enemy of His saints (16). The city which ruled the world in John’s day, Rome, is described as Babylon, the Great Harlot, drunken on the blood of the saints (17). The world laments at the announcement of her fall (18). The saints rejoice as at a wedding feast with Christ who is seen as the conqueror of their enemies (19). The binding of Satan for 1000 years tells us he is totally defeated in his work thru Rome. The 1000 year reign of those who faithfully endured the persecution speaks of their complete victory in this matter. Satan is loosed for a little while and mounts a great army against the city of God but is suddenly overcome and cast into hell assuring us that no matter what the devil might bring against God’s people in the future he will not be successful. Finally, all stand before God in judgement. The wicked are cast into hell forever (20). The eternal state of the church is pictured as a beautiful and wonderful city in which God dwells. From the throne of God proceeds the river of water of life and on each side of the river grows the tree of life (21-22).
This opening chapter of Revelation serves well as an introduction to the rest of the book. In the first three verses we are reminded of the two keys that we mentioned in our introduction to Revelation which are helpful in interpreting this book. First, that the message was given to us in symbols. A literal interpretation should not be pressed upon it. Second, that the book is about things which were to shortly come to pass. Certainly, there are some references in Revelation to the time of Christ’s second coming at the end of the world, but to relegate the main portion of this book to events which are taking place in our day some 2,000 years later is to ignore what John writes in these first verses. John did not know and no one else knows when Jesus Himself will return at the end of the world (Mat. 24:35ff).
Emphasis is given to the fact that this book is of divine origin and not of mere man (Rev. 1:1). It came from God to Christ to the angel to John to show to God’s servants. John gives a faithful record of that which was revealed to him (v. 2). The first of seven beatitudes is found here at the beginning of the book (v. 3). Reader (the singular pronoun indicates a reader for the congregation) and hearer alike are blessed as they keep the words of the prophecy (Jam. 1:25).
The book was written to “the seven churches which are in Asia” (Rev. 1:4). “Asia” refers to a Roman province situated on the west central coast of Asia Minor or modern Turkey. The number “seven” is used symbolically in Revelation. It was the most sacred number to the Hebrews, representing perfection. The number for man (4) and God (3) equals seven. There are seven days in a complete week. In Revelation we find many sevens (churches of Asia, Spirits, stars, angels, golden lampstands, book with seven seals, trumpets, thunders, bowls of wrath). Elsewhere in the New Testament we see the use of “seven” (Mat. 12:45; 15:36-37; 18:22; 22:25-28; Acts 6:3; 13:19; 19:14; 20:6; 21:4, 27; 28:14). The “seven churches” are symbolic of the whole church.
All three persons of the Godhead join in the greeting of grace and peace (Rev. 1:4-5). The Father is identified as the eternal One (cf. Exo. 3:14). The “seven Spirits” are symbolic of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6; cf. Isa. 11:2; Zec. 4). Jesus Christ is identified as:
“the faithful witness” – the persecuted saints could rely on His word (Rev. 19:11; cf. 2 Cor. 1:21).
“the firstborn from the dead” – which speaks of preeminence (Psa. 89:27; Col. 1:18). Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to never die again and He is the pledge of our resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23). What a comfort to those facing death for Christ.
“the ruler over the kings of the earth” – though it looks like Caesar rules supreme, Christ is in control (Rev. 2:27; cf. Mat. 28:19; Acts 2:33-36; Eph. 1:20-22; 1 Tim. 6:15; 1 Pet. 3:22). It looked like Pharaoh was sovereign over Israel killing their baby boys but he took in and raised their deliverer in his own house (Exo.). It looked like Nebuchadnezzar ruled over Israel taking them captive and destroying their city but as Daniel foretold Babylon fell, then Medo-Persia, then Greece, then Rome; And during the days of the Roman kings God established His kingdom which would never be destroyed (Mat. 16:18; 1:15; Mark 9:1; Acts 2). Premillennialists say Jesus can’t be ruling because of the mess this world is in but even they believe there will be a rebellion at the end of the millennium in which a huge host will rise up and attack Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ is the One to whom we are to give glory and dominion (Rev. 1:5-7). He “loved us”. Unlike the Roman tyrants He cares for the people. Whenever in doubt remember the Cross. He “washed us”. If He can deliver from sins can He not deliver from Rome? He “made us kings and priests” in the church, a spiritual empire (John 18:36) much greater than Rome (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; cf. Exo. 19:6). “He is coming” (Rev. 22:12; cf. John 14:3; Acts 1:9-11; Heb. 9:28). It will not be an invisible or secret coming (Mat. 24:27; 1 The. 4:16) as even those who pierced Him (Zec. 12:10; John 19:37) will be there to see Him, weeping and wailing bitterly with all the ungodly (5:28-29; 2 The. 1:7-11).
Jesus Himself affirms to John His power over all as the eternal One (Rev. 1:8). Each of the descriptions He uses of Himself show His equality with God (1:4; 21:6; 22:13; cf. Isa. 9:6; John 1:1-3; 10:30; Phi. 2:6; Col. 2:9).
John encourages the churches by reminding them that he shares with them in the tribulation (not something in the distant future but what they are already experiencing – John 16:33; Acts 14:22) and in the blessings of the kingdom (as we saw in verse five the kingdom of Christ was already in existence – Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:28) and in the steadfast endurance required (Rom. 12:12; Jam. 1:2-4, 12). John was not writing these things from an ivory tower but from the penal colony on the island of Patmos where he had been banished because of his faithfulness to Jesus (Rev. 1:9).
John was “in the Spirit” (under the influence of the Holy Spirit – 1 Cor. 14:2) on the “Lord’s day” when he heard behind him “a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Rev. 1:10). The expression “Lord’s” is used in only one other place in the New Testament where it refers to the “Lord’s supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). The Lord’s supper was taken on the first day of week when the church gathered for worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). This is the day the Lord was raised from the dead (Mark 16:9) and the church had its beginning (Acts 2:1; Lev. 23:15-16).
John, inspired of the Holy Spirit, was instructed to write in a book what he saw and send it to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 1:11; cf. 1:19; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14; 10:4; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5). These churches are named in a circuitous geographical order. When John turned to see who it was that spoke to him, He saw “seven golden lampstands” (1:12), which he is later told are the seven churches (1:20). As the golden lampstand with seven lamps gave light in the tabernacle so the churches are to give light to the world (Mat. 5:14-16; Phi. 2:15).
One like “the Son of Man” (a term used of Christ – Dan. 7:13) was seen among the seven golden lampstands (Rev. 1:13). The description of Jesus which follows (vv. 13-16) is similar to that of Ezekiel (Eze. 1:26-28) and Daniel (Dan. 10:5-6). His attire suggests high rank and dignity, perhaps the garments of a priest, king or prophet. His white head and hair speak of purity and holiness. His burning, piercing look misses nothing. His feet like burnished brass suggest destructive power to trample (Eze. 1:7; Mic. 4:13; Mal. 4:3). His voice roars like the waves of the sea crashing on the shores of Patmos striking terror in the hearts of His enemies. He has seven stars, which John is later told are the angels of the churches (Rev. 1:20), in His right (strong) hand indicating His authority over the hosts of the heavens and that He holds the destiny of the churches under His powerful control. The sword, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12), which comes out of His mouth (cf. Isa. 11:4) indicates His readiness to wage war with His enemies (Rev. 19:15). The glory and majesty of His person is seen in His face as a bright sun (Mat. 17:2).
It is before this awesome One that John falls in fear (Rev. 1:17). Touching him with His powerful hand He tells John not to be afraid because He is the eternal and living God (1:18). He was dead but is now seen alive forevermore! He has power over (keys which unlock) Hades and death (Acts 2:22-36; Heb. 2:14). In His resurrrection He conquered death for all (1 Cor. 15).
Finally (Rev. 1:19), John is told to make a written record of everything which has been revealed to him (1), the present condition of things (2-3) and the things which are to come (4-22). Remember this is a revelation of things “shortly to take place” (1:1). As noted above, the “mystery” (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:7-10; Eph. 3:1-7) of the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands” is made known to John (Rev. 1:20). As everything in Revelation has its “angels” (rivers, winds, bowls, trumpets, books) so it can act out its part in the book, so each congregation is represented by an angel (cf. Dan. 10:13, 20-21; Mat. 18:10; Acts 12:15).
THE BIG PICTURE: After emphasizing that the things revealed to John are from God and must shortly take place, Jesus is seen in His power and glory among the churches to encourage their faithfulness even when faced with death and to assure them that their enemies will be judged. This message is preserved for us today that we too might benefit from it.
With this chapter we begin to look at Jesus’ letters to the churches. They convey the sincere interest and deep concern that He has for all of His churches. This would be especially needful for those facing such severe persecution as was to come upon them.
Each letter follows the same general pattern: (1) Jesus identifies Himself using the figures from John’s vision of the Son of Man in chapter one. (2) He examines the congregation commending and/or condemning it for its works. (3) Then, He makes an appeal. The congregation is admonished to repent and/or continue steadfast so that it is not judged. The faithful (ones who “overcome” – Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 5, 12, 21) are promised the blessings of God. Whether they live or die they are victors thru Christ (Rom. 8:37-39).
Though a different letter was written for each congregation, all of the letters were to be read by all of the churches (Rev. 1:4, 11; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
CHRIST’S LETTER FOR THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS
The first letter was written for the church of Ephesus (2:1). This is actually the second inspired epistle to be received by this congregation (Eph.). The apostle Paul had spent more time with this church than any other (Acts 18-20). It was from his efforts there that all of Asia Minor had come to hear the Gospel (19:10). The city of Ephesus was equally important to Asia Minor commercially as it stood on the main route from Rome to the east and was favored with a good harbor on the Aegean Sea. It was also the city of the temple of Diana, whom the whole world worshipped. The original temple crumbled into dust centuries ago but was rebuilt. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Alexander the Great wanted his name on one of its 127 pillars. Though he offered them great riches he was turned down by the city. “If we put the name of another god on her temple it will upset her,” they told him. Alexander couldn’t get his name on the temple of Diana but years later Paul wrote and told the Ephesians that they were the temple of God (Eph. 2:19-22)!
Jesus’ description of Himself (Rev. 1:1) emphasizes His love and concern for this church, though their love had diminished. His love for them is further seen in how He compliments them for being a hard working and persevering congregation (2:2-3; cf. Gal. 6:9). They were also commended for their intolerance of evil men and false teachers (cf. Acts 20:28-30; Eph. 5:11; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 9-11; 2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15; 12:11-12). Yet, Jesus had one thing against them (the proverbial “fly in the ointment”). They had left their “first love” (Rev. 2:4). They had lost that fervor, devotion and enthusiasm that early on characterized the love of this church (Acts 19:19-20; 20:36-38; Eph. 1:15).
Jesus looks into the heart of man to see his attitude and what it is that motivates him (John 2:24-25). Even though we may be steadfast in our labor and scriptural in our teaching, without love we are a spiritual zero (1 Cor. 13:1-3; cf. Eph. 4:15; 1 Tim. 1:5).
In order to correct their fault, the Ephesian church needed to do three things (Rev. 2:5):
“Remember” from where they had fallen – They had fallen from God’s favor. Thinking back on the love of God as proclaimed in the Gospel and how they were saved by God’s grace should revive their love (2 Cor. 5:14-15). As a husband and wife may grow cold toward one another through the years, looking back to how they felt about one another in the beginning may help to rekindle those feelings once again. Remembering when we were betrothed to Christ will help restore our love (2 Cor. 11:2; cf. Rom. 6).
“repent” or change their hearts – The problem in the Ephesian church was a heart problem. When we sin, repentance is always required in order to get right with God (Acts 8:22; Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:10).
“do the first works” – If we truly repent, we will change our conduct (Mat. 3:8; 21:28-30; 2 Cor. 7:10-11). The Christians at Ephesus would need to act out of genuine love for Christ, for one another and for all men and with the original zeal that they once displayed (cf. Rom. 12:9-13).
Jesus threatens to come and remove their lampstand (Rev. 2:5). He does not here speak of His coming at the end of the world, but of His judgement upon them which was to be realized in time. Their light was going out and they would no longer exist as a church of Christ. That Jesus would point out their error, encourage them to make amends and warn them of their end was another evidence of His love towards them (cf. Pro. 27:5; Mat. 18:15-18; 2 Cor. 5:11; Gal. 6:1-2; Jam. 5:19-20).
His love is also seen in the encouraging words of verse 6. Jesus did not just see what was wrong with this congregation, but also what they were doing right. Even when people are in need of correction we can usually find something for which to commend them if we will look for it. The Ephesian church hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. So did Jesus. We are to, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9; cf. Psa. 97:10; 119:104; Pro. 8:13). The Nicolaitans are asssociated with Balaam’s doctrine “to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:14-15). Some believe this sect came from Nicolas (Acts 6:5) who supposedly left the faith but there is no evidence of this.
The term “Nicolaitans” means “victory people”. “Nike” brand tennis shoes come from this same Greek word. Jesus uses this word to refer to the one who “overcomes” (Rev. 2:7). He is the true victor! Jesus promises the overcomer eternal life with God under the figure of “the tree of life” in “the Paradise of God”. The word translated “Paradise” was used of the beautiful oriental parks of the Persian kings. It is used in the Bible of heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:1-4). What was lost in the Garden of Eden when man sinned (Gen. 2-3), was recovered by Christ (Rom. 5) and is forever restored to the faithful (Rev. 22:2).
CHRIST LETTER FOR THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA
This is the shortest of the letters to the churches. It is also one of the only two letters that does not contain any condemnation. The origin of the church is unknown but it probably grew out of Paul’s work in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).
Smyrna was a beautiful city located about forty miles north of Ephesus and known as the Ornament of Asia. It was a great center of Caesar worship. There was also a large population of Jews in this city.
Jesus’ claims for Himself (Rev. 2:8) reflect the city of Smyrna. The ancient city had been destroyed and was dead for 400 years until it was rebuilt by Alexander the Great. Now it claimed to be the first city in Asia. The leading god of Smyrna was Dionysus. Each year the death and resurrection of this god was acted out in public plays. Christians knew the difference between myth and solid, indisputable historical fact!
Jesus was here before Smyrna ever existed and will be here when Smyrna is gone. As a mother quiets the anxieties of her child by saying, “I’ll be here when you wake up”, so Jesus seeks to encourage this church which was facing the threat of extreme persecution, even martyrdom.
He knows what is going on with the church in Smyrna (v. 9). In spite of their difficulties they continue in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). They suffered:
“tribulation” – This speaks of their trial as the grinding of grain between stones or the crushing pressure of the trampling of grapes. They were under tremendous pressure to worship Caesar and the gods of Rome.
“poverty” – This means they were really “poooooor”. Materially they were destitute. The government confiscated their property. Their businesses were boycotted. Yet, their poverty was offset by a far greater wealth than silver and gold. They were “rich” toward God (Luke 12:15-21; Mat. 6:19-21; 2 Cor. 6:10; 8:9; Eph. 1:3; 3:8; 1 Tim. 6:6-10, 17-19; Jam. 2:5).
“blasphemy” – This refers to the slanderous accusations of the Jews who stirred up trouble against them. These were not the true people of God but Satan’s church (John 8:31-47; Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-8; Gal. 3:26-29; 6:16; Phi. 3:3).
Jesus does not promise to take away their suffering, but seeks to prepare them for what lies ahead (Rev. 2:10). He tells them not to be afraid even though the devil was only going to make things worse for them (Mat. 10:28; Heb. 13:5-6; 1 John 4:4). Some of them would literally be thrown into “prison”. All of them would be held for a trial of their faith and many of them would be literally put to death. Their “tribulation” would last “ten days”. The number “ten” is symbolic of completeness. A complete man has ten fingers and ten toes. Revelation speaks of ten horns, ten crowns and ten kings to express fullness of power or rule (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 12, 16). Jacob was tried “ten times” (Gen. 31:7). Job was tried “ten times” by his accusers (Job 19:3). Daniel was tried “ten days” (Dan. 1:12-16). The tribulation of the Christians at Smryna would come to an end, but only when their trial was complete (cf. Rev. 6:9-11).
Though Jesus did not promise to take away their suffering, He does assure them, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
He calls upon them to be faithful even if it means death. He means for them to die as martyrs rather than denounce their faith. His promised “crown” is a symbol of the reward of eternal life (1 Cor. 9:25; 2Tim. 4:8; Jam. 1:12; 1Pet. 5:4). Mt. Pagas gave the appearance of a crown which became the symbol of the city of Smyrna. Many citizens of Smyrna had been crowned for their service and loyalty to city and country. Others had striven in the games and received crowns of victory. All of these crowns would fade away and vanish in time but the crown Jesus promised would last forever!
The negative of this promise is to “not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11). Death means separation. When we die physically our body is separated from our spirit (Jam. 2:26). We die spiritually when our sins separate us from God (Isa. 59:1-2; Rom. 6:23). The term “second death” speaks of eternal separation from God in hell (Rev. 20:6, 14-15, 21:8; cf. Mat. 25:41,46; 2 The. 1:6-10). It is better to die the first death (physical death) in faithfulness to Christ than to suffer the second death.
Polycarp, an elder of the church in Smyrna, was burned at the stake in 155 A.D. It was on the Sabbath but the Jews in violation of their law helped gather sticks for the fire. He was told to pay homage to Caesar and curse Christ but he responded, “Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” Threatened with fire he replied, “Thou threatenest the fire that burns for an hour and in a little while is quenched; for thou knowest not of the fire of the judgement to come, and the fire of the eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Bring what thou wilt.” No doubt the words of encouragement from our Savior to Smyrna had been heard by him and were imprinted upon his heart.
All who will listen are admonished to take this letter to heart. It is time we all quit our wining, moaning and complaining and stand “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10), trusting Him for life eternal.
CHRIST LETTER FOR THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS
Pergamos, the capital city of Asia Minor and seat of emperor worship, sat like a throne on a hill surveying the valley around it. It was a city of numerous idols. Jutting from the hillside about 800 feet up, smoke endlessly ascended from a huge alter to Askelepios, the serpent god of healing. No wonder Jesus calls it "Satan's throne" (Rev. 2:12-13). Yet, Jesus claims to be the One "who had the sharp two-edged sword". This symbolized the fact that He had the power of life and death (Rom. 13:4).
The church in Pergamos is commended by the Lord for their faithfulness to His “name” and to His “faith”. The name of Jesus speaks of His authority (Acts 4:7-12; Col. 3:17). The faith of Jesus speaks of His teaching (Rom. 10:17; Phi. 1:27; Jude 3). Their faithfulness was especially commendable because it was tested by martyrdom, as in the case of “Antipas”.
It is possible that Antipas was not a specific individual, but representative of all those among them who were put to death for their loyalty to Christ. The name Antipas is made of two words which mean “against father”. It may refer to those who went against the authority of Rome in order to be loyal to Christ.
Though they had much to commend them, Jesus had “a few things against” them (Rev. 2:14-15). Some held to the false doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. Balaam was the prophet for hire who was not allowed to curse Israel for Balak, the king of Moab but counseled him to send the daughters of Moab to entice Israel to join them in the lascivious worship to their gods (Num. 22-25; 31:16; Jos. 13:22; 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 6). Apparently some in the church at Pergamos believed that a Christian could engage in the immoral feasts and worship held in honor of the Roman gods (1 Cor. 8-10).
The Nicolaitans were first mentioned with disdain by Jesus in His letter to the church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:6). As the term “Nicolaitans” comes from two Greek words which mean “victory people”, so “Balaam” is from two Hebrew words which mean the same. Thus, Jesus is probably referring to the same false doctrine by each of these terms.
Jesus not only had a problem with those who held to these false teachings but also with the rest of the church in Pergamos because they had them in their fellowship. According to Thayer, the word “have” (echo) is “used of those joined to anyone by the bonds of…friendship” (p. 266). Such must not be allowed nor tolerated by the Lord’s church but rather rebuked and corrected with the proper teaching and discipline in order to keep the church pure (1 Cor. 5; Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; 2 John 9-11). The church in Pergamos had not taken a firm enough stand against those among them who held to error.
Without repentance, they were all in danger of being judged by Christ (Rev. 2:16). The “sword” of His “mouth” is symbolic of His word by which we all are to be judged (John 12:48; Heb. 4:13; Eph. 6:17). On the otherhand, eternal life with Christ is promised to the overcomer under three symbols (Rev. 2:17):
“the hidden manna” – God fed Israel with manna in the wilderness (Exo. 16). A portion was kept hidden with the ark of the covenant (16:33; Heb. 9:4). Jesus is the true bread of God from heaven that gives life to the world (John 6:31-35). This “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3; cf. 2:3). While in the desert of this sinful world, Christians do not partake of the heathen feasts but feed on the spiritual sustenance of Christ (1 Cor. 10:1-4).
“a white stone” – Pergamos mined white stones. They were used to indicate one’s innocence at trial (cf. Acts 26:10, literally “my pebble of voting” may refer to a black stone indicating Paul’s vote of guilty), one’s citizenship and freedom from slavery, a winner of a contest or one’s victory in battle. They were also used as complimentary passes to games or the theater. They were shared with friends to guarantee a warm reception at any time or place. The color “white” speaks of purity, holiness, innocence, victory and heaven. A white stone then would identify the faithful as the friends of Christ who are admitted into heaven and received as citizens free from sin and victors in their battle with Satan, having been acquitted in their trial of faith.
“a new name” – In the Scriptures people were given new names that reflected God’s blessing in their life (Gen. 17:5, 15-16; 32:28; 35:10; John 1:42; Isa. 56:5; 62:2; 65:15; Acts 11:26). The new name given by Christ to the faithful reflect all that they now are and have with Christ after enduring their trial of faith and sharing in His victory over sin and Satan (Rev. 3:12; 19:12). Only the one receiving the white stone “knows” the name “written on” it because no one person’s experience is identical with another’s experience. The fact that it is engraved on the stone indicates the permanence or eternal nature of this blessing.
CHRIST’S LETTER FOR THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
Thyatira lay in a valley about forty miles southeast of Pergamos. Since it had no natural fortifications it was well built and heavily staffed with soldiers. As such it served as a protective barrier to enemies on approach to Pergamos. It was also a trade and manufacturing city known for its purple dye. Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira, was converted to Christ by the preaching of Paul in Philippi (Acts 16).
There were many trade guilds in the city. Membership in these unions was very important to doing business. This was a problem for the Christian because the guilds were dedicated to various gods and served idols. Tertullian wrote against those Christians who joined the guilds and sought to justify their compromise by saying, “A man must live”.
In this longest letter of the seven to the churches Jesus presents Himself as “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass” (Rev. 2:18). Using these symbols Jesus is really speaking their language. The smith guilds worshiped a god who worked in brass named Hephaestus, but Jesus is the true divine One. His eyes are ablaze like a furnace, angry at what He sees in Thyatira. His feet are ready and able to trample and burn to ashes His enemies (cf. Isa. 63:1-6, Mic. 4:13).
People are more apt to listen to our criticism if we let them know we are aware of their good qualities. Before pointing out their wrongdoing Jesus first commended the church in Thyatira for its works, love, service, faith and patience saying “the last are more than the first” (Rev. 2:19). Unlike the church in Ephesus which had left its first love, the church in Thyatira was on fire doing more than ever before.
It was their toleration of “Jezebel” that Jesus had against them (Rev. 2:20). This was the name of the wicked wife of King Ahab who opposed the Lord and His righteous ways (1 Kin. 16:31). She cut off the prophets of Jehovah and encouraged idolatry by feeding the prophets of Baal and the Asherah (1 Kin. 18:4, 19). It is as unlikely that anyone would have named their girl Jezebel as they would have named their boy Judas. The name is probably used symbolically by Jesus to refer to a woman or a faction in the church. Churches have been greatly disturbed by talented and influential women (i.e. the wife of an elder or preacher, a woman of great wealth or political power).
Like many today, this Jezebel claimed to be inspired of God (“a prophetess”, cf. Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5) but was a false teacher. She taught the same doctrine as the Nicolaitans and Balaam (Rev. 2:6, 14-15) and her disciples claimed to have “known the depths of Satan” (Rev. 2:24). Perhaps they were saying that one should obtain such knowledge by experiencing sin firsthand. These early Gnostics claimed knowledge from God that others did not have (cf. 1 Cor. 8). Their doctrine was based on the notion that all flesh was evil so it did not matter what one did with his body (cf. 1 John 4:1-6). If one was truly spiritual it would not effect his spirit (cf. 2 Pet. 2:12-16, 18-19; Jude 4, 17-23). This teaching would allow the Christians to join the trade guilds and not have to suffer the economic hardship and social isolation that would result from remaining separate and refusing to participate in pagan feasts and the sexually immoral worship of idols. Such compromise is absolutely unacceptable (1 Cor. 8-10; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Unfortunately, many still compromise faith for material gain (cf. Mat. 6:24, 33). As in Thyatira, such compromisers do not quit the church. They may be some of the best workers. It is such problems within, not without, that often destroy us (1 Cor. 5). Jezebel needed to be opposed, not fellowshipped (Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11).
Today, some would have us compromise. They say the church of Christ is just a denomination born of the restoration movement in America. They claim superior insight and to have discovered new truth. In many ways they have adopted the culture of our time. Their teachings have caused many to be conformed to the world and unite with denominationalists. They, too, must be stopped (Tit. 1:9-11).
The patience of Christ toward Jezebel and “her children” (i.e. spiritual offspring) had been exhausted to the point that they would be cast from their beds of sin into the bed of judgement (Rev. 2:21-23). All the churches would then recognize that nothing escapes Him. Each one in the church at Thyatira would share in this judgement according to their works. God’s longsuffering toward us should not be taken as though He is indifferent to sin, but as opportunity to get right with God before it is too late (Ecc. 8:11; 2 Pet 3:9). The immorality of Jezebel and her followers was surpassed only by their obstinate resistance to God’s goodness (cf. Rom 2:4).
Dealing with Jezebel was the most pressing business at Thyatira. Jesus would put “no other burden” on them. But deal they must (Rev. 2:24). As the city would have to hold off the enemy until Pergamum was ready, so the church would have to “hold fast” until the Lord would come in judgement upon these enemies of the faith (v. 25). This implies that our salvation can slip from us if we fail to do so (Heb. 3:6; 10:23).
Christ’s promised reward to the victorious one who never gives up is portrayed with two symbols (Rev. 2:26-28). He is given:
“power over the nations” – This is a sharing with Christ in His present reign over all (Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 2:33-36; Rom. 5:17; Eph. 1:20-23; 2:6; 2 Tim. 2:11-12; Heb. 1:3, 13; 1 Pet. 3:21-22; Rev. 1:5-6) which was prophesied long before (Psa. 2:6-9; 110:5-6). The faithful would stand with Christ in triumph over those who sought to make them compromise (Rev. 5:9-10). The strength of their faith is seen in the ease by which the enemy is broken into shivers by the rod of iron (i.e. the word of God, Isa. 11:4; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 12:5; 19:15).
“the morning star” – This refers to the presence and blessings of Christ Himself (2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 22:16). As the sun heralds the new day so Christ’s coming in judgement upon their enemies assures His conquerors that the night is almost over (cf. Num. 24:17).
Once again we are reminded that this message as that of the other letters to the churches is not just for the church which is addressed but for all the churches (Rev. 2:29).
CHRIST’S LETTER FOR THE CHURCH OF SARDIS
The city of Sardis was about thirty miles south southeast of Thyatira. At one time it was a capital city of great wealth. It sat 1500 feet up in the air on a ledge of rock jutting out of the side of a mountain making it virtually impregnable. Yet, twice (once by Cyrus in 546 B.C. and then again by Antiochus in 218 B.C.) it was overtaken because the city was not alert. Tradition says that a soldier found a crevice in the rock hill and led a band of men to the summit, taking the city by surprise. In A.D. 17, Sardis was devastated by an earthquake. At the time of the writing of Revelation, it was a city in decline. Sardis was slowly but surely dying.
From this letter of Christ we learn that the condition of the church paralleled that of the city. Unless it awakened to its true condition, it was going to die.
As the letter opens Jesus reminds them that He is the One that possesses the “seven Spirits of God and the seven stars” (Rev. 3:1). The “seven Spirits of God” was first mentioned at the beginning of this book (1:4). There we noted that this refers to the Holy Spirit, who is God’s quickening power (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus told John that the “seven stars” are the angels which represent the churches before God (Rev. 1:20). The description Jesus gives of Himself assures them that He is able to revive this dead church and bring it back to life.
Unlike the pattern found in the preceding epistles of Christ to the other churches, He does not begin with any word of commendation for the church at Sardis but goes straight to the point. Like the city, their reputation of greatness from the past lived on but they were in grave trouble. Resting on their laurels, they had settled into a comfortable rut which was closed at both ends. Like the city, they needed to be on guard (3:2) lest the enemy overtake them unawares (1 Pet. 5:8). They had become careless and negligent in the work of the Lord. Like the city, it was time that they began to fortify what was left of the church before it fell into spiritual ruin. It was time to restore and rebuild. Like the city, the church had a promising beginning but had failed to complete the work that they had begun. They were content to hold services and kept the doors open but these works were just grave clothes wrapped around a corpse. They made no impact upon their city. As a result they suffered no negative repercussions from Rome but rather enjoyed peace with the pagan culture. In this peace they had drifted into a coma and on into death. This was a peaceful church if you like the peace of a cemetery.
Jesus, the great Physician and giver of life, gave them a threefold prescription to take in order to hold off their funeral service (Rev. 3:3):
“Remember therefore how you have received and heard” – It would do them good to go back in their memory to the time when they first found Christ in order to renew the life and zeal of this church’s beginning.
“hold fast” – As we might tell a dying man to hold on, so they must not let go of Christ (cf. Mat. 10:22; Heb. 3:6; 10:23).
“repent” – Things also had to change, beginning with their hearts (cf. Acts 8:21-22).
If they would not wake up and get on alert they were going to fall under the judgement of Christ (Eph 5:14; 1 Cor. 10:12). As a thief, it would come upon them suddenly and unexpectedly. On the last day, Christ will so come upon us all whether we are watching or not (Mat. 24:36-25:46; 1 The. 5:1-11; 2 Pet. 3:10).
There were “a few” persons who had survived the death toll that had taken hold of this church (Rev. 3:4). These faithful few had “not defiled their garments” (i.e. stained their souls with sin, cf. Zec. 3; Jude 23), as the others who were spiritually dead, but were trying to carry on the work. These were deemed “worthy” – not of themselves, of course, but by God’s grace – to walk with Christ “in white” (a symbol of the purity, righteousness and holiness of the saved, Ecc. 9:8; Isa. 1:18; 61:10; Dan. 12:10; Rev. 19:14). This is reminiscient of the victory parades conducted by the Roman generals dressed in a white toga. The faithful would march in Jesus’ victory parade dressed in white.
Jesus promised them, “He who overcomes shall…” (3:5):
Wear the “white garments” of salvation in the victory parade with those mentioned above.
Not have their name blotted out of “the Book of life”, the roll book of the redeemed who are to be granted eternal citizenship in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Exo. 32:32-33; Dan.12:1; Psa 69:28; Mal 3:16; Luke 10:20; Phi. 3:20; 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). Though this is an assuring word to the faithful, it implies that a Christian can lose his eternal reward if he is not careful (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:25-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22)!
Have Jesus “confess” his name in heaven (Mat. 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9) so that he is recognized as one of His own.
There are many lessons to learn for all who will “hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev.3:6). Let us be careful to learn:
How tragic it is when a church does not fulfill its mission! We boast about what we used to do, but if we are not reaching out and impacting our city for Christ today we are just “dry rot”. Where are the soul winners?
How wonderful it is that some lifeless, nearly dead saints can still be aroused! Where are the encouragers?
How awful it is to have one’s name blotted out of the book of life! It was put there by the grace of God. How, then, can we so carelessly have it fritter away. Where are the warners and watchers of the souls of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (I The. 5:11-22)?
CHRIST’S LETTER FOR THE CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA
The city of Philadelphia lay twenty eight miles southeast of Sardis. It was built by King Attalus II a century and a half before Christ and called Philadelphia in honor of his brother and predecessor, Eumenes, whom he loved so much. It has also been referred to as “little Athens” because it was full of idols and idol temples. Serving as a doorway of major trade routes it was seen as a “missionary” city to spread the Greek culture. Like the other cities of this area it suffered devastation from the earthquake of 17 A. D.
Nothing is known of the church here except what we learn from this short letter. It is noteworthy that Christ gives no condemnation of this church.
Jesus begins the letter by identifying Himself as the holy and true God of the Bible who has the authority to grant or deny entrance into the kingdom of God as was foreshadowed by David’s authority over the kingdom of Israel (Rev. 3:7; cf. Isa. 22:15-25). This is in contrast to the Jewish enemies of the church in Philadelphia who claimed to be the holy nation of God, the true people of God and the heirs of David’s throne with authority to rule over the kingdom of God but were not (Rev. 3:9; cf. Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-7; Phi. 3:3). Though Philadelphia may have shut their doors of business and the doors of their synagogues to the Christians, Christ is the keeper of the doors into the everlasting kingdom of God (cf. Mat. 16:19; Acts 14:22; 2 Pet. 1:10-11).
The kingdom and reign of Christ had already begun. He was already reigning with all authority in His kingdom (Mat. 28:18; Acts 2:33-36; Eph. 1:20-22; Col. 1:18; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 1:5, 18) as was prophesied before (Isa. 9:6-7; 36:3; Luke 1:32-33). Only thru Christ could anyone come into the presence and blessings of God (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 10:19-23).
Christ provided such “an open door” for the church at Philadelphia because of their faithfulness and assured them that no one could deny them this privilege (Rev. 3:8). In spite of their smallness in size, lack of earthly wealth and political power they were not intimidated by the enemies of the faith. They remained loyal to the teachings of Christ (cf. John 14:23) and would not deny Him (cf. Mat. 10:32-33). These are the things that determine faithfulness to Christ, not numbers, money or popularity among men.
Christ shut the door to those Jews who rejected Him (Rev. 3:9). They insisted on holding to the shadows and refused the substance (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1). In doing so they kept others and themselves from entering into the true kingdom of God (Mat. 23:13) and became the devil’s church (cf. John 8:31-47; Mat. 23:15). These haters of Christ and His church would someday be made to acknowledge that those who follow Christ are the true people of God (cf. Isa. 60:14; Rom. 14:10-12; Phi. 2:9-11). Though many in “the city of brotherly love” hated the Christians, they were loved by the Lord.
Jesus warned them that an “hour of trial” was coming “upon the whole world” (Rev. 3:10). This can only refer to the enforcement of emperor worship that began with Domitian and would extend throughout the worldwide empire of the Romans. Though the Christians of Philadelphia would suffer persecution because of their steadfast loyalty to Jesus, He would preserve their souls so that they would not fail in this test of faith (cf. Isa. 43:1-7; Mark 13:11-13; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 10:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:5; Jude 1, 20-25). Jesus assured them that He would “come quickly” (Rev. 3:11). By this He meant that He was ready to act at any moment on their behalf by coming to their aid to deliver them and to judge their oppressors (cf. Phi. 4:5; Jam. 5:8-9). As long as they were faithful they could not lose their eternal reward (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). Knowing this should sustain them in the hour of trial (1 Pet. 1:3-9).
Each victor of Christ is then promised a permanent place in heaven with God and Christ under the figure of a pillar in God’s temple (3:12; cf. Acts 7:44-50; 17:24; Heb. 8:1-6; 9; 10:19-25; Rev. 21:3, 22). Such memorials might be seen among the many idol temples of Philadelphia etched with the name of a citizen, soldier or king to honor him for his loyalty and service to Rome. However, those pillars would crack and tumble with the tremors of an earthquake and everyone would run out from the falling temple. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed, but the true temple of God cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:22-29).
Jesus said that three names would be written on each of the pillars in God’s temple:
The name of God which would identify them as God’s children (Eph. 3:14-15; Rev. 7:2; 9:4; 14:1).
The name of God’s city which would identify them as citizens of heaven (Phi. 3:20; Heb. 12:22-23). Jerusalem had long since ceased to be the city of God. [When the Bible uses the term “forever” in connection with Jerusalem (2 Chr. 7:16) it does not mean eternally but until the end of the age (cf. Gen. 17:8, 13; Exo. 21:6; 40:15; Lev. 16:34; 24:8; Num. 25:13; Deu. 28:45-47).] The great city of Rome that persecuted the church so severely by the beasts that came out of the earth and the sea would fall (Rev. 13; 17-18). The faithful would dwell in the eternal city of heaven, the new Jerusalem that is built by God (2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 11:10, 16; Rev. 14:1-5; 21-22).
The new name of God’s Son which would identify them with the One who saved them by His blood and by whose power they would win the victory of faith (Rev. 19:11-16). This name is above every name (Eph. 1:20-22; Phi. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:1- 4).
All churches should pay attention to what the Spirit taught this church (Rev. 3:13). What pleased Jesus about the church at Philadelphia was their faithfulness to Him. Faithfulness is not an ability that some have and others don’t, but a choice that we all have to make each day of our lives. Decide for Jesus and you will be rewarded with eternal life.
CHRIST’S LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS
Laodicea was 43 miles southeast of Philadelphia. It was a great commercial and banking center. It had a famous school of medicine which produced an eye salve. It was a clothing and fashion center famous for its soft, glossy, black woolen garments. It also had numerous mineral springs.
The church may have been established by Epaphras (Col. 1:7; 4:12-13). It had earlier received a letter from Paul (Col. 4:16). Jesus is spoken of as the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness (Rev. 3:14; cf. 1:5). This is in contrast to the unfaithfulness of the church in Laodicea. The Beginning (cf. 1:8; 21:6) of the creation of God describes Christ as the first cause or source of creation (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:3).
Jesus gives no commendation for this church, only condemnation (Rev. 3:15-16). The mineral springs of Laodicea produced hot water for therapy, cold water for refreshment and lukewarm water that would make a person sick. Because the church had become “lukewarm” (i.e. useless, indifferent, apathetic, negligent, good for nothing), it made Christ sick to his stomach (cf. Gal. 5:4).
As the self-sufficient city, so the church had developed a false sense of spiritual self-sufficiency totally oblivious of their true spiritual condition (Rev. 3:17-18; cf. John 15:4). Jesus’ words were directed at the pride the city had taken in their banking interest, clothing industry and medical care, especially their eye salve. Jesus stressed that only He can provide the true spiritual needs of the soul like gold (i.e. spiritual treasure), “white garments” (i.e. genuine purity) and eye salve (i.e. true understanding).
Lest they feel their situation hopeless, the Lord lets them know He loves them (Rev. 3:19; cf. Heb. 12:5-6), seeks fellowship with them (Rev. 3:20; cf. Son. 5:2; Jam. 5:9) and promises victory to the faithful (Rev. 3:21; cf. 2:26-27; John 16:33).
This chapter is like a door into the central thrust of the book. It emphasizes the victory of the church over her enemy (Satan in Rome). Reading the Revelation Christians may have occasion to quake in fear but no matter how bad it looks we can be assured that all is well.
In chapter 4 Jesus says believe in God. In chapter 5 He says believe also in Me. In chapter 4 we see God as Creator. In chapter 5 we see Christ as Redeemer. In chapter 4 we are awed by God’s power. In chapter 5 by His love and mercy. In chapter 4 we learn that the throne that rules the universe is God’s throne in heaven, not Caesar’s in Italy. In chapter 5 we see learn that Jesus, the co-ruler of the universe, is the all sacrificing lover of saints.
Both chapters say worship, glory and honor should be given to the Father and the once dead Lamb, but not to any arrogant and evil earthly ruler. No matter what you hear from here on in the Revelation you can be assured everything is under God’s control and to the church’s benefit.
v. 1 Though many doors in the Roman Empire have been shut to Christians, thank God the door to heaven is opened! We not only see into heaven (thanks to the revealing work of the Lamb which has the seven Spirits of God) but we can get into it (cf. 12:12; 13:6; Col. 3:3; Eph. 2:6; Phi. 3:20)!
v. 2 God’s throne is still intact and occupied by the Almighty (cf. Dan. 4:17, 25; Rom. 13:1; Psa. 66:7; 93:1-2). God’s throne is everywhere in the Revelation (38x) emphasizing the authority and sovereignty of God’s kingly reign. Here we see the sovereignty of heaven over the kingdoms of men. The world was not ruled from Rome but from heaven where God dwells and saints live. The throne is central… not money, prestige, military might. God is not a doddering old father time or Santa Claus but the indestructible King!
vv. 3-11 The scene is likened to that of the tabernacle/temple as God is enthroned above the cherubim (here the living creatures) on the ark, with the 7 lamps before the throne (cf. Exo. 25:37; 40:25) and the 24 elders (as the 24 orders of the priesthood, 1 Chr. 24:7-18).
God’s majesty, radiance and beauty is compared to precious stones like jasper (diamond = holiness), sardius (red=justice) and emerald (green). It is a rainbow of colors. The rainbow comes from Genesis 9. It is a symbol of a merciful God, a covenant keeping God. God’s throne of righteousness and justice is tempered by mercy (cf. Psa. 89:14; 97:2-3). Compare the terrifying image in Ezekiel 1 where God rides on a chariot to judge but there is mercy in the bow even though they don’t deserve it (v. 28). God will not forget His people in their crisis.
The number 24 represents God’s people (4x3=12, 12+12=24, cf. Rev. 21-22) of all ages, both the old and new testaments. To double it is to strengthen it.
Thrones=royalty in the presence of supreme royalty.
White garments=the righteous deeds of the overcoming saints (3:4-5; 19:8).
Crowns of gold=victory crowns of the overcomers. These were serving as priests harping, offering incense (5:8), thus the royal priesthood=the church (1Pet 2:5-9; Rev 1:6; 5:9-10; 20:4, 6).
Lightnings, thundering, voices=God’s justice and wrath, His majesty and power in judgment on the ungodly (Exo. 19:16-19; Psa. 18:13-14; 144:6).
7 lamps of fire=light givers=the Holy Spirit, the revealer who makes clear and sees all. The One who rules and judges has all the wisdom and knowledge of the Spirit at His disposal.
Sea=separation as between priest and holy place (2 Chr. 4:2-6). Compare Revelation 15:2 and 21:1.
4 creatures are as the cherubim over the ark and on the veil=defenders of holiness, vindicators of honor, the chariot God rides to judgement (1 Chr. 28:18; Psalm 18:10; Eze. 1; 10; Gen 3). They are demanding justice and have an all-seeing ability.
Lion=king of predators, wild, strength.
Eagle=king of airborne predators, flying, swiftness.
Bull/calf=powerful, full of fury, domesticated, service.
Man=shrewdest, but not blind savagery, intelligence.
God is unendingly worshiped by these in heaven. They cast their crowns before Him because He gave them victory. They did not earn it.
Only God is worthy of our worship. He is the Creator, thus sovereign. He created Rome so He controlled it. So don’t panic! The omnipotent King is on the throne in the midst of His people who are royal priests, more than conquerors. He is surrounded by a staggering power of cherubim who see all the dangers and threats of the ungodly and by the Holy Spirit with limitless wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus Holds The Future In His Hands
vv. 1-4 God holds a scroll that is sealed.
Scroll = the destiny of God’s people and her enemies as revealed in the subsequent visions of The Revelation.
Inside and back = full of God’s will, the whole story.
vv. 5-7 There is One who is worthy to open the scroll.
Behold = don’t just look at your troubles, look to Jesus (cf. Heb. 12:2; John 16:33).
He is the Lion of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:9-10; Heb. 7:14), the Root of David (cf. Rev. 22:16; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-10; Rom. 15:12; 1:3; 2 Sam 7:12) that is the King and Lawgiver.
Prevailed = the redeeming work of Christ (vv. 9-10; cf. Mat. 16:18).
He is the Lamb (cf. John 1:29; Isa. 53:7-12) that now stands (i.e. alive and ready to act) with seven horns (i.e. perfect power) and seven eyes (i.e. perfect knowledge) (cf. 2 Chr. 16:8-9).
vv. 8-14 Jesus is worshiped.
God was praised for creation (Rev. 4:11) but now Christ is praised for redemption (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5).
New song = of a new experience of God’s deliverance (cf. Isa. 42:9-10; 43:18-19; Exo. 15).
Kings and priests reign = not Israel (Exo. 19:5-6; Mat. 21:43), but the church (cf. Rev. 1:6-9; 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4; Rom. 5:17; Eph. 2:6; Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9-10).
Thousands of angels = all of the angels (cf. Heb. 12:22).
The seven expressions of verse 12 indicate the perfect praise Jesus deserves.
In verses 13 there is a universal acknowledgement of Jesus as the whole creation reflects His power (cf. Rev. 4:9-11; Heb. 1:3).
Christians are not to bow in fear before others (e.g. the Roman emperors) but worship the One who holds the future in His hands!
This is the beginning of the end of the book: 7th seal…7 trumpets…7 bowls…seals closed book, to rip off is to reveal what was to come to pass and shows who has control over it.
Lamb = only He truly worthy
four living creatures = executors of God’s judgment
thunder = judgment
He = Christ 19:11
Christ opens the whole affair…not matter what follows
On coins image of Parthian warrior – Rome’s enemy
white horse = victory, heavenly mission
Crown = victory
Conquering = rom. 8:37
Going forth of Christ in gospel
fiery red = war, bloodshed…to take peace, kill one another, sword = persecution of saints from conflict with world
black horse = evil as famine, economic hardship
scales = to weigh food Eze 4:10, 16 scarcity of food during siege on Jerusalem
denarius = a day's wages
not harm oil and wine = famine not extreme, rich insulated, discrimination in labor and business added to their suffering
pale horse = death, ghoulish, yellow-green sick
death and Hades = defeated enemies in Revelation
fourth of earth = not final, complete judgment
sword = war
Judgments upon society because rejected truth
v. 9 martyrs of truth Rev. 12:11; 20:4
v. 10 no spite, justice 2 Tim 4:14 Gen 4:10
rest = Rev. 14:13
death not end, vindication will come
God’s plan, timing, way Daniel 11:36, 45 given power to destroy but then be destroyed
vv. 12-17 wrath of the Lamb, judgment on world of ungodly, not end of time, judgment on enemy seen as dismantling of their world 2 Pet 2:5; Isa 13:1, 10, 13; 34:4-6; Eze 26:15, 18; 27:35; Jer. 4:23-25; Joel 2:31; Mat 24:29ff
v. 12 great earthquake = Isa 29:6; black as sackcloth of hair = Isa 50:3
v. 13 stars of heaven = not meteorite nor nuclear missiles
vv. 14-15 do all that literally and still have all these to run and hide?
v. 16 contrast 2 Pet. 3:10 also compare Hos. 10:8; Isa 2:10-11, 19-22; Luke 23:30
v. 17 day = Isa 13:9 Nah 1:6
The answer to the question is in chapter 7. It will be the fall of Rome but a day of deliverance for the church. John saw the future undergirded by the primary truth of The Revelation... Christ is the overcomer who comes forth to assure the saints, four judgments on the world, persecution and the cry for vindication answered in judgment on ungodly... glad and sad picture.
Deviation to comfort. Modeled after Eze 9. Innocent suffer with guilty but not being punished (e.g. babies in flood Eze 18). Saints exempt from judgment. Eze 9 righteous sealed, all slain except those with mark but Eze 21:3-4 righteous died with wicked. All will suffer in judgment but sealing says righteous not judged!
Judgment of God not accidental
four angels – Eze 1, cherubim go in all four directions
four (= earth) corners – not flat, see Isa 11:12
four winds – activity of God as drying earth for Noah, opening Red Sea Isa 57:13; Jer 18:17; 49:36
angels, spirits, wind Psa 104:4; Heb 1:7; Psa 18:10; John 3:7, 8
good news, mercy, sun Psa 84:11; Mal. 4:2 light in darkness
till – delay
sealed – tattoos, marks…hands off, belong to me…preachers mark their books…2 Tim. 2:19; 3:12; 22:4; 14:1-5
Why seal before tribulation if going to be raptured?
144,000 - 12 patriarchs, apostles, tribes, gates, foundations – 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10 = all of God’s people cf. Amos 4:9
Exempt from judgment but not physical death as in Eze 9:3-7 of destr. of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Judah – Christ came from this tribe
Levi – instead of Dan who left inheritance to practice idolatry in north Jud 18; 1 Kin 11-12
Joseph – instead of Ephraim, Benjamin – the youngest
Where get all of these if church raptured?
Not literal – v. 3, Dan excluded, 14:1-5 virgins…Gal. 3:26-28; 6:15; 3:7; Rom. 9:6; 2:28-29; Phi. 3:3
great multitude is 144,000 in victory on other side of persecution and death v. 14
white robes – purified
priest lead people with palm branches singing Allelujahs as feast of tabernacles giving thanks for harvest rejoicing Lev 23:40
In Revelation 8-9, Jesus opens the seventh seal which is followed by six trumpets. The seventh seal contains seven trumpets of judgments/punishments meant to warn the enemies of God’s church to repent. They are judgments on only a fraction of what they hit to get the wicked to pay attention. They remind us of the plagues on Egypt (Exo. 7-11). The oppressor is being punished, brought to his knees.
silence = like a drum roll to gain attention
hour = crisis
half an hour = a delay for repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)
seven angels = reflecting the full, perfect glory of God’s holiness
seven trumpets = to sound full, perfect alarm
golden censer = as in holy place before the ark (God’s throne Exo. 25:19-22)
incense = prayers (Psa.141:2; Luke 1:10) for vengeance (cf. Rev. 6:9-11)
The angel acts as a priest bringing prayers (cf. 6:9-11) to God.
symbols of judgment, punishment (Eze. 10; Isa 29:6)
prayers for vengeance will be answered (Luke 18:1-8)8:6-12
The sounding of the first four trumpets are attacks on the natural world, the environment as the plagues of hail/fire, water to blood and darkness in Egypt.
The plagues only harm a part (1/3) thus are mere warnings to repent, not final judgment (Eze. 33:3-4).8:7
The food supply is attacked.
Hal Lindsey says it’s nuclear war???
Commerce is hit.
Only God could do this (Jer 51:25, 42).8:10-11
The drinking water is hit.
from heaven = divine punishment
Hal Lindsey says it’s a missile???
God healed waters for Israel but pollutes it for the church’s enemy (Exo. 15:22-26).
Wormwood = bitter (cf. Jer. 23:15), see 8:12
The world of the ungodly is attacked (cf. Eze. 32:7-8; Isa. 13:10; Joel 2:10).
Hal Lindsey thinks it might be air pollution???
angel (eagle) flying = adds to the terror
inhabitants of earth (not Palestine) = ungodly (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:8) not the Christians who are of heaven (12:12; 13:6)
These judgments on the ungodly were to bring them to repentance. Their whole world is hit. Their houses of horror recall God’s power as in the plagues on Egypt.
God answers prayer.
God is longsuffering.
Judgment is coming!In chapter 9, we hear the next two trumpets announce the first two of the three woes (8:13) to come upon the enemies of God’s people.
In chapter 9, we hear the next two trumpets announce the first two of the three woes (8:13) to come upon the enemies of God’s people.
Star = angel (v. 11; cf. Luke 10:18). Satan brings darkness but Christ is the bright and morning star (Rev. 22:16).
Key to the bottomless pit = authority, king, god of abyss (cf. Luke 8:31; Rev. 1:18)
This is like the 9th plague of darkness on Egypt but here it speaks of spiritual blindness and moral decadence (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4, 6; Eph. 2:2; Rom. 1:24-28; Pro. 14:34).
This is like the 8th plague of locusts on Egypt but here speaks of the pain and torment of sin upon the conscience (e.g. guilt, fear, sorrow). Hal Lindsey says they are Cobra helicopters but unlike these locusts they kill men. As the plagues distinguished between Israelites and Egyptians so God’s people were not touched by these tormentors.
Five months = not a complete but definite period. In Palestine the five dry months of the year were the season for locusts, but a normal attack lasted only a few days.
Scorpion (cf. Eze. 2:6; Luke 10:19; 11:12)
God’s judgments were not literal locusts but they were scary, powerful, sinister and hurtful (cf. Joel 1-2).
Abaddon and Apollyon = Destroyer
King (cf. Matthew 12:24; John 12:31; Eph. 2:2; 6:11-12)
Here, with the blowing of the sixth trumpet, begins the second of the three woes. It speaks of external forces, invasion, attack, warfare (perhaps Rome’s enemy, the Parthians), not a literal attack by locusts (cf. Hab. 1:5ff).
The golden altar indicates that this is in answer to the prayers of the saints (cf. 8:3-5).
This is totally under the control of God.
Euphrates = threat of military might, from here came the Assyrians and Babylonians against the Jews (Isa 8:7-8; 7:20).
Third = partial, a call to repent
This vision is to scare the life out of the Romans. God uses an army of unbelievable might and terror to judge Rome.
Lindsey thinks this refers to a mobilized ballistic missile launcher and nuclear warfare???
The enemy was bent on evil and hardened their hearts like Pharaoh of Egypt. They would not repent! How could they be stopped?
John is given a bittersweet commission. The enemies of the church will not repent. The saints need assurance. Strong angels bring comfort.
vv. 1 This angel is not Jesus (cf. 5:2; 18:21). The angel reflects the glory of God.
vv. 2 The little book is symbolic of John’s commission – the message he is to relate and the responsibility to relate it (vv. 9-10). The angel’s universal power and authority is pictured here.
v. 3 The ungodly will be dealt with.
seven thunders = perfect judgment
Compare the awesome voice of the Lord in Psalm 29.
v. 4 God’s judgment was not to be made known at this point (some may not be revealed at all).
vv. 5-6 The angel makes a solemn oath. Delay had given the ungodly time to repent, but they had scorned the Lord too long until it was too late (cf. 11:14; also Gen. 6:3; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 2:21).
v. 7 The seventh trumpet will signal the pouring out of the seven bowls of God’s wrath.
The mystery of God is the one revealed in this book (i.e. the persecution of the church and her deliverance to victory, as well as the fall of her enemy). Compare Rev. 1:20; Eph.3:1-11; Col. 1:27; 1 Cor. 2; Rom. 16:25-26.
Finished = all is fulfilled with the fall of the enemy. Remember, this was all to take place shortly (Rev 1:1; 22:6).
vv. 8-11 John is confirmed in his mission. Compare Eze. 2:7-3:3, 14; Jer. 1:9-10; 15:16; Psa 34:8.
John was to eat, not just nibble indicating a full acceptance of his responsibility; to make the message part of himself; to give himself to it, not just quote verses and preach sermons.
The message is bittersweet. God’s word is a joy to receive but sometimes painful to deliver. The church would be persecuted, the enemy judged and the faithful delivered victorious in the end. Compare Psa. 19:10; 119:103-104.
Three lessons to remember:
God has awesome power (Heb. 13:5-6).
One day it will be too late to repent (2 Pet. 3:8-10).
The word of God is bittersweet (Mark 16:15-16).
The Preservation and Vindication of the Church!
v. 1 The temple and the worshippers are measured. This means they are separated from the world (cf. Eze. 42:20), thus under divine protection. This is not the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 2:9; 3:9) but the faithful church (cf. 3:12; 1 Pet. 2:5; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21). God will preserve His church!
v. 2 The outer court and holy city are profaned. This speaks of the persecution of the church. The holy city is not Jerusalem but the church (cf. Heb. 12:22).
42 months = 1260 days (cf. Rev. 11:3) = time, times and half a time or 3 ½ years (cf. Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev 12:14). This is a time figure that speaks of a state of affairs: The church is persecuted but sustained and preserved. God will not allow this indefinitely but will vindicate His people and deliver them to victory.
vv. 3-6 The two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands are powerful. These are three more figures of the church (cf. Rev. 1:20; Mat. 5:14-16; Phi. 2:15).
The olive tree and lampstand figures come from Zechariah 4, where they represent the king and priest before the Lord. The church fulfills these two roles in their testimony of the gospel (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
Two shows the testimony is true (Deu. 17:6; Mat. 18:16). It also symbolizes strength (Ecc. 4:9-12).
The powerful testimony of the church is compared to God’s power shown through Elijah (1 Kings 17-18; 2 Kings 1), Moses (Exo. 7:20) and Jeremiah (Jer. 5:14; 20:9). The church cannot be stopped; the truth marches on!
vv. 7-10 The two witnesses are seemingly killed by the beast. They are able to complete their work before they are killed.
The beast = the Roman emperor (Rev. 13), an instrument of Satan (Rev. 9:1) to persecute the church.
The great city = Rome, which is symbolized by the ungodly places of Babylon, Sodom, Egypt and Jerusalem (Rev. 17-18).
3 ½ days = a broken seven, indicating that it only appears as though the church is totally defeated!
vv. 11-14 The two witnesses are raised up into heaven (cf. Eze. 37). This illustrates the triumph of the church over her enemy. The enemy is partially judged (cf. Isa. 24), the rest are at least scared at what God is doing. God’s complete wrath is yet to be revealed on this enemy of God’s church.
vv. 15-18 God’s rule is announced!
This is not the beginning of God’s rule. He has always been in control (Psa. 10:16; 29:10; Exo. 15:18; 1 Chr. 29:11; Dan. 2:36-38; 4:17, 25; Luke 21:31).
Christ began His reign in the church with His ascension into heaven (Dan. 7:13-14; Acts 2:33-36) and will continue to reign until He destroys all His enemies, including the last enemy, death, at His coming (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
The triumph of the church over her enemy in the Revelation is just another demonstration of the fact that God is in control.
The church is Christ’s kingdom on earth (Mat. 16:18-19). Christians are a part of that kingdom (Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:9). In the Revelation, Christ was already ruling in His kingdom (Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21).
v. 19 The ark of the covenant is seen. Here we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and power to avenge His people.
Only one story – victory! Two real opponents. Not just believers against unbelievers or believers against Satan but Jesus against Satan, so the future is secure!
v. 1 Lift up your eyes, not focus on persecution, Col 3:1
pure light bearing woman..thank God for godly women
garland = victory crown
twelve…woman = people of God/as a nation=light of the world, OT, NT
Gen 3:15; Rom 16:20
Isa 50:1; 54:1ff; Micah 4:9ff; Isa 66:7-8
v. 2 she must have this child, her destiny depends on it
dragon = blood thirsty and brutal
7 heads and 10 horns = fully equipped with strength as the beast 13:1; 17:7
Seven hills and kings of Rome: Rev. 17:9-10 – Julius Caesar was a self-appointed dictator that died 17 years before the Republic became an Empire, followed by Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero (5), three usurpers, Galba, Otho and Vitellus, who ruled for a total of less than two years are omitted per Daniel 7:24, Vespasian (now rules), Titus, Domitian (8)
Ten diadems = vassal rulers subject to Rome (cf. 17:12)
Names of blasphemy = divine titles claimed by the emperors
Coins deified Roman emperors: “Our Lord God, Domitian”
v. 2 The beast from the sea was fierce and receives its power from Satan. The figure comes from Daniel 7, showing how that Rome embodies the three previous kingdoms, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. Notice the order: Daniel looks forward; John looks backward.
vv. 3-7 This figure is rooted in the myth that Nero had come back to life. It teaches that another emperor would revive the persecution he had begun against God’s people (cf. Rev. 17:11). It would be a worldwide persecution under Domitian and his successors. This is another mockery of the resurrection of Christ by Satan.
v. 4 Compare Isaiah 10:8-14; 36:13-22; Exo. 15:11.
v. 5 Domitian was noted for his arrogance but his power not continue forever!
v. 6 “Tabernacle” = church
v. 7 “Granted” see Dan. 4:25
v. 8 Domitian was the first Roman emperor to be deified while still alive and to demand to be worshiped by the people.
“dwell on the earth” = unbelievers (Rev. 12:12)
vv. 9-10 God would vindicate His people; their persecutors would receive their just due. Leave it to God, He is in control, persevere trusting Him.
vv. 11-12 The Beast From The Earth It looked innocent but spoke lies (cf. Mat. 7:15). Later it is called the false prophet (cf. Rev. 16:13; 19:20). It is the priests who guided and enforced emperor worship in the Roman Empire. Rome’s religious power.
earth = human origin
It existed same time as sea beast
vv. 13-15 The means they used were false signs and lying wonders (cf. Exo. 8; Acts 8; 2 The. 2:9), temples and images, persecution and death (cf. Dan. 3, 6).
vv. 16-18 Some identify this with Nero, Domitian, Adolf Hitler, etc. but it simply speaks of the nature of the beast (cf. Rev. 19:12-16).
The number six represents evil, as it falls short of seven, the perfect number (cf. Rom. 3:23). 666 is evil to the third power (compare “holy, holy, holy” Rev. 4:8).
Just as the mark in Revelation 7:3 and 14:1 identified the faithful with God, so this mark identified the others with persecuting Rome.
“right hand” strength, action, deeds = rebellion against God
“foreheads” =mind, thoughts, thus devotion to emperor in word and deed
Christians suffered social and economic pressure but this is not SS# or barcodes
Letters had numerical value (Gematria)…compare Roman numerals
“number of a man” = man’s number (cf. Rev. 21:17 man’s cubit; Gal. 3:15 man’s covenant)
Victory in Jesus... Encouragement and assurance... picture of triumphant saints... sing a new song of deliverance
Verses 1-5 God’s faithful standing in victory with Jesus. Standing!
v. 1 “His Father’s name” (cf. Rev 7; Isa 9:6; Acts 4:12; Phi. 2:9-11). It is enduring, powerful, exalted.
v. 2 A harmonious, powerful and majestic sound was heard (cf. Rev. 1:15; 19:6). Harps Rev 5:8; 15:2
v. 3 It was a new song that only the faithful could sing (cf. Exo 15; Isa 42:9-10 ). The song came from their experience (cf. Rev. 2:17; 5:9).
vv. 4-5 They were loyal, true, pure, obedient, courageous. “Virgins” faithful (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2). “Firstfruits” belonged, devoted to God (Lev. 23:15-17; Jam. 1:18).
vv. 6-20 Six proclamations announcing judgment upon the enemy and rest for the faithful of God. Righteousness will be vindicated….beast not unbeatable…payday.
vv. 6-7 A Warning
“in the midst of heaven” like the sun at noon
“fear God” (cf. Mat. 10:28)
v. 8 An Announcement
“Babylon” symbolizes Rome (cf. Rev. 17). Her fall is announced as though it has already taken place because God will see that it is done.
vv. 9-11 A Judgment
“wine…full strength” unmixed, no mercy
Compare Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19) and Edom (Isa. 34:8-17).
This is not just the burying of a city (cf. 2 The 1:6-10).
vv. 12-13 A Blessing
Judgment on the enemy helps the faithful to endure and will bring them relief (cf. Rev. 13:10; Luke 21:19).
There are only two places to die, in or out of Christ!
vv. 14-16 A Reaping
The faithful are gathered to God in victory (cf. Mat. 3:12; 13:30).
“white cloud” (cf. Psa. 18:9ff; 104:3; Isa. 19:1)
vv. 17-20 Another Reaping
The enemy is judged by God.
“altar…fire” where God dwells; something is about to be sacrificed (Rev. 8:3-5)
“grapes” red like blood
“winepress” usually located outside the city; people stay here in booths at vintage time (Isa. 63)
“one thousand six hundred (4x4x4x10x10) furlongs (about 184 miles)” symbolizes incredible carnage but literally impossible, not enough blood in the whole world!
Seven Angels With Seven Plagues
v. 1 These will be used to illustrate God’s final and complete overthrow of the enemy.
v. 2 The faithful have moved closer to God; having passed through the persecution they now stand in victory before God.
“sea of glass” compare the laver in the temple (cf. 2 Chr. 4; Rev. 4:6)
vv. 3-4 They have experienced a greater deliverance that Israel by a greater deliverer than Moses (cf. Exo. 15; Psa. 77). God is praised for the justice and holiness He demonstrates in delivering His people and in carrying out the destruction of the enemy.
vv. 5-8 Compare this scene to that of the priest entering the Most Holy Place on The Day Of Atonement (Lev. 16).
This is judgement from God not a mere accident of history. This is an act of righteousness and holiness. This is not to be stopped until it is finished.
2 Peter 3:9-10
In chapter 15, heaven is getting ready for the outpouring of God’s wrath, victors are poised to watch, singing as if it is already accomplished. Babylon has fallen, the temple is center stage. Angels come out with plagues, the word is Go!
Pouring Out The Bowls of Wrath
These bowls of wrath will be used to illustrate God’s final and complete overthrow of the enemy. v. 1
“loud voice” from God in the temple
“pour out” not spilled out, indicating the judgment was not an accident but at the command of God
“into the earth” indicating that this is not the final judgment at the end of time but the destruction of Rome in the ongoing events of history
v. 2 The First Bowl
Compare the plague of boils in Egypt.
v. 3 The Second Bowl
Compare the Nile River being turned to blood (cf. also Zep. 1:2-4 of Judah; Zec. 9:4 of Tyre).
v. 4 The Third Bowl
The land waters were effected.
God was praised for answering the cry of the faithful for vindication (cf. Rev. 6:9-10; 8:3-5).
Since Rome had shed blood they would have to drink blood (cf. Gal. 6:7-8).
vv. 8-9 The Fourth Bowl
Compare how the Romans burned Christians with fire.
Compare Revelation 7:15-17.
Like rebellious Pharaoh, Rome’s heart was hardened against God.
vv. 10-11 The Fifth Bowl
Compare the darkness of Egypt (cf. Exo. 10:21-22).
vv. 12-16 The Sixth Bowl
This sets the stage for the overthrow of the Roman Empire not some world war at the end of time.
“unclean spirits” (terrible trio) speak of the lies and deceptions used by Satan in the Roman Empire (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 The. 2:8-12; 1 Tim. 4:1-2)
“Armageddon” is literally Mount Megiddo. The valley of Megiddo is a famous battlefield where several decisive battles (compare Waterloo) were fought (cf. Judges 5:19-20 Sisera’s defeat by Deborah and Barak; 2 Kings 9:27 Ahaziah’s death at the hands of Jehu; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chr. 35:20-27 Josiah’s death in battle against Pharaoh Necho) but there is no place known as Mount Megiddo. This is just symbolic of the defeat of Rome which is described in Revelation 19:11-21.
v. 17 The Seventh Bowl
“air” where Satan rules (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; 6:12)
“it is done” indicating God has completely defeated Satan in his work through Rome against the church
vv. 18-21 This great defeat of the enemy is pictured by horrible chaos and destruction (cf. Mic. 1:2-4; Nah. 1:5; Psa. 18:7-15).
“had not occurred since” (cf. Eze. 5:8-9; Mat. 24:21)
At the collapse of the Roman Empire, there was worldwide panic and confusion. Civilization was set back for centuries. The world was plunged into the Dark Ages. The word is…it is done! God buried Rome and her allies, the city fell under the 7th bowl, the fall described in chapters 17-18, the battle of Armageddon previewed in chapter 16 but developed in chapter 19, the devil defeated in the air but developed in chapter 20.
The Judgment of the Great Harlot
“harlot who sits on many waters” is Rome (v. 5, v. 6, v. 15, v. 18; cf. Nah. 3:1, 4 of Nineveh; Isa. 23:15-17 of Tyre; 47 of Babylon; 1:21; Jer. 2:20 of Jerusalem)
“fornication” indicates they made alliances with Rome to get wealth (18:9-10; cf. Isa. 23:15-18; Nah. 3:4)
“sitting on a scarlet beast” Rome was supported by the might of the emperor and his empire (v. 7; 13)
a rich, royal whore (cf. Jer. 51:7)
she proudly wore her name and paraded her shame
a mother teaching her little harlots
consumed with the persecution of the church
vv. 7-11 Speaks of the emperors of Rome. Julius Caesar is not included because he was a self-appointed dictator that died 17 years before the Republic became an Empire. He was followed by Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. Then, there were three usurpers, Galba, Otho and Vitellus, who ruled for a total of less than two years. They are omitted per Daniel 7:7-8, 19-20, 23-24. Vespasian ruled when John wrote the Revelation, then Titus, followed by Domitian.
“the beast…was” speaks of the persecution begun by Nero
“is not” Nero was dead and the persecution had waned when John wrote the Revelation
“will ascend…yet is” speaks of how Domitian will soon revive the persecution begun by Nero (11:7)
“from the foundation of the world” speaks of God’s plan of salvation from the beginning (13:8; Eph. 1:4-11)
“five have fallen” refers to Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero
“one is” refers to Vespasian who ruled when John saw the Revelation
“the other has not yet come…he must continue a short time” refers to Titus who reigned two years, two months and twenty days
“the beast that was, and is not” refers to Nero (v. 8)
“is himself also the eighth” refers to Domitian who revived the persecution against the church that Nero had begun years before (13:3). The number 8 is symbolic of resurrection or new beginning as the eighth day or the first day of the week.
“ten kings” allies of Rome, sub rulers
“He is Lord” the present tense indicates Jesus was already ruling as King
vv. 15 (cf. Isa. 57:20)
v. 16 refers to the divided power of the Roman government, one of the causes of the decline and fall of Rome (cf. Dan. 2:41-43)
v. 17 indicates they did not know they were doing God’s will (cf. Isa. 10:5-19) God is in control!
v. 18 the present tense indicates the great city ruled when John wrote the Revelation
The Great City is Fallen
Here is a description of the fall of Rome. It is from God, and it stands as a burning warning to all nations to leave His people alone or suffer the consequences!
v. 1 The overthrow of Rome is so certain that it is spoken of as an accomplished fact.
v. 2 It is likened to a grave yard (cf. Isa. 13:19-20).
v. 3 Rome is responsible for this fall (cf. Nah. 3:4; Isa. 10:12-14).
vv. 4-5 A warning is sounded. All who share in the sins of Rome will suffer with Rome (cf. Jer. 50:8; 51:6, 9, 45; Isa. 52:11).
vv. 6-8 The fall of Rome demonstrated the following lessons: 1) Pride goes before destruction (cf. Pro. 16:18; Isa. 47:8-15; Zep. 2:15) and 2) We reap what we sow (cf. Gal. 6:7-8).
vv. 9-19 Kings, merchants, shipmasters and sailors mourned over Rome’s fall, not out of love for Rome but because they could no longer benefit from Rome (cf. Eze. 27-28).
v. 20 The faithful rejoiced and praised God because Rome had hindered the church with persecution but has now been justly taken away.
vv. 21-24 There would be no more life as usual. The days of this great persecutor of the church are over. We should not look for a revived Rome (cf. Jer. 51:63-64)!
Although Babylon is fallen we know it only from witnesses of its fall….merchants, kings and saints respond as if watching it. This is something to sing about so four Hallelujahs and an invitation to a wedding feast. Lamb’s wife not only survived Rome’s demise but surpassed. Harlot is gone…reason for success was military might and ungodly religion…battle previewed in 16, fought in 19…Lamb and holy army versus trio of allies…victory for Lamb! Beasts in lake of fire, dragon imprisoned.
Heaven Responds To The Fall Of The Great City vv. 1-6 Four Hallelujahs
v. 1 “great multitude in heaven” (cf. Rev. 7)
v. 2 “avenged” (cf. Rom. 12:19) The victory is from God. Salvation, glory and power were claimed by Rome. They never belonged to her. They belong to God alone.
v. 3 “smoke rises forever and ever” an everlasting illustration of defeat at the hands of God (cf. Isaiah 34:8-10; 66:24; Jude 7) “again” to emphasize
vv. 4-6 God has always reigned but now it is shown in regards to Rome (cf. Psa. 29:10; Rev. 11:15) All of heaven praises God as an Emperor hailed in the amphitheater
vv. 7-21 A Wedding Feast
vv. 7-9 The church is the bride of Christ (Rom. 7:4; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:22-23). Her wedding gown of purity is in stark contrast to the gaudy display of the Great Harlot (cf. Rev. 17:4; 18:16). A wedding feast is an occasion of joy often used by Jesus to teach about the kingdom of God, His church (Luke 12:35-37; Mat. 22:1-14; 25:1-13).
v. 10 Only God is to be worshipped (cf. Mat. 4:10; Acts 10:26). All points to Jesus, not man!
v. 11 “white horse” as a Parthian warrior (cf. Rev. 6:1-2)
v. 12 “name” (cf. verses 11, 13, 16; also Rev. 2:17)
v. 13 “robe dipped in blood” (cf. Rev. 1:5)
v. 14 “followed Him on white horses” (cf. Rev. 16:12) Psalms 2; 110
vv. 17-18 “come and gather together for the supper” The invitation is sent because the outcome is certain (cf. Eze. 39:17-22). invites to table prepared by the Lord
vv. 19-21 The two beasts in the fire serve as an example of utter defeat (cf. Rev. 16:13-14). Their sentence is so certain they are pictured as already in the fires of hell (Mat. 25:41, 46). The beasts’ allies are killed and eaten but not in the fire, yet. Their sentence to hell is pictured in chapter 20 (vv. 10, 14).
The Victory Of The Faithful Over Satan And His Followers
vv. 1-3 The Complete Defeat Of Satan’s Work By The Roman Persecutors
v. 2 “thousand” symbolizes complete or total (cf. Exo. 20:6; Deu.1:10-11; Psa. 50:10; 90:4; 105:8; Job 9:3; Rev. 5:11).
v. 3 “deceive the nations no more” (i.e. by the Roman Empire through emperor worship) “released for a little while” symbolizes the fact that Satan will again seek to destroy the church (Rev. 20:7-10).
vv. 4-6 The Complete Victory Of The Faithful Over Their Roman Persecutors
v. 4 “souls” are the faithful Christians under Roman persecution who died in the Lord (cf. Rev. 6:9). “lived” (cf. Luke 20:38) God is not the God of the dead but of the living “reigned” (cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-12; Rev. 2:26; 3:21) “for a thousand years” symbolizes the complete victory now in heaven at the fall of Rome (not at the second coming as Rev. 22:5).
v. 5 “the rest of the dead” refers to the nonChristians and unfaithful Christians who bowed to the Roman emperors (cf. 19:2). “the first resurrection” symbolizes the revival and triumph of the persecuted church at the fall of Rome (cf. Rev. 11:7-12; also compare Isa. 26:19; Eze. 37; Luke 15:24,32; Rom. 11:15; 6:3-5; Eph. 2:1, 5-6; Col. 2:12 where restoration/salvation is pictured as a resurrection). The literal bodily resurrection of God’s people is at the end of the world (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 1 Cor. 15: 23-24, 52).
This is not some rapture before a great tribulation but takes place after the great tribulation and at the beginning of the millennium!
v. 6 “second death” symbolizes condemnation in hell (Rev 2:11; 19:20; 20:10, 14; 21:8; Mat. 25:41, 46).
Picture all on the battlefield, martyrs for Christ rise to reign with Him…then 1,000 years later those who served beast rise to be thrown into lake of fire. All this is just symbolic of the complete victory of the saints and utter defeat of the persecutors. The “resurrection” and “1,000 years” is not literal, just a picture!
First death = all who died in service of beast or of X
First resurrection=triumph of faithful who died in Roman persecution not to experience second death
Second resurrection=of rest of dead who served the beast to face judgment at end of world
Second death=judgment of them at end of world in lake of fire
Revelation 20 is the heart and soul of Premillenialism. There is no suggestion of a 1000 year reign anywhere else in Bible. It is unwise to base a theory on one passage, especially as difficult as this. It is a strange interpretation that contends for a figurative serpent bound with a figurative chain thrown into a figurative pit, locked with a figurative key, confined for a literal thousand years! It is obvious that there is no literal reign of Christ alluded to here. Revelation 20 does not mention the second coming of Christ, the earth, the establishment of Christ's kingdom, an earthly reign or regime, a literal throne of David in Jerusalem (Jer. 22:30), Jews gathered to Palestine, or us.
vv. 7-10 The Devil Is Judged
v. 8 “Gog and Magog” is similar to a figure used by Ezekiel to speak of the enemies of Israel (cf. Eze. 38-39). It is used in the Revelation to speak of anyone at any time that would be Satan’s tool against the church. This is not Armageddon that was fought at the start of the millennium according to Premillenialism. It is after the millennium here.
v. 10 (cf. Rev. 19:20; Mat. 25:41)
vv. 11-15 All Of The Dead Are Judged
v. 11 This judgment (cf. Mat. 25:31; John 5:28-29; Acts 17:31; 24:25; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10) takes place at the end of the world when the physical universe ceases to exist (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12).
v. 12 “books” picture the records of their works. “the Book of Life” pictures God’s list of those who will receive eternal life; a list from which one’s name can be blotted out (cf. Exo. 32:32; Psa. 69:28; Dan. 12:1; Mal. 3:16; Luke 10:20; Phi. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27; 22:19).
v. 13 “death” is the last enemy to be destroyed when Jesus comes at the end of the world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26). “Hades” is the unseen realm of the spirits of the dead (cf. Luke 16:19-31; Acts 2:27, 31) awaiting their final judgment (cf. Heb. 9:27).
v. 14 “the lake of fire” is a picture of hell (cf. Rev. 19:20; 20:10; 21:8; Mat. 25:41, 46).
Summary: The devil was utterly defeated; stopped in regards to his work through Rome. The church was perfectly triumphant. The devil will show himself again sometime, somewhere before the church is removed from the world to a better place (Rev. 21-22) but no matter what he may bring against her, he will be defeated and ultimately judged and sent to hell, along with all others who are not written in the Book of Life.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE VERSE ONE THROUGH CHAPTER TWENTY TWO VERSE FIVE
A New Heaven and a New Earth
“a new heaven and a new earth” symbolizes the new habitation/environment of God’s people in eternity (cf. Isa. 65:17; John 14:1-3; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 20:11).
“no more sea” indicates that there is no more separation between God and the faithful (Rev. 4:6; 15:2; 21:3; 22:4).
This speaks of the eternal state of the church: 1) Chronology –contrast w/20:11ff; 2) God Himself -21:3; 3) No sin-v27, no temple-v22, reign forever and ever-22:5, tree of life-22:2; 2:7
The New Jerusalem 21:2 “the holy city, New Jerusalem” symbolizes the church in her eternal state of holiness with God (cf. Heb. 11:10-16; 12:22-23). “as a bride” speaks of her purity and dedication to God (cf. Rev. 19:7-8; 21:9-10), in contrast to the great harlot, Rome (cf. Rev. 17).
21:3-8 This description of the eternal state of the faithful is given to assure them that their present state was not to be their final one (cf. Rev. 7:15-17).
21:9-22:5 John gives a detailed description of the New Jerusalem as it was shown to him (cf. Eze. 40-48).
21:11 Her Glory of God
21:12-13 Her Walls of Protection and Gates of Security
21:12 Ezekiel 48:31-35
21:14 Her Foundation of Stability and Strength
21:15-17 Her Measurements of Holiness
Compare the dimensions of the most holy place in the temple (cf. 1 Kin. 6:20).
The ideal earthly city was a square. This heavenly city surpasses the earthly ideal as much as a cube surpasses a square. There is room for all of God’s people!
“twelve thousand furlongs [about 1380 miles]” = 12x10x10x10 = the perfect holiness of God’s people
“one hundred and forty four cubits” = 12x12 = 216’ in width
21:18-21 Her Precious Stones of Beauty (cf. Isa. 54:11-12)
These may be compared to those of the high priest’s breastplate (cf. Exo. 28:17-20).
He attempts to describe realities for which there are no human words, comparing the heavenly with the best of the earth.
21:22-27 Her Glory of God (cf. Isa. 52:1; 60; Rev. 5:9-13; 7:9-13; 22:14-15)
There will be no rebuilt physical temple in physical Jerusalem in an earthly paradise!
22:1-5 Her Garden of Life
It provides the three basic things necessary for physical life: Food, drink and health. They all come from God. This symbolizes eternal life that God provides (cf. Gen. 2-3; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8; Joel 3:18; Revelation 21:6).
In it is perfect and eternal fellowship with God and the eternal triumph of the faithful over their enemies.
“see His face” (cf. Exo. 33:20; John 1:18)
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO VERSE SIX THROUGH TWENTY TWO VERSE TWENTY ONE
The Final Words
v. 6 This is a confirmation of the contents of the Revelation and an assurance that these things will soon be fulfilled (cf. Rev. 1:1-3).
v. 7 This is Jesus’ promise to come in judgment upon Rome and deliver the faithful from this awful oppressor (cf. Rev. 1:3; 2:16; 3:11; 14:14-20; 16:15).
v. 8-9 This is John reacting, again, to the awesomeness of the Revelation and, again, being rebuked by the angel (cf. Rev. 19:10).
v. 10-15 This is a warning to heed the message and to be prepared because it will soon come to pass. In view of the judgment coming upon Rome and the victory of the faithful recorded in this book, let every man do what he has made up his mind to do but know that all will receive accordingly.
v. 10 This is in contrast to Daniel’s prophecies which were to be sealed because they pointed to far off events of the first century, including the destruction of Jerusalem (Dan. 8:26; 10:14; 12:4, 9). Thus, the Revelation could not speak of things 2,000 plus years removed from John’s day.
v. 11 cf. Dan. 12:10; Isa. 32:6-8; Eze. 3:27; 2 Tim. 3:13
v. 12 cf. Isa. 40:10; 62:11; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; Rev. 20:12; 22:7
v. 13 cf. Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:8,11; 21:6
v. 14 cf. Dan. 12:12; 1 John 3:24; Rev. 2:7; 21:27; 22:2
“the root and offspring of David” (cf. Zec. 6:12; Rev. 5:5)
“the bright and morning star” (cf. Num. 24:17; 2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 2:28)
v. 17 A final invitation to come to Jesus for salvation (cf. John 4:14; 6:44-45; 7:37).
v. 18-19 A final warning to take this book seriously (cf. Deu. 4:2; Pro. 3:6; 2 John 9).
“plagues” If literal, why do we not see them throughout history? If they speak of nuclear war and the such, how could that have happened to those in the centuries before?
vv. 20-21 A final assurance that Jesus will act on behalf of the faithful (cf. Rev. 22:6, 7, 10, 12; also see Oba. 15; Luke 18:8; John 14:1-3; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:22-24; Phi. 4:5; Rev. 1:4, 7). John, thinking of horrible things happening to brethren says amen, come. The Lord responded, and will to our prayers today.
Watching a video of a Cowboy game, I knew the outcome, so not worried, we will win! Keep playing the tape! What a joy to those not able to see the outcome to know that victory is assured. Yes, the Lamb has enemies but they cannot conquer Him.
Thrust – comfort and assurance of ultimate triumph. Told of coming storm but God and Lamb rule. Seven seals reveal, trumpets warn, bowls punish fully. Saints sealed, oppressor’s world dismantled, attacked, seas bloodied as were water supplies, commerce ruined, armies defeated, property invaded, gods punished while her society ran riot in decadence. Church preached in sackcloth but inner sanctuary holy, witnesses preach loyally and after death vindicated in resurrection. People of God in wilderness nourished while devil impotent on earth and in heaven. Rome went down in blood, fire and smoke, evil persecuting sea beast and religious pervert earth beast. End of Rome in Armageddon, serpent bound, church enthroned, all attempts of devil doomed to failure. Final judgment, lake of fire, eternal security and triumph of church with God.