The Revelation of Jesus Christ
The Book of Revelation is the source of much debate and controversy. The very name of the book is called into question by some. It is known as “The Revelation of St. John the Divine”, “The Revelation of St. John, and “Revelation”. The most correct name is given by the book itself in its opening verse, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”.
Revelation (or in the original “Apokalupsis”) means unveiling. Apokalupsis is the origin of our word apocalyptic and is descriptive of the style of writing used here and found in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah in the Old Testament.
Our study will attempt of listen to the Word of God rather than the ideas of men. My prayer is that as we proceed we do not attempt to put words in God’s mouth. There have been many great Bible scholars who have provided us with a wealth of research. And I thank God for their work! However, each of us carries a responsibility to search the Scriptures for ourselves.
Pray as you study! I recommend that you start a notebook. Write down your thoughts and questions as you go. TAKE YOUR TIME! Consider God’s revelation and what it means for you.
When will the end time be? Since the beginning of the church age, most generations believed they were near the end of time. In our recent history people have viewed their situation as the most terrible of all time. But as bad as things have been they are nothing compared to what is to come. From a historically timeline, most of us will experience our end-of-time soon. It comes with our physical death. Physical death brings an end to our opportunity to “get right with God”, to use a common phase, and seals our future. Jesus tells us no one but the Father knows when it will be, so it is useless for us to try to figure it out. The study of Revelation is not about knowing when the end of times will be.
It is about the final victory of Jesus and it confirms that there will be an end to time and life as we know it. There will be final judgment and reward that has eternal consequences. We will experience great joy or suffer great pain. Jesus’ call to the churches is to be “remember their first love and do their first works”; and to do it in such a way as to bring as many people as possible into the eternal joy. Because it is God’s will “that none perish.” Unfortunately, many will because of unbelief and an unwillingness to receive Jesus as both Lord and Savior.
Revelation is without a doubt the culmination of the 65 books of the Bible that precede it. Just as “all roads lead to Rome”, the books of Genesis through Jude lead to Revelation. As with all Scripture, Revelation can not be completely understood without consideration of the rest of the Bible. I have long held that one should be very careful to be dogmatic about doctrine of a single verse. If you cannot support you point of view based on the overall teaching of scripture, I advise caution. Revelation is certainly the unveiling of judgment and victory, but it is also the source of instruction for churches and individuals of today.
One common error in the study of Revelation is to overlook the distinction between the church and the nation of Israel. The church is made up of all true believers who have accepted Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. This includes Jew and Gentile. However, there are some end time events that are specific to the nation of Israel. We will look more closely into these differences as we progress through this study.
Also included in our study will be periodic looks into the Book of Daniel. Some scholars seem to try to force all the prophecies of Daniel into the end times. Historically we know many of the prophecies of Daniel have already been fulfilled. Some came about during Daniel’s lifetime, but most during the Intertestamental Period; that time between the Old and New Testament. Others events, like the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., occur during the early days of the church. Daniel does include some end-time prophecies for the nation of Israel and through them to church as well.
The author of the book, as identified in verse 4 of chapter 1, is John, the son of Zebedee, author of the Gospel of John and I, II and III John, the Apostle that Jesus loved. Other names have been brought forward as possible authors, but a vast majority of Bible scholars agree with the authorship of John the Apostle. Second and third century scholars such as Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Tertullian, and Hippolytus agree with John’s authorship.
Place and Date of Writing:
The debate over the time in which Revelation was written on small rocky island Patmos in the Aegean Sea, centers around two periods. Patmos is about thirty-five miles southwest of Miletus. John was exiled here during the time of the Roman Empire.
Some hold the date of writing to be as early as 50’s or late 60’s A.D. This date would have placed it during the reign of Nero. Some believed the “666” of 13:18 was a prediction of Nero’s return from the dead.
The early widespread view of orthodox Christians and church fathers points to a later date of 95/96 A.D. This places it during the time of the reign of Domitian as Roman emperor. Many authorities feel the background of persecutions (1:9; 2:10 – 13; 3:10; 6-9; 18:24) best fits the reign of Domitian (A.D. 51 – 96).
In recent years the book of Revelation has sparked many “end times” books, movies and commentaries. Careers have been launched by the sometimes controversial positions. We are drawn to discussions about end time events. Why? Because we want to know what life is all about and what its outcome will be. We, in our humanist view, think that Revelation is about us. The real theme of Revelation is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The slain lamb becomes the Ruler of all nations, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
- In chapter one, we see Christ as the source of the Fathers unveiling (vs. 1 & 5).
- In chapter five verses 5 and 6, we are given the duel image of the Slain Lamb and the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
- In verse 8 of chapter 18, we see the Judge of Babylon.
- In chapter 19 the Bridegroom, King of Kings and Lord or Lords.
- In chapter 20 the Reigning Christ.
- In chapter 21 the Alpha and Omega.
- In chapter 22 The Root and Offspring of David, the Morning Star.
Many Bible scholars agree to the following general division of Revelation.
- The things which John saw.
- The things which are.
- The thing that will be.
The things which John saw:
Chapter One begins by describing a vision given John with the specific instructions, “What you see, write in a book” (vs. 7). It was clearly God’s intention that John should share this important information. Verse 3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the word of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it.”
Christ is revealed as Judge with the seven churches standing before Him. We often look to Jesus as Savior but overlook His role as Lord.
The things which are:
Chapters 2 and 3 are commonly referred to as the Church Age. Although there are other opinions, some conservative Christians see this as a period from the time of the death of the Apostles to the time of the rapture of the church. I believe the Church Age begins at Pentecost. The major focus of the Apostles was to establish the church. Paul’s entire ministry was dedicated to that purpose. When does the Church Age end? We will explore the differing view points as we study. We do know that we are currently living in the church age; therefore, it is the time for which we are accountable.
The things that will be:
In recent years, this is the time that has generated the most interest. We want to know what the end game will be. What will become of us after this life is over? What was it all about? An endless list of questions haunts both believers and non-believers.
To help us better understand “the things that will be”, we can break down the remaining chapters as follows;
- Chapters 4- 19 describe the Tribulation, a period of seven years during which both Jew and Gentile will be judged. During this period the judgments are exposed by the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls.
- the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets
- the seventh trumpets contains the seven bowls
- Chapter 20 discusses the Millennial reign.
- Chapters 21 and 22 enlighten us as to eternal glory with the Father
It is also important to understand that from time to time there are breaks in the flow of the chapters. Many writers refer to these as parentheses. Unfortunately it is these parentheses that have generated much division amongst God’s people. The following is a list of the most widely held of these inserts or parentheses.
- The 144,000 sealed Jewish saints (7:1-8)
- Gentile believers of this period (7:9-17)
- The mighty angel with the little scroll (chapter 10)
- The two witnesses (11:3-12)
- Israel and the dragon (chapter 12)
- The two beasts (chapter 13)
- The 144,000 with Christ on Mount Zion (14:1-5)
- The angel with the everlasting gospel (14:6-7)
- Preliminary announcement of Babylon’s fall (14:8)
- Warning to worshippers of the beast (14:9-12)
- The harvest and the vintage (14:14-20)
- The destruction of Babylon (17:1 – 19:3)
There are differing views and interpretations of the events within the book of Revelation. As the book unfolds, we will point out some of the most common viewpoints. Most of the differences revolve around the time of the millennial reign and the rapture of the church.
There are three major views as to these areas;
- The Amillennial view is that we are currently in the millennial in which Christ’s is ruling over the church. They hold to one resurrection and judgment marking the end of history as we know it and the beginning of eternal life.
- The Premillennial view is that Christ will reign on earth for 1000 years following His Second Coming.
- The Dispensational view is that after the battle of Armageddon, Christ will rule through the Jews for a literal 1000 years accompanied by two resurrections and at least three judgments.
I, for one, do not believe in hidden “codes” or agendas in the Bible. I believe God desires for us to know His will. As we study, He reveals His will to us. As we grow, mature, in our faith we may see things we didn’t understand before. But, the information is always there in plain sight for all to see.
If my great grandfather had been given a vision of our technology of today, how would he have described it? What words could he have used to relate the reality of color TV and computers, of jet airplanes, cell phones and electrical appliances? John may have not understood much of his vision. As we will see, his instructions from Jesus were to record what he saw --- not to interpret them.
As Peter approaches his last days here on earth, he makes an important point for all of us to remember. “Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory; “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”(2 Peter 1:13-21)
The bottom line of the book of Revelation is this; God will one day act to judge sin, to purge sin from His creation, and provide a glad eternal reunion day for all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Revelation uses symbolic images, many which are drawn from the Old Testament, to proclaim the deity and sovereignty of Jesus. Unfortunately for far too many, it also foretells final eternal judgment for their rejection of Christ.
Rev. Dale Hartlein