13: The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Introduction to
Four times in the book the author
identifies himself as John (1:1,4,9; 22:8). It has
been held since the second century that the author was the apostle John, the
son of Zebedee (Mt 4:21), who was also the author of
the Gospel according to John and the Epistles of John. According to tradition,
John wrote Revelation after Domitian had banished him
to the island of Patmos (cf.
Revelation was written as an
epistle to the seven churches in Asia Minor, or present-day Turkey (1:4). Its message is also
intended for anyone
else who might read the epistle (2:7,11,17,23,29; 3:6,13,22).
The date of writing is unknown,
although two periods have been proposed: 1) shortly after the reign of Nero (a.d. 54-68) and 2) at the end of Domitian’s
reign (a.d. 81-96).
(1:9), an island 37 miles southwest of Miletus.
When John wrote Revelation, the
church was facing severe persecution and threats to her faith. Unlike Judaism,
which was an established religion in the Roman empire and thus enjoyed some religious freedom,
Christianity was liable to persecution for its refusal to acknowledge the gods
of the Romans. Terrible persecution had once broken out under Nero, who
tortured, crucified, and burned Christians to death. The mention of martyrdom
in 2:13 and 6:9 shows the persistent persecution that Christians underwent.
The widespread imperial cult which
demanded veneration and worship of the emperors also placed Christians in a
vulnerable position. True believers, who pledged allegiance to Jesus Christ the
King rather than to the emperor, were therefore singled out as targets of
To make matters worse, the Jews
were hostile to the Christians and often accused them before the authorities.
Thus we read in Revelation (2:9,10; 3:9) of the
persecutions from “those who say they are Jews and are not.”
Besides the external persecutions,
the church also struggled against infiltration of secularization and false teachings.
The church in Laodicea,
for example, indulged in riches and was ignorant of her spiritual poverty and lukewarmness (3:14-22). The letters to the seven churches
also warned believers of false teachers and people of immoral deeds, including
the Nicolaitans (2:6,15) and
followers of Balaam (2:14) and Jezebel (2:20-23). Therefore, God commanded the
people to come out of Babylon
(18:4), which is an image of the sinful world depicted as an arrogant woman of
material splendor who had become drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs
The purpose of Revelation is
stated in 1:1. God intends to show His servants the things which must shortly
take place. In view of the intense conflicts between Christians and the forces
of evil, the book of Revelation serves to strengthen believers of all
generations to remain faithful to Christ unto death. Since Christ will be the
ultimate victor and Satan is doomed to destruction, followers of Christ will
enjoy eternal glory after suffering for a little while. Revelation is also a
book of warning and a call to repentance in an adulterous generation. As
believers look forward to the new heaven and new earth, they must not take part in the evil of this
world. The church must stand firm in the fight against sin and adorn herself as
a bride without blemish in order to join the Lord at the last and greatest
differs from other NT writings in its form and subject matter. According to
John, it is a book of prophecy (1:3; 22:7,10,18-19).
The book therefore belongs to a literary genre called apocalyptic writings (The
word apocalyptic comes from the Greek apocalypsis,
“an uncovering”) and its content is eschatological in nature (i.e. containing
teachings about the end of things).
is rich with symbols and imagery.
has numerous OT quotations and allusions, more so than any other NT writings.
numbers 7 and 12 are predominant in the book.
number 7: seven beatitudes (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14); seven churches
(1:4,11); seven spirits (1:4; 4:5; 5:6); seven golden lampstands
(1:12); seven stars (1:16); seven lamps (4:5); seven seals (5:1); seven horns
and seven eyes (5:6); seven angels and trumpets (8:2); seven diadems (12:3);
seven plagues (15:1); seven bowls (17:1); seven mountains (17:9); and seven
number 12: 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes (7:4-8); a garland of twelve
stars (12:1); twelve gates (21:12); twelve angels (21:12); twelve foundations
(21:14); twelve apostles (21:14); 12,000 furlongs (21:16).
contains many songs of praise and worship.
scenes in the book alternate between those in heaven and those on earth. See
“Write the things which you have
seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after
Survey of Revelation
To get a broad picture of the
Revelation, read the entire book and record a heading for each of the section
divisions in chart C.
and record the progression of the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls and how
they are related. Note also the interlude between the seals and trumpets and
between the trumpets and bowls. How many chapters does each interlude take up?
is the main theme of the songs recorded in Revelation? Where do the songs
The following are a few of the
various possible outlines for the book.
Things which you have seen (ch 1), and the things
which are (2-3), and the things which will take place after this (4-22).
key visions: the vision of the Son of man among the seven churches (ch. 1-3); the vision of the seven-sealed scroll, the seven
trumpets, the seven signs, and the seven bowls (4:1-19:10); the vision of the
return of Christ and the consummation of this age (19:11-20:15); and the vision
of the new heaven and new earth (21-22). 9/411
acts in a drama: 10/64-65
The title of the apocalypse
Salutation to the seven churches
Prologue: two voices (herald and
Lord God) (1:7-8)
Act I: The church on earth (1:9-3:22)
A. Setting: The seven golden lampstands
B. The letters to the seven churches (ch.
Scene 1: The passionless church (Ephesus;
Scene 2: The persecuted church (Smyrna;
Scene 3: The tolerant church (Pergamum; 2:12-17)
Scene 4: The compromising church (Thyatira; 2:18-29)
Scene 5: The dead church (Sardis;
Scene 6: The missionary church (Philadelphia;
Scene 7: The arrogant church (Laodicea; 3:14-22)
Act II: God’s purpose in history
A. Setting: The throne of God (4:1-8a); odes of creatures and elders
(4:8b-11); the sealed book and the Lamb (5:1-7); hymns (5:8-14)
B. The opening of the seven seals (6:1-8:1)
Scene 1: The rider on the white horse (6:1-2)
Scene 2: The rider on the red horse (6:3-4)
Scene 3: The rider on the black horse (6:5-6)
Scene 4: The rider on the pale horse (6:7-8)
Scene 5: Prayer of the martyrs (6:9-11)
Scene 6: The eschatological events (6:12-7:17; cosmic catastrophes, 6:12-17;
sealing of the martyrs, 7:1-8; the martyrs in heaven, 7:9-17)
Scene 7: Silence in heaven (8:1)
Act III: The church in
A. Setting: The altars, prayers of the saints (8:2-6)
B. The sounding of the seven trumpets (8:7-11:18)
Scene 1: Hail and fire fall (8:7)
Scene 2: A mountain cast into the sea (8:8-9)
Scene 3: A star falls on rivers and springs (8:10-11)
Scene 4: Heavenly bodies darkened (8:12); an eagle announces three woes
Scene 5: (woe 1): Pit of the abyss; locusts (9:1-12)
Scene 6: (woe 2): Four angels released (9:13-15); two hundred million
horsemen (9:16-21); angel with the little book (ch
10); times of the Gentiles, two prophets, the evil city (11:1-14)
Scene 7: (woe 3): Worship in heaven (11:15-18)
Act IV: The salvation of the
A. Setting: The ark of the covenant (11:19)
B. The showing of the seven pageants (12:1-15:4)
Scene 1: The woman and the dragon, (ch 12)
Scene 2: The beast arising from the sea (13:1-10)
Scene 3: The beast arising from the land (13:11-18)
Scene 4: The Lamb with the 144,000 martyrs (14:1-5)
Scene 5: Announcement of doom to Babylon
Scene 6: The son of man on a white cloud and the winepress of God’s wrath
Scene 7: Hymn of the Lamb chanted by the saved (15:1-4)
Act V: The world in agony
A. The tent of witness (15:5-16:1)
B. The pouring out of the seven bowls (16:2-21)
Scene 1: Plague to the earth (boils on men; 16:2)
Scene 2: Plague to the sea (blood; 16:3)
Scene 3: Plague to rivers and springs (blood; 16:4-7)
Scene 4: Plague to the sun (burning heat; 16:8-9)
Scene 5: Plague to the beast’s throne (darkness; 16:10-11)
Scene 6: Plague to the Euphrates (armageddon; 16:12-16)
Scene 7: Plague to the air (devastation; 16:17-21)
Act VI: The judgment of the world
A. Setting: An angel issuing from the sanctuary (17:1-2)
B. The unfolding of the seven plagues (17:3-20:3)
Scene 1: The woman on the scarlet beast (17:3-5)
Scene 2: The beast at war with the woman (17:6-18)
Scene 3: The final cosmic oratorio (18:1-19:10)
Scene 4: The Word of God on the white horse (19:11-16)
Scene 5: The angel standing in the sun (19:17-18)
Scene 6: The Battle
of Armageddon (19:19-21)
Scene 7: Satan cast into the abyss (20:1-3)
Act VII: The church in the
A. Setting: The church enthroned with Christ (20:4-6); Satan’s
limited authority and defeat (20:7-10)
B. The fulfilling of God’s sevenfold plan (20:11-22:5)
Scene 1: The old heaven and old earth (20:11)
Scene 2: The Last Judgment (20:12-15)
Scene 3: The new heaven and new earth (21:1)
Scene 4: The new Jerusalem (21:2-8)
Scene 5: Measuring of the city (21:9-21)
Scene 6: The city’s illumination (21:22-27)
Scene 7: The city’s source of life (22:1-5)
Epilogue: Imprimaturs on the book
Closing benediction (22:21)
God on His Throne
An emphasis in Revelation is that
God is the Lord who has sovereign control over history and over all forces in
heaven and on earth. He is described as He “who is and who was and who is to
come” (1:4); He is “The Alpha and Omega” and the “Almighty” (1:8). He is holy
(4:8). As the creator of all things, He is worthy of all the glory, honor, and
thanks (4:9-11). He is the Judge who will judge the living and the dead
according to their works (20:11-15). He will also prepare a new heaven and new
earth as a dwelling for His people, where there will be no more death, sorrow,
and pain (21:1-5).
Christ the Conquering Lamb
A major motif in the book is the
cosmic battle between Christ the Lamb and the hosts of evil, including the
dragon (12:7-9), the beasts (ch. 13; 17:1-14), the
false prophet (19:20), and the nations of the earth (20:7--10). Christ, the
Lamb which has been slain, is worthy to open the sealed scroll because He has
prevailed (5:5,6). By the blood of the Lamb and the
word of their testimony, the saints have overcome Satan the accuser (12:10,11). Christ is the Lord of lords and King of kings; He will
overcome the forces that unite to make war against Him (17:14). He is portrayed
as a warrior sitting on a white horse, leading the heavenly army into battle.
He strikes the nations of the earth with the sharp sword and destroys all the
enemies who make war with Him (19:11-21). With His ultimate victory in view,
the Lord Jesus Christ challenges believers to overcome and promises reward for
those who overcome (2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21).
Coming of Christ
The imminent return of Christ
echoes throughout the book. In his opening statements addressing the seven
churches, John speaks of how the whole earth will witness the coming of Christ
and mourn because of Him (1:7). In the letters to the churches, the coming of
Christ also serves as warning to the unrepentant and encouragement to those who
persevere (2:5,16,25; 3:3,11). Twice, the coming of
the Lord is likened to that of a thief, calling for spiritual awakening and
watchfulness (3:3; 16:15). The words “I am coming soon” is repeated again and
again with the promise of blessing, reward, and judgment (3:11; 22:7,12,20). Finally, the book closes with John’s hearty
response to the Lord’s imminent return, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20).
God’s Kingdom and Salvation
Amidst tribulation and calamity,
God’s kingdom and salvation are firmly established. Songs of praise to God for
His power and salvation ring throughout the book (4:8-11; 5:9-13; 7:10-12;
11:17; 12:10; 19:1-6). The people of God are identified as those washed and
redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 14:3,4).
They have the privilege of entering into the holy city and the right to the
tree of life (21:24; 22:14). Jesus Christ is the ruler over the kings of the earth
(1:5; 15:3; 17:14; 19:16), to whom belongs the kingdoms of this world (11:15).
He has made us kings and priests to God the Father, and those who overcome
shall reign with Him forever and ever (1:6; 5:10; 20:4,6;
The various approaches to
interpreting the book generally fall under these four views: 13/1923
1. Preterists understand the book exclusively in terms of its
first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already take
take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos to the end of history.
place the book primarily in the end times.
view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good
Symbolisms abound in Revelation.
Some are more difficult to interpret than others. Always let the Bible speak
for itself and look for clues in the immediate as well as broader context. Most
importantly, since Revelation is not just a book of predictions but also a book
of teaching, correction, and warning, we should never lose sight of the message
that God has intended for us and seek to put His words into practice.
At the end of the apostolic age,
the Lord Jesus revealed to His church God’s impending judgment
and Christ’s imminent return. As the signs of the end time are being fulfilled,
we can not afford to fall into spiritual slumber and poverty. Our Lord is
standing at the door. We have to be prepared now. If the churches of John’s era
needed to repent and be ready for the speedy coming of the Lord, how much more
must we do the same!
In addition to warning the
believers as well as all who live on earth, Revelation is also full of promises
to those who read, hear, and do the words of the prophecy. The messages and visions
constantly remind us of the reward that awaits those who remain faithful to
God’s commandments. The picture of the glorious city and new heaven and new
earth is presented vividly before us. Our hearts yearn for this eternal
dwelling with God. Although we now live in a perilous time when we often seem
powerless over the pressures and temptations of evil, we have a bright future
to look forward to. Although Satan seems to be in control, we know that the
dawn is drawing near and that we are to reign with Christ. By the power of our
Lord Jesus, who has overcome sin and death, we shall also overcome.