INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Many people avoid the book of Revelation, saying it's too confusing, or perhaps even quite frightening. But to avoid this book is to miss a profound blessing.
Yes, Revelation can be quite difficult to understand and it often raises more questions than can be answered. However, by ignoring it, we miss the GLORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Many times, Revelation will seem strange to the reader, because that person might not have a good command or understanding of the rest of scripture. If a reader would become fluent in Old Testament idioms, that person would discover jewels buried within Revelation's text. Every sign, symbol, type, structure and graph shown in Revelation has its explanation and definition somewhere else in God's whole word, and in the Old Testament in particular.
Revelation is a LENS through which the rest of the Bible is focused. The entire scripture is written in anticipation of this final and climactic book. A close study shows how the Holy Spirit bends the PHRASING in Genesis (for instance) in such a way that it JUST HAPPENS to fit in with what is revealed in Revelation.
Even though Revelation is perhaps the most controversial book in scripture, and even though it can become a subject of much wild speculation, a person NEEDS to be familiar with its contents.
The book is OPEN and it's MEANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD. It even states, in effect. "Hey look. I'm special to everyone who reads me!" In Revelation 1:3, it says: "BLESSED IS HE THAT READS, AND THEY THAT HEAR THE WORDS OF THIS PROPHECY, AND KEEP THE THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN THEREIN: FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND." And in Revelation 22:7, we read: "BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY: BLESSED IS HE THAT KEEPS THE SAYINGS OF THE PROPHECY OF THIS BOOK."
Now, I’ll offer suggestions for you as you begin follow me through this study.
I’ll be pointing to many OTHER scriptures as we look at THE REVELATION. I suggest that you READ THE SCRIPTURES I post with my commentary.
I suggest that you have a STRONG'S CONCORDANCE and use it as a tool to look up the "IDIOMS"--the specific words and terminologies that I point out. Follow the threads through the scripture, and allow the Holy Spirit to open it and teach you God's mysteries. Wow! What an adventure! Also, a privilege! Take advantage of it…
To use Strong's Concordance, you’ll need a King James Bible to do your search. BUT IF you DON’T LIKE reading King James, you may keep a modern day translation handy to do a comparison.
In Strong's Concordance, AFTER you've found the KEY WORDS in the scripture that I point out to you--turn to THE PAGES in the BACK, where it gives the ORIGINAL languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) for these KEY WORDS. This will show what the Holy Spirit MEANT as He inspired men to write in these specific languages. I hope this is clear to you. If not, ask me questions.
ANOTHER IDEA--What kind of blessing will we get from a study of Revelation?
I can list many. We see the VICTORY of Jesus. We can be CONFIDENT that just like Jesus is victorious--so will we be. I've read the end of the book. WE WIN. The devil and His wicked angels are sent to hell forever--no longer allowed to cause wars and deceptions. THIS GIVES ME ABSOLUTE PEACE OF MIND--even while the world is in upheaval around me.
BUT THE BEST BLESSING I’VE RECEIVED FROM A THOROUGH STUDY OF REVELATION IS A SOLID UNDERSTANDING OF "ALL" OF THE BIBLE. I see how God's Word weaves and intertwines and supports itself. I am able to view THE WHOLE PICTURE. And that's a blessing!!!
ANOTHER FASCINATING FACT--There’s many places in scripture with urgings and admonitions TO READ the Word and STORE it in our hearts. The entire Psalm 119 is a great example. Over and over this Psalm declares the goodness of God's Word and the benefits of loving it and reading it.
BUT--ONE BOOK STANDS ALONE IN BOLDLY PROMISING THE READER A VERY SPECIAL BLESSING. THAT IS THE BOOK WE WILL STUDY--"THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST." Are you ready to be blessed?
REVELATION IS A PROPHECY
Make note of this FACT. In Revelation 1:3, Revelation 22:7 and Revelation 22:18, the book is DECLARED TO BE a "PROPHECY."
Sometimes, people say Revelation is JUST an allegory, an interesting story, or a myth. NOT SO! The book IS A PROPHECY. A prophecy is written to "show the things which shall be hereafter"-- Revelation 1:19. Revelation is NOT an allegory of abstract truths or moral principles as pictured by fictional characters, events, etc. Revelation is NOT meant to be symbolic representations put forth by using "literary devices". This is NOT just a portrayal of the eventual triumph of good over evil. Although Jesus is shown as triumphing over Satan and the enemies, PLUS over sin and death--that is NOT the total picture.
Revelation IS a PROPHETIC FORECAST of "what is to come." Some people become critical about studies in prophecy. But there’s a sound rebuttal to that criticism!
When Jesus rose from the dead, His FIRST ministerial act occurred while walking on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). Walking with 2 disciples, Jesus "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself."
Jesus led them through an Old Testament Bible study--a PROPHETIC Bible study--by showing them HOW, all the way through the Old Testament, things had taken place that predicted His life, death, resurrection and other things yet to come. Wow! Wouldn't you have loved to listen in on that Bible study!
ANOTHER FACTOR--as we study Revelation, we will be interested IN PROPHECY--NOT SO MUCH as in answering the question "What does 666 mean?" But we will study prophecy in THE SENSE that it puts God's WHOLE PLAN into perspective. AND JESUS IS ALWAYS IN THE CENTER OF THAT PLAN! Some of the greatest mysteries in both Revelation, and in the Old Testament, MAKE SENSE the minute we put Jesus in the middle of them. Wow, again! We’ll see the revealing Jesus Christ!
REVELATION IS NOT SEALED
What does this mean?
We read in Revelation 22:10--"And he saith unto me, SEAL NOT the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand."
Revelation is AN OPEN book. It’s MEANT to be read and understood.
Immediately, a question may arise. How can the time BE AT HAND? We know Revelation was written nearly 2000 years ago--so the time (considering the END TIMES) was NOT really upon the reader as of yet.
The answer is this: through ALL the following ages, the truths that are buried within Revelation could be seen and discerned. If the reader was a new Christian in the times of Roman persecution, the words of Revelation, which spoke to a portion of what that Christian endured, would comfort him. He could SEE the triumph and glory of Jesus Christ. This was TRUE, NO MATTER WHAT PORTION OF HISTORY a Christian lived in.
In the book of Daniel, we see something different said about that prophecy. Daniel was SEALED--meaning that what was recorded could NOT be understood--UNTIL THE APPOINTED TIME.
We read in Daniel 8:26--"And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: Wherefore SHUT THOU UP the vision; for it shall be for many days." Again, we read in Daniel 12:4, "But thou, O Daniel, SHUT UP the words, and SEAL the book, EVEN TO THE TIME OF THE END, many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased."
The prophecy, the vision, given to Daniel, could NOT be fully comprehended UNTIL the time of the end. Even Daniel did NOT understand the overwhelming things that he saw and heard. But at the time of THE END, the prophecy recorded by Daniel WILL BE (and IS) UNDERSTOOD, because that vision DEALS WITH the situation at hand in the END TIMES.
Two aspects of the END TIMES are noted. (1.) People will run to and fro. (2.) Knowledge will be increased.
ONE EXPLANATION. People travel to and fro all over the world in our time (in jets), plus knowledge increases so quickly (especially with computers) that we cannot keep up with all of it.
SECOND EXPLANATION. People SEARCH the book of Daniel, flipping to and fro through the pages, and their knowledge of that prophecy increases.
Daniel is NOW UNSEALED--because this IS the END TIMES. Revelation has NEVER been sealed. People DID read it and glean understanding ALL THROUGH THE CHURCH AGE. This UNDERSTANDING is possible, because the Holy Spirit reveals to THE CHURCH what He desires us to know--regardless of what age in history the Church lived through. So Revelation has always been an OPEN BOOK.
Never let anyone tell you that we cannot understand what is written in the book of Revelation. It is NOT sealed! We can KNOW. We can LEARN.
FREQUENT NUMBERS USED IN REVELATION
An interesting feature in the book of Revelation is a frequent use of numbers to help convey a special message. One of the most frequently used numbers is SEVEN.
Seven does not mean "holy"--and this is because we see "an evil Antichrist empire" with SEVEN heads, and that empire is definitely NOT holy.
The number SEVEN seems to suggest "completion." There are seven Churches (the complete Church). There are seven seals (opening a complete judgment sequence), seven trumpets, seven bowls (which complete the judgment cycle). There are seven thunders, seven Spirits, seven lampstands, seven new things which appear at the end, seven personages which show up in Revelation 12 and 13 (the woman, the man-child, the dragon, the seven-headed beast, the false prophet, Michael and the Lamb). There are seven beatitudes, seven songs or times of singing, seven promises to the overcomers. Revelation is THE COMPLETION of God's plan for man and the earth, and that's why we see so many sevens in the book.
THE NUMBER 24 reveals the concept of PRIESTS AND KINGS--there are 24 elders seen throughout the book. There are also 24 titles of Jesus Christ Who IS a Priest and a King.
These 24 titles of Jesus are: Faithful Witness (Prophet) in Rev. 1:5. First-born of the dead (Priest), Rev. 1:5. Prince of the kings of the earth (King), Rev. 1:5. Alpha (First, the beginning), Rev. 1:8. Omega (Last, the ending), Rev. 1:8. The Almighty, Rev. 1:8. He Who holds seven stars in His right hand, Rev. 2:1. He Who was dead and is alive, Rev. 2:8. He Who has the sharp, two-edged sword, Rev. 2:12. He Who has eyes like fire, feet like brass, Rev. 3:1. He Who has the seven Spirits of God, Rev. 3:7. He Who is Holy and True, Rev. 3:7. He Who has the keys of David, Rev. 3:7. He Who opens and shuts, Rev. 3:7. The Amen, Rev. 3:14. The beginning of the creation of God, Rev. 3:14. The lion of the tribe of Judah, Rev. 5:5. The Lamb as it had been slain, Rev. 5:5. The root of David, Rev. 5:5. Lord of lords, Rev. 17:14. King of kings, Rev. 17:14. Faithful and True, Rev. 19:11. The Word of God, Rev. 19:13. The Bright and Morning Star, Rev. 20:16.
THE NUMBER FOUR. The phrase "in the Spirit" occurs FOUR times when John was IN THE SPIRIT--on Patmos, THEN at the throne in heaven, THEN in the wilderness and FINALLY on a mountain.
What do we see here? A CHANGE OF LOCATIONS.
John was in "the present," the Church age--while on Patmos. John was in the "hereafter"--at the throne in heaven, immediately AFTER the letters to the Churches (the picture of the complete Church age). John was next "in the spirit" in THE WILDERNESS, during a time of God's judgment (the great tribulation), where he saw a woman on a scarlet beast (the picture of Mystery Babylon, a false religion, upon the back of the Antichrist empire). The final "in the spirit" shows John at a great and high mountain where he sees a great city, the New Jerusalem, which is "the opening moments" of the Kingdom of Jesus that descends out of heaven--at THE END of the last battle of the Great Tribulation.
I see a PATTERN here--and I offer IT as a provocative POSSIBILITY. The Church Age transcends into the scene at the Throne of God. The scene at the throne of God leads into the events of the Tribulation which fall upon the earth. After the last battle of the Great Tribulation, the New Jerusalem is introduced, which descends from heaven at the start of Jesus' reign upon the earth. (Do you RECOGNIZE the structure of events? I thought it was interesting. The vision starts on EARTH--at Patmos, with the New Church Age, at its beginning. The Church Age ends at God’s Throne in heaven after being CAUGHT UP--when the Apostle John was “caught up” in the vision. Judgments fall from God on High to hit the earth in the Tribulation. The Tribulation ends with Christ’s Kingdom being set up on earth.)
More on the number FOUR. The phrase "thunders, voices, lightnings (and an earthquake)" appears four times--one, in chapter 4 at God's Throne; then in chapter 8 AFTER the opening of the seals and BEFORE the blowing of the trumpets, in chapter 11 AFTER the trumpets, and in chapter 16 at the END of the bowls.
These are ominous pictures, each time showing the POWER of God--as judgments fall from His presence. TWO DIFFERENCES ARE NOTED--there's NO earthquake in chapter four (the seals are NOT YET opened) and in chapter 11, great hail IS ADDED (after a judgment falls upon the earthly Jerusalem).
These phrases set the book of Revelation into various partitions, and they ALL overlap and intertwine. If a person tried to diagram this prophecy, it would require a three-dimensional model.
In the book of Revelation, FOUR things are out of place--and THEN they ENTER their designated rewards. (1.) Israel needs to "come into" the totality of God's promises concerning her land of inheritance. (2.) The Church, once on earth, comes into her place at the side of her Bridegroom, Jesus. (3.) The Lamb, at the Father's Throne (not His own), comes into His Own Throne during His Kingdom reign. (4.) Satan, free upon earth to wreak violence, is bound, and then ultimately cast into the lake of fire.
THE NUMBER THREE. Revelation unfolds the story of 3 women. (1.) The wife of Jehovah--Israel. (2.) The virgin Bride of Christ--the Church. (3.) The harlot--the evil false religion, Mystery Babylon.
Revelation is a book of wonders, God's mysteries revealed.
BACKGROUND STUDIES--TO HELP UNDERSTAND THE REVELATION
In order to more fully understand the book of Revelation, we need to be aware of the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit throughout the rest of scripture which POINTS toward the book of Revelation. THERE'S SO MUCH. I ask you bear with me while I lay a foundation.
One thing we are going to look at in this study concerns seven letters to the Churches. We’ll discover that the seven letters are structurally and idiomatically (by theme and language) very similar to the seven Kingdom parables spoken by Jesus in Matthew 13. (There are rich things that the Holy Spirit will tell us through such comparative studies.)
Also, we will find the SAME KINDS of similarities when we compare the seven letters to the Churches in Revelation with New Testament epistles written by the Apostle Paul--there are seven Churches that received Paul’s letters (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians). There’s also seven letters written to (or by) individuals--Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, Peter, John and Jude. Could we even find similarities in language and theme there--when compared to the seven Church letters in Revelation?
What is MOST INTERESTING about these comparisons is that we gain a RESPECT and a GREATER INSIGHT for what the Holy Spirit has placed into our hands--our fabulous Bible, the INSPIRED Word of God. We will see how this WORD intertwines and supports itself over and over again. A true miracle--because this WORD has been recorded over a period of thousands of years by many different men (who were breathed upon by the Holy Spirit to write what HE told them to write).
What would have happened if MEN decided BY THEMSELVES to compose a book over thousands of years with many different authors? Any guess? CONFUSION, TOTAL DISARRAY AND GOBBLE-DEE-GOOK, OF COURSE.
The Bible intertwines and supports itself in subject, theme, wording, idioms used, pictures given--because THIS MIRACULOUS WORD TRULY CAME FROM THE HEART OF GOD HIMSELF--and from the realm of GOD’S supernatural, ALL-KNOWING MIND.
DIRECT REFERENCES TO REVELATION--FOUND IN THE REST OF THE BIBLE
In looking through the Bible, we can find at least these (and possibly more) DIRECT references to what is recorded in the Revelation.
There are 13 SPECIFIC references in Genesis, 27 in Exodus, 3 in Numbers, 4 in Leviticus and 10 in Deuteronomy--which totals 57 references in the Pentateuch, the books of Moses.
There are 12 references in Joshua, 1 in Judges--leading to a total of 23 within the historical books.
There are 43 references in Psalms and 2 in Proverbs.
There are 79 in Isaiah, 53 in Daniel--arriving at a grand total of 197 references in the MAJOR prophets which have a DIRECT relation to what is recorded in Revelation. There are 38 references in the MINOR prophets.
All this adds up to a total of 360 places in the Old Testament that DIRECTLY refers to what is written in the Revelation, and these verses are VERY NON-TRIVIAL, meaning that they uphold and support the Revelation by DIRECT wording. With this in mind, we can UNDERSTAND HOW the book of Revelation is indeed THE CLIMAX of what has been recorded previously. We can also see WHY a study of Revelation will become a study of the WHOLE COUNSEL of God as it is brought forth in the COMPLETE scripture. Revelation is THE LENS, through which the rest of scripture is focused.
CONTRASTS (AND SIMILARITIES)--FOR GENESIS AND REVELATION
This is a list of items that show THE BEGINNINGS of concepts and their ENDINGS.
(1.) Genesis shows the earth as it was created. In Revelation, the old earth passes away at the creation of a NEW heaven and earth.
(2.) In Genesis, we see the sun, moon and stars (that have a unique relation to Israel) which are set up for the earth's government (times, seasons, etc.) In Revelation, the sun, moon and stars become USED in the earth's judgment.
(3.) In Genesis, the sun governs the day. In Revelation, there's no need for the sun.
(4.) In Genesis, the darkness is called night. In Revelation, there's no night.
(5.) In Genesis, the waters are called sea. In Revelation, there's no more sea. (I'm talking of final outcomes here, by the way.)
(6.) Gen.--there's a river for the earth's blessing. Rev.--there's a river for the NEW earth.
(7.) Gen.--we see man in God's image. Rev.--we see A MAN in Satan's image.
(8.) Gen.--the entry of sin. Rev.--the end of sin.
(9.) Gen.--a curse is pronounced on earth. Rev.--there's no more curse.
(10.) Gen.--death enters. Rev.--there's no more death.
(11.) Gen.--Cherubim are first mentioned. Rev.--Cherubim are last mentioned.
(12.) Gen.--man is driven out of Eden. Rev.--man is restored in paradise.
(13.) Gen.--the tree of life is guarded. Rev.--the tree of life is available.
(14.) Gen.--sorrow and suffering entered. Rev.--no more sorrow and suffering.
(15.) Gen.--man's religion, art and science are separated from God when Nimrod founded Babylon. Rev.--in their full glory, they are judged and Babylon falls.
(16.) Gen.--there's a flood to destroy an evil generation. Rev.--there's a flood by Satan to try to destroy God's elect.
(17.) Gen.--we see a rainbow, the token of promise. Rev.--the rainbow, token of promise, is at God's Throne.
(18.) Gen.--we see Sodom and Egypt. Rev.--Sodom and Egypt (spiritually) refers to Jerusalem.
(19.) Gen.--a confederation of enemies of Abraham's people are overthrown. Rev.--a confederation coming against Abraham's SEED is overthrown.
(20.) Gen.--there's a bride for Abraham's son. Rev.--there's a bride for THE SON.
(21.) Gen.--there's a marriage of the first Adam. Rev.--there's a marriage of the LAST Adam.
(22.) Gen.--the "promised seed" is PROMISED to possess the gate of their enemies. Rev.--the "promised seed" enter their possession.
(23.) Gen--man's domain ended; Satan's began. Rev.--Satan's domain ends and man is restored, under Jesus.
(24.) Gen.--the seed of woman, Kinsman Redeemer and the need for a virgin birth begin. Rev.--the seed of woman, Kinsman Redeemer and virgin birth are pictured in chapter 12.
(25.) Gen.--the role of the serpent begins. Rev.--the role of the serpent is ended.
We see the ALPHA and the OMEGA in this list. The Alpha is the beginning, the Omega is the end.
Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. The Bible is Jesus' story!
I could continue laying foundational and introductory facts and a figures, BEFORE actually looking at the book of Revelation. There’s truly a wealth of material.
However, I’ll close the introduction, and jump right into Revelation Chapter One in the next post. (I’ll include any additional material or studies as we proceed with a verse by verse exposition of this amazing PROPHECY!)
Have a truly wonderful day!