An introduction to the study of the Book of Revelation
for the Sunday evening small group
at First Baptist Church, Glenville, West Virginia.
This is the outline from which I taught.
- Name: Revelation, Apocalypse, “unveiling” or “uncovering”
- The same word used Romans 16:25, Galatians 1:12, Ephesians 1:17; 3:3—describes unveiling of a spiritual truth.
o Ex.: Romans 16:25-26—“ 25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God,…”
- Also used to describe the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19), the incarnation (Luke 2:32), His glorious appearing at His 2nd coming (2Thessalonians 1:7; 1Peter 1:7).
o Ex.: Romans 8:19—“ 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”
- No question about author (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8)—John, the apostle & author of 4th gospel & the 3 epistles of 1,2,&3John; he was the last surviving apostle & is thought to have died around 100 A.D.
- Place of writing: Island of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey today).
o John exiled there by the Roman Emperor Domitian.
§ Arrested in Ephesus while ministering at the church there & surrounding countryside; exiled because of his witnessing for Christ & work establishing Christian churches (Revelation 1:9).
§ Tourist attraction today; Christian pilgrimage
- Date of the vision: est. 94-96 A.D., shortly before John’s death. John was in his mid- to late-90s.
- There is almost no debate about authorship & date—affirmed by writings of church fathers in early 2nd century A.D.
- 2 purposes:
o Conveyed commendations & warnings to 7 churches in Asia Minor at which John had ministered & had witnessed their development (chapters 2 & 3);
o Record of a series of visions from the risen Christ…visions that laid out the future history of the world.
o Warnings & exhortations to the church—warnings about sin, exhortations to holiness.
o The doctrine of the last days…
§ Final political makeup of the earth at His appearings
§ The last battle in human history
§ The career & ultimate defeat of the antichrist
§ Christ’s 1,000-year kingdom on earth
§ The glories of heaven & the eternal state
§ The final state of the wicked & the righteous; God rules over the kingdoms of mankind, and He will accomplish His sovereign purposes regardless of human and demonic opposition
- Millennial Views
o 3 primary views
§ The millennium is mentioned in Revelation chapter 20, where it talks about 1,000-year period of time when Jesus rules with his saints over the earth in its sinful state. Satan is said to be bound for the 1,000 years so that he cannot deceive the nations, then after 1,000 years, Satan is once again released. There is one final rebellion which is crushed by Christ and then there is the final resurrection and judgment of all people.
· Millennium is figurative; a picture of what is being experienced now in the church through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit
· Bk of Revelation is entirely symbolic and not a prophecy of literal future events
· Christ will return at the end of the age (a long age, not literally 1,000 years) to begin the eternal state
· Origin: the teaching of St. Augustine.
· Still popular (Presbyterians)
· The millennium is in process through the church
· The church, through the preaching of the Gospel, will bring the world into a “golden age”…end of evil and universal acceptance of God
· Christ to return after this golden age & establish the eternal state
· Origin: the teaching of the Puritans
· Popular in 17th-19th centuries
· Also called “preterism”; interprets all end-times prophecies as events which have already happened, except for Jesus’ return
· Holds that events prophecied in the book of Daniel happened in the second century BC & the prophecies of Revelation happened in the 1st cent.
· Still held by a very few sects today.
· The oldest view; held by the apostolic fathers.
· Relies on a literal interpretation of prophecies of Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul (1 & 2 Thess.) & book of Revelation
· That is, these are literal prophecies of real future events
o the kingdoms predicted in Daniel
o the regathering of Israel & rebuilding of the Temple
o the return of Christ for His church & the rapture
o the 7-year tribulation
o the return of Christ with His church to reign for 1,000 years
o the judgment & eternal state
· Premillennialism is the only view that honors the simplest and most reliable Bible interpretive method—that the Bible means literally what it says
o & that predictive prophecy of the future will be fulfilled just as surely as the biblical prophecies we have seen fulfilled in the past.
· Some difference of opinion about pre-, mid-, & post-tribulation rapture, but all agree times of increasing troubles for the church preceding the rapture
Revelation Chapter 1
Revelation 1:1-3—“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
- “Revelation”—something clearly visible
- “Blessed”—the only book in the Bible…promises blessing for the one who reads it & “…takes to heart what is written in it…”
- “…the time is near…”—refers to epoch, age, era, or season… interp. present age or church age…telling us that the next age or era is imminent. Christ’s return for His church is the next event…
- Note Matthew 24:36-39…no one knows the time of His appearing—“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
- Note 2 Peter 3:3-4…anticipates long delay…so long that people will begin to question whether He will ever come—“3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”
Revelation 1:4-8—“4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. 7 ‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’ So shall it be! Amen. 8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’”
- 7 churches in Asia Minor…modern Turkey…7 key cities…sort of like county seats…church established in each
- “…who was, and who is to come…”…the eternal God…I AM… always present & always will be…
- “…the seven spirits before his throne…”…most likely ref. to the 7 churches in Asia Minor…7 biblically is the number of completeness…parallel meaning=fullness of the HS…
- 7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.”…Daniel 7:13 (“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”) & Zechariah 12:10 (“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”)…ref. to the Jews (“…house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…”)
- 8 “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’”…the beginning & the end…(El Shaddai)…leaves no doubt as to the one speaking to John—God…
Revelation 1:9-11—“9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.’”
- Patmos—Small island in the Aegean Sea…isolated…John exiled “…because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus…” …John banished from populated areas of the Roman Empire due to His preaching & teaching…
- John heard the audible voice of God…
Revelation 1:12-20—“12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
- V. 12 “…seven golden lampstands…”… each lampstand represents a church…the 7 churches in Asia Minor (v. 20)…a church from which the light of life is shown…7 being the number of completeness, the 7 lampstands are representative of all churches.
- V. 13 “…Son of Man…”… Christ…81 times in the gospels…
- V. 14 “…white like wool…”…most likely a blazing white…a white light (Daniel 7:9—“the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.”)…
- V. 15 “…voice like the sound of rushing waters…”…no longer the clear, crisp, sound of the trumpet heralding victory…but now the voice of power & authority…like the sound of the powerful, relentless crashing surf against the rocks of the island’s shore…
- V. 16 “…he held seven stars…”…these are the angels (messengers) of the 7 churches (see v. 20)…the meaning of holding them in His hands: He controls the church & its leaders… “…double-edged sword…”…a broad weapon signifying judgment…
- V. 17 “When I saw Him I fell at His feet…”…a common response to seeing the Lord in all His glory…
o Genesis 17:1-3—“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3 Abram fell facedown…”
o Isaiah 6:1-5—“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’”
o Ezekiel 1:28—“28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
- V. 18—“I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever. And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
o “…keys of death and Hades”…(Hades=Sheol, the place of the dead)…Holding the keys, it is Christ who decides on the timing of life and death…
- V. 19—“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later.”…this is sort of a brief outline of the book… “what you have seen”=chapter 1; “what is now”=letters to the churches (vv. 2 & 3)…and “what will take place later”=chapters 4-22.
- V. 20—“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
o “Angels”—lit. “messenger”…could be either…but probably refers to leaders in the churches…7 leading elders (we call them deacons)… “lampstands”—mentioned previously…the 7 churches…lamps giving the light of the gospel from the churches.