Scriptures

The Book Of Revelation Part 1

Introduction

I must admit from the outset that this study was given to me many years ago, but I can’t remember who originally put it together and wrote it. I found it very helpful and in many ways the simplicity of the way the Book is approached made it so easy to understand. I’ve adapted it slightly, but the main thrust of the study is the same as when I received it.

The Book of Revelation was most likely written about A.D. 95-96 during the reign of the Roman Caesar Domitian, the Revelation was recorded by John, Revelation 1:1, while in exile, Revelation 1:9, to prepare the saints in Asia for the enormous persecutions they would soon have to face. It was written at a time when the faith of Christians was put to the ultimate test, as they were forced to deny their faith in the Lord and worship Caesar, or face torture and death.

It informed them that although some would die physically, the cause for which they died would ultimately emerge victorious, and the kingdom of God would indeed endure.

When it comes to the Book of Revelation, there’s no doubt that it’s probably one of the most spoken about, and in many people’s minds, one of the most intriguing books of the Bible and yet at the same time it’s one of the most misused and most abused books in the Scriptures.

Over the years many people have come to the Book of Revelation with ideas that God never intended for Revelation to convey and as a result of this the book has become a launching pad for these types of ideas. Many people have used Revelation to ‘prove’ such things as past wars or future events, some say they have even found such things in Revelation as submarines and aircraft! But that isn’t what God intended the Book of Revelation to be about.

There’s also no doubt that the Book of Revelation has been abused over the years, in the sense that it has become rich ground for many false prophecies. Sometimes those prophecies are things that people look back on in human history and say, ‘See, the Book of Revelation prophesied that!’

And of course, we get the other extreme where some claim that those prophecies are events that supposedly will occur in the future. For example, one advertisement suggested, ‘if you would like to find out about Armageddon, as well as Nostradamus and his prophecies concerning the years 2009-2012, look in the Book of Revelation.’

These types of things have nothing to do with the purpose for which the Book of Revelation was written in the first century, and they surely aren’t an application for us today either, but there are lessons to be learned. We must keep in mind that God gave the Book of Revelation to first century Christians who were suffering greatly.

He intended it to be an encouragement to them, so that they would ‘keep on keeping on’ and never give up. He wanted them to know
that if they would do that, then in the end they would be victorious.

Placing the Book of Revelation in its proper category within the New Testament helps us understand its purpose. For example, the books of Matthew through John were written to tell us about the life of Christ, Who He is, how He lived, and how He died for each one of us.

The Book of Acts tells us how to become a Christian. Once we learn about Jesus, Acts then tells us how to become a member of the body of Christ, a follower of Christ. Romans through Jude tell us how, on a daily basis, to live for Jesus, as well as what God expects of us once we have become Christians, members of the body of Christ.

Revelation, the grand ending to the New Testament, tells us how to die faithfully as children of God. Within it we learn about Jesus, we learn how to become a Christian. We learn how to live, and we learn how to die faithfully as a member of the Lord’s body.

Now please know it’s not my intention to go through the Book of Revelation verse by verse, but we will obviously go through some of the main texts and later we will go through chapter by chapter.

What I think would be useful is to:
1. Offer some main points that will help us go to the book and understand what some of the main images and ideas are.

2. Show you that the book is a very practical book, it doesn’t have to be a mystery.

The Book Can Be Understood

Let’s begin with some basic aids by discussing some main points that appear in the Book of Revelation. For example, the Book of Revelation tells us that it can and must be understood.

‘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 1:3

Contrary to what some people claim today, we can understand this book, in the very first chapter, from the very beginning we are told that God says that we not only can understand the book, but we must understand this book.

The idea of being ‘blessed’ has to do with divine happiness, in other words there are divine benefits promised to the person who reads, understands, and obeys the things written in the Book of Revelation.

Why?

For first century Christians, the time of their death wasn’t very far off. The same principle, by application, applies to us today, if we want to receive God’s divine blessings, and if we want to know how to deal with, face, and overcome tribulation in our lives, then we need to read and understand the Book of Revelation.

We must remember that God isn’t trying to confuse us, He didn’t give us the Book of Revelation to merely get our interest or give us a launching pad for things that He never intended to be included in the book. It’s a book that, when kept in context can be read and understood and it promises a divine blessing to us when we do that.

Throughout Scripture, blessings are promised to those who read it, Matthew 5:6. The psalmist shows us the benefit of following God’s Word as we deal with sin, Psalm 119:9 / Psalm 119:11.

We must understand that if we read God’s Word, we can keep ourselves from sin and if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be filled. The Bible truly is a blessing for each of us as it lights the direction our lives should go, Psalm 119:105.

Just as these passages teach, we will find a divine blessing in the Book of Revelation when we come to the book with the mindset that we can read and understand what the book is saying. In order to understand the Book of Revelation, we need to understand some of the main thoughts, and especially some of the main verses.

In Revelation 11 for example we find a great summary statement regarding what the Book of Revelation is all about.

‘Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’ Revelation 11:15

How does that sum up the message of the Book of Revelation?

Christians were living during the time of the Roman Empire, it was a wicked and ungodly empire that wasn’t favourable to Christianity. In fact, the Romans were trying to stamp out Christianity.

Throughout the Book of Revelation, God tells Christians, ‘If you will hang on, refuse to give up, and remain faithful unto death’, Revelation 2:10, you can be assured that Christ and His kingdom, the church, Matthew 16:19, are going to be victorious over all world governments.’

If we remain faithful to Christ, no matter what happens, even if we lose our lives, we will still be victorious. That’s the main idea in the Book of Revelation. We mustn’t let any ideology change us, rather, we must remain true to God and His kingdom, no matter what, if we do, we will be the winner in the end. We must understand that God still rules in the kingdoms of men, Daniel 4:25-26.

Victorious Or Overcome

One of the main words in the Book of Revelation is the word ‘victorious,’ or as other translations have it, ‘overcome.’ This word is used about eleven times in the Book of Revelation. For example, in Revelation 3, to the seven churches of Asia, Jesus said, ‘To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.’ Revelation 3:21.

In essence, when Jesus uses the word ‘victorious,’ He’s saying that if we overcome, if we refuse to give up, if we persevere, and if we endure, then we can come over and live with Him. This is one of the biggest encouragements that the Book of Revelation has for each child of God.

Here’s how this is practical, yes, the book was written to first century Christians to tell them not to give up, but Christians still suffer today. In fact, the Bible promises us that, ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ 2 Timothy 3:12

We may well suffer, but the Book of Revelation tells us that if we overcome, if we are victorious, if we never give up, if we never bow down, and if we never allow our tribulations and troubles to overcome us, but instead we overcome them, then we can come over and live with Jesus in the heavenly realm.

The Question

There’s an important question in the Book of Revelation, which occurs in Revelation 6. Christians are suffering, and it appears as if the Roman Empire will be the reigning world power. As you can imagine, Christians are wondering and asking, ‘God, we have held true to you; we have not given up; how long will we have to endure this?’

The key question from those who were being sacrificed at Rome’s altar was simply this.

‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Revelation 6:10

Christians wanted to know, how long will this continue to go on?God aren’t you going to avenge us? And what is God’s answer?

‘Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.’ Revelation 6:11

The Christians are desperate to know when all this suffering will end, but God gives them white robes and tells them to wait a little while longer and promises them that He will exercise vengeance on the ungodly when the time is right.

The lesson here is so powerful, Christians are robed in white, as a symbol of purity before God, and God tells them not to give up because He will repay those who are wicked, God is the One Who will take care of the ungodly. This, then, is an encouragement to be faithful and not to give up.

Part of understanding the Book of Revelation is understanding the main thoughts. The Book is like a drama or a vision unfolding on the scene. If we’re going to understand it, we must understand some of the main characters and some of the main thoughts. If we’re unfamiliar with those things, then we may end up approaching the Book of Revelation in a rather dismissive manner.

What are some of the main points?

I would like us to look at seven main points, which I believe will help us approach the Book of Revelation and be ready to understand it.

1. The first point is that Revelation is written in symbols.

It’s a book that tells us it is symbolic and figurative. It’s not to be taken in a literal, word for word fashion. For example, notice what John wrote in Revelation 1.

‘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.’ Revelation 1:1

The words ‘made it known’ is the word, ‘signified’ this tells us that this is a book that’s symbolic. God is going to put in place for Christians certain images.

A Dragon

For instance, in the Book of Revelation we see a dragon, think about that image. A dragon is one of the most mythical beasts in all of human history and literature. It can never be tamed, it wreaks havoc on the countryside, it’s powerful, and it’s something to be feared. That is the image of the dragon. But is God speaking of a literal dragon? No. That’s not what God is trying to get across.

A Sea Beast

We also see a sea beast, people who live near oceans have heard rumours about a ‘great beast’ that lives in the ocean. It can sink any ship, and no sailor could ever pierce it with a harpoon, that was a fearful image.

Riders On Horses And A Temple

We also see riders on horses, and a picture of a temple. All of these are images that aren’t to be taken literally. Instead, they’re presented to make an impression upon the mind that will last and that has a singular idea, like the dragon, which is a powerful beast that’s to be feared, yet that also can be overcome with God’s help.

‘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.’ Revelation 1:1

We know that Revelation is a symbolic book because in Revelation 1:1 God said that these things were to be ‘signified,’ and the word signified means ‘to be shown by signs.’ God said to John, ‘I am going to give you this revelation, which I will present to you in signs.’

Here’s why a lot of people don’t understand the Book of Revelation. When people come to Matthew through Jude, they read those books literally and rightly so because the text demands that in most places. They then come to the Book of Revelation with the Matthew through Jude mindset that wants to look at the book literally and that sees a
literal dragon and a literal beast with seven heads and ten horns, and they get confused.

‘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.’ Revelation 1:1

The Book of Revelation is a different type of literature that’s filled with apocalyptic language which is a language in which God, through signs and symbols showed His power and gave His message to Christians. In fact, Revelation itself is from the word ‘apocalypsis’, the word means ‘an unveiling.’ God unveils for Christians on a grand stage in figurative language, certain images that they, not people in the world, would understand so that they could know His message.

This type of writing, apocalyptic language, was designed specifically to reveal God’s message to some, while veiling it to others. Christians would understand about the temple, they would understand about the city foursquare, and the twelve tribes or the 144,000. They had a clear understanding about those things.

But when a Roman government leader read it, he would think it was simply something fantastical or interesting but not a direct threat to the Roman Empire. So, the book revealed the message to those who were familiar with its symbols and language, while hiding it from those who weren’t.

Many of the images were simply reminders to those who were descendants from the Israelites in the Old Testament. Much of the imagery in the Book of Revelation takes us back to a time in the Old Testament, a time in history with which first century Christians would have been familiar. Not all of the book, but much of it, takes us back to Old Testament history which Christians would have understood.

Numbers

Part of understanding this first point has to do with the fact that some of the symbols are given as numbers. Numbers play a very important part in the Book of Revelation, and if we fail to understand the significance of the numbers, then we will miss out on much of what the book is saying.

The Number 3

For example, the number 3 is an important number in the Book of Revelation, where it’s used several times. Throughout Bible history, the number 3 always has represented God. Think about it, you have 1. the Father 2. the Son; and 3. the Holy Spirit, the Godhead. Three is a ‘divine number’ that represents the Godhead itself.

The Number 4

Then we see the number 4, which represents the Earth or things that are physical, as opposed to being spiritual. There are four directions, north, south, east, and west. There are four elements, earth, fire, wind, and water. The number 4 often represents things that are earthly.

The Number 7

Then we come to the number 7. When you combine the things represented by the numbers 3 and 4, you get the number 7 which always represents perfection. There are 7 days in a week, there are 7 churches discussed in the Book of Revelation. These are things that are complete or that represent a totality.

The Number 6

Then there is the number 6, which is one less than 7. If 7 is perfection, then 6 falls short of perfection, which will help us when we come to the number 666. If 7 is perfection, and if 6 is one less than 7 or imperfection, then what would 666 be? It would be complete and utter imperfection, that is all the number 666 is trying to get across to us.

The Number 12

The number 12 often was a number that represented humanity. There were 12 tribes, there were 12 apostles, representing humanity or people.

The Number 1,000

The number 1,000 represented an indefinite time period. We see 1,000 years, 1,000 years of tribulation, or 1,000 years during which Satan was going to reign. Those aren’t literal thousand years but should be viewed as indefinite time periods that one day will come to an end and will not last forever.

Thus, part of understanding the symbols in Revelation has to do with understanding what some of the numbers mean.

The first point is that Revelation is a book that is written in symbols, and that it mustn’t be approached as a word for word, literal discussion because the text is symbolic.

2. The second point is that Revelation was written about things that would ‘soon take place.’

If we can understand this, it will help us get a good grasp of the Book of Revelation.

‘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.’ Revelation 1:1

When God gave this revelation to first century Christians, it was about things that were going to happen during their lifetimes. This is where so many people get off track regarding the Book of Revelation. The book isn’t about the year 2025, it’s not about what happened during the medieval times. Revelation isn’t about what is going to happen 10,000 years down the road.

We must look at the book and understand that it was written for first century Christians about things that would ‘soon take place.’

‘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 1:3

Did you know that the book closes on this same tone?

‘The angel said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.’ Revelation 22:6

The dragon, the sea beast, the land beast, the riders on horses, all of those images were not of future events for us but were things that were going to happen during the lives of the Christians who read about them.

Too many people approach the Book of Revelation with an eye toward the present. In reality, we need to read the book with first century glasses. W. B. West wrote a commentary entitled ‘Revelation through First Century Glasses’. We will be a step ahead in studying the Book of Revelation if we approach the book with the understanding that the things that are discussed within it were about to happen shortly to first century Christians.

Revelation isn’t dealing with Hitler, Social Security numbers, Saddam Hussein, or world wars. Revelation, by application, tells us that God will take care of us just like He took care of those Christians who were enduring tribulation during the first century.

During tribulation, His kingdom will always out rule and out reign all others. The Book was written for first century Christians to help them overcome the persecution they were facing they would be ‘victorious’. The symbols were things they understood and represented things that happened during their lifetimes.

Not only is Revelation ‘symbolic’, and not only was it written about things that would ‘soon take place’, but

3. The third point shows us that the Book was written for the purpose of comforting persecuted Christians.

‘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 1:3

The idea of ‘blessed’ carries with it the concept of being comforted, helped, or benefited. That blessing was offered to the Christians who read the Book of Revelation, who understood it, and who obeyed it.

Christians during the time of the Roman Empire, i.e., during the writing of the Book of Revelation were suffering greatly at the hand of the Romans.

History records that some of the Roman rulers like Domitian was so evil and so ungodly that if they found you openly worshipping Christ and claiming to be a Christian, they would take you from your home in front of your family, kill you, soak your body in flammable liquid, place you on a cross in the Emperor’s garden, and light you on fire to be used as a human candle. Some were even taken from their homes and, as a type of sport, were thrown to lions in the arena for people to watch. That is the kind of suffering that was occurring.

If you were a Christian, you weren’t a ‘half-way Christian’ because you knew that you might die for Christ. The Book of Revelation is written to encourage and comfort Christians who were suffering beyond anything we might be able to imagine today. The point is that God knows our sufferings, and He cares and if we will endure to the end, then we will win the battle.

Look at this encouraging passage of Scripture

‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’ Revelation 14:13

God said that those who die in the Lord are blessed. God knows and cares and even if a person dies, comfort is available because in God’s sight there’s a great blessing waiting for that person.

‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’ Romans 8:18

There is a passage in 1 Corinthians 10 that’s a commentary on the Book of Revelation, 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is the idea behind the Book of Revelation, God isn’t going to allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. We need to remember that God is faithful, and He will make a way of escape so that we can endure.

Christians needed to know that their escape may have been only through death, but they got out of their persecution, and God took care of them in the midst of that.

These first three points begin to give us an understanding of what Revelation is all about. This book is one of the most powerful pieces of inspired writing that we as Christians possess. We will help ourselves immensely if we open the Book of Revelation with the idea that God wants to help us. The message is clear, God loves His children so much that He will help them and will offer them aid, He knows and cares when we are suffering.

If anything, this initial lesson ought to impress upon our minds how we need to be faithful children of God so that we can receive God’s comfort and blessing. There’s nothing more important in all the world, especially in the times during which we are living when there is so much ungodliness, sin, and persecution for Christians to live faithfully before the Lord today.

The Book of Revelation tells us how we desperately need to be children of God.

Go To Revelation Part 2

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Hebrews 12:1

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