Scriptures

The Book Of Revelation Part 2

Introduction

‘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

We have just discussed the first three mains points.
1. Revelation is a symbolic book.

2. It was written about things that were ‘soon to take place.’

3. Revelation was written to encourage or comfort Christians in the first century.

In this part of our lesson we will be identifying some of the main characters in the book, the time frame, and where those events would be occurring.

4. Point number four is that Revelation identifies the dragon and the two beasts.

Like in any vision, in order to fully understand it, we must understand who the main characters are. Some of the characters in this book are ‘the dragon’ and the ‘two beasts’. Who are these characters, and who or what do they represent?

The Dragon

Let us remember again that this is a figurative or symbolic book. God showed or signified to John and the saints many things that were figurative, and that weren’t meant to be taken literally because they were symbols. So, who or what is the dragon, and what does the dragon represent?

I want to direct your attention to Revelation 12 so that you can notice where the dragon is clearly identified as none other than Satan, the devil himself.

‘The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.’ Revelation 12:9

The dragon is here identified very clearly, he is the devil, Satan who ‘leads the whole world astray.’ In John 8:44 Jesus identified the devil as a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Revelation 12:9 clearly identifies the dragon as Satan, which is a big help to our understanding the Book of Revelation.

Toward the end of the book, the dragon also is identified. Look at Revelation 20.

‘He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.’ Revelation 20:2

Here we see God binding Satan, the dragon for a thousand years. When we come to the Book of Revelation, let’s understand that the dragon, a mythical creature that throughout human history in literature has wreaked havoc represents the devil, which is the most fearful adversary mankind has.

I am reminded of 1 Peter 5 where we are told that the devil is ‘like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he may devour.’1 Peter 5:8.

The Sea And Land Beast

In point number four we learn not only who the dragon is, but also who ‘the sea beast’ and the ‘land beast’ are. These powerful figures represent someone or something during the time of the first century. Let’s take a moment to identify from the Scriptures some characteristics that accompany the sea beast so that we can understand who or what this is.

The Sea Beast represents Rome And Her Rulers

In Revelation 13:1-10 we see some of the characteristics of the sea beast.

‘The beast I saw resembled a leopard but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.’ Revelation 13:2

‘People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’ Revelation 13:4

These texts tell us that the sea beast has been given its power by the dragon. So, the sea beast is a tool, or a pawn in the hand of Satan. It’s under Satan’s control, and as such is a wicked and ungodly figure. Whoever or whatever this beast is, it’s being ruled by ‘the god of this world’, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Satan himself.

‘People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’ Revelation 13:4

Notice that people worship the beast. Whatever this beast was, during the first century people were worshipping it. History tells us that the rulers, or Caesars of Rome often were viewed as gods. That’s how they viewed themselves. And the annals of history clearly show that the people worshipped Roman emperors as gods. Thus, we see that the sea beast receives its power from Satan, and that people worshipped the beast.

‘All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.’ Revelation 13:8

This verse tells us something interesting about those who don’t worship the beast. Only those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life didn’t worship the beast. So, who is it, who isn’t worshiping the beast? It’s the Christians because those who names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life were the ones who weren’t worshiping the beast.

‘This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. ‘The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.’ Revelation 17:9-12

In Revelation 17:9-12 we see the seven heads of the beast as representative of seven hills and seven kings. What would people in the first century naturally have thought when they read something like that? Rome always has been known as ‘the city set on seven hills.’

It also had seven major kings or Caesars. What is the sea beast? It’s none other than Rome and her rulers. The sea beast wasn’t a figure that would show up 2,000 years down the road. It wasn’t something about which God was prophesying that had to do with us today.

Christians would have understood this, the sea beast was under the control of Satan, and was none other than Rome and her rulers.

‘It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.’ Revelation 13:7

Here we see another characteristic of the sea beast, its identified as a persecutor of the saints and as a dominate world power. Who persecuted Christians? Rome did. Who was the dominant world power during the first century? Rome and her rulers, the Caesars were.

Revelation 13 gives us adequate information to know that the sea beast is representative of Rome. When we see the sea beast under the control of the dragon, we can know that it’s speaking of Rome and her rulers, all of which would have been easily recognised by first century Christians.

The Land Beast Represents The People Under The Power Of The Roman Government

But what about the second beast, the land beast? Revelation 13:11-18 identifies the land beast.

‘It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.’ Revelation 13:12

This text says that the land beast exercises the authority of the first beast. It’s as if the land beast works under the sea beast, which has given the land beast its authority. We also see that the land beast causes the people to make an image of, and to worship, the sea beast. The land beast has authority and goes around enforcing worship of the sea beast.

‘And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.’ Revelation 13:13-14

Here we see that the land beast, through trickery and other things that were not real, makes people think that the sea beast is a god. Remember that people viewed Roman emperors as gods. It was the land beast’s job to make sure that people looked up to the emperors as gods. In Revelation 13:14 we learn that the land beast causes people to make images of the sea beast.

Archaeology has shown us that the Romans made busts or images of their gods which then were placed on pedestals so that people could worship them on a regular basis. It was the land beast’s job to see to it that people made such images and worshiped the sea beast.

‘The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.’ Revelation 13:15

This tells us that the land beast would even put people to death if they did not worship the sea beast. Thus, the land beast is representative of some type of militia, a group of people who went around forcing people to worship the sea beast and punishing them if they refused to do so.

‘It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.’ Revelation 13:16-17

This identifies some people who worshiped the sea beast, and who were known by marks on their hands and foreheads. This mark signified that a person’s allegiance was to the sea beast. It was the land beast’s job to be sure that the mark was clearly seen and known. The land beast is identified as a false prophet.

Who is this land beast?

The sea beast is Rome and her rulers, and if it’s the job of the second beast to go around and force people to worship the sea beast and to set up images of the sea beast, then the second beast is representative of a type of militia, government officials, or army that went around and caused people to worship the sea beast.

The dragon is Satan and in the hand of the dragon is the sea beast, Rome and her rulers that’s causing Christians to suffer. The land beast represents people under the power of the Roman government who were going around and trying to force Christians to give their allegiance to Satan by worshiping the sea beast. Understanding this helps us understand much of what the Book of Revelation is about.

5. Point number five identifies the harlot in Babylon.

The Harlot Represents Rome

If we’re going to understand who the dragon is, we also must understand who the harlot and Babylon are. These two figures are mentioned in Revelation 17 and 18. The harlot is none other than the city of Rome itself.

Let me list some facts for you that will help you see that the harlot is Rome.

‘The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’ Revelation 17:18

The text says that the harlot is a great city. During the time of the Book of Revelation, there was no city greater than the city of Rome. Millions of people lived there, and it was a powerful world force.

‘With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’ Revelation 17:2

The text says that the harlot had committed adultery with the kings of the Earth. Who was making foreign alliances and bringing foreign nations under her power? It was Rome.

‘Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.’ Revelation 17:3

We also are told that the harlot rode on the back of the beast. Because Rome and her rulers were the beast, she is the one who is riding on the back of the beast.

‘The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.’ Revelation 17:4

This says that she lives a luxurious life. Rome, its senate, and its elite inhabitants lived one of the most luxurious lives you could ever imagine.

‘I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.’ Revelation 17:6

This says that the harlot was drunk with the blood of Christians. During the time of the first century, Rome was the main persecutor of Christians, the Romans were putting Christians to death. Some were being thrown to the lions. Anyone caught worshiping as a child of God was put to death.

Who is this harlot?

Revelation 17 identifies as a city that fits the description of none other than Rome itself.

Babylon Represents Rome And Her Government

But what about Babylon? Who or what is Babylon? Revelation 18 tells us about Babylon, taking our minds back to the image of Babylon in the Old Testament, which depicted Babylon as a great world power that conquered God’s people. Although Babylon of the Old Testament wasn’t a righteous force, God used it for His purposes.

But who is the Babylon mentioned in Revelation 18?

‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!’ Revelation 18:16

‘Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.’ Revelation 18:21

Here we see Babylon mentioned as a great city.

‘For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.’ Revelation 18:3

‘When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.’ Revelation 18:9

These texts say that Babylon commits fornication with those of the world. This is much like the harlot who was committing fornication and living in ungodliness.

‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!’ Revelation 18:16

This says that Babylon dresses and lives luxuriously, which is quite similar to what is said of the harlot. Babylon also is seen as having killed Christians.

‘In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.’ Revelation 18:24

Babylon is a synonym for Rome.

‘BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’ Revelation 17:5

If the harlot is Rome and if Babylon the Great is the mother of harlots, then that is a picture of Rome and her government. The harlot is Rome, Babylon the Great is Rome, which is the evil world force that is causing so much harm to Christians.

6. The sixth point identifies the period of 1,260 days. 42 months, or time, times, and half a time, three and a half years.

This is important because this is the period of time for which the Book of Revelation was written.

‘But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.’ Revelation 11:2

Forty-two months is 1,260 days or three and a half years. Revelation 11-13 is a climatic scene of persecution and the beginning of victory. The two witnesses or prophets who represent the church, are killed. In Revelation 12 we see a great battle where we see Christ and Christians as victorious. But what is the time period of that? It is 1,260 days or 42 months.

‘And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ Revelation 11:3

Now when they finish their testimony, something else will happen.

‘Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them and overpower and kill them.’ Revelation 11:7

‘They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.’ Revelation 12:6

‘The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.’ Revelation 12:14

We have three and a half years, 42 months, or 1,260 days.

‘The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.’ Revelation 13:5-7

Notice how all of this comes together.

‘The beast (the sea beast) was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. (Remember that we have identified the sea beast as Rome and her rulers, and that time frame is 42 months.) It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.’ Revelation 13:5-7

The beast is Rome and her rulers, and the time period is 42 months. This is essential to an understanding of the Book of Revelation because the writing of the book was taking place in an intense period of persecution of Christians by the Roman government and her militia.

This persecution was relatively short lived in duration. And it was for this exact period of intense persecution that the Book of Revelation was written. If we can understand when this was occurring, and we can, and if we can understand that it was a time of persecution by Rome and her government, then we can have a better understanding of when the Book of Revelation was written and for whom it was written.

7. The seventh point is that the Book of Revelation discusses a spiritual, not a physical, kingdom.

‘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.’ Revelation 1:6

The kingdom is present, and we are a kingdom of priests, it’s not a future event, Mark 9:1. In Revelation 1 we learn that John and other Christians were currently in the kingdom.

‘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.’ Revelation 1:9

To understand the Book of Revelation and how God’s kingdom will reign and rule over all other kingdoms, we must understand that this isn’t a physical kingdom being discussed. We aren’t talking about people in a militia conquering other nations. That isn’t how God’s kingdom is going to reign.

Remember what Jesus said to Pilate? ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ John 18:36

The Book of Revelation is about God, Christ, and His kingdom being victorious over all other kingdoms and especially, so far as first century Christians were concerned, the Roman Empire.

Bringing It All Together

Now, let’s tie these things together to see how all of this, fits together. We have identified the main adversaries in the Book of Revelation. The dragon is Satan, the sea beast is Rome and her rulers, and the land beast is those in Rome who enforce worship of the sea beast. Those are the main adversaries in this book.

We also understand where these activities are taking place. They are occurring where Babylon the Great and the harlot are located, and we know that these two represent Rome.

We also understand the time frame, which is three and a half years, since three is the perfect number, and since there is a half after it, then we know that this isn’t something that will last forever. These events were happening during the reign of the beast, Rome.

Look at what we have learned as we have examined these points. We’ve learned who was doing the persecution, we’ve learned where the persecution was taking place and we’ve learned the time period. All of this will help us in our attempts to understand the Book of Revelation.

Do not forget that the Book of Revelation is a very practical book. I haven’t presented these main points just, so we can gain more knowledge about the Book of Revelation in general. Rather, I want to show that this book is a very practical book. Look at some of the lessons we have seen as we have examined the main points.

Lessons Learned

1. We can know that God knows, and cares deeply about, our suffering.

In Revelation 6 we see Christians crying out to God.

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

Those Christians were told to wait a while because God would punish those who were harming them.

‘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

So, from this book we learn that God knows, and cares about, our suffering. How that can help us on a daily level to know that we’re not alone, that God loves us, and that He cares deeply for us! Hebrews 4:15 / 1 Peter 5:7. God even cares for us enough that He provides us with the things of this life, Matthew 6:33.

We are told that if we seek first the kingdom of God and it’s righteous, things such as food, shelter, and clothing will be provided for us, Psalm 37:25.

God will take care of righteous people. We need to understand that the Book of Revelation contains some very practical lessons. When we struggle, have trials, face tribulation, or have things come into our lives that bring us great trouble, there is a God in Heaven Who knows about our suffering, cares for us, and wants to help.

2. We also learn that Satan, our adversary, is to be feared.

He isn’t someone with whom we should flirt or play, Satan is a fearful adversary, but we can win over Satan, Hebrews 2:14. This tells us that Jesus, through death, overcame him who had the power of death, the devil. Yes, Satan is to be feared, He is ‘the serpent of old’, Genesis 3 and the ‘roaring lion’, 1 Peter 5:8. He even can present himself as ‘an angel of light’, 2 Corinthians 11:14. He definitely is be feared.

And yes, Satan can work in human history through human governments to cause Christians to undergo persecution in order to try to cause them to be lost. But if Christians remain faithful, they will always be victorious over the devil.

‘They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’ Revelation 12:11

3. Another wonderful lesson that we can learn from the Book of Revelation is that persecution can have great spiritual value.

‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.’ Revelation 2:10

Jesus said of certain Christians in Revelation 2:10 that they would have to endure persecution for a period of time, but if they would be faithful ‘even unto death,’ then He would give them ‘the crown of life.’ Through their persecution, these people learned great spiritual lessons and were forced to think about what was really important.

That same lesson is true for us today as well. When we face trials or tribulations, or when things happen to us that are difficult, we can gain spiritual wisdom and insight as we allow such things to be of benefit to us. True, we don’t often think about it like that. But that is what Scripture teaches, James 1:2-4.

Our trials can help us, and can have real spiritual value, it’s as though we are being tested in the fire. Impurities that we do not need in our lives will be seen, and we can be refined by those tests. Paul said in Acts 14:22 that ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’

Trials and tribulations help us see what really matters. In 2 Timothy 3:12 we are told that ‘and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’

I hope that these main points will give you a better insight to the Book of Revelation by helping us understand to whom it was written, why it was written, and that its main application is that we must never give up regardless of what happens to us in this life. We must be faithful to God, and in the end, we will have the hope of eternal life.

Go To Revelation Part 3

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Isaiah 53:6

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