A Summary of the Book of Revelation

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Recently, in the LRF we finished studying the book of Revelation. Here is an Amillennial summary of the book written by our pastor. 

 

 

 

A Summary of Revelation

 

 

Introduction: The book of Revelation is a series of symbolic visions designed to reveal Jesus Christ (1:1). The symbolism is taken from the Old Testament, and the general rules of symbolism mean that a symbol has one main idea or point of comparison.  The book must comfort the church of the first century (to whom it was originally written) as well as the church of all ages. Therefore, it does not concern primarily events which have been fulfilled already (preterist), nor is it a prediction of history (historicist), nor does it concern primarily the very end (futurist). It teaches the church of all ages that Christ is coming through history.  The book must not be read as if it records events in chronological order. The book recapitulates or repeats the entire new dispensation and proceeds in a cyclical fashion, viewing the same history from different perspectives. The most awesome figure in the book is not the dragon, the beast or the harlot: it is Christ. We must not lose sight of HIM as we read this wonderful book.

Section 1 (chapters 1-3): The seven churches were real, historical churches, but are also representative of all churches. Seven is symbolic of God’s covenant. The vision of chapters 4-5 is a representation (not literal) of God ruling from heaven (throne is a dominant feature). The "come up hither" of 4:1 does NOT refer to a rapture of the church, and the events which must be "hereafter" do not refer to events in the distant future, but events which take place throughout the entire New Testament Age (from the Ascension to the Second Coming). 

Section 2 (chapters 4-6): The Lamb (Christ) takes the book (the decree of God with respect to His kingdom) at the Ascension and begins to open the book immediately. The first four seals (four horsemen) cannot refer to local, isolated events either past or future, but to the general trend of world history as planned by God and executed by Christ (the white, red, black and pale horses ride throughout the New Testament age and affect a fourth of men, that is, the “normal rate”). The sixth seal brings history to a close (6:12ff.).

Interlude (chapter 7): Rev 7 begins to answer the question, "Who shall be able to stand?" (6:17). The servants of God are sealed. Who are they: ALL believers, Jews and Gentiles, the church. Why? 1) All believers are sealed (Eph. 1:13); 2) All believers are the servants of God; 3) The entire NT testifies that the NT church is Israel (Rom. 2:28-29, 4:11-14, 22-25, 9:6, 23-27; Gal. 3:7, 9, 16, 28-29; 4:26-31, 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; Phil. 3:3; Col 2:11-13; Tit 2:13-14; I Peter 2:4-5, 9-10, etc.). This chapter assures the church that during the opening of the seals she is protected by God with a “seal” (this does not mean that the church is taken out of the world but is spiritually preserved in the world). The number 144,000 is a symbolic number which refers to all the elect at any given time in history (12x12x1000; Eph. 1:13). We will meet the 144,000 again in Rev. 14:1. At the end of the chapter we are given a vision of the entire gathered and glorified church.

Section 3 (chapters 8-9): The trumpets cannot come after the seals (chronologically) because after the sixth seal the universe comes to an end (6:14ff) and in chapter 8 the universe (trees, seas, etc) is still intact. Rather, chapter 8 is an intensification of the judgments of chapter 6.  Trumpets have the function that they warn. They are greater in intensity than the seals (one third vs. one quarter is affected). Before the trumpets sound, the vision of the offering of the incense and prayers of all saints is seen. This vision (8:1-6) shows us that our prayers are part of the counsel of God, and that He sends judgments in answer to our prayers. The first four trumpets form a unit (like the four horsemen of Rev 6): they affect vegetation, seas (transportation networks, etc), rivers (drinking water, etc) and the heavenly bodies (possibly the climate). When something extraordinary happens designed to capture man's attention, that is the blowing of God's trumpet! After the first 4 trumpets, an angel announces three more trumpets, three woes (worse than the first four).Chapter 9 describes trumpets five and six. The star in 9:1 is almost certainly Satan (Luke 10:18; John 12:31). He falls at Christ's ascension (Rev. 12:5, 9-10). The fifth trumpet blows throughout the NT age and intensifies toward the end. These are not literal locusts, but an army of demons bringing misery upon men. The imagery reflects Exodus 10 and Joel 1-2. These infernal locusts do not kill men, or even harm vegetation, but bring darkness (darkness, despair, confusion, corruption, etc). Perhaps they attract by sensuality, but their sting is in their tails. The sixth trumpet is a great war (see parallel in chapter 16, and notice that one third are killed). These horses are no more literal than those of chapter 6. 

Interlude (chapters 10-11): These visions are not part of the 6th trumpet or the 7th trumpet (which does not sound until 11:5). The vision of chapter 10 assures us of the sovereignty and faithfulness of God, that there will be no delay in His purposes (cf. Ezek 2:8-3:3). Chapter 11 is similar to chapter 7, but now the imagery is of measuring instead of sealing. The temple is neither Herod's temple (it was destroyed in AD 70), nor a future millennial temple (there is no such promise in the New Testament) but the church (I Cor. 3:16-17; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21; I Pet 2:5).  The church proper (the true worshippers of God) are measured and protected, but the outer court and city are not (these are the hypocrites and false Christianity associated with the church). There are three parallel periods of time: 42 months (11:2), 1260 days (11:3) and time, times and half a time (12:14). This refers to (roughly) the entire period between the Ascension of Christ and his Second Coming. During this time the church is protected. The two witnesses are not two individual persons (such as Moses and Elijah, or Enoch and Elijah), but the two anointed ones of Zech 4:14 (they were the then officebearers in Israel, Zerubbabel and Joshua, and refer to the church in her official preaching ministry). The two men are not individuals just as the woman (12:1) and the harlot (17:4) and the bride (21:9-10) are not individual women. The meaning is that the church, as represented by the witnesses, will preach throughout the New Testament age (see Matt 24:14): she will preach repentance (sackcloth, 11:3); she will be invincible (the fire of 11:5 is figurative, see Jer. 5:14) and through her ministry and prayers God will judge the world (see James 5:17 and Rev. 8:5).They will preach until they have finished their testimony (and not before!) (11:7) and only then will the Beast (to be introduced in chapter 13) kill them, that is, he will silence for a short time the official voice of the church. Rev. 11 brings us with the seventh trumpet (11:15) to the end of the world again.

          Section 4 (Chapters 12-14): Revelation 12 is a new vision (the woman and the dragon) and does not come chronologically after chapters 8-11. In fact, Revelation 12 brings us back to the beginning of the NT age. The woman (12:1) is the church (Old Testament Israel); the dragon is the devil (12:3); the man child is Christ (12:5) and the woman (12:6ff.) is the church (NT church). In the Old Testament the church was “pregnant” (since Gen 3:15) with the promise of Christ. During that time the devil fought a war on two fronts: he attempted to prevent the coming of Christ and to destroy Him; and he attempted to accuse the saints in heaven. Because of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ he failed on both fronts, and now makes war against the church. God protects the church from the devil. Revelation 13 will teach us how the devil wages war against the church by means of the beast (Antichristian kingdom).                                                                     

Revelation 13 is a distinct vision related to chapter 12. It explains how the frustrated dragon makes war with the remnant of the woman’s seed (12:17). He employs a number of instruments, namely the wicked world described under the imagery of beasts. The beast from the sea (13:1ff.) is a political entity, a composite of the four beasts of Daniel 7. Its development and gradual revelation occur throughout 42 months (this symbolic period of time is parallel with the prophesying of the Two Witnesses [11:3] and the dwelling of the woman in the wilderness [12:6, 14]. We thus see three parallel time periods of 42 months, 1260 days and time, times and half a time or three and a half years). Each of these periods refers to the entire New Testament Age, beginning with the Ascension of Christ. At the end of history, for a short time, Satan does establish a worldwide, universal, man-centred, devil-worshipping, God-defying, Christ-hating, blasphemous, wicked kingdom. Another aspect of Satan’s kingdom is religious, seen in the second beast, from the earth (13:11ff.). The kingdom of the Antichrist demands universal allegiance (just as the Lamb “seals” His people on their foreheads, so the Beast marks his followers on their hands and foreheads, signifying an allegiance of body and soul). The mark of the Beast is some indication of spiritual allegiance. It is not necessarily a physical or visible thing (barcodes, microchips, etc). The mark or number of the Beast is 666, which means godless man (one short of 7) to the nth degree.

Revelation14 assures us (in a similar fashion to Revelation 7) that, while the Beast is in his ascendancy, and seems to triumph, the Lamb is still standing on Mt. Zion (Ps. 2:6; Heb. 12:22) and all of His 144,000 are safely with Him.  The Lamb standing on Mt. Zion is symbolic of Christ’s rule in His church. The response to this is worship (14:2-3). Three angels bring three messages of comfort: First, God is sovereign. Worship Him (v. 7); Second, Babylon is fallen (v. 8); Third, the beasts’ followers will be damned (v. 9-13). These messages are both a comfort and a warning. This is followed by a vision of the end under the imagery of the treading of grapes. The vision conveys the idea of utter destruction in the winepress of God’s wrath (see Is. 63; Rev. 19:15).

Section 5 (Chapters 15-16): In these chapters we see the vials (bowls) of God’s wrath poured out on an impenitent and hardened world. Clearly, this vision concerns events before the final harvest of chapter 14. Chapter 15 is preparatory: the vision reminds us of Exodus 15, and assures us of the justice of God’s wrath. The vials are poured out in chapter 16. The effect is similar to the blowing of the seven trumpets (the first four vials affect the creation on which man depends; the second three vials affect the kingdom of man more directly). The sixth vial creates the conditions necessary for Armageddon. The River Euphrates is dried up, which  means that a barrier is removed (Is 44:27), so that the wicked world gathers together against the church to destroy it. This is effected by demons from the mouths of the dragon, beast and false prophet, which deceive the nations to gather them to battle. Armageddon (named after Megiddo) is a battle in which God gathers enemies against His people, where everything seems hopeless, and where God rescues His people suddenly and miraculously. God gathers the wicked together for their destruction (Judg. 4:1-3, 14-16; 5:19-21; Joel 3:1-2, 11-14; Micah 4:11-13; Zech. 12:2-3; 14:1-5; Rev. 20:7-9). The seventh vial is poured out. This spells the utter destruction of the world in language similar to the sixth seal and sixth trumpet (Rev. 6:12-17; 11:15-19).

Section 6 (Chapters 17-19): The destruction of Babylon the Great, the harlot/whore and the beast.

The events of chapter 17 occur before the events of chapter 16:12ff. Babylon is the world in her seduction, tempting men with pleasure and luxury (I John 2:16). She is portrayed as a harlot (alluring, luxurious, flirtatious, etc) and a city (powerful, wealthy, hedonistic, etc.).  She has a kind of symbiotic relationship with the beast (17:3; see 13:1). From a safe spot in the wilderness (see 12:14), John beholds her with amazement. An angel describes the historical development of the beast (his seven heads and ten horns). The beast has had several historical manifestations. In John’s day, the sixth manifestation was in power (the sixth head or sixth mountain, 17:9-10). In the future, the Beast would rise again in another form (the seventh head or seventh mountain), and it would develop into the eighth kingdom (17:11). The sixth head/mountain is the Roman Empire. The seventh head/mountain will be a future, worldwide political empire, and to that empire ten kings (a perfect number) will give their power (17:12). It is likely that the harlot will seduce them to ally with the beast. But God will overthrow the harlot, beast and dragon. Their destruction is described in chapters 18, 19 and 20.

Chapter 18 describes the fall of Babylon/the harlot (see Is. 13:19-21; 21:9; 47:1-15; Jer. 51:6-9, 60-64; Ezek. 27:29-36). Babylon’s fall is sudden, certain, complete, final and just. It is the occasion of the lamentation (but not repentance) of the world. Chapter 19 is heaven’s joyful celebration at the fall of Babylon, the announcement of the marriage supper of the Lamb, and a vision of the Second Coming, culminating (again) in the battle of Armageddon (see 14:14-20; 16:12-21; 20:7-10) with the utter destruction of the beast, the false prophet and all the wicked under the imagery of vultures gorging on their flesh (see Ezek. 39:4, 17-19). Clearly, Revelation 19 brings us again to the end of history.

Section 7 (Chapters 20-22): The binding of Satan, the reigning of the saints, and the New Creation.

The events of Revelation 20 do not occur chronologically after the events of Revelation 19. This is clear because Revelation 19 describes the end of the world (as did 6:12ff; 11:15ff; 14:14ff; and 16:17ff.). Revelation 20 describes two great events. First, on earth Satan is bound. This happens at the cross (John 12:31) and makes it possible for the church to be gathered during the NT age. Satan’s binding is with respect to one specific activity, the deceiving of the nations to bring them against the people of God (vv. 3, 8). The period during which Satan is bound is 1,000 years, which is a symbolic period referring to the entire NT age.

While Satan is bound on earth, the saints reign with Christ in heaven. John sees “souls” (v. 4). He does not see men living on earth, but souls in heaven. These souls are not of earthly kings but of beheaded martyrs, referring to the persecuted saints of all ages (v. 4). In the book of Revelation the thrones are in heaven (see also Eph 2:6; I Cor. 6:2-3) and the throne of the devil is on the earth (2:13; 13:2; 16:10).  There is nothing in Revelation 20 to suggest an earthly kingdom of either Christians or Jews for 1,000 years. All such ideas are read into the passage from elsewhere. Revelation 20 describes the victory of the saints in their souls in death. Nothing can separate them from Christ. Reigning in the soul with Christ in heaven is called “the first resurrection” (v. 5). The second resurrection will be the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming of Christ. The state of the wicked during this period is not described in Revelation 20, except “the rest of the dead lived not again” (v. .5).

At the end of the 1,000 years Satan is loosed, gathers Gog and Magog (the same Gog and Magog destroyed in 14:17; 16:16 and 19:17 and prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39) against the church. The result is sudden, final destruction of the wicked and of Satan himself (20:9-10), followed by one, final, general, public judgment.

Revelation 21-22 is the final vision, the blessedness of the new creation with the glorified church as the bride of Christ at its centre. The new creation is promised in Isaiah 65:17ff; II Cor. 5:17; and II Peter 3:7-14.

We must be careful not to think of Revelation 21-22 in carnal terms. This is not to deny that the new creation is a physical place, but the blessedness of the new creation is fellowship with God in Jesus Christ (God’s tabernacle; the water of life, which in Scripture is symbolic of the Spirit’s refreshment [John 4:10-14; 7:37-39]), not walking on streets of gold. Revelation 21:9ff. is a description of the glorified church under the imagery of a beautiful city. In v. 9 the angel says he will show “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” whereupon John sees “the holy Jerusalem” descending out of heaven. Clearly, we are meant to identify them, that is, the Lamb’s wife is the new Jerusalem! (Gal 4:26; Heb 11:10, 16; 12:22; Rev 3:12). Indeed, the parallels between this passage and Ezekiel 40-48 are unmistakable (compare 21:9-10 with Ezek 40:2-4; that latter passage is not the promise of a millennial temple, but the promise of eternal life under the OT imagery of a temple). When the church is without spot or wrinkle (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Jude 24) she will be like a holy community, beautified with the glory and holiness of Christ (imagery of city; foundations; gold and precious stones; walls, etc.). Blessed catholicity (repetition of the number 12 and its derivatives [144] and the names of the apostles and the tribes of Israel), blessed activity, blessed permanency: these are features of the vision. Revelation 22 adds the imagery of a garden (paradise, river of life, tree of life; see Ezek 47) as well as the bliss of fellowship with God in Christ (see II Cor. 4:6).  Surely eye hath not seen, etc. (see I Cor. 2:9)!

The book ends with promises and exhortations. Appropriately, the book climaxes with the prayer of the church: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and the benediction (“the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” [22:21]).