Revelation

Revelation

Revelation Reading List (click here)


Week 50 (4.28.24)

(Rev 22:1-21)

The final description of the New Jerusalem (22:1-5) contains many elements that relate back to the Garden of Eden. They focus on the river of life and the tree of life. Ezekiel’s prophetic picture of the end-times temple has been in mind all through this section. The river here is the same river Ezekiel saw flowing out from the end-times temple (Eze 47:1-12). Zechariah prophesied that a day would come when earthly light would be no more, and on that day, “living waters” would flow out from Jerusalem (Zech 14:6-8). Joel prophesied (Joel 3:18) about a “fountain flowing from the Lord’s house.” In John 4:4-14, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman about living water. In John 7:37-39 we find that the “living water” Jesus spoke about was the Holy Spirit. (Always seek to let Scripture interpret Scripture.)

As we’ve seen countless times, Old Testament prophesies were the basis for nearly every vision that John saw in Revelation. From beginning to end (Genesis–Revelation), God’s story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation has been playing out exactly as God planned it “before the world began” (see Prov 8:23; John 17:5).

Zechariah prophesied (Zech 14:11) that in the days following the final battle against God’s enemies, Jerusalem would be established forever under the eternal reign of God. At that time there would be no more curse (i.e., “decree of utter destruction”). The destruction would instead come on those outside the city who attack it (Zech 14:13). Christ has redeemed us from the curse by taking it upon himself (Gal 3:13). The redeemed saints of all nations are delivered from all evil, spiritual or physical.

The visionary part of Revelation ends with 22:5, and concludes with promise, exhortation, and confirmation, in order to drive home to our hearts the message of the visions, and to stir up hope for the coming of the Lord Jesus (22:20). The theme of witness runs through the whole book. Christ is the preeminent witness (1:5), John communicates this witness throughout the book (1:2-3), and the saints take up the task of witness in the face of opposition (2:10 13; 11:3-12).

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” —Rev 22:7

Jesus promises to come soon. As in 1:1, the shortness of the time is from the standpoint of OT prophecy, especially Daniel. Daniel prophesied about things that were distant in time. John prophesies about the things that are even now in process of realization, since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Saints are always supposed to be watchful, not knowing when the Lord will come (Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:35-48; 17:20-37).

Verse 11 exhorts us to perseverance in doing right. Under persecution, oppression,, and discouragement, saints are tempted to lose heart and compromise. We’re called to persevere in the faith (cf. Heb 10:35-39; 3:6). If people do not repent when they hear the word of God, it increases their hardness (e.g., Pharaoh in Exodus). If hearing Revelation doesn’t change one’s course of life, it fixes one more firmly to one’s present course, on whichever side the battle may be (cf. Dan 12:10; Eze 3:27; 2 Cor 2:15-16).

God distributes rewards and punishments according to what people have done, as in 20:12. The saints are saved by the grace of God in the work of Christ (cf. Eph 2:1-10). But they are not saved in order to continue in sin. Even during this life, the saints begin to live a holy life, and God is pleased to reward them for their works. The imperfections in these works and the remaining contaminations from sinful inclinations, are covered by the blood of Christ. Good works are not the basis for eternal life, as if we earned life through our own efforts, but they are demonstrations of the genuineness of our fatih and of the justice of God’s judgment (1 Pet 1:7; 2 Thes 1:5).

The time of consummation has not yet come. But it will come. By picturing the final triumph of God and unimaginable splendors to follow, Revelation stirs up our longing for that final day. The Spirit leads the church in prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus” (v 20). The bride, i.e., the church (Rev 19:7; Eph 5:22-33), takes up the prayer and longing, as she is taught by the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:15-16).

Rev 22:18-19 reminds us that God’s word is holy; it is distinguished from all merely human words. No person is authorized to add or to subtract from the word of God (Deut 4:2; 12:32; Prov 30:6). Remember that Revelation is a letter written to the church. And we’re reminded here that God’s word is not to be tampered with; it needs no “updating” or supposed “improvements.” Jezebel and the false teachers mentioned in Rev 2:14-15, 20 claimed to be Christians, but they distorted the truth. Such tampering remains a real possibility throughout church history — right down to the present time in many liberal denominations. Many are being encouraged to compromise their faith to avoid persecution (and will suffer the consequences). Don’t be one of them!

John seems to know that there is going to be a time of waiting for Jesus’s promised coming and that his people are going to need grace to be able to wait for that day and persevere until that day. And so he prays that we will experience that grace: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Blessed is the one who reads 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.—Rev 1:3

 

AMEN! MAY YOU NEVER READ REVELATION THE SAME WAY AGAIN.


Week 49 (4.21.24)

(Rev 21:9-27)

The vision in this passage deals with a description of the eternal city, the new Jerusalem. It is based on Ezekiel’s similar vision (Eze 40-48), but whereas Ezekiel saw a temple, a city, and a land, John’s vision combines all three into a picture of the end-times presence of God with his people, in which the city, the temple, and the land are one.

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. —Rev 21:9

John first sees the bride of the Lamb (v 9-11). The wording is very similar to 17:1-3, where John was shown the prostitute Babylon. The close similarity in wording is a deliberate contrast between the two women, one faithful and the other not. Both pictures are clearly symbolic, in that they do not portray a particular woman. Note that when John was “shown” the great prostitute, so he is also “shown” the beautiful Bride. We know the great prostitute was symbolic, so it makes sense to interpret the New Jerusalem as symbolic as well.

The fact that John is carried away in the Spirit links him with Ezekiel, who had similar experiences. The mountain, great and high is in line with OT expectations that the end-times restored Jerusalem would be located on a mountain (Isa 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2). Isaiah also speaks of the future Jerusalem as a bride and as a city whose walls and foundations will be adorned with precious stones (Isa 54:1-3, 11-12).

Like the gates of Ezekiel’s city, each gate has the name of one tribe inscribed on it. But the foundations of the city have the names of the twelve apostles written on them. The church, represented by the apostles, is the foundation of restored Israel. The number twenty-four is the total of the twelve tribes and twelve apostles. Recall the twenty-four elders in Rev 4:3-4 which suggests they are heavenly representatives of the covenant people of God through the ages. The church on earth is the beginning fulfillment of all the OT prophecies of the restoration of Israel, in that it is pictured as God’s temple (see 1 Cor 3:16-17; Eph 2:21-22; 1 Pet 2:5).

The measuring rod of gold (v. 15). This seems to be the same figure seen by Ezekiel in his temple vision (Eze 40:3). An angel measures the end-times Jerusalem “to see its width and what is its length” (Zech 2:2). The measuring, as in Rev 11:1-2, is a reference to God’s protection. Here, the entire city-temple is measured. The inhabitants of the new Jerusalem are protected in every way. Note that when John was “shown” the great prostitute, so he is also “shown” the beautiful Bride. We know the great prostitute was symbolic, so it makes sense for us to interpret the New Jerusalem as symbolic as well.

The city is a cube (16). Ezekiel’s temple was square (45:2), as were the alters in the tabernacle (Exo 27:1; 30:2), and also the breastpiece worn by the High Priest (Exo 28:16). But perhaps the strongest allusion here is to the holy of holies in the temple, which was also a cube (1 Kings 6:20). There is a thread running through Scripture centering on the place of God’s presence. The holy of holies was itself a symbolic replica of the garden, complete with carvings of fruit and trees, and guarded by angels. The breastpiece of the high priest was a miniature version of the holy of holies, with its precious stones pointing back to the garden. The garden-city of the new Jerusalem is the ultimate fulfillment of what was intended at Eden —that the presence of God be extended throughout the creation. Adam failed in his mission to do so, even as Israel, which was called to be a light to the nations, likewise failed. Christ, the typological second Adam, succeeded in his mission, with the result that the presence of God is realized in the church, his worldwide temple.

He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. —Rev 21:17

The height is symbolic, based on the twelve tribes multiplied by the twelve apostles (144) to represent the entire people of God. The human measurements are to be understood spiritually rather than literally. This is in line with the correct way of understanding all of John’s visions. John sees things before him and records what he sees, but the meaning of them must be understood spiritually and in line with the OT Scriptures, which are continually referenced.

The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. The purity of the gold enables the city to reflect the glory of God who indwells it (v. 23).

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (v. 22). By contrast with the earthly Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem has no physical temple, for the Lord himself is the temple. Ezekiel gave a lengthy description of the eternal temple, but all that he said in chapters 40-43 is reshaped into this one phrase. Jeremiah prophesied that the latter-days Jerusalem would be called “the throne of the Lord” to which all nations would be gathered (Jer 3:17). Haggai said that “the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former” (Hag 2:9). Christ interpreted his resurrection as a rebuilding of the temple (Jn 2:19-22; Mk 14:58; 15:29). The NT pictures Christ as the cornerstone of the new temple (see Mat 21:42; Acts 4:11; Rom 9:32-33; Eph 2:20). What was begun in Christ’s earthly ministry and continued in his building of the church on earth is brought to fulfillment in the heavenly temple.

Note: In his judgment against the Jewish people, the temple complex was abandoned by Christ, both physically and spiritually, as he made his way to the Mount of Olives. “Your house is left to you desolate” (Mat 23:38). It has ceased to be God’s house. When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mat 27:51). God forever ceased to bless it with his presence. It became Ichabod which means “the glory has departed” (see 1 Sam 4:21, when the ark was captured by the Philistines). Significantly it was destroyed 35 years later by Titus (A.D. 70).

HOMEWORK: 
The River of Life / Jesus is Coming Soon
Rev 22:1-21


Week 48 (4.14.24)

(Rev 21:1-8)

A new vision commences. Verses 1-8 introduce the fuller description that runs from 21:9 – 22:5.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. —Rev 21:1

The picture of a new heaven and a new earth comes from Isaiah. The restoration of Israel will take place in “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17). The sea, identified in Revelation as the dwelling place of evil (13:1), of Babylon (17:1), and of the unsaved dead (20:13), will be no more. The only “sea” remaining is the lake of fire. The Biblical roots of this negative identification of the sea lie in the Red Sea as the barrier to freedom placed in the way of the children of Israel.

The picture of the new Jerusalem as a bride adorned for her husband is taken from Isa 62:1-5, where Jerusalem is described as a bride whose bridegroom rejoices over her. It is also drawn from Isa 52:1-2, where the prophet calls on Jerusalem to put on beautiful garments and inter into freedom. Jerusalem will be restored as the Lord returns to Zion (Isa 52:7). The new Jerusalem does not refer to the nation of Israel, for peoples of all nations will be included in the new Jerusalem ( see Eph 2).

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  As far back as Lev 26:11-12, God made this promise: “I will make my dwelling among you … And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” Many centuries after Moses, Ezekiel confirmed the same promise: “My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God,, and they shall be my people” (Eze 37:27). This promise is echoed in Ezekiel’s description of the eternal temple: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne … where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever” (Eze 43:7). These words are fulfilled here not in a physical nation in a physical earth, but in a spiritual nation dwelling in an eternal creation. The old tabernacle was physical and only the Jewish high priest could enter, and even then only once a year. The new tabernacle is spiritual, representing the very presence of God himself, and now every believer can enter at any time. This end-times dwelling place of God, prophesied in Leviticus and Ezekiel, is present in a beginning form in the church (2 Cor 6:16, quoting Lev 26:11-12), but will reach its glorious climax in the new creation.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” —Rev 21:4

Ezekiel prophesies that Gentiles will be given an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. God promised Abraham that in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). He described this by saying, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Gen 12:7). Paul tells us this offspring of Abraham is Christ (Gal 3:16). The “land” is not the physical territory of Israel, but the spiritual territory of the church throughout the world, fulfilled ultimately in the eternal new Jerusalem.

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”  This declaration finds its roots in the words of Jesus on the cross: “It is finished.”  What Jesus finished on the cross has now found its fulfillment in the new creation. God says the same thing near the beginning of the book (Rev 1:8), where he also describes himself (echoing Isa 41:4; 44:6; 48:12) as “the first and the last.”

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”  Whatever the lake of fire signifies, its everlasting punishment, characterized by fire and sulfur (symbolic of God’s judgment), must be more than simple separation from God, though that itself is surely its worst aspect.

HOMEWORK: 
Description of Heaven
Rev 21:9-27


Week 47 (4.7.24)

(Rev 20:11-15)

But, wait! What about the Great White Throne judgment??? We didn’t quite get around to that one.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … —Rev 20:11

Like the previous visions of God on his throne in Rev 4 and 5, this verse alludes to Daniel 7, where God sits on a throne and books are opened. Like previous descriptions of the final judgment in 6:14 and 16:20, earth and sky have fled away. These are about to be replaced by a new heaven and earth (21:1). The vision continues: And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books (v 12). Daniel also saw books being opened, which appeared to be books of judgment (Dan 7:10). However, he also saw a book in which the names of the saved were entered (v 12). In Rev 11:18 and 19:18, which are parallel accounts of the final judgment, the judgment of “both small and great” is also mentioned, with reference to believers in the first passage and unbelievers in the second.

Then comes the conclusion: The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (13-15). The sea, like Death and Hades, represents demonic powers (see 13:1), going back to its original significance as the barrier to freedom for the children of Israel (i.e., the Red Sea). In the new creation, there will be no sea (21:1Sorry, Marsha!). The punishment of Death and Hades are now replaced by the eternal torment of the lake of fire. In other words, the temporary punishment following the first, physical death, is replaced by the second, spiritual death. Death and Hades represent demonic spheres, not geographical places. So, if the second death is spiritual, then the nature of this death is spiritual rather than physical in nature. Its primary feature is separation from God through denial of entry into the new Jerusalem (21:27).

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. —Rev 20:15

The people of God (saints) do not suffer judgment, because they have received life through identification with the Lamb and his sacrificial death (and resurrection!). Their names are written in the book of life, which is also referred to as “the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (13:8; see 21:27).

Of course, we know that alll who are believers in Jesus Christ will be judged, but it is a judgment not to determine who enters God’s kingdom and who is excluded, but a judgment to determine the rewards that God will bestow on all of of us for the works we have performed for the glory of Christ (see 2 Cor 5:8-10).


Week 46 (3.31.24 – Easter Sunday)

(Rev 7-15)

John’s vision now moves to the end of the thousand year period: And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea (v. 7-8).  This prison is the same as the bottomless pit in 1-3. Up to this point, Satan has been restricted in his ability to deceive the nations, so that the preaching of the Gospel has drawn a response throughout the church age. Now this restraint, in the sovereign purposes of God, has been removed. The result is not only that there is little or no response to the Gospel message, but that the enemy is able to bring an army from the four corners of the earth to launch a worldwide attack upon the church. The O.T. background (as in similar verses 16:14 and 19:19) is Eze 38:2-7, 39:2, as well as Zech 12-14 and Zeph 3. All these passages emphasize that God is the ultimate author of this gathering. It is God himself who ultimately brings the nations against the worldwide, spiritual Jerusalem of the last days. John follows Ezekiel in using “Gog and Magog” as an expression for the nations of the earth. None of these phrases can be used to justify interpreting the passage as predicting a Russian invasion of Israel (as proposed by many dispensational interpreters). History will witness a progressively worsening situation in which the Church will experience an increasingly widespread and oppressive time of suffering and persecution. We can see it happening all around us now!

The battle comes to it final conclusion: They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them (9). Again, the language here is from Ezekiel, where the worldwide horde comes up (38:11, 16) against God’s last-days people. The “camp of the saints” (ESV) has its roots in Israel’s encampments in the wilderness. The wilderness is the place the church is found in, according to Rev 12:6, 14. It is the place of God’s spiritual protection. The camp of the saints, also identified as the city he loves, describes the worldwide body of Christ. The word saints (ESV) is used in the O.T. to refer to Israel. In Revelation, however, the word is used 13 times, and always refers to the church (5:8-9; 13:7-10; 14:12, etc). This points to the fact that the church has fulfilled physical Israel as God’s last days covenant people. Rev 3:12 states that all Christians of every race and nation will have the name of this city written on them. The walls and foundations of this city will have the names of the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles written on them (21:12-14). This shows it is composed of believers of all ages, including faithful saints of the old covenant. The New Jerusalem is present today, although in an incomplete way (see Gal 4:25; Heb 12:22).

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. —Rev 20:10

Then the final act of the battle plays out: And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (v. 10). These verses are a further account of the events described in 19:17-21. They add the detail that the devil also is thrown into the lake of fire along with the beast and false prophet. This makes the point that the devil is cast into the lake of fire not after the beast and false prophet, but at the same time. Premillennialists argue that the beast and false prophet were cast into the lake of fire prior to the millennium, but 19:17-21 and 20:7-10 describe exactly the same set of events.

Significantly, the lake of fire is also called the “second death” (20:14: 21:8). This final, everlasting punishment of the “second death” is not initiated until the time of the destruction of the physical creation and the introduction of the eternal creation following the millennium (church age). In other words, the scond death intiates the punishment of the lake of fire.

The first death (physical death) occurs until the time of the destruction of the present world. All those who die as unbelievers are held until that time in the realm of “Death and Hades” (20:13). Meanwhile, believers are translated (the “first resurrection of 20:5) into the presence of the Lord (Luke 20:35-38; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23-24). Christ’s possession of the “keys of Death and Hades” (1:18) ensures that believeers do not suffer this punishment.

In that awful fiery place of judgment, the ungodly trinity will suffer everlasting conscious punishment, along with all unbelievers (14:10-11). The lake of burning sulfur is not necessarily literal — Satan and his agents are spiritual beings and fire is symbolic of divine judgment. But it refers to punishment so terrible that human words cannot fully and accurately describe it. The worst punishment of all is eternal exclusion from the presence of God (Rev 21:27; 22:15).

HOMEWORK: 
The Great White Throne Judgment
Rev 20:11-15


Week 45 (3.24.24)

(Rev 20:1-6)

Revelation 20 takes us back to the beginning of the present church age and describes the course of church history up to the end when Christ returns (his Second Coming, not his Third).

This passage is among the most controversial in the book of Revelation (if not the whole Bible). The controversy stems from whether or not the number one thousand should be interpreted literally or symbolically (as are all the other numbers in Revelation). From the dispensational, premiillenial perspective, the “thousand years” represent a literal reign of Christ on the present earth, after the Church has been raptured (nowhere does the Bible teach that the Lord will return twice), and before the so-called Great Tribulation. We’re actually going through the tribulation now (John 16:33). Oh well … one of these days we’ll take a hard look at why various groups believe what they believe; Margaret MacDonald, John Nelson Darby, C. I. Schofield, et al).

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

In this vision, John sees an angel, having the key to the Abyss (aka bottomless pit), seizing the “dragon, that ancient serpent (see Rev 12:9) and binding him for a thousand years. The binding of Satan is commonly misunderstood to mean that Satan no longer has power to deceive. However, it actually refers to the restriction of Satan’s power to deceive the nations by Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. This corresponds with Satan’s being thrown from heaven (Lk 10:18). In other words, Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he could before Christ’s resurrection. The Gospel is now being preached to all nations, despite Satan’s efforts to stop it, during the church age (symbolic thousand year period). The binding, though not complete, is nevertheless real, and operates to protect and bring salvation to those God has sealed (Eph 1:13-14). Those who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit now have their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (see Rev 3:5; 21:27).

The thrones mentioned in v.4  are heavenly, referring to spiritual realities, not earthly ones (as the dispensationalists believe). The O.T. background for this is Dan 7:9-11).  See what the Apostle Paul had to say about this in Eph. 2:5-7. “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus …” (v.4). Beheaded likely refers to all forms of martyrdom, as Christians both now and then died many other ways. This group also includes those who have not worshipped the beast or its image. These deceased saints are included in the heavenly court of judgment. “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (v. 6). If all the deceased saints are portrayed in v. 4, then “the rest of the dead” must refer to all deceased who are lost. So, to avoid the second death, one must experience the first resurrection. The first resurrection includes all the saved of all ages.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” —Rev 20:6

Those who are saved become priests of God, serving eternally in his presence, while the lost are forever separated from him. That they are also reigning as kings refers to his eternal kingdom. This reign begins in the millennium (i.e., now), but will be consummated in eternity following Christ’s return (his one and only Second Coming) and the final judgment.

HOMEWORK: 
Satan’s Doom and Judgment of the Dead
Rev 20:7-15


Week 44 (3.17.24)

(Rev 19:11-21)

The destruction of Babylon was not a complete defeat of the forces of evil. As 17:12-18 shows, God’s agents in defeating Babylon were the beast and his allies. The first Babylon to be defeated was Rome. Spiritual Babylon will fall, as did earthly Bablylon, “in one day” (Isa 47:9). It remains for these last foes of God to be vanquished. In today’s passage, Christ and his armies are described (11-16), the imminent destruction of the enemy is announced (17-18), and the defeat of the beast, the false prophet, and their followers are described.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! —Rev 19:11

White in Revelation speaks of righteousness, purity and God’s vindication of the saints, who are robed in white (7-8). The one on the horse is called Faithful and True, which speaks of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises to vindicate the saints and judge the wicked. This is similar to Behold, a white horse! we saw in Rev 6:1. However, the picture of the rider on the white horse in that instance was based on Zechariah’s picture of four horses sent by God as emissaries of punishment on Israel’s enemies (Zech 6:1-8). These horses and their riders are demonic in nature, bringing war, plague, and death, of which God is never the ultimate author. The rider of that horse was likely Satan, the counterfeit Christ.

“He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God” (13-14). The blood on his robe here is likely based on Isa 63:1-6, where God comes as judge, with blood on his garments as he treads the winepress of his anger. The name The Word of God refers to the fact that the rider will judge according to God’s own words. In addition, the phrase “words of God” in 17:17 and 19:9 refer to the fulfillment of prophecy, so that in this name of Christ is also revealed that the fact that in him all Biblical prophecy is fulfilled. The saints, described as the armies of heaven, accompany Christ into battle, and are also clothed in white (19:8).

“Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations …” The mention of the sharp sword, combined with the description of the rider as the Word of God, reminds us of Heb 4:12-13. There, the power of God’s word, “sharper than any two-edged sword,” leaves all creatures “naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” The rod of iron alludes to Psa 2:9, where the Messiah will break the nations “with a rod of iron” (see Rev 2:27).

The description of the last battle begun in 16:16-21 is concluded in 19:19. The wording is almost identical to the depiction of the same battle in 16:14 and 20:8. There, the spirits of demons and Satan gather the kings together (see Ezekiel’s prophecy in 38:2-9 and 39:2). God will gather Gog and Magog, along with the other nations, for the last battle against true Israel. Gog and Magog are referred to explicity in the parallel description of the battle in 20:8. “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army” (19). The evil forces have been gathered under the sovereign hand of God as prophesied in Eze 38:2-9 and 39:2.

“The beast was captured, and with it the false prophet … and “thrown alive into the lake of fire.” So we see the so-called Battle of Armageddon, described so vividly in best-seller books, is actually a spiritual battle (Eph 6:12). There is no literal battle. Unlike mankind’s bloody, maiming wars, with much collateral damage, Christ’s victory is spiritual and immediate. He speaks … and evil in all its forms … is toast!

HOMEWORK: 
The Thousand Years
Rev 20:1-6


Week 43 (3.10.24)

(Rev 19:1-10)

The rejoicing over Babylon’s downfall is now pictured from a heavenly perspective. “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. And again they shouted, “Hallelujah! (vv 1-3). The word “Hallelujah” is translated “Praise the Lord” and is only found in scripture four times, all in this passage. Repetition in scripture is for emphasis. We’re going to be singing “Hallelujah!” when Christ returns!

The praises of the saints are in stark contrast to the various laments in chapter 18. The saints are rejoicing because God has vindicated himself by showing his justice and taking all glory and power to himself. This verse represents the final answer to the cry of the saints in 6:10 that their blood be avenged.

The fact that Babylon’s judgment is now complete is reinforced: “Once more they cried out “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (v 3). This phrase is borrowed from God’s judgment on Edom in Isa 34:10, “It’s smoke shall go up forever.” Edom (descended from Esau) joins Babylon, Tyre and Nineveh as prophetic forerunners of spiritual Babylon.

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God … saying “Amen. Hallelujah!” (v 4). These were previously seen in Rev 4, 5, and 11. The twenty-four elders represent the faithful people of God throughout the ages (see Rev 21:12-14). The four living creatures (Lion, Ox, Man, Eagle) likely symbolize the diverse parts of creation, showing God’s lordship over all of it. This praise is echoed by the heavenly beings on account of God’s deliverance of spiritual Israel (the church).

Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!—Rev 19:7

For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear”  (v 8). Throughout Revelation, God gives white clothes to his godly saints (Rev 3:5-6, 18; 6:11; 7:13-14). The wedding dress is given by Christ, but the bride must put it on. Without God’s gift of justification and without his giving us the power represented by his grace, no good works are possible on our part. The fact that Babylon also is attired in “fine linen” (18:16) points to her standing as a demonic counterpart to the church, the true bride of Christ.

“Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (v 10). The reference to a spirit of prophecy means that we are a prophetic people and, as such, we should point others to Christ by our words and by our lives. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in our human spirits that we are able to witness to Christ.

HOMEWORK: 
The Rider on the White Horse
Rev 19:11-21


Week 42 (3.3.24)

(Rev 18:20-24)

Verse 20 can be seen as a resumption of the address of the mighty angel to the saints in vv 1-8. The words are based on Jeremiah’s declaration that “the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them” will rejoice at the fall of the earthly Babylon (Jer 51:48). Even as the world rejoiced over the sufferings of the church (the earth-dwellers rejoiced at the death of the two witnesses in 11:10), so now the church rejoices at the downfall of the evil world system. The joy of the believers does not come out of a desire for revenge, or from the destruction of Babylon. Instead, it is rooted in satisfaction that God has exercised his justice, and that by refusing to let sin remain unpunished, he has vindicated his own righteous character in the process.

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, —Rev 18:21

The angel (v 21) takes up a great stone and throws it into the sea. The change in terminology from stone to millstone may reflect Jesus’ saying that those causing his little ones to stumble would be better off “to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt 18:6). The violent nature of God’s judgment corresponds to the way in which Babylon treated others. The picture here is taken from Jer 51:63-64 where Jeremiah commands his servant to tie a stone to a record of his prophecies against Babylon and throw it into the Euphrates. The prophet declares that in this manner Babylon will sink, never to rise again (see Eze 26:12, 21). This is a prophetic forerunner of end-times spiritual Babylon.

The angel’s announcement of judgment continues … (22-23a). The persecution of Christians has robbed them of their earthly joys (Rev 6:10; 13:16-17; 16:6; 17:6). Now those joys of daily life, of music and culture, of bride and groom, will be taken from Babylon. The reason for the judgment is given in 23b-24: “By your magic spell all the nations were led astray (see False Prophet’s signs in Rev 13:13-16). The world is judged for three things: First, it has exalted itself and pursued the idol of earthly wealth (your merchants were the world’s great men), instead of worshipping God alone. Second, it has indulged in sorcery, a particular evil form of idolatry. Earthly Babylon was judged for immorality (see Isa 47:9-15). Third, it has persecuted and slain the saints.

Spiritual Babylon represents the evil world system controlled by the beast and opposed to the church from the resurrection until the Lord’s return. The judgment against spiritual Bablyon is now given, not on behalf of earthly Israel, but on behalf of spiritual Israel – the Church.

HOMEWORK: 
Halleujah!
Rev 19:1-10


Week 41 (2.25.24)

(Rev 18:9-19)

The theme of this passage is the mourning of those who have profited from their association with spiritual Bablylon, i.e., unbelievers. They mourn because they realize their own fate is linked with hers. The downfall of Tyre in Eze 26-28 serves as a prophetic foreshadowing of the downfall of spiritual Babylon. We shouldn’t locate the end-times judgment in literal Babylon or in literal Tyre, both of which are long-since destroyed.

The greatest temptation to Christians to compromise with the world system is probably economic in nature, as suggested in the letters to the seven churches. “Immorality” as defined in Revelation begins with economic and social compromise with the world system as manifested in the pagan cultures in which for the most part Christians must live (see Rom 12:2).

“Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!” —Rev 18:10

Those who are in control of various parts of the economic system will mourn at Babylon’s fall. The kings will mourn because they were the overseers of Babylon’s wealth and were in a position to enrich themselves greatly through political power. The merchants will mourn because Babylon, the greatest customer for their goods, will be gone. The mariners (sea captains/sailors) will no longer have anywhere to bring their goods because the merchants will have nowhere to sell them. The fall of the evil world system affects all who enjoyed and depended on it. No one will remain unaffected by Babylon’s fall.

In vv 11-14, the voice from heaven (18:4) who said, “Come out of her, my people …” (and is most likely Christ) continues to prophesy against the greedy merchants. The merchandise listed here illustrates the extreme materialism of this society. Few of these goods were necessities—most are luxuries. Even people had become no more than commodities — sold as slaves to Babylon (think “child labor” and “human tracking” in today’s economy). This list is the antithesis (complete opposite) of God’s list, which values people/souls above all else; and relegates gold to paving stones in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:21).

The greedy desire for nonessential luxuries and ever-increasing wealth had driven these merchants. Yet, how many of these same luxuries are found in our own homes? Christians are not exempt from being absorbed in possessions and pleasure. We’re warned in a number of scriptures to resist being a part of the evil culture in which we live (see Rom 12:2; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Tim 3:1-5).

In one hour she has been brought to ruin! —Rev 18:19

The whole of Revelation, and here in chapter 18, shows the epic battle taking place between God and Satan; good and evil. And, here again, we see that God wins! (More on that next week …)

HOMEWORK: 
Babylon is Toast
Rev 18:19-24


Week 40 (2.18.24)

(Rev 18:1-8)

In chapter 17:1-2, an angel said, Come, I will show you the punishment of the Great Prostitute who sits on many waters … Chapter 18 presents a new (but similar) vision which explains that, like historical Babylon, spiritual Babylon will also fall. (Past tense used here indicates certainty of the coming judgment.)

“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit …” –Rev 18:2

The background for “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great” is Isa 21:9. (This phrase was also mentioned previously in Rev 14:6-13 and 16:19). Isaiah 13:19-22 uses similar language in referring to the fall of historical Babylon, which was prophesied never to be rebuilt. Thus the literal fall of historic Babylon was a foreshadow, or type, of spiritual Babylon. [NOTE: Early Christians would have seen “Babylon” as Rome. Peter, speaking of the Christian church in Rome, wrote “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings ...” (1 Pet 5:13).]

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 (sinful, unbelieving “earth dwellers”) grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”  It’s easy to see that economics (wealth, greed, power) is at the root of the ungodly union between spiritual Babylon and the earthly powers. (“The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Greed for riches is a form of idolatry and promotes other forms of idolatry, leading to immoral conduct of every sort (see James 3:14-16). The picture here is drawn from Isaiah’s description of Tyre prostituting herself “with all the kingdoms of the world” (Isa 23:17). The nations drinking of the wine represents their willingness to submit to Babylon (the wicked and evil world we live in (but are not of). See Rev 17:2.

Verse 4 is a warning to the Church: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues …”  Before the downfall of earthly Babylon, faithful Jewish believers were exhorted to leave lest they be caught in the coming disaster (Isa 48:20-22; 52:11; Jer 50:8; 51:6-9). [NOTE: Babylon is referred to as “she” primarily because she is depicted as a prostitute; a counterfeit of the Bride of Christ.] Paul quotes Isa 52:11 exhorting Corinthians not to be yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:17). See Rom 12:2 and James 4:4 regarding the very real danger of blending in with “the wicked woman Babylon.” You may be compromising your faith without even realizing it. Such is the way the devil schemes (see 2 Cor 2:11).

Verses 6-7 fulfills Psalm 137:8: “O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us …”  Verse 8 states “Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her; death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” Spiritual Babylon, like physical Babylon, is “toast!” (see Isa 47:7-9, 14).

HOMEWORK: 
Laments of Kings, Merchants, and Mariners
Rev 18:9-19


Week 39 (2.11.24

Recap of Revelation to date. Click here to see watch 25 min. video discussing various approaches to millennial reign.


Week 38 (2.4.24)

(Rev 17:9-18)

Chapter 17 describes a worldly prostitute (which is another example of how Satan counterfeits the things of God). The opposite of a prostitute is … the Bride of Christ (more on this later). Daniel prophesied (Dan 11:33-35; 12:10) that in the last days, the power of an evil state would arise. Hence …

“The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.” (There were seven heads in total of the four beasts in Dan 7:4-7). Rome was known as the “city on seven hills” and would have certainly come to mind to first century readers; it was the persecuting power at the time of writing. But Rome fell in 476 A.D., so “seven mountains” is likely figurative (as are the other numbers in Revelation). Seven (=completion) and mountains (=strength); these “heads” are likely representative of all kingdoms (the complete number) which oppose Christ and are controlled by the beast.  The seven kings represent the oppressive power of governments through the ages which seek to destroy the church. Seven represents the “full number” of wicked kingdoms throughout history, not necessarily seven literal kingdoms. Those who claim to identify specific kingdoms are often using creative accounting. They leave out “kingdoms” that don’t support their theory.

Ten horns are “ten kings … who for one hour will receive authority along with the beast” (v. 12). Ten is a figurative number referring to a “large number” of kings who are great in power. “One hour” is a short period of time.

They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome …” —Rev 17:14

The war described here fulfills Daniel’s vision in Dan 7:21 … yet the outcome reverses the prophesied temporary victory. Spoiler alert: Regardless of how things look, God wins! Satan loses!

“The waters you saw … are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.” This indicates the sea of humanity, i.e., the nations of the world (not just in the Middle East). See Dan 3:4, 7: 4:1; 5:19; 6:25; 7:14. She (the prostitute) represents the worldwide political, economic, religious systems controlled by the beast.

The beast and the ten horns will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked …”  (v. 16). Civil war is coming to the Kingdom of Darkness, because “God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose … ” (v. 17). In Mark 3:26, Jesus said, “If Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end will come.”  Daniel prophesied that the end-times kingdom was to be a divided kingdom (Dan 2:41-45). He and other prophets (Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah) saw that, at the end of history, evil men would take up the sword against each other. So, fear not. Our God is in complete control!

HOMEWORK: 
The Fall of Babylon
Rev 18


Week 37 (1.28.24)

(Rev 17:1-8)

Chapter 17 explains that the position and power of the woman portrayed here is dependent on her relationship with the beast. The content of this vision is God’s judgment of the great Prostitute. Satan, working through his agents (the beast and the false prophet) uses counterfeits of the Trinity to oppose in various ways the plans and purposes of God. The prostitute presented here is the polar opposite (a counterfeit) of the Bride of Christ (see Rev 21:2).

The presence of the bowl angel indicates that the vision about to be given relates to the bowl judgments. The final days of history and the fall of spiritual Babylon were depicted in the sixth and seventh bowls. The angel speaks to John in words taken from God’s judgment on historical Babylon:  “… you who live by many waters and are rich in treasures, your end has come, the time for you to be cut off” (Jer 51:13). The fact that Babylon sits on many waters signifies her authority over the nations. “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery …” The primary reference here is to the O.T. thought of people breaking their marriage covenant with God by pursuing other gods (“… you shall have no other gods before me” (Exo. 20:3).

The background for “into the wilderness” in v. 3 seems to be Isa 21, where an “oracle” comes “from the wilderness” (Isa 21:1), proclaiming “Fallen, fallen is Babylon” (Isa 21:9). The very same words are spoken by the angel in Rev 18:2, this time concerning spiritual Babylon, rather than historical Babylon.

This title was written on her forehead, “Mystery … Babylon the great … The mother of prostitutes …” —Rev 17:5

The woman in the vision was dressed in expensive clothing and was “glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls.” She held a “golden cup filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.” Although she is a prostitute, she presents herself in a way that attracts her “worldly” followers; those “inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life …” Babylon can be defined as a demonically-inspired and empowered economic and religious system which exists throughout the church age. It uses the power of the state to oppress the saints. (See opendoorsus.org for information of how the Christians are being persecuted throughout the world today.)

In v. 7, the angel begins to explain to John the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, “which has seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction (see Dan 7:11). God is described four times in Revelation as the One who was, and is, and is to come. Here the beast is described in a similar way, but only in mockery. His days are numbered.

This calls for a mind with wisdom” (v. 9). Prov. 2:6 tells us that “all wisdom comes from the Lord, and so do common sense and understanding. We’ll find out more about the prostitute Babylon and her relationship to the beast next time.

HOMEWORK: 
The Woman on the Beast (Pt. 2)
Rev 17:9-18


Week 36 (1.21.24)

(Rev 16:12-21)

The sixth and seventh bowls, like the sixth and seventh seals and trumpets, speak specifically of the final judgment on those who reject God and persecute his people. “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and it’s water was dried up to prepare for the kings from the East” (v. 12). This refers to a last days fulfillment of prophecies by Isaiah (11:15; 44:27-28) and Jeremiah (50:38; 51:36), which were originally and literally fulfilled when the Euphrates was diverted to allow Cyrus, the Persian, a “king from the East” (Isa 41:2) to conquer Babylon and set Israel free from captivity. This event itself was patterned after the drying up of the Red Sea. God dried up the waters in the O.T. either to deliver, or judge, or both.

“Three evil spirits that looked like frogs …” came out of the mouths of the dragon (Satan), the beast (demonic power behind world governments), and the false prophet (demonic power behind all false religions). This is the first time “false prophet” occurs in Revelation (the beast from the earth). Frogs were one of the “unclean, detestable” animals the Israelites were not permitted to eat (Lev 11). The phrase “out of the mouth” refers to the lies and deceptions that come from Satan and his agents.

Behold, I come like a thief!” Blessed is he who … ” —Rev 16:15

Verse 15 introduces the third of seven benedictions (blessings) in the book. “Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” This is an exhortation to those who have the seal of the Holy Spirit on their foreheads (Rev 7:3) to keep themselves from being conformed to the evil world around them (soon to be revealed as spiritual Babylon).

The “kings” gathering together to “the place called … Armageddon” (Hebrew is actually “har megiddo” which means Mount Meggido) are earthly rulers who oppose Christ’s rule (see Rev 6:15; 17:2; 18:3). The purpose of the deception mentioned above is to gather them for their final destruction. Armageddon (Har Megiddo) is not a literal geographical location. The “Plain of Megiddo” was the site of two famous battles (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron 35:22). It had become a symbol of the place where righteous Jews were attacked by wicked nations. The “mountain” (Har) referred to here is likely Mount Carmel (in close proximity to Megiddo) where the prophet Elijah defeated the false prophets of Baal (see this story in 1 Kings 18:19-46).

So, Armageddon is a figurative reference to the final battle to be fought between spiritual Babylon (the evil world system) and spiritual Israel (the worldwide body of Christ). The locale of Armageddon is thus worldwide in nature. Note that this same battle is depicted in Rev 19:19 and 20:8. Like the seals, trumpets, conflicts, and bowls, it’s a recapitulation – same scene from different perspectives (e.g., the four Gospels).

It is done!” —Rev 16:17

The voice from the throne says, “It is done!” which echoes Christ’s cry from the cross “It is finished!” If it was Christ’s voice, the irony is that the words here have a completely opposite meaning. What is finished here is not the work of salvation, but the process of completing God’s judgment on sin in all its forms. What we see in verses 20-21 is a picture of the world’s total destruction (described in 2 Peter 3:10).

HOMEWORK: 
The Woman on the Beast
Rev 17:1-8


Week 35 (1.14.24)

(Rev 16:1-11)

Chapter 16 depicts the seven “final” bowls of God’s wrath (final in the sense that this is the final series of seven visions that John saw – not necessarily the chronological order). The first five bowls describe judgment in human history throughout the Church age, beginning with Christ’s resurrection. The sixth and seventh bowls, like the sixth and seventh seals and trumpets, speak specifically of the final judgment.

The “voice from the temple” said, ““Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” This is an allusion to Isaiah 66:6: “A sound from the temple! The sound of the Lord, rendering recompense to his enemies!” The pouring out of God’s wrath in the O.T. is the figurative (symbolic) expression of God’s judgment on those who have violated his covenant and persecuted his people, i.e., those who worship the Beast (Eze 14:19; Jer 10:25). The bowls are not literal; they represent the judgments of God that come in various ways on unbelievers throughout the Church age. There is great similarity between the trumpets and the bowls. These show that the bowls portray the events of world history in the same way as the trumpets, with some variations of detail. Compare this to fact that four Gospels cover same period of history, but each records the details from a different perspective. The bowl judgments emphasize more consistently the fact that the plagues fall upon hardened unbelieveers dwelling in the kingdom of the beast, who practice idolatry (v. 2), refuse to repent (v. 9, 11) and persecute Christians (v. 6). The bowls (v. 5-7) like the trumpets (8:3-5) represent the answer to the prayers of the saints for justices as recorded in 6:9-11). Both the trumpets and bowls present the plagues in the same order, and both are rooted in the Exodus plagues. The plagues of Exodus serve as typological judgments, prophetically foreshadowing the plagues of the church age and culminating in the final judgment of the wicked.

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness.” —Rev 16:10

The fifth bowl, like the fourth trumpet, is based on the Exodus plague of darkness. The darkness here is figurative, as with the other plagues. Darkness is used figuratively in the O.T. to describe God’s judgment (similar to fire in v.8). Isa 8:20-22 describes a severe famine which God will bring on disobedient Israel as a “darkness” without a “dawn.” Jer 13:16-17 speaks of the nation’s coming defeat as “twilight,” “gloom,” and “deep darkness.” In both cased, the normal functioning of society and government broke down, as it did with the literal darkness of the Egyptian plague. This (5th) bowl thus refers to a breakdown in the functioning of the demonically-controlled systems of government in the world (a.k.a. Babylon) and brings suffering, both psychological and economic, upon their followers.

In the face of repeated and increasing judgment, the followers of the Beast only sink further into the deep pit of sin and rebellion.

HOMEWORK: 
The Final Two Bowls of God’s Wrath
Rev 16:12-21


Week 34 (1.7.24)

(Rev 15:5-8)

John resumes the introduction to the Bowl judgments he began in 15:1. This new vision describes the fourth, and last, set of seven judgments (i.e., seals, trumpets, visions of conflict, bowls). The interruption in vv. 2-4 was to describe the saint’s ultimate victory over the Beast. They were pictured standing beside a “glassy” sea (calm, peaceful) as their persecutors were about to be judged by God. These various visions of judgment should not be seen as chronological; merely as the order in which John saw them. Note that each of the previous visions end with the Second Coming.

After this (vision) I looked …” thus begins a new vision. Out of the temple in heaven (the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven” (ESV), came seven angels with seven “last” plagues (golden bowls of God’s wrath) to be poured out on “the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.” The “witness” includes not only the O.T. law (Ten Commandments), but also the testimony of Jesus —the Church’s testimony. The background for these “last” plagues are obviously the plagues on Egypt described in Exodus 7-11 which were a prophetic type of escape from the Beast (modern day Pharaoh) and a life of sin.

Golden bowls were associated with the service of the Tabernacle (2 Chron 4:8). John had previously seen golden bowls full of incense representing prayers of the saints. These bowls, “filled with the wrath of God” against unbelievers (persecutors of His people), are the long-awaited answer to the saint’s prayers for justice (Rev 6:9-11; 8:3-5). Isaiah spoke of the cup of God’s wrath (Isa 51:17).

And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power …” —Rev 15:8

Smoke from the glory of God is present even in the midst of devastating judgment. And “no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues … were completed.” In this vision, judgment on the wicked was now irreversible. Nothing could hinder it any longer because access to this temple in heaven will not long be denied. God is about to reveal his judgment of those who have rejected the testimony he has given in his Word concerning his Son.

Regarding the Tabernacle/Temple: The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” And John writes, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22). The earthly tabernacle/temple was merely a pattern, shown to Moses, of the true temple in heaven (see Heb 8:1-5). Amen!

HOMEWORK: 
The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
Rev 16:1-10


Week 33 (12.31.23)

(Rev 15:1-4)

This is the seventh “vision of conflict” which began in 12:1. Strictly speaking, 15:1 is the introduction to the Seven Bowl judgments, but this intro is interrupted by a different vision before resuming in v. 5. Verses 2-4 serve as a conclusion to 12:1-14:20. The Bowl judgments don’t actually begin until chap. 16.

John sees another “great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues …” (This is very similar to 12:1, indicating that another major section is about to be introduced. The plagues we’ll be looking at soon are reminiscent of the plagues on Egypt in Exodus. Those unbelievers who experience the plagues will, like the Egyptians, continue in their rebellion against  God (which is the reason for their ultimate judgment).

And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire …”—Rev 15:2

The “sea” throughout the Bible is often a picture of chaos and wickedness. Recall that the Red Sea was the Biblical barrier to freedom for the people of God (Exo 14) and serves as a metaphor for its spiritual counterpart (see below). Its evil character is alluded to in Rev 12:15, where the serpent attempted to swallow the woman up. It is pictured in the OT as the dwelling place of the sea monster or dragon (see Isa 51:9-11; Psa 74:12; Eze 32:2). Significantly, in the new heaven and new earth, there is no longer any sea (Rev 21:1). Like the heavenly “sea of glass” in 4:6, the sea here has been calmed by the power of God. (Recall Jesus commanding the stormy sea in Mark 4:39, “Peace! Be still”).

Standing beside the sea were “those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name.” Even as Moses and the people sang a song of victory on the shores of the Red Sea (Exo 15), so the saints are pictured singing the heavenly fulfillment of that song. The Church, (the new Israel), has passed through the sea of evil and come to the place of freedom. This group of believers is the same as in Rev 14:1-5, i.e., the totality of believers of all ages, all those who have “conquered the beast” (” … those who had been victorious over the beast … and the number of his name (we’ll see this group again when we read about Babylon).

They “sang the song of Moses … and the song of the Lamb.” The various parts of this song are found in the OT (see Psa 111:2-3; Jeremiah 10:7; Psa 98:2). It’s fitting that Psa 98 is quoted here; it commences with a reference to the song of Moses at the Red Sea, just as in Rev 15:3, and continues by exhorting the saints to praise God with harps, as in 15:2. These verses portray the fact that the deliverance of the Israelites at the Red Sea is a typological or prophetic anticipation of the deliverance of the new covenant saints (i.e., Christians!). Having been delivered from spiritual Egypt and from the hand of the latter-day Pharaoh (or Dragon), we will experience our own sojourn in the wilderness (during the inter-advent period between Christ’s resurrection and his Second Coming). When Christ returns, we’ll be delivered into the Promised Land (the heavenly Mount Zion or New Jerusalem) to spend eternity with our Lord and Savior!

HOMEWORK: 
Appearance of Seven Angels from the Temple of God
Rev 15:5-8


Week 32 (12.24.23)

(Rev 14:14-20)

The fifth vision (6-13) announces the coming judgment, whereas the sixth vision (14-20) describes the actual judgment taking place:  I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man, with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. This imagery is very similar to Daniel 7:13-14.

In today’s lesson, two harvests are described: one of grain (14-16) and one of grapes (17-20). At first glance, the grain harvest may be thought to symbolize the harvest of the righteous (and some commentators interpret it that way). But, more likely, the the main background passage in Joel 3:12-16 gives us the main clue to interpretation (Let scripture interpret scripture). In Joel’s passage, grain is harvested with a sickle, and grapes are trampled in the winepress – with both carrying a primary connotation of punishment. In context of verses 6-13, it seems likely that Christ’s role in judgment is emphasized here rather than salvation. Both harvests are primarily about judgment of the wicked. The Son of Man will come at the final judgment both to judge and to redeem “… everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:28-32). This serves as a warning to those who have yet to surrender themselves to the Lordship of Christ (see Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares in Mat 13:24-30, “Let both grow together until the harvest … first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” He says elsewhere, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21).

“Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” —Rev 14:18

Two other angels came out of the temple in heaven; one with a sharp sickle and one who had charge of the fire. Fire in verse 17 represents God’s judgment (compare Rev 8:3-5). Note in Revelation that, at the end of each series of judgments and visions, a description of the final judgment of the lost is featured (see 6:12-17; 11:13-19; 16:17-21; 19:17-21; 20:7-10). These visions all describe the same realities from different perspectives (i.e., recapitulation).

The city in verse 20 is the New Jerusalem (God’s holy city – Rev 20:8-9). In Zechariah 14:4, God is pictured as standing on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem to destroy last-days enemy armies (compare Rev 21:27 where “… nothing impure will ever enter it …”).

The number 1,600 in v. 20 is figurative (as are most other numbers in Revelation). Four is the number of the earth, e.g., four corners, four winds, four living creatures), squared, and then multiplied by ten squared expresses completed and final world-wide judgment.

HOMEWORK: 
Seven Angels with Seven Last Plagues
Rev 15:1-4


Week 31 (12.10.23)

(Rev 14:6-13)

Chaps. 12-13 painted a picture of persecution and of the church’s suffering at the hands of Satan and his agents. In 14:1-5, we saw a counterpoint to this — a picture of Christ ruling on Mount Zion (the heavenly Jerusalem) in the midst of his people, i.e., the 144,000. The fact that his rule has already begun (see 1 Pet 3:22) means that, even in the midst of suffering, Christ is protecting his people spiritually.

The time of this new vision (the 5th) is immediately prior to the final judgment (seven bowls). In Rev 14:6-20, the focus is on the fate of the lost, i.e., “those who live (dwell) on the earth.” This phrase is used 12 times in Revelation to describe those hardened by unbelief.

“Then I saw another angel (messenger) flying in midair …” Like the eagle in 8:13, this angel is pronouncing judgment; a final warning to unbelievers to repent and turn to God before it’s everlastingly too late. “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should have everlasting life” (2 Pet 3:8-10).  This is the beginning of wisdom (Psa 111:10).

Then a second angel followed and said:

“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great …” —Rev 14:8

Physical Babylon disappeared forever in a previous judgment of God (see Jer 50:35-40). The spiritual Babylon is symbolic of all evil world governments that are under the control of the Beast. Satan and his agents use the world economic and cultural systems to ensnare people through their love of money and enjoyment of material pleasures and worldly comforts. The Apostle Paul warns in Rom. 12:2 to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

A third angel followed them and warned that “if anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on his hand, he will drink of the wine of God’s fury (see Psalm 75:8) He will be tormented with burning sulfur (cf. Sodom and Gomorrah) … for ever and ever! There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image. This is bad news indeed for those unbelievers whose hope is that this life is all there is. That they will simple cease to exist when they die.

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (see 2 Cor 1:6).

Then a voice from heaven said, “… Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on … they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” These “deeds” represent our life as lived for Christ. See 1 Thes 4:16 for an encouraging word.

HOMEWORK: 
The Harvest of the Earth
Rev 14:14-20


Week 30 (12.3.23)

(Rev 14:1-5)

The majority of Rev 12-13 concerned the persecution of believers by the forces of unbelief led by Satan and his two beastly allies. These allies deceive multitudes into following them. Now Rev 14, together with 15:2-4, show the final reward of the persecuted faithful and the final punishment of the beast and those who follow him. The segment ends with the saint’s victory over the beast and the praise of God’s glory (15:2-4). God is glorified because He is the One who has judged the beast and enabled the saints to defeat him. Therefore, everything being narrated in the segment of Rev 12-15:4, is to be seen as moving toward the end result of the glory of God.

… before me was the Lamb … and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.  —Rev 14:1

The 144,000 represent the saints in their complete number (Rev 7:4-8). They form a priestly company (5:10), consecrated to offer praise to God on the holy mount (Mount Zion is a spiritual fortress of safety and security). God affirms his ownership and protection by placing his mark on them (see Rev 7:2-4; Eze 9:3-6), in contrast to the Mark of the Beast (which is a counterfeit of God’s mark/seal). Six is man’s number. Three sixes symbolize “perfect imperfection.”

The sound from heaven is probably the sound of praise from the saints (all those who had died in Christ via martyrdom or otherwise. Their loudness and exuberance reflect the loud thunder of God himself when he appears in theophany, as at Mount Sinai.

And they sang a new song …” (v. 3)  This picks up the OT theme of singing new songs to celebrate new days of victory for God (see Psalm 24). “No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth”  i.e., the redeemed. The 144,000 symbolize all the people of God, every one of whom is known and numbered by God. The inhabitants of earth who have not been redeemed cannot participate.

“These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure.” This is a reference to the charge that soldiers in Israel’s army during war abstain from sexual contact with women to maintain spiritual purity (Exo. 19:15). The 144,000 are described as chaste. Sexual imagery is used here to denote spiritual purity. Christ’s faithful followers keep away from Babylon the prostitute and are loyal to him exclusively, as his pure bride (Rev 19:7-8; Eph 5:26-27).

No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.” (v. 5). The 144,000 symbolically represent those from every nation, tribe, people, and language, who have placed their faith in Christ. They are “blameless” because their sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ. They are the unblemished Bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-27).

HOMEWORK: 
The Three Angels
Rev 14:6-13


Week 29 (11.24.23)

(Rev 13:11-18)

“Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth …”  Daniel’s four beasts rose “out of the earth” (Dan 7:17). Like the Lamb of 5:6 and the first beast, it too has horns, symbolizing the reality of its power. The fact that it has “two horns like a lamb” suggests its role is not only to be a deceptive representative of Christ, but to mimic the two witnesses, two lampstands, and two olive trees (11:3-4), all of which represent the church. The fact that this beast is later called the “false prophet” confirms its religious nature. The first beast speaks loudly against God, but the second beast is far more subtle, using deceptive means to make the claims of the first beast more appealing, even to those within the church. It’s appearance as a lamb imitating the church is deceiving, for it speaks like a dragon. This emphasizes the fact that Satan is as deceptive in his ways now as he was in the garden of Eden.

The first beast is symbolic of state-sponsored persecution of the Christian church. At the time of John’s writing, this “beast” was the Roman government. Since then, there have been numerous antichristian (against Christ) governments which authorize political, religious, and economic agents to persecute the church and to deceive the ungodly.  These states are ultimately counterfeits of the church. For a peak into how governments use propaganda to impose their will, see this article. The second beast “coming out of the earth,” is later called the “false prophet” (chaps 16, 19, 20). A true prophet leads people to worship God, but the false prophet(s) leads them to worship the state (i.e., Satan). Read Daniel 3 regarding King Nebuchadnezzar’s government mandate to worship his idol. Compare this to our government’s recent mandate to receive minimally-tested vaccines.

False prophets and teachers have already infiltrated the churches (see Rev 2:2, 6, 14-15, 20-24). See Paul’s warning in Acts 20:28-29.

He also forced everyone … to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead … —Rev 13:16

This is a satanic counterfeit of commitment to God and His Law (see Exo 13:9; Deut 6:8; 11:18). “Forehead” represents ideological commitment. “Hand” represents the practical outworking of that commitment.

… His number is 666″ —Rev 13:18

Seven is God’s number, representing perfection. The number of the beast is man’s number (or the number of humanity). Man was created on the sixth day, and entered God’s rest on the seventh. So the number of man is six. The three sixes (666) indicates that Satan and his agents, and those who follow him can never enter God’s rest nor rise to diety. You might say that 666 is a counterfeit — “perfectly imperfect.”

 

HOMEWORK: 
The Lamb and the 144,000
Rev 14:1-13

 


Week 28 (11.17.23)

(Rev 13:1-10)

Chapter 12 ends with the dragon (see Rev 12:2) standing “on the shore of the sea.” According to some interpretations, this chapter introduces the “Antichrist.” The word “antichrist” means “opposed to Christ” and is only mentioned in two of John’s three epistles (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3 and 2 John 7). However, the principle of antichrist is certainly clear in Revelation as demonstrated by Satan’s opposition to Christ and his followers.

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads ...” —Rev 13:1

A beast rising out of the sea represents persecuting power, especially the power of a demonized state. The rebellious world is fascinated with his power, but Christians have their eyes opened through this and other biblical revelations. The Beast combines features from the four beasts of Daniel 7:1-8, 17-27. Daniel’s beasts represent idolatrous kingdoms. The Beast in Revelation must be a worldly kingdom summing up all of them.

In Asia Minor, local officials threatened to kill Christians if they refused to worship the Roman emperor. A similar opposition to godly worship will crop up just before the Second Coming (2 Thes 2:34). The Beast represents demonized state power that demands worship (or conformity). As with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdenego (Dan 3), the demonized state threatens to kill Christians unless they “bow down.” In democratic countries, the state doesn’t insist on literal worship, but citizens are tempted to look to the state as if it were a messiah. It is the greatest concentration of earthly power and so it “must be the remedy for all ills” —economic, social, medical, moral, and even spiritual. Note the increasing pressure in the U.S. for dependence on government programs to provide various needs and services.

The Beast is a counterfeit of Christ. In the vision, he is a mirror-image of Satan (Dragon), who brought him forth (13:1), just as Christ is the exact image of God, begotten by the Father (Col 1:15; Heb 1:3, Psa 2:7). Satan himself attempts to counterfeit God the Father. He engages mock creation, in which he brings forth his image out of chaotic waters (compare Gen 1:2). Similarly, the False Prophet (the beast from the earth), counterfeits the work of the Holy Spirit. He desires that people worship not himself, but the Beast, just as the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ (John 16:14).

Together, Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet form an unholy trinity (16:13). They counterfeit the Holy Trinity. Satan, as a deceiver, is always trying to make his ways look attractive, masquerading “… as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14-15). Our danger lies in the fact that his counterfeits are always close to the real thing, and we may mistake the one for the other. Think about a counterfeit $100 bill. Unless you know what to look for, you might easily be deceived. Christians are to be alert to satanic influence, not only with individuals, but also with institutions and whole societies. It’s all around us.

In 13:10 we see that final judgment on the unbelievers who persecute the saints (the Church) is a certainty. Thus, Christians are called to patient endurance and faithfulness throughout the Church age (the millennium). “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mat 10:28).

HOMEWORK: 
The Beast From the Earth
Rev 13:11-18


Week 27 (11.12.23)

(Rev 12:13-18)

The woman (the church) is persecuted because of her association with the male child (Christ).

The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle …” —Rev 12:14

According to Exo. 19:4, God bore Israel “on eagle’s wings” into the wilderness and away from the Egyptians. In Deut. 32:10-12, God is pictured as an eagle who finds Israel in the wilderness and cares for them there. John sees the end-times fulfillment of this vision, with the church as the true spiritual Israel taking the place of the old physical Israel. According to Isaiah’s prophetic word, “they who wait for the Lord … shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa 40:31). John’s vision of the woman given the wings becomes a clear picture of the church protected by God in the wilderness between Christ’s resurrection and his return. This is confirmed by the fact that the wilderness here is defined as the place where the woman is to be nourished for a time, times, and half a time (3.5 years (half of seven): an incomplete, not yet finished, thus imperfect period. Same as three and a half years of Rev 11:2 and 1,260 days of 11:3; 12:6, previously identified as the church.

“Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent” (v 15). Like almost all other visions in Revelation, this one is to be interpreted in light of the OT. The primary reference is to the Red Sea, which Satan used as a barrier to prevent the children of Israel (the old covenant “woman”) to reach freedom. Satan will try to keep the church from gaining freedom by any obstacles he can place in the way. He will attempt to destroy the church from within (using deception) and from without (using persecution). The church will successfully cross the end-times Red Sea into the wilderness (the secular world), where she resides under God’s protection until Christ’s return. Isaiah prophesies that the restoration of end-times Jerusalem will involve God once again drying up the rivers and the deep (Isa 44:27), so that when the “pass through the waters … and through the rivers they shall not overwhelm you (43:2). The OT, significantly from Daniel (from which so much of Revelation is drawn) uses “flood” to speak of the advance of an enemy army (Dan 11:10, 22, 26,, 40). It is also used as a figure of speech for the persecution of God’s people by enemies from whom the Lord delivers them (2 Sam 22:5; Psam 69:1-2; 124:1-5). Daniel (9:26) prophesies an end-times “flood” through which God’s enemies will attempt to destroy his people.

God will again dry up the sea and defeat the dragon so that the “ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing” (Isa 51:11). These prophetic words are fulfilled in Christ and his church.

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus—Rev 12:17

The devil, having been frustrated in all his efforts to destroy the original offspring of the woman (the male child, that is, Christ), now spends the rest of the church age making war against her offspring. They are identified as all those who hold to the testimony of Jesus—that is, Christians. Viewed from another perspective, the woman and her offspring represent one and the same thing—the faithful covenant community before Christ (the faithful Jewish remnant) and after Christ (the church).

 

HOMEWORK: 
The Beast Out of the Sea
Rev 13:1-10


Week 26 (11.5.23)

(Rev 12:7-12)

Verses 7-12 describe a war being fought in heaven which accompanies that being fought on earth. Revelation continually portrays events in the heavenly realm which have direct impact on events on earth. Daniel’s vision identifies Michael as the powerful angel representing God’s people (Dan 10:23, 21; 12:1). In this role, he assists the Son of man in the battle against the demonic rulers of Persia and Greece , nations which oppress God’s people. In John’s vision, Michael stands beside the Son of man to fight for him as he did in Daniel’s vision. Now he fights no longer as a representative of Israel as a nation, but on behalf of the new covenant people of Christ from every nation

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. —Rev 12:7

The power behind Daniel’s demonic rulers of Persia and Greece is now revealed to be Satan himself. But he is vanquished. The moment Christ was resurrected from the dead, divine power was released in the heavens (Eph 6:12, “Our struggle …”). Michael and his angels became too strong for the devil and his forces. As a result, 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.

The dragon is described as the devil (which means “slanderer”), Satan (which means “adversary”), and that ancient serpent (the deceiving serpent of the Garden). According to Gen 3:5, the serpent opposed and slandered God by questioning his motivation for giving the command not to eat the fruit. He deceived Adam and Eve by implying their rebellion would have a positive result for them (Gen 3:4-5).

The meaning of Christ’s ascension to heaven (v. 5) and the devil’s expulsion from it (vv. 8-9) are that Christ’s kingdom and authority have come. This is the fulfillment of the prophetic word regarding the inauguration of the Messiah’s rule in Psalm 2:7-9. According to the Psalm 2 the coming King will inherit the nations and possess the ends of the earth.

Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. —John 12:31

Christ began his rule over the earth at the ascension, and not at some indeterminate future date. The power and reality of the kingdom are present NOW. This has happened because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down. It’s clear from Job 1:6-11, 2:1-6 and Zech 3:1-2 that Satan had a mandate to accuse the saints. He had a legal point, for sin incurs the death penalty. But now, the death of Christ has satisfied the anger of God against the sins of all faithful believers of both covenants (Rom 3:25; 8:1; 8:33-34, 38). The resurrection sealed God’s approval of Christ’s sacrifice, and with the ascension, Satan has no basis left for his accusations. As a result, at the moment of the resurrection, he is evicted from the counsel of God. Jesus links the fall of Satan from heaven with the fact that the disciple’s names are written in heaven, and that they are now empowered with the authority of the kingdom (Lk 10:17-20). Jesus also taught that at the moment he was lifted up, the ruler of this world would be cast out (John 12:31). The power of the kingdom is now released into the earth, even though its consummated form awaits the Lord’s return.

HOMEWORK: 
The Dragon Pursues the Woman
Rev 11:13-17


Week 25 (10.29.23)

(Rev 12:1-6)

The sun, moon, and twelve stars are a reference to Joseph’s vision in Gen. 37:9 (the twelfth star of Revelation representing Joseph himself). The twelve stars thus represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The woman also depicts the restored Israel of the end-times which is repeatedly identified in Revelation as the church. Isaiah portrays the Israel to be restored in the last days as a woman (Isa 52:2; 54:1-6; 61:10; 62:1-5). He sees spiritual Israel as a bride with a crown on her head. He prophesies that restored Israel will be as a bride wearing a crown (Isa 62:5).

The vision is rooted in Gen 3:14-16. After Eve’s pain in childbirth, her seed is prophesied to bruise the head of the serpent. The woman gives birth to the One who will restore what was lost in the Garden. The woman here represents the faithful remnant of Israel. This is borne out by three prophetic words from Isaiah which form the background to this vision. According to Isa 7:10-14, a sign will be seen as “high as heaven,” the virgin will be with child, and will bear a son.

The woman in v 2 is described as being in agony. This word is used in the NT to refer to trial and persecution. In Revelation, it refers to a torment sent either from the devil (9.5) or from God (11.10; 14.10; 20.10).

The same dragon spoken of by Isaiah (Isa 27:1; 51.9) is shortly to be revealed as the ancient serpent, Satan himself (verse 9). The “dragon” in the OT is the evil sea monster who symbolizes the kingdoms trying to destroy Israel, in particular Egypt. God defeats Pharaoh, portrayed as a sea dragon at the Exodus, but which also appears at later points in history.

In Jeremiah 51.34, Babylon is identified with a sea monster. Isaiah 27.1 prophesies that at the end of history, God will again destroy this Egyptian dragon who lives in the sea. That the same evil spirit possessing Egypt resides in the latter-days dragon is evident from the numerous allusions to the Exodus in Revelation. Egypt and Babylon, homes of the OT dragon, become types or prophetic forefrunners of the spiritual dragon of the last days.

His seven heads and ten horns indicate the comprehensive and global nature of his power (numbers seven and ten referring Biblically to fullness or completion – e.g., Ten commandments).   [Note that 1,260 days, 42 months, 3 1/2 years is half of seven, indicating lack of fullness and incompletion.]   The ten horns are those of the fourth, terrifying beast in Daniels vision (Dan 7.7, 24). His red color is the same as that of the harlot and the beast, which in Rev 17.3-6 are linked with the fact the harlot is drunk with the blood of the saints. The crowns on his head show that he works through earthly kingdoms (aka Babylon). They are also a blasphemous and rebellious imitation of Christ’s true kingship.

When the saints are being persecuted, their angels and God himself are pictured as being attacked. But here, the dragon has a particular goal in mind: to devour the child the woman bore. Here in one phrase is summed up all the ways the devil tried to destroy Jesus,, from the attack of Herod on the children of Bethlehem, to the temptation in the wilderness, to the attempt of the citizens of Nazareth to throw him off the cliff, and so on right up to the cross.

HOMEWORK: 
War in Heaven
Rev 12:7-12


Weeks 23 & 24 (10.15-22.23)

(Rev 11:1-19)

The prophetic message in chap 11 involves the judgment of those who persecute the church, aka “those who dwell on the earth” (8:13 and 11:10). The vision portrays explicitly what the trumpets only imply: the fierce conflict during the church age (millennium) between God and the church, on the one hand, and the beast and the forces of evil, on the other.

John measures the temple: This text must be understood in the same way as the rest of Revelation — figuratively rather than literally. The measuring of vs 1 is identical with the sealing of 7:3-4. It refers to the spiritual security God gives to his people in spite of whatever physical suffering they may endure in the world. The sealing in turn is linked with the mark placed on the foreheads of the faithful in Ezek 9:4-6, which goes back to the mark of the blood which protected the Israelites in Exo. 12.

Forty-two months. If everything else in the vision is symbolic, so also must the time period be. The immediate reference is to Daniel (7:25; 12:7, 11-12), who prophesied a period of tribulation which would last for a “time, times and half a time” (= three and a half years or forty-two months) or 1,335 days. For Daniel, this time was in the distant future, but for John it has begun (1:1), and will proceed through the church age until the return of Christ.

God’s plan is designed to protect the witness of the church throughout the church age. His people will undergo suffering, but he will strengthen them so that they remain faithful as his witnesses. These witnesses are not individuals, but are to be identified with the church as it bears witness from the days of John until the Lord’s return.

The fact that there are two witnesses is significant. The words for “witness” (v. 3) and “testimony” (v. 7) are legal terms in Greek. The presence of two witnesses was the OT requirement for determining a legal offense (Num 35:3-; Deut 17:16). That is why Jesus sent out disciples in groups of two as legal witnesses to the gospel message. Paul followed the same procedure (2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19). Two angels, not one or three, bore witness to the resurrection and to Christ’s return (Acts 1:10-11). The witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. This identifies them with John the Baptist and his prophetic frontrunner Elijah. They mourn over the coming legal judgment on the world and its people.

The fact that the beast … arises from the bottomless pit does not mean that the beast has no function or power until the very end of the church age. What it means is that, by God’s permission, his deceptive activity is allowed to manifest openly and with little constraint at that time. But this apparent release is meant only to expose the power of evil for what it is, and prepare it for its ultimate judgment. The same event is described in 17:8, where the beast rises “from the bottomless pit” and goes “to destruction. The final warfare of the beast against the saints at the very end of the church age will result in the beast’s final destruction.

HOMEWORK: 
The Woman and the Dragon
Rev 12:1-17


Week 22 (10.8.23)

(Rev 10:1-11)  This chapter parallels Daniel 10:5-6 and Ezekiel 2:1–3:11

The purpose of the six trumpets was to warn a pagan and idolatrous world that judgment is coming. Every possible chance has been given, but there is no repentance. Which raises questions: How will anyone be brought to repentance in a world filled with so much disappointment, destruction, and death? Is it even possible? What are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven to do during this in-between time (from Christ’s ascension until his second coming) in a world that seems to have no hope? The answer is found in chapters 10 and 11. The point of this vision is to assure God’s people that he is with them in this present age in which his people live in the “wilderness” awaiting Christ’s return.

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven …” The description of this angel seems to indicate that this is Christ himself, as these very attributes have been used to describe him in previous passages. Think of the multiple mentions of “the angel of the Lord” in the O.T., meaning a manifestation of God or Christ himself. This angel “planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land” (implying sovereignty over all creation) and gave a loud shout “like the roar of a lion” (Lion of Judah).

The angel then “swore by him who lives for ever and ever” saying “there will be no more delay!” The time for final judgment has come. As the time approaches for the seventh angel to sound his trumpet, “the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets (in the O.T.). The “mystery of God” is the Gospel (see Eph. 6:19). Those anticipating the coming of messiah did not understand that he had to suffer and die in order to defeat death and Hades. Note that the when the sixth seal was opened, we also had a description of the final judgment, which plainly indicates that the visions John saw were not necessarily chronological. In fact, they are recapitulations of the same events from different points of view.

the mystery of God will be accomplished …” —Rev. 10:7

John heard a voice from heaven telling him to “take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel.” He was told to “take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” This “little” scroll was similar to the sealed scroll given to Christ. Thus, John is a pattern of the church’s witness to an unbelieving world. The “sweet” message in the scroll was the word of God; the “sour” message was one of judgment and destruction.

John was then recommissioned as a prophet to an unbelieving world, i.e., “… many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”

The seventh trumpet will announce the end of history, the Lord’s return, and the establishment of his everlasting kingdom (Rev. 11:15).

HOMEWORK: 
The Two Witnesses
Rev 11:1-14

 

Weeks 20-21 (9.24.23 & 10.1.23)

(Rev 9: 1-12)

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss” (9:1). The Abyss is the bottomless pit – the realm where Satan dwells. A fallen angel (Satan or one of his powerful agents) is given the key (by Christ, who holds the keys to Death and Hades (Rev 1:18). The O.T. background is Isaiah 14:12-16. This fallen angel is given the role of inflicting punishment on sinful humanity. The purpose for allowing the Abyss to be opened was for judgment to commence upon “only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” i.e., the unbelievers. They were not given the power to kill them (physically); only to torture (torment) them (spiritually and psychologically) for five months (a limited period of time designated by God). (See Rev 11:10; 14:10-11; 18:7, and Amos 8:11-12). The judgments in this chapter are based on the plagues of Egypt (see Exo. 8:22-24; 9:4-7; 10:21-23). Sealed believers (like the Israelites during the plagues) are not affected – they have confidence in their destiny in Christ. This is referred to as the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13 (see 1 Cor. 15:23).

John struggles to describe what he is seeing in the vision. He uses prophetic language drawn from previous scripture (see Joel 1:6; 2:4-5; Deut. 28:28, 34; Jer 8:16-17; for similar language).

Demons work among the ungodly so they will eventually destroyed by death of the and spirit. The sixth trumpet (9:13-21) pictures completion of this process.

The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come” —Rev 9:12

(Rev 9:13-21)

As we read of the gory battles described in Revelation, we must remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). Read Ephesians 6:10-18 for what we need to endure this struggle.

The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, giving instruction from heaven to “release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” These are the four (evil) angels who were restrained by God in Rev 7:1-3 until the servants of God were sealed (protected spiritually from harm). Now, in 9:15, they are “released to kill a third of (unbelieving) mankind.” The number of “mounted troops was two hundred million.” This is a figurative number representing an uncountable threat represented by Satan’s evil agents in the world. The Greek word in this verse is myrias meaning myriad (ten thousand or a countless number). Hence, myriad times myriad times two would be 200,000,000. Figuratively, this means that Satan’s countless minions have been turned loose on an unbelieving world to inflict their evil.

The “horses and riders” John describes “looked like …”  Remember again, apocalyptic language is highly symbolic. The visions are very similar to other prophetic language used in the O.T. and are modeled on the Egyptian plagues (see Jeremiah 46:4, 10, 22-23).

The three plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur (brimstone) “came out of their mouths” and “a third of mankind” was killed. This is an obvious reference to Satan’s use of deception and deceit which leads to all sorts of other evil consequences. Satan is describe in scripture as the “father of lies”; “He was a murderer from the beginning” (see John 8:44). Satan has been deceiving mankind since the Garden of Eden and will continue to do so until the Second Coming of Christ (which is described in the seventh seal). The actual form of the creatures described in these verses is often that of human false teachers (inside and outside the visible church), who promote worship of anything other than the true God. We should always to to God’s Word for protection, since it is the only source against such threats (see Acts 17:11; Eph 6:17).

You are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” —1 John 2:14

The result of these judgments were similar to the Egyptians in Exodus. Even though they witnessed the power of God and had ample warning to acccept Him as Savior, they did not repent. “They did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood …” This sixth trumpet represents humanity’s last warning. Though there are judgments yet to come (bowl judgments), these visions are recapitulations of the same scenes throughout redemptive history (the church age); they are descriptions of the same or similar judgments depicted from various viewpoints.

The basic sin depicted in 9:20-21 is idolatry. Refusal to worship the one true God. Psalm 115:4-8 describes idolatry as follows: “But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

HOMEWORK: 
The Angel and the Little Scroll
Rev 10:1-11


Week 19 Summary (9.17.23)

(Rev 8:1-13)

First of all, the rule to “interpret everything literally, if possible” misunderstands that Revelation is written in apocalyptic language. It is highly symbolic. To understand John’s visions as literal descriptions of the future is very misleading and confusing. We must be open to the possibility that the trumpet judgments actually represent calamities to befall kingdoms (mountains); a great star (a great leader); bitterness (polution of waters); darkening of sun, moon, stars (spiritual darkness) to be brought about by war(s) and their aftermath. This is what happened to the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. (Rome was the primary persecutor of God’s people in John’s time and for some time thereafter).

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

After the praises and singing by the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the thousands of attending angels in chapter five, silence is the last thing we would expect. Imagine the sense of awe in heaven with total silence. For us, a few minutes of silence can be unnerving, much less 30 minutes! We get a clue of what was happening from Zephaniah 1:7: “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near.” This was likely the calm before the storm. Judgment of the wicked (although limited initially) was about to begin.

The seven seals began with announcements of riders commissioned to bring calamities (6:1-8). The seven trumpets, by contrast, contain vivid descriptions of the calamities themselves. Trumpets throughout the Bible typically sound a warning, e.g., the trumpets that brought down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6). The intensity of judgment has increased. Yet some things are still spared: most of the plagues fall on only a third of the region.

The first four trumpet plagues (7-12) strike the four major regions of creation: dry land, sea, fresh water, and sky. The first four bowls will affect the same four regions (16:1-9). The trumpet plagues strike one-third of the region, indicating a less intense judgment than the corresponding bowl judgments. In this way, the judgments in Revelation build up in intensity and increasingly focus on the Second Coming, until 19:11-20:15 is reached.

For the first trumpet, hail and fire (v. 7) are reminiscent of the seventh Egyptian plague in Exodus 9:23-24. As in the case of the Egyptian plagues, these judgments come from God against evildoers. They show that God is the true God, and they call people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Yet, like the Egyptians, people may harden themselves and not repent. After the fourth trumpet, an eagle appears, indicating that even more terrible judgments follow in the last three plagues. The three last trumpets are grouped together as three woes (see Amos 5:18). These plagues explicitly discriminate between the righteous and the wicked, as did the Egyptian plagues. This is a reminder that many of the events in the O.T. were types and shadows of events that would come later.

Remember that God’s judgment of evil began nearly 2000 years ago, when the resurrected Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father. Within the period of the early church, these visions were fulfilled both through natural calamities and through spiritual calamities afflicting the souls of the wicked. We briefly discussed the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. and the resultant Dark Ages (500-1500 A.D.). B. W. Johnson writes, “Not only are the seals opened and the future disclosed, but the predictions have been in a great part fulfilled, and can be read upon the pages of history.” (Johnson’s book, “A Vision of the Ages” is fascinating.

Next week we’ll look at two more of the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet isn’t blown until chapter 11.

HOMEWORK: 
The Fifth and Sixth Trumpets
Rev 9:1-21


Week 18 Summary (9.2.23)

(Rev 8:1-13)

To quote Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We’ll revisit this chapter on 9/17. Please read this chapter again. Think about it. Pray for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Come prepared to ask questions.


Week 17 Summary (8.27.23)

(Rev 7:1-17 Review)

And I heard the number of those who were sealed.

The 144,000 is a symbolic number describing the people of God from the O.T. (the Church’s Israel heritage). They, along with the “great multitude that no one can count” (7:9) make up the “servants of our God” (7:3). We see in Paul’s writings that the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles. There is only one way to attain salvation from sin — Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There are a number of N.T. passages that make this clear:

For all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Rom 9:6);

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Gal 6:15);

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph 2:14-18);

Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).

What is unmistakably clear is that all New Testament believers, all who belong to Christ, all who have been clothed with Christ, are Abraham’s seed—not in the physical (ethnic) sense, but in a spiritual sense. The New Testament church is the true Israel, and all of its members are the true heirs of the promise made to Abraham.

The King himself offered the kingdom to the Jews of the first century, but they rejected it (Mat 12:22-28). “… to the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Rom 2:10). One day, when Jesus returns, He will establish His kingdom on earth and fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 51:3, “The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” Until then, Jesus is building His church (Mat 16:18) and using us for the glory of His name.

HOMEWORK: 
The Seventh Seal; the Golden Censer; first Four Trumpets
Rev 8:1-13


Week 16 Summary (8.20.23)

(Rev 7:1-17)  “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth …”  The announcement of the seventh seal is dramatically delayed while the saints receive assurance that God knows them and protects them in the midst of the calamities depicted in chapter 6. They are sealed from harm as in Ezekiel 9:4. The focus is on protection from spiritual harm, since it is clear in Revelation that they may suffer persecution and sometimes death for the sake of their faith (Rev 2:10, 13; 13:15). The interlude contains two complementary pictures: the vision of the 144,000 in vv. 1-8 and the vision of the great multitude in vv 9-17. These visions picture God’s protection of his people, but from two different perspectives. If 7:1-8 emphasizes the Israelite heritage of the New Testament people of God, then 9-17 emphasizes their international character. They are a great multitude … from every nation, tribe, people and language, fulfilling the promise to Abraham that all the peoples on earth would be blessed through him (Gen 12:3; 17:5).

The victors, the whole people of God, have come out of the great tribulation. Many identify the great tribulation with a final period of persecution shortly before the Second Coming. But tribulations for Christians occur throughout the church age, so that the whole age can be characterized as one of tribulation (2 Thes 1:5-6; 2 Tim 3:1, 12).

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The victorious saints appear before God to enjoy his presence in blissful peace and comfort (vv. 15-17). At the heart of blessing is the presence of God and the Lamb, and their care for the saints. The picture here anticipates the final peace of Rev 21:1-4.

HOMEWORK: 
We’ll talk about this one again next week.
Pray for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (Eph 1:17)
Rev 7:1-17


Week 15 Summary (8.13.23)

(Rev 6:9-17“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw … under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Martyred saints cry out for justice, not because of selfish desires, but in tune with the justice of God’s throne. They desire to see God’s justice fully manifested and evil eliminated. Humanity consists of two groups; the people of God, whose citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and, in opposition to them, the rebellious inhabitants of the earth. Although the picture focuses specifically on martyrs, it applies to all faithful believers. Jesus calls on all his followers to surrender their life in order that they may gain eternal life.

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 

With the opening of the sixth seal, all dwellers on earth and the cosmos itself experience God’s judgment. Verses 12-17 give the first of seven descriptions in Revelation of events associated with the Second Coming. The mention of seven types of people (6:15) suggests complete judgment, as does the announcement of “the great day of their wrath (6:17). Since this world is to be so thoroughly shaken, the saints must hope in God.

HOMEWORK: 
Read about the Interlude: Protection for the Saints
Rev 7:1-17


Week 14 Summary (8.6.23)

(Rev 6:1-8)   “I watched as the Lamb opened the first of seven seals.”  The first four seals: Christ uses evil forces to inflict trials on people throughout the church age for either purification or punishment.

After seeing the magnificence and sovereignty of God’s throne room in chapters 4-5, the visions now begin to look at the execution of God’s plan for final judgment. History unfolds as a series of judgments leading up to the appearing of Christ and the consummation of all things. In this passage we find first of three seven-part judgments (the trumpets (chaps 8-9) and the bowls (chap 16) are the other two). As each seal is opened, Christ the Lamb sets in motion events that will bring about the end of human history (i.e., Second Coming). The scroll is not completely opened until the seventh seal is broken (in 8:1). 

Often referred to as the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse,” the horses appear as the first four seals are opened. The horses represent God’s judgment of sin and rebellion. The white horse represents conquest; the red horse represents war; the black horse represents famine; and the pale horse represents death and Hades (the abode of the dead). These calamities characterize an indefinite period before the Second Coming.

They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill …”

A “fourth of the earth” would amount to two billion people based on current world population of eight billion. It’s important to remember that God is directing human history—even using his enemies (as in other parts of scripture) to accomplish his purposes. The four horses are similar to the four horses in Zechariah 1:8; 6:1-5.

HOMEWORK: 
Read about the opening of seals five and six
Rev 6:9-17


Week 13 Summary (7.30.23)

(Rev 5:1-14)  “Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll …”  What is this scroll and why does it matter? This seven-sealed scroll represents the decrees of God concerning the unfolding of his plans for judgment and salvation that were established before the foundations of the world – set in motion by Christ’s death and resurrection.  

John saw a might angel proclaiming … “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth … could open the scroll or look inside it. So John wept and wept (apparently there was no hope for eternal life??). Then one of the elders said, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (see Gen 49:9-10) and the Rot of David, has triumphed. “He is able to open the scroll …”

Then John saw … a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne …” Christ, the slaughtered Lamb of God, is the only one worthy to mediate God’s plan. Christ as a slaughtered Lamb is the paradox of the Christian faith. The world (those who don’t believe in God) don’t understand how being crucified can be seen as victory (see 1 Cor 1:18-24). But we understand that Christ won the victory over Satan, death and destruction, by taking upon himself the punishment we deserved, and nailing it to the Cross.

You were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation …”

Redemption through the Lamb extends not only to the tribes of Israel, but to every tribe, language, peoples, and nations. The unique status that was given to Israel in Exodus 19:5-6 now extends to all saints in all nations.

When Jesus took the scroll from the right hand of the Father, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb … along with “ten thousand times ten thousand” angels (v. 11 – that’s one hundred million!) and sang a new song: “You are worthy …!!!

Consider the glorious worship and praise that is going on in heaven because of what Christ has accomplished by his death and resurrection — and compare it to the worship in most church services today. Is there something we’re missing? Are we embarrassed to worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords the way he’s worshipped in heaven?

HOMEWORK: 
Read about the opening of the seven seals
Rev 6:1-16


Week 12 Summary (7.23.23)

(Rev 4: 1-11)  After this I looked and there before me was a door standing open   The next vision John saw was a door standing open in heaven. And a voice “like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.” John saw the vision of the heavenly throne after he had heard the messages to the seven churches. “Throne” is the key word in Revelation. It’s shows up 14 times in this chapter; and 46 times in the entire book; and only 15 times in all the rest of the N.T.

Paul, too, was caught up to the “third heaven” (see 2 Cor. 12:2-4). The primary message here is that God is on the throne of the universe — and His will will be done!

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders … dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.” The number twenty-four likely symbolizes the people of God (12 tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles).

From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. This is a symbolic indication that a “storm” (judgment) is coming.

“Twenty-four elders and four living creatures …”

These same four living creatures are also in Ezekiel 1:5 (with only minor differences). They likely represent the highest order of created beings on earth. They’re covered in eyes and watch over the world as God’s agents. Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne (God the Father), the 24 elders fall down and worship as well.

We tend to think of the earth as the center of the universe. We sometimes operate as if everything revolves around us — our needs, our wants, our problems, our pain. But, in Revelation 4 and 5, we discover what is truly at the center of the universe; what everything and every one revolves around … and it ain’t us. (Marsha hates it when I say ain’t!)

HOMEWORK: 
Read about the Throne in Heaven
 Rev 5:1-14


Week 11 Summary (7.16.23)

(Rev 3:14-22)  To the angel of the church in Laodicea” The Lord is about to tell this church the painful truth about its spiritual condition. This is the only church that is offered absolutely no commendation from Jesus. This is particularly concerning considering that many theologians see this seventh church as representing the general condition of the church that Jesus will find on earth when he comes again. Take a look around. What’s this world coming to?!

In their own esteemed opinion, the Laodicean church considered themselves to be rich. Self-sufficient, self-satisfied, and self-reliant. Everything was just fine. But Christ told them that they didn’t realize that they’re actually wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked spiritually speaking. He counsels them to buy from him gold refined in the fire (pure truth), so they can become rich (rich spiritually; see Mat 5:3). Proverbs 30:8-9 says, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” We all should seek heavenly treasures, “For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.” (Mat 6:19-21).

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus tells them, as he did all the churches, that he knows their deeds. He knows the good and the bad. He knows what needs to happen in their (and our) lives. He knows what he is preparing for them (and us) if they will “be earnest and repent.” When we invite Christ into our lives we can find victory and can become overcomers through the suffering we’re about to suffer while on earth (see John 16:33).

This passage pictures relationship with Christ as of infinitely greater value than all the material possessions the Laodiceans (or we) have.

HOMEWORK: 
Read about the Throne in Heaven
 Rev 4:1-11


Week Ten Summary (7.9.23)

(Rev 3:7-13)  “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia ...” There is no rebuke for this church, as there was none for the church in Smyrna. They are working in tandem with Christ. Jesus told them, “I know your deeds …” as he said to most of the other churches. He knows that they have kept his word and have not denied his name — they have not compromised their faith as had several of the other churches. They, like Smyrna, have been slandered by the “synagogue of Satan.” It’s hard to minister effectively in a place where the leading citizens are working against you (in effect, doing Satan’s bidding). But we’re to persevere; to “endure patiently (v. 10).

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial …” —Rev 3:10

Jesus is coming soon! (v 11); no one knows when. He will come ” … like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Rev 3:3). Isaiah 60:22(b) gives this some clarity, “I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.” God has a perfect plan, which will determine who, when, where and how his will is carried out. Nearly 2000 years have passed since the resurrection of Christ. But Jesus is “holy and true” (Rev 3:7) so we can be sure that all is working according to his plan.

He tells them to “hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown” (Rev 3:11). We’re not to be “deceived by hollow and deceptive philosophies” (Col. 2:8). Jesus will write on us a new name; a name that will mark us as members of his family. Co-heirs with Jesus Christ!

Ask yourself, Am I walking through the doors that Jesus has opened for me to share the Gospel?

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Laodicea
 Rev 3:14-22


Week Nine Summary (7.2.23)

(Rev 3:1-6)  To the angel of the church in Sardis …” The only word of approval is in actuality a word of rebuke as Christ declared that they had a reputation for being alive and apparently were regarded by their contemporaries as an effective church.

I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God

Christ quickly stripped away their reputation of being alive by declaring, you are dead. Like the Pharisees, their outer appearance was a facade hiding their lack of life (cf. Matt. 23:27-28). Christ added, I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. They were falling far short of fulfilling their obligations as believers.

They were exhorted to wake up from their spiritual slumber and to strengthen the few evidences of life they still had. He exhorted them to remember … obey … and repent. He warned them that if they did not heed this exhortation, He would come on them like a thief, that is, suddenly and unexpectedly.

While this church as a whole was dead or dying, Christ recognized a godly remnant in the Sardis church who had not soiled their clothes with sin. He promised that true believers will be dressed in white (cf. v. 18), symbolic of the righteousness of God, that their names will remain in the book of life, and that He will acknowledge them as His own before His Father and His angels.

The letter also concludes with the exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The letter to Sardis is a searching message to churches today that are full of activity and housed in beautiful buildings but are so often lacking in evidences of eternal life. Christ’s word today is to “remember,” “repent,” and “obey,” just as it was to the church in Sardis.

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Philadelphia
 Rev 3:1-7-14


Week Eight Summary (6.25.23)

(Rev 2:18-29)  To the angel of the church in Thyatira”  Though much was wrong in the church at Thyatira, believers there were commended for their love … faith … service, and perseverance. And the Thyatira Christians were doing more as time went on (in contrast to the Ephesus church which did less). But despite these evidences of Christian life and testimony, the church at Thyatira had serious problems.

Jesus’ major condemnation concerned that woman Jezebel, who claimed to be a prophetess and taught believers to take part in the sexual immorality that accompanied pagan religion and to eat food sacrificed to idols. What was acceptable to that local society was abhorred by Christ. Their departure from morality had gone on for some time (v. 21). The church in Thyatira may have first heard the gospel from Lydia, converted through Paul’s ministry (Acts 16:14-15). Interestingly now a woman, a self-claimed “prophetess,” was influencing the church. Her name “Jezebel” suggests that she was corrupting the Thyatira church much like Ahab’s wife Jezebel corrupted Israel (1 Kings 16:31-33). Christ promised sudden and immediate judgment, called her sin adultery and promised that all who followed her would suffer intensely.

The Lord found much to expose and condemn in this assembly. No amount of loving and sacrificial works can compensate for tolerance of evil.


But there were a few who had not compromised their faith, and on this godly remnant He imposed one simple instruction: “only hold on to what you have until I come.”

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Sardis
 Rev 3:1-6


Week Seven Summary (6.11.23)

(Rev 2:12-17)  To the angel of the church in Pergamum ...” Pegamum was located 25 miles north of Smyrna and was known chiefly for it’s religion. There were many temples honoring many gods, e.g., Zeus, Aphrodite, Asclepius (see image below). It possessed the oldest temple in Asia Minor devoted to emperor worship. The citizens of Pergamum were expected to profess, “Caesar is Lord” and participate in giving alms to the various gods.

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

Asclepius was the “god of medicine/healing” whose insignia was a serpent winding around a staff. Satan, of course, is also symbolized as a serpent (2 Cor 11:3). This, along with a temple dedicated to Caesar, may have been why it was said to be “where Satan has his throne.” The evil atmosphere of this city was adverse to any effective Christian life and testimony.

Jesus knew what they were going through (as He does with us). He commended the Pergamum church for remaining faithful to Him in the face of extreme persecution, even after His faithful witness, Antipas, had been martyred for not compromising his faith.

His rebuke of this church was that they were holding to false teaching by certain factions within the congregations, i.e., the teaching of Balaam, who counseled Balak (King of Moab) to entice the Israelites to compromise their faith by participating in idolatry and sexual immorality with Moabite women (see Num. 22-25). These factions promoted compromise with the local pagans by urging participation in immoral local customs in order to be accepted. Still others in the congregation held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans (another group condoning immoral practices). Compromising our faith or putting up with immoral teachings or lifestyles within Christian congregations should never be tolerated. Error will never be suppressed by compromising with it. Any church that is popular with the world is not the spiritually strong, separated church we’re called to be. Compromising and tolerating evil practices puts our place in the Kingdom of God at risk.

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Thyatira
 Rev 2:18-29


Week Six Summary (6.4.23)

(Rev 2:8-11) “To the angel of the church in Smyrna …”  Smyrna was a wealthy city 35 miles north of Ephesus. A seaport and a manufacturer of myrrh (a fragrant oil used in embalming; when crushed it emitted an pleasing perfume). The church in Smyrna was being “crushed” by persecution from Jews and Romans because they refused to compromise their faith by calling Caesar Lord. The Jews were jealous of the inroads being made by Christianity and were determined to turn the Roman authorities against them. The Jewish people had been accepted by the Romans as harmless. Yet these “Christians” were threatening the lordship of Caesar by worshipping another “King.”

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!

Even though they were suffering poverty and exclusion, they were being called to remain faithful through it all. In referring to Himself in v.8 as “the First and the Last, who died and came to life again,” Jesus encouraged them to remain faithful, even to the point of death (v. 10), and they would ultimately receive the crown of life (eternal life).

We, too, will suffer persecution in this life (see John 15:20). And we, too, must patiently endure whatever hardship comes our way. Jesus promises that “he who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death, i.e., the lake of fire (described in Rev. 20:14). Patient endurance is our watchword.

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Pergamum
 Rev 2:12-17


Week Five Summary (5.28.23)

(Rev 2:8-11)  “To the angel of the church in Smyrna …”  We sped through this letter due to Memorial Service. Will revisit this one next week.

HOMEWORK: 
Read (or re-read) the Letter to Smyrna with “ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” and to us individually.
Rev 2:8-11


Week Four Summary (5.21.23)

 (Rev 2:1-7)   To the angel of the church in Ephesus  This was the first of the seven letters Jesus Christ wrote (through John) to the churches in Asia Minor. As with most of these letters, he began with a commendation; followed by a rebuke; an exhortation; and a promise. The Ephesian church was working hard and persevering through persecution. They were not allowing false teachers to lead them astray. They had not grown weary of doing good work in Jesus’ name. They were just about perfect, judging by appearances. But then came the rebuke:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

The Apostle Paul had written to this church 35 years earlier, saying “I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love for all the saints” (Eph. 1:15). He had closed that letter with “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Eph. 6:24). But, like many Christians today, they had allowed their faith to be compromised over time by the world around them — the “honeymoon” was over. They were diligently doing the right things but they weren’t doing them for the right reason. Their love for Christ and for each other had taken a back seat to activity (cf. Mary and Martha). They were “too busy” to maintain the warm attachment to Jesus they once knew.

These letters were written to specific first-century churches. But what Jesus had to say to them applies to all churches throughout time. Churches are made up of individuals. He says (in all the letters), “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Take some time to reread this letter as if it were written specifically to you; then be humble enough to examine your own life. If you need to make any changes, e.g., spending more time in prayer and studying God’s Word — Jesus is waiting to hear from you.

The church that loses its love will soon lose its light — no matter how doctrinally sound it may be.

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Smyrna
 Rev 2:8-11


Week Three Summary (5.7.23)

(Rev 1:9-20)  John wrote from the island of Patmos (60 miles off coast of modern-day Turkey) where he had been exiled by the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 95) for preaching and teaching the Word of God (1:9). Christ appeared to John in a cave at the top of the island. A Greek Orthodox church meets regularly in this location.

The glorified Jesus appeared to John in a vision and commanded him to write on a scroll what he saw and send it to seven specific churches in Asia Minor (v.11).

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

In verses 19-20, Jesus gave John an outline of the book he wanted him to write: 1) What was (chap. 1); what is (chaps. 2-3); and what is to come (chaps. 4-22). The word “prophecy” is used seven times in Revelation. The mystery of the seven stars and seven golden lampstands was explained as being the angels (messengers) of the seven churches and the lampstands were the churches. The churches are lampstands because they are the dwelling places of the Spirit of God on earth. They are the keepers of the light of God’s truth and salvation in a lost world. Jesus, the Lord of the church, walks in the midst of her.

HOMEWORK: 
Read the Letter to Ephesus
Rev 2:1-7


Week Two Summary (4.30.23)

(Rev 1:1-8) This book (along with the entire Bible) is all about Jesus Christ. It’s the Revelation of Jesus Christ (v.1); not of John. In Luke 24:27 Jesus spoke with two men on the road to Emmaus, “and, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Revelation is also called the Apocalypse. The word apocalypse (Gr. apokalypsis) simply means to unveil, uncover, or reveal. It’s not a scary word at all. God is love, and “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18).

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for us, is being revealed in all his power and glory! He is coming again soon (Rev 22:7-21) … as the Lion of Judah; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And “we will be with him forever” (1 Thes 4:17). “Soon” means that when God decides it’s time, it will happen quickly (see 1 Cor. 15:52).

“Blessed is the one who reads 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.”  —Rev 1:3

This blessing is the first of seven beatitudes found in the book. The number seven is prominent in Revelation. Seven in scripture typically connotes completion or perfection. You might say that Revelation is the perfect ending to a perfect story. We’ll be looking at a lot of sevens.

HOMEWORK: 
Re-read Revelation, Chapter 1
with intention to see what you may have missed the first time.


Week One Summary (4.23.23)

There are four main schools of thought regarding understanding the Book of Revelation:

  1. Preterist View: Think that fulfillment occurred at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
  2. Futurist View: Think that fulfillment will occur in a period of final crisis just before the Second Coming.
  3. Historicist View:  Think that Revelation offers a basically chronological outline of the course of church history from the first century until the Second Coming.
  4. Idealist View: Think that the scenes of Revelation depict principles of spiritual warfare, not specific events. This is the most biblical viewpoint. Example of scripture interpreting scripture rather than reliance on the imagination and/or misinterpretation of scripture.

There are three primary beliefs about the Millennium (1000-year Kingdom of Christ):

  1. Pre-millennialism: The belief that there will be a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth following the Rapture of the Church, preceded by a literal seven-year period of tribulation. During this time many unbelievers will accept Christ, including the Jewish remnant.
  2. Post-millennialism: The possibility of a literal 1000-year reign on earth, albeit after Christianity has spread via evangelism and missionaries, “to the ends of the earth,” and the majority of people on earth have become believers in Christ.
  3. Amillennialism: The belief that there will be no literal 1000-year reign on earth. With the creation of the Church at Pentecost, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies as well as the Old Testament covenants with Israel. In effect, the Church is the New Israel.

HOMEWORK: 
Read Revelation, Chapter 1
Watch Revelation 1-11 
Watch Revelation 12-22


Introduction to Bible Interpretation

The Global Message of Revelation (click here)

A careful reading of the Bible will convince anyone that this inspired classic (Book of Revelation) forms a complete cycle. Genesis is the book of commencement – when it all began. Revelation is the book of consummation – how it all ends.”

Genesis—The commencement of Heaven and earth (1:1)
Revelation—The consummation of Heaven and earth (21:1)

Genesis—The entrance of sin and the curse (3:1-19)
Revelation—The end of sin and the curse (21:27; 22:3)

Genesis—The dawn of Satan and his activities (3:1-7)
Revelation—The doom of Satan and his activities (20:10)

Genesis—The tree of life is relinquished (2:9; 3:24)
Revelation—The tree of life is regained (22:2)

Genesis—Sorrow begins (3:16)
Revelation—Sorrow is banished (21:4)