Our treatment of Revelation will be very thorough. The reader
should recognize that, since Revelation is the most complete apocalypse
it is deserving of a very thorough treatment. That treatment
The book of Revelation is perhaps the most misunderstood, and misused of all Biblical books. It has been ignored or misapplied by thousands of Christians for thousands of years. It has been interpreted (or perhaps better, misinterpreted) and made to say things that would, no doubt, horrify John the Seer.
The book has suffered such misunderstanding for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is that many interpreters have failed to take seriously the first verse of the book. This verse is the key to the entire text.
The second reason that the book has been misunderstood is that interpreters have failed to take into account the historical situation of the text. One cannot rightly interpret any material if one does not know why and when it was written.
Now it is an understatement to say that Revelation can be interpreted in a variety of ways; some interpret it as a map of the distant future. Others see it as a description of the whole of human history. There are premillenial interpretations, post millenial, and a-millenial. All of these views compete for followers. The problem, in my view, with all these attempts, is that they fail to take seriously the first verse, which, as I have already said, is the key to the whole book. That is, in short; the book is an unveiling of Jesus. The book is about Jesus! Who is he, and what has he done? That is what the book is about. That is what the first verse says!
Now we must discover the historical situation which gave birth to the book.
At the end of the first century the Church (in certain areas) was suffering persecution. The emperor was demanding worship and the Christians were refusing to do so. In consequence the emperor was killing some and seizing the property of others. Here is how it worked:
In each village and town, as well as the larger cities, a representative of the emperor made an appearance each year. The citizens of the region were required to bring their taxes and present them as an offering to the emperor. They were also asked to swear an oath to the emperor and vow to pray to him yearly. This the Christians could not do. So, as punishment, they were made to forfeitinued to refuse they could be (and some were) killed.
In the midst of this dreadful situation the Church was asking, "where is Jesus. Has he abandoned us? Does he no longer care for us?" To these and other questions John gives answer. As we make progress in discussing the text of the book the historical situation will be brought to bear in order to enlighten the text.
Thus the book was written at the end of the first century in Asia Minor by an exiled Christian who had lost his property and his citizenship for refusing to worship the emperor.
The exposition now follows:
1. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show
unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to
pass: and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant
2 who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw.
This message is not for John alone, so that he can be encouraged and his hope stirred; it is for all the servants of God. This book's message is about Jesus. It is not the revelation of the future, the past, or the present nearly so much as it is the revealing of who Jesus is and what he has done and will do on behalf of his people.
3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.
The book is also a reminder that the word of Jesus must abide in our hearts. It is not enough to memorize scripture; one must live scripture. With this attitude we will receive the blessing which God has in store for us. His blessings, His love, His grace thereby become present realities to us and they actually have an impact on our lives.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was an seven Spirits that are before his throne;
This book is not sent first to Jerusalem or Antioch- the chief churches of the day. It is sent to the churches suffering persecution on the west coast of Asia Minor. It is not only the "mega-churches" that God is concerned about -- it is every Church, large or small. These 7 churches, relatively small and unknown, are the places where God is at work.
5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood;
When the Church looks around it sees lots of powerful folk seeking to destroy it. But it needs to remember that Jesus is its Lord, and theirs too! The throne of Jesus stands above all other thrones!
6 and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
The first, best, and most important gift that Jesus gives his Church is himself! He gives his pure, undefiled, and full love to her. He struggles on her behalf and he strives for her salvation!
7 Behold, he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
This is the central promise of the Christian faith; he is coming again -- and everyone will stand before him.
8 I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
So, in consequence of this, what the emperor does is of no significance. He may order worship, he may imprison the faithful, he may steal their property, he may kill them; but he does not have the first word nor the last word. Jesus does because he is the first word and the last, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega.
9. I John, your brother and partaker with you in tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
They are unified in their service of Jesus and share together freedom and victory. They might be in prison; but they are still free in spirit to love and serve God. They may be chained, but they can still pray and sing and worship. Those without faith are the ones who are really enslaved.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet
We are now, according the the author, taken from the realm of the material world to the realm of the spiritual world. What we find in the book from this point out is visionary in nature. That is, John is seeing a vision. Because of this we can expect the language and description to be highly symbolic. The material from this point is the stuff of visions and must be interpreted in that way. When we read of locusts from the abyss, and other strange and bizarre creatures we must constantly remind ourselves that John is seeing a vision. Are these events real? Yes, in a spiritual and visionary sense. If John had wished to describe events as other than visionary he would have done so. We must, then, take him at his word and not force his words into some other category; for this is a vision!
11 saying, What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
So long as the Church keeps its eyes fixed on Jesus it will be able to receive his word. When it turns away from him, it can no longer see or hear him. These 7 churches are average. They represent all churches everywhere for there are no churches which are not like them.
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And having
turned I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13 and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle.
14 And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as the voice of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
The church is not the light- it merely reflects the light and
life of its Lord. The Church is the place where the light is
brightest. Jesus is the high priest of this Church of his; that
is why he is dressed as a priest. Jesus is the king of the Church;
that is why he is dressed as a king. Jesus speaks to the Church
and it must listen; that is why he is dressed as a prophet. Jesus
is the prophet, priest and king of the Church. It belongs to
him and not to the emperor or to itself.
The sword reminds us that Jesus will see to it that all evil is purged from His Church.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And
he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first
and the last,
18 and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
19 Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter;
20 the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches.
The text here interprets itself; for it is Jesus whoords mean. This also is the gift of Jesus. He makes His word work! He does what he says! He has the power to carry out his will in spite of the emperor or anyone else.
1. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:
The Church must know, first of all, that it is Jesus who speaks
to them. As Luther rightly saw, the Word of God is threefold
in form: Jesus is the Word of God; the Bible is the Word of God;
the Sermon is the Word of God. All three are God's Word to humanity,
and none can be done without.
Every Christian should realize that God does speak and that he does have the right to speak to His people and to be heard. When the Christian listens to God, he or she will not be able to hear the voice of the false spirits.
The Christian should also realize that he or she stands or falls by hearing or failing to hear the Word of God in its 3 fold form. And that Jesus is really present and so really knows what is going on in His Church (for it is, precisely, His Church and not ours).
2 I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou
canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves
apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;
3 and thou hast patience and didst bear for my name's sake, and hast not grown weary.
4 But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love.
Does Jesus not have the right to rule His Church? Does he not have the right to send it messengers? And does he not have the right to determine whether or not it is fulfilling its functions? The answer to all these questions is yes.
The problem that had arisen in the Church was not that it was no longer the Church; nor that it had completely forgotten Christ; rather, it was doing ie warm, brotherly affection which should characterize the Church was absent from them. The Church was, therefore, sick.
5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.
They need to confess their lovelessness! It is their greatest sin and is the sin which gives birth to every sin. They need to bring themselves back under the rule of love. They will thereby receive forgiveness and will be freed to love again.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Concerning these Nicolaitans we know only what the Church says later on. Apparently it was a group of folks who, like the hippies of the 60's, believed in "free love". In short, it was a group involved in orgies and open sex as part of the requirements of belonging to the "church". These heretics were rightly condemned by the Church and were not allowed membership in orthodox communities.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.
The call to repent is based on the promise of redemption. When we repent we are drawn ever closer to Christ; we are filled with his love; and we are filled with his Spirit. The end result of such a repentance is that the person who turns back to God will experience the joy of paradise and the eternal presence of God near the tree of life.
8. And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again:
9 I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, an d they art not, but arpar They are experiencing the very depths of evil in the trials they suffer. They should not be surprised if Satan hates them since they love God!
10 Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
The struggle of the Smyrnian Christians is not to be too long. There will be an end to it; or, there is light at the end of the tunnel that is already visible. Besides, Christ knows that they are suffering and therefore they are not suffering alone.
But why does God allow this to happen? So that the believers become stronger rather than weaker. When trials come we can either grow through them or be crushed by them. And since God wishes us to grow he will give us the grace we need just when we need it to overcome any trial. Will they remain true to God? Is their faith real? Trials provide the answer, not for God but for them.
In the face of any trial they should work for Jesus with great joy.
12. and to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword:
13 I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan's throne is; and thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth.
The throne of Satan is the place where persecution originates. Thus, they are in "a hornet's nest". A very difficult place to live.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to ce children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.
They find themselves not quite able to remain completely faithful. (How many does this accurately describe in every age!). The sin of Balaam was the desire to lead the people of God astray into the service of other gods; thus the people here we easily led away from the truth into error.
They should rather cling to Jesus and make no room for false gods.
15 So hast thou also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner.
16 Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
If they do not repent they will find themselves fighting God Himself! Not really the battle a wise person would choose!
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.
The giving of Manna is a reminder that God gives what we need each day. The white stone was given to slaves when they were freed; and thus we are reminded that we are free from the bondage of sin and to sin. With justification we receive a new life. The new name means that we have a new relationship to God- a special relationship which makes us the very special children of God.
18. And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like unto burnished brass:
19 I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that thy last works are more than the first.
20 But I have this against thee, that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, who cad she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
Many of the Christians at Thyatira had returned to their pagan pasts. They must realize that impurity in the Church cannot be tolerated in the name of toleration. Their circle is broken!
Jezebel is a well known Old Testament person who led Israel into the worship of foreign gods. She was highly despised in the Judaism of the first century as the root of many evils.
21 And I gave her time that she should repent; and she willeth not to repent of her fornication.
22 Behold, I cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works.
They must repent of their idolatry. For, if they do not they will perish as Jezebel did.
24 But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, who know not the deep things of Satan, as they are wont to say; I cast upon you none other burden.
25 Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till I come.
Yet even in the midst of the most "backslidden" churches there are people who struggle to do the will of God. Instead of involving themselves in secondary matters they keep their eyes firmly fixed on Christ.
26 And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations:
27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as I also have received of my Father:
28 and I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit s aith to the churches. r work must reflect and mirror the work of Jesus if it is to have any lasting value. The one who rightly hears the word of Jesus will rightly do his work. And just as the rising of the morning star reminds them that the night is over, so will they also, in their work for Jesus, be constantly reminded that the night is almost over and the day is about to dawn.
1. And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead.
2 Be thou watchful, and establish the things that remain, which were ready to die: for I have found no works of thine perfected before my God.
The one who is awake stands fast and helps others do the same. He cannot simply think of himself- he must think of others. But the Christians of Sardis are not awake- they are asleep. They must wake up before it is too late!
3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
They had better wake up or they will lose all.
4 But thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
Yet again we see that even in the deadest Church there are people whose love for Jesus is pure and who are led by that purity of heart to serve Jesus every day.
7. And to the angel of the church in Philaith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth:
8 I know thy works (behold, I have set before thee a door opened, which none can shut), that thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name.
9 Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
The call of Jesus has become effective in their lives and has issued in action. They might not be in the most important city but they are faithful. The gift given them in result of this faithfulness is an open door of fruitful mission activity.
10 Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
When Jesus comes those who have remained faithful will not have to endure the shame and punishment coming upon the disobedient.
11 I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.
12 He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and mine own new name.
13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
Jesus comes quickly and his community, his Church, should stand fast in his word until then. This is what they are called to do. His promise to such people is a fellowship that will never end.
14. And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful a nd true witness, the bd:
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.
The church holds its faith in Jesus lightly. It is a low priority for them for they are indifferent to it and to Him. If this attitude continues, their fellowship with Jesus will be irreparably damaged.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich; and white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest; and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see.
Jesus does not praise them for their attitude; he chides them and urges them to repent. How different this is from modern theologians and preachers who are unwilling to offer substantive advice and instead have adopted the psychiatric methods of the world. They thereby do the church and the Lord a disservice.
19 As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21 He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.
22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
Their whole religious life is a sham; they must repent. If they do not they certainly cannot expect to share table fellowship with Jesus when He comes in his kingdom. The judgment of Jesus against sin in the church is just as potent as it is against those outside of the t on its laurels; it must be faithful always.
1. After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter.
2 Straightway I was in the Spirit: and behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne;
The work of Jesus in Heaven is the only real foundation for the work of the Church on earth. When Christians mirror Jesus in their actions then and only then are they accomplishing His will.
3 and he that sat was to look upon like a jasper stone and a sardius: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon.
The throne is the sign of God's Lordship. He is the King above every king, including the demented Domitian, who forced his servants to call him "dominus et deus" (lord and god). But the only real lord is the Lord, in spite of Domitian's claims.
Note that John does not describe the visible appearance of God Himself; he simply describes God's surroundings. God is indescribable and too wonderful for words. Those who know Him best know this as well and are not led astray into fantasy or speculation.
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty thrones: and upon the thrones I saw four and twenty elders sitting, arrayed in white garments; and on their heads crowns of gold.
God has chosen not to rule alone; His community is called to share in His work and privileged to do so. The church thus is to the world what God is to the Church; the place where light is visible and truth is manifest.
5 And out of the throne proceed lightnings and voices and thunders. And there was seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the r The Lordship of God extends to every part of creation, like lightning flashes from the sky.
6 and before the throne, as it were a sea of glass like a crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures full of eyes before and behind.
The sea is at rest, still as glass, because one cannot be in the presence of God without being in peace.
7 And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.
8. and the four living creatures, having each one of them six wings, are full of eyes round about and within: and they have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.
The Lord is Lord of heaven and earth, and all they contain.
9 And when the living creatures shall give glory and honor and thanks to him that sitteth on the throne, to him that liveth for ever and ever,
10 the four and twenty elders shall fall down before him that sitteth on the throne, and shall worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and shall cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created.
The Church should know that all division in the community is wrong; it is human and not divine and it is earthly and not heavenly. In the presence of God there is only harmony.
1. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the back, close sealed with seven seals.
No one is allowed knowledge of the will of Go d unless God grants it And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
In the kingdom of God it is not the "strong" who succeed but the upright. Domitian needed to be reminded of this!
3 And no one in the heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look thereon.
4 And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon:
The cup which Jesus drank may indeed be partaken of by His followers. If so, they must drink it with patience and ultimate joy knowing that God will not and cannot abandon them.
5 and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof.
The office of Christ, from beginning to end, is to act for God. Even in his death and also in his life on earth and in heaven.
The scroll he is to open is "for his eyes only". He alone can disclose God the Father and his will for humankind.
6. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth.
7 And he came, and he taketh it out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne.
When one is near Jesus, Jesus is all that one can see. John wishes his community to see Jesus as well and as clearly as he did.
The 7 eyes and horns and spirits are symbols of the perfection of Jesus in seeing his people and in overcoming their enemies in the perfection of the Spirit.
The good shepherd will go so far as to even lay down his life for his sheep; and so Jesus did.
8ok, the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9 And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,
10 and madest them to be unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon earth.
So, indeed, it is not the Roman emperor who holds supreme authority; it is the people of God. It is not the apparently powerful but the spiritually powerful who really make a difference in the world.
11 And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
12 saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing.
The circle expands itself. Whenever Jesus wills it to be so.
13 And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.
14 And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped.
Every clangorous note sounded among and by humanity, every voice raised against God, and every person who rebels against God will be overcome by Jesus who has already judged humanity on the cross.
1. And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures s aying as with a voice lainThe opening of a sealed document means that what it contains is now to be enacted, whether it be legislation or a deed or a will. The act of opening it sets it into motion.
2 And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon had a bow; and there was given unto him a crown: and he came forth conquering, and to conquer.
3. And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come.
4 And another horse came forth, a red horse: and to him that sat thereon it was given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
In Rabbinic tradition, the white horse is the horse of war and conquest and the red horse is the horse of judgement. In particular red was symbolic of Edom, an ancient enemy of Israel and the name given by some of the Jews of the first century for Rome. Thus, these verses describe the conquest of Palestine by Rome.
5 And when he opened the first seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come. And I saw, and behold, a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a balance in his hand.
6 And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A measure of wheat for a shilling, and three measures of barley for a shilling; and the oil and the wine hurt thou not.
7 And when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, Come.
8 And I saw, and behold, a pale horse: and he that sat upon him, his name was Death; and Hades followed with him. And there was given unto them authority over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
The next two horses are the "fruits" of Roman conquest- inflationary prices and ultimately martyrdom for the Christians.
9. And whenaw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
The souls of martyrs are especially dear to God- they are eternally very close to him. In the middle ages this idea was transferred to earth where the especially pious were buried within the Church as near the altar as possible.
10 and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
Perhaps the call for judgement is a little harsh for our sensitive modern ears. But the desire that enemies be punished for their rebellion against God is a reality that every Christian understands.
11 And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.
There are a number of documents written around the same time as Revelation which describe the idea that there are a certain number of martyrs which must be killed for the faith. The meaning is that the enemies of God "may come this far, and no farther". Their power is not unlimited; rather, they are limited by the will of God.
12 And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood;
In the Old Testament such things are evidence of God's presence. For the suffering Christians of Asia Minor in the first century this is a message of comfort- God is near, not far away.
13 and the stars of the heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig tree casteth her unripe figs when she is shaken of a great wi nd.
angelic beings which will enter into the battle for the people of God.
14 And the heaven was removed as a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
When God acts, the world moves.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains;
16 and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17 for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand?
Though Domitian and his servants believe themselves above the law- there is one who is above them: God. And they too will be called into judgment.
1. After his I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that no wind should blow on the earth, or on the sea, or upon any tree.
2 And I saw another angel ascend from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a great voice to the four angels to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
3 saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we shall have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.
These verses remind the reader that there is nothing that happens that God does not know about. He is in control. Again, this must be stressed to those suffering persecution (as well as to those suffering indifference and apathy in the modern world).
4 And I heard the number of them that were sealed, a hundred and forty and four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:
5 Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand : Of the tribe of Reubbe of Gad twelve thousand;
6 Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand;
7 Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand;
8 Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand; Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
It must be noted that the tribe of Dan is excluded from this list. The reason is that in first Century Judaism, the tribe of Dan was despised as the tribe which had introduced idolatry into Israel in ancient times. The tribe thereby became a byword in Israel and the Church for those who worship other gods. Those who do worship other gods cannot expect to find themselves numbered among the people of God.
The number 12,000 is simply symbolic. It is not meant to be an exact number (as some mistakenly take it); rather it is the people of God perfectly and completely (for the perfect number is 10. 10 times 10 is 100, etc. The number twelve is representative of the people of God as in the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles).
9 After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes, and palms in their hands;
Further, the exact number cannot be figured, as this verse clearly shows. Thus, those groups which say that there are only 144,000 saved folk have both misread and misrepresented the Scriptures. Cf. Deut. 12:3.
The palms in their hands are symbols of the victory wrought by God which they are privileged to participate in.
10 and they cry with a great voice, saying, Salvation unto our God who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels we re standing round abouders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Its true! God does provide salvation and joy to his people.
13. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they?
14 And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.
Cf. John 1:12ff. In Jesus we dwell with God and He dwells with us. In face of this, what does it matter if the Romans appear to have the upper hand. In reality they do not, for we know that it is God who dwells as Lord. And since He dwells with us we need fear nothing, not even the persecution of the insane Domitian.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat:
17 for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.
In 1st century Judaism it was expected that when the Messiah came the land would literally flow with plentiful water. Those who have visited Israel (especially its southern and western parts) know what a tremendous promise this is; for the land is very dry. In short, God promises here to be the very thing that His people need most.
Not only will He be everything they need; he will comfort them in such a way that their ey es are dried of tears.
1. And when he opened the seventh seal, there followed a silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels that stand before God; and there were given unto them seven trumpets.
The idea of 7 angels standing before God is an ancient Jewish idea. The names are Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel, and Remiel.
3 And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
cf. Ps 141:2 on the idea that prayers are like incense before God.
4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand.
According to Jewish tradition, it is Michael who presents the prayers of the saints to God.
5 And the angel taketh the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth: and there followed thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
6 And the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
7. And the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
Cf. Ex 9:24 on this mixing of incense and coals from the altar.
The one third of the earth burnt is evidence of the corruption of the dwellers of the earth, who are brought into judgement.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 and there died the thi rd part of the creatur they that had life; and the third part of the ships was destroyed.
10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell from heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters;
The judgement continues.
11 and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; that the third part of them should be darkened, and the day should not shine for the third part of it, and the night in like manner.
The darkness thereby brought about is reflective of the darkness which is found among humanity.
13 And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a great voice, Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to sound.
1. And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth: and there was given to him the key of the pit of the abyss.
The abyss is Sheol in Hebrew and Gehenna in Greek. (See the author's articles on these words in the Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible (Eerdmans: 1997).
2 And he opened the pit of the abyss; and there went up a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
It smokes because the godless are punished by fire.
3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
4 And it was said unto them thass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.
5 And it was given them that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when it striketh a man.
Why 5 months? 5 is one half of 10- thus the torment is not complete, but only partial. Final judgement only comes at the last day.
The sting of the scorpion is sharp, painful, and unforgettable. And so is the judgment of God. Scorpion stings in Palestine were common in the 1st century; but lots of folks died of them.
6 And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.
7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men's faces.
8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as teeth of lions.
9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war.
10 And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months.
These are monstrous beasts. But, remember, these passages are visionary in nature (cf. 1:10). The meaning of these incredible descriptions is that the sting of judgement is more horrible than any normal scorpion sting, which is bad enough in itself!
11 They have over them as king the angel of the abyss: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek tongue he hath the name Apollyon.
See the author's articles on Abaddon and Apollyon in the Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible (Eerdmans: 1997). In short _ 93abaddon" means _gend maintains that Uriel is the angel charged with keeping "hell" sealed and its inhabitants incapable of escaping.
12 The first Woe is past: behold, there come yet two Woes hereafter.
Woe to those who know not God. They have triple sorrow to expect.
13. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the horns of the golden altar which is before God,
14 one saying to the sixth angel that had one trumpet, Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates.
15 And the four angels were loosed, that had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they should kill the third part of men.
16 And the number of the armies of the horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand: I heard the number of them.
17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates as of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone: and the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceedeth fire and smoke and brimstone.
18 By these three plagues was the third part of men killed, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths.
19 For the power of the horses is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails are like unto serpents, and have heads; and with them they hurt.
The judgement is now depicted as the onslaught of armies. As the Romans conquered and victimized so would they eventually be conquered themselves. The people of the earth know that God lives and yet they live as though He did not.
20 And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and the idols of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone, and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor walk:
21 and they repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceriesr of their thefts.
How astonishing that, though given ample reason and time to repent most people do not. They are not swayed by trials or by words. Some people will never change their minds and will never admit their need for God, no matter what is done.
1. And I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, arrayed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire;
2 and he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth;
He stands on both the sea and land because God is sovereign over both. The book is another declaration of God.
3 and he cried with a great voice, as a lion roareth: and when he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices.
He spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. When God sends a message, those who hear it can HEAR it.
4 And when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
The text here is very important. There are things which John heard which he was not allowed to write; this makes what he did write that much more important- for if God had wanted us to know everything He would tell us. But since there are some things we cannot hear now he wishes us to hear more clearly those things we can hear.
5 And the angel that I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his right hand to heaven,
6 and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created the heaven and the things that are therein, and the earth and the things that are therein, and the sea and the things that are therein, that there shall be delay no longer:
7 but in the days of the voice of tbout to sound, then is finished they mystery of God, according to the good tidings which he declared to his servants the prophets.
It is finished. This is what Jesus declared from the cross. When God acts, and brings to completion His actions, they are wondrous to behold.
8. And the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard it again speaking with me, and saying, Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.
9 And I went unto the angel, saying unto him that he should give me the little book. And he saith unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but in thy mouth it shall be sweet as honey.
10 And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and when I had eaten it, my belly was made bitter.
11 And they say unto me, Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.
Preaching is both a sweet and bitter thing. There is nothing sweeter than receiving the word of God and "chewing" on it and allowing it to be "digested" and thereby become a part of us. But with the sweetness is also the bitterness of realizing that what we share with others from the word of God will probably not be accepted. We, sometimes, speak to the wind.
John was to preach, and here he is promised that he will again be allowed the privilege (remembering that as he has this vision he is in exile- the promise here is that he will be released at some time and allowed to preach again).
1. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and one said, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2 And the court which is without the temple leave without, and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations: and the holy city shall they tread under footar There is a very complex Rabbinic tradition which has to do with the time of the Messiah and the time of the Gentiles. This verse fits in that framework. For a full discussion see Strack's Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, Vol. 4, chapter 2. Suffice it to say that these 3 and 1/2 years symbolize a period of short duration. That is, the Gentiles will trample the Temple, sure enough, but not forever.
3. And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
The non-biblical Jewish text, The Apocalypse of Baruch 13:1-12 discusses the two witnesses of the messianic era. The period of time is 3 and 1/2 years. That is, just while the Gentiles rage, so also the word of God is set forth for them to hear.
4 These are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the Lord of the earth.
Jewish tradition is divided as to who these 2 lamps are. Zach 4:14 is pointed to as the source of this idea and is interpreted to mean, a) Moses and Aaron, or b) Aaron and David, or c) Zerubbabel and Joshua, or d) the righteous and the pious, or e) the Messiah and the High Priest of the Messianic age, or f) The Priestly Messiah and the Royal Messiah. Thus there are a variety of possibilities as to who these two are.
5 And if any man desireth to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man shall desire to hurt them, in this manner must he be killed.
These witnesses are powerful. They speak with "fire". (The reader must once more be reminded that these passages are visionary in nature- these witnesses are symbolic of the Word of God).
6 These ha ve the power to shut tring the days of their prophecy: and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they shall desire.
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that cometh up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.
8 And their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
Egypt is known in 1st century Judaism as the place of bondage. Clearly this is a description that Jerusalem is meant- for according to the early Church Jerusalem was the place where Jesus was rejected. It is only appropriate that God's word continue to be rejected there (at least according to John).
9 And from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations do men look upon their dead bodies three days and a half, and suffer not their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.
10 And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, and make merry; and they shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth.
People who will not hear the Word of God rejoice when they do not have to.
11 And after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that beheld them.
But His word lives on and will rise up and speak against those who wish to kill it or ignore it, regardless of what they do to it.
12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they went up into heaven in the cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell; and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand persons: and the rest were affrighted,heaven.
14. The second Woe is past: behold, the third Woe cometh quickly.
15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of out Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Once more the Christians of Asia Minor, who are suffering such great trials, are reminded that God is still on the throne which is above every throne. Domitian is nothing and God is everything.
16 And the four and twenty elders, who sit before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces and worshipped God,
17 saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and didst reign.
18 And the nations were wroth, and thy wrath came, and the time of the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear thy name, the small and the great; and to destroy them that destroy the earth.
19 And there was opened the temple of God that is in heaven; and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there followed lightnings, and voices, and thunders, and an earthquake, and great hail.
When the people of God recognize His victory on their behalf, they rejoice and worship. Only those who do not know what God has done can withhold worship from Him.
The significance of this chapter lies in the fact that it portrays the victory of the people of God over Satan. The reader is once more reminded that this event occurs in a vision. Visions are by definition internal events whereby a spiritual truth is made known. Though the Christians are suffering terribly under the mad emperor they are here reminded that God will bring them into victory.
1. And a great s ign was seen in heaven, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars;
In 1st century Judaism Zion was portrayed as a woman. Here the image is extended, for it was Zion which gave birth to the Church. The Church was, after all, born in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2).
2 and she was the child; and she crieth out, travailing in birth, and in pain to be delivered.
3 And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his heads seven diadems.
Likewise, in 1st century Judaism, Satan, the enemy of the people of God is portrayed as a dragon. Here he is depicted as a beast with power. But not with ultimate power- his power is a show.
4 And his tail draweth the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon standeth before the woman that is about to be delivered, that when she is delivered he may devour her child.
The devil desires to consume the people of God.
5 And she was delivered of a son, a man child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and unto his throne.
And from the people of God comes the Messiah- the special object of Satan's hatred.
6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
The wilderness as place of refuge for God's people is an ancient, well established tradition.
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels;
8 And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him.
You see, Satan is already defeated. Spiritually (for we are in the midst of a vision) we can assert that the victory has already been won- as the next verse clearly declares.
cf. Mt 25:41 and Mt 4:1ff.
10 And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night.
Cf. Ps 41:2.
11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.
12. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.
13 And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child.
The victory has already been won. Woe to those who do not participate in the rule of God- they are by default participants in the rule of Satan.
14 And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
15 And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream.
16 And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
17 And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, th at keep the commandmenony of Jesus:
Yet try as he might, Satan is incapable of overcoming the people of God; those who hold fast the testimony of Jesus.
1. and he stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns, and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy.
In Jewish literature of the 1st century the Roman Empire is symbolized by the sea. Thus here we have a description of the Emperor.
Blasphemy is the characterization of Rome common among Christians and Jews. As Titus stood before the altar in Jerusalem in 70- before he destroyed the Temple, he is recorded as saying- "wolf, wolf! (barking at God!!!)- you are a king and I am THE king- come and fight with me!!". It is this arrogant attitude which led the Church to describe Rome as "blasphemy".
2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.
3 And I saw one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death; and his death-stroke was healed: and the whole earth wondered after the beast;
Note- the emperor is not dead- he was just wounded. He is a follower of the devil.
4 and they worshipped the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? And who is able to war with him?
Who can fight the emperor and win? Jesus can!!!
5 and there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given to him authority to continue forty and two months.
6 And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabern acle, even them that dd it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.
The apparent victory of the Emperor is to be short lived. He may blaspheme and he may kill and exile some Christians, but he will ultimately lose completely.
8 And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.
The book is simply the scroll of ownership. The true believer belongs to God. Those who do not belong to Him will worship anything!
cf. Luke 10:20.
9 If any man hath an ear, let him hear.
10 If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth: if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
That is, God is in charge. The saints must keep this in mind.
11. And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like unto lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
12 And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he maketh the earth and them dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed.
This is simply a description of the Emperor's legate, or representative. He travelled throughout the empire and enforced the Emperor's edict of worship.
13 And he doeth great signs, that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men.
14 And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they sh ould make an image to of the sword and lived.
15 And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image to the breast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
16 And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead;
17 and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name.
As the legate travelled he was authorized to punish those who refused to worship the Emperor. Those who did were given a "receipt" which validated the fact that they had indeed worshipped at the Emperor's shrine. By possessing this receipt they were allowed to conduct business in the village marketplace.
18 Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.
This verse has been greatly misunderstood. One must, to correctly understand this verse, know several things. First, in Jewish writings of the 1st century numbers represented words or ideas. Second, these words or ideas were clear to the audience. John did not intend to pose a riddle- rather he knew that those who read his book would know right away who he was referring to!! Thus, modern attempts to make the verse apply to Hitler, Kissinger, or Nixon are simply idiotic and misguided. In Pompeii there is an inscription from this era which says "I love her whose name is 545"! Numbers were used of names a great deal in the 1st century. Then whose name is 666? The verse says it is a human number. If the number 7 is the perfect number than the number 6 is the most imperfect number. Thus this man is the most imperfect of all men, in c ontrast to Jesus who i stands in place of Domitian- the Roman Emperor who is evil incarnate!
The cipher was used because the Christians would understand it and the Romans, if they intercepted the book, would not. (In fact, the Romans would have misinterpreted the book as severely as many modern Christians do!!).
1. And I saw, and behold, the Lamb standing on the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty and four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
Just as those who worship the emperor are marked; so those who belong to Jesus are "marked". They are his.
The number, 144,000 is another numerical symbol. 12 x 12 is 144. The 12 (Israel) and the 12 (apostles, or the Church) make up the whole people of God. Multiply the people of God 1000 times (which is 100 x 100) and you have the whole people of God. This is not an exact number, but, once again, a symbolic number which simply describes all God's people.
2 And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps:
3 and they sing as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four living creatures and the elders: and no man could learn the song save the hundred and forty and four thousand, even they that had been purchased out of the earth.
4 These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, to be the firstfruits unto God and unto the Lamb.
5 And in their mouth was found no lie: they are without blemish.
The people of God are distinct from other people. They act differently and are different. They sing a song no other person can sing- for they alone belong to God.
6. Ann mid heaven, having eternal good tidings to proclaim unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
7 and he saith with a great voice, Fear God, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.
8 And another, a second angel, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshippeth the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand,
The message for those who are not the people of God is that they are doomed. Pure and simple. They belong to Babylon (or Rome). The writings of 1st century Judaism are ripe with descriptions of Rome as the new Babylon. The city symbolizes those who have nothing to do with God and are the oppressors of God's people.
10 he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
Those who worship anyone or anything but God are going to suffer the punishment of their idolatry.
11 and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.
12 Here is the patience of the saints, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
In contrast to the unceasing punishment of the disobedient is the patience and blessedness of the saints who keep faith in Jesus. Its night and day.
13. And I heard the voice from heaven sayi ng, Write, Blessed arefrom henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.
Rabbi Yohannan ben Zacchai said "why are the dead more blessed than the living? Because as long as we live we struggle- but those who have died have ceased struggling".
Their works follow them means that what the Christian does in this life is not forgotten by God- but it has eternal value.
14 And I saw, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand sharp sickle.
15 And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a great voice to him that sat on the cloud, Send forth thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
16 And he that sat on the cloud cast his sickle upon the earth; and the earth was reaped.
17 Another angel came out from the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
18 And another angel came out from the altar, he that hath power over fire; and he called with a great voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Send forth thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
19 And the angel cast his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the winepress, the great winepress, of the wrath of God.
20 And the winepress are trodden without the city, and there came out blood from the winepress, even unto the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs.
When the day of harvest arrives, also known as the day of judgement, then everyone will give account of their life. No one is exempt and no one will escape.
1. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having seven plagues, which are the last, for in them
2 And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing by the sea of glass, having harps of God.
3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are thy ways, thou King of the ages.
4 Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all the nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy righteous acts have been made manifest.
In the face of the impending judgement of God the Christian must remember that there is no reason to be arrogant or take for granted that everyone but them will have to give an answer to God for their life. The just and the unjust will appear before God!
5. And after these things I saw, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:
6 and there came out from the temple the seven angels that had the seven plagues, arrayed with precious stone, pure and bright, and girt about their breasts with golden girdles.
7 And one of the four living creatures gave unto the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever.
8 And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and none was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished.
Judgment is coming! This chapter is a parenthetical one which describes the fact that judgement, when it comes, will be perfect and complete. The number 7 once again supplies us with this information.
1. And I heard a great voice out of the temple, saying to the seven angels, Go ye, and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.
6These plagues aght upon the Egyptians. The plagues in Egypt were the precursor of the release of the Israelites; and the same is intended here. That is, the function of these plagues is to bring about the freedom of the people of God.
2 And the first went, and poured out his bowl into the earth; and it became a noisome and grievous sore upon the men that had the mark of the beast, and that worshipped his image.
cf. Ex 9:9ff.
3 And the second poured out his bowl into the sea; and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living soul died, even the things that were in the sea.
4 And the third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of the waters; and it became blood.
cf. Ex 7:17ff.
5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, Righteous art thou, who art and who wast, thou Holy One, because thou didst thus judge:
In the Judaism of the first century it was believed that Angels were in charge of the natural elements. Sort of guardian angels for the natural world.
6 for they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, and blood hast thou given them to drink: they are worthy.
7 And I heard the altar saying, Yea, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.
8. And the fourth poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given unto it to scorch men with fire.
The heat of the sun is only a precursor to the punishment the godless will suffer in hell.
This is a good point to remind the reader that the events described in this book are contained in a visionary experience. They therefore describe spiritual realities using physical language. The fact that exodus language is used concerning those who disregard God is important because the first readers would have been brought to understand that they, like their ancient relativerom their oppressors.
9 And men were scorched men with great heat: and they blasphemed the name of God who hath the power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory.
10 And the fifth poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast; and his kingdom was darkened; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,
cf. Ex 10:21ff.
11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they repented not of their works.
12. And the sixth poured out his bowl upon the great river, the river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way might by made ready for the kings that come from the sunrising.
13 And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits, as it were frogs:
14 for they are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.
They might fight against God- but He will win the war. The day of God is the day of God's victory over his enemies. The Jews of the first century spoke about this day and used this very same terminology. So John is simply using language common to his people.
15 (Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walked naked, and they see his shame.)
16 And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-magedon.
The city of Megiddo on the mountain (Har in Hebrew means mountain). This city was one of the most important in the ancient Near East. It was situated on the major trade route from Africa to the Middle East. Thus the one who controlled it controlled the region . The meaning of thisl once more have control over the destiny of his people. The Romans will not be victorious in their attempt to eliminate the Christians.
17. And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air; and there came forth a great voice out of the temple, from the throne, saying, It is done:
18 and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since there were men upon the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty.
19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21 And great hail, every stone about the weight of a talent, cometh down out of heaven upon men: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof is exceeding great.
Cf. Ex 9:18ff.
God does not have to fight- he simply appears and its all over. This is a very important fact; for the persecuted Christians needed to be reminded that the battle was not theirs, but God's. And since the battle belongs to God there is no need to worry about the outcome!
1. And there came one of the seven angels that had the seven bowls, and spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters;
Now we are privy to the deliberations of God's heavenly council concerning His disposition of the Roman capitol.
That Rome "sits on many waters" means that her empire is widespread.
2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and they that dwell in the earth were made drunken with the wine of her fornication.
3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a w ilderness: and I saw acolored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
That Rome is a city built on seven hills is well known. The description of Rome as a beast is quite colorful and brings to mind those flowery descriptions of people and places that once adorned novels in a day now gone by.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her fornication,
Rome was rich, but filthy.
5 and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
For John, Rome is the birthplace of all the evils in the world.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I wondered with a great wonder.
Wonder here is not in the sense of delight; rather the Greek word literally means horror. John is horrified by this city!
7. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns.
Or, you need not be horrified by her- she is in truth a toothless dog and a clawless cat.
8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go into perdition. And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall come.
9 Here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth:
Here im! The 7 heads are the 7 hills on which a city sits! The writer could not be clearer that he here describes Rome.
10 and they are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a little while.
That is, the Emperor's since Nero; the first and worst of the Christian era. The last one will not rule the Church for long!
11 And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition.
Domitian! He shall not have long to live (as John sees it here and hears it from the messenger). In short, the Christians are again being reminded that Jesus is greater than Domitian.
12 And the ten horns that thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet; but they receive authority as kings, with the beast, for one hour.
ainLegates, or puppets of the Emperor have no kingdom of their own; they only serve the Emperor and that not for long.
13 These have one mind, and they give their power and authority unto the beast.
14. These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they also shall overcome that are with him, called and chosen and faithful.
They might fight the Church and Jesus- but He and His church will be victorious over them.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Rome ruled the known world.
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest, and the beast, these shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and shall burn her utterly with fire.
17 For God did put in their come to one mind, and to give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God should be accomplished.
18 And the woman whom thou sawest is the great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
The enemies of God are doomed, pure and simple.
1. After these things I saw another angel coming down out of heaven, having great authority; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
2 And he cried with a mighty voice, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of demons, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird.
3 For by the wine of the wrath of her fornication all the nations are fallen; and the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth waxed rich by the power of her wantonness.
John here sees the ultimate demise of the powers which oppose themselves to God. She who was once rich is now poor and desolate.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues:
5 for her sins have reached even unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
6 Render unto her even as she rendered, and double unto her the double according to her works: in the cup which she mingled, mingle unto her double.
7 How much soever she glorified herself, and waxed wanton, so much give her of torment and mourning: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall in no wise see mourning.
A new Exodus is what is here described. Come out of the world and live for God. There is no doubt that John here means that the people of God are challenged to renew their commitment as the people of God and leave the corruption of Roman society behind.
ar 8 Therefore in oneath, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judged her.
9. And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived wantonly with her, shall weep and wail over her, when they look upon the smoke of her burning,
10 standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, for no man buyeth their merchandise any more;
12 merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stone, and pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet; and all thyine wood, and every vessel of ivory, and every vessel made of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble;
13 and cinnamon, and spice, and incense, and ointment, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and cattle, and sheep; and merchandise of horses and chariots and slaves; and souls of men.
14 And the fruits which thy soul lusted after are gone from thee, and all things that were dainty and sumptuous are perished from thee, and men shall find them no more at all.
15 The merchants of these things, who were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning;
16 saying, Woe, woe, the great city, she that was arrayed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stone and pearl!
17 for in an hour so great riches is made desolate. And every shipmaster, and every one that saileth any wither, and mariners, and as many as gain their living by sea, stood afar off,
18 and cried out as they looked upon the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like the great city?
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and mourning, saying, Woe, woe, the great city, wherein all that had their ships in the sea were made rich by reason of her costliness! fo r in one hour is she mIn contrast to the reaction of the Godly to the destruction of Rome, her children mourn because they are going to lose money! She who made us rich is dead! Isn't it remarkable that the same type of folk who committed suicide when Wall Street crashed at the beginning of the Great Depression, moan when financial crises occur in any period of history. Why? Because money is the god they worship and their god is dead.
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye saints, and ye apostles, and ye prophets; for God hath judged your judgment on her.
But every Godly person is glad to see her gone.
21 And a strong angel took up a stone as it were a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be cast down, and shall be found no more at all.
22 And the voice of harpers and minstrels and flute-players and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft, shall be found any more at all in thee; and the voice of a mill shall be heard no more at all in thee;
23 and the light of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the princes of the earth; for with thy sorcery were all the nations deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth.
There is no economic, material, or military power on earth which can withstand the judgement of God. No matter what that power may think of itself.
1. After these things I heard as it were a great voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Hallelujah; Salvation, and glory, and power, belong to our God:
2 for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great harlot, h er that corrupted the d he hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
3 And a second time they say, Hallelujah. And her smoke goeth up for ever and ever.
4 And the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God that sitteth on the throne, saying, Amen; Hallelujah.
The people of God have good reason to rejoice. They know that God is the victor in all their difficulties. They know that God has redeemed them and will bring his work of redemption to completion very soon.
God's wrath against sin remains as real now as it was then.
5. And a voice came forth from the throne, saying, Give praise to our God, all ye his servants, ye that fear him, the small and the great.
We celebrate God when we recognize the greatness of His honor and the glory of his grace.
6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah: for the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth.
It is made evident, and well known, that the righteous judgement of God is active and that those who have received Jesus will act obediently and in accordance with God's desires.
7 Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad, and let us give the glory unto him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they that are bidden to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are true words of God.
We can trust God and what He says! Because we can trust Him we can obey him. Even if it costs us our lives.
We are His special guests. We are invited to a g reat celebration. Whas20
10 And I fell down before his feet to worship him. And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren that hold the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The modern fascination with angels and the adoration attached to them is utterly unbiblical. Here we have evidence that the angels themselves are not interested in this kind of adoration and instead point people to God.
11. And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteous he doth judge and make war.
12 And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself.
13 And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
The folly of opposition to God is here made manifest. He knows all, he is all powerful, and he cannot be defeated.
He is drenched in blood because the battle has been fierce- but note that the next verse says his followers are quite clean; that is, he has battled alone and won the victory without any assistance.
14 And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure.
They are nice and clean and this is so because they are passive recipients of the victory of Jesus.
They follow their king with joy.
15 And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.
His weapon is his word. He speaks and it is done. Why fear Domitian, or for that matter anyone else? When He appears there is no doubt at al l as to who is really par 16 And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, KINGS OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
And this Domitian cannot say of himself or claim for himself!
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God;
18 that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.
The doom of those who rebel against God is so certain that the fowl of the air are called to the feat- even though God's enemies are still alive!
19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army.
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone:
21 and the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, even the sword which came forth out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
The people of God should hear and believe that the struggle against the world has been concluded- and Jesus has won! This awareness is liberating! It means that Christians need not fear anything. It means we simply collect the spoils of the war and do not have to fight it ourselves. Jesus has already spoken and the victory is already won.
Their love for God should not grow cold!
1. And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. ragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3 and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time.
No longer does Satan have free access to humanity. His open door of opportunity has been slammed shut. Because of Jesus' exaltation his opponents are humiliated.
For Satan it is not the last word- he still has a further humiliation to experience. His being chained is not enough; for his final punishment is yet to come.
But during his imprisonment people have rest from struggle and conflict. It is a Sabbath in the truest sense of the word.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Christ has freed us from the power of evil. Jesus is for those who believe the savior while for those who do not believe he is simply the judge. Those who believe enter into partnership with Him. They have not abandoned Him and He shall never abandon them.
5 The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The Christian's fellowship with God has eternal value. The number 1000, as all the numbers in the book, stands for utter completion. They shall r eign with Him complete
7 And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them.
Cf. Ezek 38. These symbolic countries represent those foreign peoples who oppose God and His people. Satan is set free for a brief time and he leads these foreign nations to fight against God in a last gasp effort to overthrow His rule.
What is the meaning of this? I have argued throughout this study that John is having a visionary experience which is communicating Spiritual truths. In order to communicate these truths he describes in narrative form the ongoing struggle between God and Satan. In this chapter John is simply describing the fact that no matter how clear it is to Satan that he is defeated he still attempts to rebel. This text also teaches us that humans are the same way. For this reason hell is prepared; for God knows that those who rebel in time will also rebel in eternity.
Thus, Satan must be consigned to hell, along with his followers; for if they were not they would foment rebellion throughout eternity.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Satan can now, no longer, resist God or lead others to rebel against Him. When will this take place? At the end of history.
11. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place fo r them.
12 And Ihe small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Every act is recorded and every person will have to give an account for everything they have done.
13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
The rule of death is over.
14 And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.
15 And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.
Even hell is cast into hell!
No longer is there any power, person, or thing which will oppose God or disobey Him. Now all is right and the glory of God is in place for eternity.
1. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more.
The New Earth is wholly open to mankind; there are no places uninhabitable! There is no sea which cannot be lived on or planted or sowed. All is well!
2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven of God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
God's love for us is so pure that he makes eternity to suit us, and not Himself! After all, God does not need such things as a dwelling place or a new earth or a new Jerusalem. He does it all for His people.
3 And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God:
4 anr from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.
At last the community of God is free and eternally joyful.
5 And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true.
6 And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
In the human search for peace and security folks often overlook the one thing essential- God. In eternity, people realize that God is everything they need and all they need.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.
Only those whose love for God conquers their love of self have a part in this delightful hope.
9. And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
Jesus has won us and now he is eternally united with us- or better, we are eternally united with Him.
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
The things He has prepared for us are so far beyond our comprehension that every attempt to describe heaven falls short of the actual place.
11 having the glory of stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal:
The divine light is the only light the place needs.
12 having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13 on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
God will bring to completion the work which He began with the people of Israel. Entrance into the city is opened to the people of God; and there are plenty of gates by which to find entrance!
14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And the foundation of the city is based on the faith of the Apostles. Or, to say it another way, the people of God enter the city because they have faith like the Apostles had faith.
15 And he that spake with me had for a measure a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
16 And the city lieth foursquare, and the length thereof is as great as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs: the length and the breadth and the height thereof are equal.
17 And he measured the wall thereof, a hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.
The city is described as a cube- that is, a cubicle shape which is an expanded version of the cubicle shape which was the Holy of Holies in the Temple of ancient Israel. The whole city is the place where God is. The whole city is the Holy of Holies. There is no use in trying to calculate the exact size of the heavenly Jerusalem- for the numbers are symbolic. The meaning is that there is plenty of room for everyone!
e building of the wall thereof was jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto pure glass.
19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;
20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the several gates was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
The building materials of the new city are the most costly things one can image. Yet notice that these materials are not the center of attention, they are merely the streets and gates and walls; they are, in short, infrastructure. The most costly materials one can imagine are good in heaven only for roads!
The significance of this can be better apprehended when one realizes that in the Ancient Near East roads were made out of trash and waste materials! In heaven, gold is a waste material good only for a road!!
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof.
The Temple serves to remind folks that they have occasional access to God. In heaven, there is total access to God, so no reminder is necessary.
23 And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb.
When God is present there is no other guidance or illumination necessary.
24 And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it.
25 And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no n ight there):
26 and the honor of the nations into it:
The city is completely accessible; there is no exclusion for the people of God are always welcome.
27 and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Yet in the city there shall not be any polluting influences. Only holiness will be there.
1. And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,
2 in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
These verses describe the restoration of Paradise. What Adam abandoned is here restored to those who faith in the Second Adam, Jesus.
3 And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him;
4 and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads.
The promise of heaven is that we shall belong completely to God. We shall be fully, finally, His.
5 And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
No night because, again, where God is there is no darkness.
6. And he said unto me, These words are faithful and true: and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angels to show unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass.
7 And behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book.
8 d saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that showed me these things.
9 And he saith unto me, See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book: worship God.
This repeats the earlier episode where John attempts to adore the angel and he is there also reminded that God alone is worthy of worship.
10 And he saith unto me, Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand.
11 He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still.
12 Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.
13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
14 Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and my enter in by the gates into the city.
15 Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie.
Or, you Christians, stay the course. Let the evil be evil; you must remain holy whatever the cost.
16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.
18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in thi s book:
19 and i the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
20. He who testifieth these things saith, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen.
The book concludes with a summons to obey and a prayer that Jesus come quickly. The book ends as it begins, with Jesus. The Christians suffering under Domitian must have been greatly encouraged as they read these words for the first time; as we also can be encouraged when we read these words as words of hope- for this is what they are.
Read the textbook, and using the resources available to yourself, write a 10 page essay on the meaning and message of Apocalyptic.
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