INTRODUCTION to REVELATION
Rev. Suzanne L. Taylor
The name Revelation means disclosure or unveiling. Genesis was the beginning of God’s plan for man on earth, and for His Son’s salvation to come. The end of Revelation is the culmination of all the prophecies fulfilled. God’s name will be vindicated, and peace forever restored.
This Bible study is eschatological, that is, dealing with the "last things" in the Bible that will take place on earth. The word is from the Greek eschatos, or final. So, this is a study of the last days before and leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ. It includes the seals, trumpets, and bowls judgments, the introduction of the two witnesses and the 144,000 Jewish men who have never bowed their knee to another god beside God, the disclosure of antichrist, the beast and the false prophet. It tells of the destruction of earth, the new heaven and earth and the New Jerusalem.
I John 2:18 tells us that John was writing in "the last hour" which means he thought his generation was in the end times. He was sure Christ would return any day. All generations have had that same feeling of being “the one”, but prophecies were yet to be fulfilled, such as Israel becoming a state. At this point in time, every prophecy that needed to be fulfilled before the rapture could occur has now been fulfilled and it's likely that we are the generation that will see Jesus coming on a cloud for the church. That’s not to say we should be prideful about it. Rather, we should, like all the other generations before us, anticipate Jesus’ return, and look for it with longing, but only the Father knows when Jesus really will come back. Is it possible now? I think so. Almost everything ever written about Jesus has happened. That's also true of Israel.
There are several prophecies yet to be fulfilled by Jesus. He has yet to call up the dead in Christ first, then "rapture" (catch away) the church to meet Him in the air. He needs to open the seals, blow the trumpets, and pour out the bowls. He needs to return to earth. He needs to separate the tares from the wheat (non-Christians from Christians). After all that has been accomplished He will call us forward into the Millennium where we will feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb in joy and peace.
Other prophecies of the Bible yet to be fulfilled are: Damascus, Syria must be destroyed completely. The harlot of the seven mountains and the seventh king has to be revealed. Babylon must be destroyed. satan needs to be bound for the thousand years. satan must be released and lead a rebellion that culminates with his eternal torment. The great white throne judgment must take place. The first heaven and earth must pass away to make room for the new heaven and new earth spoken of in Revelation 21:1, and the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21:2.
In 1948 a major prophecy was fulfilled when Israel became a recognized, self-governing nation. People declared that this was indeed the beginning of the Tribulation time. It was not the beginning of the Tribulation, it was the beginning of the end of days. So when will the end finally arrive? No one knows, and we are not supposed to worry about it (Matthew 6:34). We are to wait expectantly for Jesus’ return (Matthew 25:1-13; II Timothy 4:8). We’re told to live each day for itself and not worry about tomorrow. The anticipation of Revelation is fun to some people and frightening to others. To me it is fascinating and exciting. We must overcome any fears and take the time to read and study Revelation knowing that if we are truly born-again, we will not live to see the Tribulation. Revelation is a Book that opens with a promise. John says, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy." We are blessed (Revelation 1:3).
One of the major themes discussed in eschatology is the antichrist. Some other topics are the Rapture of the church, the Great Tribulation, the restoration of Israel as a nation, and Christ’s reign on earth during the millennium. No matter how diligently we study the Bible, or how often we debate the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts, what we won’t find in Scripture is the timing of the return of Jesus for the church. Know this, however, once the church is removed from the earth, there will be a seven (7) year period of tribulation in the earth before the second coming of the Christ.
Since we do not know exactly what some of the symbolism of Revelation means, we should not teach this Book dogmatically (in a manner that states things definitely). A prideful attitude of knowing it all might cause division in the church of Jesus. We can only surmise what John is saying, and try to understand these mysteries as far as our minds will take us. There is good teaching in Revelation. We have to separate these things into two categories: What we can know for sure versus what we can only speculate about.
It is suspected that when John wrote this Book, Christians were under the persecution brought about by Nero after the fire that destroyed Rome. This persecution began in July of A.D. 64, and continued until Nero committed suicide in June of A.D. 68. That would mean John had this vision before the destruction of Jerusalem in September of A.D. 70. Others conclude from some of the statements made in Revelation that it was written in A.D. 81-96 while Domitian was reigning. This would have been after John escaped from Ephesus. Whenever it was penned, I accept the thesis that John wrote this Book of Prophecy and that he received revelation through a series of visions.
When John wrote Revelation, he was convinced his generation was living in the last days. He had witnessed the increase in Christian persecution and thought, "Surely the Lord will soon return to lift them out of it." The Christians were living and worshipping in the Catacombs under Rome. Catacombs are underground burial places in Rome. They have passageways that lead in many directions. When the Christians were discovered in the Catacombs, they were arrested, beaten, thrown to the lions, and used as live human torches. Their persecutors were very clever in their designs for torturing Christians. The persecuted Christians prayed asking Jesus to relieve their suffering and they could not understand why He didn’t come to their rescue. The Book of Revelation was God’s assurance to them that they were not suffering alone. He witnessed their suffering and wrote this book to outline His plan for overcoming evil.
It’s thought that this Book was written to give "pastoral encouragement" to the Christians facing persecution. It was to give comfort to the pastors and their congregations as it proclaimed the Christian hope of eternity. Revelation was written to show everyone that God would overcome every evil thing. It also has an overtone of Evangelical appeal. You should become excited about learning God’s Word when you see how He will overcome the kingdom of darkness.
The most important thing to remember about Revelation is that Revelation is a book of revealing. It is a disclosure about one thing, the person Jesus Christ. The saying is, "The Old Testament is Jesus concealed. The New Testament is Jesus revealed." Revelation brings the entire work of Jesus together in one place. Revelation is the book which closes Genesis. What God, the Trinity, began at creation, Jesus will complete with the conclusion of Revelation. This book sees the fulfillment of all prophecies.
The most important message contained in Revelation is the declaration that, "The Lord, God, omnipotent reigns in all the earth" (Rev. 19:6). We also see that Jesus is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (Revelation. 17:14). God is omnipotent, able to do all things, and Jesus is Lord and King for eternity. Jesus said, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the First and the Last" (Revelation. 22:13). He is the all in all, and He’s coming quickly.
satan is angry about the defeat he faced when Jesus died on the cross. The dragon (satan) lost his fire. He is working overtime to frustrate the works of God on earth. He is blinding the minds of our adults, and stealing the minds of our youth with the trash that’s prevalent out there now. Everyone, even born-again, Spirit-filled Christians are in constant struggle against drugs, alcohol, free sex, and easy access to porn via television, magazines, and the Internet. Peer pressure can also be called demon pressure because it makes us do stupid things. Nothing is beyond the realms of satan’s destructive purposes. He forges ahead with anger and hatred devising many schemes to fill our spiritual ears with the noise of the world so people cannot hear the voice of God.
Being a copycat, satan has set up his trinity. It is made up of the first beast who deals with the government and political powers (Revelation.13:1-10,) and the second beast who deals with anti-Christian religions, philosophy, and ideology (Revelation.13:11-17). satan, along with the first beast, and the second beast all come together against the Christian population to control society, commerce, religion and culture. Another name for this is the harlot Babylon (chapters 17, 18).
How can this Book of Revelation’s prophecies work in our lives today? It can help us see the order that God set up for humanity. It was His plan that we marry, have children, make money, participate in Government (See Romans 13:1-7; I Timothy 2:1-3), and most of all, that we worship Him.
One thing we are not to derive from the study of Revelation is fear. God does not want us to fear anything. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). God will remove all evil from this earth and we will one day reign in peace with Jesus for one thousand (1,000) years. This book wants to teach us that God is in full control and that satan is a decidedly defeated enemy. He has no power other than what God allows him to have. It follows, then, that he has no power in our lives except what we give him. At the conclusion of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and the fulfillment of all the prophecies, satan will be done away with forever.
Revelation is written as a cyclical letter. The mention of the seven churches assures us of that. All the churches of the Lycos Valley (Pergamos: Smyrna: Ephesus: Thyatira: Sardis: Philadelphia: Laodicea) were to read, and understand this letter. As a missive from a prophet of God, John’s letter was written for edification, exhortation, and comfort for the people who read it. It’s still meant to be used that way when we read it.
John’s prophecy of Revelation was received in many visions. He wrote down the visions as he received them, however, this does not assure us of the chronological order in which these events will occur. By the end of chapter 22, everything that has ever been prophesied about Jesus is finished. He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords. He is the Lamb who is the Lion of Judah. Jesus is the "One like the Son of Man," who is always walking among His people. He knows us intimately, and watches over us with protection and love, and He is the Lord of the final harvest. He is the Bridegroom coming for His bride. The marriage feast is ready, and He will take us to it. We will eventually live with Him on the "new earth."
The Holy Spirit is "the Seven Spirits of God." Seven is a number symbolic of completion and perfection. "The seven lamps of fire," is the Spirit’s ministry of illuminating, purifying, and energizing. The entire Bible was Spirit breathed into men to write down. The Spirit used each one of the authors of the compiled book called the Bible to reveal something to us about Jesus. The Bible can also be called the Book of Enlightenment. Each word of each sentence in each chapter of every book was written to God’s people creation, the world. God spoke unto His Spirit, and the Spirit spoke into the minds of men. Hallelujah.
In chapter 22, the Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." That invitation is to eternal life. We can accept or refuse it. Praise God for the people He has raised up to unveil the truths of His Revelation in the highways and bi-ways. Let’s join them in communicating God’s invitation to the lost. "And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, ‘These are the true sayings of God’" (Revelation 19:9).