THE BOOK OF REVELATION: A SUMMARY
The Book of Revelation (the last book in the Bible in the New Testament) is a book full of visions, images, symbols, strange sights, mixes of Old Testament allusions, and commentary on culture past, present, and future. We will do our best weekly to present 1 or 2 chapters for your blog reading to entice you to dig deeper into this book that tears away the veil on God, Jesus, the Gospel, and the interaction of the Kingdom of God and the powers and principalities of the World.
What will we find in the Book of Revelation?
We believe that when the overall Book of Revelation is surveyed, a chiastic structure of repetition and progression is revealed which describes the Gospel Message’s march into the nations of the earth and the conflict that the Kingdom of God endures. In the end, Jesus Christ will come for His People.
Jesus Christ, the LORD, is coming soon:
- Chapters 1-3 finds the Church commanded to repent and/or be faithful.
- Chapters 4-6 God’s Will is decreed via sentencing of humanity themed in terms of seals.
- Chapters 7-9 show ‘now and not yet’ implications of the decree at the time of writing and is themed in terms of the first 6 trumpets.
- Chapters 10-13 focus on the ‘not yet’ implications of the decree themed by the Seventh trumpet.
- Chapter 14 focuses on the implications pointing forward to the larger harvest of all nations.
- Chapters 15-16 review the ‘now and not yet’ depicted in the themes of bowls and plagues.
- Chapters 17-22 review the ‘now and not yet’ themed by two women and two cities. Overall, a division is made among all nations and people into two types: Christ followers and the Devil’s followers. These two groups are mixed among the nations.
- Chapters 21-22 reveals the fate of faithful people and their future to be forever apart of the new Heaven and Earth united as one in the presence of the LORD.
John, the Apostle, greets believers and relates that he has been given a vision. More than anything in chapter 1, Jesus is introduced and specifically identified. The whole book is about Jesus Christ revealing Himself.
Jesus Christ is presented as the ascended King of Creation with a resulting upgrowth and maturing of His kingdom. This is the direct result of His resurrection from His human death by His crucifixion on the cross. One of the major themes in the Book of Revelation is the call for believers to full faith in Jesus Christ because of His faithfulness. In Him, is God’s full intent and manifestation for humanity. Christ is both the source of the revelation and the topic because He is the King of the Kingdom of God in both of Heaven and Earth; He is the Holy of Holies and the Spirit indwelling the temple of God built of His people. He is the Second Adam (Humanity) to come in fullness at the second coming of Christ. He is the glory of God filling all creation forever. That sounds like a lot… because it is!
The Church is praised and chastised to conform to Christ where lacking at time of the writing of the Book. Some of the points we will find are specific to those believers while other points are applicable throughout history and the future.
The Kingdom of God is always in focus in this book. It has come. It is coming. The Kingdom of God is the people and the people are being added to the Kingdom on a regular basis. Jesus is the focus even when entering into the Kingdom. Remember Jesus said “no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6).” How is this so? He is the King (John 18:36-37). Remember Jesus said, “I am the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:17, 21:6, 22:13). Whenever entering the Kingdom of God is talked about or we focus on Kingdom living… Jesus is part of that conversation.
It may be that the Seven Churches of chapters 2-3 are a symbolic representation of the whole Church. Each church ends with the “whoever has ears to hear” phrase meaning “whoever needs to hear this, hear it.” We need to repent of whatever we find if it matches what is described in the passage. All Scripture is for the whole Church and we must hear the Spirit and take note of the praises and the warnings. The warnings? Get rid of those things. The praises? Do those things. These items are for them (the original recipients in those church fellowships) but is also for the whole Church.
Over and over in these two chapters the Spirit speaks to the churches and they are to listen. We find what was specific for these churches is also for the Church as a whole. It is clear that the Church should seek to get praise in the ways Jesus applauded: not denying the name of Jesus, good deeds in love, testing teachers, and calling out false teaching. It is clear that the Church should repent of those things Jesus condemns: following false teaching, not loving people, being lukewarm, and trusting in riches.
In chapter 4, we see a door opening in Heaven which is the beginning of Heaven coming to Earth by way of the invitation of Jesus Christ. The words “after this” are present meaning John turns his attention to the rest of the world that does not believe in Jesus. John sees some things happening, but what is revealed is the “yet to come” (mentioned in chapter 1:19). Jesus has already said that those who don’t follow Him will be judged. God hands people over to not accepting Him and this is what happens.
‘Now’ and ‘Not Yet’ is hard to pin down and is a huge theme in Revelation… this theme begins to make itself known in this chapter. Revelation is filled with visions and ‘snap shots’ that describe what happens then, what happens soon, and what happens in the future. We see a sentencing being declared against Israel and the world, but the actual sentence has not yet come. These chapters show how some of this will happen.
As this vision unfolds (in chapter 5), we see literal fulfillment at the same time as spiritual fulfillment. This chapter lays out the sentencing that happens (for Israel and then eventually the world). It can be seen that this chapter shows the pattern of death and hurt that happens all throughout history as the Gospel spreads, people reject it, and God sends judgement. This entire chapter (chapter 5) outlines the spread of the Gospel message and the ‘fallout’ from that spread.
We see the Wrath of the Lamb. As God deals with the disobedience of human beings, the ‘wrath of the lamb’ (verse 16) becomes more and more evident. Yes, Jesus came to bring life and peace and forgiveness, but sometimes salvation walks through the path of correction, judgement, and discipline.
Coming to chapter 7, we are seeing God’s covenants fulfilled and the sealing and care for His own who have their faith in Him. We also see the sealing of the tribes of Israel before judgement comes. The whole picture is at the same time immediate and far reaching (which is the nature of the whole book). It starts with 4 winds and the effect on the earth. We see a completion of the Church as Jews are brought into the Kingdom because of their faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
The sealing by God shows that there are limits for destruction. God is in complete control and there is nothing that happens outside His vision or outside His hand. The ‘Name’ is very important. The 144,000 and the multitude are sealed by the Name of God because the Gospel is still going out.
Chapter 8 begins with silence in heaven for a half an hour then the judgment released on land/earth. We should note the language in Ezekiel 5:2 which speaks of ‘partial judgement’ and uses one-third language that we also see in this passage. This is not the end of all things in this passage, but only a partial judgement to allow more to have time to come to Christ.
What of the silence in Heaven? Like a calm before a storm. but in this case God himself pausing before releasing angels bringing judgement. For, the seven seals are opened and there before God are seven angels given trumpets.
The People of God (Israel) are sealed. The Trumpets historically run through 70 AD and then the last trumpet is the end of the world which comes in chapter 11. Again, note the ‘1/3’ language like in Ezra and Ezekiel. This is judgement on Israel like the exile. In 70 AD, we historically see starvation, cannibalism, destruction, death and piles of dead bodies. These real-world things happened (see Josephus war of the Jews for historical background) and this is a symbolic representation of that war.
Trumpets (chapters 8–9) at this point sound the release of spiritual consequences to rejecting God. The frame of reference is 70 AD. 70 AD is the key point of interpretation and must be understood. This event in Jerusalem is type and shadow for the future but is not necessarily literal. Israel fell. Jesus said it would fall.
Trumpets are extended to the end of the world and the last trumpet is the actual final end of the world. God hands Israel over to Satan and evil just invades the land. God uses Rome to discipline His people. God is after the soul of Israel and handed over to demons to make that happen.
A powerful angel, in chapter 10, descends from heaven wrapped in a cloud. Remember in prophetic language, judgment often ‘comes on a cloud.’ There is also a rainbow. We are meant to think of God’s promise to Noah and therefore we are to think of ‘grace.’ This powerful being has the authority of judgment and grace. He stands on land and sea which I think refers to his territorial responsibility over mankind. The shout with a loud voice is like a lion and the 7 thunders voice God’s final word signaling the Second coming of Jesus.
The Mystery of God is that Jew and Gentile in Christ are God’s people. This is the Israel of God that the Apostle Paul describes in Galatians 6:15-16. Being one in Christ will come about (Galatians 3:27-29). What we are seeing is the Church Age where the Gospel goes out to all the nations. All nations should repent and follow the King of Kings.
Trustworthy witness in the Scriptures is established by two or three witnesses. Chapter 11 summarizes what the ‘good guys’ will do during the Church Age. We should note that in a few chapters we will see 2 beasts (what the ‘bad guys’ will be do in resisting the Gospel). The trustworthy witness of the Church grows over time as does the resistance to the Gospel.
Chapter 12 is the half-way point of Revelation. It is also a summary of what has happened and a look forward what is to come. We must remember that the Book of Revelation is all about revealing Jesus Christ. There is much symbolism in these verses. The woman in birth pains is very similar to Matthew 24 where Jesus describes the signs in heaven and on earth events. The basic symbols involve a woman, a dragon, stars, and Heaven. Be careful that we do not read into this passage traditions or fiction or what we “think” happened. “The cosmic battle before time when Satan fell” is how some take this passage but is not anywhere else in Scripture. There is a pattern of rebellion (Garden, Babel, etc) but one before time began is not in Scripture.
Jesus Christ has overcome the world which changes the way the beast is understood and functions (chapter 13). The beast is rising out of the sea and is not a completed action, but this ‘rising’ takes place to Judgment Day. It is a continual ongoing rising. This continual rising is juxtaposed with the Angel from Chapter 10 which stands on both the land and the sea is a overseeing the Mystery of God which we know is the Church (see Ephesians 1:8-10). The Church is made of both Jews and Gentiles IN CHRIST. The beast continually challenges Church and thereby there is the need for the endurance of Saints.
In chapter 14, we see a vision looking back to Jerusalem’s Judgement around 70 AD forward to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is a broad vision. Think in terms of “harvest” of the Gospel Message.” We find in the beginning of this chapter a transition to repeat or associate the vision with the seal and trumpet judgments.
Chapter 15 focuses on the time of the Gospel being declared from the nation of Israel (primarily) to all the entire world. This declaration of the Gospel is coupled with the wrath of God towards the disrespectfully unrepentant. Contained in this chapter are angels with 7 bowls with the last plagues. This is the same as the 7 thunders which was sealed up for “the end” in chapter 10. We also see spirits that are before the throne (see Revelation chapter 4) which seem to be interrelated or even the same as the ones in Chapter 4. As the Gospel goes out, so the torment goes out hand-in-hand.
This chapter shows a scene in heaven which appears to be dealing with the transition of the Gospel going out and Israel handed over to the Gentiles. This was also mentioned in Revelation 7:9 and of which I think the 3rd angel gave it warning about taking the mark of the beast starting at verse 9 in chapter 14. This chapter describes the period after the Ascension of Christ as the Gospel goes out where people can receive or reject Christ as Lord.
In chapter 16, we have a mirroring of the trumpets of previous chapters, but with a progression and emphasis on things to come (in the now but not yet). We see a progression because the trumpets were sounded before in partial judgement and the bowls are the end of God’s judgement on the Earth. The throne, the authority, the Beast, and the Devil are all progressively overcome by the Gospel.
Keep in mind as we move forward that we have one focused vision with two contrasting views. First, we see the downfall of ‘bad guys’ in chapters 17, 18, and 19 and then the victory of the ‘good guys’ in 20, 21, and 22. The two visions overlap. The visions conclude with the destruction of Babylon by way of Christ’s Word. This victory is followed by a retelling summary of how Christ and His people overcome the enemy. There is a picture of the Bride. There is a picture of New Jerusalem who also have shared identity with Christ and are embraced into a New Heaven and the New Earth. These chapters are a symbolic vision of two people groups and of two cities with only one who will find continuance of life with God.
Referring to sinfulness in terms of prostitution (Hosea) and in terms of Babylon (1 Peter) because of its role in Biblical history (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah) is a common occurrence in the Scriptures. Unfaithfulness or trading God in for another is a big deal. In 17, we have a repetition of 14-16 under a new theme and reveals more fully what happens.
We see in this chapter where “Babylon” is destroyed (chapter 18). The entity we have identified as “Apostate Israel” consumed in the World is burned up because they rejected Christ. What moves forward in opposition to God is the Beasts (governing system), Death and the Satan (dragon).
This is symbolic and recalling Jeremiah 51:62-64: “O LORD, You have said concerning this place that You will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.’ When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, ‘Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, band they shall become exhausted.’”
We also see a reference to Matthew 17:20 where Jesus said with the faith of a mustard seed you can move a mountain (paraphrased) and toss it into the sea. By faith, the remnant will hold onto faith and be able to withstand the judgement. Faith is the key here and those who are of God’s people will be seen through these trying times and can overcome.
Chapter 19’s main point is that Heaven is opened and that the Great Commission will be fulfilled.
There is a grand important progression when heaven opens. Heaven opens several times in Revelation and each one shows a growth in the Kingdom. We see a building build of the true temple of God… His people. We also see a maturing of its population through spiritual warfare. The Church grows up. It is fitting to the name of the book since we see a revealing of the fullness God even as Christ is revealed to the world through the spreading of the Gospel. Christ is known by all whether surrender to His kingship in faith or by His destruction of them for rejecting His warnings in progressive judgements.
Chapter 20 is a summary chapter recounting all that has happened in chapters 14-19 and is a summary of the full Revelation of Christ presented in this book. The chapter starts with the Cross and ends with the destruction of evil. In the middle, is a symbolic 1000 years of spiritual warfare with those who put faith in Christ and the expansion of the Gospel in opposition to worldly influences (sin, devil-controlled world powers, death) in opposition to the Gospel. Also I want to note the uses of 1000 years by other apostle Peter in 2nd peter 3 a time where he states God is being patient in order to bring many salvation before the second coming. We are about 2000 years beyond that statement. I point this out as a figurative use of 1000 years. Also, as a likening to a period of time before Christ return when the work in the earth will be burned up. The chapter 20 summary progresses from the chaining of Devil the population of the gospel and the destruction of Devil and finally Death..
Dragon = the Satan = the Devil = power on earth with/behind the Beast = opposition to the Gospel = head of all rebellious spiritual powers
Persons which do not reflect God’s nature will have an end. Since the lifestyle in opposition to Christ’s nature is a denial of what is true. All that is stagnate is consumed in the presence of God’s unveiled truth. Where justice is present. In loss of life last forever because the payoff or wages, if you prefer, of sin is death. (see Romans 6::23 also John 3:16)
Chapter 21 begins the description of how all things are new because of the now total victory of Christ. It is centered on a New Jerusalem. These verses are similar to 2 Thessalonians 1:10. Keeping Isaiah 61:10-11 in mind, we see a mixed metaphor imagery of New Jerusalem and a Bride being one in the same. We should remember the mixing of the Woman and the Great City of 17:18 and see a contrast here. This city comes out of Heaven from God just as Christ did.
Chapter 22 continues the description of how all things are new because of the now total victory of Christ. Everything in this chapter represents life from God… freely flowing from His Throne making everything good. Nothing is accursed. Notice those who reign forever. There are no time terms such as “three and a half years” or “1000 years” since the “now and not yet” period of the Kingdom is over. In the progression language of Revelation, this is the “not yet” of the coming Kingdom of God. This is the future fulfillment of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
[This summary might be helpful if you are reading through and meditating on the Book of Revelation. We have hyperlinked some articles on our site with further study notes if that is helpful!]
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