Christians have a love-hate relationship with Revelation – more than perhaps any other book of the Bible. The book elicits strong reactions when merely mentioned. Why is this?
Consider three reasons. First, it is an intimidating book for many Christians. On the way to Revelation, you read your merry way through the epistles which contain straightforward doctrine and practical teaching, then you land in a book about beasts, scrolls, trumpets, heaven and hell. The sudden genre change can disorient the reader.
Secondly, some Christians have gotten lost staring at the individual trees in the book of Revelation so deeply that they cannot recognize the forest. The whole Bible is certainly worthy of our deep study. However, in Revelation’s apocryphal genre of literature, it is easy to get sucked into a deep dive into the individual parts. Some studies on Revelation have left me lost in the woods. It became so convoluted that I lost sight of the bigger picture.
Thirdly, a handful of speakers and authors have used Revelation as a springboard for their subjective speculation. Instead of teaching the text, they speculate on theories the Bible makes little to no mention of. For a season of my life, the abuse of speculation in Bible prophecy turned me off from studying the book of Revelation and Bible prophecy. However, when I began to simply read the book, I saw such marvelous truths. I fell back in love with this beautiful book, its powerful teachings and its ultimate hero.
Revelation starts and ends with Jesus. If we emphasize the antichrist more than we do Jesus Christ, we have missed the point of prophecy.
Jesus is the hero and focus of Bible prophecy. We cannot let ourselves drift.
The very first words of the book of Revelation say: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1). It is not primarily the revelation of future events. Nor is it primarily the revelation of the antichrist and his cohorts. Ultimately, it is the Revelation of Jesus. In this book, every promise of God is finally fulfilled for eternity through Jesus Christ. How beautiful that truth is!
As Revelation begins, Jesus reveals, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Rev. 1:8). Alpha is the first letter and Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, the New Testament’s original language. In other words, Jesus is the beginning and the end of all prophecy.
For a fast-paced journey through Revelation, John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, is our tour guide (Rev. 1:1-2, 9-10).
Jesus commands John to write the things that he would see in a book and send it to seven specific churches. Jesus included a special message to each of these seven churches in chapters 2 and 3.
The scene shifts from Earth to Heaven as chapter 4 opens. John ushers his readers into the heavenly throne room of God the Father. An overwhelmingly beautiful scene unfolds and John focuses on a scroll sealed with seven seals (Rev. 5:1-4).
John broke down into tears when no one was found worthy to open the book, until one of the 24 elders around the throne said, “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (Rev. 5:5). From this moment through the end of the chapter, the throne room erupts with praise to Jesus, the worthy hero!
Then Jesus begins to break the seven seals. As each seal is broken, the impact is felt on planet Earth. This is the beginning of the end-times Great Tribulation judgment. God’s wrath on sin begins to pour out on Earth (Rev. 6).
In His wrath, God shows mercy (Rev. 7; Hab. 3:2). There are 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel saved during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:1-8). The scene shifts to Heaven as a multitude of people from all over Earth stand before the throne worshiping God. Revelation makes it clear that these people are martyrs who died for their faith during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:9-17).
Let’s pause here to answer an important question. Can people be saved during the Great Tribulation? Yes! However, persecution will escalate to such a point that a multitude of Great Tribulation saints will be martyred for following Jesus. Notice there is no mention of the church in this chapter about believers.
The journey resumes in Revelation 8 with the opening of the seventh seal. Here we are introduced to an important fact that is easy to miss. The seventh seal is the seven trumpet judgments. Later, the seventh trumpet is the seven vial or bowl judgments poured out on Earth. So, in one sense, the seventh seal encapsulates much of what is described in Rev. 8:1-18:24.
Heaven stands silent for half an hour as we enter the horrors of the Great Tribulation in striking detail (Rev. 8)
In chapters 8 and 9, the first six trumpet judgments are sounded and devastation is unleashed upon Earth.
In this period of judgment, humanity remains pridefully rebellious. Revelation 9:20-21 explains the unrepentant human heart: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” There is still an opportunity to repent in this severe judgment, much like with Egypt during the Exodus plagues.
Chapter 10 prepares the reader for the sounding of the seventh trumpet as a powerful angel guides John on this end-times journey. In chapter 11, the angel introduces John, and us, to the two witnesses who will proclaim God’s truth and power to the world. These two witnesses are reminders of God’s mercy amidst judgment.
The seventh trumpet is then sounded (Rev. 11:15). Instead of describing the horrors unleashed upon Earth, we first see the reaction in Heaven (Rev. 11:15-19). We are not told the reaction on Earth until we reach Rev. 16:1.
In chapters 12-15, we are introduced to seven great figures of the end times. We first encounter a pregnant woman who has a crown of twelve stars (Rev. 12:1-2). As the chapter unfolds, it becomes clear this is symbolic of Israel.
Then the second figure, the red dragon, enters the picture (Rev. 12:3-4). Verse nine tells us this is Satan. The woman gives birth to the third figure, a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, a clear reference to Jesus (Rev. 12:5-6). A spiritual battle takes place between the fourth figure, Michael, and his angels versus Satan and his angels (Rev. 12:7-12). When Satan loses this battle, he turns his attention to destroying the remnant of the 144,000 Jewish followers of Jesus on Earth (Rev. 12:13-17). The believing remnant is the fifth figure.
Revelation 13 reveals the one-world system that will rule Earth. A beast emerges from the sea as the chapter opens. This is the Antichrist (Rev. 13:1-10).
He is the one-world political leader and the sixth figure. I find it interesting that the sixth figure is also associated with 666. Another beast comes up out of the Earth (Rev. 13:11-18).
This is the False Prophet. He is the one-world religious leader and the seventh figure. Together with Satan, these three form an unholy trinity that seeks to dominate Earth.
Evil seems to have an upper hand as chapter 13 ends. The one-world system has taken over. But we must never forget God is always in control.
Chapter 14 powerfully demonstrates this as God defends the 144,000 in the righteous remnant and readies His final series of seven judgments (Rev. 15).
The seven vial or bowl judgments are deployed in rapid succession upon Earth. These are the most severe judgments Earth has experienced during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 16). The Earth is shattered as a result of these judgments. The anti-God world religious system falls in chapter 17, then the anti-God world political system falls in chapter 18.
We are escorted back into Heaven as chapter 19 opens, and talk about a “Hallelujah Chorus!” The Marriage Supper of the Lamb is celebrated (Rev. 19:7-10). The “wife” mentioned in verse 7 is a reference to the church, the bride of Christ. This is the first reference to the church since the end of chapter 3.
This is followed by the Second Coming of Christ to Earth (Rev. 19:11-16). We would need a whole additional article to explore the differences between the rapture and the Second Coming.
Briefly, in the rapture, Jesus comes for his saints, meets them in the air and takes them into Heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-18). At the Second Coming, Jesus comes to Earth with His saints and defeats the Antichrist and False Prophet (Rev. 19:11-21).
The Battle of Armageddon commences when Jesus steps on Earth (Rev. 16:16, 19:17-21). The forces of evil are led by the Antichrist and the False Prophet. These two are cast alive into the lake of fire and the rest of the unbelievers are slain (Rev. 19:20-21). Satan is bound and cast into the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3). Jesus wins this decisive battle, but the war isn’t over yet. There is one more battle to come.
During the 1,000 years that Satan is in the bottomless pit, the Millennial Reign of Christ is enjoyed on Earth (Rev. 20:4-6). A group of believers will survive the Great Tribulation in their mortal bodies. So, during the Millennial Reign, there will be both mortals and immortals dwelling on Earth. These mortals will have offspring during the Millennial Reign.
When the 1,000 years ends, Satan will be loosed from the bottomless pit for a short season of time (Rev. 20:7-10). Sadly, He will once again deceive a multitude into following his evil agenda.
Satan takes his last great stand against Jesus. He is defeated once and for all and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10)! No more devil! Hallelujah!
All unbelievers will then stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Revelation 20:14-15 describes the conclusion of this nightmarish scene, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
With evil quarantined forever in the lake of fire, God brings in a new Heaven and Earth for believers to inhabit for eternity (Rev. 21:1-8). Then John saw the new Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God (Rev. 21:9-27). As John enjoys the beauty of it all, he sees the focal point of eternity, the throne of God and the Lamb (Rev. 22:1-9).
This marvelous book ends with an invitation for you to join the Alpha and Omega, Jesus, in His final defeat over death and sin (Rev. 22:10-21).
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
I pray you have a fresh appreciation for this book of the Bible. More importantly, I hope you have a refreshed love and longing for the true hero, Jesus.
If you haven’t received the water of life, Jesus Christ, I urge you to consider eternity today. If you have, will you join the welcoming committee by inviting others to come with you?