Introduction to the Book of Revelation
I. Introduction: “What You Have Seen” (1)
II. Letters to the Seven Churches: “What Is Now” (2-3)
III. The Revelation of the Future: “What Will Take Place Later” (4-22)
IV. Conclusion (22:6-12)
- Period of Hostility—
- OT Usage—Robert Thomas: “Of the 404 verses in the Apocalypse, 278 allude to the OT Scriptures. No other NT writer uses the OT more than this. Yet the book is marked by an entire absence of formal quotations from the OT.”
- Gift of Prophecy—
III. Methods of Study
- Translations & Paraphrases
- Commentaries (sources)
- Reading the Book
IV. Methods of Interpretation
- Idealist—believes that the main purpose of the book is to use symbolism to communicate timeless spiritual truths that are applicable to all generations of believers.
- Preterist—believes that everything being discussed (with the exception of chaps. 21-22) occurred in the first century, or at least by the end of the Roman Empire.
- Historicist—believes that the symbols of the book all represent different world and Church events that have unfolded down through the ages.
- Futurist—believes that everything from chapter four on primarily deals with events which will unfold during the final few years of earth as we know it. Two subgroups: dispensationalists and classical premillennialist (aka moderate futurist).
- Eclectic—believes that most or even all of these methods have something to offer to the understanding of the book. Osborne: “The solution is to allow the preterist, idealist and futurist methods to interact in such a way that the strengths are maximized and the weaknesses minimized.”
- It begins with God allowing His Son to begin the process of bringing the world into subjection to Himself
- The growing power, pervasiveness and intensification of evil
- The great falling away of many professing Christians
- The rise of the Antichrist and the eventual formation of a one-world government
- The worship of Satan through the Antichrist by the unbelieving world
- The spiritual oppression and physical persecution of God’s people
- The upheaval of Nature and the punishing judgments of God upon earth
- God using these judgments to make one final appeal to mankind
- The destruction of Satan, Babylon and the earth-dwellers who rejected God
- The creation of the new earth
Beginning and End
- Gen. Creation of heavens and earth. Rev. Destruction of heavens and earth & Creation of new heavens and new earth (21)
- Gen. Start of Satan’s reign on earth) Rev. Satan cast into the Lake of Fire (20)
- Gen. Entrance of sin Rev. Sin banished (21)
- Gen. Pronouncing of the curse on creation Rev. The curse removed (22)
- Gen. Right to tree of life forfeited Rev. Access to tree of life restored (22)
- Gen. Eviction from Garden of Eden Rev. Man welcomed back to Paradise (22)
- Gen. Sin, sorrow, death enters world Rev. Sin, sorrow & death forever removed (21)
- Gen. Marriage of the first Adam Rev. Marriage of the last Adam (19)
- The Sovereignty of God
- Combat Theme
- Perseverance of the Saints
VI. The Call
- We are called to read this book.
- We are called to keep the words of this book.
- We are called to be prepared to meet Christ.
- We are called to be overcomers.
JB: Too many people ignore this book because of all the symbolism and difficult things to understand. But this is a revelation; it is meant to be understood. It’s like going to a foreign country; you have to learn the customs and so on. In the same way we simply need to understand the genre of the book.
Apocalyptic vs. Prophetic
- A prophetical book tends to be communicated through the word. (The word of the LORD that came to Joel…)
- An apocalyptic book tends to be communicated through visions.
- A prophetical book tends to be optimistic. The message is that if the nation will repent, they can avoid the judgments that are being predicted.
- An apocalyptic book tends to be pessimistic. The message is that judgment is coming; it’s too late to stop it; the only hope lies in the future, not in the present.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ:
Which God gave Him To Show to His bond-servants,
The Greek word, deiknuō, means “reveal, unveil,” and so parallels “revelation.”
the things which must soon take place;
- The concept of imminence to John.
- The prophetic perspective.
- The Unknown.
and He sent and communicated it by His angel
This word is semaino, which is derived from the word semo, meaning a mark or a sign.
to His bond-servant John,
Osborne: [This] was a title of honor. Due to the client-patron structure of Roman society, a “slave” could function as the agent of his master, possessing a representative authority and with Christian leaders was often associated with “apostle.”
who testified to the word of God
PC: To bear witness to the truth of the Word of God was St. John’s special function throughout his long life, and to this fact he calls attention in all his chief writings.
and to the testimony of Jesus Christ,
even to all that he saw.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it;
Osborne: These two concepts, hearing and keeping, are combined frequently in both OT and NT. In fact, the Hebrew verb for “hear” also means to “obey;” the two concepts are inseparable biblically. In the letters to the seven churches each letter contains the admonition “Let the one who has an ear hear what the Spirit says,” and this is then connected to the promise to the “overcomer.” The central theme of “keeping” God’s commands is found ten times in the book.
for the time is near.
1:4-8 The Salutation
- From Him who is and who was and who is to come;
- From the seven Spirits who are before His throne.
- From Jesus Christ.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Ladd: There is no hint in the seven letters that they represent seven successive periods of church history. However, seven was one of John’s favorite numbers; the significance here is of diversity within a basic unity. John chose these seven churches with which he was well acquainted so that they might be representative of the church at large.
Grace to you and peace,
BB: Grace means the undeserved favor of God and the strength that is needed in the Christian life day by day. Peace is the resulting calm that enables the believer to face persecution, sorrow, and even death itself.
from Him who is and who was and who is to come,
PC: The great I AM – eternally self-existent, and yet who is, as it were, ever moving forward, unrolling on the page of history his unfinished and unfinishable Name.
and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,
- Old Testament Precedence.
- Equality with God.
- New Testament Designation
BB: This refers to God the Holy Spirit in His fullness, seven being the number of perfection and completeness.
Ryrie: The number 7, occurring 54 times in the book, appears more frequently than any other number. In the Bible it is associated with completion, fulfillment and perfection (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:10; Lev. 14:7; Acts 6:3). In the Revelation there are 7 churches and 7 spirits (1:4), 7 lampstands (1:12), 7 stars (1:16), 7 seals on the scroll (5:1), 7 horns and 7 eyes of the Lamb (5:6), 7 angels and 7 trumpets (8:2), 7 thunders (10:3), 7 heads of the dragon (12:3), 7 heads of the beast (13:1), 7 golden bowls (15:7), and 7 kings (17:10).
Revelation 1:5-7 Doxology (What Christ is and what He does)
He is the faithful witness,
He is the firstborn of the dead,
- First is that He was the first to rise from the dead, the first fruits of the resurrection as Paul called him in 1 Cor. 15.
- But it can also refer to His role as the firstborn son. We see this in Psalm 89:27: “I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.”
He is the ruler of the kings of the earth.
He loved us.
Osborne: [This love] is an all-embracing concept that probably summarizes Christ’s past love leading to his sacrificial death, his present love (here), and his future love seen in his defeat of the forces of evil on our behalf.
He released us from our sins by His blood:
PC# 3: Before the apostle’s mind there seems to rise up the vision of what he and his fellow-believers had once been – so foul and unclean, not with mere outward defilement, but with that inward foulness of the heart which to the Holy and Undefiled One could not but have been repulsed in the highest degree. And yet the Lord loved him. We can understand his pitying men so miserable, even whilst he condemned their sin; and we can understand how, on their repentance, he might pardon them. But to take them into his favor, to make them the objects of his love, that is wonderful indeed… And at what cost? Nothing less than “his own blood.”
He has made us to be a kingdom,
He has made us to be priests to His God and Father
to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
PC# 3: The writer of the Revelation had hardly set himself down to his work before he felt that he must lift up his heart in joyful doxology. The very mention of the name of the Lord Jesus, by whose Spirit he was writing, starts him off in this heart-song of praise. He could not go on until he had given utterance to the irrepressible love for his Lord with which his soul was filled to overflowing. And this is his way. How many are the outbreaks of praise which we find in this book! It is a land full of fountains and springs and wells, out of which flow this river which makes glad the city of God. And blessed are they whose hearts are thus attuned, ever ready to give forth praise, sweet, clear, strong, full, whenever the spirit of Christ’s love touches them. Like as in those great concerts where royalty is expected to be present, the whole vast orchestra stand ready the moment the royal personages enter to begin the National Anthem; so should “praise wait” for God in all our hearts… If you begin praising God, you are bound to go on; like a river which at its outset is but a tiny rill, yet increases more and more as it flows along…
Revelation 1:9-20—The Vision-Transfiguration
Son of Man
The Robe & Golden Sash
His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow;
Osborne: Another characteristic of the Apocalypse is seen here, the tendency to utilize OT descriptions of God for Jesus, thereby stressing further the unity between the Father and the Son. The wool and snow together picture pure, dazzling whiteness. There was no other way in the ancient world to portray perfect whiteness.
and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
- PC# 5: His eyes pierced into the deepest depths of human thought.
- PC# 2: His eyes piercing men through and through, burning up all hypocritical pretense.
- PC# 3: the eyes like fire-flame, of searching intelligence and of fierce wrath;
- Exp: those eyes penetrating like a flame of fire into the inmost recesses of the heart;
- Osborne: Divine insight that penetrates to the core of the human situation.
His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace,
and His voice was like the sound of many waters.
In His right hand He held seven stars,
Osborne: To “hold” something means possessing and protecting. To “have… in his hand” occurs often in this book (1:16; 2:1; 3:1; 6:5; 10:2; 17:4), and in each case the idea of power over the thing held is present. Therefore the glorified Christ is in complete control.
and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword;
and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.
“And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” (Matthew 17:2)
- 2Co 4:6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
- 1Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
- Isaiah: “Woe is me! for I am undone.”
- Job: “I abhor myself in dust and ashes.”
- Peter: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
“I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
Thomas: This first vision of John, then, included an indication of Jesus’ Messianic office with its associated functions: judgment of the unrighteous and comfort of the suffering righteous, His high rank that fits Him as an agent of imposing divine wrath, His activity in imposing that wrath, His preexistence along with God the Father, His penetrating intelligence that enables Him to perform righteous judgment, His movement among the churches to enforce standards of moral purity, His identification with the Father in the power of His utterance, His authority over the seven messengers and the churches they represent, His power to overcome His enemies and pronounce judgment upon them, and His return to earth to implement judgment upon mankind.
Exp: These seven churches represent the Church of Christ in every country of the world, down to the very end of time. The universal Church spreads itself out beneath his gaze; and before he instructs he blesses it. In their condition they represented the Church in her Divine origin and human frailty, in her graces and defects, in her zeal and lukewarmness, in her joys and sorrows, in the guardianship of her Lord, and in her final victory after many struggles. Not to Christians in these cities alone is the Apocalypse spoken, but to all Christians in all their circumstances. They are “the things which are,” and they are types of “the things which shall come to pass hereafter.”
The Form Letter
- a description of Christ,
- a word of commendation (to all but Laodicea),
- a word of reproof (to all but Smyrna and Philadelphia, and
- a concluding word of promise, particularly to overcomers.
Thomas brings out that verses 2-3 consists of three triplets:
- “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance,”
- “and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;”
- “and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”
PC: What they left and lost. It was that blessed early condition of peace and joy Godward which the beginning of the religious life so often witnesses. “All things were new – Christ was new, the Word a new light, worship a new gift, the world a new realm of beauty, shining in the brightness of its Author; even the man himself was new to himself. Then how tender, how teachable! in his conscience how true! in his works how dutiful! It was the Divine childhood, as it were, of his faith, and the beauty of childhood was in it. This was his first love. Blessed, blessed time, the primeval Paradise of the soul, the golden age.
Ladd: Doctrinal purity and loyalty can never be a substitute for love.
- Infatuation and excitement
- Settling into the routine
- Shared experience deepens trust and commitment and affection
- Eventually that love becomes such a force in one’s life that they would put themselves in harm’s way before allowing anything bad to happen to their beloved.
PC: It is possible to hate what Christ hates without loving what he loves.
- (Knox) I know how sorely tried thou art, how stricken with poverty…
- (NEB) I know how hard-pressed you are …
- (WMS) I know your pressing trouble and poverty…
- (NET) I know the distress you are suffering…
PC# 3: “Thou art rich.” He, then, knew of treasure-store of good which they did not; of recompense of reward so vast that their present poverty should be all forgotten. And he knew that all the accusations of their enemies were not true, as, perhaps, sometimes, in their more misgiving moods, they had half feared some of them might be, and were in consequence staggered beneath them. But now he came and declared to them to be not true, but “blasphemies.” They need trouble themselves, therefore, no more about them.
Thomas: Apparently this church, already involved in tribulation, was expecting worse things still to come, and thus was facing the future with trepidation. The devil was about to “keep on casting” some of these Christians into prison. One after another, certain members of the Christian community could expect to be seized by the Roman authorities in Smyrna as a result of accusation brought by the Jewish community. Satan hoped to bring them to renounce their faith in Christ by promoting conditions of physical suffering.
Leads astray: (Planao)
- (Mat 24:4) And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.
- (2Ti 3:13) But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
- (2Pe 2:15) forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
The letter to Sardis contains a number of quotations from things Christ said in the gospels:
- “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” = Mat. 10:32; Luke 12:8-9
- “I will come like a thief…” = Mat. 24:42; Luke 12:39
- Watch = Mat. 24:42; 25:13; 26:41
- Blotting of a name from the book of life = Luke 10:20
- “He who has an ear” = Mat. 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Luke 8:8; 14:35
Alive: Zao—G2198—A primary verb; to live (literally or figuratively).
- (Joh 6:63) “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
- (Joh 10:10) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
- (Rom 8:6) For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
- (Gal 6:8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
PC: They had their reward: people talked of them, and gave them credit as having life. But before God they were dead. Let us remember that it is as “before God” everything is to be estimated.
Ladd: Here is a picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity but devoid of spiritual life and power.
Osborne: They claim the Christian name, “Life,” but actually retain the pagan name, “Death.”
Wake up: Gregoreuo—G1127—to keep awake, be vigilant, (be) watch (-ful).
- (Mat 24:42) “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
- (Mat 25:13) “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
- (Mar 13:37) “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!'”
- (1Pe 5:8) Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
PC# 3: It is evident from the honorable mention of the “few” who had “not defiled their garments,” that the rest had. That is to say, they had given in to the world’s ways. Hence St. James speaks of pure religion as being part this, “Keeping your garments unspotted from the world.” The Church and the world at Sardis seem to have got along together very well. It is an ill sign when the Church and the world are so happy together. There has been compromise somewhere, and it is rarely the world which makes it.
Osborne: They are victorious by remaining pure in a church that has increasingly gone apostate. The reason they can “walk in white” is due to the fact that they have remained pure and their works are complete.
ILL: The words “garment,” “robe” and “raiment” are used in the Scriptures to typify character. character is not determined by a single act, but by habitual conduct. It is a fabric made up of thousands of threads, and put together by uncounted stitches.
Osborne: The church lacked size and statue in the community and was looked down upon and persecuted. They had little authority or influence. But they were faithful, and that has always been the test of divine blessing rather than success.
PC# 3: The expression is to be regarded as referring, probably, to her membership as but few in number, to her wealth as but very small, to her knowledge and gifts as being but slender, to great and distinguished men amongst her as being very rare, to her social position as being quite humble. Hence she was small in human esteem, one of those “weak things,” which however, God often chooses wherewith to accomplish his own purposes.
Ladd: Paul wrote a letter to the Laodiceans from Rome (Col. 4:16). The church in Laodicea is obviously quite prosperous and outwardly in excellent condition. The letter makes no mention of persecution from Roman officials, of trouble from the Jews, or of any false teachers within the church. Laodicea was much like Sardis: an example of nominal, self-satisfied Christianity.
Thomas: The works are more than the deeds done. They are a reflection of life and conduct in general, including the outward and inward spiritual activities. They are evidence of the inward spiritual condition the Lord alone sees and knows directly. It is by means of these that men prove what they actually are.
Thomas: Phileo is a love of personal affection that is quite consistent with the severity of discipline associated with God’s love. It is more human and more emotional that agapao and it has less depth. The word is probably chosen here to show that in spite of the church’s poor attitude toward Him, He still has tender and affectionate feelings toward it. The surprising choice of this emotional word comes as a touching and unexpected manifestation of love toward those who deserve it least among the seven churches.
Ladd: The metaphorical, picturesque character of the language is further suggested by the great fluidity with which the scene changes throughout the Revelation from heaven to earth. John is caught up in vision to heaven in 4:1 and remains there until the end of chapter nine. In chapter ten he has returned to earth, for he sees an angel “coming down from heaven,” and he remains on earth until 11:13; but in 11:15-19, the scene of the vision is again in heaven. In chapter twelve the Seer seems to be on earth again, but 14:18-20 implies his presence in heaven. It is not always possible to follow the Seer’s movements, but the frequent change of scene makes it evident that while in a trance-like state, one can move without difficulty from earth to heaven.
- In Ezekiel 1:26-28, God and His throne are like the brilliance of glowing metal, of fire and brightness all around.
- In Exodus 24:10, God appears standing on a pavement of sapphire.
- In Daniel 7:9, His raiment was as white as snow and His throne as fiery flames and many thousands were standing before Him.
- In 1 Kings 22:19, He is seen on His throne with all the host of heaven standing around Him.
- In Isaiah 6:1, He sits on His throne, high and lifted up, with the train of His robe filling the Temple.
Ladd: We can only conclude that the majesty of what John beheld was so great and ineffable that he despaired of trying to describe it in any but symbolic terms.
Colossians 1:16: For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.
- Psalm 89 and Isaiah 24 both mention a council of holy ones, which would certainly seem to fit this group. (The vision Micaiah saw in 1 Kings 22 is probably this group.)
- Their primary functions of leading worship and acting as intermediaries and interpreters are only performed by angels.
- They are never mentioned as being part of the saints, but are always grouped with angels.
PC# 3: The whole description is that of a council in the very act of being held. It is not to be taken as a description of the ordinary heavenly state, but of a special assembly gathered for a definite purpose.
- Exodus 24:10 “and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.”
- Eze 1:22 Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads.
Osborne: The scene is enhanced greatly by this spectacular image. In one sense it is like glass, reflecting the magnificence and kaleidoscope of colors of the throne room. In another sense it is transparent, crystal clear, radiating his awesome holiness.
Thomas: Words can hardly describe it, because he had seen nothing exactly like it on earth. It pictures the splendor and majesty of God on His throne that set Him apart from all His creation, a separation stemming from His purity and absolute holiness, which He shares with no one else.
Four Living Creatures
- In the OT the cherubim and seraphim stood guard over the tree of life (Genesis 3:24),
- stood at each end of the ark with their wings outstretched over it (Exo. 25:18-20),
- led worship (Isaiah 6:3),
- bore God’s chariot through the heavens (Ezekiel 1:19-21; cf. 2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10).
- In Revelation, these “four living beings” lead worship (4:6-9; 5:8-9, 11; 19:4),
- stand sentinel at the throne (5:6; 7:11; 14:3),
- and take the lead in the outpouring of divine judgment (6:1, 3, 5-7; 15:7).
- Since they are nearest the throne (4:6) and take the lead in worship (4:8; 5:14) it is likely that they are the leaders of the heavenly court.
Exp: Here they think of creation, with all its wonders; of the heavens which declare God’s glory, and the firmament which shows forth His handiwork; of sun, and moon, and stars in their manifold and resplendent glories; of the mountains and the valleys; of the rivers and the fountains of waters; of the rich exuberance of vegetable life, which covers the earth with a gorgeous carpet of every hue. To God all creatures owe their origin. In Him they live, and move, and have their being.
Thomas: Though redemption does not become a reason for praise until chapter 5, this song prepares the way for the climactic announcement that the long-awaited redemption of creation is on the brink of fulfillment. With the song of the twenty-four elders this initial scene in the throne room closes.
The Significance of this Scene in the Throne Room of God
Thomas: The throne of God is extremely prominent throughout John’s prophecy, being explicitly mentioned in every chapter except chapters 2, 9, 10, 15, 17 and 18. Thronos is used 13 times in the eleven verses of chapter 4; eleven of the occurrences referring to the throne of God and the other two of the thrones upon which the 24 elders sat. It is used 46 times in the whole book. The major focus of chapter 4 upon the throne is its symbolism of God’s sovereignty exercised in judgment. From this point of origination proceeds the outworking of God’s wrath described in the body of the Apocalypse. Though evil reigns for a time on earth, God will ultimately prevail.
God’s Throne Represents His Sovereignty and Eternity
- Psa 45:6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…
- Psa 93:2 Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.
- Psa 103:19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
- Rev 1:4 …Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come…
- Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
- Rev 1:17-18 …I am the first and the last… I am alive forevermore…
- Rev 2:8 The first and the last…
God’s Throne Represents His Omnipotence and Government
- Psa 22:28 For the kingdom is the LORD’S And He rules over the nations.
- Psa 47:7-8 God is the King of all the earth… God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.
- Psa 99:1 The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble; He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake!
God’s Throne Represents His Holiness and Justice
Thomas: These visible and audible displays are another reminder that the throne, which is centerpiece of this heavenly scene is, first and foremost, a throne of wrath.
Exp: The cherubim of the Old Testament and the “living creatures” of the New represent qualities that strike terror into the hearts of men, and suggest the idea of an irresistibly destructive force. They are sharers of the Almighty’s holiness, and of that holiness in its more awful form, as a holiness that cannot look on sin but with abhorrence. Their aspect is not that of the sweetness associated with the word “cherub,” but that of sternness, indignant power, and judgment.
God’s Throne Represents His Faithfulness and Sustaining Grace
Osborne: Some of the most magnificent Christology in the NT can be found in this chapter. Jesus is portrayed as the lion who is the conquering Lamb who is the slain Lamb who is at the center of the throne and is God himself. The rapid development of these images is incredible. The reader is overwhelmed by the sheer power of the picture of Christ as it unfolds.
Johnson: All creation in heaven and earth and under the earth stood motionless and speechless.
Thomas: As each region declines the challenge of producing someone able to open the scroll, eventually the possibilities are exhausted.
Osborne: When we think of the power of God’s mighty angels, the deeds of the heroes of the OT, and the spiritual accomplishments of the kings, prophets and apostles of Scripture, this is an incredible statement. However, the purpose is to demonstrate the only achievement that could be worthy, the sacrificial death of Christ as the true conquest of evil. All else has been merely preparatory to the final defeat of Satan at the cross.
PC: “I burst into tears, and continued weeping.”
Thomas: This weeping was unrestrained emotion by one who was in an ecstatic state. The most plausible reason for his sobbing is his fear that the events contained in the revelatory scroll would remain unfulfilled, thus thwarting the purposes of God. John was not weeping over the apparent indefinite postponement of God’s final and decisive action.
- (Rev 1:19) Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.
- (Rev 4:1) Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Genesis 49:8-10: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
Daniel 7:9-14 (I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened… I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.)
Isaiah 42:9-10: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, Now I declare new things; Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you. Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth!..”
Thomas: This is the description of a song that is new in nature, different from the usual, impressive, better than the old, and superior in value.
Johnson: Their sevenfold shout rings out like the sound from a huge bell—“power … wealth … wisdom … strength … honor … glory … praise.”
Thomas: He is worthy to receive recognition for a complex of qualities composed of seven parts. The repetition of the word “and” between each member of the series gives a kind of solemn dignity to each word even though the group is viewed as a single complex expression.
Osborne: The seven can be further divided into a pattern of four celebrating the attributes of Christ (power, wealth, wisdom, strength) and three celebrating the worship due him as a result (honor, glory, praise). The list forms a conceptual unity.
Thomas: Plouton (“riches”) includes not just spiritual wealth, but also unconditional wealth in all realms as befitting an all-sufficient God.
Psalm 103: “Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word! Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will. Bless the LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!”
Philippians 2:9-11: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Thomas: They do not say Amen just once, but as the verb tense indicates, they keep repeating it over and over. The suggestion that it was repeated after each attribute of the doxologies of verses 12 & 13 certainly adds drama to the scene.
1. He is the Paschal Lamb of the Passover
Osborne: It is the cross that is the heart of all spiritual power over evil. Here lies the great paradox of Christianity: victory comes from apparent defeat; evil is conquered through the terrible sacrificial suffering of the cross. When Satan placed Christ on the cross, it was his greatest tactical error, for he took part in his own defeat.
2. He is Meek and Lowly
3. He is the Center of Everything
Exp: One thing more has to be noticed: that this Lamb is the central figure of the scene before us, “in the midst of the throne and of the living creatures, and of the elders.” To Him all the works of God, both in creation and redemption, turn. To Him the old covenant led; and the prophets who were raised up under it searched “what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them.” (1 Peter 1:11) From Him the new covenant flowed, and those who under it are called to the knowledge of the truth recognize in Him their “all and in all.” (Colossians 3:11) The Lamb slaughtered, raised from the grave, ascended, being the impersonation of that Divine love which is the essence of the Divine nature, is the visible centre of the universe. He is “the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation: for in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things have been created through Him, and unto Him: and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the Body, the Church: who is the Beginning, the First-born from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell; and through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
The Rapture and the Revelation
H.A. Ironside: “It passes our comprehension how any man, or set of men, with an atom of genuine love for the Lord and His people, can deliberately brand as heretics fellow believers whose lives are generally fragrant with Christian graces, who stand unflinchingly for the inspiration of the entire Bible, simply because they hold different views on prophecy.”
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory
- Attitude of Expectancy.
- Days of Noah.
- Christians Won’t Face Judgment.
II Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13; Matthew 24:36-39; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Daniel 12:1; II Peter 2:9; Revelation 3:10
The Post-Tribulation Rapture Theory
- Rapture Not Taught.
- American Doctrine.
- Last Trump and Last Day.
- No Three Resurrections.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52
The “Sixth Seal” Theory
- Imminent Return
- Days of Noah
- Last Trumpet and Resurrection on Last Day
- Only One Second Coming of the Lord
- Saints Go Through the Tribulation Period Victoriously
Scriptural Support for Christians:
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-32; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 9:1-19; Romans 8:19, 23; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2-3;
Supporting Points for End Time Jews
Isaiah 30:18-22; 60:1-5; 62:1-12; Jeremiah 32:37-42; Ezekiel 11:16-20; 28:25-26; 36:22-29; 37:1-14, 21-23; Zechariah 13:1-2
Ladd: The easiest identification of John’s scroll is that it contains the prophecy of the end events, including both the salvation of God’s people and the judgment of the wicked. It is God’s redemptive plan for the denouement of human history, the overthrow of evil and the gathering of a redeemed people to enjoy the blessings of God’s rule.
Deception: Matthew 24:4-5 First Seal: Revelation 6:1-2
War: Matthew 24:6-7a Second Seal: Revelation 6:3-4
Food Scarcity: Matthew 24:7b Third Seal: Revelation 6:5-6
Death: Matthew 24:7b Fourth Seal: Revelation 6:7-8
Martyrdom: Matthew 24:9 Fifth Seal: Revelation 6:9-11
Cosmic Signs: Matthew 24:29-30 Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12-17
PC: These great events are called “labor pangs” because they usher in the new creation, “the regeneration” spoken of in Matthew 19:28 where Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
6:1-2 First seal
Not Jesus Christ.
- He is in the throne room breaking the seals.
- It wouldn’t be appropriate for an angel to call Him forth.
- It also doesn’t fit in with the order of events in the Olivet Discourse.
Thomas: The book is full of satanic imitations of Christ. This rider is one of them. This rider, like the other three, is not an individual, but a personification of a growing movement or force that will be at work during this future period.
Matthew 24:4-5: “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”
6:3-4 Second seal
Matthew 24:6-7a “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…”
Osborne: God is not so much pouring down judgment on the earth-dwellers as allowing their depravity to come full circle. This is a common theme in this book, as sin turns upon itself and self-destructs.
6:5-6 Third seal
Mat 24:7 “…and in various places there will be famines.”
6:7-8 Fourth seal
Ezekiel 14:21 “For thus says the Lord GOD, ‘How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it!’”
6:9-11 Fifth seal
1. Throne Room or Temple?
Ladd: How can heaven be pictured as both a throne room and a temple at the same time? It is precisely the fluidity of apocalyptic thinking which makes this possible. Apocalyptic pictures are not meant to be photographs of objective facts; they are often symbolic representations of almost unimaginable spiritual realities. In fact, God does not sit upon a throne; he is an eternal Spirit who neither stands or sits or reclines. Heaven is both the throne room of God and his temple. Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple” (Isa. 6:1). The altar is also pictured as standing in the temple (Isa. 6:6). Psalm 11:4 says, “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”
2. Prayers for Vengeance
Luke 18:7— now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?)
Thomas: When grace has exhausted its longsuffering, however, only judgment is left and prayers for righteous retribution are appropriate. Such prayers come not just from a thirst for revenge. They are at least in part a protest against iniquity. The petition is to carry out vengeance against “those who dwell upon earth.” Throughout the Apocalypse, this expression is a semi-technical designation for mankind in their hostility to God. They are ungodly people who have no home but earth and want no home but earth. It is not just the beast; The whole race is in rebellion and is set on removing as many of God’s servants as possible.
PC: The cry is not a petition for personal revenge, but a request for the termination of those ills which for a time afflict man, and the termination of which must, by virtue of God’s eternal justice, be accompanied by visible retribution on the wicked.
Stedman: These martyrs are not living in days when God patiently endures the injustices of men. These are days of judgment; days when wrongdoers are being called to account, the time of vengeance. The prayers, then, of God’s people reflect the mind of God at that time. Led of the Spirit, they pray for what God intends to do during the last days.
3. Designated Number
4. This Says Something About the Church
Osborne: Throughout the persecution and suffering in the book, the church is presented as a witnessing church. They do not flee for their lives or compromise the gospel in order to avoid persecution but boldly maintain their witness in the desperate situation.
Ladd: One of the repeated emphases of the entire NT is that it is the very nature of the church to be a martyr people.
Luke 21:11: and there will be great earthquakes… and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
Luke 21:25-26: There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Isaiah 13:13: The Lord says, “I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger.”
1. List of people groups.
2. The wrath of God.
Psalm 2:1-2, 5: Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury.
Romans 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Ephesians 2:3: Among them we too all formerly… were by nature children of wrath…
Osborne: One of the purposes of the seals, trumpets and bowls is to display the wrath of the righteous God to a world that has rejected him. The judgment on the earth-dwellers is called “the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God” in 19:15. This is God’s response to a world consumed with sin [and it] can be seen as an expression of rejected and wounded love.
3. “Presence” or “face” of God?
1 Peter 3:12: “for the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the prosopon of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
2 Thessalonians 1:9: “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the prosopon of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
PC #5: Here are men preferring annihilation to a sight of that face. What is the matter with that face? It was, indeed, the human face Divine, the serenest, the loveliest, the kindliest face ever seen on earth. It was a face whose expression towards men was, “Come unto me,” etc. What change has come over it now? Why are men afraid of it now? Their guilty consciences have made that face terrible. The sight of that face will call up such memories of their ingratitude, their folly, their impiety, as will make existence intolerable…
4. The reaction of people.
Thomas: Their impulse was: it is better to perish here than to remain and face the one sitting upon the throne and the wrath of the Lamb. The urgent cry of people throughout the world is a call for those very mountains where they have gone into hiding to fall on them. This is a very graphic picture of terror and despair. What sinners dread most is not death, but having to stand before a holy and righteous God.
Osborne: These people are so filled with irrational terror that they plead for an avalanche to bury them rather than face God and the Lamb. This plea is also filled with irony, for death will not keep them from the judgment seat of God.
Stedman: Every unbeliever is convinced in his own heart that death is somehow an escape into oblivion! Somehow they think they can escape the terrible consequences of their evil by dying. That is why people commit suicide. They believe they are escaping their problems, that there will be no consequences beyond death. But the Word of God assures us this is not true: “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).
PC: Love of life is the strongest instinct in human nature, and hence the dread of death. What will men not give away to avoid death? But what a change now! They earnestly cry for that which they dreaded! They cry to the mountains and rocks. What can they do for them? Can they hear them? No; insensitive, immovable, these remain amid the wildest shrieks. But were they to fall on them would they crush them? The material universe cannot crush a soul. God alone can quench a soul.
The Day of the Lord Comparison
There was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Isaiah 13:10, 13
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the LORD of hosts In the day of His burning anger.
I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
The Lord’s Presence
“Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne.”
Then the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it.
I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind.
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Wail, for the day of the LORD is near!… Therefore all hands will fall limp, And every man’s heart will melt. They will be terrified, Pains and anguish will take hold of them; They will writhe like a woman in labor, They will look at one another in astonishment, Their faces aflame.
I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
1. The 144,000 symbolizes the church.
a. This number is figurative and signifies completeness.
PC: The number 12 is always typical, in the Apocalypse and elsewhere, of a complete and perfect number. It is formed of 4 multiplied by 3. Four is generally representative of the created universe, and 3 of the Godhead. Four plus three, that is seven; and four multiplied by three, that is twelve, indicate a perfect number – a number which includes and embraces everything. And thus 12 multiplied by 12 denotes the most exhaustive and perfect completion. The number 1000 is generally used to denote a large and complete, but somewhat uncertain, number. Thus the square of 12 multiplied by 1000 has the signification of a large number not definitely fixed, but nevertheless perfect; that is to say, not omitting a single one of those who should be included in the number. We are therefore taught that at the judgment-day, before the destruction of the world is allowed to take place, a large number, consisting of those who have proved themselves to be God’s servants, will be preserved and set apart.
Ladd: As usual in the Revelation, the number is symbolic and affirms that the full number of the people of God will be brought safely through the time of tribulation; not one of the people of God will be lost.
b. This is a metaphor of the church.
Johnson: Throughout the NT, the church is referred to as “Abraham’s seed” (Gal 3:29), as “the true circumcision” (Philippians 3:3) and as the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). Furthermore, John himself earlier in Revelation makes a distinction between the true Jew and the false (cf. 2:9; 3:9) and that could imply that here in chapter 7 he intends also to designate the true Israel or the church.
c. Only mention of Jews in Revelation.
Osborne: Throughout the book, the emphasis is on one group, the faithful overcomers.
d. The first group represents believers going into the Tribulation period; the second group represents believers in heaven after the Tribulation period.
2. The 144,000 describes Jews who get saved during the Tribulation period.
a. The number should be taken literally.
b. This group is exactly who John says it is.
Thomas: The term “Israel” must be referred to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the natural understanding and the word’s normal usage in the NT as well as the OT. This accounts for the detailed division of the people of God into twelve families answering individually to the twelve tribes of Israel in vv. 5-8, and is the explanation favored by the earliest Christian tradition.
c. The specificity of the numbers demands a literal understanding.
Wal: Though men do not know the identification of each tribe today, certainly God knows. It would be rather ridiculous to carry the typology of Israel representing the church to the extent of dividing them up into twelve tribes as was done here, if it was the intent of the writer to describe the church.
d. This is the fulfillment of major biblical prophecies.
Zechariah 12:10: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”
Romans 11:25-27: For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery–so that you will not be wise in your own estimation–that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “the Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.”
e. God uses this group to evangelize the world.
3. Sixth Seal theory
Daniel 12:1: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”
Matthew 24:21-22: “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”
Johnson: This future tribulation is distinguished from previous persecutions of the church in its intensity, in its immediate connection with Christ’s second coming, and in the presence of Antichrist during it.
Thomas: This cannot be simply general tribulation that began in John’s time. This is a worldwide crisis among all nations that could hardly reflect the localized situation of John’s time. Nor can the reference be to all the tribulations throughout the age of the church, because the definite article tes (“the”), the whole vision, and its relation to the rest of the book eliminate the possibility of such a general understanding. It is the superlatively great crisis of trial through which all rebels against God must pass just before Christ’s second coming.
Osborne: As God exerts his wrath upon the evil world in the form of the seals, trumpets and bowls, the world retaliates with its own vengeance against Christ’s followers.
1. Protected from God’s Wrath
2. Connection with Ezekiel 9
3. Biblical Precedence
Thomas: It is a dramatic pause to symbolize the awe and dread with which the heavenly hosts await the events about to happen.
Ladd: It is the silence of dreadful anticipation of the events that are about to ensue, now that the time of the end has come.
PC: Whatever judgments come down upon the region below, they are seen by the apostle to be the consequences of activities in the region above. No stroke falls on earth that is not directed from heaven. The two worlds move in concert. The time-accomplishments of one world correspond to the time-appointments of another. Hence, if there should be a pause in the activities of the higher realm, that would bring about some intervening period of comparative quietude on earth. But this calm is but the prelude to a more intense activity than ever.
The seven angels who stand before God: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel and Remiel.
Seven trumpets: Trumpets played a huge role in Jewish life. Their startling sound cut through all of the chatter and clatter of the marketplace and instantly got people’s attention. They were used to (1) call God’s people together; (2) call to repentance; (3) call to war; (4) call to the king’s coronation; and (5) announce eschatological judgment.
Joel 2:1:—Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near;
Zephaniah 1:14-16:—Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities And the high corner towers.
Matthew 24:31: And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
1 Corinthians 15:52: in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1 Thessalonians 4:16: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.).
Osborne: The seals are preliminary judgments that explore the depravity of humankind and demonstrate the necessity of judgment. The trumpet judgments are more closely related in style and substance to the bowl judgments.
The first four trumpets recapitulate the Egyptian plagues (Exodus 7-10), which themselves were addressed to the Egyptian gods. The plagues had a three-fold purpose: to prove the sovereign presence and power of Yahweh, to show the powerlessness of the Egyptian gods, and to show Pharaoh (a god to the Egyptians) that he could not win. Primarily, the plagues were a cosmic struggle between Yahweh and the powers behind Egypt. All these elements are present in the trumpets and bowls, except the third element has been transformed into showing the earth-dwellers that Satan cannot win.
Yet the relationship between the trumpets and the bowls is a complex one. While the order of the first four of each is very similar, the actual judgments themselves do not tightly correspond.
Trumpet Cycle Bowl Cycle
1. Hail and fire (7th plague), 1. Painful sores (6th plague)
1/3 vegetation burnt
2. Ocean turned to blood (1st plague) 2. Ocean turned to blood (1st plague)
1/3 of fish & ships destroyed all sea creatures killed
3. Inland waters turned bitter (1st plague) 3. Inland waters become blood (1st plague)
many deaths people having to drink blood
4. Sun, moon & stars darkened (9th plague) 4. Sun scorches people (no plague)
sky darkened for 1/3 of day & night intense pain from the burns
Exodus 9:23-27: Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation…
NASA Probe Closing in on ‘Poisonous’ Comet Harley 2
National Geographic News—November 3, 2010
Last week, while the spacecraft was still more than five million miles from the comet, cameras began capturing evidence of multiple jets of gas shooting out into space like a sprinkler system.
One of the most unusual observations made so far took place over ten days in September, when the comet showed a significant increase in the release of cyanide gas, which is common in comet cores.
Osborne: This sentence emphasizes three things: that both day and night are “alike” without light; that the darkness lasts for a third of their length; and that the darkness means there is absolutely no light (note the presence of both “be darkened” and “might not shine” to state this both positively and negatively)
9:1-12 Fifth trumpet
This is Satan.
- Isaiah 14 says that Lucifer was “fallen from heaven” and that he had been “cast down to the earth.”
- In Luke 10, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
- In Revelation 12, the “dragon and his angels” are cast out of heaven “to the earth.”
This is not Satan.
- It has authority over the abyss, while Satan will later be thrown into it.
- There is little difference between “falling” and “descending.” See the parallel in Rev. 20:1 of the angel “descending from heaven” with “the key to the abyss.”
- Ladd: “Fallen” is used because this is the way stars come from the sky to earth.
- Luke 8:31— They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.;
- 2 Peter 2:4—For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
- Romans 10:7—or ‘who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)
Thomas: Their attack against men rather than consuming vegetation points to their demonic nature. What emerges to afflict rebellious mankind, then, is a horde of supernatural creatures bent on spreading as much misery as possible. Divine permission allows them the stinging power of scorpions in their tails. The scorpion belongs to the largest and most malignant of all insect tribes. It ranks with the snake in its hostility toward human beings.
Osborne: These are demons in the guise of locusts, for their king is Abaddon, the angel of the abyss. As they ascend from the abyss, they parallel the ascent of the beast in 11:7; 17:8. God gives the locusts authority over the earth-dwellers and power to inflict harm on them. This parallels 13:7, in which the beast “is given authority to make war against the saints.” This is part of an important theme in this book. Even the demonic forces can do nothing, unless God allows it! God does not have to command the demonic locusts to do anything; he simply allows their evil to express itself.
Osborne: This reinforces the impression—borne out by the personified King Apollyon in verse 11—that in the world of the Bible ultimate evil, like ultimate good, wears a human face.
Osborne: They have tails like scorpions, and stings; The verb is present tense, following the past tenses in 9:7-9, thereby dramatically emphasizing the ongoing action of the demonic swarm as they torment their victims.
PC: As Jesus said: “He was a murderer from the beginning.” Whereas Jesus is called, “Savior,” Satan is called destroyer.
PC# 5: All these locusts forces that will torment humanity are inspired and directed by one great spirit, the spirit of destruction, which goes to and fro through the earth like a lion, seeking whom it may devour. Greater and more terrible changes in the spirit-world seem to follow the sounding of the sixth trumpet. In this second “woe,” the spirit of destruction takes a wider sweep. It goes forth from the four parts of the earth, increasing the number and the terror of its messengers.
Osborne: The verbs almost personify the woes as travelers, with the first departing so the others might come. The emphasis is on the imminent arrival of the others “soon after this.”
9:13-21 Sixth trumpet
Ladd: Since they share the same mission as that of the demonic horses, viz., “to kill a third of mankind” (vs. 15), we may assume that they are the supernatural leaders of these demonic hosts. The Euphrates was the ideal limit of the Promised Land to the East (Gen. 15:18). Beyond the Euphrates were the hordes of the heathen kingdoms, particularly Assyria, and thus the river became symbolic of the enemies of Israel and God (Isa. 7:20; 8:7; Jer. 46:10).
Wal: Years ago Red China claimed to have an army of 200 million (Time, 1965). Great dams have already been placed across the Euphrates River to divert water for irrigation so that at times the riverbed is dry or partially so. A large invasion from the East and North in the end times is predicted in Daniel 11:44 (But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many.).
Revelation 5:11: Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness.”
Ladd: Idols can be viewed from two different perspectives. in and of itself, “an idol has no real existence” (1 Cor. 8:4). This viewpoint is reflected in John’s description. From another perspective, demons are seen to stand behind idol worship; and while meats offered to idols are not rendered unclean since an idol has no real existence, nevertheless “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20). Therefore, sacrifice to idols involves one in partnership with demons.
2 Peter 3:8-10: do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Mounce: One would think that the terrors of God’s wrath would bring rebels to their knees. Not so. Past the point of no return, they respond to greater punishment with increased rebellion. Such is sinful nature untouched and unmoved by the mercies of God.
Exp: In the two verses now under consideration, no hint as to the conversion of any ungodly persons by the Trumpet plagues is given. On the contrary, they were neither awakened nor softened by the fate of others. They had deliberately chosen their own course; and, although they knew that they were rushing against the thick bosses of the Almighty’s buckler, they had resolved to persevere in it to the end.
PC# 4: The Lord of Sabaoth is longsuffering and very merciful, but the angels of judgment and punishment, bound and restrained, must at length be loosed. There a hardness of heart that seems to increase by the pressure of outward calamity. They are devoted to evil. They are the willing slaves of lust and vice. They are greedy to do iniquity. The fiendish spirit finds it embodiment in them.
There are six interludes in the book of Revelation:
- 7:1-17— The vision of the two multitudes
- 10:1-11:13—The vision of the little scroll and the two witnesses
- 12:1-17—The vision of the dragon and the woman
- 13:1-18— The vision of the two great beasts
- 14:1-20— The vision of the Lamb on Mount Zion
- 17:1-19:10— The vision of the fall of Babylon
Osborne: Like chapter 7, this interlude clarifies the role of the saints in the events of the seals, trumpets and bowls. The believers are the focus of this section (as well as the next interlude of chapters 12-14), symbolized by John in chapter 10 and by the two witnesses of chapter 11. This interlude introduces us to the great tribulation, from the perspective of the Christians, who are hounded to their deaths by the followers of the beast.
Ladd: In the Apocalypse, angels are always angels; Christ is never called an angel. The fact that the angel “swore by him who lives forever and ever” is meaningful of an angel but very difficult if applied to Christ. Furthermore, this angel plays the role solely of messenger; he is not given the rank of deity, nor is he worshiped.
Osborne: The scroll was sealed in the right hand of God in chapter 5, progressively opened in chapter 6, and now lies open in the hand of the mighty angel in chapter 10. It too tells the divine plan for the end of the age, and now John is to be shown how that plan relates to the saints that are still on earth.
Ladd: The only hint we have as to the message of the seven thunders is to be found in the fact that in all other passages in the Revelation where thunders occur, they form a premonition of coming judgments of divine wrath (8:5; 11:19; 16:18). This fits the present context, for the angel announces that the consummation of the divine judgments is about to take place.
Daniel 12:6-7: “‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled? I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.”
DD: We are now right there in that waiting season. We are waiting for God to open the sixth seal. Now there is delay, there is pain, there is unfinished business, there are un-reconciled problems. It’s the message of Habakkuk: “Lord, when are you going to do something about the evil that is rising to such an extent?” God’s message to him was that the just live by faith. Then He gave him a revelation of God coming out of the desert into the life of the Israelites and when it was over Habakkuk said, “I don’t care if everything fails… I’m going to rejoice in the Lord!” That’s what we’re seeing. We’re not there yet but there’s coming a point where there will be no more delay.
PC: The force of the six judgments not having served to reduce the world to repentance, there can be no more delay, the last final judgment follows. The expression, therefore, implies, “The measure of God’s punishments, viewed as opportunities for repentance, is exhausted; there is a limit to his endurance; the allotted time having been run, and his mercy to a large extent having been spurned, there is no more delay; then falls the last final blow, which is at the end of “time.”
Sola Scriptura: Paul preaches Christ among the Gentiles because God has a plan to present many Gentiles in glory when Christ returns. So, the mystery of God is God’s special work in Christ to bring Gentiles to glory. Peter states in Acts 15:14-16 that “God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name,” and “after these things, I will return and rebuild the tabernacle of David…” This passage establishes a very important connection between God’s special work in Christ to bring Gentiles to glory and Israel’s restoration. Similarly, Romans 11:25b – 26 states that the mystery of Israel’s partial hardening will continue “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved…” This passage highlights two facts. First, God has determined a specific number of Gentiles to be saved, and second, the completion of the salvation of the Gentiles will lead to Israel’s salvation.
Returning to Revelation 10, we argue that the “mystery of God” is God’s special work in Jesus Christ to bring many Gentiles to glory. This effort on the part of God concludes or is finished just prior to the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet.
Ezekiel 2:8-3:3: “’Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.’ Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.’ He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.’ Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.”
PC# 2: Before the eating, the Word lies outside us. This is one of God’s parables in nature. His words of truth and grace are meant to be the life of human souls, on which they grow and thrive. So long as God’s Word is something outside us, it will profit us little. This spiritual digestion of God’s words is especially needed when a man’s mission is to give out those words to others. We cannot speak to others of the virtues of heavenly food when we have not fed on it ourselves. Nor can we tell to others the soul-thriving power it conveys when we ourselves are spiritually starving. The assimilation by reading, thinking, faith, and prayer is necessary if God’s Word is to be the support of our souls. None should aim at this more earnestly than those who have a Divine impulse to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Ladd: John’s prophetic message of coming judgment does not concern one people or nation but many, i.e. the entire civilized world. In the immediate foreground are the people of the Roman Empire who were willingly subservient to Rome; but the ultimate view includes an apostate civilization willingly subservient to Antichrist.
Jeremiah 20:7-9—“O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me. For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, Because for me the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.”
PC# 5: Of all offices this, when rightly comprehended, is the most painful. To deal with words of judgment and threatening; to speak of sin; to warn of punishment; to have close alliance with righteousness amongst men who reject it; to be burdened with spiritual care; to stand in antagonism to prevalent sentiment, and strive to raise men to altitudes of goodness – cannot but be a burden too heavy to be borne were the prophet unaided. He is in error who views the calling to the prophetic office too lightly; he is also in error who thinks trifflingly of the painfulness of its responsibilities.
11:1-2 Measuring the Temple
Johnson: Measuring with a line may have various metaphorical meanings. It may refer to the promise of restoration and rebuilding, with emphasis on extension or enlargement (Jer. 31:39; Zech. 1:16). Measuring may also be done to mark out something for destruction (2 Sam. 8:2; 2 Kings 21:13; Isa. 28:17; Lam. 2:8; Amos 7:7-9).
Thomas: The false messiah will desecrate the temple and turn it into a place for people to worship him. Jesus’ anticipation of the future abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15) and Paul’s prophecy regarding a future temple (2 Thessalonians 2:4) require a literal temple in the future.
Osborne: Since the imagery throughout the book is of a heavenly temple, it is difficult to conceive how this could refer to a literal temple on earth. Therefore, this is the church, primarily the saints of this final period. Here the worshipers are described as “in it,” so this refers to the individual believers in the church. When they are “measured,” they are identified as belonging to God and under his protection. God will protect his people not from physical harm but rather from spiritual harm. God will spiritually protect his people from contamination with idolatrous influences. The victory is seen in the parallel 21:15-21, where an angel “measures” the New Jerusalem.
Johnson: The temple is the individual Christian or alternately the community of Christians as it is in Paul’s writings (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16). While to take the temple in this verse as representing the church in the Great Tribulation is not without problems, this seems the best view.
Ladd: This is a prophecy of the preservation and ultimate salvation of the Jewish people. Paul devoted three whole chapters to this issue (Romans 9-11). The most natural meaning of Jerusalem is that it stands for the Jewish people (Psa. 137:5-6; Isa. 40:1-2; Matt. 23:37). We believe that the prophecy in Revelation 11 is John’s way of predicting the preservation of the Jewish people and their final salvation.
11:3-14 The two witnesses
Jeremiah 5:14: “Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, “Because you have spoken this word, Behold, I am making My words in your mouth fire And this people wood, and it will consume them.”
Johnson: Fire is understood symbolically as judgment from God; and since it proceeds from the witnesses’ mouths, we understand that their message of judgment will eventually be fulfilled by God’s power (Gen. 19:23 f.; 2 Sam. 22:9; Psa. 97:3).
Osborne: This probably parallels the “sharp, double-edged sword” that “proceeded” (same term as here) from the “mouth” of Jesus in 1:16 and spoke of Jesus’ proclamation of judgment.
Osborne: Here all the Egyptian plagues are replicated. As the Egyptian plagues proved the powerlessness of the gods, so these prove that the demonic forces and the earthly gods have no power, and Yahweh alone controls the natural forces.
Thomas: For the first time and somewhat by way of anticipation, “the beast” enters the description. Therion is a word for a beast of prey, one with a ravenous appetite, a carnivore like a lion or panther. It connotes a cunning of unreasoning violence that acts according to its own cruel nature. This first of 36 references to the archenemy of God’s people in Revelation is a passing reference that notes the overlap of his rule with the span of the witnesses’ ministry and his antagonism toward them.
Ladd: The beast is a central figure in the Revelation. He is primarily an eschatological figure in whom will be concentrated the centuries-long hostility to God manifested in the history of godless nations. The abyss from which the beast ascends was the source of the demonic plagues of the fifth and sixth trumpets. The beast too is of satanic origin and power, and derives his authority from the demonic realm. In chapter 12, war occurs in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon, where it is obvious that “war” means a spiritual conflict. In the present passage, war is simply conquest by whatever means, not necessarily by military weapons.
Johnson: At first glance, it seems apparent that John is referring to the actual city of Jerusalem where Christ died. Yet John’s terminology also implies more than this. The city is called the “great city,” a designation that refers to Babylon throughout the rest of the book (16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21). Moreover, John’s use of the word “city,” from the very first occurrence in 3:12, is symbolic. In fact, there are really only two cities in the book, the city of God and the city of Satan, which is later referred to as Babylon. A city may be a metaphor for the total life of a community of people (Heb 11:10; 12:22; 13:14). Here the “great city” is clearly more than merely Jerusalem, for John says it is “figuratively called Sodom and Egypt.” “Figuratively” comes from the Greek word pneumatikos, which means “spiritually.” The spiritually discerning will catch the significance of the threefold designation of this city. It is called “Sodom,” which connotes rebellion against God and moral degradation (cf. Ezek. 16:49). Egypt was a symbolic name for anti-theocratic world kingdoms that enslaved Israel.
11:15-19—The Seventh Trumpet
Wes: God now puts an end to this monstrous rebellion, and maintains his right to all things.
Revelation10:7: “but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.”
Wes: the words, “who is to come,” are, as it were, swallowed up.
Isaiah 24:5-6: “The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.”
Sola: Psalm 2:1-2 speaks of an enraged response from the nations when God enthrones His Son as king of the nations. The reason the nations are enraged is that Jesus’ lordship demands submission and recognition of His sovereignty which the nations reject. Your wrath came = is God’s response to the rage of the nations. Their failure to submit to God results in their destruction.
Osborne: The ark of the covenant was one of the most important symbols in the OT, at the very core of Israelite religion. The ark was the central symbol of Yahweh’s presence with Israel, the heart of atonement for the nation and the basis for its victories over its enemies. The ark was so sacred that it was closed off by a veil from all human contact. Only the high priest could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement and then only because he represented the whole people of God. The veil was torn in two (Mark 15:38), however, making access to God direct (Heb. 9:8-10, 12; 10:19-21). Now the ark in heaven is visible to all.
There are three divisions in this chapter.
- Verses 1-6 describes the woman and the child.
- Verses 7-12 describes Satan’s expulsion from the heavenlies.
- Verses 13-17 describes the dragon’s persecution of the woman.
Ladd: One of the central themes in the Revelation is the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. At the end of the age, the church is destined to undergo the most intense persecution of her history. Before he enters upon this description of the time of the great tribulation, he parts the curtain that separates earth from heaven to depict a great warfare in the spiritual world. This is not a vision of an event which is to take place at the end; it is a vision in highly imaginative terms of the heavenly warfare between God and Satan, which has its counterpart in history in the conflict between the church and demonic evil. As such, the vision completely transcends the usual categories of time and space. It is not meant to be a foretelling of history but a representation of the struggle in the spiritual world which lies behind history.
12:1-6 The woman and the male child
Johnson: The description of him as an “enormous red dragon” symbolically suggests his fierce power and murderous nature. It is a picture of the fullness of evil in all its hideous strength.
PC: We have, therefore, in this picture of the dragon, the idea of the full and complete power of the world arrayed on earth against God and his Church.
Osborne: In the Apocalypse, whenever asteres (“stars”) refers to beings, they are always angels. Satan sweeping away a “third of the stars” most likely refers to the original war in heaven.
“And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6)
Johnson: Although the attack of Herod against the children of Bethlehem and many incidents during the life of Jesus—such as the attempt of the crowd at Nazareth to throw him over the cliff (Luke 4) must also be included, the greatest attempt to devour the child must certainly be the Crucifixion.
“Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” (Psalm 2:8-9)
12:7-12 Satan’s expulsion from the heavenlies
Lucifer’s Four Falls:
- First Fall (Thrown to the Atmosphere of Earth) Ezekiel 28:16-17; Luke 10:18
- Second Fall (Thrown to the Ground) Revelation 12:7-9; Isaiah 14:12
- Third Fall (Thrown into the Bottomless Pit) Revelation 20:1-3; Isaiah 14:9-11; 24:21-22; Jude 6
- Fourth Fall (Thrown into the Lake of Fire) Revelation 20:10
Spur: (Satan in a Rage) The devil knows that his time or “opportunity” is short. He values his opportunity to maintain his kingdom, to distress the people of God, and to dishonor the name of Christ. He feels about him even now a chain which is lengthened for awhile, but which shall be fastened down by-and-by, so that he shall roam the earth no longer, but lie as a captive in his prison-house. The deepest emotion of which he is capable is that of anger, for he knows not how to love. Wrath is his very soul, as hatred is his very life. His evil nature is all on fire, and his excitement is terrible.
The text tells us that in proportion as the devil’s time is shortened his energy is increased; when he rages to the uttermost his opportunities are nearly over. We should be foolish if we wept in despair because the tares are ripening, for is not the wheat ripening too? True, the dead become more and more corrupt, but if the living become more and more active why should we lament? Oftentimes the development of evil is an indication that there is an equal or a greater development of good; and the climax of ill is frequently its end.
12:13-17 The dragon’s persecution of the woman
Osborne: It is interesting that the dragon “saw” or realized that he had been cast down to earth. This hints that the expulsion was the instantaneous act of a vastly superior force (God and Michael in 12:9). One minute Satan was in heaven fighting against Michael, the next minute he found himself on earth.
Osborne: This is certainly a flood of lies and deceit as well as persecution in this context (cf. Matthew 24:24).
D. Ravenhill: When the Bible talks about a river, it symbolically refers to a life-giving flow from the Holy Spirit. This is the devil’s version of that—a false anointing, false signs and wonders and so on.
PC# 4: He has provided a place—rather a condition, or state—on earth, for his own. It is one of endurance. It could not be one of luxurious self-indulgence, which the city-life would represent. “They loved not their lives.” It is a condition of suffering, of denial, and privation. They take up the cross. The wilderness is the place of discipline, training and hardship, of testing and putting to the proof. But it is the place of blessing. Through it he leads his people like a flock. He goes before them, and is their Defense and Salvation. He will safely and gently lead them even to the land of promise. The wilderness-days shall end. There is a limit. It is but for “a time, and times, and half a time.”