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An overview of The Revelation
Query for the Month
Next up-date: February 1st 2010 (God willing).
Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.
Some perpetual questions ....
Is there really an immortal soul?
Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world? Click here to find out!
Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download for free and share amongst your friends. It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read!
(when you get to the site just click "cancel" and it will let you in. Then click "order" to obtain a copy. )
In the meantime, try this site. And here's one where you can read it online.
Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.
Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library. No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.
The book of The Revelation seems to be a strange book. Can you give an oversight of it to help render it more understandable?
First, we need to realise that the book of The Revelation is divided into two parts.
Chapters 1-11 are mostly comments and guides on the POLITICAL situation in the church and in the world from the time of Calvary to the second coming, although there are references to religious things at times.
Chapters 12-22 are mostly prophecies and warnings of RELIGIOUS events for the church during the time from the birth of Christ to the beginning of the new world, although there are some political references also.
If we keep this in mind it will help us to understand what we are reading. The book also has many quotes from, or allusions to, the Old Testament and its types (although generally not identified), because it is intended to show the harmony of the whole word of God as one book, and the results of those many statements.
The revelation (for that is what it is), starts with a greeting which gives us its origin.
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him, to show to His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John: 2 who bare record of [wrote down] the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
3 Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. [It is ever present.]
It came from God the Father through God the Son, who entrusted the angel Gabriel to pass it on to John through visions and speech, who in turn, wrote it down as fast as he could for our benefit. It must have been quite an experience for John to describe the scenes of things he had never seen before, as well as the symbols which God used in the visions. The greeting includes the thought that we will be blessed if we read it, or just hear it read, and then do something about what we find in it, which means that it contains advice on actions we should perform.
First of all, John was given letters to write to seven branches of the Christian church, all of which were situated in what we would call Turkey today, but what was the centre of the Roman Empire in the east at the time, called “Asia”. (Some of us still call it “Asia Minor”) It was eventually to become the political centre of the Empire as the capital was moved from Rome to Constantinople. The letters suited the circumstances of each local branch of the church, and at the same time gave an overview of the seven epochs of the whole Christian church from John’s time to the days just before the second coming. (Of course, they only covered the behaviour of the majority in the branch, for there are always some exceptions.) Thus they have a limited scope for one generation, but are also available as pictures of the church’s development (or lack of it) over centuries. There is a place for any one of them to be used to describe a particular church branch from time to time, and also for them all to have total application for the whole church of the last days, but that is a secondary use.
The letters were to be shared amongst the different branches in the usual manner of the day, as items of interest. When writing to the branch at Colossae, Paul mentioned how he saw the same need in another limb of the church. “For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ . . .” Colossians 2:1-2.
And at the end of the letter, he wrote, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute [say “hello” to] the brethren which are in Laodicea, and [particularly] Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle [letter] is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the LORD, that you fulfil it’.” Colossians 4:14-17. (Much of the correspondence has been lost in the mists of time, but the ones we have are sufficient for God’s purpose.
The seven letters were so important that the Son of God Himself came to John and dictated them. Each branch was greeted with words which described Christ’s position with them, and then a commendation for the good things they had done for Him. If there was a problem, it was mentioned next, followed by another few words of praise which included His desired station in their hearts. Finally, He gave to each individual in that branch a promise.
When he had finished writing the letters, John looked up and saw an open door in the sky and received an invitation to visit. As he passed over the threshold the voice of Christ told him that he was to see some of the things of the future. What he did see immediately was the Father sitting on a throne encircled by twenty-four other thrones, on which sat twenty-four “elders” or leaders in the church. Surrounding them were four “beasts” or animal figures, (man is a “mammal or beast”), who were continually praising God. The “beasts” are self-identified later as four distinct groups of the redeemed from the earth, each containing three sub-sections, making twelve in total. Chapter 5:9-10; Numbers 2:1-34. They were all standing in front of a seven-branched lampstand which represented the presence of the Holy Spirit. All around this scene were myriads of angels and other creatures.
It was obvious that this was a special occasion, representative of the great gathering which will convene after the second advent, the meeting of the earthly church with that of heaven. It was, however, a literal scene, for many martyrs had been resurrected at Jesus’ resurrection and had gone with Him to heaven at His ascension. “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom [3pm Friday]; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection [Sunday morning], and went into the holy city, and appeared to many”. Matthew 27:51-53. “Wherefore He says, ‘When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive [a multitude of ex-captives], and gave gifts to men’.” Ephesians 4:8. They have been in heaven ever since and are eagerly watching the events as they now unfold on earth.
John’s attention was directed to a book which was in the Father’s hand, one which everyone, including John, wanted desperately to read. It was the Book of the Future and the knowledge contained in it is the desire of every living being. John broke down at the realisation that it was sealed! But soon after that the LAMB of God (Jesus the Christ) came and took the book from His Father, at which point the entire crowd fell down in worship, awaiting the revealing of the future.
It was future to John and the spectators at that time, but most of it is history to us now, and it will be history for all the redeemed after the first resurrection, for then we will see it as God saw it.
From then on the Son of God broke each seal one after another and let loose four “horses” which showed the political success (or failure) of four different epochs of the professed (public) Christian church. The fifth seal (epoch) exposed a group of fallen (martyred) Christians who pleaded for the judgment and the end to the miseries of the world. (Of course, dead people cannot really talk for they are asleep in Christ [John 11:11-13], but this was a vision, and in that all things are possible, like in a movie.) We should note that this particular seal set the timing for the judgment which began when the sixth seal was opened and the ancient/ of Days, God the Father, did sit. (See Daniel 7:13-14; 22; 26-27 )
The sixth seal also brought a great picture of physical events in the world from the commencement of the judgment to just before the second coming. (Matthew 24:6-8.) John was then given some detailed information on how the Christians of the day would fare. Daniel had written; “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them [overcame them];
the ancient/ of days came, and
[then came a pause in the persecution]
judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and
[then came a pause in the persecution
the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom”. Daniel 7:21-22.
The breaking of the last seal, the seventh, caused a great silence among the crowd in heaven as they realised what that meant.
I have gone into some detail with this first set of “seven” because it sets the pattern for the others. Seven is the biblical number for completeness, so each group of seven is a complete unit in itself, while at the same time it may be a portion of a greater whole. There are:
7 letters to 7 churches, and 7 seals to the book;
7 message angels, 7 trumpet angels, 7 plague angels.
Again, we need to remember that The Revelation was given to John for the benefit of the Christians of his day as well as ours, but the seals on the book show that the knowledge contained in it would only be understood slowly as time went by. Not until living in it is it really necessary to know the details of the future. Jesus said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. Matthew 6:34. But by showing it all at once (in code), He was able to give His people of all generations an idea of where they stood in relation to the end. (Martin Luther is on record as saying that he believed that the second coming would not occur for at least three hundred years from his time.)
When we all get to heaven we will be able to see history as God saw it.
As an interlude during the time of the sixth seal there came seven angels with seven trumpets. Trumpets are used for alarms and issuing orders, especially in times of war, and these are the same. (See Numbers 10:1-10.) These alarms were to be progressive in nature, one following the other over the centuries, and all of them repeating in the last generation. Four were/are to be localised and are comparatively “normal” for a war-torn planet, but the last three were/are “woes” unlike any seen before, for they describe intense world-wide religious wars.
(It is a fact that we can learn something of the future from that which is past. Chapters 8 and 9 describe an anti-Christian horde making great threats and incursions against the professed Christian world over two definite periods of time.)
During the time of the sixth warning, the LORD Himself came again to John and directed his attention to a “little” book which had been “shut up” for many years and now was “open” in His hand. (See Daniel 12:4.) This indicated that the “time of the end” had arrived! Not the “end of time” but a period just before that. Thus we can know where we are today. It is written; “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south [anti-Christianity] push at him: and the king of the north [professed Christianity] shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over”. Daniel 11:40.
He also told us that when the angel with the seventh trumpet BEGINS to sound, the “mystery of God”, i.e. the giving of the gospel, would be finished, just after a second round of prophesying to all the world! (Matthew 24:14.) After that final warning His “two witnesses” (the Old and the New Testaments) would be silenced for a time, but not for long.
Immediately after that final warning the seventh angel sounded his trumpet telling of the third “woe” and as it is said, “things turned to custard”!
That ends the first portion of The Revelation.
The twelfth chapter begins a new round of prophecies starting with the history of the birth of the Son of God as the Son of man. After describing Satan’s attempts to thwart God’s plan, we are told that Christ went back to heaven and today operates His earthly kingdom from there as our High Priest. The church, now seen as a sun-lit woman, fled before Satan’s attacks and left Europe to his tender mercies. He then set up a counterfeit “Christian” church which ruled a great portion of the world for twelve hundred and sixty years before God could expose it (and its “daughters”) fully.
In a parenthesis we are told about the original fall of Lucifer (who became Satan the dragon beast) and the war of words which preceded it in the attempt to dissuade him from his rebellion and departure. The angels saw it and responded accordingly. Those events were then re-enacted at Calvary for the benefit of the people of the universe, and this time Satan’s dominion shrank till he was only able to fool the people of earth, for those of the universe saw his motive clearly at the cross. They saw that God does not fight His enemies, but rather “dies” for them, and that Satan is a liar and a murderer. (See John 8:44.)
In the third and final repetition it will be the people of earth who will see that great truth!
Hastening forward, The Revelation then tells of another, faster, flight for the people of God while Satan controls the world in the last days.
Then we are told how this will come about.
The seven-headed “beast” which is a picture of Satan’s earthly fighting forces, comes into view with ten crowns on its ten “horns” (not now on the “heads”, as they had been when he had first appeared in Christ’s life. Revelation 12:3.) This indicates a major shift in policy. We are reminded that he had been given a near fatal blow on one of his “heads” (the fifth), but that he was recovering from it under the sixth “head”, and then the seventh “head” would attack God’s people again.
The “beast” would then produce an EIGHTH head which would assault and “overcome” them world-wide!!
“And there are seven kings [heads]: five are fallen [are in the past], and one is [in charge right now], and the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was [in control of the world], and is not [right now], even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goes into perdition [the Lake of Fire]. And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour [a short time] with the beast [when they get their crowns]. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast”. Revelation 17:10-13.
The “dragon” will then able to control the world for 42 months through the crowned horns.
There is really only one “beast” in the Bible (the dragon), but sometimes one of its “heads” is called a “beast” because it is particularly visible.
Thus we are told that this revival will be accomplished by another “beast” from the earth (the sixth head). This sixth “head” will bring into existence the seventh “head” which is also called the “image [copy] of the beast”. It will be this seventh head which will be the first to persecute the people of God (the woman in white) with a death decree, while the majority of God’s people are still looking at the fifth head to do this – a surprise move on Satan’s part. However, it will soon be followed by all the religions in the world.
To alleviate John’s distress at this sight, he is then shown the “sealing” of the last remnant of the church and their victory song in front of God.
After the commencement of the judgment they had given the first three of the seven angels’ messages, plus the fourth (the loud cry), to the world during that warning time and were now being blessed, along with the “dead which die in the LORD from henceforth [i.e. after the start of the judgment]”.
During that period John saw another group of angels with seven vials “full of the wrath of God”. The last warning is to be followed by the seven LAST plagues (there have obviously been others just prior), and the end will come.
At this point the LORD is revealed in the second coming “reaping” the “harvest” of the redeemed at the request of a fifth message “angel”.
This is the first resurrection.
Some time after that, (again as a parenthesis, and it is not mentioned here how long before it occurs), a sixth message “angel” arrives, also with a “sickle”, for another “harvest”, the second resurrection. Yet he does not reap until the seventh message “angel” pleads with him to do so. (This obviously cannot come until AFTER the seven angels with the seven bowls have done their work.)
This harvest is clearly not a good one!
John’s attention was now directed back to the seven angels which had appeared with the seven vials (i.e. bowls, such as were used to hold blood in the sanctuary services), who now poured out four of the seven vials of wrath, one after another, at the command of God. (Revelation 16:1.) These four are not universal, but are localised plagues, or else the whole world would cease to exist under just one of them. It is not until the fifth angel pours out his container that the whole world is affected, for then the sun goes out temporarily, after having been giving out abnormal heat. The support of Babylon, the great opposition religion against God, dries up under the sixth plague, and three “spirits” (the rebel organisations of the great city, the false prophet, the beast, and the dragon [spiritualism]) gather the armies of the world in an attack on God’s people during the time of the seventh plague.
All this latter activity happens in “one day”. (Revelation 18:8.)
But during all this time the “crowns”, the symbols of authority, are on the ten “horns” of the beast (Revelation 13:1) so it is they who actively persecute the saints of God. They are religious in nature, while the heads are political, and therefore their fury is much more malevolent. (Revelation 17:17.)
The last chapters of The Revelation show us the people of God rejoicing at the marriage of the LAMB during their thousand years in heaven, then coming back to earth for the second resurrection, that of the rebels who refused to be saved, and overseeing their suicide in the presence of God and the angels. At the word of the Son of God (the “sword” is in His mouth), in the great Judgment, all will recognise and admit that their situation is just and right, and they want no other.
“And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem [“Jerusalem” means God’s people, both at the second advent and the third]; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. [When God has to leave them totally to their choice, their DNA strings will begin to fall apart.] And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour [to kill him or her while disintegrating themselves!]” Zechariah 14:12-13.
As for the loyal humans, it is written; “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new [the new world]’.
“And He said to me,
‘Write: for these words are true and faithful’.” Revelation 21:4-5.
The Revelation is made up of 7’s – some operating within others. There are seven letters to seven churches, and seven seals on the book. There are seven angels with seven messages, seven angels with seven trumpets of war, and seven angels with seven plagues.
There is one beast (the dragon) with seven political heads and ten religious horns, and ten crowns which move about, and even disappear for a time!
There is one Lamb with four other creatures, who have the faces of a lion, an ox, a man and a cherub (angel) to describe their characters. An earlier prophet saw a representation of some “living creatures” similar to the redeemed. They were carrying the throne of the Son of God in his vision, and one of their faces sometimes swapped from an ox to a cherub.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.
14 And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub/ox, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle . . . 20 This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims. 21 Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings. 22 And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.
There are two women, one in white and one in scarlet.
Through these symbolic representations God showed His people the major events to come over two thousand years of Christian activity.
Then He compresses all the events into one generation for the last days!
Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next query. To be discussed from February 1st, 2010.
How can God justify aiding and abetting men
who fight & kill others?
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