The Revelation is a book of prophecy foretelling God’s plan for the end of the world and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Revelation gives Christians more detail about end-times events than any other book in the Bible. Add to it the Book of Daniel, Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse), and 2 Thessalonians 2 and we have a thorough description of the prophetic period known as “the end times.” The “end times” is a reference to a short 7-year prophetic period called Daniel’s 70th week. During this seven-year period there will be very specific prophetic signs that will identify and confirm if we are living in the last days. This knowledge will help us to be prepared and ready to warn those who choose to listen. In other words, when we begin to see the fulfillment of these specific end-time signs, we will know the Second Coming of Jesus is very near (within the seven year period known as Daniel’s 70th week).
The Revelation serves as a guide for those who will be alive at that future time. For this reason, God wants us to be prepared and to understand this end-times prophecy. Many prophecies concerning the Messiah’s Coming have already been fulfilled, but many remain unfulfilled (about half). The Book of Revelation answers the question “What will occur during the last days (Daniel’s 70th week)?”
In general there are four primary ways to interpret this book. The Preterist (Latin for past) view believes the events of the Revelation relate to the struggles of the church against Rome in the 1st century and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Historical (Past and Present) view believes the events of the Revelation relate to different periods of Church history throughout its 2000+ year lifespan. The Allegorical view, by far the most popular view (Presbyterians and Catholics), teaches the events are figurative and represent spiritual as opposed to literal events, and are to be left to a symbolic interpretation. The Futurist (Future) view believes that almost all the events of the Book of Revelation have not yet occurred and will occur in the future. This view requires a straightforward reading of the Bible allowing for figures of speech and symbols that amplify language but represent literal truths. Again, Futurists believe the vast majority of the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled in the future, specifically, in the period of time the Bible calls “The 70th week of Daniel.” This view operates under the Golden Rule of Interpretation: “When the plain words of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense!” In other words, to understand the Book of Revelation, one must be willing to take God’s Word at face value and accept a simple consecutive sequence of events revealed in the Book.
I will be teaching a futurist view. I also subscribe to an end-times position known as the “Prewrath Rapture.” The basic tenet of the Prewrath rapture is that the church will go through most of Daniel’s 70th week and the Antichrist’s persecution. His persecution of the church is cut short by the rapture before the end of Daniel’s 70th week. The persecution of the church was clearly the position of the early church fathers. The importance of the Prewrath position is to help Christians to be prepared for the cataclysmic days that lie ahead, possible in our lifetime. We will need to understand what’s going on if we are to remain faithful to the Lord in those difficult days.
Revelation 1 begins with a general introduction and instructions for those in the Church who will go through the period known as Daniel’s 70th week. We are commanded to carefully hear and faithfully obey the prophetic message of the book because it will be critically important for every child of God entering the last days. Some Christians teach what this book has to say is not important to the Church because it won’t be here. But what need would there be to warn us to hear the instruction of this book if there was never any danger to begin with? It makes no sense! Reading the Revelation will produce blessing in the lives of all believers, but is especially applicable to those who will enter into the end times period. In Rev. 1 John sees a vision of the glorified Son of God and seven lampstands which represent the seven churches.
Revelation 2 and 3 contains instructions and warnings to the seven churches. These warnings have both immediate as well as future application at Christ’s Second Coming. Jesus’ instructions are intended to prepare the church for the difficult days to come. These seven churches represent all churches of all times, in history past, today and in the future. There are basically three kinds of churches in the world: Faithful (Good), Compromising (Good and Bad) and Dead (Bad). Smyrna and Philadelphia represent faithful churches that withstand persecution and demonstrate God’s love. Ephesus, Pergamum and Thyatira represent compromising churches that lack love, forsake truth, tolerate open sin and have become materialistic. Sardis and Loadecia represent dead churches, Christian in name only. This type of church is in serious danger and run the risk of being totally caught of guard at the Lord’s Coming.
Revelation 4 and 5 calls us to a heavenly scene and the introduction of the all-important seven-sealed scroll. We are transported into heaven to view the throne of God where the theme is pure worship. 24 angelic elders and 4 angelic creatures surround God’s throne. The focal point of this heavenly scene is an unopened scroll in the hand of Him who sits on the throne, sealed with seven seals. This scroll represents God’s judgment and the conditions that have to be met before the scroll can be opened. In other words, this scroll and its seals represent the events that will occur immediately before God brings His final judgment and wrath upon the earth. Once opened, this scroll contains all the judgments recorded in the Book of Revelation. Jesus Christ, described, as “The Lamb of God,” and “The Lion from the Tribe of Judah” because of His death and resurrection, is the only One worthy to open the scroll.
Revelation 6 chronicles the future events that will occur during Daniel’s 70th week, beginning with the breaking open of the seven-sealed scroll. This scroll contains all the events of the end times and the conditions that must occur before Jesus will reclaim rule over the earth before He sets up His 1000-year Millennial Kingdom. The 7 seals are the exact same signs of the end times given by Jesus in Mt 24. The opening of the first seal reveals that many false religious teachers will arise immediately before the introduction of the Antichrist. (Daniel 9:27 informs us that he will come to power as he negotiates a seven-year peace treaty with Israel. The signing of this 7-year covenant is the catalyst event that marks the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, and one of the future signs we look for.) The opening of the second seal introduces us to war, and the rise of Antichrist to power. He will possess some kind of powerful weapon allowing him to defeat all his enemies. The opening of the third seal explains how Antichrist’s wars will cause severe economic upheaval. This will help pave the way for the mark of the beast (666). The opening of the fourth seal symbolizes widespread death, plague and famine on ¼ of the earth. As the Antichrist continues to gain worldwide power and worship, the breaking of the fifth seal will introduce us to the persecution of those in the Church faithful to Jesus and their martyrdom during the period of time known as the Great Tribulation. As the sixth seal is opened, the sun goes dark; the moon turns red and stars no longer shine. The 6th seal is a special sign, indicating that the Rapture or the Day of the Lord (the wrath of God) is about to commence.
Revelation 7 gives us details of two critical events, which occur after the first six seals are opened, but before the seven trumpet judgments begin. Both of these events deal with the rescue of two separate groups of God’s faithful who do not succumb to the Antichrist (Israel and the Church). First, a special sealing of 144,000 Jews, a select remnant of Israel, occurs. This protective sealing is necessary as they must go through and endure the terrible “Day of the Lord” that is immediately to follow. These 144,000 will be left on the earth to evangelize in the name of Jesus following the Rapture of the church. The second group is the faithful within the church, described as a great multitude. These faithful have withstood the attack of Satan and the Antichrist, and are removed from heaven to earth. This is the Rapture. (The Bible teaches there is only one Second coming of Christ, not one for the rapture of the church and another seven years later.) The Second Coming of Christ speaks of a coming and a continuous presence to accomplish a number of divine initiatives. It begins with the Rapture and Jesus appearing in the clouds, followed by the Day of the Lord and the Lord’s literal and physical return to earth.
Revelation 8 and 9 records the breaking open of the seventh seal, which unveils God’s judgments as the scroll unrolls initiating the Day of the Lord and the seven trumpet judgments. With the Church raptured to heaven, God’s horrible Day of Wrath begins. The plagues of the 7 trumpets, announced by seven angels, may be thought of as the beginning of the Day of Judgment. By these plagues, God is manifesting His wrath and warning men that “the Day of the Lord” has begun. The first trumpet sounds and hail and fire, mixed with blood, are hurled down upon plant life and 1/3 of the trees and 1/3 of the grass is burned. The 2nd trumpet sounds and a massive blazing asteroid hits the Mediterranean sea, destroying 1/3 of the sea life, 1/3 of the ships and turning 1/3 of the sea to blood. The 3rd trumpet sounds and another blazing asteroid named Wormwood collides with the earth turning 1/3 of the fresh waters bitter, killing many. The 4th trumpet sounds and the heavenly bodies are judged and 1/3 of the sun, 1/3 of the moon and 1/3 of the stars go dark. The first four trumpets cause massive environmental damage. Revelation 9 reveals that the final trumpets are more supernatural in character. 3 angels warn the entire earth that the worst is yet to come. 3 woes are announced! Woe! Woe! Woe! The 5th trumpet (the first woe) includes demonic locusts from a bottomless pit released with the power to sting unbelievers. The 6th trumpet (the second woe) reveals that an army of 200,000,000 demonic horse-like creatures are to be released from an area of the Euphrates and they slay 1/3 of mankind. This event concludes Daniel’s 70th week. We will see that the 7th trumpet (the 3rd woe) is the 7 bowl judgments.
Revelation 10 opens with a strong angel coming down from heaven with a small scroll that john is commanded to eat. We will learn that this small scroll represents 30 additional days of judgment. In these 30 days, God’s wrath, via the 7 bowls, are poured upon the earth. According to Daniel 12, a period of only 75 days remains before the actual Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ begins. This small scroll outlines the critical events that will occur during these final 75 days. Included during this final period are 30 days for the bowl judgments and 45 days of restoration. At this point we are informed the “mystery of God” is now complete. What is the mystery of God? The apostle Paul explains it in very simple terms. The mystery of God is God’s special work among the Gentiles that has been occurring over the past 2000 years. Once the times of Gentile salvation is complete, God will turn to Israel to extend salvation to the national people and restore the nation to its promised glory. This salvation of the nation Israel follows the end of Daniel’s 70th week, once the “times of the gentiles” is over.
Revelation 11 begins with a reference to the future rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. The temple plays a critical role in the end times because it is the site where Antichrist will proclaim himself God. John also explains why God’s wrath is about to fall upon the nations who followed the Antichrist. The Gentiles will not only dishonor God’s house of worship the temple, they will not only abuse His people the Jews, they will not only abuse the holy city Jerusalem, they will also abuse God’s Two Witnesses, who will be supernaturally empowered during the second 3 ½ years of the end times. One of the Two Witnesses represents Elijah, who must appear before the great and terrible Day of the Lord begins. The chapter ends withthe blowing of the 7th trumpet (which are the 7 bowl judgments) and the final rewards judgment of the righteous dead.
Revelation 12, a passage rich with symbolism, describes the key players of Daniel’s 70th week. The woman is Israel. The great red dragon is Satan. The male child represents Jesus Christ. The archangel Michael is at war with Satan. The offspring of Israel is the Church. (Daniel’s 7-year timeline is established in these chapters.)
At such a dark time in the history of the world, is there any hope? Revelation 12:11 tells us how to overcome. The only way to defeat Satan during this final holocaust is by the blood of Jesus and the power of your testimony. Do you have a testimony? You must have a testimony for Jesus to survive Daniel’s 70th week. Your testimony involves the understanding that:
1. God, our heavenly Father, passionately loves us and wants us to experience His abundant love.
2. The problem is that we choose sin over God and it separates us from Him. And we need forgiveness.
3. Good works, religion and morality aren’t good enough to bridge the gap. God’s only remedy is the cross and the blood of Jesus. Act 4:12 says that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved… the name of Jesus.
4. When we receive Jesus we are born again and have a testimony for Him! Acts 2:21 says “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Revelation 13 paints a profoundly graphic picture of the two key players and some key events of Daniel’s 70th week. The ultimate manifestation of evil will be concentrated in one man, the Antichrist, energized by Satan who has been cast from heaven. Antichrist will prevail and reign over the world for a relatively short time (3 ½ years). Antichrist will arise as a little king from the north as he subdues 3 nations. From this small beginning as he grows into the leaders of a powerful 10-nation Middle Eastern Islamic empire, he will reign supreme over the earth. At the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week, the Antichrist will proclaim himself God in the rebuilt Jewish temple (see 2 Thes 2:1-4). Satan, coming down to earth with great wrath gives Antichrist his supernatural powers, and begins a campaign of terror against the elect of God to destroy Israel and Christianity alike. The Church is warned against falling away from the faith when Antichrist appears. Why? Because it will be a very difficult period and the church will be purified during the fiery trial of persecution called the Great Tribulation. The False Prophet, a powerful cohort of the Antichrist, will force the world to take the “Mark of the Beast,” (666). The mark will be an essential part of a system designed to give the Antichrist total economic control over the world. If you want to buy or sell, you must physically receive this mark either on your right hand or forehead. At this time, no one knows what this mark is, although there is much speculation. Regardless, we are warned NOT to take this mark. Why? Because once you take this mark your eternal damnation is sealed and you forfeit any further opportunity for salvation.
Revelation 14 is a preview of the final destruction of Satan’s, the Antichrist’s and the False Prophet’s beast empire. At this point in the timing, we are at the end of Daniel’s 70th week and within days of God pouring out the 7 bowl judgments during the 30 days following Daniel’s 70th week. Revelation 14 opens with a description of the 144,000 Jews (victorious Israel) physically meeting with Jesus on Mt. Zion. It also tells of a time of unparalleled supernatural activity by three angels who proclaim the eternal gospel, the end of Mystery Babylon, and a final stern warning against taking the mark of the beast. God pronounces a special blessing on those sheep believer’s who are alive during this final period so that they will persevere during the Day of the Lord. The chapter ends with the harvest of the wicked for the final battle of Armageddon.
Revelation 15 and 16 explain the horrors of the final judgment as the 7th trumpet sounds and the 7 bowl judgments are poured out upon the earth over a 30-day period. Bowl 1 causes loathsome sores to appear on those who have received the mark of the beast. Bowl 2 turns the entire Mediterranean Sea to blood. Bowl 3 turns all the waters on the earth to blood. Bowl 4 scorches men with fire. Bowl 5 targets Antichrist’s kingdom and covers it with darkness. Bowl 6 dries the Euphrates River allowing the kings of the east direct access to march toward Israel. Bowl 7, the finale, decimates and devastates the earth with the most severe earthquake in history, and pelts the earth with 100 lb. Hailstones.
Revelation 17 and 18 represent another break in the consecutive sequence and detail additional information concerning an end-times power house city/nation called Mystery Babylon. Mystery Babylon will be an additional key player in the last days and in the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, it will help the Antichrist gain control of the world. Mystery Babylon will have become a “spiritual harlot” that has enticed people away from the true and living God with her riches. All false religion is a works-based system of religion in contrast to true Christianity, which is a grace-based system. In O.T. Scripture, the term “harlot” is used to describe spiritual unfaithfulness, false worship, and idolatry. In other words, when God’s people turn to idols, He compares the actions of his people to a harlot. The people had turned from the worship of the true God to worshiping idols. Idolatry is spiritual adultery.
The beast of Revelation 17 represents a political composite made up of a succession of seven kingdoms that emerged throughout history and were empowered by Satan. These empires have outwardly opposed the purposes of God. Satan also established a counterfeit religious system, the woman who rides the beast, the great harlot. The great harlot rode upon its back of these political empires through the centuries. Satan, the god of this world, has used these historical kingdoms to attempt to subjugate, persecute and ultimately destroy God’s chosen nation Israel. In the Bible, these kingdoms are referred to as “beast empires.” There are seven historical kingdoms, which Satan has used to attempt to annihilate God’s people Israel. Each of these empires has had an unholy hatred of the Jew and has taken action to destroy the race. All of them have been intensely anti-Semitic, pagan and worshipped false gods. What is the reason for such hatred? God, in His sovereignty, chose Israel to be a special people, a nation of destiny. They were to be politically ruled by God. Jesus, the Messiah, was to come from that nation and in God’s timing; He is to rule the world in righteousness. Satan, in his attempt to thwart God’s purpose established a false political system.
Who are these past seven kingdoms and the seven kings who ruled these 7 beast empires or kingdoms, with the goal of destroying Israel’s covenant with God? 1. Egypt. 2. Assyria. 3. Babylon. 4. Medo-Persia. 5. Greece. 6. Rome. 7. A mysterious kingdom – Germany? (Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich certainly had an unholy hatred of the Jew and the holocaust was the action he took to destroy the race. He only ruled for a short span of time.) But the end is not yet. Seven beast empires have appeared in history, an 8th is yet to come – the most violent of them all. The 8th and final beast empire that will yet achieve worldwide control will be under the leadership of the Antichrist. Antichrist’s future 10-nation kingdom will dominate the 70th week. Look for an unholy hatred of the Jewish people, and an anti-Semitic obsession to destroy the nation Israel.
Revelation 19 records the arrival of Jesus at Armageddon. He will ride forth on a white horse to destroy the wicked and unbelieving, and claims His rightful throne. Jesus’ arrival at Armageddon is for one purpose only – to defeat the beast and his false prophet. In connection with the physical return of Jesus, the gentile nations will be judged (Mt 25:32). An interesting verse is Revelation 19:10: “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." In other words, all prophecy centers on the person of Jesus Christ. He is what prophecy is all about. Prophecy is not merely the prediction of the future. The purpose of all Biblical prophecy is to point us to Jesus. Thus, prophecy and evangelism go hand in hand.
Revelation 20 introduces us to the 1000-year Millennial Kingdom when Jesus Christ will reign as King. But before that begins, following the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will judge those who survived the battle and are still alive. This is called “The Judgment of the Sheep and the Goat nations.” We then will see the resurrection of those believers who were martyred after the Rapture. We are also given a preview of the final resurrection of all the unsaved of all time which will occur at the end of the Millennium. This is called “The Great White Throne Judgment.” Is your name written in the Book of Life?
Revelation 21 and 22 describe in glorious detail the Millennial Reign of Christ and the new heavens and earth. God will relocate heaven and move his throne to earth where He will live with men for eternity. The new Jerusalem, a spectacular city, is described. All the curses of sin are removed.
The Book of Revelation closes with a call for all to obey the message of the book and sobering warning not to change the words this prophecy, (which is why I teach it as literally as I can). The prophecies of this book were not written to merely satisfy our intellect, but to help the church live well. Every age finds itself caught in a struggle of good vs. evil, Christ vs. Antichrist. John writes to admonish us to remain absolutely loyal to Jesus in the face of persecution, regardless of the cost!
Jesus says in Rev 22:7, “Yes, I am coming soon! (Without delay!)” Once the prophetic events of this book begin to occur, things will happen very quickly, within a seven-year period. And we say, “AMEN! (So be it!) COME LORD JESUS!”