The following is from my soon to be released book, Study Notes on Revelation

 

There is much interest and talk these days about the end of the world, but while there is much interest in this subject, there is also much ignorance about it. We can know the truth about “the end of the world” (Matt. 24:3) because God has revealed it in His word. The book of Revelation explains how God will bring this present evil world system to an end and bring in the prophesied “world to come” (Heb. 2:5).

The book of Revelation is one of the most feared, maligned, and misunderstood books of the Bible. People think it is too mysterious and difficult to understand, which is ironic considering its title; it is called the Apocalypse (a transliterated Greek word which means “an unveiling”), not the Apocrypha (which means “hidden”). The purpose of the book is to reveal, not to conceal. The problem is not that men cannot understand it, but that they will not believe it!

Like the rest of the Bible, we are to take what the book of Revelation says LITERALLY. When symbols and figures are used, we will rely on the word of God to interpret them, for “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20).

It is interesting to compare the foundation of history in Genesis with the consummation of history in Revelation to see how the Bible comes around full circle. Here are a few examples.

Genesis Revelation
God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1) A new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1)
Satan’s first rebellion (Gen. 1:2) Satan’s final rebellion (Rev. 20:7-10)
Paradise lost (Gen. 3) Paradise restored (Rev. 21-22)
Death entered (Gen. 3:19) No more death (Rev. 21:4)

There are 22 chapters, 404 verses, and 11,995 words in the book of Revelation. The theme is stated in its introduction (Rev. 1:7).

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

The revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1) is His revelation from heaven to the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:11-16). The risen and glorified Christ has been hidden away as it were in the third heaven at the right hand of the Father (Ps. 110:1), but He will be revealed to the world in the “day of the Lord.” The things written in this book concern what leads up to His revelation, the event itself, and what takes place as a result of it.

The revelation of Jesus Christ concerns His second advent to the earth, not the rapture of the Body of Christ to heaven which was a mystery revealed to Paul and is only found in his epistles (1 Cor. 15:51).

The human writer of the book was John (Rev. 1:1, 4, 9), who was one of the twelve apostles that Christ sent to Israel (Matt. 19:28; Gal. 2:9). John also wrote four other books: the Gospel of John and three epistles.

There are four main schools of thought about Revelation.

  • Preterist (non-dispensational and allegorical) – This wrong view teaches that the events recorded in Revelation describe the problems and persecutions of the church during the days the book was written and that it was fulfilled in the first century. They believe Nero was the Antichrist and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was the second coming of Christ. They think the opening verse proves their view since Revelation describes things that “must shortly come to pass.”
  • Historic (non-dispensational and allegorical) – This wrong view teaches that the events recorded in Revelation describe the history of the church.
  • Futurist – This is the correct view of the book. It teaches that book is what it claims to be, a “prophecy” (Rev. 1:3; 22:7,10,18-19). The whole book (including chapters 2-3) concerns the future.
  • Mixed – This wrong view teaches that the first three chapters are historical, but the remainder is prophetic.

These four views are related to how people view the “thousand years” that is mentioned six times in Revelation 20:1-7.

  • Amillennial – There will not be a literal reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years (Preterist).
  • Postmillennial – Christ will return after the church converts the world and there is a thousand years of peace (Historic).
  • Premillennial – Christ will return and literally reign on the earth for a thousand years (Mixed and Futurist).

When the book of Revelation was written is typically a major issue in debates concerning the proper interpretation of the book. Preterists must believe the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. Most premillennialists think they must hold to a late date (95 A.D.) to refute Preterism. They dogmatically assert that John was exiled to the isle of Patmos by the Roman emperor Domitian, but the scripture does not say that. The fact that John was transported to the future day of the Lord to be an eyewitness of the things he wrote (Rev. 1:10) means that the historical date of the writing has no bearing upon the correct interpretation of it. Since the apostle Paul fulfilled the word of God (Col. 1:25), we know John wrote it before Paul died in about 64 A.D.

The Lord gave a simple outline of the book (Rev. 1:19). John was told to write concerning three things:

  • “the things which thou hast seen” (chapter 1) – The Vision of Christ
  • “the things which are” (chapters 2-20) – The Lord’s Day
  • “the things which shall be hereafter” (chapters 21-22) – The Eternal State

Another way of looking at Revelation 1:19 is that John is not instructed to write about three different periods but rather that he is told to write the things he saw and the interpretation for those things (“which are” – see Rev. 1:20 for example) which concern what “shall be hereafter.”

Although there is a structure to the book, Revelation is not laid out in an exact sequential order of events. As we shall see, there are parenthetical passages, layers, and overlapping which is common in prophetic scripture. The book alternates between scenes in heaven and on the earth. The heavenly visions are first and preparatory for what follows on the earth.

Without a working knowledge of Israel’s prophetic program, it is not possible to understand Revelation since it is the consummation of it. Revelation gives the details concerning the fourth kingdom in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2), and the 70th week (7 years) of the 70 weeks (490 years) that are determined upon Israel (Dan. 9:24-27).

We are presently living in a parenthetic mystery age that was revealed to Paul and interrupted the prophetic calendar. Revelation will be fulfilled after this present age ends with the rapture of the Body of Christ. What was sealed in Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 12:4, 9) is revealed in this book (Rev. 22:10).

  1. OT – The King and His coming Kingdom in promise and prophecy
  2. The Gospels – The King and His Kingdom offered and rejected
  3. Acts – The King and His Kingdom re-offered, rejected, transition to the Body of Christ
  4. The Pauline Epistles – The Kingdom postponed; the King made Head of the Church
  5. The Hebrew Epistles – The King and His Kingdom once again at hand
  6. Revelation – The King comes to establish His kingdom on the earth

Since Revelation is the consummation of the prophetic kingdom program of Israel, it is marked by the number seven which is God’s number of perfection. For example, there are seven churches (1:4), Spirits (1:4), golden candlesticks (1:12), stars (1:16), lamps of fire (4:5), seals (5:1), angels (8:2), trumpets (8:2), thunders (10:3), plagues (15:1), vials (17:1), and kings (17:10).

The book opens with seven triplets. The number three is associated with that which is complete.

  • John bare record of three things (1:2)
  • Blessed is he that reads, hears, and keeps (1:3)
  • The Godhead (1:4-5)
  • Christ is the faithful witness, first begotten of the dead, and prince of the kings of the earth (1:5)
  • Him that loved us, washed us, and made us kings and priests (1:5-6)
  • Every eye shall see him, they also that pierced him, all kindreds of the earth (1:7)
  • The Lord is the Alpha and Omega, He which is, and which was, and which is to come, and the Almighty (Rev. 1:8)

 

To believe that Revelation was written to or about the Body of Christ is a failure to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) which always leads to false doctrine.

Revelation is not About the Body of Christ

  • The Body of Christ was a mystery hid in God that was revealed to the apostle Paul and it is only found in his epistles (Col. 1:24-27).
  • Revelation presents Jesus Christ is according to prophecy, not the revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25).
  • John was in the future day of the Lord when received this book (Rev. 1:10).
  • Revelation is based on the OT and is therefore full of Hebrew idioms, expressions, words and phrases, and imagery.
  • The book was sent to future Jewish churches that will live through the events that it describes.

The book opens with a promise of blessing on HE that reads (individual), THEY that hear (it was to be read in the assembly), and all those that keep (as to obey) the book (Rev. 1:3).

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

It closes with a warning of a curse on those that would add or take away from the words written in this book (Rev. 22:18-19).

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

In a general sense, it has always been true that there are promises associated with keeping the word of God and warnings against altering it. But these two passages could not have been written to us today. How could God add the plagues written in this book to anyone before the tribulation period in which they will be poured out? The promise and warning are given to the same people: those that hear the words of this prophecy (i.e., those to whom the book was written). Those that hear it but fail to keep it by not overcoming the tribulation they must endure, will lose their part in the book of life, the holy city, and all the blessings written in this book (Rev. 3:5, 12).

If it was not written to or about the Body of Christ, why should we study Revelation?

  • We should study the whole Bible (2 Tim. 3:16).
  • It will make us even more thankful that we will not be here for these events.
  • It will give us a sense of urgency about fulfilling our responsibility as ambassadors for Christ in this age of grace (2 Cor. 5:17-21), knowing that “the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10) will come after this age ends suddenly with the rapture.