Revelation – Lesson 1
REVELATION — THE ULTIMATE TRIUMPH OF GOD
DAY ONE: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
You are in for a blessing when you undertake the study of Revelation! That is what John promised when he wrote this amazing book (Rev. 1:3). The book of Revelation is the final chapter of God’s incredible story. The Bible is often called a love letter to man. Revelation completes the story of God’s incredible love for humanity. It is quite a ride from creation to re-creation, from paradise lost to paradise regained. The road gets a little bumpy toward the end, but Revelation finally brings the Bible to a fitting climax. The destination is worth the trip! God’s glorious kingdom is finally brought to life.
Often people think of Revelation as a story of judgment. Granted, there is quite a bit of judgment, but judgment with a purpose. The overriding story is a story of grace. God is pulling out all of the stops to bring man to repentance so that man can enter the glorious kingdom that God has designed.
God’s final message should be an easy read, but often we don’t find it to be so for several reasons:
- Revelation is often difficult because of the heavy use of symbolism.
- Details of end-time prophecy are scattered throughout the whole Bible. To get the whole story we have to study all of the books of prophecy as well as relevant verses and chapters from the other books of the Bible.
- Different interpretative schemes are used by different scholars. This makes the understanding of Revelation vary widely.
But we must remember that this original “letter” was written to real people in seven real churches in Asia Minor. It was meant to be understood by ordinary people living in those cities.
In the end I hope we will all agree that it is a story full of love and grace and that it is worth the effort to work through it. What an awesome and gracious God we serve. He has given us inside information about the future! We don’t have to live in fear or anxiety concerning the destiny of our incredible planet. God has richly revealed instruction about what He is doing as He moves humanity toward His victorious kingdom.
Of course He hasn’t told us everything. He leaves some things to be discovered as the time draws nearer. We have the broad outline and many of the details of the end times. Yet we are always left with questions and a desire to know more. So we involve ourselves in a lifelong study of eschatology. Even though God’s nuggets of information about the end times are scattered throughout the whole Bible, they are given in a final and conclusive way in the book of Revelation. We need to know the end of the story.
New discovery is one of the things that make a study of Revelation so relevant. As we pick up the daily newspaper, there are always new developments on the world scene. These developments provide new speculation about nations and leaders who may be dominant in the last days. Those who love the study of eschatology love to try to fit modern situations into the age-old prophecies of Revelation. People in every age have thought the time is drawing near, and we are no different. Our present age shows signs that have never been seen before.
As we move along through the book, we find that God gives a final opportunity for mankind to turn around and acknowledge the one true God. The seal judgments, trumpet judgments and bowls of wrath are wake-up calls for the unbelieving world. Only when the warnings are ignored or openly rejected does judgment fall. Then we come to the climax when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom. The journey through Revelation is both a blessing and a challenge. It is also something we absolutely need to study time and time again.
B. AUTHORSHIP OF REVELATION
The authorship of Revelation is given in a unique way in the opening verses of the book. The content originated with God the Father who gave it to God the Son. It was delivered by an unnamed angel to God’s servant John who was commanded to write it down and deliver it to the churches. Later it was put in the canon of New Testament Scripture. We are the final recipients today.
The question arises – which John is the recipient of this divine message? Tradition has attributed the authorship to the Apostle John who also wrote the Gospel of John and First, Second, and Third John. John is unique in that he was an eye witness to the life of the human Jesus in the first coming and he becomes an eye witness to Jesus as the triumphant king of the second coming through a vision of heaven.
C. DATE OF WRITING
Most evangelical scholars place the date of writing in A.D. 95 or 96. This is based on accounts of the early church fathers that the Apostle John had been exiled to Patmos during the reign of Emperor Titus Flavius Domitian who reigned from 81 to 96 A.D.. According to these accounts, John was allowed to return to Ephesus after the death of this emperor.
D. PURPOSE OF REVELATION
The message is given to show true believers the details of God’s plan for the future. It gives instruction and warning to the churches to remain strong and be prepared. The king is coming to defeat all evil, but while we wait the church needs to keep its lampstand burning brightly.
Revelation also shows Jesus in all of his glory carrying out his duties:
He is the exalted priest who watches over the churches.
He is the victorious Lamb of God reigning on His throne.
He is the conquering warrior king who comes to judge all of the earth.
He is the victorious King of Kings who comes to reign over the whole earth.
E. INTERPRETATION OF REVELATION
Libraries are filled with commentaries that attempt to clearly understand this book’s symbols. No two are exactly alike. While we may differ regarding the meaning of some symbols, the basic message will come through — God has a plan to bring His creation to His final victory. We will do our best to decipher what has been given for us to understand, but we must remain open to new insights as history unfolds.
Revelation has been subjected to a number of interpretative principles. It has been seen from the viewpoints of allegorical or spiritualist, preterist, historicist, and futurist i approaches. It has been my experience that it is beneficial to investigate all of the different approaches so that I can enjoy the study of prophecy with all kinds of people and have some understanding of where people are coming from. This study will be taught from a futurist interpretation. It will be taught from a literal viewpoint.
- When Daniel finished writing his prophecy he was instructed to “shut up the words and seal the book.” What is John instructed to do in Revelation 22:10?
- This book is ultimately about Jesus Christ. How is He described in Revelation 1:5?
- Why do you think it is important for all believers through the ages to see Jesus in His glorified position in Heaven?
- Describe what you are to personally do with the revelation given to you in this book in Revelation 1:3.
- Pray each day for insight and understanding as you work through each chapter.
DAY TWO: GETTING THE BIG PICTURE
A. BROAD OUTLINE OF REVELATION
It is important to keep the big picture in mind as we move through the book. In a nutshell, John himself received the basic outline for what he is instructed to write in Revelation 1:19. He is instructed to record:
- What you have seen (Chapter 1) The vision of the glorified Jesus.
- What is now (Chapters 2-3) The seven churches in Asia Minor.
- What will take place later (Chapters 4-22) The tribulation and triumph
For the purpose of this study, we will work with a more detailed outline to show the unfolding drama.
B. DETAILED OUTLINE OF REVELATION
1. Introduction, Salutation, and First Vision Ch. 1
2. Letters to the Seven Churches Ch. 2-3
3. Visions of Heaven Ch. 4-5
4. The Great Tribulation Ch. 6-18
- Seven Seal Judgments
- Interlude (Chapter 7)
- Seven Trumpet Judgments
- Interlude (Chapters 10-11)
- Signs of the End
- Seven Bowls of Wrath
- The Fate of Babylon
5. The Victorious Christ Ch. 19-20
6. The Messianic Kingdom or Holy City Ch. 21 – 22:6
7. Conclusion Ch. 22:7-21
C. DISCUSSION OF THE USE OF SYMBOLISM
Symbols are a common technique with writers of prophecy. This method of writing enables authors to communicate to a special group of people who have “eyes to see and ears to hear” while keeping the message largely “hidden” from God’s enemies. As someone has said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” (We see the evidence of that in the advertising world.) Imagery has the ability to go deeper than mere words by going beyond the intellect through the emotions and into the imagination. Also, symbols are timeless and highly descriptive.
Biblical symbols must be understood in light of the whole of God’s revelation in all of Scripture. Most of the symbols in Revelation are explained either in a direct statement or by comparison with the same symbol in another part of scripture. This presents somewhat of a challenge to readers who must supplement their understanding of Revelation with many other scripture passages. However this presents deep spiritual truths to those who have applied themselves to disciplined study of both the Old and New Testaments – the whole counsel of God. There are more than 500 quotes or illusions to the Old Testament in the book of Revelation.
- What symbol did Daniel use to depict world rulers and their empires in Daniel 7?
- What number does the Bible often use to symbolize completeness? (Revelation 1:4, 1:12)
- A lampstand is used symbolically to represent a church. How does this symbolism describe the role that the church plays in this period of time?
- How does your life provide true light to the people in your home and neighborhood?
- Revelation has always given hope to believers going through hard times. By just looking at the detailed outline, what gives you hope for the future?
DAY THREE: JOHN RECEIVED A NEW ASSIGNMENT.
READ: Revelation 1:1-3
A. JOHN EXPLAINED HIS REVELATION.
John’s opening words make it clear that this prophecy is not a figment of his imagination. He received the message from God through Jesus by way of angels. It is not that the message comes as a complete surprise. Most of the revelation has already been given in Old Testament prophecies. The last two chapters contain entirely new material. The Jews in the Old Testament did not see beyond the Messianic Kingdom, so the new world order is entirely new information.
All of the prophecies scattered throughout the whole Bible are now put in an order and given urgency. Once the time has come for the prophecies to be fulfilled, they will happen rapidly. So the reader needs to be ready.
B. JOHN EXHORTED HIS READERS.
John speaks personally to the readers of this message from God. We can expect to receive a unique blessing! God knows the beginning and the end of the story of man, and He has revealed that to us. We are greatly privileged!
- How was the Law of Moses delivered to Moses? (Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb. 2:2)
- God used angels as messengers and He used John as the spokesman to deliver the message to his fellow man. How does this compare to man’s role in the Great Commission given in Matthew 28:19-20?
- What blessing do you expect to receive from studying this important book?
- How have you been blessed by being a spokesman for God in your circle of friends?
DAY FOUR: JOHN GREETED THE ORIGINAL READERS.
READ: REVELATION 1:4-8
A. JOHN IDENTIFIED THE FIRST RECIPIENTS.
John identified seven specific churches who will receive Christ’s message, evaluation and instruction. These were real churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). They were not the only churches in that territory, so they were selected for our learning in some specific way. By interpreting the number seven as a Biblical symbol of completeness, it has been observed that this was a message to the whole church. We will see much modern day application as we examine the seven messages in chapter two.
B. JOHN IDENTIFIED THE SOURCE OF HIS MESSAGE.
This message is from the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Each one is described in a unique way.
- The Father was described as the one who is and was and is to come. This speaks to the eternal existence of God and perhaps to the fact that His presence once dwelt among the Israelites in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. Not only is Christ to return to earth, the Father will also return to dwell among His people.
- The Spirit was described as seven spirits. This likely describes the totality of the Holy Spirit. It could refer to a passage in Isaiah where the seven attributes of the Holy Spirit are given.
- The Son was mentioned last, probably because this is an introduction to the main theme of the book – Jesus, the faithful witness and the firstborn from the dead is the one who is soon to come as ruler over the kings of the earth.
He was also introduced as the one who loved us and freed us from our sins so that now we are a kingdom of priests who live to serve God. This amazing work caused John to break out in praise. When He returns every eye will see him. Some will praise him and some will mourn.
Finally, the Lord God described Himself as the eternal one who is the beginning and the end of the story of God and Man. When He returns He will come as the Almighty. He is able to do all that has been prophesied and promised regarding His people. He is the faithful one who brings grace and peace to the earth.
- Look up the city of Ephesus on your Bible map. This is where tradition says that John spent much time in ministry. Where is this city in relation to the Island of Patmos?
- What are the seven attributes of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2?
- Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Who is described as the Alpha and Omega in Revelation 22:13? Who is the Alpha and Omega in Revelation 21:6? What does this say about the deity of Jesus?
- John praised Jesus both for who He is and what He has done for us. Which of these two things is most likely to cause you to break out in spontaneous praise?
- List several things that Jesus has done for you personally. Use this list in your personal prayer and praise time this week.
- Choose one attribute of Jesus for your focus this week in your devotional time. See how that attribute is displayed as you live out your week.
DAY FIVE: JOHN SAW AN AMAZING VISION.
READ: REVELATION 1:9-17
A. JOHN DESCRIBED HIMSELF.
We learn from John’s description of himself that he was humble and at peace. He saw himself as a brother or equal to all other believers. All believers were suffering under Roman persecution at this time. As an exile sentenced to the penal island of Patmos because of his preaching, he was willing to suffer patiently for as long as God allowed. Patmos was a rocky volcanic island about 40 miles off the coast of Asia Minor, just across from Ephesus where John had been ministering. John was faithfully worshipping his Lord in a state of deep communion. This state made him open to a message from God. Times of trial and suffering can actually draw us closer to God and make us more receptive to God’s leading. When the voice came, John was ready to hear and obey.
B. JOHN DESCRIBED HIS RISEN LORD.
John was about to see a vision of Jesus that he had never seen before. He was instructed to write down what he saw and send it to seven churches in Asia. He saw Jesus as the glorified Son of Man, the Messiah in His third office of priest/king. Jesus is prophet (in His first coming), priest (in his present position in Heaven) and king (at His second coming). A king has many duties, one of which is to serve as a judge. John saw Jesus as He was preparing to come and judge the world.
Jesus was standing among the seven lampstands (seven churches). His robe was the kind worn by an Old Testament priest or a crown prince. He was described as like the Son of Man but much more. He held seven stars which represent the seven angels or messengers that are assigned to the seven churches. The purpose of His messages to the churches will be to prepare them for what will take place later.
The glorified Jesus was described as having white hair, flaming eyes, feet like burnished brass with a voice like rushing waters. His appearance was like a shining sun at its brightest.
John responded to what he saw in the same way that others have responded – he fell down at Jesus’ feet. But Jesus comforted John and identified himself as the eternal one, the resurrected one and the conqueror of death and Hell. He told John not to be afraid. This is the same Jesus that John knew and loved for three years during His ministry on earth. He now appeared in His role as head of the church to give advice and encouragement.
- How does John’s description of himself fit with Jesus’ training on leadership found in Matthew 20:25-28?
- What impressed you about John’s behavior in worship while he was in a very hard place?
- John heard the very voice of Jesus, telling him to write down what he saw. How does this affirm that the book of Revelation is the very Word of God?
- How does this fit with the information Peter gave in 2 Peter 1:20-21?
- What impressed you about the physical description of the glorified Jesus?
- What attributes do you find in the symbolism of the white hair, flaming eyes, brass feet, and thunderous voice that give you confidence and courage?
Perhaps we could say that John’s new assignment is his most thrilling one. He was to introduce all faithful believers to the glorified Christ who will soon come to judge evil and bring in the everlasting kingdom. Jesus is not to be feared by the faithful but welcomed as the one who loves us ultimately and will fulfill every expectation of justice and happiness when He arrives as King of Kings! The man of sorrows and death has become the God of victory and life.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
God never leaves us in the dark about His plans and purposes for His blessed creation.
Determine to dig deeply and study faithfully throughout this study so you will be forever filled with peace and hope.
i The allegorical or spiritualist approach is a non-literal approach that treats the text as an ongoing battle between God and Satan or between good and evil, with God or good achieving the ultimate victory. The preterist approach treats the text as a symbolic view of early church history that has already been fulfilled primarily during the Roman Empire in the first century. The historicist approach treats the story of Revelation as a symbolic picture of all of church history being fulfilled progressively between the first and second coming. The futurist approach treats the bulk of Revelation (Chapters 4-22) as events that are yet future. This is a literal approach.
About the author
LaWanda Neel is a lifelong Bible student. She has served as a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship and has conducted studies for neighborhood and church groups. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Lakewood, Colorado. She spends time reading, studying, teaching, writing, traveling all around the world and entertaining her five grandchildren. This is her third Weekly Word series for Thrive Ministries. Contact her for questions or comments at [email protected]View all articles by: LaWanda Neel
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