I wonder what God would say to us today as He sees all of our so-called Christian organizations in constant activity but with little action or movement. The huge building program proclaiming astronomical figures in cost and “people reached” is indeed impressive. The mushroom growth of both churches and organizations would seem to indicate a healthy condition. The polls which give such a large percentage of evangelicals would appear to be a sign that we are marching to Zion. But before we sing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” let’s find out how many are marching. We are not even standing on the promises; we are sitting on the premises! We are not stalwart soldiers of the faith. We are paper dolls playing church in our bigger and better sanctuaries. We are seeking entertainment, not instruction or inspiration in our smug complacency. We do not have a vision or concern for a lost world out there that has not even heard the Word of God. (Dr. J. Vernon McGee).
The book of Revelation provides a powerful ending for the Bible. In the end, God and His people win, and evil will be forever defeated. What should we look for, and how should we live between now and then?
Much of the book of Revelation is the story of worsening sin and the resultant suffering, climaxing in a time of woe never before experienced. However, the good news of the Bible is that Jesus Christ will return and save us from total self-destruction (Matthew 24:21-22).
Here are some of the wonderful passages in Revelation that convey this good news:
“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.‘” Revelation 11:15 (KJV)
“And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:
For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
And again they said, Alleluia And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 19:1-9 (KJV)
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.” Revelation 19:11-16 (KJV)
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4 (KJV)
An Overview of Revelation
Many people get lost in the visions and symbolism of the book of Revelation. Mysterious horsemen, beasts and plagues have convinced many people that Revelation cannot be understood.
The fundamental message of the book of Revelation is simple. It promises that God will institute universal peace, prosperity and cooperation over all the earth immediately after the return of Jesus Christ. It reveals how this wonderful new world will be established and why it will never be destroyed or superseded by any other way of life or social order.
The book of Revelation also describes an incredibly deceptive alliance of internationally powerful political and religious entities attempting to prevent Jesus reign from ever being established. Their opposition to Him and His saints will result in a time of international turmoil and suffering unlike anything the world has ever seen.
An important key to understanding Revelation is that the Bible interprets itself. Revelation is rooted in the prophecies of the Old Testament, so we find clues to the meaning of many of its symbols in Daniel and other Old Testament prophecies. Also, Jesus Christ is the revealer, the One who opens the seals (Revelation 1:1; 5:5). His Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) helps provide a framework for understanding the time order of Revelation. The parallelism between Christ’s Olivet Prophecy and the Revelation recorded by John is striking and certainly not accidental… These passages form the ultimate source of his understanding of the future and his interpretation of the OT. Christ’s Olivet Prophecy foretells several major trends that would increase and intensify before His return. The trends He emphasized were religious deception, wars, famines, disease epidemics, earthquakes and devastating storms.
One way to outline the book is around four key visions:
- The vision of the Son of man among the seven churches (chs. 1-3)
- The vision of the seven-sealed scroll, the seven trumpets, the seven signs, and the seven bowls (4:1-19:10)
- The vision of the return of Christ and the consummation of this age (19:11-20:15)
- The vision of the new heaven and new earth (chs. 21-22).
Let’s look briefly at each of these sections.
The Seven Churches
God gave the book of Revelation to “show His servants—things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1). Seven (a number often used to signify completeness) churches in what is now Turkey were chosen to represent the entire Church of God down through the ages. They might also represent seven consecutive eras of time from Christ’s first coming to His second coming. In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus Christ gives warning and encouragement to these seven churches that He intends all of us to learn from.
What was the message to the last church, Laodicea?
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Revelation 3:14-22 (KJV)
Jesus Christ warns the churches out of love, to encourage us all to repent and overcome our sins and the pulls of Satan’s world. He wants His people to be “the called, chosen and faithful” overcomers who will be prepared to assist Him in restoring all things in His Kingdom (Revelation 17:14; 1:6).
The Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets and Seven Last Plagues
The main message of Revelation is unveiled primarily through opening a scroll fastened with seven successive seals. Jesus Christ is the only one who can break the seals and open the scroll to our understanding. Revelation 6 shows the first six seals being opened. They parallel the earlier Olivet Prophecy by Jesus Christ.
How did Jesus describe the adversities that would lead up to the heavenly signs?
“And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Matthew 24:4-9, 29 (emphasis added)
Notice the parallels with the first six seals.
- First seal (white horse): False religion (Revelation 6:1-2; Matthew 24:4-5).
- Second seal (red horse): War (Revelation 6:3-4; Matthew 24:6-7).
- Third seal (black horse): Famines (Revelation 6:5-6; Matthew 24:7).
- Fourth seal (pale horse): Pestilence and the mounting death toll (Revelation 6:7-8; Matthew 24:7).
- Fifth seal: Religious persecution and tribulation (Revelation 6:9-11; Matthew 24:9).
- Sixth seal: Heavenly signs (Revelation 6:12-14; Matthew 24:29).
After the heavenly signs will come “the great day of His wrath” (Revelation 6:17), known throughout the Bible as the “day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30-31). The Day of the Lord is the subject of the seventh seal and much of the rest of the book of Revelation.
The seventh seal is further broken down into seven parts, with each announced by a trumpet.
Combined, the seven trumpets (chapters 8-11) provide a summary of what will happen during the time known as the Day of the Lord. Revelation explains and describes the punishment each trumpet blast heralds.
Most of the following chapters (12-20) fill in details concerning the Day of the Lord, particularly about the persecuting worldly powers led and controlled by Satan and about Jesus’ victory over those powers.
The seventh trumpet announces the long-awaited return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 11:15)! But it also signals the coming of the seven last plagues to finally bring rebellious humanity to the point of repentance and willingness to submit to the King of Kings (Revelation 15:1).
The Return of Jesus Christ
Satan’s last-ditch attempt will be to gather all the remaining armies of the world to fight against the returning Jesus Christ. After gathering at Armageddon, the armies move toward Jerusalem where the final battle will take place. Of course, human armies and armaments will be no match for our Almighty Savior and King (Zechariah 14:1-4, 12-13; Revelation 19:19-21).
Then, under Jesus Christ’s righteous rule, assisted by His saints (us!) The time of healing and restoring all things will come. It will be a time of great rejoicing, as the way of peace is finally taught and God’s way is spread around the world (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:9).
Other wonderful scriptures about the time of Jesus Christ’s return were quoted at the beginning of this lesson.
The New Jerusalem and New Heaven and New Earth
Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation describe the many exciting things John sees in vision about the new heaven and new earth. He wrote, ‘the first heaven and the first earth had passed away’ and also ‘there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ (Revelation 21:1, 4). The Bible gives us ample evidence that eternal life in the Kingdom of God will be paradise!
What did Jesus say at the end of Revelation? How did John respond?
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20 (KJV)
This sin-sick and suffering world desperately needs the return of Jesus Christ. He calls on His Church to spread the good news of His coming and of the Kingdom of God. He tells us that
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14 (KJV)
He tells us He is coming quickly. And John eagerly responded, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Do we have the same eagerness and urgency? No, most don’t but we need to re-remember our first love!
List three reasons you are looking forward to Jesus Christ’s return, and pray about these things. This is part of what Jesus meant when He told us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).