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AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
(LECTURE NUMBER 6 ON BIBLE PROPHECY)
by Dr. C. L. Cagan
A lesson given at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
The word translated “revelation” is “apokalupsis.” We get the word “apocalypse” from this Greek word. It means “unveiling.” In this book God’s plan for the future is unveiled – it is revealed.
Introduction: Chapter 1
This is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1) given to “his servant John,” the Apostle John. There is a blessing connected with reading this book: “Blessed is he that readeth” (Revelation 1:3). John was an old man, in exile on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9) when he wrote this book, about 95 or 96 A.D.
On a Sunday (“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, Revelation 1:10), John heard the voice of Jesus say “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last” (1:11). He was told to write in a book and send messages to seven churches which were in the province of Asia. He saw a vision of Jesus, the “Son of Man” (v. 13) who said, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (1:17-18). This can only be Jesus!
Jesus gave John the outline of the book, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (1:19) – what John has seen, what things then existed, and what shall come hereafter.
“The Things Which Are” – The Seven Churches: Chapters 2 and 3
The Scofield note under “Chapter 2” says these are “the things which are,” the churches that existed then. Jesus gave messages to the “angel” of each of seven churches; that is, to the pastor. The word “angel” means “messenger.” The seven churches were in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. There are three ways of looking at these chapters.
First, there were seven actual and literal churches in those seven cities. Jesus wrote to the pastors of those churches and described what was going on there. He gave them both rebuke and exhortation.
Second, what was said to these churches can be applied to any church in any time period; all of the Bible is profitable to all Christians.
Third, some say that these churches represent seven periods of church history. While there is useful insight here, the correspondence is not absolute.
All of the messages promise rewards “to him that overcometh” – the Christian who perseveres, who keeps on going, who gets the victory over the trials and temptations of life.
1. The church at Ephesus (2:1) had patiently labored (2:3) but had left its first love (2:4) and was exhorted to repent and come back (2:5). This can apply to the churches in the first century, but can apply to any church.
2. The church at Smyrna (2:8) was exhorted not to fear persecution (tribulation ten days, 2:10 – persecutions under ten of the Roman emperors). Often applied to the persecuted church of the first three centuries, and can apply to any church.
3. The church at Pergamos (2:12) was warned not to follow Balaam (2:14) – preaching for money. This can apply to the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages but can apply to any church at any time.
4. The church at Thyatira (2:18) allowed idolatry, fornication and error, symbolized by the woman Jezebel (2:20).
5. The church at Sardis (3:1) has a name that lives and is dead, with some real Christians in it (3:4). Some have applied this to the Reformation period; but that was really a revival for those who experienced it.
6. The church at Philadelphia (3:7) is commended. Some have applied this to the nineteenth century which was a time of missions – but also the time of the rise of decisionism, liberalism and Darwinism.
7. The church at Laodicea (3:14) is lukewarm and spued (vomited) out of the mouth of Christ (3:16). Verse 17 describes the evangelical churches in America and the West at the present time.
“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” (Revelation 3:17).
John’s Vision in Heaven: Chapters 4 and 5
Revelation 4:1 “Come up hither” does not show the pretribulation rapture, but refers to John himself being taken up to Heaven!
There he sees 24 elders (4:10), twelve representing the Old Testament believers and twelve representing the Apostles. They worship the Lord Jesus on His throne (verse 11).
Revelation 5:1-4: there is a book, but no one worthy to open its seven seals.
Revelation 5:5 Only the Lion of Judah (Jesus) is worthy to open it, and loose the seven seals.
Revelation 5:6 This is the Lamb as it had been slain (again, Jesus, the Lamb of God).
The Lamb receives worship from the twenty-four elders.
Chronological [Time] Order – Seals, Trumpets, Bowls
Some of the chapters are chronological because they happen in time order, one before the other. The time order within the Tribulation is: the seven seals, then the seven trumpets, then the seven bowls.
Other chapters are parenthetical because they speak of people or things that appear during the Tribulation, but not assigned to a precise order or point in time.
If we take the chronological chapters in time order and consider the parenthetical ones for what they are, it makes a time line that is easy to understand.
Chronological: Chapter 6 – the seals
1. The first seal – a man on a white horse with a bow, conquering (Revelation 6:2). This is not Jesus Christ but the Antichrist. People will say “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:4).
2. The second seal – a man on a red horse, signifying war. He has the power to “take peace from the earth...that they should kill one another” (Revelation 6:4).
3. The third seal – a man on a black horse, signifying famine (Revelation 6:5-6). “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny” (v. 6). A “penny” was a Roman coin that was the wages for one day’s work, so a person could barely buy enough to eat. “See thou hurt not the oil and the wine” – oil and wine are luxury goods, meaning that the rich will find a way to get through this.
4. The fourth seal – a man on a pale horse. “His name was Death, and Hell followed with him” (Revelation 6:8). The “fourth part” (one fourth) of the people of the earth are killed, which today would be more than 1 1/2 billion people.
5. The fifth seal – the souls of the martyrs (6:9-11).
6. The sixth seal – an earthquake, the stars and the islands disturbed, the lost people afraid and hide themselves (6:12-17).
7. The seventh seal – silence, leading into the trumpets (Revelation 8:1).
Parenthetical – Chapter 7
This chapter is parenthetical. It does not come in the order of time after the sixth seal, but instead tells us about something happening during the years of Tribulation – the greatest revival of all time!
1. Verses 4 to 8 – 144,000 Jews are converted. We know these are Jews because they are of Israel (v. 4) and there are specifically 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. When a Jew is converted to Jesus it is a great miracle; when 144,000 are saved it is greater yet. These converted Jews will evangelize the world.
2. Verse 9 – a great multitude of Gentiles “which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” converted from every part of the earth. Many of these will be evangelicals who had been unconverted before the Tribulation!
3. These Jews and Gentiles are converted during the Tribulation. “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
Chronological: Chapters 8 and 9 – the trumpets
The seventh seal is opened in Revelation 8:1, leading to silence and then seven angels are given trumpets (8:2). The seventh seal therefore leads into the trumpets, and the trumpets come after the seals.
1. The first trumpet – hail and fire mingled with blood, burning up one third of the trees and all the green grass (Revelation 8:7).
2. The second trumpet – a great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea; one-third of the sea becomes blood, one-third of ocean creatures die (8:8-9). This could be an asteroid or a large atomic bomb crashing into the ocean.
3. The third trumpet – a star from heaven called Wormwood falls and poisons the waters of the earth (8:10-11).
4. The fourth trumpet – the sun, the moon, and the stars are darkened (8:12).
An angel flies through the midst of heaven saying “woe, woe, woe” (8:13) referring to the last three trumpets.
5. The fifth trumpet – “locusts” (demons) are let loose from the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1-3) who torment people with their stings. We know they are demons because their king is “the angel of the bottomless pit,” Satan, who is Abaddon the destroyer (verse 11).
6. The sixth trumpet – four powerful demons are set free which had been bound in the river Euphrates (Revelation 9:14). Euphrates is the great river of Iraq. They kill one third of the human race (9:15, 18) and use an army of 200,000,000 men (v. 16). One-third of all people die. Since one-fourth had already been killed, this is more than another 1 1/2 billion people! But judgments and hard times do not make lost people get saved: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts” (Revelation 9:20-21) – even though half of the human race is dead!
7. The seventh and last trumpet is sounded in Revelation 11:15.
Parenthetical – Chapter 10 and part of Chapter 11
Thunders sound (10:3) but we are not told what they are (10:4). John is told to take a little book which is as sweet as honey to eat but makes his belly bitter (10:8-11), representing the Word of God.
John is told to measure the temple in Jerusalem (11:1-2) – so the temple must be rebuilt by this time! The holy city, Jerusalem, will be trodden under by the Gentiles for 42 months (three and a half years) – the second half of the Tribulation, after the Antichrist enters the temple, takes control away from the Jews, and demands worship, claiming that he is God.
Two witnesses will preach for 1,260 days (three and a half years). They will perform miracles and cannot be killed until their time is finished. The miracles are like those of Elijah (v. 5) and Moses (v. 6). One of these two is definitely Elijah, who was taken up to heaven without dying and will come again before the end (Malachi 4:5; Matthew 17:11). The other may be Enoch, who was also taken up to Heaven without dying; or perhaps Moses; we are not told the names.
When they have finished their time of testimony, the beast (the Antichrist) will kill them (Revelation 11:7) and their bodies will lie in the street of Jerusalem (11:8). The lost people will see their bodies for three and a half days (11:9) and rejoice (11:10). “They that dwell upon the earth” signifies lost people – “dwell upon” literally means “dwell down” in Greek, showing they are looking at this earth and not at Heaven.
After three and a half days the two witnesses will be resurrected and taken up to Heaven (11:11-12) followed by a great earthquake (12:13).
Chronological: the last trumpet
In Revelation 11:15 an angel sounds the seventh and last trumpet. Voices in heaven say, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (11:15). The dead will be judged and rewards given to Christ’s servants (referring to the Bema judgment of Christians for rewards), verse 18. The temple of God is opened in Heaven (v. 19) – in other words, there is a temple in Heaven where Christ’s Blood was offered, and the earthly tabernacle and temple were modeled after it, shown to Moses when he was on Mt. Sinai.
We believe that this is when the rapture occurs; our view is called the “pre-wrath rapture”. The two witnesses are taken up to Heaven. Rewards are to be given to the Christians (not the lost – the Last Judgment of the unsaved dead is not until chapter 20). Why do we believe in the pre-wrath rapture?
1. In I Thessalonians 4:16 the rapture comes with “the trump of God.”
2. In I Corinthians 15:52 the Christians will be resurrected and changed “at the last trump.” Taking this literally, the last trumpet in the Bible is the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15.
3. The bowl judgments of God upon the earth come later in Revelation 16. There is no evidence of Christians on the earth at this time, and nobody repents.
4. I Thessalonians 5:9 says “God hath not appointed us unto wrath.” Pre-tribulationists use this to say that Christians will escape the Tribulation completely. But Christians have been suffering the wrath of man and the wrath of Satan for two thousand years, and will suffer these things again in the Tribulation: war, famine, and the persecution of the Antichrist. I Thessalonians 5:9 simply means that Christians will not suffer the wrath of God – that is, Christians will not suffer Hell, the Lake of Fire, or the great judgments of Revelation 16.
Parenthetical: Chapters 12 through 15
Here the Bible steps back from the time order of seals, trumpets and bowls, and we see different persons and events that play an important part during the Tribulation.
Chapter 12 – Israel persecuted by Satan
1. The woman with child – Israel – Revelation 12:1-2.
2. Satan the dragon (12:3), who tried to kill the Christ-child as a baby (12:4).
3. Christ Himself, born as a Jew (12:5) who will rule the nations with a rod of iron. The woman, Israel, will flee from the persecution of Satan for 1,260 days (three and a half years) and will be sheltered by God in the wilderness (12:6). Some say that this place is Petra, but the Bible does not say where this shelter is.
4. War in Heaven; Satan and his demons finally denied access (12:9-10). Up until this point Satan was able to enter Heaven as he did to accuse Job.
5. Satan will persecute Israel, who will hide and be sheltered in the wilderness (12:13-16). Satan the dragon is angry with the Jewish remnant and with those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Chapter 13 – the Antichrist and the false prophet
6. The Beast (the Antichrist) will rise up out of the sea (of nations), Revelation 13:1.
7. He will receive power from Satan the dragon (13:2).
8. He will be apparently killed but then healed or demonically resurrected, and the world will worship the dragon and the beast (13:3-4).
9. The Antichrist will have power and will blaspheme God (13:6).
10. He will make war against the saints (converted people) and will overcome them from a human point of view (13:7), meaning that he will be able to persecute and kill them. He will have power over all the nations of the world (13:7).
11. All the lost people will worship him (13:8).
12. A second beast, the false prophet, will rise and do miracles to cause people to worship the Antichrist (13:11-14) and deceives the lost world.
13. He will give life to the image of the beast – a statue of the Antichrist which he will put in the Temple after he enters it and claims to be God (13:15) and all who will not worship the image will be killed (13:15).
14. Everyone will have to receive a mark in their right hand or forehead (13:16) or they cannot buy or sell (13:17). With computer chips, smart phones, and electronic banking, technology is very close to this today.
15. The number of the beasts is 666. Here six is the number of man, falling short of seven, which is the number of God’s completion and perfection. So we need not try to analyze the number: it just means “man, man, man.”
Chapters 14 and 15 – suspense as the wrath of God is about to fall.
16. The 144,000 Jews are now in Heaven (14:1), having been martyred. They do not have the mark of the beast, but have the Father’s name in their foreheads.
17. The doom of “Babylon” – the world-system – is announced (14:8; see chapters 17 and 18).
18. The doom of those who worship the beast – they shall receive God’s wrath and be tormented with fire and brimstone (14:9-11).
19. In the temple in Heaven (chapter 15) seven angels have seven golden vials (bowls) full of the wrath of God (15:7), which they will pour out in chapter 16.
Chronological: Chapter 16 – the bowl judgments
1. The first bowl (vial) is poured out and a sore is given to those who worship the beast, Revelation 16:2.
2. The second judgment – the sea becomes as blood and all sea life dies (16:3).
3. The third judgment – the rivers and fountains of water become blood (16:4). God’s judgments are righteous and the lost deserve what they get (16:5-7).
4. The fourth judgment – the sun burns men with fire (16:8) but men blaspheme and do not repent (16:9).
5. The fifth judgment – darkness falls over the kingdom of the beast and men gnaw their tongues for pain (16:10) but go on blaspheming (16:11).
6. The sixth judgment – the river Euphrates is dried up (16:12). Three unclean spirits (demons) come out to do miracles and to gather the lost world to battle in the valley of Megiddo (Armageddon), Revelation 16:13-16.
7. The seventh judgment – the greatest earthquake of all history (16:18). Cities fall and islands sink (16:19-20). Stones fall from heaven (16:21) but men go on blaspheming God.
This is after the Rapture. Nothing is said about Christians being here, and nothing is said about anyone repenting and being saved. This is simply judgment poured out on those who reject Christ – judgment which they deserve.
Parenthetical: Chapters 17 and 18 – the fall of “Babylon”
Chapter 17 – religious Babylon, the religious system of this world. The word “Babel” means “confusion.”
1. The “great whore” upon many “waters” (nations) will be judged, Revelation 17:1.
2. This is a woman sitting on a beast (17:3) full of jewels and filthiness of fornication (17:4-5). Her name is “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (17:5).
3. This is the great ecumenical union of religions and churches at the end of time. Like a prostitute takes anyone, everyone will be welcome (except true Christians). Like today, people will “follow God in their own way.” This not only refers to liberals and unsaved Catholics; antinomian evangelical decisionists are welcome – as they are today.
4. The woman cooperates with the beast, the Antichrist (17:3) and is drunk with the blood of the Christians (17:6).
5. Verse 18 refers to the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth, which at that time was Rome. Some commentators say this Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church. While it will certainly include a corrupt and antinomian Catholic Church, it is not limited to that, but will take any church and any religion at all – except real Christians.
6. Babylon will fall (Revelation 18:2). The application is given in 18:4 where Christians are told to “come out of her.” She shall be judged in “one day” (18:8).
Chapter 18 – commercial Babylon, the mercantile and financial system of this world.
1. All kinds of riches were there (18:12-13); all kinds of “wheeling and dealing” and money-making was going on – as it does today.
2. Yet this “great city” and its money is judged, “in one hour so great riches is come to nought [to nothing],” Revelation 18:17. The city is made desolate in fire (18:18,19).
3. Today lost people are caught up in making money and have no time to be real Christians – but one day this whole system will be ended.
Chronological: Chapter 19 – the Second Coming of Christ
1. The Christians (having been raptured) worship in Heaven (Revelation 19:1-6).
2. The marriage supper of the Lamb is about to come (19:7). The Lamb, Jesus, will marry His wife, the believers of all the ages. She is dressed in white, which is the righteousness of saints (19:8).
3. The coming of Jesus in glory! His name is called the “Word of God” (19:13). He is followed by the believers dressed in fine white linen (19:14). He will rule the nations (19:15). His name is “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16). This is the Lord Jesus Christ!
4. The Antichrist is ready to oppose Him (19:19) but he is instantly overcome. The beast and the false prophet will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire (19:20). There is no battle – Jesus simply comes and does as He wishes, because He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Chronological: Chapter 20 – the 1,000 year Kingdom on earth
1. Jesus quickly sets up His Kingdom. Satan is bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years and can deceive people no more (Revelation 20:2-3) until he will be loosed at the end of the thousand years for one final rebellion.
2. The Christians will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years (20:4). The lost will not be resurrected until the end of the thousand years (20:5).
3. They will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years (20:6).
The words “thousand years” are given six times in verses 1 through 7. There is no reason not to take them just as they are given – a literal, actual time of one thousand years. Since a millennium is one thousand years, this is also called the Millennial Kingdom. With Jesus ruling and the Christians ruling under him, and Satan bound, this time will be far better than any time since the Fall of man.
4. At the end of the thousand years Satan will be loosed. There will be one final rebellion that will be quickly crushed (20:7-9). Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the Antichrist and the false prophet have been for the last thousand years (20:10). They will be tormented “for ever and ever” – not a temporary punishment but an eternal one.
5. After this, at the end of the thousand years, will come the Last Judgment of the Unsaved Dead (Revelation 20:11-15). This is also called the Great White Throne Judgment (20:11). The dead, small and great, will stand before God (20:12). The books of their works will be opened, as will the book of life (which has the names of the saved). Those who died in the sea, and those who are in Hell, will be brought out to stand before God (20:13). This is the second resurrection, the resurrection of the lost. Nobody will be saved by their works; since all are sinners, the books will condemn, and every mouth may be stopped and all will be seen as guilty before God (Romans 3:19). All the dead will be cast into Hell, except the saved (those who are written in the book of life).
Chronological: Chapters 21 and 22 – the Eternal State
1. There will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1).
2. The holy city, the New Jerusalem, will come down from Heaven (21:2).
3. There shall be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain (21:4).
4. Those who refused Jesus and persisted in sin will be outside, in the lake of fire (21:8).
5. The city is described in Revelation 21:10-17. It is a cube 1,500 miles (twelve thousand furlongs) on a side (verse 16). This would be half as large as the entire United States, and 1,500 miles tall. There is plenty of room! It has twelve gates for the twelve tribes of Israel (21:12) and twelve foundations for the Apostles (21:14, the eleven plus Paul). The city will be of gold (21:18), the foundations garnished with precious stones (21:19-20), and the gates of pearl (21:21).
6. There will be no temple, for God will dwell there and Jesus will live there (21:22).
7. There will be no need of light from sun or moon (21:23) and the saved shall live there.
8. But the lost will be outside, Revelation 21:27.
9. Out of the throne of God and of the Lamb will flow a river of water of life (22:1). On either side of the river will be the tree of life (22:2) that grew in the Garden of Eden. The servants of Christ shall serve Him there.
Jesus warns, “Behold, I come quickly” (Revelation 22:12). Do not delay! Come to Christ. The last invitation in the Bible is in verse 17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” I pray that you will come to Christ soon.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:21).
(END OF LESSON)
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