A. The Background of the Book
B. The Background of the Apostle John
C. The Key Verse: Revelation 1:19
D. The Character of the Book
E. The Difference Between the Rapture and the Revelation
F. The Chart Comparing the Rapture to the Revelation
G. The Interpretation of the Book of Revelation
H. The Seven Churches
The Book of Revelation is God’s conclusion to the Bible and His Final Word to mankind. It is “ta Biblion,”[i] meaning “the Book,” singular, or “one book” from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is God’s Word to us, made up of sixty-six books with forty different authors, most of whom did not know each other and lived at a different time in History. There are sixty-six books with forty different authors, and not one contradiction!
Years ago, hearing messages preached from the Book of Revelation would not be unusual. You would hear evangelists preach from it frequently. The pastors of almost every fundamental, Bible-believing church would bring messages on the Book of Revelation from time to time. Yet, it is seldom heard from the pulpits of today. Preachers excuse their lack of attention to this wonderful book by saying, “Oh, we can’t understand it.” Or, “It’s too hard for the congregation to understand as there are so many symbols and signs.” For those reasons, it is excused from being preached on.
In fact, I might throw this out to you, and it will be a shock. Go to your preacher and ask him if he believes that Adam and Eve are real people, or does he believe they are symbolic of something? If your preacher tells you they are symbolic of something, ask him, “Symbolic of what?” Then, just plain tell him, “You don’t believe the Bible, Sir. I’m going to find another church.” You might be shocked at the response you get.
We hope your preacher believes the Bible. We hope that he believes in the literal creation as God gave it in Genesis, and we hope he, also, believes in the Book of Revelation. Of all the sixty-six books in the Bible, the two books Satan hates the most are Genesis and Revelation. Genesis pronounces the curse upon him in Genesis 3:15, and Revelation 20:10 carries it out. Revelation 20:10 is when he is cast alive into the Lake of Fire. No, Satan doesn’t want you to believe the Book of Revelation at all. That is why there have been so many attacks on the prophetic Scriptures lately. In fact, it is a sign of the last times, as we are told in 2 Peter 3:3,4:
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, (3) And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (4).
We find out that the Apostle John, by inspiration of God, has written five books:
- The Gospel of John is the Commencement. It deals primarily with salvation, and emphasizes all the way through the Gospel of John that salvation is by believing. The words “believe” and “faith” are used over 100 times in the Gospel of John.
- The Apostle John was also the inspired writer of First, Second and Third John. These are the Cultivation, and have to do with “Getting the weeds out of the garden so the fruit can grow.” Applying the principles found in these Epistles gets the sin out of the Christian’s life, so he can be a fruitful and productive Christian.
- Then we come to the Book of Revelation, the fifth book that John was used by the Holy Spirit to write. It is the Consummation, the ending of it all, the final analysis and judgment that God pours out upon this world.
To begin with, we’d like you to follow along, and if you’d like to—take some notes. We want to examine, first of all, the background of the Book.
2. Titus Flavius Domitianus
We find that the Apostle John took over the pastoral work in Ephesus somewhere around 70 A.D. This also included the churches in the surrounding area, the seven churches of Asia Minor spoken of in Revelation, Chapters Two and Three.
The Roman Emperor, Nero, persecuted Christians in Rome; but, as yet, the “fiery trial” that Peter spoke about and had promised, had not yet begun. But when Domitian[ii] came into power and became the emperor in 81 to 96 A.D., the persecution was intensified. It was horrible! Domitian was as cold-blooded a murderer as you will ever meet in the pages of History. He promoted emperor worship. He began his announcements with, “Our Lord and God, Domitian, commands.” That’s what he wanted to be called, “Our Lord and God, Domitian.” So everyone who spoke to him had to address him as “Lord and God.”
He was bitter in his treatment of both the Jews and the Christians. It was at his order that John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, a rocky island ten miles long, and about six miles wide, out in the Aegean Sea.
It would be good for you to look this up on a map to familiarize yourself with it. When we get into Chapters Two and Three on the Seven Churches, circle them on your map. If you have a good Bible, it should have some maps in the back and you can use them to locate these seven churches, as well as the Isle of Patmos, where John was exiled. Rome had a penal camp there. It was here in this isolated spot, away from his beloved Christian friends, that John received the visions of the future that make up the Book of Revelation.
The Apostle John, as we have said, has written four other books: The Gospel of John, and First, Second, and Third John. You find out Revelation 10:4 indicates that he was writing as a sermon was given, and we believe that he was.
“And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.”
We are just going to look at John’s background briefly to familiarize you with him.
- He was the younger son of the two sons of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee.
- He lived in Beth-Saida, and his mother’s name was Salome. (Matthew 20:20-28).
- His brother was James, according to Matthew 4:21. Christ “...surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:” in Mark 3:17.
- He was chosen as one of the Twelve in Matthew 10:2.
- He was the youngest of all the Apostles, and he outlived them all.
- At the end of Domitian’s reign, from 81 to 96 A.D., he was banished to the Isle of Patmos according to Revelation 1:9.
“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:9)
- He belonged to the “inner circle,” along with Peter and James, according to Luke 9:28 and Matthew 17:1.
- He resided at Ephesus, where he superintended the churches of that region, and made occasional visits to other churches.
- He is the inspired penman of the Gospel of John, and, in that Gospel, he never mentions his own name. The John mentioned there is John the Baptist—all the way through.
- He leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper.
- He outran Peter to the Tomb of Christ.
- He was with Christ at the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1,2)
“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;” (Revelation 1:19).
The whole book is a commentary on Revelation 1:7, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“ 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.” (Revelation 1:7)
This occurs at the end of the Tribulation. This is not the Rapture, but His return at the end of the Tribulation Period to judge the nations, and establish His Earthly Kingdom for a thousand years.
1. It Is a Book of Prophecy
“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.”
“And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
“Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
“And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.”
Revelation 22:18, 19.
“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: (18) 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” (19).
So we find out here that it is a book, prophetic, revealing the future in detail before it comes to pass. You see, it is a revealing, and the veil is lifted. This is the prophecy of the end-times that God wants you and I to read. The Book of Revelation is not a difficult book.
2. It Is Christ-Centered.
It is Christ-centered. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, not simply of a prophetic program, although that is included.
- In Chapter One, He is the Risen Priest-King.
- In Chapters Two and Three, He examines the world and returns to glory.
- In Chapters Two and Three, we have Him “in the midst of” the Seven Churches.
- In Chapters Twenty-One and Twenty-Two, He reigns in glory and in power.
3. It Is Symbolical.
He “sent and signified,” suggests that the book uses signs and symbols to convey its message.Some are explained, as in Chapters One, Four, Five, and Revelation 12:9.
Some are unexplained, as in Revelation 4:4, and Revelation 11:3.
Some are explained by referring to Old Testament parallels, such as in Revelation 2:7, 17, 27‑28.
This spiritual symbolism would be clear to the Christians receiving the book at that time, but it would make no sense to their Roman persecutors. Keep in mind that symbols speak of reality. The flag, for example, speaks of the existence of a nation. The picture of Christ, in Revelation 1:12-16, is significant, and each symbol conveys a spiritual truth.
4. It Is Based on the Old Testament.
It is impossible to study this tremendous book without referring constantly to the Old Testament Scriptures. Out of the 404 verses in Revelation, some 278, approximately, contain references to the Old Testament. It is calculated there are over 500 references, or allusions, to the Old Testament in Revelation with Psalms, Daniel, Zechariah, Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Joel being referred to the most often.
5. It Is Numerical.
This is interesting! No book in the Bible contains so many symbolical numbers.
- There is a steady series of Sevens in the Book. There are Seven Churches, Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, Seven Vials, and there are Seven Lampstands, etc.
- The numbers divisible by three-and-a-half show up repeatedly in Revelation 11:2, 3. They appear again in Revelation 12:6.
- In Revelation 13:5, we find the number “three-and-a-half” significant, again, as we are going to study when we get into the book.
- You will, also, find 144,000 sealed Israelites in Revelation 7:4.
- You will find Twelve Stars in Revelation 12:1.
- Twelve Gates in Revelation 21:12.
- Twelve Foundations in Revelation 21:14.
6. It Is Universal.
Revelation covers the world. John sees nations, peoples, and masses of humanity. This book outlines God’s judgment upon the world, and His Creation of a New World for His people.
7. It Is Majestic In Style.
This is the “Book of the Throne,” for, from Chapter Four to the end, we read about the King and His Rule.
- The word “throne” is used three times.
- The word, “King,” is used four times. “Kingdom” is used five times, and “rule” is used three times.
- The word “power” is used 32 times, and “reign” is used four times.
Therefore, we see Christ, as the Sovereign of the Universe, ruling from His heavenly throne. Whether you realize it, or not, everything going on in this world, now, is right on God’s timetable.
8. It Is Sympathetic.
Throughout the book we see the sufferings of God’s people and the sympathy of Heaven with the people of God on EarthJohn is in exile according to Revelation 1:9.
- Antipas is martyred, Revelation 2:13.
- The Church of Smyrna will face imprisonment, Revelation 2:10.
- Souls under the altar cry for God’s avenging judgment in Revelation 6:9.
- And the hour of trial is coming in Revelation 3:10.
- The “Great Harlot has drunk the blood of the saints.” That is your one-world religious system, as we are going to see in Revelation 17:6. In Revelation 18:24 and 19:2, we will see the Antichrist’s Commercial Babylonian Empire destroyed.
Yes, God will judge the world and save His people. What a glorious book this is, as we begin to study it here and see the future unfold in detail!
10. It Is Climactic.
Revelation is the climax of the Bible, the plan and purpose of God for the Universe, and for you and I.
The Rapture of the Church is not found in the Gospels. It is a truth revealed at the proper time to the Apostle Paul. The Rapture ends the Church Age, and the Tribulation Period begins immediately after the Rapture. The Revelation, or the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation Period, is the final event of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, as spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27.
“Seventy weeks (of years) are determined upon thy people (Israel) and upon thy holy city (Jerusalem)...” (Daniel 9:24).
The word “weeks” is translated from the Hebrew word, “shābûa’,” meaning “sevens.” In the Book of Genesis, when Laban had tricked Jacob into marrying Leah first, after Jacob had served seven years to marry Rachel, Laban offers Jacob this solution in Genesis 29:27,
Fulfil her week [Hebrew, shābûa’, or sevens], and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
Therefore, the “seventy weeks” are weeks of years. The calculation is “seventy sevens” (70 x 7) for a total of 490 years. According to the prophecy in Daniel 9, it was 7 weeks of years (49 yrs.) from the Decree until Jerusalem was rebuilt, and 62 weeks of years (434 yrs.) until “Messiah is cut off.” Add 49 years to 434 years, and we now have 483 years completed out of the total 490 years, leaving approximately seven years for the Tribulation Period. The persecution of the Jewish people by the Antichrist will be so intense that Savior promises in Matthew 24:22,
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”
After the 483 years and “Messiah be cut off,” our Savior has completed his mission to pay for the sin of the world on Calvary, and is now offering salvation free to anyone who will accept it. While individual Jewish people did accept Christ; unfortunately, the Nation of Israel, as a whole, did not accept their King. When Pilate asked the Jewish mob, which had been incited to fury by the Chief Priests, “Shall I crucify your king?’ the Chief Priests answered [for all of them], “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15).
It was then that God punched the “stop watch,” and called “Time out, Israel.” The Church Age was ushered in. The last seven years of the prophecy given in Daniel 9:24, known as the Tribulation Period, will resume immediately after the Rapture. The Tribulation Period will end with the Second Coming of Christ at Armageddon, followed by the thousand-year Millennial Reign of Christ on the Earth.
There is an error that has crept in from those who have decided not to take God at His Word. In Daniel 9:24-27, He said “seventy sevens” in the original. He did NOT say “seventy weeks.” They insist that the English word “weeks” should be taken literally, and not as the Hebrew gives it. If we adhere to this faulty reasoning, we will come to the ridiculous conclusion that “Messiah” would have been “cut off” in approximately 9.28 years, OR 436 years before His birth!
Here is the calculation by which we arrive at this conclusion. 483, divided by 52 weeks per year, equals 9.28 years. The commandment to rebuild Jerusalem went forth in the year 445 B.C. Subtracting 9.28 years from 445 B.C. equals 435.72 years. Since all time is dated from the Birth of Christ, we subtracted 9.28 from 445 B.C., for the result of 436 years before the Birth of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
Matthew 24:39-41; Matthew 25:31-34, 40,41
|1. Christ does not come to Earth.||1. Christ does come to Earth.|
|2. Christ’s Coming ends the Church Age and starts the Tribulation Period.||2. Christ’s Coming ends the Tribulation Period and starts the Kingdom.|
|3. Those taken are the saved.||3. Those taken are the lost.|
|4. Those taken go to Heaven.||4. Those taken are cast into Hell.|
|5. Those left are the lost.||5. Those left are the saved that go into the Kingdom|
|6. The unsaved are left alive to enter the Tribulation Period.||6. The unsaved are not left alive, but judged and cast into the everlasting fire.|
|7. Christ does not come to set up the Kingdom.||7. Christ does come to establish His Kingdom on Earth.|
For purposes of this discussion, we have compared 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, speaking of the Rapture which ends the Church Age, to Matthew 24:39-41 and Matthew 25:31-34, 40,41, which are speaking about the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation Period. These are two major differences, and great confusion is caused by failing to differentiate between these two events.
I have covered this, as these two events are pictured in the Book of Revelation. In Chapters Two and Three, we have the “...things which are...,” or the Church Age. In Chapter Four, John is invited to “Come up hither,” picturing the Rapture. The Church is never mentioned in the Book of Revelation, again, until we see “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” Revelation 21:9 and 22:17, in the New Jerusalem.
We find out there are many interpretations projected by men.
- First, we have the Preterists. That’s from the Latin word “preter” meaning “past.” This approach states that everything in the book took place in the First Century. John deals, they say, with the war between the Church and Rome. He wrote the saints to comfort and encourage them in their time of persecution, says this group of people, the Preterists. Certainly, the book had a special value to those enduring Roman persecution, but its value did not cease with the close of the Apostolic Age. We also find that John states seven times that he is writing PROPHECY, so this view cannot be true.
- Historical. Interpreters of this camp claim to see the fulfillment of Church History in the symbols of the Book of Revelation. They believe that the book outlines the course of History from Apostolic times to the end of the age. They search the history books to find events that parallel those in Revelation, and sometimes the results are disastrous! One interpreter sees Luther and the Reformation in a symbol that, to another student, pictures the invention of the printing press, or various different things. Of what value would the Book of Revelation be to the believers of John’s day, if all it did was prewrite world history? What value would it be to us today? No! It is prophecy. So, the Historical View is not true.
- Spiritual. These students abandon the idea of prophecy completely, and use the Book of Revelation as a symbolic presentation of the conflict between Christ and Satan, and between Good and Evil. They reject the idea that it is about actual events. They claim that John is dealing only with basic spiritual principles. But John tells us that he is writing a prophecy. While we recognize that the Book of Revelation does contain many basic spiritual principles in symbolic form, we must, also, realize that the book deals with the real events that will one day take place in the world. So, holding to the strict line of view that the book of Revelation is only spiritual cannot be true.
- Then we come to the Futurist. This school emphasizes that the Book of Revelation is prophecy, and that from Chapter Four on we have a prophecy of events that will transpire on Earth, and in Heaven, after the Church is raptured. We, also, believe that in Chapters Two and Three, we have a prophetic history of the Church. While we gladly recognize the spiritual lessons of the book we, also, recognize it deals with actual events in prophetic history.
If Revelation is not to be interpreted as prophecy, then God has not given us a book in the New Testament to explain the future of the world, the course of History, the victory of the Church, the judgment of sin, and the fulfillment of the prophecies and the promises found in the Old Testament. That would be unthinkable! No! The Book of Revelation is that book. The student, who approaches this book as a prophecy of events that will transpire after the Church is caught away, will be rewarded for their labor.
Yes, we are of that group, the Futurists. We will see that none of those events, from Chapter Four to Chapter Twenty-two in the Book of Revelation, have taken place on the face of the Earth, as of yet.
Then, we are going to study the Seven Churches in Chapters Two and Three. They represent all churches, and are used to represent several other things:
- We are going to see that these were seven literal churches existing at the time of the book’s writing. There was the church of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. They are all named by Christ, Himself, in Revelation 1:11.
- They represent seven periods of time in Church History.
- Seven types of Christians can be seen in these seven churches.
- Through the study of these seven churches we, also, see seven types of local churches that will be existing before the Rapture.
[i]. The Greek word biblion is singular (“book”), and the plural of biblion is ta biblia or “books.” The whole collection of the biblical books came to be known as ta biblia.
[ii]. History, Facts and Information about Domitian: Domitian who can be described, or remembered, as: "The evil emperor who murdered thousands of Christians." Domitian, Emperor of Rome and provinces of the Roman Empire. His full Latin name was Titus Flavius Domitianus. He reigned as Roman Emperor, or Caesar, from September 14, 81 A.D, to September 18, 96 A.D. He was born December 30, 39 A.D. in Rome. He was the last of the Flavian Dynasty.
Domitian suceeded his older brother, Titus, who died unexpectedly. It was believed that his brother Domitian was the cause of his death. (This was the Titus who beseiged and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) He died September 18, 96, at the age of 44 in Rome,
Why was Domitian famous? He was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers upon his brother's death, possessed the mental ability of the Flavian family, joined to the vices and cruelty of the Claudian (dynasty). He surrounded himself with spies and informers, and put to death the noblest men of his time. Domitian was notorious for his cruelty. To preserve the fidelity (trust) of the soldiers he doubled their pay, while he won over the people of Rome by spectacular games at the Colosseum, built by his father, Vespasian. Domitian extended the seating capacity by adding another tier to the Colosseum. He also added the Hypogeum, a vast network of rooms, cells, tunnels and passages under the Roman Colosseum.
To maintain his expenditures, he confiscated the property of the richer citizens and no man of wealth was safe from an accusation of treason (especially when Domitian needed more cash) in his exercise of the office of Censor.
Censor, plural Censors, or Censores. In ancient Rome, they were a magistrate whose original functions of registering citizens and their property were greatly expanded to include supervision of senatorial rolls and moral conduct. Censors also assessed property for taxation and contracts, penalized moral offenders by removing their public rights, such as voting and tribe membership, and presided at the lustrum ceremonies of purification at the close of each census. The censorship was instituted in 443 bc and discontinued in 22 bc, when the emperors assumed censorial powers.
The End of the Tyrant Domitian: Domitian now ordered himself to be styled the "Lord and God," and was worshiped with divine honors. Christians were murdered in great numbers during the reign of the tyrant Domitian. The most eminent of the nobility were put to death. His wife Domitia learnt that he was planning her death and had him assassinated on 18th September, A.D. 96. http://www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-emperors/domitian.htm