Introduction and John’s vision of Christ
This last book in the Bible opens with a statement that it is a revelation of Jesus Christ, given to Him by God, to show
things that are to come to pass, and that this revelation is given to John by an angel while on the isle of Patmos. We are
also told that anyone who reads this book will be blessed.
John first tells us of a vision he has of Christ, the Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), and
the wonder of it, standing amidst seven golden candlesticks with seven stars in his right hand and a two-edged sword
coming from his mouth. He is told to write down the things he has seen, the things that are of the present, and the things
that are to come. John is then told that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, the churches represented by
the seven candlesticks.
Letters to the seven churches
John is instructed to write to seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Each letter is introduced as being from Christ.
The church at Ephesus is commended for her works, how she cannot bear those who are evil, and how she has dealt with
false apostles. However, she is reproved for leaving her first love and called to repent or face the consequences.
Nevertheless, she is commended for her hatred of the practice of those referred to as Nicolaitans and a promise is given to
overcomers – those who live a Christ-like life, have completely died to self and now live a life that’s holy and blameless.
For the church at Smyrna, notice is taken of her works, tribulation and poverty, her richness in spirit but also the
blasphemy of some. There is no criticism given against this church. She is given encouragement to be faithful during
afflictions that will come, with the promise of the crown of life to overcomers.
The church at Pergamos is commended for her works and her faithfulness, despite being in a place so bad it is described as
Satan’s seat. Yet there are those within, identified as Balaamites and Nicolaitans, who have bad practices and doctrines for
which the church is reproved. She is warned to repent or face the consequences. A promise of ‘hidden manna’, a ‘white
stone’ and a ‘new name’ is given to overcomers.
The church at Thyatira is commended for her works, love, service, faith and patience, all of which continue to grow.
However, the church had been infiltrated by spiritual fornication and idolatry. Time was given for repentance, but it was not
forthcoming. Punishment will be inflicted on those who do not repent and all associated with them. To the overcomers is
given the promise of power over their enemies, and the gift of ‘the morning star’.
The church at Sardis seems to have little to commend it, her works being known but are imperfect. Although alive in name,
she is a dead church. She is exhorted to be watchful and remember how the gospel was first heard and received, to hold
fast and repent, or else He will come as a thief in the night. It is recognised there are a few people who are undefiled, and
they will walk with Jesus. A promise is made that overcomers will not be erased from the book of life, and their names will
be confessed before the Father and His angels.
Unlike Sardis, the church at Philadelphia has nothing said against her. She is commended for her works having had the
door open to her for evangelising that could not be shut. She has little power in the secular world, but has kept true to the
word and not denied Christ. Those who profess to be Jews outwardly, but inwardly are not, will be made to come to the
church and recognise the love Jesus has for her. Because she has kept His word, she will not suffer the hour of temptation
and trial the rest of the world will experience. She is not called to repentance but simply told to persevere, and overcomers
will receive their reward.
In direct contrast to Philadelphia, the church in Laodicea is condemned for being lukewarm, a condition repugnant to Jesus.
She has a vain opinion of herself, is unaware of her true spiritual state, and is given counsel to seek and recognise the
truth. It is because of Jesus’ love for her that He rebukes and chastens her and calls her to be zealous and repent, and is
waiting at the door to be invited in. To the overcomers is promised the kind of honour and glory He had received from the
Father when He overcame.
John’s vision of heaven
John is called to be shown the things that will happen hereafter, that is, in the future, following the period represented by
the seven churches. He sees the throne of God, but is not able to see God, only the glory emanating from it. There are
twenty-four thrones around God’s throne on which sit elders, representative of the church, and seven lamps of fire burning,
which are the seven Spirits of God. In the midst, and around the throne, are four living creatures. These creatures can be
likened to the emblems of the four groups of tribes in their marching order around the tabernacle. The living creatures and
the elders are all worshipping and praising God, who created all things for His pleasure.
The seven seals
The sealed scroll
John sees a scroll in God’s right hand, written on both sides and having seven seals (denoting a title deed), which is the
title deed to the earth. No man is able to open it, causing John to weep convulsively. John is told Jesus has prevailed and is
qualified to open the book, then sees Him in the midst of all, appearing as He was when slain. Jesus takes the book and is
worshipped with a new song declaring his qualifications for opening it, and how He has made the redeemed ones kings and
priests to reign with Him on earth. Then John hears the voice of millions of angels and all creatures praising and glorifying
Jesus, with an amen from the four living creatures, followed by the twenty four elders prostrating themselves in worship.
The breaking of the first six seals
The seals are then opened by Jesus. For the first four seals, John is beckoned by each of the four living creatures in turn to
step forward and see what is to be revealed. From these four seals come four horses with riders, generally known as the
‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’.
The first is a white horse with a rider who has a bow and crown of victory, representing the coming world leader
The second is a red horse with a rider given power to take peace from the earth and cause men to kill one another.
The third is a black horse whose rider has a pair of balances in his hand. A voice from the midst of the living creatures
telling of a famine in which a man’s wages would only be sufficient to buy bread, though luxuries would be spared.
The fourth horse is a pale horse whose rider is named as Death, and Hell is following him. The two have the power to
destroy a quarter of the earth with the sword and with hunger, pestilence and wild beasts.
With the opening of the fifth seal, John sees the souls of martyrs crying out for vengeance, but they are given white robes
and told they should have patience until the suffering of their brethren is over.
With the sixth seal there follows earthly and cosmic devastation, causing islands and mountains to be moved and men to
flee and hide themselves in the mountains, for the great day of the wrath of the Lamb has come and none can stand before
The people of God
After the first six seals have been opened, four angels are seen preventing hurt on the earth. Another angel, having the
specific authority of God, instructs them not to allow the pending hurt until God’s servants have been sealed. Those to be
sealed number 144,000 consisting of 12,000 from each tribe of Israel. John then sees a great multitude from all nations, so
great they can’t be numbered, standing before God and Jesus, having overcome the great tribulation to be with Christ, to
hunger and thirst no more, and to have their tears wiped way by God.
The seventh seal
The seventh seal is now opened followed by a period of silence. The seventh seal releases seven angels with their trumpets
that will announce judgements on man. But before the trumpets are sounded, another angel offers the prayers of all the
saints with incense, then fills his censer with the fire of the altar and casts it to earth, the effects of which were voices, and
thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
The Seven Trumpets
The first six trumpets
The seven angels with seven trumpets now prepare themselves to sound, with the first causing hail and fire, mingled with
blood, burning up a third of the trees and all the grass.
The second trumpet sounds; then something like a great mountain with fire is cast into the sea, a third of the sea
becoming blood, killing a third of life in it and destroying a third of all ships.
The third heralds the fall of a great star from heaven burning as a lamp, falling on a third part of the rivers and on the
fountain of waters. It is given the name of wormwood, since a third of the waters become wormwood and many die from
Following the fourth trumpet, a third part of the sun, moon and stars is hidden.
Then an angel proclaims three woes, warning that, although the first four trumpets heralded severe events, worse is to
come from the remaining three.
Following the fifth trumpet, a star falls that has the key to the bottomless pit, releasing smoke that darkens the sky and
locusts that are not permitted to consume any vegetation but are to torment those who do not have the seal of God on
their foreheads. This torment is to last for five months, during which time there is no death, though the tormented will
seek it. The king of these locusts, whose description is of hybrid beings, is identified as the ‘destroyer’, one of the names
for Satan. This is the first woe with two more to come.
When the sixth angel blows his trumpet, John hears a voice ordering this angel to loose four of Satan’s angels. These
angels command a vast army that will slay a third part of all men during a specified period of time. Despite this judgement,
the survivors do not repent of their idolatry, murders, sorceries, fornication or thefts.
The angel and the little scroll
Before the seventh trumpet, John is given a vision of future events. He sees a mighty angel with an open book in His hand
and hears seven thunderous voices. John is about to record what the voices say when he is forbidden to by the angel. A
solemn oath is made by the angel that the mystery of God, as declared by His prophets, would be finished at the beginning
of the seventh trumpet. John is told to take the book and eat it, and that it would be sweet in his mouth but bitter in his
belly. He is then told he must prophesy again before many people of all nations.
The two witnesses
John is given a rod and told to measure the temple, altar and worshippers, but not the outer court where the Gentiles are.
The Gentiles will tread the holy city underfoot for three and a half years, during which time two witnesses ill prophesy in
sackcloth and no rain will fall on the earth. The witnesses will be protected from any who try to kill them, all the while
having the power to smite the earth with plagues as they see fit.
When the three and a half years are over, they will be killed by the beast ho ascends from the bottomless pit. Their bodies
will be left in the street here all will see them, and rejoice over the death of these two who tormented them. Then, after a
short period of time, they will be resurrected and ascend to heaven. At the same time there will be a great earthquake
destroying a tenth f the city and killing seven thousand men, bringing fear on the remnant who will then give glory to God.
This is the second woe; the third is to quickly follow.
The seventh trumpet
The seventh trumpet is sounded heralding the coming of the third woe. Immediately following this trumpet, voices are
heard in heaven announcing the kingdoms of the world are now Christ’s, and He is to reign for ever. The twenty-four
elders, who sat on their seats before God, praise and worship Him, giving thanks that victory has come, that judgement
will follow and rewards given to His prophets and saints who feared Him, and for the pending destruction of the antichrist
and his followers.
The other effects of this trumpet are the temple of God in heaven is opened, the Ark of the Covenant is seen, and there are
lightnings, voices, thunderings, an earthquake and great hail.