Whilst exiled on the isle of Patmos, John, the disciple Jesus loved, writes a revelation of Jesus Christ, given to Jesus by God, and given to John by an angel. The revelation is to show things that are to come to pass. We are told that anyone who reads this revelation, or hears it read, will be blessed.
John first sees a vision of Christ and is instructed to write to seven churches.
Letters to the seven churches
The seven churches are: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Each letter is introduced as being from Christ, and each letter is a critique of that church’s spiritual condition. It is considered by some that these churches are also representative of churches through the ages to the present day.
Two of these churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, have nothing bad said against them; two of them, Sardis and Laodicea, have nothing good said about them. All churches are given a promise to overcomers.
John is called to be shown the things that will happen in the future. He sees the throne of God, but is not able to see God, only the glory emanating from it. He also sees 24 elders and four 'beasts', all worshipping and praising God, who created all things for His pleasure.
The Seven Seals
John sees a scroll in God’s right hand, written on both sides and having seven seals that only Jesus is qualified to open.
Jesus begins to open the seals. From the first four seals come four horses with riders, generally known as the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’. These represent the antichrist, wars, famine and death.
With the opening of the fifth seal the souls of martyrs cry out for vengeance, but they are told they must be patient.
With the sixth seal there follows earthly and cosmic devastation announcing the great day of the wrath of the lamb.
After the first six seals have been opened, there is a pause 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, having overcome the great tribulation to be with Christ.
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 seven trumpets
These are the judgements announced with the first four trumpets: a burning up of a third of the trees and all the grass; the killing of a third of life in the sea and destroying a third of all ships; a third part of the rivers become wormwood and many die from its bitterness; a third part of the sun, moon and stars are 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, the first woe is the release of smoke from a bottomless pit which darkens the sky, and the release of locusts which are to torment those who do not have the seal of God on their forehead. This torment is to last for a period of five months with no relief.
When the sixth angel blows his trumpet, four of Satan’s 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 sins.
A mighty angel gives John a little book to digest and makes a solemn oath that the mystery of God, as declared by His prophets, would be finished at the beginning of the seventh trumpet.
Two witnesses will prophesy for three and a half years during which time no rain will fall on the earth. The witnesses have the power to smite the earth with plagues as they see fit, all the while being protected from any who try to kill them.
When the three and a half years is over they will be killed, only to be resurrected after a short period of time and to ascend to heaven. At the same time there will be a great earthquake destroying a tenth of 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 is sounded heralding the coming of the third woe. Voices in heaven announce the kingdoms of the world are now Christ’s, and he is to reign for ever. Thanks are given for the victory that has come, for the judgement that will follow and rewards given to his prophets and saints that feared him, and for the pending destruction of the Antichrist and his followers.
The temple of God in heaven is opened, the ark of the covenant is seen in the temple and there are lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
The woman and the dragon
John now sees a vision of a woman [Israel] and a dragon [Satan]. The woman is pregnant and the dragon stands before her ready to devour her child. She bares a son [Jesus], who is taken up to God and to His throne, then flees to the wilderness where she is to remain and be fed for three and a half years. Then a war is fought in heaven between Michael and his angels and Satan and his angels, with Michael prevailing and Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven. A warning is given to the inhabitants of the earth that the wrath of Satan is to come because he only has a short time left. Satan persecutes the woman and makes war with the remnant of her seed who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The two beasts
A beast arises out of the sea, given authority and power by Satan. This beast has a deadly wound, yet survives it, causing the world to worship Satan and the beast. For three and a half years this beast will blaspheme against God, make war with the saints and be victorious over them. Yet the saints are encouraged to be faithful and patient.
Then a beast arises out of the earth, being like a lamb, but speaking as a dragon, exercising all the power of the first beast and deceiving the world with miracles. He instructs an image of the first beast to be made that everyone must worship or be killed. Everyone is to receive a mark of the beast on their right hand or forehead, without which they will not be able to buy or sell anything. The number of the beast, the number of a man, is given as 666.
The joy of the redeemed and the harvest
John now sees Jesus with the 144,000, the first-
The patience of the saints will be tried and the overcomers rewarded.
John now sees a vision of Jesus reaping the earth and gathering the redeemed. Another angel is called to gather the wicked who are then to face divine wrath.
The seven bowls
The seven bowls of God’s wrath are now to be poured on the earth.
The first is poured upon the land, punishing those who have the mark of the beast and have worshipped his image.
The second is poured upon the sea, turning it to blood and killing every living creature in it.
The third is poured upon the rivers and fountains of water, which also becomes blood so that those who killed the prophets and saints should have to drink it.
The fourth is poured upon the sun, causing men to be scorched with fire, for which they blaspheme God and do not repent.
The fifth is poured upon the seat of the beast, and his kingdom becomes full of darkness, causing great anguish, but no repentance.
The sixth is poured on the river Euphrates, causing it to dry up to prepare the way for the kings of the east.
Between the pouring of the sixth and seventh bowl is the battle of Armageddon.
The seventh bowl is poured into the air and a great voice from the throne in the temple of heaven announces It is done. There are voices, thunders and lightnings, and the greatest earthquake ever seen, dividing Babylon into three. Then there is a great hail with stones as heavy as a talent, causing men to blaspheme God because of it, and still they do not repent.
God’s final triumph
The Woman and the Beast
An angel comes to invite John to see the judgement of the great whore, Babylon, who is the source and epitome of fornication. She is riding a beast, who is the devil risen from the bottomless pit and who will make war with the Lamb, but will be defeated. Many will turn against her and come to hate her, according to God’s will to fulfil prophecy.
The Fall of Babylon
Another angel comes and announces that Babylon the great has fallen, having become the habitation of everything evil, where nations and kings had committed fornication with her.
Another voice is heard calling His people to come out of Babylon and not be partaker of her sins, but to take full vengeance on her because she has glorified herself and felt secure. Plagues will come on her in one day and she will suffer death, mourning and famine, and will be utterly burned by fire. All had benefited from her greatness and riches, but they have all now come to nought within the space of one hour.
God’s people are called to rejoice, for God has now taken vengeance on her.
The hallelujah and the wedding feast
There follows a great rejoicing in heaven for the triumph over Babylon. The voice of a great multitude is then heard calling one another to be glad and rejoice, for the time of the Lamb’s marriage with his bride, the church, has come. His wife, having made herself ready, is dressed in white linen, the linen depicting the righteousness of the saints.
John sees heaven open and Jesus riding on a white horse to judge and make war, followed by his armies in heaven, also on white horses.
The beast, kings of the earth and their armies, then gather to make war against Jesus and his army. They are defeated and the beast and his prophet are both cast into the lake of fire, and the kings and their armies are slain to the rejoicing of the righteous.
The Thousand Years and the last judgement
Satan is bound for a thousand years so that he is unable to deceive the nations. During this time the church sits on thrones to judge with Jesus, as do the saints who had been martyred and had not received the mark of the beast or worshipped him. This is described as the first resurrection. The rest of the dead will not be raised until the thousand years are complete.
When the thousand years are up, Satan is released to deceive the nations. The number deceived is great and are gathered to do battle, but are defeated. Satan is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and will be tormented day and night forever.
All the dead, small and great, now stand before God to be judged according to their works.
Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire, as are those whose name is not found written in the book of life. This is the second death.
God’s new world
John now sees the new heaven and the new earth in which there is no more sea, and in which there is no tabernacle, as God will now dwell amongst His people.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Jesus then declares the work is done.
John is shown the new Jerusalem and observes there is no temple within, as God and the Lamb are its temple. There is no sun or moon as the glory of God and the lamb are its light, and the gates are not shut as there is no night. Everything within it is pure and nothing can enter that might defile it.
John sees a pure river of water of life coming from the throne of God and the Lamb, with the tree of life that bares twelve fruits, yielding a fruit every month, and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
The angel tells John that all the visions he has seen are faithful and true, and that the Lord God had sent His angel to reveal these things to him.
John is told to reveal all that he has seen. Jesus tells John he will come quickly, with his reward to be given to every man according to his works, and confirms John has been given these visions to testify to the churches.