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Introduction and John’s vision of Christ

[Rev 1] 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 letter 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 which are of the present, and the things which 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

[Rev 2-3] 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 that 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 Nicoliatans and a promise is given to overcomers - those that 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, that 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 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 that 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

[Rev 4] 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 His glory emanating from it. There are twenty four thrones around God’s throne on which sit elders, probably 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

[Rev 5:1-8:5]

The sealed scroll

[Rev 5] J ohn 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 the book, 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

[Rev 6] 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 (antichrist). 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 his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

The people of God

[Rev 7] 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 away by God.

The seventh seal

[Rev 8:1-5] 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

[Rev 8:6-11:19]

The first six trumpets

[Rev 8:6-9:21] The seven angels with seven trumpets now prepare themselves to sound. The first causes 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 its bitterness. Following the fourth trumpet, 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, a star falls that has the key to the bottomless pit, releasing smoke which darkens the sky, and locusts which are not permitted to consume any vegetation but are to torment those who do not have the seal of God on their forehead. 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

[Rev 10] Before the seventh trumpet, John is given a vision of future events. He sees a mighty angel with an open little 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

[Rev 11:1-14] 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 under foot for three and a half years, during which time two witnesses will 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 is over, they will be killed by the beast who ascends from the bottomless pit. Their bodies will be left in the street where 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 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

[Rev 11:15-19] 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 that 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 .
Seven churches Seven seals Seven trumpets Paul and his journeys Two beasts Seven bowls God’s final judgement

Hierarchical Précis