An Introduction to The Book of Revelation
By Steven J. Hogan
The book of Revelation is a must read for all Christians, especially those of us living in the end times, that time defined by the second regathering of the Jews to Israel. Over 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was revealed at His first coming as the Savior, the Servant, and the Son of Man. At that time, Jesus lived a perfect life, and then He suffered, died and rose again, with a purpose to righteously and mercifully save people from their sin, from death and from hell. Then Jesus ascended into heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the Father, awaiting that day when He will return to this earth. Because we now are living in the end times, we know that Jesus Christ will soon be revealed again at His second coming. Then He will be seen as the Son of God, a holy Judge, a mighty King, and the Lord of lords. Revelation 1:4-8
Christians should be encouraged, excited, and thankful that God has given us this book of Revelation, for it is altogether true, most relevant, life-changing, but also very sobering. We must not ignore or be ambivalent or be apathetic about this book. Might we read it and re-read it to learn what God wants us to learn, and know then how we are to live in these days. Indeed, this is the last great prophetic book that tells us about the future that God has in store for us, and what is absolutely and undoubtedly going to come to pass. 1 Peter 1:10-16
Let me mention a number of points that we need to understand about this book of Revelation:
1. The book of Revelation reveals to us the character of Jesus Christ, that He is holy and just, loving and merciful, and powerful and sovereign. It reveals to us the person of Christ, that He is the Lord, the Lamb, the Judge and the King. It also reveals to us the work of Christ – His amazing love for the church and for the Jews, and His holy justice upon a wicked world. Revelation 1:12-16
2. The book of Revelation is for the church. This entire book was written to seven churches back in the first century, and it was also written for all the churches since that time. But now it is specifically relevant for the churches that exist in the end times, that time period before Jesus Christ returns to earth. Why would God give us these seven letters in this great prophetic book if they weren’t vitally important in these days right before the second coming of Christ? Revelation 2-3
3. The book of Revelation focuses on the righteous and the unrighteous. He speaks about the righteous – the angels, the church, and a remnant of Jews. And He speaks about the unrighteous – the unbelievers, and God’s enemies, Satan, the Antichrist and the false prophet. God’s work with these spirits and these people in the end times, and their inter-working with one another and their effect on the world is explained in this book.
4. The book of Revelation instructs us about future, end time events on this earth. God does not want us to be ignorant or surprised by what will be taking place in the days and years to come. This book instructs us to be living pure and holy lives, to be courageous overcomers, to be proclaiming the life-changing gospel, to be teaching the truth, and to be correcting error. This book motivates us to live our lives all out for God. This book encourages us to carry out His plans on earth and to be looking and longing for our Lord and Savior to return and to rapture us to heaven. Mark 13:23
5. The book of Revelation brings to a completion God’s Word, but by no means does it speak of the completion of God’s plan for man. It is the end of the Bible, the end of the book, but not the end of the story. We must read it so we can know what God has done, is doing, and what He will do in the future. It is primarily a prophetic book, a predictive book, a book about God’s purposes, and since it is God’s Word, then we know that it will come true, that it will be fulfilled, and that this prayer will be answered, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
6. The book of Revelation covers three different ages. This book is about the present age, particularly this church age (Revelation 2-19). It is also about the next age, the millennial kingdom age (Revelation 19-20). And it is about the final age, the eternal kingdom age (Revelation 21-22). Most of the Bible is about this present age we live in now (Galatians 1:4, Genesis 3 – Revelation 19), but the book of Revelation takes us from this present age to the millennial kingdom age, which then leads to the eternal kingdom age. Revelation 5:11-14
7. The book of Revelation shows that in the end times God’s work with the Jews is converging and coinciding with God’s work in the church. This is seen in Revelation 7, Revelation 10-11, Revelation 12, Revelation 20 and Revelation 21. God’s work with the Jews has for the most part been separate from His work with the church, but now in the book of Revelation it all comes together, and it will be most clearly seen during the millennial kingdom. Psalms 67, 72, 102
8. The book of Revelation can be read and understood. Why would God give us Revelation 1:3 – “Blessed is he who reads and those who understand the words of this prophecy, and heed the things written in it,” if you couldn’t read it and understand it? Many people, including Christians, say this book is too hard to understand, that it’s too difficult, that it’s too confusing. But might we not stay ignorant, or be in error, and just give up on it. The humble and Spirit filled Christian can read, study and understand this book. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Through prayer, proper and diligent Bible study, and through good teachers, God will bless your efforts. Might you be a good student of this book, and know it inside and out, and apply it to your life, and then pass it on to others. Now at this time, in the calm before the storm, might you be studying this great and last prophetic book of the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:15
9. The book of Revelation is to be understood in a literal way. There are some who say much of it has already taken place, but that is not true. Then there are those who treat it as allegorical, metaphorical or symbolic. They spiritualize it, saying 144,000 Jews doesn’t mean 144,000 Jews, or 1,000 years doesn’t mean 1,000 years, or that 7 trumpets doesn’t mean 7 trumpets. Then tell me, what does it mean? And for those who don’t properly interpret this book, there will be 101 different meanings this side of heaven. But that’s not true, for there’s only one meaning this side of heaven. Might God help you to discover it. Let me say it this way – God means what He says! If He says seven stars are seven angels then they are seven angels. If He says there will be hail and fire mixed with blood, then there will be hail and fire mixed with blood. If he says “something like a mountain”, then it is not a mountain but it is something like a mountain. This is what we call a “face value hermeneutic”, interpreting the passage at face value, in a natural, normal, customary sense. We are to understand what we read in the book of Revelation by taking it literally, at “face value”. This doesn’t mean we ignore obvious figures of speech, but that does eliminate substituting the literal meaning for some underlying and deeper spiritual meaning.
10. The book of Revelation should not be tampered with. That means you are not to add to it, to try to make it say more than it says, to try to make it mean more than it means. Many people will wrongly interpret this book and will say strange and weird things. Don’t be one of them. And don’t be one who subtracts from the book, who takes away the truth, the prophesies, saying that they have already taken place, or that they mean something else. It is unwise, it is unrighteous, and it is a most serious offense to tamper with God’s Word. This is not man’s word, this is God’s Word, and so don’t change it in any way, shape or form. Revelation 22:18-19
11. The book of Revelation does not tell us all that is going to happen in the end times, but only what God wants us to know, and therefore what we need to know. Isn’t this wonderful? Might we be most humble, most diligent and most studious to find out what God wants us to know, and what He wants us to do. Mark 13:23, Revelation 1:1-3
12. The book of Revelation is more relevant now than ever before, for we are living in those days shortly before the return of Jesus Christ. Now is the time, as Daniel 12:4 makes clear, when these prophetic words will no longer be concealed but will be unsealed. It is so encouraging to think that they have been unsealed for those of us living in the 21st century. Now is the time that it is beginning to make sense, that it is coming true right before our very eyes. Might we find out what this book says, and be like the men of Issachar, “men who understood the times, and knew what they should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32
13. The book of Revelation is supported by many other Scriptures and prophetic passages, particularly ones from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew 24, Luke 21 and 1-2 Thessalonians. To truly and fully understand the book of Revelation, it is not just helpful, but it is necessary to study these passages, and in particular, Daniel and Matthew 24.
14. The book of Revelation is the concluding book of the Bible, or we could say the last chapter of the Bible. You all know how important it is to read the last chapter of the book. Without this book, the Bible is incomplete. For example, there was an old heaven and old earth, and in the future there will be a new heaven and new earth. There was the old Adam reigning over earth, and in the future there will be a new Adam reigning over earth. In the past, Adam and Eve were perfect, and in the future all believers will be perfect. And so don’t be like some people who read the entire Bible and then skip the book of Revelation. Read it and study it and you will see how the last pieces of the puzzle are and will be fitting together to give you the completed puzzle, the big picture.
15. The book of Revelation is written chronologically. Revelation 1 is the introduction. Revelation 2-3 is the church age. Revelation 4-5 is the heaven scene. Revelation 6-7 concludes the church age. Revelation 8-9 speaks of God’s judgment on earth, taking us to the end of Daniel’s 70th week. Revelation 10-14 is parenthetical, describing what takes place during the end times with regards to the Jews, Christians and Satan. Revelation 15-16 describes God’s judgment on Babylon. Revelation 17-19 is parenthetical, describing Babylon, Satan’s religious, economic and political system in the world. Revelation 20 speaks of Christ’s 1000 year kingdom. Finally Revelation 21-22 speaks about the eternal kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.
The book of Revelation contains many different themes, but the most important theme is the person, the character, the work and the centrality of Jesus Christ. Yes, the book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ. Let me summarize each chapter:
* Revelation 1 introduces Jesus Christ, giving a vivid description of him as Priest, Judge, and King, identifying His role for the rest of the book.
* Revelation 2-3 tells us about the church, the body of Christ, and the instructions from Christ how the church is to live for Him, whether that is in the 1st century or in the end times.
* Revelation 4, the heavenly scene, pictures a holy God, and this sets the stage for the rest of the book, which focuses on the holy justice of God carried out by Jesus Christ.
* Revelation 5 is exclusively about Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the One to be worshiped, and the only One who can breaks the seals, which then sets in motion the end time events.
* Revelation 6 tells us about Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, breaking seals 1-6, events that precede the rapture. It is seal six that signals the end of this present evil age.
* Revelation 7, between seals 6 and 7, speaks about both Jews and Christians, the sealing of 144000 Jews, and then Christ rapturing the church, rescuing her from the wrath to come.
* Revelation 8-9 speaks of Christ breaking seal 7, resulting in the blowing of trumpets 1-6. These trumpets speak of God’s wrath, the Day of the Lord, His judgment of unbelievers on planet earth.
* Revelation 10-11 tells us about Christ’s return to earth for the sake of the Jews, the two witnesses for Christ, and the blowing of the 7th trumpet, which is that time when the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
* Revelation 12-13 tells us about Satan and the Antichrist, Christs enemies, and their war against Him and the Jews and Christians, and Christ’s victory over them.
* Revelation 14 summarizes Christ’s work in the end times. It speaks of Jesus Christ the Lamb with 144,000 redeemed Jews. It tells us about angels preaching the gospel of Christ. It tells us about Christ the reaper, rapturing believers from the earth. It tells us about His judgment of the unbelievers, and how they will be tormented with fire in the presence of Christ.
* Revelation 15-18 speaks of Christ’s judgment, of God’s wrath upon the unbelieving world, specifically on the Antichrist’s kingdom, and on Babylon the Great, which symbolizes Satan’s religious and economic world systems.
* Revelation 19 speaks about the worship of Christ, the wedding of Christ, and the war of Christ against the Antichrist and His victory over them.
* Revelation 20 tells us about Christ’s 1000 year kingdom, and of Christ’s final judgment upon Satan and all the unbelievers.
* Revelation 21-22 speaks of the new heaven, new earth and new city, of God and Christ’s reign over heaven and earth, their relationship with the believers, and how we will be serving them forever. Three times Christ concludes, “Behold, I am coming soon.”
The book of Revelation describes events that will soon be seen and heard on this earth, and very possibly in our lifetime, if not in our children and grandchildren’s lifetime. Therefore, it is most relevant and important for us to read and understand this book. The dealings of God and Jesus Christ with the Jews, the church, the unbelievers, and with Satan and the Antichrist, are the main overall themes of this book. The character and purposes of God are powerfully, clearly, vividly and wonderfully described in this book of Revelation. Don’t forget the promise – “Blessed is he who reads and those who understand the words of this prophecy, and heed the things written in it.” Revelation 1:3. Finally, might you say to Jesus, “Come, Lord Jesus.”