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Bible Study: The Book of the Revelation – LESSON 1: Introduction and Chapter 1

Calvary Bible Church Bible Study

The Book of the Revelation

 

LESSON 1:  Introduction and Chapter 1

As we begin our study of the Book of the Revelation, you need to know where I am coming from in terms of theological viewpoint.  As you probably know, every Biblical commentator has a certain viewpoint that they operate from, which directly affects and influences how they deal with the Scriptures (and associated information).  The fancy way of describing my view would be to say that I am a “Pre-Millennial Fundamentalist”.  What that really means is that I believe that the majority of the events described in the Revelation occur immediately prior to a literal 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ, followed by the Eternal Kingdom.  I take the Bible literally, knowing that there is symbolism and allegory in God’s Word, but believing that what God specifically says is what He really means.  For example, I believe that there will be a real, literal “mark of the Beast” that people will choose to take at some point during the events of the 70th “week” of Daniel.  Although many modern commentators choose to teach that such material is only symbolic, I believe that God meant what He said, and that we need to be aware of the fact that a time will come when the people of the earth will have to knowingly choose whether or not to accept the mark of God’s enemy.

 

Another aspect of my “viewpoint” on Scripture is that I believe that the best way to study and interpret Scripture is in the light of Scripture.  By that I mean that whenever God uses symbols, or difficult to understand phrasing, you will find that He has explained His meaning in some other part of Scripture.  Using Scripture as its’ own commentary by cross-referencing, and by studying the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek), you will find that the vast majority of what people see as “confusing” or “impossible to understand” is actually quite clear.  This is not to say that there aren’t still some “mysteries” in God’s Word (particularly in the timing of the events in the Revelation), but it is not as unapproachable as most people think.

 

Having said all of that, let’s begin our study and analysis of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as given to John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos.

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

The author of this book is John the Apostle.  It was written on the Island of Patmos, where the Apostle John was exiled for the faith (1:9). Patmos, a small rocky island in the Mediterranean Sea, is about thirty-five miles southwest of Miletus. During the time of the Roman Empire, it was used as a place of banishment. Because of John’s exile here, the island was esteemed during subsequent times, although it was depopulated by pirates.  The date of the book is approximately 95/96 AD in the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (51–96 AD).

 

The indicated destination of the book, as given in chapters 1–3, was to certain churches in Asia, specifically, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  It is thought by some commentators that these specific churches were chosen not only because they were definitely representative of the various types of churches found throughout the world through all ages, but also because all of them were “central hubs” of the travel routes for that area at that time.  In this way, the messages to these churches (and to us) would be certain to spread.  But unquestionably, by its’ content and style, it was intended for other churches of that day and the church universal of all ages. The promise of blessing (1:3) cannot be restricted, and is intended for all believers of all ages of history, especially those who would read it and seek to understand it in the “latter days”.

 

The Book of the Revelation is in every sense of the word the capstone of the Bible, and its significance cannot be overestimated. It is indeed the grand consummation of all God’s earthly and heavenly plans and the supreme vindication of Christ’s person and work.

 

The Apostle John, steeped in Old Testament truth, communicates the visions and information that he receives with concepts and symbols that are the same as those in the Old Testament prophets of Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zechariah, as well as items from the Exodus Jeremiah, and Joel.  Although Revelation does not quote directly, its 404 verses contain about 550 references to the Old Testament.

 

There are four main interpretive approaches to the book.  Each one has its’ supporters among various denominations or groups.  However, only one is consistent with a literal acceptance and interpretation of Scripture.  These four approaches are:

 

1. The Historical Method. This view claims the book covers the entire history of the church, picturing the antagonism of the forces of evil in the world against the church.  It sees the events described in a symbolic sense, rather than literal.

 

2. The Praeterist. This approach sees the greater part of the prophecies as fulfilled in the past, especially in the confrontation of the church with the Roman Empire. The victory of the church is foretold and assured; Nero is seen as the AntiChrist, and the “world-wide” destruction is seen as applying to the fall of the Roman Empire.

 

3. The Spiritual. This method of interpretation holds that the book manifests the ultimate and permanent triumph of truth over error.  It does not take any of the events or images described as being literal or specific.

 

4. The Futurist Approach.  This approach maintains that from chapter 4 on all is predictive.  Thus, everything following the specific messages to the Churches of Asia relates to a future “end times” and Millennial Reign of Christ, followed by the final judgment and eternal kingdom.  Since the events described have not literally been fulfilled, this is the view that the vast majority of fundamentalists (including myself) adhere to.

 

The Book of the Revelation exhibits a threefold purpose:

1. To encourage believers. In the times of the Roman persecutions of the early church this book aimed to assure believers of the final victory of Christ.

2. To enlarge upon and add to the Old Testament. This book explained prophetic truth, especially in the area of the consummation of human history.

3. To present Christ as He enters His purchased possession. The Revelation is a vivid unveiling of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout creation.  Although Christ is the

Creator of all things, He has had to pay a price (His Own death) to redeem it from its’ fallen state of sin.

 

The style of the book is a message in symbolic language. The book can only be properly understood in light of the scores of symbols and figures from the Old Testament.  The book is an “apocalypse”, literally meaning an unveiling or disclosure. This type of literature is found in Isaiah 24–27, 65, 66; Joel 2:1–11, 28–32; Zechariah 9–14; and especially in Daniel. There are certain general characteristics of apocalypse which distinguish this literature from prophecy in general.

 

PROPHECY                                                 APOCALYPTIC

Content: both short-term AND            Content: Long-term future events.

long-term future events.

 

Deals with current situation as            Deals with ultimate conclusion of events.

well as future development.

 

Covers shorter period of time.             Covers longer period of time.

 

Deals primarily or only with Israel                 Deals with the entire world.

and/or the Jewish people.

 

Deals with Messiah’s rule of Israel.              Deals with Messiah’s rule of the world.

 

Visions implied, usually not                          Visions explicitly described and

described in detail.                                        Interpreted.

 

Visions are “natural”, such as                       Visions are not naturalistic (10 horned

bones, potters, and other                              beasts etc.)

realistic items.

 

Usually written in poetry.                         Always written in prose.

 

 

COMMENTARY:

THE VISION OF THE RISEN CHRIST. 1:1–20.

vrs     1-2               The title of the book is found in verse 1.  The correct title for the book indicates that it is not a revelation of John, but of Jesus Christ. The unveiling tells what He will accomplish in consummating time and bringing us into eternity.  The truth embodied in this book is so significant that it is expressed five times:

1) the Father to the Son

2) the Son to the mediating angel

3) the mediating angel to John the apostle/prophet

4) John to the seven specific churches

5) the seven churches to God’s servants (which includes YOU, if you are

a born-again Christian).

 

Emphasis is laid on the fact that John not only heard messages, but he saw visions as well.   The statement “Things which must shortly come to pass” gives no basis for the historical interpretation of the book. Events are seen here from the perspective of the Lord and not from the human viewpoint (see 2nd Peter 3:8). The same Greek words appear in Luke 18:7–8 (Greek “en tachei”), where the delay is clearly a prolonged one.  “He sent and signified it by his angel.”  He signified (Greek “eseµmanen”) the message; that is, He conveyed it by signs to the angel to be brought to John (and then to us) (as an example, refer to the “sign” found in Isaiah; that a virgin would conceive, proving that the child born was the Messiah).  In this case (Revelation), the message of judgment and of Christ’s victory are verified by specific signs that will show that what was fore-told was the truth.  When we see the signs that we are told of, we know that this is the time that was prophesied.  In both the Old and New Testament the ministry of angels is employed with regard to future events (Ezekiel 1:5, Daniel 8:16, Zechariah 1:9, Acts 8:26, 10:3, 7).

 

vrs     3                  The promised blessing.  Only this book in the Bible pronounces a blessing on “he that readeth” (which is in the singular form because with few copies of the Scriptures in those days, one read while many could hear), and “they that hear and keep (obey)” those things which are written. Scripture can only be effective when applied in the life. It is vital to notice that the book is called the prophecy.  Future things are at the heart of the book.  Once again, the phrase “The time is at hand” (Greek ho kairos engus) appears only twice in the Revelation, and neither reference indicates the possible length involved.  Again, all is seen from the perspective of God.  This time reference DOES NOT support the Historical interpretation of this book; rather, it refers to a time that is still future TO US, but is clearly seen in God’s eyes, since He is omniscient (all knowing).

 

vrs     4                  “John to the seven churches which are in Asia.”  The writer is the Apostle John (see Introduction), who is mentioned besides here in 1:1, 9; 22:8.  Asia does not refer to the continent of Asia, but rather to the Roman province of Asia Minor. There were other churches in the province (e.g., Colossae), but these were chosen because of specific characteristics in them. The salutation combines both the Greek (grace) and Hebrew (peace) elements found in the New Testament books, and issues from all the Godhead: the sevenfold fullness of the Holy Spirit (see Isaiah 11:2), the eternal Father, and Jesus Christ the Mediator.

 

vrs     5-6               Christ is seen in His threefold office as prophet, priest, and king. The Father is on the throne; the Spirit is before the throne; and the Son is connected with the earth as supreme Ruler.  We as Christians take great comfort in the description of Jesus as the One Who is the faithful witness, firstborn of the dead (thus proving the resurrection), and the ruler of earth’s kings, who will bring the entire earth unto subjection to Him, righting all wrongs.   As redeemed ones, believers constitute a kingdom and are kings and priests unto God. Since Christ is both king and priest, those who are His own partake of His nature and offices. Notice the emphasis on glory and dominion, a dual objective of the entire book (see Revelation 20:6; also 2nd Timothy 2:12).

 

vrs     7                  The second coming of Christ to earth in fulfillment of Old Testament prediction (see Daniel 7:13) will be seen by all kindreds of the earth at that time, inclusive of Israel and the nations. The time spoken of here is that spoken of in Zechariah 12:10. But believers also now long for that coming, and wait with great expectation and hope.

 

Starting with verse 8, we are introduced to the author of the message, Jesus Christ in all of His glory and authority.

 

vrs     8                  Jesus identifies Himself as the “ALPHA AND OMEGA” (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) in the Greek, which would be the “ALEPH AND TAV” in Hebrew.  The significance of this title is seen when you look into an interlinear Bible (which is a Bible that has the actual Hebrew and Greek lettering, with a literal , word-by-word translation), and see the actual Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 (which is read from right to left).

 

 

ha-aretz        wh-eet      hashamayim    eht         Elohim           ba-rah    B-reh’shiyt

 

In the middle of this verse is a 2 letter Hebrew word that cannot be translated into English, and is thus left out of all English translations.  This Hebrew word, pronounced “eht” in Hebrew, is listed by translators as an “untranslatable article”.  It is made up of the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, ALEPH and TAV, and would change the English rendering of Genesis 1:1 as follows:

“In the beginning, God (ALEPH/TAV) created the heavens and the earth.”

When you then look at the Gospel of John, 1:1-4, and 1:14, you see that the WORD (which is in SINGULAR form in the original Greek) is God, and created all things.  Then this WORD became flesh, and dwelt among us.

 

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”               The King James Version,  1769.

 

The WORD that is described in John is a SINGULAR word, and the only singular word of God that is named in creation is the ALEPH/TAV.  In the Revelation, Jesus begins His identification with the Greek form of the WORD that was seen in Genesis (ALPHA and OMEGA, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), identifying Himself as God and Creator.  This is important because it ties the Revelation to the beginning of the Bible, establishes that Jesus is God and Creator, and signals that this book will be more closely related to the Old Testament than the New (in that it deals with the Second Coming, establishment of the eternal kingdom and so forth; rather than the First Coming and death of Christ, as is the case with the majority of the New Testament).  The final name listed, “The Almighty” is literally “Adoni T’zvaot” (Lord God of Heavens Armies, or Lord of Hosts).

 

vrs     9                  John, already seen in verse 4, identifies himself with his readers as “your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ”.  The tribulation referred to is not the one so fully described in the Revelation, but those trials common to all believers in this life (see Acts 14:22), and more particularly, endured in that day under the widespread persecutions of Domitian the Roman emperor. The kingdom mentioned relates to the kingdom on earth to be established through the coming of the Lord Jesus to earth. The perseverance spoken of is that patience and steadfastness required in the midst of persecutions.  “The isle that is called Patmos.”  Indeed, John was writing that very hour from a lonely island where he had been banished for his fidelity to the Word of God.

 

vrs     10                Just as all Scripture is given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so John was under the control of the Holy Spirit when the vision was revealed to him. What is meant by the Lord’s day?  It is a reference to the day that was common for worship among Gentile believers; the first day of the week, Sunday.  Jewish believers tended to continue to worship on Saturday, the Sabbath.  However, historical records indicate that many mixed groups accommodated each other by worshipping on Saturday afternoon (thus, on the Sabbath) continuing into Saturday evening (after sundown, and thus on the first day of the week, also).  “A great voice” is that of Christ and is likened to a trumpet (shofar, in Hebrew) sound to indicate that the message was a matter of great public importance.

 

vrs     11                The seven churches (see verse 4) to whom the book is sent are named in the order that regular messengers would carry letters along the trade and travel routes, going from northwest to northeast and southeast.

 

vrs     12                There is an allusion to the 7 branched oil lampstand (MENORAH) in the tabernacle and Temple, with Christ in the midst in the place of preeminent authority. Although the primary menorah of Scripture is the one that stood outside the veil in the Tabernacle and Herod’s Temple, there is mention of multiple lampstands (menorahs) in Solomon’s Temple (10 menorah’s, according to Jewish historical material) in 1st Chronicles 28:15.  Verse 20 explicitly states that the lampstands are churches; with the churches seen in their sphere of earthly authority.

 

vrs     13                Christ is revealed as the High Priest coming in judgment, seen in the High Priestly garb of the golden girdle.

 

vrs     14                His head … hairs … white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire. This description of the Lord Jesus Christ is reminiscent of the judgment scene of Daniel 7:13–14. What is stated in Daniel of “the Ancient of days” (the Father) is true of the Son, because they are both truly Divine.  In a study of Biblical symbolism, you will find that WHITE is the color symbolizing purity, while flame is indicative of 2 things; the Holy Spirit, and Judgment.

*** Refer to the “Symbolism Chart” found as the last page of this study***

 

vrs     15                In judgment Christ will trample the winepress of God’s wrath (Isaiah 63:1–6). His powerful voice will not be lifted to quiet the troubled sea, but to call down the judgment of God on the wicked.

vrs     16                The seven stars (explained in vrs. 20) are securely under His complete control. The two-edged sword is His Word (see Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 19:15 and 21), which will be active in the coming judgments. Regarding His countenance, here are brilliance, splendor, and holy strength.

 

vrs     17-18           Though John had fellowship with the Lord in His earthly ministry, the vision of the risen Christ was so glorious and overpowering that John fell at his feet as though dead.   “Fear not.”  John is reassured by Christ’s word concerning His person and nature.  Once again we see the statement “I AM the First and the Last”, which another reference to the Aleph and Tav.  He is the Eternal One; He dominates time: “I am he that liveth. He lived, lives, and lives forever”; He has supreme authority over death and Hades (see Joshua 3:10, where the term “living God” is in the constant present tense, indicating that God has been, is now, and always will be alive).

 

vrs     19                “Write the things which thou hast seen … which are … which shall be hereafter.”  This is the key verse of the book; it indicates the threefold plan of the prophecy.  What John HAD seen: his experience with Christ as the Crucified One.  What John saw NOW: persecution of the Church under Domitian.  What John saw of what WOULD be: the “end of days” when the culmination of God’s plan would occur with the Tribulation and 2nd Coming, Millennial Reign, and Eternal Kingdom.  This is the only safe guide to its correct interpretation.

 

vrs     20                The angels of the seven churches are not literal angels, nor believers in general; but, as chapters 2–3 show, they are pastors, or ministers, of the local churches in places of authority and responsibility.   Pastors/Ministers have a direct responsibility to convey the Word of God FROM God TO the people that have been entrusted to their care.   They must not only convey that Word TRUTHFULLY (not changing it to suit their own doctrinal ideas or priorities) but also COMPLETELY (not leaving out the parts that will make the people uncomfortable).  Local congregations are likened to seven lampstands in order to convey their function of testimony and to spread the light of the gospel (see Matthew 5:14-16).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BASIC BIBLICAL SYMBOLISM AND NUMEROLOGY CHART

The following is a very basic chart of symbolic and number meaning found in the Bible.  They were determined by examining all of the Scripture portions dealing with these items and deriving the overall meaning and common denominators from how they were repeatedly used. 

 

SYMBOLS

Gold                                 =        Deity

Silver                               =        Redemption

Brass                               =        Judgement

Blue                                 =        Heavenly Nature (Perfection)

Purple                              =        Royalty

Scarlet/Red                      =        Sacrifice

Wood (Accacia/Shittim)   =        Humanity

Fine Linen (White)           =        Righteousness

Oil                                    =        Holy Spirit

Rams Skins                      =        Atonement

Goats Hair                       =        Atonement

Badgers Skins                 =        Humanity / Outward Appearance Of Christ

Horn                                =        Power / Authority

Eyes                                =        Wisdom

Serpent                            =        Sin / Devil

Lion                                 =        King

Beast                               =        Living Creature

Earthquake / Thunder      =        Judgement

Voices                              =        Intelligence

Crystal / Glass                 =        Holiness / Purity

Rainbow                           =        Covenant

Sea                         =       Earthly Nations / (if applied to something in              heaven)           

                                                  Endless or Limitless

Fire                                  =        Holy Spirit

Green                              =        Life

                             

NUMBERS

One                        =        Unity / Sovereignty / God

Two                       =        Division / Trouble, can also mean Unity (as in marriage)

Three                     =        Trinity / Perfection

Four                       =        Earth

Five                        =        Grace

Six                         =        Sin / Man

Seven                    =        Divine Perfection

Eight                      =        Resurrection / New Beginning

Nine                       =        Judgement

Ten                        =        World Number (worldly government, control of world)

Eleven                    =        Incomplete / Sinful

Twelve                   =        Governmental Perfection (Godly government)

Forty                      =        Generation / Judgement

Fifty                       =        Freedom / Joy / Jubilee

Seventy                 =        Lifespan / Perfect World Government