For a more detailed discussion, please read the detailed notes found on this site.
I. Chapters 1-11 The Fall of Jerusalem
A. Chapter 1
- Revelation 1:1 begins with very important words that informs us as to the nature of this book. The first verse tells us that the things that we are going to read about must “quickly take place.” Thus the events that we read about are not things that would happen thousands of years later, but were about to begin in the days of the first century readers.
- Further, Revelation 1:1 tells us that Jesus sent this letter and signified it through his angel. This is important for us to notice. Signified means that the book was literally put into signs. Thus, the things that we will read must be taken figuratively unless the text demands otherwise. Our normal hermeneutic toward the Bible is that we take all things literally unless the text demands otherwise. But verse one of Revelation demands that we take the book symbolically, for the angel put the book into signs.
- In Revelation 1:11 we see that the book is written to the seven churches of Asia. These churches actually existed in the days of John and it is to these seven churches that John’s revelation was to be sent. Because the seven churches are named and John is told to write to them, we must understand these churches as literally existing.
B. Chapters 2-3
- In Revelation 2-3 Jesus addresses these seven churches. The general message found to each of these churches is a commendation, a condemnation, and a promise to victors. We are able to get an idea of what these churches were going through when we read Revelation 2:9-10, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
- We read that these churches were suffering and going through tribulation. We know that during this time many of the Roman emperors were demanding worship to them and caused persecution against those who would not bow. In fact, to the church of Thyatira, Jesus speaks of a great tribulation that was occurring. The words great tribulation only occurs three times in the New Testament, twice in Revelation and once in Matthew 24. Matthew 24 is describing the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman empire. This gives us an early clue as to the dating of the book, for the destruction of Jerusalem occurred at 70 A.D.
C. Chapters 4-5
- In Revelation 4-5 we are allowed to peer into heaven and see the worship of the one who sits on the throne. The spiritual beings day and night without ceasing worship the Lord saying, “holy, holy, holy” and cast their crowns before the throne.
- A proclamation is made in heaven asking, “who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” No one in all of heaven and earth is found worthy to open the scroll except the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, who is Jesus Christ. John turns to see the Lion of Judah, and instead he sees the slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the spiritual beings in heaven. Jesus is worthy to open the scroll because he was slaughtered for the people so that they could be redeemed.
D. Chapters 6-7
- In Revelation 6 we see the Lamb open the scroll by breaking the seals. The seals reveal to us the images of war, death, and famine as the saints of God ask for vengeance because they had been slaughtered. This vengeance for the saints is pictured by Jesus in Luke 21:22-24 as being fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. But before the judgment falls in its completion, chapter 7 shows that the saints of God must be sealed first to be protected from the judgment to come.
- In Revelation 7 the saints of God are depicted as the 144,000, a complete number showing that all of God’s covenant people are part of this sealing. Then, one of the 24 elders reveals to John exactly who are all these people. Revelation 7:14, “These are the one coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are the ones who had gone through the great tribulation that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24. These are protected by the Lord and are before the throne of God.
E. Chapters 8-11
- The seventh seal is opened and there is silence for about half an hour. This is significant in light of chapters 4-5 where we saw the spiritual beings always praising God. Now there is silence as we will see the calm before the storm.
- In chapter 8 we see the seven trumpets which reveal great judgment upon a nation. These images show that there is nothing that will not be touched in this judgment that is brought by the Lord. The purpose of these judgments was to make the people repent (9:20-21). The people would not repent, despite the warning signs of judgment, as Jesus gave the signs in Matthew 24, so the final judgment is about to come in Revelation 10.
- A mighty angel puts one foot on the sea and one foot on the land to signify the great power and authority of his message. The angel states that there will no longer be delay, but when the seventh angel blows his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed. This is the exact same scene that is found in Daniel 12:7. That which was sealed up in Daniel about the nation of Israel is now revealed and completed when the seventh angel blows his trumpet. Daniel prophesied of the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, which is Rome destroying Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24-27; Luke 21:20).
- Chapter 11 tells us more clearly that these judgments are against the nation of Israel for its wickedness. In Revelation 11:1-2, John is told to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshippers, because the holy city was to given to the Gentiles who will trample the city for 42 months. This is exactly what Jesus spoke against Jerusalem in Luke 21:22-24. To further prove that God’s judgment is against Jerusalem, Revelation 11:8 says that it is the city “called symbolically, Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” There is only one place where the Lord was crucified, and that city is Jerusalem. God was done with the nation of Israel. Judgment would befall them and would show the people that being born of Abraham physically was no longer a sign of a covenant relationship with God. In Revelation 11:15 we see the seventh angel blow his trumpet, so that God’s hidden plan is now revealed and executed. This is the end of the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people. This helps us date the writing of the book before 70 A.D.
- Now nearly everyone says, no matter what view they take, that chapters 12-19 are visions of the same thing that was revealed in chapters 4-11. I do not believe that this can be true, for the symbols are very different in each section. Further, why would God spend the second half of the book saying the exact same thing in the first half of the book. Instead, we must carefully look to understand what else is being revealed to the first century Christians.
II. Chapters 12-22 The Fall of the Roman Empire and Satan
A. Chapters 12-13
- New images are revealed to us as we now see a great fiery red dragon, who is Satan (Rev. 12:9). The dragon has great power and attempts to devour the child. The child is a symbol of Jesus, for he is described as ruling the nations with a rod of iron. But before the dragon and devour the child, the child is caught up to God and his throne, depicted the ascension of Jesus. Jesus conquers death, ascends to heaven, and reigns on the throne. Meanwhile, God’s covenant people, depicted as the woman, flees to the wilderness for protection.
- The dragon wages war in heaven but loses and is cast out of heaven with his angels. The dragon then tries to persecute God’s covenant people again, but does not succeed, enraging the dragon all the more. Chapter 12 shows us images of the failures of Satan.
- But Satan is not done in his attempts to conquer. In chapter 13 the dragon raises from the sea a beast who would blaspheme God and wage war against the saints. The description of the beast in Revelation 13:1-2 are parallel to Daniel 7:3-8. In Daniel, these images refer to the world empires. Thus, the description of the beast in Revelation shows it is the embodiment of all the world empires, specifically the empire that ruled in the days of the first century Christians, the Roman empire. It is the Roman empire that demanded worship of it and had great power over the whole world (Rev. 13:3-8).
- In verse 11 we see another beast coming out of the earth. This beast has the appearance of the Lamb but it sounds like the beast, showing the religious deception this beast would perform. This beasts authority comes from the beast of the sea, the Roman empire, forcing the peoples of the earth to worship the beast or die. This beast represents the religious power within the Roman empire. It was the provinces and localities that forced this worship of the emperors of Roman. The pagan worship was forced upon the Christians such that they would die if they did not bow. But verse 18 is the picture of hope. The emperors are merely men and are not deity, so do not bow and worship them.
B. Chapters 14-16
- In Revelation 14 we see the 144,000, the saved people of God, protected by God. They are the redeemed, undefiled and blameless. For the rest of the people, the warning is given in Revelation 14:7, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come.” The people must turn to God before the judgment comes upon them.
- Revelation 14:8 announces that Babylon the great has fallen because it made all the world commit sexual immorality. In verses 9-10, the third angel comes and warns against worshipping the beast, which is the Roman empire. Thus, Babylon the great is another description for the Roman empire.
- In Revelation 14:14-20 the judgments begin in attempts to get the peoples of the world to repent before it is too late and they are consumed. Chapter 15 shows the preparation of the bowls of wrath that are going to be poured out upon the earth (Rev. 16:1).
- In chapter 16 the bowls of wrath are poured out depicting judgment upon all the power, wealth, beauty of Rome. All of the empire would be brought down in God’s judgments because they made the nations commit wickedness. Yet these powerful judgments do not turn the people to God, but away from God (Rev. 16:9,21). Now the details of the end of Rome and its power will be depicted.
C. Chapters 17-18
- In Revelation 17, John is shown the judgment that will fall upon the notorious prostitute who sits on many waters. We see in verse 3 that this woman rides upon the beast of the Roman empire (Rev. 17:7-8). Verses 5-6 tells us that the woman is the mother of all prostitutes who is drunk upon the blood of the saints.
- Verses 9-14 may be some of the most difficult images, but we are told that the seven mountains are seven kings, typically understood to be the emperors of Rome. Starting with Augustus, five have fallen which would mean that Vespasian is the one that is, Titus is the one yet to come, and the one that goes to destruction is Domitian. However one understands these images, we must be able to reconcile them to the images of Daniel 7:24. I believe this is a passage that we take literally because the text demands it by its details. The angel is communicating that the persecution was occurring under many of the emperors, in particular Nero, but is not now, but will come up again with the eighth Domitian. For more reasoning as to how this explanation came about, see my notes on Revelation 17.
- With this understanding, this helps us date the writing of the book further. We knew that it must be before 70 A.D. since we see the destruction of Jerusalem prophesied. Here we see that Vespasian is now on the throne putting our time at 68/69 A.D.
- We are now given clarity as to who the notorious woman refers to. In verse 15 we see that the woman sits on many waters, showing its power over peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. Verse 18 tells us that the woman is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth. There is only one city at that time that had power over all the world and an empire over the earth. Only the city of Rome fits this picture.
- Chapter 18 shows all of Rome and its empire will fall. Its commercial abilities, it wealth, and its power will all be stripped away and Rome will never rise again as a powerful empire on the earth.
D. Chapters 19-20
- Now there is rejoicing in heaven for God has judged all that has persecuted the saints. Vengeance has now been fulfilled against Jerusalem and Rome. Revelation 19:15 shows Jesus trampling over his enemies. The beast, the false prophets, and all its armies and followers are conquered, being cast into the lake of fire.
- The only enemy that is left is the dragon, Satan himself. In chapter 20 Satan Is seized and bound so that he cannot deceive the nations any longer. Satan would be bound for the amount of time that Christ will reign (Rev. 19:4-6). We must remember that we are reading symbols and the one thousand years refers to a full period of time in which Christ will reign.
- Once this thousand year period has ended, Satan will be released to deceive the nations again, but before he can harm again, Satan is cast into the lake of fire and tormented forever and ever.
- At this time, the final judgment will occur where the books are opened and all will be judged according to their deeds (Rev. 20:12). Anyone not found in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire where the devil and his angels are in eternal torment.
E. Chapters 21-22
- Victor belongs to the Lord as a new heaven and earth are seen, symbolizing the new order that will exist in the end. Now the saints of God will be joined with the Lord in heaven, as all that we know of the earth will be passed away. Verse 4 tells us that we will be with the Lord where there is no death, no grief, no crying, and no pain because all of that will have passed away.
- We then see New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God in its final, perfected state, coming down out of heaven. We are allowed to see the splendor, glory, and power of that city that the saints will belong. Nothing false or evil can enter into the city of God (Rev. 21:27).
- In chapter 22 we see the living waters and tree of life is made available to the servants of God. Then the angel as well as Jesus give the final warnings that these things would begin quickly. These judgments were not thousands of years away, but would begin in a year. Therefore hold fast to the Lord for he has won the battle and obtained the victory.
F. The other views
- There are two other major views among God’s people concerning the focus and date of Revelation. The most popular view is called the late date, which suggests that the whole book is talking about the Roman empire and was written in 96 A.D. Yet we have seen that there are clear images of judgment against Jerusalem, and the book of Daniel validates our view. As we have noted, one of the important prophecies of Daniel is the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. This event was revealed more clearly in Revelation.
- The other major view is called the early date. This view says that the whole book is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and was therefore written in 68 A.D. While Revelation certain depicts judgment against Jerusalem, there are too many images that also depict the end of the Roman empire. Daniel again vindicates our view for Daniel 2 and 7 describe the terrible images of the Roman empire which greatly frighten Daniel. These things were also revealed in greater detail in Revelation.
- I believe the view I have presented to you best fits with the prophecies of Daniel. In Daniel 12, the angel tells Daniel to seal up the things in the book to the time of the end. The last days came began in the first century, as Hebrews 1:1-2 proves, thus the things in Daniel were to no longer be sealed, but revealed, hence the name of the book, Revelation.