I am starting to teach The Revelation at my weekly "Bible for Dummies" class at Royal Palm, each Wednesday at 7:00PM. For those who cannot make the class, I'll be posting the audio and notes from each week on my blog. My hope and prayer is that you will be blessed.
The Revelation is a difficult book to interpret but it is always a blessing for the one who seeks the Lord in it. I will do my best to unpack the imagery and teach the explicit clearly. Pray for me as I teach it...and I'll pray for all of us that Holy Spirit gives us insight to what God is doing.
Anyone who says they have The Revelation figured out completely is fooling him/herself. I will try to give alternative interpretations, but also my own understanding. The bottom line is, though, that this book is intended to prepare the reader for the Coming of the Lord, give insight to the signs, and reassure the hope that is ours when we trust Jesus for our salvation. I am absolutely confident that we will grow in those as we study The Revelation.
God bless, Kirk McCormick.
Background on the Book of Revelation
** “Revelation” differs from all the other books of the Bible in that it is strictly “Apocalyptic” (from Greek: apocalypsis = to reveal).
· Other books of the Bible contain apocalyptic language (e.g.: Daniel, Ezekiel), but only Revelationis strictly apocalyptic in style and intent.
· Interestingly, Revelation seems to be more similar in style and intent to the Jewish apocalyptic (200BC-200AD) books like Enoch, Abraham, Ezra, Baruch which were not included in the Bible. The primary difference is that, in the Jewish writings, the turning point of history is the future event of the Messiah’s coming as a conquering warrior-king. In Revelation the climactic event has already occurred in the victory of the slain Lamb (chapter 5). Now, however, the Lamb’s victory is being worked out in history in the obedient suffering of his followers (12:11; 15:2).
** Some basic historic facts:
· Authorship: John (of the Gospel fame) is the author
· Date: approximately 90-95AD…likely during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Domitian
· Location: on the island of Patmos
4 Traditional Ways of Interpreting the Revelation of John
** Four traditional ways of understanding Revelation 4-22 have emerged in the history of the church. In our day, additional mixed views have been developed by combining elements from these four traditions.
· This view is that, with the exception of chapters 1 to 3, all the visions in Revelation relate to a period immediately preceding and following the second coming of Christ at the end of the age.
o Therefore, the seals, trumpets, and bowls refer to events still in the future; the beasts of chapters 13 and 17 are identified with the future Antichrist, who will appear at the last moment in world history and will be defeated by Christ in his second coming to judge the world and to establish his earthly millennial kingdom.
· As the word implies, this view centers on history and its continuity as seen in Revelation.
· In this approach, the book of Revelation follows a historic timeline, some of which was fulfilled in John’s day and some will be fulfilled in the future, culminating in the Second Coming of Jesus.
· In the various schemes that developed as this method was applied to history, one element became common: the Antichrist and Babylon were connected with Rome and the papacy.
· Later, Luther, Calvin, and other Reformers came to adopt this view. That this approach does not enjoy much favor today is largely because of the lack of consensus as to the historical identification it entails.
· According to this view, Revelation is to be seen as related to what happened in the time of the author. Thus, it is a contemporary and imminent historical document.
· The main contents of chapters 4-22 are viewed as describing events wholly limited to John’s own time.
· So each character has a current value and a future meaning.
o For example, the beasts of chapter 13 are identified respectively as imperial Rome and the imperial priesthood.
· So…viewed in this way, Revelation expresses the hope of the early church that Jesus would return in their lifetimes to free them from the oppression of Rome.
· This method of interpreting Revelation sees it as being basically poetical, symbolic, and spiritual in nature. In fact, it is sometimes called the spiritualist view—not, of course, in reference to the cult of spiritualism, but because it “spiritualizes” everything in the book.
· Thus Revelation does not predict any specific historical events at all; on the contrary, it sets forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil that continues throughout the church age.
· As a system of interpretation, it is more recent than the three other schools and somewhat more difficult to distinguish from the earlier allegorizing approaches. Nevertheless, this view believes that Revelation does reflect the great timeless realities of the battle between God and Satan and of divine judgment. It sees history as being ultimately in the hand of Sovereign God, but certainly it also depicts the consummation of this battle and the triumph of Christ in history through his coming in glory.
** The main contents of Revelation are given in terms of a series of “sevens” – some explicit, some implied. Why “seven”? Because “seven” is the number of perfection/completion in the Bible. (For example, 7 days equals a complete week...7 notes in a musical scale…7 colors of the rainbow)
· seven churches (chapters 2-3), seven seals (chapters 6-7), seven trumpets (chapters 8-11), seven signs (chapters 12-15), seven bowls (chapters 16-18), seven last things (chapters 19-22).
** It is also possible to divide the contents around four key visions:
1. The vision of the Son of man among the seven churches (chapters 1-3);
2. The vision of the seven-sealed scroll, the seven trumpets, the seven signs, and the seven bowls (chapters 4:1-19:10);
3. The vision of the return of Christ and the consummation of this age (chapters 19:11-20:15);
4. The vision of the new heaven and new earth (chapters 21-22).
Primary Views of the Tribulation and the “Rapture”
Concerning the Tribulation (See Matthew 24:21)
** The Bible states that in the time just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ, the world will experience a time of unprecedented pain and suffering. This seven-year period is referred to as the Great Tribulation.
** To understand the Tribulation is to study Daniel’s prophecy (more than 600 years before Jesus was on earth) about the “Seventy Sevens”
Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. (Daniel 9:24-27 - NIV)
** What does this passage mean?
· Seventy Sets of Seven is 490 years.
· 490 years have been decreed to:
o Finish their rebellion against God (accept Christ as the Messiah)
o Put an end to their sin (make a conscious decision to stop sinning)
o Atone for their guilt (accept the blood of Christ as payment for sin)
o Bring in everlasting righteousness (witness the establishment of Christ's Millennial Kingdom)
o Confirm the prophetic vision (witness the fulfillment of all Messianic prophecies)
o Anoint the most Holy place (witness the anointing of the Temple by means of the physical presence of the glorified Messiah, Jesus Christ)
** When asked about it, Jesus said (Matthew 24:15-21)
So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. (NIV)
Concerning the “Rapture”
** The word, “Rapture” does not appear in the Bible. It comes from the Latin verb, raptare (equivalent of the Greek: haptizo) = to be “caught up”.
** The primary passages for this teaching are 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up (Latin: rapio = rapture) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 
View 1 – Pre-Tribulation
Those who accept this perspective believe the Rapture will happen just before the tribulation period.
· The Rapture will usher in the final seven years of this age.
· True followers of Jesus Christ will be transformed into their spiritual bodies in the Rapture and taken from the Earth to be in Heaven with God.
· Non-believers will be left behind to face severe tribulation as the antichrist prepares to take his place as the Beast half way through the seven-year period.
· Non-believers will still come to accept Christ, in spite of the Church's absence during this time, however, these new Christians will endure extreme persecution, to the point of death by beheading.
View 2 – Mid-Tribulation
A less popular view is known as the Mid-Tribulation Rapture.
· Those who accept this perspective believe that Christians will be taken from the Earth to be in Heaven with God at some point during the middle of the seven-year period of tribulation.
· They will suffer some, but escape the brunt of persecution.
View 3 – Post-Tribulation
Those who accept this perspective believe that Christians will remain on the Earth as witnesses during the seven year tribulation period, until the very end of this age.
· According to this view, believers will be either removed or protected from the terrible wrath of God predicted toward the end of the seven years in the book of Revelation.
Application: So what’s the Point?
** Since Jesus warns that no one will know when he will return except the Father (Matthew 24), he says we simply must be ready for his coming.
Matthew 24:44 – “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Therefore! … Pray for the Pre-Tribulation rapture of the church…but prepare for the post-tribulation rapture.
** The Book of Revelation is a tale of two timelines: One in Heaven, One on Earth. However, the timelines do not necessarily happen in the chronology in which they are presented in the chapter by chapter format. This can make interpreting the book more difficult and confusing.