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An Argument of the Book of Revelation (part 1)

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Introductory Matters

Title of the book

Although Revelation is often described as “the Revelation of John” meaning that it is a revelation to John,1 it is actually a revelation of Christ (1:1). There are those such as Thiessen who understand the genitive to be objective referring to a revelation about Christ,2 but it is more probably a subjective genitive referring to a revelation by Christ.3 The reason for this is basically twofold: (1) the contents go far beyond Jesus Christ Himself with respect to the beast, the harlot, the two witnesses, et cetera and (2) the next clause in 1:1 which describes the revelation as being that which the Father gave to Christ would seem strange if the revelation was about Christ. Why would the Father need to give a revelation about the Son to the Son?4 Therefore the genitive is probably subjective.

The English title comes from the Latin revelatio which in its verb form means “to reveal or unveil that which has previously been hidden.” This was the title given to the book in the Latin Vulgate.5 The Greek title is Αποκαλυψις taken from the first word in the text.

Authorship

Although there is some debate, and the affirmation cannot be stated dogmatically, it seems best to ascribe authorship of the book to the Apostle John of the sons of Zebedee.

Support for this position is as follows: (1) Internally (a) the writer calls himself John (1:4, 9; 22:8); (b) the writer speaks with great authority as a prophet (1:3; 22:6-10, 18-19); (c) the writer demonstrates himself to be a Palestinian Jew steeped in temple and synagogue ritual, the Old Testament, and the Targum; (d) the writer calls himself John without any further description, therefore he must have been well known.6 (2) Externally (a) there was a unanimous agreement as to the Apostle John as its writer by the early church before Dionysius. It was affirmed by Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Origin and Irenaeus.7 (b) in accordance with the writers statement that he was in exile on the isle of Patmos (1:9), the church Fathers identify this John as the Apostle John. “Clement of Alexandria says that the Apostle John returned from this island; Eusebius says that he returned after the death of Domitian, and Iranaeus says that he remained in Ephesus after his return until the times of Trajan.”;8 (c) in chapters 2-3 the writer seems to be over the churches of the province of Asia and strong tradition places the Apostle John in this position.9

As Morris points out, a big objection to apostolic authorship is style.10 However, the style objections can be answered: (1) The solecisms may be deliberate due to the book’s poetic nature. (2) The work reflects a lot of apocalyptic reading behind it. (3) If it was written in exile, the tools for a scholarly approach may have been absent. (4) There is a mood of emotional excitement which may not have lent itself to polished proses. (5) There may have been the help of an amanuensis. (6) It is not written as an Apostle but as a prophet. And (7) the curious language may be related to the setting forth of divine oracles and visions.11

However, on the other hand, there are many similarities which exist between the Apocalypse and other writings of John: (1) Both use the term logos (Jn. 1:1; Rev. 19:13). (2) Both use the imagery of “the lamb,” “the water of life,” “he that overcomes,” “keeping the commandments,” and the adjective “true,” alethinos. (3) There is an invitation to him that is thirsty (Jn. 7:37; Rev. 22:17), a commandment received by Christ from the Father (Jn. 10:18; Rev. 2:27), white clothing for angels (Jn. 20:12) and the worthy (Rev. 3:4), and there is also a sharp contrast between good and evil.12

Therefore it seems best to ascribe authorship to the Apostle John.

Circumstances

The date of writing. There are two primary views concerning the time this book was written: (1) early in the seventh decade of the first century during the reign of Nero, and (2) late, AD 95-96, during the reign of Domitian (AD 81-96).13

While it is not possible to be dogmatic because of the lack of conclusive evidence, it seems best in light of the evidence to place its writing under Domitian. Some of the reasons are as follows: (1) The churches of Asia Minor have a considerable history (2:4; 3:1). (2) The persecution of Domitian was more universal than that of Nero which was centralized in Rome. (3) The worship of “the beast” may have been prefigured by Emperor worship which became official policy during Domitian’s reign.14 (4) Early tradition puts it in Domitian’s reign when Irenaeus says that the Apocalypse “… was seen no such long time ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.”15 (5) If Revelation 17:8, 11, concerning the beast, has the Nero redivivus myth in mind, then this too would support a Domitian date since it would probably take until the time of Domitian for the myth to fully develop.16

Therefore a Domitian date of AD 95-96 seems to be best for the book.

The place of writing. Internally and externally the evidence seems to support Patmos, an island off the coast of Asia Minor not far from Ephesus, as the place of writing. (Rev. 1:9).17

The recipients of the book. The immediate destination for the book was the churches of Asia Minor described in chapters 1-3. Perhaps these were chosen by the great circular road which linked them, and their order is due to their appearance on the road. However, since they are from the Lord of the Church they have application to all of the Church.18

Interpretations

There are many differing schools of the interpretation of Revelation. There is the Preterist school which sees the book as having already been fulfilled by AD 312 with the conversion of Constantine, the Historical school which sees the book as “…a panorama of the history of the church from the days of John to the end of the age,”19 the Idealist school which sees the book as a conflict of the age-long principles of good and evil with no historic elements, and the Futurist school which from chapters four on sees the book to be addressing prophecies yet to be fulfilled. The last position of the futurists is that which will be followed in this paper for reasons which will be addressed in the argument proper.

Theme of the book

Throughout the book there is a conflict of earthly personalities and people directed and energized by demons and especially Satan in order to overthrow Christ’s rule on earth, but the book climaxes with God’s ultimate triumph through Jesus Christ to overthrow evil and establish the Kingdom.20 This is accomplished by John taking the reader behind the scenes to see the power which rests in the line of Judah, the Lamb that was slain being angry, the throne room of God and by addressing subthemes such as judgment (14:7; 20:11-15), redemption (1:5; 5:6; 7:14; 12:11) and the Kingdom (5:10; 11:17; 12:10; 20:4; 22:5).21

Purpose of the book

Although the purpose may include “…completing the prophetic theme presented earlier in the prophecies of the Old Testament …” as Walvoord states,22 it seems better, in light of the early addresses in chapters 2-3 to the churches, to identify the purpose as being to comfort and encourage believers in the midst of suffering and persecution at the hands of evil ones by assuring them that Jesus Christ and thus they themselves would ultimately and finally triumph.

The structure of the book

There are many ways in which the structure of the book can be determined. It can be outlined literally as Tenney did using “in the Spirit,”23 by means of recapitulation wherein chapters 12-19 recapitulate chapters 6-1124 or by having the seven trumpets and bowls recapitulating the seven seals, or on the basis of 1:19 wherein chapter 1 refers to the “things seen,” chapters 2-3 to the “things which are” and chapters 4-22 to the “things hereafter.”25 It is the outline which is based upon 1:19 which will be followed in this paper.

Some of the arguments against using 1:19 as the structure of the book are as follows: (1) It is too unbalanced. The third point is out of proportion. But since the book has such a prophetic emphasis, this use of proportion could be intentional. (2) Such an emphasis on chapters 4-22 makes the bulk of the book irrelevant to the seven churches, However, since the seven churches did not know when Christ was going to return, it would be as relevant to them as it is to us today especially since it is written in light of their persecution (1-3). Therefore such arguments are not conclusive.

Within the last major division of the book concerning the “things which will be hereafter” (4:1--22:21), there seems to be a basic chronological development. This section begins with a prologue in 4:1--5:14 and then moves through the tribulation in 6:1--19:21 wherein judgments are delivered. These judgments are part of the historical development of the book being themselves telescopic wherein the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowls which conclude the tribulation.26 Then in chapter 20 the millennium is described culminating in the eternal state in 21--22.

The Argument of Revelation

I. Things Which You Have Seen:

The Christ (1:1-20). As was mentioned above under “the structure of the book,” the overall structure of Revelation is derived from 1:19 where John is given the injunction to write what he has seen, the things which are, and the things which shall take place. Therefore after writing a prologue (1:1-8) wherein he gives a superscription (1:1-3) and a salutation (1:4-8), he describes the vision which he had of Jesus Christ (1:9-20) with respect to the occasion of the vision (1:9-11), what he observed (1:12-16) and the outcome of the vision (1:17-20).

The significance of this portion of the book is that it sets the mood for the rest of the work. The revelation about to be given is not from John but from the triune God. Therefore, it is authoritative. The audience from whom it has special value is the Church (which will be greatly emphasized in chapters 2-3). The Lord who is going to be so involved in judgments is demonstrating Himself to be intimately involved with the churches, thus giving comfort to the Church. As will often be the case, a view of who God is will precede His acts of judgment to bolster the confidence of His followers. His character is so magnificent (1:14-16) that it produces worship by the observer (1:17a), yet to the one who worships Him, He gives comfort (1:17b-18). Also a key to endurance by the Church is a proper view of who Christ is. Therefore, the book begins with such a vision.

II. The Things Which Are: The Churches (2:1--3:22).

Having generally indentified Himself with the Church (or individual churches) in chapter 1, the Lord more directly addresses Himself to seven local churches in Asia Minor, namely, the church at Ephesus (2:1-7), Smyrna (2 :8-11), Pergamum (2:12-17), Thyatira (2 :18-29), Sardis (3:1-6), Philadelphia (3:7-13), and Laodicea (3:4-22), This marks the second major division of the book moving in accordance with 1:19 from those things which were, namely, John’s vision of Christ, to those things which are, namely, the Lord’s message to the seven historical local churches which were in existence in Asia Minor while John was on Patmos.

It seems that these seven churches are listed because they were the churches over which tradition places John, and they are in this specific order because this was the way they appeared on a trade route.27 Although they were historical churches, they do represent churches of all time because the promise to each are said to be to all churches.28

The message to each church essentially follows the same pattern:29 (1) an address or greeting, (2) a descriptive title of the Lord which looks back to the vision of chapter one, (3) a commendation, (4) a criticism, complaint, or condemnation, (5) a warning or threat, (6) an exhortation, and (7) a promise. Although there is not space enough to examine each church individually, it is significant to notice the similarity in pattern and content among them as a key to explaining why this section is included. Primarily, all of these churches are in some way struggling with the effects of evil upon them. Ephesus has lost their first love and struggles with the false doctrine and practice of the Nicolatians; Smyrna is suffering; Pergamum is in the center of Satan’s domain and struggles with compromising their lives; Thyatira is struggling with apostasy; Sardis has a lifeless profession; Philadelphia needs to hold fast to their faith in their battle with Judaizers; and Laodicea struggles with materialism and luke-warmness towards God. While the specifics with each church vary, they all struggle with evil, and it is in the midst of these difficulties that Christ speaks to them—to encourage them concerning who He is (2:lb, 8b, 12b, 18b; 3:1b, 7b, 14b) and to exhort them in faithfulness (2:7, 11, 17, 26-29; 3:5-6, 12-13, 20-22). It is by looking at Christ—who He is and what He promises—that the Church is able to endure suffering and evil and break forth triumphant.

Therefore, in these first two segments of the book, there has been an emphasis upon encouraging the Church to persevere in the midst of evil because of who Jesus Christ is, His intimate relationship with them and His promise of blessing for enduring. These are basic, positive motivations for enduring. Now in the third and largest section of the book, a further, and perhaps negative, motivation is given in that Christ is going to judge evil and ultimately triumph with those who believe in Him.

III. The Things Which Shall Be Hereafter: The Consummation (4:1--22:5).

This third principle section begins with the same words that were used in 1:19 (μετα ταυτα) “after these things” or “hereafter.” The consummation of all things is about to ensue. The rapture of the church is presupposed30 and John begins his lengthy account of the judgment and eternal reign of Christ yet to come.

This section can be divided into three parts: (1) the prologue: the heavenly court (4:1--5:14), (2) the program during the tribulation (6:1--19:21) and (3) the program after the tribulation (20:1--22:5), The last two are obviously chronological in that “the program after the tribulation” is contingent upon “the program of the tribulation” and is the climax of the book where, at last, Christ is victorious, the saints are in the eternal state, and evil is put away forever. However, the prologue is not so obvious. Why the glimpse into heaven? Ryrie seems to say it best when he states,

Chapters four and five form a prologue to the entire section. It was necessary that John be given a glimpse of the throne in heaven before witnessing the terrible judgments to be poured on the earth. In other words, he was given a heavenly perspective on earthly events…31

Therefore, this third major movement of the book follows “the things which were” and “the things which are” as a statement of how the magnificent God of chapter 1 and the intimate God of chapters 2-3 is going to ultimately defeat evil and set up His temporal and then eternal kingdom, blessing the righteous. Although much of it is frightening, it ultimately offers comfort and encouragement to the righteous.

A. The Prologue: The Heavenly Court.

In this prologue to “the things which will be hereafter,” two basic events take place: (1) John is allowed to see the throne in heaven (4:1-11), and (2) Jesus Christ, the Lamb, opens the sealed scroll (5:1-14).

With respect to the first event, it seems that the emphasis of the throne of God is to encourage the readers—especially the church—that God is faithful. This can be seen specifically in two elements present: (1) In 4:3, God is described as having a rainbow around His throne. This would have caused the reader to remember the reminder of God’s picture of faithfulness in Genesis 9; and (2), if the twenty-four elders represent the church, then it gives confidence that they will not be on earth during the tribulation.32 This encourages the readers, as they are about to hear of great judgment, to look at the throne and its occupant and see themselves there.

In the second event, attention is focused once again upon Christ, but now, as the One who is able to open the scroll which no man was able to open. It seems that the scroll contains-the hope for man—that is why John weeps,—but when Christ the Lamb takes the book, hope returns, and praise bursts forth from all of creation (5:6-14). Once again, a focus on Christ in His goodness and provision for man is a basis for hope, praise, worship, and the judgment to follow.

Therefore, this prologue precedes the judgments to follow in order to focus the attention upon God’s faithfulness, greatness, and provision for man as an encouragement to the church and a perspective of goodness from which the reader is to evaluate the judgments to come.

B. The Program During the Tribulation (6:1--19:21).

In this section, “the things which shall be hereafter” are vividly described through a description of the seven seal judgments (6:1--8:1), the seven trumpet judgments (8:2--11:19), seven explanatory, historical prophecies (12:1--14:20), the seven bowl judgments (15:1--16:21), an explanation of the “Institution” during the tribulation, and a description of the intervention of Christ (19:6-21). Much of this is negative, describing the place of judgment in the future, but all of it is meant to encourage the righteous because Christ is depicted as being victorious over all evil.

1. The Seven Seals (6:1--8:1).

The first six seals which are opened are descriptive of judgment upon the earth. The first introduces the anti-christ who will delude the people (6:1-2; cf. 1 Thess. 5:3); the second pictures war and bloodshed (6:3-4); the third describes a famine picturing death with the black horse (6:5-6); the fourth clearly proclaims death over one-fourth of the earth (6:7-8); the fifth, screams of martyrs who are killed during this time for their testimony, plead for vindication and wait for the end (6:9-11 ); and the sixth describes great cosmic upheavals (6:12-17). It seems that the purpose of this section is to demonstrate that these judgments will be world-wide and to strike terror into the hearts of men who now recognize that these judgments are from God (6:16) and they cannot stand in them (6:17). Man is going to be destroyed by God for his evil.

Yet, in the midst of these “seals” and the cries from men, comes an answer by means of an interlude or parenthesis to the question of 6:17. “… who is able to stand?” is the question in the midst of judgment, and the answer returns, “the righteous for whom God suspends judgment.” In the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy.33 This is seen in God’s sealing of 144,000 Jews34 (7:1-17) and His saving of innumerable Gentiles (7:9-17).35

Once again, an emphasis is made upon the mercy and grace of God even in the midst of tribulation. As Ryrie says, “The activity of the grace of God will not cease as long as time continues.”36

Then the seventh seal is opened resulting in silence in heaven (8:1). As was mentioned above in the introduction, this seventh seal marks the beginning of the trumpet judgments. The silence is probably due to the foreboding and expectancy of the judgments to follow.

Therefore, the seven seals mark the beginning of the tribulation judgments upon man. They gain man’s attention and recognition of God as his judge. They are interrupted in a display once again of God’s grace in the midst of judgment, but they prepare to continue as the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpet judgments.

2. The Seven Trumpets (8:2--11:19)

With the opening of the seventh seal, the seven trumpets are introduced being given to seven angels (8:2). Then another angle is introduced in a preparatory function for the ensuing judgments. To arouse God’s righteous anger once again, he adds incense to the prayers of those who were probably tribulation saints (8:3). The smoke goes before God, and the judgments begin again. This angel begins these judgments by throwing a token judgment in the sense of warning upon the earth (8:5). Then the trumpet judgments begin.

The judgments seem to increase in intensity with this round. The first trumpet destroys a third of the earth’s vegetation (8:7). The second trumpet destroys a third of the sea and the life therein (8:8-9). The third trumpet destroys the inland waters (8:10-11). The fourth trumpet destroys a third of the celestial bodies (8:12). These are then followed by the announcement of three woes because of the extreme suffering which the last three trumpets are going to cause (8:13). The fifth trumpet brings demonic locusts in order to torment the wicked. This is a type of talionic justice to those who would persecute the 144,000. Satan is their leader.37 This ends the first woe (9:12). The sixth trumpet marks the beginning of the second woe wherein four evil angels kill a third of the human race. The response of those who remain is not to repent but to continue in idolatry and immorality. They are hardened (9:13-21).

Once again, there is an interlude between the sixth and seventh judgments. Here is given a number of revelations before the last judgment. The first is that of an open book which John is to take from an angel38 and eat as a way of telling John to assimilate the prophecies from God before he ministers them unto others (10:1-11). The second is John’s measuring of the inner temple (ναος) as a way of God affirming that He will take notice of those who faithfully worship Him in the tribulation days (11:1-2).39 And the third revelation has to do with the two witnesses who will be ministering during the first part of the tribulation (11:3-13).40 It seems that these witnesses are a manifestation, once again, of the grace of God, however, they also demonstrate the hardened spiritual condition of the people (11:7-10). Their restoration and translation strikes fear in the people’s hearts causing some to give glory to God, and, thereby, once again show God’s mercy (11:13).

Therefore the nature of these revelations in this interlude is primarily to demonstrate God’s grace and mercy again. The Lord does not wish for His word of such terrible judgments to be insensitively given by John; He will acknowledge the worship of the faithful, and, throughout the entire first half of the tribulation, mercy is offered through the two witnesses.

With the judgment of the sixth trumpet, the second woe is completed (11:14). Now the seventh trumpet is sounded (11:15-19). This marks the third woe which is so awful because, like the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet also marks the beginning of the last judgments—the seven bowls. With this last trumpet is the proclamation that the rule of the world is taken over by Christ (11:15). This means that the end is near. The elders on the throne respond in adoration (11:16-17) while the enemies become angry (11:18). This proclamation of Christ means that the time is coming when full justice will be met out by Christ as will be seen in the bowl judgments. However, in the meantime, it is the faithfulness of God which is emphasized as the ark is brought before God (11:19). The outpouring of judgment is His being faithful to His word.

Therefore, in this section of trumpet judgments, the intensity of the judgments increases, however, in the midst of it, God’s mercy is constantly held forth. But ultimately, judgment must ensue as He is faithful to His word and establishes His domain over the cosmos.

3. Seven Historical, Explanatory Prophecies (12 :1--14:20).

As there have been interludes between each of sixth and seventh seal and trumpet judgments, so it seems that there is a major interlude between the first judgments and the final bowl judgments. In this interlude, there are seven historical prophecies which explain elements going on in the struggle between God and evil, on earth as well as in heaven: (1) The discussion of the woman who is Israel and the dragon who is Satan and the man child who is Christ (12:5) is described to give a wholistic view of Satan’s war against Christ, his defeat with Christ’s ascension and then Satan’s focus upon Israel (12:4-6) . (2) The scene switches to heaven where Satan and his angels are defeated by Michael and his angels whereupon they are cast out of heaven on to the earth whereupon Satan persecutes the woman—the nation Israel (12:7-12). The purpose of this is to explain Satan’s pursuit of the woman—Israel. This probably occurs at the mid-point of the tribulation. One of the major conquests has been achieved. (3) The next revelation is concerning the beast from the sea who represents a confederation of ten kingdoms, is a man (2 Thess. 2), actually dies, descends to the abyss and returns to life (13:3-11). He is active in blasphemy and war (13:5-7a). He has authority over all but believers (13:7b-8), but he will be taken captive and destroyed (13:9-10). This again gives comfort to the righteous. (4) In contrast to the beast from the sea another beast is described from the earth (13:11-18). He is strong, with two horns, but not as strong as the first beast (13:11). He promotes the worship of the first beast (13:12). In order to help him accomplish his aim he is given power to do miracles reminiscent of the two witnesses and he will force men to identify with the first beast by requiring the mark of the beast, 666, or his name upon them (13:13-17). As the prophet of the first beast he is rightfully called the false prophet elsewhere (cf. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). (5) The scene now moves to heaven to reveal the purity of 144,000 who kept themselves pure and are the first fruits of many more Israelites who will turn to the Lord in the tribulation (14: 1-5). (6) Through the mediatory work of angels, an everlasting gospel is presented once again emphasizing God’s grace to a rejecting world (14:6-7). Then another angel announces the fall of Babylon (14:8), and a third angel announces the doom of the beast worshipers (14:9-13). This segment continues the theme of judgment but, as usual, prefaces it with grace. And (7) the interlude ends with the harvests of the earth (14:14-20). It seems that Christ and the angels are the harvesters with the false religions of man being that which is harvested.41

The purpose of these long prophecies seems to be to give an historical, as well as a heavenly, perspective to the judgments which are taking place in view of a long and continual battle between Satan and Christ which now and then greatly surfaces on earth.

4. The Seven Bowls (15:1--16:21).

After the historical, explanatory prophecies, the judgment of the seven bowls begins. These are the last judgments, and because of their intensity they too are preceded by a prelude (15:1-8). The are called the seven last plagues which will finish God’s wrath (15:1). Praise is given for these consummating judgments (15:2-4), and the bowls are presented (15:5--16:1).

Unlike the preceding seal and trumpet judgments these are not interrupted between the sixth and seventh bowls. They are given swiftly. The first bowl produces unbearable sores (16:2).42 The second bowl causes the sea to die (16:3). The third bowl turns the inland waters into blood (16:4). As the praise which follows asserts, this is a retributive justice (16:5-7). The fourth bowl causes the sun to scorch man, and, as is usual, the men do not repent but blaspheme God (16:8-9). The fifth bowl brings darkness over the beast’s kingdom showing his weakness before God, but still men blaspheme God (16:10-11). The sixth bowl dries up the river Euphrates to facilitate the final war of Armageddon which is mentioned as an excursus in 16:13-16. Yet in the midst of this, grace is again offered in the “warning for preparedness” in 16:15. The seventh bowl is then poured out and, with it, the proclamation that, “It is done.” (16:17). The destruction is great causing cosmic disturbances (16:18), the destruction of Babylon (16:19), the shift of the earth (16:20), and hail from heaven (16:21a). However, the response remains the same—blasphemy (16:21b).

It seems that the significance of this section is in men’s response to the intensity of the judgments. As they become worse and worse, men become more and more resolute to blaspheme against God. Continually mercy is offered by the Lord up to the very end, but men say “No!” and blaspheme.

5. An Explanation of the Institution during the Tribulation (17:1--19:5).

Although the next chronological event to occur is the return of Christ, another parenthesis is given in order to explain the institution, Babylon, which has not been discussed thus far in the book. Two aspects of this institution are discussed: (1) the religious aspect (17:1-18) and (2) the commercial aspect (18:1-24). This is then climaxed in praise from heaven (19:1-5). There is a contrast between the two chapters in that in chapter 17 the beast, and those with him, destroy the religious Babylon which is an apostate system (possibly led by Roman Catholicism, cf. 17:9), but, in chapter 18, God is the One who destroys Babylon because of its pride, its deception, and its martyrdom of the saints (18:23-24). Men lament over its fall (18:9-19), but there is praise by the multitudes in heaven, the 24 elders, the four living creatures, and the throne of God (19:1-5).

This interlude seems to have been given to further explain the wickedness of the evil institute in the tribulation, men’s continued love for evil and the righteousness of God’s judgment upon it.

6. The Intervention of Christ (19:6-21).

With this last segment, the tribulation program reaches its climax and its completion. The judgments and explanations have been given. Now Christ Himself intervenes.

Before His final act of judgment is given on the wicked, due attention is given to the righteous in the marriage banquet of the lamb because the Lord reigns (19:6-10). The bride is the Church. Then the Lord appears as a warrior (19:11-13). He has His armies with Him, who are probably saints being clothed as He is, and He bears the power and title of authority (19:14-16). This entire event then climaxes in the annihilation of the antichrist and his allies (19:17-21). There is no description of the battle because there is no real threat to the Lord—He, as God, reigns.

This concludes the program of the tribulation. Judgment, little by little, was given out always giving evil men a chance to repent, but they would not. In the end, evil is destroyed—especially the instigators of evil. Christ is triumphant over evil. However, this victory is but the beginning of good news.

C. The Program After the Tribulation (20:1--22:5).

Not only does Christ’s victory over evil encourage the righteous who are suffering persecution, but His program of blessing following the tribulation, offers hope and comfort.

The program after the tribulation is basically twofold: (1) First is the millennium. This will be preceded by the imprisonment of Satan (20:1-3) and the resurrection of tribulation martyrs (20:4-6). This is called the first resurrection, and there are 1,000 years between it and the second resurrection (20:5). During this time, those of the first resurrection will reign with Christ (20:5). Then, when the thousand years is completed, Satan will be destroyed after having been released for a time to lead another rebellion against the Lord (20:7-10). Then will come the judgment at the great white throne where the dead will be resurrected and the wicked will be judged receiving the second death (20:11-15).

Besides fulfilling prophecy and comforting saints, the millennium offers to men one last chance to worship the Lord, this time in a perfect environment, but they will not. Therefore, the final judgment is just and righteous.

(2) Lastly is the eternal state involving a new creation and a new Jerusalem (21:1--22:5). It is as though the “things hereafter” of l:l9 contain three elements—the tribulation, the millennium, and the eternal state. This is the conclusion and climax of all things for the righteous.

In 21:1-4, the new creation is described as there being a new heaven and earth (21:1), a new Jerusalem (21:2), a new relationship of God residing with the saints (21:3) and removing sorrows (21:4), then a declaration of a new program wherein the saints will receive life and sinners the second death (21:5-8). Perfect justice, mercy, and righteousness will be experienced. All things are new for man giving believers hope, courage, and comfort.

Then John examines the city mentioned in 21:2 in more detail because it is the bride of Christ (21:9). The city comes down from heaven and is described as being glorious having the glory of God (21:11) and having a great and high wall suggesting security (21:12-14). John measures the city, and it is a cube symbolic of perfection (21:15-17).43 The materials of the city describe it as a place of great beauty (21:18-21). The omissions of a physical temple, artificial light, enclosures, and impurities describe it as a place where God dwells in His greatness (21:22-27). And the description of its tree of life, river of life, and the presence of God climax the description of the city as one of great blessing.

Truly, this city is the eternal hope, joy, and blessing awaiting the righteous. It is the climax of God’s revealed program with man where at last He is dwelling among them—face-to-face.

IV. The Postlude: Comfort, Caution and Conclusion (22:6-21).

The book closes in a balanced form emphasizing the comfort to be received from the preceding chapters. There is comfort in the fact that what has preceded was true (22:6), the Lord will soon come (22:7), God is worthy of worship (22: 8-9), the truths of the book are open to men (22:10-11), there will be rewards given for faithfulness (22:12-13), there is blessing for the redeemed (22:14-15), and the Lord is gracious (22:16-17). All these things are to encourage the readers.

However, there are words of warning that no one should either add or subtract from the book (22:18-19). This prophecy is to remain exactly as it was given to John. Then a concluding benediction is given testifying to the certainty of Christ’s return and concluding with a prayer of grace for the reader. This is appropriate since these are the two major themes of the book—Christ is going to return and it is hoped that the readers will be objects of His grace rather than His wrath when He returns.

Therefore, the book concludes emphasizing the hope which the preceding chapters gave, warning against tampering in any way with what has been written, and concluding with the certainty of His coming as well as a prayer of grace.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the book of Revelation is one which offers comfort and encouragement to believers suffering from evil because it demonstrates Jesus Christ to be the victor over evil and the deliverer of the righteous unto a new creation to dwell with Him. Throughout the work, many opportunities are taken to explain the context of God’s judgments in light of His goodness and the persistent wickedness of both men and wicked angels so that it is clear that God’s acts of judgment are just and good and right. Although evil seems at times to dominate now, the message of the book is that “Jesus is gonna win!” Therefore the saints can be encouraged.

Selected Bibliography

Books

Cohen, Gary G. Understanding Revelation. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970.

Johnson, Alan F. “Revelation.” In The Expositors Bible Commentary, 12 (1981):397-603. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. 12 vols. Michigan: The Zondervan Corporation, 1976-unfinished.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary On the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972.

Morris, Leon. The Revelation of St. John: An Introduction and Commentary .Tyndale New Testament. Inter-Varsity Press. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1983.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Revelation. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1968.

Swete, Henry Barclay. Commentary on Revelation. Kregel Reprint Library. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977.

Walvoord, John F “Revelation” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, New Testament Edition. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Victor Books. 1983.

_____. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary by John F. Walvoord. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.

Unpublished Materials

Hoehner, Harold W. “Analysis of Bible Books: The New Testament.” Unpublished Project, Dallas Theological Seminary, January 1964.

_____. “Outline of Revelation.” Unpublished class notes in 228, The Book of Revelation: Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1983.

Sunukjian, Donald. “Analysis of Bible Books: New Testament.” Unpublished Project, Dallas Theological Seminary, October 1967.

Toussaint, Stanley D. Class notes of student in 308, Pauline Epistles and Revelation. Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 1984.


1 Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 1, 5.

2 Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introducution to the New Testament, p. 316 quoted in Harold W. Hoehner, “Analysis of Bible Books: The New Testament,” DTS, p. 249.

3 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Revelation, EBC, p. 13.

4 Stanley D. Toussaint, class notes of student in 308 Pauline Epistles and Revelation, DTS, Spring 1984.

5 Harold W. Hoehner, “Analysis,” p. 249.

6 Alvan F. Johnson, “Revelation,” EBC, 12:405.

7 Ibid., 12:404; Toussaint; Gary G. Cohen, Understanding Revelation, p. 19.

8 Thiessen, p. 249.

9 Toussaint.

10 Morris, p. 27.

11 Ibid., pp. 29-31.

12 Ibid., p. 31; Toussaint.

13 Don Sunukjian, “Analysis of Bible Books: New Testament.” Unpublished Project, DTS, p. 355.

14 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, p. 950,Toussaint.

15 Cited by Guthrie, p. 956.

16 Morris, p. 37.

17 Thiessen, cited by Hoehner, p. 250.

18 Guthrie, pp. 963-64.

19 Ryrie, p. 8.; Also see John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 15-23 for a more complete study.

20 Sunukjian, p. 353; Toussaint, p. 3.

21 Toussaint, p. 3.

22 John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” BKC, p. 927.

23 Toussaint, p. 4.

24 Sunukjian, p. 358.

25 Toussaint, p. 4; Ryrie, p. 16; Walvoord, The Revelation, pp. 47-48.

26 For a more detailed discussion of this see Walvoord, BKC, p. 950; George Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, pp. 121-22 and Ryrie, p. 44.

27 Toussaint, p. 6.

28 Ryrie, p. 20. The older dispensational view that these churches present a panorama of church history is at best questionable on the basis that such a view would destroy any doctrine of imminence.

29 Toussaint, p. 6.

30 Although John’s transferral does not teach the rapture of the Church, it would occur chronologically at this time, therefore it may allude to this in a very indirect fashion (4:3). Ryrie, pp. 33-34.

31 Ryrie, p. 33.

32 There has been not a little discussion about the identity of the twenty-four elders, however, it does not seem that they can be angelic beings because they are distinguished from them (v. 6); they are also not all of the redeemed, including OT saints, because they have not been resurrected yet. Therefore they are most probably the Church.

33 Ryrie, p. 49.

34 These are clearly Jews who are being sealed because they are ennumerated from the 12 tribes of Israel (7:4-8). See Ryrie for problems in the list of tribes, pp. 51-52.

35 Salvation is seen in their wearing white robes (7:9). And that they are called a multitude from every nation and tribe affirms that both Jews and Gentiles are included (7:9). They are also distinct from the church becuase an elder asks about them (7:13) and they came out of the tribulation (7:14).

36 Ryrie, p. 54.

37 Satan is referred to twice in this judgment. He is probably the star which fell from heaven (9:1, cf. Isa. 14:12-15; Lk 10:18), and he is here identified as the ruler of the demons (9:11).

38 This angel is probably not Christ because there would be a problem with his descending right now to the earth (10:2) and because it would be unlikely for him to swear by anything but himself if he were Christ (10:6). It is probably an angel.

39 This is not the one in Jerusalem which was destroyed in AD 70 but probably the one which will be rebuilt and which the man of sin will set himself up in (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4).

40 Although the text does not specifically place them in the first part of the tribulation, this seems best because they minister 1,260 days and the beast terminates them in 11:7. Now since the first half of the beast’s rule is largely political and he does not demand personal worship until the middle of the tribulation, then it fits well to have him kill these prophets in the middle of the tribulation.

41 Ryrie, p. 92.

42 It is important to note that the beast is in power and has set up his image (16:2). It seems that this places these judgments at the end of the tribulation period.

43 Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation, p. 284.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines