John the Apostle

The Revelation (or Apocalypse) of Jesus Christ

"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

Overview of Old Testament or New Testament

Links to observations drawn from other other books of the Bible.

Revelation shows Jesus as Savior and Lord in His cosmic power, perspective and significance.

Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Revelation of Jesus Christ (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):

Introduction: During John's final years of imprisonment on Patmos, he had a series of experiences he was told to write and send (1:11) to the seven churches of Asia Minor. As such this book can be summarized by its first word: "apokalupsis" (Gk) meaning the "uncovering, unveiling or revelation" of Jesus Christ.

The book reveals the glory, majesty and victory of Christ over evil in order to encourage His followers who suffering persecution to endure, if need be, through martyrdom to the glorious end (Rev. 21, 22). The suffering of the redeemed has not been limited to the first century so remains highly relevant to us also.

Because of the uniqueness of this letter my observations take a different approach from observations from other books of the Bible.

Revelation 1

Purpose of the Letter: John is commanded to write (v.11) this revelation (unveiling of the future) from Jesus to the seven churches. He reveals that which our Father knew would be needed to give them and us courage and faithfulness for what lies ahead. 

God is Sovereign working all things out for good in the end. We need not be afraid, though the enemy and battle is fearsome, because God-in-Christ and Christ-in-us is greater.

This opening chapter is rich in describing the Father, Son and we His redeemed people:

God the Father:

was, is and is to come (v.4,8)

is on the throne (v.4)

is Alpha and Omega, the Almighty (v.8)

Jesus Christ:

(visually described )

 

(His Being described)

(His Role described)

loud voice like a trumpet, rushing waters (v.10,15)

He loves us (v.5)

He is the faithful

witness (v.5)

like a son of man (v.13)

He is first and the last (v.17)

He is firstborn

from the dead (v.5)

robe with golden sash

He is the living one forever (v.18)

He is ruler of the

kings of the earth (v.5)

white hair, eyes like blazing fire (v.14)

   

He freed us from our

sins by his blood (v.5)

feet like bronze glowing in a furnace (v.15)

   

He made us a kingdom

and priests (v.6)

face shining like brilliant sun (v.16)

   

His is the glory and

power forever (v.6)

 

He walks among the churches (lampstands v.13)

He controls angels ("7 stars", v.16)

 
       

He is the Word of

God ("sword", v.16)

 

We (the redeemed):

   

He holds the keys

to death and Hades (v.18)

are servants (v.1)

           

are blessed (v.3 & 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7,14)

           

are freed from our sin (v.5)

           

are a Kingdom and priests to serve our God and Father (v.6)

         

display patient endurance, also in suffering (v.9)

           

are not afraid (v.17)

           

are in churches served by an angel (v.20)

           

have Jesus walking among us (v.13,20)

           

"Be not Afraid: I am the first and the last" (v. 17) is the most common command in scripture. Obedience to this command is accomplished by faith in the fact Christ has been since before the beginning and knows the end from the beginning. He rules forever.

Personal Application: I will, when I hear 'bad news,' turn physically my eyes upwards reminding, not God, but myself who is sovereign.

My Prayer: Father, I want to be obedient to You in all things. Obedient in faith, in response the words of the Spirit to the church (chs.2-3) and in patient endurance as needed to Your glory (chs.4-22).

Revelation 2-3

Many good commentaries help with specific historical details of the seven churches addressed by Jesus. I will take only a more limited focus on:

Who Jesus is:

  • The One who holds the seven stars in His hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands (2:1)

  • The first and the last, who was dead but has come to life (2:8)

  • The One who is judge - has the sharp two-edged sword (2:12)

  • The One who has eyes like flames of fire (2:18), discerning minds and hearts (2:23); feet like bronze, unmoveable (2:18)

Hearing from heaven: The constant refrain for us daily: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (v.7)

Responding wholeheartedly to Jesus speaking through His Word and Spirit (v.7):

  • Return to the ardor and joy of your first love (v.5)

  • Do the deeds you did at first (v.5)

  • Hate/avoid the deeds of Nicolaitans (term literally means "conquering of the people" - little is known of the followers of Nicolas outside these verses) (2:6,15)

  • Do not fear suffering (2:10)

  • Be faithful unto death (2:10)

  • Remove false teaching which endorses immorality and becomes a stumbling block (2:14) to salvation.

  • Remove immoral people who lead believers into sin polluting the church (2:20ff)

  • Hold fast until I come (2:25)

Warnings underscoring the seriousness of heeding:

  • "I will remove your lampstand" (2:5) could mean loss of ability to represent Christ or to be a church at all.

  • "I will make war against them" (2:16) hopefully only to press for surrender.

  • "I will throw ... into tribulation (2:22), in judgment for willful refusal to repent.

  • "I will give each according to your deeds" (2:23);

The Blessing of Overcoming. Overcomers are those who look to Jesus for victory over Satan and receive:

  • to eat of the tree of life in the Paradise of God (2:7)

  • to not be hurt by the second death (2:11)

  • manna, the bread of life (2:17)

  • a white stone (2:17). Several meanings are possible: white stones were often given to victors at the games, to guests for admission to special banquets or festivities, and were used in voting for acquittal in a trial.

  • a new name (2:17), as Jacob was given a new name in the OT, to indicate the gift of a new identity.

  • authority over the nations (2:26) as I (Jesus) have received authority from My Father (2:27)

  • the morning star (2:28)

The contexts in which the seven churches struggled:

  • Ephesus was the main city of the Roman province of Asia and the best preserved today. It's people were known for their pride, wealth (as a banking center) and independent spirits. It contained the temple of Artemis/Diana (Acts 19:23-35). John knew it well, having lived there till his exile to Patmos.

  • Smyrna was a vulnerable seaport village which had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Yet it alone, of the seven cities addressed, exists today.

  • Pergamum was known for its great library and as city were parchment was developed and first used. The city was dedicated to the Roman pantheon - including great temples to Athena and Asclepius (whose symbol was coiled snakes), a large altar to Zeus on the mountain above the city - and to emperor worship at the temple of Augustus. Any or all of these temples could be behind the phrase "throne of Satan" (2:13).

  • Thyatira was an outpost city known for its trade guilds and manufacturing of dyed wool products. "Depths of Satan" (2:24) may be reference to the Gnostic god "Depth" (Bythos), who with his partner "Silence" (Sigē) formed an alliance against hope.

  • Sardis was a center of emperor worship and home to a large colony of prosperous Jews (called "Sephardic" after the city's ancient name). Its fortified acropolis gave Sardis an overconfident sense of security.

  • Philadelphia was situated in the foothills of the Timolus Mountains where it repeatedly experienced severe earthquakes leaving it weak and impoverished. It's principle deity was Dionysus, a god of wine.

  • Laodicea was a proud, wealthy city, the economic and judicial center of the region. After a severe earthquake (AD 60), Laodicea refused aid from Rome and rebuilt their city themselves (Tacitus, Annals 14.27) adding to their reputation of pride and self-sufficiency.

Frog in a Kettle: The spiritual challenges of our context vary dramatically globally but every Christian lives in a culture where prevailing beliefs, attitudes and behaviors subtly or aggressively push against or act to divert us from the Lordship of Christ. Every church and Christian is a "frog in a kettle" needing to be aware of and resist the culture and spiritual values resisting the Kingdom which make us ineffective, lukewarm or even living counter to the purposes of God.

Personal Application: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." I cannot maintain perspective immersed in my context. I will ask what the Spirit says to me and to the church and for strength not to be swamped in the battle but to obey in love and behavior.

My Prayer: Spirit of the Living God, pull the weeds in and around me and tune my heart to hear and sing in love with You.

Revelation 4

"Come up here" (v.1), the most wonderful words we can ever hear, brings John, through the "door standing open" (v.1) into the throne room of God (ch.4) and the Lamb (ch.5), who alone are worthy to be worshiped forever.

He Alone is Holy: There can be no sharing of allegiance with Caesar (for whom "worthy are you" [v.11] was required in Roman emperor worship); John ascribes this worship to God alone, the reason for banishment to Patmos. Nor can there be sharing of allegiance with any earthly good or goal, nor any form of syncretism (which continues to increase with expanding globalism). God alone created the universe (v.11), sustains and redeems it with power and grace. He alone is holy and alone is worthy of worship.

The throne of God is central to the entire revelation, human history and eternity. This matchless God; Creator and Redeemer is glorified as "Holy, Holy, Holy" (v.8), the highest expression of worship in scripture repeated three times to utter heights! "To double something makes it emphatic; to triple it makes it ultimate. (NLT)" To Him the redeemed return their crowns, given only by grace, before the throne which is our source and eternal glory (v.10).

All Creation Worships: The 24 elders (v.4) probably represent the redeemed from all of history. The 7 Spirits of God (v.5) speak of His fullness and perfection. The 4 living creatures (v.7) may be angels or, since they are said also to be in the center of the throne (v.6) may be representations of God's attributes in creation, or even expressions of His incarnation (lion of Judah, sacrificial calf, Son of Man, high soaring eagle connects heaven and earth). Being covered with eyes (v.6,8) likely emphasizes breadth of knowledge or understanding.

Personal Application: I will utter the triune "Holy, Holy, Holy" to my Lord and Redeemer today and eternally. I will look to the door standing open (v.1) by the grace and mercy given through the cross of Christ, hear His voice trumpeting "come up here" and enter in by faith with unspeakable joy, in anticipation of future grace. I will fall on my knees and cast the crown, given by grace, before Him.

My Prayer: Father, how unspeakably majestic and worthy are you, the "Holy, Holy, Holy" One on the throne, who loves and redeems us, sustains the universe which is Your temple, and us, Your children and priests forever.

Revelation 5

God's Plan: God has, in his sealed book (v.1), a comprehensive plan for the redemption of His creation and people.

Jesus fulfills the Father's Plan: Jesus is the Father's agent fulfilling the full purposes of God. In doing so Jesus is both the Lion who rules (v.5) and the Lamb who saves, having all strength (seven horns) and knowledge (seven eyes) (v.6) to do the Father's righteous will.

Jesus is fully qualified and worthy: to judge, save and receive eternal worship (v. 8-14).

The prayers of God's people (v.8) of every age have asked God to restrain rampant evil and bring justice, calling in that sense for the judgments of chapters 6-20.

Jesus alone is worthy remove the seals releasing God's purifying judgments (v.9,12) which prepare creation for restoration. Jesus is worthy of this worship and role in restoration because he paid the ransom price for salvation (v.9), positioned the redeemed as a kingdom and priests before God (v.10) enabling us ultimately to reign on the earth (v.10).

Personal Application: I will memorize the words revealed in this chapter (vs.9-10,12,13 to worship the Ruler of the kings of the earth. I will see myself as purchased by his blood and belonging to Christ (v.9) to serve our God, also by reigning in His behalf on the earth (v.10).

My Prayer: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing, Amen." (v.12)

Revelation 6 - 16

Christ's reign is not theoretical. Those who choose other gods, rejecting accountability to their Creator and the free gift of His grace in the cross of Christ, face judgment. This is depicted in a series of 7 seals (ch. 6-8:1), 7 trumpets (ch.8-9) and 7 bowls (ch.16). Some debate whether the events are consecutive (21 judgments) or cyclical (7 judgments, each cycle giving more detail) but this is comparatively irrelevant in to the end-point in the return of Christ.

The final process now begins.

Revelation 6

Judgment is released: The seals are broken and coming forth are war (v.4) including the inevitable famine (v.6) and death (v.8) which follow, even to 1/4 of the world's population. These deaths include martyrdom (v.9-11, perhaps increasing out of anger towards those who love the God against whom the world rebels. While war and famine may be imagined by those rejecting God to remain under their ultimate control, the massive physical disturbances which follow are not (v.12-14).

The limits of human arrogance: As the rich and powerful cower (v.15) they cannot but recognize "Him who sits on the throne...and the Lamb" (v.16). No one can stand before Him (v.17).

Patience of the saints: Injustice to martyrs (v.10) is not explained, nor when the limits of martyrdom will be reached. Rather we learn patience in suffering and the promise of rest and redemption (v.11).

Personal Application: I will not be shaken by calamity as if it were unexpected when scripture speaks so clearly. I will rejoice in grace and be patient in suffering. I will hold to the word of God and my testimony to Christ (v.9).

My Prayer: Father, before You, who can stand? So I bow in worship, praise and adoration for Your great salvation in Christ and for Your great grace to me in Him and for Your character and wisdom and might.

Revelation 7

Passover: This chapter is one of three interludes (the others are 10:1-11:14 and 12:1-14:20) showing we who are redeemed by the Lamb safe in Christ as judgment "passes over" (Ex. 12) them and us. The angels "hold back" the winds of judgment (v.1-3) until God's people are sealed, as Israel was sealed from the 10th plague.

Sealed: A seal or tattoo (like the blood on the door posts) is a sign of ownership. Sealed and saved in this chapter are both children of Israel (v.4-8) and Gentiles of "every nation, tribe, people and tongue" (v.9) who "come out of" (i.e. this earthly plane by death) the great affliction (v.14).

Worship and great rejoicing is on their lips (v.10,14) for they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. God has spread His tabernacle presence over them (v.15) with the fullness of blessing, provision and protection (v.16-17). So great is this promise and its reality that, whether we suffer in the tribulation or die because of it, is virtually of no consequence.

Personal Application: I will not fear death but perhaps even increasingly yearn for that which is to come on the other side of death. I will run to the Throne and to those who worship Him there.

My Prayer: Father, bring us quickly into the presence of Your Throne and of those who worship You and the Lamb there.

Revelation 8 and 9

Silence and Prayer before the Storm: Rev. 8:1 depicts heaven holding it's breath as before the storm or in the eye of the hurricane. Yet it is not a surprise, for judgment is in part response to the urgent pleas of God's suffering people asking He judge evil and bring His righteous and just Kingdom to the earth. Rev. 8:3-4 depict the petitions of the saints as 'incense' rising - and God will answer.

Second Cycle of Judgment: "Like the first cycle (6:1-8:1), this one (8:2-11:19) contains an interlude (10:1-11:14; cp. 7:1-17) and ends with a glimpse of God's eternal Kingdom (11:15-19; see 7:9-8:1)." (NLT Study Bible). God's judgments remind us of the ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14-11:10) with the same purpose-to show the powerlessness of earthly gods (or satanic powers) and to demonstrate beyond doubt the power and sovereignty of God. (NLT)

The fire (v.7), great mountain burning (v.8) and star burning like a torch (v.10) could be meteor or volcano, if God chooses to use natural means.

God's sealed people: The judgments, as did the plagues on Egypt (Ex.12:23), fall on those not sealed by God (9:4; cf.7:1-8). Those who remain defiant seek death but cannot find it (9:6, cp.Ex.11:6). V.4 makes clear, judgment is "only for men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads."

The defiant: Rev. 9:20-21 - "While these judgments should lead to repentance, they do not. Sin has such control over people that they choose to worship the evil forces that torture and murder them rather than repent and turn to God." (NLT) It's possible some are not aware they are worshipping demons when they worship idols or give allegiance to worldviews excluding God, but their defiance against God remains.

9:11: Apollyon = destruction.  Emperor Domitian's patron god Apollo was depicted as a locust.

Personal Application: I will intercede for God to judge evil quickly, bringing His Kingdom to the earth. I will not fear judgment for God has sealed His people and 'if I perish, I perish' (Esther 4:16).

My Prayer: Father, as the world calls judgment down on itself, grant peace on those You have sealed. Put words in our mouths that we may be faithful witnesses to the One who amazingly, graciously "purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue" (5:9).

Revelation 10

Prophesy to All Kings and Nations: The interlude between the 6th & 7th trumpets (ch. 10-11) is introduced by a strong messenger (10:1) who calls John to continue to prophesy to all peoples and their kings (v.11), though not to reveal all he hears (v.4) of the mystery of God (v.7).

The message about future justice (small scroll, v.2) is sweet to the believer, but bitter to hearers who reject God's call (v.9).  

The true angel (v.1-3) stands in contrast and opposition to the human pride which built the 100 foot bronze "Colossus that stood as a symbol of human power in the harbor of Rhodes for several decades before it was toppled by an earthquake in the late 200s BC. The statue still lay broken at the time that John wrote Revelation." (NLT)

Personal Application: I will eagerly hear all the Word of God that is given and be satisfied until the mystery of God is finished (v.7). I will proclaim that Word to all peoples and their kings (v.11).

My Prayer: Father, speak Lord for Your servant hears. Give courage also to speak to those who don't want to hear and patience for fulfillment.


 

v. 9-10: Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.

v.12: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.

v.13: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

In process...please come again...