Title- Intro to Revelation
Text- Revelation 1-11
I. Background Info- 1
a. Author- John
b. Date- 90’s AD
c. Purpose- Prophecy/future events/”the time is near”
d. Imagery 101
II. The Seven Churches- 2-3
a. Ephesus- lost their first love
b. Smyrna- faced persecution
c. Pergamum- compromised and let worldly things in
d. Thyatira- tolerated sin
e. Sardis- they were dead
f. Philadelphia- they kept the Word
g. Laodicea- they were rich, but worthless/lukewarm
III. A Vision of the Future Tribulation- 4-11
a. The Throne Room- 4
b. The Worthy Lamb- 5
c. The Seven Seals- 6
i. Seal 1- The White Horse- False peace
ii. Seal 2- The Red Horse- War
iii. Seal 3- The Black Horse- Famine
iv. Seal 4- The Pale Horse- Death
v. Seal 5- The Martyrs Cry
vi. Seal 6- The Earthquake
vii. Intermission- Chapter 7- 144 thousand Sealed, A revival, Worship
viii. Seal 7- Seven Trumpet Judgments
1. Trumpet 1- Trees and grass burned up
2. Trumpet 2- The Seas Struck
3. Trumpet 3- Fresh water became bitter
4. Trumpet 4- The Sun and Moon Darken
5. Trumpet 5- Locusts from Hell
6. Trumpet 6- Angels bringing Death
Intermission- The Little Book & The Two Witnesses-10 & 11
7. Trumpet 7- Christ is King!
I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I plan on preaching through Revelation in only two weeks. But I can preach it in three simple words- Christ is King. That is the central message of the book. We see that quickly as we dig in.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ is one of the most intriguing, interesting, exciting, and confusing books ever written. It contains a vision, given to the Apostle John, of those things that would occur during the end of this world. It is a glimpse into the future. It is shrouded in this weird apocalyptic language, which uses symbols and imagery to represent people and places and events.
It is a book that has led to endless speculation, weird prophecies, and downright false claims. People who have a deep desire to know the future have tried in vein to decipher the riddles in this book for thousands of years. Every generation has people who think they see the symbolic events playing out around them.
My goal here this week and next week is to give us a very quick, very general overview of the entire book of Revelation. It is not easy to try and cover 22 chapters in such a short period of time. But that job is made all the more complicated by the fact that those 22 chapters are written in a weird apocalyptic language.
I’ve asked Steve to give me a little extra preaching time so that we will have enough time to get through this study. Although asking to limit the worship time so I can preach on Revelation seems a little odd given the fact that the book of Revelation is one of the greatest books of worship in the Bible; as we will soon see.
Before we dive into the book I have a few disclaimers to make so that you clearly understand where I am coming from and where I plan on heading. This is necessary because there are about a million different ideas and interpretations of Revelation. It seems like everyone has a slightly different idea about what’s going on here.
I was raised and educated in a very conservative, very traditional futurist model of understanding the end times. This is the same understanding that Henry was trained in and taught here, and the same understanding that is common to many if not most Baptists.
Let me explain what that means. There are generally speaking, three different views of Revelation and the end times.
1. The Preterist View. Preter is the Latan word for “past”. This view holds that the events of Revelation happened in the past. Mostly in the 1st century. It is the view help by guys like Hank Hanagraff. Hank gets most other things right, but this is one area where I think he is simply mistaken.
2. The Historicist View- This view is similar to the preterist in that it claims that the events of Revelation have already occurred. Revelation is a record of the playing out of the entire human history. Again, this view really robs the book of it’s original intent and it’s stated purpose as prophecy.
3. The Futurist View- The events of Revelation are yet to happen. Revelation was written as a prophetic book. The book uses literal and figurative language to describe these future events.
I am a futurist. I believe that the events of this book have not yet happened. I think this view is the most historically accurate and relies on the best methods of biblical interpretation. We will talk a lot more about what this means next week during SS.
Second, I am pre-trib and pre-millennial. I believe that God will rapture His church prior to the events of the tribulation. And I believe in a literal 1000 year earthly reign of Jesus as we will read about in chapter 20 of Revelation.
OK, are you ready to dive right in? If you haven’t done so yet, please open your Bibles to the book of Revelation. It’s the last book in the Bible. Because we are going to be covering so much ground today I’m not going to have every passage up on the screen. You will need to follow along in your Bible as best you can.
OK, let’s start with some background info. Look at 1:1 with me…The author of Revelation is the Apostle John. That’s clearly stated in the book and supported by early church fathers.
The date of Revelation is somewhat disputed. I would hold to a late date 94-96AD, late in John’s ministry. The later date is supported by the earliest commentators and the internal evidence. We will talk about why some hold to an early date in SS next week.
The purpose of Revelation is stated right in the title. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is the uncovering, unveiling, or full appearance of Jesus Christ. It is a testimony to that promised time in the future when Jesus Christ will come again.
Verse 3 says….
These are words of prophecy. It is a declaration of future events. They are to encourage us that the time is near. John wrote this a couple thousand years ago, in what sense does he say that the time is near? Well in God’s ultimate plan of redemption there have been different periods of time. There was the time of Abraham and the giving of the covenant and the foundation of the nation of Israel. The OT is the record of the period of time when God used the Law to help reconcile people back to Himself. That phase in God’s redemptive plan lasted a few thousand years or so.
In the NT we find the beginning of a new phase in God’s plan of redemption- the church. We are currently living in the church age. After the church age comes the events of the end of the age described in Revelation.
So when John says that the time is near, he is explaining that the very next phase in human history are these things described in this book. How long will the church age last and when will these things begin? I have no idea, it will come like a thief in the night. Be ready.
Verse 7 says…. John writes this book to encourage us that Jesus Christ is coming again
Revelation is so tough to understand because there is so much figurative speech and descriptive imagery. Some of it is explained, but some of it isn’t. Follow along as I read 12-20… You see what I mean… lots of imagery. John sees a guy with hair like snow, eyes like fire, feet like bronze, his voice sounded like rushing water. Who is John talking about here? Jesus. What do the lampstands represent? The seven churches that he’s about to address.
The trouble lies in knowing when to interpret something literally and when to understand it as a symbolic reference. The key is to simply use the same method of biblical interpretation, with a heightened understanding that there is a lot of imagery and symbolism. It is more of an art than a science.
Another confusing aspect is John’s use of numbers in this book. The number 7 is used a lot why is that? Because 7 is the perfect number- it is God’s number. It is the number of completion. The world and everything in it was created in 6 days, and on the 7th day God rested. We’ll see that perfect number a lot in this book. What is the number of man? 6 Three is also an important number because it represents the holy trinity and perfection. We don’t need to get bogged down in numerology, but we should recognize that these numbers are used for a reason.
With that background understanding in place let’s move on to the first section of the book. In chapters 2-3 John writes to these 7 churches in Asia Minor- modern day Turkey. These are 7 actual city and actual churches that existed in that day. However, as we will see, these 7 churches clearly represent the different kinds of churches that have existed throughout the church age. Each church has a unique characteristic.
These worlds of Jesus to the churches are words that we need to listen closely to. We need to check our pulse to make sure that these words of warning and rebuke are not pointed at our church.
The first church is the church in Ephesus. They had lost their first love. They were a church that was good at keeping the rules, they were orthodox in their beliefs, but they were cold and heartless. Jesus encourages them to return to their first love. Regain their heart. There are plenty of churches out there today that have the right beliefs, but are legalistic and cold and heatless.
The second church is the church in Smyrna. They faced persecution and suffering. Jesus doesn’t have anything against this church, they are purified by trials. There are churches today that face persecution and must sacrifice to hold to their faith.
The third church is the church in Pergamum. They had compromised and let worldly things in. There are far too many churches today that fit this description. Instead of being distinct from the world, they cater to the world. They compromise their beliefs, and their faith, and the truth in order to appeal to unbelievers.
The fourth church is the church in Thyatira. They were guilty of tolerating sin. Instead of confronting sin and dealing with it in a healthy way, they turned the other way. They ignored sin. They even dabbled in idolatry.
The fifth church is the church in Sardis. They were just dead. They had the appearance of life, but they were dead inside. Unfortunately there are too many churches today that fit that description. Churches that have no growth, no fruit, no life. They are just going through the motions until they finally wither away. Let’s not be that kind of church.
The sixth church is the church in Philadelphia. They were a church that kept God’s word. That’s the kind of church we want to be. One that is faithful to the word. Look at what Jesus says to them in verse 10…
The true and faithful church will be kept out of the coming tribulation. Christ will guard His church from that coming wrath. That’s the group we definitely want to be in!
Finally, the seventh church is the church in Laodicea. This is that infamous lukewarm church. Look at 15-16… This kind of church makes Jesus want to puke. They were a church that had wealth, and thought that they were important, but they were spiritually bankrupt.
What kind of church are we? What is our primary focus as a church? What is our driving force? This is an important question to ask ourselves on a regular basis. Are we primarily motivated by rules and legalism? Are we a church that compromises the truth in order to cater to the world? Are we tolerant and accepting of sin in our midst? Are we dead and fruitless and lifeless? Are we wishy-washy and lukewarm? Or are we faithfully committed to the word of God? Is our desire to honor the truth in love?
Our mission statement as a church is- CBC is grounded on God’s word, guided by grace, and genuine in worship. If we are grounded on anything else, we will fail. If we are guided by anything other than God’s grace, we will fail.
Right here in between chapters 3 and 4 we have the rapture. In chapter 3 the church is on the earth, and then in chapter 4 we fast forward to the period of time after the church has been raptured and the events of the tribulation are about to begin.
All right! That brings us to chapter 4 and the next major section in Revelation- John’s vision of the future tribulation. We’re flying through this book aren’t we?
Take a look at 4:1…
Here John is fast-forwarded to a vision of the things that will happen after the church age. These things take place after this. I believe that chapter 4 begins John’s vision of the tribulation and end times. This vision lasts for the rest of the book.
Where is the church when this tribulation begins? Well if Jesus is true to His word in 3:10, they are off the earth and with Him. They have been raptured. The church age is over and the final things have begun.
Chapter 4 gives us this amazing glimpse at the throne room of the almighty God. Look at 4:2-4…
Who is sitting on the throne? God. Who are the twenty-four elders? There are many different interpretations, but because of the reference to the white robes and the crowns of gold, I would hold to the idea that these elders represent the redeemed believers. This is the glorified church.
Along with these elders we find angelic beings there in the throne room. What are they all doing? Worshiping. As we will see, there is a whole lot of worshiping that goes on in heaven in this book. The angels sing…
And then the elders reply…
What an awesome sight that must have been. But John hasn’t seen anything yet. Let’s move on to chapter 5. (The Worthy Lamb)Look at verses 1-2… skip down to verse 6-7.
What happens when Jesus takes the scroll? That’s right, more worshiping! Verse 9-10, 12-13
Jesus is worthy to take and open the scroll. Jesus is deserving of all power and honor and glory and blessing. Jesus Christ is king.
In chapter 6 Jesus takes the scroll and begins to open each of the seven seals. We’re really moving now. Are you all still with me? If you are still stuck back on what the number 7 represents that we are in trouble here.
Ok, with the opening of the first seal we have the beginning of this period of intense tribulation on the earth.
The first seal unleashed the white horse onto the earth. This white horse and it’s rider represent a period of peace. Some equate the rider with the anti-Christ. This peace is a false peace that will lead into the second seal- the red horse. The red horse represents war. He takes way the peace and brings the sword.
The third seal is the black horse that brings famine to the earth. A days wage won’t even be enough to feed one person. The fourth seal is opened and behold a pale horse, and the name of him who sat on it was death, and Hades followed close behind. This results in a fourth of the earth being killed by sword and famine and wild animals.
With the opening of the fifth seal we hear the cries of those who have been martyred. They cry out, “How long, O Lord, until you judge and avenge?” They are told to hang on a little longer, because there are more martyrs yet to come.
The sixth seal is opened and there is a terrible earthquake, and such great natural disasters that people run and hide in the mountains out of fear.
That brings us to chapter 7 and a brief intermission. I’m not sure why John takes a brief detour from describing these 7 seals. But he does, and in chapter 7 he talks about 144 thousand sealed, a revival, and worship.
There are 12,000 people from each of the twelve tribes of Israel that are chosen and sealed by God. There are a lot of weird interpretations of what these 144,000 is all about.
I like the simple interpretation that says that these are redeemed Jews who serve as divinely appointed missionaries during the period of the tribulation. This makes sense because the very next thing that John talks about here is a great multitude of believers from every tribe and nation and people and tongue standing before the throne. These are identified as believers who were saved out of the great tribulation.
After the church has been raptured, in the midst of this great tribulation, there will still be people who come to faith in Jesus Christ and are saved. This period of time will see one of the greatest revivals in human history.
What are these people doing? That’s right, worshiping. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”
Well, our intermission is over and John returns to the final seal. Just when you think things are almost over, the seventh seal starts a whole new round of God’s wrath. Look at 8:1-2…
The seventh seal brings silence in heaven. The singing stops. What is about to come next brings a state of speechless awe to those in heaven. Seven angels are given seven trumpets. Trumpets in the Bible usually weren’t used for a jazz band, but for war. These trumpets will sound judgment from God upon the earth.
The first trumpet sounds and a third of the trees are burned up and all of the green grass is burned up.
The second trumpet. Verse 8-9…
The third trumpet sounded and a third of the fresh water on the earth became bitter and poisonous. People died from drinking the bitter water.
The fourth trumpet sounded and the sun and moon and stars were darkened. Each of these first four trumpets involves judgments from the heavens. Either stuff falling from the sky or the sky itself being effected.
Verse 13 says…
The last three trumpets are really going to be bad.
Chapter 9 begins with the fifth trumpet. Look at 1-5
The sixth trumpet sounds and these four angels are released on the earth to go out and kill a third of all mankind. They are described as plagues. They bring more death. Verse 20 -21 says…
Again here in chapters 10-11 we find another short intermission between the sixth and seventh trumpet. This intermission is similar to the one we find in the middle of the seals. It is a description of some of the things that will be going on during this period of divine judgment.
What exactly is going on during all these plagues and disasters and deaths? John describes two things.
First, in chapter 10 we read about John seeing this great angel, who is holding this little scroll. John is instructed to take the scroll and eat it. When he eats it is sweet as honey in his mouth, but it makes his stomach bitter.
This represents the book of Revelation. The promise of Jesus Christ coming again in glory to punish the unrighteous and set up His kingdom is an awesome thing. It is encouraging, it gives us hope, it is a sweet taste in our mouth.
But as we read about all the pain and destruction and judgment that will come upon the earth, it can’t help to cause us to feel sick to our stomach.
God’s wrath is very real, and very scary, and coming soon.
In chapter 11 John tells us about these two prophets who will minister during the time of the tribulation. These two prophets have a divine protection. If anyone tries to hurt them they get scorched. These two guys go from city to city and place to place preaching the message of divine judgment and salvation.
They have the ability to prevent it from raining wherever they go. They have the ability to turn the water to blood, and strike the earth with plagues. These are definitely not guys you would want to have come to your town.
Verse 7 says…
Eventually the beast, which is one of many references to the anti-Christ, will rise to power and go to war with these two guys, and kill them. And the result of their death is a widespread party on the earth. They send gifts to each other, and rejoice, because the two prophets that caused them so much trouble are finally dead.
The bodies of these two prophets lie in the street for three and a half days. Then…verse 11-12…
Wow, I’m kind of glad that I’ll be watching these events from heaven, instead of on the earth. These final days as God’s wrath is poured out on the earth will be horrific. But do you see that even in the midst of these awful events, God’s grace and compassion still abound? Even though the end is drawing near, God is still providing ways for people to be reconciled to Him. He still desires that people place their faith in Him and He provides these two witnesses as a final attempt to draw people to Himself.
Finally, we come to the seventh trumpet, and the end of our time today. The seventh trumpet sounds and Christ is declared King!
Look at 15-18
At the end of chapter 11, one thing is made abundantly clear- Christ is king. Right now Christ is the anointed King. He is the rightful ruler of heaven and earth. But there will come a time when Jesus is not only the anointed king, but the reigning king.
Next week we will read about the mark of the beast, and the fall of Babylon, and the seven bowl judgments, and the millennium, and the final destruction of Satan, and when it’s all said and done we will see even more clearly that Jesus Christ is King, for ever and ever, Amen!