Opening of Revelation

CHAPTER ONE OF REVELATION is a magnificent prologue to the rest of the book. The idiosyncratic vision of Jesus Christ sets the stage for what will follow as Christ judges His churches and the world. The titles and portrayals of Christ are amalgamated into the present and future events that were closed up and sealed until the time of the end (Daniel 12:9). Without this book, the other parts of Scripture would lose much of their significance.

It is important to keep in mind that the apocalyptist was a pessimist, for he did not believe that things as they are could ever be cured. He foresaw terrible times of travail and terror when the world will be shattered and human relationships destroyed. The last days will be a time of judgment. The Lord will come like a refiner’s fire, and who may abide on the day of His coming? (Malachi 3:1-3). It is by the fire and sword that Yahweh will come (Isaiah 66:15-16). The scattered Jews are to be regathered to the Promised Land and restored spiritually (Isaiah 27:12-13; Ezekiel 37). In addition, an essential part of the apocalyptic picture of the last days is the resurrection of the dead, where Sheol (Hades) and the grave will give back that which have been entrusted to them (Daniel 12:2-3; Enoch 51:1).

However, the Preterist and Idealist find that John had a superb confidence—that victory would be won by the Church in the life-and-death struggle and that Satan was about to unleash. Yet, the seven letters of Christ reveal that these seven representative churches of Christendom are either weak or defeated. For the most part, Christendom is overcome by the world and Satan. It is the overcomers, within these churches, who are promised the ultimate victory.

TITLE OF THE BOOK (1:1): Revelation of Jesus Christ is the unveiling both of and from Jesus Christ. The revelation is not primarily about Christ but of events surrounding His coming. He is the Communicator of these events. The curtain of the future is lifted concerning the church age as well as events in heaven and on earth during the seven-year period known as the Tribulation. This period is followed by the Millennial Kingdom, and then the new heaven and new earth.

TIME FRAMES (1:1). “What must soon [tacei, that is quickly, with speed] take place.” This phrase indicates the rapidness of the events when they begin to unfold, not the length of time until they unfold. “Tachometer,” the instrument to measure speed, comes from tacei. It has been over nineteen hundred and seventy-five years since Jesus uttered the words of Revelation 22:20:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming suddenly [tacu ].” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Therefore, the Greek indicates suddenness. The day of the LORD and Christ’s return will come with suddenness like a thief in the night to those who are not waiting, watching and ready (Matthew 24:36-25:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). In fact, Jesus indicated in the Parable of the Talents that His return would be “after a long time” (Matthew 25:19). Additionally, Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:6-7:

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Possibly, Jesus now knows the exact moment when He will arise from His Father’s throne and come forth to set in motion the events that are to take place to restore the kingdom to Israel.

The present and the future are never divorced. In eschatology and apocalyptic genre, the future is always viewed as imminent without the necessity of intervening time. Therefore, “suddenness” means imminency in eschatological terms. The church in every age has always lived with the expectancy of the consummation of all things in its day.

The key periods of this book are found disclosed in verse 19:

PAST: What you have seen —> Vision of Christ, 1:9-19
PRESENT: What is now —> The Seven Churches, 2-3
FUTURE: What will take place later —> The Seven Year Tribulation, the Millennial Kingdom, The New Heaven and the New Earth, 4-22.

VISION (1:2). John saw (eiden, with his eyes) the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself is identified with “the Word of God” (Revelation 19:13; cf. John 1:1-14). Here “Word of God” refers to direct prophetic communication and “the testimony of Jesus Christ” denotes His validation of the communicated Word of God in the forthcoming visions. “Testifies” is a courtroom term, encompassing judgment.

VALUE (1:3). This is the first of seven beatitudes. Blessing is promised to those who read, hear and take to heart this prophecy. The preacher, the teacher and all readers must never forget that one of the greatest privileges in the church is to read Scripture to the assembled congregation. There is special strength to be found through the reading, understanding and obeying the prophetic messages of Scripture—a strength that will arm the church and the overcomer for conflict with the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

STEPS OF REVELATION (1:1-4). Revelation flows from God the Father to Jesus Christ to His angel to His servant to the churches, 1-4. His angel (messenger) might refer to the Holy Spirit (cf. verse 10). God the Father is speaking through His Son by the Spirit to John to us. Some identify Gabriel as Christ’s angel (messenger) because of his revelations (Daniel 8:16; 9:21-22; Luke 1:11-20, 26-37).

TRINITY (1:1-8). No other book of the Bible proclaims Jesus Christ’s deity, authority and power like Revelation does. Here the Triunity of the Godhead intermingles.

THE FIRST PERSON OF THE TRIUNITY—GOD: THE FATHER, 1:4

“Him who is, and who was, and who is to come” (cf. the name YAHWEH in Exodus 3:14). This description refers to God the Father who is spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, greatness, goodness, truth, and in whom all things have their source, support and consummation.

THE SECOND PERSON OF THE TRIUNITY—THE SON: JESUS CHRIST, 1:1-22:21

1. The Faithful Witness, 5—PROPHET; cf. Hebrews 3:6
2. The Firstborn from the Dead, 5—PRIEST, cf. Colossians 1:15
3. The Ruler of the kings of the earth, 5—KING; cf. Revelation 19:16
4. The Alpha and the Omega, 8; cf. Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; Revelation 21:6; 22:13
5. The Beginning and the Ending (Textus Receptus but not in earlier manuscripts), 1:8
6. Who is, and who was, and who is to come, 1:8; cf. Exodus 3:14 (“I AM WHO I AM”)
7. The Almighty, 8; cf. Genesis 17:1 ( ydv la-yna “I am El Shaddai”)
8. Son of Man, 13; cf. Daniel 7:13-14; see “theme” below
9. The First and the Last, 1:17
10. The Living One, 1:18
11. The Son of God, 2:18
12. The Amen, 3:14
13. The Faithful and True Witness, 3:14
14. The Ruler of God’s Creation, 3:14
15. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, 5:5
16. The Root of David, 5:5
17. The Lamb (30 times), 5:8 . . . 22:3
18. Sovereign Lord, Holy and True, 6:10
19. Lord God Almighty, 15:3
20. The King of the Ages, 15:3
21. The Word of God, 19:13
22. KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, 19:16
23. The Root and the Offspring of David, 22:16
24. The Bright Morning Star, 22:16
25. Lord Jesus, 22:20

THE THIRD PERSON OF THE TRIUNITY: THE HOLY SPIRIT, 4.

The seven spirits, which is the sevenfold Spirit, cf. Hebrews 1:14. The sevenfold Spirit is described in Isaiah 11:2:

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

The three titles of verse five relate to the general structure of Revelation.

1. The faithful witness describes Christ’s relation to the churches, whom He warns faithfully of their sins and to whom He gives some of His greatest promises.
2. The firstborn of the dead describes His role as arbiter of destiny, opening the seals and effecting redemption because He died and rose again to ascend to the heavenly throne of authority.
3. Ruler of the kings of the earth is His title as He puts all enemies under His feet and asserts His lasting reign over the world.

WRITER (1:4). The apostle John is not theoretical, but practical; not a copyist, but a creative artist; an inspired prophet communicating what he sees through apocalyptic symbolism (see introduction). The numerous employments of terms of comparison (“like” 66 times and “as” 44 times) manifest John’s creativity in picturing the visions he observed.

DESTINATION (1:4). The entire revelation is addressed to the seven churches in the province of Asia (western modern Turkey, boarding on the Aegean and Mediterranean seas). These seven churches are historical, representational, and prophetical. The local conditions in each differed, but the seven, when combined, are representative of conditions in Christendom from Pentecost to the Rapture.

The epistolary form of address distinguishes this book from all other Jewish apocalyptic works. The greeting “grace and peace to you” is distinctively Christian and occurs in the salutation of nine of Paul’s letters.

PLACE (1:9). Island of Patmos is a rugged and bare island in the Aegean Sea. The island is ten miles long and about six miles wide along the northern coast. It is for the most part rocky. The highest part is Mount Elias, which rises to a height of over 800 feet. John was exiled here in the fourteenth year of the reign of Domitian and he returned to Ephesus under Emperor Nerva in A.D. 96.

It has been said, “A man’s true environment is in his mind.” And quite obviously the cruel power of Rome has not captured the mind of John. Though John was exiled from all of like faith, and almost from the world, he was not exiled from God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or from angels. He still had communion with his Lord. Domitian banishment of John had not put out the light of the Word of God or testimony of Jesus; the emperor just provided the circumstances for it to burn brighter. The same was true of the apostle Paul when he wrote his prison letters and John Bunyan’s imprisonment at the Bedford, England jail produced Pilgrim’s Progress.

TIME AND CIRCUMSTANCES (1:10). “On the Lord’s Day” (th kuriakh hmera) occurs only here and denotes Sunday, the first day of the week. It should not be read “the day of the LORD (h hmera kuriou, LXX), which refers to the Tribulation Period and Millennial Kingdom.

John testifies, “I was in the Spirit.” He was neither in an ecstatic condition or trance but under the Holy Spirit’s influence as the prophets before him.

For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

Multiple Outlines of Revelation

OUTLINE BASED ON THE SEVEN-SEVENS WITH PARENTHESIS

CHRIST’S EVALUATION (1-3)

Prologue, 1:1-3

Reason for the Seven Letters, 1:4-20

I. The Seven Churches, 2:1-3:22
1. Ephesus, 2:1-7
2. Smyrna, 2:8-11
3. Pergamum, 2:12-17
4. Thyatira, 2:18-19
5. Sardis, 3:1-6
6. Philadelphia, 3:7-13
7. Laodicea, 3:14-22
CHRIST’S WRATH (4-18)
The Throne of God, 4:1-11
The Seven Sealed Scroll and the Lamb, 5:1-14

II. The Seven Seals, 6:1-8:1
1. The White Horse, 6:1-2
2. The Red Horse, 6:3-4
3. The Black Horse, 6:5-6
4. The Pale Horse, 6:7-8
5. The Souls under the Altar, 6:9-11
6. The Great Earthquake, 6:12-17
(The Sealing of the 144,000), 7:1-8
(The Great Multitude), 7:9-17
7. The Silence in Heaven, 8:1

III. The Seven Trumpets, 8:2-11:19
Seven Angels with Seven Trumpets, 8:2-5
1. Hail and Fire Mixed with Blood, 8:6-7
2. A Mountain Thrown into the Sea, 8:8-9
3. The Star Wormwood, 8:10-11
4. Third of Sun, Moon, Stars Struck, 8:12-13
5. The Plague of Locusts, 9:1-12
6. The Release of Four Angels, 9:13-21
(The Angel and the Little Scroll), 10:1-11
(The Two Witnesses), 11:1-14
7. Judgments and Rewards, 11:15-19

IV. (The Seven Personages), 12:1-14:20
1. The Woman, 12:1-2, 6, 14, 16
2. The Great Red Dragon, 12:3-4, 8-13, 15, 17; 13:1
3. The Male Child, 12:5
4. The Archangel Michael, 12:7
5. The Remnant, 12:17
6. The Beast Out of the Sea, 13:2-8
7. The Beast Out of the Earth, 13:11-15
(The Lamb and the 144,000), 14:1-5
(The Three Angels), 14:6-13
(The Harvest of the Earth), 14:14-20

V. The Seven Bowls, 15:1-16:21
Seven Angels & Seven Plagues, 15:1-8
1. Ugly and Painful Sores, 16:1-2
2. Sea Turns to Blood, 16:3
3. Rivers and Springs Turn to Blood, 16:4-7
4. Sun Scorches People with Fire, 16:8-9
5. Darkness, 16:10-11
6. Euphrates River Dries Up, 16:12-16
7. Tremendous Earthquake, 16:17-21

VI. (The Seven Dooms), 17:1-20:15
1. Ecclesiastical Babylon, 17:1-18
2. Political-Commercial Babylon, 18:1-24
CHRIST’S COMING
(The Wedding of the Lamb), 19:1-10
(The Return of Christ with the Armies of Heaven), 19:11-16
(The Great Supper of God), 19:17-19
3. The Beast and the False Prophet, 19:20
4. Anti-Christian Nations, 19:21
(The Millennial Kingdom), 20:1-6
5. Gog and Magog, 20:7-9
6. Satan, 20:10
7. The Wicked and Dead, 20:11-15

VII. The Seven Terrific Things, 21:1-22:21
1. The New Heaven, 21:1
2. The New Earth, 21:1
3. The New Jerusalem, 21:2-23
4. The New Nations, 21:24-27
5. The River of Life, 22:1
6. The Tree of Life, 22:2
7. The Throne of God, 22:3-5
(The Coming of Christ), 22:6-21

OUTLINE BASED ON THE CHRONOLOGY OF REVELATION 1:19

“HAVE SEEN”

I. The Coming of Christ, 1
“WHAT IS NOW”

II. The Church Age, 2-3
“WHAT WILL TAKE PLACE LATER”

III. The Rapture of the Church, 4-5
IV. The First Half of the Tribulation, 6-11
V. The Second Half of the Tribulation, 12-19
VI. The Millennial Kingdom, 20
VII. The Eternal State, 21-22

OUTLINE BASED ON CHRISTOLOGY

The Appearance of Christ, 1:1-8

I. The Lord of the Church, 1:9-3:22
II. The Lion over the Nations, 4:1-20:15
III. The Lamb among the Redeemed, 21:1-22:5
The Coming of Christ, 22:6-21

OUTLINE BASED ON THE PHRASE “IN THE SPIRIT”

Prologue: Christ Communicating, 1:1-8
Vision I: Christ in the Church, 1:9-3:22
Vision II: Christ in the Cosmos, 4:1-16:21
Vision III: Christ in Conquest, 17:1-21:8
Vision IV: Christ in Consummation, 21:9-22:5
Epilogue: Christ Challenging, 22:6-21

OUTLINE BASED ON THE THEMATIC PRESENTATION OF CHRIST

I. Christ’s Glory Revealed, 1
II. Christ’s Church Revealed, 2-3
III. Christ’s Wrath Revealed, 4-19
IV. Christ’s Reign Revealed, 20
V. Christ’s New Creation Revealed, 21-22

The Kinsman Redeemer

“The Seed” promise first made by God to Eve is further expanded under the motif of the Kinsman-Redeemer.

Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:23-27).

The central affirmation here is My Redeemer lives! Job was confident that he had a personal Redeemer, who is alive and who will raise him from the dead; he was confident that he would see God with his own eyes because his Redeemer lives.

God shows that man needs a Redeemer in many ways in the OT. The Law of the Kinsman-Redeemer (lag goel or ga’al) is part of God’s progressive revelation of formulating the incarnation for the purpose of human redemption.

The Kinsman-Redeemer had a four-fold duty:

1. He redeemed a person sold into servitude (Leviticus 25:47-49).
2. He redeemed the land, which his brother had wasted away (Leviticus 25:25).
3. He became the avenger of the blood of his brother who was wrongly slain (Numbers 35:27).
4. He was to marry his brother’s widow to fulfill the duty of a brother-in law (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

In order for Christ, to redeem us, He had to become our brother and that took the incarnation. After His resurrection, Jesus calls the apostles His brothers (Matthew 28:10).

The following illustrates that the Messiah’s work as Kinsman-Redeemer is only one-forth completed.

KINSMAN-REDEEMER

1. SERVANT (Leviticus 25:47-55)
2. WIDOW-BRIDE (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)
3. LAND (Leviticus 25:25; Jeremiah 32)
4. AVENGER OF BLOOD (Numbers 35:13)

JESUS CHRIST

1. FIRST ADVENT (Luke 4:16-19: Revelation 1:5-6)
2. RAPTURE (Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 4:1)
3. SECOND ADVENT (Revelation 6-19)
4. SECOND ADVENT (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Rev. 6-19)

The Land

Man longs to know why he is here and where he is going. In other words, what is his destiny? Scripture answers this important question through multi-themes that conjugate to form its structure and organization. Intertwined are three themes, Relational Experience, Quest for Place and Glorifying God, when combined these form a matrix within the primary structure of the Bible: Kingdom—Messiah—Land—Covenants.

Land is at the heart of quest for place and is the yardstick by which man measures his relational experience with Yahweh and standing under God’s covenants. Land is one of the most significant words of Scripture. The Septuagint (Greek OT) translates three Hebrew words with the term gh over 2,600 times. It also appears 248 times in the Greek NT. Land, earth, ground and country are the common English translations for gh.

If you were reading the entire Bible in Greek, you would be saturated with the word gh from the opening chapter of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation. You would find that man’s destiny begins with the creation of the gh and finds its resting place in the new gh. This word occurs 25 times in the creation narrative.

The theological importance of man’s relationship to the land is evident from the fact that God created mda (adam = man) by forming him out of the dust of the hmda (adamah = ground, land, earth). Even etymologically, man belongs to the soil from which he comes. The land is the source of man’s life, and when his life is over, he returns to the land. His livelihood and well-being are dependent upon the land.

In the broadest sense, the land is man’s home; it is all he needs. Because of sin, man has been banished from his real home, the Garden of Eden, to work the land from which he has been taken. He is denied access to the tree of life in the garden (Genesis 4:23-24); he has forfeited his relational experience with the LORD God (Genesis 3:8); and his ability to rule over the earth under the Adamic Covenant has been greatly diminished.

Because of disobedience, the good ground, which God created to provide for man, is made the source of man’s anguish. God curses the ground from which man is made and declares that man will return to it (Genesis 3:17-19). Clearly, from the beginning man is to understand that his well-being is related to obedience to God’s Word or the land to which he is inherently tied will be cursed. This principle will be repeated over and over in the history of Israel and climaxes in the Tribulation.

The focal point of Israel’s history predicted by God is wrapped up in one verse.

The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God (Genesis 17:8).

This verse announces a remarkable inversion of facts. The land is referred to as the “land of sojourning”—it is “the place” they are to live, but do not belong, and do not have roots. It is called the “land of Canaan,” possessed by another and not by them. Nevertheless, the land of rootlessness (possessed by others) is Israel’s future. The land that Abraham’s descendants are to possess is given to them by Divine authority.

It is a gifted land as seen in the phrase, “I will give.” The gifted land theme is crucial to understanding the fulfillment of God’s promise when Abraham’s descendants enter Canaan after 400 years of bondage in Egypt. With the Abrahamic Covenant, God turns hopeless history into land expectation. A sojourner will receive an eternal possession. His heirs will be brought out of slavery, life out of death. This promise of land rests on the power and veracity of Yahweh. God will give a new place in which to exercise trusteeship.

The fulfillment of the Land Promise started in motion with Moses at the burning bush. God was now ready to fulfill His promise by rescuing and bringing Abraham’s descendants into Canaan, a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). He had remembered His covenant. Their redemption would be the result of His mighty works in judgment. Not only would He give the land to them as a possession, but also He would take them as His people (Exodus 6:2-8). The nation of Israel, the Promised Land, and God would share a unique relationship.

In the Song of Moses, the writer grappled with the reality of the land and the presence of God. In the first portion of this song, the expected was proclaimed; God is leading His people (Exodus 15:1-12). However, the second portion added a new perspective, a destination not spoken of before. God is not just leading them to the Promised Land, but to His holy dwelling, the mountain of His inheritance, the place where Yahweh will dwell, the sanctuary He will establish (Exodus 15:13-18). God will be making His place with Israel in the land.

Moses’ imagery pointed to Jerusalem. David identified this imagery centuries later. In a processional liturgy celebrating the glorious and triumphant rule of Israel’s God, David recounted Israel’s march from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion (Psalm 68). In this psalm, Moses’ imagery finds its fulfillment in the Temple at Jerusalem. Thus, from the Red Sea crossing, Israel’s quest for place was to be much more than Canaan. It was to be present with the LORD.

Once in the land, Israel’s trust was to be measured by its obedience to the legislation laid down in the desert. Three key legislative passages, which amplify the Ten Commandments, were given through Moses:

1. The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-23)
2. The Law of Holiness (Leviticus 17-27)
3. The Deuteronomic Code (Deuteronomy 12-24)

God’s blessings for obedience and His curses for disobedience were added to the above legislation (Deuteronomy 28). The land and Israel’s occupation of it would reflect their administration of it.

Clearly, the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16) promises the establishment of an eternal throne for David’s seed for the purpose of providing a place and a home for God’s people. Here the unconditional promise of an eternal Promised Land and kingdom for Israel is merged. The future of the land is tied to Israel’s king. Thus, Israel quest for place will find fulfillment only in the promised king—Christ.

Israel’s rest in the Land is at the very heart of the Davidic Covenant.

And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people shall not oppress them any more, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies (2 Samuel 7:10-11).

Though the Jews are presently scattered throughout the earth, there is hope. Deuteronomy 30:4-10 predicts the regathering of Israel, even from the most distant land under the heavens. After the LORD brings the dispersed back to take possession of the land and make them more prosperous and numerous than their fathers, the Scripture forecasts:

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live (Deuteronomy 30:6).

Here the promise of the New Covenant is first revealed and later explained (Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27). The promises of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants are maintained. Not all the descendants of Israel will be rejected; their covenant relationship with the LORD is firm.

The context of the New Covenant in Jeremiah’s prophecy is important. Israel’s restoration to the Land is historically spoken of by the LORD before and after the New Covenant. He promises to give them rest (Jeremiah 31:2) and to gather His people back into the Land (31:3-24). It is predicted that they will go up to Zion to Him (31:6). Jeremiah 31:17 is one of the great eschatological statements of the Bible:

“So there is hope for your future,” declares the LORD. “Your children will return to their own land.”

A day is spoken of when Jerusalem will be rebuilt and never uprooted or demolished (31:38-40). Jerusalem has been destroyed some nineteen times. Clearly, this day is yet future. This promise has not been fulfilled. Zechariah records the same promise in the context of Christ’s Second Advent (Zechariah 14:10-11). Jeremiah not only speaks of restoration to the Land, but also of the Davidic king and His kingdom:

In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 33:15-16).

In these chapters, the promises of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants are as certain as day and night (Jeremiah 31:35; 33:20-26). Israel will enjoy the Promised Land in the future. Why? Two reasons are apparent in light of the New Covenant and the promised fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

1. The LORD will graciously enable Israel to meet the condition of obedience for rest in the Promised Land.
2. Every king who reigned in the Promised Land was just like the kings of other nations. They did not do what was just and right. The theocratic and Mediatorial Kingdom of Israel as divinely intended to be different, not like the other political systems of the world. Christ’s reign will fulfill this intent.

As king, Jesus Christ will fulfill the conditional stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant. The inhabitants of the Millennium will enter into the Kingdom with a new-circumcised heart, wholeheartedly loving the LORD.

The Messiah

A COVENANT is a formal binding agreement that defines relationships and responsibilities between two or more parties. Biblical covenants define the relationship between God and His people, and give binding expression to statements of His plans and purposes.

Eight covenants constitute God’s covenant-kingdom program. The Adamic and Noahic Covenants are universal in scope while the Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants fall under the umbrella of the Abrahamic Covenant. These five covenants form the framework of the Mediatorial Kingdom of Israel, and along with the first-two are fulfilled in the Messianic Kingdom. The fulfillment of God’s covenant-kingdom program culminates with the Everlasting Covenant of Peace. See the chart Kingdom—Messiah—Land in the Covenants of the Bible.

The Messiah

The Protevangelium

The first Messianic promise of Scripture sets forth the foundation upon which all Messianic prophecies concerning Jesus will be laid:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15).

Part of this promise is fulfilled with the incarnation of the Messiah, when Mary conceives by God’s power, instead of by a man’s seed. Thus, Jesus Christ is the woman’s offspring or seed according to the Gospels.

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35; cf. Matthew 1:22-24).

The protevangelium pinpoints four things that must occur with Jesus Christ:

1. He must be a man, springing from the seed/offspring of the woman.
2. He must bring enmity (animosity, antagonism, hostility) among the human race.
3. He must be victorious by crushing Satan’s head.
4. He must be wounded by Satan, who crushes His heel.

OT predictions often are couched in this reversed pattern of glory and suffering. Such reversals made it even more difficult for the prophets themselves to understand the time and circumstances of the Messiah (1 Peter 3:21-23). Suffering preceding the glory of the Messiah is recognized by the NT writers, for example:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

The protevangelium is the beginning of the Messianic hope as outlined by Genesis.

1. Satan ultimately would be crushed. The implication is that if Satan is crushed, so also his seed, the enemies of God’s people (3:15).
2. The agent of this crushing would come from the seed of the woman (3:15).
3. This victory over Satan would only be possible through suffering on the part of the Crusher (3:15).
4. God would come to dwell in the tents of Shem (9:27 KJV; HCSB; GW).
5. Through a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all nations of the earth were to be blessed (12:3, etc.).
6. The scepter and ruler’s staff will not depart from the tribe of Judah until He comes to whom it belongs (49:10).
7. The One from the tribe of Judah would be Shiloh (Messianic tile meaning “Rest-bringer”) (49:10).
8. The nations would give allegiance to Shiloh—the Rest-bringer (49:10).
9. His coming would introduce a time of great abundance (49:11-12).

Upon these nine foundational predictions, God constructed Israel’s Messianic hope. Of the specific Messianic predictions that followed over the next 1,400 years, scarcely one can be found which is not but a further amplification of these original predictions.

Progressive predictions are much like individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or flannel on a flannel-graph. No one or two pieces of flannel can depict the lesson to be presented. To get the full picture it is necessary to lay one piece, and yet another and another until the entire picture clearly appears.

The Promised Seed

“The Seed” motif rests at the heart of Messianic predictions.

The Seed of the Woman – Victory over Satan
The Seed of Abraham – Blessing to the nations
The Seed of David – Eternal rule

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ (Galatians 3:16).

Christ Jesus is the Seed promised to Abraham. Consequently, all in Christ are one in Christ and heirs of the promises spoken to Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:28-29).

The Royal Messiah

“The seed” promise made by God to Eve is narrowed to the family of David.

royalmessiah

Fourfold Structure of Biblical Prophecy

THE THEMATIC STRUCTURE OF THE BIBLE AND PROPHECY. Every prophecy and teaching contained in the Bible relates, in one way or another, to four primary themes: Kingdom, Covenants, Messiah and Land.

structure

Intrinsic to these four themes is man’s need for relational experience and quest of place. In the Fall of Man, Adam and Eve lost their perfect relational experience with God and each other. Hence, they were banned from the Garden of Eden, where they had apparently walked with God in the cool of the day. Consequently, begins man’s need and desire for a relational experience with God and neighbor, as well as his quest for place—to regain Paradise lost.

Man, now unrighteous in the eyes of God and in his own sinful nature, is no longer at peace (rest); turmoil rules his soul. The very soil (land), from which Adam had been formed, has been cursed by God because of his rebellion. The rule of this world (kingdom) has been forfeit to Satan. Thus, begins the story of God’s outworking (covenants) of reconciliation, which eventually culminates in the Messiah (Christ) Jesus, who provides imputed and imparted righteousness—the holiness—that is required to enter the Paradise of God— the holy city, the New Jerusalem—to the praise of God’s glory.

The Book of Revelation reveals how Yahweh intends to fulfill the promises He has made in His Covenants of the Kingdom, the Messiah, and the Land. Therefore, it is important to grasp the fourfold structure of the Bible, and the prophecy contained it, before attempting to understand the last book of the Bible.

The Kingdom of Heaven/God

There are several paradoxes associated with the Kingdom of God:

Always Existed – Historical Beginning
Universal in Scope – Local Rule on Earth
God Rules Directly – God Rules through a Mediator
Future Existence – Present Reality
Unconditional Rule – Covenant with Man

The Bible presents the Kingdom as always existing (Psalm 145:13; Jeremiah 10:10); yet in other places it seems to have definite historical beginning among men (Psalm 10:16; Daniel 2:44). It is universal in its scope, outside of which there is no created thing; yet again the Kingdom is revealed as a local rule established on earth (Psalm 103:19; Isaiah 24:23). Sometimes the Kingdom appears as the rule of God directly, with no intermediary standing between God and man; yet it is also pictured as the rule of God through a mediator who serves as channel between God and man (Psalm 59:13; 2:4-6). The Kingdom is set forth as an unconditional rule arising out of the sovereign God; yet it sometimes appears as a Kingdom based on a covenant made by God with man (Daniel 4:34-35; Psalm 89:27-29).

The Kingdom of God/Heaven is a present reality (Matthew 12:28), and yet future in its blessing (1 Corinthians 15:50). It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Romans 14:17), which can be experienced only through new birth (John 3:3), and yet it will have to do with the government of the nations of the world (Revelation 11:15). The Kingdom is a realm into which men enter now (Matthew 21:31) and yet is a realm into which they will enter tomorrow (Matthew 8:11). It is at the same time a gift of God which will be bestowed by Him in the future (Luke 12:32) and yet which must be received in the present (Mark 10:15). This now/yet tension of the Kingdom is apparent in Luke 17:20-25:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Seven Churches, Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls

SEVEN CHURCHES, SEALS, TRUMPETS AND BOWLS. Most of Revelation is structured around series of sevens. Seven churches, seals, trumpets and bowls are prominent. Each series revolves around judgment. Christ appears in the midst of seven churches judging the fidelity of the church as well as individuals to Himself and God’s Word. As each of the seven seals is broken, an action of the Lamb’s wrath takes place. The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet contains the seven bowl judgments.

Structural Parallelism with Daniel 2 and 7

STRUCTURAL PARALLELISM. Daniel contains parallel sections, such as chapters 2 and 7, which both cover the reigns of the same four successive kingdoms, symbolically pictured with a statute and four beasts, respectively. Consequently, many point to the likelihood of parallelism in Revelation as well. For example, three different passages might be the same battle (16:14; 19:19; 20:8).

Three and one half years occur five times, referring possibly to the same period (11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). The implications of these parallels affect one’s chronological placement of events. For instance, the seven trumpets and the seven bowl judgments become the same events, as each affects:

1. The earth (8:7; 16:2)
2. The sea (8:8; 16:3)
3. The rivers (8:10; 16:4)
4. The heavenly bodies (8:12; 16:8)
5. The people of earth (8:12; 16:12)
6. The Euphrates (9:13:16:12)
7. The end (11:15; 16: 17)

Structure of the Wrath of the Lamb

The approached in this study understands the wrath of the Lamb, symbolized in the seals, trumpets and bowls as the telescoping of events in chronological order. Within the seventh seal are the seven trumpets and within in seventh trumpet are the seven bowls.

SEVEN SEALS
1st Antichrist, chapter 6
2nd War, 6
3rd Famine, 6
4th Death takes one-fourth of the world, 6
5th Martyrdom takes a great multitude that cannot be numbered from the world, 6
6th Disturbances in the heavens and on earth, 6
7th Silence in heaven and blowing of the seven trumpets, 8

SEVEN TRUMPETS
1st One-third of earth burned up, 8
2nd One-third of the sea turned to blood, 8
3rd One-third of the rivers and springs of water turned bitter by Wormwood, 8
4th One-third of the sun, moon and stars turned dark, 8
5th Locusts from the Abyss that torment people for five months, 9
6th Two hundred million mounted troops that slay one-third of mankind, 9
7th Loud voices in heaven and the pouring out of seven bowls, 11

SEVEN BOWLS
1st Ugly and painful sores on the people with the mark of the beast, 16
2nd Sea turned to blood and everything living in it dies, 16
3rd Rivers and springs of water become blood, 16
4th Sun scorches people with fire, 16
5th Kingdom of the beast plunged into darkness and sores on men, 16
6th Euphrates River dried up to prepare way for the kings of the East, 16
7th A severe earthquake collapses the cities and hundred pound hailstones, 17

Theories of Literary Structures of the Judgments

JUDGMENTS ARE SIMULTANEOUS
_________________Seals_______________

________________Trumpets_____________

_________________Bowls_______________

JUDGMENTS ARE CONSECUTIVE Seals——————> Trumpets—————>Bowls

telescopic

Amillennialists hold that the Second Coming as seen in chapter 19 and chapter 20 doubles back to the start of a new parallel section, with Satan being bound (20:1-3) at the beginning of the Gospel Age instead of the Millennium.

The Beast persecutes the two witnesses (11:7) before he rises to power (13:1) and Babylon is fallen in 14:8, but later not yet fallen (17:1-5; 18:21). Parenthesis, instead of Parallels, are used to describe and fill in details that are needed for understanding events already seen or to be seen in the book (see outline based on chronology).

THE SEVEN CHURCHES. The seven parables of Matthew 13 along with the seven letters Christ wrote to the seven Churches in Revelation 2-3 unlock the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven during this present age.

Parables of Matthew 13 and Churches of Revelation 2-3

churches

The above seven churches existed in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in A.D. 90’s. They are characteristic of churches throughout the Church Age, as well as the seven periods of Church history. The above dates are arbitrary since the previous church period fades away, while the next one rises, and a remnant of each remains to the end of this present age. In six of the seven letters there is a reference to Christ’s coming; the Smyrna letter being the only one that does not contain such a statement. It is significant that the church suffering the most is not given a word of hope concerning the second coming. The reference in the letter to Ephesus does not have any hope attached, but it is a warning that Christ will come and remove their lampstand if she does not repent (2:5). Likewise, in the letter to Pergamum Christ calls for repentance (2:16). Both of these references are a condition coming in the Greek. Sardis, the dead church, also receives a conditional warning that if she does not wake up Christ will come (3:3). The believers in Thyatira and Philadelphia churches are exhorted to hold to what they have until Christ comes (2:25; 3:11). Both of these passages convey a future coming in the Greek. Finally, Christ announces His arrival to the Laodicean church: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.”

Thus, there is no imminency of Christ’s coming promised to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira or Sardis. However, Christ informs the true believers in the Thyatira and Philadelphia churches that they can expect His coming and announces His arrival to the Laodicean church. Since Christ did not come during the existence of the historical Laodicean church, the seven letters must have a prophetic meaning.

Since Revelation is a prophecy, it would be poor hermeneutics to pull chapters two and three from the book and say that they do not have a prophetic aspect to them. The logical conclusion is that each letter is representative of a period in Church history, and any period, like the first century, is a composite of all seven churches.

CHRONOLOGY. The chronological order of the visions and events by the very nature of apocalyptic genre is difficult to establish. There is an amalgamation of seven churches, seals, trumpets, bowls, personages, dooms, and terrific things. Some are straightforward, like the seven churches, others encompass one another. Fourteen parentheses are strategically placed for thematic reasons that interrupt the chronology.

Structures of Revelation

Interpreters who take an allegorical approach often deny there is any chronological structure intended in this book. Lenski says, “all history is covered, but not as we read history, only as God sees it.” Hendriksen dismisses both the historical and futurist interpretations on the assumption that the book is a symbolic word of encouragement for the early Christians suffering persecution and a general assurance of the ultimate triumph in Christ.

A SIMPLE STRUCTURE OF REVELATION. There are diverse structures to Revelation, which range from simple to complex. The book contains a large number of repeated phrases, some of which are significant marks of progressive thought.

The first and simplest of these structures is built upon the phrase “in the Spirit,” which occurs in four places.

1:10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit Isle of Patmos
4:2 At once I was in the Spirit Throne in Heaven
17:3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit Desert on Earth
21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit Mountain High and Great

The Holy Spirit transported John to new scenes of action where spiritual realities and future events were disclosed to him. The first pair of transports are introduced by “a great voice” (1:10; 4:1) and the second pair by “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” (17:1; 21:9).

The first pair contrasts earth and heaven, the writer was suffering physical exile for faith on earth and then is transported to heaven where he sees the hosts of the redeemed and Christ break the seals of destiny.

The second pair contrasts the desert and mountain, the prostitute and the bride, corruption and purity, doom and destiny, despair and delight. This second pair gives a double outcome of the book.

In addition, the reader of Revelation needs to pay attention to a second phrase, “I saw . . . .” This phrase occurs thirty-three times in the NIV. In the majority of instances, this expression introduces a new item into the vision. John saw over sixty visions of notoriously elusive things that were very difficult for him to describe.

Additionally, a third phrase, “peals of thunder”, marks a division (4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; 19:6). In each case, this phrase is connected with some terminal activity, and with the altar, temple or throne in heaven.

SCENES ON EARTH AND HEAVEN. There is an earthly and heavenly structure, in the sense, that scenes switch back and forth from earth to heaven. The following visions take place in heaven:

1. Opening of the seven-sealed scroll (4:1-5:14)
2. Vision of the little scroll (10:1-11)
3. Measuring of the Temple (11:1-2)
4. Prophecy of Christ’s future reign (11:15-19)
5. Vision of the sun-clad woman (12:1-17)
6. Vision of 144,000 saints and the Judgment Day (14:1-20)
7. Vision of the sea of glass around the throne (15:1-8)
8. Vision of the hallelujah chorus (19:1-6)
9. Marriage of the Lamb (19:7-10)
10. Judgment of the Great White Throne (20:1-15)

SONGS OF REVELATION. No less than twenty expressions of praise can be counted, though not all are called songs in this book. The essence of worship pervades the entire Apocalypse. They breathe a sense of awe at the power of God exercised in judgment, redemption and establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth.

Interpretive Considerations

UNDERSTANDING REVELATION. Revelation is based on the chronology and the end time images of the Book of Daniel. It pulls together the vast number of details revealed through the prophet Isaiah about the Antichrist, the judgment of the world, and salvation of mankind and tells how they will be accomplished in the Day of the Lord.

NATURE OF PROPHECY. Predictive prophecy falls into two categories: near-term and far-term. Near term predictions tell what is about to be experienced by those in the prophet’s own generation. Like OT prophecy, much of Revelation is long-term and will be fulfilled long after the death of the prophet’s contemporaries. Interpretation of prophecy is an understanding of a particular moment in history, a divine understanding of a human situation. Some predictions have a double reference, that is, both near-term and far-term fulfillments, such as Daniel 11:31:

Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ (168 B.C.) desolation of the Temple (2 Maccabees 6)
Antichrist’s Desolation of the Temple in the Tribulation Period (Matthew 24:15)

THEMATIC THEME. The fulfillment of God’s purpose for Christ as Judge, Redeemer, and King is the central theme of the Book of Revelation. Judgment, redemption and kingdom are interrelated parts of the establishment of God’s salvation. Judgments are the fate of the unrepentant and the unredeemed, as kingdom is the destiny of the redeemed believers. Redemption exempts believers from judgment, and makes them ready for the kingdom, which will be fulfilled in Christ’s redemptive work as the Kinsman-Redeemer. The actions of Christ in the Apocalypse fulfill the matrix of the Bible (cf. Psalm 105).

KEY VERSES. Many verses might be considered key to the Book of Revelation. The following key verses focus on the giving and receiving of the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, which climaxes in the worship of God.

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (1:1).

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne (1:4).

Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later (1:19).

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow-servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (22:8-9).

Symbols Explained in Revelation

1. The Seven Stars The Angels of the Churches, 1:20
2. The Seven Lampstands The Seven Churches of Asia, 1:20
3. The Seven Lamps of Fire The Seven Spirits of God, 4:5
4. The Golden Bowls of Incense The Prayers of the Saints, 5:8
5. The Great Multitude The Martyred Tribulation Saints, 7:13-14
6. The Great Dragon The Devil, Satan, 12:9
7. The Beast Out of the Earth The False Prophet, 16:12; 19:20
8. The Seven Heads The Seven Hills the Woman Sits On, 17:9
9. The Ten Horns The Ten Kings, 17:12
10. The Waters The Peoples, Multitudes, Nations and Languages, 17:15
11. The Woman The Great City that Rules over the Kings of the Earth, 17:18

NUMBERS. Numbers are used to tie the prophecy together. For instance, there are a series of three judgments: seals, trumpets and bowls. There is the evil trinity: the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Four is related to the earth, the creation, and three to Creator in heaven. There are four living creatures, four angels at the four corners of the earth.

Three is the number of heaven and four the number of the earth when combined equal seven (3 + 4 = 7) the most important number in Revelation. Seven signifies fullness, perfection.

Six is the number of man, having been created on the sixth day, and six falls short of perfection, which is the number seven.

Sevens of Revelation

1. Churches 1:4, 20; 2-3
2. Spirits 1:4; 3:1; 4:5
3. Lampstands 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6
4. Stars 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1
5. Members 1:14-16
6. Angels 1:20; 8:2; 15:1
7. Letters 2-3
8. Lamps 4:5
9. Seals 5:1, 5
10. Horns 5:6
11. Eyes 5:6
12. Doxologies 5:12; 7:12; 11:15; 12:10; 14:4; 15:3; 19:1
13. Earthquakes 6:12; 8:5; 11:13 (2x), 19; 16:18 (2x)
14. Altars 6:9; 8:3, 5, 13; 11:1; 14:18; 16:7
15. Attributes 7:12
16. Trumpets 8:2, 6
17. Abyss 9:1, 2, 11; 11:17; 17:8; 20:1, 3
18. Thunders 10:3, 4
19. Thousand 11:13
20. Crowns 12:3
21. Personages 12-13
22. Sickles 14
23. Plagues 15:1, 6, 8; 21:9
24. Bowls 15:7
25. Heads 17:3, 7, 9; 12:3, 12
26. Hills 17:9
27. Kings 17:10-11
28. Dooms 17-20
29. Former Things 21:1-4
30. Wonderful Things 21-22
31. Blessings 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14
32. Signs 12:1, 3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20
33. Events 19:11-16, 17-21; 20:1-3, 4-6, 7-10, 11-15; 21:1-8
34. Years 4-19
35. Christ 1:1, 2, 5; 11:15; 12:10; 20:4, 6

Twelve is the mystic number (3 x 4 = 12). The woman of chapter 12 has 12 stars upon her head. The Tree of Life bears 12 kinds of fruit. The New Jerusalem has 12 angels guarding 12 gates with the 12 names of the 12 tribes of Israel. The wall of the Holy City has 12 foundations, bearing the names of the 12 apostles. The wall measures 144 cubits, which is 12 x 12. There are also multiples of 12. Each tribe contains 12,000 making 144,000.

Numbers that appear in Revelation are 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 24, 42, 144, 666, 1,000, 1,260, 1,600, 7,000, 12,000, 144,000, 100,000,000 and 200,000,000.

COLORS. Revelation employs diverse colors to enhance particular images, such as the four horses of Revelation 6, which are white, fiery red, black and pale. For instance, white embodies the joy of victory as well as righteousness (cf. 1:14: 2:17; 3:4, 18; 4:4; 6:2, 11; 7:9, 13; 19:11, 14; 20:11).

GEOGRAPHY. Places and locations in apocalyptic genre have theological meanings and significance. For instance, sea symbolizes people, whether evil and hostile (13:1; 21:1) or righteous (4:6). Babylon is a code name for Rome or the enemy.

Literary Character

GENRE. In varying degrees, the apostle John incorporates three literary forms: (1) apocalyptic; (2) prophetic; and (3) epistolary. The title (Apocalypse of Jesus Christ) establishes an explicit link between the book and apocalyptic tradition from the post-exilic period.

The first three chapters of Revelation are primarily epistolary genre, which is styled as a letter. Yet, these chapters are apocalyptic and prophetic also.

In the post-exilic period, the Jewish people were asking why the promises of a golden age for the nation predicted by the prophets had not materialized. The one answer is found in the apocalyptic thought—the golden age will come in a new period. Thus, the concept of two ages was very popular in apocalyptic literature. This present age is under the control of evil power and nothing can be done to redeem it. During this present age, the righteous will be persecuted and even condemned to death. Affliction and difficulties will increase up until the end of the age. However, at some point God will intervene to save His people and inaugurate the new golden age.

Apocalyptic genre is visionary, highly symbolic, pictorial, imprecisely organized, redundant, and exhortative. Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation, along with Second Esras in the Apocrypha, belong to a class of literature called apocalyptic. This genre tells history in advance in symbolic terms. Often these symbols are complex, bizarre and strange. Occasionally, the symbols are interpreted by the writers. Their interpretations help to identify other symbols.

SYMBOLISM. The Apocalypse conveys its message of unraveling history as determined by God through representative imagery, familiar or grotesque, rather than through formal definition and declaration. The various symbols used are drawn from all areas of life and creation. Some of them are easily understood, others are complex, unearthly, and pretentious in their vastness and mysteriousness as to daze, or overwhelm the reader. There are four classes of symbols:

1. Those explained in the book
2. Those explained in other parts of the Bible
3. Those left unexplained
4. Those the readers are called upon to use their wisdom to understand

The images found in the Book of Revelation arose from John’s total experience and were familiar to him and his readers. Many of these images were part of the psychological make up of the first century.

A simple axiom for all Bible study is that “if words do not mean what they say, then no one can say what they mean.” One should take the words literally, unless there is clear indication in the text that the words are symbolic or figurative. A common clue that something is to be taken symbolic is the appearance of the word “as” or “like.” Keep in mind the symbolic and figurative point to real things that have a literal interpretation, such as the donkey and elephant represent democrat and republican political parties in the United States.

Much of the imagery is taken from the Old Testament and the symbolic or figurative meanings can be understood from its usage there. For example, Revelation 4:3:

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.

This description is symbolic of Christ our High Priest sitting on the Throne at the right hand of God the Father (Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13; 12:2). How do we know this? Jasper and carnelian are the first and last stones in High Priest’s breastpiece (Exodus 39:9-10). Jasper is for the firstborn Reuben, meaning “Behold a son.” Carnelian is for the last-born Benjamin, meaning “Son of my right hand.” Combined the names depict the incarnate Son of God who ascended to the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrew 8:1), thereby, fulfilling the everlasting covenant, symbolized by the encircling emerald rainbow. Thus, other scripture passages often provide the key to interpreting the apocalyptic genre.

Revelation does not have a single direct quotation from the OT. However, there are hundreds of allusions, in one way or another, to the OT Scriptures. Of its 404 verses, there are 348 identifiable allusions to the OT, which is an average of more than ten for each chapter.