The Revelation Given to John
By Bruce L. Gerig
NOTE: This summary of the Book of Revelation concluded a two-year survey
(2009–2011) by the Gay and Lesbian Bible Study of New York, meeting at
the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. For maximum use, read the various passages in
Revelation first, and then the explanatory notes given below for each section. Unless otherwise noted,
translations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version.
Last May no doubt everyone received a tract or saw a sign somewhere, put out by Harold Camping’s Family Radio (Oakland, CA), announcing, “The End of the World Is Almost Here! HOLY GOD Will Bring Judgment Day on MAY 21, 2011.” Of course, nothing happened—because Jesus clearly (and repeatedly) told his disciples, relating to his return, that “about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt 24:36, Acts 1:6-7), “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matt 24:44, cf. 25:13). Moreover, the references to “Judgment Day” and “when God will destroy the world” (Camping’s tract) are confusing, since according to John’s Revelation these do not occur at the beginning, during, or immediately following the Tribulation period (the last seven years of history, as John describes it); only a thousand years later will the Great White Throne Judgment occur (Rev 20:11–15) and then God will destroy and recreate a new heavens and earth (Rev 21:1). Such false proclamations emphasize how important it is to carefully study the Book of Revelation, and within in the context of the whole of Biblical prophecy.
A. Introduction to the Book of Revelation – Some early manuscripts carry the title apokalypsis Iōannou (“The Apocalypse of John”), although today this text is more commonly called “The Revelation to John” (GNB, NRSV, NAB, UNASB, NJB, ESV). Apocalypse refers to “an uncovering, or revelation.” The seven churches to which this letter is addressed (1:4a, 11b) were located north of Ephesus, a coastal city in the Roman province of “Asia” (now western Turkey), which Paul evangelized (Acts 19) and where later, after Paul’s martyrdom, the Apostle John lived during the second half of the first century AD. This was a “circular letter,” to be sent to churches under his spiritual care, to be read, copied, and passed on from one congregation to the next. The call here to remain faithful to the Lord—see the repeated injunctions to “overcome” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 25; 3:5, 12, 21) in the individual letters included for these 7 churches—carried a real urgency since besides the frequent persecution stirred up by local Jewish synagogues, the Roman emperor Domitian (81–96) intensified his persecution of Christians during the latter part of his reign, at which time John was exiled for his Christian testimony to Patmos (1:9), a rocky, barren island located ca. 50 miles southwest of Ephesus. The widely accepted date for John’s visions here and his subsequent letter is ca. 95 AD. In terms of literary genre, Revelation is an epistle (sending a personal letter), a prophecy (foretelling future events), and an apocalypse (describing the ultimate destruction of evil and triumph of good on earth). Interpreters have followed four basic approaches to try to understand the book’s unusual and often puzzling contents: The preterist approach holds that most of the events and symbolism should be related to the first century AD, the historicist approach holds that the story of Revelation unfolds across history, the idealist approach holds that the book is primarily an allegory offering timeless symbols, and the futurist approach holds that most of the Book of Revelation should be read literally and that most of the events described there remain to be fulfilled at the end of time (Johnson). Liberal scholars largely endorse the preterist view (not liking the supernatural prediction of future events in Scripture), while the futurist approach continues among traditionalist interpreters today (Beasley-Murray). While some modern interpretation has become so symbolic and non-literal as to sink into total subjectivity, one has to wonder why Christ gave this prophecy to John and to the Church if he did not mean for it to communicate an understandable and important message.
Introduction to Biblical Prophecy
1. John’s Revelation and OT prophecy – Although no direct Old Testament quotations appear in the Book of Revelation, Robert Thomas counted 278 verses in the latter which allude to OT material; so this book continues in this tradition—and indeed many OT prophecies address (and add to) themes which appear in the Book of Revelation, including, e.g., passages related to Christ’s glorious return and defeat of his enemies (Zech 14:1–15), peace brought to human society and the animal kingdom during Christ’s Millennial reign (Isa 65:19–25), the structure and service of a Millennial Temple (Ezek 40–46), and many other topics (a number of which will be noted later). Especially important is Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24–27), which covers 490 years (1 “week” = 7 years). According to Gleason Archer (an Evangelical with a Ph.D. from Harvard), the first 69 weeks (483 years) extend from the year the Persian king Artaxerxes gave Ezra the scribe a decree allowing him to return to Jerusalem (with a second group of Jewish exiles) to the year Christ began his public ministry at age 30 (in 27 AD). Soon afterward, however, the “anointed one [the Messiah] shall be cut off” (Christ’s crucifixion, in 30 AD); and then “the city” (Jerusalem) and “its sanctuary” (the Temple later enlarged by Herod) will be destroyed (which occurred in 70 AD; Dan 9:26). Then there is a GAP in this Jewish timetable, to allow for the Gentile Age of Grace, and Daniel’s prophecy holds off for the last “week” (7 years) to be fulfilled later. Moving then to the last seven years of history as we know it (Dan 9:27), at first ‘he’ (the Antichrist) will make a covenant “with many [Israel] for one week [7 years]” and rebuild the Temple. However, after 3-1/2 years (“one-half week”) he will stop the sacrificing to God there and instead set up “an abomination that desolates” (the worship of himself as god, cf. 2 Thess 2:3–12). In relation to this, then, it may be said that the bulk of the Book of Revelation (about 60%) deals with this last 3-1/2 years (chapters 7–18), called “the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14), and then with what follows with Christ’s glorious return and its aftermath (chapters 20–22). It should be noted that the end-time archenemy of God is called “the first beast” in Rev 13:12, “the lawless one [who exalts himself over all gods]” in 2 Thess 2:3, and “that antichrist [who] is coming” in 1 John 2:18.
2. Major events covered in John’s Revelation – More specifically, the major events covered in Revelation fall into seven categories: (a) During the Early Tribulation Period (3-1/2 years), the Antichrist appears and rises to world-wide power, seemingly as a beneficial ruler; but also the world begins to experience worsening calamities (Rev 6). (b) During the Great Tribulation Period (the next 3-1/2 years), the Antichrist openly reveals himself to be God’s archenemy, he becomes more fully empowered by Satan, he demands that the whole world worship him as god (under the direction of a False Prophet), and he intensely sets about to persecute and kill Christians (Rev 7–18). The False Prophet deceives the whole world by setting up an Image in honor of the Antichrist (and Satan), which all must bow down and worship or be killed; and now also everyone must wear the Mark of the Beast (“666”) on his or her right hand or forehead, or they will not be permitted to buy or sell anything (Rev 13:14–18). (c) Christ’s Glorious Return brings with him the saints who have died and defeats the Antichrist and his evil forces in the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 19; cf. Zech 14:1–7, 12–15). (d) Christ’s Millennial Reign will witness the King of kings finally bring peace and righteousness to the whole world (Rev 20:1–6). (e) Satan, released one last time, will stir up hostile armies again; but God will swiftly deal with them in the Battle of Gog and Magog (Rev 20:7–10; cf. Ezek 38:1–39:20). (f) The Great White Throne Judgment will decree a just punishment for the wicked (Rev 20:11–15). And finally, (g) the Eternal Age will begin with the recreation of a new earth and heavens, the descent of a beautiful New Jerusalem from Heaven, and the ushering in of an unending blessed life for the saints with Christ their Savior, freed from death because their glorified bodies will have access to the Tree of Life (Rev 21:1–22:5, cf. Gen 3:22).
I. PROLOGUE TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION (chapter 1)
A. Preface (1:1–8) – The text begins by calling this “The revelation of Jesus Christ” which was given to John to show believers “what must soon take place” (1:1)—although tachei (“soon”) would be better translated here as “suddenly” (Acts 12:7) or “quickly” (Acts 22:18, NRSV)—indicating that once these events begin, they will quickly unfold and be completed. John explains the origin of his revelation, which came from God the Father, through Jesus Christ, and then through an angel (1:1–2)—although sometimes in the vision the Father (1:8) and Christ (1:17–18) speak directly to John. He writes, “Blessed [happy]” will be those who read this prophecy and take it to heart (1:3). John sends greetings to the 7 churches in the Roman province of Asia to whom this letter is addressed and will be sent (1: 4a); and then he raises a doxology to God the eternal one, to the Holy Spirit in his fullness (NRSV footnote: “the seven-fold Spirit”), and to Jesus Christ the true witness of God and our loving Saviour (1:4b–6). The main focus of this Book (or scroll) is Christ’s Glorious Return to earth (1:7), although the calamities that will precede this (Rev 7–18) and the marvels that will follow this (Rev 19–22) are described in some detail.
II. SPECIAL CONCERN FOR GOD’S CHURCHES (chapters 2–3)
to Ephesus (2:1–7) –
This church was marked by loveless
orthodoxy (correct teaching). Christ praises this important church’s hard
work, perseverance through hardships, and rejection of wicked persons and false
They hate what Christ hates (2:6)—and yet he laments, “You have
forsaken your first love” (2:4). “Repent” therefore, and stir up the fervent love
for Me that you once had.
Ephesus was the center for Christian outreach in this region, and it
also contained the world famous temple of Artemis, the great Mother Goddess.
B. Message to Smyrna (2:8–11) – This church was marked by continuing persecution. Christ knows the poverty and afflictions and slander that its members suffer, particularly from hostile Jews in the city. Yet even though some of them will be thrown into prison, Christ urges believers there to be faithful, even if they may suffer martyrdom—for their “crown of life” (Thomas: of victory) will be worth it. Perhaps the most beautiful city in Asia Minor, Smyrna had a “street of gold” which led up to the Temple of Zeus.
C. Message to Pergamum (2:12–17) – This church was marked by dangerous tolerance. Christ praises the church here for remaining true to him, even though they live in an evil city and one of its members, Antipas, was recently martyred. Still they must expel a false prophet in their midst (like Balaam in the Old Testament, cf. Num 22) who advises their members to continue attending the pagan temple feasts with their sexual orgies. The grand Pergamum Altar from the city center still survives in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.
D. Message to Thyatira (2:18–29) – This church was marked by sinful compromise. Christ notes the church’s many good deeds and love; and yet they tolerate an evil and influential woman (like Jezebel, cf. 1 Kings 16:31–32, 17:19ff) who spreads esoteric ideas (“deep secrets,” 2:24) and encourages indulging in sexual immorality, including perhaps even having sex with her (2:22–23). She should be cast out. Every craftsman in Thyatira had to join an influential guild, which, in turn, required supporting that guild’s special deity.
E. Message to Sardis (3:1–6) – This church was marked by near-death complacency. Christ tells the church that although people think they are “alive” (an active church), they are really spiritually “dead,” or nearly so. Only a few members there walk with the Lord and “have not soiled their clothes” (fallen into error and sin). Yet there is still time to “Wake up!,” repent, and return to a close walk with Christ. Nearby Sardis lay famous hot springs, promoted for their healing properties and as a religious site.
F. Message to Philadelphia (3:7–13) – This church was marked by promised deliverance. Christ notes that although the members there have “little strength,” they have kept his word and not denied his name in the face of fierce Jewish persecution. Since they have endured patiently, Christ assures them that their enemies will one day be humbled, and their reward will be worth all of their suffering. Prone to earthquakes and aftershocks, Philadelphia in the 90's was still recovering from the great quake of 17 AD. G. Message to Laodicea (3:14–22) – This church was marked by lukewarm materialism. Christ informs the church here that they are “lukewarm—neither hot nor cold” (2:16). Although they glory in their material wealth, in fact they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” in spiritual terms (2:17). They should seek the “gold” obtained in the fires of life and forgiveness from the Lord, and open their eyes. Many residents in this city became wealthy from black sheep wool, famous eye cures, and other commerce.
III. RECORD OF THE MAIN PROPHECIES (Rev 4:1–22:5)
OPENING OF THE SCROLL WITH SEVEN SEALS (4:1–8:1)
1. Preliminaries (chapters 4–5) – The main body of John’s prophecies begins with a vision of God the Father in Heaven (chapter 4) and of Christ (chapter 5). Here the Eternal Lord God (4:8) emitted a brilliant light both like jasper (Thomas: perhaps diamond) and carnelian (a fiery reddish-orange stone); and an emerald rainbow (W. Smith: symbolic of God’s mercy, cf. Gen 9:12–15) encircled his great throne, from which also came flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. Surrounding God’s throne sat 24 Elders (4:4), a kind of high angelic council, dressed in white, wearing gold crowns, and seated also on thrones. They seem to discharge primarily ‘priestly’ duties before the throne of God (Bruce). Yet, between them and the Almighty stood 4 Living Creatures (4:6b–8), hybrid winged cherubim like Ezekiel saw (Ezek 1) guarding God’s throne with their many eyes and four faces (of a lion, an ox, a human, and an eagle) pointing in all four directions, which each cherub possessed. Henry Swete wrote, “The four forms [here] suggest what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in animate nature.” Those who think that these creatures are too ‘fanciful’ to ever exist should check out the Creator’s surprising imagination displayed even now on earth, in “microscopic animals,” “deep sea fish,” and “dinosaur photographs” on Google Images. Anyway, day and night these Heavenly beings give God “glory, honor and thanks,” as the Creator of all things (4:9–11). Then the Almighty displayed a scroll in his right hand, with writing on both sides (5:1); and a mighty angel asked, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” At first John is dismayed that no one might be found worthy, but then “the Lion . . . of Judah, the Root of David, . . . the Lamb [of God]” stepped forward, and he was worthy to take the scroll. This is Christ, who appears in this vision as a bleeding lamb (the crucified Messiah), standing before God’s throne, having 7 horns (symbolizing his omnipotence, or all powerfulness) and 7 eyes (symbolizing his omnipresence, or being everywhere present through the ‘sevenfold’ or all-seeing Holy Spirit). Then the Angelic Council and Four Cherubim fell down before “the Lamb” (Christ’s predominate name in the Book of Revelation), singing praises to him for his atoning death, as 10,000 x 10,000 (i.e., an uncountable number) of angels join in.
1–6 – Here one must recall Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matt
24–25), where in a similar vein he noted that “the beginning of birth
pangs” (painful signs that will precede Christ’s Glorious Return) will begin
appearing even in the time of apostles, in the first century AD; and these
signs would include “wars and rumors of
war . . . famines and earthquakes . . . many false prophets” and killing of the
saints—while at the same time the “good news of the kingdom will be
proclaimed throughout the world” (Matt 24:4–14). Albrecht Dürer’s famous
woodcut “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (c. 1498) pictures Death, Famine,
War, and Plague, taken from Seals 2–4 here.
a. First Seal opened (6:1–2) – When the Lamb broke the First Seal, there appeared a rider on a white horse, with a bow; and he was allowed to ride out conquering. The absence of arrows suggests a peaceful conquest (Walvoord). This is not a symbol of Christ, but of false religions, which begin spreading doctrinal error in a bloodless conquest even in the first century.
b. Second Seal opened (6:3–4) – When the Lamb broke the Second Seal, there appeared a rider on a fiery red horse (“red” symbolizing bloodshed); and he was given a large sword and he took peace from the earth, so that men slayed each other, and the world was filled with war. This may have reminded John of Nero’s and Domitian’s slaughter of Christians.
c. Third Seal opened (6:5–6) – When the Lamb broke the Third Seal, there appeared a rider on a black horse, and he rode forth with a pair of scales, bringing widespread famine. Enough wheat (a basic staple) to feed just one person now costs a full day’s wages, although oil and wine are not affected. This suggests wheat prices 12 times higher than normal (Johnson). d. Fourth Seal opened (6:7–8) – When the Lamb broke the Fourth Seal, there appeared a rider on a pale (sickly-colored) horse, and its rider, named Death, brought widespread death; in fact, a quarter of the earth’s population died from killing, famine, and plague in the world, and even from hungry wild beasts. Plagues often follow widespread famine.
e. Fifth Seal opened (6:9–11) – When the Lamb broke the Fifth Seal, John saw the souls of martyrs slain for their faith, crying out, “How long, Sovereign Lord . . . until you . . . avenge our blood?” But they were given white robes (Thomas: of glory) and told to wait until the company of martyrs was complete. “Souls” (psychē) here refers to disembodied spirits (Johnson).
f. Sixth Seal opened (6:12–17) – When the Lamb broke the Sixth Seal, there was a great earthquake, and thick dust hid the sun and moon; and “stars” (meteorites?) fell from the sky. Then the kings of the earth sought to hide themselves from “the wrath of the Lamb.” The woes of Seals 1–5 will continue through the Christian Era—but with the Sixth Seal the scene moves abruptly to the Tribulation period (W. Smith), probably marking the beginning of the Great Tribulation period with this “complete convulsion of heaven and earth” (Bruce)—the Lamb’s response to the rise and revelation of the Antichrist, and giving the world another reminder that God is still on the throne and they should repent of their sins and worship him.
3. INTERLUDE (7:1–17) – Now an angel appeared and restrained certain other angels who had been given power to bring natural disasters on the earth, until a Divine “seal” of protection could be placed on 144,000 Jewish Christians, who come from all of the 12 tribes of Israel and have accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Saviour after the Rapture and during the Early Tribulation period. Yet, these numbers probably do not represent all of the Jews who have accepted Christ, but only a select group that has been called to witness (as special “servants”) for him during the Great Tribulation period (Walvoord, Thomas). Later we are told that this “seal,” placed on their foreheads, was the ‘name of the Lamb and his Father’ (14:1). Now sometimes in Revelation we encounter an angel (as here) who speaks words as if the Almighty is directly speaking. This recalls the Angel of the Lord who appeared at times in the OT, who likewise spoke directly with God’s presence and authority (Wilson), e.g., to Abraham (Gen 22:15–18), Moses (Exod 3:1–4), the Israelites (Exod 23:20–22), Joshua (Josh 5:13–6:2), Gideon (Judg 6:11–16), Hezekiah (Isa 37:36), and Elijah (1 Kings 19:7–10). Now the seal given here in Rev 7:3 does not mean that God will not also protect Gentile believers from the awful natural disasters that will appear during this time, although the focus now has returned to God’s timetable for Israel (the 70th Week) with its emphasis placed on proclaiming the Gospel to the Jews, who are still God’s chosen people and precious in his sight (7:1–8). Then John saw in Heaven “a great multitude” of believers “from every nation, tribe, people and language” standing in front of God Almighty and the Lamb, giving them praise (7:9–12). One of the angelic elders explains, these are martyrs “who have come out of the great tribulation,” having “washed their robes . . . in the blood of the Lamb” (7:13–17). Here the vision looks forward to the end of the Great Tribulation Period, after the last Christian has been martyred. One can see how strict chronology is sometimes set aside. Christ’s gifts promised his people here (to be their Shepherd, and to wipe away their tears, 7:17) anticipate both his Millennial Rule (Ezek 34:23, 31; Isa 26:8) and the Eternal Age (Rev 21:3–4).
SOUNDING OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS (8:2–11:19)
1. Preliminaries (8:2–6) – After a half hour of (dramatic) silence, 7 angels come and stand before God and are given 7 trumpets. Meanwhile another angel stood at the Altar before God and added incense to the “prayers of all the saints” which ascended from there to God. Then the same angel took fire from the Altar and hurled it to earth, which produced lightning, thunder, and earthquake. One can imagine that many of these prayers beseeched God to bring evil on earth to an end (cf. the martyrs’ prayers, 6:9–10). The “seven angels who stand before God” here (8:2), who are given 7 trumpets, probably include: Michael (Dan 10:13, Rev 12:7), Gabriel (Luke 1:19), Raphael (Tobit 12:15), and Uriel, Raguel, Sariel and Remiel (added in 1 Enoch 20:2–8; Bruce).
2. Trumpets 1–6 – These woes, most of which adversely
affect 1/3 of the earth or humankind, probably do not occur until the
Antichrist fully reveals himself; so one could say that Trumpet 1 begins the full unfolding of the Great Tribulation woes,
during which there will be severe persecution of Christ’s witnesses and
a. First Trumpet blast (8:7) – Following this, “hail and fire mixed with blood” fell to earth, burning up 1/3rd of the earth, including the trees and grass. This recalls the Seventh Plague preceding the Exodus, when “heavy hail” flattened plants and shattered trees throughout Egypt, except in Goshen where the Israelites lived (Exod 9:22–26). “Fire mixed with blood” recalls the red fire-balls that Mount Vesuvius spewed out during the eruption of 79 AD which destroyed Pompeii. However, the “fire” here in 8:7 may more likely refer to lightning storms which then start raging forest fires, as seen in California.
b. Second Trumpet blast (8:8–9) – Following this, “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze,” fell into the sea, turning 1/3rd of it to blood and killing 1/3rd of all sea life and sinking the ships in that region. This recalls the First Plague in Egypt which turned the Nile water into “blood,” killing all of its fish (Exod 7:17, 20–21). Here in Revelation a large meteorite may fall into the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian ocean, poisoning all of the water there and its sea life. No doubt a great tsunami would also occur. Volcanic eruptions on Thera, an island near Patmos, often turned the sea water a bright orange color.
c. Third Trumpet blast (8:10–11) – Following this, “a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky,” polluting 1/3rd of the earth’s rivers and springs and turning their water bitter. Here a larger heavenly body (a meteor or small star) sweeps through the earth’s atmosphere, its fallout rendering undrinkable a large swath of the earth’s fresh water supply. A volcanic eruption in the Aleutian Islands in 1823 made the water so bitter that it could not be drunk. This star (8:11) is called “Wormwood [artemesia],” the name given an ancient plant that was bitter in small doses and poisonous in larger amounts.
d. Fourth Trumpet blast (8:12–13) – Following this, a great eagle appeared in the sky, crying loudly: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth,” because of the next three woes to follow.
e. Fifth Trumpet blast (9:1–12) – Following this, demonic locusts appeared from the Abyss with the power to sting, like a scorpion, those people who did not have the “seal of God” on their foreheads (which surely includes all believers); and they spread out over the earth. These grotesque, plate-protected, winged creatures, with human-like faces, long woman-like hair, and teeth like a lion, tormented the unsaved for 5 months, although the victims could not die. The fallen star here is Satan, and the Abyss (9:1) the deepest part of the underground realm of the dead, where evil spirits dwell (Luke 8:31) and fallen angels also are probably imprisoned (Jude v. 6).
f. Sixth Trumpet blast (9:13–21) – Following this, 4 angels “bound at the great river Euphrates” (Beckwith: a region of evil in the OT) were released to kill 1/3rd of humankind, using a demonic army of 200 million horsemen, wearing red, blue, and yellow breastplates. Out of the mouths of their horses (with lion-like heads) came “fire, smoke and sulfur,” which killed people; and their snake-like tails also inflicted injury. Although given a taste of hell itself, the wicked do not repent. The “fire, smoke and sulfur” seem to anticipate modern warfare (Walvoord) and gunfire, shot from the top of a tank and from the rear.
a. John recommissioned (chapter 10) – Then a “mighty angel” appeared, robed in a cloud with a face like the sun and a rainbow around his head (10:1); and he raised his hand to Heaven and “swore by him who lives forever and ever,” that “There will be no more delay!” (10:5–6). No doubt Satan, the Antichrist, and their followers would like a delay—while an excited anticipation is building in Heaven for Christ’s Glorious Return. And indeed after the final Seven Bowls of God’s wrath are poured out (16:1ff), the “mystery” of God (Swete: his redemptive purpose realized in human history) will be accomplished (10:7). Then the Angel (of the Lord), standing with one foot on land and the other on the sea (symbolizing the Almighty’s all-encompassing presence and power) handed John a “little scroll,” and told him to eat it. When he did so, it tasted sweet in his mouth, but it soured his stomach (10:8–10). Hearing from God is always “sweet,” but these visions of doom are unsettling. The “rainbow” (10:1) recalls God’s throne and grace (cf. Rev 4:3), and the “little scroll” (10:2) represents the renewed commission given to John, to continue writing down the dreadful woes which he is seeing in these visions. Note God swearing by himself also in Gen 22:16, Exod 32:13, and Ps 89:35.
b. Measurement of the Temple, and the Two Witnesses (11:1–14) – Then John is given a measuring rod and told to measure the Temple that will exist in the end time in Jerusalem (revealing to us that the Antichrist has indeed rebuilt the Jewish temple), although the outer court will be “trampled on” (desecrated) for 3-1/2 years (“42 months” or “1,260 days”) during the Great Tribulation period, by the Antichrist who sets up an idol of himself to be worshipped (Rev 13:14b–15). Yet, during this same period “two witnesses” or prophets will appear in the Temple, dressed in sackcloth and speaking for the Lord, symbolized here as “lampstands” (God’s word, truth, light), fueled (empowered) by “olive trees” (the ‘oil’ of God’s indwelling Spirit, cf. Zech 4:1–6). They will have the power to kill, with fire from their mouths, anyone who tries to kill them, and also to bring drought or plagues upon Jerusalem. Finally, however, “the beast from the abyss” (the resurrected Antichrist, Rev 13:12b, 17:8a) will attack them and kill them; and their bodies will lie in the street for 3-1/2 days, while the evil world gloats over and celebrates their demise. However, God then will raise them from the dead and take them up to Heaven on a cloud. At the same time a severe earthquake will level 1/10th of the city of Jerusalem (compared here to Sodom and Egypt, places also where great violence occurred, cf. Gen 18:20–21, 19:1–11; Exod 1:8–14); and 7,000 people will die. Mostly early interpreters (e.g., Tertullian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus) identified these two witnesses as Enoch and Elijah, both of whom were transported to Heaven without dying (Gen 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11); however, more recent interpreters (e.g., Charles, J. Smith, W. Smith, Beasley-Murray, Mounce, Bruce, Thomas) claim that they will be Moses and Elijah, whose miracles parallel those alluded to here. However, they could also simply be two Jews at the time whom God especially raises up and empowers to be his witnesses (Walvoord). Still, there is no repentance in the face of God’s wrath.
4. Seventh Trumpet blast (11:15–19) – Soon the third and last set of (Bowl) calamities will begin. Yet first there is a long INTERLUDE (11:15–14:20), which begins with John seeing the Angelic Elders and others in Heaven rejoicing that soon the whole world will become the kingdom of Christ and offering praise to God for his great power and because the time for judgment of the dead and distribution of rewards draws near. Also John sees in “God’s temple” the “Ark of his Covenant,” from which came lightning, thunder, and rumbling. These images suggest that Moses’ Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, as well as the Altar of Incense (Rev 8:3–4), exist as spiritual realities in Heaven, after which the physical entities were patterned (Exod 25:9, Heb 8:1–2, 5–6).
C. THE ANTICHRIST’S WARFARE AND PREDICTED DEFEAT (chapters 12–14)
This section more fully explores the Great Tribulation Period, by providing background material on the fierce behind-the-scenes battle going on between God and Satan (chapter 12), soon headed for its great climax, and describing the nature and administration of the two great Satan-inspired leaders who play end-time roles (chapter 13), the Antichrist and the False Prophet. At the same time, John’s vision cannot resist looking forward to the future victorious celebration of God’s special Messianic Jewish winesses (14:1–5), who become a prime target of the Antichrist’s persecution during the Great Tribulation period. Then four Heavenly pronouncements are made (14:6–13): offering a final plea to the wicked to repent, predicting the fall of Babylon (the Antichrist’s world capital), warning of dire eternal punishment that will fall on the Antichrist’s followers, and proclaiming a special blessing on those believers who are martyred during this time for their faith. Then Christ’s final victory over the Antichrist and his followers is foreseen and described (14:14–20), in blood-drenched terms.
1. A great cosmic struggle: the Woman, the Son, and the Dragon (chapter 12) – This chapter begins by describing Christ’s First Advent (12:1–5), then moves forward to the beginning of the Great Tribulation period, where a curtain is briefly drawn back to reveal the great unseen cosmic war going on in “heaven” (12:7–12), alongside the physically visible warfare occurring on earth between the Antichrist and Christ’s followers (12:6, 13–17). In Scene 1 (12:1–5) a “woman,” as chosen, blessed, and honored as Joseph in his dream of the sun, moon and stars (Gen 37:9–10, 42:6), becomes pregnant and gives “birth to a son” (Jesus, the Messiah). However, “an enormous red dragon” (Satan, God’s longstanding adversary)—with “seven heads . . . and seven crowns” (representing major nations and evil rulers whom he has controlled through history, cf. Rev 17:9–10) and also with 1/3rd of the ‘stars’ swept out of Heaven (those angels who fell with Satan in his original rebellion, hinted at in Ezek 28:11–17 and Rev 9:1)—stands ready to “devour her child.” Yet, before the child could be totally destroyed, he “was snatched up to God” in Heaven (Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension). In Scene 2 (12:7–12), occurring at the beginning of the Great Tribulation period (“1,260 days” or “a time,  times, and half a time” [Rev 12:6, 14] = 3-1/2 years before Christ’s glorious return), a war in heaven (probably referring to outer space and the earth’s atmosphere [Seiss, Strauss], where evil spirits now dwell, cf. Eph 6:11–12) resulted in the Archangel Michael and his angelic forces throwing the “great dragon” to the earth (12:7–9), where he then is “filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (12:12). In the Scene 3 (12:6, 13–17) we see the “woman” mentioned earlier (Walvoord: representative of Jewish Christians) hastily fleeing from Jerusalem and from the wrath of the Antichrist (which Jesus also vividly describes in Matt 24:15–22). Yet they are miraculously preserved, until they reach a hideout specially prepared for them (Walvoord: some think that will be the ancient rock-city of Petra, located ca. 50 miles south of the Dead Sea). The “rest of her offspring” (12:17) no doubt refers to other Messianic Jewish converts (cf. Rev 7:3–8) who are located elsewhere.
2. Two evil end-time leaders: the Beast from the Sea (13:1–10) and the Beast from the Earth (13:11–18) – John’s vision then switches to earth at the beginning of the Great Tribulation period, where we are introduced to a first “beast,” the Antichrist (13:1), whose power derives from Satan (note his 7 heads, cf. Rev 12:3), and then to a second “beast,” his False Prophet (called “a lamb,” 13:11, probably because his outer demeanor appears mild but) who is committed to seducing the whole earth to worship the Dragon (Satan, 13:12), who in turn will hold the whole world in his spell for “42 months” (3-1/2 years, 13:4–5) and make “war against the saints” (13:7). After the Antichrist is killed and then resurrected (13:3, 12c, 14), he becomes even more Satan incarnate. The False Prophet sets up an Image of the Antichrist, which becomes alive, speaks, and kills those who do not bow down and worship it (13:14–15). The False Prophet also forces everyone to wear a “mark” (666) on the right hand or forehead, which is the ‘number of the name of the beast’ and without which people cannot buy or sell (13:16–18). Here we see an Evil Trinity: Satan (the word in Hebrew means “Adversary”), the Antichrist, and the False Prophet. “Out of the sea” (13:1) points to the Abyss (11:7, home of fallen angels and evil spirits deep underground), while “out of the earth ” (13:11) probably points to the land of Israel (i.e., the False Prophet being of Jewish national origin). Note that the Greek word gē can mean “region, land” as well as “earth” (Strong), while thalassa (“sea”) was often viewed as the home of evil creatures (Coogan)—and on the final New Earth there will be no more “sea” (Rev 21:1). The title “beasts” warn that these beings are dangerous and ferocious. The number “666” no doubt refers to an ancient tradition called gematria, in which numbers are assigned to the letters of an alphabet, and then the numbers in a name can be totaled up. For example, the Sibylline Oracles (1.324–329) gives Iēsous (“Jesus”) the number “888”—which can be arrived at if one assigns 2–9 to the initial Greek letters alpha through theta, then 10, 20, 30 on to the next 10 letters, then 100, 200, 300 on to the remaining letters. However, the name associated with “666” cannot be known from this number until the Antichrist actually appears (Thomas).
The future victorious chant of the special Messianic Jewish witnesses (14:1–5) – Then John saw “the Lamb [Christ] standing on Mount Zion [Jerusalem], and with him [the] 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name
written on their foreheads,” and they “sang a new song before the throne [of
God].” The divine name here might be something
like “God Almighty” (theos ton pantokratoros), which is
applied to Christ as victor of this book twice (Rev 16:14, 19:15) and which
also was an important name ascribed to the Father (“Lord God Almighty” = kurie
o theos o pantokratōn), found in Rev 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, and
21:22. Whatever the
case, this scene flashes forward to some point after Christ’s glorious return
when he is finally fully honored as Israel’s Messiah by a large number of God’s
(original) chosen people.
These special Messianic Jewish witnesses (14:3, cf. 7:3–8), all of
whom were martyred or at least persecuted in the Antichrist’s pogrom, now gather
to offer praises to their God (Yahweh)
and their Messiah.
They raise a song which only they can sing (from their perspective),
accompanied by stringed music from Heaven itself; and they are completely
devoted to Christ (they “follow the Lamb
wherever he goes”).
They are called “firstfruits” (Jesus was sent first to Israel, Matt 15:24–28), they stand “blameless” in Christ’s atonement, and
they “did not defile themselves with
women,” which they felt no doubt would distract them in their witness in
the treacherous time in which they lived (cf. Paul’s similar view, 1 Cor 7:28c,
3. The future victorious chant of the special Messianic Jewish witnesses (14:1–5) – Then John saw “the Lamb [Christ] standing on Mount Zion [Jerusalem], and with him [the] 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads,” and they “sang a new song before the throne [of God].” The divine name here might be something like “God Almighty” (theos ton pantokratoros), which is applied to Christ as victor of this book twice (Rev 16:14, 19:15) and which also was an important name ascribed to the Father (“Lord God Almighty” = kurie o theos o pantokratōn), found in Rev 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, and 21:22. Whatever the case, this scene flashes forward to some point after Christ’s glorious return when he is finally fully honored as Israel’s Messiah by a large number of God’s (original) chosen people. These special Messianic Jewish witnesses (14:3, cf. 7:3–8), all of whom were martyred or at least persecuted in the Antichrist’s pogrom, now gather to offer praises to their God (Yahweh) and their Messiah. They raise a song which only they can sing (from their perspective), accompanied by stringed music from Heaven itself; and they are completely devoted to Christ (they “follow the Lamb wherever he goes”). They are called “firstfruits” (Jesus was sent first to Israel, Matt 15:24–28), they stand “blameless” in Christ’s atonement, and they “did not defile themselves with women,” which they felt no doubt would distract them in their witness in the treacherous time in which they lived (cf. Paul’s similar view, 1 Cor 7:28c, 32–35).
1. Preliminaries (15:1–8) – Then John saw the Almighty and before him a burning “sea of glass” (this “sea” can reflect both God’s wrath as well as his tranquility, 4:6); and nearby stood “those [martyrs] who had been victorious over the beast and his image,” singing praises both to the God of the Israel and his Messiah (the Lamb). Then “the temple, that is, the tabernacle of Testimony, was opened,” and out came 7 angels carrying 7 bowls “filled with the wrath of God”—and “the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God” (15:5–8). This reference also points to an actual Heavenly Tabernacle that stands near God’s throne—of which Moses’ earthly tabernacle and Israel’s later temples were replicas, and where Christ after his Ascension offered once and for all his own atoning death and sacrifice for the “eternal redemption” of believers (Heb 9:11–12).
3. Second Bowl emptied (16:3) – Thereafter the sea (oceans) turned to blood, killing all sea life. This recalls the First Plague of Egypt, where the Nile water turned to blood (Exod 7:19-21) or became red-colored and foul, killing the fish there. Now there is a complete destruction of marine life, not partial as following the earlier Second Trumpet (Rev 8:8–9).
4. Third Bowl emptied (16:4–7) – Thereafter all sources of fresh water (rivers and springs) turned to blood. Perhaps all drinking water now thickens like clotted blood or simply turns red and produces a foul smell and poisonous taste. Earlier after the Third Trumpet only 1/3rd of the fresh water became polluted (Rev 8:10–11), but now all of it becomes undrinkable.
5. Fourth Bowl emptied (16:8–9) – Thereafter the sun’s rays became so intense that they “scorch people with fire”—yet the wicked do not repent. All of those faithful to God (both Jewish and Gentile) no doubt carry the ‘seal of God’ (cf. Rev 7:2–3) and will be protected or provided for in the midst of these plagues, as with Israel in Egypt (cf. Exod 8:22; 9:6, 26; 10:23). Note that these plagues are directed toward the wicked (Rev 16:6, 8, 10, 21).
6. Fifth Bowl emptied (16:10–11) – Thereafter the earth was “plunged into darkness,” so that those who “gnawed their tongues in agony” (from the previous woe) did so in darkness. This recalls the Ninth Plague in Egypt, when thick darkness covered Egypt, except where Israel lived (Exod 10:21–23). This could be an all-encompassing blackness if the sun’s earlier intense heat completely knocked out the earth’s electrical grid.
7. Sixth Bowl emptied (16:12–16) – Thereafter the Euphrates River dried up “to prepare the way for the kings from the East” to come to the Battle of Armageddon—to receive their punishment for serving the Antichrist. Demons, looking like frogs, issue from the mouths of Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet, to call these leaders to the final battle, although this will turn out to be a fatal trap for them.
8. Seventh Bowl emptied (16:17–21) – Thereafter there was lightning, thunder, and an earthquake like never seen before; and Babylon the Great split into 3 parts; and other “cities” (including capitals of the world’s nations) collapsed. Also islands sank into the sea, mountains disappeared, and 100-pound hailstones fell on earth’s inhabitants—but still the wicked only cursed God and did not turn to their Creator.
E. A CLOSER LOOK AT BABYLON AND HER DESTRUCTION (Rev 17:1–19:10)
1. Babylon’s evil described (17:1–15) – “Babylon” is compared to a “great prostitute who sits on many waters,” with whom “the kings of the earth committed adultery” (joined in her idolatrous worship of the Antichrist, and probably also with her cult prostitutes [Beasley-Murray, Thomas], as in ancient times, cf. Deut 23:17 and Ezek 23:28–30, 35–37); and these rulers became completely “intoxicated” by the city (made senseless by her lies and wine). Then John saw in the desert “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names [perhaps like “The Most High” or “The Lord God” applied to Satan] and [that] had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and . . . held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things”—and her name was “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (17:1–5). An angel then explained to John that the “scarlet beast” who here supported the prostitute (Babylon) was the Antichrist, Satan incarnate. The 7 heads represent 7 great kingdoms which Satan has controlled throughout Biblical history (cf. Dan 2), the first six including: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (Seiss, Hailey, Thomas). Determining the seventh king or kingdom is problematic, however (Caird), although I would suggest perhaps the later Muslim Conquest, which swallowed up so much Christian territory. Yet also another, eighth kingdom, that of the Antichrist, will arise in the end time. Meanwhile, the 10 horns here are 10 kings who at the end will rule for a brief time (“one hour”) with the Antichrist and who will bring their armies to war against the Lamb. The “many waters” on which the “great prostitute” sits represent the myriad peoples of the world (17:15) who support the false religion of Babylon (17:7–14). The evil leaders of this Satanic cult (the False Christ and his False Prophet) impress the world with their purple and scarlet (royal and religious) vestments, but their “golden cup” of Communion mocks Christ’s atoning death and perhaps supplies their supplicants with intoxicating drugs and stimulants which will lead them into sexual orgies. “Abominations” in the Bible most frequently points to idolatry and those practices which accompanied this, often including magic, séances, drunkenness, prostitution, and orgies (Deut 18:10–11, 23:17; Hosea 3:10–18).
F. CHRIST’S GLORIOUS RETURN AND MILLENNIAL RULE, AND THE END OF THIS AGE (chapters 19–20)
1. Praise to God that the Great Tribulation is over and looking ahead to the Marriage of the Lamb (19:1–10) – Suddenly there is “the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for just and true are his judgments’” (19:1–2a). The praise continues: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come [is near], and his bride [the Church] has made herself ready” with her righteous acts (19:7–8). The angel tells John, “Blessed are those [the redeemed in the Lord] who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (19:9). Overcome by this vision, John fell down to worship the angel, who told him to stop this, since his words come from Jesus (19:10). Four Hallelujahs (= “Praise the Lord!”) punctuate this passage, coming from angelic beings and from the saints (19:1, 3, 4, 6). This is the last appearance of Heaven in Revelation, since the focus will soon switch exclusively to the New Earth and the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1ff). Jesus, in his Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matt 22:1–10) compared the kingdom of God (his promised rule over all the earth) to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son; but when many of those invited (representing the Jews) decided that they were not interested, he invited in others off the street, whom one might think were not worthy (representing the Gentiles), to come and enjoy the royal wedding feast (the Wedding Supper of the Lamb). Isaiah also speaks of this feast: “On this mountain [Mount Zion = Jerusalem] the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples [the redeemed alive at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom] a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines . . . . Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth” (Isa 25:6, 8).
David will be appointed to serve (again) as king over Israel (Ezek 37:24), while “one king” (Christ) shall be king over all the nations (37:22). The Twelve Apostles (probably replacing Judas Iscariot with Paul) will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28); and the land of Israel will be divided into twelve horizontal strips of territory allocated to the twelve tribes (Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, Gad), with another strip between Judah and Benjamin given to King David and the priests (Ezek 45:1–8, 47:13–48:29). Ezekiel also provides a detailed description of the Millennial Temple (chapters 40–47), with a sanctuary apparently the same size as Solomon’s Temple (inside measurements 20 x 60 x 30 cubits wide, long and high—or ca. 32.8’ x 98.4’ x 49.2,’ if 1 cubit equals 1.64 feet (Kletter), (1 Kings 6:2, 20; Ezek 41:4). The prophet also sees the glory of the Almighty return to dwell in the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies room in the Temple (Ezek 43:1–12); and Jerusalem will be renamed Yahweh Sammah (“The Lord is There,” Ezek 48:35). Animal sacrifices will be offered on the Altar in the Temple (Ezek 43:18–27) to commemorate Christ’s great atoning sacrifice and as a witness to those who have not yet accepted Christ as Saviour and Lord (Alexander)—for the earth’s infants and innocents who survived the Battle of Armageddon and Lord’s judgment ‘of the sheep and the goats,’ as well as babies born later to those believers who survived the Battle of Armageddon and will need to decide whether they wish to accept Christ as Saviour or not. As Isaiah intimates, those who are not believers will not live past the age of 100, while all believers will continue live to the end of the Millennial Age (Isa 65:20). A stream of water flowing from the south side of the Temple will increase in size until it reaches the Dead Sea, filling this desolate lake once again with life; and monthly fruit will grow on the trees along the river’s banks, along with leaves with healing properties (Ezek 47:1–12). As King of kings, Christ will “judge between the nations” and settle major disputes; and the nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares [cutting blades used in plowing]” and there shall be war no more (Isa 2:4).
1. The New Heavens and the New Earth – After the bloodshed and bleakness of the Great Tribulation conflict and White Throne judgment, the splendor and glory of the Eternal Age is indeed a welcome sight. Then John “saw a new heaven [cosmos] and a new earth” burst into being, and he also witnessed a “New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,” as beautiful and glowing as a bride. Then the Almighty said to John, “Now the dwelling of God is with men [redeemed humankind], and he will live with them . . . and be their God” (21:1–3). With the New Creation, God makes “everything new” (21:5). “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life” (1:6), probably signifying deep inner satisfaction (Isa 55:1–2) and the overflowing joy felt from living forever in God’s presence (“eternal life,” John 4:14). And God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 21:4a), caused by grief in the old creation (Thomas). The believer “who overcomes [who remains faithful to Christ] will inherit all this” (21:7), God promises. Sin and death spoiled the first creation (Gen 3), turning it into a place of rebellion and alienation and an enemy territory dominated by the Serpent (Satan); yet finally this present earth and outer space will be ‘burned up’ with fire (2 Peter 3:7) and replaced by a ‘restored,’ even more marvelous creation (Acts 3:21). Seven burdens of this present life then will be eliminated: the sea (21:1), death, mourning, weeping, pain (21:4), the curse (22:3), and night (21:25). Eliminating oceans would increase the inhabitable space on an earth the size that it is now by 70%, as well as do away with a terrible source of natural disasters and death. Yet, still there will be rivers (22:1–2) and no doubt lakes, waterfalls, and smaller bodies of fresh water present on the New Earth, to be enjoyed. Perhaps, as originally in the Garden of Eden, plant life on the New Earth will be nurtured not by storm, wind and rain but by a mist that rises “from the earth” regularly to water the earth (Gen 2:5–6, KJV). Most significantly, as Paul wrote, the whole creation at this time “will be set free from its bondage to decay,” to share in “the glory of the children of God” and provide a peaceful and blessed home for the saints with their new glorified bodies (Rom 8:21–23).
2. The New Jerusalem – Then an angel whisked John up to a great mountain peak, to give him a panoramic view of the Holy City of God, which had descended from Heaven (21:2, 9–10). It glistened like a precious jewel, brilliant as jasper (Thomas: diamond?) and clear as crystal (21:11). It was made of pure but transparent gold (21:18). It was surrounded by a high wall, with 12 gates (three on each of the four sides of the city), each gate displaying the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel; and an angel stood as a sentry at each gate, probably as a kind of honor guard (Walvoord). The city rested on a square foundation made up of 12 layers, each displaying the name of one of the 12 apostles (21:12–14). The great city measured ca. 1,500 miles (1,200 stadia) along each side, and reached up 1,500 miles into the sky (21:16, NRSV). The city wall, also of jasper, measured nearly 75 yards (144 cubits) thick (or high); and its foundation layers were decorated with various kinds of precious stones, creating a“spectrum of brilliant color” (Walvoord). Each gate (of the twelve) was carved out of a single giant pearl (21:17–21a). Now the foundation of this great city would cover an area equal to the Western United States, extending from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River (Thomas). And to appreciate the height to which the New Jerusalem ascends (1,500 miles), one must compare this to the height of the earth’s present tallest mountain, measured from sea level (Mount Everest, 29,028’ or 5-1/2 miles) and to the Earth’s diameter, at the equator (7,926 miles). Or note that the International Space Station orbits the earth at an altitude averaging 230 miles above sea level. Thus, the highest point of this enormous satellite city (Walvoord) would extend up nearly 1/5th the diameter of the Earth. Of course, humans can hardly grasp such dimensions nor could they ever build such a city; yet for the Creator of the Universe this will be no difficult task. Yet, for natural-like (even glorified) bodies, one might imagine that the atmosphere of the New Earth will have been reconstituted (or our bodies), to allow for travel up to that height, without space suits! There certainly will be plenty of space (tens of thousands of levels) for the (billions of) “dwelling-places” which Jesus promised his disciples he was going to “prepare” for them (John 14:2, REB).
Furthermore, John reports that he saw no temple in the New Jerusalem, “because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Nor did the city need the sun or moon to shine on it, because “the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp” (21:22–23). This does not necessarily mean that our present sun and moon will no longer exist, and the opposite side of the earth from where New Jerusalem is located might experience periods of diminished light. Whatever the case, John saw that the “kings of the earth will bring their splendor [NJB: ‘treasures’] into [the New Jerusalem],” and at no time will the city’s gates ever be shut (21:24–25)—as was done in OT times to protect cities and towns from marauders and other harm. The New Jerusalem is probably also pyramid shaped (William Simcox, William Hoste, Wilbur Smith), its magnificent towers increasing in height until at the center and apex of the city one reaches “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1), which may or may not be enclosed (since rain clouds will never appear). The wording here does not mean that there will be two ‘persons’ sitting on the throne, but only Christ (note the singular “his” and “him” in 22:3); the Second Member of the Trinity who took on human form (Phil 2:5–8), will rule as the King of kings in this new physical world, while at the same time remaining one with the Father. However, the descent of the New Jerusalem from Heaven (21:1) reveals that the New Earth and former Heaven (as the Father’s home) will continue as two different, distinct places.
IV. CONCLUDING REMARKS (22:6–21)
A. Final testimonies (22:6–17) – It is sometimes difficult in this passage to determine who exactly is speaking, although it is a conversation that takes place between the primary angel-guide whom the Lord sent to show John these visions (Rev 1:1, 2:16), Christ himself who speaks in the vision, and the Apostle John. In the first section (22:6–7), the angel-guide speaks to John, affirming that these visions are a genuine prophecy sent by the Almighty to John (verse 6); and then Christ appears in the vision, saying: “Behold, I am coming soon!” (verse 7)—wording in the NT that is taken to mean that he could return at any time. In the second section (22:8–11) John confirms again (1:9–20) that he was the one who witnessed and wrote down these visions, noting also that he was so overcome by the glories of the New Jerusalem that he fell down before the angel speaking to him—although the angel told him only to worship God. The angel then informs John not to be surprised that even though people learn that the Lord could return at any time, in general they will continue to live their lives just as they are doing, in an evil manner or an upright manner. In the third section (22:12–16) Christ speaks to John directly, emphasizing again that he will return, to “give to everyone according to what he [or she] has done,” because he is one with the Father. Then Christ draws a striking contrast (verses 14–15) between those who are “blessed,” who will find great joy and happiness in the City of God because they have “wash[ed] their robes” in his atoning sacrifice, and the unrepentant, like those found in the idolatrous city of Babylon, who will never be found in the New Jerusalem. Rev. 22:16 is the only place in Revelation where “Jesus” refers to himself or is referred to by his human name (he is generally called “the Lamb [of God]”), which may appear here as a term of endearment to John, who now faithfully completes his commission. In the fourth section (22:17) the angel speaks again, noting how the Holy Spirit and the Church (Christ’s true followers) say, “Come!,” yearning for their Saviour’s glorious return and righteous rule. A loving invitation is extended to all who read this Book and who “are thirsty” (feel empty) to come and join the group of happy seekers and sinners who have already received the Lord’s forgiveness and who will enjoy the blessed Eternal Age, described earlier in Rev 21–22. This shows that the Book of Revelation is intended for all of the churches, all Christians, indeed all people.
Two similar lists appear in Revelation 21:8 and 22:15, of types of individuals who will not inherit the New Earth nor the New Jerusalem. They includes those kinds of people who followed the Antichrist and supported his New Babylon, including: the cowardly (so-called believers who did not remain true to God, Rev 13:10b, 14:11–12); the unbelieving (the unsaved who continue to reject God and refuse to repent, 14:6–7; 16:9, 11); idolaters (those who worship the Antichrist and his idol, 13:3–4, 12, 14–15; 14:9–11; 16:2; 17:2); liars (those who support and spread the Antichrist’s lies, 13:14, 19:20); the vile (those who blaspheme God and engage in “abominations,” a term in the OT which refers primarily to disgraceful cult practices connected to idolatry, 16:9, 17:4–5); the sexually immoral (female prostitutes, “adulteries” probably referring here both to spiritual and physical unfaithfulness, 17:2, 5; 18:3); ‘dogs’ (male prostitutes, cf. Deut 23:18, KJV and NRSV, included here among the “prostitutes,” 17:5); murderers (13:7, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24); and practitioners of magic (13:13, 18:23d).
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Johnson, Alan F. “Revelation.” In Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12, pp. 97–603. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
Kletter, Raz. “Weights and Measures.” In Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, ed., New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 5, pp. 831–841. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.
Ladd, George E. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.
LaHaye, Tim, and Jerry B. Jenkins. Glorious Appearing and End of Days. (Left Behind Series) Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2004.
________. Kingdom Come: The Final Victory. (Left Behind Series) Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2007.
Moore, David G. The Battle for Hell: A Survey and Evaluation of Evangelicals’ Growing Attraction to the Doctrine of Annihilationism. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1992.
________. “Parousia.” In Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 3, pp. 664–670. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. (New International Commentary of the New Testament) Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
Peterson, Robert A. “Undying Worm, Unquenchable Fire.” Christianity Today, October 23, 2000, pp. 30–37.
Rohr, Richard, and Andreas Ebert. Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey. Translated from German by Peter Heinegg. New York: Crossroads, 1992.
Schaeffer, Edith. Affliction. Old Tappen, NJ: Revell, 1978.
Seiss, Joseph A. The Apocalypse. New York: Charles E. Cook, 3 vols., 1909.
Smith. J. B. A Revelation of Jesus Christ. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1961.
Smith, Wilbur M. “Revelation.” in Charles F. Pfeiffer, ed., Wycliff Bible Commentary, pp. 1491–1525. Chicago, Moody Press, 1962.
Strauss, Lehman. The Book of Revelation. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1964.
Strong, James, ed. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Revised John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.
Swete, Henry B. The Apocalypse of St. John. London: Macmillan, 1906.
Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.
Wilson, J. Macartney. “Angel.” In Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1, pp. 124–127. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
BIBLE TRANSLATIONS – Good News Bible, 1976. English Standard Version, 2001. King James’s Bible, American Bible Society version, 1932. New American Bible, 1995. New International Version, 1978. New Jerusalem Bible, 1985. New Living Translation, 1996. New Revised Standard Version, 1989. Revised English Bible, 1989. Updated New American Standard Bible, 1999.
© Bruce L. Gerig 2011
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