January 30, 2016.
Reading: Revelation 12-21.
Background: Revelation 6-11.
Concepts and Connections.
Satan banished to earth: This chapter mainly addresses the events that took place in the spiritual realm during the coming of the Christ. We see that before the Christ came, a woman clothed with the sun is in birth pains because of the coming of the Christ. The woman here is representative of more than just Mary the mother of Jesus, but rather all of Israel who had been waiting on the coming of the Christ since the fall of man (see Genesis 3). But the coming of Christ would not be without opposition, as the dragon stood before the woman waiting for the moment when he could devour the child. The dragon is representative of Satan, or the devil or accuser. He was given this last name as before the redemption of Christ, that’s what he did- accuse the children of man day and night. This is very evident in the story of Job (see Job 1-2). Interestingly, we see here that Satan was allowed to come an go in heaven before the Christ event. His accusations even had merit- for the children of God had good reason to be accused. However, when Christ came, we see that He is protected by God from the dragon, as is the woman. War breaks out in heaven, and the dragon is defeated and cast down to earth. Salvation had come through the blood of the Lamb and testimony. Satan no longer had any authority to accuse the children of God, for Christ had come in redemptive power. Notice how there are events that happen in the spiritual realm that correspond to the physical events in the physical realm. This is shown throughout the book of revelation.
The dragon is cast to the earth, and he is furious. He tries to consume the woman, but she is protected. Thus, he moves on to her children, the followers of Christ. This was probably to explain to the early Christians why they were going through so much persecution and affliction. They probably couldn’t see the spiritual realm as well as John could here, and thus the Lord sends them a message as to the reason why things were as they were. The dragon is still furious, and we should not be surprised when we fall into persecution for the sake of our Lord (see I Peter 4:12-19). The dragon knows that his time is short.
The two beasts of the dragon: This chapter has been the subject of great discussion as to which each of the beasts represent, from rulers of the Roman empire to even modern day figures. Regardless of the true identity of each of the beasts (though we should probably lean towards an identity that would have made sense to the early Christians who were receiving this letter), we can gain some general truths from this chapter. Notice that Satan is not original- his beasts have characteristics that we have seen before. An unholy trinity is set up (the dragon and two beasts), the beast had different parts that resemble different animals, and there is even a mortal wound that has been healed, mimicking the Lamb who was slain. Notice how those of the world follow and worship the beast without question. The beast looked very powerful, and it was not readily apparent who could fight against him. The world follows the beast, and the beast fights against the saints. The main point of this chapter is made in the latter portion of verse 10. This is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. John didn’t tell them that times would get easier. But he did call for them to persevere, because the Lamb wins in the end. The second beast is set up, having the same power and authority of the first beast, and he caused the people of the world to make an image of the first beast with the mortal wound that had been healed. This beast is the false prophet, doing signs and leading the people to worship the beast. A very apparent dichotomy is set up in this chapter. Notice how everyone worships something. People either worship the beast or the Lamb. Worshipping nothing is not a choice. Many today are deceived in this way, believing they do not worship anything, but in reality are slaves to the beast and his lies. Here we see that everyone, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, is given the mark of the beast if they had not been sealed by God (see chapter 7). The number that is given is perhaps one of the most well known symbols of the book of Revelation. There are many different ideas as to what it means, and though these ideas may hold some truth, notice the simplicity of the number. The number for God is 7, and in the holy trinity, 777. 6 is one less than seven. The dragon has set up an unholy trinity, 666, but that trinity, though powerful, will never be as powerful or overcome God.
The judgment of the Lord: In the previous chapter, we are left in a sense of anxiety as the followers of the Lord on earth are to endure hardship and persecution, and perhaps in the moment there would seem to be no end in sight. This chapter, however, gives us a picture of the end and of the triumph of the Lord. It opens with a glorious scene of the Lamb and the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion. There are many harpists playing and a new song that only the 144,000 could learn was being sung in praise to God and the Lamb. Then there are three messages of the final judgment that the Lord is going to take on all those who followed the beast. The first angel gives a message of praise and honor, commanding all to fear God and give glory to Him, for His judgment was upon them. It was time to give worship to the One who truly deserved it. The second angel proclaims the condemnation of Babylon, which is representative of the evil empire of the world (Rome at this time who was persecuting Christians), and the fall thereof. The third angel gives the condemnation of all who worshipped the beast and had his mark on them, pronouncing eternal torment. Again, there is a call for the endurance of the saints, as this is the picture of the glory and vengeance to come. Understand the importance of the blessing that comes- blessed are those who die in the Lord. Though we may face trials and persecution, even to the point of death, in this world for the sake of our Savior, we will be blessed in the end. We are not promised life, but we are promised salvation and rest. The final portion of this chapter deals with the judgment of the Lord, the harvest of His wrath. This section echoes the judgment that is pronounced by the prophet Joel when speaking about the nations who did not worship God (see Joel 3). Be sure that the judgment of the Lord is coming, and His wrath will be poured out on all those who are not of Him. Do not get caught in the winepress of the wrath of the Lord.
The seven angels and seven plagues: This chapter introduces the seven angels who will pour out the seven bowls of the ultimate wrath of God on the earth in the following chapter. Before the wrath is poured out, however, we get another picture of the worship of God and the Lamb in heaven. Notice that there is worship of the wrath of God, as it is holy and righteous. It is hard for us to understand this sometimes, as our wrath is so often unholy. However, to those who had been persecuted and martyred, this would have resonated. Those who had conquered the beast were standing beside the sea of glass with their harps of God, singing the song of Moses (see Exodus 15) and praising the Lord their God and the Lamb for His great works and power. He alone is holy, and worthy to be praised. Then the seven angels came out of the tent of witness and were given the seven bowls of the wrath of God by the four living creatures to be poured out on the earth in the judgment thereof.
The seven bowls of God’s wrath: Here, the seven bowls that were introduced in the previous chapter are poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. These judgments are reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt that God poured out to bring His people out of slavery (see Exodus 7-12). This wrath is poured out on those who would not follow the Lamb, and even in the midst of the wrath, the people would not repent of their evil deeds. Their hearts were stubbornly set on the worship of the beast. Notice too that in the middle of the wrath that is being poured out, the angel and the altar worship God for His judgment that He is bringing on the people, for they had shed the blood of the saints and the prophets. When the sixth angel pours out the sixth bowl, the river Euphrates is dried up, and out of the mouth of the dragon, beast and false prophet (who was the second beast, see chapter 13) came three unclean spirits that perform signs to all the kings of the earth, deceiving them. We are called to be awake and vigilant so that we do not go about naked, for the evil spirits and those who were deceived assembled for battle against the Lord. There has been much discussion about the battle of Armageddon here, but notice that there really isn’t a battle. Those against the Lamb assemble, and then the seventh bowl of wrath is poured out, and a message cries forth “It is done!” Flashes of lightening and peals of thunder go forth, the cities of the earth fall and great hailstones fall on the people. The day of judgment had come, and none of the enemies of the Lord could stand before the Him.
The great prostitute and the beast: This chapter again has been the subject of many discussions about what each of the signs mean. There are many resources to study the ideas that are out there, but we will take a more general approach. Due to context clues and the fact that this was written to early Christians, it is quite evident that the great prostitute and the beast are representative of Rome, a city that sat on seven hills. Following this logic, the seven kings would be different rulers in Rome since the coming of Christ and throughout Christian persecution. Notice the description of this city as a great prostitute whose sexual immorality the inhabitants of the earth get drunk. We see the great immorality that Rome partook in and encouraged, and how the inhabitants of the earth who were not sealed by the Lamb and written in the book of life were drawn to and would not repent. Though they would try to make war with the Lamb, the Lamb would conquer. Even the beast would hate the great city, and would tear the prostitute, taking the royal power for himself.
The fall of Babylon: The great prostitute is introduced in the previous chapter with all her sin and immorality. This chapter foretells the fall of the prostitute, that great city Babylon, which is representative of Rome. It is hard to understate the impact that the fall of Rome had on the rest of the world, as is depicted in this chapter. Here we see the pride of Babylon, which precedes her fall. The saints are called to abstain from the evil deeds that the city puts forth, for her time of fall is coming. And great would be her fall. The Lord would pour out His wrath, for her evil deeds. We see here as all the people of the earth cry and lament at her fall, for the things she provided and promised were no more. They remember her luxuries, her sinful indulgences, and wail because they are no more. What city was like that great city? But her delicacies were but for a moment, before the Lord’s wrath caught up with her. Whereas the inhabitants of the world, those who partook in the indulgences of the great city, are in mourning, the saints and those of the Lamb are called to rejoice over her fall, for it was the righteous judgement of God that brought condemnation on the prostitute. Where there was once great activity and life, there would be no more. The wrath of God will be satisfied. Come out of Babylon, and worship the Lord.
The marriage supper of the Lamb: After the fall of the great city in the previous chapter, there is great rejoicing in heaven. A great multitude cries out “Hallelujah!” and continues to praise God for His righteous judgment and vengeance on the great city. Continual praise and worship are given to Him who sits on the throne. Let us ever praise the Lord as is seen throughout this book. After we get a picture of the rejoicing in heaven, a voice of a great multitude cries proclaims the marriage supper of the Lamb, for the bride, that is the church, had made herself ready, clothed in fine linen. Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. John falls down to worship the angel that gives him this message, but the angel quickly tells him to stop, for the only one worthy of worship is the Lord. Then we see a glorious picture of Christ, Faithful and True, riding a white horse, symbolizing purity. His robe is dipped in blood, the blood that washes us from our sins, and He is called by the name “The Word of God” (see John 1). He comes in victory, with all His heavenly host behind Him, and will tread the winepress of the wrath of the Lord. He rides in for the feast and great supper of God, that comes when all His enemies are defeated. The beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire, and the rest of their followers are slain by the sword that came out of the mouth of the Rider. The dragon will be dealt with in the next chapter.
The final judgment: There are four major competing views concerning this chapter: dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, postmillennialism and amillennialism. Each view has its weaknesses, as does most interpretation of future prophecy. The point of this chapter, however, should not be lost in the details of interpretation. The point of this chapter is that God wins and Satan is defeated. However this truly comes about, we can be certain who is victorious, and based on this information we should make our choice of who to follow. The beasts and the dragon will be thrown into the lake that burns with fire forever and ever, as will death and hades. John gives us a depiction of the final judgment of God at the end of this chapter when the books are opened and all mankind was judged from them. Each will be judged according to what they have done, and all will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (see II Corinthians 5:10). If anyone’s name is not found in the book of life, then they will be thrown into the lake of fire just as the dragon and the beasts were. Let us heed this warning and follow the Lamb, the One who will indeed be victorious in the end. He has granted to us salvation, though we deserved death. Hallelujah to the King of kings.
The new heaven and the new earth: Here we receive the glorious picture of what lies ahead for those who are of the Lamb- the new heaven and the new earth (see also II Peter 3:13). The Lord will make everything new, and the new Jerusalem will come down as a bride prepared for her Husband. Yet, in this Jerusalem there will be no temple, for the dwelling place of God will be with man. His redemptive plan will be made complete, just as was prophesied by the prophets of old. All things will be made pure and holy, and there shall be no more death, no pain, no crying. All will be made right. These words are written as a beacon of hope to a lost world. All who are thirsty He will give drink from the spring of the water of life, to be his God. But there is also a list of people with distinctive characteristics that will not be there, but rather will be thrown into the lake of fire. John then tries to describe the new Jerusalem, the bride, the wife of the Lamb, but our words simply cannot suffice to describe the coming glory. Notice that the city is measured as a perfect square, just as the holy of holies was in the temple of the old covenant. This symbolizes the fact that there will no longer be a division between God and man, for God will dwell with His creation, just as it was from the beginning. The numbers that are measured here are all representative of perfection or completion, and the gates of the city will never be closed, for the nations of the earth, those who had followed the Lamb, would walk by its light and freely come and go. All things will be purified, all things made good, redeemed. Only those written in the Lamb’s book of life will be there. Oh what a day that will be!
Jesus is coming: This chapter opens with the river of life, which is a continuation of the picture that is given in the previous chapter. The river flows from the throne of God and the tree of life is on either side of the river, yielding its fruit for the healing of the nations. The Lamb will be on the throne of God, and His servants will worship Him. All things will be purified, and the Lord God will be the light.
After the picture of the river of life, John closes the book with the words of Jesus. The words of the book are confirmed to be trustworthy and true, and John confirms that he saw these things. Again he tries to worship an angel that gives him the vision, for great was the vision, and again he is stopped because the Lord God is the only One who is deserving of worship. These words were written so that the churches could hear and endure, for they were to happen soon (thus why we must read Revelation through the eyes of the early Christians). Jesus is coming soon, and the vengeance of the Lord will certainly be poured out ultimately. Blessed are those who have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, for they are allowed to enter the city, the new Jerusalem. Jesus is the bright and morning star. The call goes forth at the end of the book, “Come.” All who are thirsty, come. Come and receive the salvation that is offered you. He is coming soon. We are left with a final warning, not to add or take away from this book of prophecy, for it is the word of God. Let us ever dwell with the Lord. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
And that’s the end, folks!
All praise to the Lamb, who was, and is, and is to come. Amen.