[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
This is a study of the book of Revelation, as it relates to the 70th week of Daniel, or the last seven years of life on earth as we know it.
Daniel 9:24-27 prophecies seventy weeks of years, or 490 years, beginning at the royal decree to restore the temple and the wall at Jerusalem, until the end of the age. The 70 weeks, however, are broken down into periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week.
The first 7 weeks, or 49 years, is from the decree until the temple and wall were finally rebuilt. The 62 weeks, or 434 years, extended until the time the messiah would be crucified. But because of the way the prophecy is worded, there is an unspecified time period between the 69 weeks and the final 70th week. From the time of the crucifixion of Jesus, until now, we have been in that waiting period before the prophetic clock begins ticking off the last seven years. The majority of Revelation covers this seven year period, and tends to focus mostly on the second half of the seven years.
Chapters 1-3 are introduction and messages to the seven churches. In chapter 4, John stands before the throne of God to be given revelation of Daniel’s 70th week. The events begin to unfold in chapter 5. There will be seven seals, followed by seven trumpets, and then followed by seven bowls of God’s wrath. The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets, and the seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls. The 70th week is followed by the millennial reign of Jesus. After that comes judgment day and a new heaven and earth.
Throughout the book of Revelation, John stops, steps back, and explains something in further detail. This can be confusing as it seems to throw things out of chronological order. We simply cannot try to read Revelation, from front to back, like a novel. We must always pay attention and determine where John is in the sequence of things. It helps to study Matthew 24 alongside Revelation, as the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 are basically an overview of the end-time events we will study here. A commentary of Matthew 24 follows this study of Revelation.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
The word “revelation” literally means “unveiling”. This is not the unveiling of Jesus Christ, but the unveiling given by Him. This book is the unveiling of things which will come to pass. Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” The revelation came from God, who gave it to Jesus, who gave it to an angel, who gave it to John, who gave it to us, All communication from God to man, must come through Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
The word “shortly” can mean “soon” or it can mean “in quick succession”. Some people believe that the events of Revelation have already occurred, and use this verse as a “proof text”, because more than 2,000 years is not soon. In studying Revelation, however, we will see that there are a great many events which will occur during a short seven year period.
The word “signified” refers to signs. John was given the revelation through visions which are largely symbolic.
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
The testimony of Jesus was His offering of eternal life (1 John 5:7-12).
3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
We shall see, in verse 11, that these were seven literal churches. Revelation, however, was not written to just seven churches. The number seven symbolizes spiritual completeness. We will see quite a few sevens throughout Revelation. This is the first indication that the messages, to the churches, were intended for all Christians throughout all time.
There is much discussion on the identity of these seven spirits (called the seven spirits of God in Revelation 3:1; 5:6). Many believe this represents the spiritual completeness of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, many attempts to identify the seven spirits are simply lists of seven various attributes of the Holy Spirit. In Revelation 4:5, the seven spirits are symbolized as seven lamps before the throne. In Revelation 5:6, they are symbolized as seven eyes of Jesus.
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
“The first begotten of the dead” refers to eternal resurrection. Jesus was not the first raised from the dead, but the first resurrected to eternal life. The resurrection of believers will not occur until the second coming of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Acts 26:23).
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
There are some people, with a tiny god which they think can’t function without man’s help, who think everyone will see Jesus through television, Internet, or some other puny human device. This event, however, will be so spectacular that it will be seen, with the naked eye, all around the world.
Those who pierced him (PS 22:16), does not refer to the men who actually crucified Jesus, but to the nation of Israel which was the driving force behind it (Zechariah 12:9-10). We must remember, however, that Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26-27). This fact is very important in understanding the book of Revelation.
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
The title “Alpha and Omega” is used by Jesus four times in Revelation (1:8; 1:11; 21:6; and 22:13). Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is basically saying that He is the beginning and the end of all existence. Throughout the Bible, both God and Jesus are called the first and the last (see- Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).
9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The tribulation, spoken of here, is not the Great Tribulation which will occur during the three and a half years that the Antichrist is allowed to reign, but is general persecution. The Bible says, in 2 Timothy 3:12, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Concerning the Great Tribulation, in Matthew 24:21, Jesus said, “For then shall be Great Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (See also- John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17)
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Four times, in Revelation, John mentions being in the spirit (see also Rev. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10). As mentioned, in verse 1, John received the revelations through visions.
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
John wasn’t writing this down as he saw it. We are told that he wrote it a few years later, after being released from Patmos.
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
Verse 20 will explain that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches. Churches are supposed to be the device that shines light into dark places. Again, the number seven symbolizes spiritual completeness. (See also- Zechariah 4:2; Exodus 25:31-40)
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
Some people believe that this is not Jesus, since he is “like” unto the Son of man, and in Revelation 14:14 an angel is described in the same way. We shall see, however, in the following verses, that this is, in fact, Jesus.
The term “son of man” is not a title of deity, as Ezekiel was called “son of man” a number of times. The term was applied to Jesus to signify that He was God in the flesh (Philippians 2:7-8; John 1:14). The term is used here to signify that the spiritual being appeared in human form. Remember, the earthly body of Jesus was resurrected to eternal life (Luke 24:39), though it is now different (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
Apparently, John is struggling to find words to describe how he sees Jesus. Earth does not compare to heaven, so it is difficult to find earthly descriptions for heavenly things. We shall see this struggle throughout Revelation. Also, in the next verse, John adds some symbolism to this description. (See also- Ezekiel 43:2; Daniel 10:6)
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Verse 20 will explain that the seven stars are the messengers of the seven churches previously mentioned. The sharp sword is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). This sword is mentioned several times in Revelation (see 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21) (see also- Matthew 10:24; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). We will discuss the symbolic sword, in further detail, in Revelation 19:15.
17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Jesus calms John’s fears by identifying Himself in a way that John would understand. That Jesus has the keys of death and hell, means that He has control over them (Romans 6:9; 14:8-9). Compare this description of Jesus with the description of the Antichrist, in Revelation 17:8, which says he “was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition”.
19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
Some suggest that we break it down into chapter 1 as the things he sees, chapters 2 and 3 as the things that are, and chapters 4-22 as the things which shall be. I think, however, that this is an oversimplification. Moreover, many of the promises, in chapters 2 and 3, are directed to end-times believers.
20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Would we know the identity of the seven stars, or candlesticks, if God didn’t tell us? No, people would be applying this to various lists of seven. This is very important for understanding Revelation. If the answer is complicated, God will give us an explanation. If He doesn’t explain it, look for a simple answer. Don’t complicate the simple, and don’t simplify the complicated. And remember, the Bible always interprets the Bible.
Some hold the view that the seven churches are seven eras of the Christian church, and that we are now in the last era, in the lukewarm church. While it is true that American and European Christians tend to be lukewarm, the Christians in the Middle East are being martyred for their commitment to Christ. Also, the words “which are” does not mean “which will be”. There is simply nothing in scripture, or in history, to validate the “Christian era” view. There have always been good and bad churches, and the messages to the seven churches are to all Christians in all times. Each letter is concluded with a command to all Christians, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”.
The letters, to the seven churches, seem to focus on repentance, endurance, and overcoming. As such, it seems that the letters are directed more to the Christians of the end-time tribulation period. When studying Revelation, many people tend to skip the first three chapters and go directly to those dealing with the prophecies. If we were to find ourselves in the Great Tribulation, however, it could very well be that chapters 2 and 3 are the most important ones in the book.