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End Times

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I. Introduction

            When God created the universe and all within it, God looked and saw that it was good.  At some point, however, evil entered the world and corrupted it.  People may have different understandings of how this happened, but I don’t think anyone would argue that the world as we know it is the way God intended it to be.  At one time people thought that the world would gradually get better and better until the Kingdom of God was ushered in by human progress.  The course of history has pretty much put an end to such optimism in human effort.  We are left to expect either things to continue as they are indefinitely, or God to intervene at some point and drastically change things.

            This last view is what the Scriptures teach.  Isa. 65:17 says, "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind (see also Psa. 102:25-26, Isa. 51:5-6, 2Pet. 3:7-13).  These passages indicate that God will act to do away with evil and will create a new world where justice, peace, and love will prevail.  It is a time of judgment for those who have opposed God, and a vindication for the faithful.  Even creation itself will be restored (Rom. 8:21).  This radical transformation establishes the Kingdom of God in its fullness, and is sometimes called “the Day of the Lord” (Isa. 2:12, 13:3-13; Ezek. 30:3; Joel 1:15; Obad. 1:15; Zeph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:14; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2Pet. 3:10).  This term is also used for God’s judgment at various times in history.

            In some ways, through the ministry of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is already here (Matt. 12:28; Mark 1:15; Luke 17:20-21), with the death and resurrection of Christ the last days began (Heb. 9:26; 1 John 2:18), and when he ascended into heaven he began to reign over that Kingdom (1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20-22).  On the other hand, we are still waiting for the Kingdom to come in its entirety.  Scripture indicates that this will not happen until the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus promised the disciples that he would return (John 14:3), and at His ascension the angels reaffirmed this (Acts 1:11). 

            So far so good, but now we come to the big question: When is this going to happen?  People have been predicting it at least since Amos had to ask the people of his day why they were looking for it (Amos 5:18).  Jesus’ disciples asked him basically the same question in Matt. 23:4 (Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7).  Even though he had a lot to say about events leading up to the end, he still ended by saying that no one knows when it will come, not even Jesus himself (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32-33).  Instead, Jesus warns his followers to watch and be ready, doing the work they were given to do, so that whenever the end comes they would be prepared. 

            Associated with the end times and the Second Coming are other events such as the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the Millennium.  The Rapture refers to Christians who are alive when Christ returns and those who have just been resurrected being caught up to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:17).  The Great Tribulation is a period of intense persecution (Rev. 7:14). The Millennium is the time when Satan is bound and the saints reign with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2-7).  There is much debate over how to understand these events and what order they will take place in.

            With the start of a new millennium, and with so much violence happening all over the world, there has been a renewed interest in the end times.  In spite of Jesus’ cautions people have continued making predictions of when the end would come, and have read current events into Biblical passages.  Many of these passages dealing with the end are written in a style that is difficult for modern readers to understand.  The imagery is so unusual that it lends itself to all kinds of interpretations.

The goal of this study is to look at the relevant passages and help us make some sense of them.  There are two basic principles I will try to follow in doing this.  First, we use the Bible to help us understand the Bible.  This means that we use clearer passages to interpret the more difficult ones.  Secondly, since each passage was written to a particular group of people facing a particular situation, we must ask what the passage would have meant to them.  The writers of Scripture use the language and symbols that they were familiar with.  They also use different styles of writing such as poetry, narrative, parable, etc..  Our job is to get back into their time and culture to see what they were saying, and then ask how it applies to us today.

II. TERMS AND VIEWS

Before we turn to the Scriptures themselves let us look at some of the terms often used and the various views associated with those terms.

Apocalypse – “revelation, unveiling or uncovering of that which is hidden” - The book of Revelation is sometimes called the Apocalypse from the use of the word in 1:1.

Apocalyptic – A highly symbolic style of writing which speaks of the end of the world and the coming of God’s Kingdom.  It was usually written during a time of great distress to a persecuted people to give them strength and assure them of God’s ultimate victory over evil.

Eschatology – “study of last things” – The study of the consummation of God’s purpose and redemptive activity. 

Millenium – 1,000 year reign of Christ, but not the permanent establishment of the kingdom of God (Rev. 20:4).  The following views describe possible relationships between the Millennium and the Second Coming:

Premillennial – 2 variations

 Literal 1,000 years – Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming, Millennium

Figurative 1,000 years – Tribulation, Rapture & Second Coming, Millennium

Postmillennial (Daniel Whitby, 1638-1726) – Some take as literal 1,000 years others as 

figurative - world gets better until good reigns for 1,000 years, Satan unbound for final battle, followed by the Second Coming.

Amillennial – 1,000 years is symbolic of the Church age (Augustine)

                                    Millennium, Tribulation, Rapture & Second Coming

Rapture – “caught up” – The joining of Christians, both living and resurrected, with Christ in the air at His return.  Sometimes seen as part of the Second Coming, sometimes as an earlier event.

Tribulation – a period (usually 7 years) of unprecedented, worldwide suffering and perscution, with the final 3 ½ years known as the Great Tribulation.  The following views describe possible relationships between the Tribulation and the Rapture:

Pretribulationism – John Darby, 1830

                        Rapture            Tribulation                                Second Coming

Mid-tribulation

                        ½ Tribulation    Rapture            ½ Tribulation    Second Coming

Post-tribulation

                        Tribulation        Rapture                                    Second Coming

III. OLD TESTAMENT PASSAGES

Isa. 2:1-4 (Mic. 4:1-3) – Partially fulfilled by return from exile, Temple rebuilt

            Temple mount established as chief

            All nations come to be taught

            No more war

Dan 7:1-28 (556 BC)

            Four beasts from the sea – 4 kingdoms (Babylon, Media/Persia, Greece, Rome)

            10 horns and the little horn – Horns often represent power and strength, here they are 10 kings, and another king who will persecute saints for 3 ½ years.  First 10 kings may refer to Roman Emporers or to future rulers.  Last one is Antichrist.

            Ancient of Days

            Beast slain

            Son of man – given everlasting kingdom

Dan. 8:1-27 (c. 554)

            2 Horned ram – kingdom of Media and Persia

            Goat with horn - kingdom of Greece (Alexander the Great)

            4 horns replace single horn – 4 kingdoms arose after the death of Alexander, led by his 4 generals

                        Lysimachus – Thrace & western Asia Minor

                        Cassander – Macedonia & Greece

                        Seleucus I – Syria, Mesopotamia (Babylon)

                        Ptolemy –Egypt & parts of Asia Minor (including Palestine)

            Another horn grows great – Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruled 175-163 B.C.) from the Seleucid kingdom.  Not the same as the little horn from previous vision, but a type of the Antichrist.  “Antiochus attacked Jerusalem, killing 50,000 men, women, and children. He sold an additional 40,000 people into slavery. The temple was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus; and on the great bronze altar a sow was offered, the juices of which were liberally spread throughout the temple precincts. He used harlots in the temple to celebrate Saturnalia and forbade the observance of the Sabbath, the reading of Scripture, and circumcision.” (Believer’s Study Bible)  Antiochus desecrated the Temple in 168 B.C., Judas Maccabaeus led the revolt which restored Jewish independence, cleansed the Temple in 165 B.C.

Dan. 9:2 – (c. 539/538) refers to Jer. 25:11, 29:10.  Temple was destroyed in 586, rebuilt in 515.

       9:24-27

            70 ‘weeks’ – one week is a symbolic way of saying 7 years.

            69 ‘weeks’ from decree to rebuild to coming of the Anointed One

A decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given to Ezra in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7:12-26), 483 years takes us to 27 A.D., the most likely beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  Another view begins with the decree given to Nehemiah in 445/444 B.C., adjusts years to 360 days and adds in days for leap years, and ends in 32/33 A.D., the year given by this view of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry & crucifixion (the adjustments required by this view are questionable, and Jesus was most likely crucified in 30 A.D.)

            Anointed One cut off – death of Christ

            Another ruler will come – may be a Roman Emperor, foreshadowing the Antichrist

                        Make a covenant for 1 week

                        In the middle put an end to sacrifice

                        Set up abomination that causes desolation

            City and Temple destroyed – 70 A.D., foreshadowing the destruction at the end

Dan. 11  – struggles between the Kings of the North (Seleucid) and South (Ptolemy)

King of the North will desecrate Temple and end sacrifices, set up abomination.  Fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes (see above).

Dan. 12:1-2

            Time of great trouble

            God’s people delivered

            Resurrection of just and unjust – Some see as happening at the same time, others have the two separated by the Millenium.

           

         12:7-12

            1290 days (3 ½ years plus one month) - from abomination to the end – see Dan 9:27.

            1335 days – may be the Great tribulation plus 45 days

Hos. 3:4-5 – Fulfilled in the return from exile

            Israel will go many days without king or sacrifice

            Will return to God in the last days

Joel 2:28-32 – Partially fulfilled on day of Pentecost

            Holy Spirit poured out

            Wonders in heaven and earth

            Sun darkened, moon to blood

            Before the day of the Lord comes

Joel 3:12-21 – Fulfilled at last battle

            Nations gather

            Sun, moon, stars darkened

            God will deliver Jerusalem

            Prosperity restored

            Sin forgiven

Zech. 12:9-10 – Fulfilled at last battle

            Nations that come against Jerusalem destroyed

            Spirit of grace and supplication poured out

            Look and mourn for the one they pierced

Zech. 14:1-9 – the Day of the Lord, last battle

            Nations gathered to fight against Jerusalem

            The Lord will fight for Jerusalem

                        The Lord will stand on the Mount of Olives

                        The holy ones will come with him

IV. Jesus’ Teaching

The Olivet Discourse - Mark 13 (Matt. 24; Luke 17:20-37; Luke 21:5-36) – Teaching given on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple.

Disciples are asking about Jesus’ statement concerning the destruction of the Temple. In Matthew they add the question of Christ’s coming (which they seem to think will be soon) and the end of the age.


Matt. 24:3-34

Mark 13:3-30

Luke 21:7-32  

Summary:

            Many will come in Jesus’ name to deceive saying, “the time is near”.

            Wars, earthquakes, famines, etc. – Beginning of birth-pains

            Christians persecuted

            Gospel preached to all nations – Col. 1:6,23 indicates this had already happened in Paul’s day

            Jerusalem surrounded by armies

            Abomination standing in holy place (Dan. 9:27, 11:31, 12:11; 1 Macc. 1:54-64) – The language used here seems to signify a person rather than an object, although Luke connects with armies surrounding Jerusalem.  Seems to point first to the Roman armies c. 70 A.D., then to the Antichrist in the end times.

            Days shortened for sake of the elect

            False prophets/Christs perform great signs

            Following that distress (tribulation):

                        Sun & moon darkened, etc. (Joel 2:31)

                        Son of Man coming in clouds – Second Coming

                        Angels will gather elect - Rapture

            Time unknown

                        Signs indicate the generation. Three views:

                                    Jesus’ generation saw the signs fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem

                                    Jesus’ generation would see the beginning of these signs

                                    The generation which sees these signs will be the last

            Disciples told to watch, not for signs (they are warned not to follow signs), but to be discerning, alert and faithful.  Jesus more concerned to prepare the disciples for living as Christians in a hostile world.

            Partial fulfillment c. 70 A.D. with destruction of the Temple, foreshadowing of the end-times..

Other Passages:

Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43

            Weeds and wheat grow together until harvest, then weeds collected, finally wheat

Mark 1:14-15

            The Kingdom of God is at hand

John 5:28-29

            Both good and evil resurrected at same time

John 6:39-40

            Resurrection takes place at the last day

V. PAUL’S TEACHING

We find in Paul a tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’.  He indicates that the end of the age has already come in some ways (1 Cor. 10:11) and but is still to come in its fullness (Eph. 1:21).

Acts 24:15 – In a speech to Felix Paul states there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Rom. 8:21-23 – Creation also to be delivered

1 Cor. 15:23-25

Christ’s resurrection

Christ’s return and our Resurrection

Then comes the end and Christ hands his kingdom over the to Father.

It is unclear whether the Millennium would be the time between Christ’s resurrection and return, or between the return and His handing the Kingdom over to His Father.

1 Cor. 15:52

            At the last trumpet the dead will rise and we shall be changed

Eph. 2:6

            We have been raised, now we sit with Christ – ruling with Him

Col. 3:1

            We are already raised with Christ (first resurrection)

1 Thess. 4:13 – 5:3 –

            The Lord will come down from heaven

                        Loud command, voice of the angel, loud trumpet

            Dead in Christ will rise first (Resurrection)

            Those alive caught up (Rapture)

            Meet the Lord in the air – The word for ‘meet’ is a technical term used to describe a public welcome for a visiting dignitary.  The people of the city would out to meet the dignitary and then they would return to the city together.

2 Thess. 2:1-12 – Coming of Christ and Christian’s gathering to Him will not occur until first:

            There is a falling away – a revolt against God’s order, both political and religious.

            The man of sin revealed – the Antichrist.

            This man sits in Temple, claims to be God (abomination of desolation)

            This iniquity already at work but is restrained (Mark 3:23-27; Matt. 12:29; John 12:31), ties in with Satan already being bound.

            The restraint will be removed – Many suggestions as to the identity of this restraint.  Most likely is the Holy Spirit, but removing this restraint does not imply removing the Spirit from the world, merely ending this particular role.

            The wicked one will be destroyed

VI. OTHER WRITERS

Heb. 1:2 – These last days

2 Pet. 3:7-13

            Heaven and earth reserved for fire

            Judgment

            Delay because of God’s patience

            Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night (Matt. 24:43)

            Heaven and earth burned up (Rev. 6:4; 20:11)

            New heaven and new earth – home of righteousness

VII. JOHN’S TEACHING

1 John 2:18-23

            This is the last hour

            Many antichrists have come (false teachers of John’s day who had left the church)

            Anointing from Holy One (teaches us the truth – v. 27)

            Antichrist – one who denies that Jesus is the Christ and has come in the flesh (4:2-3)

The Book of Revelation

            Author – John the Apostle.

            Date written – c. 90-95 A.D. (Domitian is Emperor)

            Recipients – The 7 churches named in the opening chapters.  Symbolic for all churches in all ages.

         The seven churches were located on a major Roman road. A letter carrier would leave the island of Patmos (where John was exiled), arriving first at Ephesus. He would travel north to Smyrna and Pergamum, turn southeast to Thyatira, and continue on to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea--in the exact order in which the letters were dictated.

Styles– Letter – John writes a greeting (1:4 ff), a benediction (22:21), and words addressed to the seven churches.

Prophetic – John called to be a prophet (10:11, 22:9). Proclaims God’s Word to the present situation, calls God’s people to obedience, and gives promises for the future.

 Apocalyptic – Combining a highly symbolic style drawing heavily on O.T. imagery,

often relating a vision describing the battle between good and evil, and encouragement to the churches to hold firm based on God’s future breaking into history to judge the world.

It should be noted that John writes things down in the order in which he sees them, but this does not mean that what he sees is historically in chronological order.

            Purpose – To reassure the church of God’s victory in the face of persecution, to strengthen them, to warn them against false teachings, and to encourage them to hold fast to the faith.

            Traditional ways of understanding Ch. 4-17:

 Preterist – Entirely about the church in the 1st century.  Encourages John’s readers to continue to follow the pattern set by the early church.  Started c. 1614, held by many contemporary scholars.  Hard to see how all the prophecies have been fulfilled.

Historicist – Traces history from the beginning of the church to the end times (usually the

commentator’s present).  Finds events in history which match the symbols to show how their side will win, very subjective.  Started in the Middle Ages (c.1200), held by Martin Luther and many of the Reformers.  Hard to see how it would have been meaningful to John’s readers.

Futurist – About the end times only, particularly the Tribulation.  Often sees the 7 churches

as representing 7 eras in church history, with their own time being the last.  Oldest view, also held by the Anabaptists.  How would John’s recipients have understood it, what meaning or significance would it have had for them?

 Idealist – Not about history but ideas and principles to apply in every age.  Reveals the spiritual nature of the battle that the church faces in the world.  More recent approach, similar to allegorizing method of the 3rd century. 

Many commentators today combine the best features of these approaches.  First of all, John is writing to churches at the end of the 1st century, and his whole message had to have meaning for them in their own situation.  Understanding that meaning for them is our first task.  At the same time, the book is prophetic and like much prophecy, the message John had for those churches also relates to the future, and the end times in particular.  What the Apocalypse unveils of the future, however, is not so much historical events but the spiritual realities behind those events.  Finally, as Scripture, it has a relevant message for the Church in all ages, not just the first or last. 

            Symbols – as used in Scripture the symbolic elements are the spiritual realities, the

physical/earthly  elements are representative of them.

            There are many different images representing Christ and the Church.

                        7 lampstands are the Church of which the 7 churches in Asia are representative

                        7 stars = 7 angels of the churches or the pastors

                        Horns = power, rulership

                        Babylon is the force opposed to God, both political and religious, of which Rome was the representative in John’s day.

                        Harlot and Beast is the same as Babylon

                        New Jerusalem – called the Bride of Christ, represents the Church in all its glory and completeness, not necessarily a literal city.

            Numbers:

                        One – Unity

                        Two – Strength, help

                        Three – The Trinity, God, completion, perfection

                        Four – Universality, the world – 4 directions, seasons, etc.

                        Five – Man

                        Six – Evil, failure

                        Seven – Completion, fulfillment, perfection (the number 7 occurs 52 times in the book)

                        Ten – Human completeness

                        Twelve – God’s elect

                        Forty – God’s mighty acts

                        Examples –

144,000 = 12 x 12x 10 x 10 x 10 – The number of God’s people (old

covenant and new covenant) made perfectly complete.

                        666 = the number of humanity in a trinity, may be a human attempting to be God.

                        1,000 = 10 x 10 x 10 = God’s complete time for humanity.

Outline of the Book of Revelation

I.                    Seven letters  (1:1-3:22)

A.     Opening – description of Christ

B.     Letters (2:1-3:21)

II.                 Seven seals (4:1-7:17)

A.     Description of throne and Lamb (4:1-5:14)

B.     Seals 1 – 6 (6:1-17)

1.      White horse – conquest, may be the Antichrist

2.      Red horse – war

3.      Black horse – famine

4.      Pale horse – death

5.      Martyrs given white robes, told to wait

6.      Great earthquake, sun darkened, moon red

                      6th seal brings the end and final judgment

C.     Interlude – sealing of 144,000 (7:1-8)

D.     Vision of Heaven and promise of rest (7:9-17)

III.               Seven trumpets (8:1-11:19)

A.     Seventh seal (8:1-5)

         Introduces the 7 trumpets

B.     Trumpets 1 – 6 (8:6-9:21)

1.      Hail, fire, blood – one third of earth burned up

2.      Large rock falls in ocean – one third sea life destroyed

3.      Great star falls in rivers – one third water turned bitter

4.      Sun, moon, and stars darkened by one third

5.      Abyss opened – sky darkened, locusts

6.      Four angels released – one third of humanity killed

C.     Interlude (10:1-11:14)

1.      Little scroll (10:1-11)

2.      Two witnesses (11:1-14)

D.     Seventh trumpet (11:15-19)

Coming of Christ and final judgment

IV.              Seven visions (12:1-14:20)

A.     Woman (12:1-2)

B.     Dragon (12:3-17)

C.     Beast from the sea (13:1-10)

D.     Beast from the earth (13:11-18)

E.      The Lamb & 144,000 (14:1-5)

F.      Three Angels (14:6-13)

G.     Rapture and final judgment (14:14-20)

V.                 Seven plagues (15:1-16:21)

A.     Seven angels – introduces the seven plagues (15:1-4)

B.     Description of the angels (15:5-8)

C.     Plagues 1 – 6 (16:1-16)

1.      Painful sores

2.      Sea turned to blood, everything in it dies

3.      Rivers & springs turned to blood

4.      Sun burns people

5.      Darkness

6.      Euphrates dried up, kings gather for battle (Armageddon)

D.     Seventh Plague (16:17-21)

Second coming and final judgment

VI.              Vision of the end (17:1-19:21)

A.     Woman on the Beast (17:18)

B.     Final judgment announced (18:1-24)

C.     Second coming and final judgment (19:1-21)

VII.            Vision of the end (20:1-22:21)

A.     Thousand Years (20:1-6)

B.     Final judgment (20:7-15)

C.     New heaven & earth (21:1-22:6)

D.     Closing words (22:7-21)

       “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.”         G.K. Chesterton

I.                   Opening and Seven letters  (1:1-3:22)

A. Opening – description of Christ

            1:1 – ‘soon take place’ – In the prophetic outlook the end is always imminent.  The process of God’s

kingdom triumphing over the forces of evil has already begun.

-         ‘made known’ – To signify, portray symbolically, to indicate without saying clearly (John 12:33, 18:32, 21:19).

1:3 – Blessing for those who read and take to heart (the first of 7 blessings in the book – 14:13,

16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7,14).

1:4 – The seven spirits or sevenfold spirit, seven representing fullness or completeness (Zech. 4:6 – a

seven fold lampstand represents the Holy Spirit.)

1:6 – We have been made kings and priests (1 Pet. 2:9).

1:7 – Reference to Zech. 12:10

1:10 – ‘On the Lord’s Day’ – The first day of the week, celebrating Christ’s resurrection.  Only use

in the N.T. but found in other early Christian writings.  If John were referring to the Day of the Lord he would have simply used that phrase.

1:19 – John told to write what he had seen (also v. 11): what is now and what will take place later.

1:20 – Stars and lampstands – the elders/pastors, churches/God’s presence

B. Letters (2:1-3:21)

The seven churches – Actual churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), probably under John’s care.  They were also the key cities in the seven Roman districts of Asia Minor.

            Some see these as also representing seven consecutive periods of church history.  There is no indication of this in the text, and it requires distorting history to make it fit.

            Some see these churches as representing the Church in all ages.  This is more likely since seven often stands symbolically for completeness.

Words from description of Christ (ch. 1)

Words of praise (except Sardis and Laodicea)

            Patient work (2:2; 2:18)

            Hate evil doers (2:2)

            Doctrinal purity (2:2)

                 Nicolaitans – compromise with society, idol worship

            Perseverance (2:3; 2:18; 3:10)

            Faithful under persecution (2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8)

Words of warning (except Smyrna and Philadelphia)

            Left first love (2:4; 3:15-16)

            Tolerate false teaching (2:14-15; 2:20)

            Spiritually dead (3:1-2)

Words of correction

            Repent (2:5; 2:16; 2:22; 3:3; 3:19)

Words of promise to those who overcome (1 John 5:5),

Permission to eat from the tree of life (2:7; 22:1,14)

Not harmed by 2nd death (2:11; 20:6)

Given hidden manna and white stone (2:17)

Given authority over the nations and the morning star (2:26-28; 20:4)

Clothed in white robes (3:5)

Name left in book of life (3:5)

Made a pillar in the Temple (3:12)

God’s name written on (3:12; 22:4)

Placed on Christ’s throne (3:21)

3:10 – Church in Philadelphia promised to be kept from the hour of trial – kept through the trial, not out of.  Preservation.  John 17:15.

Ephesus - Ephesus became a Christian city, and in 341 ad a council of the Christian church was held there.  By the middle of the third century signs of decay appeared in the city, and in 263 Goths raided Ephesus and dealt it a blow from which it never recovered.  The city gradually lost its importance and decreased in population.  The stones of its buildings were used in the building of other cities.  In 1308 the Turks took possession of the little that remained of the city, and deported or murdered its inhabitants, it was later abandoned.  Today the Turkish town of Seljuk is nearest to the site of ancient Ephesus.

Smyrna – Belonged to Turks after 1424.  The modern city of Izmir, Turkey.

Pergamos – Ruins being excavated, a small town (Bergama) still stands on the plain below the acropolis of the ancient city.

Thyatira - Thyatira is now represented by the modern large town of Ak-Hissar

Sardis - The city continued to flourish until 1402, when it was so completely destroyed by Tamerlane that it was never rebuilt. Among the ruins there now stands a small village called Sert, a corruption of its ancient name.  Archaeological restoration is being done.

Philadelphia - Retained its importance even until late Byzantine times.  Twice, in 1306 and 1324, it was besieged by the Seljuk Turks, but it retained its independence until after 1390, when it was captured by the combined forces of the Turks and Byzantines. In 1403 Tamerlane captured it.  Ala-shehir is still a Christian town; one-fourth of its modern population is Greek, and a Greek bishop still makes his home there.

Laodicea - In 1071 the city was taken by the Seljuks; in 1119 it was recovered to the Christians by John Comnenus, and in the 13th century it fell finally into the hands of the Turks.  The ruins, now called Eski Hissar, or old castle, lie near the modern Gonjelli


II. Seven seals (4:1-7:17)

 

A. Description of throne and Lamb (4:1-5:14)

4:1 – ‘After these things’ – Simply means after John saw the first vision, doesn’t mean what John sees next is what will happen next.

     - John told to come up.  Does this represent the rapture? – No, John records this as a vision while being ‘in the Spirit’, not physically being caught up.  The phrase is common in apocalyptic writing.  Heaven is the spiritual realm where things can be seen as they truly are.

-         Will be shown what must take place after this, i.e. after John’s time.

4:4 – 24 elders – probably angelic beings.

4:6 – 4 creatures – symbolic representations of the attributes of God, or of all creation worshipping God, or angelic beings (Isa. 6:3; Ezek. 1:5-25, 10:1-22).

5:1 – The scroll

            Some see as a deed to the earth/creation

            Some as a will, revealing the inheritance of the saints

            Some as the mystery of God’s plan for judgment and restoration now being revealed

(Rev. 10:7)

B.     Seals 1 – 6 (6:1-17)

A.     White horse – conquest, may be the Antichrist (6:2)

B.     Red horse – war (6:4)

C.     Black horse – famine (6:5-6)

D.     Pale horse – death and Hades (6:8)

E.      Souls under the altar - Martyrs given white robes, told to wait (6:9)

Only souls mentioned, may indicate the resurrection has not yet occurred

F.      Great earthquake, sun darkened, moon red (6:12-14)

                      6th seal brings the end and final judgment

6:12-14 – End (Isa. 34:4 – final battle)  These signs come after the tribulation and just before the

Second Coming according to Matt. 24:29-30 (Mark 13:24-26, Luke 21:25-27).

C.     Chapter 7 an interlude,

Answers the question, “What about the Church during this time?”

7:1-8 – Identity of the 144,000 – The Church on Earth, sealed for protection from God’s wrath

(Ex. 12:12-13; Ezek. 9) during the end times (does not ensure protection from persecution or other suffering, however).  144,000 symbolic for the complete people of God for all believers are promised sealing (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13); the Church is described as the Israel of God (Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:3, see also Rev. 21:9-12).  The listing of the 12 tribes does not match any listing of the actual tribes in either order or content.

      Vision of Heaven and promise of rest (7:9-17)

7:9-10 - Identity of multitude – Scene shifts to after the 2nd Coming to see the Church in Heaven,

come through the Tribulation.


III. Seven trumpets (8:1-11:19)

A.     Seventh seal (8:1-5)

Introduces the 7 trumpets

8:2 – The seven angels, archangels according to Jewish apocalyptic writing (1 Enoch 20), are Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel.

B.     Trumpets 1 – 6 (8:6-9:21)

1.      Hail, fire, blood – one third of earth burned up (8:7)

2.      Large rock falls in ocean – one third sea life, ships destroyed (8:8-9)

3.      Great star falls in rivers – one third water turned bitter (8:10-11)  (see Jer. 9:15)

4.      Sun, moon, and stars darkened by one third (8:12)

5.      Abyss opened – sky darkened, demonic locusts (9:1-11)

Abaddon means ‘destroyer’, Apollyon may be a reference to Apollo.

(2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6-7; Joel 2:1-5)

6.      Four angels released – one third of humanity killed (9:13-19)

The purpose of these plagues is not so much punishment as it is to call people to repentence.

9:21 - “sorcery” is the Greek word pharmakia, which means “the use of drugs.” Drugs were often used in pagan religious rites

C. Interlude (10:1-11:14)

1.      Little scroll (10:1-11) – see Ezek. 2:9-3:3, God’s Word

2.   The Temple (11:1-2)

Inner court, symbolic of the Church (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21-22), the measuring is another way of indicating preservation (Ezek. 40-43).  The outer court symbolic of those who fall away under persecution.

3.      Two witnesses (11:3-14)

Prophecy for 1,260 days (11:3) (see Jer. 5:14)

Killed by Beast (11:7)

Revived after 3 ½ days (11:11)

Two witnesses – Based on Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets)

       = the complete witness of the Scripture/Church

       (2 witnesses needed by Jewish law – Deut. 19:15)

                          Two trees – In Zech. 4 they represent Joshua and Zerubbabel, priest and king.

        Lampstands have already been used to represent the Church (1:20).  In Zech. 4 the lampstand seems to represent Israel as a witness to the nations.

        1,260 days, 42 months, a time, times, and half a time – all stand for 3 ½ years.  In Jewish apocalyptic this came to represent a time of oppressive evil and persecution.  Time of Antiochus and of Roman siege of Jerusalem.  The Church age?

11:12 – Does “come up here” signify rapture?

D. Seventh trumpet (11:15-19)

Mystery of God fulfilled

Coming of Christ and final judgment

Kingdom of the world becomes Christ’s kingdom (Dan. 7:26-27).

IV.              Seven visions (12:1-14:20)

A.     Woman (12:1-2)       Similar stories in both Greek and Egyptian mythologies.

The woman – Israel

The child – Christ

B.     Dragon (12:3-17)

-         The dragon – The godless powers of this world, controlled by Satan.  During the O.T. time Satan still had access to heaven (Job 1:9-11; Zech. 3:1), but was cast out of heaven (bound) at the coming of Christ (Luke 10:18), first tried to eliminate Him (Matt. 2:16) and now continues to persecute both Israel and the Church (the seed) but both are protected by God.

C.     Beast from the sea (13:1-10)

Beast from Sea – combines the beasts of Daniel’s vision (ch. 7).  The deification of all

secular authority/government, the godless world.  The seven heads and ten horns connects

this beast to the dragon, this is Satan’s earthly representative.  For the churches of John’s day this would have been the Roman Empire.  See Rev. 17 for more.

D.     Beast from the earth (13:11-18)

              Beast from the Earth – A false prophet/worker of miracles.   A religion which worships secular power rather then God.

Number of the beast: 666.  The Hebrew letters for Nero Caesar add up to 666.  It may also

simply be the number of humanity in a trinity, may be a human attempting to be God

E.      The Lamb & 144,000 (14:1-5)

A vision of the church victorious with Christ (Heb. 12:22).

14:4 - They were not guilty of idolatry, faithful in following Christ’s teachings, fully offered to God in service

F.      Three Angels’ announcements (14:6-13)

Call to worship God

Announce the false power has fallen

Declare the destiny of those who follow the beast

G.     Rapture and final judgment (14:14-20)

Rapture/resurrection and final judgment. (Dan. 12:1-2; Matt. 13:30,39)

            14:14-16 – Harvest of the righteous (Matt. 24:29-31; Mark 4:29)

            14:17-20 – Harvest of the wicked (Isa. 63:2-6; Joel 3:13)


 

V.                 Seven plagues (15:1-16:21)

 

These events probably take place after the events of the sixth trumpet (9:13-19) very shortly before the Second Coming.  They are more intense than any that have come before.

A.     Introducing the seven bowls (15:1-4)

1.      Seven angels (15:1)

2.      Worship in heaven

Song of Moses – Ex. 15:1-21, Song of the Lamb – Rev. 15:3b-4

Both songs praise God for the mighty acts that result in redemption

B.     Description of the angels (15:5-8)

C.     Plagues 1 – 6 (16:1-16)

1.      Painful sores (Ex. 9:9-11)

2.      Sea turned to blood, everything in it dies (Ex. 7:20-25)

3.      Rivers & springs turned to blood

Affirmation of God’s justice in executing these judgments (16:5-7)

4.      Sun burns people – they do not repent

5.      Darkness – people still do not repent (Ex. 10:21)

6.      Euphrates dried up, kings gather for battle (Armageddon) (Zech. 14:2)

D.     Seventh Plague (16:17-21)

“It is done” - the proclamation that the end has come

Lightning, thunder, earthquake – signs associated with the Second Coming (Ezek. 38-39;

Matt. 24:27; Rev. 8:5, 11:19)

          No islands or mountains left – see Rev. 6:14, also a description of the Second Coming

Second coming and final judgment (Hagg. 2:6-7; Heb. 12:26-27)


VI. Vision of the end (17:1-19:21)

A.     Woman on the Beast (17:1-18)

1.      Description of Woman (1-7, 18)

Woman – False religion, Imperial cult (Emperor worship), the great city that rules over the kings.

2.      Explanation of Beast (8-17)

Godless society, the beast from the sea (Rev. 13:1), Roman empire,

Seven heads – mountains (Rome built on 7 hills), kings,

Ten horns – 10 kings for 1 hour with the beast

Seven and ten are both symbolic of completeness.  The seven heads and ten horns represent the complete power this ‘beast’ will have over the world.

17:8 Beast was, is not, about to ascend – Satan currently bound, soon to be released.

        Names written in the book from foundation of world (Eph. 1:4)

17:10 – 5 kings have fallen, one is, one has not yet come – may refer to kingdoms: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece had passed, Rome was in power, the final kingdom (Antichrist’s) still to come.

17:11 – Beast is an 8th king, belongs to the 7

B.     Final judgment announced (18:1-24)

Babylon has fallen

Call to the saints to come out from her, be separate from

C.     Second coming and final judgment (19:1-21)

Announcement of the Marriage feast

The Bridegrrom comes

Beasts and the armies defeated


VII. Vision of the end II (20:1-22:21)

  1. Thousand Years (20:1-6) – Does this continue from chapter 19, or does it speak about Satan being bound during the Church age?

                        Satan bound – not able to deceive nations

                                    Souls came to life (First resurrection)

                                    Reign with Christ

Premillenium – This takes place after the Second Coming, when Christ comes and

establishes His kingdom on earth.

            Amillennium – This describes the present age when Christ is ruling in heaven with all

believers who have been spiritually resurrected with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1).

  1. Final judgment (20:7-15)

            20:7-10 – Armegeddon (also Rev. 16:14)

            20:11-15 – Resurrection and Final Judgment

                                    At Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:23-25)

  1. New heaven & earth (21:1-22:6)

New Jerusalem = the Bride of Christ (the Church, Rev. 21:9)

22:3 The curse removed (Gen. 3:14-19)

  1. Closing words (22:7-21)

22:7, 12, 20  - Christ is coming soon (said to John)

            22:10 – Do not seal the book, as opposed to Dan. 12:4.


VIII. General Thoughts

The Gospels teach that the kingdom is already present to some degree (Matt 12:28; Luke 11:20).

Tribulation:

            Matt. 4:24-28 – Warnings for the church going through the tribulation.

John 16:33 (NIV) "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

John 17:15 (NIV) My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

Acts 14:22 – Must go through much tribulation.

Rom. 5:3-5 – The purpose of going through tribulation.

O.T. models – Noah and family went through the flood but were protected from it.

                    - Jewish people in Egypt went through the plagues but were protected from them.

-         Lot and family removed from Sodom before it was destroyed.  

God’s wrath:

Roma 5:9 (NIV) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

1The 1:10 (NIV) and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1The 5:9 (NIV) For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is clearly taught that Christians are spared from experiencing God’s wrath.  Does this imply there will be no Christians on earth during the Great Tribulation?  What about those who become Christians during the tribulation?  If these promises are for all Christians then they will be protected from God’s wrath.  If they can be protected, why not all Christians?

Resurrection:

            Pretribulation/Premillennium view would seem to require three distinct resurrections – Christians who are resurrected at the Rapture, those who convert and die during the Tribulation resurrected at the Second Coming, and non-Christians resurrected at the end of the Millennium.

What ever the future holds, our responsibility is to faithful in carrying our the work Christ has given us.


The book of Revelation can be divided into seven sections.  These sections do not give events following time in a consecutive order.  It was a common Hebrew writing technique to repeat themes using different emphases or perspectives.  We see that, as one example, in chapter 11:15-19 the final judgment is described then chapter 12 goes back to describe the birth of Christ.  The above chart shows each section and what events they cover.

Sections of the Book of Rev.   (chapters) Birth ofChrist Words to theChurch Satan’s WorkIn the World Persecution ofThe Church God’s Work inThe World God’s JudgmentOn the World Second ComingOf Christ Final Judgment Final Blessing
I.       1-3   1:4-3:22              
II.      4-7           6:1-8 6:12-17 7:1-8 7:9-17
III.    8-11         8:3-4 8:5-9:21 11:15-19 11:18-19  
IV.  12-14 12:1-5   12:9-17(Luke 10:18) 13:1-18 14:1-13   14:14-20    
V.   15-16           15:1; 16:1-18   16:19-21  
VI.  17-19     17:3-18     18:1-24 19:1-21    
VII. 20-22         20:1-6     20:11-15 21:1-22:6

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