WITH TINY wrinkles and cries, he entered the world and, wrapped in strips of cloth, he slept on a bed of straw. Subject to time and to parents, he grew to manhood in Roman-occupied Palestine, his gentle hands becoming strong and calloused in Joseph’s workshop. As a man, he walked through the countryside and city, touching individuals, preaching to crowds, and training 12 men to carry on his work. At every step he was hounded by those seeking to rid the world of his influence. Finally, falsely accused and tried, he was condemned to a disgraceful execution by foreign hands. And he died – spat upon, cursed, pierced by nails, and hung heavenward for all to deride. Jesus, the God-man, gave his life completely so that all might live.
At God’s appointed time, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus will burst onto the world scene. Then everyone will know Jesus is Lord of the universe! Those who love him will rejoice, greeting their Saviour with hearts overflowing into songs of praise. But his enemies will be filled with fear. Allied with Satan, the enemies of Christ will marshal their legions against Christ and his armies. But who can withstand God’s wrath? Christ will win the battle and reign victorious for ever! Jesus, the humble suffering Servant, is also the powerful, conquering King and Judge.
Revelation is a book of hope. John, the beloved apostle and eyewitness of Jesus, proclaimed that the victorious Lord would surely return to vindicate the righteous and judge the wicked. But Revelations is also a book of warning. Things were not as they should have been in the churches, so Christ called the members to commit themselves to live in righteousness.
Although Jesus gave this revelation of himself to John nearly 2,000 years ago, it still stands as a comfort and challenge to God’s people today. We can take heart as we understand John’s vision of hope – Christ will return to rescue his people and settle accounts with all who defy him.
John begins this book by explaining how he received this revelation from God (1:1-20). He then records specific messages from Jesus to the seven churches in Asia (2:1-3:22). Suddenly the scene shifts as a mosaic of dramatic and majestic images bursts into view before John’s eyes. This series of visions portrays the future rise of evil, culminating in the anti-christ (4:1-18:24). Then follows John’s recounting of the triumph of the King of kings, the wedding of the Lamb, the final judgment, and the coming of the new Jerusalem (19:1-22:5). Revelation concludes with the promise of Christ’s imminent return (22:6-21), and John breathes a prayer that has been echoed by Christians through the centuries, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).
As you read the book of Revelation, marvel with John at the wondrous panorama of God’s revealed plan. Listen as Christ warns the churches, and root out any sin that blocks your relationship with him. Be full of hope, knowing that God is in control, Christ’s victory is assured, and all who trust him will be saved.
PURPOSE: To reveal the full identity of Christ and to give warning and hope to believers
AUTHOR: The apostle John
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The seven churches in Asia, and all believers everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: About A.D. 95, from Patmos
SETTING: Most scholars believe that the seven churches of Asia to whom John writes were experiencing the persecution that took place under Emperor Domitian (A.D. 90-95). It seems that the Roman authorities had exiled John to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia). John, who had been an eyewitness of the incarnate Christ, had a vision of the glorified Christ. God also revealed to him what would take place in the future – judgment and the ultimate triumph of God over evil.
KEY VERSE: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (1:3).
KEY PEOPLE: John, Jesus
KEY PLACES: Patmos, the seven churches, the new Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: Revelation is written in “apocalyptic” form – a type of Jewish literature that uses symbolic imagery to communicate hope (in the ultimate triumph of God) to those in the midst of persecution. The events are ordered according to literary, rather than strictly chronological, patterns.
Letters to the churches (1:1-3:22) The vision John received opens with instructions for him to write to seven churches. He both commends them for their strengths and warns them about their flaws. Each letter was directed to a church then in existence, but also speaks to conditions in the church throughout history. Both in the church and in our individual lives, we must constantly fight against the temptation to become loveless, immoral, lenient, compromising, lifeless, or causal about our faith. The letters make it clear how our Lord feels about these faults.
Message for the churches (4:1-22:21) This revelation is both a warning to Christians who have grown apathetic and an encouragement to those who are faithfully enduring the struggles in this world. It reassures us that good will triumph over evil, gives us hope as we face difficult times, and gives guidance when we are wavering in our faith. Christ’s message to the church is a message of hope for all believers in every generation.
- Worshipping God in heaven
- Opening the seven seals
- Opening the seven seals
- Sounding the seven trumpets
- Observing the great conflict
- Pouring out the seven plagues
- Seizing the final victory
- Making everything new
EXPLANATION: God is sovereign. He is greater than any power in the universe. God is not to be compared with any leader, government, or religion. He controls history for the purpose of uniting true believers in loving fellowship with him.
IMPORTANCE: Though Satan’s power may temporarily increase, we are not to be led astray. God is all-powerful. He is in control. He will bring his true family safely into eternal life. Because he cares for us, we can trust him with our very lives.
EXPLANATION: Christ came to earth as a “Lamb”, the symbol of his perfect sacrifice for our sin. He will return as the triumphant “Lion”, the rightful ruler and conqueror. He will defeat Satan, settle accounts with all those who reject him, and bring his faithful people into eternity.
IMPORTANCE: Assurance of Christ’s return gives suffering Christians the strength to endure. We can look forward to his return as King and Judge. Since no-one knows the time when he will appear, we must be ready at all times by keeping our faith strong.
God’s Faithful People
EXPLANATION: John wrote to encourage the church to resist the demands to worship the Roman emperor. He warns all God’s faithful people to be devoted only to Christ. Revelation identifies who the faithful people are and what they should be doing until Christ returns.
IMPORTANCE: You can take your place in the ranks of God’s faithful people by believing in Christ. Victory is sure for those who resist temptation and make loyalty to Christ their top priority.
EXPLANATION: One day God’s anger towards sin will be fully and completely unleashed. Satan will be defeated with all of his agents. False religion will be destroyed. God will reward the faithful with eternal life, but all who refuse to believe in him will face eternal punishment.
IMPORTANCE: Evil and injustice will not prevail for ever. God’s final judgment will put an end to these. We need to be certain of our commitment to Jesus if we want to escape this great final judgment. No-one who rejects Christ will escape God’s punishment.
EXPLANATION: One day God will create a new heaven and a new earth. All believers will live with him for ever in perfect peace and security. Those who have already died will be raised to life. These promises for the future bring us hope.
IMPORTANCE: Our great hope is that what Christ promises will come true. When we have confidence in our final destination, we can follow Christ with unwavering dedication no matter what we must face. We can be encouraged by hoping in Christ’s return.
©Kingsway International Church, 1973.