Understanding Revelation: Observation

In the first post about “Understanding the Book of Revelation”, we considered the context of this last book of the Bible and asked some questions to aid our understanding.

We determined that John, the writer of the Gospel of John and the beloved disciple of Jesus, wrote Revelation about A.D. 95-96. It was a time of Roman persecution of believers in Jesus. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos because of his belief and testimony of Jesus. The “revelation” was given to John from Jesus through an angel. The purpose of the “revelation” was to show the servants of Jesus the things that would begin to take place shortly and continue up to and even past Jesus’ return to the earth from heaven.

In this post, we will apply the technique of “observation” to further our understanding of the book. In the previous post on this subject, I suggested you read through the entire book of Revelation to become familiar with the language. In doing so, you may have observed a definite structure. We will consider this structure, which also contains a sequence or chronology.

Chapter 1:

As well as telling us who the writer of the book is, the book’s purpose, and the location of the writer, we are told that this letter was to be sent to the seven churches of Asia. We now have a clear picture of the immediate audience. The reader is then introduced to the use of symbols, such as: seven golden lampstands; the description of the “one like the son of man”; seven stars; and a sharp two-edged sword. The end of the chapter tells us what the seven golden lampstands and the seven stars represent. If you have access to a Bible Concordance or the ability to search for words and phrases in the Bible, take a look at how the symbols are used throughout the Bible. For example, spend some time in the Old Testament looking at the construction, use and location of the “lampstand”. This exercise for all the symbols will be extremely helpful.

The use of symbols in chapter one is indicative of how the book of Revelation is written. I strongly suggest that most of the book uses symbols and is not primarily literal. This is very fitting for the last book of the Bible, which was dealing with events that were prophetic and had not occurred at the time of the writing.

Chapters 2-3:

The next two chapters are addressed directly to the seven churches. Notice the symbolic descriptions of the one addressing the churches. The speaker knows all about them and they are addressed individually. In addition to the symbols, there are some characters from the Old Testament, such as Balaam, Balak, and Jezebel. You can look these people up and see the type of issues those churches were facing. In addition, notice what the speaker is saying about the positive and negative aspects of the church, as well as their individual remedies.

Chapter 4-5:

These two chapters present a heavenly scene. Observe the voice “like” a trumpet, the throne, the precious stones, the rainbow, the white garments, the crowns, thunder and lightning and the four living creature. You can do some research in the Old Testament and discover the importance and use of these symbols.

In chapter 5, we are re-introduced to “the Lamb”, as well as “the tribe of Judah” and “the root of David”, all found in the Old and New Testaments.

The scroll is very important for understanding the rest of the book of Revelation. Scrolls are leaves of parchment or papyrus glued together to form a roll. Scrolls were often sealed so that only the intended reader was to break the seal to read the information. This scroll had seven seals, to be opened in sequence. This is how the “revelation of Jesus Christ” is presented: a series of sequential, unfolding events.

Chapters 6-22:

In chapter 6, notice that the seals are numbered and opened in sequence. Similar to the previous chapters, there are many symbols that can be researched to determine their nature and use. It is important to realize, however, that the symbol is just that: it represents “things that were to shortly take place” and so the information is to apply to events that would begin to occur near the end of the first century and continue on for over the next 2,000 years.

Before the seventh seal was opened in chapter 8, seven angels with seven trumpets are introduced and the angels begin to sound their trumpets in order. The seventh seal contained seven trumpets. Also, the fourth trumpet contains three woes. In chapter 10, there are seven thunders that were sealed up. The thunders do not appear again until chapter 19.

In chapter 11, the seventh trumpet is sounded. This signals the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth; however, what follows appears to be a great deal of turmoil. In fact, as we continue reading, we discover in chapter 15, the seventh trumpet contains seven plagues. In chapter 16, we find that within the plagues are seven bowls that are to be poured out. It is in this chapter, that the battle of Armageddon commences and the announcement of the return of Jesus to the earth. Chapters 17-18 deal with the fall of a system called “Babylon the Great”.

Chapters 19-22 describes great rejoicing in heaven, the defeat of Satan, the final judgment, the establishment of news heavens and new earth, new Jerusalem, and the river of life. It is in chapter 19, that of the sound of the mighty peals of thunder. At this point, there has been a great transformation and all things are new and peaceful with righteousness prevailing and all glory is given to God Almighty. Chapter 22 concludes with a warning and the encouragement that Jesus is coming back to the earth.

Points of Observation

It is important to note the following observations about the book of Revelation:

  • It contains a great number of symbols that depict events, peoples, nations and locations.
  • These symbols are contained within a seven-sealed scroll.
  • As the seals are opened, seven trumpets begin to sound.
  • During the sounding of the trumpets, three woes are proclaimed.
  • As the trumpets are sounding and the woes are being carried out, seven bowls are being poured out.
  • As the seven bowls are being poured out, the seven thunders begin to crash.
  • The thunders culminate in renewed heavens and earth where peace, righteousness and glory to God fill the earth.
  • The book of Revelation is a book of “sevens”. The number seven is used throughout the Bible, just like most of the symbols contained in the book. The number seven is often associated with completeness or perfection.
  • It is as if the book of Revelation is presented as a telescopic structure where each section is designed to slide into another section. As the telescope is expanded, a new section emerges before the last section is complete.
  • In the next post, we will consider how to interpret the book of Revelation through what we have learned and further effort we need to apply to the enhance our understanding.

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