The notes below were originally taken from a slide presentation I gave upon the first eleven chapters of revelation. The slides regrettably have been lost but I include the notes below in case they are of use. Each chapter itself is discussed in a separate essay or two that can be reached from the navigation bar above.
Good evening. All of the best books on speaking will tell you that you should never start a talk with an apology, but tonight I am going to for which I apologize. Usually my aim in these gospel meetings has been to take a portion of scripture and go through verse by verse helping you to see what it means. Ultimately the Bible is a book written by God to us and we get most benefit when we read it with as little distraction as possibly.
However, over the coming weeks, in God's will I am aiming to continue a series I commenced last year on the book of Revelation. Which is fine except that revelation is one of those books that really builds chapter upon chapter and had I started in the middle without any explanation many would have gotten themselves rapidly lost, including myself.
So for the next forty minutes I am not going to open any one passage for you, instead I am going to go through each chapter one by one giving you, I hope, a way to remember the keys points. I going to have to go fast but if anyone has any questions they would like to ask me afterwards please feel free to come up and ask. Also the slides I'm using and the notes are available on my website if any of you want to go over them a little slower.
So without further ado let us look at Chapter 1.
Many people who try to read revelation conclude it is far too complicated and therefore should be ignored. The mistake they usually make is to skip the intro and get straight onto the interesting bits such as Chapter 6, which we just read. However Chapter 1 actually lays the basis for understanding revelation by telling us what the book is supposed to be. The book of revelation is here to reveal Christ. Yes it does tell us about the end times and lots of interesting happenings but the purpose is to reveal Christ.
Down the side of the diagram you will see a chain, the revelation was given from God to Christ who gave it to an angel who showed it to John who shared it with us.
In the first chapter we also see the first aspect of this revelation, his appearance and his position. We see him as the Ancient of Days and we see him in the midst of the lamp stands and are told this is a picture of Christ amidst the church. It is a progressive revelation, as each chapter unfolds we get another aspect of his character.
Yet revelation 1 introduces another important notion. Time. Again and again Christ refers to himself and the beginning and the ending or the alpha and the omega. It is emphasizing that Christ exists outside of time, as we know it. Then in verse 19 it tells us what John is to write. 'The things, which he has seen'; that is chapter 1. The 'things which are'; chapters 2&3 and 'the things which shall be hereafter'; the rest of revelation.
We now come on to two chapters that talk about church, or in fact about seven different churches which between them cover just about everything you will find in a Christian church. The shocking thing is that 5 of the 7 churches are found to have a serious defect. So if, in your mind, you associate Christianity with the churchgoers you know you have a 72% chance of getting the wrong impression. Now all but one of the bad churches had some strengths; and the two good churches both had noticeable weaknesses. But what we can learn is that Christ is going to deal with the Christians. When you are considering Christianity don't focus on the Christians focus upon the claims of Christ himself, and that is what this book is about.
But let us quickly look at the seven church flavors that Christ dealt with. The first four can each be characterized by their attitude towards tolerance.
First comes Ephesus. This was the most doctrinally pure church. They worked hard, they knew there Bibles backwards, they would not tolerate any false teaching or false teachers, they are commended for all of these things. They were faithful. But they were frigid! What does that mean? They had left their first love! It wasn't that they had gone somewhere else, but they had lost the passion. Christianity ruled their lives but it had become routine, and that is terrible. Christianity is about a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and in a relationship if you go through the motions, however correctly you go through the motions, then something is horribly wrong. That was Ephesus.
Second is Smyrna. They didn't have any heresy to face; they had persecution. They were already poor whether numerically, financially or both we don't know. And God was about to test their tolerance of pain. For ten days they were going to be harassed to the point of death. The test was to see if they were faithful. Here is our next lesson. Christianity doesn't just have to be passionate; it has to be persistent. If Christianity is going to work for you it has to be everything to you.
This brings us to Pergamos. They had the courage Smyrna needed; they were faithful unto death. They were courageous, but corrupt. The Bible says 'you have those there who hold to the doctrine of Balaam'. You can imagine why, in a persecuted church anyone who appears to be on your side is welcomed with open arms. Not so says Christ, doctrine matters. That may sound very dull and boring. But it isn't. Our Bible talks about the God of heaven. Every intricate little detail of what he has done and what he wants us to do should be soaked up with enthusiasm. Pretending that someone that has got it wrong and got it right is not ok.
Finally in this group come Thyatira, at first sight it looks similar to Pergamos and it is but worse. On the plus side Thyatira is commended for it's works, it is the only church of which it is said that the latter works were greater than the former. They went on working harder. But they 'sufferest that woman Jezebel.' Notice the difference, in Pergamos they had error and Thyatira they had actually adapted their behavior to allow the error to happen. I was reading an article the other day, more than 60% of priests attending Catholic seminaries are gay. 'Thou sufferest that woman Jezebel.' Note, a church may declare a behavior acceptable, this has no effect on God whatsoever, he judges by the standards in his Bible.
In chapter 3 we switch from tolerance to image and the first in this section, the fifth over all illustrates in beautifully. Sardis. Sardis had the best reputation of any of these churches, 3:1 'thou hast a name that thou livest'. It also had the worst prognosis. 'and art dead'. If you are going to embark upon a Christian pathway then one of the first things we need to loose is the notion of image. Christianity is not about how it looks but how it is inside. If you take this to heart you get some startling conclusions. On the basis of Sardis it would appear that if you find a lively popular church that you really fancy going to then you probably shouldn't.
So where should you go? Our sixth church is Philadelphia. It means brotherly love. We don't know much about them but they only had a little strength. But God has set before them an open door that no one can shut. Opportunities come from God. Not from money, human wisdom or good luck. Opportunities come from God.
Our final church was Laodicea. It was the richest province; it was hugely successful in trade and medicine and very independent. And the church there was repulsive. Literally the Lord threatens to spew them out of his mouth. But this church also yields one of the most famous verses of revelation. 'Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me'.
These two chapters cover the church age, 'the things which are' from our slide on C1. During this age the Lord Jesus is opening inviting everyone to accept him and then he will give them full fellowship.
And then we get Chapter 4.
Shakespear said 'all the world is a stage and men and women merely players'. Shakespear didn't get many things right, but this one he did. And Chapter 4 takes us behind the scenes and gives us a view of heaven. Inside the disk I have tried to show how chapter 4 affects the earth; the how it appears from heaven. The arrow is also to show that Chapter 4 marks a significant shift it time, to the things which shall be hereafter.
At the beginning of chapter 4 John, as a type of the church, is called up into heaven. This is what we often refer to as the rapture. There will come a time when everyone who is a true Christian will be called to heaven. Those that have already died will be raised from the dead and those on earth will simply disappear. Most of the rest of revelation and the 'left behind' series for those of you that have heard of that, deals with the plight of those that are not raptured.
Let me just dart outside the circle. In chapter 4 we seen the throne room of heaven, we see precious stones and glory and we see ring after ring of being giving honor and glory and power unto God. That is what God is worth and that is true completely independently of what we think down here. But coming back inside the circle it is important because it shows that God really is king. He is sovereign and the earth is really a nation or a people in rebellion against its monarch. This introduces the third word, 'rainbow'. Rev 4 points out the rainbow, that takes us back to Noah and the rainbow covenant. Multiply, eat meat and capital punishment for those that kill. And throughout the time after the rapture man is again going to be measured by those rules that God has set.
There is however one other important strand running straight through the middle. It is an expression use of God. Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. No matter how hard you try you cannot get around the holiness of God and it is really this thread that causes most of what we are about to see.
The focus of chapter 5 is the scroll, a roll of paper sealed with seven seals. This roll of paper is the title deeds to the earth. And it is offered to anyone who is worthy to take it, at first no one comes forward, then we are told to behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And we look but we don't see a Lion we see a lamb standing has it had been slain.
The lamb of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. When you picture him hanging there upon the cross do you see it as a sign of weakness? Well if you do you are wrong. As you will see if you read this chapter it is the strongest thing anyone has ever done. In fact the lamb takes the scroll and heaven sings praising saying he is worthy to take the scroll because he had been slain and had redeemed them. The Lord Jesus has the rights to this earth a) because he created but b) because he died for it. Before we go on let us notice too that the lamb looked as if it had been slain but it was standing up! It had come back to life. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead, which proved he was the son of God.
This is the portion we read. To understand it properly you need to visualize one of those movies where the bad guys appear to be winning and you get scene after scene of them making tremendous advances and yet every now and then the film will switch to a scene where you see the good guys preparing themselves to enter battle. That is what you see here. The Lord Jesus opens six of the seven seals, and with each seal he opens conditions on earth get worse because man, and Satan are being left to their own devices.
The first four seals introduce what are often referred to as the four horses of the apocalypse. The first is white; it really reflects a charismatic world leader who goes forth promoting peace. He is armed, he has a bow, but it is a very long distance weapon, he doesn't get his hands dirty himself. Then just when peace seems to rule we get the red horse, violent war, the blood bath begins. Then the black horse: economic oppression. Finally the pale horse: death -- probably a plague or pestilence. Between them these four horses account for 25% of the earths population. About 1.2B people. To put it in context that means about 1M people dying every day. In the days to come an event like 9/11 with four thousand people dying wouldn't even make the local newspapers.
Seal five has a sinister twist, we see the martyrs, those slain for the word of God. In hard times people turn to the word of God, those that do it during this time, known as the tribulation will be put to death.
Then comes seal 6. A great earthquake, an asteroid shower upon the earth and a rolling back of the sky so that the true heaven is actually visible. We're told that everyone on earth however powerful runs and hides. They suddenly realize that everything going on is not just a chance event. The lamb of God is angry and he is finally going to vent his anger. It then asks one of the key questions of scripture. Who is able to stand?
Chapter 7 then confuses a lot of people because it takes a time-out to answer the question. We actually find there are 3 groups that are able to withstand the tribulation. The first group is the sealed. We actually find that the start of the tribulation is delayed after the rapture whilst 144,000 Jews are sealed. This is the main force that will representing God during this tribulation.
The second group that do ok are actually the slain. Remember those from seal 5? There is actually another batch from the second half of the tribulation. Well again we find that during the tribulation as today a true believer has no reason to fear death because death takes believers to be with God. Then Chapter 7 tells us of another huge group, at the end of the tribulation, who have washed their garments in the blood of the lamb.
What does that mean? It means those people who have accepted that they need a savior. That they themselves have sinned and that they can't stop doing it.
Chapter 7 introduces one other key concept. Angels. Angels are not pretty little boys that float around playing trumpets. Angels are real and they are extremely strong and they are the medium through which God intervenes with the earth. Chapter 7 shows that they are in control of the weather patterns and as revelation progresses we will see increasing angelic activity.
Cutting back to the plot the Lord now opens the seventh seal. After the first 6 you might expect something extreme to happen. But it doesn't. Instead there is silence of half an hour. During that half an hour you see seven angels enter the stage each one carrying a trumpet, but they just stand still waiting. You then see another angel; this one is carrying a bowl with the prayers of the saints. He goes to and from the alter. He also collects fire to puts in the bowl. Anyone who knows the old testament will tell you that the fire from the alter was there to make the incense, the prayers of the saints, smell stronger. Often suffering makes our prayers more effective.
But the angel doesn't take the fire to the alter, the time for saints to suffer is drawing to and end. Instead the bowl is tipped out upon the earth. This is the sign, judgment is coming.
The first angel prepares to blow his trumpet. In the Bible trumpets are used as a signal of war. And that is what we find in the seven trumpets, heaven is declaring war on the earth. The first trumpet announces a meteor shower, the heat of which destroys 1/3rd of the earth's vegetation.
The second trumpet announces an asteroid impact, it lands in the sea and kills one third of all sea life.
The third trumpet announces another asteroid; you can imagine the relief on earth when they discover this one is going to burn up in the atmosphere. Until they discover it is carrying a toxic dust that renders 1/3rd of our drinking water undrinkable.
Trumpet four is another aerial attack, on the sun, moon and stars, they loose a third of their light.
Chapter 8 ends a little strangely, four trumpets of gone and we find an angel flying through heaven saying woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels which are yet to sound!
In other words, the next three trumpets are going to be far worse than the first 4 and are thus described as the three woes.
Please not that at this point God has not harmed man. Yes he has scared him, he has allowed harm to come to him, but he hasn't actually touched him himself. In the next two trumpets, the first two woes we see man being caught in a classical pincer movement because God starts to use satan and man himself to attack man.
The fifth trumpet is the satanic attack. We see the pit opened and swarms upon swarms of demons allowed out for five months. They are allowed to torture people but not kill them. Think about this. We joke about Satan. We play with the occult. We think it is all rather amusing. But Satan and his minions hate men and they will gladly delight in torturing man so badly that he wants to die and can't. It is a grim foretaste of what is in store for those of you that are allowing yourselves to go through life heading towards hell. You cannot die from hell, once the torture starts it will be eternal.
Then comes the sixth seal, this is a land attack by the kings of the east. They have mustered an army of 200M individuals and the war that ensues results in 1/3rd of the earths population dieing. About 1.7Billion people. So from the rapture to the end of chapter 9, about 3.5 years half of the earths population has been killed. People have experienced what Satan wants to do. They have seen heaven and they know there is a God. But do you know how chapter 9 ends? 'the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not'.
I am running out of time, and so in chapter 10 has the earth. Christ descends from heaven and stands with one foot upon the sea and one upon the earth. He has in his hand a little book that is really the script for what is about to follow. He then declares 'time shall be no more'. Man has had his last chance. God had not harmed anyone directly until this point. That is about to change. The little book was then handed to John and he was told to swallow it. To make it a part of himself and then share it with others.
That is what I am trying to do for you this evening. The things in this book are scary, and it gets worse. We must not ignore them. We must take them on board and act before it is too late.
Chapter 11 is another time out. In chapter 10 we see that there are to be no more chances, and we are all going to squeal that we didn't get a good enough chance. So that is what we are next shown. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin is a set of words that were written on the wall of one of the most powerful kings that ever lived. The evening before he died. It means this. Numbered. In Rev 11 we see John given a rod, he was told to go around Jerusalem and to measure the people and what they did. Even today, you are being measured. Everything you do, everything you would like to do, everything you did is being faithfully recorded and anything you say, think or do will be taken down and used in evidence against you.
Mene again. In Revelation 11 we actually find the bounds in time of the tribulation. It is to fall into two periods of three and a half years. We have tackled the first half, the second half I will be tackling as the summer progresses, it is known as the great tribulation. But here is the lesson to you. Opportunities end. The Bible says 'now is the acceptable day'. We don't know when your last chance is going to come. If you are not a believer you are heading either into what I have been describing, or straight into hell, which is far worse.
Tekel. Weighed. God is not arbitrary; we are each given a chance. In Ch 11 we see two witnesses, two people who will tell people how to get saved. How to follow God. The earths reaction is startling, when the two witnesses are killed the whole of the earth rejoices. The two men are left in the streets for three and a half days whilst everyone celebrates that they don't have to hear about God anymore. Then with the whole world watching the two men rise from the dead and go to heaven. Then there is another earthquake. You have an opportunity to respond to God this evening? How will you react? It is unlikely, at least I hope, that you're going to try to kill me. But if you ignore the message then for the good it will do you, you may as well.
Upharsin. Divided. Done. As the witnesses go to heaven we get this verse. The second woe is past; and behold the third woe cometh quickly. Time is no more; opportunity is no more. At the end of chapter 11 we actually find heaven celebrating the victory of God, it hasn't actually happened but it is inevitable.
For those of you that want to understand the rest of revelation please come back in future weeks, next week I'm tackling Revelation 12.
But if anyone here already knows enough; and if you know inside yourself that you are in rebellion against God; and if you want to stop -- then please come and speak to one of us. Myself, Keith, Andrew anyone. For the king who read these words it was too late. For those at the end of Rev 11 it is too late. For you it isn't. Yet. Please use the opportunity while you have it.
In his name.