The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
INTRODUCTORY MESSAGE TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION
- The book of
Revelation deals with the doctrine of eschatology, i.e., the doctrine of last
things (cf. 1:7).
- The apostle
John, who wrote the book of Revelation, also wrote the Gospel of John, and I,
II, and III John.
- Many Christians
avoid studying the book of Revelation because they think it is difficult to
understand. The book contains a series of visions, expressed in various symbols, but
most of the symbols are not difficult to interpret.
- Sometimes, the
interpretation is given in the same passage (cf. Rev. 1:20; 17:1,
- Sometimes, the
interpretation is found elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Rev. 12:1; Genesis 37:9,
- Many of the
symbols are from the book of Daniel.
For example, in Daniel 7 we read that Daniel had a
dream and he saw "four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from
another" (Dan. 7:3).
- The fourth
beast, representing Rome, was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly;
and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the
residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were
before it; and it had ten horns" (Dan. 7:7).
- This beast with
the ten horns is very prominent in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 12:3; 13:1;
17:3, 7, 12, 16).
- Daniel 7:8
refers to a "little horn" that will come up from among the other horns
(kings). Daniel prophesied,
"Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great
- This "little horn" is the antichrist, referred to in the
Book of Revelation as "the beast" (cf. 17:12, 13; 19:19,
- The book of Revelation is not difficult to understand if
one interprets it literally. There are several different methods of
interpretation. I will just mention
three of the popular methods of interpretation.
- Preterist (from the Latin
word preter -- "past") interpretation -- All of the prophecies in
the book of Revelation have already been fulfilled. This strange view is gaining
popularity. Preterists teach
that most or all of the prophecies concerning the end times
refer to events which happened back in AD 70. Therefore, they say the
tribulation is past. But most of
the book of Revelation deals with the tribulation (chapters 4--19). The book of
Revelation was written about AD 96.
And the book of Revelation teaches that the second coming of Christ is
future (cf. 1:7; 19:11-21; 22:12, 20).
- Preterists try and get around this problem by claiming
that the book of Revelation was written before AD 70. But there is no historical
evidence for that. The book
of Revelation was written about AD 96.
- Historical interpretation -- The fulfillment of the
prophecies is going on in history. Those who hold this position see
the development of church history within
world history. According
to this theory, the book of Revelation is the prophetic history of the church,
and the beast is the pope of Rome. The historical interpretation is no longer popular today, though it is
promoted by the Seventh-Day Adventists.
- Futurist interpretation -- This is
the literal way to interpret the Book of Revelation. Revelation is primarily prophetic and
future, especially from Revelation 4 on to the end of the book. This is the
position of premillennialism, and
most fundamental Baptists.
- There are many prophetic books in the Old
Testament. There are the four major
prophets -- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. And there are twelve minor prophets,
from Hosea to Malachi.
- The book of Revelation is the only prophetic book in the
New Testament. However, there are
other prophetic sections in the New Testament, such as the Olivet Discourse in
Matthew 24 and 25; portions of I & II Thessalonians,
- This evening we will focus on the introduction (1:1),
the blessing (1:3), and the outline (1:19).
THE INTRODUCTION (1:1,
- Our Authorized
King James Bible says, "The Revelation of St. John the Divine," but actually it
is, "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"
means "to uncover" or "to reveal."
God wants us to understand the book of Revelation. God has revealed it to
- Daniel 12:9 says, "And he said, Go
thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the
end." But Revelation is not sealed up.
22:10 says, "And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the
prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand."
- So this is,
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (1:1).
Christ is the theme of the entire book of Revelation, and Christ is the
theme of Revelation chapter 1 (cf. 1:5-8, 17, 18).
- The word
"signified" (1:1) has reference to symbolic visions. The word means, "to give a sign or a
- God wants us to
understand these signs or signals (cf. 1:3).
- Some Bible
readers have been confused over the phrases, "which must shortly come to pass"
(1:1), and "for the time is at hand" (1:3).
- These words
express nearness. When these
prophecies are fulfilled, things will happen suddenly and quickly.
- Second Peter 3:8 says, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of
this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a
thousand years as one day."
- We have here a
threefold blessing: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of
this prophecy, and keep those things which are written
- The book begins
with a promised blessing, and concludes with a warning (cf. Revelation
- Revelation 1:3
is the first of seven blessings (beatitudes) in the book of Revelation
(cf. 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).
- The number
seven, which symbolizes perfection and completion, is very prominent in the book
of Revelation. There are
seven letters to seven churches; seven
Spirits of God; seven lamps of fire; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars; seven angels; seven horns and seven eyes; seven seals; seven trumpets; seven
vials; seven thunders; seven thousand men slain in
the earthquake in Revelation 11:13; seven crowns
upon the dragon's head; seven heads on the beast
that rises up out of the sea; seven last plagues;
seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth; and
the tribulation period will last for seven years.
- Verses 4 to 8
are a salutation, and then starting in Revelation 1:9 we have the first of many
visions. It is a vision of the risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ.
- John was exiled
on the isle of Patmos for preaching the Word of God. This island was in the Aegean Sea, and
it was there on the Lord’s day that John was "in the Spirit" (1:10).
- John heard
behind him a great voice as of a trumpet. And the One who spoke identified
Himself as "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" (1:11; cf. 1:8, 17).
- This identifies
the Lord Jesus Christ with Jehovah God, who said in Isaiah 41:4, "I the LORD,
the first, and with the last; I am he."
- "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his
redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me
there is no God" (Isa. 44:6).
- "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am
he; I am the first, I also am the last" (48:12).
- The key verse is Revelation 1:19, and it provides the
outline for the book of Revelation."
- Write the things which thou hast seen..." (1:19). This is the past -- chapter 1 (cf.
1:9-18)."And the things which are..." (1:19b). This is the present --what we call
the "church age" (Rev. 2 & 3).The Lord told John, “send it to unto the seven
churches which are in Asia” (1:11). Today, God's program is the local
church. What we have here in the
book of Revelation is God’s message
to His seven (representing complete) churches in this present church age, until
He shall come again.
- There were many more churches in the province of Asia
Minor, but these seven represent all of them, and to a certain extent, all the
churches of all ages and of all time.
- The seven churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor
form a rough geographical circle, and all of the seven churches were connected
by the ancient Roman roads.
- And our Lord is right "in the midst" of the churches
(1:13, cf. vs. 20).Our Lord is described in a very colorful and symbolic way:
"clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girded about the breast with a
golden girdle" (1:13). This refers
to His dignity and kingly authority.
- "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white
as snow" (1:14). This refers to His
purity and to His eternality.
- “And His eyes were as a flame of fire" (1:14b). This speaks of His omniscience.
Hebrews 4:13 says, “But all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him
with whom we have to do."
- "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in
a furnace" (1:15a). This symbolizes
judgment. The "voice as the
sound of many waters" (1:15b) symbolizes power and
- The "stars" (1:16) represent the "angels of the seven
churches" (1:20). The word
"angel" literally means "messenger" and refers to the pastors of the seven
- The pastors are in our Lord's right hand
(1:16).Referring to John the Baptist our Lord says in Matthew 11:10, "For this
is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy
face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." This word translated "messenger" is the
Greek word angelos, which means a messenger who is sent from God. It
could be either a spirit or a man.
- “And out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword,” the Word
of God (1:16; cf. 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21).
- Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is quick, and
powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing
asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of
the thoughts and intents of the heart."
- Ephesians 6:17 says we are to take the sword of the
Spirit, which is the Word of God.
- "His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength"
(1:16b). On the Mount of Transfiguration, we are told that our Lord's "face did
shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" (Matt.
- Referring to the
New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:23 says, "And the city had no need of the sun,
neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and
the Lamb is the light of it."
- After seeing such a magnificent vision, John "fell at
his feet as dead" (1:17). "And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me,
Fear not; I am the first and the last: 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"
- The third part of our outline is still future -- "and
the things which shall be hereafter" (1:19c). Most of the book of Revelation is future
(Chapters 4--22). These
prophecies have yet to be fulfilled.
We will study them in detail in the weeks and months ahead, Lord
- I will conclude
with this simple thought: The seven golden candlesticks represent the churches
(1:20), but the churches, and preachers and soulwinners do not create
- The candlestick
holds the candle, which gives out the light.
- John 1:9 says
Jesus "was the true Light, which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world."
- Our Lord said
in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world: he that
followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Our job is to send the light, the blessed Gospel light.