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“One of the ironies of the Bible is that its most difficult book is called ‘Revelation’.”

 

Making sense of the book of Revelation requires:

1. We treat Revelation like all other prophetic literature in Scripture which operates according to the principles of symbolism (Rev 1:1, “communicated” [Grk., saymainoe] = Communicated through symbols/signs), original audience relevance (Rev 1:3-4, written to seven churches existing in the 1st century about events that will [in the majority] take place in their lifetime [3, “the time is near”; Mat 24:34]. Hence the early date for writing: > 70 AD[1]), unconventional fulfillment (e.g., Rev 14:8 [Isa 21:9], “Babylon” identified as someone other than literal Babylon), and recapitulation ([def., repeating previously mentioned events for the purpose of reinforcing formerly established truths and introducing new details or different perspectives that further the reader’s understanding and appreciation of those events.], Rev 5-11 w/12-18 [TBD]).

2. We read John’s heavenly vision (chs. 4-22) as five main acts: two past, one in the past and present, two yet future.

2.1. ACT ONE (PAST): DIVORCE

(4:1-5:14) = Jesus before the divine divorce court.

2.1.1. John is taken up to God’s heavenly throne room, the place where His judgments are determined (4:1-3).

2.1.2. The court’s business on this day is the finalization of Jesus’ divorce from OC Israel (5:1-5).[2]

2.1.3. The “book” (or scroll) with the seven seals represents the marriage covenant between Jesus and OC Israel created during the Sinai event (Exo 19-24 w/Jud 1:5; Exo 24:7 “the book of the covenant” = the marriage covenant document).

2.1.4. John weeps knowing that unless the marriage w/OC Israel is put asunder, the kingdom and promises of God could not be transferred to the church (or NC Israel). IOW: Jesus’ prophecy would not come true (Mat 21:43).

2.1.5. Jesus’ status as Israel’s true Husband (her “Lion” and “Root”) is the reason He is only One who can execute the divorce (break the seven seals of the marriage document rendering it void).

2.1.6. Likewise, Jesus’ status as a priest is the reason for the seven seals (Heb 4-10). Unlike normal marriage documents which were sealed only once, the marital document used for priests (get mekushar) was sealed seven times to dissuade priests from hasty divorces since priests were prohibited from the possibility of re-marrying their former spouses (or marrying those divorced). This understanding tells us that Jesus’ decision to pursue divorce is neither hasty nor without substantial grounds. Jesus’ grounds for divorce are two-fold: 1) OC Israel’s continuing (and generational) spiritual harlotry (Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8-9, 5:7, 13:27; Eze 16:8-30), 2) OC Israel’s murder of her Messiah and Husband-God (Act 2:36, 3:15, 7:52; Rev 5:6, 11:8; According to Jesus, this was the “final straw” – Mat 23:32-36).

2.1.7. As such, correctly interpreting Revelation 4 and 5 is essential to understanding 15 of the remaining 17 chapters (i.e., chs. 6-18 or 70% of the entire book of Revelation).

(6:1-11:19) = The seven-seals of the marriage document are broken releasing a seven-fold judgment against OC Israel culminating in the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans (depicted as seven trumpets)

2.1.8. God promises a seven-fold judgment for Israel’s adultery/apostasy in Leviticus 26 (Lev 26:18, 21, 24, 28).

2.1.9. The “four horsemen” of the initial four seals are also an allusion to Ezekiel 14 where God promises severe judgment against Jerusalem for unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 14:12-21).

2.1.10. Direct parallels exist between the initial four seals and what is communicated in Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 14: 1) Seal one (Rev 6:1-2) = Conquest (Jerusalem) (Lev 26:28-31; Eze 14:21), 2) Seal two (Rev 6:3-4) = Sword/War (Lev 26:24-27; Eze 14:17-18), 3) Seal three (Rev 6:5-6) = Famine (Lev 26:18-20; Eze 14:12-14), 4) Seal four (Rev 6:7-8) = Wild Beasts and Pestilence (Lev 26:21-23; Eze 14:15-16, 19-20).

2.1.11. Jesus prophesies that He will use the Romans as His primary means of judgment against the Jews (Mat 22:1-7; the Roman-Jewish War [67-70 AD]).

2.1.12. The fifth seal places Nero’s persecution (64-68 AD) squarely on the shoulders of the Jews (who suggested Christians be Nero’s scapegoat for the burning of Rome) (Rev 6:9-11[3]).

2.1.13. The sixth and seventh seals (Rev 6:12-17 w/8:1-11:19) represent the five-month siege against Jerusalem (April – September 70 AD).

2.1.14. The seven trumpets which begin at the breaking of the seventh seal, signal the high point/culmination of the vision’s goal: the destruction of Jerusalem (most spec., her Temple) and the end of Jesus’ marriage to OC Israel (Rev 11:2 w/8).[4]

2.1.15. Revelation 7 predicts a reprieve in the war when: 1) Jewish Christians (i.e., the Jerusalem church) who understood and heeded Christ’s previous warning, flee the city (Rev 7:1-8; Luk 21:20-24[5]), 2) the full number of martyrs is complete and Nero’s persecution is over (Rev 7:9-17; fulfillment of Rev 6:11; Nero’s death/Vespasian’s dispatch [68 AD][6]).

(12:1-18:24) = Recapitulation (repeat w/extra details/different perspective) of Revelation chapters 6 through 11.

2.1.14. Jerusalem, the “great city” of (Rev 11:2 and 8) is identified w/the idolatrous and pagan nation of Babylon, OC Israel’s former oppressors and place of exile (Rev 14:8 w/16:19, 17:18, 18:2, 10, 16, 18-21).

2.1.15. The beast that comes up from the abyss” in (Rev 11:7) is identified as Rome and Nero (the beast from the sea) (Rev 13:1-6, 18 [Rev 17:9-10 “seven heads…seven mountains” = Rome the city on seven hills; “seven kings, five have fallen, one is” = Nero was the sixth of the seven Roman Caesars][7]) who makes an unholy alliance with Israel and her priesthood (the beast of the land and the false prophet) (Rev 13:11-17 [Rev 16:13, 19:20, 20 :10 “false prophet”][8])[9] to destroy Christians. (Rev 6:9-11 w/[11:7, 12:17, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24])

2.1.16. The seven seals (of Rev 6-11) are depicted as seven bowls of wrath (Rev 16).

2.1.17. Revelation 12 and 13 also reveal: 1) OC Israel’s apostasies in relation to Messiah (Apostasy #1: abdication of her Messiah motherly duties [Rev 12:1-2; Mal 2:10-15], Apostasy #2: attempted murder of her Messiah Son [Rev 12:3-4; Mat 2:13-18; Luk 4:28-29], Apostasy #3: abandonment of her Messiah Son [Rev 12:5-6]), Apostasy #4: anarchy against the Roman govt [Rev 12:7-14][10]. 2) Satan’s (aka, the “dragon” and “serpent”) direct involvement in Israel’s apostasy (Rev 12:3-4), Rome’s power (Rev 13:1-4), and Christianity’s persecution (Rev 12:12, 17, 13:7-10).

2.2. ACT TWO (PAST): REMARRIAGE

(19:1-21) = Jesus consummates His marriage to the Church (NC Israel) signaling their reign on earth.

2.2.1. After celebrating the finalization of His divorce to adulterous/apostate OC Israel (the “great harlot”) through: 1) destroying Jerusalem and the Temple and 2) avenging the blood of the first century Christian martyrs (Rev 19:1-6), Jesus consummates His marriage to His new Bride, the Church (OC Israel) whose faithful deeds are her wedding dress (19:7-10).

2.2.2. Jesus is revealed as the Divine Warrior Husband Who fights for His Church (Rev 19:11-16 w/6:2 [“conquering to conquer”] and 19:2 [“avenged the blood of His bond-servants”]).

2.2.3. As His final act of vengeance for the first century Christian martyrs, Jesus’ destruction of Rome is also predicted (19:17-21). IOW: (Dan 7:13-14) wb fulfilled!

2.2.4. The reign of Jesus’ kingdom (NC Israel/the Church) has begun (Rev 19:6b w/11:15, 12:10, 17:14).

2.3. ACT THREE (PAST and PRESENT): SATAN

(20:1-6) = Satan’s exile and NC Israel’s reign

2.3.1. As part of the Church’s reign, Satan is exiled from this world curtailing his ability to deceive the Church or corrupt its gospel message to the nations (20:1-3; “thousand years” = Like the former time indicators in the book [e.g., Rev 13:5]], this refers to a literal period of time).

(20:7-9a) = Satan’s escape and NC Israel’s demise

2.3.2. Satan is successful in escaping back into this world (20:7).

2.3.3. Satan begins deceiving NC Israel/the Church through the invention of various false gospels/forms of Christianity: 1) Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (11th century – or [roughly] one thousand years after his exile), 2) Evangelicalism and the Faith Alone Gospel (Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, 16th century).

2.3.4. Satan unites the world against the last remaining Church on earth (Rev 20:8-9a).

2.3.5. The extinction of Christianity (the last Church) is thwarted by the physical, final and fiery return of Jesus and His heavenly armies who instantly obliterate Satan and his forces and throw them into the eternal “lake of fire” (Rev 20:9b-10; 2Th 1:7-9). For additional consideration: A clue to Satan’s HQ since his escape (Isa 27:1 w/Mat 12:43).

2.4. ACT FOUR (FUTURE): JUDGMENT

(20:11-15) = The end of human history results in a final judgment of all who have ever lived.

2.4.1. Two books determine every human’s new and eternal home, both related to our deeds (Rev 20:11-13).

2.4.2. Based on what has been communicated in the previous chapters, our performance in the face of temptation and persecution – as well as our productivity for the Kingdom (the Church), will be the determining factors for finding our names in the “book of life” or among those who continued to receive the blood of Christ for forgiveness (Rev 20:14-15 w/Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 7:9-14, 12:11, 17, 13:10, 14:4-5, 12, 17:14, 19:8; Mat 25:14-30).

2.5. ACT FIVE (FUTURE): REBOOT

(21:1-22:21) = The saints of human history enter the new heavens and new earth.

2.5.1. Every human who passed their test through persevering and productive faithfulness to Jesus during their earthly lives, will inherit a new and permanently perfect creation where they will serve Jesus and search out new worlds in immortal, impregnable, immutable bodies which guarantee no end to their happiness, knowledge or life (Rev 21:1-22:5).

2.5.2. Our free-wills (and nothing else) will determine where we end up eternally (Rev 22:6-13).

2.5.3. Those who end up going to Hell (instead of the Reboot) are not only pagans but those who: 1) chose to believe Christ’s blood was an endless fountain for their constant sin (versus endless only for those who are faithful keep His commands/not characterized by sin) (Rev 22:14), 2) continued to practice what are false versions of God, the gospel and reality (e.g., revisionist history, slander, careless words and thinking) (Rev 22:15).

 

CLOSING WORDS: God: 1) sees salvation a s a marriage between Christ and the Church (Rev 22:16-17), 2) wants Revelation to be a part of Scripture – and His Law to still be in force (STARE DECISIS!) (Rev 22:18-21).

[1] For further study see Kenneth Gentry’s, Before Jerusalem Fell.

[2] Papers were served and divorce threatened in the past (over 600 years ago; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8-9). Unfortunately, Israel produced no lasting moral change/repentance to keep the divorce from being finalized (Mat 23:37).

[3] “If the martyr’s blood is flowing around the base of the altar (Rev 6:9), it must be the priests of Jerusalem who have spilled it.” – David Chilton (The Days of Vengeance); “(The Neronian persecution of Christians was accomplished)…through jealousy and envy (by the Jews).” – Clement (source unknown); “(The Jews) possessed very powerful advocates in the palace, and even in the heart of the tyrant; his wife and mistress, the beautiful Poppaea, and a favorite player of the race of Abraham. These two suggested to Nero the new and pernicious sect of the Galileans, the Christians.” – Edward Gibbon (History of the Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire)

[4] The significance of the Temple’s destruction to Jesus’ divorce = The Temple was the sign of Jesus’ presence and covenant w/OC Israel (Exo 25:8). Hence the reason: 1) immediately after God first makes covenant (Exo 24), He gives to them the plans to build the tabernacle/temple (Exo 25-31), 2) the Temple had to be rebuilt (after its destruction by the Babylonians) for the covenant to be renewed (Neh 9:38-10:29).

[5] “For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction.” – Epiphanius (On Weights and Measures)

[6] “Vespasian [Rome’s new emperor] sent a dispatch to Rome rescinding the disenfranchisement of Christians as had been condemned by Nero.” – Dio Cassius

[7] “Corporately the Beast is the Roman empire; specifically, he is Nero Caesar, its contemporary head.” – Kenneth Gentry (Revelation Made Easy)

[8] “This lesser beast appears as a ‘lamb’ reminding us of temple worship in that the lamb us the dominant sacrificial victim. Just as the first beast’s image as a carnivore compound points to Rome and her bloody amusements, so it seems that the second beast’s lamb image points to Israel’s sacrificial system and religious claims.” – Kenneth Gentry (ibid)

[9] “Revelation appears to present an unholy alliance against Christianity, a Roman-Jewish alignment.” – Kenneth Gentry (Navigating the book of Revelation)

[10] “What did most elevate the Jews in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings [Dan 7:13-14], how…one from their own country should become governor of the habitable earth. The Jews took this prediction to belonging to themselves.” – Josephus (Wars); “Since God has established Rome and since you are at war against God’s laws, then you must go to war against Rome [that will] depend on [additional] human assistance. [Yet] where are you going to get human assistance? You might as well kill your wives and children and set fire to your own cities with your own hands and save Rome the trouble.” – King Agrippa (Josephus, Wars)