Making Sense of Revelation – Part 2

“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)

Revelation 2-3: Jesus’ Final Message To His Shepherds

Ephesus · Smyrna · Pergamum · Thyatira · Sardis · Philadelphia · Laodicea

1. The senior pastor (or shepherd) –and therefore his helpers/under-shepherds (i.e., deacons/officers – Luk 12:58), are the one(s) responsible for the spiritual health of their churches (Rev 1:20 “stars are the angels of the seven churches” or “messengers sent by God to those particular churches)”(2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 7, 14) = Senior pastor/shepherd.

Additional support: 1) stars are a metaphor for pastors who lead people to righteousness (Dan 12:3), 2) the seven stars exist among the “seven golden lampstands.” Not only is this a metaphor for the church, but a reference to the lampstands tended to by the OC priests and Levites in the Temple. In the same way, the NC priests and Levites will tend to (or be responsible for) the lampstand that is now the church.

 

2. A church that is spiritually healthy is a church characterized by people overcoming their sin (i.e., their lives are no longer characterized by sin – 1Jo 5:3-5 = Christians [those who believe in Jesus/God’s Son and are born again] overcome sin [the “world” – 1Jo 2:16] by faithfulness to God’s commands which they do not find hard/burdensome”).

Maintaining the spiritual health of the church – or seeing to it that people are overcoming their sin is absolutely necessary not only to each individual’s salvation, but each church’s ability to continue as a place where God’s Spirit and salvation resides (Hence Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21) = Each “overcome” message exists in the form of a conditional statement. IOW: only those who overcome their sin will receive the salvific/eternal promises mentioned.

With respect to the church see (Rev 2:5 “remove your lampstand out of its place”) = The lampstands in the Temple represented God’s spiritual presence and lit the way to inner sanctum/holy of holies – the place offering salvation. As such they represent both the Holy Spirit and salvation. Christ’s threat to remove the lampstand therefore refers to Him removing that church as a legitimate church – or dwelling place of His spirit and salvation.

 

3. To produce a church that is spiritually healthy – or characterized by people overcoming their sin (or being faithful to God’s commands), requires that her shepherd (senior pastor) and his under-shepherds (deacons/officers) be completely intolerant of seven particular sins. The reason Jesus chose the seven churches mentioned in Revelation (though there were many other churches), is because each of them possessed one (or the potential for one) of these seven sins:

 

3.1. Ephesus: Failure to give first loyalty to Jesus/His church/His words and gospel.

(Rev 2:1 w/4-5 ) “The One who holds…in His right hand…who walks” = Jesus is the One who created/owns us and cares for us most (Gen 3:8).

“left your first love” w/(Mat 10:27-37) = Our loyalty to Jesus includes preaching God’s words/gospel to our lost blood family members. Our loyalty to Jesus is also measured by our loyalty to His Body, the church (Mat 25:40 “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers…you did it to Me”; “The blood of the covenant is stronger than the water of the womb”).

 

3.2. Smyrna: Failure to be faithful when suffering persecution.

(Rev 2:8-10) “first and the last” = Jesus is the only God. The largest cult of emperor worship (“Nero is Lord of the universe”) existed in Smyrna; “who was dead, and has come to life” = Docetism – or the belief that Jesus could not be a man or die, came only in spiritual form, also very popular in Smyrna;

“you will be tested…have tribulation…be faithful unto death” = The city’s devotion to the emperor as God and the popularity of Docetism within the local churches made employment/living as a true Christian very hard – even deadly (Mat 10:22).

3.3. Pergamum: Failure to be theologically, spiritually and sexually pure.

(Rev 2:12-16) “The One who has the two-edged sword” = Jesus possesses the real authority not only to destroy but heal. Pergamum worshipped the Asclepius – the Greek god of healing.

“I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is” = Asclepius was a serpent; e.g., symbol for modern medicine/medical science

“teaching of Balaam/Nicolaitans” = Doctrinal impurity. The church was teaching that it was okay to embrace the sin of your culture as a means of reaching others for Christ (e.g., the pragmatism of the mega-churches – “the ends justify the means”)

“eat things sacrificed to idols and commit acts of immorality” = Spiritual and sexual impurity. Christians were frequenting the temple of Asclepius to receive healing (e.g., our involvement in alternative medicine associated w/false religion; entertainment that is spiritually/sexually impure)”.

 

 

 

 

3.4. Thyatira: Failure to separate from false Christians or gospels.

(Rev 2:18-20) “The Son of God, whose has eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like burnished bronze” = Jesus knows the true motives of our hearts (v19 and 23; also Rev 1:12-15 [picture of a king/judge sitting in judgment – “in the middle of the lampstands”]). Jesus’ stmt (ml) due to the excuses made by those unwilling to separate from false Christians/gospels (e.g., “I go to that church/hang out w/those people b/c I am trying to win them to Christ”).

“you tolerate the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and leads my bondservants astray” = There were people in the church (not everyone – v24) who were not separating from this local false Christian teacher, yet the church did nothing about it (2Jo 1:9-11).

 

3.5. Sardis: Failure to take our Christian life seriously by being productive for the Kingdom of God.

(Rev 3:1-3) “He Who has the seven Spirits of God” = Jesus is the One Who determines who remains spiritually alive (Hence, “you have a name that you are alive but you are dead”).

“Wake up, strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed” = The Christians in Sardis were lazy and unproductive when it came to advancing the Kingdom and gospel. As a result they were about to lose their personal salvation and ability to offer salvation to others (as a church) (Mat 25:14-30; Luk 8:16-18).

3.6. Philadelphia: Failure to take on the religious giants condemning us as heretics or apostate.

(Rev 3:7-11) “He Who is holy who is true, who has the key of David…I have put before you an open door that no one can shut” = Jesus is the true King of Israel and His church the true re-constituted Israel that old Israel cannot oppose/reject (Rev 6:10-17).

“you have a little power [you are small in comparison to your opponents]…[yet] I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan [the majority group/the giants who condemn you and call you apostate – Act 24:14], who say they are Jews [i.e., the true followers of God] and are not…I will make them come and bow down at your feet”).

3.7. Laodicea: Failure to be truthful in their assessments of life, love, self or others.

(Rev 3:14-19) “the Amen” [the truth] the faithful and true Witness” = Jesus is the God Who demands truth.

“I wish that you were cold or hot” =I wish you were true to one degree or another (hot or cold)

“you say, ‘I am rich…and you are wretched and miserable and poor’” = You are untruthful in your assessment of self/life.

“blind” = You are untruthful in your assessment of others (Mat 7:5)

“those whom I love I reprove” = (ML) said for the purpose of correcting their wrong/untruthful view of love (e.g., slander, lies, revisionist history, holding onto/refusing to change from former views of the world or the way things work that are no longer true, viewing God’s shepherds/authority as those who hurt us rather than help us, viewing justice as a bad thing; Rev 21:8 “all liars” [all forms of liars] w/Mat 12:34-37).

 

4. Eradicating these seven sins will be a primary goal of all those functioning in any capacity as shepherds in Jesus’ churches (in our church!) (Rev 2:29).

Making Sense of Revelation – Part 1

“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, original audience relevance, unconventional fulfillment, and recapitulation.

1.1. Symbolism

(Rev 1:1 “communicated” [Grk., saymainoe]) = To indicate the reality of something through signs or symbols; symbolism). Scholars believe Jesus’ use of this Greek word is a direct allusion to Daniel 2 where he is told to interpret the various pieces of Nebuchadnezzar’s great statue dream as symbolism – or symbolic of the various kingdoms that would exist in the future (Dan 2:30 “interpretation” = saymainoe [LXX]). Jesus is therefore communicating that like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, John’s visions (chs 1 and 4-22) are not to be interpreted literally, but through the lens of signs and symbols. This principle is true not only with respect to Daniel’s prophecy but all OT prophetic literature. We are to interpret its visions as symbolism (signs/symbols pointing to reality rather than the reality itself). What also proves true is that the book of Revelation shares many of the same signs and symbols found in those Old Testament prophetic books. Knowing this helps us to avoid using our imaginations in the interpretive process (e.g., Rev 1:7-8 w/Isa 19:1).

Examples of imagination from John MacArthur’s interpretations of Revelation:

1.1.1. (Rev 6:12-13), “moon became blood. Accompanying the earthquake will be numerous volcanic eruptions; large amounts of ash and debris will be blown into the earth’s atmosphere, blackening the sun and giving the moon a blood-red hue. Stars of heaven fell. The best explanation is a massive asteroid or meteor shower.”

Understanding these verses based on prior OT use (Isa 13:1-22; Eze 32:1-11) = Prophetic language indicating God’s judgment against one pagan nation through their destruction by another pagan nation– which also meant the defeat of their false gods/idols. Isaiah 13 = The fall of the Babylonian kingdom to the Medo-Persians in 539 BC. Ezekiel 32 = The fall of the Egyptian kingdom to the Babylonians in 605 BC. In respect to false gods/idolatry = Both the Babylonians and the Egyptians worshipped gods derived from the “sun”, “moon” and “stars”.

What then is being communicated by these symbols in Revelation 6:12-13? Israel’s rejection of their Messiah (Jesus) means that they too have become a nation guilty of idolatry (of worshipping a false god) and will likewise

suffer God’s destruction at the hands of a pagan nation. In this case, the Romans (Jewish War 67-70 AD).

1.2.1. (Rev 8:8), “Like a great mountain. Probably a huge meteor or asteroid surrounding by gases that will ignite as it enters earth’s atmosphere. Its impact will create a tidal wave, destroying one-third of the world’s ships. sea became blood. This may refer to an event known as red tides, caused by billions of dead micro-organisms poisoning the water—in this case the result of the meteor’s collision.”

 

Understanding these verses based on prior OT use (Jer 51:24-25, 42 [w/Rev 17:1-6 which is the same city mentioned in Rev 11:8; See also Rev 18:20-21] = Prophetic language indicating the destruction/conquering of a great city by a massive enemy army. Jeremiah 51 = The conquering of the great city of Babylon by the massive armies of the Persian king, Cyrus).

 

What then is being communicated by these symbols in Revelation 8:8? The great city of Jerusalem (and her Temple) will be overrun and destroyed by the massive army of the Roman Empire.

1.2. Original Audience Relevance

The majority of what the biblical prophets write has relevance to its original audience (e.g., Isaiah = 71% or 47 of its 66 chapters). As such, before we attempt discern universal principles – or what portions of prophecy may be related to us, we must first attempt to understand the importance of the prophecy to those to whom it was first spoken or written (1:4-6, 9-11) = The majority of what John receives as prophetic visions in the book of Revelation is directly relevant to seven 1st century churches existing in Asia Minor. The majority of what is revealed will be fulfilled in their time (1-3). Similar time-markers are provided in Jesus’ prophetic, “Olivet Discourse” (e.g., Mat 24:15-34). Scholars agree that Jesus’ Olivet Discourse is a direct corollary to John’s Revelation. Of interest, is the fact that John’s gospel is the only of the four gospels not containing this famous prophecy. As such, some have called Revelation, “John’s Olivet Discourse.”

Examples from OT prophecy supporting the principle of historical or first relevance to the original audience (Isa 7:10-16 w/8:1-8 w/Mat 1:23; Jer 1:11-16 w/7:1-13 w/Mat 21:13).

Applying this principle to the book Revelation (examples):

1.2.1. The mountain thrown into the sea in Rev 8:8 as the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple: 1) Jesus made this connection w/His disciples before His death (Mat 21:18-21), 2) According to Dr. William Telford (Dept. of Biblical Studies, Sheffield University), “mountain” was the standard expression among the Jews for the Temple Mount.

1.2.2. The Beast who kills Christians for 42 months and possesses the number, 666 (Rev 13:1-7, 18) = The 1st century Roman king, Nero Caesar: 1) his name according to Hebrew numerical value equals six hundred and sixty-six, 2) many in the 1st century referred to him as a “wild beast” or “the beast” due to his bloody tirades and public displays of animalistic sexual indulgence, 3) As a means to escaping national revolt, Nero blamed his burning of Rome on the Christians (an idea provided by the Jewish leaders via his Jew-favoring wife, Poppaea Sabina) leading to 42 months (Rev 13:5) of the most bloody and violent persecution of Christians in the history of the world (A.D. July of A.D. 64 until Nero’s death in January of 68).

1.3. Unconventional Fulfillment

Most prophecy in Scripture experiences multiple fulfillments (e.g., Isa 7:10-16 w/Mat 1:23). Each however is almost always partial – or related to only a portion of the entire prophecy. Rarely is a particular prophecy fulfilled in its entirety in the same event (e.g., contra Isa 53). Instead, each successive fulfillment tends to be concerned with different portions while at the same time, reapplying the previous portion already fulfilled to a completely new or different context.

Example from Isaiah (Isa 9:1-7):

1.3.1. Sans verses 6b-7a = Hezekiah (Isa 36-39 -esp., Isa 37:32).

1.3.2. Sans verses 4 and 5 = Jesus (Mat 4:15-16; Luk 1:32-33, 79).

 

Such unconventional forms of fulfillment can also include change to the original intent or meaning (e.g., Isa 65:1-2 w/Rom 10:20-21).

Example from Revelation: Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Babylon by the Persians is later used to communicate the destruction of Jerusalem (the new Babylon) by the Romans (Isa 21:9 w/Rev 14:8).

1.4. Recapitulation

Recapitulation is the repeating of previously mentioned events for the purpose of not only reinforcing formerly established truths, but to introduce additional details and different perspectives that also help the reader’s understanding and appreciation of those events. Revelation 12 through 18 (the seven bowls of wrath) are a recapitulation of Revelation 6 through 11 (the seven seals culminating in seven trumpets). Recapitulation is an important literary tool employed throughout the Bible.

For example:

1.4.1. The historical books of the Bible: 1) Genesis (Gen 1 w/Gen 2), 2) history of the kings and prophets ([1Sa 31 and 2Sa, 1 Ki and 2Ki] w/1Ch and 2Ch), 3) the Gospels (Matthew w/Mark w/Luke w/John).

1.4.2. The OT prophetic books (e.g., Isa 42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12, 61:1-3 = The Servant of the Lord).

1.4.3. Theological truths (e.g., Isa 65-66 w/Rev 21-22 = The new heavens and the new earth/Reboot).

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Was Revelation written in the 60s or the 90s? Based on what we learned today, how do we know?