Introduction to Revelation

By James M. Rochford

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Authorship of Revelation Critics since the 3rd century AD have challenged that John the apostle wrote this book. We hold that John the apostle was the author.

Date of Revelation We date the book of Revelation some time during the reign of Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). There are several reasons for this dating.

Different Schools of Interpreting Revelation There are four major schools of interpretation for the book of Revelation: (1) Futurist, (2) Historicist, (3) Preterist, and (4) Idealist.

Why did God make eschatology so confusing? Many people complain, “If God wanted to communicate about the end of human history, why didn’t he just give a clear, concise, and detailed account? Why do we have to appeal to hundreds of passages—scattered throughout the Bible?”

Doesn’t a futurist interpretation deny first-century readers any understanding or application? If John was writing a book about the end of human history, wouldn’t this neglect the needs of his original audience? Moreover, why would John write a book that could only be understood by a future generation—perhaps 2,000 years in the future—rather than a first-century audience?

Millennial Views At the heart of eschatology is our view of the millennium. Will Jesus literally reign on Earth for a thousand years, or is Jesus spiritually reigning from heaven or in the hearts of believers? Should we expect human history to get better with time, or worse? Does the millennium refer to a literal 1,000 year reign, or is this symbolic for the church age? Many questions confront the interpreter.

The Pretribulational Rapture In the end, it is relatively unimportant when the rapture will happen; it is more important that it will happen. However, from the evidence, it seems that the Bible teaches a pre-tribulation rapture.

A Critique of Preterism The preterite in English is the past tense. Therefore, Preterism is a view of the end of history that holds that these events have already occurred in the past.

Dispensational pre-millennial further reading

Benware, Paul N. Understanding End Times Prophecy: a Comprehensive Approach. Chicago: Moody, 2006.

Hitchcock, Mark. The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2012).

Hitchcock, Mark. “A Defense of the Domitianic Date of the Book of Revelation.” Dissertation for Dallas Theological Seminary. December 2005.

Hithcock, Mark. “27 Lectures on Revelation.” This is a seminary-level course on Revelation from a Dispensational perspective.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: a Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Academie, 1964.

Rochford, James. Endless Hope or Hopeless End. Columbus: New Paradigm Publishing, 2016.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1992.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1995.

Thomas’ work is probably the most scholarly Dispensational commentary in print today.

Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966.

Historical premillennial further reading

Carson, D.A. He offers a seminary-level class on Revelation found here.

Johnson, Alan. Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.

Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2000.

Preterist further reading

DeMar, Gary. Last Days Madness. Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1999.

Chilton, David. The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation. Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion, 1987.

Gentry, Kenneth. Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. Atlanta: American Vision, 1998.

Gentry, Kenneth. A Preterist View of Revelation. In S. N. Gundry & C. M. Pate (Eds.), Four Views on the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 1998.

Gentry, Kenneth. “Postmillennialism.” Bock, Darrell (General Editor). Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan. 1999.

Amillennial further reading

Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1999.

Hoekema, Anthony. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979.

Riddlebarger, Kim. A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013.

Storms, C. Samuel. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative. Fearn, Scotland: Mentor, 2013.

Venema, Cornelius. The Promise of the Future. Castleton, NY: Hamilton Printing Co., 2009.

Postmillennial further reading

Bahnsen, Greg L. Victory in Jesus: The Bright Hope of Postmillenialism. Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media, 1999.

Gentry, Kenneth. He Shall Have Dominion. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992.

North, Gary. Theonomy: An Informed Response. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991.

Rushdoony, Rousas John. God’s Plan for Victory: The Meaning of Post Millennialism. Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Pr., 1977.

Commentary on Revelation

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Commentary on Revelation. 3

Revelation 1 (Jesus reveals the future). 7

Revelation 2 (Letters to the churches). 12

Revelation 3 (Letters to the churches). 20

Revelation 4 (Creation worships the Creator: The Father). 24

Revelation 5 (Creation worships the Creator: The Son). 26

Revelation 6 (The Tribulation Begins: Seven Seals). 28

Revelation 7 (Heaven). 32

Revelation 8 (Seventh seal is opened… Trumpets 1-4). 34

Revelation 9 (Trumpets 5-6). 38

Revelation 10 (Interlude). 41

Revelation 11 (The Temple, the Two Witnesses, and the Trumpet). 43

Revelation 12 (Satan). 46

Revelation 13 (The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet). 49

Revelation 14 (Jesus’ judgment of the world). 53

Revelation 15 (Interlude in heaven before the bowls). 57

Revelation 16 (The Bowls of Wrath). 58

Revelation 17 (The Mystery of Babylon). 61

Revelation 18 (The Fall of the World System). 63

Revelation 19 (The Second Coming). 66

Revelation 20 (The Millennium). 68

Revelation 21-22 (Heaven and Hell). 70

Revelation 1 (Jesus reveals the future)

(1:1) “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place…” The term “revelation” (apokalupsis) comes from two roots: apo (“away”) and kalypsis (“a cover”). God is going to reveal something to us in this book—hence the name, revelation. (Notice that the title is not “revelations” as people often misstate the title!)

Does this refer to a revelation about Jesus, or a revelation from Jesus? The text could be rendered either way. The context, however, favors the second view—namely, Jesus is giving us a revelation of the future.[1] In this verse, the revelation is of “the things which must soon take place.”

“To show” (deiknymi) implies that God revealed these future events through visions and pictures. John uses this term throughout the book to describe how God revealed these visions (Rev. 1:1; 4:1; 17:1; 21:9f; 22:1, 6, 8). Mark Hitchcock refers to Revelation as a “show and tell” book. John saw the visions, and then he wrote down what he saw. This could explain the perspectival language used throughout the book.

“…and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.” The word “communicated” (esēmanen) comes from the root word sema, which means “sign” or “symbol.” Therefore, God chose to reveal this material in symbolic terms.

This does not give us license to interpret this book however we want. Just because it uses symbolic imagery, this doesn’t mean careful interpretation goes out the window. After all, Jesus communicated seven “signs” (sēmeion) in the gospel of John, and these also need to be carefully interpreted. We do not have free license to read into symbols whatever we want. Mark Hitchcock states that the interpretation for the symbol is given 46 times in Revelation alone. Moreover, the term “communicated” (esēmanen) means “to make known, report, communicate” (BDAG). Thomas comments, “Those words… tell the means God used to inspire John to write; they do not provide grounds for nonliteral interpretation. Interpreters should understand the revelation to John as they do the rest of the Bible, even though God gave it in an unusual symbolic fashion.”[2]

God used symbols to create vivid pictures that are timeless. We frequently hear that “a picture speaks a thousand words.” The same is true for these rich symbols in Revelation.

(Rev. 1:1) Why does John say that these events “must soon take place”? (c.f. 2:16; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20)

(1:2) “Who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” John is serving as a witness to the revelation that Jesus revealed (v.1). John “saw” these visions (see comments on verse 1).

(1:3) “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” This is the only book of the Bible that promises a special blessing for those who read it. The word “blessing” (makarios) means “fortunate, happy, privileged” (BDAG). It’s sad that the only book in the NT that promises a special blessing is the same book that is “often left unread.”[3]

In what way does knowing about the future bless us?

(1) The study of the future gives urgency for following Christ in the present (“…heed the things which are written in it…”). Therefore, the study of eschatology is intensely practical. Since Jesus could come back at any moment, we realize that there is no time to waste.

(2) The study of the future encourages us to know our Bibles from cover to cover. Eschatology might be the most difficult interpretive task. In order to study this subject well, we need to understand the NT use of the OT, we need to systematically fit together what we’re reading, and we constantly need to sharpen or revise our interpretation and understanding based on contrary views. Therefore, it causes us to carefully and critically read and reread our Bibles!

(3) The study of the future fills out our worldview. Without the end of the story, we would be lost in the present. If we didn’t know where history was headed, we would lack direction and urgency.

(1:4) “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” The “seven Spirits” of God are mentioned four times. The numbers seven occurs 54 times in Revelation.

(Rev. 1:4) What are the seven spirits mentioned here?

(1:5) “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness…” Jesus is the faithful witness, and we are to be faithful witnesses like him (v.2).

“…the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth…” The “firstborn of the dead” refers to his status—not that Jesus was a created being (see Col. 1:15, 18).

This is a partial fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. The rest of the book shows how Jesus will literally rule the Earth.

“…To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” This is the only passage in the NT where God’s “love” is spoken in the present tense. A better translation here that Jesus keeps on loving us” in the present, continuous tense.

“Released us” is in the aorist tense.

(1:6) “And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This is similar to Peter’s statement about the church being a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9).

(1:7) “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” This is a conflation of Daniel 7:13-14 and Zechariah 12:10. When Jesus returns, people will universally mourn over what they did. Paul writes that “every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10). John Walvoord speculated that Jesus’ return could refer to a 24 hour period.

(Rev. 1:7) Does this passage refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?

(1:8) “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” The context refers to Jesus, but this passage calls him “the Lord God.” This is a good passage for the deity of Christ.

(1:9) “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” At this point, John is the only apostle left alive. He was the “disciple Jesus loved,” but he hadn’t seen Jesus for 60 years at this point.

He is on the island of Patmos, which was 10 miles long and 5 miles wide. Hitchcock claims that a cave looks out over some of the seven churches on the main land. He might have been praying for these churches, when Jesus appears to him.

Hitchcock claims that John was placed here to be isolated from the churches, but this wasn’t a harsh existence. However, John writes that he is in “the tribulation.” Thomas writes, “Early Christian tradition says John was sent here during Domitian’s reign over Rome (AD 81-96) and was forced to work in the mines. Another tradition adds that when Domitian died, John was permitted to return to Ephesus.”[4]

Does this imply that John believed the Tribulation was already occurring? Not necessarily. He states that this tribulation was “in Jesus.” This could be a case of “already-not-yet” language.

(1:10) “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet.” Did John jump when he heard this booming voice behind him?

(Rev. 1:10) What does it mean that John was “in the Spirit”?

(1:11) “Saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’” John was told to collect the letters to the seven churches. Apparently, these were circular letters.

(1:12) “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands.” This is interpreted in verse 20 to be symbolic of the seven churches. Walvoord writes, “In the Tabernacle and in the Temple one of the items of equipment was a seven-branched lampstand, a single stand with three lamps on each side and one lamp in the center forming the central shaft. It would seem from the description here that instead of one lampstand with seven lamps there are seven separate lamp-stands each made of gold and arranged in a circle.”[5]

(1:13-15) “And in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.” This is the only NT description of what Jesus looked like. In his First Coming, Jesus had “no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isa. 53:2).

Here, Jesus is completely transfigured in front of John. This description not only mentions “one like a son of man” (Dan. 7:13-14), but it also mimics Daniel’s description of God the Father: “I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames” (Dan. 7:9).

(1:16) “In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.” Verse 20 says that these are the seven angels.

The “sharp two-edged sword” refers to God’s word. Isaiah writes, “He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4; c.f. Isa. 49:2).

(1:17) “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last.’” Isaiah 44:6 refers to Yahweh as the “first and the last.” This shows the transcendence of Jesus (“…I fell at His feet like a dead man…”), but also his imminence (“…He placed His right hand on me…”). Jesus reaches down to this terrified man to pick him up.

(1:18) “And the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Death and Hades are mentioned at the end of Revelation (Rev. 20). This shows Jesus’ ultimate sovereignty.

(1:19) “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” This serves as a timeline for the rest of the book:

(1) the things which you have seen. The vision of Jesus in chapter 1.

(2) the things which are. The letters to the current churches (chapters 2-3).

(3) the things which will take place after these things. The future of human history picks up in Revelation 4:1, which uses the same language (“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven…”).

(1:20) “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. These symbols are interpreted for us. The “stars” are angels, and the “lampstands” are churches. Jesus governs over the Church. He holds the Church in his “right hand.” He will stay with us until “the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). So often, we fret and worry about the church, but Jesus is holding us in his hand. He is the head of the church (Col. 1:18).


Jesus rules the entire material universe (v.8). He is the beginning and the end (cf. Col. 1:17).

Jesus is unbelievably powerful and also unbelievably loving (v.17). If we saw Jesus face to face, we would fall down in fear (Phil. 2:11; Lk. 5:8). But because he is so loving, he wants us to stand up and relate with him.

Jesus bought the Church with his blood (v.5). He expressed his love to us through his death.

Jesus rules the Church (v.20). He holds the Church in his right hand.

Jesus is in the middle of His Church (v.13). Jesus is in the “middle of the lampstands” (i.e. the churches). Jesus is right here with us. Jesus exists even in the smallest of churches. He said, “Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Mt. 18:20).

Jesus is good, but not safe. Postmodern people often have a conception of God that reflects Hallmark greeting cards or Lifetime television shows: God is warm, cozy, and fuzzy like a teddy bear or like a warm quilted blanket. Yet most people in world religions don’t perceive God this way.

Scholars of world religions observe that people across the world have a “frightening and irrational experience” when they come into contact with the divine. They call this the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.” Mysterium refers to “wholly other,” tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe,” and fascinans refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear.” To most people, God isn’t comfortable and cozy, but terrifying and attractive all at once. The worshipper “finds the feeling of terror before the sacred, before the awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum)… that emanates an overwhelming superiority of power. The numinous [i.e. God] presents itself as something ‘wholly other,’ something basically and totally different. It is like nothing human or cosmic. Confronted with it, man senses his profound nothingness, feels that he is only a creature.” (Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.)

We see these sorts of encounters in Scripture. When Isaiah saw God in his throne room, he said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). Peter said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk. 5:8). On the night of his betrayal, Jesus blasted the Roman cohort (600 men!) with just two simple words, “I am!” His words frightened these battle-hardened soldiers so much that they “drew back and fell to the ground” (Jn. 18:6). This is only a preview of the Second Coming, when all people will collapse in Jesus’ presence and “every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10).

In Revelation chapter one, the apostle John encountered the living Jesus. The voice of Jesus sounded like a blasting trumpet (v.10) and like roaring waters (v.15). His eyes blazed like a “flame of fire” (v.14), and his feet smoldered like glowing metal in a furnace. Jesus’ face “was like the sun shining in its strength” (v.16). This overwhelming sight was enough to cause John to feel like he had dropped dead! (v.17) No matter how phenomenal we imagine Jesus to be, he will look even more breathtaking and unimaginably awesome!

Yet because Jesus is the friend of sinners, what happened to John next is striking. John writes, “Jesus placed His right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid’” (Rev. 1:17). The mysterium tremendum placed his hand on John’s shoulder, and told him that there is no reason to be scared: the safest place to be is in the presence of power and love like this. This might be why John wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18).

Perhaps C.S. Lewis got it right, when one of his characters in the land of Narnia asked if Aslan (Jesus) was safe—to which one of the Narnians replied, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”

Revelation 2 (Letters to the churches)

We’ve read Paul’s letters, John’s letters, and Peter’s letters to the churches… Here we get the privilege of reading Jesus’ letters!

How do we interpret these letters? Classic Dispensationals hold that these seven churches predict the history of the church throughout the Church Age. For instance, Dwight Pentecost writes, “[The seven churches depict] this present age from the inception of the church to the judgment of the apostate church prior to the second advent.”[6] Good Bible teachers like Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie embrace this view (called the “chronological interpretation”). However, other dispensationalists like Mark Hitchcock reject this view. We also reject this view for a number of reasons:

First, nothing in the text tells us that this is prophetic. This is a key lesson in using hermeneutical restraint! Since the text doesn’t tell us that these churches represent different periods of church history, we should restrain ourselves from reading this view into the text.

Second, the outline of the book speaks against this. Jesus told John to write about “the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things” (Rev. 1:19). The “things which will take place after these things” refers to the future (Rev. 4:1). The “things which are” refers to John’s current time in history.

Third, it contradicts the doctrine of imminence. If these letters to the seven churches predict the 2,000+ years of church history, then Jesus couldn’t have returned at any moment. Ironically, the doctrine of Jesus’ imminent return is a staple of Dispensational theology, and the chronological interpretation would contradict this.

(4) This view is often ethnocentric, focusing on Anglo-American Christianity—not the global church. The chronological interpretation typically focuses only on the Christians in Europe and America. But what about all of the other Christians worldwide? This becomes most evident in its interpretation of the seventh church: Laodicea. While the Western church is largely affluent, what about impoverished Christians in Africa, Asia, etc.? Hitchcock states that we should go and tell believers in Haiti or Cambodia that they are living in affluence and luxury! This interpretation simply doesn’t fit global Christianity.

Even though we reject this interpretation, we have listed the chronological view in our commentary below—simply for the benefit of the reader to see how an alternate perspective functions—not because we adhere to this interpretation.

We hold to the hermeneutic that we use for other NT epistles—namely, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” All of the epistles were written to individual churches (e.g. Colossians, Corinthians, Romans, etc.), yet they have a universal application for Christians today. The same is true for the seven churches in Revelation. Each ends with the statement, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Notice that these letters are not just for these particular churches. They are addressed to everyone (“He [singular] who has an ear, let him hear”), and to all “churches” (plural).

Why are there seven churches? The number seven appears 54 times in the book of Revelation. Interpreters often understand this to refer to the number of perfection or completion (e.g. God created in seven days). We grow tired of hearing how all of the numbers of Revelation have some sort of special significance, but this could be the case here. Jesus picked seven churches to speak to the entire scope of churches in the world and throughout history.

Why does Jesus address these churches and not others? There are roughly 30 local churches mentioned in the NT. Why does Jesus address these seven churches, and not others? Hitchcock speculates that John had personally overseen these seven churches. From the island of Patmos, John could see many of these churches, and so Jesus may have addressed them for this reason. Hitchcock also speculates that perhaps these types of churches would have common strengths and weaknesses that could apply to all churches (simultaneously) throughout church history. He also notes that the ancient postal route would’ve followed this path to deliver these letters.

What does Jesus have to say us? We don’t want to be so set in our ways that we can’t hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us. Each letter closes with a universal invitation: “He who has an ear, let him hear to the churches.” While the letters are addressed corporately “to the churches,” we are all individually responsible (“He who has an ear”). Wiersbe writes, “Churches are made up of individuals, and it is individuals who determine the spiritual life of the assembly. So, while reading these messages, we must apply them personally as we examine our own hearts.”[7] As we reflect on the problems in these churches, ask yourself, “Am I here to criticize and to judge my local church, or to help revitalize it?”

Notice Satan’s involvement in four of the seven churches: He causes persecution (2:9), he has a throne (2:13), he teaches deep doctrines (2:24), and he influences non-believers (3:9).

1. Ephesus (2:1-7) Hardworking and discerning, but lost their first love

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the first-century church (i.e. the “apostolic church”).

Ephesus was a large church (Acts 19:10). Paul, Timothy, and John all led in this church at one point, and Paul lived there for three years. Seven books were written to the church in Ephesus: Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy, 1-3 John, and Revelation. The culture of Ephesus was heavily influenced by idolatry (Acts 19:19-20, 23). So, the teaching of Paul, Timothy, and John led to keen doctrinal discernment.

The church in Ephesus had started around AD 50, so they are in their second generation at this point in history.

 (2:1) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write…”

(Rev. 2:1) Was this an angel or the pastor of the church?

“…The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this.” The term “holds” (krateo) means to hold authoritatively, hold fast, or control. One of the quickest ways to lose our influence for Christ is to forget who is “holding” the church. Notice as well that Jesus is currently present in the church (“…the One who walks among the… lampstands…”).

(2:2) “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance…” We all want to know that someone appreciates and notices our hard work. Jesus is watching all of it. Jesus knows our “deeds.” We can trust that he knows exactly what is going on with every detail in the church. Our hard work does not go unnoticed.

“Toil” (kopon) refers to “a state of discomfort or distress, trouble, difficulty” or “to engage in activity that is burdensome, work, labor, toil” (BDAG).

“Perseverance” (hypomonēn) means “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance” (BDAG).

“…and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” Paul had predicted false teachers for this group (Acts 20:28-31), and so did John (1 Jn. 4:1; 2 Jn. 7-11). These heretical teachers had arrived!

“You cannot tolerate evil men” refers to discernment. They had theological insight, valued solid Bible teaching, and were grounded in the truth.

In his lectures on the book of Revelation, D.A. Carson states that it’s easy to be a prophet for false teaching in the past. Like a “Monday morning quarterback,” it’s easy to see this. However, it’s hard to be a prophetic voice for false teaching in the present.

(2:3) “And you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.”

“Perseverance… endured… not grown weary” refer to determination. This was a hard working church. They weren’t easily discouraged—even through persecution.

(2:4) “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” They were working hard, but they forgot about God’s love for them and loving others.

Did they (1) lose their love for Christ or (2) lose their love for one another? We’re not sure. This is probably ambiguous for a reason, because it’s probably both. Their hands and heads were into the work, but their hearts weren’t in it. Nothing substitutes for love. It’s possible to serve and sacrifice for years, but fail to love.

After 40 years of work, there was a slow slip in the heart—a subtle erosion—a one degree misdirection that took them drastically off course. This can happen when we think of our ministry as “business as usual.” Perhaps Paul warned the Ephesians of this, when he wrote, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Eph. 6:24).

Do we love the people that God has entrusted to us? Have we loved them to the point that we actually like them and enjoy them?

(2:5) “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Jesus gives three steps:

“Remember…” What were you like when you were spiritually sharp and strong? What experiences did you have? What was life like as a young Christian? What was your old life like? What was it like to read the Bible for the first time, and hear directly from God? What were the first times you got encouraged as a young Christian?

“Repent…” What false beliefs have crept into your life since then?

“Repeat…” (i.e. “do the deeds you did at first”) Acting on the truth is important. As we step out in faith to act on the truth, we gain victory that we didn’t think was possible. What we you actually doing before that you moved away from?

“…or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place…” Instead of being focused on the external persecutors or false teachers, we should be more concerned about whether or not Jesus is going to come and pull away the lampstands.

(2:6) “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Chuck Smith states that the Nicolaitans is from two words nico (“priests”) and laos (“people” or “laity”). They stood up against this teaching, while the church of Pergamum succumbed to it.

(Rev. 2:6) Who were the Nicolaitans?

(2:7) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”

(Rev. 2:7) Do we need to “overcome” to inherit eternal life? (c.f. 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21)

2. Smyrna (2:8-11) Persecution and Poverty, and no rebuke or correction

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the pre-Constantinian church of the 2nd and 3rd century.

Smyrna was a harbor city, and a commercial hub of the Roman Empire. In AD 26, they built a statue of Emperor Tiberius. The city was a hotbed for Jewish-Christian hostility. Jesus gives no critique of this church (or Philadelphia).

(2:8) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this.” Johnson writes, “To a congregation where imprisonment and death impend, the prisoner who died and came back to life again can offer the crown of life to other executed prisoners and protect them from the second death.”[8]

(2:9) “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” These Christians were extremely poor—even though they lived in a thriving city. Walvoord writes, “Smyrna was a wealthy city, second only to Ephesus in the entire area and, like Ephesus, a seaport.”[9] Johnson speculates, “Perhaps the high esteem of emperor worship in the city produced economic sanctions against Christians who refused to participate.”[10] These believers willingly chose poverty, rather than bend on their convictions. These people, no doubt, had families, marriages, and mortgages. Yet they chose devotion to Christ over financial gain. Walvoord adds,

The word used for “poverty” (Gr., ptōcheian) is the word for abject poverty. They were not just poor (Gr., penia)… It is more probable that their extreme poverty is explained by the fact that they had been robbed of their goods in the process of their persecution and affliction.[11]

Even though they were financially poor, they were “rich (toward God)” (cf. Jas. 2:5; 2 Cor. 6:10; Lk. 12:21). By contrast, the church in Laodicea succumbed to materialism (3:17). These Christians experienced persecution and blasphemy from people in their culture—probably because they took a stand for Christ.

Satan was ultimately behind this persecution. Later, the Beast is the ultimate “slanderer” (blasphēmian) of God and his people (Rev. 13:1, 5-6; 17:3). We shouldn’t turn to hate our persecutors. They themselves are being used by Satan.

(Rev. 2:9) Synagogue of Satan?

(2:10) “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The key to overcoming persecution is to overcome the “fear.” Don’t sit around fearing and worrying about what is going to happen. God is the “first and the last.” He rose Jesus from the dead (v.7). He’s in control of Satan and sets limits on his persecution to “ten days.”

(Rev. 2:10) What does John mean by 10 days?

“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life…” A prison sentence often preceded capital punishment. Johnson writes, “In the first-century Roman world, prison was usually not punitive but the prelude to trial and execution, hence the words ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death.’”[12] Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:10).

(2:11) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”

3. Pergamum (2:12-17) Strong on persecution, but weak on doctrine and false teaching

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the Church of Constantine (4th century and following).

The kings of Pergamum built palaces and temples on top of the acropolis. Pergamum’s theater overlooked the valley. It had 80 rows of seats, and it fit 10,000 people for theater and musical performances. John Walvoord writes, “It was a wealthy city with many temples devoted to idol worship and full of statues, altars, and sacred groves. It was an important religious center where the pagan cults of Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus were prominent. Among its famous treasures was a large library of two hundred thousand volumes, later sent to Egypt as a gift from Anthony to Cleopatra.”[13] George Ladd writes, “Pergamum was the first city of Asia to support openly the imperial cult… Observance of this worship became a test of loyalty to Rome, for the imperial cult was the keystone of the imperial policy, and refusal to take part in the official cult was considered high treason.”[14]

(2:12) “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this.” Jesus holds the “sword,” which is the word of God (cf. Heb. 4:12).

(2:13) “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” They were holding to their faith in Christ right in the middle of Satan’s throne room! Jesus understood the fierce temptation and persecution that they were under, commending them for their courage. One of their group (Antipas) even faced martyrdom.

“Where Satan’s throne is… where Satan dwells.” Hitchcock argues that Satan may have had a special hold of this region because of rampant idolatry (e.g. the altar of Zeus in Pergamum?).

(2:14-15) “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Satan attacked this group through external methods (i.e. persecution), and also through internal methods (i.e. false teaching). The false teaching is connected with idolatry and sexual immorality. According to Numbers 31:16, “Balaam” used a similar strategy: he got the people of Israel to curse themselves!

(2:16) “Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” Is Jesus going to attack them with a literal sword? Balaam was killed with a sword (Num. 31:8), but this is not likely what John has in mind. The “sword” is likely a reference to God’s word (Heb. 4:12). That is, Jesus is going to battle them with his word of his mouth.

(2:17) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna…” The “hidden manna” is an OT allusion to the manna placed in the Ark (Ex. 16:33-34; Heb. 9:4). These Christians need to forgo the food of the idol worshippers, and get true spiritual food from Christ.

“…and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” They get a new name (cf. Isa. 62:2; 65:15). In ancient culture, a person’s name had great meaning. Christ gave Peter, John, and James new names. Likewise, Saul was renamed as Paul. We wonder if Christ will name us based on what we did here on Earth (perhaps as a form of reward?).

(Rev. 2:17) What are the secret names and the white stones mentioned here?

4. Thyatira (2:18-29) Growing in deeds, faith, and perseverance—but tolerating apostasy

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the Church of Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages, the worship of relics, and the exaltation of Mary and other saints.

Thyatira was a trade city. Their most important products were textiles and fabrics. This city is mentioned as the place where Lydia dyed her clothing (Acts 16:14-15). Walvoord writes, “The city had been established as a Macedonian colony by Alexander the Great after the destruction of the Persian empire.”[15]

Archaeologists have discovered coins from Thyatira that show it was a prosperous city. Osborne writes, “Little was written about the city in ancient sources, and since the modern town of Akhisar is on the site, little archeological excavation has been done. As a result, we know less about it than any of the other cities. Each craftsperson… was part of a ‘guild,’ and though they were not obligatory, few workers failed to belong, for the guilds were centers of social life as well as commerce. The religious life of Thyatira was also influenced by the guilds. Each guild had its own patron god or goddess, and the frequent feasts of the guilds were religious in character. The pressure on Christians to participate in the idolatrous life of the people was probably linked to the guilds, for their feasts were the heart of the social (and commercial) life of the city. To refuse to participate meant the loss of both goodwill and business.”[16]

(2:18) “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this.” The fiery eyes could refer to Jesus’ discernment of Jezebel (or maybe that she’s under judgment?). Thyatira had bronze workers. So Johnson writes, “The feet of Christ, which are like burnished bronze, would no doubt have special significance to the bronze-workers at Thyatira.”[17]

(2:19) “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.” This church is progressing in faith, good deeds, and perseverance. They’re actually getting better at this with time.

(2:20) “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” They have a false teacher in their midst, and they’re tolerating her. Jezebel is likely a symbolic reference to the queen of 1 Kings 16-19—the queen who tried to blend Baal worship with the worship of God (1 Kings 16:31). They weren’t testing all things with regard to prophecy (1 Thess. 5:19-21). The Ephesians did a better job by putting false prophets “to the test” (Rev. 2:20).

(2:21-22) “I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.” Jesus is really angry with her lack of repentance, and those who follow her. Johnson writes, “Christ’s strongest threat to the offenders is not in regard to their sin, serious as that is, but to their reluctance to repent. The Lord is walking among his churches. He judges evil; but he also offers deliverance to those who have fallen, if they repent and stop doing Jezebel’s deeds.”[18]

(2:23) “And I will kill her children with pestilence…” Her “children” most likely refer to her followers.

“…and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” This passage shows that Jesus is omniscient.

(2:24) “But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them…” They don’t know the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10), but the deep things of Satan! This probably refers to the idea that they went into the idol temples and fell into false worship and immorality.

“…I place no other burden on you.” The “burden” reminds us of Acts 15:28.

(2:25) “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” Is this the Second Coming? Not likely. The word is hexo, rather than parousia. This probably refers to him coming to bring discipline to Jezebel. Then they will see Christ working.

(2:26-27) “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; 27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father.” As the messianic people, we will rule alongside the Messiah (Ps. 2:9).

(2:28-29) “And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The overcomers get Jesus, who is “the morning star” (Rev. 22:16; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19).

(Rev. 2:28) What is the morning star?

Revelation 3 (Letters to the churches)

5. Sardis (3:1-6) The Church that was dead—no good words, only rebuke

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the Church of the Protestant Reformation.

Sardis was the first to “mint gold and silver coins.”[19] It was also an acropolis—a highly elevated city with a 1,500 foot precipice on three of its sides. The southern side led into the mountains below. The city was considered impregnable because of its location. In the sixth century BC, Croesus tried to kill king Cyrus of Persia, and quickly retreated to Sardis to fortify himself in the impervious city. “However,” Osborne writes, “one of Cyrus’s troops climbed up a crevice on the ‘unscalable’ cliff at an unobserved point and opened the gates. Sardis fell after only fourteen days of the siege in 546 b.c. This so astounded the Greek world that ‘capturing Sardis’ became a saying for achieving the impossible.”[20]

(3:1) “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” They had a reputation for being hard workers, but God viewed things differently. Were they living off the nostalgia of their earlier good works? Johnson writes, “The citizens were living off past fame. Apparently the same spirit had affected the church. Their loyalty and service to Christ was in the past. Now they were nothing.”[21]

(3:2) “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” We can’t stay complacent until we go home to Heaven. We can’t live off the accomplishments of the past, but only press on to the future (cf. Phil. 3:13). This group was salvageable, but they needed to “wake up” from their spiritual haze.

(3:3) “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” This doesn’t refer to the Second Coming. It refers to Jesus coming to take away their influence (cf. Rev. 2:5). Jesus doesn’t tell them to get into some exotic spirituality to fix their problems, but instead, to get back to the bread and butter of true spirituality (“remember what you have received and heard”). So much of spiritual growth—whether individual or corporate—has to do with remembering what God has already said and embracing it (“keep it, and repent”).

(3:4) “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” There is a faithful remnant of believers in this church.

(3:5) “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Johnson comments, “In the first century, Christians who were loyal to Christ were under constant threat of being branded political and social rebels and then stripped of their citizenship. But Christ offers them an eternal, safe citizenship in his everlasting kingdom if they only remain loyal to him.”[22]

(Rev. 3:5) Does God erase names from the book of life?

(3:6) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

6. Philadelphia (3:7-13) Faithful to Christ

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the Church of the modern evangelical movement.

(3:7) “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this.” This is a reference to Isaiah 22 in the “incident of transferring the post of secretary of state in Judah from the unfaithful Shebna to the faithful Eliakim.”[23]

Roman Catholic theologians connect this with the “keys of the kingdom” and Peter being the first Pope (cf. Mt. 16:18). However, the text states that God (the King) has delegated his authority to Jesus—not to a Christian leader or pope. The open doors can refer to opportunities for ministry and evangelism (1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:3). Sir William Ramsay argued that because Philadelphia was located on a gateway to Asia Minor, the city was a gateway to more ministry opportunities.[24]

(3:8) “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Even though they had little power on their own, God could cause them to do all things through Christ who strengthens (Phil. 4:13). Jesus was pleased with this small, yet faithful, church.

(3:9) “Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.” There seems to have been an anti-Christian Jewish group in Philadelphia. When Ignatius wrote to the church of Philadelphia (before AD 108), he warned the Philadelphians not to listen to “any one propounding Judaism unto you” (To the Philadelphians 6.1). These false teachers could be similar to the Judaizers mentioned in Acts 15 and Galatians.

In the OT, the Gentile nations bowed down to Israel (Isa. 43:4; 45:14; 49:23; 60:14). Here, ethnic Jewish people who reject Jesus will bow before true Christians in the Millennial Kingdom. We can either bow to Jesus now, or we will bow to him later (Phil. 2:10-11).

(3:10) “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

(Rev. 3:10) Does this support a pre-tribulational rapture of the church?

(3:11) “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” They can forfeit their rewards if they don’t persevere (cf. 2 Jn. 8).

(3:12) “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” These believers with “little power” (v.8) get a great reward, and become pillars in God’s temple.

(3:13) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

7. Laodicea (3:14-22) Wealth and Deception

Advocates of the chronological interpretation believe that this is the Church of apostasy in the last days.

(3:14) “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this.” Why is Jesus called “the Amen”? Johnson writes, “The normal Hebrew adverb that is rendered by the Greek amen means the acknowledgment of that which is sure and valid.”[25] John is saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to us (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20). Christ is faithful in contrast to the unfaithfulness of the Laodiceans.

(Rev. 3:14) Was Christ a created being?

(3:15-16) “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

(Rev. 3:15-16) What does it mean to be “hot or cold” for God?

(3:17) “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” They may have interpreted their material wealth as a blessing from God—similar to health and wealth preachers today. It’s interesting how Jesus views the Church compared to how the Church views itself. One of the problems of materialism is that we are unaware of our spiritual health, seeing no need for God.

(3:18) “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” Origen (AD 250) held that the Laodiceans weren’t true, regenerate believers (First Principles 3.4.3). This is why Jesus advised them to turn to him.

(3:19) “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” Jesus spits out (literally “vomits out”) the unbelievers in the visible church. However, he disciplines the believers here, because he loves them (Prov. 3:12; 1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:6). Their role is to “repent” or have a change of mind toward God.

(3:20) “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Is this passage evangelistic or not? It might be ambiguous because the church was populated by licentious believers who needed discipline and reproof (v.19), and unbelievers who would be cast out of the church (v.16). We agree with Johnson who holds the evangelistic view: “While most commentators have taken this invitation as addressed to lapsed, halfhearted Christians, the terminology and context (v. 18) suggest that these Laodiceans were for the most part mere professing Christians who lacked authentic conversion to Christ, which is the essential prerequisite for true discipleship. Verse 20 is, therefore, more evangelistic than admonitory.”[26]

“Anyone” means that we are each responsible before God.

(3:21) “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” There is a lot about reigning in this book. What will it be like to reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom?

Revelation 4 (Creation worships the Creator: The Father)

Revelation 4-5 is a prelude to the Tribulation, which won’t begin until Revelation 6. We agree with Gary Delashmutt who argues that these two chapters (4-5) serve as an apologetic for why God has the authority to invade the world. Before we get into the Tribulation (Rev. 6-16), Jesus reveals his unique authority to rule and reign over his creation. Notice how many times the term “throne” is used in this chapter. John’s vision of heaven focuses on this incredible throne.

(4:1) “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.’” The chronological marker (“after these things”) points back to Revelation 1:19. These events take place after the Church Age. John is given a view of the future from Heaven.

(4:2) “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.” This seems to be God the Father on the throne, because Jesus approaches him later (Rev. 5:7).

(4:3) “And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.” It isn’t clear how much we should interpret each individual color or stone. These might just show us the beauty of God. The “rainbow” could allude back to God’s promise of mercy after the Flood (Gen. 9).

(4:4) “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads.” All of these images were promised to believers in Revelation 3.

(Rev. 4:4) Who are the 24 elders mentioned here?

(4:5) “Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” This must’ve been an overwhelming vision to see lightning and thunder coming from Jesus’ throne. This communicates Jesus’ power. He isn’t the meek and mild Jesus of popular culture; he’s the Lord sitting on his throne, ruling over creation.

(4:6) “And before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.” The sea is representative of humanity in Revelation (cf. Rev. 13:1). Here, in Heaven, the sea is still and calm. Jesus is in control over the world.

(4:7) “The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.” Pastor Chuck Smith takes these images to refer to the ways that the four gospels describe Jesus. However, these are personified “creatures,” not literary descriptions of the Creator. Johnson explains them by saying, “The faces of a ‘lion,’ ‘ox,’ ‘man,’ and a ‘flying eagle’ suggest qualities that belong to God, such as royal power, strength, spirituality, and swiftness of action.”[27] We’re not entirely sure what the symbolism means. These seem to be angels like the seraphim in Isaiah 6—especially because of their repeated refrain (“Holy, holy, holy” v.8).

(4:8) “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’” In Hebrew, a double reference shows a superlative or emphasis. The threefold use of “holy, holy, holy” really emphasizes God’s character. Jesus is worthy to rule the world, because he is Holy in his character.

(4:9-10) “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying.” Everything in creation is bowing down and worshipping the Father and the Son, as their Creator. The “crowns” probably refer to the rewards that believers received. They throw these rewards at God’s feet.

(4:11) “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” God is worthy to rule the world, because he is the world’s Creator.


God is on his throne—ruling and reigning (cf. Ps. 2). Since God is on the throne, we should place him on the throne in our lives. He has the right to rule, and deserves the glory of his creation.

Revelation 5 (Creation worships the Creator: The Son)

(5:1) “I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals.” John was so blown away by the throne of heaven and distracted by everything happening that it took him a minute to see what God was holding in his hand: a book with seven seals.

What is the scroll? Some think it refers to the judgments of the rest of the book of Revelation, and the seals are opened in Revelation 6. Only Jesus has the rightful authority to judge the world in the Tribulation, inaugurating his Millennial Kingdom.

Chuck Smith takes the seals to refer to the title deed of the world. Similarly, Hitchcock holds that this is a will or an inheritance. God gave the inheritance of the Earth to Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:28). God promised to give the inheritance to the Messianic King (Ps. 2:8). Jesus is getting his inheritance here.

Johnson holds a middle view: “The scroll, then, is not only about judgment or about the inheritance of the kingdom. Rather, it contains the announcement of the consummation of all history—how things will ultimately end for all people: judgment for the world and the final reward of the saints (11:18). Christ alone, as the Messiah, is the executor of the purposes of God and the heir of the inheritance of the world. He obtained this by his substitutionary and propitiatory death on the cross (5:9).”[28]

(5:2) “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” Only One person is capable of ushering in God’s kingdom: Jesus.

(5:3) “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it.” No mere human—or anything in creation—has the power or authority to redeem or judge the world. No created thing is able to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth.

(5:4) “Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it.” Consequently, John begins to weeps uncontrollably.

(5:5) “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’” These are all messianic titles from the OT (Gen. 49:9-10; Isa. 11:1, 10; Jer. 23:5; 33:5; Rev. 22:16). One of the elders tells him to anticipate seeing a Lion. Instead, he sees something else…

(5:6) “And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.” The Lamb is in the center of everything in heaven, and he should be at the center of everything on Earth! The one who will rule the world and usher in the Kingdom will be a standing, but slain, lamb (arnion, “a young sheep”). This likely refers to his death and subsequent resurrection.

Chuck Smith states that our first view of Jesus might be a very shocking experience. We might expect to see a beautiful picture of Jesus, as we see in paintings or on Christmas cards. But he might appear to us with his scars all over him.

(5:7) “And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.” God the Father is seated on the throne. Only the Son is able to get up and approach the throne. When Jesus opens this book (in the future), the beginning of judgment will occur on Earth.

(5:8) “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” These are literally the “petitions (proseuchē) of the saints.”

(5:9) “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’” Jesus is worthy based on his work on the Cross. It’s probably a new song,” because this had never happened before. The consequence of his death was reaching all over the world.

(5:10) “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” We aren’t reigning yet. This is still future (“they will reign”). Interestingly, Peter states that we are currently God’s priests on the Earth (1 Pet. 2:9).

(5:11) “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands.” A “myriad” is 10,000. So this is at least 100 million angels. The plural “myriads” implies at least two sets of 10,000. This doesn’t imply that John was precisely counting all of the angels with a clicker, but rather, that he saw an overwhelming amount of angels.

(5:12) “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’” They sing about seven qualities that Christ has. Jesus receives this worthiness because of his unthinkable act of love on the Cross.

(5:13) “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’” All of creation gives equal worship to the Father (“Him who sits on his throne”) and the Son (“the Lamb”). This is one of the best passages on the deity of Christ: after all, Jesus receives the same level of worship as God the Father.

(5:14) “And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” Only God himself can receive worship (Mt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13).


Jesus will rule the world once he takes this scroll out of the hand of God.

Jesus is God—being worshipped by all of creation. We should only worship God (Rev. 22:8). Jesus is placed right alongside God (v.13).

Revelation 6 (The Tribulation Begins: Seven Seals)

What a terrifying picture of the world! Inflation, war, disease, and death. During this time, people will really see that the only security we have is in Christ. There are seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.

How should the seals be interpreted?

Several options have been given including (1) these occur throughout the Church Age, (2) these occur sequentially, or (3) these occur immediately before Jesus’ Second Coming. There must be some time lapse in between the seals, because when Jesus opens the fifth seal, the martyrs are still asking “how long” until God will judge (Rev. 6:9-11).

We hold the view that the “seven seals” lead up to the Second Coming, and some of them might even occur as “birth pains” in the Church Age.

What is the chronology of the seals?

Recapitulation view: In this view, these seals, trumpets, and bowls all describe the same events. This is the view that the seals give the first description, the trumpets give more description, and the bowls give the final description. In other words, these are all parallel. The sixth seal looks like final judgment.

Chronological view: This is the view that the seals, trumpets, and bowls follow each other in succession. Hitchcock holds to this view. He argues that the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets. The seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls. There is also an interlude between these judgments, and these interludes are not the same. The seventh bowl is called the “last bowl.” The bowls contain no interlude.

(Rev. 6) Are the seals before the tribulation or during it?

This is where we get the concept of the popular concept of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

(6:1) “Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, ‘Come.’” The vision now shifts from Heaven to Earth. God is on his throne in Heaven, where everyone knows who is the true God. But on Earth, we see a different story. Jesus is the one who opens the seals.

Seal #1: The Antichrist (the white horse)

(6:2) “I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” This is the Antichrist who is given permission to rule. The Antichrist isn’t ultimately in charge. Instead, Jesus allows or permits him to do what he wants. Notice the passive language used throughout this section (“…a crown was given to him… it was granted…”). But Jesus ultimately gets the victory (Rev. 17:14). There are many antichrists who rule in each generation (cf. 1 Jn. 2:18), but this seems to be the final Antichrist in this passage. If we are correct in thinking that this is the antichrist, then this would fit Jesus’ statement in his Olivet Discourse—even in chronological order: “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Mt. 24:4-5).

(Rev. 6:2) Who is the rider on the white horse? Christ or the antichrist?

Seal #2: Warfare (the red horse)

(6:3) “When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come.’”

(6:4) “And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.” The red horse is symbolic for war. Notice the passive language (“…it was granted…”). Similarly, this fits with Jesus’ statement, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Mt. 24:6-7).

Seal #3: Famine and inflation (the black horse)

(6:5) “When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, ‘Come.’ I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.”

(6:6) “And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.’” These prices are massively inflated. The ancient historian Herodotus states that a pound of wheat could feed a grown man for a full day,[29] and a denarius was a grown man’s full wage. This means that a grown man could earn just enough to feed himself, but have none left over to feed his family or even have housing. Beale notes that these prices were “eight to sixteen times the average prices in the Roman Empire at the time (cf. Cicero, In Verrem, 3.81).”[30] No doubt, food will be scarce if inflation occurs to this extent.[31]

What does the reference to the oil and wine mean? This could refer to luxurious living (Prov. 21:17) in the sense that luxury will be gone due to the fact that all of their money is gone. Though, this is isn’t entirely certain.

Before Hitler took power, Weimar, Germany was in such poverty that people carried money in wheelbarrows, because inflation was so terrible! This paved the way for a powerful and malevolent leader like Hitler to come on the scene to “fix all the problems.” Similarly, this rampant inflation signals an absolute crash in the economy, and the antichrist will likely step forward to offer “peace and safety” (1 Thess. 5:3).

Seal #4: More famine, disease, and wild beasts (the ashen/green horse)

(6:7-8) “When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come.’ 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.” The “ashen” (chlōros) horse is yellowish green. It can refer to “the paleness of a sick person in contrast to a healthy appearance” (BDAG).

Some interpreters believe that the “wild beasts” refer to rats bringing disease. While this doesn’t sound too intimidating, rats historically brought disease (e.g. Bubonic plague), and they are deadly during times of famine and disease. Other diseases and viruses came from animals as well (e.g. HIV, Ebola, COVID-19). Hitchcock understands the “beasts” to refer to the world rulers who will bring germ warfare.

This fits with Jesus’ statement, “In various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Mt. 24:7).

Seal #5: Martyrs in heaven

(6:9) “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.”

(6:10) “And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” These dead saints refer to God as “sovereign” and “holy” and “true.” Even though they’re questioning God, they’re still addressing him as the one ultimately in control and morally perfect. They trust in God’s judgment (Rom. 12:19).

(6:11) “And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” God told these outraged people to rest a little while longer. His plan isn’t finished yet. Peter tells us that God is waiting for many people to come to Christ before he intervenes (2 Pet. 3:9). This fits with Jesus’ statement, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Mt. 24:9).

How is the martyrdom of believers considered judgment? It could refer to people on the earth lacking “salt and light” from losing these Christians (Mt. 5:13-14).

(Rev. 6:9-11) Is it Christian to pray for vengeance?

Seal #6: Massive earthquake, sun blackened out, stars falling, mountains and islands rearranging

(6:12) “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood.” This earthquake causes the sun to be blackened out. John uses the language of simile (like blood”), so this must mean that the moon turns red.

(6:13) “And the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.” These can’t be literal stars. If literal stars collided with the planet, their massive centers of gravity would suck the surface of the Earth dry before contact was ever made. The Earth would also cook to incredible temperatures before collision ever occurred.

Elsewhere in Revelation, stars refer to angels—though not always (cf. 8:10). It’s also possible that this is perspectival or phenomenological language, and John is seeing falling objects coming from the sky and crashing into the earth (i.e. Missiles? Asteroids?).

(6:14) “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” The sky is split apart. Is this perspectival or phenomenological language for modern warfare?

(6:15) “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” Since John mentions all classes of people, this must refer to a universal, global judgment. This could be a sign that these seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments are overlapping, rather than sequential (i.e. one after another in a strict chronological sequence).

(6:16) “And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’” Do they climb into bunkers to hide from the terrible events happening on Earth? This language comes straight from the OT (Isa. 2:19, 21; Hos. 10:8). Jesus used this language to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 (Lk. 23:30).

They cry out the to “rocks” to save them, rather than calling out to Jesus—the Rock—for salvation!

(6:17) “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” This is a rhetorical question: Obviously, no one will be able to stand in this day.

Revelation 7 (Heaven)

This is an interlude from the seals. The seventh seal doesn’t occur until 8:1. Is this an interlude due to the fact that God needs to seal the 144,000 before the angels are released to judge the Earth in the seventh seal (7:3)?

(7:1) “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.” Chuck Smith believes that the wind currents could disrupt the weather patterns, which would lead to famine and starvation. Hitchcock holds that the winds refer to the four trumpet judgments being held back.

(Rev. 7:1) Did the biblical authors believe in a flat earth?

(7:2) “And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea.” The angels had limits on their authority to carry out judgment on the Earth. These might be evil angels (i.e. demons) because they are “granted” authority like the four horsemen (Rev. 6). It’s also possible that they are simply good angels, who are executing God’s judgment.

(7:3) “Saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.’” God wants to seal his people before the Tribulation begins. This may be visible—similar to the mark of the beast (Rev. 13). However, the term “sealed” (sphragis) is used invisibly to refer to being “sealed” in Christ.

(7:4) “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.” Some commentators see symbolism in the fact that there are 12 x 12 x 1000. Yet the text tells us that these are Jewish people from specific tribes. To take a symbolic view, we would need to reinterpret the text’s own interpretation of the passage!

(Rev. 7:4) What is the seal of God?

(Rev. 7:4) Who are the 144,000?

(7:5-8) “From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.” Hitchcock states that twelve Spirit-filled Jews turned the world upside down in the first century… How much more with 12,000 times 12,000! He believes that these Jewish people might have a “Saul” experience from God, where he gives them some sort of special revelation.

This is an interlude that shows what will happen during the seals. There will be a great revival during the Tribulation which leads to many who come to Christ (v.9).

(Rev. 7:4-8) Why is the tribe of Dan missing from this list?

(7:9) “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…” The martyrs also had “white robes” (Rev. 6:11). Are these martyred believers from the Tribulation? White robes are for all believers in Christ (Rev. 7:14; 3:5-6). This shows that many, many people come to Christ during the Tribulation. Many Dispensational authors hold that the 144,000 Jewish believers at the beginning of the chapter were the key evangelists who led these people to Christ. If so, then Israel was at last an extraordinary light to the Gentiles, as they were intended to be.

“…and palm branches were in their hands.” The crowds used palm branches at Jesus’ triumphal entry (Jn. 12:13).

(7:10) “And they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” The believers are praising God for giving them salvation. If the pre-tribulation view is true, then these people weren’t rescued by Jesus; however, God reaches them during the Tribulation.

(7:11) “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” The angels take their turn at praising God.

(7:12) “Saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’” This is similar to 5:11-12.

(7:13) “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’” Those who interpret the elders to refer to angels argue that in apocalyptic literature, an angel usually does the interpreting for the prophet.

(7:14) “I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” John doesn’t know who this group is. Chuck Smith argues that he doesn’t know because this isn’t the Church. Rather, these are the believers in the Tribulation.

(7:15) “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.” These believers have immediate and direct access to God’s throne. They are literally inside the tabernacle where the presence of God dwells (cf. Jn. 1:14).

This can’t be the final New Heavens and Earth, because they are in God’s temple in Heaven. In the New Heavens and Earth, there is “no temple” (Rev. 21:22). This is the Present Heaven—even though the language is similar to the New Heavens and Earth.

(7:16) “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat.” While the four horsemen bring war, starvation, and disease on Earth, these believers are spared in Heaven.

(7:17) “For the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Heaven isn’t just about a place, but about a Person. Johnson observes, “It is not through some perfect environment but through the presence and continual ministry of the Lamb that their sufferings are forever assuaged.”[32]


Even during the darkest time of human history, there will be the greatest time of revival!

Revelation 8 (Seventh seal is opened… Trumpets 1-4)

When the seventh seal is cracked open, God sends the angels to sound the seven trumpets. This is an intensification of judgment. Seals 1-5 occur as birth pangs. Seal 6 is more toward the end of history. Now the seventh seal lets loose even more severe judgments (during the Tribulation itself?).

The seals only affected parts of the Earth, but the trumpets affect the entire Earth.

The seventh seal, seventh trumpet, and seventh bowl all seem to overlap.

When we get to the seven bowls, they are more intensified, and they end God’s judgment (Rev. 15:1).

Seal #7: Massive earthquake, sun blackened out, stars falling, mountains and islands rearranging

(8:1) “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The interlude of chapter 7 is over, and we pick up the text with the seventh seal (Rev. 6). Heaven is never silent! (Rev. 4-5) However, it becomes dead silent at this moment. Picture the silence before the jury gives its verdict. Everyone is hanging on every word in anticipation. Heaven waits to see what God will do…

…The seventh seal contains all of the seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2) and the seven bowls, because these bowls are contained in the seven trumpets.

(8:2) “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” In the span of the seventh seal (which seems to encompass the entire Tribulation?), we are introduced to the seven trumpets which go off at the same time. Trumpets were used in Israel’s history whenever something serious was about to happen (Ex. 19:19; Lev. 23:24; 25:9; Num. 10:2-10; Joel 2:1; Zeph. 1:16; Mt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16).

(8:3) “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.” Some interpreters believe that this “angel” is actually Jesus, because he intercedes at the altar. But we do not agree. Angels have already had a priestly function in this book (Rev. 4:8-11; 5:8-14; 7:11-12), so we see no reason for thinking this is Jesus.

(8:4) “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” In the NT, our prayers are often referred to a pleasing aroma (i.e. “incense”).

(8:5) “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” The prayer goes up (“Your kingdom come…” Mt. 6:10; cf. Rev. 6:9-11), and judgment comes down. Casting the coals was symbolic of judgment (Ezek. 10). This is tied to the saints asking, “How long, O Lord?” (Rev. 6:9-11)

Trumpet #1: Hail, fire, and blood

Only the first four trumpets are mentioned here. The three final trumpets are “woes” in chapter 9. These plagues are similar to the Egyptian plagues, and the people refuse to repent—similar to Pharaoh.

Do these trumpet judgments occur in the first half of the Tribulation or the second? Hitchcock holds that these are in the second half, because over half of humanity is judged and executed. How could the judgment of the second half be worse than this?

(8:6) “And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.”

 (8:7) “The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” This could be harkening back to the Exodus (9:19, 25). The hail killed the beasts and men in the field.

Trumpet #2: Something like a great burning mountain strikes the sea

(8:8-9) “The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.” The sea becoming blood could be similar to Aaron turning the Nile into blood.

(1) Some interpreters understand this mountain to be Babylon, destroying a third of humanity (i.e. “the sea”). Of course, Babylon is symbolized as a mountain by Jeremiah (Jer. 51:25), and later, Babylon is brought up in Revelation 17-18, along with the sea. However, Walvoord criticizes this for reading too much into the passage.[33] After all, it specifically mentions the creatures and ships being destroyed. If the sea is symbolic of humanity, then why mention the ships? Hitchcock also critiques this because there is nothing mentioned about these things being symbols.

(2) Other interpreters understand this to be an angel. They base this off of 1 Enoch 18.13 which states, “I saw there the seven stars [angels] that were like great burning mountains.” However, we disagree with the tendency of NT scholars to primarily interpret Revelation through the lens of intertestamental Jewish literature. While we should read this literature (e.g. the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, etc.) to gain an understanding of the genre of apocalyptic literature and even to gain historical nuance, we disagree that this should be our primary lens for understanding Revelation.

(3) We believe that this is some sort of planetary disaster (an asteroid?). To an ancient prophet, what would a falling and burning mountain look like? Osborne concurs, “It is clear that this is a meteorite or falling star blazing through the atmosphere as it falls to earth… There is no evidence that this is an angelic visitation, however, and none of the other plagues has been angelic in nature. Rather, this also is a judgment from nature, a divinely sent disaster.”[34]

Trumpet #3: The Wormwood star… like a torch

(8:10) “The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters.” When we correlate the Tribulation with various other biblical texts, we discover that this is a time of rampant and global warfare. What might John be describing when he sees a star “burning like a torch” and making the waters “bitter” (v.11)? If this is phenomenological language, then this could refer to a missile or something like it. How else would John describe one if he saw one?

Other interpreters believe that this “star” is simply an angel. After all, “stars” are symbolic of angels (cf. Rev. 1:20; 9:1).

Some Dispensational authors hold to a hyper-literal view. For instance, Weirsbe contends that this is a literal star! He writes, “If a star actually struck the earth, our globe would be destroyed; so this star must ‘come apart’ as it enters the atmosphere. Of course, this event is a divinely controlled judgment; therefore, we must not try to limit it by the known laws of science.”[35] As we noted above, this is simply a hyper-literal hermeneutic. If literal stars collided with the planet, their massive centers of gravity would suck the surface of the Earth dry before contact was ever made. The Earth would also cook to incredible temperatures before collision ever occurred.

(Rev. 8:10) Is this star simply an angel?

(8:11) “The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.” Regarding Wormwood, Johnson writes, “The star’s name is ‘Wormwood,’ which refers to the quite bitter herb Artemesia absinthium found in the Near East and mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (Jer. 9:15; 23:15; Lam. 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7).”[36] Hitchcock understands this to be an asteroid.

(Rev. 8:11) Why is the star called Wormwood?

Trumpet #4: Sun, moon, stars darkened

(8:12) “The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.” The world doesn’t go pitch black, but a third of the luminosity becomes dampened. Darkness is usually associated with judgment (Isa. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10; 3:15; cf. Matt 24:29). Since the darkness is partial, this probably means that the judgment isn’t total. At least, not yet.

(8:13) “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!’” John mentions an eagle in Revelation 4:7 that refers to an angel. He mentions one in Revelation 12:14 to refer to how God will rescue his people during the Tribulation. This being (an angel?) screams a message of pity for the people of Earth who are still in rebellion from God.

Revelation 9 (Trumpets 5-6)

Notice how much writing is devoted to the fifth and sixth trumpets compared to the first four. This is a literary convention that shows how the trumpets are intensifying. They are called “woes.”

Trumpet #5: Locusts

(9:1) “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” This “star” is an angel. Later, he is called “the angel of the abyss” (v.11; cf. Rev. 20:1).

The “bottomless pit” (abyssos) is a maximum security prison for specific demons (Lk. 8:31)—perhaps the same ones who produced the Nephilim in Genesis 6 (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). At this junction of history, the abyss is opened! The last time these demons roamed the Earth—the world was flooded in judgment. Now, another form of global judgment will occur—though not a flood. These are the worst of the worst demons, and now they are released!

(Rev. 9:1) Is this angel Satan?

(9:2) “He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.” The smoke from the pit seems to interact with the sun and air in the material world. How are the spiritual and natural realms connected?

(9:3) “Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.” Are these just regular locusts or something more? The description of these beings exceed regular locusts. Already, we’ve seen that they come from the “bottomless pit,” which doesn’t seem like regular locusts.


(9:4) “They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” These aren’t ordinary locusts, because they don’t eat grass. They also target people who worship the beast.

(9:5) “And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.” Locusts typically live for five months. This is a time of torment for people who worship the beast.

(9:6) “And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.” This is truly “hell on earth”! Is John saying that humans won’t be able to die during this time? Or is this just a general way of saying that the locusts will harm humans, but not kill them (v.5)? Charles Ryrie holds that they will not be able to commit suicide (!).


Simile is used repeatedly to describe what they looked like (“like… like… like…”).

(9:7) “The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men.” Some Dispensational authors believe that these describe helicopters with metal plates and pilots inside (“faces… like the faces of men”). However, the descriptions exceed military warfare (see v.8).

(9:8) “They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions.” These descriptions do not fit with military warfare that we know of. Some strain at this to say that the hair is like the propellers on the helicopter, and the teeth are like decals painted on the front of the helicopter. However, this is straining too much to make it fit.

(9:9) “They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.” They look armored, but the language of simile is in view (“like breastplates of iron”). So it isn’t clear what these are.

(9:10) “They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months.” They are similar to scorpions, but again, this is the language of simile.

(9:11-12) “They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. 12 The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.” John gives bilingual descriptions in his gospel as well as here (“in Hebrew… in Greek…”). Abaddon means “ruin” or “destruction.” Johnson writes, “In late Jewish apocalyptic texts and Qumran literature, it refers to the personification of death (1QH 3.16, 19, 32; IQ ap Gen 12:17 [TDOT, 1:23]).”[37]

Trumpet #6: The four angels bound at the Euphrates River

(9:13) “Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God.”

(Rev. 9:14) Why are the angels “bound” to the river Euphrates?

(9:14) “One saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’” These angels had been bound at this river, but now they are released. This is similar language to Satan being “bound” (deo). They are bound to a location, just as Satan is bound and sealed.

(9:15) “And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind.” God’s plan is orchestrated to the day and even the hour. Another third of the population is destroyed. “Angels” always refers to good angels in Revelation. However, Hitchcock believes they are evil, because they are bound. They come from the Euphrates River, which was the location of the ancient city of Babylon.

(9:16) “The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.” The total number of Allied and Axis forces in World War II was only 70 million people.[38] Johnson believes that this is a demonic—rather than a human—army. However, he believes that smaller human armies could be in view.

In our estimation, this is a human army, because these are called “the armies of the horsemen.” If the horsemen are a spiritual force, this could imply that spiritual forces lead these human armies (see further comments below).

(9:17) “And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone.” Johnson believes that the army is demonic based on the description of the horses here. Of course, the horsemen are demonic (v.19), but the (human) armies are separate from the horsemen. Could these demonic horsemen manipulate and even lead this vast army into war? This army comes from the Euphrates, and Revelation 16:14 brings the army of the kings of the east.

(9:18) “A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths.” People are killed from the pollution of this warfare. Nuclear warfare could pollute the world like this.

(9:19) “For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.” This seems like a demonic description here.

(9:20-21) “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.” What a horrible picture of warfare, plagues, and death! Even more horrible is this final picture: unrepentant humanity! Even when the world is coming to an end, people still won’t have a change of heart regarding their worship of the occult and the demonic. Wiersbe wisely writes, “The most frightening thing about Revelation 9 is not the judgments that God sends but the sins that men persist in committing even while God is judging them.”[39] Proverbs states, “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord. They ruin lives with their own foolishness” (Prov. 19:3).


Hitchcock calls this the most bizarre chapter in the entire Bible. He states that whatever humans imagine the end of history to be like, the Bible’s picture is far beyond our imagination.

Revelation 10 (Interlude)

While all hell is breaking loose on Earth, we get a glimpse of God’s sovereignty.

(10:1) “I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.” Who is the strong angel?

Who is the strong angel?

Is the strong angel Jesus? Chuck Smith connects this angel with Jesus because of his description, which sounds like chapter 1 (“face like the sun… feet like pillars of fire”). This is possible, because the term “angel” (angelos) simply means “messenger.” This wouldn’t speak to Jesus’ nature as an angel, but rather, his function as the messenger of God. We disagree with this view.

Is the strong angel just an angel? Hitchcock holds this view, and we agree. For one, he is called another angel” like those mentioned earlier (Rev. 8-9), only this one is a good guy. He could look similar to Jesus, because Jesus himself sent him. We shouldn’t overlook the plain sense reading of the passage, which simply calls him an angel with no further mention of his identity. Moreover, other descriptions do not fit with Jesus in Revelation 1 (“the rainbow was upon his head”). For further reasons, see comments on verse 6 below.

(10:2) “And he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land.” In Revelation, the “sea” often refers to humanity in rebellion from God—though not always (Rev. 8:8-9).

(10:3) “And he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.” The reference to the voice of a lion would be further reason for thinking this is Jesus—the messenger (angelos) of God. Yet for the reasons listed above, we take this to be simply simile (as when a lion roars”). Jesus is the lion—not like a lion.

(10:4) “When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them.’” Why is he told not to record what the seven peals of thunder spoke? It’s best not to speculate what they said if John was told not to record them. Hitchcock thinks that these are additional judgments of some kind.

(10:5) “Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven.”

(10:6) “And swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer.” This doesn’t seem like Jesus. Jesus would say, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” But, here the angel swears by God’s authority, citing Exodus 20:11. Moreover, if this is Jesus, then he himself is the Creator.

(10:7) “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.” This can either be taken as imminence (“about to sound”) or strong future certainty (“shall sound”). Johnson takes the latter view.[40] This seems to make more sense, because at this point “the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to his servants the prophets.” The unleashing of the final trumpet will concurrent with the Second Coming. This whole chapter is an interlude, which would point to the following chapters.

(10:8) “Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, ‘Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the land.’” What is this little book? This refers to the prophecies about the future.

(10:9-10) “So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, ‘Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.’ 10 I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter.” The predictions about Christ’s coming are literally bittersweet—similar to Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:1-3). However, in Ezekiel, the scroll is like honey—not bitter. But his ministry was bitter, because he faced hard-hearted people. As we study Revelation, we too feel excitement at the return of Christ, as well as deep sadness for those who reject him at his coming.

(10:11) “And they said to me, ‘You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.’” The angel prepares him to continue prophesying. Hitchcock understands the “little scroll” to be the rest of the book of Revelation. John needs to “digest” it before he can give it out to us.


Studying prophecy is bittersweet! It’s exciting to see Jesus’ return, but it’s bitter because of the judgment that we read.

Revelation 11 (The Temple, the Two Witnesses, and the Trumpet)

(11:1) “Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, ‘Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.’” John was told to measure the Temple, the altar, and the people. It could be (1) symbolic for the church, (2) the Second Temple of AD 70, or (3) a future Third Temple. We hold to the third view. John depicts a Temple just like the OT prophets (e.g. Ezek. 40-48; Dan. 9:24-27). Ezekiel even needed to measure the Temple like John, and Daniel mentioned half a “week” (Dan. 9:27). This fits with the 1,260 days and the 42 months mentioned here. Hitchcock holds the view that this time period refers to the second half of the seven year Tribulation.

(Rev. 11:1) Is this a literal Temple and city, or does this represent the church?

(11:2) “Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.” He is not supposed to measure the court of the Gentiles.

What is the significance of the 42 months? This figure of 3.5 years comes up repeatedly throughout Revelation in several different ways. It refers to half of Daniel’s seventieth “week” or seven years (Dan. 9:27).

(11:3) “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” The two witnesses are given 3.5 years to prophesy. Why are they dressed in sack cloths? This is likely because they have a message of judgment. We think that this most likely refers to Elijah and Moses. It will most likely freak out Elijah and Moses to see a modern world.

(Rev. 11:3-12) Who are the two witnesses?

(11:4) “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” Why are these two men called olive trees and lampstands? This is likely a reference back to Zechariah 4.

(11:5) “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.” These two prophets are supernaturally protected by God.

(Rev. 11:5) What is the fire coming out of their mouths?

(11:6) “These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.” God gives them the prerogative to execute judgment (“as often as they desire”). These two examples of drought and turning the water to blood are reminiscent of Elijah and Moses.

(11:7) “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.” God divinely protects these two men to give their testimony. The forces of evil (i.e. the beast) can’t kill him until his testimony is finished. Note at the same time that these faithful prophets are also allowed to be murdered.

(11:8) “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” The city isn’t literally Sodom and Egypt. It is “mystically” (NASB) or “symbolically” (NET) called this (Greek pneumatikos). Sodom and Egypt were historically known as excessively evil nations. Johnson writes, “In Isaiah’s day the rebellious rulers of Jerusalem were called the rulers of Sodom (Isa 1:10; cf. Ezek 16:46).”[41]

(11:9) “Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.” Leaving a body unburied was thought to be a curse in Gentile cultures. The Gentiles believed that these two prophets were cursed after their death. Johnson writes, “It is curious that in the Greek the singular noun ptōma (“body”) is used for both witnesses in vv. 8–9a, but the plural ptōmata (“bodies”) is used in 9b. Their dead bodies lie in full public view ‘in the street.’”[42]

(11:10) “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” This is the only time people are celebrating on Earth in the book of Revelation… And what are they celebrating? The death of the two prophets of God! Some commentators refer to this as a “Satanic holiday.”

(11:11) “But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them.” God resurrects these two men, and the people are seized with terror. After all, these two men brought judgment on the nations for a few years. They prophesied for 3.5 years, and they were only dead for 3.5 days.

(11:12) “And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.” God takes them up into heaven. Why did he raise them first—only to immediately take them to heaven? It could be to show that God was supporting them. Their bodies didn’t just disappear into thin air. God raised them first (similar to Jesus).

(11:13) “And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” This earthquake will occur during the time of the two witnesses’ resurrection. This account seems similar to what God did through Jesus. He was killed, thought to be cursed, dead for three days, raised, and ascended into heaven. Is there a legitimate parallel here, or just a similarity?

(11:14) “The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly.”

Trumpet #7: Loud voices in Heaven

(11:15) “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’” While all hell is breaking loose on Earth, the people in heaven know God is still in control.

(11:16) “And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God.” They are worshipping God in heaven, knowing that he is in control.

(11:17) “Saying, ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.’” God is starting to intervene on Earth through these miracles.

(11:18) “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” It doesn’t matter if people are angry with God’s judgment. He is still going to come and judge.

(11:19) “And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” The temple of God in heaven is different from the one on Earth.

Revelation 12 (Satan)

This continues to explain the prophecy of the “little book” the John digested and spoke. The bowls do not pick back up until Revelation 14. Hitchcock calls this the most symbolic chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible. He calls this chapter, “The War of the Ages.”

(12:1) “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” What does this “sign” (semeion) show us? This is the fulfillment of many OT prophecies about Israel giving birth to the Messiah.

(Rev. 12:1) Who is the woman: Israel, Mary, or the Church?

(12:2) “And she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.” We hold that the woman is a personified Israel, who gave birth to the Messiah (see link above).

(12:3) “Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.” What does this “sign” (semeion) show us?

(12:4) “And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.” Satan attempted to stop the Messiah through overt or covert means:[43]

  • Cain’s murder of Abel (Gen. 4:8). Originally, God promised to bring the Messiah through the “seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15), and so, Satan may have influenced the first murder to thwart God’s prediction. After all, Jesus said, “[Satan] was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). John elsewhere writes, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 Jn. 3:12 ESV).
  • Satan’s fallen angels helped to pervert the human race to the point where the entire race’s existence was at stake (Gen. 6:1-2; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), thus attempting to stop the coming of the future Messiah.
  • Attempted marriage (or rape?) of Sarah would have corrupted the Jewish line (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18).
  • Attempted rapes of Rebekah would’ve corrupted the Jewish line (Gen. 26:1-18).
  • The murder of male boys in Egypt would’ve ended the Jewish line (Ex. 1:15-22).
  • Attempted murders of David would’ve ended the Jewish line through David (1 Sam. 18:10-11), who would become a “type” or foreshadowing of the Messiah (2 Sam. 7:11-14). Saul’s murderous rage toward David was connected with “an evil spirit” (1 Sam. 16:14).
  • Queen Athaliah’s attempted to kill the royal line (2 Chron. 22:10).
  • Haman attempted to kill the Jews (Esther 3-9).
  • Herod killed the children of Bethlehem (Mt. 2:16).
  • Satan tried to tempt Christ to worship him, forfeiting the Cross (Mt. 4:9). He also tried to tempt Christ to forfeit the Cross by tempting him through one of his friends, Peter (Mt. 16:22-23).
  • Satan entered into Judas to betray Jesus (Jn. 13:2, 27; Lk. 22:3).

Some of these examples above are just conjecture, but others are clearly connected with Satan’s persecution of the Jewish people. Could it be that Satan was trying to thwart God’s plan of bringing his Messiah through the Jewish people throughout their entire history? The historical data above seem to confirm this.

Who or what are the “stars of heaven”?

These “stars” (1/3 of them) move location from heaven to earth, but who or what are these “stars”?

Some interpreters hold that these “stars” are human believers (based on Dan. 10:20-21; 12:1, 3). However, Osborne argues, “It is generally agreed that Dan. 8:10 pictures the attack on Israel as a war against the heavenly host, it is also generally held that the ‘stars’ in Dan. 8:10 are primarily angels rather than the people of God… While Dan. 12:3 says the faithful ‘will shine … like the stars forever and ever,’ it does not say they are stars. Also, in the Apocalypse, whenever asteres (stars) refers to beings, they are always angels (1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1; 9:1; 22:16 [Christ as ‘the Morning Star’]). There is no instance when the people of God are called ‘stars.’”[44]

We hold that these “stars” are symbolic of angels, as the immediate and greater context of Revelation makes clear.

(Rev. 12:4, 9) When did Satan sweep a third of the angels away to the Earth? When was Satan cast out of heaven?

(12:5) “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.” The “child” is no doubt Jesus the Messiah. After all, he is destined to “rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” This is an allusion to Psalm 2:9, which is a messianic psalm. Jesus was also taken up into heaven (Acts 1:9), as this passage teaches (“caught up to God”).

(12:6) “Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” The woman flees to the wilderness for protection. If this is understood chronologically, then this must be after the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

The woman is in the wilderness for 3.5 years (“one thousand two hundred and sixty days”). This number comes up frequently throughout this section of Revelation, and it correlates with half of Daniel’s 70th “week” (or seven years, Dan. 9:27).

Hitchcock holds that Petra might be the place that they flee based on Isaiah 63:1-4. There, the Messiah comes up from Petra (Edom) after judging the enemies of Israel.

(12:7-8) “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven.” Michael has his angels, and the dragon has his angels. This is some sort of spiritual battle in heaven, and the dragon is kicked out. Does this flashback to the removal of the “stars” from heaven (v.4)?

(12:9) “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” The great dragon is interpreted for us as “Satan.” He (and his angels) are thrown down to earth. He is called a deceiver (“deceives the whole world”). This cannot refer to the Millennium, because Satan is no longer a deceiver at that time (Rev. 20:1-4).

(12:10) “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’” Who is speaking with this “loud voice”? We aren’t told, but his message is that the Messiah has authority over Satan.

Satan has been thrown down by Christ, but he still (present tense) continues to accuse them before God. How do believers stand up to this deceiver and accuser?

(12:11) “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” We read the term “overcome” (nikao) frequently in Jesus’ letters to the seven churches (cf. Rev. 2-3 “To him who overcomes, I will…”). How do these believers overcome Satan?

(1) “The blood of the Lamb…” Instead of standing against this “accuser” based on their own righteousness, they deflected Satan’s accusations based on God’s righteousness (cf. Eph. 6:10-18).

(2) “The word of their testimony…” This seems to refer to our public witness of what Jesus has done for us (Rev. 1:2, 9; 6:9; 11:7).

(3) “They did not love their life even when faced with death…” It isn’t that the believers were all martyred, but that they at least faced martyrdom. They “were [not] afraid to die” (NET).

(12:12) “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” This message makes heaven “rejoice,” but it this same message brings “woe” to the Earth. Satan knows that his time ruling the Earth is very short. McCallum compares this to Adolf Hitler who still continued to fight until the bitter end—even though he knew that he has lost the war.[45]

(12:13) “And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child.” Once Satan knows that he has been thrown down to Earth and that his time is short (v.12), he launches at an all-out attack on the “woman.”

(12:14) “But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” The “woman” (Israel) flees to the wilderness for 3.5 years. This is a recapitulation of verse 6 (“the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days”).

Jesus told believers to flee when we see the abomination of desolation (Mt. 24:15).

Somehow, Satan couldn’t reach the “woman” (Israel) while she was in the wilderness (“from the presence of the serpent”). Why can’t Satan terrorize the woman when she is in the wilderness?

(12:15) “And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood.” Satan can go after the “woman” (Israel) with something like a flood (but not a literal flood: notice the use of simile).

(12:16) “But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.” Somehow the earth protects the “woman” (Israel) from this “flood” or “river.”

(12:17) “So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” This only further enrages the dragon (Satan), who goes after the “rest of her children” (Gentile converts to Jesus?).


There is a historical conspiracy as to why the Jewish people have been persecuted for literally thousands of years. This chapter explains why: Satan wants to thwart God’s plan through Israel.

Revelation 13 (The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet)

(13:1) “And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” The “dragon” is Satan. We know this from the previous chapter. Satan is also described as having “seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems” (Rev. 12:3). Carson argues that horns are almost always kings in apocalyptic literature.[46]

Later, John interprets this vision: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour” (Rev. 17:12).

Daniel speaks of the “little horn” in the same way: “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts” (Dan. 7:8; c.f. 7:25).

Daniel gives a similar description in his fourth beast: “After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts” (Dan. 7:7-8).

Is there any significance to the dragon standing “on the sand of the seashore”?

(Rev. 13:1) Is the Antichrist an empire or a single individual?

(13:2) “And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.” Is the “beast” the same or different from the “dragon”? These figures must be different persons, because the beast receives his kingdom and authority from the dragon.

(13:3) “I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast.” Whose heads? The nearest antecedent is the dragon, who has “seven heads” (v.1).

(Rev. 13:3) What is the “fatal wound” mentioned here?

(13:4) “They worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” People worship both the dragon and the beast. The two are different, and yet they are closely connected. It sounds like the dragon invests his power into the beast.

This language (“Who is like the beast?”) is reminiscent of Yahweh God (Ex. 8:10; 15:11; Ps. 71:19; 89:8; Isa. 44:7; 46:5; Mic. 7:18). The beast is a counterfeit god. Osborne writes, “The church of John’s day would have again thought of the imperial cult, ‘the throne of Satan’ (Rev. 2:13), and of emperors like Caligula, Nero, and especially Domitian, who demanded to be worshiped as gods.”[47] This future ruler will take this tyrannical and psychotic desire for self-worship to an utterly new level.

(13:5) “There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.” Again, we see the time period being 3.5 years listed here.

The dragon gave the beast his “authority” (v.2). Of course, this is a counterfeit authority, because all authority ultimately belongs to God. God permits the dragon and the beast to blaspheme him for a period of time before he chooses to intervene.

(13:6) “And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.” Some interpreters see a vague allusion to a pretribulational rescue of the Church here. If untold millions of people disappeared before the Tribulation, then the beast would surely need to explain where all of these believers went. We are only speculating, but perhaps he will argue, “Those Christians weren’t rescued by God… Instead, God killed all of those people!” Or perhaps he will argue, “I killed all of those people who disappeared!” By taking credit for the rescue of the Church (or by twisting the facts), the beast would be blaspheming “those who dwell in heaven.”

(13:7) “It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” John doesn’t use the term “antichrist” in Revelation (this term comes from his letters: 1 John and 2 John). However, it’s easy to see the image of the antichrist here. He is a false messiah who has authority over the world for this brief time.

(13:8) “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” Johnson writes, “It has been debated whether the words ‘from the creation of the world’ (also 17:8) belong grammatically with ‘have not been written’ or with ‘that was slain.’ In other words, is it the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world, or is it the names that were not recorded in the book of life from the creation of the world? In Greek, either interpretation is grammatically acceptable.”[48] The NET note states, “The prepositional phrase ‘since the foundation of the world’ is traditionally translated as a modifier of the immediately preceding phrase in the Greek text, ‘the Lamb who was killed’ (so also G. B. Caird, Revelation [HNTC], 168), but it is more likely that the phrase ‘since the foundation of the world’ modifies the verb ‘written’ (as translated above). Confirmation of this can be found in Rev 17:8 where the phrase ‘written in the book of life since the foundation of the world’ occurs with no ambiguity.’”

We agree with these interpreters above. Jesus didn’t die “once for all” until the Cross occurred in AD 33. Instead, God’s foreknowledge was capable of knowing all those who would come to faith in Christ (Rom. 8:29).

(13:9) “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” This is conspicuously different from similar language in Revelation 2-3. There we repeatedly read: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” If the pretribulational rescue of the Church is true, then the Church wouldn’t be on Earth during this time.

(13:10) “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” It is going to take perseverance during this time because of all of the bloodshed and persecution. Yet God has the destinies of the people under control.

“Another beast” (the false prophet)

(13:11) “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.” Who is this other beast? The first beast is described differently: ten horns, seven heads, like a leopard, bear feet, and lion’s mouth. Moreover, the first beast comes out of the sea. He looks like lamb, but he speaks like a dragon.

(13:12) “He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.” This other beast has equal authority, but he directs worship toward the beast, rather than himself. He is a minister of propaganda for the beast, directing religious affairs.

(13:13) “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.” Interpreters have called this second beast “the false prophet” because of his prophetic “ministry.” Like Elijah (and the two witnesses of Revelation 11), he calls down fire from heaven. This could be the “deception” that Paul refers to: “The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:9-10).

(13:14) “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.” Jesus had seven “signs” (semeion) in the gospel of John. The false prophet has his “signs” too. While Jesus brought light to the world, this false prophet deceives the world, and encourages idolatrous worship of the beast.

(13:15) “And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” Throughout the Bible, we read that idols are deaf, dumb, and mute (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:2). One of his “signs” is to make the idol talk.

(13:16-17) “And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.” The false prophet is the one to give people the “mark of the beast.” In Endless Hope or Hopeless End (pp.239-244), we point out that this universal control of money has not been fulfilled—certainly not in the first century Roman Empire. On the other hand, the technology needed to control global commerce is currently available in recent years. Thus there is good reason for thinking that this passage will be fulfilled in the future (rather than in the past).

People will be starving from hyper-inflation at this time (Rev. 6:6). They will either continue to starve, or take the mark of the beast.

(13:18) “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”

(Rev. 13:18) What does “666” mean?

Revelation 14 (Jesus’ judgment of the world)

These are snapshots or previews of the rest of the book. Technically, theologians call these proleptic prophecies of how the Tribulation will end in judgment. After reading Revelation 12-13, we might be discouraged, but this shows how all of it will end with Jesus victorious!

Vision of the Jesus Christ in the Millennium

(14:1) “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand…” When it says that Jesus was standing on Mount Zion, is this figurative or literal? Is this a heavenly Zion or an earthly one?

The OT predicted that the Messiah would reign from Mount Zion (Joel 2:32; Ps. 48:2-11; Isa. 2:2; 24:23; Mic. 4:1-8). On the other hand, the author of Hebrews writes that the Christians already had come to “Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22).

Is this during or after the Tribulation? Osborne favors the view that this is beforehand. He writes, “The idea of ‘standing’ is a military metaphor and pictures the Lamb as a divine warrior ready to annihilate his enemy.”[49]

Walvoord favors the view that this is after the Second Coming. He writes, “Preferable is the view that this is a prophetic vision of the ultimate triumph of the Lamb following His second coming, when He joins the 144,000 on Mount Zion at the beginning of His millennial reign.”[50]

“…having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” The Father and the Son both have their names on the foreheads of the 144,000.

(14:2) “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.” The voice from heaven is both strong and soft—thunderous and yet musical. Jesus must be on Earth, because he hears a “voice from heaven.”

(14:3) “And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.” The language seems to indicate that the 144,000 are in heaven (“before the throne… before the four living creatures and the elders”). Revelation 4 showed us a similar scene in heaven—not earth. The language also seems similar to Revelation 5:9 (“They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation’”).

(14:4) “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb.” Israel is also pictured as “the virgin the daughter of Zion” (2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:22), the “virgin daughter of Zion” (Lam. 2:13), and the “virgin of Israel” (Jer. 18:13; 31:4, 21; Amos 5:2). The church is also called the virgin bride (2 Cor. 11:2).

These people follow God wherever he leads them. They are the first fruits that guarantee an eventual harvest.

(14:5) “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.” Is this positional righteousness or conditional righteousness?


All 144,000 are accounted for. Satan’s efforts to destroy the Jewish people failed.

(14:6) “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” Some interpreters take this angel to refer symbolically to the Church bringing the gospel to people. However, it seems like a literal angel. It’s unclear why the text would specify it flying in the air (“flying in midheaven”) if it was referring to believers spreading the gospel across the Earth. Also, there is no language of simile to describe the angel.

If this is a literal angel, then it implies that God is pulling out all the stops so that people can come to know him right before the end. This angel speaks universally to all nations (cf. Mt. 24:14?).

(14:7) “And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.’” There is still time to turn to God.

(14:6-7) Is this a message of forgiveness or judgment?

(14:8) “And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.’” This passage looks forward to the end of Babylon in chapters 17-18. Osborne writes, “Although the destruction of the evil empire lies in the future, it is presented via the doublet Epesan, epesan (Fallen, fallen), a proleptic aorist… that stresses the absolute certainty of the coming destruction (cf. 10:7).”[51]

People who follow the Beast will be judged in the future

(14:9) “Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand.’” The reference to taking the mark harkens back to Revelation 13:16-18. But it also stands in juxtaposition with the believers being marked by God on their foreheads (v.1).

(14:10) “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Johnson writes, “For those who drink Babylon’s cup (v. 8), the Lord will give his own cup of wrath.”[52]

(14:11) “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Annihilationists argue that the “smoke” rises up forever, but not their continuing conscious judgment. However, note the subsequent clause: “They have no rest day and night.” By contrast, the believers will find “rest” (v.13).

(14:12) “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Keeping God’s commandments is parallel with faith in Jesus.

(14:13) “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’” What does the reference to “from now on” mean? It seems that this persecution is so awful that this is a special promise to the believers in this future day. Johnson writes, “John expects the imminent intensification of persecution associated with the beast, and the beatitude indicates that those who remain loyal to Jesus when this occurs will be blessed indeed.”[53]

Armageddon and the judgment of the end of the Tribulation

Hitchcock holds that this is a preview of Armageddon, because Jesus himself is judging.

(14:14) “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.” Jesus (cf. Rev. 1:13) will personally come to execute judgment (Mt. 13:24-30).

(14:15) “And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’” Why does an angel tell Jesus to begin his judgment?

(14:16-18) “Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’” Angels are involved with the judgment as well.

(14:19) “So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.” Picture the crushed and oozing grapes that fill a winepress. This is the vivid imagery associated with divine judgment of the human race.

(14:20) “And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.” Two hundred miles of four foot deep blood? Hitchcock doesn’t take this as literal. Since the winepress isn’t literal, we aren’t required to take the bloodbath to be literal either. The image of a winepress is that the grape juice sprays high into the air (4-5 feet), and this could be the picture here. Regardless, this symbol describes a massive judgment at the end of history.

Revelation 15 (Interlude in heaven before the bowls)

This is a picture of heaven before judgment is released—similar to Revelation 4-5 (i.e. heaven) before Revelation 6 (i.e. seals).

(15:1) “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.” After this judgment, God’s wrath is finished.

(15:2) “And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.” Instead of a tumultuous sea, we have a sea of glass. It uses the language of simile (like a sea of glass”). They were “victorious” through their martyrdom.

(15:3-4) “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! 4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Why do the believers repeat the “Song of Moses” in this chapter? (Ex. 15:1-18; Deut. 32) Exodus 15 fits better because it shows the judgment of the Egyptians and the rescue of the Hebrews. Moses’ original song depicted God’s love for his people after the judgment of the evil Egyptians. Similarly, this song repeats God’s love for his people and his judgment for their persecutors.

They do not mention anything about their suffering or their works. The whole focus is on God’s love.

God begins to pour out his wrath

(15:5) “After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened.” God’s tabernacle in heaven opens to pour out judgment on the earth. Originally, the Tabernacle contained the legal evidence against the people. Now, God opens this Tabernacle to execute judgment.

(15:6) “And the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes.” Seven angels bring the judgment.

(15:7) “Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.” One of the four creatures gives the bowl of judgment (wrath) to the angels. The “wrath” (thumos) is God’s boiling hot anger—different from his “anger” (orge). Every person who receives Christ comes out from under his wrath.

(15:8) “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” No one could come into God’s presence until the wrath was expended. Hitchcock points to how sports teams or boxers come out of the locker room with smoke to show their power and intimidation. Just imagine what this smoke from heaven will look like!

There are many allusions back to the Exodus in Revelation 15.


Revelation 15

Passover Lamb

The Lamb of God


10 plagues

7 plagues

Red Sea

Crystal Sea
God brings the people out


Song of Moses

Song of Moses and the Lamb

Temple of God in Heaven

Smoke of Mount Sinai

Smoke of Heaven

Revelation 16 (The Bowls of Wrath)

Mark Hitchcock refers to this as the darkest chapter in the history of humankind, because it shows the end of God’s judgment. The term mega is used eleven times in this chapter. The bowls of God’s wrath are strangely reminiscent of the plagues that occurred during the Exodus. This also fits with this chapter happening immediately after the “Song of Moses” (Rev. 15). This occurs right at the end of the Tribulation and right before the Second Coming of Jesus.

(16:1) “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’” It’s time for the seven angels to bring God’s final judgment on the earth. These judgments humiliate the Antichrist. He claimed to have order for the earth, but God is overturning this order.

Angel #1 brings sores

(16:2) “So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth; and it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.” Notice that these sores were only given to those who took the mark of the beast.

Angel #2 brings bloody waters on the seas (saltwater)

(16:3) “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.” This needs to be at the end of the Tribulation, because it kills off all marine life.

Angel #3 brings bloody waters in the rivers and springs (freshwater)

(16:4) “Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood.” Again, this must be at the end, because all of the fresh water is putrefied. Humans wouldn’t last long without water to drink.

(16:5-7) “And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; 6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.7 And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.’” The reason for turning the water into blood is because these people poured out the blood of believers, and therefore, they “deserve” judgment.

Angel #4 brings a magnified sun that scorches the earth

(16:8-9) “The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. 9 Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.” Notice that the people on earth still refuse to turn to God during this time!

Angel #5 brought darkness on the Beast’s kingdom

(16:10-11) “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, 11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.” God directed the darkness “on the throne of the beast.” This humiliated his authority and power, placing him under judgment. Instead of repenting, the people blasphemed God even more because of his judgment, and they refused to repent.

Angel #6 dries up the Euphrates River

(16:12) “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.” We don’t know who “the kings from the east” are, but they need to be nations east of the Euphrates River.

The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet gather the nations for war

(16:13-14) “And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs, 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.” Why are these spirits compared to “frogs”?

Whatever the case, the trifecta (dragon, beast, and false prophet) are able to gather together all of the nations on earth for war. Are these nations fighting each other? Or fighting God? Or fighting the believers on earth?

(16:15) “(‘Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.’)” Interjected into these anarchy are the words of Jesus: “I am coming like a thief.” Jesus used this language of “coming like a thief” to refer to his Second Coming (Mt. 24:42-44; Lk. 12:39-40; Rev. 3:3), as did Paul (1 Thess. 5:2) and Peter (2 Pet. 3:10). Just when the rulers of the world expect it the least, the Creator of the world will return to bring judgment and peace.

(16:16) “And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.” This is where we get the idea of the “battle(s) of Armageddon.” Armageddon is not a generic concept of destruction, but it is a literal place of battle. The valley of Megiddo is 20 miles long and 14 miles wide. Hitchcock thinks that these armies are gathered to destroy Israel. Another possibility is that these armies come from the Beast, and they are fighting the “kings of the east” (v.12). This battle will spread blood over 200 miles (Rev. 14:20).

Angel #7 brings judgment upon the air or perhaps into the air.

(16:17) “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done.’” After this angel brings his judgment, the wrath of God is finished.

(16:18) “And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.” This language about lightning and an earthquake is seen throughout the OT and the NT to refer to the coming of Christ. This will be the most cataclysmic earthquake that the world has ever seen (“such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth”).

(16:19) “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.” The city is split into three parts (Zech. 14:4-5), and God force feeds Babylon her cup of wrath.

(16:20) “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” Are the islands and mountains blown away? Submerged?

(16:21) “And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.” Right up to the bitter end, these people refused to turn to God, and chose rather to blaspheme him and not have a change of mind (“men blasphemed God”).

(Rev. 16:21) How could hailstones be this big?

(Rev. 16:21) Could the 100 pound hailstones actually be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?


God’s judgment is strikingly scary throughout this chapter. But perhaps even scarier is the fact that humans refuse to repent and only persist in blaspheming God.

Babylon is mentioned at the end of chapter 16. Jesus will deal with Babylon in chapters 17-18 (Rev. 14:8; 16:19).

Revelation 17 (The Mystery of Babylon)

(17:1) “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.’” The harlot sits on the “waters,” which in Revelation is a symbol for the nations opposed to God. For example, in verse 15, the waters are interpreted to be “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” Babylon rules over the nations.

(17:2) “With whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” The rulers of the world were infatuated with the “harlot” (i.e. The world system? Idolatrous religion? Both?). Consequently, people on earth were sucked into this unspiritual vortex as well.

(17:3) “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.” In chapter 12, the “woman” in the “wilderness” was Israel. Here, the woman is the harlot.

Is the “scarlet beast” the same as the “beast” in chapter 13? Since he has the seven heads and ten horns, this must be the same figure.

(17:4) “The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality.” The imagery of the woman is that she is obsessed with decadence. Later, John writes, “All the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (18:3). This is one reason why we are inclined to think that she symbolizes the kosmos or “world-system” (see our earlier article, “The World-System”).

(17:5) “And on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” The word “mystery” (mystērion) is a noun—not an adjective—as the NIV and KJV render this (“Mystery Babylon…”).

Hitchcock holds that this is the literal rebuilding of Babylon in Iraq. This city has a history throughout the Bible: Babel (Gen. 6), Babylon who destroys Solomon’s Temple, etc. Hithcock gives multiple reasons for holding this: First, he notes that this geographical location should be literal. The exception would be Revelation 11:8. Second, the term Babylon is used ~300 times and almost always literal with the exception of 1 Peter 5:13. Third, it’s called Babylon six times. Fourth, the OT prophecies the cataclysmic judgment in the OT (Jer. 50). Fifth, the River Euphrates is mentioned, which is also geographical (Rev. 16:12). Sixth, there are parallels with Babylon and OT parallels. Seventh, there are many parallels between Jeremiah 50-51 and Revelation 17-18. Eighth, Zechariah 5 also has parallels with Revelation 17-18. For instance, there is a wicked woman in the ephah (an instrument for measuring grain), and she is put in an evil temple in Shinar (Babylon). Ninth, many scholars and Bible teachers held this view before Iraq came into the news, so we cannot accuse this view of reading the newspaper to interpret the Bible.

To be clear, he sees Babylon as a city and a religious system.

(Rev. 17:5) What is the mystery of Babylon?

(17:6) “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.” Whoever the woman is, she is diametrically opposed to believers in Jesus. She persecutes them with vivid and horrific imagery (“drunk with the blood of the saints”).

If you’re confused by the identity of this woman, you’re in good company: so was John (“When I saw her, I wondered greatly”).

(17:7) “And the angel said to me, ‘Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.’” The angel interprets this imagery.

(17:8) “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.” John uses all three tenses to describe the beast (“was… is not… will come”). Hitchcock thinks this refers to the resurrection of the Beast. However, we hold that this refers to future Roman Empire.

(17:9-10) “Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.”

(Rev. 17:9) Are the “seven hills” an allusion to Rome here?

(Rev. 17:10) Who are the seven kings? Roman Emperors or World Empires?

(17:11) “The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.” The beast leads an eighth kingdom, dominating the reunited Roman Empire.

(17:12) “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.” The “ten kings” haven’t come to power yet. They rule contemporaneously—not sequentially like the seven kings (or seven kingdoms). They come to power for a brief time (“one hour”) alongside the beast.

(17:13) “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.” The “ten kings” give their power to the beast to support him.

(17:14) “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” The “ten kings” and the “beast” will try to overcome Jesus, but will fail.

(17:15) “And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” See verse 1.

(17:16) “And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.” The ten kings and the beast turn on the harlot. What does this mean? Do they turn on the world system? Do they turn on idolatrous religion? Hitchcock understands this to refer to the Beast destroying the religious-system of Babylon, while God destroys the commercial-system of Babylon (Rev. 18). People rejoice over the destruction of the religious-system (Rev. 17), but they mourn over the commercial-system (Rev. 18).

(17:17) “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.” God doesn’t override their freewill. Instead, they both have a “common purpose.” The net result of their decision to give over their power to the beast will be a fulfillment of God’s predictive prophecy.

(17:18) “The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.” The angel tells John that the woman “is the great city.”


This chapter shows the fate of humanity in rebellion from God. Why would we buy into the world-system if we know its fate? The entire world-system is going to go up in smoke.

Revelation 18 (The Fall of the World System)

(18:1) “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.” This is after Revelation 17 (After these things…”). Here we see another angel. It’d odd that the world is filled with an angel’s glory, rather than God’s glory.

(18:2) “And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.’” Babylon becomes a locus of demonic activity. Why does he mention “unclean and hateful birds”? Birds were considered unclean animals in the OT dietary laws, and they are mentioned in the next chapter as feeding on the corpses of the dead (Rev. 19:17, 21).

(18:3) “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.” Remember, we saw in Revelation 17:4 that the key sin in Babylon was decadence. Could this be describing the allure of the world-system—a topic John writes so much about? (cf. 1 Jn. 2:15-17)

(18:4) “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues.’” God doesn’t call them to renovate Babylon, but to vacate Babylon.

(18:5) “For her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” The people were going along thinking God didn’t care about their decadence and occult practice. But in reality, he was taking note of everything and waiting to judge. God didn’t refrain from judgment because he was weak, but because he was patient.

(18:6) “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.” Paying back, and then, paying back “double” seems like a case of literary amplification.

(18:7) “To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.’” The key problem with Babylon was that she thought she could live a life of self-glorification and sensuality, but never experience judgment.

(18:8) “For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.” God will come and bring judgment quickly. The world-system seems to be going along just fine. But it will all suddenly end. Those who invested in the world-system will see it all crumble to ashes and all go up in smoke.

(18:9-10) “And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, 10 standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’” Because the kings invested so heavily in Babylon, their lives will be emotionally ruined when the see God judge her. Imagine seeing your life’s work crumble right before your very eyes.

(18:11-13) “And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more— 12 cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, 13 and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives.” These are further descriptions that support the thought that Babylon is primarily based on the foundation of materialism, decadence, and sensuality.

(18:14) “The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.” This language is similar to 1 John, where John writes, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn. 2:17).

(18:15-19) “The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, 16 saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; 17 for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, 18 and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’ 19 And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’” In this section, the merchants weep like the kings of the earth (vv.9-10). They keep repeating the same statements. It sounds like they are in shock. But really, couldn’t they see that the world-system couldn’t keep going on forever? Why should they (or we) be shocked?

(18:20) “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” While those obsessed with the world-system are weeping, God’s people are rejoicing. The reason for the judgment was because Babylon persecuted believers (cf. v.24).

(18:21) “Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.’” The city will be destroyed much like a millstone falling to the bottom of the sea (i.e. total destruction, submersion, etc.).

(18:22-23) “And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; 23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.” All of these things are not intrinsically bad. But because these people lived in decadence, God will wipe all of it away:

  • “the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters”
  • “craftsman of any craft”
  • “the sound of a mill”
  • “the light of a lamp
  • “the bridegroom and bride”

The reason God will remove all of these things is because of the polluting influence of materialism and opulence in Babylon (“your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery”). People don’t think of the world-system as devil worship.

(18:24) “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.” This flashes back to an earlier pronouncement against Babylon: “I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints” (Rev. 17:6). God doesn’t judge without a just reason, and John keeps emphasizing this.

Revelation 19 (The Second Coming)

(19:1) “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.’” This occurs after Revelation 18 (After these things…”). They aren’t singing when Jesus returns; they are saying (or probably screaming) these words. We often think of God’s judgment with sadness and even anger. But these believers will be praising God for intervening into the world to make it right (using the term “Hallelujah!” four times in verses 1-6).

(19:2) “‘Because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.’” God has judged the harlot, and avenged his people (citing Ps. 19:9; Deut. 32:43).

(19:3) “And a second time they said, ‘Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.’” Again, instead of feeling uncomfortable with God’s judgment, they are praising God for judging the world (cf. v.5).

(19:4) “And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’” We see the twenty-four elders and four living creatures again (see Rev. 4).

(19:5-6) “And a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.’ 6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.’” See verse 3.

The Marriage of Jesus and the Church

Currently, we are in the “betrothal period” or engagement before our marriage (2 Cor. 11:2). Jesus’s first miracle was at a wedding, where he brought joy through the making of wine (Jn. 2).

(19:7) “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Judgment is followed by celebration.

(19:8) “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” They aren’t clothed in God’s righteousness, but in their own. Why (how) could they be clothed in their own righteousness?

(19:9) “Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’” You’ll really want to be invited to this celebration.

(19:10) “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’” This is a good passage for the deity of Christ. Throughout the book, the creation is worshipping Jesus, but here the angel says, “Don’t worship me… Worship God!

Hitchcock holds that the bema seat has already occurred, because the people already have their rewards (v.8). Notice that there is no rapture mentioned in Revelation 19. Instead, believers are already in heaven before Jesus returns. Matthew 25:31-46 describes the separation of the “sheep and the goats.” But if the post-tribulation rapture is true, then the sheep and goats would’ve already been separated!

The King Returns!

(19:11) “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” Jesus is a just judge.

(19:12) “His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.” This imagery is terrifying—nothing like the meek and gentle Jesus who allowed himself to be killed. Here he doesn’t take judgment, but dishes it out.

Is the name that no one knows merely “the Word of God” (v.13)?

(19:13) “He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” His is robe dipped in his own blood, or in his enemies’ blood?

(19:14) “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” His heavenly army (believers? angels?) will follow him to fight.

(19:15) “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” The “sharp sword” is most likely a reference to his powerful word (v.13; Heb. 4:12). Paul writes, “The Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). Jesus is coming back to rule the nations.

(19:16) “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’” Does Jesus have a tattoo on his thigh?

(19:17-18) “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’” Part of the marriage banquet is a feast for the birds. They will feast on the dead bodies from this epic battle. There is the “marriage supper of the Lamb” and the “great supper of God.” These couldn’t be any more different!

(19:19) “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” They see a sign in the sky to see Jesus’ return (Mt. 24:30), and they gather to fight Jesus. Even in the “eleventh hour,” the people of earth still don’t change their minds. They gather all of their forces against Jesus much like an “army” of fruit flies against a grown man. This is no war; it’s a slaughter.

(19:20) “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.” The ultimate leaders (the beast and the false prophet) are the first to be judged—thrown into the lake of fire.

(19:21) “And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.” Finally, Jesus quells this global army, and the birds (vv.17-18) feast on the bodies of the dead.


This is the culmination of human history. Notice how different Jesus’ First Coming is from his Second Coming.

Revelation 20 (The Millennium)

(20:1) “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.” The angel comes from heaven to earth.

(20:2) “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” He incarcerates Satan in the abyss for 1,000 years.

(Rev. 20:2-3) Is Satan currently bound?

(20:3) “And he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.” He is released at the end of the 1,000 years “for a short time.”///

(Rev. 20:4-5) Does the “first resurrection” refer to spiritual regeneration or bodily resurrection?

(20:4-5) “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.” The martyrs for Jesus in the tribulation are raised so that they can reign with Jesus. The others who died weren’t raised during this time.

(20:6) “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” The martyrs faced the first death (i.e. physical death), but not the second death (i.e. spiritual death).

(Rev. 20:7-8) Do Gog and Magog rebel before the millennium or after?

(20:7-8) “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.” Why would God allow Satan to be released after the millennium?

(20:9) “And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” The nations come back to destroy the people of God in “the beloved city” (Jerusalem) a second time, but they are put down a second time.

(20:10) “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Satan goes to join the beast and false prophet in the lake of fire (cf. 19:20).

(20:11) “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.” This is referred to as the “great white throne judgment.” The books are opened at the end of the millennium, and Jesus judges those in the book of works.

(20:12) “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” It doesn’t matter how great you are at this judgment. The playing field is leveled. They can either be in the “book [singular] of life” or the “books [plural]” of works.

(20:13) “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.” This is another resurrection. Only these people go from the frying pan and into the fire. They go from Hades and into hell.

(20:14) “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” The second death is the lake of fire.

(20:15) “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” If you are not in the book of life, then you face judgment.

Revelation 21-22 (Heaven and Hell)

For an exposition of these two chapters, see chapters 4-7 of Too Good to Be True? (2016). See also “Heaven in Revelation” (mp3).

[1] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (416). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Thomas, R. L. (1998). A Classical Dispensationalist view of Revelation. In S. N. Gundry & C. M. Pate (Eds.), Four Views on the Book of Revelation (S. N. Gundry & C. M. Pate, Ed.). Zondervan Counterpoints Collection (181). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 36.

[4] Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1992. 87.

[5] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 43.

[6] Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: a Study in Biblical Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Academie, 1964. 150.

[7] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Re 1:19). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[8] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 437). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[9] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 53.

[10] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 438). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[11] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 61.

[12] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 438). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[13] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 65.

[14] Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972. 2:12.

[15] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 71.

[16] Osborne, G. R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2000. 151-152.

[17] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 444). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[18] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 445). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[19] Osborne, G. R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2000. 171.

[20] Osborne, G. R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2000. 171.

[21] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 448). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[22] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 450). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[23] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 452). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[24] Ramsay writes, “Philadelphia lay at the upper extremity of a long valley, which opens back from the sea. After passing Philadelphia the road along this valley ascends to the Phrygian land and the great Central Plateau, the main mass of Asia Minor. This road was the one which led from the harbour of Smyrna to the north-eastern parts of Asia Minor and the East in general, the one rival to the great route connecting Ephesus with the East, and the greatest Asian trade-route of Mediaeval times… Philadelphia, therefore, was the keeper of the gateway to the plateau.” W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, pp. 404-405.

[25] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 457). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[26] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 459). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[27] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 463). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[28] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 468). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[29] Herodotus, 7.187.

[30] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 381.

[31] Osborne writes, “A ‘denarius’ was the average days’ wage for a laborer. A quart of wheat was enough food for one person for a day, and three quarts of barley were barely enough for a small family (there were few small families except among the wealthy in the ancient world). Therefore a man’s entire earnings were barely enough to feed himself, let alone his family, and all the other costs like home or incidentals could not be met. These were famine prices, about ten to twelve times the going rate according to ancient records (Mounce 1998: 144 cites Cicero, Verr. 3.81).” Grant Osborne. Revelation, 280.

[32] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[33] Walvoord writes, “To make the mountain a form of human government, the sea the Roman Empire, and the ships that are destroyed the church or organized religion, is to read into the passage far more than is justified.” Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 155.

[34] Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002. 354.

[35] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Re 8:10–11). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[36] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 492). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[37] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 493). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[38] The World Almanac, 1971, ed. L. H. Long [New York: Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1970], p. 355). Cited in Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 494). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[39] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Re 9:13–21). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[40] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 498). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[41] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (506). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[42] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (506–507). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[43] Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1995. 125.

[44] Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002. 461.

[45] Dennis McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 13-14.

[46] See D.A. Carson’s seminary class on Revelation found here. Lecture One.

[47] Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002. 497.

[48] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (528). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[49] Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002. 525.

[50] Walvoord, John. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. JFW Publishing Trust. Chicago, IL. 1966. 28.

[51] Osborne, Grant. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2002. 537.

[52] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 541). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[53] Johnson, A. F. (1981). Revelation. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 542). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.