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Monday, September 24 2012

The Epistles: Revelation

Studies in this complete Epistles series:
What Is An Epistle? Luke Acts Romans First Corinthians
Second Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
First Thessalonians Second Thessalonians First Timothy Second Timothy Titus
Philemon Hebrews James First Peter Second Peter
First John Second John Third John Jude Revelation


"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass"

The "Book" of Revelation, like all of the books of the Bible, was actually a rolled scroll. Books, in the present-day form, with covers and pages, did not exist until centuries after the Holy Scriptures were written.

Seven Churches of Asia The book, or scroll, of Revelation, although not usually regarded as such, was also an epistle, a letter. It was given to the apostle John (see also The Kinsfolk Of Jesus Of Nazareth) to write "to the seven churches which are in Asia" (i.e. Asia Minor, known today as Turkey) while he was being held as a Roman political prisoner on the nearby island of Patmos.

"1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 1:2 Who bare record of the word of God [see What Does Word of God Mean To You?], and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand [see Could Christ Return Tonight?].

1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead [see The Harvest Prophecies], and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood [see Christ Died For Repentant Sinners], 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds [see When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin]; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

1:8 I am Alpha and Omega [see Israel In History and Prophecy: Alpha and Omega], the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:1-8 KJV)

The churches (i.e. congregations of the one and only true Church of God in various cities) were all in existence at the time of the writing of the epistle to them. They were not somehow "successive," then, or at any time ever since (see the Fact Finder question below).

Patmos

"1:9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the LORD's day [see What Is The Day Of The LORD? and When Is The LORD's Day?], and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." (Revelation 1:9-11 KJV)

Most of the traditional illustrations and paintings of "Jesus" portray someone who looks nothing at all like how Jesus of Nazareth is actually described in the Bible - an ordinary-looking Jew of that time (Judas the traitor had to point Him out to the mob because He could not be distinguished from the apostles with Him; see Who's Hiding On Your Wall?). The apostle John, while seeing Him as the ordinary human that He was, also saw Him as He appears now. John saw the LORD (see Who Is The LORD?) at least twice in that way, first in the famous "transfiguration" event, which was a vision of the even yet future Kingdom of God on Earth when Moses and Elijah will have been resurrected ("17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 17:3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him." Matthew 17:1-3 KJV) and then again, decades later, when he was given to write Revelation. The Messiah looked the same both times - again nothing like the false "Jesus" pictures that are so common. Compare the "his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" quoted above with "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire" quoted below:

"1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks [see also Lampstands Or Candlesticks?]; 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." (Revelation 1:12

The second and third chapters of Revelation (keeping in mind that there were no chapters and verse numbers as it was originally written) were specific messages to the "spirit" of each church - the attitude of the people there then, and the attitude of the people like them ever since (again, see the Fact Finder question below).

"1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:19-20 KJV)

"Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy Blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation"

The epistle then continued, as John was instructed ("Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter") with a great amount of information and prophecy. He began with a vision of God's Throne, and the appearance of the Messiah after His victorious Sacrifice and Resurrection.

The Stars Of Heaven

"4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. 4:2 And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 4:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 4:6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

4:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

4:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Revelation 4:1-11 KJV)

The arrival of the Messiah with the delivery of the Sacrifice of His Passover was a fulfillment of a major part of the Day of Atonement, in which the High Priest once per year entered into the Most Holy Place (see The Day Of Atonement: It's All About Christianity). With the payment completed, God authorized the LORD to rule the Earth ("Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation"; see also Sending Away The Escapades Goat), in preparation for God's coming (see The Church: Mission Accomplished).

"5:1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. 5:2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? 5:3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. 5:4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. 5:5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:1-10 KJV)

"Babylon the great is fallen"

The next chapters involve the contents of "the seven seals" scroll that God gave to the LORD God - written instructions and actions that begin the 1,000-year "Day of the LORD" (see What Is The Day Of The LORD?). Among the most-famous of the seals are the first four - that have become popularly known as "the four horsemen of the apocalypse" (see The Horsemen Of The Apocalypse).

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse

"6:1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals [see The Seals Of Prophecy], and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 6:2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

6:3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 6:4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

6:5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6:6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

6:7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:1-8 KJV)

The contents of the scrolls intensify until "Babylon" falls (see What And Where Is Babylon Today?) at the time of Christ's return (see The Two Signs Of Christ's Return): "The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."

"19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war [see The Coming World Dictator]. 19:12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 19:13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 19:14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 19:15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 19:16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

19:17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 19:18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

19:19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast [see What Is The Mark Of The Beast?], and them that worshipped his image [see also A History Of Jerusalem: Abomination Of Desolation]. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 19:21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." (Revelation 19:11-21 KJV)

"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away"

The Messiah will then rule the Earth for the next 1,000 years (see The Church In The Kingdom Of God), along with those of the first resurrection (see When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin). When the 1,000 years are completed, the second resurrection and the final Judgment of them will occur (see The Eighth Day: What Does It Mean?).

Earth

"20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 20:9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works [see Works Means Obedience and Christ Died For Repentant Sinners]. 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:1-15 KJV)

The end, of physical humanity, will be the beginning of the eternal life of the children of God.

"21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:1-4 KJV)

Fact Finder: What does the Bible actually tell us about the "seven churches"?
See Where Are The Seven Churches Of Revelation Today?


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This Day In History, September 24

787: The Second Nicene Council began under Pope Adrian I. Closely allied with Roman emperor Charlemagne (see Emperors and Popes; listen also to our Sermon Constantine's Papacy), Adrian condemned supporters of iconoclasm - the opposition to the use of religious statues and images because it violated the Commandment against idolatry.

622: Muhammad completed his "hijra" from Mecca to Medina (see A History Of Jerusalem: Constantine and Muhammad).

1180: Alexius II Comnenus became Byzantine emperor at age 11 upon the death of his father Manual I Comnenus.

1332: Edward de Balliol was crowned king of Scotland at Scone after the death of 7 year old Queen Margaret. The famous Stone of Scone (pronounced "scoon") is used as the "Coronation Stone" for all new British monarchs, and was just recently returned to Scotland after 700 years in Britain.

1493: Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the "New World" (in which humanity repeated all of the mistakes of the "Old World") during which Jamaica, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were "discovered" - although, for the many native people already there, it was no discovery.

1545: Cardinal Albrecht died at age 55. He was the object of Martin Luther's protests concerning the sale of indulgences.

1664: The Dutch settlement of Fort Orange surrendered to the British. Renamed to honor the Duke of York and Albany, it would become Albany, New York.

1683: Jews were expelled from all French territory in "New France" (i.e. French colonies in North America).

1706: During the Great Northern War (1700-1721), the Treaty of Altanstadt was signed by Swedish king Charles XII with Augustus II the Strong, king of Poland and elector of Saxony.

1852: The first engine-powered flight of a dirigible was accomplished by French inventor Henri Giffard. He flew about 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) from Paris to Trappes in a craft powered by a steam engine.

1889: The Declaration of Utrecht was signed in the Netherlands. It became the doctrinal constitution of the so-called "Old Catholic Church." Among other things, they reject the pope's leadership and clerical celibacy - but still maintain most of the anti-Bible errors of the rest of the Christian-professing world, Catholic or Protestant.

1914: During the First World War, the German Army captured St. Mihiel in the Alsace-Lorraine area between France and Germany (listen to our Sermons The Ottoman Empire and The European World Wars).

1948: Mildred Gillars, accused of being Nazi wartime radio propagandist "Axis Sally," pleaded innocent in Washington, D.C., to charges of treason.

1950: Forest fires blacked out the sun over eastern Canada and New England. A "blue moon" was seen as far away as Europe. 1950: Operation Magic Carpet - all Jews from Yemen were transported to Israel.

1956: The first transatlantic telephone cable system began operation.

1957: U.S. President Eisenhower ordered federal troops of the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock, Arkansas to protect nine black students while they attended the newly-integrated high school.

1962: Riots erupted at the University of Mississippi when James Meredith was announced as the first black student at the university.

1976: Newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst was sentenced to seven years in prison for her part in a 1974 bank robbery that occurred while she was supposedly a kidnap victim.

1990: The government of the Soviet Union approved a change from communism to a market economic system.

1996: Representatives of 71 nations signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the United Nations.


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