The book of Revelation to many is misunderstood, as they just can't get their heads around it. It is avoided. Others find it so full of mystique and thrilling. There are also those who obsess over it. Ideally, the book of Revelation should be revered as the final prophecy of God.
There is no doubt we are coming closer to the fulfillment of these prophecies every season. With eyes open, one will recognize how much this study is for today. The chief aim of this study is to unveil a picture of things taking place in the heavenly realm after the taking up of Christ’s bride verses the things taking place under the heavens. The study is laid out in sections to decipher and chart so the reader can chew on it bit by bit with anticipation that the Lord will bring revelation to them. God’s holiness comes to the forefront in this study as one gets a good glimpse of God's intent and what is to come. The author does not live in fear of these things, but sees that God is not ignoring the ongoing hatred towards Him and His bride. His kingdom will be ushered in quicker than quick. This should ultimately be the desire of each of His children.
While studying the last book of the New Testament, peek at the last book of the Old Testament. Review the passage in Malachi 3:16-18. This speaks of the Book of Remembrance. Several times in Revelation this book is referenced. It a simple manner, it states a lot, revealing much.
It will soon be evident who is righteous and who is wicked. This may be obvious, but some would ask if this is because of the rapture or from people being able to see Heaven from Earth and those who are sitting at the Right Hand of God. It may be from the righteous acts of men.
Examine verse 18, “So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” This strongly relates to Revelation times when all who remain, those who did not chose to serve God, will witness God’s wrath while those who did choose to serve Him will be serving Him in glory. The reader is shown here that God will spare His children. This verse strongly supports a pre-tribulation gathering of the saints.
There are currently three stances on the return of Christ for His beloved. This return is different to the one that leads to the Battle of Armageddon. This is the one the church calls “The Rapture” and includes the gathering of the saints from amongst the living and the dead. Some people believe that Christ will gather His bride at the end of the seven years of tribulation. Some believe He will come in the middle of the tribulation. Until the past hundred years, there was never any thought of a “pre-tribulation.” But it has birthed. And there is much evidence supporting it, one such being the aforementioned verse in Malachi.
Before choosing which one to believe, the author did an extensive look into the Bible and the life and customs of Jewish culture. These will be explored along the course of the study. It is good to have an understanding of these things before basing any decision.
In the book of Genesis, it is seen how God created earth and prepared it for man. The book of Revelation should point believers to the best answers, as one will recognize that hell was not created for man, but for Satan. Heaven belongs to the Trinity. Believers have entrance by invitation only.
In the first chapter of Revelation, there are four divisions. They are fairly distinct. For today, give the first chapter a slow, concentrated read. Reread it so nothing is missed. Try to locate these divisions: 1-introduction; 2-salutation; 3-the glory of Christ; 4-instruction to write.
Look again at the introduction in verse 1. Depending on the Bible translation, one will find a word similar to “shortly” or “soon” in this verse, referencing the events to come. In the Greek translation, this is en tachei meaning “quickly” or “speedily” or “swiftly”. It is mistaken, then, by some to think they have been deceived by the Lord, because it has not been quick or soon that these events have taken place. It becomes better understood when one interprets it that once these events do happen they will be with the swiftest speed.
Now concentrate on the second division of chapter one. It is the salutation or proclamation to the seven churches, verses 4-8. There are stated to be seven spirits before God’s throne. Turn to Isaiah 11:1.
Stay in the proclamation for today. Read verse 6. “...And has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father...” This is interesting as believers have been made, not will be made...it is finished. Just as He said. One kingdom and many priests. One body and many parts.
First you see Melchizedek the priest, then you see Melchizedek the king. Jesus is represented here. You are guaranteed a better covenant through Christ. And Christ is promised to live forever, sworn by God. Revelation is the exact vision of this promise ushered in before the glory of God.
This is what makes this section vital to understand while studying the book of Revelation. This lays out the foundation that will be built upon in the course of this study.
There is much to say in the proclamation and much to chew on generating nutrients for the soul. It is a fantastic marvel to revel in as our mind begins to comprehend it all. And it is only in part we see. See the wonder of verse 7. “He is coming with the clouds.” What an image! The saying that “our problems are but the dust of God’s feet” comes to life here. Jesus is coming to put an end to them all. When one thinks of clouds one can think of storms as well. He is coming in command of the storm to follow. “Every eye will see...all peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him.”
It is good to concentrate on this passage to identify what Christ has done prior to His glory being ushered in. When it states He died to sin, notice it is stated in the singular, not the plural. There are sins. And there is the condition of sin. While we still struggle to achieve the harmony of the natural man to the spiritual man, Christ accomplished this and destroyed death, the penalty for the condition of sin. Or the Law of Sin.
At the close of chapter 1, you can see the command to write. Christ is speaking here, revealing the mystery of the seven stars and of the seven lampstands, preparing to hold to account each of the churches. Read verse 19. Here you see the apostle John was commanded to write “the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things.”
1-What is Christ referring to in verse 19 when He says, “...after these things...”or as the NIV reads “what is now?” The NIV is not the strongest translation of this verse, but refer to Revelation 4:1.
It is very likely this is referring to the rapture. After the rapture the wrath of God is going to come quicker than quick. There are many times in the New Testament Jesus tells His disciples not to be afraid as in this passage. Jesus gives much evidence of His authority and deity here drawing comfort and confidence to His beloved. In this moment the Apostle John is wholly captivated with Christ alone. And here the number seven begins to take breath and come to life being designated as the number of completion. It starts with the seven churches.
These churches were located in what was known as Asia, a Roman province of Modern day western Turkey. In each of the letters you can see a symbol for each church. You will see the Lord identify the strengths of the church and address the dangers and weaknesses and see the Lord issue a promise. And He does it according to the seven spirits you studied from Isaiah 11. Here in chapter 2:1-7 comes the first letter addressed to the churches and it was for the church in Ephesus.
This is a potentially lengthy subject, the address to the churches. Many have opposing views. Some strongly suggest there is no symbolic definition of the churches. They may each describe any church and at stage in history, they are just simple conditions of churches.
Notice that the outline contains seven parts:
2) Identification of Christ as sender
3) Assertion of knowledge
4) Comment and exhortation
5) Promised coming
6) Admonition to heed
7) Promised blessing
The credible thing about this description of eras is that all lengths are divisible by 12. And 12 has significance in the Old and New Testaments, that relating to the tribes of Israel and the disciples of Christ. The first and last addresses of the churches hold different values than the rest. They bookend the eras that span over 360 years each. One lasting for 12 years and the other 144.
1. Ephesus: 12 years = 70 - 82 AD. "The Era of Transition"
2. Smyrna: 360 years = 82 - 442 AD. "The Era of Persecution"
3. Pergamum: 360 years = 442 - 802 AD. "The Era of Accommodation"
4. Thyatira: 360 years = 802 - 1162 AD. "The Era of Compromise"
5. Sardis: 360 years = 1162 - 1522 AD. "The Era of Corruption"
6. Philadelphia: 360 years = 1522 - 1882 AD. "The Era of Revival"
7. Laodicea: 144 years = 1882 - 2026 AD. "The Era of Degeneration"
Ephesus was about sixty miles to the northeast of the Isle of Patmos. Ephesus, considered the greatest city in the Roman province, dated from before 1,000 BC with a population over 300,000 and a theatre that sat 25,000 spectators. Here a temple to Diana was erected and was so brilliant that it became one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. And here Jesus calls himself the “One” and is holding seven stars in His right hand walking among the lampstands.
Here one gets the idea Jesus is studying and examining their deeds, and that He is in motion and active with the churches. As each of the churches are said to represent a period in church history, Ephesus is the first mentioned. Some say this church is related to the apostolic church.
These questions will be similarly asked again for the next few days in order to get a glimpse of the comparison of the present day church and how it may stand in the face of Christ’s Second Coming. It is very pertinent and deserves steady and in depth prayer and meditation to allow room for the Holy Spirit to show you what He may.
Give close attention to the preceding verses. It is most probable that the church in Ephesus was so busy doing what they interpreted to be the Lord’s work that they had no idea their love had faded. I think many of us could see this in our own churches and our own lives upon examination.
Read carefully verses 5-7. The words of Jesus are very strong. There is no question. A thing to note about Ephesus, its name means to “sit upon.” And Jesus is warning the church they mustn’t sit upon their laurels and think this will advance them into His kingdom.
Today there is such focus on the intellect and maturity as a church and as a society. Examine where Christ tells the church to go back to their beginnings and behave, or believe, this way. Like a child. In Mark 10:15 Jesus pointedly states, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” There is nothing intellectual about that. There is nothing intellectual about faith.
The next message goes out to the church of Smyrna. Smyrna, presently Izmir, Turkey, was considered the most brilliant of the Seven Cities and Asia’s pride. It boasted a fantastic library and a medical school, it was a main port trade, and emperors visited it. It sat 35 miles north of Ephesus. Smyrna translates to “myrrh” or “fragrant, aromatic.”
During the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christians would not worship Caesar. A new cult was emerging. Because of this, Christians suffered greatly and the bishop, Polycarp, was martyred in 156 AD for not calling Caesar “Lord.” Consequently, this church emerged as the martyr church. So you see here the apostolic church merging into the martyr church in church history and in Revelation.
He is obviously also giving hope to those afraid of suffering persecution because of their faith. He is reminding the church that He knew this kind of suffering, what is known as the “baptism of suffering.” And He has come back to life. So will they. Or better said, they will not be hurt by the Second Death.
Examine II Corinthians 6:4-10. This passage is excellent at stating the truth of the matter and the victory over it. Study the ways the church was victorious and find similar ways the church may relate to these hardships.
Notice that Smyrna does not come under rebuke. There is only one other church that this can be said about, that being Philadelphia. Also, Jesus very specifically chooses the rewards given to each church. It is no mistake He then will reward this era with the crown of life and protection from the Second Death.
Now read the message to Pergamum in Revelation 2:12-17. There is a very dark image portrayed here about the location of this church, which is worshipping idols and false teachings, committing acts of immorality and making its bed near hell. There is nothing holy in these things.
This church represents the state church at the start of Emperor Constantine. It is known as the “accommodation era.” Over the next three eras, the structure of the church sinks deep into compromise and no longer resembles the Bride of Christ. Pergamum lay 15 miles from the Aegean Sea and 55 miles to the north of Smyrna. It had ties to the city of Troy, which gave us the theme of the “enemy at the gates.” 1,000 feet above the acropolis there was a gigantic altar to Zeus. This is perhaps because it was an important religious city and the capitol of Mysia. Today the city is known as Bergama, Turkey.
In verse 15 you can again see reference to the Nicolaitans. Unlike the church in Ephesus who “hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans,” the church in Pergamum embraced them. The teachings of the Nicolaitans taught people to compromise with the religious culture around them. Because it specifically breaks the first commandment of Moses, the Lord God hated and had no tolerance for this religion. And here in this era, the solidarity the martyrs held in the last era begins to disappear. Christianity had become trendy.
The reward mentioned to this church becomes special when history is looked at. During these times after special events took place, there was a celebration and only those invited could attend. Their invitation was nothing more than a white stone with their name on it. When they arrived at the entrance, they would drop the stone into a bucket.
The fourth message goes out to the church of Thyatira, the church that is foundational as both a church and a state. This is when Catholicism took over. Here the “era of compromise” begins. The importance of Thyatira was commercial and industrial, lying between Pergamum and Sardis. Here there were many trade guilds, as membership to a guild was required in order to work in a particular trade. This was a grievous challenge to Christians because these guilds practised heathen rituals beginning in the days of Nimrod.
Jesus describes Himself as having eyes like a flame of fire. He is able to penetrate to the deepest, darkest of places and see. And He has feet like burnished bronze; He is faithful and steadfast. But this description is especially significant to this city and its trades. Here He issues warning to this church that is unrepentant. It should be justly noted that the title "The Son of God" occurs 46 times in the New Testament. In the book of Revelation it occurs only here. Any questions about the identity of the one speaking in these chapters of Revelation is then erased.
There is a real purpose in Jesus using Jezebel here to refer to the followers of false religions as being her children. Jezebel was only an Israelite by marriage. Then she persuaded the nation into vile and detestable acts. There is perhaps no worse person to be associated with. Here also marks the starting of the secularization or industrialization of the church.
Something to think about before departing the study of this church, it is a bit confusing when you see Jesus state the good things done, and the bad practices. What is the point in this? If this church era is that of the state, Jesus is using the state’s own doctrine against them. Salvation is not works based. It is not about the good outweighing the bad. Having said that, this verse is evidence that some in the Catholic faith will enter heaven.
This takes the reader to the start of the third chapter and the message to the Reformation church, the church of Sardis located in the province of Lydia. Its era began around 1162 AD and forged 360 years to 1522 AD. Sadly, this era is known as the “era of corruption.”
The name Sardis comes from the reddish color of the gemstone sardius, which is a ruby. This is symbolic of the sin of the era. This color red also directly relates to Edom, or Esau, and the descendants of a pagan culture often identified with the red hair of Esau.
It was the middle ages. Papal supremacy had begun, along with the cannon law. Churches became cookie cutters in fashion. Those who searched the truth for themselves in the scriptures were put to death.
Having been destroyed by and earthquake in 17 AD, Sardis was rebuilt. It lay 30 miles southeast of Thyatira and 50 miles east of Smyrna. This was along a trade route and was known for its fine luxury fabrics and gold, which was mined here. Gold also provided the city its fine commerce and defence. These facts support the theory that Lydia, a city nearby, was the first to coin gold.
There are two things distinctly different in the address to this church. Take a close look. Jesus identifies Himself not as something, but as holding something. Review the seven spirits of God as noted in Day One. Jesus then proves His authority of these spirits by stating that He knows the deeds of Sardis. Then He states the troubles of this church before identifying the strengths.
Do not forget that Jesus employs the seven stars over the churches. He administrates an angel over each era to fulfill His purposes and to serve Him. They are to carry out His commands. All of the influence of Satan in the church will never keep the true followers of Christ from their Master.
In verse 2 it is apparent that this church has suffered loss during its sleep, and it is not only dying, but near dead. This verse can be referenced by I Thessalonians 5:2 and I Peter 3:10 and similarly Luke 12:39-40.
7- According to the verses in Scripture that support that God desires all men to be saved, i.e. John 3:16, I Timothy 2:3-4, could Revelation 3:5 support the idea that upon creation all people’s names are written in the Book of Life and that by not living a life of faith in Jesus or obedience to God they have been blotted out?
On this day you will observe the contrast between the remaining two churches. One church will be found to understand their purpose; the other will be found wanting. Examine these two side by side, because Jesus uses the same symbolism with different effect.
First, the church in Philadelphia was 28 miles southeast of Sardis and also sat in a dangerous volcanic area. It was destroyed by the same earthquake that levelled Sardis. While you may know this city as the city of “brotherly love,” it has had several names. The name Philadelphia was conceivably given by king Eumenes of Pergamum in honor of His brother Philadelphus after founding the city in the 2nd century BC. Jesus ushers no condemnation for this church, only caution. This church era exemplifies the missionary church and the rise of missions like those of William Carey. It is called by some the “era of revival.”
The beginnings of this era were at the start of the Reformation. This era saw the spreading and solidifying of Christianity across more than three centuries. To some degree, this was a period of resurrection for the body of Christ, after much time spent in degradation. The church of Philadelphia was commendable in its quality of evangelism and its intensity for truth. This church also overcame many pressures upon them from government and society.
In contrast, the church of Laodicea portrays the apostate church or the “era of degeneration” arising in latter days. It was different in that its era was to last 144 years. With its beginnings around the end of the 19th century, its end is estimated at around 2025. The controversy over this is that some would argue this forces a date of Christ’s return, and this would be unbiblical. Having said that, not everyone believes that Christ will take His bride at the start of the tribulation. Whatever stance you choose to believe, this church is the final era and one guilty of complacency and material wealth.
Laodicea sat 40 miles east of Philadelphia and Ephesus. It was known for its medical school and its banking system. The city had such great wealth that it did not need relief assistance from Rome. But its water was supplied from a hot spring outside the city, thus arriving lukewarm. Today the site is in complete ruins and surrounded by unsightly cities.
Representing the present day church, this church seems to identify with the parable of Christ with the two brothers, one who said He would not do the will of His father but did, and one who said He would, but didn’t. The latter models the church as it stands today.
In the initial part of the letters to both Philadelphia and Laodicea, Jesus speaks that He knows their deeds. But there is a contrast to their deeds. Examine these. At the end of the letter to Laodicea, Jesus uses a door for symbolism. But this door is not open. The most interesting of the deeds described, the door in the church of Philadelphia is open, but the door in Laodicea is shut! Philadelphia has kept the command of Christ to stay pure. Laodicea has no need for Christ.
In the opening letter to Philadelphia, Jesus identifies Himself as the key. It is stated pointedly and supremely and completely. Note that Jesus is again using a door as symbolism. Look at the significance of this as He tells the church there is an open door before them that no one can shut. It is easy to piece together that this church has found this key by which the door has opened.
Study the condition of this physically rich church. They believe they are in need of nothing. All of their money cannot buy them the things Jesus advises. Jesus does not compromise His harsh words of truth.
It is good to note that after studying the location and trade of each city, the way Christ presents Himself. The promises He makes become understood and specific. This is exactly the way He relates to people, as a church body and to each body personally.
7-Each church has a near application and a far application. If Christ stood physically before you now, what do you think He would say about your church and how would it compare to these early churches?