The book of Revelation is the last divinely-inspired prophecy ever written. It is as up to date as tomorrow's newspaper. But it's mysterious to many because it is filled with symbols. Why did God choose to do that? Several reasons are revealed in this series.
This book is about Jesus Christ. It reveals something about Him. It's called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The apostle John is the author, writing in old age from the isle of Patmos. John writes of future events that describe Jesus' complete and final triumph over Satan and all who oppose Him. Jesus is revealed as the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, and He shall reign forever and ever.
Theme and Outline of the Book of Revelation
The major theme of Revelation is the second coming of Jesus to the earth. The theme can be summarized in a single verse: "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him" (Revelation 1:7).
Revelation 1:19 gives us a divine outline of the book of Revelation. John is told to write of these things:
- Things which you have seen
- Things which are
- Things which shall be hereafter
Revelation chapter 1 tells of things that John has seen. It's introductory and tells us how it came to be that John wrote of these things.
Revelation chapters 2 to 3 tells us about Jesus and what He has to say to the seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. There is a great deal of personal application that can be gleaned from the letters to the seven churches. His message is that we were made for God, to have fellowship with him and to express back to him our worship and praise. If we can get our eyes off of ourselves and onto the Lord and His glory, we will have an indescribable satisfaction we never knew possible.
Revelation chapters 4 to 22 tells of things "hereafter," which could mean any time after the Apostle John. We know that no historic events have ever fulfilled the prophecies in these chapters, so we know that the events are still future to us. When they happen, they will happen quickly.
The Rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ
We are currently in the church age (see timeline of the end times). We don't know when that age will end (sometime "hereafter;" it could happen at any moment), but when it does, Christ Jesus will return to the air and takes believers to heaven to be with Himself--an event we call the rapture, based on the Latin word that means "caught up"--as described in 1 Thessalonians.
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
The Judgment Seat of Christ (described in the series on Rewards in Heaven) takes place in heaven, after the rapture, and before our return with Christ at His Second Coming (described later on this page) to the earth to establish His Millennial Kingdom.
The Throne and the Scroll
The key word in Revelation 4 is "throne." As we turn our attention to look at future events, the first thing we see is God on His throne, in His rightful place in the universe. Satan has had control of the earth and now it is God's intention to set all of that right. He is going to destroy sin and destroy Satan, and establish His kingdom of peace and righteousness. How will He do it? The answer is found in a sealed scroll, which is the theme of Revelation chapter 5. The scroll is sealed with seven seals and no one is found worthy to open it except the Lamb, Jesus Christ Himself.
When the seventh seal is broken, it signals the beginning of the seven trumpet judgments. Within the seventh trumpet judgment are the seven final judgments called the bowl judgments. These are poured out quickly one after the other immediately before the second coming of Jesus to the earth.
People sometimes ask why God doesn't punish sin. He does and He will! Throughout the pages of the Bible, and even through our own age and into the last days described in the book of Revelation, we have seen evidence of God's longsuffering and patience. We know His judgment of sin is imminent, and yet He holds back His fury and judgment against sin, giving us an opportunity to repent of our sin and restore the relationship He intended for us to have with Him.
The Seven Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls
With the fifth seal, the scene turns from the earth and looks at heaven, where John sees souls of martyrs who have died for their faith. These are martyrs who have died during the Great Tribulation and they are crying out for God to avenge their deaths. But they are told to wait a little while longer until there are other fellow believers who join them in death. Most people living on earth at this time will not trust Jesus, but most of those who do will pay for their faith with their lives. Of course, the death of a Christian is the gateway to living eternally with the Lord. Believers escape the second death, which is eternal condemnation in torment and agony.
The sixth seal brings catastrophic judgment on the earth through nature, beginning with a great earthquake. Then there is a pause between the sixth and seventh seals; sinners living on the earth at that time have yet another opportunity to trust in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins because of His sacrificial death, which paid the penalty of their sins for them, if only they'd accept such a gift.
With the seventh seal there is silence in heaven, and then the seven trumpet judgments are unleashed, bringing hail, fire, and blood; a mountain into sea, the star Wormwood; darkness; demon locusts; and an infernal cavalry. We see the two witnesses, then with the seventh trumpet we reach a climax and hear loud voices in heaven declaring, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15).
The great day of God's wrath, which began in Revelation 6, is drawing to a close when we get to Revelation 15. All of chapter 15 introduces the seven last judgments: the bowl judgments, including the Battle of Armageddon. The Bible says these bowl judgments "filled up the wrath of God," which means God's wrath is brought to completion and perfectly accomplished.
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
Finally the Tribulation ends in Revelation 18. Revelation chapter 19 tells us of Christ's second coming to the earth. We read of the establishment of His Millennial kingdom in Revelation 20, which is a period of 1000 years of righteousness and peace on earth. This series discusses three Millennial viewpoints: Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Premillennialism.
Satan is finally judged and cast into hell, a physical place of torment made for Satan and his fallen angels called "demons." Sinners are judged in the Great White Throne Judgment. Because God cannot tolerate sin in His holy presence, and because these sinners did not choose righteousness by trusting in the sacrificial death of Jesus to pay for their sins to make them righteous, God casts them into hell.
Finally, time ends and the eternal state begins. We learn about the descent of the heavenly city onto the new earth in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. We get a glimpse of the fantastic glory of our eternal home.
And then the book of Revelation comes to a close with a word about the reliability of this prophecy. What is our response? Are you ready for Jesus' return?
The Promise of a Blessing
Jesus says we'll be blessed if we study Revelation: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy" (Revelation 1:3). It is our prayer that you learn of the Lord Jesus through this expository Bible study on the book of Revelation and that His name be exalted.