The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
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, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (ESV)
Background: Revelation represents a genre or category of literature in Scripture called “apocalyptic” or “eschatological,” which has to do with the end of the world. Most likely, John, the apostle of Jesus, wrote Revelation during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). He was writing down the Revelation given to him by the Holy Spirit to Christians who were undergoing immense persecution for their faith.
Outline: Revelation can be divided into six sections: a prologue (1:1-8), an epilogue (22:6-21) and four visions, each of which is signaled by the phrase “in the spirit” (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10). In addition to the prologue and epilogue, each vision contains a comforting promise as well as the condition which must be met by the follower of Christ to experience it.
Big Idea: Regardless of how many details we will not understand about Revelation, there is one point that will be absolutely clear by the end of the book—King Jesus is coming and in that day he will distinguish between those who were ashamed of him and those who were not. But this much will also be clear, if you really understand his attributes as a King you will want him to be yours.
I. First Vision: The King Who Teaches (1:9-3:22)
Consisting of seven “letters” to churches in Asia Minor, the first vision reveals Jesus is present in local gospel-centered congregations and teaches his people there what they need to know as his subjects.
A. Comfort: Presence (2:7)
The comfort is that no matter what enemies one faces or what one loses in this world for following Christ, God will provide eternal life. Specifically, in the letter to the Church in Ephesus, he promises “the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in paradise (2:7).
B. Condition: Perseverance (2:7)
This is a comfort which will only be experienced by those who “overcome” or “persevere” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). This is a condition with the propensity to be crushing until we realize that Jesus perseveres on our behalf so that in our union with him, we persevere too.
II. Second Vision: The King Who Protects (4:1-16:21)
This whole vision centers around God’s throne where the Lamb of God is seated now. Following that description of the throne in chapters 4-5, there are three sets of seven: seven seals (6:8), seven trumpets (8:7-12), and seven bowls (16:3).
A. Comfort: Resurrection (12:6)
At the end of each of these scenes there is an earthquake (4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18). Hearkening back to the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:16), the earthquake symbolizes the earthly arrival of God’s redemptive power from heaven.
B. Condition: Courage (12:11)
The conditions for experiencing that protection, to be on the victorious side of the battle against the “dragon,” are given in 12:11. First, is to be under the “blood of the Lamb” which is to seek Christ’s atonement for your personal sins rather than trying to outweigh them with good works. Second, is publicly to bear testimony that you are a follower of Christ.
III. Third Vision: The King Who Liberates (17:1-21:8)
The third version contains the climax of the book: the coming of Christ and the utter defeat of Satan.
A. Comfort: Vindication (19:17-20:3)
Now we understand from this vision that there will be a mission to Christ’s resurrecting us. We will be raised to be an army! We will join Christ in the defeat of his and our foes. We will ride forth with him in battle and afterwards be seated on thrones with Christ to judge the devil himself and condemn him to his own hell.
B. Condition: Obedience (19:7-8)
An invitation comes to every human being to attend the “wedding supper of the Lamb” which of course is the eternal celebration in heaven. those who accept Christ’s invitation to join him in heaven, begin preparations now to meet him unashamed. They dress in “fine linen bright and clean” which John explains parenthetically symbolizes “righteous acts.”
IV. Fourth Vision: The King Who Celebrates (21:9-22:5)
The last chapters of the book are the first chapters of eternity.
A. Comfort: Heaven (21:1-8)
When Jesus has gathered all of his children home, defeated all his enemies, and reversed all the curses following Adam and Eve’s first sin, he will throw an eternal party! It will be everything and more that hell is not: joy, plenty, and unfettered celebration with Christ. God’s singular covenant mission will finally be realized: “He will be our God and we will be his people.”
B. Condition: Trust (21:27; 22:17)
Who will be there? “Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” They are the ones who have answered the invitation and proven it by their pursuit of purity in life.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. What is something new you learned about the book of Revelation?
2. Which of the comforts listed above resonated with you most?
3. What response does the condition corresponding with that comfort merit from you now?