The word Revelation means to unveil, uncover, reveal, to manifest. It carries the idea of pulling the cover off of something to reveal that which has previously been unseen. The last book of the Bible is called the Revelation because it is an unveiling of the events associated with the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to establish His Millennial Kingdom here on the earth. Revelation is the unveiling of things previously hidden. The very title of this book shows the purpose of God in giving the Revelation to His people.

In the book of Revelation the veil is pulled back and Jesus Christ is shown in His Divine fullness. The veil of His humanity is pulled back and we see Him as the Eternal God. (1:17-18); the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (5:5); the Lamb endued with power and glory. (5:12-13); Sovereign King of all the world. (11:15); Commander in Chief of Heaven's forces. (19:11); King of kings and Lord of lords. (19:16); the bright and Morning Star (22:16). He is no longer the lowly Babe in Bethlehem's manger, but He cometh with clouds in all His glory. No more are the Herods who sought the young child's life, but now The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15) The ungodly once declared Him a blasphemer worthy of death, but here kings and priests fall down and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever. (Revelation 5:14) The one of whom it was said, His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men. (Isaiah 52:14) now stands out in all His Majesty and Glory! Here, His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire. (Revelation 1:14) No longer is He the carpenter of Nazareth, but rather the Creator of the universe crying, Behold, I make all things new. (Revelation 21:5) Gone is the wicked bloodthirsty mob shouting, crucify Him. Instead, kneeling before Him are ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands. (Revelation 5:11) of His saints and angels, all proclaiming with a mighty voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing... Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. (Revelation 5:12-13) No longer does He ride into Jerusalem on a borrowed colt, but we see Him in all His splendor, riding out of Heaven on a white steed, as a mighty conqueror going to war (Revelation 19)

He who once hung upon the cross sits upon His throne—alive for ever more. We are reminded that He was once dead, but now He has possession of the keys of death and hell—He has gloriously triumphed over the last enemy; death. This is what is meant by The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him. It is God's picture of His Son, unveiled in the galleries of time that we may see Him as He is. We see God's people triumphant, taken into Heaven at the shout. Then, in sharp contrast, we have a revelation of sin in its worst form, of depraved man at his worst, of the devil and his angels in their last hopeless attempt to overthrow God.

The Date

We can pretty accurately calculate the time of the writing of Revelation by determining the date of John's exile to Patmos. The apostle did not die on Patmos. He returned to his home in Ephesus, according to the Church Father Clement. Early church historian, Eusebius, says that John returned to Ephesus following the death of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who was assassinated in AD 96. Another Church Father, Ironeus, says that John lived in Ephesus, after returning from Patmos, until the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan. (AD 98-117) This means that if John was banished to Patmos during the persecution of Christians, near the end of Domitian's reign, (AD 81-96) and returned to Ephesus in AD 96, the recording of Revelation must have taken place about AD 96 or a bit earlier.

The Different Schools Of Interpretation

Preterist: This view holds that the book of Revelation was all fulfilled in the early years of Christian persecution. The word preterist is from the Latin word which means past. According to this interpretation, the persecutions described were those which occurred at the time of the Roman Empire. This view is rejected in this study!

Historical: This view holds that the Book of Revelation gives a view of the history of the church from the time of John to the end of the age. The book is therefore in the process of being fulfilled throughout the whole Church age. This view is rejected in this study!

Idealist: This is the view that the Book of Revelation is only a series of symbols which represent the struggle between good evil. The book is therefore spiritualized, and the details are neither important nor do they need to be fulfilled. This view is rejected in this study!

Futurist: There are those, however, who believe in a literal interpretation and hold that largest part of the book is prophetic and will occur in the future. The events from chapter 4 onward are yet to be fulfilled, for nothing in history adequately fulfills the passages. No judgments have ever equaled those recorded in chapters 6-9 and 16. The Lord Jesus Christ has not returned as described in chapter 19. There have never been any resurrections to match those recorded in chapter 20. This view is the only one that matches up when we compare spiritual things with spiritual and Study... rightly dividing the word of truth. This view allows a literal interpretation of scripture and the fulfillment of all the prophecies and promises concerning the throne of David. Therefore it is the view taken in this study.

General Outline Of Revelation

  1. The Past; Things Which Thou Hast Seen. (1:1-20)
    1. His Plan 1:1
    2. His Prophet 1:1-2
    3. His Promise 1:3
    4. His Purchase 1:5-6
    5. His Priority 1:7
    6. His Partners 1:9
    7. His Preeminence 1:10-16
    8. His Power 1:17-18
    9. His Program 1:19
    10. His Pastors 1:20
  2. The Present; Things Which Are. (2:1-3:22)
    1. The Lacking Church—Ephesus 2:1-7
    2. The Loyal Church—Smyrna 2:8-11
    3. The Lax Church—Pergamos 2:12-17
    4. The Loose Church—Thyatira 2:18-29
    5. The Lifeless Church—Sardis 3:1-6
    6. The Loving Church—Philadelphia 3:7-13
    7. The Lukewarm Church—Laodicea 3:14-22
  3. The Prospect; Things Which Shall Be Hereafter. (Revelation 4:1-22:5)
    1. The Throne Room—Rejoicing 4-5
    2. The Tribulation—Retribution 6-18
    3. The Triumphant Saviour—Return 19
    4. The Thousand Years—Reign 20
    5. The Timeless Ages—Reward 21-22

The Consummation of the Ages

Revelation 1:1-20

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, unfolds the wonderful work of creation which brought the heavens and the earth into existence. In Genesis we learn of man's creation, his fall into sin, and of the beginning of God's plan to redeem man through the promised Seed of the woman. So the last book of the Bible, The Revelation, tells us about the completion of God's plan of creation and redemption, revealing to us the many wonderful events leading to Satan's defeat and Christ's victorious triumph, whereby the promises of a Kingdom are fully realized in the one thousand year Millennial Kingdom, in which Jesus the Christ will rule supreme over all the earth. After the Millennial Kingdom our Lord will destroy this sin tainted earth creating a new one that will last for all eternity. As we see in chapter one, it is Jesus Christ who is working His plan for the consummation of the ages.

His Plan

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. (Revelation 1:1) The very title of this book shows the purpose of God in giving the book of Revelation to His church. The word Revelation comes from the Latin "re" meaning "back," and "velum" meaning "veil covering." It means to, pull back the veil or to uncover. The Greek word is "apokaloopsis" and means to "unveil, lay bare, expose." In Revelation the veil is pulled back and we see that which has been hidden up till now. You will notice that it is the "Revelation of Jesus Christ." It is all about Him. In the Revelation we can see His Person, Plan, Purpose, Promise, Priorities, and Power. In this wonderful revelation we are allowed to see things that were hidden up until John received this book on the isle of Patmos. The message to Daniel was, ...O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book... (Daniel 12:4) Praise God, He has pulled the veil back and declared the unfolding of His plan for the future.

God gave unto him, to show unto his servants. Divine mysteries are revealed only to His own. The message of Revelation is for God's servants and not for the unsaved man. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14) The unsaved cannot fully understand this book because it is revealed to His servants to show them His plan. The word must speaks of the necessity of the prophecies of this book to be fulfilled.

The expression shortly come to pass does not mean that the events will occur soon, but that when they begin, they will take place rapidly. Many mock God saying, ...Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (1 Peter 3:4) We must remember that God is not tied to our time table. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8) The events of the Revelation will take place and the only reason they have not taken place so far is because of the grace of God. He wants all who will to be saved The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

His Prophet

And he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2) The Author whom God chose to pen the book of Revelation was John, His beloved disciple. The name John means "the Lord is gracious." John learned a lot about the grace of God as he walked with Christ during His earthly ministry. However, he no doubt learned a lot more as he was banished to the isle of Patmos because of his faith.

His Promise

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. (Revelation 1:3) Revelation is the only book in the Bible that both opens and closes with a blessing. The blessing here in verse 3 is to those who receive, with meekness, the engrafted word. Contrary to popular opinion, the Revelation is an understandable book. There are many who say, I can't understand it. But, God has promised a special blessing to those who read, who hear, and who keep its inspired truths. If God promises a blessing to those who read, hear and keep its words, then it must be understandable. It is a sad thing that many of God's people know little or nothing of the Revelation, or the rest of the Bible as far as that goes.

The trouble with most professing Christians is that they are neglecting the Bible. They fail to read and study it. They are like Ephraim of old. The Bible is a strange thing to them. I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12) Jesus said, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures,. (Matthew 22:29) A Christian who neglects the Word of God will err in his walk with God.

Every believer sooner or later must face trials, tribulations, and troubles. However, he faces his foes with the Word of God. We are sustained regardless of our problems because we follow the Word of God. Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. (Psalm 119:92) Anyone who will read and study the Bible, and have it live in their heart, will be victorious in the battle. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11) It will instruct you in the hour of need, comfort you in the time of trouble, and give you hope for the future.

His Purchase

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6) Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. Isaiah prophesied of Christ as a Faithful witness. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. (Isaiah 55:4) Christ said of Himself, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (John 18:37) When Jesus was here He was faithful to do the will of God. Jesus witnessed the truth when the wicked people of His day refused to believe it. He witnessed the truth while they mocked and blasphemed God. He witnessed while they persecuted Him. He witnessed while they laughed Him to scorn. He witnessed the truth to Herod and to Pilate, the Roman governor who delivered Him to the people to be crucified. Even on the cross He gave witness to God in the words He spoke and the way in which He died. We need to follow His example. He is also identified as the first begotten of the dead, Jesus Christ was the first to receive a resurrection body.

Unto him that loved us. Oh, How He loves us! The Bible says, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) But that was not the love Christ had for us. No! A thousand times no! His death upon the cross was not the case of a man dying for His friends. But a that of a Man dying to save His enemies. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8) As His enemies we were lost, wicked, undone, and full of unbelief—we had no right to Divine grace. Still, He loved us and gave Himself for us. That's the love of Christ.

His love resulted in action. He washed us from our sins in his own blood. What a price He paid for our redemption. The price was blood. There is only one ransom, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning sin, the Bible declares, without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22) Blood is the Divine requirement to pay for sin. Therefore, Jesus shed His own blood on the cross of Calvary in fulfilling that Divine requirement, so that He might wash us from our sins in his own blood.

When the Lord purchased us He made kings and priests. All believers are Priests and together make up a royal priesthood. Peter said, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9) If you are saved you are a Priest in God's eyes.

His Priority

Behold, he cometh with clouds; 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. (Revelation 1:7) He is coming gain. His death not only assured salvation for all who believe and trust Him, it also assures His return to this sin darkened earth. He is coming again, not as a babe born in a manger, but as King of kings and Lord of lords, descending from heaven with His saints.

John declares that every eye shall see him. We must keep in mind that the second coming of Christ will be in two stages. The first stage will be the Rapture, when all the righteous, both dead and living, will be caught up to meet Him in the air. The word rapture means a catching or snatching away. This is the event which is referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. At this time Christ will come as a thief in the night, snatching away those who have been washed in the blood and delivered from the wrath to come.

When John said, every eye shall see him he was speaking of the second stage of Our Lord's second coming—the Revelation. This will take place at the end of the tribulation when Christ will come back with His saints. And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. (Jude 1:14) This event occurs in Revelation 19:11-14. This is this stage of His coming when He brings judgment and, after the judgment, the restoration of righteousness upon the earth. Of course we will study this in more detail when we get to chapter 19. The first stage is in the air for His saints; the second stage is to the earth with His saints.

During this second stage, ...every eye shall see him. It will not be as in the rapture, when He comes secretly for His people and they are caught up into the air. This event, when ...every eye shall see him, is when He comes back to the earth and reveals Himself to the world once again. Until the last few years this wasn't possible. But now, with satellite and cable TV, every eye will see Him. Even they also which pierced him. This will be the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10) Finally, the Jews will recognize their Messiah.

At His coming all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Again, this verse refers to the end of the tribulation—the darkest hour the world will ever have experienced. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30) It will be an awful time of judgment and reckoning. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22)

His Partners

As a partner with Christ, John was experiencing persecution. 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. (Revelation 1:9) John was exiled because of his faithfulness to Christ. The Bible says, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) The word "persecute" means to afflict, harass or annoy. The believer who lives for Christ will see persecution. Jesus warned His people that they would not be accepted by this world. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:18-19) Christ predicted the suffering that was ahead for this church and all believers. There is no need to be surprised when it comes. Peter wrote, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. (1 Peter 4:12) Our Saviour has gone through the depths of persecution and death but He has come out victorious, and so will His children. What comfort for the oppressed and persecuted to know that their Saviour has gone before them. I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)

The Apostle John had been banished to the isle of Patmos because of his testimony of Jesus Christ. He was sent there to be silenced, yet Christ used him to give us one of the greatest books ever written—the unveiling of His plan for the consummation of the ages. Not only did they fail to silence him, but he still speaks today through this wonderful book. God's message will never be silenced. We must be careful not to allow our afflictions to rob us of the privilege of serving Christ. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13)

His Preeminence

When John turned he saw Christ in His glory and went on to record a seven-fold description of Christ's appearance, apparel, and authority.

  1. Jesus declares, I am Alpha and Omega. (Revelation 1:8, 11) As Alpha and Omega, Jesus declares Himself to be the Self-existent, Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God. Praise God, He is not the Alpha and the Beta—He is the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the ending. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. Jesus is the first and the last. In other words, He is everything! He is the, Author and finisher. (Hebrews 1:2) He is the first and the last, and everything in between. Lehman Strauss said, "He is the one who created, controls, and will consummate all things" (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:16-17).
  2. In this vision Jesus was clothed with a garment down to the foot and He was wearing a golden girdle. (Revelation 1:13) These are garments that represent His office as High priest. As High priest He is now interceding for the saints, before the throne of God the Father. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (Hebrews 4:14) The girdle shows His preparation for service. The One who is now on the throne of grace is about to take His place on the throne of judgment. Once in humility He girded Himself and served His disciples. Now He is girded about the breasts, which speak of affection, with a golden girdle, which also speaks of Deity and glory. John had seen Him at Calvary,, naked and suffering the shame of all the lost; but now He is seen in His glory, clothed with His official garments.
  3. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow (Revelation 1:14) These symbols reflect His seniority and superiority. Paul said, And he is before all things and by Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17) The head speaks of wisdom, and white speaks of purity. The whiteness of His hair shows His absolute flawless purity and infallible wisdom. Here we see Christ as the Ancient of Days. (Daniel 7:9-12)
  4. His eyes were as a flame of fire. (Revelation 1:14) Fire is the thing that consumes and devours. His eyes, as a flame of fire, speak of the fact that God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29) At the Judgment Seat of Christ every man's works will be tried by fire to see what sort they are. (1 Corinthians 3:13) When Christ judges, nothing will be hidden from Him. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom they have to do. (Hebrews 4:13) The eyes of fire speak of the Lord's penetrating ability to search the hearts and minds of man. For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) His eyes will search in judgment. They pierce; they penetrate; they commend or condemn. There is absolutely no person or thing that will escape the examination of His eyes of fire. Everything will be laid open and exposed before His eyes.
  5. And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace. (Revelation 1:15) His Feet speak of absolute authority and victory over His enemies. (Psalm 8:6; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Ephesians 1:22 & Hebrews 2:8) His feet are like burnished brass. Brass speaks of judgment. The brazen altar in the Tabernacle was the place where the sin offering was sacrificed. (Exodus 38:2), and the laver, also of brass, spoke of self-judgment, for here the priests washed their hands and feet as they went in and out of the Holy place. Brass is a symbol of judgment. The Brazen serpent was a type of the cross where Christ received the judgment of God for our sin. (Numbers 21:9 & John 3:14) His feet looked as if they were burned in a furnace. A furnace is used for smelting. It is a place where impurities are separated from metal. Jesus is preparing to turn the heat up and pour out His wrath.
  6. His voice as the sound of many waters. (Revelation 1:15) Water symbolizes the Word Of God. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48) "Many waters" speaks of power and majesty. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea. (Psalm 93:4) The voice, once so loving and gentle, is now as the sound of many waters. Wicked men reject Him and His word now, but when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back in judgment, His Word will be heard above all. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11) He continues to speak of the Word of God in the next verse; out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword. (Revelation 1:16) The Word of God is referred to as a sword. A sword is used to protect and defend the righteous and punish and destroy the wicked. In Ephesians 6:17 the Word of God is called, The sword of the Spirit. In Hebrews 4:12 we see the Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword. The Word of Christ, at His coming in judgment, will go forth with power and force.
  7. And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (Revelation 1:16) When He was here on earth, wicked men beat and spit in His face, but no more! Never again will sinful man lay a hand on Him! In eternity all the Glory will be seen in Him. This reminds us of His transfiguration. And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. (Matthew 17:2) Also see Exodus 34:30.

The great Scottish Preacher, Horatius Bonar wrote:

"Such is the excellence of the Lord Jesus Christ. All divine and all human perfections are in Him. 'In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.,' In Him are the unsearchable riches. He is 'the king in His beauty;' He is 'fairer than the children of men.' Thus excellent is the Church's Head, and He is Head over all things to the Church. He is, moreover, 'Prince of the kings of the earth;' and all allegiance from earth as well as heaven, from nations as well as Churches, from kings as well as saints, is due to Him. All crowns are His, all scepters, all thrones. Heaven is now full of His glory, and ere long earth shall be the same."

Just think about the fact that this same Jesus is the One Who came to earth, took man's place, and died under the judgment of Almighty God for our sin. The day is coming when we will dwell with Him. We will see Him in His glory just as John did.

His Power

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: 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 1:17-18) John said, And he laid his right hand upon me. The hand which was pierced for us also comforts us. Strong is Thy hand, and high is Thy right hand. (Psalm 89:13) The open hand is a sign of favor, Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:16) This is the same John that walked with Jesus for three and a half years. But now that he sees Him in all His glory and splendor, he is unable to stand. He falls as a dead man. The same thing happened with Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and others back in the Old Testament. He was dead, but now He is no longer the Sacrifice but the Sovereign—the Judge. He says, I am alive for evermore. He conquered death on the cross. Through His death and resurrection the grave is defeated and the chains of death broken. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?. (1 Corinthians 15:55) Jesus has the keys of hell and of death. Keys lock and unlock doors. Here, the keys speak of access and authority. Whoever has the keys is in control. Jesus is in control.

His Program

Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. (Revelation 1:19) Jesus commands John to write down His design or His plan for things to come. Verse nineteen is God's own outline of the book of Revelation and the key verse in understanding this book. This book breaks down into three divisions, as John is told to write three things.

  1. The things which thou hast seen. John was told to write what he had seen. You will notice the past tense. This was the Patmos vision, a description of the risen Lord in His glory. (Chapter 1)
  2. The things which are. The messages to the churches; the Church Age. (Chapters 2-3) These seven churches represent the succession of seven different periods of church history, from the beginning of the church to the Second Coming of Christ. The entire view of church history is laid out here in a most wonderful way. We can look upon these church/periods as a prophetic chart of the entire history of the Church.
  3. The things which shall be hereafter. These are the things that will take place after the Christians are taken out of the world, the outpouring of God's wrath during the seven year tribulation, the regathering of the nation of Israel, the Millennial Kingdom, and the eternal state. (Chapters 4-22)

His Pastors

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 1:20) The Book of Revelation often interprets itself. The seven stars seen in verse 16 are explained here as the angels of the seven churches. The word angel means messenger. Many Bible scholars believe these stars are the Pastors of the local churches. This shows how Christ holds His Pastors in a position of honor and strength as well as a place of Divine protection. The soul winner is compared to shinning stars. (Daniel 12:3)

The seven golden candlesticks also seen in verses 12 and 13 are identified as the seven churches. These candlesticks represent the local Church. Testimony is the main thought here. The lamp stand in the Tabernacle was to give light and never go out. (Exodus 35:14; 27:20) Its source of light was the oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The local churches are the light bearers of this world. The source of their shining is the Holy Spirit in the life of individual believers. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Our testimony should never go out. Christ said, Ye are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14) This is a fulltime work for the believer. He that winneth souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)

Back in verse twelve we learned that when John heard the voice and turned he saw, in the midst of the Churches, the Lord Jesus Christ. He had once hung on the cross, in the midst of two thieves, He had promised to be in the midst of His disciples when they gathered together for prayer, He appeared in their midst after His resurrection to encourage them. Here Christ is seen in the midst of the seven churches. This is where Jesus longs to be. He died for the church and is the head of the body. Today Jesus Christ is outside of many churches instead of being in the midst of them, as He ought to be. Many churches have their programs, possessions, properties, etc., but the one thing they need is Christ dwelling in their midst.

The picture of Christ in the midst of the seven candlesticks takes us back to the tabernacle where the candlestick was in the Holy Place. It was the only light, for there were no windows. It was the Priest's duty to replenish the oil. (a type of the Holy Spirit) and keep the wicks trimmed so the lights would keep burning bright. Here we see Christ, our Great High Priest walking in the midst of His churches trimming their wicks and replenishing their oil.

The Church Age

Revelation 2:1-3:22

Chapters two and three of the book of Revelation deal with letters written by our Lord to seven particular local churches of Asia Minor. These letters contain much truth that rightfully demands our prayerful and careful study. This is not a series of letters to the so called invisible Church. The invisible Church theory is Catholic doctrine. Baptists reject the invisible church theory and hold to the Biblical doctrine of the local Church. These are seven letters written to seven definite local Churches.

Before we take up the study of these churches I want to impress upon you the fact that what we have in these seven messages to the seven churches is a prophetic preview of all of Church History! In other words, they represent the whole of church history from the beginning, on through until the rapture of the Church. So, in these seven letters, the glorified Christ gave to the Apostle John a prophetic outline of Church history from the days of Christ on earth till the rapture of the saints.

We can easily see from the names and characteristics of these seven churches are that they align perfectly with the corresponding dates in Church history. Not only are they in perfect order, but the very characteristics and conditions are clearly seen in the history of the Church. There were many other Churches in Asia Minor in those days, but our Lord by Divine selection chose seven that would portray the Church age; the first one being Ephesus, strong in doctrine and practice, but having dangerously left her first love. As we study these letters we see a sad decline in the spiritual condition of the Church, until we finally end in up in Laodicean times, with the Church in apostasy.

The letters also have other applications. While these periods of Church history have come and gone, we still see the characteristics of all these Churches today. Every Church out there fits in one of these seven church types. In fact, we have a threefold application:

  1. Primary Application—These letters were written to seven local churches in Asia Minor during the 1st century.
  2. Prophetic Application—These letters comprise a snapshot of the entire Church age. Again, the characteristics of these seven churches perfectly represent the stages of church history.
  3. Personal Application—The truth given in these seven letters may be applied to the individual believer. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

These two chapters comprise one of the most enlightening and most unique portions of Scripture. Here we see the End from the beginning. Someone has well said that prophecy is history in preview. That is certainly true and nowhere is it more clear than in these seven letters written to the seven Churches of Asia Minor. They make known to us, in advance, just what to expect as history unfolds. Now to clarify what we mean:

  1. The message to the Church of Ephesus—Beginning of the Church to A.D. 100. Ephesus represents the Apostolic Church. Ephesus means desirable. It was the early church with all the zeal of its first love, burning for Christ. This church started out with a great love for Christ and a burning desire to see souls saved, but toward the end of the first century she left her first love and began to cool off.
  2. The message to the Church of Smyrna—A.D. 100-312. Smyrna represented the period of great persecution. Smyrna means myrrh. Myrrh is a fragrant spice which has to be crushed to bring forth its full fragrance. The Christians of this era were crushed and persecuted, but the more they suffered the more fragrant was their testimony. During this time thousands of Christians were brought into the theaters of Rome to be fed to lions while thousands of spectators cheered. Many were crucified whereas others were covered with animal skins and tortured to death by wild dogs. They were covered in tar and set on fire as human torches. They were boiled in oil and burned at the stake. It has been estimated that during this period over five million Christians were martyred for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
  3. The message to the Church of Pergamos—A. D. 312-606. Pergamos represented that period of Church history when worldliness crept in, and the Church received the favor of the State. Pergamos means marriage and elevation. The church had just passed through the martyr period, and now entered into the period ruled by Constantine. When he became emperor of Rome in AD 312, he sent out an imperial decree, lifting the ban on Christianity. He showered many favors on the Christian Church. Many pagan temples were taken over by Christians and the government gave money for their operation. Pergamos received its true meaning by having the Church become married to and elevated in the world.
  4. 4) The message to the Church of Thyatira—606 to the end. Thyatira portrays the Church in the Dark Ages, as it was then filled with corruption. The word Thyatira comes from two words meaning sacrifice and continual. It was during this time that the Church of Rome took off. It's no doubt that the Roman sacrifice of the mass is foretold here. How remarkable is this prophecy, for every time a Roman priest celebrates the mass he teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is sacrificed again, not only for the sins of the living, but also for the dead. The doctrine of transubstantiation teaches that the priests have the power to turn bread into the actual body of Christ and wine into the actual blood of Christ. Therefore, every time mass is celibrated the actual body of Christ is offered in sacrifice, This false act certainly attempts to do away with and belittle Christ's one sacrifice for sins fore ever. (Hebrews 10:10-14)

  5. The message to the Church of Sardis—1520 to the end. Sardis was symbolic of the Church during the period of the great reformation. The name Sardis means "Escaping Ones" or "remnant." This church gives us a prophetic picture of the great reformation Church that escaped from the bonds of Rome. Until now, spiritual darkness had covered the land. Only the so called leaders had the Scriptures. Then with the invention of the printing press the word of God was put into the hands of the lay people. With this a new study of the Bible began, lost truths were rediscovered, heresies were exposed and the reformation started. The reformation fell short of accomplishing all that it could have. While it protested the ecclesiastical hierarchy of Thyatira it went to the other extremes. Being free from the hierarchy they were split by the abuse of their own liberty, and freedom and became divided into several sects and groups. This is all a matter of Church history.
  6. The message to the Church of Philadelphia—1750 to the 1900. Philadelphia represents the great Missionary period of Church history. The word Philadelphia means brotherly love. This was one of the most blessed times of the church age. The light of the Reformation had just about burned out and Christendom had become cold, formalistic and dead. The Lord at this time brought about a great revival. This revival centered largely in the United States, England, Scotland and Wales and was the beginning of the greatest Missionary movement of all times. Salvation, full and free, through the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, along with the blessed hope of the believer and the second coming, was being preached everywhere. People were being saved by the thousands and looking for the Saviour to appear at any moment. Being aware of Christ's possible return at any moment they occupied themselves with the defense of the faith and preaching of the gospel.
  7. The message to the Church at Laodicea—1900 to the end. This Church clearly represents the apostate Church of the last days. It speaks of the present stage of Church history. The name Laodicea comes from two Greek words, laos, meaning the people and dikao meaning to rule. It means the peoples' rule or the peoples' rights. What a picture of the present day. Surely the church is lukewarm today. It is neither on fire for God, nor is it completely cold. It is indifferent: we can see this church in the world today. We have many fancy church buildings, large denominations and much money, but the church is poor. Many Churches have stored up great accounts in the banks of this world, but nothing in the bank of Heaven. Clayton Derstine said it well, "Magnificent buildings, imposing services, high salaried preachers, paid pews, expensive choirs, all furnished by Balak's gold, but the poor and sinful are not wanted. They know it and stay away. How sad! This church counts itself rich, but in the eyes of God is poor. This is the church that Christ will vomit out of His mouth."

When the characteristics of these seven churches are considered in view of Church history we can easily see that these letters perfectly correspond to and represent the stages of church history. Therefore, we are compelled to look upon these seven messages to the early churches as a prophetic preview of the entire Church age.

These two chapters constitute one of the most enlightening and most unique portions of scripture in the book of Revelation. Why? Because they reveal to us the end from the beginning. They make known to us, in advance, just what to expect as history unfolds before our eyes. What is written here has always helped Christians to understand what would be next in the divine plan for the Church age.

Such truth, such foreknowledge, my friends, is priceless to the child of God, because it serves as a beacon light to guide our steps, and it serves to comfort us as we labor on in a world of sin and sorrow, with tares among the wheat, and with difficulty on every hand. It helps us to understand that our present circumstances are not to be the eternal state of things, but that soon the long dark night will end, and a new day will dawn for the child of God.