There's an old saying that goes, "He can't see the forest for the trees." This study, though focusing on some of the trees, is an attempt to see the forest, to see the big picture. With that in mind, two basic principles served as guidelines for this study.
One, THIS BOOK SHOULD BE READ NATURALLY, NOT NECESSARILY LITERALLY, JUST LIKE ANYTHING ELSE MIGIIT BE READ. For example, if you read in the paper that Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers has a cannon for a right arm, you know that literally that isn't true. You recognize that as a metaphor, an exaggeration for effect, that tells you that he has a really fast fastball. It isn't necessary to know what kind of cannon the writer meant. In Revelation, the exact meaning of some details may not be as important as the overall effect they have within the context in which they are found. For example, who the 24 elders in Chapter 4 are isn't nearly as important as what they are doing and why.
Two, NO PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE CAN MEAN MORE TO US THAN IT DID TO ITS ORIGINAL READERS. OTHERWISE, SCRIPTURE CAN BE MANIPULATED TO MEAN ALMOST ANYTHING. This is particularly true for Revelation. So whenever you arrive at an understanding of some part of the book, a good question to ask yourself is, "Is this likely to be the way the original readers understood it?" If not, then your understanding is probably wrong. For example, many think that Babylon, described in Rev. 17, is the Roman Catholic Church. But is it likely that the original readers would know that 500 years before it came into existence? We need to try to figure out what their understanding would be before we try to apply it to today.
This flow chart can be used to study the entire book or any part you wish. When studying a particular verse, simply locate the box which contains it. Then look for the relationship that box has with other boxes nearby (see FURTHER NOTES). Then look up the box in the Summary to read its explanation. An understanding of the verse should now be clearer, within both its immediate context and the big picture.
Even though this study is brief and is not intended to be exhaustive, it is fairly comprehensive, with much to be gained from it. There are four key advantages of this study:
(1) The two-category comparisons of the seven churches in chapters 2 & 3,
(2) The explanation of the first 6 seals in chapter 6,
(3) The question and answer section on the Millennium and related subjects in Rev. 20:1-10,
(4) The flow chart itself, which graphically illustrates that various sections of the book occur simultaneously.
In the flow chart itself, time moves from left to right, so that any boxes that are arranged vertically occur in the same basic time frame, each giving details not included in the others. Four give details of Armageddon, though only 16:16 mentions it by name. They are: 14:9-12; 16:16-21; 19:11-21; 20:7-10.
A possible chronological order of the Armageddon verses is as follows: 14:9-12; 20:7,8; 19:11-18; 16:16; 19:19; 20:9; 16:17-21; 19:20,21; 20:10.
Please note that this battle is not a literal war. It is spiritual, Eph. 6: 12. It is not a sign of the end, Rev. 16:15. There are in fact no signs of the end, Mt. 24:36; 1Th. 5:1-3.
The 6 numbers in the Chapter 6 box are the 1st 6 seals.
The 7 numbers in the Chapters 8-11 box are the 7 trumpets in the 7th seal.
The 5 numbers in the Chapters 12-14 box are the 5 angels.
The 7 numbers in the Chapters 15,16 box are the 7 bowls of wrath.
One final note: This study accepts the majority scholarship view that the book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John about 96-98 AD.
This book is from Jesus, who redeemed us by his blood, v. 5. Understand it and you’ll be blessed, v. 3; Rev. 22:7.
Doctrinal comparisons, 1st 4 churches, from one extreme to the other:
Pharisaical, having more love for
Law than the Lawgiver, at expense
of the brotherhood? See 1 Pet. 2:17;
1 Jn. 4:20. Could they have gone
beyond Paul's intentions in Acts
Perfect balance of doctrinal loyalty
without loss of love.
Too liberal, disregarding some of
Even more liberal, accepting as from
God the words of a self-styled prophetess.
Hypocritical. Genuine in appearance only.
Genuine, loyal and true.
Dependent on self more than on
Commitment to Christ comparisons, last 3 churches, from one extreme to the other:
Sardis:Hypocritical. Genuine in appearance only.
Philadelphia: Genuine, loyal and true.
Laodicea:Dependent on self more than on
Portrayal of God as the Creator.
Portrayal of God as the Redeemer. Together Chapters 4 and 5 show God in charge and in control.
1st 4 seals = man's efforts without God, leading to oppression (rider on white horse), war (rider on red horse) famine (rider on black horse), and death (rider on pale horse). These 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' gallop endlessly throughout history. < B >
5th seal = appeal to God. "How long?"
6th seal = Gospel introduced into the world. Contains several references to Joel 2, some of which Peter quoted in Acts 2 and applied to the Gospel.
Picture in 2 visions of all those who accept the Gospel. Saints sealed, v. 2. < B >
1st vision = Old Testament saints? < B >
2nd vision = all the saved.
Picture of all those who reject the Gospel. 7th seal,
1st 4 trumpets = God's partial judgments on land, sea, fresh water, heavens. Mercy mixed in. < B >
5th, 6th trumpets = God's partial judgments against rebellious mankind. Mercy mixed in. Rebellious mankind still refuses to repent, 9:20.
1st 6 trumpets = picture the devastating unforeseen aspects of sin. There's no point in speculating what the 7 thunders said in 10:4. Chapter 10 basically recommisions John to continue prophesying.
2 witnesses = the church evangelizing. Their resurrection epitomizes Mt. 16:25.
7th trumpet = final Judgment. No mercy.
Church persecuted and what happens to the persecutors. The woman in 12:1 cannot be the virgin Mary because of verse 17. She is probably Israel since Jesus was born a Jew. Verse 17 probably refers to the idea that Christianity sprang from Judaism. Since Satan failed to keep Jesus from the cross, Chapter 12, (4 ways he literally failed = Mt. 2:1-18; 4; 16:21-23; 26:39), he and his allies turn against His followers, Chapter 13. < B >< /B >
1st beast = Roman Empire.
2nd beast = Emperor worship. "Inhabitants of the Earth" are non-Christians, 13:8. "666" copies the trinity. Each 6 falls short of the perfect number 7. Refers to sinful nature. Those who willingly indulge the sinful nature for pleasure or profit can be said to figuratively have this "mark of the beast". Satan and his allies lose, Chapter 14. Saints' seal from 7:3 described, verse 1.
5 angels, in order events occur:
1 = Gospel still being proclaimed.
2 = Babylon fallen (see 17-19:10, referring to the Roman Empire).
3 = Beast, with followers who have his mark, defeated at Armageddon. < B >
4, 5 = Final judgment. No mercy.
Chapter 15 sets up Chapter 16. Sea of glass refers to non-Christians. 7 bowls of wrath similar to the 1st 6 trumpets, only more graphic. Ends with battle of Armageddon, not final judgment. Armageddon refers to final, last stand, much like "meeting your Waterloo."
Chapter 17 = Roman Empire described.
Chapter 18 = Prediction of Roman Empire's end, spoken in past tense - it's a done deal. Warning to come out of her. Laments of those who benefited by her. The end comes suddenly.
Chapter 19:1-10 = Heaven and earth rejoices.
Chapter 19:11-21 = Christ victorious at Armageddon.
Generally, scripture best interprets scripture. However, since no other passage even remotely refers to a 1000 year reign, none can shed any light on it here. This section must be considered on its own merits. The best way to arrive at a good understanding is to ask the right questions.
Question 1: What is the binding of Satan?
Answer 1: Limitation of his power, Jn. 16:11; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1Jn. 3:8; Rev. 12:10-12.
Question 2: Is he completely bound?
Answer 2: No, 1 Pet. 5:8. He is free within certain limits, 1 Cor. 10:13.
Question 3: When did this occur?
Answer 3: At the cross, see scriptures listed in Answer 1.
Question 4: If the 1000 years begins with the binding of Satan, when did the 1000 years begin?
Answer 4: At the cross. The chain = Gospel.
Question 5: When is Satan to be released to be ultimately defeated at Armageddon?
Answer 5: When the 1000 years are over, verses 7-10. Note that Armageddon follows, not precedes, the 1000 years (Millennium). Concepts such as the 1000 year reign of Christ from Jerusalem, rapture, gleanings, restoration of the Jews, etc., are absent from this and all other texts, and so are unfounded speculations.
Question 6: If the 1000 years begins at the cross and ends just before Armageddon, is it figurative or literal?
Answer 6: Must be figurative. Cross was 2000 years ago; Armageddon still future. Since Armageddon occurs after the 1000 years, verses 7-10, we must be in the Millennium now, and therefore Christ is reigning now, over His subjects, the Christians, in His Kingdom, 1 Cor. 15:23-25; Col. 1:13,14.
Question 7: Is the 1000 years of verse 2 the same I000 years of verses 4,5?
Answer 7: Yes. First introduced as "a 1000 years", later referred to as "the 1000 years".
Question 8: When does the first resurrection take place?
Answer 8: At the beginning of the 1000 years, at the cross. Possible physical evidence of this spiritual resurrection = Mt. 27:52.53?
Question 9: Who's in the 1st resurrection?
Answer 9: Holy Old Testament martyrs who were looking for the Messiah, see Mt. 27:53. The 144,000 in 1st vision of chapter 7?
Question 10: Who's in the 2nd resurrection?
Answer 10: Apparently everyone else, both good and bad, since the cross, Rev. 20:11-15, plus all those before the cross not in the 1st resurrection.
Question 11: What is the primary relationship between verses 1-6 and verses 7-10?
Answer 11: Together they show Satan's initial defeat at the cross followed by his ultimate defeat at Armageddon.
Final judgment and Hell pictured. No mercy.
Heaven pictured. New Jerusalem = Holy City = Bride of Christ = church = all those redeemed by the blood of Christ. Paradise restored (type lost, Gen. 3).
Final exhortations and warnings.
WHAT ARE THE PROMISED BLESSINGS IN REV 1:3; 22:7? Reassurance that God is still in control regardless of what may happen to us in this life, and if we remain faithful Christ will receive us. In fact, the entire book can be summed up in just two words - WE WIN!!