When you look at End Times, you can’t help but recognize that John wrote a whole book about it! By the grace of God, I am going to try to give you an overview and make Revelation easy to understand in just a couple of weeks. You may be thinking, if it is so hard then why study it? John wrote, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near” (Rev. 1:3).
The apostle John was suffering persecution for his faith. He was exiled on the isle of Patmos and on the Lord’s day he was given a vision of Jesus Christ. Chapter 1 gives us the divine title and reminds us it is all about Jesus! Jesus is coming again! Revelation 1:1 says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place….” Notice that it does not say the revelation of the Anti-Christ, 666, the tribulation, etc. The book is all about Jesus and His return. It is the culmination of the story that starts in Genesis. Not only does the book have a divine title, but it has a divine outline. Revelation 1:19 says, “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” What John had seen was a revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:14-18). What was, and still is, is the church age (the time from Pentecost to the rapture). What will take place is the prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled.
The Church Age – Revelation 2-3
While they were literal, local churches, you can see the entire history of the church in the seven letters to the churches. Ephesus represents the postapostolic era. Smyrna represents the Roman persecution. Pergamos illustrates the day when Christianity became the state religion. Thyatira covers the Papal era under the pope. Sardis deals with the Protestant reformation. Philadelphia highlights the revivals and world missions. Laodicea shows the worldliness of the church at the close of the church age.
The Rapture – Revelation 4:1
“After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here….” I personally believe that the first of six main events in Revelation is the rapture. Not all Christians agree on when the rapture will take place. Some hold to a pretribulation view, others a mid-tribulation rapture before the intense suffering occurs. Still others hold to a post-tribulation rapture at the end of the tribulation. For a more detailed explanation of why I believe what I do, you can watch the sermon from Sunday at www.libertylive.church/messages.
The Tribulation – Revelation 6-19
The tribulation is a 7-year period recorded in chapters 6-19. There are so many signs, hyperboles, figures of speech, numbers and symbolism in these chapters and throughout the book. Is it to be interpreted symbolically or literally? Yes! For example, the devil is described as a dragon. Is the dragon symbolic? Yes. Is there a literal devil? Yes. Here is an overview of what we see in these chapters: Seven Seals (Rev. 6:1-8:5), Seven Trumpets (Rev. 8:6-11:19), Unholy Trinity (Rev. 12-14), Seven Bowls (Rev. 15-16), World System Collapse (Rev. 17-19). The three judgements will occur rapidly and intensify. Here is another overview: Seven Seals – a world ruined by man (Ch 6-7), Seven Trumpets – a world ruled by Satan (Ch 8-13), Seven Bowls – a world rescued by God (Ch 14-20).
The Second Coming – Revelation 19-20
Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in all His glory. In the rapture, He is coming to the clouds. In the Second Coming, He is coming to the earth. His feet will touch the Mount of Olives. In the rapture, He is coming for His saints. In the Second Coming, He is coming with His saints. In the rapture, only believers will see Jesus. In the Second Coming, every eye will see Him, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. When Jesus returns at the end of the great tribulation period, He defeats the devil and the armies of the world in the battle of Armageddon.
In light of all this, what do we do now? What can we practically take away today? Well, while the tribulation is taking place on earth, we are having the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven! He throws the biggest wedding reception for His Bride. Revelation 19:7 says, “Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself.” Revelation 2-3 are like the wedding coordinator’s guide. Jesus tells the church the kind of bride He is looking for and how we can prepare ourselves. In the letter to Ephesus, we learn that we need to make sure we love Jesus. Are you more in love with Jesus than ever before? We learn we need to repent and do the works we did at first. In the letter to Smyrna, we learn that persecution is coming. It is going to get hard, but we must remain faithful. In the letter to Pergamum, we learn again the importance of repentance. If you need to be saved, the answer is repent. If you have gotten away from God, the answer is the same…repent! Repentance is a change of mind and change of direction. We’ll look at the other letters next week.
There is coming a day when this is all going to end. For believers it will be our wedding day. Jesus will come back for us. We want to be a bride ready for our wedding day!