An Introduction to the Book of Revelation
This is going to be a many part series dissecting Revelation chapter by chapter. By the time we finish you should have a clear understanding of what to look for in the days to come.
If you haven’t read my three part series on end times prophecy in the Gospels then I recommend you should do so before continuing in Revelation.
Most pastors shy away from preaching on Revelation in its entirety. People often think it’s too hard to understand. Through my process of shedding man made doctrine, I have found that in-fact it is quite easy to understand if you study what the Bible actually says and compare Scripture with Scripture. It was named the Book of Revelation for a reason. It was written to reveal information to us, not to obscure information or make things difficult to understand.
Before we dive into Revelation, I want to go over what we have learned so far concerning how Christ characterized the end times in the Gospels, as to make our study of Revelation easier. We need to keep in mind the order of events we were given in the Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 in context of Daniels 70th Week (the 7 year period of time we are told of in the Book of Daniel).
There are 3 main events from these parallel passages, as well as a 4th covered in Revelation as we will see, that we can effectively give an order to and characterize (the 4th will be characterized more in depth in our study of Revelation). We will be using this for reference throughout this series and adding more information to it as we go along.
False Prophets, Wars, Rumors of Wars, Commotions, Nation Rising Against Nation, Great Earthquakes and Famines, Pestilences, Signs in the Heavens, Affliction, Persecution, Gospel Preached to All Nations (Covered in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21)
2. Abomination of Desolation
Great Tribulation, Believers Fleeing, False Christ’s Performing Signs and Wonders (Covered in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 8-12)
3. Second Coming
Sun and Moon Darkened, Son of Man Comes in the Clouds, Rapture (Covered in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Revelation 6-7 & 14 and elsewhere)
4. Gods Wrath
Begins after the Second Coming when the 7th seal is opened in Revelation 8, and then again after the Second Coming in chapter 16 (Revelation 1-11 and 12-22 tell the same story twice as we will see)
I understand that this order of events may clash with what most have been taught and believe, but our goal is to rightly divide scripture (2 Timothy 2:15) and see how what we’ve been taught compares to what the Bible actually says. As I’ve been doing so over the years, I’ve been discovering some stark differences between what the Bible actually says and what many people believe the Bible says.
My main goal is to prevent anyone from being caught off guard, because as we have been warned before, and as we will see in Revelation, there is someone coming before Christ. He will try to deceive as many as possible, including Christians. Anyone who is still waiting for a messiah will embrace him. We know him as the anti-christ.
Next, I would like to discuss two questions and their Biblical answers because there are many different sects of Christianity and each one believes different things. This has always been confusing to me because when there are opposing views of important doctrinal passages and concepts we must realize that there can only be one true interpretation and the others are all false teaching. The segregation of the church based on doctrinal beliefs has led many to accept the false idea that truth is relative, when in-fact the truth is unwavering and can often seem quite belligerent when it comes head to head with our ego and sin nature. It may come as a shock to some but we have been warned time and time again of false prophets and false teachings so we shouldn’t be surprised if we have been exposed to false doctrines at one time or another.
What Is The Rapture?
This is an event that we need to understand before we move foreword in Revelation. It is characterized throughout Scripture as occurring when the “second coming” or “day of the Lord”, happens. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either knowingly or unknowingly deceiving you. There are many passages I could use as an example, and I’ve already touched on what the Gospels have to say in my three part series entitled End Times Prophecy (links to this series are above), so I’d like to use one of the more popular ones that we haven’t discussed. In 1 Thessalonians we are given one of the main rapture passages..
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
I chose this passage specifically because Ive heard it used time and time again to teach unsound doctrine concerning the rapture, specifically a pre tribulation rapture or that this is a separate event from the Second Coming. Someone even said to me once, “this passage clearly describes a departure of the church before the day of wrath is poured out” (in an attempt to prove a pre tribulation rapture). This idea is half right and half wrong.
If you’ll notice, nowhere in this passage is it talking about an event prior to the tribulation, but it does discuss an event that occurs prior to God’s wrath. Even so, tribulation and God’s wrath are two completely different concepts and we must make sure not to confuse them with each other because in reality this passage is discussing the event that separates the two.
According to verse 15 this is referring to the “coming of the Lord” which is scripturally synonymous with the terms “the day of the Lord” and “the second coming”. So yes, this passage is talking about a departure of Christians before God pours out his wrath, however, that doesn’t mean that a pre tribulation rapture is Biblical because the tribulation and God’s wrath are two separate things.
The issue for most people is understanding the difference between tribulation (something that man has been going through since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden), the tribulation (a period of time Christ refers to in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and Revelation), the great tribulation (also referred to in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and Revelation, but takes place after the “abomination of desolation”) and God’s wrath (as described in Revelation and elsewhere). Once we establish that these are 4 different topics and how each is characterized scripturally, we can easily understand end times prophecy and see the linear order of events of this 7 year period of time.
While this passage shouldn’t be used to teach a “pre-tribulation rapture”, it is a very important and informational piece of Scripture. Verse 18 says “comfort one another with these words”. What exactly is the comfort? Did it say that the comfort would be that we don’t have to go through the tribulation? No. This passage is saying when the “coming of the Lord” happens the “dead in Christ shall rise first” and then, after this, in verse 17 “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds”. The terms “asleep in Christ” and/or “dead in Christ” refer to those who are saved but physically dead. The comfort is that we are going to see our loved ones again, which is why this verse is frequently used at funerals.
Even though the term “rapture” is never used in Scripture, it is easy to read and understand what characterizes this event: Being caught together up in the clouds with Christ when He returns.
Who Are The Elect?
More often than not I hear pastors use the term “elect” to refer to the nation of Israel. This ironically makes it easy for people to accept anything Israel does without a second thought because “they are God’s elect” or “they are God’s chosen people”. Because of this, a lot of people believe that the Book of Revelation is all about the Jews (a false teaching as we will see). This ideology has been made very popular by the Zionist movement, a false doctrine peddling group which I will cover in a post in the future.
When we take a look the the Biblical usage of the term “elect” we can easily see that anyone that has been designated as such has chosen to follow God instead of the alternative. In other words, these are people that are in sync with God’s covenant. What was God’s last covenant? The sacrificial lamb, Jesus Christ. Therefore we can deduce that in New Testament terms the word “elect” simply means those that are saved or those that have chosen to believe on Christ.
Has the nation of Israel kept God’s new covenant? Have they kept any prior covenants? Would it make a difference if they had kept prior covenants but haven’t accepted and kept the final covenant? I would like to point out that God’s final covenant with man isn’t dependent upon race or nationality, meaning that it is completely possible for someone of Jewish decent to accept the new covenant by believing on Christ. Lets take a look at Galatians 3 so that we can gain some Biblical perspective on the subject.
“6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”
This is telling us that if we are saved by faith, not by works according to the law, we are the “children of Abraham”. Lets take a look at the last two verses of the chapter.
“28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The Bible gives us this theme over and over again in the New Testament. Basically, this passage is explaining that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. All people, regardless of nationality, have the opportunity to accept or reject the covenant. According to this, if we are saved, “then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”. Those who are saved are holding up God’s final covenant. Are those who practice Judaism heirs according to the promise?
1 John 2:23
“23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.”
This clearly states that anyone who is still waiting for a messiah “hath not the Father” because they deny that Christ was and is the Son of God. This means there is only one covenant now for all, both Jew and Gentile: The blood of Christ.
“14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
This is the good news, and yet so many reject it. In John 5:46 Christ says to the Jews, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me”. If we remember our Bible history, what group of people were always persecuting Christ, his diciples and the early Christians? The Jews (those who practiced the religion of Judaism). The very same people that many of todays churches that are trying to say are God’s elect.
Let me take a minute to touch briefly on what The Book of Revelation really has to say about the Jews. Chapters 2 and 3 are the personalized letters to the literal 7 churches in Asia Minor (present day Turkey). The first of two times the word “Jews” is used in Revelation is in the message to the church at Smyrna.
“9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”
The second (and final) time the word “Jews” is used in Revelation is in chapter 3, in the message to the church at Philadelphia.
“9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”
In these two verses did it sound like Jesus had anything good to say about the Jews? Again, Id like to point out that this is people who practice the religion of Judaism, not the nationality. As we saw in Galatians 3, there is neither Jew nor Gentile. The new covenant isn’t with a specific race, it is with anyone who is saved by grace, through faith on Christ. But wait, why did Jesus say those “which say they are Jews, and are not”? Well if we take a look back at Romans 2 we will see why.
“28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
This is referring to the works based doctrine of Judaism. Scripture is crystal clear that those who reject the Son are not God’s elect. The Book of Revelation has a term for Jews that reject the Son: the synagogue of satan. Scripture also refers to them anti-christs (1 John 2:22). Simply put, anyone who denies that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, are not “elect” because they are not holding up God’s new covenant. God’s “elect” are the saved.
Even though the word “Jews” is only used twice in Revelation, there is mention of the “tribes of Israel” when we read about the 144,000, however, to refer to them simply as “Jews” isn’t getting the whole picture across to the reader. These are not the saved who will be caught up together with Christ in the clouds, and they are not Jews that get special treatment regardless of if they accept the new covenant or not. These 144,000 have a specific purpose that they will be fulfilling after the Second Coming while God’s wrath is being poured out. I will discuss more about the identity of the 144,000 later on in this series.
It is of the utmost importance for us to understand these two concepts correctly going into Revelation. False doctrine concerning these two concepts (among others) have made studying Revelation very difficult for believers, but, if you understand what the Gospels have to say in context of Daniels 70th week, and if you understand the Biblical answers to the two questions I discussed in this post, then you should have absolutely no problem understanding its true message.
As I mentioned in previous posts, the easiest way to understand Revelation is by tackling it in two main parts: chapters 1-11 and then chapters 12-22. The reason for this is because, as we will see, chapters 1-11 tell the story of the end times once, and chapters 12-22 tell the story a second time to give us more detail. This is really the best way to study Revelation in order to understand the timeline of events.
I am very excited about this series and I hope you are too. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me! In my next post I will be starting with Revelation 1.
Please leave your thoughts or comments below!
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In Christ Jesus, Kyle Schumacher