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Introduction to Revelation


Summary of the Book of Revelation

This summary of the book of Revelation provides information about the title, author(s), date of writing, chronology, theme, theology, outline, a brief overview, and the chapters of the Book of Revelation.


Four times the author identifies himself as John (1:1,4,9; 22:8). From as early as Justin Martyr in the second century a.d. it has been held that this John was the apostle, the son of Zebedee (see Mt 10:2). The book itself reveals that the author was a Jew, well versed in Scripture, a church leader who was well known to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and a deeply religious person fully convinced that the Christian faith would soon triumph over the demonic forces at work in the world.

In the third century, however, an African bishop named Dionysius compared the language, style and thought of the Apocalypse (Revelation) with that of the other writings of John and decided that the book could not have been written by the apostle John. He suggested that the author was a certain John the Presbyter, whose name appears elsewhere in ancient writings. Although many today follow Dionysius in his view of authorship, the external evidence seems overwhelmingly supportive of the traditional view.


Revelation was written when Christians were entering a time of persecution. The two periods most often mentioned are the latter part of Nero's reign (a.d. 54-68) and the latter part of Domitian's reign (81-96). Most interpreters date the book c. 95. (A few suggest a date during the reign of Vespasian: 69-79.)


Since Roman authorities at this time were beginning to enforce emperor worship, Christians -- who held that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord -- were facing increasing hostility. The believers at Smyrna are warned against coming opposition (2:10), and the church at Philadelphia is told of an hour of trial coming on the world (3:10). Antipas has already given his life (2:13) along with others (6:9). John has been exiled to the island of Patmos (probably the site of a Roman penal colony) for his activities as a Christian missionary (1:9). Some within the church are advocating a policy of compromise (2:14-15,20), which has to be corrected before its subtle influence can undermine the determination of believers to stand fast in the perilous days that lie ahead.


John writes to encourage the faithful to resist staunchly the demands of emperor worship. He informs his readers that the final showdown between God and Satan is imminent. Satan will increase his persecution of believers, but they must stand fast, even to death. They are sealed against any spiritual harm and will soon be vindicated when Christ returns, when the wicked are forever destroyed, and when God's people enter an eternity of glory and blessedness.

Literary Form

For an adequate understanding of Revelation, the reader must recognize that it is a distinct kind of literature. Revelation is apocalyptic, a kind of writing that is highly symbolic. Although its visions often seem bizarre to the Western reader, fortunately the book provides a number of clues for its own interpretation (e.g., stars are angels, lampstands are churches, 1:20; "the great prostitute," 17:1, is "Babylon" [Rome?], 17:5,18; and the heavenly Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb, 21:9-10).

Distinctive Feature

A distinctive feature is the frequent use of the number seven (52 times). There are seven beatitudes (see note on 1:3), seven churches (1:4,11), seven spirits (1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars (1:16), seven seals (5:1), seven horns and seven eyes (5:6), seven trumpets (8:2), seven thunders (10:3), seven signs (12:1,3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20), seven crowns (12:3), seven plagues (15:6), seven golden bowls (15:7), seven hills (17:9) and seven kings (17:10), as well as other sevens. Symbolically, the number seven stands for completeness.


Interpreters of Revelation normally fall into four groups:

    1. Preterists understand the book exclusively in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.
    2. Historicists take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos to the end of history.
    3. Futurists place the book primarily in the end times.
    4. Idealists view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.

Fortunately, the fundamental truths of Revelation do not depend on adopting a particular point of view. They are available to anyone who will read the book for its overall message and resist the temptation to become overly enamored with the details.


I.           Introduction (1:1-8)

A.   Prologue (1:1-3)

    • Greetings and Doxology (1:4-8)

                    II.        Jesus among the Seven Churches (1:9-20)

  1. The Letters to the Seven Churches (chs. 2 - 3)

                  IV.        The Throne, the Scroll and the Lamb (chs. 4-5)

    • The Throne in Heaven (ch. 4)
    • The Seven-Sealed Scroll (5:1-5)
    • The Lamb Slain (5:6-14)

                   V.        The Seven Seals (6:1;8:1)

    • First Seal: The White Horse (6:1-2)
    • Second Seal: The Red Horse (6:3-4)
    • Third Seal: The Black Horse (6:5-6)
    • Fourth Seal: The Pale Horse (6:7-8)
    • Fifth Seal: The Souls under the Altar (6:9-11)
    • Sixth Seal: The Great Earthquake (6:12-17)
    • The Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-8)
    • The Great Multitude (7:9-17)
    • Seventh Seal: Silence in Heaven (8:1)

                  VI.        The Seven Trumpets (8:2;11:19)

    • Introduction (8:2-5)
    • First Trumpet: Hail and Fire Mixed with Blood (8:6-7)
    • Second Trumpet: A Mountain Thrown into the Sea (8:8-9)
    • Third Trumpet: The Star Wormwood (8:10-11)
    • Fourth Trumpet: A Third of the Sun, Moon and Stars Struck (8:12-13)
    • Fifth Trumpet: The Plague of Locusts (9:1-12)
    • Sixth Trumpet: Release of the Four Angels (9:13-21)
    • The Angel and the Little Scroll (ch. 10)
    • The Two Witnesses (11:1-14)
    • Seventh Trumpet: Judgments and Rewards (11:15-19)

VII.           Various Personages and Events (chs. 12-14)

    • The Woman and the Dragon (ch. 12)
    • The Two Beasts (ch. 13)
    • The Lamb and the 144,000 (14:1-5)
    • The Harvest of the Earth (14:6-20)

VIII.           The Seven Bowls (chs. 15-16)

    • Introduction: The Song of Moses and the Seven Angels with the Seven Plagues (ch. 15)
    • First Bowl: Ugly and Painful Sores (16:1-2)
    • Second Bowl: Sea Turns to Blood (16:3)
    • Third Bowl: Rivers and Springs of Water Become Blood (16:4-7)
    • Fourth Bowl: Sun Scorches People with Fire (16:8-9)
    • Fifth Bowl: Darkness (16:10-11)
    • Sixth Bowl: Euphrates River Dries Up (16:12-16)
    • Seventh Bowl: Tremendous Earthquake (16:17-21)

IX.           Babylon: The Great Prostitute (17:1;19:5)

    • Babylon Described (ch. 17)
    • The Fall of Babylon (ch. 18)
    • Praise for Babylon's Fall (19:1-5)

X.           Praise for the Wedding of the Lamb (19:6-10)

  1. The Return of Christ (19:11-21)
  2. The Thousand Years (20:1-6)
  3. Satan's Doom (20:7-10)
  4. Great White Throne Judgment (20:11-15)
  5. New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem (21:1;22:5)
  6. Conclusion and Benediction (22:6-21)

──New International Version


Introduction to Revelation

As regards Peter and Paul, we have scriptural authority for regarding them as the apostles respectively of the circumcision and of the uncircumcision. Peter and the twelve remained at Jerusalem when the disciples were scattered, and, continuing (though God was careful to maintain unity) the work of Christ in the remnant of Israel, gathered into an assembly on earth the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Paul, having received the ministry of the assembly, as of the gospel to every creature under heaven (Col. 1), as a wise master-builder, lays the foundation. Peter sets us off as pilgrims on our journey to follow Christ risen towards the inheritance above. Paul, in the full development of his doctrine (though owning this, as in Philippians 3), shews us the saints sitting in heavenly places in Christ, heirs of all which He is heir of. All this was dispensational, and it is full of instruction. But John holds a different place. He does not enter on dispensation; nor, though once or twice stating the fact (as 13:1; 14:1; 17:24;20:17), does He take the saint, nor even the Lord Himself, up to heaven. Jesus, for him, is a divine Person, the Word made flesh manifesting God and His Father, eternal life come down to earth. The Epistle of John treats the question of our partaking of this life, and its characters.

But at the close of the Gospel, after stating the sending of the Comforter on His going away, Christ opens to the disciples (though in a mysterious way) the continuation of God's dealings with the earth, of which John ministerially is the representative, linking the manifestation of Christ on earth at His first coming with His manifestation at His second; Christ's Person, and eternal life in Him, being the abiding security and living seed of God, when dispensationally all was corrupted, and in confusion and decay. If all were in disorder outwardly, eternal life was the same.

The destruction of Jerusalem formed a momentous epoch as to these things, because the Jewish assembly, formed as such at Pentecost, had ceased (nay, it had even before); only the judicial act was then accomplished. Christians had been warned to leave the camp. The breach of Christianity with Judaism was consummated. Christ could no longer take up the assembly, established in the remnant of the Jews, as His own seat of earthly authority. [1] But alas! the assembly, as Paul had established it too, had already fallen from its first estate-could in no sense take up the fallen inheritance of Israel. All seek their own, says Paul, not the things of Jesus Christ. All they of Asia-Ephesus, the beloved scene where all Asia had heard the word of God-had forsaken him. They who had been specially brought with full intelligence into the assembly's place could not hold it in the power of faith. Indeed, the mystery of iniquity was at work before this, and was to go on and grow until the hindrance to the final apostacy were removed.

Here, in this state of universal declension and ruin John's ministry comes in. Stability was in the Person of Christ, for eternal life first, but for the ways of God upon earth too. If the assembly was spued out of His mouth, He was the faithful witness, the beginning of the creation of God. Let us trace the lines of this in his gospel. In John 20, as else where noticed in detail, we have a picture of God's ways from the resurrection of Christ till we come to the remnant of Israel in the latter days, represented by Thomas's look on the pierced One and believing by seeing. In chapter 21 we have, besides the remnant, the full millennial gathering. Then at the close of the chapter, the special ministry of Peter and John is pointed out, though mysteriously. The sheep of Jesus of the circumcision are confided to Peter; but this ministry was to close like Christ's. The assembly would not be established on this ground, any more than Israel. There was no tarrying here till Christ came, [2] Peter's ministry in fact was closed, and the circumcision assembly left shepherdless, before the destruction of Jerusalem put an end to all such connection for ever. Peter then asks as to John. The Lord answers, confessedly mysteriously, but putting off, as that which did not concern Peter who was to follow Him, the closing of John's ministry, prolonging it in possibility till Christ came. Now, in fact, the Bridegroom tarried; but the service and ministry of John by the word (which was all that was to remain, and no apostle in personal care) did go on to the return of Christ.

John was no master-builder like Paul-had no dispensation committed to him. He was connected with the assembly in its earthly structure like Peter, not in the Ephesus or heavenly one; He was not the minister of the circumcision, but carried on the earthly system among the Gentiles, only holding fast the Person of Christ. His special place was testimony to the Person of Christ come to earth with divine title over it-power over all flesh. This did not break the links with Israel, as Paul's ministry did, but raised the power which held all together in the Person of Christ to a height which carried it through any hidden time, or hidden power, on to its establishment over the world at the end; it did not exclude Israel as such, but enlarged the scene of the exercise of Christ's power so as to set it over the world, and did not establish it in Israel as its source, though it might establish Israel itself in its own place from a heavenly source of power.

What place does the assembly then hold in this ministry of John, found as it is in the Book of Revelation? None in its Pauline character, save in one phrase, coming in after the Revelation is closed where its true place in Christ's absence is indicated. (Chap 22:17) We have the saints at the time, in their own conscious relationship to Christ, in reference, too, to the royal and priestly place to His God and Father, in which they are associated with Himself. But John's ministerial testimony, as to the assembly, views it as the outward assembly on earth [3] in its state of decay-Christ judging this-and the true assembly, the capital city and seat of God's government over the world, at the end, but in glory and grace. It is an abode, and where God dwells and the Lamb. All this facilitates our intelligence of the objects and bearing of the book. The assembly has failed; the Gentiles, grafted in by faith, have not continued in God's goodness. The Ephesian assembly, the intelligent vessel, and expression of what the assembly of God was, had left its first estate, and unless it repented, the candlestick was to be removed. The Ephesus of Paul becomes the witness on earth of decay and of removal out of God's sight, even as Israel had been removed. God's patience would be shewn towards the assembly as it had been towards Israel; but the assembly would not maintain God's testimony in the world any more than Israel had. John does maintain this testimony, ministerially judging the assemblies by Christ's word, [4] and then the world from the throne, till Christ comes and takes to Himself His great power and reigns. During this transition-dealing of the throne the heavenly saints are seen on high. When Christ comes, they come with Him.

The first part, then, of the Epistles of John is the continuation, so to speak, of the Gospel before the last two dispensational chapters; the Revelation, that of these last two chapters (20, 21), where, Christ being risen and no ascension given, the dispensational dealings of God are largely intimated in the circumstances which occur; while it is shewn at the same time that He could not personally set up the kingdom then. He must ascend first. The two short epistles shew us that truth (truth as to His Person) was the test of true love, and to be held fast when what was anti-christian came in; and the free liberty of the ministration of the truth to be held fast against assumed ecclesiastical or clerical authority, as contrasted with the assembly. The apostle had written to the assembly. Diotrephes rejected free ministry.

I now turn to the book itself.


[1] This was morally true from Acts 3, where the Jewish leaders refuse the testimony to a glorified Christ who would return, as they had rejected a humbled One. Acts 7, by the mouth of Stephen, closes God's dealings with them in testimony, and the heavenly gathering begins, his spirit being received on high. The destruction of Jerusalem closed Jewish history judicially.

[2] Paul, of course, is no way noticed. For him the assembly belonged to heaven-was the body of Christ, the house of God. He was a builder.

[3] And hence in particular assemblies, which of course could be judged and removed. There is another point of divine wisdom here. Though we have I doubt not, the whole history of the assembly to its end in this world, it is given in facts then present, so that there should be no putting off the coming of the Lord. So, in the parables, the virgins who go to sleep are the same that wake up; the servants that receive the talents are the same found on the Lord's return, though we know ages have passed and death come in.

[4] Note this immensely important principle: the church judged by the word, not the church a judge; and the individual Christian called to give heed to this judgment. The church (I use the word designedly here as used to claim this authority) cannot be an authority when the Lord calls me, if I have ears to hear, to hear and receive the judgment pronounced by Him on it. I judge its state by the words of the Spirit, am bound to do so: it cannot be an authority therefore on the Lord's behalf over me in that state. Discipline is not in question here, but the church as wielding authority.

── John DarbySynopsis of Revelation


Introduction to Revelation

The Book of the Revelation of St. John consists of two principal divisions. 1. Relates to "the things which are," that is, the then present state of the church, and contains the epistle of John to the seven churches, and his account of the appearance of the Lord Jesus, and his direction to the apostle to write what he beheld, ch. 1:9-20. Also the addresses or epistles to seven churches of Asia. These, doubtless, had reference to the state of the respective churches, as they then existed, but contain excellent precepts and exhortations, commendations and reproofs, promises and threatenings, suitable to instruct the Christian church at all times. 2. Contains a prophecy of "the things which shall be hereafter," and describes the future state of the church, from the time when the apostle beheld the visions here recorded. It is intended for our spiritual improvement; to warn the careless sinner, point out the way of salvation to the awakened inquirer, build up the weak believer, comfort the afflicted and tempted Christian, and, we may especially add, to strengthen the martyr of Christ, under the cruel persecutions and sufferings inflicted by Satan and his followers.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Revelation

Revelation General Review
AUTHOR:  John, identified as one "who bore witness to the word of God,
and to the testimony of Jesus Christ" (1:1-2).  While debated by some,
he was most likely the apostle John, brother of James, and author of 
the gospel of John and three epistles.  His authorship of this book is
supported by the testimony of Justin Martyr (165 A.D.), Clement of
Alexandria (220 A.D.), Hippolytus (236 A.D.), and Origen (254 A.D.).
THE UNIQUE NATURE OF THE BOOK:  Revelation is certainly different from
other books of the New Testament.  It is also very different from any
kind of writing that is familiar to most people today.  Unfortunately,
this has caused some people to shy away from the book; or on the other
hand, to misuse it in propagating wild and fanciful theories.  Most
people conclude it is just too mysterious to understand.  But it was
actually written to make things clearer!  The word "revelation" in the
Greek is apokalupsis, which means "an uncovering" or "unveiling."  It 
is therefore a book designed to uncover or unveil, not conceal.
Part of the challenge in understanding the book is that it is written
in a style not familiar to modern man.  It is an example of what is 
called "apocalyptic literature" which was quite popular from 200 B.C.
to 200 A.D.  As such, it was a type of literature well known to the
Jews and Christians of the first century church.  Features of 
apocalyptic literature include the use of highly symbolic or figurative
language (cf. "signified", 1:1).   It was normally written in times of
persecution, usually depicting the conflict between good and evil.
There are other examples of apocalyptic literature in the Bible.  In
the Old Testament, for example, the books of Ezekiel, Daniel, and
Zechariah each contain elements of this style of writing.  In the New 
Testament, Matthew 24 contains apocalyptic elements.
not have the problem understanding the book we do today.  They were 
well acquainted with the style of apocalyptic literature.  They were 
living at a time when the symbols of the book were likely familiar to 
them (similar to how a picture of a donkey fighting an elephant would 
be understood by us as depicting conflict between the Democratic and 
Republican parties).  In fact, I believe the book was originally 
intended to be understood by a casual hearing, as implied by the 
opening beatitude:
   "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this
   prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for
   the time is near." (1:3)
This verse suggests a setting in which one is reading while others 
listen.  The listeners were expected to understand enough to be blessed
by what they heard.
Our difficulty with this book is due to our unfamiliarity with 
apocalyptic literature as a method of communicating a message.  We are
also far removed from the historical and cultural context of the times
which would make the symbolism easier to understand.  To properly 
interpret the book, we must try to understand the historical context in
which it was written.  We must also interpret it in a manner that would
have been meaningful to those to whom it was first addressed.
DIFFERENT VIEWS OF INTERPRETATION:  Different views of interpreting the
book generally fall into four categories:
   The "preterist" view - The book refers to events that were fulfilled
   in the first century A.D., or shortly thereafter.  It was written
   primarily to encourage the original readers.  Its value for today
   would therefore be didactic (teaching the value of faithfulness to 
   The "historicist" view - The book provides a panoramic view of the
   future of the church from as it goes through history.  This view
   finds in the book such events as the rise of Catholicism, Islam, the
   Protestant reformation, world wars, etc., ending with the return of
   Christ.  As such it would encourage Christians no matter when they
   The "futurist" view - Apart from the first few chapters, the book
   depicts events which immediately precede the second coming of 
   Christ.  Therefore most of the book has yet to be fulfilled (or is
   being fulfilled now), and its value is primarily for Christians who
   will be living at the time Jesus returns.
   The "idealist" view - The book does not deal with any specific 
   historical situation.  Instead, it is simply enforcing the principle
   that good will ultimately triumph over evil.  As such the book is 
   applicable to any age.
PREFERRED METHOD OF INTERPRETATION:  I believe a proper interpretation
of the book incorporates some of all these views.  In my estimation, 
the "preterist" view has the most merit for the following reasons:
   * The book was written specifically to seven churches in Asia
     (modern Turkey) - 1:4
   * Its purpose was to uncover or reveal "things which must shortly
     come to pass" - 1:1, 3; 22:6,10
   * John was told, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this 
     book, for the time is at hand" - 22:10
Compare the last two points with Daniel 8:26, where Daniel was told to
"seal up" his vision, "for it refers to many days in the future".  Yet
we know that his vision was fulfilled within several hundred years.  
John, however, was told "do not seal" what he had seen, "for the time
is at hand".  How could this be, if the bulk of Revelation refers to 
what has yet to occur almost two thousands later?  This is a problem I
see with the "futurist" view, which places primary fulfillment of the
book thousands of years since its completion.
Place yourself in the position of those Christians in the churches of
Asia in the first century.  They were told that the things described in
the Revelation would "shortly come to pass", which should comfort them.
But according to the "futurist" view, it has been nearly 2000 years and
much of the book has yet to be fulfilled!  That would be like someone
today writing that something is soon coming to pass, when in reality it
will be 4000 A.D. before it does!  How would a book depicting events to
occur thousands of years in the future comfort those who were suffering
in the first century A.D.?
This is not to say there are no "futurist" elements in the book.  I 
understand chapters 20-22 to deal with the ultimate destiny of the 
redeemed, which would have been of great interest and comfort to the
Christians suffering in the first century.
My approach to the book, therefore, will be primarily from the 
"preterist" viewpoint, with occasional elements from other viewpoints.
THE DATE OF THE BOOK:  Dating when the book was written is not without
controversy.  When one dates the book will certainly have a bearing 
upon one's interpretation of the book, especially if one follows the 
"preterist" view.  Two dates are usually proposed:
   * An "early date", around 64-68 A.D., during the reign of the Roman
     emperor, Nero.
   * A "late date", around 95-96 A.D., during the reign of emperor 
The "external evidence" (evidence outside the book itself) is 
inconclusive.  In support for the late date, appeal is often made to a
statement of Iraneaus who lived in the late 2nd century A.D.  His 
statement is rather ambiguous, however, and can be understood in 
several ways (see Redating The New Testament, by John A. T. Robinson,
for a detailed examination of Iraneaus' quotation).
In support of the early date, the Syriac version of the New Testament
(dating back to the 2nd century A.D.) says the book was written during
the reign of Nero.  The Muratorian Fragment (170-190 A.D.) and the
Monarchian Prologues (250-350 A.D.) claim that Paul wrote to seven
churches following the pattern of John's example in Revelation, placing
the book of Revelation even before some of the Pauline epistles (cf. 
Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 12; p. 406).
Because of the contradictory nature of the "external evidence", I place
more weight on the "internal evidence" (evidence from within the book
itself).  I believe the book itself supports a date of 70 A.D., before
the destruction of Jerusalem and during the reign of Vespasian.  This
evidence includes the following:
   * In 11:1-14 the temple, which was demolished in August of 70 A.D.,
     is still standing.  Advocates of the "late date" naturally 
     understand this passage in a strictly figurative sense.  While
     somewhat figurative, the allusion to the crucifixion of our Lord
     (11:8) compel us to think of the historical Jerusalem (Philip
   * In 17:9-11, we find mention of EIGHT "kings".  If these "kings"
     are emperors of Rome, then starting with Augustus the first FIVE
     were:  Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero (who died
     June 9, 68 A.D.).  Nero's death left the empire in an uproar.  
     This may be the "deadly wound" in 13:3,12,14.  Three men (Galba,
     Otho, and Vitellius) tried vainly to consolidate power over the 
     empire, but it was Vespasian who restored order in 70 A.D.  Thus,
     the "deadly wound" was healed, and Vespasian would be the SIXTH 
     "king" (or the "one is" in 17:10).  This would make Titus the 
     SEVENTH emperor and Domitian the EIGHTH.
   * Notice carefully, that in 17:8,11 John was told that the beast
     "is not".  It "was", and "is about to come" (ASV), but at the time
     the Revelation was being given, the beast "IS NOT"!  If we 
     understand (as I do) that the "beast" represents imperial Rome as
     personified in its emperors Nero and Domitian, then Revelation 
     could NOT have been written during the reigns of either Nero or 
   * The condition of persecution that had been experienced already by
     those in the book are similar to that mentioned by Peter.  He 
     wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor also, just a few years 
     before (cf. 1 Pe 1:1).  They were undergoing persecution similar
     to that described in Re 2 & 3 (cf. 1 Pe 1:6; 4:12; 5:9); i.e.,
     persecution by the Jews with the help of Roman authorities, 
     something that had been going on since the days of Paul's first 
     missionary journey.
Therefore I suggest that the internal evidence indicates that the 
Revelation was given during the reign of VESPASIAN, the SIXTH emperor,
while the "beast is not".  This would place the date of the book around
the spring of 70 A.D. (as suggested by Philip Schaff, History Of The
Church, Vol. I).  Referring to Philip Schaff, who at one time held the
"late date", I find his following quotation to be of interest:
   "The early date is best suited for the nature and object of the 
   Apocalypse, and facilitates its historical understanding.  Christ
   pointed in his eschatological discourses to the destruction of 
   Jerusalem and the preceding tribulation as the great crisis in 
   the history of the theocracy and the type of the judgment of the
   world.  And there never was a more alarming state of society."
   "The horrors of the French Revolution were confined to one country,
   but the tribulation of the six years preceding the destruction of
   Jerusalem extended over the whole Roman empire and embraced wars
   and rebellions, frequent and unusual conflagrations, earthquakes
   and famines and plagues, and all sorts of public calamities and 
   miseries untold.  It seemed, indeed, that the world, shaken to its
   very center, was coming to a close, and every Christian must have
   felt that the prophecies of Christ were being fulfilled before his
   "It was at this unique juncture in the history of mankind that St.
   John, with the consuming fire in Rome and the infernal spectacle
   of the Neronian persecution behind him, the terrors of the Jewish
   war and the Roman interregnum around him, and the catastrophe of
   Jerusalem and the Jewish theocracy before him, received those 
   wonderful visions of the impending conflicts and final triumphs 
   of the Christian church.  His was truly a book of the times and
   for the times, and administered to the persecuted brethren the one
   but all-sufficient consolation:  Maranatha!  Maranatha!"  
               (History of The Christian Church, Vol. I, pp. 836-837)
THE PURPOSE OF THE BOOK:  Its purpose is clearly stated at the
beginning and end of the book (cf. 1:1,3; 22:10,16):
In particular, it is a revelation from Christ Himself of the judgment to
come upon those who were persecuting His people (cf. 6:9-11; 16:5-7).
This judgment was directed especially toward two enemies:
   * "Babylon, the harlot" (cf. 17:6; 18;20,24; 19:2) - Many think the
     harlot is the city Rome, but I lean toward the view it was 
     Jerusalem.  If so, then Revelation describes the fulfillment of
     Jesus' prophecy found in Mt 23:29-39; Lk 21:20-22.
   * The "beast" which supported the harlot (cf. 17:7-13) - I take the
     beast to be the Roman empire when led by her persecuting emperors
     (e.g., Nero, Domitian), which at first supported the "harlot" in 
     her persecution of God's people, then turned on her (cf. the 
     destruction of Jerusalem, 70 A.D.).
Again, I would suggest that the purpose of the book is to reveal how
Christ was going to bring judgment on Jerusalem and Rome for rejecting
God and persecuting His people.  This judgment occurred with the 
destruction of Jerusalem in the fall of 70 A.D., and with the final 
cessation of persecution by Rome in 313 A.D. when Constantine became an
emperor supportive of Christianity.  As stated by Philip Schaff:  
   "Undoubtedly he had in view primarily the overthrow of Jerusalem
   and heathen Rome, the two great foes of Christianity at that time."
In fulfilling this purpose, the book is designed to warn and comfort.
For erring disciples, it is a book of warning ("repent" or else, cf.
2:5,16).  For faithful disciples, it is a book of comfort ("blessed"
are those who "overcome", cf. 1:3; 2:7; 3:21; 14:13; 22:14).
KEY VERSE:  Revelation 17:14
   "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome
   them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who
   are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful."
   1. Introduction and benediction (1-3)
   2. Greetings to the seven churches of Asia (4-6)
   3. Announcement of Christ's coming (7)
   4. The Lord's self-designation (8)
      1. The church at Ephesus (2:1-7)
      2. The church at Smyrna (2:8-11)
      3. The church at Pergamos (2:12-17)
      4. The church at Thyatira (2:18-29)
      5. The church at Sardis (3:1-6)
      6. The church at Philadelphia (3:7-13)
      7. The church at Laodicea (3:14-22)
   C. THE THRONE SCENE (4:1-5:11)
      1. God on the throne (4:1-11)
      2. The Lamb worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll (5:1-14)
      1. First seal:  The white horse and its rider (6:1-2)
      2. Second seal:  The red horse and its rider (6:3-4)
      3. Third seal:  The black horse and its rider (6:5-6)
      4. Fourth seal:  The pale horse and its rider(s) (6:7-8)
      5. Fifth seal:  The martyrs under the altar (6:9-11)
      6. Sixth seal:  Cataclysmic disturbances (6:12-17)
      7. Interlude:  Sealing of the 144,000 on earth, and the great
         multitude in heaven (7:1-17)
      8. Seventh seal:  Silence in heaven (8:1)
      1. Seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets (8:2-6)
      2. First trumpet:  Third of vegetation destroyed (8:7)
      3. Second trumpet:  Third of sea creatures and ships destroyed
      4. Third trumpet:  Third of rivers and springs become bitter, 
         many men die (8:10-11)
      5. Fourth trumpet:  Third of sun, moon, and stars struck, 
         affecting day and night (8:12)
      6. Three-fold woe announced (8:13)
      7. Fifth trumpet (first woe):  Locusts from the bottomless pit,
         sent to torment men (9:1-12)
      8. Sixth trumpet (second woe):  Four angels with an army of two
         hundred million, killing a third of mankind (9:13-21)
      9. Another interlude (10:1-11:14)
         a. The angel with the little book (10:1-11)
         b. The two witnesses (11:1-13)
     10. Seventh trumpet (third woe):  The victory of Christ and His
         kingdom proclaimed (11:14-19)
   A. THE GREAT CONFLICT (12:1-14:20)
      1. The Woman, the Child, the Dragon, and the rest of the Woman's
         offspring (12:1-17)
      2. The beast from the sea (13:1-10)
      3. The beast from the land (13:11-18)
      4. The Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion (14:1-5)
      5. Proclamations of three angels (14:6-13)
      6. Reaping the earth's harvest, and the grapes of wrath (14:
   B. THE SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH (15:1-16:21)
      1. Prelude to pouring out the seven bowls of wrath (15:1-8)
      2. First bowl:  Sores on those who worshipped the beast and his
         image (16:1-2)
      3. Second bowl:  Sea turns to blood, all sea creatures die (16:3)
      4. Third bowl:  Rivers and springs turn to blood (16:4-7)
      5. Fourth bowl:  Men are scorched by the sun (16:8-9)
      6. Fifth bowl:  Pain and darkness upon the beast and his kingdom
      7. Sixth bowl:  Euphrates dried up, three unclean spirits gather
         the kingdoms of the earth for the battle at Armageddon (16:
      8. Seventh bowl:  Great earthquake, the great city divided,
         Babylon is remembered, cataclysmic events (16:17-21)
      1. The scarlet woman and the scarlet beast (17:1-6)
      2. The mystery of the woman and beast explained (17:7-18)
      3. The fall of Babylon the great proclaimed and mourned (18:1-24)
      4. The exaltation in heaven over the fall of the great harlot
      5. The announcement of the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:6-10)
      1. Christ the victorious warrior and King of kings (19:11-16)
      2. The beast, his armies, and the false prophet (land beast) are
         defeated (19:17-21)
      3. Satan is bound for a thousand years, while those martyred
         reign with Christ (20:1-6)
      4. Satan released to deceive the nations once more, but is
         finally defeated once for all (20:7-10)
      5. The final judgment (20:11-15)
      1. The new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem, God dwelling
         with His people (21:1-8)
      2. The New Jerusalem described (21:9-27)
      3. The water of life, the tree of life, and the throne of God and
         the Lamb (22:1-5)
CONCLUSION (22:6-21)
   1. The time is near, do not seal up the book (22:6-11)
   2. The testimony of Jesus, the Spirit, and the bride (22:12-17)
   3. Warning not to tamper with the book, and closing prayers (22:
1) What is this book called? (1:1)
   - The Revelation of Jesus Christ
2) Who is the author of this book?  (1:1-2)
   - John, who had born witness to the word of God and testimony of 
     Jesus Christ
3) What is the meaning of the Greek word (apokalupsis) translated 
   - An uncovering, an unveiling
4) What style of literature is the book of Revelation?
   - Apocalyptic literature
5) What are some of the typical features of such literature?
   - Highly symbolic; depicting conflict between good and evil
6) What is important to know to properly interpret the book?
   - The historical context in which it was written
7) What are the four major views of interpreting the book?
   - The preterist
   - The historicist
   - The futurist
   - The idealist
8) Which view is suggested in this introduction?
   - The preterist, with a little borrowed from the other views as well
9) What dates are usually suggested for the book?
   - An early date (64-68 A.D.), during the reign of Nero
   - A late date (95-96 A.D.), during the reign of Domitian
10) Which date is suggested in this introduction? (and by Schaff,
    McGuiggan, and others)
   - The spring of 70 A.D., during the reign of Vespasian
11) What is the purpose of the book? (1:13; 22:10,16)
   - To reveal things which must shortly come to pass
12) Who do I propose to be the two major enemies used by Satan as 
    described in this book?
   - Jerusalem (i.e., Babylon, the harlot)
   - Rome (i.e., the beast which supported the harlot)
13) What is the key verse which summarizes the book?
   - Revelation 17:14
The Avenging Of The Apostles & Prophets, Arthur Ogden (Ogden Publications, 1985)
The Book Of Revelation, Jim McGuiggan (Montex, 1976)
The Book Of Revelation, Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (Wallace Publications, 1966)
History Of The Christian Church, Vol. I, Philip Schaff (Eerdmans, 1910, 1985)
Interpreting Revelation, Merill C. Tenney (Eerdmans, 1957)
The Lamb And His Enemies, Rubel Shelly (20th Century, 1985)
More Than Conquerors, William Hendricksen (Baker Book House, 1971)
Revelation, Alan Johnson (Expositor's Bible Commentary, Zondervan, 1981)
Revelation, Leon Morris (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Eerdmans, 1984)
Revelation:  An Introduction And Commentary, Homer Hailey (Baker, 1979)
Worthy Is The Lamb, Ray Summers (Broadman Press, 1951)


--《Executable Outlines



A janitor would wait patiently each week for a group of seminarians to finish their basketball game. While he waited, he would study his Bible. One day, as the seminarians were leaving the gym, they noticed the janitor carefully reading the text in his lap. One young man asked which biblical book was the subject of the janitor’s study. The old man answered, “The Book of Revelation.” The ballplayer was surprised and asked the janitor if he understood the complicated book. “Oh, yes!” the man answered. “I understand it. It means that Jesus is gonna win!”

And that is a most accurate analysis of the Book of Revelation!”


The Time Scheme and the Great Themes of Revelation

I. The Book of Revelation covers three periods, past, present and future, as indicated in Rev. 1.19

   1. Past—the things John saw in his vision in Patmos (Ch.1)

   2. Present—the things which are, the seven churches (Chs.2, 3)

   3. Future—the things which will take place hereafter (Chs.4~22)

II. The Central Figure is the Lamb. John saw—

   1. a Lamb as it had been slain (Rev. 5.6)

   2. a great multitude whose robes were made white in ‘the blood of the Lamb’ (Rev. 7.14)

   3. 144,000 undefiled men who ‘follow the Lamb’ (Rev. 14.4)

III. The Themes of the Book are—

   1 .The Fiends of the Lamb (Chs.1~11)

   2. The Foes of the Lamb (Chs.12~18)

   3. The Fame of the Lamb (Chs.19~22)

── Archibald NaismithOutlines for Sermons