Overview of Revelation for New Testament Reading
The babe born into time in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem was the Creator of the world made into human flesh. He grew up to manhood in Roman-occupied Palestine, His young and gentle hands becoming strong and calloused in Joseph’s carpentry shop. As a man, He walked through the countryside and city, touching individuals for healing, preaching to crowds, and training twelve men to carry on His work to the rest of the world. At every step He was attacked by the enemy and hounded by those void of true understanding, seeking to rid the world of His influence. Finally, falsely accused and tried, He was condemned to a disgraceful execution by foreign hands. He died a physical death—spat upon, cursed, whipped, pierced by nails and a crown of thorns, and hung heavenward for all to deride. Jesus Christ, the God-man, gave His life completely so that all might have the chance to live.
At God’s appointed time, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus will burst onto the world’s scene once again. At that time everyone will know that Jesus is Lord and King of the universe! Those who love Him will rejoice, greeting their Savior with hearts overflowing into songs of praise. On the other hand, His enemies will be filled with fear and terror. Allied with their father Satan, the enemies of Christ will marshal their legions against Christ and His armies. But who can withstand God’s wrath? Christ will return victorious winning the battle and reigning forever! Jesus the humble suffering servant will come back as the rightful, powerful, conquering King and Judge.
Written in the later part of the first century from a jail cell on the Island of Patmos, the Revelation to John, an eyewitness of Jesus Christ, is a book of hope. It proclaims that the victorious Lord would surely and certainly return to vindicate the righteous and judge the wicked. But the book of Revelation is also a warning. Things were not as they should have been in most of the churches, so Christ called the members to commit themselves to live in righteousness as overcomers. This message delivered nearly 2,000 years ago still offers us as God’s people a comfort and an incredible challenge. We can take heart as we study to understand John’s vision of hope that Christ will return to rescue His children and settle accounts with all who defy Him.
God’s Sovereignty- God is sovereign, greater than any power in the universe. God is not to be compared with any leader, government, or religion. He controls history for the purpose of uniting true believers in loving fellowship with Him. Though Satan’s power may temporarily increase and it seem as though he were winning the fight, we are not to be deceived and led astray. God is all-powerful and in control. He can bring His true family safely into eternal life by His might and will. Because He cares for us, we can trust Him with our very life.
Christ’s Return- Christ came to earth as the “Lamb” of God, the symbol of His perfect sacrifice for our sin. He will one day return as the triumphant “Lion” of Judah, the rightful ruler and conqueror. He will defeat Satan, settle accounts with all those who reject Him, and bring His believers into eternity. This assurance gives suffering Christians the strength to endure. We can optimistically look forward to His return as King and Judge. Since no one knows the time when He will reappear, we must be ready and watchful at all times by keeping our faith strong (Matt. 24-25).
God’s Faithful People- John wrote to encourage the church to resist the demands to worship the Roman emperor during a time of great persecution. He warns all God’s faithful people to be devoted to Christ alone. Revelation identifies who the faithful people are and what they should be doing until the Lord returns. Belief in Christ is the true way. Victory is sure for those who resist temptation and make loyalty to Christ their top priority.
Judgment- One day God’s anger toward sin will be fully and completely unleashed. Satan will be defeated thoroughly with all his agents. False religion will be destroyed. God will reward the faithful with eternal life, but all who refuse to believe in Him will face eternal punishment. Evil and injustice will not prevail forever. God’s final judgment will put an end to these. We need to be certain of our commitment to Jesus if we want to escape this great final judgment. No one who rejects Christ will escape God’s punishment. Their destination is the lake of fire for eternity.
Hope- One day God will create a new heaven and a new earth. All believers will live with Him forever in perfect peace and security. Those who have already died will be raised to life in His eternal presence. These promises for the future bring us hope. We hope in Christ’s promise and are confident in our final destination. We can follow Christ with unwavering dedication no matter what we must face knowing that His return is imminent.
In chapter 1, John relates the circumstances that led to the writing of this book (1:1-20). In chapters 2 and 3 Jesus gives special messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor (2:1-3:22).
Suddenly John is caught up into heaven, where he sees a vision of God Almighty on His throne. All of Christ’s followers and the heavenly angels are worshipping God (4:1-11). John watches as God gives a book with seven seals to the worthy Lamb, Jesus Christ (5:1-14). The Lamb begins to open the seals one by one. As each seal is opened, a new vision appears.
As the first four seals are opened, riders appear on horses of different colors—war, famine, disease, and death are in their path (6:1-8). As the fifth seal is opened, John sees those in heaven who have been martyred for their faith in Christ (6:9-11).
A set of contrasting images appears at the opening of the sixth seal. On one side, there is a huge earthquake, stars falling from the sky, and the sky rolling up like a scroll (6:12-17). On the other side, multitudes are before the great throne, worshipping and praising God and the Lamb (7:1-17).
Finally, the seventh seal is opened (8:1-5), unveiling a series of God’s judgments announced by seven angels with seven trumpets. The first four angels bring hail, fire, a burning mountain, and a falling star—the sun and the moon are darkened (8:6-13). The fifth trumpet announces the coming of locusts with the power to sting (9:1-12). The sixth trumpet heralds the coming of an army of warriors on horses (9:13-21). In 10:1-11, John is given a little book to eat. Following this, John is commanded to measure the temple of God (11:1-2). He sees two witnesses who proclaim God’s judgment on the earth for three and a half years (11:3-14).
Finally, the seventh trumpet sounds, calling the rival forces of good and evil to the final battle. On one side are Satan and his forces; on the other side stands Jesus Christ with His forces (11:15-13:18). In the midst of this call to battle, John sees three angels announcing the final judgment (14:6-13). Two angels begin to reap this harvest of judgment on the earth (14:14-20). Following on the heels of these two angels are seven more angels who pour out God’s judgment on the earth from seven bowls (15:1-16:21). One of these angels from the group of seven reveals to John a vision of a “great harlot” called Babylon (symbolizing the Roman empire and godless powers) riding a scarlet beast (17:1-18). After the defeat of Babylon (18:1-24), a great multitude in heaven shouts praise to God for His mighty victory (19:1-10).
The final three chapters of the book catalogue the events that finalize Christ’s victory over the enemy: Satan’s 1,000 year imprisonment (20:1-10), the final judgment (20:11-15), and the creation of a new earth and a new Jerusalem (21:1-22:6). An angel then gives John final instructions concerning the visions John has seen and what to do once he has written them all down (22:7-11).
Revelation concludes with the promise of Christ’s soon return, an offer to drink of the water of life that flows through the great street of the new Jerusalem, and a warning to those who read the (22:12-21). May we pray with John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20).
Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
*Notes from this overview were aided by:
New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1995, pgs. 2238-2241.