REVELATION TO JOHN, A
[Gr., a·po·kaʹly·psis, an uncovering].
The last book of the Bible (though not the last written) as arranged in most translations. It is also called the Apocalypse of John the Apostle.
WRITER, AND WHEN AND WHERE WRITTEN
The apostle John names himself as the writer of the book, and designates the place of writing as the island of Patmos, where John was in exile at the time for being a preacher of God’s Word and a witness of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1:1, 9) The time of writing was possibly about 96 C.E.
STYLE, AND APPROPRIATENESS
The book is in letter form, detailing a series of visions set forth in a proper order in regular progression, finally coming to the climactic vision. It supplies a fitting conclusion to the entire Bible.
The book seems to proceed on the basis of a series of sevens. Seven seals open into the blowing of seven trumpets, then into seven plagues. There are seven lampstands, seven stars, seven thunders and many other things by sevens, evidently because the number seven represents completeness, and the book deals with the completion of the sacred secret of God.—Rev. 10:7; see SACRED SECRET.
AUTHOR AND CHANNEL
Jehovah God the Almighty is the book’s author, and the channel of information is Jesus Christ, who sent and presented it to John by means of his angel. (Rev. 1:1) The spirit of God is represented as being sevenfold, hence acting in its fullest capacity to convey this disclosure. John was given divine command to write.—Rev. 1:4, 11.
While some of the things seen by John in the vision may seem terrifying—the beasts, the woes, the plagues—the book was written, not to terrify, but to comfort and encourage those who read it with faith. It can lead the reader to blessings. In fact, the writer of the book states at the outset: “Happy [or “blessed”] is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it.” (Rev. 1:3) John also says that the book is for the purpose of showing God’s slaves the things that “must shortly take place.”—Rev. 1:1, 2.
BEARS WITNESS TO JESUS
In chapter 19, verse 10, the angel tells John: “The bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires prophesying [literally, “is the spirit of the prophecy”].” That is, the intent and purpose of all prophecy is to point to Jesus Christ. This does not mean that Jehovah God is bypassed or ignored. Earlier in verse 10 the angel had told John, who fell down before him: “Worship God,” and the apostle Paul said that “God exalted [Christ] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Magnifying Jesus Christ, therefore, and getting acquainted with the knowledge of him results in a better knowledge of God and His purposes, thereby giving the glory to God above all.—Phil. 2:9-11; see PROPHECY (Bearing Witness to Jesus Inspires Prophesying).
The reason for prophecy bearing witness to Jesus is that Jesus is the One through whom God accomplishes his purposes in sanctifying his name, destroying wickedness and blessing mankind. “Carefully concealed in him [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) He is the Seed of promise, the One in whom the sacred secret is revealed. From the very beginning of God’s dealings with men following Adam’s rebellion, God has caused Christ to be foretold and foreshadowed, and has pointed men to the kingdom of God in the hands of his Son.—Gen. 3:15; 22:18; Gal. 3:16; 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 2:6-12; 110:1-7; Ezek. 21:27; Acts 2:29, 36; 3:19-26; 1 Tim. 3:16.
It is appropriate, therefore, that the book concluding the Bible, in its opening chapter, introduces us to the One over all, the Originator of the Revelation message, Jehovah God the Almighty, “the Alpha and the Omega.” It gives a vision of the Channel of the communication, Jesus Christ, showing him as having died but now being alive, in great power in heaven. The sharers with him in his tribulation and in the Kingdom are next brought into view, and Christ’s interest in them and loving-kindness toward them are displayed in his messages to the “angels” of the seven congregations.—Rev. chaps. 1-3.
Then by the spirit of inspiration John is ushered into the heavens to begin seeing “the things that must take place.” He is given a vision of the throne of God and its surroundings, and describes the One sitting upon it as glorious, supreme, throning in perfect sereneness and composure.—Chap. 4.
The glorious position of “the Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ, is portrayed as that of the one second only to Jehovah God, the only one in heaven and earth qualified to approach God to open up the revelation of God’s purpose. Attention is given to a warrior-king (apparently also Jesus) riding forth “conquering and to complete his conquest.” The result to earth, especially to God’s enemies, as this king begins his ride is shown as well as God’s purpose to avenge the blood of his people upon his enemies.—Chaps. 5, 6.
The importance with which God views his servants on earth who have been chosen by God to share in the heavenly kingdom is shown in the holding up of destructive action until these servants are ‘sealed in their foreheads.’ The full number of sealed ones is revealed to be 144,000. Others not sealed or numbered, but becoming servants of God and escaping the destructiveness of “the great tribulation” are then shown. The judgments of God against various sections of his enemies on earth are related, along with the fight that these enemies wage against his people. This leads up to the efforts of the archenemy, the dragon Satan the Devil, to thwart God’s purpose to bring forth the “son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod.” Next wild beasts are seen, symbolizing instrumentalities that this archenemy uses to fight those of the sealed ones on earth and to prevent the completion of the sealing work.—Chaps. 7-13; see BEASTS, SYMBOLIC.
All these attempts of Satan utterly fail. The 144,000 are seen victorious, standing with the Lamb upon Mount Zion, having faithfully retained the seal, displaying the name of the Father and of the Lamb on their foreheads, and singing as if a new song before the heavenly ones. After these are all gathered in a “harvest of the earth,” the time has arrived for the great “vine of the earth” to be trodden out in the winepress.—Chap. 14.
With another symbolism, God’s final judgments are portrayed. Seven angels are provided with seven bowls of God’s anger. They go forth to carry out this final work. One of the chief foes of God and the “bride” of Christ comes in for attention, namely, “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots,” “the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” Her alliance with the seven-headed beast collapses, the beast becoming enraged with her and burning her with fire. The mourning of those who made gain by their dealings with her is great, but heaven rejoices.—Chaps. 15-18.
Babylon the Great, as the “mother of the harlots,” would logically make every attempt to seduce the “bride” of Christ to become unfaithful to her promised husband (2 Cor. 11:2, 3; Eph. 5:25-27) and thereby make her another harlot. Hence, the heavenly rejoicing is accentuated by Babylon the Great’s corrupting efforts having been frustrated. The great harlot is now out of the way, and the bride has gained the victory. She has prepared herself for her espoused One. Therefore it is time for the Lamb’s marriage to take place. All those invited to the marriage rejoice. Jehovah now begins a new epoch in his reign, the great harlot having disappeared as a rival to pure worship.—Rev. 19:1-10.
But God’s other enemies must come in for execution of judgment. The Bridegroom goes forth to complete his conquest, to rid the earth of all foes, political and otherwise. The destruction is thorough. Finally, the Devil, having experienced the defeat of all his agents and instruments, is himself bound for the thousand years of Christ’s reign. The vision passes over this millennial reign for the moment to detail a judgment that comes at the end of the thousand years; the Devil is temporarily loosed, then completely annihilated, together with all those joining his attack on “the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.”—19:11–20:10.
Back to events during the thousand years, the vision depicts the resurrection and judgment that take place under the rule of Christ and his bride, the New Jerusalem. The beauty and grandeur of this heavenly “city” is described, with the healing, life-giving benefits it brings to mankind.—20:11–22:5.
In conclusion, Jehovah God speaks of ‘coming quickly with reward according to each one’s work.’ As the “faithful and true witness” Jesus bears testimony to the completion of the sacred secret concerning the kingdom, saying: “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star.” He is David’s permanent heir, the eternal one in the Kingdom covenant and the one foretold at Numbers 24:17. All efforts by Satan, the wild beast and Babylon the Great (Rev. 12:1-10; 17:3-14) have therefore been unable to prevent this “star” from rising out of the house of David to sit down on the throne in the heavens forever.—22:6-16.
The spirit, the active force of God, along with the “bride,” extend the invitation to all hearing to take of life’s water free. With a final warning not to add to or take from the words of the prophecy, and declaring the nearness of his coming, Jesus closes the revelation, and John responds, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”—22:17-21.
The book of Revelation is of great importance in that it provides spiritual strength and insight for God’s people. It highlights God’s interest in the congregations of his people and the close and loving care that Jesus Christ exercises toward them as the fine shepherd. He knows exactly what conditions prevail and what must be done. This is especially manifest in the first three chapters of the book.
Some persons view Revelation as being so highly symbolic that it cannot be understood, or as being impractical. But Jehovah God wants his people to understand, and he caused the Bible to be written to be understood and to provide guidance for them. The key to understanding Revelation is the same as the key to understanding other parts of the Bible. The apostle Paul points to the key. After explaining that God reveals the hidden wisdom through his spirit, Paul says: “These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual words.” (1 Cor. 2:8-13) If we search the Scriptures (and, sometimes, the customs and practices of those days) we find therein many of the things used as symbolisms in Revelation. By comparing these Scripture texts we can often understand what the Revelation symbol means. It should be noted, however, that a term or expression may refer to or symbolize different things, according to the context in which it appears.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction (1:1-3)
II. Letters to the seven congregations (1:4–3:22)
A. Author, channel and vehicle used to give revelation (1:4-19)
B. Explanation of the seven stars and lampstands (1:20)
C. Description of conditions in congregations, commendation, counsel and warning (2:1–3:22)
III. Happenings before God’s throne (4:1–11:19)
A. The vision of God’s throne (4:1-11)
B. The sealed scroll, and the Lamb, the only one qualified to open it (5:1-14)
C. The opening of six of the scroll’s seven seals (6:1-17)
1. Warfare, famine, deadly plague and Hades (6:1-8)
2. Souls under altar cry out for vengeance (6:9-11)
3. Earthquake; men seek escape from God’s wrath (6:12-17)
D. Sealing of the 144,000, and great crowd standing before throne (7:1-17)
E. Seventh seal opened, seven trumpets to sound (8:1–11:19)
1. Silence in heaven; angel by altar (8:1-6)
2. Six trumpets proclaim woes to earth (8:7–9:21)
3. Seven thunders speak; John given scroll to eat (10:1-11)
4. Temple sanctuary measured; two witnesses killed, brought to life, enter heaven; earthquake (11:1-14)
5. Seventh trumpet announces Kingdom of God and Christ; nations angry; sanctuary in temple opened (11:15-19)
IV. The signs in heaven—the woman and her chief enemy, the dragon (12:1-17)
A. Woman ready to give birth (12:1, 2)
B. Dragon seeks to devour newborn child, but God catches child to his throne (12:3-6)
C. War in heaven results in Satan’s being hurled to earth; rejoicing in heaven, woe to earth; continued fight by Satan the serpent against woman and her seed (12:7-17)
V. The wild beasts—earthly enemies of God’s holy ones (13:1-18)
A. The seven-headed beast out of the sea with one head wounded, then healed (13:1-10)
B. The two-horned wild beast out of the earth (13:11-13)
C. The making of an image to the seven-headed beast; the mark of the beast (13:14-18)
VI. The Lamb and his 144,000 faithful sealed ones; the proclamation of everlasting good news; the harvest of the earth and the harvest and treading of the vine of the earth (14:1-20)
VII. The seven last plagues (15:1–16:20)
A. Lamb’s song, and angels of the seven plagues (15:1–16:1)
B. Their effect on land, sea, rivers, sun, the throne of wild beast, the Euphrates and the air (16:2-18)
C. Babylon the Great shaken, her judgment time comes (16:19-21)
VIII. Babylon the Great and her destruction (17:1–18:24)
A. She makes drunk the inhabitants of earth; she rides a seven-headed scarlet-colored wild beast (17:1-11)
B. Horns of beast unsuccessfully fight the Lamb; they turn on harlot and she is stripped, burned (17:12-18)
C. Mourners over her destruction (18:1-24)
IX. The marriage of the Lamb and his war against the wild beast, false prophet and earth’s armies (19:1-21)
X. Satan bound 1,000 years; his fight and failure at the end of Christ’s millennial reign (20:1-10)
XI. Features of the 1,000-year judgment day (20:11–22:5)
A. Judgment, including the resurrected dead (20:11-15)
B. New Jerusalem, the city of Jehovah and the Lamb (21:1-27)
C. The river of the water of life (22:1-5)
XII. Conclusion (22:6-21)