Chapter 1: Revelation – The Book for Today
You are about to embark upon a most fascinating and interesting adventure in Bible study. There is no book more intriguing in all the Bible and perhaps more misunderstood than the Book of Revelation!
Have you ever read Revelation all the way through? If you have, chances are you were impressed by the numerous dazzling symbols, the colorful cartoon-like characters, and the glowing promises. You may have wondered how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. Be assured that the study of this book will be a real “revelation” to you of God’s wonderful plan for this world and for your life.
In some versions of the Bible, the Book of Revelation is called the “Apocalypse,” coming from the Greek word Apocalypsis. Meaning a “revelation” or “unveiling.” Perhaps you are wondering why God chose to use symbols and imagery. Why does the unlocking of Revelation’s mysteries seem so difficult? In His infinite wisdom, God chose to reveal His truth for the end time in pictorial language for several reasons:
- As Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, declared, “one picture is worth ten thousand words.” God condensed truth by summarizing prophecy in symbols.
- Revelation’s prophecies condemn tyrannical, political, and fallen religious systems. Since symbols are used, these powers were less likely to understand and retaliate.
- As we study prophecy, we discover truths that are not apparent to the surface reader. The very process of study strengthens our spiritual experience.
Of course, the central person in the Book of Revelation is Jesus Christ. May we behold the Lamb of God as we study this unique book? The same Spirit who gave John these truths will be present to make God’s special last-day message clear.
Note before we start: I recommend that the student uses the New King James Version of the Bible for this study. Any version will do, but answers to the questions are from the New King James. When a different version or translation is used, it will be noted for the student.
- What is the official title given to the last book of the New Testament? Revelation 1:1
Answer: The Revelation of Jesus Christ
NOTE: It is not “Revelation of St. John the Divine” as some Bibles state. It is the “Revelation of Jesus, the Lamb of God” and of God’s plan to restore humanity to the family of God and the Earth made new.
Please see these additional texts: Ephesians 3:3-5; I Corinthians 14:6, 9
In both instances, Paul is making an incredible point. In Ephesians, we see that it is by divine revelation that God has made known through the Holy Spirit to His apostles and prophets the things we should know. In our second text, I Corinthians 14:6, 9, Paul further states that it is not with unclear tongues that God’s words are spoken to His people. Instead, God uses clear words to give us a clear understanding so that all Scripture is made known. Does this mean that we can understand everything in the Bible? No, for we are learning new truths all the time. But it is when the Bible and the Bible alone is used to interpret itself that we gain a clearer understanding of what the Bible teaches.
During our study, as we unfold the pages of Scripture, we will check to see if secular history confirms the word of God. Or are history and the Bible at odds with each other?
One further note before we continue: The Bible only talks about the part of Earth’s history that pertains directly to God’s people. His message to the world, along with past and future events that affect those following the true God of Heaven.
- To whom did God give this book? Revelation 1:1
Answer: To Him, Jesus Christ
- Why did God give this book to Jesus? Revelation 1:1
Answer: To show his Servant things which must shortly take place
NOTE: It could be said that Revelation was in response to the prayer of Paul. Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul explains how he prayed that they might be given a revelation of Christ (Ephesians 1:15-18). Thirty years later, John received this Revelation, and the first church to which it was sent was Ephesus. It was written not for the world but the church and the servants of God (Revelation 1:1).
In Babylon, when God wrote on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace. (see Daniel chapter 5 for this story), the wise men of Babylon could not read the writing. But Daniel interpreted the message. Those who walk with God can know His (God’s) secrets. The prophet Amos said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He reveals His secrets unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
While this Revelation was particularly helpful for the persecuted saints in John’s Day, and has spoken to every age since, it has a special message for those living just before the Lord’s return.[i]
- What chain of communication did God use to get this book to His people? Revelation 1:1, 2, 3, 11; Revelation 2:11
- God gave the revelation to Jesus
- Jesus sent and signified it by His Angel
- His angel sent it to John
- John “bore record” or “witness” or wrote it
- The Spirit says to the churches.
- Blessed is he that reads, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it.
NOTE: Revelation 1:3 is the first of the seven beatitudes of Revelation. Each starts with the words. “Blessed is he,” then proceeds to give council or reward. Revelation 2:11 provides us with the promise; “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Toward the end of our lessons, we will learn that those who hear and do what is written in the book of Revelation will not suffer that second death.
- Upon whom is a special blessing promised as they study the book? Revelation 1:3
- “He that ”
- “They that Hear”
- “And Keep (or do) those things which are written therein.”
NOTE: God has promised special blessings to those who study this book and follow its warning. What encouragement we have for its study! God asks us to study the book and even promises to give us a special blessing. Even if we were not able to understand it when we study it, will we be blessed? Of course! Another important motive for the study of this book is that “the time is at hand,” or near! There is an urgency about the messages of Revelation. The good news of Revelation will become increasingly true as we draw nearer to the great final conflict between two world powers!
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Jesus has promised, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the earth” Matthew 28:20. You see, Jesus will always be with his church, even during times of persecution and opposition. If He has promised to be with the church, he will also be with each of us. Why? Because Matthew 28:20 makes it abundantly clear that He has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the world.
- Who gave the prophets the messages from God which they shared? II Peter 1:21
Answer: The Holy Spirit
- How much of Scripture given by God is inspired? II Timothy 3:16
Answer: All Scripture
- What warning is given concerning the interpretation of Scripture? II Peter 1:19-21
Answer: No Prophecy has any private interpretation
NOTE: We have all heard the old saying, “The Bible is like a violin – you can play any tune you like on it.” That may be true if you take a verse or two and base your belief on a doctrine without studying the entirety of the Bible concerning that subject. You will need to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Peter’s warning was followed by these words: “. . . there shall be false teachers among you, who secretly bring in damnable heresies . . . And many follow their malicious ways” II Peter 2:1, 2.
- What does God say will happen to anyone who adds to the things written in the book of Revelation? Revelation 22:18, 19
Answer: God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.
- What does God say will happen to anyone who takes away from the things written in the Book of Revelation? Revelation 22:19
Answer: Their name shall be taken out of the Book of Life
Note: It would be a grave offense for any pharmacist to willingly tamper with a physician’s prescription when the patient’s life might be in danger. To knowingly tamper with God’s Holy Word is much more serious. It would mean experiencing the seven last plagues and having the tamperer’s name eliminated from the Book of Life.
Now, let’s discover . . .
How to Study the Book of Revelation
In this book of Revelation, we find numerous quotations from other books of the Bible. Of the 404 verses in the book of Revelation, 278 are direct quotations from or allusions to other places in the Bible.
In our Revelation study, it will be necessary to let the rest of the Bible help us interpret its many symbols and cryptic images. As we saw just a few moments ago (see questions 6, 7, and 8), the Bible is not of private interpretation. Therefore, all the truths of the Bible are open to those who search the Scriptures. Only as we understand and study Revelation in the light of what the rest of the Bible teaches can we know God’s message for us. Jesus Himself used this method of teaching the Scriptures when speaking to His disciples.
- How did Jesus use Scripture to explain the prophecies concerning Himself? Luke 24:27
- Where did He begin? Beginning at Moses
- And all the Prophets
- He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures
NOTE: Jesus let the various prophecies of the Bible explain each other by skillfully putting them together as parts of a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. And the Bible says that the hearts of the disciples burned within them as He gave that Bible study.
We will use this method of comparing Scripture with Scripture as we study the Book of Revelation. When we find complicated and challenging terminology, prophetic symbols, or cartoon-like characters, we will seek to discern their meaning in another part of the Bible. We will let the Bible Interpret itself.
The Bible Interprets Itself
- What did John see coming up out of the sea? Revelation 13:1-5
Answer: Beast with Seven heads, ten horns, and it looked like different animals
- What does the sea or water represent in Bible prophecy? Revelation 17:15
Answer: People or populated areas
- What do beasts represent in Bible prophecy? Daniel 7:17, 23
Answer: Nations or Kingdoms or Kings
NOTE: We will learn more about the beast of Revelation 13:1-5 in a later lesson. Now you can see how easily the Bible explains the mysterious symbols that God uses in outlining the past, present, and future.
- Have you already discovered, by studying this lesson, that the Book of Revelation will be an exciting book to study?
□ I’m not certain
□ By God’s grace, I have decided to study this book to better understand Jesus and the future He holds in His hands!
□ Please pray for me that I may not only “read, hear, and understand,” but that I will be willing to do the things revealed to me in this book.
Should you wish to do any additional reading, I suggest the book “God Cares,” Vol. 2, pp. 54-62.
[i]Unfolding the Revelation by Roy Allan Anderson © 1953, 1961, 1974 by Pacific Press Publishing Association pp 5, 6