A Review and An Overview of Revelation 1:1-14
November 15, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
Revelation has 22 chapters and we are now in chapter 11, which means that we are in the middle of the book. What a great blessing that we have reached this point in our study of this book! Because Revelation is not easy to interpret, my guess is that very few pastors are a doing a chapter by chapter series of this book in their churches. I heard that GCF is beginning a series on this book. God bless their Elders and their church.
But usually, pastors that do a series on this book often just tackle chapters 2 and 3 where we find the Seven Churches, but they stop there and no longer continue to expound chapters 4 to 22 because they realize that they need to make several decisions even before they can continue with the series.
How are they going to interpret the rest of this book? Will they take these chapters literally or metaphorically? Are they going to treat Revelation simply as a book containing spiritual principles in the battle between good and evil? Are the events of the Tribulation that you see in this book past or future? Are they going to be premillennial, postmillennial or amillennial in their view? What view will they take regarding time of the rapture? Is rapture going to happen before, or in the middle or after the tribulation?
Many preachers realize that they will have to make some if not all of those decisions before they can teach this book. This is why even seasoned theologians find this book very intimidating. And so it is a great blessing to our church and a great privilege for me that by God’s grace we have come to the middle of this marvelous book. It is a milestone.
Now Bible teachers consider 11:1-14 to be one of the most difficult portions to interpret in the book of Revelation. In this section, John refers to the temple, the holy city, and nations trampling the holy city for 42 months. And then you read of the two prophets with super powers who prophesy for 1,260 days, are killed by the beast, and after 3 ½ days are resurrected and ascend to heaven. We also read here about a great earthquake that kills seven thousand people and the survivors of which glorify God. Does John intend all this to be understood literally? Or does he intend all or part of these as symbols to represent something else?
There are four different views on how to interpret this data and they are the following:
- The first view is a literal interpretation of the temple in Jerusalem but interpreters who take this view think that John is predicting about events that will happen before the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. (Most scholars today reject this view because they date Revelation in the mid-90s during the reign of Roman emperor Domitian. Conditions in the churches of chapter 2-3 and their cities favor this date. And so when John wrote the book of Revelation, the temple was already lying in ruins for more than two decades.)
- A second view removes the prophetic element in the interpretation and takes 11:1-13 as symbolical. This view simply takes this section as a message of hope and salvation for the Jewish Christian community in John’s day.
- A third view is similar to the second view. The only difference is that it is a message not only for the Jewish Christians in John’s day but for all Christians going through difficulty and suffering in life until the second coming of Christ. For example, this view says that the temple symbolizes the church at worship and the “42 months” refers to the shortness of the church’s sufferings before Christ returns.
- The last view sees a literal interpretation but these things will become reality just before the time of Christ’s return. This will be the interpretation I will adopt. It understand the reference to the holy city to mean literal, earthly Jerusalem. I will present the view that during the great tribulation the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and Jewish worship will be reinstituted there, and that in the middle of the tribulation, the Antichrist will take “his seat in the temple of God, and proclaim himself to be God” (2Th 2:4). The view that I will present means that the temple, altar, worshipers, and Holy City will have something to do with the Jewish people in the last days and their place in the plan of God.
I don’t want to quickly jump into chapter 11 because, as I said, this is what Bible scholars consider to be one of the most difficult portions of Revelation to interpret, especially verses 1 and 2.
And so today, what I will do is to take some time to give you a review
of the first 10 chapters of Revelation. This will also provide the context for chapter 11. And then I will give a little overview
of chapter 11:1-14.
A Review of Chapters 1-10
As we go through a review of chapters 1-10 I hope that you are going to follow with me in your physical Bibles. I know that some of you are using Bibles in your digital devices like Smart phones, tablets or iPads, and I have nothing against that. As you know, I also use a digital bible too, but what you may not know is that I also often use my physical Bible, especially in my studies of Revelation because when I start marking, writing notes on the pages, highlight the important words and phrases, it helps me to have better grasp of the development of the events of this book. When I open my Bible I have a visual guide that is so easy to see because of my markings on the book. That’s just my suggestion.
Revelation is designed to unveil or reveal Jesus Christ. He is the central theme and the main character. This book focuses on his sovereignty over the churches and the whole world. Most of the book shows how He will take back ownership of the earth, destroy His enemies, establish His earthly kingdom and renew this universe into the new heaven and new earth which constitute the grand fulfillment of all prophecy.
In chapter 1 we first get a glimpse of Christ with descriptions of His glorious appearance as the One who sovereignly owns the churches.
In chapters 2 and 3
, the Lord Jesus is presented as the sovereign evaluator of the seven churches located in Asia Minor that were in existence at that time John wrote this book. The Lord Jesus exhorts these churches to repent or to remain faithful because He is going to visit them in judgment or in blessing depending on their spiritual condition. Christ’s evaluation of these churches has great application for all the churches in all generations.
The bulk of this book, which is from chapters six to nineteen, is about the Tribulation, the seven years where God pours His judgment upon this world and His enemies just before the second coming of Christ. But before all this, John shows us the very source of all this trouble and he does this by giving us a glimpse of what happened in heaven, at the very throne of God. We read about this in chapters 4 and 5
In chapter 4
we are introduced to the glorious and majestic God who is seated on the throne of heaven where He is surrounded by four living creatures and 24 elders. They all worship God declaring His worthiness to receive all glory and honor and power because of His holiness and sovereign power in creating all things. God holds in His hand a scroll that was sealed with seven seals to keep its contents hidden and safe until the proper moment.
There is only one person in the universe who is worthy to open the seals and disclose and implement the words written on the scroll. And we are introduced to that person in chapter 5.
The all-powerful and all-knowing Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ who was slain, and who rose again, is the worthy One to take the scroll from the hand of God who is seated at the throne.
This act of taking the scroll from the hand of God is so significant that it caused the four living beings, the 24 elders, the myriads and myriads of angels, and every creature in heaven and on earth to worship Jesus. They worship Him particularly for being worthy to open the seals of the scroll because of His perfect sacrifice for the salvation of sinners.
This scroll contains the divine plan to take back the earth from the usurper Satan and give it to the rightful heir, namely Jesus Christ. We read about all of this in the events described in chapters 6 to 22 of Revelation.
Each time the Lord Jesus breaks a seal on this scroll, elements of divine judgment are released and poured upon the earth until Jesus returns.
In chapter 6
, we see Christ opening the six seals. When the first four seals
are opened, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are introduced. They represent God’s wrath upon the world in the form of false peace (6:1-2), followed by wars and bloodshed (6:3-4), then widespread famine (6:5-6), and finally death to one fourth of earth’s inhabitants. The events in connection to the first fours seals will take place during the first half of the 7-year Tribulation.
When the fifth seal is opened, we see the martyred saints of God in heaven praying for God’s vengeance upon God’s enemies. Perhaps this event happened in the middle of the Tribulation period.
When the 6th
seal is opened, great cosmic and terrestrial disturbances occur so that the ungodly cry out “The great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand.” Because of that statement, my guess is that this event will happen during the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation period, aka The Great Tribulation
So those are the events that will happen when the six seals are opened. Now before we come to the seventh seal, John first gives an interlude
, or an interval between seal #6 and seal #7. In this interlude we read about two groups of people who will be on earth during the early part of the Great Tribulation and it gives the answer to the question in the 6th
seal, “Who can stand the wrath of God?” Or, in other words, “Who can survive God’s wrath? Who can be delivered from God’s anger?” There are two groups of people who can survive and will be delivered from God’s wrath:
- The first group is the 144,000 Jewish Christians (7:1-8). Twelve thousand saved Israelites from each of the twelve tribes will be sealed by God with a mark on their foreheads. Bible teachers see these 144,000 as Jewish Christian evangelists during the Tribulation period. They will be protected through the Tribulation period until they finish their witness.
- Next, John sees a second group of people who will be delivered from God’s wrath during the Tribulation period. They are shown as standing before the heavenly throne and before the Lamb (7:9-17). They are the great multitude of believers from every nation and tribe and language, probably composed not only of Gentiles but also of Jews who are not sealed. These are those who have been granted the privilege of being killed for their faith in Christ during the Tribulation period (7:14).
After that interlude or pause, we come to the opening of seventh seal. Now remember that in the seventh seal are built-in seven trumpet judgments and the seven bowl judgments.
When the seventh seal is opened we are first introduced to the six trumpet judgments in chapters 8 and 9. Let’s just go through these six trumpet judgments quickly:
- When the first angel blows his trumpet (8:7), hail and fire mixed with blood are thrown upon the earth. This results in the burning up of one third of the earth, one third of the trees, and all green grass.
- When the second angel blows his trumpet (8:8-9), a massive object, something like a great mountain, burning with fire, is thrown into the sea. Perhaps this is a large meteor that enters the earth’s atmosphere and falls into the ocean. This results in one third of the sea to become like blood, which causes in the death of one third of the sea creatures. One third of the ships are also destroyed perhaps due to tsunamis caused by the impact of that massive object upon the ocean.
- When the third angel blows his trumpet (8:10-11), a “falling star” or “shooting star” enters earth’s atmosphere and falls into the rivers and springs of waters, polluting the fresh water around the globe. Unlike the mountain-like meteor in Trumpet #2 that remained intact as it fell on the ocean, this meteor or comet perhaps disintegrated as it reached the Earth’s atmosphere and its burning fragments fell on one third of the rivers and on the springs of water causing fresh water to become bitter so that many people died.
- When the fourth angel blows his trumpet (8:12), one third of the light from sun and the moon and the stars are darkened.
You will notice that in these first four trumpet judgments all of nature is affected: the earth, the seas and the sky. All of these judgments directly affect nature and bring great discomfort to the people. But when the next two trumpets are blown, the judgments will be demonic in nature and more directly affect humans.
- When the fifth angel blows his trumpet (9:1-12), demons in the form of locusts that have been bound in the bottomless pit are released. They are led by a ruling demon named Apollyon, and they torment human beings for 5 months.
- When the sixth angel blows his trumpet (9:13-19), four evil angels who have been locked up somewhere in the Euphrates area are released. They lead an army of two hundred million demonic mounted troops, and they kill one third of all mankind with fire and smoke and sulfur.
So we've gone through seven seals and six trumpets. We are about to hear the blowing of the seventh trumpet and when the seventh trumpet is blown we will be introduced to the seven bowl judgments. This is the final set of wrath that will come in rapid-fire succession at the very end before Christ returns.
But again, before we come to the 7th
trumpet we encounter another interlude
. Just like the interlude that we saw between the opening of the 6th
and the 7th
seals, we see an interlude between the 6th
and the 7th
trumpets. We see this in Rev 10:1 to 11:14.
“The Holy Spirit has chosen to give us an interlude particularly to comfort and encourage the people who will be living through the Tribulation period. As they see things get worse and worse, worse than ever in all of human history, they're going to need a little window of opportunity to look and to understand and find out that God is still on the throne and the righteous are still going to be protected and blessed and the Kingdom is still going to come. And that's what the interlude is for.”
I mentioned last time that the interlude between the 6th
and the 7th
trumpets has two parts.
The first part is in 10:1-11 and the second is in 11:1-14.
In the first part
, which is in chapter 10, God sends a mighty angel who has a little scroll that is open in his hand. He stands symbolically with one foot on the sea and another on the land to represent the sovereignty of God over all of the earth, no matter what may be happening. Wave after wave of destruction may be affecting the land, the seas and the sky; innumerable locust demons may have been let out of the bottomless pit going everywhere tormenting people; two hundred million other demons may be killing a third of the world’s population; but God is still sovereign, He is still in control. The mighty God who created heaven and earth and all that is in them, is still in charge. In 10:6 the angel swore by God that there will no longer be any delay. When the seventh trumpet is blown, the final set of judgments will be poured upon the earth, and the Lord Jesus will establish His Kingdom.
This mighty angel also announces that mystery of God would be fulfilled when the seventh trumpet is blown. In 11:15 we read, “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’”
And then John is commanded to take the little scroll from the hand of the angel and to eat the scroll. When John at it, it was as sweet has honey in his mouth, but when it came into his stomach it becomes bitter. Why? Because this final glory of Christ, this final judgment and establishing of the Kingdom is bittersweet. It is sweet for Christ and sweet for God and sweet for holy angels, and sweet for believers and it is very bitter for the unrighteous and the ungodly who will receive their final judgment in hell. Believers can identify with this feeling when they experience the joy of their salvation but at the same time grieve for their one who are not yet saved or worst, even persist in rejecting Christ.
After eating the little scroll, which represents taking in God’s word, John is commanded to that he must again prophesy to many peoples and nations and languages and kings. His message about the final set of judgments that will lead to the coming of Christ, the destruction of His enemies and the setting up of His kingdom on earth will be a bittersweet message. This message is sweet as well as bitter when we think about what it means to us and what it means to the ungodly.
An Overview of 11:1-14
Ideas from John MacArthur
Now we come to chapter 11:1-14.
This is the second part of the interlude between the 6th
trumpets. We have just heard John told that he must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings. The end is near but there's more to write. There's more for John to put down, more to come. And John must be ready to write about it. Though the end is near, we're only in chapter 10 when he's given this instruction and there are still many chapters of Revelation that John will receive and must write. The worthy one is coming, the Lamb is coming to redeem His own and condemn those who refused Him. There's much more yet to say about all of that.
What John wrote will remain as a witness to all and especially to those who will go through Tribulation period. But what John wrote will not be the only witness at this point. Remember that there are going to be 144,000 Jewish Christians who will be going around to evangelize the world during this period. We know that the fruit of their efforts will be an innumerable number of converts in chapter 7 from every nation and tribes and peoples and languages who name the name of Jesus Christ. There will then be many Jews and Gentiles who will be saved during the Tribulation, and they will all be speaking about Christ.
Many of them will be martyred and many of them will be affected by the temporal judgments that God will pour on the earth, but I am sure that God will give the grace to have peace in their hearts even when they are surrounded by the tribulation that will happen in the world.
But in addition to the writing of John which will be around then, the book of Revelation, in the addition to the hundred and forty-four thousand and the many Jews and Gentiles who will come to Christ and proclaim His name, there will be two more very unique evangelists. And they're going to be preaching in the end time, and we meet them in chapter 11.
Let's read the first four verses.
1 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty- two months. 3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Now these are very remarkable individuals. Let’s read on,
5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
So, John is instructed here that there are going to be some witnesses coming in the end time. They will prophesy during the six trumpet judgments that take place in the second half of the Tribulation, the time known as the Great Tribulation.
They come warning men, obviously, telling men of the of the seventh trumpet judgment that is about to fall upon the earth.
So all along during the Great Tribulation they are preaching the gospel, warning, calling men to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And they keep doing that right up until the end.
And this is a wonderful comforting truth for us to know because it reminds us that people will have an opportunity to hear the gospel, if not from the hundred and forty-four thousand or the converted people from every tongue and nation (ch. 7), they will be able to hear these two individuals. All this is a reminder of God’s marvelous grace even during those moments just before the blowing of the seventh trumpet.
These two prophets are going to have a tremendous impact on the world, even if they are just two men, because of what they can do. They have power to stop the rain, turn water into blood, smite the earth with every plague and when anybody tries to harm them, they can destroy them by fire that comes out of their mouth. These two prophets will be a torment to the world that refuses to believe in the gospel.
And so what this reminds is that during these times of fierce judgment, the Lord keeps preaching the gospel right up until the very end. This reminds us of Christ’s prediction in Matthew 24:14 in the Olivet Discourse, that says, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Right up to the end, gospel preaching will go on. God will always have His prophets confronting the rejecters, calling them to repent.
When these two are done with their work and taken out of the earth, then the seventh trumpet will be blown (11:15) and it will release the seven bowls judgments. These final judgments will be poured out in a fast and furious way. These bowl judgments will come so fast, one after the other, that there will no longer be any interlude between any of them, unlike the previous sets of judgments where there is an interval between the 6th
and the 5th
judgments. The bowl judgments will also be so violent and intense, more furious than the previous sets of judgments. All these judgments will end with Christ coming at the battle of Armageddon, destroying the ungodly and then setting up His Kingdom.
That is our brief overview of 11:1-14. Next week, we are going to look at the details and we will begin with verses 1 and 2—the two most difficult verses in chapter 11. I suggest that you prepare for this by reading Daniel’s 70th
week in Daniel 9:24-27. Read also about God’s glorious plan in the future for Israel in Romans 11. Honestly, this is why I did not want to tackle chapter 11 yet. I need to do more studying. I felt that my studies were not enough. I need to read more background material. Pray for me. Pray for yourselves and let us together learn from this marvelous book.
I will close by just encouraging you to continue to read and to study and to apply the things that we are learning from this book. Don’t just read this book; study it. Don't just study it; apply what you learn. Remember the Lord’s promise in Revelation 1:3:
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.