The Book of Revelation

An Overview

Part 1 of 2




John Hoole – May 6, 2012





In our previous lesson – An Introduction to Revelation – we looked at some important facts about the Book of Revelation.  We compared it with Genesis, showing how it perfectly concludes what began in Genesis.  We also compared it with Daniel, and noted that while Daniel was a closed book until the end times, Revelation was not to be sealed and closed.  We noted:  1) who wrote it, 2) when it was written, 3) where it was written, as well as 4) to whom the book was originally written.  We also noted that Jesus is a central figure in this book.


Today, we begin examining the message of the book of Revelation – not in detail, but an overview.  To begin, I want to give a high level outline of the major sections of Revelation.  Then we will take it one level lower, to put some flesh on it – but still an overview.


In our last lesson, I mentioned that, like many Bible books, Revelation has a key phrase and a key verse.  The “key phrase” of the entire Book is found in the very first verse of Revelation.


Revelation 1:1 NKJV


1       The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must quickly take place.


The first 5 word – The Revelation of Jesus Christ – come from only 3 Greek words: Apokálupsis Ieesoú Christoú – Apokalupsis Iesoú Xristoú


Now, let’s look at the key verse of the book of Revelation.


Revelation 1:19 NKJV


19        Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.


This key verse gives us an high level outline for the entire Book of Revelation.  It divides the book into three parts.


Chapter One“Thing which you have seen.”  This speaks of the past.  And Christ is portrayed as the “Glorified One.”


Chapters 2 & 3“The things which are.”  This speaks of the messages to the seven churches, and speaks of the present.  Here, Christ is shown to be the “Present One,” walking among His churches.


Chapters 4 – 22“The things which will take place after this.”  This speaks of the future.  Here, Christ is shown to be the “Triumphant One.”


Now, let’s take it down one level, which will be used to examine the message of the book of Revelation.




Picture the scene with me.  John is getting rather elderly – maybe 90+ years old.  He is the last of the original 12 apostles still living.  Out on the craggy island, he is probably brown by the sun. Imagine John on this Sunday at the beach.  He has come here to worship.


Revelation 1:10-11 NIV


10     On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,

11     which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."


Notice the voice has come from behind him.  John is about to turn and see Jesus.  Of course this isn’t his first time to see his Savior.  For more than three years he had followed Christ.  But this encounter was far different from any in Galilee.  This time the image is so vivid – the impression is so powerful, that shortly after her turns, what he sees causes John to fall at his feet as dead.  Let’s read the encounter.


Revelation 1:12-17 NIV


12     I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

13     and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.


16     In His right hand he held seven stars.


17     When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.


It is the Lord that initiated this encounter with the apostle.  And He had a message to give, and asked John to write what he heard and saw.  The Lord was going to unlock the mystery of the future and unveil the sequence of events.




While John was on the Isle of Patmos, Christ commanded him to record seven messages to specific churches in Asia Minor.  Each letter is tailored to speak to the church being addressed.  The individually tailored messages to each church are recorded in Chapters two and three.  In the second chapter, four churches are address, with three churches in chapter three.


The seven churches were seven literal churches that existed in Asia Minor in the first century.  And the sequence in which they are given – from Ephesus to Smyrna …. To Laodicea, followed an existing Roman road in a somewhat irregular circular path.


Before the Apocalypse presents any message of judgment on the unbelieving world, it first calls the churches to repentance.  Judgment must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).  If the local churches are not a proper expression of God’s truth and love, how can they influence the world for Christ?  In these letters, we find the Lord of the Church lovingly but firmly speaking to His Church.


EPHESUS – The Apostolic Church


The first church was in Ephesus, the largest of these 7 cities.  In many regards, it served as a mother church to many of the others.  Paul, Timothy and John all served the Lord in this church during the first century.  This was a privileged church.  But as time went on, they had begun to lose their first priority, and the result was to be occupied with lesser things.


The Lord commends this church for their labor, patience, fidelity, and endurance (2:2-3).  But Christ said to them, “This one thing I have against you; you have left your first love.”  This message, and probably the message to each of these seven churches could be given to the church in the 21st century.


SMYRNA – The Persecuted Church


Smyrna was located about 25 miles due north of Ephesus, and was also a port city.  Today, it is known by the name of Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey.  This is one of two churches where there is no hint of compromise.  But because of their fidelity in the faith, Christians here became greatly persecuted.  One of their own leaders, Polycarp, was burned at the stake by Rome in 155 A.D.


There are no words of condemnation by Christ for this church.  There is no call to repentance, as there is for five of the churches.  And they are exhorted to be “faithful unto death” (2:10-11).  They are a picture of the persecuted church, even to this day.


PERGAMUM – The Imperial Church


Forty miles north and 15 miles inland, you find the city of Pergamum.  This was a political city and the base for the Roman military for this region of their kingdom.  For this reason, sometimes this church is called “The Imperial Church.”


Christ begins His letter to this church by reminding them, “I know where you live” (2:13).  He was fully aware that these Christian were surrounded by a non-Christian society, which exerted much pressure for Christians to live by society’s standards.  Our Lord’s letter to this church emphasizes several things vital for any effective congregation: 1) Love for the truth, 2) Desire for holiness, 3) Willingness to repent

THYATIRA – The Prosperous Church


The longest of the seven letters was written to the church in the smallest town.  Thyatira had little political or religious significance.  There was little threat of harsh treatment of Christians here.  But there was a more subtle  temptation – social acceptance.


Our Lord’s letter commends the church here for its charity, service, faith, patience, and good works.  But there were also some serious problems with this church.  A powerful woman, called Jezebel, had influence inside the congregation, encouraging believers to participate in the ungodly festivals of the city.


The call to repentance was issued and they were told there was still time to repent, but the door of opportunity was about to close.


SARDIS – The Powerless Church


The first church mentioned in chapter three is that in the city of Sardis.  Sardis was a commercial and industrial city, with several ancient roads coming through them.  Some call this a dead church?  The command of Christ to this church – “Wake up!!,” gives the impression it is about to die.  He tells them to wake up and repent lest He “come like a thief,” and before it is too late.


PHILADELPHIA – The Evangelistic Church


The church is Philadelphia was one of the strongest of the seven congregations.  It was a church with great missionary zeal and spiritual commitment.  It was small and poor, compared to some of the others, but inwardly, it was a dynamic and faithful church.


Whereas the letter to the church in Sardis almost unmitigated censure, the letter to Philadelphia is one of almost unqualified commendation.  Like Smyrna, this was a harshly persecuted church, especially from the local Jewish synagogue Christ calls “the synagogue of Satan.”  Despite their opposition, the church at Philadelphia is promised an open door of evangelism.  And Christ promised to keep them from the trial that was to come to the whole earth.


LAODICEA – The Lukewarm Church


The last of the seven churches is found in the city of Laodicea.  This city was a popular place for wealthy people to retire, and the city became a banking center.  The wealth caused people to become proud and self-sufficient, even among the Christians.  The people in this city were highly materialistic.


Christ says this church had become lukewarm and He is about to spit them out of His mouth.  The call to repent means this church is not beyond repair.  He tells them, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”  His heart still went out to them.




At the end of chapter three, the scene shifts dramatically.  The scene shifts from earth to heaven.  John tells us he sees an open door in heaven.  And he is summoned into the throne room of God Almighty by the words, “Come up here.”  Everything and everyone is worshiping the Creator.  John is overwhelmed with the scene as he describes the 24 elders, living creatures and angels surrounding He who sits on the throne.  He tries to describe what is actually indescribable.


John watches from a heavenly perspective as God orchestrates what is happening on earth.  It should reassure us that God has control of it all.  God’s sovereign will is being carried out.  His eternal purposes will be accomplished.  The transition that occurs at the beginning of chapter 4 also shifts our focus into the future.


Near the end of this chapter, we are told the first of many times worship and singing is occurring in the presence of the Creator of the universe, and the Savior of the world.




The scene in chapter 5 remains in heaven.  Once again, Jesus Christ is the central figure.  He appears almost suddenly, to claim His rightful inheritance from His Father’s hand.  He is the heir to the Jewish royalty – “The Root of David.”


Chapter 5 begins with these words:


Revelation 5:1-3 KJV


1       And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a scroll written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

2       And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose the seals thereof?

3       And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the scroll, neither to look thereon.


                   The description of this scroll is very similar to that of an ancient will or testament.


Because there is found no one worthy to open the scroll, John weeps.  An elder interrupts John, telling him that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” and ”the Root of David,” has prevailed to open the scroll.  But, when Jesus turns, he does not see a Lion, but a Lamb with the marks of slaughter on it.  Someone has asked:  Is there anything in heaven that is manmade?  Yes !! The scars in the hands of our Savior.


The Lamb of God – Jesus – stretches forth his hands to take the scroll from His Father’s hand.  And, once again, like in chapter 4, the heavenly choir bursts forth in praise of the Lamb.  The topic of this song is the redemption Jesus accomplished for all mankind by His blood.   Part of what they are singing and praising God for is that He has made the redeemed as kings and priests to reign with Him.  And we are told the redeemed will reign with Christ on this earth.  And chapter 5 ends with a myriad of angels joining the singing.




We move to the last chronological section of the book of Revelation – the future.  This chart shows what John will see and write about in chapters 6 – 18.  Chapter 5 ends with Christ holding the scroll with seven seals.  In Chapter 6, verse 1 reads: “I watched as the Lamb opened the first seal.”  John is still in heaven, and sees from that vantage point, what happens on earth as his Lord discloses what is inside each seal.  By far, the worst period in human history is yet future.  The Bible calls it the “wrath of the Lamb.”  And it is at this point that the seven-year tribulation begins.



Seal #1


As the first seal is broken and opened, a potent counterfeit of Christ appears.  He is riding a white horse, like Christ does when He comes in Chapter 19.  Other than the white horse, there is nothing that makes him like Christ.  The rider on the white horse is the first of what is known as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”  Undoubtedly, He is the Antichrist.


Seal #2


In verse 3, John sees the second rider is upon a red horse.  The rider on this horse is associated with war and bloodshed.  He will take peace from the earth – causing people to kill one another.  The word “kill,” in this passage, means to “slaughter” or “butcher.”


Seal #3


When the third seal is broken, a black horse appears with a rider holding a pair of balances.  This is often the depiction in the Bible of famine.  Famine is almost always the result of war because the participants of war run roughshod through fields of grain.


Seal #4


In verse 7, John is observes the breaking of the fourth seal.  We read in Revelation 6:8: NKJV


8       So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him.


Death, the rider on this horse seems to have a second rider – Hades is following with him.  And, together, they kill one-fourth of the world’s population.  Today, that would amount to 1.7 billion people killed.


Seal #5


Once again, the scene that John sees is moved from earth to heaven.  In verse 9, Christ breaks the fifth seal, and John sees souls under the altar, those who are martyred for their faith in Christ.  These martyred saints are asking God how long it is going to be before God exacts revenge on those that killed them.  They are instructed to wait until additional brethren are killed and join them.


Seal 6


In verse 12, when the Lamb opens the sixth seal, the heavens and the earth begin to convulse.  The sun become black, the moon turns to red, stars fall in the sky to earth.  The powers of nature and human government collapse.  The planet is shaking.  Chaos ensues, and people call upon the rocks and mountains to bury them alive.  Rather than repent and call upon God to save them, they call upon the powers of nature to deliver them.


The ensuing description, in 6:14, reads:


Revelation 6:14 NKJV


14     Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.


This verse could easily be describing a nuclear or cosmic disaster which causes the planet to be shaken so that the sun, moon and stars appear to be moving, and the atmosphere “is split apart like a scroll, when it is rolled up.”  John’s description is very similar to that in 2 Peter 3:10.




As we move into chapter 7, we take a purposeful break between the 6th and 7th seals.  Unlike chapter six, which portrays a chronological sequence in the opening of the 6 seals, chapter 7 does not advance the narrative chronologically, but introduces us to two groups of people.  You will find such pauses in the sequential nature of Revelation at several junctures, where we find a “gap” or “parenthesis,” filled with added information, but which do not advance the narrative.


Someone might ask, “Why the interruption?”  In this case, it is because an important question had been asked at the very end of Revelation 6.


Revelation 6:17 NKJV


17     For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"


Well, who will be able to stand during this terrible time?  Chapter 7 gives us the answer to the question.  Two groups are brought onto the stage in chapter 7.   One of them to be fully Jewish, while the other is primarily made up of Gentile people.  These are they who are able to stand.


144,000 make up the first group


The 144,000 are comprised of 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel.  God puts His seal in their forehead.  This tells us that God still has a future plan for the nation of Israel.  In this passage, the 144,000 are called “servants of our God” (7:3).  Later in the book of Revelation, it will be shown the 144,000 will take the gospel throughout the world during the tribulation period.


The innumerable multitude from all nations


Beginning in verse 9, another group is mentioned.  John writes that this group comes from every nation (ethnos, “ethnic”), tribes (phule, “family”) people (laos, “people” group), and tongue (glossa, “language” group).  The fact that they stand before the Lamb in white robes (righteousness), indicates this is a body of redeemed people.


It is very possible this group are the results of the ministry of the 144,000 ministers.  In any case, although this will be a dark time on earth, God will still be saving people by His grace.  They have been martyred because of their belief and trust in Christ, the Lamb.



CHAPTER 8 comes next


In verse 1, we reads:  “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”


By this point in the book, we have seen a lot of activity and heard a lot of noise.  So this verse stands in stark contrast to everything that has preceded it.  All of a sudden the noise and commotion and activity come to a screeching halt.  The eerie silence is like the calm before the storm.


At this point in the chronology, we move to the second set of 7 judgments.  Verse two says the seventh seal reveals seven angels who stand before God, and to them was each given a trumpet.  And with their sounding, the judgmental destruction becomes more pervasive.


First Trumpet


We are told that when the first trumpet sounds, a mixture of hail, fire and blood are hurled down to the earth.  The result is that one-third of the trees and all the grass is burned.  This judgment is aimed at the earth’s vegetation.


Second Trumpet


Next, John describes a large fireball, like a huge mountain, that is cast into the sea,  polluting one-third of the oceans and destroying one-third of the ships.  Also, a third of the sea creature died.


Third Trumpet


When the third angel sounded the trumpet, there fell a great star from heaven, burning as though it were a lamp – a blazing torch.  Unlike the second trumpet which caused the seas to be polluted, the third trumpet affects fresh water – a third of the springs and rivers become bitter.  Something is settling down over the planet.


Fourth Trumpet


In verse 12, when the fourth trumpet sounds, the air around the earth is affected.  A third of the sun, moon and stars is darkened, causing the earth to have only a third of the day without the sun’s light, and only a third of the night.


The judgment of the first four trumpets affects every area of life.  But it will get much worse.  Three woes are associated with the fourth, fifth and sixth trumpet, indicating the judgments of these three trumpets will be more severe.


The first four trumpets affected the entire physical earth.  The last three take us behind the scenes to witness supernatural forces – angels and demons.




Fifth Trumpet – Woe #1


As the fifth trumpet sounds, John sees “a star fall from heaven to earth.”  This is most likely an angel, since personal pronouns are used in the first two verses.  This angel is given the key to the abyss (Greek Abussos).  The abyss – or bottomless pit, as it is often called – is a place to incarcerate demons.  It is the same place where Satan will be bound for a thousand years.


When the abyss is opened, the sun and moon are further darkened as a result of the smoke rising from the pit.  Out of the abyss and the smoke comes a horde of what John describes as “locust.”  But these locust are not at all like locust in the world today.  One indication they are different from present-day locust insect is that in verse 11, they are described as having a king, named Abaddon (Heb.) or Apollyon (Gk).  But in Proverbs 30:27, we are told locust have no king.


Having come from the abyss, they must be symbolic of demons or demon-inspired combatants.  Keep in mind that the apostle John was trying to describe things he say in 1st century knowledge.  That is why in this chapter, John uses the work “like” 12 times.  He didn’t know exactly what he saw, so he says it is “like” something he knew.


For us in the 21st century, what he describes sounds a lot like modern warfare.  These things like locust fly, make noise, are armored, and “sting” people without killing them.


Sixth Trumpet – Woe #2


Revelation 9:13 NKJV


13     Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,


The voice instructs the angel with the sixth trumpet to release the “four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”  Since they are bound, they must be fallen angels – demons.  Their release is by divine permission, and they will function as agents of God’s wrath.


These four angels have prepared for their function, but they will not come alone.  We are told an army of 200 million horsemen will accompany them.  Together, they will kill a third of mankind.


Every story in our daily news that speaks of the trouble in the Middle East should not surprise us.  This judgment tells us the final battles before Christ comes will take place there.  And John has difficulty describing the demons that are preparing for battle.


I think there is a message in Revelation 9 for Christians today.  I see a missionary mandate running all through this chapter.  Paul says it best, in 2 Corinthians 5:11He wrote, Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”  God’s judgment and wrath is no small thing.  We don’t want anyone to experience it.




Time is running out for the people of earth.  By the end of the sixth trumpet judgments, half the world’s population has been wiped out.  There was an interlude – a parenthesis – between the sixth and seventh seal.  There is now a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh trumpet, and like the previous, this one does not advance the sequential narrative.


Revelation 10:1-3 NKJV


1       I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.

2       He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,

3       and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices.


What John saw was another strong angel, and he had a small scroll.  The term, “little scroll” is mentioned in the Bible only in this chapter.  And it certainly distinguishes it from the scroll with 7 seals in chapter 5.


The description of this angel has led some to think it is Christ.  There are several reasons why it is NOT Christ.  The phrase “another angel” uses the Greek “allon” for the word, “another.”  This word means another of the same kind as the 7 angels with the trumpets.  Also, this angel swears by God, lifting his hand to heaven, which is something Christ would not need to do.


In response to the loud voice of this angel, “seven thunders” speak an ominous message.  John begins to write what the seven thunders say, but is told NOT to record what was said.


The strong angel’s message is primarily that “there shall be delay no longer,” in executing the mysteries of God, mentioned in the next verse.  God is saying “Time’s up.  There can be no more delay”  My purposes must now be carried out.




As we moving into chapter 11, how one sees the record as symbolic or more literal is very important.  When it speaks of “that great city…where our Lord was crucified,” it should be taken literally as the city of Jerusalem.  When it speaks of the temple, we should understand the Jews will have their temple.


This chapter is also important in that it introduces the first reference to the time elements in Revelation.  It speaks of 42 months (11:2), 1,260 days (11:3), 42 months (11:5), 1,260 days (11:6).  And then in Rev. 12:14, it refers to “a time and times and half a time.”  Each of these is referring to 3½ years.


References to the temple, altar, court, and holy city, shows the focus is on the Jews.  Confusion occurs when one tries to force the Church into this vision.


In the meantime, two witnesses appear on the scene.  They prophecy (or preach) the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Their ministry sounds a lot like Moses (Law) and Elijah (prophets).  They are described as being the two olive trees spoken of in (Zechariah 4:2-6)Their ministry in Jerusalem lasts for 1,260 day, and only when their ministry is completed does God allow them to be killed.  Their bodies are allowed to lie in the streets for 3½ days, and all the world watches their fallen corpses.  People are so happy, they give gifts to one another.


But, while the world is watching, “the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them.”  They hear a voice from heaven, saying, “Come up here.”  They ascend from earth into heaven.


It says that when this happens, a great earthquake occurs, killing 7,000 people in Jerusalem.  The remaining population of the city will become panic-stricken and give glory to the God of heaven.  This is the only time people show any semblance of a repentant heart of the unbelievers.



Seventh Trumpet – Woe #3


Before this chapter ends, the seventh angel blows its trumpet.  And before we are told about the substance of this judgment, which will happen, beginning in chapter 15, all those in His presence in heaven breaks out again is songs of praises to the Lamb of God.