New Testament Week 49-52: “There Will No Longer Be Night” – The Revelation of St. John

The Book of Revelation is daunting. It is a vision full of imagery, symbolism, and historical undertones that are difficult for us to decipher. It is so daunting that most people either completely ignore the book altogether, or they resort to proof-texting (selecting random scriptures out of context to support their idea) some of the more poetic and interesting verses in the book.

While I am under no illusion that everyone will read the whole book with their family and scrutinize it verse by verse, I do think that there are some very simple and helpful things that can make it much easier to understand, review and apply. For all its potential to create confusion, there is so much meaning and power behind the symbols that match up with our day and I don’t mean the signs of the times and the end of world predictions. In fact, what I felt was most powerful about Revelations was how it shows the methods in which saints can be deceived, how that deception plays out, and what Christ can do to end that deception and save us.

I hope this post can help and give some tools to incorporate in your study.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK – The Book of Revelation

Background and Setting:
The most likely time frame for the writing of The Book of Revelations is 70-100 AD. Most scholars believe it was written in the latter part of that range during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian. John the Beloved has been traditionally considered the author, and there is not much scholarship that can refute that. The only argument against that idea is that John of the Gospel of John writes and talks about himself much differently than in Revelations. That could be for many reasons, not to mention the purpose of the Book of Revelations was different.

There are four primary background perspectives that are necessary to understand Revelations and John’s frame of mind at the time of his vision.

  • Isle of Patmos
    • John was likely exiled to the Isle of Patmos as an alternative to death for preaching Christianity. The Romans had recently decreed Christians could be put to death for spreading their religion and with many of John’s friends and co-apostles being killed, he likely chose to be exiled instead of death.
  • Persecution and Violence
    • In 64 AD Nero decreed that Christians were enemies of the state and could be killed for preaching their religion. In addition, Jews were persecuted as well with the Temple being destroyed in 70 AD. The violence being committed against Christians would have been excruciating to watch and hear about for John. I think it is important for us to think what this would have felt like for John and for all Christians to fear for their life, their freedom, and the life of those they loved the most.
  • Apostasy
    • The most important, and critical piece of background to John’s vision, however, was not violence or persecution. The great apostasy of Christianity was his greatest torment. There were different philosophies that were creeping into the churches and destroying the gospel message and doctrines. Without apostles, and missionaries to help correct the errors the churches were falling apart. John points out their issues in the first few chapters of the book, but the idea of apostasy is the central message of the vision. The fact that a falling away was happening and inevitable, but that Christ would solve that problem in the future is a key component of the story.

Important Ideas Regarding Narrative Structure:
– This vision along with Daniel and Ezekiel are called First Person Apocalypse accounts. They are defined by the characters in the account. In these types of accounts, a mortal character describes an encounter with otherworldly guides. In John’s vision he has angels, a heavenly voice, and even Jesus Christ as his guide through the vision, but it is told from John’s point of view.

– While much of the vision’s imagery can be thought of as difficult because it was a dream from John, the most important reason it is difficult is because it is full of symbolism. People of John’s time could not read and so symbolism was how things would have been understood at the fullest spiritual level. Just like temple worship, Revelation is symbolic more than it is historic. This is difficult for us in modern times because we are secular, and we learn and think chronologically and logically. John’s vision is symbols and imagery that is meant to illicit a personal response and multiple interpretations for different situations. When we make it only about the events of the last days, we miss the entire point of the vision.

– Parallels are key to the vision. There are many parallels but the most explicit is the parallels between God and Satan:

  • Holy
    • God – Father of Truth and Love
    • The Lamb – Leader of the fight for good, sacrifices self for salvation of all.
    • The Bride (Woman) – organizations that follow the Lamb
    • Prophets – those who help bring people to the Lamb
    • New Jerusalem – the philosophies, ideas, motivations, and justifications that lead people to humility, meekness, love, unity, selflessness, and reject materialism and greed.
    • Saints – the individual people who love Jesus Christ, have faith and repent.
  • Evil
    • The Dragon – Father of Lies and Enmity
    • The Beasts – Leader of the fight for evil, sacrifices others for his glory.
    • The Whore (Woman) – organizations that fight against the Lamb
    • Antichrists – those who lead people away from the Lamb
    • Babylon – the philosophies, ideas, motivations, and justifications that lead people to greed, pride, power, hate, division, and selfishness.
    • Kings – the individuals who reject Jesus Christ and worship themselves and their own power.

There are other parallels and so it is important to notice what is being taught by the parallels as opposed to figuring out how things fit in logical order or chronologically.

– The Vision is a three-act presentation that will remind us of temple worship.

ACT 1 – Mankind is good and then is deceived by Lucifer and falls.
ACT 2 – Mankind is redeemed by Christ and then is deceived and falls away (apostasy) again from the Lord.
ACT 3 – Mankind is redeemed again through Christ and His saints and evil is conquered for good.

– Repetition has meaning. 7 plagues, 7 bowls, 7 seals, 7 signs. “Victory over the beast, over his image, over his mark, and over his name.” When you see repetition, it is cluing you in that something is important here or there is more to the story.

– Expansions and Interruptions are the most confusing part of the vision. We want to read the whole thing as chronological, but in reality John’s vision is replete with times where he hits a point and then stops the main narrative to either expand on a concept – like when he goes back to the pre-mortal existence to talk about Satan’s beginnings and why he wants our destruction – or to completely interrupt the narrative to tell a parallel narrative before he combines the two narratives at later chapters. Understanding when this is happening is helpful so that you can understand what John is trying to convey to us as we read.

– Distinctions between realism and non-realism is difficult in the vision because it is a dream and because of symbolism. Sometimes you must read the words as metaphors and symbols as opposed to trying to reconcile contradictions and things that make no sense.

– Much of the imagery is centered around Romans, Old Testament temple images, and Christian symbols. The people of the time would have understood the symbols much better than we do at this time, but it is important to understand the basis for much of the imagery. The book wasn’t published to define the end of the world, but to give hope and focus to the people of the time to keep their hope and faith in Jesus Christ who will save us all.

Symbols and Imagery (This will not be exhaustive but some examples):
– 7 Churches is important because there were hundreds of churches, but 7 means all. Or in other words the book was written for all believers anytime, anywhere, in any period. The church sections are examples of the seeds of apostasy that all believers face and how Jesus and His gospel can help us.
1. Ephesus – self-righteousness and division – Gospel and Christ bring humility, love, and unity.
2. Thyatira – there is no right or wrong all is tolerated – Christ shows justice and mercy are both important.
3. Pergamum – Idols replaced Christ and Traditions of Fathers over revelation – the Spirit is the Light of Christ and it teaches us good and evil.
4. Smyrna – Believed Death is the end – Christ is how we live again.
5. Philadelphia – worried about loss of public esteem or image – Christ loves us unconditionally for who we are.
6. Sardis – Two faced and Hypocrites – Christ alone can waken our souls to what we need to change to become our best selves.
7. Laodicea – Pride and Riches – Christ and Love is what is valuable not money and power.

– Lampstand (7 candled menorah) – 7 churches – do not create light but demonstrate it.

– Sword from Christ’s mouth – never-ending – revelation to His people.

– Seven Stars – leaders of 7 churches – or all churches will have leaders that are given revelation from the Lord to help guide them.

– White Stones and New Names are both very explicit temple imagery in connection with making covenants with God.

– 144,000 – 12 is the ancient symbol that represents the priesthood and those who are sealed up and anointed. It was common anciently to square a number to amplify its meaning and so that would be 144. In this context, when the Lord adds 1,000 times to a number it can mean two things. 1) that it is a large number, or 2) that it is a perfected number. So, in this instance it is likely that 144,000 just reflects the large number of those who have made the priesthood covenants and are sealed and anointed. The large number reflects the fact that the 144,000 act as saviors on Mount Zion which we believe is doing the work of the lord to seal and anoint all of God’s children.

– Numbers are important so here are some basics – 3=Holy or important, 7=all or whole or complete, 12= priesthood, 6=incomplete or not perfect, 1,000=many or perfect.

Structure of John’s Vision

  • Introduction to the Vision (1-4)
    • Jesus Christ appears to John and asks that the vision be written down and provided to all the churches.
    • The churches are facing apostasy and persecution, Christ is the key to remaining faithful and only He can save us all.
    • John is shown the throne of God that can see the four corners of the earth and all living things.
  • Main Narrative – Dispensations of Time (5-6)
    • John is shown a scroll which represents the dispensations of mortality. Each seal represents different periods of time when the gospel was preached and defeated and the Lamb is responsible for instituting each seal, including the final seal which will be his victory.
      • Seal 1 – First dispensation – wickedness is overcome by Enoch (pale horse with a crown given).
      • Seal 2 – Second dispensation – Noah lives during the time when the fiery red horse (Satan) ruled and violence and murder reigned. Ending with the flood.
      • Seal 3 – Third dispensation – Famine reigns with the black horse (famine, plague, and pestilence) during the time of Abraham.
      • Seal 4 – Fourth dispensation – the death (pale horse) of Jehovah’s people is near constant beginning with Moses until Christ is born in the fifth dispensation. Israel is the center of all the great powers of this age and is constantly besieged, destroyed, and scattered.
      • Seal 5 – Fifth dispensation – Christ comes and believers are robed in the new covenant. They are still persecuted, but their testimony will bring believers to Christ into the future.
      • Seal 6 – Cosmic calamities are a symbol for the apostasy and devastation of rejecting God. However, the Lamb is gathering his reinforcements during the sixth seal and nothing will deter His righteous purposes.
  • Interlude 1 – Future of the Righteous (7)
    • Those who reject idolatry, materialism, secularism, selfishness and make and keep covenants (represented by the 144,000) with God will rejoice at the end of time and salvation comes through Jesus Christ.
    • The Lamb will right all wrongs, heal all wounds, shelter and protect, and wipe away all tears.
  • Main Narrative- End of Mortality (8-9)
    • The seventh seal is the subject of the next four chapters. It is the dispensation prior to and during the Millennium. It begins with angels trumpeting four preparations for the Lamb (four dispensations) and three that conclude his return. The plagues are similar to Moses – with specific intent – they are meant to turn the hearts of the covenant people to God, and to harden the hearts of those who persecute believers.
      • The first trumpets act as undoers of the story of Genesis (light, air, vegetation, water, firmament are all hit with destruction). This represents mankind destroying and discarding the creation we are stewards of.
      • The second set of trumpets act as destroyers of mankind’s faith and love. Lucifer takes control of mankind through greed, power, envy, jealousy and wickedness. The plagues are symbolic of human evil and destruction. The smoke that blocks out the sun is the philosophies, secular nature, and greedy idols of apostasy and make it hard to feel the spirit and Light of Christ.
      • The calamities caused by humans and the deception of Satan is not enough to cause people to repent and seek the Lord.
  • Interlude 2 – John’s Mission (10)
    • John has a brief interlude to discuss his role in the vision. An angel commands John to listen to the vision, eat of the scroll (or mentally digest) what is being said and heard as it is his responsibility to bring the message of the gospel through the sixth dispensation and until Christ comes again. The Book of Revelation is one way John fulfills this message, but the other is assisting in the restoration of the Gospel in modern times. Another will come again toward the end of times.
  • Expansion of the Narrative – End of final dispensation and Millennium (11)
    • A great temple is constructed (symbolic of God’s covenants protecting His saints) and it is likely a temple that is figuratively everywhere the saints are gathered.
    • Two prophets will represent the saints and will protect them from the armies of the world and Satan. They will be killed, and death is the true fear of humans that reject God. However, resurrection is the true power of the Living God and when the prophets rise again, like Jesus Christ, then the power of Satan’s deception will be laid bare for all to see.
    • The final trumpet sounds and the temple in heaven was opened and the Lamb’s victory is imminent.
  • Expansion of the Narrative – Satan’s Background (12-13)
    • John rewinds in time at this point in the vision with Lucifer’s backstory and his purposes.
    • Lucifer was important and influential, he rebelled against God and Michael (Adam, and represents all who followed Christ) cast him, the dragon, out of heaven to earth.
    • When he arrived to earth, he sought to destroy the woman (Eve, the church, and all saints who believe) and the man child (Christ) and they were protected through their faith. However, he still seeks revenge and their destruction, the destruction of their faith.
    • The dragon has two beasts, one from the land and one from the seas. These are metaphorical beasts and the pillars of Satan’s plan against the children of God.
      • Beast of the Sea – Chaos, political and social upheaval, division. Philosophies, ideas, principles that deceive, divide, corrupt, and depress the children of God.
      • Beast of the Land – The application and enforcement of those ideas. The results of the first beast’s ideas are alluring, and powerful, and have fruits that appear good to those who are deceived.
    • Eventually these ideas and practices will consume mankind and will control their decisions and particularly their materialism and monetary systems. This is the world around us, consumerism, debt, greed, pride, and jealousy. It rules our decisions.
  • Expansion of the Narrative – the Role of Saints (14)
    • Those who have covenanted with God (144,000) will be protected if they are faithful. They will also be instrumental in overthrowing the influence of the beasts as they are Saviors on Mount Zion. Doing the selfless work of salvation to those alive and dead.
    • God gives the saints and all people three warnings (3=holy) and they are things we need to think about in our own lives.
      • 1. Respect and Trust God – follow the Savior.
      • 2. Babylon (the product of the beast’s philosophies) is empty and will fall eventually.
      • 3. If we worship the ideas and world the beasts create, we are drinking a wine that will bring upon us God’s wrath. I take this to mean those who drink the wine will eventually persecute the saints of God and harden them to the Lamb.
    • Saints must help all mankind, bring the gospel to them, work to love and succor those who are ailing. Those who reject the saints will be gathered by the angels of the harvest for destruction.
  • Expansion of the Narrative – Satan’s Destiny (15-18)
    • We have now moved closer to where John left the main narrative. We are going to witness more specifically the events of the end of mortality for those who reject the Lamb.
    • The saints who overcame the beast will experience peace.
    • Seven bowls of wrath will pour upon those who rejected the lamb.
      • Seals = designs of God
      • Trumpets = warnings of God
      • Bowls = judgments of God.
    • War and chaos, spiritually and physically, are a fixture in the final dispensation.
    • Babylon is set as a contrast to the gospel message:
      • Materialism, selfishness, greed, power
      • The great whore, organizations that stand in contrast to the Bride of the Lamb (the church).
        • Horns and kingdoms are referring to Roman and Greek influences – similar to our secular, materialistic, and power-hungry society.
      • Babylon falls eventually and is exposed for the falsity that it is. However, most mourn the loss rather than repent and seek the Lord.
    • We have been brought through to the end times three times (3=holy) at this point and so we will return to the main narrative.
  • Main Narrative – Millenium and Triumph (19-21)
    • After Babylon, the beasts, and the Dragon’s society is defeated there are 3 hallelujahs that celebrate the Lamb and His victory and the love and joy of the gospel.
    • Christ comes on a white horse (purity, salvation, and glory) and casts Satan aside and his followers. There is peace for the rest of the millennium.
    • Greed, pride, selfishness, and other human conditions rise again allowing Satan to once again attempt to deceive mankind. He can deceive some, but Christ then finishes life’s journey with the final judgment and the creation of a new heaven and new earth.
    • New Jerusalem contrasts with Babylon. Sacrifice, glory, priesthood, light, love are the foundations through symbols of eternal glory of the saints. Christ will not leave us comfortless and we will be redeemed if we just believe, repent, and love others.
    • We finally hear God speak and He says seven things:
      • I am making all things new – fix all.
      • Write this, these sayings are faithful and true – we can rely on His prophets.
      • It is done – the atonement and salvation is already complete.
      • I am the beginning and end – we can rely on God’s wisdom.
      • I will give the water of life to those who are thirsty – our emptiness and despair is filled by Christ and living waters.
      • Those who conquer will inherit eternal life – life is hard, always with conflict, faith and repentance take effort and patience.
      • Those who reject God will experience the second death – our pride and selfishness is what must be conquered.
  • Conclusion (22)
    • John’s vision is important for our salvation. It is about us seeing the seeds of apostasy and deception in our lives in all the places they can be and to repent and seek the Lord. This will bring us safety, peace, happiness, but it will not remove conflict, or problems, or challenges. However, being a saint will bring love and joy we cannot experience without it and the commitment to Babylon will be empty forever.

Functional Message and Key Scripture: Revelations 22:1-7
Then the angel showed me a river of life, which had crystal clear water, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 
running down the middle of the main street. On either side of the river there is a tree of life, producing twelve crops of fruit according to each month and season. The leaves of the tree of life are for healing the nations. 
And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. 
And they will see his face, and his name will be upon their foreheads. 
And there will no longer be night, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun because the Lord God will give light to them, and they will rule for ever and ever.
Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true, and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“Behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed are those who obey the words of the prophecy of this book.”

The single most important thing I believe someone can take from the Book of Revelations is the certainty that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, will overcome the apostasy and darkness that Satan seeks to cast over the world. The war, the fighting, the falling away, the sinning, the deception, the seals, bowls, and plagues are all symbols of the conflict, trials, and confusion that comes with life. Our souls are precious to God, and if we will imprint the name of Jesus Christ on our foreheads, or in other words try to be like Him, then He is promising us that our faith will be rewarded.

It is easy to look at John’s vision as a specific look into the future, and the end of time, but it is more a look into each of our souls. He begins by talking about the beginning of apostasy of the churches – or the seeds of apostasy in our own selves – showing them how Jesus Christ can help overcome those things. He then explains what looks like the journey mortals go through starting with the war in heaven, and ending with the redemption of earth – this closely parallels the journey of our own life (Holy before we came to earth, fallen mortals with problems, redemption through Christ, persecution apostasy and deception later in our lives, holy rewards if we can overcome the challenges of apostasy). All through the vision there are symbols and clues of how we can remain faithful and how we can help others be faithful.

The single most important tool the vision gives us is the delineation between the Savior (the Lamb) and Satan (the Dragon) and what they create. We can know the source of who we should trust by the fruits of what they are seeking to build. If they are seeking to strengthen the knowledge that Jesus Christ was resurrected, that following the gospel message of faith, humility, forgiveness, charity, service, repentance, and peace then we can trust they will bring the joy of Zion to us now and later. If they are seeking to encourage intellectual pride, power, selfishness, greed, disregard of immoral behavior, and the destruction of families and love then they are bringing Babylon.

The tool seems obvious, but we are so quick to bling ourselves to the Babylons in our own life and ignore the Zions in others. Most organizations or groups of people are not only one thing, it is the actions, ideas, beliefs, and motivations of our own selves that matters. Judging others is not a path to Zion but judging how we act and believe and how things influence us is what matters. We must seek to imprint the name of the Lamb on our foreheads.

Final Thoughts:
This Concludes the New Testament or witness of Christ. The only true evidence we have that Jesus Christ is resurrected and His gospel is true is the words of those who have seen and witnessed His resurrection or the Spirit of the Lord to our own hearts and minds. The New Testament is the foundation for that witness. I hope that you feel closer to Jesus Christ through this year’s study it has been incredible for me.

I can share with you that I believe in Jesus Christ, I have felt the spirit confirm that He is truly our savior and resurrected Lord. I know for certain that living his gospel, repenting, and trying to listen to the Spirit brings peace, happiness, and more revelation to our souls. I also know that our relationships are more meaningful and deeper when they are coupled with love, compassion, and a desire to enjoy each other’s company in eternity.