Revelation Explained

This site contains my personal views on Revelation. I will be teaching through the book verse by verse. My teachings will be from a conservative evangelical background.

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Friday, September 30, 2005

The Letter to the Church at Smyrna: A Description of Christ

"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;" (Revelation 2:8 - King James Version)

This is the second of seven letters that Jesus sent to the churches of Asia by the hand of the Apostle John. For each of these letters, we are considering five things: a description of Christ, His comments on the church, a promise to the overcomers, the prophetic meaning and application for today. This post will cover the description of Christ in the letter to the church at Smyrna.

As I have written in previous posts, the phrase “the angel of the church” refers to the Pastor of the church. The original word for angel means messenger. The Pastor is to give God's message to the congregation to which he ministers.

Jesus describes Himself in this letter as the First and the Last. This phrase speaks of the eternal existence of Christ. He has existed from the beginning and will exist until the end of time. This would reassure this suffering church that the One they served was the true and living God.

Jesus goes on to say that He died and came to life again. Although He has always existed, Jesus took upon Himself a human body and went through the suffering of physical death for man's sin. However, death could not hold Him, He rose from the dead.

The death and resurrection of Christ are essential parts of the Gospel message. He mentions them in His introduction to this letter because the church at Smyrna faced great persecution and even martyrdom. As they faced death for their Faith, they could find comfort in these words.

Jesus had suffered death as well and as Jesus rose from the dead, they would also rise from their graves. For those who have accepted Jesus as Saviour, we know that we will rise from our graves because of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Church at Ephesus: Promise, Prophetic, Application

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7 - New King James Version)

This is the final verse in the letter to the church at Ephesus. This letter was from Jesus recorded by the Apostle John. It is the first of seven letters to the churches of Asia.

This verse begins with a call for those with spiritual ears, that is spiritual understanding and insight, to listen to what is being said to the churches.

Jesus ends each letter with a promise. The one who wins the victory will have eternal life. This does not speak of the spiritually great. It refers to those who have by faith accept the victory that Christ won as their own.

Jesus when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, defeated death, hell and the grave. By placing our faith in Him, the victory that He won becomes ours as well. We will defeat death, hell and the grave. We will live forever in Jesus.

If you want to be an overcomer, to eat of the tree of life, if you want eternal life, you need Jesus as Saviour. All you need to do is sincerely admit to God that you are a sinner, be sorry for your sin, want to turn from it, believe that Jesus died for your sin, and ask God to forgive you.

Some believe that this letter prophetically represents the church age up to about 150 AD. This was a period of great initial growth. Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

Near the end of this period, this zeal had declined greatly. Local persecution, loss of Apostolic leadership and the rise of different heresies all contributed to Christians losing their first love.

The main lesson that we learn from this letter has to do with our first love. As Christians, we should love the Lord even as we did when He first saved us. If we have lost our zeal for the things of God, then we need to heed the advice of our Saviour. We need to have our first love restored.

First, consider what your relationship with God used to be like. Remember how much you cared about spiritual things when you first learned how much Jesus loves you.

Second, repent. Ask God to forgive you for growing cold. Tell Him that you desire to renew your relationship with Him. Ask Him to restore to you the joy of your salvation.

Finally, get busy. Read the Bible like you once did. Pray to God constantly. Seek to tell others about Jesus.

To lose our first love is a terrible thing. It means our religion has become only routine. We are going through ritual without feeling. Christianity is to be a relationship more than a religion. If your relationship with Jesus is not what it should be, then take His advice: remember, repent and do!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Christ's Comments About the Church at Ephesus

"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate." (Revelation 2:2-6 - King James Version)

Jesus begins by complimenting this church. When He says that they worked hard, the idea is that they worked until exhausted. They were very busy in their Christian service and they kept up a tiring pace.

We can imagine that such a church would be very active helping the poor and needy of their community. Jesus compliments them for this.

This church was also careful about whose leadership they would follow. They did not follow just anyone. They examined the lives, claims and teachings of those who claimed to be called of God. If their lives were immoral; if they claimed an office to which they were not entitled; or if their teaching did not agree with Scripture, the church would reject them.

It would do us well today if we would examine more closely those who claim to be spiritual leaders. If their lives do not agree with what they teach or if their teaching does not agree with Scripture, we should reject them and what they say as not being of God.

In verse three, Jesus continues His praise. This church had been consistent in following the Lord. They had suffered persecution because of Christ, however this had strengthened them not defeated them.

We do not know the details of the suffering that the church at Ephesus endured. Acts chapter nineteen tells us about a riot that was started by those who opposed Christianity in this city. The main reason for the opposition was the profit made by the Temple of Diana in Ephesus. Those who made souvenirs for the temple were afraid that the spread of Christianity would put an end to idolatry. Possibly the church in Ephesus continued to suffer persecution from those who worshiped Diana.

With verse four, the tone of Jesus' message changes. This church was active and from outside appeared to be close to God. However, Jesus looked at their hearts and saw that their love for Him was declining.

Jesus is the first love of church and Christian. This church was active in its ministry. This church had pure doctrine. However this church was growing cold towards the Saviour. They were declining into a religion of form, tradition and ceremony.

This is a danger of which every Christian and church should be aware. We can become so busy doing religious activities that we have no private time to wait upon God and to draw close to Him. We must protect our personal relationship with the Lord against all intrusions so that our love for Him remains strong. All that we do for Jesus should be because of this love that we have for Him.

In verse five, Jesus gives this church some advice and a warning. Here is the Lord's advice on how to revive our love for Him when it begins to decline.

First, we must remember. Consider where we were in the past. When a person is first saved, his zeal and love for God burns hot. To remember this will make us desire revival. To remember the early days of our Christian life and the joy we had will make us turn back to God.

Second, we must repent. We must accept that we have allowed our love to grow cold. We have left God's fellowship; He has not left us. We need to tell God that we are sorry.

Third, we must return to our first actions. This refers to the basic Christian disciplines: private prayer, Bible reading, meditation on Scripture, heartfelt worship and witnessing. These are the things that often fall by the wayside as we become busy with other religious activities.

The warning to the church at Ephesus is that if they did not return to their first love, Jesus, and do their first works, primarily witnessing, they would lose their lamp stand. This means that they would lose the power of the Holy Spirit and their witness would die out.

It is interesting to note that not only is there no church in Ephesus any longer, but the city itself no longer exists. It is in ruins. There is only a small village occupying a little section of this once great city.

In verse six, Jesus adds one more compliment for this church. There is some disagreement over who the Nicolaitanes were. The name means “to conquer people.” It seems likely that these were a group among the early churches who were seeking to establish a power structure among church leaders.

They would teach that the clergy had authority over the members of the church and that certain clergy had authority over other clergy. This was the beginnings of the power structures that exist in many Christian denominations today. Jesus says that He hates the deeds of these people.

They sought to enslave people to their authority. They wanted to replace Jesus as Head of the church and put a man in His place. They were going against the words of Jesus when He told His disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27 - New King James Version)

When we seek to put ourselves in authority over other Christians, Jesus is displeased. We are to be servants bossesoses.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Letter to the Church at Ephesus: A Description of Christ

"To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:" (Revelation 2:1 - New King James Version)

Revelation chapters two and three contain seven letters written by the Apostle John as dictated by Jesus Christ. These seven letters were written to seven actual churches and tell us what Jesus thought of each church. The seven cities mentioned were located in what is now Turkey.

These seven letters are also believed by some to be prophetic statements of different periods of Church History. According to this view, they present the changes in Christianity from the days of the Apostles to the present. I will explain what periods these churches are thought to represent as we study each letter.

Most importantly, these letters contain many lessons that should be applied to our churches today and to our own Christian life.

Each of these letters contain a description of Christ, His comments on the Church and a promise to overcomers. This post will look at the description of Christ in the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Each of these letters is addressed to the “angel” of the church. In the original Greek the word for angel means one sent with a message. These letters were addressed to the pastors of the churches. There would be no need for Jesus to send a letter to a heavenly angel.

A pastor can be considered God's messenger to the local congregation. It is his duty to share God's Word with his flock. Jesus is pictured as holding the pastors of the seven churches, represented by the stars, in His hand and walking among the churches, represented by the lamp stands.

Jesus is described in this manner to remind this church that He is in control of the churches. This church had in the past enjoyed the leadership of the Apostle Paul, of Timothy and of the Apostle John. The leadership of the church was given by Jesus who holds His ministers in His hand. He can send and take leaders as He sees fit.

The lamp stand speaks of the witness of each church and the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus walks among these churches examining them, caring for them and judging them. This is a picture that should both encourage us and warn us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

John's Reaction to the Opening Vision

Revelation chapter one verses nine to twenty describe the vision John had on the island of Patmos. He was worshipping God on Sunday alone when he heard a voice behind him. He turned and saw Jesus dressed as a king of the Middle East walking among seven lampstands holding seven stars in His hand. How did John react to this powerful and unexpected vision?

"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:17-20 - New King James Version)

John reacted to this vision of Christ as any person would. He fainted out of shock and fear. No one can stand before God without feeling a great sense of sinfulness and apprehension.

Jesus did something which is so typical of the Christ of the Gospels. He reached out His hand and touched John. Throughout His ministry, Jesus touched people. He then tenderly speaks to John.

Jesus speaks of His eternal nature. Jesus died but was resurrected and will never die again. Jesus has authority over death and over the eternal abode of all people.

In verse nineteen, Jesus expands upon His earlier instructions. John is to write about what He has already seen in this vision. He is also to write about the present condition of the churches; this he does in chapters two and three. Finally, he is to write about things that have not yet occurred; this is the rest of Revelation.

Finally, Jesus explains what the lamp stands and stars represent. In my previous post I wrote about these symbols.

This opening vision of Revelation reveals to us the majesty and authority of Jesus. He comes as King to judge His servants and His churches.

This should remind us that Jesus will judge all of us. We need to consider what Jesus will say to us when we stand before Him. We need to be faithful to Christ so that He will say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.”

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Man in the Opening Vision

In my last post, we considered what the voice that John heard said to him. In this post, we will consider what John saw.

"Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." (Revelation 1:12-16 - New King James Version)

As soon as John heard the voice, he did what any of us would have done. He turned around to see who was speaking to him.

The first thing that caught his eye was seven lamp stands. In verse twenty, we are told that these lamp stands represent the seven churches. A lamp stand is a fitting symbol for a local church.

Jesus told his followers, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." (Matthew 5:14 - King James Version) Christians are to be a light shining forth in the moral and spiritual darkness of this world. We are to illuminate the way to God through Christ.
A city on a hill can picture a local church. A church is to be a visible united group of Christians influencing those around them.

The Apostle Paul uses a similar figure of speech in his letter to the Philippians. He wrote, ". . . that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; . . ." (Philippians 2:15 - King James Version)

In the midst of these seven lamp stands was standing a man dressed like a king of the ancient Middle East. He was wearing a long flowing robe that went down to his ankles. Around his chest was wrapped a wide cloth decorated with gold.

The man's hair was pure white. His eyes were bright, penetrating and lively. John felt like those eyes could look right into and through him. The man's feet were of a whitish and brilliant color. His voice was not only loud but also exhibited a wide range of tone and feeling.

His right hand was outstretched and upon it there appeared to be seven stars. These stars according to verse twenty represent the angels of the seven churches. The word angel means messenger.

The heavenly angels are God's messengers and servants. However, the word can also be used in its wider meaning of anyone who takes a message for another. The angels referred to here and throughout chapters two and three, I believe, are the pastors of the seven churches.

A pastor has the duty of sharing God's message from the Bible with his congregation. The pastors of these seven churches also had the special responsibility of sharing this Revelation with their congregation once they received it.

The pastors are in the hand of Jesus, for that is Who the man in the vision is. This indicates that they are totally dependent upon Christ. A pastor stands and falls according to how much he learns to rely upon the Lord. The successful spiritual work of ministry depends upon the blessing of Christ.

Jesus also had coming from His mouth a double edged sword. This is the strangest part of this initial vision. The sword itself represents the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The exact appearance of this sword we cannot now know.

Christ's face shone with a brilliance like the noon day sun.

The total impact of this vision was that of power, glory and majesty. Jesus appeared as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He had come to walk among the seven churches of Asia in order to examine them and judge them, as well as their pastors whom He held in His hand.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Opening Vision: Where, When, ...

"I John, . . . was in the isle called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:' and, 'What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.' " (Revelation 1:9b-11 - King James Version)

In the last post, I wrote about how this passage is the first vision in the Book of Revelation. John describes this vision carefully. John answers the questions that most good newspaper stories should answer. He answers who, where, when, what was said, what was seen, and what was the result. We have already considered who saw this vision: the Apostle John. In this post, we will examine where, when and what was said.

The last part of verse nine tells us where John was when he saw this vision. He was on Patmos. The island of Patmos has been described as lonely, barren, desolate, uninhabited and seldom visited. In New Testament times, it had a small population of prisoners who had been banished there. They were forced to work in small mines on the island.

The island is less than forty square kilometers. It is just off the cost of modern Turkey. Today, it has a small population, and is a popular tourist destination. If you want more information about the island or to view some pictures, visit the island's web site at

It is generally accepted that the Apostle John had been banished there by the Emperor Domitian about 94 AD. Even though he was over eighty years of age, he was likely forced to do hard labor in the mines of Patmos.

According to his own statement, John was banished because he preached the Word of God and proclaimed the divinity of Christ. This was a time of increasing persecution because Christian refused to worship the Emperor.

John in verse ten explains both when the vision occurred and how it began. This is the only place in the New Testament where the term “the Lord's day” is used. The most acceptable interpretation of this is that it is a reference to Sunday which among the early churches became the normal day of worship. Early Christian writings show a clear distinction between the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, and the Lord's day on Sunday.

So on Sunday, John, although isolated, exiled and without Christian fellowship, worshiped the Lord. As he enjoyed his personal time of worship, suddenly a voice as a loud as a trumpet spoke from behind him.

The person speaking refers to Himself as being the Alpha and Omega. John already used Alpha and Omega in verse eight as a divine title. The voice announces itself as being divine. God was speaking to John.

John wrote Revelation under direct orders from God. He was to write down the visions that he saw and send the resulting book to the seven churches listed. In chapters two and three, we will learn more details about these seven churches.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Opening Vision

"I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, . . ." (Revelation 1:9a - New King James Version)

This verse begins the main body of the Book of Revelation. The first eight verses are introductory. But beginning with this verse, John reveals vision upon vision and prophecy upon prophecy until the end of the book.

The first vision of Revelation begins with this verse and continues until the end of chapter three. In the last half of chapter one, John takes up the pen of a reporter. This passage is the foundation for the rest of the book, and John wants to carefully explain what occurred that we might accept the message of the entire book.

John answers the questions that most good newspaper stories should answer. He answers who, where, when, what was said, what was seen, and what was the result. In this post, we will answer the question of "Who saw the vision?"

John the Apostle saw this vision himself. At this time, he had been preaching for over 60 years. He was the only living Apostle. All the others had suffered martyrs' deaths.

John was one of the three disciples in Christ's inner circle. During Jesus' ministry, he was the beloved disciple. He had the authority and power of an Apostle. Yet there is no trace of pride or arrogance in what he writes.

This is all the more remarkable considering what John was once like. John and his brother, James, were called the sons of thunder. During Christ's ministry, they used their mother in an attempt to gain the best positions in the physical kingdom which they expected Christ to establish. They stopped someone who was not part of their group from using the name of Jesus. They asked permission to pray that fire come down from heaven and destroy a village that would not welcome Jesus.

Considering what John was like as a young man, and all the credentials he had, his description of himself shows how Jesus can change a person. Rather than lifting himself up above those to whom he was writing, he puts himself on the same level as them. John's humility is an example for us.

First, he stresses the unity of God's family. He and his readers are all children of God. He is their brother.

Then, he speaks of those things which they share. Both he and his readers were enduring persecution. Certainly, he had suffered greatly for Jesus, but so had they.

They both also had a part to play in God's kingdom. John had been greatly used of God. He had accomplished much. John had the promise of Jesus that he would be given a throne. However, all Christians have a part to play in God's kingdom work. God will not judge us according to what others have done, but according to how well we accomplish what He gives us to do. We are fellow-workers with the Apostles in God's kingdom.

As well, they both shared in the patience of Christ. Through the fire of persecution, they had learned to faithfully wait upon the Lord. They had endured great difficulties and remained true to God.

It was this John who saw the vision, an Apostle of Christ who felt a close union with other Christians. He was their brother. He had endured tribulation as they had. He was serving the same Lord they were. He had learned the same lessons they were learning.

This vision was not seen by some lofty, untouchable and sanctimonious figure who was far removed from day to day living. It was seen by John, a simple fisherman who understood the day to day problems of true godly living. This is not a pie-in-the-sky view of the future but practical down-to-earth prophetic encouragement. It is not complicated codes and hidden meanings but simple straight forward writing by a down to earth man.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Declaration of God's Greatness

" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.' " (Revelation 1:8 - New King James Version)

Verses four to eight of Revelation chapter one are the Apostle John's salutation to his readers. John's greeting to these seven churches contains four elements: a prayer for blessing from the Trinity, an expression of Christ's work, a promise of Jesus' return and a declaration of God's greatness. This post will look at the declaration of God's greatness.

Throughout Revelation, John often pauses in his prophetic announcements to offer praise to God. This verse offers such praise. Here it is in the form of God declaring Who He is.

He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The idea is that God was at the beginning. Only He existed at the beginning before He created anything. He will be at the end of eternity. He exists forever and ever. He is eternal.

He is which is, and which was, and which is to come. This again expresses His existence unlimited by time in any way.

He is the Almighty. He is all powerful. He can do anything that He wants to do.

This is the God Who has given us the prophecy of Revelation. We can believe that it is the truth.

John's salutation should encourage us to give our lives to God. There is no real meaning to life apart from a relationship with the Lord. He sits on the throne of the universe. It is only right that we bow before Him and give Him our lives, our will, our hopes, our dreams, our goals, our plans, our all.

Friend, examine your life. Be sure that you are a child of God. Be sure that you have trusted Jesus as your Saviour. Then look to see what needs to be changed. In what areas have you refused to submit to God. Remember Jesus is coming. Are you ready to face Him?