The Book of Revelation presents the return of the Holy Spirit’s witness to God’s relationship with the earth. At first we have the church, as an earthly witness, but then the saints of the heavenly calling are seen only in heaven. It sets the stage for the return of God’s First-Begotten to the world. Then we have a prophetic view of God’s judgments, the book introducing the King of kings and Lord of lords Himself to execute judgment and to set up the kingdom which shall never be removed. He is accompanied by the heavenly saints.
At the beginning and end, we have the thoughts and feelings of the saints:
- The first refers to the cross, and its bearing on the saints, looking back at their own part in that which laid the foundation of Christ’s title. This brought judgment on the world.
- At the end we have the saints’ own portion with Christ Himself. They look forward to His glory. Meanwhile they are conscious of it and its present fruit.
Ch. 1 presents God as supreme and eternal. We have the Holy Spirit in His attributes of divine administration, and Christ in His glory as connected with the earth. He is coming. He calls John’s attention to His glory on earth, not in service but in judgment. He walks in the midst of the candlesticks, the place of light in the world, judging the state of the churches. We find a divine person, the Son of man having subordinate representative authority in His hand: the stars and the angels of the churches. These are the things that were seen.
Next we have ‘the things that are’. We get:
- Ephesus – departure from first love.
- Smyrna – persecution
- Pergamos – the world its dwelling-place
- Thyatira and Sardis – false teachers seducing the saints; their corruption settled there, and the saints thus to wait for Christ’s coming, who is given to them in His own heavenly unseen associations, and the visible kingdom too.
- Philadelphia – a little power
- Laodicea – spued out of His mouth
In the four first churches it is a question of personal fidelity od that church to Christ. Christ is walking amidst the candlesticks. In the last three, the stars are not said to be in His hand; they all refer with warnings or promises to the coming of the Lord.
The vision then switches to heaven. The world’s judgment flows from there, and the saints are viewed as enthroned and crowned there. God’s throne of judgment is set up in heaven, and the ministers of His government proclaim His glory, while the saints worship.
Ch. 4-5: The Lamb appears; His glory is celebrated. Heaven owns His title to open the book of God’s ways, and the angels stand around the inner circle of those connected with the throne (24 elders, 4 living creatures). The elders give their reasons for worship. The Lamb now opens the book.
Ch. 6: The providential history of God’s dealings in the Western Roman earth is presented. We see the martyrs who cry for judgment. There is a universal subversion of the subsisting powers, so that men are alarmed as if the day of the Lord were come.
Ch. 7: The remnant of Israel is marked out for preservation; the multitude of the Gentiles to be spared are owned.
Ch. 8: The first four trumpets are the specific judgments on earthly prosperity and the power of the Western Roman Empire.
Ch. 9-11: The next two judgments are on the men of the East. Then we get a parenthesis: the great Western beast. A testimony is given, which comes to a close before the end of the period of the second woe. At last we have the seventh trumpet, which closes the whole scene.
Ch. 12: A new vision of special dealings is now opened, more connected with the religious condition of men. The Jewish people are seen, as heaven sees them, in the counsels and purposes of God. So a Son is to be born, Christ, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron. The whole church is united to Him. But this is taken to heaven and God’s throne, out of the way of the dragon. The woman – the Jewish people in the latter day in distress – flees from three and a half years’ persecution into the wilderness. There is war in heaven. Satan is cast down, having great rage, knowing that his time is short. His career in heaven is ended. He can no longer accuse the saints on the earth, but he persecutes the Jews. They flee, so he turns to persecute the witnesses amongst them.
Ch. 13: Next, we see the earthly agents: the beast, with seven heads and ten horns, who receives his power from Satan for 1260 days. He blasphemes what is heavenly, and persecutes the saints. Then a second beast, in the prophetic and royal character of a messiah, exercises his power, making the world worship him. He does miracles, and gives breath to the image which he has caused to be made.
Ch. 14: We now have the remnant who suffer like Christ. We also have the testimony, judgments and warnings of God. Finally, we have the judgment of the earth, and the destruction of the wicked by the Son of man.
Ch. 15: Another great sign follows, not necessarily at the same time or immediately after it. It reaches down to the the throne of the beast. The saints, who pass through the time of tribulation, are viewed as at rest. The sea of glass is mingled with fire.
Ch. 16: The vials are poured out. They are on the earth, and particularly strike the beast’s kingdom, and those who dwell in it. Then all the kings of the earth gather themselves together. The smiting does not correct them, but galls their pride. Finally, the last judgment of God is executed even on Babylon, the beast remaining to be defeated by the Lamb.
Ch. 17-18: We have a description of what the woman is: how she rides the horned beast, corrupting all nations. The Lamb overcomes both of them. Babylon is Rome.
Ch. 19: After Babylon is judged, the marriage of the Lamb takes place. He comes forth out of His heavenly seclusion, as King of kings and Lord of lords, to be revealed in the earth. As he comes out as the word of God in judgment, the saints, witnessed in righteousness in the fruit of their works, accompany Him. The beast and the false prophet (the second beast), are taken and cast to their final doom, their royal character having disappeared. The rest are slain. This is the judgment of power and war.
Note that the rapture of the church belongs to the church revelation, so it could not come into the Book of Revelation. However, we see the saints in heaven.
Ch. 20: Then Satan is bound, and shut up in the abyss for a thousand years. Sessional judgment follows. All the heavenly saints are on thrones, for this is royal judgment, and judgment is given to them – this is the first resurrection. After that we have the second resurrection, in which the dead are to be judged and condemned.
Ch. 21:1-8: Heaven and earth flee away; death and hades give up all. God is all in all in a new heavens and new earth.
Ch. 21:9-22:5: The Spirit returns to give a description of the heavenly Jerusalem during the millennium (as He had of Babylon and its relationship to the earth).
Ch. 22:6-21: After warnings to those who are in the time of the book, Christ comes forward Himself as the One who had given the revelation. This draws out in the bride, with whom is the Spirit, to express the desire of His coming. Expressed is her position – towards Christ, towards those who hear the word, and towards sinner. John seals the book with his own desires those of the church, ‘Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’
The re-introduction of God’s government into this world in Christ, in this book, and the discovery of the heavenly position of the church, is full of interest and doctrine. Meanwhile judgment of the world and its course, is confided to the church which closes the book both historically and doctrinally, the church herself being above the world.
This closes the canon of scripture.
Originally by JND. Lightly edited by Sosthenes, October 2014
– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible for the original