Getting Started with the Book of Revelation

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of
the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait
for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”

       Habakkuk 2:3

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The Big Picture

In the simplest terms, the book of Daniel reveals two great truths for the final generation. First, the five prophecies in Daniel operate like “our Grandfather’s” clock that is faithfully counting off the years, which God has predetermined for the duration of sin. In this sense, the rise and fall of kingdoms are like the swing of a great pendulum.  The second truth is that God has a definite plan for Earth. He has not abandoned or forgotten this tiny fallen planet. God is not preoccupied with more important things in His ever-expanding universe. With infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, God has identified the nations of Earth and their duration. He has numbered each of our years and limited sin’s existence. (Daniel 2:45; 4:17; 5:26) The book of Daniel emphasizes this second point by deliberately using six prophetic time periods.

The book of Revelation also contains two great truths for the final generation. First, Jesus is not to be confused with the icon that people have made Him to be. During the past 2,000 years, Christianity has distorted the character, authority and teachings of Jesus, and a great gulf exists between today’s degenerate perception of Jesus and the actual truth about Jesus. During the Great Tribulation, this icon will be shattered and the truth of Jesus will unfold. The second truth is that humanity has a malicious and deadly enemy who is intent on our destruction. Because we cannot see Lucifer and his angels, we grossly overlook the fact that Lucifer and his demons have a powerful influence over the attitudes, decisions and passions of people. Therefore, our perception of life and human history is incomplete because we cannot see the intervention and influence of demons. However, this will change. During the Great Tribulation, God will permit the final generation to see Lucifer and his demons physically so that incarnate evil might be fully exposed. (Revelation 17:8)

When the books of Daniel and Revelation are properly aligned, one harmonious story unfolds. Daniel reveals that Earth’s days are numbered and Revelation discloses the importance and majesty of Jesus. These two books assure us of a wonderful truth: In God’s time, righteousness will triumph over evil and the saints will inherit the earth. Jesus will use circumstances during the Great Tribulation to separate people who love truth and righteousness from those who do not. At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will appear in the clouds of the brightest glory, majestically personifying the values and ideals for which many saints will die.

Obstacles in Understanding Revelation

Before we examine the book of Revelation, a few introductory words may be helpful. Everyone, including me, approaches the book of Revelation with ignorance, bias and baggage.  Because apocalyptic prophecy reveals the comprehensive ways of God, the books of Daniel and Revelation are not easy to understand at first. It takes determined effort to become acquainted with all of the parts and pieces. For this reason, Jesus promised to generously bless us with inexpressible joy and peace if we push forward with determination to understand His Word. (Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 1:3) Various obstacles often skew the intended meaning of prophecy and here are three significant hurdles that you should consider.

1.   Traditional Views Conflict with End Time Truth

Because the book of Daniel was sealed until the time of the end (Daniel 12:4,9), we must realize that Daniel cannot be completely understood until the appointed time arrives. As it turns out, the intended meaning of Revelation has also been sealed because many prophecies in Revelation depend upon certain facts established in the book of Daniel. The net effect is that traditional views on prophecy become obsolete when Daniel is unsealed. Discarding the old and embracing the new is not easy, but we have to press forward in faith. Longstanding views on Daniel and Revelation cannot be deemed accurate and reliable unless they conform to the rules found in Daniel.

Since the rules of interpretation were sealed in the book of Daniel, there was no need for God to seal the book of Revelation. (Revelation 22:10) When these books are properly aligned, we can observe that Daniel mainly concerns the past and Revelation mainly concerns the future. We also learn that Daniel and Revelation overlap on five prophetic events. This overlapping is important because it proves that Revelation uses the same rules as Daniel. We have twenty-six centuries of history and fulfilled prophecy with which to test and verify the rules in Daniel. If we apply Daniel’s rules to Revelation, we find perfect harmony between Daniel and Revelation. Once we have confidence in the validity of the rules, we then assemble and understand obscure and mysterious portions of Scripture with a higher degree of certainty.

During the past two thousand years, Bible prophecy has received a lot of interest, but not much respect. The problem is that prophetic views come and go like newspapers. Hundreds, if not thousands, of prophetic views have been published, and few of them have proven to have any lasting value. Nevertheless, Bible prophecy continues to be a subject of interest because human beings are inherently interested in “future telling.” Unfortunately, the failure of prophetic exposition in ages past has predisposed many Christians to fall for the argument that a careful examination of prophecy is not important. Many Christians justify their indifference toward Daniel and Revelation with this argument: “All that matters is my salvation.” Loving the Lord and submitting to the authority of Jesus is the first step in salvation, but learning and growing into the character of Christ (sanctification) through a study of His Word is not optional. (Ephesians 4; 1 Thessalonians 4; Revelation 2 and 3) Bible prophecy reveals God’s character, plans and purposes.  Is it possible to truly love our Savior, eagerly await His arrival, and yet refuse to examine His purposes and plans? Could our perception of God and the reality of God be improperly aligned in our thinking? In other words, will you be able to explain and justify the actions of God to others when His wrath breaks out against Earth? This is one of the benefits of understanding Bible prophecy. We have time to study and reflect on the ways of God so that when He does act, we will not be overwhelmed with surprise or discouragement.

We live in a world of many diverse religions that have enormous blinding power, so God has to level the playing field for all mankind during the Great Tribulation. He will test everyone with a simple test that will not favor any religious body! Everyone will be forced into making the same simple choice. The choice will be whether to reject traditional views that are vigorously defended by religious leaders, or accept the new light shinning from God’s Word. God will test Christians and non-Christians to see who will receive His truth and reject their religious heritage. Of course, this will be very hard to do. Jewish leaders could not bring themselves to do it when Jesus came to Earth. Later, Catholic leaders would not accept the claims of Protestants when Luther revealed God’s truth to them. Unfortunately, the book of Revelation predicts religious systems of the last generation will not be able to abandon their traditions when the truth is finally revealed. However, there will be individuals who will abandon the old and grasp the new because they love truth. If we exalt religion and our longstanding traditions above the clearest presentation and evidences of God’s truth, is that blasphemy? (Mark 7:7) However, giving up a “comfortable” church family for the isolation that often follows a new understanding of God’s Word can be a very large obstacle. Incidentally, this same obstacle hindered Nicodemus’ interest in Jesus for several years. (John 3)

2.   Revelation Depends on Daniel   

The book of Revelation is a continuation of the book of Daniel. If the book of Daniel is not properly understood, the book of Revelation cannot be correctly understood either. These two books produce one integrated story written by two men who lived about seven hundred years apart. Because God designed the visions given to Daniel and John, they are in perfect harmony and, together, produce a matrix of data, which positions the timing of each prophetic event. This matrix spans more than 3,500 years and includes all the prophetic elements found in Daniel and Revelation. Some elements in Revelation require the timing established in Daniel to make sense, and the opposite is also true. The story that unfolds from both books is comprehensive, and it takes diligence, time and determination to mentally surround all of the parts and pieces. Unfortunately,, this prerequisite is a serious obstacle for many people who are too busy to study God’s Word.

3.   Five Essential Bible Doctrines 

The books of Daniel and Revelation require an understanding of five essential Bible doctrines (the five S’s) shown below:

1.      Salvation through faith in Christ

2.      The State of man in death

3.      The Second Coming

4.      God’s seventh day Sabbath

5.      God’s use of parallel Sanctuaries or temples

Notice how these doctrines contribute to Revelation’s story. First, the doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus explains how a numberless multitude of people, coming from every culture, religion, nation and language, will be saved during the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 7:9-14) Second, the doctrine of soul sleep explains the necessity of two resurrections – the resurrection of the righteous will occur at the Second Coming and the resurrection of the wicked will occur at the end of the thousand years. Since people do not go to Heaven or Hell at the time of death, the doctrine of parallel temples explains why and when the judgment of mankind occurs. The judgment of the dead began in 1844 and the judgment of the living will begin with the commencement of the Great Tribulation. The perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, particularly the fourth commandment, explains, in part, how the world will be trapped in a conflict over worship during the Great Tribulation. The laws of Babylon and the Antichrist will oppose the laws of God. The conflict over worship will separate the people of Earth. One group will choose to obey God’s commandments, while the other group will choose to obey the laws of Babylon and the devil.

Finally, the comprehensive doctrine of the Second Coming merges apocalyptic prophecy into a grand schematic revealing God’s plan to terminate the problem of sin. Since most of Christianity rejects one or more of the five doctrines, most Christians struggle to understand the intended meaning of Daniel and Revelation. This is most unfortunate because the five essential doctrines explain “why” God will do what He has to do, and apocalyptic prophecy reveals “how” and “when” God will do all that, He has to do.

God’s Word is so vast and man is so finite. Even though the book of Revelation contains a mere 617 sentences, it speaks volumes. Contrary to what many people think, the book of Revelation is not concentrated on the end of the world! Instead, the book of Revelation is focused on revealing of Jesus Christ and His termination of the sin problem.  The book of Revelation describes an intricate process that climaxes with the glorious disclosure that Jesus Christ has the same authority, power and prerogatives as God the Father. This is why the last book in the Bible is named, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:1)

It is ironic that many people call this book by its shortened name, “Revelation,” or “Revelations,” without realizing that it predicts the revealing of Jesus. Most Christians associate the book of Revelation with the Antichrist or mysterious beasts rather than the Lamb of God. This perception will change for many people during the Great Tribulation. Man’s great need of Jesus will become evident during the Great Tribulation. The good news, beaming from the book of Revelation, is that we have an Almighty Savior in Jesus if we are willing to love Him and submit to His authority. The bad news is that we have an omnipotent enemy in Jesus Christ if we cling to falsehood and insist on rebelling against Him. For this reason, the book of Revelation describes Jesus as a lamb and a lion. When He appears in glory, the righteous will see Him as “a lamb” slain for the foundation of the world, and the wicked will see “a lion” from the tribe of Judah.

Five Types of Prophecy in the Bible

1.   Messianic prophecies: These prophecies concern the appearing and ministry of Jesus in either His first or second advent. Some scholars say there are more than 450 Messianic statements or prophecies in the Bible. Here are two examples of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament: Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22. Here are three examples of Messianic prophecies in the New Testament: John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Matthew 26:64. 

2.   Judaic prophecies: These prophecies were given to the biological offspring of Abraham. When God renewed His covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, He promised to send blessing or curses depending on Israel’s faithfulness to the terms and conditions stipulated in the covenant. (Exodus 19, Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28) This is a point that many Christians overlook, even though the Bible clearly states the promise contains the possibility of blessings, as well as curses. Most of the wonderful things God promised to Israel were not fulfilled because Israel repeatedly violated their covenant. Therefore, God implemented the curses instead of the blessings He promised. (Daniel 9; Hebrews 3:19; Romans 9-11) After the Jews rejected Jesus (John 1, Matthew23), God redefined the nation of Israel. Believers in Christ became the “seed” (Greek: sperma) of Abraham – the twelve tribes. (Ephesians 2, Galatians 3:28, 29, James 1:1, 2:1)  Judaic prophecies were abandoned in accordance with the terms and conditions of the covenant. Judaic prophecies were not to be confused with the unconditional promises given to Abraham. (Genesis 15-17) Everything promised to Abraham will be fulfilled to the redefined seed of Abraham. (Ephesians 2; Galatians 3,4; Romans 11; Hebrews 11; Revelation 7:9-11)

3.   Day of the Lord prophecies: These prophecies are numerous and are scattered throughout Scripture. Ultimately, these prophecies predict the triumph of God and/or the vindication of His people. Elements within these prophecies are general enough that we can see parallels between them at different times in human history. Many Bible students (and scholars) succumb to the temptation of applying ancient “Day of the Lord” prophecies to modern settings. For example, Isaiah 24 and Ezekiel 7 are “Day of the Lord” prophecies that would have been fulfilled if Israel had been faithful to God (what I call “Plan A”). These prophecies did not happen because Israel rejected God and God has implemented a new covenant (what I call “Plan B”). However, there are direct parallels between ancient “Day of the Lord” prophecies and modern “Day of the Lord” prophecies. It is important to keep “Plan A” and “Plan B” prophecies separate and distinct. For example, Matthew 24 concern the end of Jerusalem and the other specifications apply to the end of the world. A Bible student must be careful when studying these types of prophecies to be sure the specifications are assigned to the right time period. In other words, details concerning the end of the world do not belong to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. “Day of the Lord” prophecies are noted for their ominous warnings and God’s vindication over evil through warfare.


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