Purpose of this Session
The book of Revelation has a very definite order and framework; there are seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials or bowls, seven key figures – the book is a book of perfection and completion.
Verse 19 of Revelation chapter one gives us the basic outline: “that which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will be hereafter.”
|“Things which you have seen”|| “Things which|
|“Things which are to come”|
The vision of Christ
2:1 - 3:22
The seven churches
4:1 – 22:21
The vision of events prior to Christ’s return
In Chapter one we are granted entrance to the presence of the glorified Christ. No longer a humble carpenter, or a suffering servant, but one whose face shines like the noonday sun; His eyes a flame of fire, feet of burnished brass prepared to judge the earth, and with a voice that sounds like many waters. In His hands He holds seven stars, the spiritual angels over the churches, and He stands in the midst of the golden candlesticks, representing His presence in the midst of His church.
A Vision of Jesus
Not only do we get this up-close-and-personal vision of Jesus, Revelation also affords us our most candid insight to the present heaven, the dwelling place and throne of the Father and the Son.
Aside from incidental references describing the events taking place on earth we find detailed visions of Heaven in the following chapters:
o Chapter 4
o Chapter 7:9-17
o Chapter 15
o Chapter 19:1-10
It is a place of great glory and noise and angelic activity; a place of power and pronouncement and of continual and passionate worship. It is a place where Jesus, the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah, is worshipped and honoured above all else. A place from which the events of history are minutely orchestrated according to the Word of Him that sits upon the throne, before a fiery sea of glass. It is an awe-inspiring vision indeed.
The camera panning in and out throughout the apocalypse centres at one time from the viewpoint of earth, then panning out considers events from heaven’s stance. It is a fast paced and energetic history of a time of unprecedented activity both in the heavenlies and in earth, with the lines between the spiritual and the physical realms fading and overlapping, as both are torn open before our eyes. Truly this is a revelation – an unveiling of how events in the physical realm are moved by invisible forces now opened to our eyes.
The Things Which Are - The Seven Churches
In Chapters 2-3 we have Christ’s summation of the seven churches He addresses. These churches were actual historical church bodies in the first century, but the message to each also holds keys and warnings for the Church in our day. Christ’s letter to each comprises commendation, rebuke, instruction and promise to those who hear and obey. We too must be careful to heed His Word, lest we too fall into the same condemnation.
|Ephesus 2:1-7||Rejects evil, persevered patiently in service to God||Lost their first love||Do the first works||The Tree of life|
|Smyrna 2:8-11||Gracefully bears suffering||None||Be faithful unto death||The crown of life|
|Pergamos 2:12-17||Keeps the faith of Christ||Tolerates false doctrine, idolatry and immorality||Repent||Hidden manna and a stone with a new name|
|Thyatira (2:18-29)||Love, service, faith and patience are greater than at first||Tolerates cult of idolatry and immorality||Hold fast until He comes, do not forsake the faith||Rule over the nations and receive the morning star.|
|Sardis (3:1-6)||Some have kept the faith||Reputation of being spiritually alive but actually dead||Repent and strengthen that which remains||The faithful will be honoured and clothed in white.|
|Philadelphia (3:7-13)||They have kept the faith||None||Continue in the faith||A place in God’s presence, a new name and the name of New Jerusalem|
|Laodicea (3:14-22)||None||Lukewarm and indifferent||Be zealous and repent||Share Christ’s throne|
Some believe that these seven churches also represent seven church ages. It is in the last of these proposed ages, the Laodicean age, that some say we now live.
Although somewhat forced, these ages roughly are described as follows:
Ephesian age (AD33-100)
The Apostolic age. Ephesus means to “relax and let go” and in this period the initial love and fervency had departed, leaving only form and ritual in its place. We too must be careful to remain white hot in our love for Christ, and remember the fervency with which our hearts served Him in the first instance.
Smyrnian age (AD100-312)
During this period the church was severely persecuted. Smyrna means “crushed myrrh”. Through this persecution the lost love of the previous age was restored. The ten days represent ten Roman emperors who persecuted the church during this time; Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimus Severus, Maximum, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian and Diocletian. Heroic stories of faith in the face of persecution and death abound during these years, which ended when Constantine declared Christianity the state religion.
The Age of Pergamos (AD312-590)
Pergamos means “marriage” and this was a time when church and state were married together, compromising the church’s integrity and purity and embracing false teaching and practices. The church in this age is a compromising and worldly church.
Thyatirian age (AD590-1517)
Thyatira means “continued sacrifice” and this age represents the papal age of the church, where the Catholic mass (continued sacrifice) replaced the revelation of a final and complete work of salvation. A state religion, with professional priesthood offering sacrifices through the mass, led the church into what is known as the Dark Ages. During this time the Church had many opportunities to repent, and God raised men and movements to challenge the Catholic hierarchy, only to be rejected and killed. “The bed” into which the adulterous church was thrown was the Protestant Reformation, with the protestant church rising as God’s primary and faithful witness in the earth.
The Age of Sardis (AD1517-1750)
Sardis means “those escaping”. This refers to those who ‘escaped’ the then Catholic Church, being swept into the world shaking Protestant Reformation led initially by the fiery saint, Martin Luther. Some took advantage of this spiritual reformation for political ends, tearing themselves from the Catholic Church and papal authority, but still bound by form and ritual. Although having the appearance of being alive, many churches were still spiritually dead.
The Philadelphian Age (AD1750-1905)
Philadelphia means “brotherly love”, and during this age a flood of compassion flooded out to the nations in unprecedented missions to the four corners of the earth. Great revivals and missions took place during this period, and nation shaking movements such as the Methodists and Salvation Army. It was an age of notable revivalists like Charles Finney, and missionaries like William Carey.
The Laodicean Age (AD1905 – The beginning of the tribulation)
Many believe that this is the age we now live in. Laodicea means “the right of laity”, signifying a church in which the people’s rights are paramount. It is an age where spiritual authority is shunned. From the beginning of this age people began to criticise the historicity and validity of the Scriptures, undermining its authority. Although we live in an age where much of the church enjoys economic strength and prosperity, in many places it is spiritually poor and wretched. Liberal theology and schisms in the body call for fresh revelation and repentance before the coming of the Lord.
The Things Which Are To Come
Chapter 4 begins with a visionary rapture, which many believe to be typical of the rapture that will take place before the ensuing events John witnesses begin. God calls John to “Come up here!”
Seven is the number of perfection and completion, and not surprisingly the book of Revelation is a book of sevens:
1. The seven sealed scroll 6:1-8:5
2. The seven trumpets 8:7-11:19
3. The seven key figures 12:1-13:18
4. The seven bowls 15:1-16:21
5. The seven dooms of Babylon 17:1-18:24
Devoid of human life, burned with fire, destroyed in one hour,
people afraid to enter, riches brought to nothing, overthrown, all activity ceases
6. The seven new things 19:1-21
new earth, new heaven, new Jerusalem, new universal order,
new temple, new light, new paradise
The most widely accepted view of chapters 4-22 of Revelation is the futurist view, that John was prophetically recording events yet to happen, and especially events in the immediate run up to Christ’s return.