Purpose of this Session
The book of Revelation speaks of seven trumpets blown and seven bowls (vials) poured out, each releasing a fresh wave of terror and tribulation. These may be successive events, compounding one upon another, or parallel descriptions of seven woes, first from the earthly perspective and then from the heavenly. It does appear that woe will be heaped upon woe, and with each wave of tribulation and judgement the previous terror eclipsed by the horror of the next. It is little wonder that Jesus emphasised the need for us to pray that we might be counted worthy to escape these things.
The following table is adapted from one similar in Sidlow Baxter’s ‘Explore The Book’ p344
|Chapters 8-11||Chapters 15-16|
1. judgement upon the earth (8:7)
1. judgement upon the earth (16:2)
2. judgement upon the sea (8:8-9)
2. judgement upon the sea (16:3)
3. judgement on the rivers (8:10-11)
3. judgement on the rivers (16:4)
4. judgement on celestial bodies (8:12)
4. judgement on celestial bodies (16:8-9)
5. darkness and pestilence (9:1-12)
5. darkness and scourge (16:10-11)
6. Euphrates army (9:14-21)
6. Euphrates kings (16:12-14)
|Ch 10-11 (Jerusalem in “the Tribulation”)||Ch 17-18 (Babylon in “The Wrath”)|
7. Nations angry, wrath, great voices, time no more 11:15-19 End of the 7th Trumpet
“The Kingdom of the Lord” “The 24 Elders worship” “Wrath is come”
7. Nations angry, wrath, great voices, time no more Ch 16:17-21 Ch19 After the seventh Vial/Bowl
“The Lord Reigns” “The 24 Elders worship” “Armageddon”
Characters described on the world stage during this period
During this tumultuous time other events are intermingled, and seven significant characters walk onto the stage; the earth reels as darkness and light struggle with one another – the angelic realm and the demonic realm clash and contend for the souls of men.
The Woman (Revelation 12)
Some recognise the woman of Revelation 12 as the Church, others consider her to represent Israel, with the twelve stars mentioned here being the twelve tribes, during the tribulation period. The Scriptures generally represent the Church as a chaste virgin, not a woman with child. Certainly we can conclude that this mystery lady represents God’s people, and that they are at once persecuted by the dragon (satan), and protected by God.
Frustrated by his inability to destroy the male child of the woman, satan turns his attention to destroy the women herself – hence the long history of suffering associated with God’s people, and particularly Israel. During the tribulation the company of people represented by this figure in Revelation will flee into the wilderness and there find protection under God’s care during the intense 3 and one half-year great tribulation. Some believe that this fortress hiding place will be Petra (Isa 26:20-21:1; Isa 16:2-4; Matt 24:16-21). Although a flood come against them, even an overwhelming army, they will be supernaturally protected by God who will cause their enemies to flee and fall.
The Remnant (Rev 12:17)
Frustrated, satan now pursues those people of God who failed to heed the advice to flee. These remain in the world and are now attacked and slain by the increasingly furious demonic realm.
The Male Child
The male child is most often seen as symbolic of Christ who was born to rule (Psalm 2:7-9), brought forth from Israel, and whom satan sought to destroy (Rev 12:4). When satan’s plan to kill this seed of woman (Gen 3:15) fails, his terrible intentions are turned upon the one who brought Him forth.
The Dragon (satan)
Satan, the Dragon or Serpent, once called Lucifer, rebelled against God and was thrown from heaven (Isa 14; Ezek 28; Rev 12:7). Most believe that these scriptures in Revelation indicate that a third of the angels followed and fell with him in this original rebellion. He now seeks to rule the power of the spiritual realm of the earth (Eph 2:2), and to mar that which bears the image of his archenemy. His authority was stripped by the death and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 2:8; Col 2:15), and he now seeks to deceive and destroy mankind, especially those who have rejected his rule and followed Christ.
Michael the Archangel (Rev 12:7)
Throughout Scripture Michael the Archangel is described as a formidable Angelic being engaged in warlike activity in the heavenlies on behalf of God. (Dan 10:13; 12:1; Jude 9)
The Anti-Christ – The Beast from the sea (13:1-10)
The imagery of this beast recalls the visions of Daniel in Daniel 2 and 7 [see the Spirit Life Bible School sessions about ‘The Exile and Return’ where Daniel’s visions are illustrated].
The visions of Daniel foretell a 10 nation coalition, signified by the ten toes of the statue’s feet (partly strong, partly weak) and probably in the area of the former Roman empire (Europe). Daniel also says that it is during this time that Christ will return and the kingdoms of men will come to a final end (Dan 2:34-35)
Daniel further elaborates on the nature of the kingdoms of men in chapter 7, where he describes a lion with eagle’s wings (Babylon), a lop-sided bear (Medo-Persia), a leopard with four heads and four wings (Greecia) and finally a terrible beast with iron teeth (Rome). This final beast is described as having ten horns (corresponding to the ten toes of the statue described in Dan 2), out of which comes a final small horn who plucks three of the notable horns up by their roots, and rules and dominates the others. This small horn is considered to be a description of the anti-Christ.
Now in Revelation we witness a similar vision of the end of days. Together with Revelation 17 we can piece together a description of the events of this time.
· A beast arises from the sea
The sea most often represents the nations, this represents a personality who will arise from the nations.
· The beast has seven heads and ten horns with blasphemous crowns upon them.
As in Daniel’s visions we see ten rulers (horns) described, representing the rulers of ten nations. Most likely in these end days, a united Europe will arise as a strong political power, comprising of ten nations.
The seven heads represent the kingdoms that have opposed God’s purposes and people throughout the ages. This is elaborated upon in Rev 17:10, where John explains that “five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come.”
Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Medo-Persia and Greece are fallen, Rome was in power at the time of John’s writing, and the seventh kingdom still to come is the ten nation coalition kingdom described in Daniel and here in Revelation. This coalition will last for a short time before anti-Christ arises and conquers three of those nations (probably by diplomacy) who then dominate all others under his autocratic rule. This is the eighth kingdom that is ‘of the seven’ spoken of in Rev 17:11.
Apparently at some point the anti-Christ will be fatally wounded but will ‘miraculously’ recover, further adding to the wonder with which the world follows him (Rev 13:3-4).
This blasphemous and thoroughly ungodly political kingdom also will fall, being crushed at the battle of Armageddon by the returning and true Christ as described in Revelation 18 and 19.
The Whore of Babylon (Rev 17; James 4:4)
Alongside the political kingdom coalition in Europe will arise a similar movement in the religious world. The whore, as she is referred to in Revelation, most likely represents a religious movement seeking to unify the ungodly religions of the world into one-world religion. Throughout history the religious establishment has committed ‘fornication’ with the world, using and abusing political power to further her cause, and likewise prostituting herself to political and worldly powers for mutual advantage.
Here we see this disgusting persecutor of the saints, drunk on the blood of the holy, riding the beast, using the anti-Christ and his unified kingdom to further her ends, whilst he in turn uses her to further his. This is an ungodly alliance to outdo all others.
This whorish caricature displays the true nature of all religion that does not claim Christ as its true King, and follow Him in sincerity.
She is said to sit on seven mountains, which many believe to be Rome. Rome was built on seven hills. It is from here that the whore will rule and wield her ungodly influence.
The False Prophet – Beast from the earth (Rev 13:11-28)
A counterpart to the first beast, the anti-Christ, this beast represents one who will act as spokesman for the anti-Christ. In the same way that the Holy Spirit points all men to Christ, this impostor will do all he can to turn men’s eyes away from God, and onto satan.
He will be instrumental in the exaltation of the anti-Christ, and his ministry will be attended by lying signs and wonders:
“Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,” (2Thessalonians 2:9 KJV)
Together with the anti-Christ he will also be responsible for the implementation of economic despotism, allowing no one to buy or sell without receiving a mark in his or her hand or forehead.
Following the battle of Armageddon, the false prophet will follow his partner, the anti-Christ, into the everlasting flames of the lake of fire (Rev 19:20)
The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:1-14)
During the tribulation period God sends two witnesses to prophesy for a three and one half year period (1260 days). Like some of the Old Testament prophets these two awesome characters are granted supernatural power and protection to proclaim and administer the Word and judgements of God. Those who oppose them are slain with no more than a fiery word from their mouth.
At the end of this time God will lift His protective hand from them and they will be slain in the streets of Jerusalem. The world will rejoice over their dead bodies, but after 3 days God will raise them from the dead and carry them skyward to heaven. At the same time there will be a great earthquake, which will kill 7000 people. Needless to say this strikes fear in the heart of their enemies.
The identity of these two men is not entirely clear but most commentators are agreed that they are one of three contenders: Elijah, Moses or Enoch. Both Elijah and Enoch did not die but were taken to heaven while still living. No one actually witnessed the death of Moses, and apparently there was some struggle in the spiritual realm over his body in those last hours and minutes of his days on earth (Jude 9). It was also Moses and Elijah who visited Christ at the Transfiguration (Matt 17:3).
They are described by John as “two Olive trees”, reminiscent of a similar vision by Zechariah (Zech 4:1-14).