Notes on the Book of Revelation
Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Reasons to Study Revelation
1. Major portions of Daniel and Revelation are written for our time.
“The light that Daniel received direct from God was given especially for these last days. The visions he saw by the banks of the Ulai and the Hiddekel, the great rivers of Shinar, are now in process of fulfillment, and all the events foretold will soon have come to pass.” (Ellen White, CTr 335.4)
Revelation includes end time events for the end time church and we believe that the SDA church is God’s remnant church.
2. The book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus. If we’re followers of Jesus then we should study the book.
3. Daniel 8:14 is the foundation of our faith as Adventists: “The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and the central pillar of the advent faith was the declaration: “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Daniel 8:14. (Ellen White, GC 409.1)
This points us to what Jesus is doing in the heavenly sanctuary which is spoken of in Revelation.
This verse also points to the 2300 year prophecy which ended in 1844, when the first and second angels messages were being proclaimed. This is a major topic of Revelation.
4. Revelation points us to the sanctuary, so we’ll have to study that topic as well. “The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill.” (Ellen White, GC 488)
5. Revelation gives us lessons for the end times.
- Give lessons for end times
- Truths for our times
- How to be ready for Earth’s final days
6. Daniel and Revelation are interconnected and cannot be fully understood without the other.
“There is need of a much closer study of the Word of God; especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work. We may have less to say in some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the papacy, but we should call attention to what the prophets and apostles have written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God….” (Ellen White, CTr 335.2)
“Study Revelation in connection with Daniel, for history will be repeated.... We, with all our religious advantages, ought to know far more today than we do know.” (Ellen White, Mar 30.5)
7. The prophecies should be understood. We are Adventists and we should know our Bibles. 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This includes the prophecies of the Bible and that is especially true of those in the book of Revelation.
“As we near the close of this world's history, the prophecies relating to the last days especially demand our study. The last book of the New Testament Scriptures is full of truth that we need to understand. Satan has blinded the minds of many so that they have been glad of any excuse for not making the Revelation their study. But Christ through His servant John has here declared what shall be in the last days; and He says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 116, 117. Mar 30.7)
“A message that will arouse the churches is to be proclaimed. Every effort is to be made to give the light, not only to our people, but to the world. I have been instructed that the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation should be printed in small books, with the necessary explanations, and should be sent all over the world. Our own people need to have the light placed before them in clearer lines.” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 117. Mar 30.2)
8. The end time church proclaims the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 and within those messages is spiritual Babylon (verse 8). Daniel speaks of both literal and spiritual Babylon. Daniel tells us who or what is the Antichrist and we need to know since it’s part of the three angels’ messages (spiritual Babylon).
The book of Revelation is a masterpiece written around 95 AD by the apostle John, who died around 98 AD. John was a fisherman and not highly educated like Paul but was able to write one of the most complicated and theologically deep books of the Bible.1
While studying the book of Revelation it will become evident that this book could not have been written solely by a human author but could only have been written by men through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The book of Revelation is not written in chronological order but no matter how you look at the book, it points to the great controversy as the main point.
The book is written in chiastic poetic form and points to chapter 12 as the main emphasis of the book. It points to the great controversy. See Annex A: Chiastic Chart.
Even the overall outline of the book points to chapter 12 and the great controversy as the main point.
Understanding Hebrew poetic writing:
Understand it is inspired by God.
Understand main theme or point.
Understand underlying themes.
Overall outline of the book of Revelation:
Historical Half = The Great Controversy in Progress.2
7 churches, 1:19-3:22
7 seals, 4:1-8:1
7 trumpets, 8:2-11:19
Great controversy, 12:1-17 (Central Point of Revelation)
Eschatological Half (End Time; theology that deals with death, judgment and final destiny of humankind) = The Great Controversy Consummated.
End Time Events, 13:1-14:20
7 last plagues, 15:1-16:21
Fall of Babylon, 17:1-19:10
New Jerusalem, 21:9-22:7
The great controversy is the story about Jesus Christ and Satan fighting over God’s people. Revelation is a summary of the entire bible.
Most prophets that contributed books to the Bible were also poets, but not poets in the traditional sense, they used literary artistry (inspiration expressed with order and elegance). (Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2:55)
This book is a love story; It has a Prince, a bride, and a dragon. The overall love story is a theme of the book where the letters to the churches are His love letters to His bride and the story ends happily ever after with the redemption of mankind, the restoration of the earth, and access to the tree of life granted again.
Revelation shows us Christ and the gospel and also the power and influence that is going to counterfeit Christ and the gospel.
Four prophetic cycles
The four prophetic cycles of Revelation are the seven Churches, seven Seals, seven Trumpets and seven Vials (Plagues).3
Seven churches = Spiritual history of the church.
Seven seals = Political history of the church.
Seven trumpets = Military history of the church.
Each of the prophetic cycles is a different phase of the gospel.4
Churches = Christ is with us/His incarnation, Jesus stands in the midst of the churches, Revelation 1:13, 20;
Seals = Crucifixion, Lamb slain in the midst of the throne, Revelation 5:6;
Trumpets = Christ’s intercession, Revelation 8:3-4, describes Christ’s ministry in the Holy Place where intercession is made on our behalf;
Vials = Redemption, Jesus returns as a Lion to redeem (or reclaim) His people and take them to heaven and to gather the wicked for the day of judgment, Revelation 14:14-19.
Seven is first mentioned in Genesis (Genesis 5:7). It represents a complete cycle of time. Seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets and seven vials are completed over a complete cycle of time. There are also seven blessings, seven visions of the heavenly sanctuary, the seven songs about Babylon, seven lamp stands, seven stars, beast with seven heads, a dragon with seven crowned heads, seven mountains, and seven kings.
“The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world.” (Ellen White, AA 585.3)
The number seven appears 55 times in Revelation (but that does not count the “hidden” sevens).
7 angels (There’s an angel associated with each church; Revelation 8:6, seven angels with the seven trumpets; Revelation 15:1, seven angels with seven vials.)
John also divides the seven seals, trumpets and plagues with an interlude or interruption. For instance, he describes the first six seals in chapter 6, then provides an interlude in chapter 7 and then describes the seventh seal at the beginning of chapter 8.
The structure John used looks like this (Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2:61-62):
Introductory scene about the heavenly sanctuary.
Six of the seven items described (seal, trumpets, etc.).
Parenthetical scenes of end-time assignment and assurance (the interlude or interruption).
The seventh item described.
Other numbers are also used artistically by John, like threes, fours, and twelves. (Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2:55)
The churches, seals and trumpets cover the same time periods, the same story but from different angles. They tell the same story but from a different perspective.6
Ages of the churches (approximately, because some of the times may actually overlap a bit, but this is a good starting point):7
1. Ephesus, 31-100 AD, The loveless church.
2. Smyrna, 100-323 AD, The persecuted church (by pagans - Roman Empire).
3. Pergamos, 323-538 AD, The compromising church.
4. Thyatira, 538-1517 AD, The corrupt church (by Papal Rome).
5. Sardis, 1517-1798 AD, The dead church.
6. Philadelphia, 1798-1844 AD, The faithful church.
7. Laodicea, 1844 AD-Close of Probation, The lukewarm church.
Prerequisites for fully understanding the book of Revelation.8
The books of Daniel and Revelation go hand in hand and cannot be studied thoroughly one without the other.
Daniel was told to seal up the prophetic chapters of the book of Daniel because it couldn’t be understood at that time (Daniel 12:4). But, once the book of Revelation was written by the apostle John, then more of Daniel could be fully understood, especially during the time of the end which we are in now. So in Revelation 22:10, it says, “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.”
Of the 404 verses in Revelation, 278 refer to or are direct quotes of the Old Testament. Many concepts and images are taken from Daniel, but just as many or maybe more are taken from other areas of the Old Testament.
We must understand the Old Testament themes and stories to fully understand the book of Revelation.
The book of Revelation uses a lot of symbols, so understanding the actual event/place/person in the Old Testament will help to understand the symbolism used in Revelation.
Many symbols are used like Babylon, beasts, Balaam, Balac, Jezebel, and the key of David from the Old Testament.
Revelation is full of sanctuary symbolism and sanctuary verbiage. There are at least 7 portions that are sanctuary related in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 1:9-20, Sanctuary imagery is used.
Revelation 4-5, Description of two rooms, Christ’s role and inauguration.
Revelation 8:2-5, Shows intercession is taking place.
Revelation 11:19, Shifts to Most Holy, judgment begins.
Revelation 15:5-8, No priestly activities.
Revelation 19:1-10, Christ’s mediation has ended, there’s no mention of the sanctuary.
Revelation 21:9-22:5, City is the temple.
Also such things as Isaiah chapters 24-27 which are referred to by some as the little book of Revelation or the little apocalypse in the Old Testament. These chapters have a close relationship to the last three chapters in Revelation. Isaiah 24:1-6, 18-20, refer to the cataclysmic events at the second coming.
Note: Isaiah 24:6, “few men left”, what does that mean since all the wicked are destroyed at the second coming and the righteous are taken to heaven. The answer is in Genesis 7:22-23, “Noah only remained alive”. In Hebrew the word for ‘remained’ and ‘few’ are the same. In 1 Peter 3:20, it mentions “Wherein few”. Those that are the few that are left are the righteous that survived the great tribulation, that is what Isaiah 24:6 is referring to.
Timeline of major events in the Bible;
Time of trouble
Persecution of those that keep the commandments
The seven last plagues fall
The second coming of Jesus Christ
Dead in Christ rise first (the first resurrection)
Living in Christ taken up
Wicked living destroyed
Wicked dead remain dead
Earth is destroyed at the second coming
Satan bound on earth for a thousand years
Millennium (thousand years)
The saints taken to heaven
The saints review the books concerning judgment
New Jerusalem descends
The wicked are resurrected (the second resurrection)
Satan loosed for a season
White throne judgment (also known as the executive or final judgment)
The wicked are destroyed by hellfire
God recreates the earth
Seven principles for studying the book of Revelation.
This list may not be all encompassing but these principles will assist in the study of this book. Keep these principles and questions in mind while reading and studying Revelation and it will enhance and open up overall understanding of the verses, concepts, symbols and underlying messages within the book.
1. Let the bible explain the bible. The answers to our questions are always found in the Bible, either in the same book but in a different location or somewhere else in the Bible. For example, in Revelation 13:1, it mentions that the beast rises up out of the sea. What does the sea mean? The answer is found in Revelation 17:15, which states that the ‘waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.’ So the beast in Revelation 13 rises up in a populated area with many nations and peoples and languages.
2. Repeat and enlarge is throughout the book of Revelation. While reading the book of Revelation notice that certain themes or symbols are repeated over and over again but with additional information added each time. This can be seen in the seven churches, seven seals and the seven trumpets which all cover the same general time periods but from different angles or a different perspective. The first church, the first seal and the first trumpet all occur during the apostolic age or during the age of the apostles (the early church), but cover the spiritual, political and military history of the church respectively.
3. The churches, seals and trumpets have a historical starting and ending point in history, but the concepts and principles don’t end, they go on until the second coming of Jesus. For instance, the first church (Ephesus) is historically from around 31 to 100 AD. But the principle of losing their first love (Jesus) and becoming legalistic applies to our modern churches. Many churches today have lost their focus on Jesus and have become legalistic in their approach to salvation through their focus on works.
4. How does this fit in the plan of salvation (focus on Christ), Jesus first. What is Jesus doing (see #5 and #6)? The entire book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1) and is about Jesus and what He has done to save us through His sacrifice and His fight against Satan in the great controversy. So, while reading the book of Revelation make sure to focus on Jesus and not on obscure symbols or dragons or some other minor detail or issue that is found. For example, as mentioned earlier, don’t focus on the letters to the churches as just messages, they are love letters from Jesus to His churches to warn them about what they are doing wrong and to encourage them on what they are doing well. Jesus is telling His people that even though they may be doing something wrong, He still stands with them, loves them and supports them.
5. Timing and location is crucial to understand Revelation (time prophecies in Daniel - 490, 1260, 2300). What does this mean (see #4 and #6)? Understanding the time prophecies and where we are located while reading the book of Revelation is important. If additional information on the time prophecies are needed, please go to Annex C: Prophecy Chart, for a basic understanding of the prophecies. For instance, the first church occurs during the 490 year prophecy and the fourth and fifth churches occur during the 1260 year prophecy and the last church occurs during the 2300 year prophecy. This allows us to know where we fit in the prophecies as we are reading the book of Revelation and helps to keep the big picture in mind and how everything fits in the overall plan of God.
6. Does this fit in the sanctuary symbolism? What does this mean (see #4 and #5)? Understanding the symbols used in the sanctuary service is important while reading the book of Revelation since those symbols are used throughout the book. If we do not understand the symbols used in the sanctuary, we cannot fully understand the book of Revelation. For example, sanctuary images and references are made throughout the book of Revelation, Revelation 1:12-13; 4:1-11; 8:3; 11:19; 15:5-6; 16:1. For those that have never studied the sanctuary, please go to Annex B: The Sanctuary, to gain a basic understanding. Also, we encourage everyone to read about the sanctuary in the Old Testament (and New Testament) starting at Exodus 25-31, 36-40 and also all throughout Leviticus for a better understanding of the different services that were conducted and their meanings. Many chapters in the book of Revelation begin with mentioning an article of furniture from the sanctuary, which gives us a clue as to where in the sanctuary service this chapter is occurring and how this applies to Jesus and His ministry. For instance, the first church occurs symbolically in the first room of the tabernacle or the Holy Place of the sanctuary because the candlesticks are mentioned in Revelation 2:1. This means that during this churches time period of 31-100 AD, Jesus is in the Holy Place as our Mediator and High Priest. The entire sanctuary service and the feast days all point to Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Redeemer. The book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus, so it is important to understand the sanctuary references in the book of Revelation in order to fully understand what is being said about Jesus and His ministry (what He’s doing in the heavenly sanctuary).
7. Let prophecy show us what history to look for; we don’t look at history and try to find it in prophecy. The book of Revelation covers a lot of history either directly or indirectly and it is important to read everything in context to include timing and location (#5). Revelation chapters 8 through 11 are perfect examples for following this rule of looking for history that is directly or indirectly pointed to in prophecy. We try not to read history and then try to find verses to apply to that particular historical account or event because independent verses can be twisted to apply to almost anything, but when taken in context, both historical and situational context, it is easier and more accurate in finding the historical event that applies.
Don’t be satisfied with superficial knowledge.
“Those who take only a surface view of the Scriptures will, with their superficial knowledge, which they think is very deep, talk of the contradictions of the Bible, and question the authority of the Scriptures.” (Ellen White, 1SM 20.1)
“Jesus meant just what He said when He directed His disciples to “search the Scriptures.” Searching means to compare scripture with scripture, and spiritual things with spiritual. We should not be satisfied with a superficial knowledge. We should search for the hidden treasure concealed beneath the surface, as the merchantman seeks for goodly pearls. Light, great light, will reward the diligent searcher for truth.” (Ellen White, YRP 101.3)
A person can have all the knowledge in the world and still be lost. We can learn everything there is about the book of Revelation and still be in a lost condition. More important than the information in this book, is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Here are some verses that show that Jesus is the way to salvation, John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”; 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…); Romans 10:9-13, “that if thou shalt confess with they mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”; John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”; Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”; Psalm 91:15-16, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him…and shew him my salvation.”; Joel 2:31-32, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered…”; John 10:28, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”; Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”; 1 John 5:11-13, “….believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that He died for our sins as our Saviour, that He was resurrected and is now our Mediator in heaven (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15 and 1 John 2:1) and that if we confess our sins He will forgive us of our sins. If we believe and confess our sins, we can have an assurance of salvation.
If you want to know more about having a saving relationship with Jesus or if you want to have assurance of salvation, then please go to Annex D: Salvation to learn about those two topics. May God bless you in your study.
Introduction Resources and Notes
1. Pastor James Rafferty and Pastor Ivor Myers, Salvation in Symbols and Signs (Program on 3ABN’s Dare To Dream Network), video series can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i42C2tZ5yuI&list=PLZE9r6f37K0AJPuImVU9DX-Y1Ntikqv0R.
2. Derived from at least two sources. The first source is unknown, but the second source is the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Preparation for the End Time, 3rd Quarter 2018, Pacific Press Publishing Association, ISSN 1096-7400, page 23.
3. Pastor James Rafferty and Pastor Ivor Myers, Salvation in Symbols and Signs (Program on 3ABN’s Dare To Dream Network), video series can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i42C2tZ5yuI&list=PLZE9r6f37K0AJPuImVU9DX-Y1Ntikqv0R.
5. Pastor Doug Batchelor of Amazing Facts Ministry, An Overview of Revelation Apocolypse Synopsis, the sermon video series can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcKu1nSpBZU&list=PLF9EC8664F221A47F. All information in this section (Number 7) is from Pastor Batchelor except where noted.
6. Pastor James Rafferty and Pastor Ivor Myers, Salvation in Symbols and Signs (Program on 3ABN’s Dare To Dream Network), video series can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i42C2tZ5yuI&list=PLZE9r6f37K0AJPuImVU9DX-Y1Ntikqv0R.
7. Derived from multiple sources to include: Pastor James Rafferty and Pastor Ivor Myers, Salvation in Symbols and Signs (Program on 3ABN’s Dare To Dream Network), video series can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i42C2tZ5yuI&list=PLZE9r6f37K0AJPuImVU9DX-Y1Ntikqv0R; Also Daniel Piel, Echoes of the Past, Pictures of the Future, video series can be accessed here: https://amazingdiscoveries.tv/media/1150/511-a-lost-kingdom/; Also a video from Anchor Point Films (2017), www.anchorpointfilms.com, video series called, Revelations Seven Churches, it is a two DVD documentary series and can be purchased here, https://www.anchorpointfilms.com/series/60-revelation-s-seven-churches. Other sources are unknown, but the dates used in this document are an amalgamation of dates from several different sources.
8. Pastor James Rafferty and Pastor Ivor Myers, Salvation in Symbols and Signs (Program on 3ABN’s Dare To Dream Network), video series can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i42C2tZ5yuI&list=PLZE9r6f37K0AJPuImVU9DX-Y1Ntikqv0R.
Ellen White references can be found here: https://beta.egwwritings.org.