Sunday School Bible Survey:      REVELATION

Theme: The second coming of Christ

Key verse:
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" (1:19).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle John (1:1)

DATE: A.D. 96

THEME: The theme of the Revelation is Jesus Christ (1:1), presented in a threefold way: As to time: "which is, and which was, and which is to come" (1:4); (2) as to relationships—the churches (1:9—3:22), to the tribulation (4:1—19:21), to the kingdom (20:1—22:21); (3) in His offices — High Priest (8:3-6), Bridegroom (19:7-9), King-Judge (20:1-15).
But while Christ is thus the central theme of the book, all of the events move toward one consummation, the bringing in of the covenanted kingdom. The key-phrase is the prophetic declaration of the "great voices in heaven" (11:15), lit. "The world kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ has come." The book is, therefore, a prophecy (1:3).

The three major divisions of Revelation must be clearly held if the interpretation is to be sane and coherent. John was commanded to "write" concerning three classes of "things" (1:19):

  1. Things past, "the things thou hast seen," i.e. the Patmos vision (1:1-20).
  2. Things present, "the things which are," i.e. things then existing--obviously the churches. The temple had been destroyed, the Jews dispersed: the testimony of God had been committed to the Churches (I Tim. 3:15). Accordingly we have seven messages to seven representative churches (2:1—3:22) . It is noteworthy that the church is not mentioned in chapters 5-18.
  3. Things future, "things which shall be hereafter," lit. "after these," i.e. after the church period ends (4:1—22:21). The third major division, as Erdman (W.J.) has pointed out, falls into a series of six sevens, with parenthetical passages, making, with the church division, seven sevens.

The six sevens are:

  1. The seals (4:1—8:1).
  2. The seven trumpets (8:2—11:19).
  3. The seven personages (12:1—14:20).
  4. The seven vials (bowls) (15:1—16:21).
  5. The seven dooms (17:1—20:15).
  6. The seven new things (21:1—22:21).

The parenthetical passages are:

  1. The Jewish remnant and the tribulation saints (7:1-17).
  2. The angel, the little book, the two witnesses (10:1—11:14).
  3. The Lamb, the Remnant, and the everlasting Gospel (14:1-13).
  4. The gathering of the kings at Armageddon (16:13-16).
  5. The four alleluias in heaven (19:1-6).
  6. These passages do not advance the prophetic narrative. Looking backward and forward they sum up results accomplished, and speak of results yet to come as if they had already come. In Revelation 14:1, for example, the Lamb and Remnant are seen prophetically on Mount Sion, though they are not actually there till Revelation 20:4-6.

The end of the church period (2, 3) is left indeterminate. It will end by the fulfilment of I Thessalonians 4:14-17. Chapters 4—19 are believed to synchronize with Daniel's Seventieth Week (Daniel 9:24, note). The great tribulation begins at the middle of the "week," and continues three and a half years (Rev. 11:3--19:21). The tribulation is brought to an end by the appearing of the Lord and the battle of Armageddon (Matt. 24:29, 30; Rev. 19:11-21). The kingdom follows (Rev. 20:4, 5); after this the "little season" (Rev. 20:7-15), and then eternity.

Interpreters of the Revelation should bear in mind two important passages: I Peter 1:12; II Peter 1:20, 21. Doubtless much which is designedly obscure to us will be clear to those for whom it was written as the time approaches.

Bible Prophecy:

  1. The book of Revelation deals with the doctrine of eschatology, i.e., the doctrine of last things (cf. 1:7).
  2. The book of Revelation contains a series of visions, expressed in various symbols, but most of the symbols are not difficult to interpret.
  3. Sometimes, the interpretation is given in the same passage (cf. Rev. 1:20; 17:1, 15).
  4. Sometimes, the interpretation is found elsewhere in Scripture (cf. Rev. 12:1; Genesis 37:9, 10).
  5. Many of the symbols are from the book of Daniel. For example, in Daniel 7 we read that Daniel had a dream and he saw "four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another" (Dan. 7:3).
  6. The fourth beast, representing Rome, was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns" (Dan. 7:7).
  7. This beast with the ten horns is very prominent in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12, 16).
  8. Daniel 7:8 refers to a "little horn" that will come up from among the other horns (kings). Daniel prophesied, "Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things" (7:8).
  9. This "little horn" is the antichrist, referred to in the Book of Revelation as "the beast" (cf. 17:12, 13; 19:19, 20).
  10. The book of Revelation is not difficult to understand if one interprets it literally. There are several different methods of interpretation. I will just mention three of the popular methods of interpretation.
  11. Preterist (from the Latin word preter — "past") interpretation — All of the prophecies in the book of Revelation have already been fulfilled. This strange view is gaining popularity. Preterists teach that most or all of the prophecies concerning the end times refer to events which happened back in AD 70. Therefore, they say the tribulation is past. But most of the book of Revelation deals with the tribulation (chapters 4—19). The book of Revelation was written about AD 96. And the book of Revelation teaches that the second coming of Christ is future (cf. 1:7; 19:11-21; 22:12, 20).
  12. Preterists try and get around this problem by claiming that the book of Revelation was written before AD 70. But there is no historical evidence for that. The book of Revelation was written about AD 96.
  13. Historical interpretation — The fulfillment of the prophecies is going on in history. Those who hold this position see the development of church history within world history. According to this theory, the book of Revelation is the prophetic history of the church, and the beast is the pope of Rome. The historical interpretation is no longer popular today, though it is promoted by the Seventh-Day Adventists.
  14. Futurist interpretation — This is the literal way to interpret the Book of Revelation. Revelation is primarily prophetic and future, especially from Revelation 4 on to the end of the book. This is the position of premillennialism, and most fundamental Baptists.
  15. There are many prophetic books in the Old Testament. There are the four major prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. And there are twelve minor prophets, from Hosea to Malachi.
  16. The book of Revelation is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. However, there are other prophetic sections in the New Testament, such as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25; portions of I & II Thessalonians, etc.
  17. Our Authorized King James Bible says, "The Revelation of St. John the Divine," but actually it is, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John" (1:1).
  18. "Revelation" means "to uncover" or "to reveal." God wants us to understand the book of Revelation. God has revealed it to us.
  19. Daniel 12:9 says, "And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." But Revelation is not sealed up.
  20. Revelation 22:10 says, "And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand."
  21. So, this is, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" (1:1). Christ is the theme of the entire book of Revelation, and Christ is the theme of Revelation chapter 1 (cf. 1:5-8, 17, 18).
  22. The Lord told John, "send it to unto the seven churches which are in Asia" (1:11). Today, God's program is the local church. What we have here in the book of Revelation is God's message to His seven (representing complete) churches in this present church age, until He shall come again.
  23. There were many more churches in the province of Asia Minor, but these seven represent all of them, and to a certain extent, all the churches of all ages and of all time.
  24. We have in Revelation 1:3 a threefold blessing: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein..."
  25. The book begins with a promised blessing, and concludes with a warning (cf. Revelation 22:18, 19).
  26. Revelation 1:3 is the first of seven blessings (beatitudes) in the book of Revelation (cf. 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14).
  27. The number seven, which symbolizes perfection and completion, is very prominent in the book of Revelation. There are seven letters to seven churches; seven Spirits of God; seven lamps of fire; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars; seven angels; seven horns and seven eyes; seven seals; seven trumpets; seven vials; seven thunders; seven thousand men slain in the earthquake in Revelation 11:13; seven crowns upon the dragon's head; seven heads on the beast that rises up out of the sea; seven last plagues; seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth; and seven kings.
  28. Furthermore, the tribulation period will last for seven years.

Outline (1:19):

The key verse is Revelation 1:19, and it provides the outline for the book of Revelation."

  1. Write the things which thou hast seen..." (1:19). This is the past (cf. 1:9-18).
  2. "And the things which are..." (1:19b). This is the present — what we call the "church age" (Rev. 2 & 3).
  3. "And the things which shall be hereafter" (1:19c). This is the future (Rev. 4—22).

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —