The book of Revelation is a mystery to many. There are many symbols and their meanings are seemingly hidden. Many of the verses are foreboding and frightening, yet whoever reads this book is promised a blessing (Rev 1:3). What is the theme of the book of Revelation?
The Revelation of Jesus Christ – The Apocalypse
The book of Revelation is not really the revelation of its author, the Apostle John, but it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ which is “written to His servants the things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1). John may have written it but its content is from Jesus Christ. Just like this computer keyboard I am typing with is not the author of this article, even though it is a causative agent, the author is me. Even though John recorded the words, they were actually given to Him by Jesus Christ Who is the Word of God Himself (Rev 1:2). Revelation means to “reveal” something and Jesus Christ is the One Who does the revealing. Sometimes the book or title of this book is called “the Apocalypse” which literally means “a lifting of the veil” or an unveiling. Just as at Jesus’ death on the cross the temple veil was rent from top to bottom (symbolic of God renting it Himself), so too does Jesus do the revealing or unveiling of the end time events or things that may occur in our lifetime and some that have already occurred during John’s lifetime.
One important thing to remember is that the book of Revelation is not written in chronological order. That is, many of the things that are recorded in the book are not linear. They are not always in the proper sequence of time order. The book goes forward in time but then it digresses to make certain points. For example, it is not like the book of Judges which runs in a designated time order with specific order of events.
Book of Revelation Summary
The book of Revelation contains messages to the ancient churches in which the messages equally apply to the churches of the past two thousand years and up to the churches of today. This book contains end time events; things yet to come and of things which had already occurred. It looks forward to the reign of Christ as King. There is also the Great White Throne judgment where all of those who have rejected Christ in their lifetimes will be cast into a lake of fire. The Devil and all of his fallen angels (demons) fate will be decided. The new heavens and new earth will be established in time and the New Jerusalem will descend out of heaven and initiate the Kingdom of God (Dan 2:44). Someday, all peoples, languages, and nations will come to Jerusalem to worship God. The cities of man will become the City of our God (Matt 25:31-32). The kingdoms of the world will become the Kingdom of God. Today, there is a lack of knowledge of God Almighty in the world, but some day the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of God (Habakkuk 2:14, Isaiah 11:9). There is a day coming when people will no longer wonder about God but each one will talk with his neighbor about Him.
Message to the Churches
We know that there were actual churches with the names that are listed in message that Jesus has for the Seven Churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Whether these were written only to the actual churches in Asia that existed at that time or to seven different church ages, we can only guess (Rev 1:4, 11). They could be intended for both. Either way, these messages are just as relevant to the churches that existed then as they do to the churches that exist around the world today.
The Ephesus Church
When the word “angel” is mentioned regarding the churches, we must remember that the literal translation of the word angel is “messenger” so this may be talking about the chief elder or pastor of that church (Rev 2:1). This makes sense because angels were never the leaders of the physical church; the pastor is, under the Great Shepherd Jesus Christ. The Ephesus church was a prosperous one seated in the greatest harbor of the ancient Asian Minor civilization. The church had endured great persecution and had not grown weary in well doing (Rev 2:3) but they had lost their first love at conversion and had ceased to grow (Rev 2:4). The works of the Nicolations were primarily sexually immoral deeds. They were obsessed with pleasure and self-indulgence and used grace as a license to sin. We can see this today in some modern churches because many believers call themselves: “carnal Christians.”
The Smyrna Church
Many in this church actually belonged to the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9). This may mean that some in the church were mixing pagan religions with Christianity and also that they were dragging Judaism into their faith, which was a works related faith. This was seen as a rejection of the Messiah’s redemptive work at Calvary. Jesus warns them that they may suffer severe persecution or even a martyr’s death for their compromising of the gospel (Rev 2:10).
The Pergamos Church
Even though this church may have had its pastor killed they still held fast to their profession of Jesus’ name (Rev 2:13). Nonetheless, they practiced sexual immorality. This same immorality is how Israel fell in the days and by the schemes of Balaam (Rev 2:14). Here again, Jesus warns the church that He may war with them by “the sword of my mouth” which could mean that he sends them into captivity as God often did when Israel rebelled in the Old Testament.
The Thyatira Church
This is one of the few churches that were actually doing good works. These works were their faith in Christ, loving others, service to the saints, and enduring trials (Rev 2:19). There is a common theme in these, and perhaps today’s churches – that of sexual immorality. The reference to Jezebel makes this clear and that the church “tolerates that woman” could indicate that church discipline was lacking as Paul instructed the churches to disfellowship those who refuse to repent from their blatant sexual immorality in the church (Rev 2:19-22, 1 Cor 5:9-11). God was going to judge these impenitent Christians with either illness, captivity or death unless they repented (Rev 2:22-23). Jesus declares that many in the church have not participated in these sins and these will be sparred His disciplinary action (Rev 2:24-25).
The Sardis Church
Jesus indicates that this church is asleep in the pews. Is Jesus referring to the churches then or to the churches now who are spiritually lethargic or asleep (Rev 3:1-3)? Are these “pew potatoes” who only love to sit in their “holy huddles” that appear to have good works and are only protecting their reputations (Rev 3:1)? Jesus gives a warning that He’s going to come like a “thief in the night”, when they least expected it (Rev 3:3) but He also declares that at least some are walking in faith (Rev 3:4). They must be evangelistic because Jesus said that their names are written in the “book of life” and that since He will declare their name before the Father, they must be declaring Jesus’ name to the lost (Rev 3:5, Matt 10:32, Luke 12:8).
The Philadelphia Church
This church, named after a “brotherly” love, had shown their good works by their love (Rev 3:8). God had opened doors for them to preach the gospel because of their love or by their obedience of keeping His Word (Rev 3:8). They must have been evangelistic too because they had not been denying Jesus’ name before others and by the doors that Christ had opened, their profession of Christ may have been publicly proclaimed (Rev 3:8). It is hard to find any criticisms of this church or this church age because Jesus tells them that they are going to be protected from “the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” (Rev 3:10). This “hour of trial” could be talking about the Great Tribulation that is to come or about the fall of Jerusalem and the great persecution of the Christians in the late AD 70’s up to AD 100.
The Laodicea Church
This is the 7th and last of the churches mentioned in the message to the churches by Jesus Christ. This church has the most problems and is the only one that Jesus has nothing good to say to them. Laodicea was the most influential and prosperous of the cities and perhaps churches at the time of John’s writings (Rev 3:17). Today’s churches are likewise, compared to the ancient ones, the most prosperous and influential ones…yet they are also the most lukewarm ones. The nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs while Colossae was famous for its refreshingly cold mountain springs. Laodicea however had underground aqueducts where people detested drinking from it. It was neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. It would be like taking a drink of cold coffee or warm soda pop. Jesus warned them that He would spew them out of His mouth (15-16). A better translation would be that He would vomit them out of His mouth because they made Him sick to His stomach in a figurative sense. He would rather seem them be cold and not pretend to be on fire for Him or to be fully sold out to Him as His disciple. Today the world is full of “carnal Christians” who swear, use foul language, never read the Bible, never attend church, watch inappropriate movies, and are no different from the world around them. They think that they are fine…they may even look religious, but they are actually spiritually naked (Rev 3:17-18). They need to repent and put on Christ’s righteousness. They might think they are rich spiritually but they are morally bankrupt (Rev 3:18). Jesus warns them about this because He loves them and because of this He may have no choice but to punish them (Rev 3:19). Jesus doesn’t want anyone playing “church-ianity” or by being “religious.” Jesus is seeking disciples after His own heart.
Key Verses in Revelation
Revelation 2:7 “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
Revelation 3:12 “The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.”
Revelation 6:9-11 ”When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.”
Revelation 7:16-17 “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 12:3-5 “Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”
Revelation 12:11 “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
Revelation 13:1 “The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.”
Revelation 14:1-3 “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.”
Revelation 14:8-10 “A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries. A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.”
Revelation 14:12 “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”
Revelation 15:2-3 “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.”
Revelation 16:15-16 “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed. Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
Revelation 17:4-7 “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.”
Revelation 17:14 “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Revelation 19:7-9 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! And he added, These are the true words of God.”
Revelation 19:14-16 “The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Revelation 19:20 “But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
Revelation 20:6 “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
Revelation 20:15-20 “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Revelation 21:1-4 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:6-8 “He said to me: It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:10 “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”
Revelation 21:26-27 “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Revelation 22:4-5 “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 22:7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”
Revelation 22:14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”
Revelation 22:18-19 “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”