An introduction to the book. It includes the historical setting, timing and purpose, a discussion of the four most popular methods of interpretation and a verse-by-verse commentary of chapter one. The key verse, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later” (Rev. 1:19) divides the book into its three sections, and this study covers section one, the things John had seen.
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Tonight we’re going to begin a study of the Book of Revelation, so if you were misled or came into the room by accident now is your time to sneak out, because pretty soon it will be too late and you’ll be hooked!
Because this obviously is a verse-by-verse study, we’re not going to finish it all tonight. In fact, it will probably take us, meeting once a month the way we do, it’ll probably take us all winter and well into next spring sometime before we get done. And who knows, we may have to finish this up and have it after the Rapture the way things are going; and that’ll be okay, that’ll be alright with me. And so, we’ll be able to get the original John to finish it for us maybe after we get up there.
The Revelation by almost every account was written by the apostle John. It was written about 95 A.D. as far as most people are concerned; there are others that try to establish other dates, but for the most part scholars agree that about 95 A.D. which placed it somewhere between 62-63 years after the crucifixion, 25 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and about—oh let’s see what my notes here say—25 years after John wrote his Gospel and about ten years after he wrote his letters. He was the only disciple left alive when he wrote the Book of Revelation.
He had been exiled to the Island of Patmos, a prison Roman penal colony out in the Aegean Sea just about 25 miles off the coast of Turkey. And today there’s a huge monastery there. The little island is only four miles wide and eight miles long, but there’s one huge monastery and over 300 little chapels on the island all named after St. John.
And so you can go over there, there’s a charming couple from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who own a little hotel there in Patmos, the Romeos family, and they couldn’t be nicer folks, and they’ll be happy to see you. We stayed there with them for several days when we were over there, and it makes a great headquarters to tour the island. In fact, all you need is a room at the Romeos Hotel and one of those little Vespa scooters and you can tour the whole island; it’s just a great fun time to have. And so when we did that we just fell in love with the place, we didn’t want to leave and we’ve always been looking for an opportunity, or an excuse I should say, to go back.
Someone asks a question, “Can you take a tour?”
Jack: “You can take a tour, there are—”
“Will you take me on a tour?”
Jack: “Oh, will I take you on a tour? Sure I’d love to! That’d be terrific.”
So about 95 A.D. the Lord appeared to John on this penal colony. It’s funny how John was put out there because he wouldn’t stop preaching the Gospel, and they couldn’t shut him up any way. The rumors are, the traditions are, they tried to kill him in several different ways, even threw him alive into a pot of boiling oil and that didn’t work. And so they put him out on this island and they put him in like solitary confinement. There wasn’t anybody out there he could talk to, or so they thought; but the Lord showed up Himself and so John talked to Him. And the result was this Book of Revelation.
It’s an amazing book of prophecy. It was God’s last word, His final word to man. And we’ll have a lot of opportunity to really get into this and see what He had to say.
There are 404 verses in the 22 chapters of Revelation, and 278 of them (or about 62%) are almost direct quotes out of the Old Testament; so this is really an Old Testament book. The way it’s written, one of the things that have caused some scholars to dispute John’s authorship is because it’s not written in his typical style like the Gospel and the letters he wrote. But the linguistics experts—I’m not one of those so I’m taking their word for this—linguistics experts feel like it’s a little bit awkward in the Greek because while he was writing in the Greek language he was really thinking in Hebrew, because it’s such an Old Testament book.
And so, this is one of the things that led to it appearing awkward and being a little different style, because the Greek writing was coming from a man who was putting it together in his head in Hebrew. And so that might be the result of that. But you know, I happen to think as I was going through this today that the time in which John wrote of course historically is much different from our time, but spiritually and in several other ways, it was very similar to our time.
Like it is today, there were great threats mounted against Christianity. The Church was growing rapidly like it is today, although we don’t hear much about it here because most of the growth in the Church today is taking place in Third World countries, specifically China, India and Africa.
In fact, it’s been suggested that there are as many as 175,000 new converts to Christianity every day. But because they’re coming from largely Africa, India, and China we don’t hear much about it over here. When they sort of take the membership—you know, the statistics of the population that claim to be Christian, in this country attend Christian churches, the number turns out to be much lower. But the reason for that is that they usually only count the Roman Catholic Church and the major denominations.
And of these 175,000 new converts, most of them don’t attend a church at all; they aren’t part of any denomination. They’re meeting in secret because their countries are very much opposed to the Christian religion. And so you read stories about the things that happen to them, there are over 3,000 people martyred for their faith in the world every day.
But we don’t hear much about that here because it’s not in our country and it doesn’t affect us, and of course it’s not news because the news that we get in this country doesn’t concern itself very much with what happens in the Christian world. But like it was in the time of the Revelation there’s rapid growth of the Church, there’s much persecution and there is a government, a worldwide government that’s pretty much opposed to the notion of Christianity.
In John’s time, the concept of emperor worship was just beginning. Up until then there had been this cult of emperor worship from Rome, but usually they waited until the emperor died and then they deified him. But as John is beginning to write the Book of Revelation, living emperors are starting to demand to be worshiped as gods, and then this was causing a huge problem. And so you had that issue going on as well as the other problem. And so we can feel the—what shall I say, the empathy, the connection that we might have with the 1st Century Church if we look around us in our time today.
There are usually four ways in which the Book of Revelation is interpreted. Obviously I’m going to pick one of those ways and I’ll tell you what it is as we go here.
The first method that’s used is a term that, if you’ve been in some of these Bible studies before you’re familiar with, it’s called the Preterist view.
The Preterist view takes the Book of Revelation as historical, saying that everything happened pretty much here by the end of 70 A.D. and they’re the ones that usually date the book a little bit earlier because, if the book was written in 95 it was written about events that had already transpired, and so they usually date the book a little bit earlier. But the Preterists believe that the events and things that are talked about in the Book of Revelation have already happened—the Second Coming has already taken place, the Millennium has already happened, and everything that we think of as prophecy is really history. So that’s the Preterist view.
Then there’s a view called the Historicist view; they sort of look at the whole thing as just a gradual unfolding of history from 95 A.D. to whenever the end of history is.
The Futurist (which I’m one) places the book primarily in the End Times and say that it’s a book of prophecy, it’s the Lord speaking to us about what’s going to happen, and pretty soon now. It was not soon when He spoke about it, but the Futurists believe that it’s going to happen pretty soon now; that we’re living in the last days and we may even be the generation that sees the Book of Revelation all come to pass.
And then there are the Idealists who believe it’s all symbolic, that it’s just a story of the ongoing conflict between good and evil and eventually the good guys win. And so they don’t take any of it literally, don’t take any of it as being prophetic. They just view it as a symbolic story of the conflict between good and evil.
Now my view as a Futurist is that it is prophecy. That it talks about things that are coming. I’m what they call a person who takes the Bible in a historical, grammatical, literal view. Historical means that I look at the historical context in which the passage was written. Grammatical means I look at the words that were used and what they meant at the time they were written. And literal means until there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise, I believe the Bible says just what it looks like it’s saying, you don’t have to figure anything out.
Now as we get into the Book of Revelation, you’ll find out that the Book of Revelation is purposely written symbolically. And so many of the visions and things that John sees here are written symbolically and I’ll explain that to you. It tells you that right in the first couple of verses of the book. And then it tells you that the symbolism is the way in which John is going to convey these things, or communicate them. The nice thing about it is, is that symbolism is all explained within the Bible itself. You can pretty much find the symbolism of the Book of Revelation in other parts of the Bible, so it serves as a commentary and helps you see what the symbolism is and how it transpires. And so we’ll try to get into a lot of that as we go along.
And so we have here the apostle John, the last of the twelve still alive, he’s living in exile on the Island of Patmos, and one day the Lord Himself appears to him. But not as one of the guys like He used to be along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, now He appears to him as the King of the universe and it’s a big, big difference as we’ll see shortly here.
So I guess that’s a pretty good introduction. John of course if you’ve read his Gospel and his letters, you know he’s what we call a mystical writer. He takes great stock in having a series of things and in particular numbers, and so on. For example he uses the number seven a whole lot of times—52 times as a matter of fact in the Book of Revelation—and its scholars wondered the fact that 52 happens to be the numbers you add up to get seven, and so even there you got a seven. Because five plus two equals seven? Yeah, okay.
And so 52 times, the number seven appears. There are seven churches, seven spirits, seven golden lampstands, seven stars, seven seals, seven horns and seven eyes, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven signs. I’m not going to give you all 52 of them. Seven crowns, seven plagues, seven golden bowls, seven hills, seven kings, as well as a whole bunch of other sevens.
And of course, if you study of numbers in Scripture—which I would advocate to you, it’s a fascinating study—but if you’re a student of numbers in Scripture you know that seven is the number that denotes completeness.
And so when he talks about seven of something, that means it’s complete. When he talks about seven heads for example, as we’ll get into the beast with seven heads, he’s talking about someone who has complete wisdom. Because wisdom is a function of the brain, right? And so a person with seven heads is a very smart person. He doesn’t necessarily have seven heads, okay? So that’s part of the symbolism that we’ll get into.
And we’ll try to unravel most of this for you as we go. Tonight our big challenge is going to be to try to get through chapter 1, because it sets the scene for the book, it has a whole lot of symbolism in it and it lays the groundwork in much of the symbolism so that if you understand chapter 1, you’ll get a good feel for how the rest of the book is going to go.
Most people divide the book into three parts: chapter 1 being the first part, chapters 2-3 being the second part, and chapters 4-22 being the third part.
They fit along with the thing that John was told to do: write the things you have seen, (that’s chapter 1) the things which are (chapters 2-3) and the things that will happen after that (chapters 4-22). And so if you’re a person who outlines things or likes things put into packages like that, then you got a three-part book. And many people like that division because it seems to fit pretty well. And of course that means that chapters 2-3 are being written about things that were happening during John’s lifetime, and we’ll get into that as we tackle those two chapters, we’ll try to take those the next time.
So I guess most of the rest of my notes here I can kind of fill us in with as we go along. I want to be able to get in the book and kind of get the pace going here so that we have a good view of how things are going to transpire. So with that let’s just jump right into the Book of Revelation.
Remember, the biggest mistake that people make about this book is they put an “S” at the end of the word and they call it “Revelations” but it’s not, it’s Revelation. It’s singular.
And 1:1 tells us that it’s:
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.
So you understand this is the revealing of Jesus to Jesus. You remember when He was on Earth, they asked Him about the End Times and He says, “Look, nobody knows this.” In Matthew 24 He says nobody knows about that day or hour not the angels, not even the Son, only the Father. You remember that? And so when He was on Earth even He, having laid aside His divinity to become man, even He was not privy at that time to all the ways in which things would unfold at the end of the age.
After He ascended back into Heaven, regained His position as King of the universe, of course all of this was revealed again to Him. And so when it says “the revelation of Jesus Christ” which was given to Jesus Christ, this is when He got the rest of the story. And then He brought it back and gave it to John, who wrote it down and gave it to us.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.
Now this “soon” doesn’t mean chronologically soon. It would be like saying, to show him the next event on the calendar. In other words, from God’s point of view the Book of Revelation was the next thing that was going to happen. Now it didn’t mean it was going to happen immediately, it just meant that on the schedule that’s the next thing that was going to happen.
He made it known
And here’s the part you want to understand here, this phrase that’s translated “made it known” really means He rendered it into signs. “He signified it” is I think the way the King James uses the Greek word there. But literally it means that He rendered this into signs, and this is where you have the concept of the apocalyptic visions that the book is so famous for, because it was given that way, it was rendered into signs on purpose.
Now I personally happen to believe the purpose was due to the fact that John was a 1st Century man with a 1st Century world view, and he had a 1st Century economy around him; he had a 1st Century perspective. But what’s he writing about? He’s writing about something that’s going to happen twenty centuries later. And so, a lot of this had to be rendered symbolically in order to permit him to do it because he didn’t know anything about what would be happening two-thousand years after the fact. He wouldn’t have been able to describe it, he wouldn’t have been able to put it into anything that 1st Century readers could have understood.
And you remember this book was written in 95 A.D. and it was written to seven churches that are going to be named here soon, and they were supposed to read this and understand it. And every generation after that was supposed to be able to read this book and understand it. And so for that reason it was rendered into signs so that they could go back into their own Scriptures and develop the understanding of the passage and it would be contemporary therefore to every generation from then until now. And that’s about the only way God, in His infinite wisdom with all His infinite knowledge, could have made this work for man with his very limited wisdom and his very limited perspective.
So the phrase that the modern translators translate “made it known” in the older translations and in the actual Greek is “He rendered it into signs,” or “signified it.”
He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Now that’s the second verse already. Verse 3 now:
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
And this is the first of seven beatitudes, or seven blessings, that you’ll get throughout the Book of Revelation. I’ll give you all of them at the end sometime next year, so I won’t bother to give them all to you now because you’ll forget them all by then. But just know that this is a book that is different in many respects, and the first area of its difference is that it promises a blessing to those who read it, to those who hear it, and to those that take to heart what was written in it.
Now one of the things I’m fond of here is right off the bat he sort of puts down the Preterist view, because if the Preterist says that all of this Book of Revelation actually had taken place by 70 A.D. and if John wasn’t writing it until 95, why would John be calling it prophecy? You see he’d be calling it history, wouldn’t he? Because it would already be in the past. But it’s called the book of prophecy, which to me tells John that he knew that it was in the future, and so he called it a book of prophecy.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
All right, now one of the things I want to show you here is the concept here of Jesus being the one who reveals this to us. And you know, in Old Testament times (and remember this is a book with basically a Hebrew framework) and in Old Testament times there was an office, and it was called the office of prophet. There are actually three offices then: prophet, priest and king; they were most usually occupied by three different people.
Sometimes the prophet would also be a priest, as Ezekiel was, for example. Sometimes the prophet would also be a king, as David was. You know Jesus at the end of Luke called the Book of Psalms a book of prophecy. And so, sometimes there would be people serving dual roles. But quite often the offices of prophet, priest and king were three different offices.
The job of the prophet was to talk to the people for God. Because you remember back in the old days on Mount Sinai when God came down in the smoke and the thunder and the big loud trumpets and everybody’s scared half to death, and after that incident what did the people say to Moses?
They said, “Hey Moses, from now on you go talk to Him and tell us what He said. We don’t want to do this anymore, this is too scary!” And so they said, “You go talk to Him.”
So this is where the idea of the prophet, the office of prophet came along. Because the prophet is the one who heard the Word of God and spoke it to the people.
Now to protect against fraudulent prophecy in Deuteronomy 18 God said, “If ever a prophet says anything that doesn’t come true, that means he didn’t speak on My behalf and so go kill him, because he’s a false prophet. Because everything I say through My prophets is going to come true.”
And so that was the protection, it wasn’t an office that a person would aspire to. You know you didn’t spend millions of dollars getting nominated to run and be elected to that office, because first of all if the Lord didn’t kill you the people would. Because usually there were things that God had for the people to hear they didn’t want to hear it, and so they often treated their prophets kind of roughly. You know Isaiah for example, they stretched him out between two horses and sawed him in half, they didn’t like what he was saying to the people. But that was the way the office of prophet went.
And then the office of priest, the high priest is the one who spoke to God for the people. And so the communication link there was God spoke through the prophet to the people, the people spoke through the priest to God.
One day a year the priest would walk into the Holy of Holies, it was the only time he was allowed to do so, and there he would meet face to face with God in the temple. And he would communicate and ask—basically what he did on that day is ask God to forgive the people for their sins. And that was really the only question he ever had for God. But quite often, you remember when they used to have the—the priest wore this breastplate and there were pockets in it, and he had these two things called the Urim and the Thrummin that were inside of his breastplate. And people could ask the priest a question of God and the priest would reach in there and whatever he pulled out gave the answer, one was a yes and one was for a no, and so quite often they could ask him yes or no questions that way, and the priest was the intermediary there. So the priest spoke to God for the people, the prophet spoke to the people for God.
And then the king was somewhere in the middle there. He had the authority over the nation, but he was quite often subject to the prophet and quite often subject to the priest, and so there was a three-headed government and it had its checks and balances. Worked pretty well; God being the real head of the nation.
And so this concept here of the prophet, priest and king is something you want to get kind of a hold of, because you see only one person has ever held all three offices, and that’s the Lord Jesus Himself.
He is Prophet, Priest and King. None was ever permitted to hold all three offices. As I said it was possible sometimes for a prophet to be a priest and sometimes possible for a prophet to be a king. Never could a priest be a king; never could a king be a priest. God kept those two offices separate because He said all the kings had to come from the tribe of Judah, all the priests had to come from the tribe of Levi and so you couldn’t have a mixture there. And that was the Levitical priesthood, sometimes called the Aaronic priesthood—now we’re going to get into this in just a minute because I’m going to show you how in this first chapter of Revelation there’s a change that John talks about that’s coming in that priesthood, and it involves you and me.
But for now you need to see that the only one to serve in all three offices as prophet, priest and king was the Lord Jesus. And He was—is—the last of the prophets. There has been no prophet since Him. And we’ll go to—for our authority on that, we’ll go to Hebrews.
You know one of the—well there are two problems with you coming to one of my studies on Revelation. One of the problems is I’ve taught this book so many times, and it’s really almost my favorite book in the Bible. And so as I was going through it and reviewing it getting ready for this, I noticed that in my Bible the pages of Revelation are a different color from all the other pages, because I’ve used them so much they’ve turned brown. [laughs] I’ve got some pages in the Bible that are white, but when I get to Revelation the Bible’s pages are brown because I’ve used it so much, and I can hardly read any of it anymore because I got notes written over the top of notes. I’m going to have to break down someday and get a new Bible.
But for now one of the problems is I’ve taught it so many times, that I can take you down all these little rabbit chases, and we can get so far off the track you wouldn’t believe it. And that’s part of the fun we have, isn’t it?
And the other problem is I’ve taught it so many times sometimes I think everybody has heard it every time I’ve taught it, and so that I’ve got to be careful here to go slowly enough so that we cover everything that needs to be covered.
But I got to be careful about going too far off the track so that we don’t all get confused.
And so I do want you to see this passage in Hebrews, and I will try to give you all of the relevant passages as we go along here that I think will help you in your understanding of the book, but if either you feel like I’m going too fast, or if you feel like I’m getting off the track too much I would like you to tell me, because I need to be guided by your interest here and what you’re trying to see, and because it’s important to me that when we come away from all this, you have a very clear understanding of this book.
Because at the end of the book there’s a curse pronounced on everybody who either adds to or takes away from the book, and I don’t want to come under the subject of that curse, and so I want to make sure that you all have as broad an understanding as possible, and as deep an understanding as possible, of the book without boring you to death in the process and without getting you so far off the subject that it’s no longer a good study for you.
But in Hebrews there is one area that we need to talk about because people do talk about prophets in the Church today, don’t they? And there are prophets in the Church today, and I don’t want to give you an impression that they’re not. But there’s no office of prophet. There’s no one who has been authorized solely to speak to the people for God, as there was in the days of Isaiah, and Ezekiel, and Zechariah, and those.
In those days there was a prophet, sometime there were two or three of them alive at once; during the Babylonian period for example, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah were all alive prophesying at the same time. And in some cases, almost simultaneously saying things. In Amos’s day—or in, I’m sorry in Isaiah’s day—you had Micah and Isaiah and Hosea all prophesying. But usually there was one prophet and he was brought to speak to the people for God; he was the only prophet.
Now the office of prophet then is different from the gift of prophecy, which is one of the spiritual gifts outlined in 1 Corinthians 12. And so I want you to see that difference, so when you read this passage in Hebrews you don’t get confused by that. But here’s what’s Hebrews 1:1 says:
In the past God spoke to our forefather through the prophets
That’s what I’ve just been explaining.
at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
And so what He’s saying there is that in the past, there was always a prophet to speak to the people for God. But when Jesus came He became the voice, He was the Word. And He is the only one. Since Him, there is no other person on Earth today who fills the office of prophet. There are many people who exercise the gift of prophecy, but it’s not the same. There was one prophet, one high priest, one king, His name is Jesus.
And so the next time somebody asks you whether you’re a republican or democrat you say, “Oh I’m neither. I’m a monarchist and I await the return of my king.” And that solves all the political questions [laughs] and it’ll start you off on a whole new subject, won’t it? One that you can maybe do something about.
The Son is the exact radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,
In other words, if you want to see what God looks like, you look at Jesus.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
And so that’s the person who holds the office of prophet. And so, when Jesus spoke the Book of Revelation to John, He was speaking as a prophet, and He was telling John about the things that were going to soon take place, or the next events, on God’s calendar.
Now we’re down to verse 4. He is now going to start the letter. And don’t forget, this was written in the form of a letter to seven churches. And so first of all, he starts off with his name, John. This was the Greek style; you put your own name at the front of the letter and you put the person you’re writing to at the end.
We do it the other way, we put the person we’re writing to at the front of the letter and we put our name at the end. But in the Greek style the person writing put his name. Remember every one of Paul’s epistles? It starts off with Paul, an epistle; and Silas, he sometimes adds the people who were helping him there. But it always starts with their name, From: Us, To: The Church, and whoever.
So in John’s cases it’s verse 4:
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
All right, you got a mouthful here. There’s only two places in the Book of Revelation where the word “grace” appears, this is one of them, the other one’s in the very last verse. This book is not about grace, is it?
The phrase “from him who is, and who was, and who is to come” is the construct of God’s name. You know, it was not permissible to speak the name of God, and so what they did was they used some initials. And it used to be, we thought these initials were “JHVH” now people use the “YHWH” version.
We pronounced it in the old days “Jehovah” and lately “Yahweh.” These are just—these are not God’s name, these are ways we have devised to identify Him.
In the Old Testament when you see the word “LORD” and it’s all capitals, that means in the original Hebrew the four initials appear, the “JHVH” or “YHWH.” And what they do is they put the four initials, they transliterate that into the word “LORD” and they use all capitals. And that tells you that that’s who they’re talking about. The lowercase “Lord” is the word “Adonai” and it can mean anything from sir, or mister, all the way up to speaking of God.
In fact it was funny, my wife and I were in a bilingual service last week, and the praise was in Spanish. And so we’re singing in Spanish, songs that we knew, but we knew the English versions and they were speaking the Spanish version. And whenever they got to “Lord” they used the word “Señor.”
It sounded funny to me at first because one was “Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes yes Lord.” Do you sing that song? And this was “Sí Señor, sí sí Señor.” And I’ve always heard “Si Señor” means yes sir. But “Señor” is the word from which they translate from “Lord.” And so that can mean anything up to, from sir or mister, all the way to Lord, speaking of Lord Jesus.
But when they want to, in the Bible when they want to let you know that the word “LORD” is really God’s name, the Father they’re speaking of, you’ll find it all in caps. And that means in the original language it’s those four initials “YHVH.” It’s said that the—of course you know that they couldn’t pronounce the name of God, it was against the law. They could only pronounce it on one day of the year that was Yom Kippur, the day the priest went in to speak to the Lord on behalf of the people. That’s the only day they were allowed to pronounce the word. Any other day it was punishable by death.
And so these four initials became known as a tetragrammaton. That’s a big fancy word for four initials. And what happened was when the King James was translated they took these four initials, and they took the “E” out of “Elohim” which is Hebrew for God, and the “A” and the “O” out of “Adonai” which is a Hebrew word for Lord, and they stuck them in between the four initials and they came up with Jehovah. And that’s where the word Jehovah came from, it was just used to give vowels to the name of God because in our language we need vowels in order to pronounce—you can’t pronounce “JHVH” you have to put some vowels in there, and that’s how that came about.
This doesn’t have anything to do with our study, but the thing that it comes from is this:
him who is, and who was, and who is to come,
That’s essentially what God’s name means.
When He spoke to Moses in the burning bush and Moses said “Who shall I say that you are?”
And He said, “Tell them I am that I am.”
And that really became in the Greek, “I am the one who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
And that’s always been the name of God. It literally means The Becoming One. And whenever you see that, you know that the Father Himself is speaking. And so when it says:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,
It means, the guy who’s really giving me this is the creator of the universe, and He’s the one writing. I’m the scribe, I’m taking dictation. He’s the one giving me stuff to write down.
Now turn with me for a minute to Revelation 11:17. You want to know when the Lord’s coming back? Turn to Revelation 11:17 one time. I’ll try not to do this very often but here I can’t resist this one because it’s just too obvious. 11:17 we’re about in the middle of the Book of Revelation right? And we’re going to start with 11:15 just to get you into it:
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
And look at the next phrase:
the One who is and who was,
Where’s the rest of it? No more is to come. Why not? He already has! He already has. So there you have—in Heaven now, this is taking place in Heaven remember—so in Heaven, the Lord assumed His role as King, at the time of the seventh trumpet. And we’re only two thirds of the way through the judgments, right? We’ve done the seal judgments, and now the seventh trumpet means it’s the end of the seven trumpet judgments, but you got the seven bowl judgments to come. But as far as Heaven is concerned, the Lord has assumed His role as King of the universe, and now the rest of the Book of Revelation from there to 19 is the battle to take back that which He bought and paid for but which somebody else is trying to keep Him from taking.
So there will be some other surprises like that as we go along. But just understand that—and that’s one of the nice things about the way the book is written because it acts as its own commentary quite often and you can get a good picture of what’s really going on by just having a knowledge of the book in general.
And then it says not only:
from him who is, and who was, and who is to come
from the seven spirits before His throne.
This is an Old Testament construction of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was called the Sevenfold Spirit of God, and you’ll find Him described most clearly in the Book of Isaiah 11. So we’ll go back there and take a look at that one too. Isaiah 11 I think is where it is, and you might know that it’s a Messianic passage in which it’s contained.
We’ll start reading at Isaiah 11:1:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
And you know the word “Branch” is capitalized there in your Bible, that means it’s referring to the Messiah, because the Messiah, one of His titles is “the Branch.” A Branch will bear fruit.
Now look at 11:2:
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
And those are seven things there. You got: wisdom, understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and fear, and delight in fear—in other words, the fear of the Lord which means in the Hebrew, it means respect. It doesn’t mean fear in the way we see it. If you saw a lion come in here you’d feel some fear. That’s not the way they felt about the Lord, they had a great respect, a high regard for Him. They held Him in awe, and that was their definition of this word, fear.
And the seventh is the fact that they liked that. New Testament Christians are awfully familiar with the Lord, don’t you think? I mean we call Him by His first name, we’re able to go even farther than that, we’re able to crawl up in His lap and call him Daddy—the King of the universe. And sometimes we don’t realize who it is we’re talking to. The Hebrew people, the Jewish people, had no such problem. They have an incredible awe and respect for the Creator to the extent that they won’t even pronounce His name. And they delight in that, they think that’s important.
I remember a Bible study I was teaching one time, and a fellow right up near the front row was sitting there, and he nudged his notebook or something, and His Bible fell off onto the floor. And immediately a Messianic believer from Jewish origin who was seated nearby, jumped up, reached down and grabbed that Bible, and brought it up and kissed it, and then handed it back to him.
The respect for His Word is so great they won’t even touch it. They use a little thing with a little pointer thing with little fingers on the end, because they don’t want their own hands to soil God’s Word.
They would never think to write in their Bibles the way you and I do, they look at mine in horror! Now I’ve got some Bibles that I don’t write in, but this is the one I teach from and it’s all plastered full of notes and things, and pages are taped up, and I’ve got other pages of notes written in it, and it’s a mess. And a Jewish person looking at this would cringe at the familiarity, the disrespect, that that shows. So they delight in that fear, they think it’s healthy; a very good thing to have.
And that’s the seventh part of that Sevenfold Spirit. And you see, that’s the one that Solomon ultimately lost, and that’s what brought his downfall. He didn’t maintain that delight in the fear of the Lord, he became too familiar. And of course what did he do? He went from a polytheistic believer—or from a believer in God alone, to a polytheistic believer, which meant he accepted the possibility that there are other gods. His wives did this to him, that’s why the Lord said you shouldn’t take more than one wife. Because he had all these wives, and he brought them from other countries, mostly to make political alliances with his neighbors around him. But little by little they influenced him about their gods, and pretty soon he’s letting them build statues to their gods in the temple, in the courts.
Toward the end of his reign he became a pantheistic believer—everything is God. And that brought about his downfall.
He lost that last, that seventh thing. He had the wisdom, he had the understanding, he had all that going for him. But he lost that healthy respect, that fear. He no longer had that delight in the fear of the Lord, and that caused him trouble.
The Church is in that danger today, we don’t… In my opinion (I’m just blowing off steam here) sometimes I think we’re way too familiar. I mean, we’re taught to be intimate, we’re taught that as Paul says in Ephesians we can go boldly into the throne room of God with full confidence. Amen to that, I’m all for that. But when we get there let’s remember whose room we’re in. Let’s remember who it is… and, well that’s enough on that subject. I’m preaching to the choir here I can tell. But that’s the Sevenfold Spirit of God. That’s what the Old Testament said when they were thinking of the Holy Spirit, the Sevenfold Spirit of God.
And verse 5:
and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
Now these are three of the 24 titles of Jesus we’re going to see in the next couple of chapters. He uses 24 titles of Himself, and here are the first three:
He’s the faithful witness,
the firstborn from among the dead,
and the ruler of the kings of the Earth.
And some see in here a connection to His three offices of prophet, priest and king. And then they go further beyond that and they say He’s in His role as prophet when He’s giving John chapters 2 and 3, He’s in the role of priest when He’s giving John chapters 4 and 5, and He’s in the role of king when He’s giving him chapters 6 through 22.
And so some people split the book up that way:
The prophet (they see chapter 1 as an introduction) the prophet speaking—chapters 2 and 3.
The priest speaking—chapters 4 and 5.
And the king speaking—chapter 6 through 22.
Some of this information may not be meaningful to you, in which case you should just not pay any attention to it.
Okay now it says:
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Here I want you to see this concept here of kingdom. In the Greek, the word “king” and “kingdom” are the same, and you have to figure out which it is by the context. Some of the more modern translations translate the word “kingdom” and some of the older translations translate it “king.”
And I believe “king” is more appropriate, because first of all I don’t think it makes sense otherwise. And secondly I think the purpose here is to distinguish us from another nation, a kingdom of priests.
See according to Exodus 19:6 Israel was called a kingdom of priests. They had the Levitical priesthood. The priesthood was a very powerful part of their economy. The priests were not only the spiritual guides and the theologians, the priests were also the doctors, the judges, the policemen, everything. The priests did all of that work in the ancient communities. They were a kingdom of priests, governed quite often, by priests.
And so, when the Church came along, what point would there be in having another kingdom of priests? You’ve already got one. And so it’s my view that what this should say here is the way the old translation, I think the King James (original King James) reads this way:
and has made us to be kings and priests
This makes a lot more sense, and this also distinguishes us from the Hebrew nation, and it also is confirmed in other parts of Scripture. For example if you went to 1 Peter 2, just back a couple of books from where we are here, 1 Peter 2. And in verse 5 of 1 Peter 2 it says:
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
That’s 1 Peter 2:5, and then you go over to verse 9 and it says:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
A royal priesthood has the connotation of king and priest, and this makes a lot more sense. And the reason it makes a lot more sense to me is because we are called into fellowship with the Lord Jesus. And it is spoken in Revelation 20 at the resurrection that those who are involved in the first resurrection came to live, and ruled and reigned with Him and were priests.
And so there you have the concept of rulers, as well as the concept of priests. And so it makes a lot more sense for us to be seen as kings and priests, rather than a kingdom and priests, which to me makes—it isn’t right grammatically, for one thing.
Well then you get into the notion of the fact that in the—and this is where this earlier talk we had about the priesthood in Israel makes sense to you, because in the Levitical priesthood, those who follow the Aaronic, they were specifically prohibited from being kings, right? The king could not be a priest, the priest could not be a king, because kings had to come from the tribe of Judah, and priests had to come from the tribe of Levi. Never the two should meet.
But in Psalm 110 the Lord Jesus is called into the priesthood, isn’t He? The Lord said in Psalm 110:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
After the order of whom? Melchizedek.
in the order of Melchizedek.”
Now do you know Melchizedek from Genesis 14? He was the king of Salem, the predecessor to the city of Jerusalem. And also, a priest of God. He was a king, and a priest.
And so, from that point there became an order called the order of Melchizedek. Now there’s only one person today in that order, and that one person is Jesus who is King and Priest. You’ll find this mentioned in Ezekiel 25, I believe it is, and also in Zechariah 6. That He shall be a king and a priest.
And this is the Lord Jesus, and in Psalm 110 it says:
The Lord has sworn
First of all, this is a good chance for us to see this, the concept of the two ways to say “Lord.” In verse 1 of Psalm 110 it says:
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
If you’re looking at that in your Bible you’ll see that the first “LORD” is all caps, and the second “Lord” is not: “The LORD says to my Lord.”
Now, it’s funny; when Jesus was asking them one of the very last questions He asked them (I think this was the last question before—this was on the day before they arrested Him) and He says, “Who is the Messiah?”
And you remember what their answer was? “He’s the son of David” Right?
And Jesus says, “Well, if that’s the case how come David, speaking through the Spirit, calls Him Lord?”
And then He quotes this verse:
The LORD says to my Lord:
If David was writing this he was saying, “God, the Father, is saying to my Lord, David’s Lord.” And He says, “If the Messiah is David’s son, you don’t call your son Lord; your son calls you Lord, right?”
And so He said, “If David was inspired by the Holy Spirit (which they all believed he was) how could he call his son Lord? How could the Messiah be the son, therefore of David?”
Well they couldn’t answer that and after that it said that nobody dared ask Him anymore questions after that, they were all done. And here you see in the Hebrew this would make perfect sense because the first one obviously applies to the Father, second obviously applies to the Son. And it says:
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
So obviously the Father is saying to the Son, “You’re going to be the King over Zion.”
Your troops will be willing
on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
your young men will come to you
like dew from the morning’s womb.
Then it says in verse 4:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
And so here you had Jesus being called the King of the nation, and also being called a Priest. And so in the order of Melchizedek, the king and priest are one. In fact the very name Melchizedek translates as king of righteousness. Melchi is the Hebrew word for king. And so, Melchizedek meant king of righteousness, and he’s a priest in the City of Peace; a prefiguring, many people think, of the Messiah.
Some actually believe that Melchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noah who lived during those days, he outlived Abraham as a matter of fact. And so you had this concept of king and priest there—but not in the Levitical order, in the order of Melchizedek.
And so when we get to Revelation 2, and we see that He has made us kings and priests, we cannot be priests in the Levitical sense, can we? Because you see, the one requirement you had to have if you were going to be a priest in Israel, is you had to have Levi genes. [laughing] And if you didn’t you couldn’t be a priest. And so if you don’t belong to the family of Levi you cannot become a priest. But the Church has promised we are to be kings and priests. We’re not of the order of Levi; we’re of the order of Melchizedek. We’re not part of the Aaronic priesthood; we’re part of the priesthood of Melchizedek.
Today there’s only one there as I’ve said, and that’s the Lord Jesus. As we are perfected and brought into His presence, we become kings and priests, to rule and reign with Him forever. That’s our role, that’s our destiny.
And so it makes a lot more sense linguistically if you read this verse 6, “and has made us to be kings and priests” because that makes grammatical sense, and it also is descriptive of what’s actually going to happen to us. And after all, isn’t He the King of kings? Is He our King? Well then, we are kings. Because He’s the King of kings.
We’re making great progress here, aren’t we? We’re up to 7 verses already.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
Isn’t that what Jesus told the high priest would happen? In Matthew 26:64 Jesus says—the high priest, you know they’re bantering around here at this trial, they’re trying to get Him to admit something, He won’t say a word, they can’t get any testimony to agree (even the ones they hired and bribed to testify against Him couldn’t agree with each other) so they don’t have a case yet.
And the high priest is becoming frustrated by all this because he wants this guy handled, he wants Him taken care of, He’s a threat to the nation. And so he says the one thing that required Jesus to answer, because He sat there and stood there silently all through this, He hasn’t spoken a word, not in His own defense. He wouldn’t even answer their questions, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that as a sheep is led to the slaughter, so He spoke not a word.
But finally the high priest says, “I adjure you by the living God.”
Now that means he’s putting Him under oath, and now He’s required to answer unless He wants to break the law, which of course He can’t do.
He says, “Tell us, are you the Christ?”
And Jesus responded, “Yes, I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the throne of majesty, and coming on the clouds in great glory.”
Are you familiar with that passage? It’s Matthew 26:64; that’s the passage that executed Him. That’s the one that got Him killed. Because in the Jewish law He was committing blasphemy, which is a crime punishable by death, and in Roman law He was committing treason by claiming to be the king when Caesar was king, so they had Him both ways now. That’s what got Him killed. But the law required Him to answer, and He had no choice.
And now it says in Revelation:
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
And of course that’s a reference to the crucifixion. Psalm 22 talks about what it feels like to be pierced, to be crucified. Isaiah 53 said He was pierced for our transgressions. Zechariah 12:10 says “they will look upon Me, the one they have pierced.”
Even those who pierced Him will see Him at this moment; that means all people throughout time will see Him come in fulfillment with this prophecy. Caiaphas, who’s been dead now over 2,000 years will see Him, and he will remember when Jesus spoke those words to him. And as Jesus comes down He’ll look over at Caiaphas and He’ll say, “See I told you so.” Probably not. But if I was I would! [laughing]
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
Why will they mourn? Why would the people of the Earth mourn when they see the Lord coming on the clouds in great glory? They’ll realize that He is who He said He was all along, and actually the only people on Earth at that time will be nonbelievers. The believers are all gone.
You see, the Revelation—here is another way in which the book divides, it divides the people, the human race, into two categories: those who dwell in Heaven, and those who dwell upon the Earth. And it means not their physical location, it means their spiritual condition.
We happen to be located physically here on Earth, but our dwelling place is in Heaven, and that’s in our hearts. But there are people that we know who don’t have any such feeling, they’re focused on the Earth. They’re focused on getting everything the Earth has to give, they’re focused on getting ahead, they’re focused on doing everything they possibly can to maximize their time here on Earth. Because you see, in their view, they didn’t come from any place and they’re not going any place, this is all they got. And they’re trying to get all they can while they can.
Their heart is fixed upon things of Earth, and the Book of Revelation calls them the Earth-dwellers. But we—we look for a city whose builder and maker is God. And that’s our dwelling place, that’s our home. We’re aliens here, we’re out of place. We don’t belong here, and we’re anxious to leave. At least I am, aren’t any of you? All right.