The Book of the Revelation was authored by the Apostle John on the island of Patmos off the coast of Greece sometime around the last decade of the 1st century.
Note that it is NOT the Revelation of John, but the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John the Apostle. John makes that clear from the start:
“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.” (Revelation 1:1)
The revelation was given to Jesus by the Father for the purpose of showing it to His servants, who later came to be called by His Name, “Christians.” The Apostle John is simply the recording device.
The Revelation is as much the product of the Apostle John this column is the product of Apple or Microsoft.
I wrote it on my Mac. You’re probably reading it using software developed by Microsoft, but Apple didn’t produce it and Microsoft is not responsible for its contents.
Microsoft didn’t add to it or remove anything — it simply provided the method by which the information contained herein was made available to you.
John says up front that he didn’t compose it, he is merely relaying the contents. The Book itself is divided into three parts: John was told to write down “the things which thou has seen” (the vision on Patmos) “the things which are” (the things pertaining to the Seven Churches) and the “things which shall be thereafter.”
What John saw was the Glorified Savior.
“His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength.” (Revelation 1:14-16)
The Prophet Daniel described Him similarly more than six hundred years before;
“and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.” (Daniel 7:9)
John was told to write down the “things which are.” By the end of the 1st century, when John is writing, the Church has spread into Asia Minor, represented by the seven largest churches in the seven largest cities.
Examined in the light of two thousand years of hindsight, one can identify within the defining characteristics of each of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor seven distinct epochs within the Church Age — in chronological order.
The seventh and final church to be addressed by the Lord is the one located in Laodocea.
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. ” (Revelation 3:14-15)
I’ve heard a lot of different interpretations of what the Lord meant by the “spue thee out” comment — most often misrepresented when used as a proof text one can lose one’s individual salvation.
The Lord is referring to the Church as a corporate body — the whole Body of Christ makes Him sick — there’s no reference to individual believers here.
If I say a person ‘sickens me’ I’m referring to that person’s defining behavior, not passing judgment on the second finger of his right hand or the condition of his left elbow.
Jesus’ description of the Church of Laodicea is a mirror image of the church of modern times:
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)
I could go on, but I think the point is fairly obvious. The letters to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor make up the second part of the outline of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John.
There is also a sense of urgency found in the letter to the Church at Laodicea missing from the letters to the previous Churches (epochs).
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” The second division of the Revelation of Jesus Christ concludes; “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:22)
The third and final division of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John is, according to Jesus, “the things which shall be thereafter.” The key, then, to understanding the overall message is the definition of ‘thereafter.’
The first two divisions of the Book are self-explanatory; “the things which thou hast seen” — the Ancient of Days, the seven golden lampstands, etc. The first division ends with an explanation of the vision:
“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)
The second division, addressed to the Seven Churches, ends with an admonition: “He that hath an ear, let him hear. . . ” –watch this — what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
It puts us on notice to zero in our attention on the change about to take place. . . thereafter.
The third division of the Book of Revelation — that which John was told would be ‘thereafter’ begins with a trumpet call, a door opening up into heaven, and the Apostle John being translated from flesh to spirit.
And in case one missed the division Jesus wanted us to catch from Revelation 3:22, the voice of the trumpet explains that this is where we get to the ‘hereafter’ part.
Stay with me. We have three parts here. There is the part where Jesus shows Himself to John ” what thou hast seen”.
Having been so identified as the One with the keys to heaven and hell, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, Jesus then composes seven letters to the Seven Churches “which are”.
Then we move to that which “shall be hereafter”: ”
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.“
This is a distinct and different time and a distinct and different place. The time is ‘hereafter’ and the place is ‘heaven’.
John gets there by the agency of a trumpet call and is translated into the spirit. Present at the Throne of God are twenty-four “elders” — the twelve Patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles of the Church Age.
Revelation 5:19-10 identifies the Church as being in Heaven:
“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
In Revelation Chapter 7, the 144,000 of the Twelve Tribes of Israel are ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit, which then gives them the power to spread the Gospel and lead people to Christ.
After this, says Revelation 7:9, John sees:
“a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
Again, notice the chronology. First, we have the sealing of the 144,000 by the Holy Spirit. No person can be led to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, because the things of the Spirit are foolishness to the lost.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. ” (1st Corinthians 2:14)
So first, the evangelists are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Then — AFTER THAT — the multitudes “which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)
While those ‘that dwell upon the earth’ are lashed by a series of twenty-one Divine Judgments:
“a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father’s name written in their foreheads. . . And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Revelation 14:3)
The Apostle John remains in heaven to this point. The 144,000 “which were redeemed from the earth” have learned ‘a new song’ that nobody else can learn. They are not “the Church” — the Church has its own ‘song’.
And in Revelation 14:6, John sees:
“another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
Why is an angel, rather than the Church which was given the Great Commission, carrying the Gospel? Because the Church is no longer there.
Let’s follow the chronology. First, at Pentecost, the Apostles are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They then are given power to preach the Gospel and to lead men to Christ.
The Church Age is born, and goes through seven identifiable epochs.
Then — hereafter– John hears a trumpet call and is taken into heaven. His perspective shifts to that of heaven, where he is in the presence of twenty-four elders.
Notice that the twenty-four elders are NOT spirits, but are instead depicted as having bodies. Spirits aren’t clothed and crowned, and seated.
The Church is not referenced again in Revelation. Later, it becomes necessary to seal 144,000 Jews with the Holy Spirit, after which John begins to make reference to tribulation ‘saints’.
The everlasting Gospel, which was given to the Church and then charged with preaching it to the lost, is now being preached to every kindred, tongue and nation by an angel!
Why did God find it necessary to seal 12,000 from each of the 12 Tribes to carry the Gospel — before then reassigning the job to an angel? Where is the Church? Why isn’t it on the job?
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1st Corinthians 15:51-52)
Follow along with me here while we overlay 1st Corinthians 15:51-52 on Revelation 4:1
“Behold, I shew you a mystery.” (Recall the admonition that concluded the message to the Churches — he that hath an ear . . .”)
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall ALL be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, (“and a door was opened in heaven”) at the last trump — for the trumpet SHALL sound (“a voice, as it were a trumpet”) and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, (“Come up hither”) and we shall be changed. (“and immediately I was in the Spirit”) (1st Corinthians 15:52, Revelation 4:1)
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)
There’s that Voice again, (sounding like a trumpet), followed by an instant translation into heaven. So, we have three different descriptions of what sound like exactly the same event: an instant translation, accompanied by a trumpet, from the earth to heaven — and without going through the usual procedure of dying first.
When does it happen? It seems pretty obvious to me from the Scriptures. First comes the Rapture of the Church. And then, the Tribulation.
“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)