This week you will read excerpts from the Book of Revelation. The revelation (truth once hidden but now revealed) was given by Jesus to John (author of the Gospel of John and the epistles of 1, 2, and 3 John) while John was exiled on the island of Patmos. It is unfortunate that the main message of Revelation is often lost in the controversy that surrounds some of its more obscure prophetic passages. The central truth is that Jesus is Lord over all the nations of the world. Churches must be faithful and uncompromising, even unto death, for Jesus will return as the conquering Lamb to receive worship, judge the earth, and redeem the whole creation. God’s plan for creation reaches its consummation through Jesus who defeats sin, suffering, and Satan.
Reading & Summaries
READ: REVELATION 1-3
John greets the seven churches in Asia who would receive and circulate the Book of Revelation. John retells a vision of the resurrected and glorified Christ. Christ dictates a message for John to write to the “angel” (key elder) of each of the seven churches. The church in Ephesus (recall the letter to the Ephesians) is called to repent for allowing their love for Christ to grow cold. The church in Smyrna is encouraged to be faithful in tribulation. The church in Pergamum is warned to repent for permitting false teaching. The church in Thyatira is condemned for allowing a perverse woman called Jezebel to corrupt the church. The church in Sardis is called to repent for being dead and close to dying (full of unregenerate people who had likely backslidden but were still going through the motions). The church in Philadelphia is commended for being faithful and encouraged to press on to the end. The church in Laodicea is rebuked for being lukewarm (apathetic) and materialistic.
Recommended video: Read Scripture: Revelation Ch. 1-11 by The Bible Project.
READ: REVELATION 4-5
John describes a vision of the worship of God on his throne in heaven. He sees a scroll with seven seals, but no one is worthy to open it except “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (5:5), also identified as the Lamb that was slain. Every creature falls down and worships the Lamb.
READ: REVELATION 12
Filling in the Gaps (Rev. 6-11): The Lamb opens the seven seals, revealing God’s end-time judgments during the great tribulation. The first four seals reveal the four horsemen of the apocalypse: conquest, war, famine, and death. In the fifth seal, the Christian martyrs pray for God’s vengeance on the wicked. In the sixth seal, the Lamb pours out his wrath. An interlude includes two visions: the divine protection of 144,000 servants of God and a multiethnic multitude of believers worshipping around the throne. The Lamb opens the seventh seal which reveals seven trumpet judgments and seven bowl judgments. More visions encourage the saints to be faithful.
Ch. 12: John reveals that the persecution of God’s people is rooted in the conflict between God and Satan. Satan’s defeat is foretold.
Recommended video: Read Scripture: Revelation Ch. 12-22 by The Bible Project.
READ: REVELATION 19-20
Filling in the Gaps (Rev. 13-18): John reveals that Satan will wage war against God’s people through his control over ungodly political powers and false religions. Seven bowl plagues represent God’s wrath being poured out on sin in the earth. People refuse to repent and curse God. John describes the fall of the ungodly city Babylon, representing the destruction of sinful humanity.
Ch. 19-21: John describes God’s ultimate victory over sin and Satan, and judgment of the earth. Christ is joined with his people, who reign with him.
READ: REVELATION 21-22
John describes the new heaven and new earth, and the new Jerusalem, the holy city, where Christ is the light, and his people dwell forever. John warns that Jesus is coming; we should be faithful, holy, and keep the words of the prophecy.
When exercises require a written response, record your answers in a journal or email them to a pastor or class leader who will provide you with feedback.
- What questions do you have about this week’s reading?
- Research the seven churches. What modern day country were they located in?
- Summarize each of the seven churches in one word or phrase. For example, “lukewarm” characterizes the Laodicean church.
- Which characteristics of the seven churches do you see most in the church world today? What do you think Jesus would say if he wrote a letter to the Church in America?
- In Revelation 5:5, only the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, was worthy to open the scroll. Reread the prophecies in Genesis 49:9 and Isaiah 11:1.
- Use a digital Bible to search for the word “lamb.” How does the Bible develop the theme of the Messiah as a lamb who was slain for his people?
- John says that in the New Jerusalem, Jesus will be the light. How does John develop the theme of Jesus as the light throughout his writings (e.g. Gospel of John; 1 John)?
- The Book of Revelation contains several visions of the worship of God. What can we learn about worship from Revelation 4:8-11, 5:8-14, 11:15-18, 15:2-4, and 19:1-8? What common themes appear in these passages?