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.” (Revelation 21:1-2, NIV).
The beginning of Chapter 21 reveals the conclusion of the book of Revelation. God has accomplished His purpose in saving his people and this is the fitting consummation to the story of redemption: God has brought His people home and He will dwell with them. “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” (Revelation 21:3, NIV).
We have now arrived at the cosmic event that divides time and eternity–the point in time where heaven and earth conjoin to bind the future to the present.
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, NIV).
The litmus test by which we classify our interpretation of Revelation is how we interpret Revelation 20:1-10., which highlights the thousand-year (millennial) reign of Christ. Our interpretation of the whole book seems to depend on when the millennium occurs in our end-time chronology.
Premillennial, amillennial or postmillennial are the eschatological labels some evangelical institutions and individuals use to define themselves or their eschatological belief system. The three terms come from the word millennium, meaning a period of a thousand years. Pre- and postmillennialism divide over the question of whether the second coming of Christ will take place before or after the thousand years mentioned repeatedly in these verses.
“And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16, ESV).
After the trumpet judgments, the focus of Revelation changed from a somewhat chronological account to descriptions of certain events and people including a woman clothed with the sun, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the mark of the Beast.
In Chapter 15 John sees one final vision before he is shown the rest of the tribulation judgments, represented by bowls. The first vision John sees here is that of seven angels. These carry the last judgments God will use during the tribulation. The scene is one of celebration as redeemed believers sing a song of worship to God echoing similar songs of praise offered by Israel after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt in Exodus 15.
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 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 12:10-11, NIV).
The main figures described in these chapters are commonly interpreted like this: The woman symbolizes Israel. The dragon symbolizes Satan. The man-child refers to Jesus. The angel Michael is head of the angelic host. The offspring of the woman symbolizes Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation. The beast out of the sea symbolizes the antichrist. The beast out of the earth symbolizes the false prophet who promotes the antichrist.
These chapters describe a rebellion against God that is certainly of epochal or universal proportions. This world and humanity are the battleground for this cosmic conflict (see Revelation 13:6-8). Some biblical scholars and commentators even interpret the dragon’s defeat and ejection from heaven as referring to the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Luke 10:18, John 12:31).
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:17-18, NIV).
In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16). Revelation 11 is a further elaboration of the interlude beginning in Chapter 10.
Chapter 11 opens with the measuring of the Temple of God. The idea of measuring communicates ownership, protection, and preservation. When this Temple is measured, it shows that God knows its every dimension.
It establishes that God is in charge of all things and all events on Earth now and in the future!
“So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9, NIV).
Inserted between the sixth and seventh trumpets is an interlude in Chapters 10-11. In the series of judgments described in Revelation 5-16– the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls of the wrath of God– there is always a break or intermission between the sixth and seventh judgment (Chapter 7-seals; Chapters 10-11-trumpets; the Chapter 12-14 interlude is before the sixth and seventh bowls in Chapter 16).
In the first part of this interlude John saw an angel he called a mighty angel coming down from heaven. The mighty angel planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and gave a shout like the roar of a lion. John’s description of this mighty angel–rainbow above his head, face like the sun, shout like the roar of a lion–certainly represents the power of God and dominion over all creation in a way that is distinctive from most other angelic appearances.
“The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the side. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9, NIV).
The devastation caused by the eruption of the Laki volcanic fissure in Iceland in 1783 was felt globally for years after the event. The Laki eruption lasted for 8 months, emitting toxic gases that poisoned crops and killed 60 per cent of Iceland’s grazing livestock. The volcano released enough SO2 to cause acid rain and global temperatures to drop.
The eruption resulted in a famine that killed over 10,000 Icelandic people, roughly a quarter of the country’s population at the time. As Laki’s toxic eruption traveled south, it killed 23,000 in Britain and caused a famine in Egypt. Some environmental historians believe the European famine caused by the eruption may have been a catalyst for the French Revolution.
“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1, NIV).
At this point in Revelation John has witnessed Jesus open six of the seven seals of judgment seen on the scroll in heaven (Revelation 5:1–5). After the opening of the sixth seal and its consequences, John described the sealing of 144,000 Jewish believers, listed by their tribe. This was followed by a vision of an enormous crowd of people of every possible race and language, worshiping God in heaven (Revelation 7).
Then, the seventh seal was opened.
Now, in Revelation 8:1 there is silence in heaven.
This verse is a pivotal point that affects our understanding of the following chapters–our Revelation hermeneutics (interpretation of the text).
There are at least two ways to read and interpret the remainder of the Book of Revelation.
“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?’ I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:13-14, NIV).
The opening of the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation Chapter 6-8 is the beginning of the end of the world as we know it! As each seal is opened, the scroll is unrolled a little more, revealing the series of judgments God has in store.
Revelation 7 is an interlude in the events taking place. This interruption in the apocalyptic events is to explain God’s program of grace and salvation during the coming tribulation. The “pause” may occur before the opening of the seals or after the first six seals have already run their course and before the seventh seal is opened. Either interpretation is consistent with the apocalypse as God’s final altar call.
The winds in 7:1 represent the already started judgment of Earth and the four angels who hold them back pause the Great Tribulation until God’s special servants can be sealed. These four angels appear to be holding back the physical destruction of Earth (or a portion of Earth) that occurs with the opening of the seventh seal.
The identification of the 144,000 in 7:4-8 has been much discussed. Most Bible scholars either regard the 144,000 as the church or as converted Jews who are still identified as Israelites in some manner.
“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’ When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:5-8, NIV).
Right in the middle of a devotional series on the Book of Revelation that I have been posting the last several weeks, the world has suddenly been struck with a worldwide pandemic–the Coronavirus and a significant downturn in the global economy.
It almost seems providential that I just posted a devotional on the opening of the seven seals, which reveals a series of worldwide calamities that will take place at the beginning of the end of the world as we know it!
The third seal in Revelation 6 unleashes a rider on a black horse causing economic collapse across the world possibly due to drought and food shortages. During the opening of the fourth seal power is given to the rider of a pale horse over a fourth of the world to kill people by sword, famine and plague!
These prophecies seem to beg the question, “Is the CoronaVirus pandemic the fulfillment of end-time prophecies described in Revelation 6?