Despite its title, this will be a long chapter. Its purpose is to show an overview of the book of Revelation so that its construction will be clear to the student. Once this construction is understood, many of the problems of interpreting Revelation disappear.

The Christian Age

The chart on the preceding page shows that an age (the Gospel Age) was set apart specifically for calling out from among men a group of people referred to by various Scriptural names: The Church, The Bride, Christians, A People for Ms Name, The 144,000, The Little Flock, Saints, etc. (Acts 15:14; Acts 11:26; Revelation 21:29; Revelation 14:1; Philippians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Luke 12:32) Much of the book of Revelation deals with this Christian or Gospel Age and its history written in advance.

The Messianic Age

A part of Revelation deals with the Millennial or Messianic Age which follows the Christian or Gospel Age. This Millennial Age is referred to in the Scriptures by various names also: The Kingdom, The Thousand Years, The Day of the Lord, The Day of Judgment, The Regeneration, The Times of Restitution of All Things, etc. (Matthew 26:29; Acts 1:6; Revelation 20:2, 3, 4, 6; 11 Peter 3:8, 10, 7; Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:20, 21; etc.)

The Harvest

Notice on the chart (page 19) that a transition period, called a HARVEST, is located where the Gospel and Messianic Ages meet. Jesus taught us about this period in the parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:30, 39). "The harvest is the end of the age." (The King James version says "world," but this is not the best translation.) A good part of the prophecies of Revelation focus on this harvest period. Because of its placement in time, at the juncture of an old "world" going out and a new "world" coming in, it is a period of much important activity in the world's affairs and in the religious world. We are now living in this time, and Revelation has much to tell us about it.

Revelation's Three Main Sections

Revelation is neatly divided into three sections corresponding to the three periods of time just discussed.

1. For all practical purposes, chapters 1 through 13 deal with the Gospel Age as a whole, including references to the harvest.

2. Chapters 14 through 19 focus almost exclusively on events of the harvest.

3. Chapters 20 through 22 deal basically with the Messianic Age.

(Please remember that we are generalizing. A few words in each of the above sections might refer to other periods. We here are merely trying to draw clean lines as a basis of study.)

A Closer Look at Section 1 (Chapters 1-13)
". . . the beginning of Sorrows" - Matthew 24:4-14

The first thirteen chapters cover the long period of over 1,800 years from Jesus' first advent into the time of his second advent. These chapters accomplish primarily three objectives:

1. They prophesy the growth and power of the apostasy of which both Jesus and Paul warn. (Matthew 24:5, 11, 12; 11 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 7)

2. They document in detail the history during this period which Jesus sums up in only a few verses in Matthew 24:4-14.

3. They predict in detail the experiences of the Christian Church (true and apostate).

Seven Churches

The Lord decided to divide the history of the Christian Church into seven periods — periods which are unique in their experiences, history, and doctrinal understandings. He gives each of these periods a symbolic name and introduces us to them in Revelation 1:11.

Jesus watches over these seven churches as symbolized by his being "in the midst of seven candlesticks." "The seven candlesticks ... are the seven churches" (Revelation 1:20). He had said previously that His disciples were "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14) and that they were candles on a candlestick (Matthew 5:15, 16). He continues this symbolism here in Revelation 1:12, 13.

In Revelation 1: 16 we see Jesus holding seven stars in His right hand. Stars are used in Scripture to symbolize teachers — good and bad. (Daniel 12:3; Jude 13; Numbers 24:17; Matthew 24:29; Revelation 12: 1) In Revelation 1:20, the seven stars are said to be the same as the seven angels mentioned in chapters 2 and 3. The implication is strong, and history has confirmed it, that during the Gospel Age God sent seven men, each at the appropriate time, to be messengers (angel means "messenger") to the seven stages or periods of the church.

Three Times Seven

Between chapter 2 and chapter 3, the seven periods of church history are repeated three times under different symbols. The seven churches are listed in chapters 2 and 3; the seven seals are listed in chapters 5 through 8; and the seven trumpets are found in chapters 8 through 11. Here is a chart showing their locations:
































Many students of Revelation believe that each period of the church has its corresponding concurrent seal and trumpet. Thus, for instance, the first church, first seal, and first trumpet all refer to events in the same historical period. This view is based both on internal evidence and historical evidence. To help understand this approach, note the following four clues:

1. FOUR ANGELS are mentioned in both the sixth seal (7:1) and the 6th trumpet (9:15).

2. THE IMPLIED RETURN OF JESUS is mentioned in both the seventh church (3:20 — where he is "standing at the door") and the seventh trumpet (11: 15 — where his "reign" begins).

3. INCREASED ENLIGHTENMENT is shown in both the seventh church (3:20 — where he promises to serve the evening meal: "sup") and in the seventh trumpet (10:7 — where enlightenment clears up "the mystery").

4. AN EARTHQUAKE is shown in both the sixth seal (6:12) and in the sixth trumpet (11:13).

There are many more correspondencies, but this list should help to show why, for instance, the third church, third seal, and third trumpet are all likely referring to the same time period from different perspectives. We have neglected much in the first 13 chapters. Remember, however, that this chapter is called, "Once Over Lightly." A subsequent chapter will seek out more details.

A Closer Look at Section II (Chapters 14-19)
"Men's hearts failing them for fear" - Luke 21:26

Chapters 14 through 19 focus on events at the close of the Gospel Age — THE HARVEST. This is a complex period. In it the world is experiencing troubles it cannot, handle, and Christianity is faced with the kind of scrutiny that destroys everything that can be shaken. (Hebrews 12:26-29)

Perhaps we can summarize the events of this harvest as three works progressing at the same time:

1. The unseen presence of Jesus is actively maneuvering the affairs of the Church and the world in preparation for the peaceable Kingdom. (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 14:15)

2. A system of what has called itself Christianity is being judged by God and by man based on both doctrine and conduct. (Revelation 14:8; Revelation 18:1-9)

3. A great increase of understanding of Scripture is being fed to sincere, hungering, Christians. (Revelation 14:6; 17:1; 18:4; Daniel 12:4, 9, 10)

The Wheat and Tares

A careful examination of Jesus' parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) will help the reader understand this harvest time and chapters 14-19 of Revelation which prophesy its details.

The parable first summarizes the Gospel Age by stating that Jesus gave a message which made real Christians (Wheat). Once the Apostles died — (verse 25: "while men slept") — Satan gave a false message which created false Christians (Tares). The tendency toward this mixed-up Christianity was already active in the Apostles' day (II Thessalonians 2:7). Paul calls it the "mystery of iniquity" and the "man of sin." John calls it "The Antichrist" (I John 4:3).

Revelation calls it "Babylon" (Revelation 14:8). Jesus (Matthew 13:30) shows that this combination of true and false Christianity would exist together until the harvest. Jeremiah 51:7-9 explains that God used Christendom (Babylon) and would have healed her, but she would not be healed. Hence Jesus prophesied the harvest separation — the work of destroying the faith and the organization of false Christianity, along with the work of gathering true Christians. These true Christians would FIRST be gathered to truth as Luke 17:34-37 suggests; SECONDLY, they would be gathered to heaven itself as Matthew 13:43 suggests.

Matthew 13:
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. 36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Chapters 14-19 deal with the work pictured in this parable.

[From here to the end of this chapter, the reader will need a Bible in hand. We regret this inconvenience, but nothing short of reprinting Revelation could solve it.]

Poor Chapter Division
(A Parenthetical, but important, Thought)

Chapter 14 should begin with its sixth verse. The first five verses really are an end to chapter 13. Note that chapter 13:16, 17 speaks of some who have marks of the beast on their hands or foreheads. These are false Christians. Note that 14:1 contrasts this with true Christians. The true Christians have "His (the Lamb's) name and the name of Ms Father written on their foreheads." (New American Standard Translation. This is one of those places the King James Version omits some words which actually are a part of the Bible). It seems clear that this contrast of names in foreheads places Revelation 14:1-5 as the true ending of chapter 13. (There are other, more complicated, reasons also.)

Chapters 14 through 19 in Brief

— Chapter 14 —

Jesus appears on the scene in 14:14. Note why. Verse 15 clearly states that the time for HARVEST is begun. As he promised in his Matthew 13 parable, there is a harvest of TWO groups: (1) The harvest of the earth (THE WHEAT) in verses 15 and 16; and (2) The harvest of the vine of the earth (THE TARES) in verses 18 and 19. This is the central feature of this chapter.

— Chapters 15 and 16 —
The Plagues On Babylon

These two chapters deal with the WAY God intends to destroy the various component parts of Babylon. In chapter 18:4, God warns the WHEAT ("my people") that if they do not "come out" from Babylon during the harvest, they will be subject to experiencing the "plagues" that He will send on Babylon. It is the position of some excellent students of Scripture that these plagues are spread out over a number of decades and that many of them have already been in the process of fulfillment.* Because it takes a long time to undermine age-old institutions, it is said to show "the patience of the saints" (Revelation 14:12) who have to wait for its accomplishment. The experiences and discomforts of the tares during this process, and of the wheat who do not come out, are symbolically portrayed in Revelation 14:11.

In short, God is undermining Babylon by sending a series of seven events against her which, step by step, force truths to her attention and destroy the false faith and lies upon which Babylon grew — the tare seeds which Satan sowed. Just as God wore down Pharaoh by a series of plagues which ultimately delivered Israel, so here, God wears down apostate Christianity so that all the world may be delivered from the influence of her religious falsehoods.

— Chapter 17 —

In Scripture, the true Church is always represented by virgins. (Revelation 14:4; Matthew 25:1-13) In Revelation 17, by contrast, we find Babylon pictured as a harlot. The harlotry of the apostate church is due to her having a relationship with the world. The true saints, on the other hand, strive to keep themselves separate from all entanglements with the world and its ways and aims.

In highly symbolic language, Revelation 17 shows how the apostate church throughout history has virtually ruled the Western world — that part of the earth usually called "Christendom." This chapter shows the steps by which both the harlot and the "world" she ruled (the "beast") will meet their ends in the harvest period. This prophecy is closely allied to Paul's prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 which shows how the increase of truth, when Jesus' secret presence begins, destroys the tares planted by Satan.

* Many excellent students prefer to think the plagues occur rapidly at the very end of the age.

— Chapter 18 —
The Decline of Commerce

It would be good to note here what may not have been obvious. In both sections of Revelation which we have examined, the narrative is not one continuous flow. The Revelator keeps jumping back to a point in time and retelling the story from another point of view. Thus 14:5 begins at the harvest's beginning; 15:1 jumps back to the same beginning as does 17:1 and, now, 18:1. Thus, it will be noticed, that 14:8 and 18:2 have the same statement. This jump-back in time is an imperative element in the understanding of Revelation. Some other clues to recognizing these jump-backs will be given later in this booklet.

Chapter 18 begins when Babylon is "fallen." The thought is FALLEN FROM FAVOR. Her actual total destruction is later and is detailed in 18:2 1. This fall from favor (as we saw in 14:8) happened many years ago when the harvest began. As 14:12 shows, the gradual events leading to her total destruction are long enough to require "the patience of the saints." Chapter 18 gives much more detail regarding this gradual decline. It focuses on its effects on various parts of society. These are symbolically called by several names:

The world, as we know it, functions on a political-commercial basis. The weakening of that international economic system, which is plain to see in current news reports, is the focus of chapter 18. According to this chapter, the world as we know it (religious, political, and economic) will soon fall apart.

— Chapter 19 —

This chapter could well be two chapters. The first ten verses deal with "the marriage of the lamb." The remainder jumps back to the beginning of the harvest to give us yet another perspective on how the current social order will meet its end.

The "marriage of the lamb" is a symbol for the time when Jesus has (in terms of his Matthew 13 parable) gathered all of the wheat into the barn. Near the end of the harvest his entire bride of 144,000 individuals will have been selected and will have been "changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51) to "be like Him" and to "see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2) Throughout the Gospel Age this group has been in the process of being selected to be "kings and priests" and to "reign on the earth" (Revelation 5: 10) in answer, finally, to the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6: 1 0).

While the harvest work of completing the Church progresses, the additional work of destroying Babylon is in progress (19:11-21). Thus chapter 19 confirms what we saw in chapter 14: the harvest has two works (14:16; 14:18) — harvesting the wheat and harvesting "the vine of the earth," Babylon. (Compare also 14:19, 20 with 19:15 — the same event.)

It might here be important to note a connection between chapters 16 and 19.

In the midst of the plagues (16:13) appear three symbolic characters united to take one last stand at deceiving the world -one last attempt to hold the old social order together. According to 16:14 they will be under the influences of demons. (Compare Jude 6.) We should, thus, expect during the sixth plague a dramatic increase in the influences and manifestations of the occult.

Who are these three symbolic entities in 16:13? Where did they come from? The "beast" and "false prophet" first occurred in chapter 13. The false prophet was not there called by the same name; but a careful comparison of 19:20 with 13:14 should convince the careful student that the same creature under a different name is meant. The third creature, the "dragon," first appeared in chapter 12. Without an explanation of why, it will here merely be suggested that many astute students of Revelation believe the dragon to be a symbol of civil power. The beast, in this instance, appears to be the most entrenched of religious systems, the Church of Rome* — "Babylon the Great, the MOTHER of harlots." (Revelation 17:5) Because she is called a mother, it is manifest that she has harlot daughters. These daughters apparently combine their influence at the end of the age to be collectively called, "The False Prophet." Together, mother and daughters are the great institutions of false Christianity which Jesus called bundles of tares. (Matthew 13:30)

Note as chapter 19 ends that only two — the religious two — of these creatures are destroyed. The third, the dragon of civil power, is not destroyed until a thousand years later, though he is bound (restrained from exercising power) during that period (Revelation 20:2, 3, 10). These are highly symbolic passages, but they are extremely reasonable once the symbols are understood.

The literalist has impossible problems with these texts. Consider Daniel 7:3, 7, 17, 19, and 23 where a "beast" is seen to "devour the whole earth." What a picture! On what does it stand while it eats the earth? Are we now in its stomach? Of course not! The angel in Daniel 7:16, 17 was kind enough to interpret the symbolism. An exhaustive topical study of "beast"* in the ible will clearly show that, when the word is used symbolically, it always represents a group of men with unholy characteristics trying to control others.


* The identity of the Papal system as the antichrist is common to Protestant Christianity, at least from the time of Peter Waldo. Martin Luther clearly identified it as such, as did the translators of the King James Bible in their Dedicatory Epistle. Believing that the Papal system is the antichrist does not make one prejudiced against Catholics; it shows merely that the doctrine of the Roman Church is antagonistic to true Christianity. The more modem tendency to apply the antichrist name to an individual at the end of the age is an idea invented by Roman Catholic theologians to counteract Protestant accusations. it is unfortunate that many Protestants have fallen for this deception.

Thus we come to the close of the second structural section of Revelation. As we prepare to look at the third and final section, it will be beneficial to look again at the chart on page 19. Note that, just as the harvest ends one age, it also begins another. The harvest, in time, is also the beginning years of the Messianic Age — the thousand years.


* Please note: "Beast," when associated with God, in passages such as Revelation 4:6-9, is translated from another Greek word which would be better rcndered "living ones." These four beasts represent the living attributes of God's character which, in perfect balance, make Him so magnificent. The attributes are LOVE, POWER, JUSTICE AND WISDOM. The same four "living creatures" appear in the opening chapter of Ezekiel.

A Closer Look at Section III
(Chapters 20-22)
"The healing of the nations" - Revelation 22:2

These chapters conclude the Bible. All of the loss suffered in the opening three chapters of the Bible is here undone in its last three. It is a glorious ending, worthy of a Glorious God.

— Chapter 20 —
The Thousand Years

When chapter 20 opens, we again jump back to the beginning of the harvest, but only for the briefest of moments. The first three verses show the return of Jesus with the great chain of truth that will bind the errors of men and their systems (Psalm 2:1-9).

Many students of Revelation interpret the four-name entity of 20:2 NOT as the personal devil, but as the social-civil order which the personal devil has directed from the beginning. The personal devil is not excluded from this name, but it is not aril about him. (Ezekiel 28:13-15 and Isaiah 14:12-16) This four-name appellation of verse 2 occurs originally in chapter 12 where it has the same meaning.

Chapter 20 has four pictures of the thousand years — the Millennium:

1. verses 1-3: the "binding of Satan"
2. verses 4-10: the reward of the church and destruction of Satan
3. verse 11: the replacement of rulership
4. verses 12-15: the learning and judgment of individuals

A few observations on Chapter 20:

1. That the actual devil will be bound, as well as this symbolic devil, is assured by the Lord's parable in Matthew 12:29. The Millennium is for the regeneration of the race. (Matthew 19:28) All things that would make this judgment day (2 Peter 3:7, 8) difficult will be cleared out of the way (Isaiah 35:8-10). This is the reason for not only binding the literal devil, but also the influences of the beastly governments (Daniel 7:17, 18) which have made life so difficult for the human race.

2. The first sentence of verse 5 is spurious. In the best manuscripts, the words "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" are not found. This has confused many sincere seekers of truth. Not only do the words not occur in early manuscripts, but logic teaches that they make no sense. If, as verse 3 states, Satan is bound so as not to deceive the nations, the nations must still be alive! Read from verse 4 through verse 6 WITHOUT the spurious words and see the logical flow and the resulting sense it makes.

3. The "little season" (verse 3) of Satan's loosing (verse 7) is clearly shown as the last judgment event of history. After it, peace for evermore Verse 10 finds the destroyed religious systems (beast and false prophet from 19:20) and the destroyed civil power, finally gone — gone in every way except in the minds of men whose memories will forever vex or torment any reference to these undesirable parts of human history.

4. Apparently the final deception will occur when The Christ is ready to step aside (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) and turn the kingdom over to the Father. The deception will be an attempt by the devil and men of pride to re-establish a civil government. (Revelation 20:7-9) God destroys them. (See Matthew 25:46 - note that the opposite of punishment is life. Eternal punishment is death.) The everlasting "fire" is everlasting destruction. What better symbol of destruction exists than fire which totally consumes what it bums? Thus in 20:9, the personal devil and his followers are destroyed; in verse 10, the symbolic devil is consigned to a tormented spot in the eternal memory of the pages of history.

5. An important item: The awakened dead (not the Church) will be judged by works — they will be, under the mediator (Revelation 5:10; 20:6), progressing toward perfection. Perfect works will be required of them in the end. (See also 22:12.)

6. Another important item: In verse 13 we note that "hell" gives up its dead. Then, in verse 14, hell is destroyed in oblivion, where the beast, false prophet, and devil are (verse 10). The Bible hell is the condition of nothingness in the grave (Ecclesiastes 9:5). "Death" in verse 14 is the condition of being alive but not having received the right to continue living — i.e., "death" is the condition of DYING. Thus Jesus could say, "Let the dead bury their dead." (Luke 9:60) Both "hell" (being dead) and "death" (dying) are consigned to oblivion. Life will reign for all who progress to perfection through the thousand years and the little season because of their faith and obedience.

— Chapters 21 And 22 —
The Glorious Ending (Really the Beginning)

Chapters 21 and 22 are ecstatic in their descriptions of the new government. (A "city" in symbolism is a government. Even today we refer to Tokyo, London, Paris or Washington when referring to the governments housed in these capital cities.)

In symbolic terms "the healing of the nations" (22:2) occurs because of the fruitage of the trees. These trees are the Church glorified (Isaiah 61:3). Jesus and His bride (22:17) offer the water (truth) of life to all who wish to avail themselves of it without the deceptions of Satan to hinder them.

It is no wonder that John's final prayer (22:20) was, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

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