Revelation 1 (day 1168) 13 March 2013
1-3: The book of Revelation is enigmatic to say the least. It promises to reveal, but instead seems determined to obscure. It proposes to show “what must soon take place,” but the church still awaits the events described. The opening verses proclaim that God gave Jesus Christ the knowledge of what would happen; Jesus in turn gave it to an angel, and the angel was sent to Jesus’ servant, John. John, however, is not the end of the chain, for John wrote it down and shared it with the church, with instructions for those who read and those who hear to keep it because, he says, the time is near. I suppose the time still is. Many attempts have been made to identify the author of Revelation with the author of the fourth Gospel, but with little success. Revelation was probably written by a Jewish Christian from Asia Minor for whom Greek was a second language. More than that is difficult to determine.
4-6: The book is addressed to “the seven churches in Asia,” meaning what we call Asia Minor. The reference is, of course, to the seven churches mentioned in chapters 2 and 3. He offers them grace and peace from God, from the seven spirits before the throne (representing the seven churches), and from Jesus. That is followed by a triple ascription of glory to Jesus: the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” meaning perhaps that John’s allegiance is given to Jesus rather than to any earthly king, which might explain why he wound up on an island (Patmos, see verse 9). Likewise the church is described with a triple blessing: the church consists of those whom Christ loves, whom he frees from sins by his blood, and whom he made to be a kingdom of priests to serve God.
7: This appears to be an early hymn expressing the expectation that Christ will return.
8: God is the alpha and the omega (the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet), “who is and was and is to come” (as was already stated in verse 4), which is just a very long way of saying God is eternal.
9: There was apparently some kind of widespread persecution going on amid the churches of Asia Minor at the time the book was written (probably between 80 and 100 A.D.). To the Roman government both Christianity and Judaism were forms of atheism, and from time to time efforts were made to stifle the spread of the church. The prevailing theory is that John was exiled to the island of Patmos by the proconsul of Asia. Patmos is located about 50 miles southwest of Ephesus off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. John names seven cities (churches) in western Turkey to which he claims brotherhood, perhaps indicating that he is from that region. Patmos is a small, isolated, rocky island only a few miles long and about a mile wide. There is some evidence that it was once used as a penal colony of sorts. If you look at pictures of the island today (thanks to Google) you can imagine what it must have been like to be stranded there for any length of time. No wonder the man started seeing things.
10-11: “On the Lord’s day,” a Sunday, is when John says his vision began. He hears a voice behind him telling him to write down what he sees and send it to the seven churches.
12-16: The vision begins without further ado. He sees seven lampstands which we will learn represent the seven churches (see verse 20). In their midst is the fantastic appearance of a “Son of Man” with long robe, golden sash, white hair and beard, fiery eyes and bronze-like feet. The visions of Ezekiel come to mind. This figure will be identified with Jesus in a bit, but for now John is simply overcome by it. The seven stars in the man’s hand represent the seven angels of the seven churches (see verse 20). The two-edged sword represents the word of God (see Hebrews 4:12). The man’s face shining like the sun is a way of picturing the irresistible nature of the presence of the divine, and also represents the authority of God for judgment.
17-20: John faints. The man touches him and identifies himself as Jesus, repeats the command for him to write in a book what he sees, and explains the symbolism of the stars and lampstands, which I already explained above.
Revelation 2 (day 1169) 14 March 2013
1-7: Note that he is not to write to the seven churches, but to the angels of the seven churches. The idea is that when the church receives the communication it will receive it as a divine message, not just as an assessment from John. The first church addressed is Ephesus, on the Turkish coast almost due east of Athens, Greece. The word to Ephesus is to be sent as though it were from the one who holds the seven stars, etc. That is, from Jesus Christ himself. The identifying phrases used for the first 5 churches come directly from the description of Christ’s appearance in 1:13-16. The Christians at Ephesus are commended for their hard work, their patient endurance and their refusal to tolerate false doctrine. However, they are criticized for not loving one another as they did at the first. If they don’t shape up, their lampstand will be removed; this is a threat that the spirit of Christ will leave their assembly if the love of Christ is not present there. They are commended for hating the Nicolaitans, an early heresy mentioned by several of the early church fathers: Irenaeus charged them with unrestrained indulgence; Thomas Aquinas believed they promoted some form of polygamy. At the end of each church’s monologue a treasure is given “to those who conquer.” For Ephesus it is permission to eat from the tree of life; that is to say, eternal life.
8-11: Smyrna is on the coast about 30 miles north of Ephesus. The introduction of Jesus, the first and the last, is from 1:17. The congregation at Smyrna is poor and persecuted. They are under attack by the “synagogue of Satan,” probably a reference to a local Jewish group persecuting Christians in the city. The church is warned that some of them will be imprisoned and for some the suffering will be unto death. But they are told not to fear, that “whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.” The first death is death to sin. The second death is physical death. Once again there is the hint of the reward of eternal life.
12-17: Pergamum is located 40 miles north of Smyrna about 10 miles inland on the river Caicus. It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia – “where Satan’s throne is” (verse 13). The two-edged sword is featured in the introduction to Pergamum, that feature of the appearance of Jesus that emphasizes the word of God that cuts both ways. The church is commended for not losing faith even when one of them, Antipas, was executed; remember, the earlier appearance of Jesus to John had the double-edged sword that emphasizes the word of God that cuts both ways. The church is commended for not losing faith even when one of them, Antipas, was executed, presumably for being a Christian. There are some things against them as well: Balaam, who blessed Israel in Numbers 23-24, was blamed in later Jewish commentaries for leading the Israelites astray to the Moabite fertility cults. That explains the reference to fornication. The Nicolaitans were mentioned above (verse 6). The church is encouraged to repent of these aberrations. Those who conquer in this case are to be given the hidden manna (perhaps a reference to the bread of the sacrament) and a white stone. The meaning of the white stone is obscure. It could be related to the onyx stones that Aaron was to have sewn into the breastpiece of his priestly garments, on which were inscribed the names of the tribes of Israel.
18-29: Thyatira was a commercial city located about 30 miles southeast of Pergamum through which the trading route passed which connected Smyrna and Pergamum to the rest of Asia. The introduction to the letter focuses on the flaming eyes and bronze feet of the Son of Man (1:14-15), which is an image of judgment and anger. At first they are commended for their works, but then we find the reason for Christ’s flaming eyes and bronzed feet: Jezebel. In the Old Testament Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab of Israel, the daughter of a Sidonian king who enticed Ahab and Israel to worship Baal (1 Kings 16:31). Likewise, this Jezebel in Thyatira is enticing them to do things against the teachings of Jesus and the church. She refuses to repent, and punishment is coming to her and to her “children,” that is, her followers. To the others, the faithful ones, no other requirement is given them but that they keep the faith. Those who conquer will be given the “morning star,” a reference to Jesus himself (see 22:16).
Revelation 3 (day 1170) 15 March 2013
1-6: Christ now sends a message to Sardis, which was situated about 30 miles inland from Smyrna on the Hermus River (and 25 miles south of Thyatira). All these cities are close together in western Asia Minor. Among all the churches Sardis seems to be the least faithful, with only a few who “have not soiled their clothes,” and they are promised that they will “walk with Christ,” which I believe is another allusion to eternal life. However, as faithless as the others have been, they, too, are offered the same reward if they repent. Here is the clear invitation to repentance and life that is given to every sinner, which means everybody.
7-13: Philadelphia was also in the Hermus valley, about 25 miles upstream from Sardis. Verse 7 is a quote from Isaiah 22:22, in which God declares that he will place on the shoulders of the Messiah “the key of the house of David.” So, Christ offers the church an open door that cannot be shut. In other words, their invitation is secure. They are weak but have endured the attacks of the “synagogue of Satan” (see comments on 2:8-11). Their place in the New Jerusalem is waiting for them.
14-22: Finally we have Laodicea, about 80 miles inland from Ephesus – so you see we have come around in almost a circle. Laodicea is lukewarm, he says. They are a wealthy congregation. They think they have everything they need, but they are mistaken. Their wealth has caused them to be turned into themselves and ignore those in need around them. The message to them is that Christ wants to come in to them and be with them if they will but open the door. Those who conquer – who accept the invitation – will rule with Christ in the kingdom of God.
Revelation 4 (day 1171) 16 March 2013
1-6a: Now John finds himself facing a door into heaven and is given an invitation to enter. He does so, and finds himself in God’s royal court inhabiting a throne surrounded by 24 elders on smaller thrones. God is indescribable – made of jasper and carnelian and surrounded by a rainbow, emanating flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. In front of God’s throne are seven flaming torches – the seven spirits of God (see 1:4, 3:1 and 8:2), and in front of them all an expanse that looks like a sea of glass or crystal. What a vision! The twenty-four surrounding thrones are occupied by elders in white robes wearing gold crowns, of whom we will read more later in the vision.
6b-11: Now John sees four fantastic “living creatures” full of eyes; one with a lion’s face, one with the face of an ox, one with human face and the fourth with the face of an eagle. You will find a similar description in Ezekiel 1:5-9. Their function is to sing the doxology of the eternal God, “who was and is and is to come.” Whenever they do so the 24 elders fall before the throne, cast their crowns at God’s feet and extol God for creating all things.
Revelation 5 (day 1172) 17 March 2013
1-5: John sees that God is now holding a sealed scroll. An angel shouts for someone who can open the scroll but no one steps forward. John begins to weep, but then hears one of the elders say that there is one who is worthy to open the seals, the “Lion of Judah,” the “Root of David.” The references are, of course, to Christ. There are seven seals, which will appear again starting in chapter 6.
6-10: A little slaughtered lamb, with seven (seven is the number of completion, of perfection) horns (the horn is a symbol of authority) and seven eyes (all-seeing) appears, and steps out from the elders to take the scroll, and the elders fall before the throne with incense and harp and begin to worship God. They sing a hymn to Christ, the slaughtered Lamb of God.
11-14: Now the angels, a numberless host, wheel around the whole assembly singing praise to the lamb, and then every creature God created joins in the praise. The four creatures shout “Amen” and the elders flop over and toss their crowns again.
Revelation 6 (day 1173) 18 March 2013
1-2: The four living creatures were described earlier (4:6-7), and mirror the four living creatures in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1:10). John hears one of them summon the first of the “four horses of the apocalypse.” Commentators have speculated on the identity of the four with often fantastic imagination. The most appropriate interpretation of the white horse with the bow-wielding rider is that it represents the kingdom of Parthia, Rome’s major opponent toward the east. Parthia stretched from the Middle East into Persia and from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. The Parthians were the only bow-carrying cavalry in the world of that day, and were known for their white horses. Any reader in the 1st and 2nd century would have recognized the white horse and rider with bow as a Parthian military unit, and would have concluded that John is describing a threat to the Roman Empire at the hands of Parthia.
3-4: The second rider to be summoned is on a red horse and is to take peace from the earth. The Romans called their particular brand of subjection the “Pax Romana,” the “Peace of Rome.” John’s first readers would have concluded that the second rider heralded the doom of the Roman Empire.
5-6: The third horse is black, its rider carrying a set of scales. John hears a voice among the four living creatures chanting a formula for the escalation of food prices; but wine and oil, commodities mostly purchased by the wealthy, are unaffected.
7-8: The fourth horse is a pale green horse ridden by Death with Hades close behind. The prophecy is that a fourth of the population of the world will die from famine and disease, war and wild animals.
9-11: Remember that John is writing after a number of persecutions against the church have already taken place. When the fifth seal is opened he “sees” the martyrs of those persecutions asking how long it yet will be before they are avenged. God responds by giving them white robes and telling them to sit tight, that other persecutions are still to come and even more will be killed.
12-17: The destruction becomes world-wide with the opening of the sixth seal. The earth is split with a quake, the sun, moon and stars become partners in the suffering. John “sees” everyone on earth, rich and poor, powerful and weak, hiding in caves and begging to die quickly.
Revelation 7 (day 1174) 19 March 2013
1-6: Instead of the opening of the seventh seal, there is a break in the sequence as John’s vision continues with the appearance of four angels, which mirror the four living creatures of verse 4:7. The numbers four and seven play prominent roles in Revelation. Both numbers symbolize completion. Four is the number of completion as regards space (the four corners of the earth, for example) and seven is the number of completion as regards time (the seven days of creation, for example). The purpose of the four angels is to hold back the four winds. Ancient people generally believed that winds which blew in the four cardinal directions (north, south, east and west) were harmless and even beneficial, but the winds that blew diagonally across the compass were destructive winds. The symbolism here is that the four angels are at the corners of the earth holding back the winds of destruction until the servants of God have been marked for preservation. That order is given by an additional angel rising with the sun. The symbolism of the rising sun is an expression of life, in particular of resurrection and eternal life.
4-8: Much has been written about the 144,000 who are to be sealed. Here’s what I make of it: The number twelve also has symbolic power, and is also a number that signifies perfection or completion. 144 is 12X12, and John must surely mean the number to represent the completion of Israel. But I do not believe that he intended it to mean the completion of historic Israel and the Jewish people. It has to be that he intended it to refer to the Church as the completion of Israel. It is an interesting and oft debated but never adequately explained fact that the list of “tribes” in these verses is different from lists in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the tribe of Levi was not included in the censuses or in the distribution of land. In this list Levi is included but the tribe of Dan curiously is not, and the tribe of Joseph is divided into Manasseh and Ephraim to preserve the number 12. There is evidence that in the early church it was believed that the antichrist would come from Dan because that tribe was viewed in a most negative light in the Old Testament (see, for example, Judges 17-18), and that may be the reason John excludes them. I note also that the 144,000 are to be sealed, but nowhere does it say that only 144,000 will be saved.
9-12: Now a great uncountable multitude (that’s where most of us will fit into John’s scheme) joins the scene and praises God and the Lamb in unison, loudly. Then everyone – the great multitude, the 144,000 who are “sealed,” the angels, the living creatures, the elders – erupts in song ascribing attributes of power and wisdom to God.
13-17: One of the elders, who is not named, approaches John and asks who these people are, the great multitude robed in white from verse 9. John turns the question back to him and he answers that they are the ones who have “come out of the great ordeal.” In other words, they have remained faithful through all the persecutions of the church. Note that they have not escaped the persecutions, but have remained faithful in spite of being persecuted. I suspect these verses provided great encouragement to those who were suffering. When the persecutions have run their course those who persevered are forever under the reign of God who provides all their needs and wipes their tears away.
Revelation 8 (day 1175) 20 March 2013
1-2: Now we return to the opening of the seals. The opening of the seventh seal results in the seven angels (see 1:4 and 3:1) being given trumpets. In other words, the seventh “plague” is the harbinger of seven more plagues!
3-5: Another angel appears to offer incense on the great altar of heaven and upon which the prayers of all the saints are gathered as a gift to God. The angel then takes a censer, fills it with fire and throws it upon the earth, causing storms and earthquakes; but God’s judgment on the world is just beginning.
6-7: The seven trumpets are now blown, the first four calling forth destruction and the last three summoning the “woes” of verse 13. The first trumpet summons a hail of fire that burns up a third of the earth – particularly the trees and the grass: vegetation, in other words. The description sounds like a meteor strike.
8-9: Another strike is made in the ocean, which destroys a third of sea life, including ships.
10-11: Yet another “meteor” strike is pictured, this time a falling star named Wormwood. Wormwood is a bitter herb (artemisia) that symbolized the bitterness of God’s judgment on the wicked. In John’s vision a third of the rivers and springs, the primary sources of drinking water, are made unpalatable.
12: The fourth trumpet signals the destruction of a third of the sun, moon and stars. Notice here that creation, as described in Genesis 1, is being dismantled: vegetation (Genesis 1:9-13); the sea (Genesis 1:9-10); fish and other sea creatures (Genesis 1:20); sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:14-19).
13: There is no way of knowing whether John intends the eagle to be one of the four living creatures first mentioned at 4:7. Perhaps the eagle simply means that God is using nature to warn the world what was happening. Or perhaps the eagle represents Rome, the empire now exalted (flying in mid-heaven) but soon to witness God’s destruction still to be unleashed.
Revelation 9 (day 1176) 21 March 2013
1-6: The last three trumpet blasts signal the beginning of the “woes” mentioned in the last verse – as if there weren’t woes enough already. The seventh trumpet puts into motion “a star that had fallen from heaven,” probably a reference to Lucifer aka Satan (see Isaiah 14:12). As heaven’s opposite, John introduces the bottomless pit (also called the abyss) which in ancient lore was the place of punishment for demons, fallen angels and Satan. Satan is given a key to release evil upon the earth, the idea being that God will give the powers of evil one last hurrah before being forever banished. The locusts represent demons; they are not to damage the trees or the grass (there isn’t any grass anyway – see 8:7), but are to afflict only human beings with torment, but not death. That they afflict the earth for five months is a curious detail which some have explained by speculating that it represents the average lifespan of a locust.
7-12: The locust is a grasshopper-like creature whose head resembles that of a horse. It could be that John’s vision was influenced by the prophets: Joel tells of the destruction of a locust swarm (Joel 1:4), as did the prophet Amos (7:1). In Amos the locust swarm is connected somehow to royalty and that may have inspired John’s vision of locusts with crowns and human faces. The rest of the physical description of the locusts – women’s hair, lion’s teeth, scales, stinging tails – is fantastic, to say the least. It is a picture of utter horror. The demonic locusts are ruled by Destruction (that is the meaning of Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek). This first woe leaves the earth’s population in pain, but still alive. John’s apocalyptic vision pictures a great purging to take place before the new creation emerges.
13-19: The sixth trumpet sounds, and a voice emanates from the stanchions at the corners of the altar, which now is described as being golden (the altar appeared without explanation in chapter 6, verse 9). Voices play a huge role in Revelation, some 37 instances of solo and group voices are heard throughout, many of them only vaguely identified, as is the case here. The voice calls forth four more “angels” bound at the river Euphrates, who release a huge army that kills a third of the human race through their plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur. The basis of this particular vision likely has to do the great empires that grew up successively in the east: Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Parthian – the Parthians being John’s contemporaries and Rome’s primary opposition. Again, the description of the great cavalry is fantastic. It reminds me of some of the popular science fiction movies about aliens and robots: John’s Revelation is very likely the inspiration for much of Hollywood’s special effects.
20-21: You would think that after such horrors people would fall to their knees in repentance, but in John’s vision such is not the case. The people remaining behave even more wickedly than before, just like the spread of evil after the Garden of Eden and after the Great Deluge – in other words, typical human behavior. Idol worship, murder, sorcery and sexual immorality are especially prevalent (So, how is this different?).
Revelation 10 (day 1177) 22 March 2013
1-7: Chapter 10 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh angels in much the same way as chapter 7 provided an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. Now entering the scene is a giant angel with a little scroll, come from the very presence of God. It is tempting to think that this angel is the Christ, but that is not likely given John’s descriptions of Christ throughout the book. The angel clearly represents the sovereignty of God over sky, sea and land. The Old Testament speaks of God using the clouds as a chariot (Psalm 104:3). The rainbow is part of the glory of the throne of God (Ezekiel 1:28), so this angel obviously comes directly from God. His face is like the sun (Matthew 17:2). His voice is like a lion’s roar (Joel 3:16). The seven thunders are perhaps meant to be a reference to the seven voices of God in Psalm 29. That the scroll is “little” perhaps means that it is a revelation of a coming event that will take place over a brief period of time. John is ordered not to record what the seven thunders said; it is a revelation for him only. He is told to anticipate a final revelation of the mysteries of God when the seventh trumpet is blown.
8-11: John is told to take the scroll. He tells the angel to give it to him, but the angel again orders him to take it. He must take the initiative in owning the revelation being given. He eats it, just as Ezekiel had eaten the scroll given to him by an angel (Ezekiel 3:1-3). John finds the scroll sweet as honey, as had Ezekiel, but bitter in his stomach; the scroll contains a revelation of more disasters yet to come, about which he is to prophesy.
Revelation 11 (day 1178) 23 March 2013
1-2: Having been told that he must prophesy, John is given a measuring rod and is told to measure the temple, altar and worshipers (does he mean count the worshipers?), but not to measure the exterior court. Many scholars believe that the purpose of the measuring is to preserve the temple and the worshipers from the woes and terrors to come. The court is excluded from the measuring; it will be given over to the nations (the Gentile world) for 42 months (= 3 ½ years).
3: The two witnesses may be a reference to John the baptizer (see Mark 1:2-4) and Elijah (see Malachi 4:5), both of whom are identified as harbingers of the Messiah’s coming and thus perhaps also harbingers of his return. Many scholars, however, believe it is meant to refer to Elijah and Moses because of the powers they demonstrated in the Old Testament accounts (see verses 6 & 7).The sackcloth is a symbol of grieving, which means that the prophecy of the witnesses will not be a happy one. The 1266 days is equivalent to 42 months according to Jewish reckoning. 1266 days = 42 months = 3 ½ years. The 3 ½ years answers to the ancient formula in Daniel: “a time, two times, and half a time” (Daniel 12:7) – a year, two years and half a year.
4-6: The two olive trees and two lampstands represent the two messengers (imagery that comes from Zechariah 4:3, 4:11-14). The two messengers have the power to destroy all who would destroy them, to withhold the rains (something Elijah in particular had the authority to do – I Kings 17:1), to turn water into blood (ala Moses – Exodus 7:20) and to strike the earth with plagues (again, like Moses).
7-10: The beast is one of the forms by which the antichrist is identified in apocalyptic literature. John sees that the beast will kill the two messengers and toss their bodies into the streets of Jerusalem. Isaiah was the prophet who referred to Jerusalem as Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:9-10). I haven’t found a place where Jerusalem is called Egypt, but it is not difficult to find parallels between the two. The inhabitants of the city are allowed to gloat over the corpses for 3 ½ days, a symbolic number that is used to refer to an unspecified allotted time. It also might be meant to suggest that they were dead for just a little longer than Jesus, so as to avoid comparing them too closely to the Son of God.
11-13: The two messengers are resurrected and ascend into heaven in a cloud while the terrified crowds watch. John is using the past tense here even though he is clearly referring to things which he believes have not yet occurred, as if he is so certain of these things that he can speak of them as having already happened. He sees the onlookers destroyed by an earthquake.
14: Finally the second woe is passed! The description of it started back in 9:13.
15-18: The seventh trumpet sounds and John hears voices from heaven announcing the eternal reign of Christ. He also sees the twenty-four elders (see 4:4) bowing before God and hears them singing their praise to God for assuming his power and beginning his reign over the nations. The time has come for God to judge the dead, they sing, and to reward his servants and to destroy “those who destroy the earth” – the Satan and his minions.
19: John sees the heavenly temple open, revealing the Ark of the Covenant displayed in terrifying grandeur.
Revelation 12 (day 1179) 24 March 2013
1-6: With the opening of the temple of heaven John’s vision changes from the earthly realms to the heavenly realms; perhaps we should understand the transition to be from the physical to the spiritual world. And it is a strange world. A pregnant woman is pictured, “clothed with the sun,” standing on the moon, and wearing a crown made up of twelve stars – the zodiac, sounds like. John says the woman is a portent, a sign of some reality but not the reality itself. She is in labor. Another portent appears: a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. Stars are swept from the sky by the dragon’s tail as he takes up a position in front of the woman in order to eat her baby. She gives birth to a son who is to rule with “a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9), which identifies him to John’s readers as the Messiah. The child is “snatched away” and taken to the throne of God; clearly the child is intended to be Christ, who died and was resurrected and ascended to heaven. The woman escapes the dragon by going to a place in the wilderness prepared for her by God where she is cared for over a span of 3 ½ years. The woman cannot be identified specifically with Mary, but the child is obviously Jesus and the dragon is the power of evil that manifested itself in many ways – Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, Judas – to destroy him. The woman’s retreat to the wilderness calls to mind the story of Israel entering the wilderness to escape the “dragon” Pharaoh.
7-9: A cosmic war breaks out. The forces of evil are led by the dragon, now clearly identified as the Devil and Satan. The forces of good are led by the archangel Michael. Here the vision seems to have been influenced by the apocalyptic elements in the book of Daniel (Daniel 12:1 – see also Jude 1:9). Satan and his angels are defeated and thrown out of the spiritual realm into (or down to) the physical realm; that is, the earth.
10-12: John hears a voice call out from heaven, the spiritual realm. The voice proclaims that Satan the accuser (see Job 1) has been thrown down – that is, cast out of heaven. He has accused “our brothers,” a reference to the martyrs and other faithful ones who have died, but they have countered his accusations with “the blood of the Lamb.” The phrase evokes memories of the old system of animal sacrifice in Israel; Christ is seen as the perfect lamb that takes away all sins. So, heaven rejoices, but woe to the earth for the dragon has now taken up residence there.
13-17: The previous two paragraphs seem to have been a flashback to explain how Satan came to be on the earth. In terms of chronology verse 13 follows on verse 3 and continues the account of the dragon’s pursuit of the woman and her child. The woman flees to the wilderness (as in verse 6) but now John tells us that she is aided by having been given “the two wings of the great eagle” – perhaps a reference to the fourth “living creature” mentioned at the beginning of the vision (4:7). The dragon tries to drown her with a flood, but the earth itself becomes a player in the drama and opens up to swallow the flood, and she is protected. The dragon then goes off to make war against “the rest of her children,” the Church. This part of the vision reads like an apocalyptic version of what has already historically taken place: the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the persecutions that sought to destroy his followers, “the rest of her children.”
The dragon takes up position on the seashore, still at threat.
Revelation 13 (day 1180) 25 March 2013
1-4: The number of characters in the book will continue to increase, but there are basically only four; two in the spiritual realm and two in the earthly realm. In each realm the characters will represent either those who are on God’s side or those who are against God. The woman and the dragon in the last chapter were opponents in the spiritual realm; she representing those on God’s side, and the dragon representing God’s chief opponent Satan. At the end of the chapter Satan, the dragon, was making war on the church (the woman’s children). We left the dragon on the seashore at the end of chapter 12; now as chapter 13 begins we are introduced to another antagonist, a
“beast.” Make that “other beasts.” The first “beast” of Revelation appeared in chapter 11. That “beast” arose out of the bottomless pit and killed the two “witnesses.” The current “beasts” (the first is introduced in verse 1, the other in verse 11) arise out of the sea and out of the earth. They represent the primordial chaos out of which God brought creation. In Jewish mythology God fought against two great monsters, Leviathan in the sea (see Psalm 74:14) and Behemoth on land (see Job 40:15. See also 2 Esdras 6:49 [in the Apocrypha], which mentions both monsters). In John’s vision the beast from the sea is quite an extraordinary creature, having ten horns with diadems on seven heads. Most scholars see in this a reference to the Roman Empire. The heads and the horns represent successive rulers of Rome. The seven heads refer to the fabled seven hills of the city of Rome, while the ten crowned horns represent the emperors from the time of Augustus. Rome gets its power not from God but from Satan, the
dragon of the last chapter. (I would say that the beast does not just represent Rome, but all those oppressive empires and powers on earth that claim god-like authority.) The blasphemous names on the heads of the beast likely are meant to represent the divine titles the Caesars gave themselves. The reference to leopard, bear and lion are from the book of Daniel (7:1-8), where these animals represent the successive empires that conquered Israel – Babylon, Persia and Macedonian/Greek under Alexander the Great. Perhaps we are meant to understand that Rome is as bad as all the others put together. The head with the mortal wound has never gotten a satisfactory explanation; perhaps the best one I’ve come across has to do with a cult that believed Nero would come back to life over and over again. “The whole earth followed the beast” refers to the emperor worship that had become popular during the last decades of the 1st century.
5-8: The “beast” Rome will kill the saints, John says, and people all over the world will worship the dragon (Satan) who gave the “beast” its power, and will also worship the “beast” – all, that is, except the followers of Christ.
9-10: To sum up his report of the appearance of the first “beast,” John issues a call to the saints (believers) for faith and endurance.
11-17: The second “beast” authorized by the “dragon” John sees arising out of the earth (see above comment on verses 1-4). It has only two horns, and it is distinguished by its speech: it speaks like a dragon even though its horns are like a lamb. This second “beast” is subservient to the first, that is, to Rome. One explanation is that this “beast” represents the two “horns” of Roman authority to force the people to worship the emperor: the legal and religious systems set up in the Roman Empire to insure that everyone obeyed the laws. During the worst persecutions of the church that meant forcing Christian to either declare that “Caesar is Lord” or die. In other words, Rome sets itself up to be like the lamb Christ, and through the two “horns” of legal and religious institutions tries to enforce such blasphemy. The reference to great signs in verse 13 cannot be identified with any certainty, but it is supposed that techniques were used to influence a superstitious population into believing miracles were occurring. The “image for the beast” refers to statues of the Caesars scattered all over the empire, some of which supposedly were rigged to make it sound as though a voice were emanating from them. The “mark” given to worshipers of the beast is obscure; either something like the brand used for slaves or the certificate to prove a citizen had worshiped the emperor is intended.
18: The “number” of the “beast” is either 666 or 616, depending on which ancient manuscript you want to consider most authoritative. Nero was the cruelest Caesar in terms of persecuting Christians, and in Greek the sum of the numerical value of the letters for the name “Neron” (the Greek form of Nero) is 666. If you drop the final ‘n,’ the sum would be 616. In Hebrew the term for “Nero Caesar” also produces 666. A popular pagan cult had arisen to worship the emperor Nero, and the myth on which the cult was based was that Nero would someday return to rule the world. It may be that John is predicting the return of that tyrant as the Antichrist. However, it has been demonstrated often enough that numerology (the belief that numbers possess some occult significance) is untrustworthy. Given that the number 7 symbolizes perfection and completeness it may simply be that 666 is John’s way of saying that the “beast” is emphatically less than perfect.
Revelation 14 (day 1181) 26 March 2013
1: The Lamb, a figure of Christ, was first pictured in the heavenly temple before God’s throne (5:6). In this new image John sees the Lamb on Mt. Zion, the location of God’s temple on earth. This verse is the only place where God is called the Father of the Lamb. The 144,000 believers accompanying the Lamb are the same as the 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel mentioned earlier (7:4-8). There it was announced that the angels holding back the winds at the four corners of the earth would continue to do so until the 144,000 had been marked “with a seal on their foreheads” (7:3). The marking of their foreheads thus signals that the four angels might now be unleashed. A little later the command was given that the locusts released from the bottomless pit were to harm only those not marked with the seal of God on their foreheads (9:3-4). In the last chapter we saw that the second “beast” (Rome?) marked its minions on the wrist or forehead with its mark. Here, the followers of Christ are marked with God’s name on their foreheads to distinguish them from those who have the mark of the “beast.”
2-5: Now John hears the voices of the 144,000 singing a new song that only they could learn; that seems to be the purpose of setting aside these specific believers from the 12 tribes: to sing God’s song. He further specifies that they have not “defiled themselves with women,” a reflection of Old Testament laws concerning the division of the holy and the profane. The idea is not that women or sex are evil. In John’s day there was real reverence for the fact that the act of sex has power to produce life. Therefore persons who had special responsibilities in the temple making sacrifices to God or in the army fighting battles for God or etc. were to refrain from sex for a specified time to keep their sacred service separate from other, earthly, powers. Note that it is clearly stated that these 144,000 are to be regarded not as the only people saved, but merely as the “first fruits for God and the Lamb.”
6-7: An angel, the first of three messengers, offers all the people remaining on earth the opportunity to believe; to fear God and worship him.
8: The second angel declares that Rome is doomed, along with all the nations that have fallen under its sway.
9-11: The third angel announces that all those who bear the mark of the “beast” are doomed to eternal torment. Now that’s motivation.
12: So, the saints, the believers left on earth, have reason to endure the suffering ahead by holding “fast to the faith of Jesus.”
13: But, someone might ask, what of those who have already died by the time all this happens? Ah, says the Spirit, they are blessed. This verse is a familiar part of the Church’s funeral liturgy for believers.
14-16: Now Christ as the Son of Man appears crowned and seated on a white cloud with a sickle in his hand. Another angel emerges from the temple and gives the order to Christ (The order obviously must come from God’s throne, not from the angel.) to use the sickle to harvest the earth. The angel’s words are almost a quote from the prophet Joel (Joel 3:13). The Son of Man goes into action.
17-20: John pictures a fifth angel emerging from the temple, this one also holding a sickle. Another angel orders that one to reap the harvest of souls that would suffer God’s wrath. Obviously only God can give that order; neither Christ nor the angels can wield God’s wrath without God’s specific instructions. John sees the “harvest” gathered into a great wine press which produces an inordinate amount of blood when the “grapes” are trodden.
Revelation 15 (day 1182) 27 March 2013
1: So it turns out that the seven seals and the seven trumpets and the Son of Man with the sickle aren’t quite enough destructive power to express God’s wrath. Now John sees another seven angels (notice how the recurrence of the number 7 with regards to God overcomes the recurrence of the number 6 with regards to the “beast”) with seven more plagues.
2-4: This scene seems to jump ahead in time, for now the “beast” is conquered. So, is John foreseeing the time when the Roman Empire is no more? Probably he is not. By “conquering” he means refusing to worship the “beast;” remaining loyal to the Lamb. He pictures those who have kept the faith in spite of persecutions – the 144,000 – standing beside the sea of Glass (see 4:6) with harps, singing a song of praise to God, ascribing to God the title “King of the Nations” and declaring that all nations will join them in their worship. Notice that they sing “the song of Moses.” The Exodus from Egypt becomes the framework on which John’s vision is based. The sea of glass echoes the Red Sea, where Moses sang a song of victory to God (see Exodus 15 for Moses’ song which ends with “the Lord will reign forever and ever”).
5-8: Now John sees the “tabernacle of witness in heaven,” mirroring the tabernacle in the wilderness. Out of it come the seven angels with the seven final plagues. Dressed in white with golden sashes, they are each given a bowl of wrath by one of the four “living creatures” (see 4:6b-8). The heavenly temple fills with smoke, as did the slopes of Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 19:18).
Revelation 16 (day 1183) 28 March 2013
1: The seven bowls of wrath will be poured out quickly in succession. There will be no interlude between the sixth and seventh as there had been with the seven seals and the seven trumpets. As the climax draws nearer, the action moves more quickly and more surely. The seven angels are commanded by a loud voice from the temple to pour their bowls of wrath out upon the earth. We shall see that the bowls of wrath mirror the plagues God sent on Egypt through Moses.
2: The first bowl of wrath inflicts worshipers of the beast with painful sores (compare Exodus 9:8-12).
3-7: The second and third plagues taint the sea and rivers with blood (Exodus 7:14-24). The “angel of the waters,” counterpart to the great beast Leviathan, sings praise to God for avenging the blood of the saints, with an “amen” from the altar.
8-9: The fourth bowl of wrath turns the sun’s rays into a scorching heat. This holds the central place among the seven and has no counterpart in the Exodus story.
10-11: The fifth plague is a plague of darkness, reminiscent of the ninth plague on Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23).
12-16: The sixth plague dries up the Euphrates to make way for the invasion of “the kings of the whole world” to come from the east. It bears the echo of the parting of the Red Sea, does it not? The three spirits like frogs seem to be inspired by the second Egyptian plague (Exodus 8:1-7). They are evil spirits sent to influence the kings and assemble them at Armageddon for a last desperate invasion of Israel. The quote in verse 15 seems to be a mixture of several sources: 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; 2 Peter 3:10; Isaiah 47:3.
17-21: The seventh angel pours out the seventh bowl of wrath into the air. A voice from the temple declares, “It is finished!” just as had Christ on the cross (John 19:30). A storm ensues, not unlike the hail storm of the seventh plague on Egypt – see Exodus 9:22-26. The storm is accompanied by an earthquake (compare Isaiah 29:5-6 which describes the siege of Jerusalem) which splits the great city (Babylon/Rome) into three, sinks the islands and levels the mountains and sends massive hailstones to fall among the people.
Revelation 17 (day 1184) 29 March 2013
1-6: One of the angels summons John to a scene in which the “great whore” who has consorted with the kings of the earth is revealed. The mystery of the identity of the great whore is pretty much solved in verse 9 where the seven hills of the city of Rome are clearly indicated: the great whore is Rome. The waters surrounding the woman likely represent all the people of the world who live under Roman rule – most of the known world of the day was ruled by Rome. The prosperity of the rich in virtually every country around the Mediterranean depends on trade with Rome and through Roman-controlled trade routes. That wealth is the “wine of their fornication.” The colors mentioned, purple and scarlet, along with gold and jewels and pearls are also in keeping with the picture of the wealth that Rome produces. It is interesting that John has to be taken into a wilderness, evoking again the story of the Exodus from Egypt into the Sinai dessert. For John, Rome is the new Babylon. Just as Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem, Rome was seeking to destroy the Church. He pictures Rome “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.”
7-8: The beast with seven heads and ten horns represents in general the rulers of Rome, but specifically it represents Nero, or at least the spirit of Nero which was against Christianity (thus the Antichrist). Some think John is writing just after the more or less peaceful reign of Vespasian who stabilized the empire after the disastrous reign of Nero. Vespasian was followed by Titus, and Titus by Domitian. Domitian was as insane and cruel and anti-Christian as Nero had been, and there were those who believed he was Nero’s reincarnation. That is why the “beast” was, is not, and is about to ascend again from the “bottomless pit,” the abode of the dead. Non-Christians, “the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life,” will be amazed and dazzled by the reappearance of the “beast.”
9-14: The reference in verse 9 is clearly to the city of Rome, capital of the empire. John deepens the puzzle when he adds that the seven heads also represent seven kings. It is tempting to conclude, with some weight, that the five fallen are Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. The one who is still living would then be Vespasian and the one who would come and rule only a short time would be Titus, who ruled only two years, from 79-81 A.D. The beast that was and is not has to be Nero, who ruled from 54-68 A.D. and had died before John had his visions on Patmos. The return of Nero (in the person of Domitian) would make him the eighth king. For the identity of the ten kings of verse 12 there is much less to go on. Perhaps it is meant as a general reference to those kings who ruled at Rome’s pleasure within the recognized boundaries of the empire. They will join Rome in making war on the Lamb, that is, they will join Rome in the persecution of the Church.
15-18: Unfortunately, these verses would seem to undo the neat little scenario described above, for here we have the ten kings and the beast hating the whore and destroying her. Under the rubric adopted above, that would mean Domitian would hate the city of Rome along with the minor kings around the Empire and would in fact destroy Rome. All of this is according to God’s instigation. However, that is not what happened; either John’s vision is wrong or our interpretation leaves much to be desired. You try to figure it out; I’m tired.
Revelation 18 (day 1185) 30 March 2013
1-3: John sees another angel, distinguished from the others by virtue of having great authority. For now, however, that authority is expended only on the task of announcing the reduction of Babylon/Rome. Verse 3 hearkens back to 14:8 where the same sentiment was expressed. There is a definite undercurrent running through Revelation that has to do with God taking the side of the poor and oppressed against the rich and powerful. In John’s day, Christianity was still largely a movement of the lower socio-economic classes of the Empire.
4-8: Another voice joins in, beckoning believers to “come out of her.” This is not a summons to an actual migration; rather it is an invitation to a migration of the heart and soul. Some scholars have argued that “my people” in verse 4 is intended as an invitation for the Jewish people to join the movement with Christ at its head. Others see it as a general invitation to those believers who have perhaps not been as faithful as they should have been. Verses 6 and 7 seem to have God commanding them to punish Rome, as if the believers themselves will be the instruments of God’s wrath. Another way of reading the passage, though, has the believers merely acting in the role of Moses in that they will be the ones to bear God’s pronouncement of the punishment to follow – the plagues of verse 8.
9-10: The outlying parts of the Empire are pictured standing helplessly by.
11-19: Those who benefited materially from Roman rule mourn. The voice from heaven pronounces their fate in verse 14. John pictures the kings, the trading merchants, the shipmasters and seafarers all crying out in despair over the sudden destruction of Rome.
20: In sharp contrast, the voice proclaims rejoicing among the saints, the apostles and the prophets. God’s judgment upon Babylon/Rome, says the voice, is on their behalf.
21-24: John sees a further sign of Rome’s end – a mighty angel casts a giant millstone into the sea, a demonstration of the drama with which Rome’s demise descended upon it. He sees the destruction of the city in terms of the silence of all those who once reveled in it; musicians, artists and artisans, millers, even lovers. Merchants, it seems are held to be sorcerers who merely deceived people into thinking the wares they provided would bring abundant life. Instead they had, in partnership with the beast, established a culture in which the chosen ones of God were slaughtered.
Revelation 19 (day 1186) 31 March 2013
1-8: Now there is a great crescendo of voices praising God for judging the great whore and avenging the saints. They exult in her destruction and proclaim that the smoke from the fire that destroyed her would never die down. The twenty-four elders and four living creatures fall and worship. The voice from the throne summons the great multitude of the saved to praise God, and John hears their voices crying “Hallelujah!” They rejoice in God’s reign and proclaim the time for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his bride, “granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure,” is getting ready for the event. The linen gown represents the “righteous deeds of the saints.” I don’t want to get too obvious with my interpretations, but I believe the bride is the Church.
9-10: The angel in verse 9 is apparently the same one mentioned in 17:1; one of the seven angels of the bowls of wrath. He orders John to write down the blessing for those who receive an invitation to attend the wedding. John instinctively falls to worship the angel but is told not to do so. “Worship God!” the angel cries.
11-16: A white horse appears at the gates of heaven with a rider called Faithful and True. One cannot help but wonder if this is the same as the earlier white horse and rider sent out to conquer (6:2). The difference here is that the rider is clearly Christ himself, for his robe is dipped in blood and his name is Word of God. He is followed by the armies of heaven dressed in white to denote their purity as well. A two-edged sword comes from his mouth, recalling the description of Christ in 1:17. The image of the treading of the winepress is that the enemies of Christ must drink the wine of God’s judgment. The significance of the inscription of the words “King of kings and Lord of lords” is obscure and has never been adequately explained.
17-21: The angel of the sun summons the birds to a feast (compare Ezekiel 39:17-19). The armies of heaven destroy the army of the beast. In verse 20 the beast is accompanied by the false prophet who deceived on the beast’s behalf those who received his mark on their foreheads. Perhaps the interpretation of this scene is that the beast now represents Satan (an identity established earlier) and his prophet represents Nero or another persecutor of the Church. They are thrown into “the lake of fire,” only one image of hell we can find in the Bible, but the one that seems to have most captured the popular imagination. As for the armies of the beast, their bodies are left on the field of battle for the birds to devour. Not a nice picture.
Revelation 20 (day 1187) 1 April 2013
1-3: The last we saw of the dragon was in chapter 16 where the dragon, the beast and the false prophet were under attack from the armies of heaven. The beast and the false prophet were destroyed in the lake of fire and the reign of Christ was begun, but what of the dragon, the Satan? Now John’s vision shows him that another angel from heaven captures the dragon and locks it away in the bottomless pit for 1000 years after which it must be let out “for a little while.” Since most of the images and numbers in Revelation are clearly symbolic there is no reason to think that John intends this to be taken literally. Notice, though, that the Satan’s job is to deceive the nations, not just individuals.
4-6: The vision continues with the appearance of thrones on which are seated those who have been given the authority to judge. This is perhaps a reference to the twenty-four elders occupying thrones around the throne of God (4:4-5) but the connection is not certain or necessary. Those who were martyred for the faith (John specifically says “beheaded” here, but not all martyrs were put to death by beheading) are raised from the dead and are joined in this first resurrection by those who had not worshiped the “beast” nor were marked with the sign of the “beast” on forehead and hand. All of these are to reign with Christ for a thousand years. Others will not be resurrected until the thousand years period is over. Those who share in this first resurrection are not harmed by the “second death.” This was prophesied earlier in the book (see 2:11).
7-10: After a thousand years the Satan will be allowed to emerge from his prison to attempt once again to deceive the nations. Much ink has been spilled in an effort to identify Gog and Magog. Gog and Magog are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but never together except here in verse 8. Gog plays a role in the prophecies of Ezekiel, but even there it is not possible to identify it with a particular location. I think it is not likely that John meant the terms to specify any particular nation or place on earth. I think “Gog and Magog” is simply an expression he uses to refer collectively to every nation, much as we use the expression “high and low,” as in “I searched high and low for …” The Satan is successful in assembling a considerable number of enemies of God and they make one last futile attempt to take over control of the world, but their attempt is thwarted by an act of God. The Satan is then thrown into the “lake of fire” to join the “beast” and the false prophet.
11-15: John sees the final judgment of the world unfolding before the great white throne of God. The dead from the sea, from Death and from Hades are given up to judgment according to their deeds which he sees as written in books that recorded their lives and another book, the “book of life,” which contains the list of those whom God had determined from the beginning to be included in the new creation. Once the judging is completed, John sees Death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire, the “second death” which cannot be overcome. Death and hell are no more.
Revelation 21 (day 1188) 2 April 2013
1-4: The idea of God doing away with the current heaven and earth and bringing about a new heaven and earth is not unique to Revelation. It is at least as old as the prophets of Israel (see, for example, Isaiah 65:17). The sea in verse one is surely intended to refer to the “deep,” that primordial ocean of chaos in the midst of which God placed the heavens and the earth (read again the creation story in Genesis 1), and out of which God constantly battled against the powers of evil. Leviathan was the ancient dragon of the sea in the Old Testament where there are several references to God warring with it (Psalm 74:14, Isaiah 27:1) and in the intertestamental writings as well (2 Esdras 6:49-52). John sees “the new Jerusalem” descending out of heaven in great splendor which he describes in detail a few verses further along. Jerusalem is the dwelling place of God among mortals, and the New Jerusalem is thus a sign that God is also coming down to dwell there. There will be no more suffering; no pain, no death, no mourning. Jesus had said that all of those things were merely the birth pangs of a new world aborning, and suffering would pass away when the birthing is complete (see Mark 13:8), and Paul fleshed out the idea more thoroughly (Romans 8:18-25).
5-8: John hears God announcing from the throne that all things will be made new. God was in the beginning at the first creation and is at the end when that creation is replaced with the new one. The thirsty (those who thirst for the living God) are given the water of life and will enjoy eternal life while the wicked will be cast into the “lake of fire.”
9-14: An angel takes John to see Jerusalem, now called “the bride of the Lamb.” The description given in these verses reminds us of the description of the new Jerusalem the prophet Ezekiel “saw” hundreds of years before (Ezekiel 40-48; note especially the last verse in that book). But, while Ezekiel saw the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, John also sees the twelve apostles honored.
15-21: Ezekiel, of course, saw the new temple in Jerusalem; John sees the whole city made new – not renewed, but replaced entirely. He is taken by the angel to measure the city, as Ezekiel had been concerned only with the measurements of the new temple. The gems in the foundations of the wall are reminiscent of the gems woven into Aaron’s priestly vest; 10 of the 12 gems listed here are identical with those worn by the high priests of Israel (see Exodus 28:17-20, 39:10-13. See also Ezekiel 28:13). In the New Jerusalem the foundation gems are for the 12 apostles rather than the tribes of Israel. The Church, in other words, has in John’s vision replaced the old sacrificial offerings system of Israel.
22-27: Whereas Ezekiel was given a vision of a new temple, John’s vision does not include the temple at all. God and the Lamb are the temple; that is to say, they will dwell in the city with the people and since they are present there is no need for a temple. The city is always open for anyone to enter who wishes. Of course, the only people are those “who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” There are no unbelievers, no evildoers and no wickedness. I like this vision!
Revelation 22 (day 1189) 3 April 2013
1-5: In Ezekiel’s vision there was a river flowing from the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12) which grew deeper as it flowed. John sees a river flowing not from the temple but from the throne of God. It is lined with the tree of life which produces fruit all year round and leaves which are for “the healing of the nations.” This must be taken to mean the healing of the oppression and tyranny perpetrated by Rome and other governments. John sees God and the Lamb being worshiped by “his servants.” The identity of the servants is revealed by the comment that they will have his name written on their foreheads; they are the 144,000 set apart earlier in his vision (see 14:1). There will be no darkness in the New Jerusalem.
6-7: John’s vision ends with the angel assuring him that the vision he has been given is authentic, and it will begin happening very soon.
8-9: Once again John falls down to worship the angel, and once again the angel tells him to worship only God. The angel is only a fellow servant and not deserving of worship (see 19:10).
10-11: In Daniel’s apocalypse he is told to seal up the scroll for the things foretold are still a long way off (Daniel 8:26). John, on the other hand, is not to seal up the book for the time is near for the things revealed to begin. The angel tells John to let people be people; they have a choice to make and each one must decide how he or she is going to live.
12-13: The voice now speaking is the voice of Christ. All will be judged according to their deeds. Christ was at the beginning when the world was made and will be at the end when the new creation comes into being (compare 1:8, 21:6).
14-15: Christ blesses those who have “washed their robes,” that is, those who have repented and are seeking to live holy lives. There is a bit of a contradiction in verse 15 because we were told earlier that all the wicked people would be thrown into the lake of fire and the only people inhabiting the new world will be those who are righteous (see 21:8).
16-17: Jesus is identified as the source of John’s vision, and an invitation is extended to all who hear and are thirsty for the water of life; that is, all who sincerely seek to be doers and not just hearers of the word.
18-19: A warning is given not to alter anything that John has written under threat of losing the gift of eternal life in the new creation.
20: John repeats what Christ said to him in the last vision: “See, I am coming soon!” (verse 7), to which he adds an “Amen!”
21: Finally, John closes his book with a typical benediction. Satan and evil (Nero and his ilk) have been defeated. Pain and grief and even death itself have been banished. The faithful have entered the new world where they will live forever in company with God and the Lamb. The Bible thus ends as it began; with creation. “Behold, I make all things new.” Even so, Lord Jesus, come!