Revelation 1

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The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
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who testifies to everything he saw--that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
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Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
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John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits  before his throne,
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and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
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and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
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Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.

Revelation 1:1-7

Explanation:

Others had risen from the dead--people whom the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles had brought back to life during their ministries--but later those people died again.  Jesus was the first who rose from the dead in an imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15:20), never to die again.  He is the firstborn from the dead.   Many hesitate to witness about their faith in Christ because they don't feel the change in their lives has been spectacular enough.  But you qualify as a witness for Jesus because of what he has done for you, not because of what you have done for him.  Christ demonstrated his great love by setting us free from our sins through his death on the cross (freed us from our sins by his blood); guaranteeing us a place in his kingdom, and making us priests to administer God's love to others.  The fact that the all-powerful God has offered eternal life to you is nothing short of spectacular.  Jesus is portrayed as an all-powerful King, victorious in battle, glorious in peace.  He is not just a humble earthly teacher, he is the glorious God.  When you read John's description of the vision, keep in mind that his words are not just good advice, they are truth from the King of kings.  Don't just read his words for their interesting and amazing portrayal of the future.  Let the truth about Christ penetrate your life, deepen your faith in him, and strengthen your commitment to follow him no matter what the cost.  John is announcing the return of Jesus to earth.  Jesus' second coming will be visible and victorious.  All people will see him arrive and they will know it is Jesus.  When he comes, he will conquer evil and judge all people according to their deeds.  Those who pierced him could refer to the Roman soldiers who pierced Jesus' side as he hung on the cross or to the Jews who were responsible for his death. John saw Jesus' death with his own eyes, and he never forgot the horror of it.

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"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
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I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
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On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
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which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."
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I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
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and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man,"  dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
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His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.
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His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

Revelation 1:8-15

Explanation:

Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  The Lord God is the beginning and the end.  God the Father is the eternal Lord and Ruler of the past, present, and future.  Without him you have nothing that is eternal, nothing that can change your life, nothing that can save you from sin.  Is the Lord your reason for living; "the Alpha and the Omega' of your life?  Honor the One who is the beginning and the end of all existence, wisdom, and power.  The Christian church was facing severe persecution.  Almost all believers were socially, politically, or economically suffering because of this empire-wide persecution, and some were even being killed for their faith.  John was exiled to Patmos because he refused to stop preaching the gospel.  We may not face persecution for our faith as the early Christians did, but even with our freedom few of us have the courage to share God's Word with others.  If we hesitate to share our faith during easy times, how will we do during times of persecution?  The seven golden lampstands are the seven churches in Asia and Jesus stands among them.  No matter what the churches face, Jesus protects them all with his all-encompassing love and reassuring power.  Through his Spirit, Jesus Christ is still among the churches today.  When a church faces persecution, it should remember Christ's deep love and compassion.  When a church is wracked by internal strife and conflict, it should remember Christ's concern for purity and his intolerance for sin.  This man "like a son of man" is Jesus himself.  The title Son of Man occurs many times in the New Testament in reference to Jesus as the Messiah.  John recognized Jesus because he lived with him for three years and had seen him both as the Galilean preacher and as the glorified Son of God at the transfiguration.  Here Jesus appears as the mighty Son of Man.  His white hair indicates his wisdom and divine nature; his blazing eyes symbolize judgment of all evil;  the golden sash around his chest reveals him as the high priest who goes into God's presence to obtain forgiveness of sin for those who have believed in him.

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His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
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In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
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When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
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I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
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"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
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The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels  of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Revelation 1:15-20

Explanation:

The sword in Jesus' mouth symbolizes the power and force of his message.  His words of judgment are as sharp as swords.  As the Roman government stepped up its persecution of Christians, John must have wondered if the church could survive and stand against the opposition.  But Jesus appeared in glory and splendor, reassuring John that he and his fellow believers had access to God's strength to face these trials.  If you are facing difficult problems, remember that the power available to John and the early church is also available to you.  Our sins have convicted and sentenced us, but Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades.  He alone can free us from eternal bondage to Satan.  He alone has the power and authority to set us free from sin's control.  Believers don't have to fear Hades or death, because Christ holds the keys to both.  All we must do is turn from sin and turn to him in faith.  When we attempt to control our lives and disregard God, we set a course that leads directly to hell.  But when we place our lives in Christ's hands, he restores us now and resurrects us later to an eternal, peaceful relationship with him.  Who are the "angels of the seven churches"? Some say that they are angels designated to guard the churches, others say that they are elders or pastors of the local churches.  Because the seven letters in chapters 2 and 3 contain reprimands, it is doubtful that these angels are heavenly messengers.  If these are earthly leaders of messengers, they are accountable to God for the churches they represent.

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"To the angel  of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:
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I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
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You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
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Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
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Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
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But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:1-7
Explanation:
The one who walks among the seven golden lampstands is Jesus.  He holds the seven stars in his right hand, indicating his power and authority over the churches and their leaders.  Ephesus had become a large, proud church, and Jesus' message would remind them that he is the head of the body of believers.  Does God care about your church?  If you are tempted to doubt it, look more closely at these seven letters.  The Lord of the universe knew each of these churches and its precise situation.  In each letter, Jesus told John to write about specific people, places, and events.  He praised believers for their successes and told them how to correct their failures.  Just as Jesus cared for each of these churches, he cares for yours.  He wants it to reach its greatest potential.  The group of believers with whom you worship and serve is God's vehicle for changing the world.  Take it seriously--God does.  Your first love is God, don't lose sight of that and keep your enthusiasm.  For Jesus to remove your lampstand from its place would mean the church would cease to be an effective church.  God wants people who will stand against sin and point others toward right living.  To overcome is to be victorious by believing in Christ, persevering, remaining faithful, and living as one who follows Christ.  Such a life brings great rewards.
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"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
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I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
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Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

Revelation 2:8-11

Explanation:

Persecution comes from Satan, not from God.  Satan, the devil, will cause believers to be thrown into prison and even killed.  But believers need not fear death, because it will only result in their receiving the crown of life.  Satan may harm their earthly bodies, but he can do no spiritual harm.  The synagogue of Satan means that these Jews were serving Satan's purposes, not God's, when they gathered to worship.  Ten days means that although persecution would be intense, it would be relatively short.  It would have a definite beginning and end, and God would remain in complete control.  Believers and unbelievers alike experience physical death.  All people will be resurrected, but believers will be resurrected to eternal life with God while unbelievers will be resurrected to be punished with a second death, eternal separation from God.

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"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
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I know where you live--where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives.
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Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.
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Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
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Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

Revelation 2:12-17

Explanation:

There is room for differences of opinion among Christians in some areas, but there is no room for heresy and moral impunity.  Your town might not participate in idol feasts, but it probably has pornography, sexual sin, cheating, gossiping, and lying.  Don't tolerate sin by bowing to the pressure to be open-minded.  Balak was a king who feared the large number of Israelites traveling through his country, so he hired Balaam to pronounce a curse on them.  Balaam refused at first, but an offer of money changed his mind. Later Balaam influenced the Israelites to turn to idol worship.  Here Christ rebuked the church for tolerating those who, like Balaam, lead people away from God.  This sword is God's judgment against rebellious nations and all forms of sin.  Hidden manna suggests the spiritual nourishment that the faithful believers will receive.  As the Israelites traveled toward the promised land, God provided manna from heaven for their physical nourishment.  Jesus, as the bread of life, provides spiritual nourishment that satisfies our deepest hunger.  It is unclear what the white stones are of exactly what the names on each will be.  Because they relate to the hidden manna, they may be symbols of the believers eternal nourishment, or eternal life.  The stones are significant because each will bear the new name of every person who truly believes in Christ.  They are the evidence that a person has been accepted by God and declared worthy to receive eternal life.  A person's name represented his or her character.  God will give us new names and new hearts.

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"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
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I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
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Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
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I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.
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So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.
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I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
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Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you):
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Only hold on to what you have until I come.
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To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations--
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`He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father.
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I will also give him the morning star.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 2:18-29

Explanation:

The believers in Thyatira were commended for growing in good deeds.  We should not feel satisfied when our church only rejoices in the salvation of its members or in the comfort of gathering for worship.  We should grow in love, faith, and acts of service.  Because the times are critical, we must spend our days wisely and faithfully.  Why is sexual immorality serious?  Sex outside marriage always hurts someone.  It hurts God because it shows that we prefer to satisfy our desires our own way instead of according to God's Word, or to satisfy them now instead of waiting for his timing.  It hurts others because it violates the commitment so necessary to a relationship.  It hurts us because it often brings disease to our bodies and adversely affects our personalities.  Sexual immorality has tremendous power to destroy families, churches, and communities because it destroys the integrity on which these relationships are built.  God wants to protect us from hurting ourselves and others;  thus we are to have no part in sexual immorality, even if our culture accepts it.  Jezebel was unwilling to repent.  Repent means to change our mind and direction from following our way to following God's way, from sin and its disastrous consequences to God and eternal life.  In his mercy, God has given us time to decide to follow him.  Only our stubborn willfulness stands in the way.  We cannot hide from Christ;  he knows what is in our hearts and minds, and he still loves us.  The sins we try to hide from God need to be confessed to him.  The deep secrets of Satan were either false teaching advocated by heretics, or secret insights by so-called believers guaranteed to promote deeper spiritual life.  We should hold tightly to the basics of our Christian faith and view with caution and counsel any new teaching that turns us away from the Bible, the fellowship of our church, or our basic confession of faith.  Christ says tht those who overcome (those who remain faithful until the end and continue to please God) will rule over Christ's enemies and reign with him as he judges evil.  Christ is called the morning star.  A morning star appears just before dawn, when the night is coldest and darkest.  When the world is at its bleakest point, Christ will burst onto the scene, exposing evil with his light of truth and bringing his promised reward.    

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"To the angel  of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits  of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
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Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
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Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
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Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
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He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 3:1-6

Explanation:

The wealthy city of Sardis was actually in two locations.  The older section of the city was on a mountain, and, when its population outgrew the spot, a newer section was built in the valley below.  The seven spirits of God is another name for the Holy Spirit.  The seven stars are the messengers, or leaders of the churches.  The problem in the Sardis church was not heresy, but spiritual death.  In spite of its reputation for being active.  Sardis was infested with sin.  Its deeds were evil and its clothes soiled.  The Spirit has no words of commendation for this church that looked so good on the outside but was so corrupt on the inside.  The church at Sardis was urged to obey the Christian truth they had heard when they first believed in Christ, to get back to the basics of the faith.  It is important to grow in our knowledge of the Lord, to deepen our understanding through careful study.  But no matter how much we learn, we must never abandon the basic truths about Jesus.  Jesus will always be God's Son, and his sacrifice for our sins is permanent.  No new truth from God will ever contradict these Biblical teachings.  To be dressed in white means to be set apart for God and made pure.  Christ promises future honor and eternal life to those who stand firm in their faith.  The names of all believers are registered in the book of life.  This book symbolizes God's knowledge of who belong to him.  All such people are guaranteed a listing in the book of life and are introduced to the hosts of heaven as belonging to Christ.

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"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
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I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
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I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars--I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
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Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
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I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
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Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Revelation 3:7-13

Explanation:

Philadelphia was founded by the citizens of Pergamum.  The community was built in a frontier area as a gateway to the central plateau of Asia Minor.  Philadelphia's residents kept barbarians out of the region and brought in Greek culture and language.  The city was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17, and aftershocks kept the people so worried that most of them lived outside the city limits.  The key of David represents Christ's authority to open the door of invitation into his future kingdom.  After the door is opened no one can close it--salvation is assured.  Once it is closed, no one can open it--judgment is certain.  Some believe that I will also keep you from the hour of trial means there will be a future time of tribulation from which true believers will be spared.  Others interpret this to mean that the church will go through the time of tribulation and that God will keep them strong in the midst of it/  Still others believe this refers to times of great distress in general, the church's suffering through the ages.  Whatever the case, our emphasis should be on patiently obeying God no matter what we may face.  Christians have differing gifts, abilities, experience, and maturity.  God doesn't expect us all to be and act the same, but he does expect us to hold on to what we have, to persevere in using our resources for him.  The Philadelphians are commended for their effort to obey and encouraged to hold tightly to whatever strength they have.  You may be a new believer and feel that your faith and spiritual strength are little.  Use what you have to live for Christ, and God will commend you.  The new Jerusalem is the future dwelling of the people of God.  We will have a new citizenship in God's future kingdom.  Everything will be new, pure, and secure.

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"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.
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I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
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So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
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You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
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I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
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Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
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Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
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To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Revelation 3:14-22

Explanation:

Some believers falsely assume that numerous material possessions are a sign of God's spiritual blessing.  Laodicea was a  wealthy city, and the church was also wealthy.  But what the Laodiceans could see and buy had become more valuable to them than what is unseen and eternal.  Wealth, luxury, and ease can make people feel confident, satisfied, and complacent.  But no matter how much you possess or how much money you make, you have nothing if you don't have a vital relationship with Christ.  How does your current level of wealth affect your spiritual desire?  Instead of centering your life primarily on comfort and luxury, find your true riches in Christ.  Laodicea was known for its great wealth--but Christ told Laodiceans to buy their gold from him (real spiritual treasure).  Christ told them to purchase white clothes from him (his righteousness).  Christ told them to get their medicine from him (for their eyes so they could see the truth).  God's purpose in discipline is not to punish, but to bring people back to him.  Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts every time we sense we should turn to him.  Jesus wants to have fellowship with us, and he wants us to open up to him.  He is patient and persistent in trying to get through to us--not breaking and entering, but knocking.  He allows us to decide whether or not to open our lives to him.  Do you intentionally keep his life-changing presence and power on the other side of the door?  At the end of each letter to these churches, the believers were urged to listen and take to heart what was written to them.  Although a different message was addressed to each church, all the messages contain warnings and principles for everyone.  Which letter speaks most directly to your church?  Which has the greatest bearing on your own spiritual condition at this time?  How will you respond?

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After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."
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At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.
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And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
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Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
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From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits  of God.
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Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back.

Revelation 4:1-6

Explanation:

Chapters 4 and 5 record glimpses into Christ's glory.  Here we see into the throne room of heaven.  God is on the throne and orchestrating all the events that John will record.  The world is not spinning out of control:  the God of creation will carry out his plans as Christ initiates the final battle with the forces of evil.  John shows us heaven before showing us earth so that we will not be frightened by future events.  The voice John had first heard that sounded like a trumpet blast was the voice of Christ.  Four times in the book of Revelation John says he was in the Spirit.  This expression means that the Holy Spirit was giving him a vision--showing him situations and events he could not have seen with mere human eyesight.  All true prophecy comes from God through the Holy Spirit.  Who are these 24 elders?  Because there were 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament and 12 apostles in the New Testament, the 24 elders in this vision probably represent all the redeemed of God for all time.  They symbolize all those--both Jews and Gentiles--who are now part of God's family.  The 24 elders show us that all the redeemed of the Lord are worshiping him.  In Revelation, lightning and thunder are connected with significant events in heaven.  They remind us of the lightning and thunder at Mount Sinai when God gave the people his laws.  The Old Testament often uses such imagery to reflect God's power and majesty.  The seven spirits of God is another name for the Holy Spirit.  where the seven lamps are equated with the one Spirit.  Glass was very rare in New Testament times, and crystal clear glass was virtually impossible to find.  The sea of glass highlights both the magnificence and holiness of God.  Just as the Holy Spirit is seen symbolically in the seven lighted lamps, so the four living creatures represent the attributes of God.  These creatures were not real animals.

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The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle.
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Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
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Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever,
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the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
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"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

Revelation 4:7-11

Explanation:

Like the cherubim, these creatures guard God's throne, lead others in worship, and proclaim God's holiness.  God's attributes symbolized in the animal-like appearance of these four creatures are majesty and power (the lion), faithfulness (the ox), intelligence (the man), and sovereignty (the eagle).  The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel saw four similar creatures in one of his visions.  The point of this chapter can be summed up in verse 11.  All creatures in heaven and earth will praise and honor God because he is the Creator and Sustainer of everything.

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Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.
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And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?"
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But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.
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I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.
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Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."
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Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits  of God sent out into all the earth.

Revelation 5:1-6

Explanation:

In John's day, books were written on scrolls--pieces of pyrus or vellum up to 30 feet long, and sealed with clay or wax.  The scroll that John sees contains the full account of what God has in store for the world.  The seven seals indicate the importance of its contents.  The seals are located throughout the scroll so that as each one is broken, more of the scroll can be read to reveal another phase of God's plan for the end of the world.  Only Christ is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll.  The Lion, Jesus, proved himself worthy to break the seals and open the scroll by living a perfect life of obedience to God, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and rising from the dead to show his power and authority over evil and death.  Only Christ conquered sin, death, hell, and Satan himself; so only he can be trusted with the world's future.  The Root of David refers to Jesus being from David's family line, thus fulfilling the promise of the Messiah in the Old Testament.  Jesus Christ is pictured as both a Lion and a Lamb.  One of the elders calls John to look at the Lion, but when John looks he sees a Lamb.  Christ the Lamb was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind; therefore, only he can save us from the terrible events revealed by the scroll.  Christ the Lamb won the greatest battle of all.  He defeated all the forces of evil by dying on the cross.  The role of Christ the Lion will be to lead the battle where Satan is finally defeated.  Christ the Lion is victorious because of what Christ the Lamb has already done.  We will participate in his victory not because  of our effort or goodness, but because he has promised eternal life to all who believe in him.  John sees the Lamb looking as if he had been slain; the wounds inflicted on Jesus' body during his trial and crucifixion could still be seen.  Jesus was called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist.  In the Old Testament, lambs were sacrificed to atone for sins; the Lamb of God died as the final sacrifice for all sins.  The horns symbolize strength and power.  Although Christ is a sacrificial lamb, he is in no way weak.  He was killed, but now he lives in God's strength and power.  In Zechariah 4:2-10, the eyes are equated with the seven lamps and the one Spirit.

7
He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.
8
And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
9
And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

Revelation 5:7-10

Explanation:

The song of God's people praises Christ's work.  He (1) was slain, (2) purchased them with his blood, (3) gathered them into a kingdom, (4) made them priests, and (5) appointed them to reign on the earth.  Jesus has already paid the penalty for sin.  He is now gathering us into his kingdom and making us priests.  In the future we will reign with him.  Worship God and praise him for what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do for all those who trust in him.  When we realize the glorious future that awaits us, we will find the strength to face our present difficulties.  The believers' song praises Christ for bringing them into the kingdom and making them priests.  While we are sometimes despised and mocked for our faith, in the future we will reign over all the earth.  Christ's death made all believers priests of God-the channels of blessing between God and mankind.

11
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
12
In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
13
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
14
The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:11-14

Explanation:

Angels are spiritual beings created by God who help carry out his work on earth.  They bring messages, protect God's people, offer encouragement, give guidance, bring punishment, patrol the earth, and fight the forces of evil.  There are both good and evil angels, but because evil angels are allied with Satan, they have considerably less power and authority than good angels.  Eventually, the main role of the good angels will be to offer continuous praise to God.  The scene in chapter 5 shows us that only the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is worthy to open the scroll.  Jesus, not Satan, holds the future.  Jesus Christ is in control, and he alone is worthy to set into motion the events of the last days of history.  

Revelation 6

1
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!"
2
I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!"
4
Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
5
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.
6
Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart  of wheat for a day's wages,  and three quarts of barley for a day's wages,  and do not damage the oil and the wine!"

Revelation 6:1-6

Explanation:

This is the first of three seven part judgments.  The trumpets and the bowls are the other two.  As each seal is opened, Christ the Lamb sets in motion events that will bring about the end of human history.  This scroll is not completely opened until the seventh seal is broken.  The contents of the scroll reveal mankind's depravity and portray God's authority over the events of human history.  Four horses appear as the first seals are opened.  The horses represent God's judgment of people's sin and rebellion.  God is directing human history--even using his enemies to accomplish his purposes.  The four horses are a foretaste of the final judgments yet to come.  Some view this chapter as a parallel to the Olivet Discourse (see Matthew 24).  The imagery of four horses is also found in Zechariah 6:1-8.Each of the four horses is a different color.  Some assume that the white horse represents victory and that its rider must be Christ.  But because the other three horses relate to judgment and destruction, this rider on a white horse would most likely not be Christ.  The four are part of the unfolding judgment of God, and it would be premature for Christ to ride forth as conqueror.  The other horses represent different kinds of judgment; red for warfare and bloodshed; black for famine; pale for death.  The high prices of wheat and barley illustrate famine conditions.  But the worst is yet to come.

7
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!"
8
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.
9
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
10
They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
11
Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

Revelation 6:7-11

Explanation:

It is not clear whether Hades was on a separate horse than Death or merely rode along with Death, but the riders described in verses 2-8 are commonly referred to as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  The four riders are given power over one-fourth of the earth, indicating that God is still limiting his judgment--it is not yet complete.  With these judgments there is still time for unbelievers to turn to Christ and away from their sin.  In this case, the limited punishment not only demonstrates God's wrath on sin, but also his merciful love in giving people yet another opportunity to turn to him before he brings final judgment.  The altar represents the altar of sacrifice in the temple, where animals were sacrificed to atone for sins.  Instead of the animals' blood at the base of the altar, John saw the souls of martyrs who had died for preaching the gospel.  These martyrs were told that still more would lose their lives for their belief in Christ.  In the face of warfare, famine, persecution, and death; Christians will be called on to stand firmly for what they believe.  Only those who endure to the end will be rewarded by God.  The martyrs are eager for God to bring justice to the earth, but they are told to wait.  God is not waiting until a certain number is reached, but he is promising  that those who suffer and die for their faith will not be forgotten.  Rather, they will be singled out by God for special honor.  We may wish for justice immediately, as these martyrs did, but we must be patient.  God works according to his own timetable, and he promises justice.  No suffering for the sake of God's kingdom, however, is wasted.

12
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,
13
and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.
14
The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
16
They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17
For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

Revelation 6:12-17

The sixth seal changes the scene back to the physical world.  The first five judgments were directed toward specific areas, but this judgment is universal.  Everyone will be afraid when the earth itself trembles.  At the sight of God sitting on the throne, all human beings, great and small, will be terrified, calling for the mountains to fall on them so they will not have to face the judgment of the Lamb.  This vivid picture was not intended to frighten believers.  For them, the Lamb is a gentle Savior.  But those generals, emperors, or kings who previously showed no fear of God and arrogantly flaunted their unbelief will find that they were wrong, and in that day they will have to face God's wrath.  No one who has rejected God can survive the day of his wrath, but those who belong to Christ will receive a reward rather than punishment.  Do you belong to Christ?  If so, you need not fear these final days.

1
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
2
Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:
3
"Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God."

Revelation 7:1-3

Explanation:

The sixth seal has been opened, and the people of the earth have tried to hide from God, saying, "Who can stand?"  Just when all hope seems lost, four angels hold back the four winds of judgment until God's people are sealed as his own.  Only then will God open the seventh seal.  A seal on a scroll or document identified and protected its contents.  God places his own seal on his followers, identifying them as his own and guaranteeing his protection over their souls.  This shows how valuable we are to him.  Our physical bodies may be beaten, maimed, or even destroyed, but nothing can harm our souls when we have been sealed by God.  God's seal is placed on the foreheads of his servants.  This seal is the exact opposite of the mark of the beast explained in 13:16.  These two marks place the people in two distinct categories--those owned by God and those owned by Satan.

4
Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
5
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
6
from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
7
from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
8
from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.

Revelation 7:4-8

Explanation:

The number 144,000 is 12 x 12 1,000, symbolizing completeness--all God's followers will be brought safely to him.  not one will be overlooked or forgotten.  God seals these believers either by withdrawing them from the earth (this is called the rapture) or by giving them special strength and courage to make it through this time of great persecution.  Even though many believers have to undergo persecution, the seal does not necessarily guarantee protection from physical harm.  No matter what happens, they will be brought to their reward of eternal life.  Their destiny is secure.  These believers will not fall away from God even though they may undergo intense persecution.  This is not saying that 144,000 individuals must be sealed before the persecution comes, but that when persecution begins, the faithful will have already been sealed (marked by God) and they will remain true to him until the end.  This is a different list from the usual listing of the 12 tribes in the Old Testament, because it is a symbolic list of God's true followers. Judah is mentioned first because Judah is both the tribe of David and of Jesus the Messiah.  Levi had no tribal allotment because the Levites' work for God in the temple, but here the tribe is given a place as a reward for faithfulness.  Dan is not mentioned because it was known for rebellion and idolatry, traits unacceptable for God's followers.  The two tribes representing Joseph (usually called Ephraim and Manasseh, after Joseph's sons) are here called Joseph and Manasseh because of Ephraim's rebellion.  See Genesis 49 for the story of the beginning of these 12 tribes.

9
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
10
And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
11
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
12
saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"

Revelation 7:9-12

Explanation:

Who is this great multitude?  While some interpreters identify it as the martyrs described in 6:9, it may also be the same group as the 144,000 just mentioned (7:4-6).  The 144,000 were sealed by God before the great time of persecution;  the great multitude was brought to eternal life, as God had promised.  Before they were being prepared;  now they are victorious.  This multitude in heaven is composed of all those who remained faithful to God throughout the generations.  No true believer ever need worry about which group he or she will be in.  God includes and protects each of us, and we are guaranteed a place in his presence.  People try many methods to remove the guilt of sin--good deeds, intellectual pursuits, and even casting blame on others.  The multitude in heaven however, praises God, saying that salvation comes from him and from the lamb.  Salvation from sin's penalty can come only through Jesus Christ.  Have you had the guilt of sin removed in the only way possible?  More information about the elders is found in the note on 4:4.  The four living creatures are explained further in the note on 4:6,7.

13
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?"
14
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.
15
Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
16
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
17
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Revelation 7:13-17

Explanation:

The great tribulation has been explained in several ways.  Some believe it refers to the suffering of believers through the ages;  others believe that there is a specific time of intense tribulation yet to come.  In either case, these believers come through their times of suffering by remaining loyal to God.  Because they remain faithful, God will give them eternal life with him.  It is difficult to imagine how blood could make any cloth white, but the blood of Jesus Christ is the world's greatest purifier because it removes the stain of sin.  White symbolizes sinless perfection or holiness, which can be given to people only by the death of the sinless Lamb of God on our behalf.  This is a picture of how we are saved through faith (see Isaiah 1:18; Romans 3:21-26).  God will provide for his children's needs in their eternal home where there will be no more hunger, thirst, or pain, and he will wipe away all tears.  When you are suffering or torn apart by sorrow, take comfort in this promise of complete protection and relief.  In verses 1-8 we see the believers receiving a seal to protect them through a time of great tribulation and suffering;  in verses 9-17 we see the believers finally with God in heaven.  All who have been faithful through the ages are singing before God's throne.  Their tribulations and sorrows are over;  no more tears for sin, for all sins are forgiven;  no more tears for suffering;  for all suffering is over;  no more tears for death;  for all believers have been resurrected to die no more.

1
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
3
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
4
The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.
5
Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
6
Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

Revelation 8:1-6

Explanation:

When the seventh seal is opened, the seven trumpet judgments are revealed.  In the same way, the seventh trumpet will announce the seven bowl judgments in 11:15 and 16:1-21.  The trumpet judgments, like the seal judgments, are only partial.  God's final and complete judgment has not yet come.  A censer filled with live coals was used in temple worship.  Incense was poured on the coals, and the sweet-smelling smoke drifted upwards, symbolizing believers' prayers ascending to God (see Exodus 30:7-9).  The trumpet blasts have three purposes: (1) to warn that  judgment is certain, (2) to call the forces of good and evil to battle, and (3) to announce the return of the King, the Messiah.  These warnings urge us to make sure our faith is firmly fixed on Christ.

7
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood,
9
a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water--
11
the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
12
The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
13
As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

Revelation 8:7-13

Explanation:

Since only one third of the earth is destroyed by these trumpet judgments, this is only a partial judgment from God.  His full wrath is yet to be unleashed.  Wormwood is a plant with a very bitter taste, and it stands for the bitterness of God's judgment.  Habakkuk used the image of a vulture to symbolize swiftness and destruction (see Habakkuk 1:8).  The picture here is of a strong, powerful bird flying over all the earth, warning of the terrors yet to come.  While both believers and unbelievers experience the terrors described in verses 7-12, the inhabitants of the earth are the unbelievers who will meet spiritual harm through the next three trumpet judgments.  God has guaranteed believers protection from spiritual harm. (7:2, 3).  In 6:10' the martyrs call out to God, How long...until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?  As we see the world's wickedness, we too may cry out to God, How long?  In the following chapters, the judgment comes at last.  We may be distressed and impatient, but God has his plan and his timing, and we must learn to trust him to know what is best.  Judgment is coming--be sure of that.  Thank God for the time he has given to you to turn from sin.  Use the available time to work to help others turn to him.    

1
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.
2
When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.
3
And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.
4
They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
5
They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man.
6
During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
7
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces.
8
Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth.
9
They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle.
10
They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.

Revelation 9:1-10

Explanation:

It is not known whether this "star" that fell from heaven is Satan, a fallen angel, Christ, or a good angel.  Most likely it is a good angel, because the key to the shaft of the Abyss (bottomless pit) is normally held by Christ (1:17, 18), and it was temporarily given to this other being from heaven (see also 20:1).  This being, whoever he may be, is still under God's control and authority.  The Abyss represents the place of the demons and of Satan, the king of demons (9:11).  see also Luke 8:31 for another reference to the Abyss.  The prophet Joel described a locust plague as a foreshadowing of the "day of the Lord", meaning God's coming judgment (Joel 2:1-10).  On the Old Testament, locusts were symbols of destruction because they destroyed vegetation.  Here, however, they symbolize an invasion of demons called to torture people who do not believe in God.  The limitations placed on the demons (they could only torment people for 5 months) show that they are under God's authority.  Most likely these locusts are demons--evil spirits ruled by satan who tempt people to sin.  They were not created by Satan, because God is the Creator of all;  rather, they are fallen angels who joined Satan in his rebellion.  God limits what they can do;  they can do nothing without his permission.  Their main purpose on earth is to prevent, distort, or destroy people's relationship with God.  Because they are corrupt and degenerate, their appearance reflects the distortion of their spirits.  While it is important to recognize their evil activity so we can stay away from them, we must avoid and curiosity about or involvement with demonic forces or with the occult.

11
They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. 
12
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
13
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns  of the golden altar that is before God.
14
It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
15
And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.

Revelation 9:11-15

Explanation:

The locust-demons have a leader whose name in Hebrew and in Greek means destroyer.  It may be a play on words by John to show that those who worshiped the great god Apollo worshiped only a demon.  The altar in the temple had four projections, one at each corner, and these were called the horns of the altar (see Exodus 27:2).  The word angels here means fallen angels or demons.  These four unidentified demons will be exceedingly evil and destructive.  But note that they do not have the power to release themselves and do their evil work on earth.  Instead, they are held back by God and will be released at a specific time, doing only what he allows them to do.  Here one-third of all people are killed.  In 6:7, 8, one-fourth of mankind was killed.  Thus, over one-half of the people in the world will have been killed by God's great judgments.  Even more would have been killed if God had not set limits on the destruction.

16
The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.
17
The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur.
18
A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.
19
The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
20
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk.
21
Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Revelation 9:16-21

Explanation:

In John's day, this number of mounted troops in an army was inconceivable, but today there are countries and alliances that could easily amass this many soldiers.  This huge army, led by the four demons, will be sent out to destroy one-third of the earth's population.  But the judgment is still not complete.  Those people were so hardhearted that even plagues did not drive them to God.  People don't usually fall into immorality and evil suddenly--they slip into it a little bit at a time until, hardly realizing what has happened, they are irrevocably mired in their wicked ways.  Any person who allows sin to take root in his or her life can find himself or herself in this predicament.  Temptation entertained today becomes sin tomorrow, then a habit the next day, then death and separation from God forever (see James 1:15).  To think you could never become this evil is the first step toward a hard heart.  Acknowledge your need to confess your sin before God.  

1
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars.
2
He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land,
3
and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.
4
And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, "Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down."
5
Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven.
6
And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay!
 

Revelation 10:1-6

Explanation:

The purpose of this mighty angel is clear--to announce the final judgments on the earth.  His right foot on the sea and left foot on the land (10:2) indicate that his words deal with all creation, not just a limited part as did the seal and trumpet judgments.  The seventh trumpet (11:15) will usher in the seven bowl judgments, which will bring an end to the present world.  When this universal judgment comes, God's truth will prevail.  We see two scrolls in Revelation.  The first contains a revelation of judgments against evil (5:1ff).  The contents of the second little scroll are not indicated, but it may also contain a revelation of judgment.  Throughout history people have wanted to know what would happen in the future, and God reveals some of it in this book.  But John was stopped from revealing certain parts of his vision.  An angel also told the prophet Daniel that some visions he saw were not to be revealed yet to everyone (Daniel 12:9), and Jesus told his disciples that the time of the end is known by no one but God (Mark 13:32,33).  God has revealed all we need to know to live for him now.  In our desire to be ready for the end, we must not place more emphasis on speculation about the last days than on living for God while we wait.

7
But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets."
8
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: "Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land."
9
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."
10
I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.
11
Then I was told, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."

Revelation 10:7-11

Explanation:

When God's plan for human history is completely revealed, all prophecy will be fulfilled.  The end of the age will have arrived (see 1:15 and Ephesians 1:9, 10).  The prophet Ezekiel had a vision in which he was told to eat a scroll filled with judgments against the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 3:1ff).  The taste was sweet in his mouth, but the scroll's contents brought destruction--just like the scroll John was told to eat.  God's word is sweet to us as believers because it brings encouragement, but it sours our stomach because of the coming judgment we must pronounce on unbelievers.

1
I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there.
2
But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.
3
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."
4
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
5
If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.
6
These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

Revelation 11:1-6

Explanation:

This temple is most likely a symbol of the church (all true believers), because there will be no more temple in the new Jerusalem (21:22).  John measured the temple to show that God is building walls of protection around his people to spare them from spiritual harm, and that there is a place reserved for all believers who remain faithful to God.  Those worshiping inside the temple will be protected spiritually, but those outside will face great suffering.  This is a way of saying that true believers will be protected through persecution, but those who refuse to believe will be destroyed.  These two witnesses bear strong resemblance to Moses and Elijah, two of God's mighty prophets.  With God's power, Moses called plagues down upon the nation of Egypt (see Exodus 8-11).  Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).  Both of these men appeared with Christ at his transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-7).  In the book of Revelation, numbers are likely to have symbolic rather than literal meanings.  The 42 months or 1260 days equal 3 1/2 years.  As half of the perfect number 7, 3 1/2 can indicate incompletion, imperfection, or even evil.  Notice the events predicted for this time period: there is trouble (Daniel 12:7);  the holy city is trampled (11:2), the woman takes refuge in the desert (12:6), and the devil-inspired beast exercises his authority (13:5).  Some commentators link the 3 1/2 years with the period of famine in the days of Elijah (Luke 4:25;  James 5:17).  Since Malachi predicted the return of Elijah before the Last Judgment (Malachi 4:5), and since the events in Daniel and Revelation pave the way for the second coming, perhaps John was making this connection.  It is possible of course that the 3 1/2 years are literal.  If so, we will clearly recognize when the 3 1/2 years are over!  Whether symbolic or literal, however, they indicate that evil's reign will have a definite end. 

7
Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.
8
Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
9
For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial.
10
The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
11
But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.
12
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
13
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14
The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

Revelation 11:7-14

Explanation:

The beast could be Satan or an agent of Satan.  Jerusalem, once the great city and the capital of Israel, is now enemy territory.  It is compared with Sodom and with Egypt, both well known for their evil.  At the time of John's writing, Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., nearly a million Jews had been slaughtered, and the temple treasures had been carried off to Rome.  The whole world  rejoices at the deaths of these two witnesses who have caused trouble by saying what the people didn't want to hear--words about their sin, their need for repentence, and the coming punishment.  Sinful people hate those who call attention to their sin and who urge them to repent.  They hated Christ, and they hate his followers (1 John 3:13).  When you obey Christ and take a stand against sin, be prepared to experience the world's hatred.  But remember that the great reward awaiting you in heaven far outweighs any suffering that you face now.

15
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."
16
And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,
17
saying: "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.
18
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 saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth."
19
Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

Revelation 11:15-19

Explanation:

The seventh trumpet is sounded, announcing the arrival of the King.  There is now no turning back.  The coming judgments are no longer partial, but complete in their destruction.  God is in control, and he unleashes his full wrath on the evil world that refuses to turn to him (9:20,21).  When his wrath begins, there will be no escape.  For more on the 24 elders, see the note on 4:4.  In the Bible, God gives rewards to his people according to what they deserve.  Throughout the Old Testament, obedience often brought reward in this life (Deuteronomy 28), but obedience and immediate reward are not always linked.  If they were, good people would always be rich, and suffering would always be a sign of sin.  If we were quickly rewarded for every faithful deed, we would soon think we were pretty good.  Before long, we would be doing many good deeds for purely selfish reasons.  While it is true that God will reward us for our earthly deeds (see 20:12), our greatest reward will be eternal life in his presence.  In Old Testament days, the ark of the covenant was the most sacred treasure of the Israelite nation.  For more information about the ark, see Exodus 37:1.

1
A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
2
She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
3
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.
4
His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.
5
She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.
6
The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Revelation 12:1-6

Explanation:

The seventh trumpet ushers in the bowl judgments, but in the intervening chapters John sees the conflict between God and Satan.  He sees the source of all sin, evil, persecution, and suffering on the earth, and he understands why the great battle between the forces of God and Satan must soon take place.  In these chapters the nature of evil is exposed, and Satan is seen in all his wickedness.  The woman represents God's faithful people who have been waiting for the Messiah; the crown of 12 stars represents the 12 tribes of Israel.  God set apart the Jews for himself and that nation gave birth to the Messiah.  The male child is Jesus, born to a devout Jew named Mary.  Evil King Herod's desire to kill this newborn king, whom he saw as a threat to his throne, was motivated by Satan, who wanted to kill the world's Savior.  The heavenly pageant of Revelation 12 shows that Christ's quiet birth in the town of Bethlehem had cosmic significance.  The enormous red dragon, Satan, has seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns, representing his power and the kingdoms of the world over which he rules.  The stars that plunged to earth with him are usually considered to be the angels who fell with Satan and became his demons.  According to Hebrew tradition, one-third of all the angels in heaven fell with Satan.  For more on demons, see the notes on 9:3ff and Mark 5:1-20.  The desert represents a place of spiritual refuge and protection from Satan.  Because God aided the woman's escape into the desert, we can be sure that he offers security to all true believers.  Satan always attacks God's people, but God keeps them spiritually secure.  Some will experience physical harm, but all will be protected from spiritual harm.  God will not let Satan take the souls of God's true followers.  The 1'260 days (3 1/2 years) is the same length of time that the dragon is allowed to exercise his authority (13:5) and that the holy city is trampled (see the second note on 11:3). 

7
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
8
But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.
9
The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
10
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
11
They overcame 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 12:7-11

Explanation:

This event fulfills Daniel 12:1.  Michael is a high-ranking angel.  One of his responsibilities is to guard God's community of believers.  Much more happened at Christ's birth, death, and resurrection than most people realize.  A war between the forces of good and evil was under way.  With Christ's resurrection, Satan's ultimate defeat was assured.  Some believe that Satan's fall to earth took place at Jesus' resurrection or ascension and that the 1,260 days is a symbolic way of referring to the time between Christ's first and second comings.  Others say that Satan's defeat will occur in the middle of a literal seven-year tribulation period, following the rapture of the church and preceding the second coming of Christ and the beginning of Christ's 1,000-year reign.  Whatever the case, we must remember that Christ is victorious--Satan has already been defeated because of Christ's death on the cross.  The devil is not a symbol or legend; he is very real.  Originally Satan was an angel of God, but through his own pride, he became corrupt.  The devil is God's enemy, and he constantly tries to hinder God's work, but he is limited by God's power and can do only what he is permitted to do (Job 1:6-2:8). The name Satan means accuser.  He actively looks for people to attack.  Satan likes to pursue believers who are vulnerable in their faith, who are spiritually weak, or who are isolated from other believers.  Even though God permits the devil to do his work in this world, God is still in control.  And Jesus has complete power over Satan--he defeated Satan when he died and rose again for the sins of mankind.  One day Satan will be bound forever, never again to do his evil work.  Many believe that until this time, Satan still had access to God.  But here his access is forever barred.  He can no longer accuse people before God.  The critical blow to Satan came when the Lamb, Jesus Christ, shed his blood for our sins.  The victory is won by sacrifices we make because of our faith in him.  As we face the battle with Satan, we should not fear it or try to escape from it, but we should loyally serve Christ, who alone brings victory.

12
Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."
13
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
14
The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach.
15
Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.
16
But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
17
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring--those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 12:12-17

Explanation:

The devil begins to step up his persecution because he knows that his time is short.  We are living in the last days, and Satan's work has become more intense.  Even though the devil is very powerful, as we can see by the condition of our world, he is always under God's control.  One of the reasons God allows Satan to work evil and bring temptation is so that those who pretend to be Christ's followers will be weeded out from Christ's true believers.  knowing that the last great confrontation with Jesus Christ is near, Satan is desperately trying to recruit as great an enemy force as possible for his final battle.  While the woman represents faithful Jews and the child represents Christ, the rest of her offspring could be either Jewish believers or, most likely, all believers.  The apostle Paul tells us that we are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-12).  John says that the war is still being waged, but the outcome has already been determined.  Satan and his followers have been defeated and will be destroyed.  Nevertheless, Satan is battling daily to bring more into his ranks and to keep his own from defecting to God's side.  Those who belong to Christ have gone into battle on God's side, and he has guaranteed them victory.  God will not lose the war, but we must make certain not to lose the battle for our own souls.  Don't waver in your commitment to Christ.  a great spiritual battle is being fought, and there is no time for indecision.

1
And the dragon  stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
2
The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
3
One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.
4
Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?"

Revelation 13:1-4

Explanation:

This beast was initially identified with Rome, because the Roman empire, in its early days, encouraged an evil life-style, persecuted believers, and opposed God and his followers.  But the beast also symbolizes the antichrist--not Satan, but someone under Satan's power and control.  This antichrist looks like a combination of the four beasts that Daniel saw centuries earlier in a vision (Daniel 7). As the dragon is in opposition to God, so the beast from the sea is against Christ and may be seen as Satan's false messiah.  The early Roman empire was strong and also anti-Christ (or against Christ's standards); many other individual powers throughout history have been anti-Christ.  Many Christians believe that Satan's evil will culminate in a final antichrist, one who will focus all the powers of evil against Jesus Christ and his followers.  Chapter 13 introduces Satan's two evil accomplices: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth.  together, the three evil beings from an unholy trinity in direct opposition to the holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, he wanted Jesus to show his power by turning stones into bread, to do miracles by jumping from a high place, and to gain political power by worshiping him.  Satan's plan was to rule the world through Jesus, but Jesus refused to do Satan's bidding.  Thus Satan turns to the fearsome beasts described in Revelation.  To the beast out of the sea he gives political power.  To the beast out of the earth he gives power to do miracles.  Both beasts work together to capture the control of the whole world.  This unholy trinity--the dragon, the best out of the sea, and the false prophet unite in a desperate attempt to overthrow God, but their efforts are doomed to failure.  See what becomes of them in 19:19-21 and 20:10.  Because the beast, the antichrist, is a false messiah, he will be a counterfeit of Christ and will even stage a false resurrection.  People will follow and worship him because they will be awed by his power and miracles.  He will unite the world under his leadership, and he will control the world economy.  People are impressed by power and will follow those who display it forcefully or offer it to their followers.  But those who follow the beast will only be fooling themselves: he will use his power to manipulate others, to point to himself, and to promote evil plans.  God, by contrast, uses his infinitely greater power to love and to build up.  Don't be misled by claims of great miracles or reports about a resurrection or reincarnation of someone claiming to be Christ.  When Jesus returns, he will reveal himself to everyone.

5
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.
6
He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
7
He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
8
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. 
9
He who has an ear, let him hear.
10
If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed  with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Revelation 13:5-10

Explanation:

The power given to the beast will be limited by God.  He will allow the beast to exercise authority only for a short time.  Even while the beast is in power, God will still be in control.  The beast will conquer God's people and rule over them, but he will not be able to harm them spiritually.  He will establish worldwide dominance and demand that everyone worship him.  And many will worship him--everyone except true believers.  Refusal to worship the beast will result in temporary suffering for God's people, but they will be rewarded with eternal life in the end.  See the note on 3:5 for more information on the book of life.  In this time of persecution, being faithful to Christ could bring imprisonment and even execution.  Some believers will be hurt of killed.  But all that the beast and his followers will be able to do to believers is harm them physically; no spiritual harm will come to those whose faith in God is sincere.  All believers will enter God's presence perfected and purified by the blood of the Lamb.  The times of great persecution that John saw will provide an opportunity for believers to exercise patient endurance and faithfulness.  The tough times we face right now are also opportunities for spiritual growth.  Don't fall into Satan's trap and turn away from God when hard times come.  Instead, use those tough times as opportunities for growth.

11
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.
12
He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
13
And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.
14
Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

Revelation 13:11-14

Explanation:

Throughout the Bible we see miracles performed as proofs of God's power, love, and authority.  But here we see counterfeit miracles performed to deceive.  This is a reminder of Pharaoh's magicians, who duplicated Moses' signs in Egypt.  True signs and miracles point us to Jesus Christ, but miracles alone can be deceptive.  That is why we must ask with respect to each miracle we see: is this consistent with what God says in the Bible?  The second beast here gains influence through the signs and wonders that he can perform on behalf of the first beast.  The second beast orders the people to worship an image in honor of the first beast--a direct flouting of the second commandment.  Allowing the Bible to guide our faith and practice will keep us from being deceived by false signs, however convincing they appear to be.  Any teaching that contradicts God's Word is false.  

15
He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
16
He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,
17
so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

Revelation 13:15-18

Explanation:

In every generation, Christians need to maintain a healthy skepticism about society's pleasures and rewards.  In our educational, economic, and civic structures, there are incentives and rewards.  Cooperating Christians must always support what is good and healthy about our society, but we must stand against sin.  In some cases, such as Satan's system described here, the system or structure becomes so evil that there is no way to cooperate with it.  This mark of the beast is designed to mock the seal that God places on his followers.  Just as God marks his people to save them, so Satan's beast marks his people to save them from the persecution that Satan will inflict upon God's followers.  Identifying this particular mark is not as important as identifying the purpose of the mark.  Those who accept it show their allegiance to Satan, their willingness to operate within the economic system he promotes, and their rebellion against God.  To refuse the mark means to commit oneself entirely to God, preferring death to compromising faith in Christ.  The meaning of this number has been discussed more than that of any other part of the book of Revelation.  The three sixes have been said to represent many things, including the number of man or the unholy trinity of Satan, the first beast, and the false prophet.  If the number seven is considered to be the perfect number in the Bible, and three sevens represent complete perfection, then the number 666 falls completely short of perfection.  The first readers of this book probably applied the number to the Emperor Nero, who symbolized all the evils of the Roman empire. (The Greek letters of Nero's name represent numbers that total 666).  Whatever specific application the number is given, the number symbolizes the worldwide dominion and complete evil of this unholy trinity designed to undo Christ's work and overthrow him.

 

1
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.
2
And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.
3
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
4
These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.
5
No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

Revelation 14:1-5

Explanation:

Chapter 13 described the onslaught of evil that will occur when Satan and his helpers control the world.  Chapter 14 gives a  glimpse into eternity to show believers what awaits them if they endure.  The Lamb is the Messiah.  Mount Zion, often another name for Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is contrasted with the worldly empire.  The 144,000 represent believers who have endured persecutions on earth and now are ready to enjoy the eternal benefits and blessings of life with God forever. The three angels contrast the destiny of believers with that of unbelievers.  These people are true believers whose robes have been washed and made white in Christ's blood through his death.  In the Old Testament, idolatry was often portrayed as spiritual adultery (see the book of Hosea). Their purity is best understood symbolically, meaning that they are free from involvement with the pagan world system.  These believers are spiritually pure, they have remained faithful to Christ, they have followed him exclusively, and they have received God's reward for staying committed to him.  "Firstfruits"  refers to the act of dedicating the first part of the harvest as holy to God (Exodus 23:19; see also James 1:18).

6
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people.
7
He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
8
A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."

Revelation 14:6-8

Explanation:

some believe that this is a final, worldwide appeal to all people to recognize the one true God.  No one will have the excuse of never hearing God's truth.  Others, however, see this as an announcement of judgment rather than as an appeal.  The people of the world have had their chance to proclaim their allegiance to God, and now God's great judgment is about to begin.  If you are reading this, you have already heard God's truth.  You know that God's final judgment will not be put off forever.  Have you joyfully received the everlasting Good News?  Have you confessed your sins and trusted in Christ to save you?  If so, you have nothing to fear from God's judgment.  The Judge of all the earth is your Savior!  Babylon was the name of both an evil city and an immoral empire, a world center for idol worship.  Babylon ransacked Jerusalem and carried the people of Judah onto captivity (see 2 Kings 24 and 2 Chronicles 36).  Just as Babylon was the Jews'  worst enemy, the Roman empire was the worst enemy of the early Christians.  John, who probably did not dare speak against Rome openly, applied the name Babylon to this enemy of God's people (Rome) -- and, by extension, to all God's enemies of all times.

9
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand,
10
he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
11
And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
12
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

Revelation 14:9-12

Explanation:

Those who worship the beast, accept his mark on their foreheads, and operate according to his world economic system will ultimately face God's judgment.  Our world values money, power, and pleasure over God's leadership.  To get what the world values, many people disown God and violate Christian principles.  Thus they must drink of the wine of God's wrath (see Psalm 75; Isaiah 51:17).  The ultimate result of sin is unending separation from God.  Because human beings are created in God's image with an inborn thirst for fellowship with him, separation from God will be the ultimate torment and misery.  Sin always brings misery, but in this life we can choose to repent and restore our relationship with God. In life we choose to be independent of God, in the next life we will be separated from him forever.  Nobody is forced to choose eternal separation from God, and nobody suffers this fate by accident.  Jesus invites all of us to open our hearts to him (3:20).  If we do this, we will enjoy everlasting fellowship with him.  This news about God's ultimate triumph should encourage God's people to remain faithful through every trial and persecution.  They can do this, God promises, by trusting in Jesus and obeying the commands found in his Word.  The secret to enduring, therefore, is trust and obedience.  Trust God to give you patience to endure even the small trials you face daily; obey him even when obedience is unattractive or dangerous. 

13
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."
14
I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man"  with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
15
Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe."
16
So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
17
Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.
18
Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe."
19
The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath.
20
They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses' bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. 

Revelation 14:13-20

Explanation:

While it is true that money, fame, and belongings can't be taken with us from this life, God's people can produce fruit that survives even death.  God will remember our love, kindness, and faithfulness, and those who accept Christ through our witness will join us in the new earth.  Be sure that your values are in line with God's values, and decide today to produce fruit that lasts forever.  This is an image of judgment:  Christ is separating the faithful from the unfaithful like a farmer harvesting his crops.  This is a time of joy for the Christians who have been persecuted and martyred--they will receive their long-awaited reward.  Christians should not fear the Last Judgment.  Jesus said "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24).  A winepress was a large vat or trough where grapes were collected and then smashed.  The juice flowed out of a duct that led into a large holding vat.  The winepress is often used in the Bible as a symbol of God's wrath and judgment against sin (Isaiah 63:3-6; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:12,13).  The distance of 1,600 stadia equals about 180 miles, approximately the north-south length of Palestine.

1
I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues--last, because with them God's wrath is completed.
2
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God
3
and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.
4
Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed."

Revelation 15:1-4

Explanation:

The seven last plagues are also called the seven bowl judgments.  They actually begin in chapter 16.  Unlike the previous plagues, these are universal, and they will culminate in the abolition of all evil (with them God's wrath is complete) and the end of the world.  This is similar to the sea of glass described in 4:6, located before the throne of God.  Here it is mixed with fire to represent wrath and judgment.  Those who stand beside it are victorious over Satan and his evil beast.  The song of Moses celebrated Israel's deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 15).  The song of the Lamb celebrates the ultimate deliverance of God's people from the power of Satan.

5
After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened.
6
Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests.
7
Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever.
8
And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

Revelation 15:5-8

Explanation:

The tabernacle of Testimony is a Greek translation for the Hebrew "Tent of Meeting" (see Exodus 40:34, 35).  The imagery brings us back to the time of the exodus in the desert when the ark of the covenant (the symbol of God's presence among his people)  resided in the tabernacle.  The angels coming out of the temple are clothed in clean, shining linen with golden sashes around their chests.  Their garments, reminiscent of the high priest's clothing, show that they are free from corruption, immorality, and injustice.  The smoke that fills the temple is the manifestation of God's glory and power.  There is no escape from this judgment.  Our eternal reign with Christ won't begin until all evil is destroyed by his judgment.  The faithful must wait for his timetable to be revealed.

1
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go, pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth."
2
The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.
3
The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.
4
The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
5
Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: "You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged;
6
for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve."
7
And I heard the altar respond: "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments."
8
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire.

 

Revelation 16:1-8

Explanation:

The bowl judgments are God's final and complete judgments on the earth.  The end has come.  There are many similarities between the bowl judgments and the trumpet judgments (8:6--11:19), but there are three main differences: (1) these judgments are complete whereas the trumpet judgments are partial;  (2) the trumpet judgments still give unbelievers the opportunity to repent, but the bowl judgments do not;  and (3) mankind is indirectly affected by several of the trumpet judgments but directly attacked by all the bowl judgments.  The significance of the altar itself responding is that everyone and everything will be praising God, acknowledging his righteousness and perfect justice.

9
They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
10
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony
11
and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.
12
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.
13
Then I saw three evil  spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14
They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
15
"Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."

Revelation 16:9-15

Explanation:

We know that the people realize that these judgments come from God because they curse him for sending them.  But they still refuse to recognize God's authority and repent of their sins.  Christians should not be surprised at the hostility and hardness of heart of unbelievers.  Even when the power of God is fully and completely revealed, many will still refuse to repent.  If you find yourself ignoring God more and more, turn back to him now before your heart becomes too hard to repent (see the note on 9:20,21 for more on hard hearts).  The Euphrates River was a natural protective boundary against the empires to the east ( Babylon, Assyria, Persia).  If it dried up, nothing could hold back invading armies. The armies from the east symbolize unhindered judgment.  These spirits of demons performing miraculous signs who come out of the mouths of the unholy trinity unite the rulers of the world for battle against God.  The imagery of the demons coming out of the mouths of the three evil rulers signifies the verbal enticements and propaganda that will draw many people to their evil cause.  For more about demons, see the note on 9:3.  Christ will return unexpectedly ( 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6), so we must be ready when he returns.  We can prepare ourselves by standing firm in temptation and by being committed to God's moral standards.  In what ways does your life show either your readiness or your lack of preparation for Christ's return?

16
Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
17
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!"
18
Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.
19
The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
20
Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found.
21
From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

Revelation 16:16-21

Explanation:

This battlefield called Armageddon is near the city of Megiddo (southeast of the modern port of Haifa), which guarded a large plain in northern Israel.  It is a strategic location near a prominent international highway leading north from Egypt through Israel, along the coast, and on to Babylon.  Megiddo overlooked the entire plain southward toward Galilee and westward toward the mountains of Gilboa.  Sinful people will unite to fight against God in a final display of rebellion.  Many are already united against Christ and his people--those who stand for truth, peace, justice, and morality.  Your personal battle with evil foreshadows the great battle pictured here, where God will meet evil and destroy it once and for all.  Be strong and courageous as you battle against sin and evil: you are fighting on the winning side.  For more information on Babylon and what it represents in Revelation, see the note on 14:8.  The city's division into three sections is a symbol of its complete destruction.

1
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.
2
With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."
3
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
4
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.
5
This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
6
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.

Revelation 17:1-6

Explanation:

The destruction of Babylon mentioned in 16:17-21 is now described in greater detail.  The  "great prostitute", called Babylon, represents the early Roman empire with its many gods and the blood of Christian martyrs on its hands.  The water stands for either sea commerce or a well-watered (well provisioned) city.  The great prostitute represents the seductiveness of the governmental system that uses immoral means to gain its own pleasure, prosperity, and advantage.  In contrast to the prostitute, Christ's bride, the church, is pure and obedient (19:6-9).  The wicked city of Babylon contrasts with the heavenly city of Jerusalem (21:10-22:5).  The original readers probably rather quickly identified Babylon with Rome, but Babylon also symbolizes any system that is hostile to God (see 17:5).  The scarlet beast is either the dragon of 12:3, or the beast from the sea described in 13:1.  Throughout history, people have been killed for their faith.  Over the last century, millions have been killed by oppressive governments, and many of those victims were believers.  The woman's drunkenness shows her pleasure in her evil accomplishments and her false feeling of triumph over the church.  But every martyr who has fallen before her sword has only served to strengthen the faith of the church.

7
Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.
8
The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.
9
"This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.
10
They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.
11
The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

Revelation 17:7-11

Explanation:

In chapter 12 we met the dragon (Satan).  In chapter 13 we saw the beast from the sea and the power he received from Satan.  In chapters 14-16 we see God's great judgments.  In this chapter, a scarlet beast similar to the beast and the dragon appears as an ally of the great prostitute.  The phrase, "was now is not, and will come" means that the beast was alive, died, and then came back to life.  The beast's resurrection symbolizes the persistence of evil.  This resurgence of evil power will convince many to join forces with the beast, but those who choose the side of evil condemn themselves to the devil's fate--eternal torment.   For more on the book of life, see the note on 3:5.  Here John is referring to Rome, the city famous for its seven hills.  Many say that this city also symbolizes all evil in the world--any person, religion, group, government, or structure that opposed Christ.  Whatever view is taken of the seven hills and seven kings, this section indicates the climax of Satan's struggle against God.  Evil's power is limited, and its destruction is on the horizon.  

12
"The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.
13
They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.
14
They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings--and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."
15
Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.
16
The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
17
For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled.
18
The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth."

Revelation 17:12-18

Explanation:

The ten horns represent kings of nations yet to arise.  Rome will be followed by other powers.  Rome is a good example of how the antichrist's system will work, demanding complete allegiance, and ruling by raw power, oppression, and slavery.  Whoever the ten kings are, they will give their power to the antichrist and will make war against the Lamb.  In a dramatic turn of events, the prostitute's allies turn on her and destroy her.  This is how evil operates.  Destructive by its very nature, it discards its own adherents when they cease to serve its purposes.  An unholy alliance is an uneasy alliance because each partner puts its own interests first.  No matter what happens, we must trust that God is still in charge, that God overrules all the plans and intrigues of the evil one, and that God's plans will happen just as he says.  God even uses people opposed to him as tools to execute his will.  Although he allows evil to permeate this present world, the new earth will never know him.

1
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.
2
With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil  spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.
3
For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries."
4
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
5
for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.
6
Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup.
7
Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, `I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.'
8
Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

Revelation 18:1-8

Explanation:

This chapter shows the complete destruction of Babylon,  John's metaphorical name for the evil world power and all it represents.  Everything that tries to block God's purposes will come to a violent end.  For more information on how the book of Revelation uses the name Babylon, see the note on 14:8.  Merchants in the Roman empire grew rich by exploiting the sinful pleasures of their society.  Many business people today do the same thing.  Businesses and governments are often based on greed, money, and power.  Many bright individuals are tempted to take advantage of an evil system to enrich themselves.  Christians are warned to stay free from the lure of money, status, and the good life.  We are to live according to the values Christ exemplified: service, self-sacrifice, obedience, and truth.  The people of Babylon had lived in luxury and pleasure.  The city boasted, "I sit as queen...and I will never mourn."  The powerful, wealthy people of this world are susceptible to this same attitude.  A person who is financially comfortable often feels invulnerable, secure, and in control, feeling no need for God or anyone else.  This kind of attitude defies God, and his judgment against it is harsh.  We are told to avoid Babylon's sins.  If you are financially secure, don't become complacent and deluded by the myth of self-sufficiency.  Use your resources to help others and advance God's kingdom.

9
"When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
10
Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: "`Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'

Revelation 18:9-10

Explanation:

Those who are tied to the world's system will lose everything when it collapses.  What they have worked for a lifetime to build up will be destroyed in one hour.  Those who work only for material rewards will have nothing when they die or when their possessions are destroyed.  What can we take with us to the new earth?  Our faith, our Christian character, and our relationships with other believers.  These are more important than any amount of money, power, or pleasure.

11
"The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more--
12
cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;
13
cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.
14
"They will say, `The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.'
15
The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn
16
and cry out: "`Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
17
In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!' "Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
18
When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, `Was there ever a city like this great city?'
19
They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: "`Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!
20
Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'"
21
Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: "With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
22
The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.
23
The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world's great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
24
In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth."

Revelation 18:11-24

Explanation:

Those who are in control of various parts of the economic system will mourn at Babylon's fall.  The political leaders will mourn because they were the overseers of Babylon's wealth and were in a position to enrich themselves greatly.  The merchants will mourn because Babylon, the greatest customer for their goods, will be gone.  The sea captains will no longer have anywhere to bring their goods because the merchants will have nowhere to sell them.  The fall of the evil world system affects all who enjoyed and depended on it.  No one will remain unaffected by Babylon's fall.  This list of various merchandise illustrates the extreme materialism of this society.  Few of these goods are necessities--most are luxuries.  The society had become so self-indulgent that people were willing to use evil means to gratify their desires.  Even people had become commodities--the "bodies and souls of men"  were sold as slaves to Babylon.  God's people should not live for money, because money will be worthless in eternity.  And they should keep on guard constantly against greed; a sin that is always ready to take over their lives.

1
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2
for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."
3
And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
4
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!"
5
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"
6
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
8
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
 

Revelation 19:1-8

Explanation:

The identity of this great prostitute is explained in the note on 17:1.  A great multitude in heaven initiates the chorus of praise to God for his victory.  Then the 24 elders join the chorus.  Finally, the great choir of heaven once again praises God--the wedding of the Lamb has come.  See Matthew 25:1-13 where Christ compares the coming of his kingdom to a wedding for which we must be prepared. This is the culmination of human history--the judgment of the wicked and the wedding of the Lamb and his bride, the church.  The church consists of all faithful believers from all time.  The bride's clothing stands in sharp contrast to the gaudy clothing of the great prostitute.  The bride's clothing is the righteousness of the saints.  These righteous acts are not religious deeds done by believers to their merit, but they reflect the work of Christ to save us.

9
Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
10
At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
11
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.
12
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
13
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
14
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
15
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter."  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
16
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Revelation 19:9-16

Explanation:

The angel did not accept John's homage and worship because only God is worthy of worship.  Like John, it would be easy for us to become overwhelmed by this prophetic pageant.  But Jesus is the central focus of God's revelation and his redemptive plan (as announced by the prophets).  As you read the book of Revelation, don't get bogged down in all the details of the awesome visions; remember that the overarching theme in all the visions is the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over evil.  The name "Faithful and True" contrasts with the faithless and deceitful Babylon described in chapter 18.   John's vision shifts again.  Heaven opens and Jesus appears, this time not as a Lamb, but as a warrior on a white horse (symbolizing victory).  Jesus came first as a Lamb to be a sacrifice for sin, but he will return as a Conqueror and King to execute judgment (Thessalonians 1:7-10).  Jesus' first coming brought forgiveness; his second coming will bring judgment.  The battle lines have been drawn between God and evil, and the world is waiting for the King to ride onto the field.  Although Jesus is called "Faithful and True", "Word of God", and "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" this verse implies that no name can do him justice.  He is greater than any description or expression the human mind can devise.  For more about the symbolism of Jesus' clothes being dipped in blood, see the note from 7:14.  This title indicates our God's sovereignty.  Most of the world is worshiping the beast, the antichrist, whom they believe has all power and authority.  Then suddenly out of heaven rides Christ and his army of angels--the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords".  His entrance signals the end of the false powers.

17
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God,
18
so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great."
19
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army.
20
But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
21
The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Revelation 19:17-21

Explanation:

This great supper of God is a grim contrast to the wedding supper of the Lamb.  One is a celebration; the other is a devastation.  The beast is identified in the note on 13:1.  The battle lines have been drawn, and the greatest confrontation in the history of the world is about to begin.  The beast and the false prophet have gathered the governments and armies of the earth under the antichrist's rule.  The enemy armies believe they have come of their own volition; in reality, God has summoned them to battle in order to defeat them.  That they would even presume to fight against God shows how their pride and rebellion have perverted their thinking.  There really is no fight, however, because the victory was won when Jesus died on the cross for sin and rose from the dead. Thus the evil leaders are immediately captured and sent to their punishment, and the forces of evil are annihilated.  The fiery lake of burning sulfur is the final destination of the wicked.  This lake is different from the Abyss referred to in 9:1.  The antichrist and the false prophet are thrown into the fiery lake.  Then their leader, Satan himself, will be thrown into that lake, and finally death and Hades.  Afterward, everyone whose name is not recorded in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire.

1
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
2
He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
3
He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
4
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Revelation 20:1-4

Explanation:

The angel and the Abyss are explained in the notes on 9:1 and 19:20.  The dragon (Satan) is not bound as punishment, but so that he cannot deceive the nations. The 1,000 years are often referred to as the Millennium (Latin for 1,000). Just how and when this 1,000 years takes place is understood differently among Christian scholars.  The three major positions on this issue are called postmillennialism, premillennialism, and amillennialism.

(1) Postmillennialism looks for a literal 1,000 year period of peace on earth ushered in by the church.  At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be unleashed once more, but then Christ will return to defeat him and reign forever. Christ's second coming will not occur until after the 1,000 year period.

(2) Premillennialism also views the 1,000 years as a literal time period, but holds that Christ's second coming initiates his 1,000 year reign and that this reign occurs before the final removal of Satan.

(3) Amillennialism understands the 1,000 year period to be symbolic of the time between Christ's ascension and his return.  This Millennium is the reign of Christ in the hearts of believers and in his church; thus it is another way of referring to the church age.  This period will end with the second coming of Christ.

These different views about the Millennium need not cause division and controversy in the church, because each view acknowledges what is most crucial to Christianity--Christ will return, defeat Satan, and reign forever!  Whatever and whenever the Millennium is, Jesus Christ will unite all believers; therefore we should not let this issue divide us.  John doesn't say why God once again sets Satan free, but it is part of God's plan for judging the world.  Perhaps it is to expose those who rebel against God in their hearts and confirm those who are truly faithful to God.  Whatever the reason, Satan's release results in the final destruction of all evil.   The beast's mark is explained in the note on 13:16-18

5
(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
6
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
7
When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison
8
and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth--Gog and Magog--to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.
9
They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

Revelation 20:5-9

Explanation:

Christians hold two basic views concerning the first resurrection.  (1) Some believe that the first resurrection is spiritual (in our hearts at salvation), and that the Millennium is our spiritual reign with Christ between his first and second comings.  During this time, we are priests of God because Christ reigns in our hearts.  In this view, the second resurrection is the bodily resurrection of all people for judgment.  (2) Others believe that the first resurrection occurs after Satan has been set aside.  It is a physical resurrection of believers who then reign with Christ on the earth for a literal 1,000 years.  The second resurrection occurs at the end of this Millennium in order to judge unbelievers who have died.  The second death is spiritual death--everlasting separation from God.  Gog and Magog symbolize all the forces of evil that band together to battle God.  Noah's son, Japheth, had a son named Magog (Genesis 10:2).  Ezekiel presents Gog as a leader of forces against Israel (Ezekiel 38;39).  This is not a typical battle where the outcome is in doubt during the heat of the conflict.  Here there is no contest.  Two mighty forces of evil--those of the beast (19:19) and of Satan (20:8)--unite to do battle against God.  The Bible uses just two verses to describe each battle--the evil beast and his forces are captured and thrown into the fiery lake, and fire from heaven devours Satan and his attacking armies.  For God, it is as easy as that.  There will be no doubt, no worry, no second thoughts for believers about whether they have chosen the right side.  If you are with God, you will experience this tremendous victory with Christ.

10
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
11
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
12
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
13
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
14
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
15
If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:10-15

Explanation:

Satan's power is not eternal--he will meet his doom.  He began his evil work in mankind at the beginning (Genesis 3:1-6) and continues it today, but he will be destroyed when he is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur.  The devil will be released from the Abyss, but he will never be released from the fiery lake.  He will never be a threat to anyone again.  At the judgment, the books are opened.  They represent God's judgment, and in them are recorded the deeds of everyone, good or evil.  We are not saved by deeds, but deeds are seen as clear evidence of a person's actual relationship with God.  The book of life contains the names of those who have put their trust in Christ to save them.  Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire.  God's judgment is finished.  The lake of fire is the ultimate destination of everything wicked--Satan, the beast, the false prophet. the demons, death, Hades, and all those whose names are not recorded in the book of life because they did not place their faith in Jesus Christ.  John's vision does not permit any gray areas in God's judgment.  If by faith we have not identified with Christ, confessing him as Lord, there will be no hope, no second chance, no other appeal.

1
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.
2
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
4
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Revelation 21:1-4

Explanation:

The earth as we know it will not last forever, but after God's great judgment, he will create a new earth (see Romans 8:18-21;2 Peter 3:7-13).  God had also promised Isaiah that he would create a new eternal earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22).  The sea in John's time was viewed as dangerous and changeable.  It was also the source of the beast (13:1).  We don't know how the new earth will look or where it will be, but God and his followers--those whose names are written in the book of life--will be united to live there forever.  Will you be there?  The new Jerusalem is where God lives among his people.  Instead of our going up to meet him, he comes down to be with us, just as God became man in Jesus Christ and lived among us (John 1:14).  Wherever God reigns, there is peace, security, and love.  Have you ever wondered what eternity will be like?  The "Holy City, the new Jerusalem" is described as the place where God will "wipe every tear from their eyes."  Forevermore, there will be no death, pain, sorrow, or crying.  What a wonderful truth!  No matter what you are going through, it is not the last word--God has written the final chapter, and it is about true fulfillment and eternal joy for those who love him.  We do not know as much as we would like, but it is enough to know that eternity with God will be more wonderful than we could ever imagine.

5
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
7
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
8
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
9
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

Revelation 21:5-9

Explanation:

God is the Creator.  The Bible begins with the majestic story of his creation of the universe, and it concludes with his creation of a new heaven and a new earth. This is a tremendous hope and encouragement for the believer.  When we are with God, with our sins forgiven and our future secure, we will be like Christ.  We will be made perfect like him.  Just as God finished the work of creation (Genesis 2:1-3) and Jesus finished the work of redemption (John 19:30), so the Trinity will finish the entire plan of salvation by inviting the redeemed into a new creation.  For more about the water of life, see the note on 22:1.  The "cowardly" are not those who are fainthearted in their faith or who sometimes doubt or question, but those who turn back from following God.  They are not brave enough to stand up for Christ;  they are not humble enough to accept his authority over their lives.  They are put in the same list as the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the liars, the idolaters, the sexually immoral, and those practicing magic arts.  People who overcome stand firm to the end (Mark 13:13).  They will receive the blessings that God promised: (1) eating from the tree of life (2:7), (2) escaping from the lake of fire (the second death, 2:11), (3) receiving a special name (2:17), (4) having authority over the nations (2:26), (5) being included in the book of life (3:5),  (6) being a pillar in God's spiritual temple (3:12), and (7) sitting with Christ on his throne (3:21).  Those who can endure the testing of evil and remain faithful will be rewarded by God.  The lake is explained in the notes on 19:20 and 20:14.  The second death is spiritual death, meaning either eternal torment or destruction.  In either case, it is permanent separation from God. 

10
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
11
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
12
It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.
13
There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.
14
The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15
The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.
16
The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia  in length, and as wide and high as it is long.
17
He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits  thick,  by man's measurement, which the angel was using.

Revelation 21:10-17

Explanation:

The rest of the chapter is a stunning description of the new city of God.  The vision is symbolic and shows us that our new home with God will defy description.  We will not be disappointed by it in any way.  The new Jerusalem is a picture of God's future home for his people.  The 12 tribes of Israel (21:12) probably represent all the faithful in the Old Testament;  the twelve apostles (21:14) represent the church.  Thus, both believing Gentiles and Jews who have been faithful to God will live together in the new earth.  The city's measurements are symbolic of a palace that will hold all God's people.  These measurements are all multiples of 12, the number for God's people;  there were 12 tribes in Israel, and 12 apostles who started the church.  The walls are 144(12x12) cubits (200 feet) thick; there are 12 layers in the walls, and 12 gates in the city;  and the height, length, and breadth are all the same, 12,000 stadia (1,400 miles).  The new Jerusalem is a perfect cube, the same shape as the Most Holy Place in the temple (1 Kings 6:20).  These measurements illustrate that this new home will be perfect for us.

18
The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.
19
The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
20
the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 
21
The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
22
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
23
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
24
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.
25
On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.
26
The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.
27
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 21:18-27

Explanation:

The picture of walls made of jewels reveals that the new Jerusalem will be a place of purity and durability--it will last forever.  The temple, the center of God's presence among his people, was the primary place of worship.  No temple is needed in the new city, however, because God's presence will be everywhere.  He will be worshipped throughout the city, and nothing will hinder us from being with him.  Not everyone will be allowed into the new Jerusalem, but 'only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life'.  (The book of life is explained in the notes on 3:5 and 20:12-15)  Don't think that you will get in because of your background, personality, or good behavior.  Eternal life is available to you only because of what Jesus, the Lamb, has done.  Trust him today to secure your citizenship in this new creation.

1
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
2
down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
3
No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
4
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
5
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
6
The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."
7
"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."

Revelation 22:1-7

Explanation:

The water of life is a symbol of eternal life.  Jesus used this same image with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-14).  It pictures the fullness of life with God and the eternal blessings that come when we believe in him and allow him to satisfy our spiritual thirst.  This tree of life is the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9).  After Adam and Eve sinned, they were forbidden to eat from the tree of life because they could not have eternal life as long as they were under sin's control.  But because of the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Jesus, there will be no evil or sin in this city.  We will be able to eat freely from the tree of life when sin's control over us is destroyed and our eternity with God is secure.  Why would the nations need to be healed is all evil is gone?  John is quoting from Ezekiel 47:12, where water flowing from the temple produces trees with healing leaves.  He is not implying that there will be illness in the new earth;  he is emphasizing that the water of life produces health and strength wherever it goes.  No longer will there be any curse means that nothing accused will be in God's presence.  This fulfills Zechariah's prophecy (see Zechariah 14:11).

8
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me.
9
But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"
10
Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.
11
Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

Revelation 22:8-11

Explanation:

Hearing or reading an eyewitness account is the next best thing to seeing the event yourself.  John witnessed the events reported in Revelation and wrote them down so we could see and believe as he did.  If you have read this far, you have seen.  Have you also believed? The first of the Ten Commandments is "You shall have no other gods before me"  (Exodus 20:3).  Jesus said that the greatest command of Moses' laws was "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).  Here at the end of the Bible, this truth is reiterated.  The angel instructs John to worship God!  God alone is worthy of our worship and adoration.  He is above all creation, even the angels.  Are there people, ideas, goals, or possessions that occupy the central place in your life, crowding God out?  Worship only God by allowing nothing to distract you from your devotion to him.  The angel tells John what to do after his vision is over.  Instead of sealing up what he has written, as Daniel was commanded to do (Daniel 12:4-12), the book is to be left open so that all can read and understand.  Daniel's message was sealed because it was not a message for Daniel's time.  But the book of Revelation was a message for John's time, and it is relevant today.  As Christ's return gets closer, there is a greater polarization between God's followers and Satan's followers.  We must read the book of Revelation, hear its message, and be prepared for Christ's imminent return.

12
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
13
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
15
Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16
"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you  this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

Revelation 22:12-16

Explanation:

Those who wash their robes are those who seek to purify themselves from a sinful way of life.  They strive daily to remain faithful and ready for Christ's return.  This concept is also explained in the notes on 7:14.  In Eden, Adam and Eve were barred from any access to the tree of life because of their sin (Genesis 3:22-24).  In the new earth God's people will eat from the tree of life because their sins have been removed by Christ's death and resurrection.  Those who eat the fruit of this tree will live forever.  If Jesus has forgiven your sins, you will have the right to eat from this tree.  For more on this concept see the notes on 22:2.  The exact location of these sinners is not known, nor is it relevant.  They are outside.  They were judged and condemned in 21:7,8.  The emphasis is that nothing evil and no sinner will be in God's presence to corrupt or harm any of the faithful.  Jesus is both David's Root and Offspring.  As the Creator of all, Jesus existed long before David.  As a human, however, he was one of David's direct descendants (see Isaiah 11:1-5; Matthew 1:1-17).  As the Messiah, he is the bright Morning Star, the light of salvation to all.

17
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
18
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.
19
And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.

Revelation 22:17-21

Explanation:

Both the Holy Spirit and the bride, the church, extend the invitation to all the world to come to Jesus and experience the joys of salvation in Christ.  When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, he told her of the living water that he could supply (John 4:10-15).  This image is used again as Christ invites anyone to come and drink of the water of life.  The gospel is unlimited in scope--all people everywhere may come.  Salvation cannot be earned, but God gives it freely.  We live in a world desperately thirsty for living water, and many are dying of thirst.  But it's still not too late.  Let us invite everyone to come and drink.  This warning is given to those who might purposefully distort the message in this book.  Moses gave a similar warning in Deuteronomy 4:1-4.  We too must handle the Bible with care and great respect so that we do not distort its message, even unintentionally.  We should be quick to put its principles into practice in our lives.  No human explanation or interpretation of God's Word should be elevated to the same authority as the text itself.  We don't know the day or the hour, but Jesus is coming soon and  unexpectedly.  This is good news to those who trust him, but a terrible message for those who have rejected him and stand under judgment.  Soon means at any moment, and we must be ready for him, always prepared for his return.  Would Jesus' sudden appearance catch you off guard?  Revelation closes human history as Genesis opened it--in paradise.  But there is one distinct difference in Revelation--evil is gone forever.  Genesis describes Adam and Eve walking and talking with God; Revelation describes people worshiping God face to face.  Genesis describes a garden with an evil serpent; Revelation describes a perfect city with no evil.  The Garden of Eden was destroyed by sin; but paradise is re-created in the new Jerusalem.  The book of Revelation ends with an urgent request: "Come Lord Jesus."  In a world of problems, persecution, evil, and immorality, Christ calls us to endure in our faith.  Our efforts to better our world are important, but their results cannot compare with the transformation that Jesus will bring about when he returns.  He alone controls human history, forgives sin, and will re-create the earth and bring lasting peace.  Revelation is, above all, a book of hope.  It shows that no matter what happens on earth, God is in control.  It promises that evil will not last forever.  And it depicts the wonderful reward that is waiting for all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.   So ends the Word of God as shown to John in this book of Revelation.  Amen