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Revelation Part 3 – Introduction (Conclusion)

Revelation Part 3 – Introduction (Conclusion)



Revelation is written in apocalyptic language.

Apokalupsis – “to uncover, unveil, make naked, lay bare”

The book uncovers or unveils through symbols, signs, imagery, and visions the impending persecution facing the church.

Symbols: Numbers

The number one (1)
Since it is not composed of other numbers, but is independent of all others, it excludes all difference. Moreover, it is the source of all others. It marks beginning. It denotes Divine unity, supremacy, and independency, speaking as one that admits no other.

The number two (2)
Strength and Encouragement with good things (Eccles. 4:9-11)  (Two witnesses in Chapter 11)
With bad things – division (divided kingdom as an example) Two beasts in Revelation

The number three (3)
Number of divinity. Long list of uses in the Bible.
Noah had three sons
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
Esther – fast for three days
Peter saw the sheet let down three times
Three days and then resurrection
Paul fasted and prayed for three days

The number four (4) The world – Creation. It is the cosmic number.
4 winds
4 corners of the earth
4 walls
4 beasts
4 gospels – God’s good news for the earth.

The number seven (7) The most prominent number in Revelation. Number of perfection. 3 (divinity) + 4 (cosmic or creation).
7 churches, 7spirits, 7 starts, 7 lamps of fire, 7 seals, 7 horns 7 eyes, 7 angels, 7 trumpets, 7 thousand slain, 7 heads, 7 crowns, 7 last plagues, 7 golden vials, 7 mountains, 7 kings, 7 thunders

Used elsewhere in the New Testament:
Seven Other Spirits (Matt 12:45), Seven Loaves (Matt 15:36), Seven Baskets (Matt 15:37), Seventy times seven (Matt 18:22), Seven Brothers (Matt 22:25-28), Seven Servants (Acts 6:3), Seven Nations (Acts 13:19), Seven Sons (Acts 19:14), Seven Days (Acts 20:6; 21:4, 27; 28:14),          Old Testament – Seven days of creation.

The number three and a half (3 ½)
If 7 is complete perfection this falls short. Imperfection Incomplete. Used for times of trial, hardship, and testing. 3 ½ years, 42 months, 1260 days.

The number six (6) Used only twice in Revelation.

1)      The wings of the beasts around the throne. (In this case it seem the number is not symbolic as evil, but as having many wings…being swift.

2)      666 – Will be discussed later, but 6 falls short of perfection so 666 is absolute evil.

Represents Evil – Falling short of the grace of God.

The number twelve (12) Religious Order
Multiple of the cosmic number (4) times that of deity (3).
12 Stones on the breastplate
12 loaves of showbread.
At the dedication of the alter of the tabernacle, 12 princes brought gifts.
Animals for the burnt offering were 12 bullocks, 12 rams, 12 he-lambs, 12 male goats
12 lions around the king’s throne (1 Kings 10:20)

12 Tribes
12 Apostles

So 12 + 12 = 24 (24 elders in Revelation)

12,000 from each of the 12 tribes (144,000)
Woman with a crown of 12 stars
Celestial city has 12 gates
12 pearls
12 angels
12 foundation stones
The city itself is a 12x12x12 cube.
The wall is 144 cubits high 12 x 12

Revelation is almost in the format of a grand play that displays striking imagery to the audience. In a play we often have introductory material by the narrator, and also a list of characters. Before we go into the text in any depth, I think it is a good idea to go through what we will be meeting in terms of symbolic language in the book.

For much of this list I am indebthed to Homer S. Hailey, and his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation.

The Old Testament is a primary source. Some symbols are explained. Some are readily apparent. Some are quite hidden to us. Be careful trying to read too much into any particular symbol.

1.      Deity

God, the occupant of the throne of the universe as a sparkling white diamond (jasper) and as a dazzling and precious ruby (sardius) (4:3)

Jesus is a lamb (5:6), the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David (5:5) and the bright and morning star (22:16)

The Holy Spirit is seven Spirits, seven lamps of fire, and seven eyes which are the seven Sprits of God (1:4, 5:6)

2.      Spirit Realm

Earthly descriptions of heavenly things

Heaven, hades, and the lake of fire. Great red dragon, a serpent (Satan), angels, demons, unclean spirits, and souls. Great beasts, one of the sea, one of the earth.

Also death and the resurrection are given roles.

3.      Natural World

Geology, Astronomy (sun, sun-rising, the moon, stars, day and night, air, earth, sea great waters, rivers, fountains, clouds, lightning, thunder, earthquake, great winds, hail, a rainbow, fire, smoke, brimstone, wilderness, and an abyss.

4.      Earthly Kingdoms

Kings of earth, princes, captains, bondmen, freemen, rich and poor, the great and servants all play a role in the drama.

Nations, thrones, diadems, victory crowns, keys, a rod of iron, great swords, two-edged swords, slaughtering swords, a bow, a prison, and the winepress of judgment.

5.      Culture and Society

Great armies, combat, chariots, armor, wars, clashing of forces, plagues, fears, suffering, and mourning.

Marriage, bride, groom, marriage supper, lamps, voices, the theif, and a woman in childbirth.

6.      Religion

Prophets, priests, altar of sacrifice, golden altar, lampstands, sacrifice, blood, incense, synagogue, sanctuary, temple pillar, ark of the covenant, and trumpets.

In contrast to the symbols of divine worship stand the symbols of the heathen.

Idols, things sacrificed to idols, false prophets, sorcery, and false teachers (Balaam, Jezebel, and the Nicolaitans)

7.      Location

Places familiar to the readers of John’s book Egypt, Babylon the Great, the Euphrates, Sodom, Mount Zion, Harmageddon (Mount Magedo), the great city, the holy city, and the New Jerusalem for the new heaven and new earth.

8.      People

A radiant woman, a man child born to her, virgins, a wife, a queen, a great harlot and her daughters, and those that have committed fornication with the harlot.

Children, servants, Balaam, jezebel, Gog and Magog (From Ezek. 38:2)

9.      Attire

We can tell something of the different characters by their dress.

a.      Kingly-priestly garments

b.      White Robes

c.      Fine linen

d.      Sackcloth

e.      Purple and scarlet

10.   Physical Anatomy

Head, hair, forehead, eyes (tears), ears, mouth, tongue, teeth, the heart, blood, reins (kidneys or loins), belly, hands, and feet.

11.   Vegetation and Agriculture

Wheat, barley, grapes, wine, olive trees, oil, figs, honey, spices, trees, wood, palms, grass, and wormwood.

The sickle, reaping, harvest, vintage, and winepress are also part of this complex whole

12.   Mineral Kingdom

Gold, silver, brass, sea of glass, precious stones, white stone, jasper, sardius, emerald, pearls, and others whose identity appears uncertain.

13.   Animal Kingdom

Lion, bear, leopard, calf, lamb, horses, flying eagles, vultures, wild beasts, locusts, scorpions, serpents, frogs, sea creatures.

14.   Trade and Commerce

Ships, merchants, shipmasters, sailors, mariners, tradesmen, craftsmen, millstones, coins, goods, and balances used in trade.

15.   Literature

Little book, book of life, seals, alphabet, numbers

16.   Time and Eternity

Various periods are designated: half an hour, one hour, a third part of a day, three days and a half, ten days, twelve hundred and sixty days, forty-two months, a thousand years, and a day and night.

Then beyond – forever and forever