Summary of Revelation (Rev M.McGeown, missionary-pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship)
Introduction: The book of Revelation is a series of symbolic visions designed to reveal Jesus Christ (1:1). The symbolism is taken from the Old Testament, and the general rules of symbolism mean that a symbol has one main idea or point of comparison. The book must comfort the church of the first century (to whom it was originally written) as well as the church of all ages. Therefore, it does not concern primarily events which have been fulfilled already (preterist), nor is it a prediction of history (historicist), nor does it concern primarily the very end (futurist). It teaches the church of all ages that Christ is coming through history. The book must not be read as if it records events in chronological order. The book recapitulates or repeats the entire new dispensation, and proceeds in a cyclical fashion, viewing the same history from different perspectives.
Section 1 (chapters 1-3): The seven churches were real, historical churches, but are also representative of all churches. Seven is symbolic of God’s covenant.
Section 2 (chapters 4-6): The Lamb (Christ) takes the book (the decree of God with respect to His kingdom) at the Ascension and begins to open the book immediately. The first four seals (four horsemen) cannot refer to local, isolated events either past or future, but to the general trend of world history as planned by God and executed by Christ (the white, red, black and pale horses ride throughout the New Testament age and affect a fourth of men, that is, the “normal rate”). The sixth seal brings history to a close (6:12ff.).
Interlude (chapter 7): This chapter assures the church that during the opening of the seals she is protected by God with a “seal” (this does not mean that the church is taken out of the world but is spiritually preserved in the world). The number 144,000 is a symbolic number which refers to all the elect at any given time in history (12x12x1000; Eph. 1:13). We will meet the 144,000 again in Rev. 14:1. At the end of the chapter we are given a vision of the entire gathered and glorified church.
Section 3 (chapters 8-9): The trumpets cannot come after the seals (chronologically) because after the sixth seal the universe comes to an end (6:14ff) and in chapter 8 the universe (trees, seas, etc) is still intact. Rather, chapter 8 is an intensification of the judgments of chapter 6. Trumpets have the function that they warn. They are greater in intensity than the seals (one third vs. one quarter is affected). Before the trumpets sound, the vision of the offering of the incense and prayers of all saints is seen. This vision (8:1-6) shows us that our prayers are part of the counsel of God, and that He sends judgments in answer to our prayers. The first four trumpets form a unit (like the four horsemen of Rev 6): they affect vegetation, seas, rivers and the heavenly bodies. After the first 4 trumpets, an angel announces three further trumpets, three woes (worse than the first four). Chapter 9 describes trumpets five and six. The star in 9:1 is almost certainly Satan (Luke 10:18; John 12:31). He falls at Christ's ascension (Rev. 12:5, 9-10). The fifth trumpet blows throughout the NT age and intensifies toward the end. These are not literal locusts, but an army of demons bringing misery upon men. The sixth trumpet is a great war (see parallel in chapter 16, and notice that one third are killed). These horses are no more literal than those of chapter 6.
Interlude (chapters 10-11): These visions are not part of the 6th trumpet or the 7th trumpet (which does not sound until 11:5). The vision of chapter 10 assures us of the sovereignty and faithfulness of God, that there will be no delay in His purposes (cf. Ezek 2:8-3:3). Chapter 11 is similar to chapter 7 but now the image is of measuring instead of sealing. The temple is neither Herod's temple (it was destroyed in AD 70), nor a future millennial temple (there is no such promise in the New Testament) but the church (Eph. 2:21). The church proper (the true worshippers of God) are measured and protected, but the outer court and city are not (these are the hypocrites and false Christianity associated with the church). There are three parallel periods of time: 42 months (11:2), 1260 days (11:3) and time, times and half a time (12:14). This refers to (roughly) the entire period between the Ascension of Christ and his Second Coming. During this time the church is protected. The two witnesses are not two individual persons, but the two anointed ones of Zech 4:14 (they were the then officebearers in Israel, Zerubbabel and Joshua, and refer to the church in her official preaching ministry). The two men are not individuals just as the woman (12:1) and the harlot (17:4) and the bride (21:9-10) are not individual women. The meaning is that the church, as represented by the witnesses, will preach throughout the New Testament age (see Matt 24:14): she will preach repentance (sackcloth, 11:3); she will be invincible (the fire of 11:5 is figurative, see Jer. 5:14) and through her ministry and prayers God will judge the world (see James 5:17 and Rev. 8:5). They will preach until they have finished their testimony (and not before!) (11:7) and only then will the Beast (to be introduced in chapter 13) kill them, that is, he will silence for a short time the official voice of the church. Rev. 11 brings us with the seventh trumpet (11:15) to the end of the world again.
Section 4 (Chapters 12-14): Revelation 12 is a new vision (the woman and the dragon) and does not come chronologically after chapters 8-11. In fact, Revelation 12 brings us back to the beginning of the NT age. The woman (12:1) is the church (Old Testament Israel); the dragon is the devil (12:3); the man child is Christ (12:5) and the woman (12:6ff.) is the church (NT church). In the Old Testament the church was “pregnant” (since Gen 3:15) with the promise of Christ. During that time the devil fought a war on two fronts: he attempted to prevent the coming of Christ and to destroy Him; and he attempted to accuse the saints in heaven. Because of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ he failed on both fronts, and now makes war against the church. God protects the church from the devil. Revelation 13 will teach us how the devil wages war against the church by means of the beast (Antichristian kingdom) ... to be continued (DV).
Rev. Martyn McGeown (Larisa)
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010; Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), Sept. 2021Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/providence-prc-hudsonville-mi
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