For approximately nine months during COVID, when many people were concerned about last days, we did a detailed study of the Book of Revelation. Now, beginning last week, we present a brief overall review of the book. After John delivered the message to seven churches, the voice from heaven again spoke. ““Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things'" (Revelation 4:1). This verse marks the transition from John's description of "things which were" (chapters 1 to 3), to those which were yet to happen. The words spoken to John by Jesus Christ, the Son of Man and the Living One in chapters 4 and 5, give us visions of heaven, and songs that will be sung there.

Transported into heaven, John saw "the throne of God". Twenty-four elders seated on thrones surrounding Him may symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel, plus the twelve apostles. A sea of glass and four fantastic creatures are witnessed (4:2-6). The creatures constantly praise God, saying, "'HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, IS THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME'" (4:8). In response to their praise, the elders fall in worship, casting their crowns down before God. Their words, "'Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created'" (4:11).

A scroll with seven seals is in God’s right hand, symbolizing His judgment on sin and wickedness (5:1). An angel inquires, "'who is worthy?'" to take this scroll and open the seals, but no one seems to have the moral authority and legal right to open the judgment of God. Fearing justice will never come, John begins to weep (5:2–4).

Then one elder announces, "'the Lion of the tribe of Judah," the "'Root of David'", who is the Lamb that was slain, can, and Jesus takes the scroll from the hand of God. The 4 creatures and 24 elders begin to sing a new song. "'Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation'” (5:9). The angels join in, and every created thing sings to the Lamb, "'blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever'" (5:12-13).

The Lamb begins to open the seven seals on the scroll containing God's judgment. As the first seal is opened, one of the living creatures shouts out a command (6:1). John sees a rider on a white horse, wearing a crown and carrying a bow. He is associated with the antichrist of chapter 13, a sort of political leader who will oppose God during the tribulation. This is not Jesus, who will return later in the end times (Revelation chapters 19 & 20), establishing a kingdom of peace.

Quickly, the first six seals are opened by the Lamb, and each unleashes judgment upon the earth. The first four release horsemen who conquer with power, resulting in war, famine, and death. The fifth seal reveals martyred souls who await vengeance; but in the meantime, they're given white robes and rest. The sixth brings natural destruction from an earthquake, accompanied by stars falling from the sky. Humans cry out in fear, seeking to hide from the wrath of God.

An interlude from the breaking of the seals occurs in chapter 7. Four angels hold back destructive forces of nature, while a fifth angel places the seal of God upon His saints. The number includes both Jews and a great multitude from every people "'who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb'" (7:14). Throughout these chapters, we see the wrath and judgment of God and the struggle of His children with powers of evil, but we are assured that the Lamb protects His sheep.

When the seventh seal is broken in chapter 8, a hush falls over heaven, then seven angels with seven trumpets introduce each ruination that is part of that seal. Destruction falls on vegetation, the sea, inland waters, and heavenly bodies. A warning goes forth from an eagle that all is beginning to intensify.

In chapter 9, the fifth trumpet releases torments from the bottomless pit; forces of evil are turned against wicked people on earth. The sixth trumpet sounds, and four angels, accompanied by two hundred million horsemen, are released to kill a third of all mankind. Their horses destroy with fire, brimstone and sulfur coming from their mouths (9:17). John seeing the vision sadly remarks that the surviving people still do not repent (9:21).

Another interlude comes in chapter 10 and 11, between the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets. Two visions during this time are of a consoling nature: a great angel appears with a small book in his hand (10:1-2), and at the sound of his voice, seven thunders speak. John was not permitted to write what he read or heard here; rather, he was compelled to eat the book. He described it as sweet, but it becomes bitter in his stomach as he is instructed to prophesy.

He's told to measure the temple, but not the outside court (chapter 11). This indicates that God’s people are still protected and that the Church will be secured. The seventh angel sounds his trumpet, and the heavens respond with song (11:15-18). The time for final judgment has come: the temple in heaven is opened and the ark of His covenant appears, but this is not the end of the visions. Another sevenfold vision is coming to John, of a great struggle in the spiritual realm. Please read through the first part of Revelation, and we will begin with chapters 12-14 next week.

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