How do I use this reading guide?
The opening of chapter 10 marks a change in John’s perspective of the vision. In chapter 4, John is invited into God’s heavenly throne room to see the world and world events from heaven’s perspective. Where is John’s new vantage point as chapter 10 opens?
A being called the “Angel of the LORD” appears at pivotal moments in the Old Testament stories. At times it is unclear whether the being is an angel or God himself. The same is true of the angelic being in Revelation 10. Based on what you read, what in the description of this being would lead you to believe that this person may be Christ himself? Compare the description of this being to the description of God in Revelation 4:2-5. Remember that number seven is symbolic of God’s perfection. Where have we seen rainbows before in the Bible? See Revelation 4:3-6 and Genesis 9:12-17. What does this angelic being announce?
Compare what happens to John to Ezekiel’s commissioning as a prophet in Ezekiel 3:1-15. Why is John asked to literally eat the words of God? How is this connected to his mission?
God gives his commissioned prophet, John, the task of measuring the temple. The central question that needs to be answered is what is this temple that John measures (the measuring is symbolic of protection)?
It is important to remember that the book of Revelation is not a photograph of the future, but a God-inspired dream filled with Biblical images and symbols. In chapter 11, there are several Biblical symbols that refer to God’s people, the church:
- The temple. A temple is simply the place where God’s presence is concentrated. In the Old Testament the temple was the Tabernacle (a tent), and later the Temple in Jerusalem. With the coming of Jesus, the temple was Jesus himself (see John 2:19). After Christ ascended into heaven, the new place where God dwelled was in the hearts of Jesus’ followers (see Acts 2:1-4).
- The two witnesses. John was commissioned to be God’s witness in chapter 10. Remember the scene where he ate God’s scroll in yesterday’s reading? John’s commissioning is one that has been given to all us. Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- The two olive trees and two lampstands. We’ve seen lampstands in the book of Revelation as symbols representing the church (see Revelation 1:20). The olive trees supply the oil for the lamps. See Zechariah chapter 4 to see an example of how these go two together.
There are some numeric symbols that refer to a periods of time.
- 3 ½ years = 42 months = 1260 days. Throughout the Bible, 3 ½ is used to describe a signficant period of trouble. Verses five and six contain two references to the prophet Elijah: the fire that consumed his enemies and the drought that Elijah initiated through his prayers (see 2 Kings 17:1-4 and 2 Kings 1:1-5). That drought lasted 3 and ½ years (see James 5:17-18).
Based on your understanding of the symbols in this vision, what message of hope does God promise John and the churches that faced persecution under the Romans? What does God promise to do for his church, symbolized by the temple, the witnesses, and the lampstand and olive trees? What will happen to the church even when their enemies finally triumph over them?
What hope do we have in the end, despite whatever suffering we might endure today?
If there is a central message to the church it is this: It will be a difficult life for the church serving as witnesses to Jesus Christ, but God will preserve you until the end. One day we will see the culmination of all our hopes and dreams:
Revelation 11:15 “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our LORD and of his Christ.”
The scene shifts again and John sees a new vision that depicts human history. There are three central characters that must be identified: the woman giving birth, the child, and the dragon.
The woman. Compare John’s vision of the woman to Joseph’s dream recorded in Genesis 37:9-11. What images are present in both dreams? How did Joseph’s father, Jacob, interpret the images in his son’s dream? How does that shed light on the identity of the woman in Revelation 12? Based on the parallels between the two dreams and the details of the story that unfolds in chapter 12, we will identify the woman with God’s people. She is Israel before the coming of Jesus and the church after his coming.
The child. In the background of John’s dream is the promise God made to Adam and Eve. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your [the serpent – identified with the dragon in Revelation 12] offspring and hers; he [the child] will crush your head and you will strike his head.” (Genesis 3:15) Who is this offspring? None other than Jesus Christ, who will destroy the dragon and rule as king forever.
The dragon. The dragon throughout the Bible represents the kingdoms that opposed God’s people, but most importantly the power behind these kingdoms, Satan. John and his readers would have identified the dragon with Rome and the power behind Rome, the Devil.
What does the dragon attempt to do to the child when he is born? What event in Jesus’ life do you think this is referring to? When was Jesus snatched up into heaven? What happens to woman after the birth of the child?
Compare the 1260 days to the 1260 days that the witnesses are protected in chapter 11? What is God promising to do for his faithful people (Israel, the church) during this 3 ½ years of trouble (1260 days)? How would this give hope and courage to John and the seven churches receiving this revelation?
The name ‘Satan’ is actually a title meaning “prosecutor or accuser.” Before the coming of Christ where was Satan? Where is he now? Who has taken the prosecutor’s place (see Romans 8:31-34)? The opponents of the early Christians would have attributed their suffering to the fact that they had abandoned the gods of their ancestors. How does God explain the church’s present suffering? How is there hope despite the heartache they are experiencing?
Throughout the book of Revelation the message has been clear, despite the present suffering, God will preserve his people and they will emerge victorious in the end. As chapter 14 opens we see a vision of our future hope. What symbol refers to Jesus? How is Jesus’ people, his church described? How is God’s ownership and protection of his people symbolized? Why are they singing and how did they learn the song? Who joins the singing? From last week you might remember that the 4 living creatures represents creation which reflects God’s glory and the elders, God’s people who have died and are now in the presence of the Lord.
(14:6-13) What role do the three angels play? What is their message to the unbelieving world? What is their message to the church? Think about John and his readers, think about all the Christians who suffer persecution. This is the central message of the book. Persevere today. Stay faithful today. God’s salvation is coming tomorrow.
Chapter 15 starts a new vision and in this vision we see the familiar pattern: God judges the world (15:1, 15:5-8), God’s people are saved (15:2-4). The classic story of judgment and salvation echoes the Exodus story (see Exodus 7 – 15) where God rescued his people from slavery by bringing plagues and judgment on their oppressors, Egypt. Why do those who were victorious over the beast (Revelation 15:3) sing the same song that Moses and the Jews sang on the shores of the Red Sea (see Exodus 14-15)?
It was Tolkien who said that evil cannot create, it can only mock the beauty that God has created. In chapter 14, we saw God’s people depicted as a woman. The woman in chapter 17, the whore of Babylon, is a mockery of the bride of Christ, the church. The beast, Satan,mocks the Lamb of God.
How does the life trajectory of the beast in verse 8 mock the life story of Jesus, the Lamb of God? What is the woman’s relationship with the kings of the earth and to the beast? What are the kings relationship to the beast? Is the woman wealthy or poor? What is she drunk on? Who is seduced by the beast?
Who will the kings of the earth, the woman, and the beast make war against? How is John and the seven churches who originally received the book of Revelation already feeling the effects of this war?
While Jesus was with the apostles he gave them this promise:
Matthew 10:18 On my [Jesus’] account you will be brought before governors and kings and be witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
This is Paul’s moment to see Jesus’ promise fulfilled. Arrested in Jerusalem. Falsely accused by the Jews of starting a riot by bringing an uncircumcised Gentile into the temple, Paul has been brought before Governor Felix and after the Jewish authorities made their case, Paul is summoned to make his defense.
What word does Paul use to describe the Christian faith in verse 14? Why is this significant for us?
How does Paul connect his new faith in Jesus Christ to the faith of his birth, Judaism? How does Paul view the Jewish Scriptures (the Law and the Prophets)? Is his hope the same or different from the hope of Judaism? How does Paul explain the charges that have been brought against him?