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The Book of Revelation (Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις, Apokalypsis), also known as the Book of Apocalypse, is one of the books of the Bible which deals primarily with prophecy, and is the last book of the New Testament. It was recorded by the Apostle John and gives an account of the future return of Jesus Christ. The apocalyptic vision focuses mainly on God's judgment of mankind, the return of Christ to earth, the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom, the fate of Satan, and the eventual establishment of a new heaven and earth. Revelation is the only book in the New Testament to deal primarily with prophecy.

Book Outline

The Revelation has been divided into 22 chapters. The following deals with much, but not necessarily all of what is recorded in the book. As with most books, but particularly with the books of the Bible, readers are encouraged to read through the entirety of the work and not base all their knowledge on a mere overview.

Introduction and Letters to the Churches

"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, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 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." - Revelation 1:1-3

After this introduction, John goes on greet the churches of the province of Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. John states that he was on the island of Patmos when given his vision. He was addressed by "someone 'like a son of man'", who soon identified himself as Jesus Christ. Jesus gave individual messages to each of the seven churches

The Lamb and the Sealed Scroll

After the three chapters dealing with the letters to the churches, John saw a throne in heaven. On it was seated the Lord God, who was worshiped continually by four creatures and twenty-four elders. At the right hand of God was a scroll with writing on both sides. When an angel asked in a loud voice who was worthy to open it, no one could be found who was, except for One who was described as a slain Lamb, later identified as Jesus. When the Lamb opened the first six of the seven seals, each one brought some form of destruction upon the world, except for the fifth. After the sixth seal, there were introduced 144,000 servants from the 12 tribes of Israel who were given the seal of God on their foreheads. Also mentioned is a great multitude of people wearing white robes and holding palm branches, the people who had "'come out of the great tribulation'" (Rev. 7: 14). Upon the breaking of the seventh seal, seven angels were given seven trumpets.

The Trumpets

After the angels were given the seven trumpets in chapter 8, another angel came to the alter with a golden censer. He was given the prayers of the saints, and he later hurled the lit censer on the earth. Afterward, the first six trumpets were sounded, each one bringing a judgment on the earth. Following the sixth seal judgment, another mighty angel came and gave a loud shout. At the same time, the "seven thunders spoke", but John was commanded not to write down what was said. John was then given a small scroll that he was to eat, and that would be sweet in his mouth but would turned his stomach sour. Upon the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the kingdom of the world was declared as belonging to the Lord, the twenty-four elders again worshiped God, and the Ark of the Covenant was shown.

The Two Witnesses

Between the point of John eating the little scroll and the sounding of the seventh trumpet, John was told to "'Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there'" (Rev. 11: 1). However, he was to exclude the outer court, which was "'given to the Gentiles'" (v.2). John was told of two witnesses, who were dressed in sackcloth and who would prophesy for 1,260 days. Anyone who attempted to harm them would be consumed by fire from their mouths, and they would have the power to keep rain from coming, to turn water to blood, and "to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want" (v.6). At the end of their time, they would be killed by the beast from the Abyss. Their bodies would be kept on the streets in the city where Jesus was crucified, but after three and a half days they would be resurrected and taken to heaven in plain sight.

The Woman, the Dragon, and the Beasts

Chapter 12, after the seventh seal, introduces a woman who was about to give birth. She was confronted by a red dragon, which intended to devour her son as soon as he was born. However, when the son was born, God took the child to His throne and provided a place in the desert where the woman would "be taken care of for 1,260 days" (Rev. 12: 6). In heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels, and the dragon and his forces were defeated and stranded on earth. After this, a blasphemous beast came from the sea. He was given power by the dragon, and he received authority over the whole world for a span of forty-two months. The people of the earth worshiped the dragon and the beast. There also came another beast, this one from the earth.

"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." - Revelation 13:12

This beast performed miracles and had set up the image of the beast as well as the mark of the beast. Following this, there is a description of the 144,000. Then three angels flew through the air proclaiming the Gospel, the fall of Babylon the Great, and a warning not to worship the beast and his image and not to take the mark. Coming after this is an account of the harvest of the earth.

The Bowls

Chapter 15 brings in the seven angels with the seven last plagues contained in seven bowls. John recorded those who had refused to worship the beast singing the song of Moses. The seven bowls of wrath were poured out onto the earth, again causing numerous cataclysms. The sixth bowl dried up the Euphrates "to prepare the way for kings from the East" (Rev. 16: 12). The seventh bowl, among other things, destroyed Babylon the Great completely.

The Fall of Babylon

The fall of Babylon the Great is mentioned in chapter 14 and again in chapter 16, before Babylon’s formal introduction in chapter 17. In chapter 17, Babylon is described as a prostitute/harlot that sits on many waters and rides a beast having seven heads and covered in blasphemous names. She is described as very rich, yet very wicked.

"This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus." - Revelation 17:5-6

The beast had ten horns, and these had the purpose of giving power to the beast. The NIV translation states that Babylon will be destroyed by the beast that she rides upon and the ten horns. Chapter 18 records three beings declaring her demise. This was followed by praise given to the Lord by a great multitude.

The Battle of Armageddon

The last half of chapter 19 describes Christ’s physical return to earth. He rode from heaven on a white horse, the armies of heaven behind him. From His mouth came a sharp sword, and an angel called for the birds to come for a feast on the dead bodies of Christ’s enemies. Jesus defeated the armies of the world, capturing the beast and the false prophet.

"… The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur." - Revelation 19:20

The Rider then took the dragon, identified as Satan, and locked him in the Abyss, where he would stay for a thousand years.

The Thousand Years

After Christ reconquered the earth, there was a resurrection of those who had been killed for testifying in Christ and refusing to worship the beast.

"… They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection …." - Revelation 20:4-5

After the thousand year reign, Satan was released from the Abyss. He gathered the peoples of the nations of the earth and surrounded God’s city. Fire from heaven destroyed Satan’s army, and he was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur. Then there was the time of judgment of the whole of mankind from all time. Everyone was checked to see if his name was in the book of life. Everyone who did not have his name recorded was thrown into the lake of fire, along with death and Hades.

The New Heaven and Earth

After the second resurrection, John described a new heaven and new earth. There was no sea, and there was a new Jerusalem.

"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. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 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.'" - Revelation 21:6-8

One of the angels showed John the new Jerusalem, which was wondrously built, and which needed no sun or moon due to the light of God. He was also shown the river of life and tree of life. At last, John gave a final testimony of himself, and the book ends with a message from Jesus.

Popular Culture

Revelation has gone through many iterations at the hands of the entertainment industry, mostly in the form of B-grade movies. It is not uncommon for the industry to refer to Revelation as Revelations, reflecting the poor scholarly nature of their research into the actual book and the great liberties taken in their storylines. It is interesting that the movie industry seems to change more of the original content when it comes to Revelation, as opposed to the historical texts, despite the warning at the end of the book:

"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. 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." - Revelation 22:18-19

A book series revolving around the events of Revelation and the Rapture is Left Behind, written by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim F. LaHaye, professed experts in biblical prophecy.

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