Revelation is an example of apocolyptic writing. This kind of literature was rich in symbolism and imagery. In this book, the Lord chose this medium to show John the things that would come to pass. God's word in Revelation offered hope, inspiration and guidance to Christians all over the world. John endured a great deal of persecution for sharing Christianity with the world, as did many Christians at this time in history. John was punished and exiled to a mining prison on the island of Patmos. John writes about this experience from this island.
In the beginning of Revelation, Jesus addresses seven churches; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicia. To Ephesus, He offers encouragement to keep up the hard work but get back to their first love, Jesus. To Smyrna, He provides compassion for the persecution to come. The church in Pergamum is advised to beware of the dark forces and false teachers surrounding them, not to tolerate them to the point that they corrupt their Christianity. The church in Thyatira is commended for their spiritual growth but warned about false prophets who lead them away from the truth. Sardis is warned to 3:2 "Wake up!" in their Christian faith. He commends the church of Philadelphia and offers hope, though they face persecution from those 3:9 "... who claim to be Jews though they are not, they are liars...". The church in Laodicia is given this message, 3:16 "So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Further, Christ goes on to warn the Laodician church that they should not become too complacent in their material wealth, that they still have much spiritual work to do.
Next, is a particularly exquisite portrayal of heaven, the throne is described in 4:3 "And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne..." and 4:6 "And a sea of glass, clear as crystal." He goes on to state the other beings he sees in his vision of heaven to include; 24 elders, 7 lamps (representing the spirit of God)and 4 creatures with eyes all over, a mix of different animals, close to the inner circle of the throne.
In 5:1 John tells us, "Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals." He goes on to state that, even in heaven, no one but the Lamb (Jesus) is worthy to open the seals of the scroll. What is revealed as the seven seals are opened follows;
2nd seal - red horse, rider carried a sword and 6:4 "...Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other."
3rd seal - black horse, rider carried scales, represented famine.
4th seal - pale horse, rider is Death and 6:8 "...given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth."
5th seal - souls of the faithful followers
6th seal - earthquakes and devastation, 6:12-14,
"...The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat
hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars
in the sky fell to earth...and every mountain and
island was removed from its place."
Angels are about to deliver devastation to the earth. An angel from the east orders 7:3 "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, believers, are sealed.
7th seal - Heaven is quiet, an angel causes 8:5 "...peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake."
As each of the angels sound trumpets, disaster befalls the earth to include hail, fire mixed with blood, mountains thrown into the sea, the star named Wormwood falls from the sky and contaminating water supply. The final trumpet of seven sounds and reward is declared for the believer.
John then tells another part of the vision which may represent the birth of the new Jerusalem. In 12:1 "...a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head..." is threatened by 12:3 "...an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads..."
He goes on to tell about a war in heaven, between Michael and his angels and the dragon. The dragon, Satan and his angels, lose and are hurled to the earth. Satan causes trouble for believers on earth.
An evil sea-beast, with 10 horns and 7 heads gains authority in the world and is feared and worshipped on earth by non-believers. Another beast comes from the earth and leads people astray through show of his power. He orders 13:16-18, "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666."
John goes further and states, 14:1-4 "Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth."
Angels proclaim that those who receive the mark of the beast will suffer eternally, to those who follow God and are faithful to Jesus 14:13 "...Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" from now on...they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."
John then views angels, harvesting the earth. To some this symbolizes the beginning of God's wrath on the earth, the some, the gathering up of God's faithful followers in Christ.
Seven angels are given charge to unload God's wrath and judgment on the earth. The first bowl is unleashed on the earth for those who followed the beast,it contained boils and sores. The second, turned the sea to blood and everything in it died. The third, turned rivers and springs to blood. The fourth, scorched people from the sun. The fifth, was a direct attack on the beast 16:10 "...and his kingdom was plunged into darkness." People are in agony but still refuse to repent. The sixth, dries up the Euphrates river and causes a unique plague, 16:13, "Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophets." When the seventh bowl is poured out, earthquakes, lightning and hail befall the earth.
John then sees in his vision a woman sitting on a beast. She is personified as "Babylon the Great" and is drenched in wealth and 17:6 "...drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus." They make war with Christ but, 17:14 "...the Lamb will overcome." Babylon, with all her wealth, falls.
Songs of praise to God are heard in heaven. John is instructed to, 19:9, "...Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper for the Lamb!' at this John attempts to worship the angel but the angel says to him, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy."
John then sees heaven open and a white horse 19:11, "...whose rider is called Faithful and True..." and 19:16 "On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OR LORDS." The beast and the false prophet perished.
An angel, who carries the key to the great Abyss, chains Satan (the dragon) for one thousand years. He is set free for a short time after the thousand years. The souls of those who'd been martyred in Christ's name were brought to life. Others, after the thousand years ended.
John also sees the judgment of those who've died. 20:12-15 "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If a persons' name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Old earth passes away and new heaven and earth are revealed to John, 21:2-4 "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
And John goes on to describe the beauty of this vision of the future, 21:22 "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it."
All are invited to take Jesus to heart, accept the gift and guidance of God's loving gift, the Holy Spirit to lead a righteous life and spend eternity with the Lord for free!. 22:17 tells us "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."