How to Stand For God
Studies in the Book of Revelation
Dr. Jim Denison
Seals, trumpets, and signs
I. Seven seals (6.1-8.1):
A. White horse of conquest (6.2)
B. Red horse of war (6.3-4)
C. Black horse of famine (6.5-6)
D. Pale horse of death (6.7-8)
E. Altar of slain faithful (6.9-11)
F. Great earthquake of the wrath of the Lamb (6.12-17)
Interlude—the sealing of the 144,000 (ch. 7)
G. Silence in heaven for “about half an hour” (8.1)
II. Seven trumpets (8.2-11-19):
Interlude: the angel with incense, the prayers of the saints (8.2-5)
A. Hail and fire—1/3 of earth burned up (8.7)
B. Huge mountain thrown into the sea—1/3 of sea to blood, 1/3 of
its creatures killed, 1/3 of its ships destroyed (8.8-9)
C. Great star fell on 1/3 of the rivers, turning water bitter (8.10-11)
D. 1/3 of sun, moon, stars struck and turned dark (8.12)
E. First woe: Abyss opened, scorpions released to attack all without
the seal of God (9.1-12)
F. Second woe: four angels released to kill 1/3 of mankind (9.13-21)
Interlude: the angel with the little scroll (ch. 10), two witnesses (11.1-14)
G. Praise of God by heaven and the 24 elders (11.15-19)
III. Seven signs (12.1-14.20)
A. The pregnant woman (12.1-2, 5-6, 13-17)
B. The red dragon which wars against her (12.3ff)
C. The beast out of the sea (13.1-10)
D. The beast out of the earth (13.14-18)
E. The Lamb and the 144,000 (14.1-5)
F. The three angels condemning Babylon and calling for faith in God
G. The harvest of the earth by the “son of man” and his angels (14.14-20)
The angel and the little scroll (Revelation 10)
The purpose of this interlude: to answer the perennial question of the martyrs. Those who suffer and die for Jesus will not die in vain; their pain is known, and their victory assured. The purposes of God “will be accomplished” (v. 7), despite current appearances.
The angel’s identity: “Another mighty angel”—cf. 5.2, “I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice….” The rainbow above his head signifies God’s pledge never to destroy the earth again with a flood (Genesis 9.8-17), using symbols from Ezekiel 1.26-28. His legs “like fiery pillars” recalls the pillar of fire which guided (Exodus 13.21-22) and protected (Exodus 14.19, 24) the Jews during the exodus and in the wilderness. He stands both on sea and on land, showing that his message is for all of creation and all the world. By taking his stand on earth, he moves the focus from heaven (4.1) to earth.
His “little scroll”: Not the same scroll as in chapter 5, which was intended to reveal its contents; this scroll is to be eaten by John. Some see this as the vision of chapter 11, others as a second revelation which begins with chapter 12. In the Ezekiel context (cf. 2.8ff), it seems most likely that this is a general commission to preach a message of judgment for sin and condemnation upon Rome (Summers 161-2).
The thunders which accompanied him: “The voices of seven thunders spoke” (v. 3). Their voices were legible, so that John was about to write down their messages. Then he was prohibited from doing so by “a voice from heaven” (v. 4).
In Revelation, thunder is typical of warning (cf. 8.5, 11.19, 16.18). Elsewhere they are a premonition of judgments of divine wrath. But here they are not to be recorded, because there is no more warning: “There will be no more delay!” (v. 6).
His oath: He “raised his right hand to heaven” (v. 5), a practice in Jewish oath taking (cf. Genesis 14.22-23, Deuteronomy 32.40). He “swore by him who lives for ever and ever” (v. 6), encouragement to those facing martyrdom. He promised that “the mystery of God will be accomplished” (v. 7a). And he connected this “mystery” with the message of the prophets (v. 7b).
His gift to John: John asked for the little scroll, and was told to eat it (v. 9), symbolic of grasping fully its contents. It was “sour” in his stomach, indicative of hardship and suffering to come. But it was “sweet as honey” in his mouth, showing that it is ultimately good news for John and his people (cf. the scroll in Ezekiel 3.3, “It was in my mouth as sweet as honey”).
God and his message are sovereign over the world, appearances notwithstanding today.
We are to speak as God speaks to us, and to be silent where he commands it. We are to announce the full counsel of God’s message—both the bitter and the sweet. We are to tell people of sin and judgment, as well as salvation and grace. The bitter makes the sweet relevant. We must be willing to sacrifice our comfort to obey Jesus.
The two witnesses (Revelation 11)
The reed for measuring the temple (1-2): The “reed” was a bamboo-like cane which often grew to a height of 20 feet and was an excellent and typical measuring rod. John was not to measure the outer court of the Gentiles (approximately 26 acres in size).
This is clearly symbolic in nature, as the actual temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. But dispensationalists see this as a promise that the temple will be rebuilt for or during the “Great Tribulation.” Many are engaged in efforts to bring about this rebuilding even now.
Dr. John Newport sees this temple as reference to the church during the Great Tribulation—its existence and protection. It seems to me that the vision shows us that the real temple of Jesus Christ is indestructible: the believer in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 3.16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”).
The assault on the holy city (v. 2): Their assault would last 42 months. When the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes (168-165 BC) assaulted Jerusalem, his desecrations lasted for three years. This may be the meaning of the vision.