Overview of Revelation and Study of Revelation 1-3
December 25th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Book of Prophecy

The New Testament has one book of prophecy that concludes the New Testament and concludes the entire Bible. This book is known as Revelation.

Overview of Revelation

The author of Revelation identifies himself as John – the Disciple and Apostle who also wrote an eponymous Gospel and also wrote three letters which we studied over the last few days. John’s purpose in writing the book of Revelation was to reveal the full identity of Jesus and to give hope to believers and warnings to deceivers.

In a lecture series on this book, the Rev. Greg Doll explained that the Jews and Christians living in the Roman Empire had been given an exemption from bowing down to the emperor, but that exemption was removed around 100 A.D. As a result, all people were required to bow to the emperor. John, following in the footsteps of some of the heroes of the Hebrew Scripture, had refused to comply, and as result was exiled to the island of Patmos, from where he wrote this book. Rev. Doll further explained that John had acknowledged that the Roman Empire retained power over its subjects and the persecution was expected to get worse, but he emphasized to his readers that God is ultimately in charge. There will ultimately be justice and eternal rest for the faithful. Therefore, the question for those Christians and for us is "Whom will I worship." The greatest danger for those people, and for us, warned Rev. Doll was not the persecution, but the temptation of spiritual complacency (1).

John wrote the book to the seven churches in the region of the Roman Empire then known as Asia, but as with every book in the Bible, the message also applies to people of all time. All of these churches were in land that is now recognized as Turkey. For example, Smyrna was one of the main cities of Roman Asia and is mentioned in Revelation as one of the seven churches of Asia, but is now known as Izmir and can be found in the Aegean province of Turkey.

Many people avoid the book of Revelation because of the difficulty of understanding it, but the meaning of the book becomes more clear if one can unravel the symbology with help from experts. As we read this book we will see that the visions, symbolism, and prophecies are reminiscent of some of the chapters we read in the Old Testament books of prophecy, consequently, our months of study in those books will reap rewards for us again.

The Rev. Mike Campagna (aka the "jogging, blogging, tweeting Pastor") enumerated his view of the top ten mistakes that people make when reading the Book of Revelation. We provide his list here as a challenge and strive to help you avoid these mistakes by providing you with encouragement and guidance based on multiple trusted references. Capagna's list is as follows (2):

The Top 10 Mistakes People Make When Reading the Book of Revelation

  1. Don’t read it for themselves. (Revelation 1:3)
  2. Spell it with an “s” instead (“Revelations”).
  3. Think they can’t understand it.
  4. Are afraid of it.
  5. Forget the various methods to interpretation (symbolic, historical, preterist, futurist)
  6. Think they have all the answers.
  7. Overlook keys to unlocking its meaning in other Bible books. (i.e. Daniel, Matthew)
  8. Don’t get in line with its message (truths must effect lifestyle).
  9. Add to it (ignore the warning in Revelation 22:18).
  10. Subtract from it (ignore the warning in Revelation 22:19).

Our study will be divided up into the following groups of chapters:

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

Revelations 1-3 (Hear What the Spirit Says)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

A revealing of Jesus, the Messiah. God gave it to make plain to his servants what is about to happen. He published and delivered it by Angel to his servant John. And John told everything he saw: God’s Word— the witness of Jesus Christ!

- Revelation 1:1-2 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

The first three chapters consist of an introduction, the setting of the stage of the vision experienced by John, and the text of letters to the seven churches as dictated by Jesus to John in the vision.

John saw the Son of Man in his vision, but he appeared differently than before. He was not the newborn baby, nor was he the wounded lamb. Instead, he was an impressive and unimaginable presence of divine glory:

Similar to the message given by the Angels to the Shepherds on the first Christmas, Jesus tells John not to be afraid. Jesus instructs John to write down what he says. The message is similar to each of the churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia (city of brotherly love), and Laodicea. In each case, he closes with the following statement: “He who has an ear, let him ear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Reflection and Application

All of the seven churches were on a Roman road. The order delivered by Jesus is the same order that a traveler would encounter the churches as he travelled in a clockwise beginning in Ephesus, which was the closest city to the island of Patmos.

John’s description of Jesus reminds his audience that although Jesus had been killed in an act of violence he had overcome death for himself and his followers. This was intended to be encouraging to the folks in the seven churches as they were facing widespread persecution.

Note that Jesus commands each church to “hear what the Spirit says.” This is an everlasting command for all of us. The messages of the Spirit are found here in Revelation and in all the books of the Bible. They are found in the divinely inspired sermons we hear at church, on the radio, and other places. The messages of the Spirit can be found in advice given by brothers and sisters in the faith. They can be found in situations orchestrated by God. The messages of the Spirit can be heard directly from God – in a voice that only we hear. Let us pray that we are aware and listening when that occurs, and that we do whatever he tells us.

Let us be encouraged by the news of his birth celebrated on Christmas, his Resurrection celebrated on Easter, his presence in our daily lives, and his eventual return.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your Christmas morning tradition?
    2. What would Jesus say if he wrote to your church this morning?
    3. In what ways can we can be strengthened as we read these chapters?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know your Son will come again. Help us be strengthened by this truth.

    Prayer Concern
    People working on Christmas Day


    (1) Doll, Rev. Gregory, "Life Along the Post Road and the Book of Revelation, an Alternate Reading of Reality," series of lectures delivered in Darien, CT and New York City, January - June 2012
    (2) Campagna, Rev. Mike, "10 Mistakes People Make with the Book of Revelation (plus 1 bonus)," A Heart for God Ministries Website

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Revelations 4-7 (Glimpses of Glory)

    Comments and Questions
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