Let’s start with a quick recap of the four main steps in the Inductive Method of Bible study:
- Pray – the Spirit is our Teacher and Guide.
- Observe – only looking at what the text says – do not jump to any conclusions here.
- Interpretation – ask about the meaning to those to whom the book was originally written. Here we ask why questions; we do not ask about ourselves or our society in this step.
- Application – application is the goal of Bible study, leading to transformed lives and societies, but it is the last step in the method. Jumping to application prematurely can lead to incorrect doctrine.
Bear these steps in mind as we get into the text.
Try getting into the method a little for yourself:
- Pray. Ask God to open greater understanding of Revelation’s message to the original readers, and the application for your life today.
- Observe. Who’s who? Make a list of the characters and their attributes (he imagery used to describe them) in this act.
- Interpretation. Try and see what you think some of the symbolism, especially numbers, around the characters might represent.
Division II = God’s view (11:19 to end)
We’ve seen what’s happening from the earth’s perspective; now we are going to see what is happening in the heavenlies.
Act III Cast of Characters; Revelation 11:19-15:4
Where is the setting of Act III (11:19)? God’s Temple in heaven.
Act 3 in big picture:
- Scene 1 brings the Woman, Child and the Dragon
- Scene 2 brings the Beast from the Sea
- Scene 3 brings the Beast from the earth
- Scene 4 brings the 144,000 back into spot light
- Scene 5 brings 3 angels and the blessed martyrs
- Scene 6 brings the son of man and 2 angels
- The Intermission brings 7 angels with the last 7 plagues
- Then finally the act concludes in Scene 7 with the conquers worshipping God
Let’s cheat for a second and skip ahead to the end of the act.
Read Revelation 15:1-4 and consider the question: “Who wins this Act?”
. . .
Jesus and those who conquer (His saints)!
There are different opinions on who’s who and when these events took place, will take place or are taking place, but remember that, through all of it, this scene again shows: the enemies of God defeated, God victorious, and the people of God worshipping Him as King over all.
Scene 1, the Woman and the Dragon (Ch 12)
The woman is shown to give birth to a male child that gets caught up to heaven and will rule with a rod of iron.
Who is the child?
. . .
Jesus (rod of iron – Rev 19:15)
So then, who is the woman?
Those who take a literal interpretation suggest the woman depicts either the Jewish believers, or Mary (although Mary is not as popular because of the time woman is in the wilderness and the woman’s other children are being persecuted).
Those who take a symbolic interpretation look at the 12 stars as again referring to the number of God’s people, and thus interpret the woman as symbolic of the church (all believers).
The symbolic interpretation would be the most encouraging interpretation for the original readers. They would look at it as God giving them nourishment and strength in the midst of persecution. They would see the “pains of childbirth” referring to the persecution of the church until Christ comes again to rule, but would be encouraged by the fact that childbirth is temporary and great joy comes at the end of it. Their pain and persecution is temporary, too.
So then, who is the dragon?
Remember we must first take meaning from the book, then the Scripture, and then only after conjecture.
Q: Who is the Dragon as per verse 9? . . .
And what of the different numbers that are linked to his imagery? He is seen to have 10 horns, with the number 10 representing worldly power. The 7 heads and diadems is linked to God’s perfect number, thus showing that he is setting himself up as God. This is not surprising since v9 says that he is the great deceiver.
There are different options presented for the time frame that the battle in heaven is occurring. Some say this is the church age/ the age of tension that we are in now (time from Christ’s ascension to His second coming). People in this camp would say that Satan has been thrown out of heaven (consider Luke 10:17-20), partially defeated, but is still free on earth. Others would say he has already been bound in the bottomless pit as per Rev 20:2 and that we are in the millennial reign of Christ.
There are also two interpretations for Satan being thrown down. The literal interpretation would be geographical, where the symbolic interpretation would be in regards to his spiritual authority and power. Regardless of which option you side with, the original readers would see that Satan is here defeated in heaven, and in Rev 20:2 Satan is defeated on earth. This is ENCOURAGING; God will prevail against Satan!
Consider who won in 12:7-8? . . . Angels
Who was defeated? . . . Satan
And what is seen of believers in 12:10-12? . . . Overcame by the blood of Lamb (Jesus’ death and resurrection), their testimony (Gospel and our life), loved not their own lives (endurance). We are conquers thanks to the blood of Christ, shed for us!
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Over chapters 12 and 13 we again see two sets of 3 ½ years. Chapter 12 has the saints nourished for 1260 days, and Chapter 13 has the beast allowed to exercise authority for 42 months. In Revelation, days are representative of good and months are representative of evil.
Scene 2 and 3 Beast from the Sea, and Beast from the earth
There are so many different interpretations for who these beasts are! Just whether you think they are literal (e.g. Rome and Caesar worship; different great empires of the world; Islam; Pope and Catholicism . . .) or spiritual (e.g anti-God government and anti-God religion) depends on your interpretative view of Revelation.
The first beast seems to be an amalgamation of the 4 beasts in Daniel 7 [but these are kingdoms in Daniel]. Remember that horns represent power and the diadem represents authority, so there is some kind of connection with governments. He dies and then is resurrected, again a counterfeit Jesus. But the end of the matter in Rev 19:20 is clear . . . he is destroyed.
The second beast appears like a lamb: another counterfeit Jesus. The main options presented include:
- ? the false prophet
- ? some link to the Man of Lawlessness (2 Thess 2:3-4)
- ? some link to the Antichrist (1 and 2 John)
- ? economic persecution (from v17)
Somehow the beast ties to false religion. But the end of the matter in Rev 19:20 is clear . . . he is destroyed.
The big picture here can be gathered be a repeated word: allowed.
- 13:5 allowed to exercise authority
- 13:14 allowed to work
- 13:15 allowed to give breath
Implication: GOD IS IN CONTROL! The message for the original reader is a call to endurance (13:10) and wisdom (13:18).
In this scene we are also given the mark of the beast. Remember that the saints HAVE ALREADY BEEN SEALED BY GOD and in Rev 14:1 we again see the faithful church sealed by God!
There are two interpretations of the beast’s mark: Literal interpretation is that there is a physical mark – either his name or the number of his name. The symbolic interpretation looks again to Hebrew understanding of numbers. 6 is the number of evil, so 666 = evil evil evil. The original readers would probably be thinking more along the symbolic lines.
Regardless, the number of 666 should not create fear in believers! There is a mark given to believers (sealed in Christ!) and one for unbelievers; God is again symbolising two sides. People live in fear of this mark in things like bar codes, but to fear this is to say that if we make one mistake we lose salvation because we miss a barcode! Salvation is through Christ and Christ alone. And yet people live in such fear of losing salvation from a credit card or food product. If you are in Christ, you are sealed and you DO NOT NEED TO FEAR the mark of the beast!
Scene 4 brings the 144,000 back into spot light (14:1-5)
Remember that John heard the number 144,000 but saw a great multitude and we said that, symbolically, this was representative of all believers. But if it is in reference to all believers, why does it refer to them not defiling themselves, and remaining virgins? Look at the language that is used. Adultery in the Old Testament was a reference to the people’s idolatry against God; it was about God’s people being faithful to Him alone. Here the white robes are further symbolism of the purity of their faith and their blamelessness.
Scene 5 brings 3 angels and the blessed martyrs (14:6-13)
This is a preview to chapters 17 and 18, which depict the Fall of Babylon. It is a warning of the final judgement that has come and what will happen to those who do not turn from the beast to worship God.
What is the overall message of this scene given in Rev 14:12? . . .
It is yet another call to the endurance of the saints. The book of Revelation is all about encouraging the original readers, and all believers, to remain firm in their faith and endure the evils of this world until the end – because Jesus wins, and so do we!
What is the reward of the saints? . . . blessed rest.
What is the reward of God’s enemies? . . . judgement and wrath.
Who wins? . . . God and His saints!
Who loses? . . . Babylon and those who worship the beast.
Scene 6 brings the son of man and 2 angels (14:14-20)
Make sure you don’t miss the two distinct groups being marked here. The earth is reaped first, then comes the second sickle of judgement. This is another key message throughout Revelation: There is no GREY in God’s coming judgement. You are for God, or you are against Him; You have His seal, or you have the mark of the beast; You triumph with Christ, or you suffer with the beast; You enter eternal rest, or you enter an eternity of torment with no rest. This scene is yet another encouragement for the original readers, and ourselves: they are safe from God’s judgement that IS COMING against unrighteousness.
The Intermission brings 7 angels with the last 7 plagues
Anticipation of the final plagues of God’s wrath in Ch apter 16/Act IV.
Scene 7 concludes the Act with the conquerors worshiping God
What encouragement to the original readers and for us! This Act has called saints to endurance and their reward is worship of the Lamb in heaven and blessed rest.
Are we living as conquerors? Are we living as those who have overcome in Christ? Hold on to the truth of the Gospel, live a blameless life before God, and stand firm in your faith in the midst of the world’s evil.
Next post we will get into the Fourth “Act” of Revelation as the drama continues to unfold.