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Revelation 4-9 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:46 mins 28 secs

The Glorious Victory. overview: Rev ch. 4-9

 

The book of Revelation from chapter four onwards is unfulfilled prophecy. Much of what Jesus taught is unfulfilled, so the study of prophecy is a complex study that demands putting together numerous passages and an understanding of the Scripture in a mega-narrative way. Often that is overwhelming for people, so we try to take the time now and then to stop and do an overview.

 

We learn that Revelation was written for four reasons. First of all, to encourage believers in the midst of opposition and persecution because God controls history. John's initial readers were often involved in persecution from the local pagan population. Secondly, it was written to challenge believers with a future goal for church age believers to reign with Christ. Our destiny is to be kings and priests, to rule with Christ, to be part of that administration of the kingdom that He establishes on the earth. Thirdly, it is to provide information for the Tribulation saints to persevere during those unimaginably dark days. It is going to be a time of incredible sorrow, a time of unprecedented violence and destruction. In the period of just the first part of the Tribulation, the first three and a half years, half of the world population will die. Fourth, it is to be a model for the worship of the Lamb. Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lamb twenty-eight times in the book of Revelation.

 

Revelation 4:1:  "After these things I looked…" The "after these things takes us right back to 1:19 where John was commissioned to write the "things which are, which have been, and the things which shall be after these things." When we get into the "after these things" there are three more sections. We can summarize the chapters 4-19 as the development of three cycles of judgments. First are the seal judgments, followed by the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments. All the details fit within those three series of judgments that take place during the Tribulation. "…and behold, a door {standing} open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like {the sound} of a trumpet speaking with me, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.'" This one verse is a picture, as it were, of the Rapture of the church. So the focus is on the seal judgments from chapter 6 through 8:5, the seven trumpet judgments from 8:7-11:19, and then the seven bowl judgments from 15:1 to 16:21. The events that take place in between these judgments are looking at events going on in other places at the same time as these judgments.

We see that the culmination is the final war between rebellious man and God. This is pictured in the Old Testament in Psalm 2:1-4. The picture prophetically in Psalm 2 is that at the end of the age mankind as a collective whole unites in internationalism and globalism against God, and that no matter what God does in terms of judgment and revelation during the Tribulation period—for it will be a time of prophets, a time of grace, and there will be many who do get saved, who do trust in Christ as their savior during the Tribulation period—the vast majority of mankind continues to harden in their resistance and antagonism to God. So Psalm 2 in its prophetic sense says, NASB "Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? he kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed [Jesus Christ], saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them."

Psalm 2:4 is a picture of God laughing, scoffing at mankind, this little almost insignificant creature that thinks that he is so great that he can redefine reality on his own terms and rebel against God. What we see in these chapters of Revelation is that on the one hand there are images of the glory of God, the power of God, the majesty of God, and on the other hand we have these pictures of mankind standing in rebellion against Him, and all of the evil in human history comes to its culmination in the most horrendous events possible during this period known as the great Tribulation.

As we go through Revelation it is important to understand the drama that is here. This is one of the most dramatic books in Scripture. It is like reading a historical narrative ahead of time. But it is important to understand the scene shifts. There is a lot of symbolism here. There is constant movement, so we have to ask ourselves whether it is talking about events in Heaven or events on the earth. It starts off in chapters four and five with a scene in heaven. It is a scene where all the angels are before the throne of God. The throne of God is a picture of His justice and it is time for the justice of God to be fully worked out in human history. There is a scroll that is brought forth and this scroll is somehow related to the establishment of God's kingdom. On this scroll there is information written related to the events, but it is sealed and there are seven seals on it and there is this problem. Who can open the seals, who is worthy to break the seals? It is a magnificent scene out of which we will learn a lot about corporate worship. After the seals are broken we see the beginning of those judgments in chapters 6-7:8 where the scene shifts to earth and we see the outworking of the seal judgments. From 7:8 to 8:6 the scene shifts back to heaven, and back to the earth from 8:7 through chapter 9. Then back in heaven again in chapters 10-11:6, and back to the earth in 11:7-14;; 11:15-19 is in heaven; 12:1-6 is on the earth; 12:7-11 in heaven; 12:13-14:5 on the earth; 14:6-15:8 is in heaven; 16-18 on the earth; 19:1-16 is when we go to heaven and see the Lord Jesus Christ gathering His armies together, and then He comes to the earth to establish His kingdom, 19;17-20:10. The events taking place on the earth are taking place at the same time as the events in heaven, so we have to realize that the chapters are not necessarily in consecutive order.

As we go through this organize it in terms of three events: seal judgments, trumpet judgments, bowl judgments. There is a problem initially, chapters four and five. Who is qualified to open that scroll? Who is qualified to judge mankind? Who can we find who can execute judgment on the human race? Then we have the scroll opened and the first two sets of judgments, the seal judgments and the trumpet judgments. Then there is an interlude and we are introduced to the key players. There are seven key players in the book of Revelation and they are introduced in chapters 12 and following. Then we have the final conflict, which is the battle of Armageddon.

When we come to Revelation chapter four it is the scene in heaven, the throne of God. In verse 2 John says, "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne." "In the Spirit" is not a reference to being filled with the Spirit, it is a specific prophetic state wherein God gives revelation where he is able to see things he would not normally see. God is opening up his mind to these future events. He sees a throne, and the only throne in the book of Revelation is the throne of God the Father. It is a throne of judgment, a place of judgment, and this is a picture of God sitting on His throne as the supreme judge of heaven and earth about to execute His judgments. Then as we go through the chapter there is this search for someone who is worthy to open the scroll, and finally in chapter five a dramatic scene where John bursts out weeping intensely, overwhelmed by the fact that there is no one who can do this. There are no angels or human being who can open the scrolls, and then suddenly, in comes the Lamb. The Lamb is worthy to open the scroll because it is the Lamb of God who paid the penalty for sins. In chapter five is a heavenly chorus made up of angels and church age believers singing: "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood {men} from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

So the Lord Jesus Christ then takes the scroll and begins the break the seven seals. The first four are often referred to as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. In chapters 6 through 7 we see the outline of what happens in each of these judgments. At this stage, within the first 20 months of the Tribulation period there will be the death of one quarter of the earth's population. This is followed by martyrdom because there are many who come to Christ during this time and the powers of the earth will be in opposition to them and there will be hundreds of thousands of believers killed for their faith during this time. There will be geophysical disturbances, meteorological disturbances, in the sixth seal. The sun becomes black as sackcloth, the moon like blood, the stars of heaven fall to the earth. So there are all these various disasters and they are described as the wrath of the Lamb. Chapter 6:17 reads: "for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

In chapter seven is a shift. Instead of talking about the seventh seal it goes back to what happens on the earth at the beginning of the seal judgments. There are angels mentioned who are holding back the winds of the earth, and it is this meteorological disaster that is being halted for a brief time. Imagine if all winds stopped, how it would affect climate, temperature, agriculture, everything. Then another angel shows up from the east and he has the seal of the living God. He says, ""Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." There is a seal of protection placed on 144,000 Jewish believers so that they survive the Tribulation period. Nothing will harm them, and it is this 144,000 that will go forth as evangelists throughout the Tribulation period proclaiming the gospel, and it is through their testimony that hundreds of thousands will be saved during the Tribulation period.

The scene then shifts again after that to show that at the beginning there is witness from these saints and then a shift to a heavenly scene in 7:9 where John says: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and {all} tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches {were} in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,  'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" These aren't church age believers, they are identified in this chapter as those who were martyred for their faith during the Tribulation.

In chapter eight we come to the seventh seal and the prelude to the seven trumpet judgments. When the seventh seal is opened the horror of it is so incredible that there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. The angels and resurrected saints are stunned in silence as they see the horrors of this judgment that is the result of angelic and human evil. The first trumpet judgment is hail and fire upon the earth. This results in the deaths of numerous people once again. A third of the trees are burned up, the grass is burned up. There is a burning mountain, some sort of meteor or asteroid that falls into the ocean and one third of the sea creatures are killed and one third of the ships are destroyed, and one third of the sea water is turned to blood. When the third trumpet judgment comes it falls upon the fresh water and the fresh water is made undrinkable, it is turned bitter, and a third of the life that is in that water also dies. The fourth trumpet judgment: A third of the sun is struck, a third of the moon, a third of the stars are darkened, a third of the day does not shine, and life on earth will become much colder. Then there is a release of demons from the abyss described in chapter 9, the fifth trumpet. This is followed by another demonic judgment where angels who had been kept imprisoned under the Euphrates River are released. They will bring plagues upon the earth. Two hundred million demonic horsemen are released and a third of mankind is now killed. So one quarter is killed to begin with and now another third, so half way into the Tribulation half of the population of the earth is gone. The seventh trumpet judgment is announced and that will contain seven more judgments.

But there is an interlude that takes place. In chapter ten we are introduced to a mighty angel who has a little book, a book related to judgment. Then we are told about two witnesses that are on the earth during this time. They are living in the power of Moses and Elijah. They have ministries that are like theirs, and they will be on the earth for one thousand two-hundred and sixty days—three and a half years, half of the Tribulation period—and no one can harm them. They are performing miracles to authenticate their message from God, and finally the Antichrist will kill them. After three days they will be resurrected and all the world will see them.

In chapter twelve we have the seven key figures that are presented. It starts off with the woman who represents Israel, and then the dragon who is Satan of old is introduced. Then there is the male child whom the woman gives birth to, the one who will rule the nations, the Lord Jesus Christ. Next there is the reference to war breaking out in heaven and we are introduced to Michael the archangel and his armies of angels who fight with the dragon and the fallen angels. Finally they prevail and we are told that the dragon is cast out to the earth and his angels with him. Then John says: NASB "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,  "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night." This sets the stage for the final conflict, and this is when we are introduced to the phrase "the wrath of Satan" which now comes upon the earth as he throws his final temper tantrum in history. The woman who is persecuted and represents Israel goes into the wilderness which is were she [Israel] finally turns to God, seeking salvation, and the remnant of Israel, the portion which has accepted Christ as savior, is delivered.     

In chapter 13 we are introduced to the two evil personages, the first beast and the second beast. They are called beasts because man in his sinfulness is not honourable, he is beastly, vicious, filled with violence and destruction. The first beast is the Antichrist who comes out of the sea and the second beast is the false prophet who rises out of the earth.

In chapter 14 we are introduced to the final events. John says: "Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb {was} standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads." This is the 144,000 we saw in chapter seven, those who were sealed to this final day and who survive the Tribulation period. It is at this time that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to bring everything to a fulfilment and we see the final judgment introduced. It involves the third set of judgments, the bowl judgments. The first bowl judgment brings boils upon the earth, these incredible sores that come upon men who have worshipped the beats and have taken his mark upon them. Then all the seas are turned to blood. Then there is a judgment on the fresh water and that is turned to blood. The fourth judgment is a scorching from the sun. There is such a destruction of the atmosphere that it now becomes incredibly hot upon the earth. In the fifth bowl judgment there is darkness and pain. In the sixth bowl judgment the Euphrates River dries up and there is another invasion. This is where they begin to gather together at a place called Armageddon, chapter 16:16. Then the seventh bowl judgment is the final judgment and the whole earth is shaken. It is a massive earthquake, meteorological damage, and this is what leads to the destruction of the economic system and the political system that the Antichrist brings together during the Tribulation period.

All of this ends when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth with His victorious bride, the church. Revelation 19:11 NASB "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it {is} called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes {are} a flame of fire, and on His head {are} many diadems; and He has a name written {on Him} which no one knows except Himself. {He is} clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white {and} clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." This is when our Lord Jesus Christ will destroy the armies of the Antichrist, destroy Satan, and this is when the former will be consigned to the lake of fire and Satan will be bound.

That takes us to the end of the next section in Revelation covering the Tribulation period. The point that we all need to remember from this is that human history is headed to a conclusion. Human history has a purpose, it fits within the overarching conflict that began when Lucifer first rebelled against God in eternity past. All of human history fits within that, and our history fits within that. And the question that everyone needs to answer for themselves is: Where am I and how am I prepared for what is coming?

Illustrations