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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Revelation

- Revelation

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The opening verses of the book state that "John" wrote it (Rev_1:1; Rev_1:4; Rev_1:9; cf. Rev_22:8). From the first century to the present day almost all orthodox scholars have concluded that this means the Apostle John. [Note: See Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 : An Exegetical Commentary, pp. 2-19; John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 11-14; or Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 700-7, for further discussion of authorship.] Two noteworthy exceptions were Luther and Zwingli. Today many scholars who accept the divine inspiration of the book believe the Apostle John wrote it. Others, of course, believe some other John wrote the book. [Note: E.g., David E. Aune, Revelation 1-5, p. lvi.]

Some of the early church fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Victorinus) wrote that the Apostle John experienced exile on the island of Patmos during Domitian’s reign (Rev_1:9). [Note: See the map near my comments on Rev_1:10-11. For a summary of this tradition, see Isbon T. Beckwith The Apocalypse of John, pp. 366-93; George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, p. 8; and Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John , 1 :lxxxviii-xcii.] They wrote that the government allowed John to return to Ephesus after this emperor died. Domitian died in A.D. 96. Consequently many conservative interpreters date the writing of this book near A.D. 95 or 96. [Note: E.g., Carson and Moo, pp. 707-12.] Kenneth Gentry argued that John wrote Revelation in the late 60s. [Note: Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. For arguments favoring a preterist-idealist interpretation, see John Noe, "An Exegetical Basis for a Preterist-Idealist Understanding of the Book of Revelation," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49:4 (December 2006):767-96.] Several writers have refuted this preterist view. [Note: E.g., Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics, pp. 451-71; and Mark L. Hitchcock, "A Defense of the Domitianic Date of the Book of Revelation" (Ph.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary), 2005.]

"Perhaps more than any other book in the NT, the Apocalypse enjoyed wide distribution and early recognition." [Note: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, p. 36.]

Where did John get the revelation that he wrote down in this book? He said that he received it from Jesus Christ through angelic mediation (Rev_1:1). Most of the details of this revelation were undoubtedly new to John. However there are remarkable parallels between this revelation and the Lord Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21). The Book of Revelation clearly builds on that foundation and expounds it. [Note: See Alan Johnson, "Revelation," in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 402; Austin Farrer, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, pp. 31-32; Henry B. Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John, pp. cli-clii; Beckwith, pp. 139-40; and Louis A. Vos, The Synoptic Traditions in the Apocalypse.] The apocalyptic sections of certain books of the Old Testament-particularly Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Psalms-contain former revelation that God gave His prophets about the end times. John also alluded often to Exodus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. One scholar claimed that 278 of the 404 verses in Revelation contain references to the Old Testament. [Note: Swete, p. cxxxv.] The United Bible Society’s Greek New Testament lists over 500 Old Testament passages. [Note: Second edition, pp. 897-920. See Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, for many allusions to the Old Testament.] With all these allusions, however, there are no formal quotations from the Old Testament. The revelation that Jesus gave in the Olivet Discourse and later to John on Patmos supplements that earlier revelation.

"Jesus in His [Olivet] discourse was clearly anticipating what He was to show John in much greater detail more than six decades later here on the island of Patmos." [Note: Thomas, Revelation 1-7, pp. 53-54.]

OUTLINE

I.    The preparation of the prophet ch. 1

A.    The prologue of the book Rev_1:1-8

1.    The preface Rev_1:1-3

2.    The address and doxology Rev_1:4-6

3.    The theme Rev_1:7-8

B.    The commission of the prophet Rev_1:9-20

1.    The first commission to write Rev_1:9-11

2.    The source of the commission Rev_1:12-16

3.    The amplification of the commission Rev_1:17-20

II.    The letters to the seven churches chs. 2—3

A.    The letter to the church in Ephesus Rev_2:1-7

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_2:1

2.    Commendation Rev_2:2-3

3.    Rebuke Rev_2:4

4.    Exhortation Rev_2:5-6

5.    Promise Rev_2:7

B.    The letter to the church in Smyrna Rev_2:8-11

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_2:8

2.    Commendation Rev_2:9

3.    Exhortation Rev_2:10 a

4.    Promise Rev_2:10-11

C.    The letter to the church in Pergamum Rev_2:12-17

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_2:12

2.    Commendation Rev_2:13

3.    Rebuke Rev_2:14-15

4.    Exhortation Rev_2:16

5.    Promise Rev_2:17

D.    The letter to the church in Thyatira Rev_2:18-29

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_2:18

2.    Commendation Rev_2:19

3.    Rebuke Rev_2:20-23

4.    Exhortation Rev_2:24-25

5.    Promise Rev_2:26-29

E.    The letter to the church in Sardis Rev_3:1-6

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_3:1 a-b

2.    Commendation and rebuke Rev_3:1 c, Rev_3:2b

3.    Exhortation Rev_3:2 a, Rev_3:3

4.    Promise Rev_3:4-6

F.    The letter to the church in Philadelphia Rev_3:7-13

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_3:7

2.    Commendation Rev_3:8

3.    Promise Rev_3:9-11 a, 12

4.    Exhortation Rev_3:11 b, 13

G.    The letter to the church in Laodicea Rev_3:14-22

1.    Destination and description of Christ Rev_3:14

2.    Rebuke Rev_3:15-17

3.    Exhortation Rev_3:18-19

4.    Promise Rev_3:20-22

III.    The revelation of the future Rev_4:1Rev_22:5

A.    Introduction to the judgments of the Tribulation chs. 4—5

1.    The throne in heaven ch. 4

2.    The Lamb on the throne ch. 5

B.    The first six seal judgments ch. 6

1.    The first seal Rev_6:1-2

2.    The second seal Rev_6:3-4

3.    The third seal Rev_6:5-6

4.    The fourth seal Rev_6:7-8

5.    The fifth seal Rev_6:9-11

6.    The sixth seal Rev_6:12-17

C.    Supplementary revelation of salvation in the Great Tribulation ch. 7

1.    The sealing of 144,000 Israelites Rev_7:1-8

2.    The salvation of the great multitude Rev_7:9-17

D.    The first six trumpet judgments chs. 8—9

1.    The first four trumpet judgments ch. 8

2.    The fifth and sixth trumpet judgments ch. 9

E.    Supplementary revelation of John’s preparation for recording the remaining judgments in the Great Tribulation ch. 10

1.    The appearance of the mighty angel Rev_10:1-4

2.    The announcement of the mighty angel Rev_10:5-7

3.    The instruction of the mighty angel Rev_10:8-11

F.    Supplementary revelation of the two witnesses in the Great Tribulation Rev_11:1-14

1.    The temple in Jerusalem Rev_11:1-2

2.    The ministry of the two witnesses Rev_11:3-6

3.    The death of the two witnesses Rev_11:7-10

4.    The resurrection of the two witnesses Rev_11:11-13

5.    The end of the second woe Rev_11:14

G.    The seventh trumpet judgment Rev_11:15-19

H.    Supplementary revelation of Satan’s activity in the Great Tribulation chs. 12—13

1.    The activity of Satan himself ch. 12

2.    The activity of Satan’s agents ch. 13

I.    Supplementary revelation of preparations for the final judgments in the Great Tribulation chs. 14—15

1.    Judgment at the end of the Great Tribulation ch. 14

2.    Preparation for the bowl judgments ch. 15

J.    The seven bowl judgments ch. 16

1.    The commencement of the bowl judgments Rev_16:1

2.    The first bowl Rev_16:2

3.    The second bowl Rev_16:3

4.    The third bowl Rev_16:4

5.    Ascriptions of angelic and martyr praise Rev_16:5-7

6.    The fourth bowl Rev_16:8-9

7.    The fifth bowl Rev_16:10-11

8.    The sixth bowl Rev_16:12-16

9.    The seventh bowl Rev_16:17-21

K.    Supplementary revelation of the judgment of ungodly systems in the Great Tribulation chs. 17—18

1.    Religion in the Great Tribulation ch. 17

2.    Commerce in the Great Tribulation ch. 18

L.    The Second Coming of Christ ch. 19

1.    The praise of God in heaven Rev_19:1-10

2.    The return of Christ to earth Rev_19:11-16

3.    The destruction of the wicked on earth Rev_19:17-21

M.    The millennial reign of Christ ch. 20

1.    The binding of Satan Rev_20:1-3

2.    The resurrection of tribulation martyrs Rev_20:4-6

3.    The final judgment of Satan Rev_20:7-10

4.    The judgment of the wicked Rev_20:11-15

N.    The eternal state Rev_21:1Rev_22:5

1.    The vision of the new heaven and earth Rev_21:1

2.    John’s first vision of the New Jerusalem Rev_21:2-8

3.    John’s second vision of the New Jerusalem Rev_21:9Rev_22:5

IV.    The epilogue to the book Rev_22:6-21

A.    The testimony of the angel Rev_22:6-7

B.    The testimony of John Rev_22:8-11

C.    The testimony of Jesus and John’s response Rev_22:12-20

D.    The final benediction Rev_22:21

Appendix 1

Roman Emperors in New Testament Times [Note: Source of dates for the emperors is J. B. Bury, et al., eds. Cambridge Ancient History, vols. 10 & 11.]
EmperorImportant EventsBible Books Written
Augustus (31 B.C.-A.D. 15)Ordered the census that took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem (Luk_2:1).
Tiberius (A.D. 15-35)Jesus’ earthly ministry conducted during his reign (Luk_3:1; Luk_20:22; Luk_20:25; Luk_23:2; Joh_19:12; Joh_19:15).
Gaius (A.D. 35-41)Appointed Herod Agrippa I king over Palestine (Act_12:1).
Claudius (A.D. 41-54)Extensive famines (Act_11:28).Expelled the Jews, including Priscilla and Aquilla, from Rome (Act_18:2).James (A.D. 45-48)
Galatians (A.D. 49)
Matthew (ca. A.D. 50)
1 & 2 Thess. (A.D. 51)
Nero (A.D. 54-68)Paul appealed for trial before him (Act_25:11).Favored Christianity early in his reign, but when Rome burned in A.D. 64 he blamed the Christians and thereafter persecuted them.Paul and Peter traditionally martyred by him.1 & 2 Cor. (ca. A.D. 56)
Romans (A.D. 57)
Luke (A.D. 57-59)
Prison Epistles (A.D. 60-62)
Acts (A.D. 60-62)
1 Tim. & Titus (A.D. 62-66)
Mark (A.D. 63-70)
1 Peter (A.D. 64)
2 Timothy (A.D. 67)
2 Peter (A.D. 67-68)
Jude (A.D. 67-80)
Galba (A.D. 68-69)Hebrews (A.D. 68-69)
Otho (A.D. 69)
Vitellius (A.D. 69)
Vespasian (A.D. 69-79)Crushed the Jewish revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70).His son, Titus, destroyed Jerusalem (A.D. 70).
Titus (A.D. 75-81)
Domition (A.D. 81-96)John (A.D. 85-95)
Johannine Epistles (A.D. 90-95)
Revelation (A.D. 95-96)
Nerva (A.D. 96-98)

Appendix 2

Symbols Used in the Book of Revelation
That the Book Itself Interprets
1.The seven lampstands (Rev_1:12) are seven churches (Rev_1:20).
2.The seven stars (Rev_1:16) are seven angels or messengers (Rev_1:20).
3.The morning star (Rev_2:28; Rev_22:16), the male child (Rev_12:5), and the root and offspring of David (Rev_22:16) are Jesus Christ (Rev_19:15; Rev_22:16).
4.The Lamb (Rev_17:14) is Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev_17:14) and Jerusalem’s lamp (Rev_21:23).
5.The white horse rider (Rev_19:11) is Faithful and True (Rev_19:11), the Word of God (Rev_19:13), and King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev_19:16).
6.The city of my God (Rev_3:12), the Lamb’s bride (Rev_19:7; Rev_21:9), and the holy city (Rev_21:10) are the New Jerusalem (Rev_3:12; Rev_21:10; cf. Rev_21:2).
7.The seven lamps of fire (Rev_4:5) and the seven eyes (Rev_5:6) are the seven spirits of God (Rev_4:5; Rev_5:6).
8.The incense in the golden bowls (Rev_5:8) is the prayers of the saints (Rev_5:8).
9.The fallen star (Rev_9:1) is the angel or messenger of the abyss (Rev_9:11).
10.The great city (Rev_11:8), Sodom (Rev_11:8), and Egypt (Rev_11:8) are Jerusalem (Rev_11:8).
11.The stars of heaven (Rev_12:4) are the angels or messengers of Satan (Rev_12:9).
12.The great dragon (Rev_12:9), the old serpent (Rev_12:9), and the devil (Rev_12:9) are Satan (Rev_12:9).
13.Time, times, and half a time (Rev_12:14) are Rev 1260 days (Rev_12:6).
14.The beast out of the earth (Rev_13:11) is the false prophet (Rev_19:20).
15.The waters (Rev_17:1) are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Rev_17:15).
16.The woman (Rev_17:3) is Babylon the great (Rev_17:5), the great city (Rev_18:10) that reigns over the kings of the earth (Rev_17:18).
17.The seven heads (Rev_17:9) are seven mountains (Rev_17:9) which are seven kings (Rev_17:10).
18.The beast (Rev_17:11) is the eighth king (Rev_17:11).
19.The ten horns (Rev_17:12) are ten kings (Rev_17:12).
20.The fine linen (Rev_19:8) is the righteous acts of the saints (Rev_19:8).
21.The faithful souls come to life (Rev_20:4) is the first resurrection (Rev_20:5).
22.The lake of fire (Rev_20:14) is the second death (Rev_20:14).
23.The Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb (Rev_21:22) are the temple in Jerusalem (Rev_21:22).

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Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah 3 vols. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, 1969, 1972.

Young, Richard, and Stewart Custer. "Annotated Bibliography on Revelation." Biblical Viewpoint 16:1 (April 1982):81-106.