The Message of Revelation

THE BOOK OF Revelation could be likened to a final letter sent by our Lord to his church. There is something special about this message which deserves our attention. We note in particular our Lord’s faithfulness in directing the church’s course through the centuries. In this communication, the Lord tells her of sorrows and tears to come. He warns her of enemies that would arise, and of her wilderness experience to occur. He outlines how empires would rise and fall. Such is the nature of this last message.

We may not be as familiar with this message as we would like to be because the many symbols make it difficult reading. What is a revelation? It is the making known of something that has previously been hidden. The Book of Revelation is a summation of all the prophetic writings of the Bible. The circumstances under which it was written were as follows: the resurrected Lord went in spirit to the Apostle John in the year 96 A.D. on the Isle of Patmos, where John had been banished after miraculously escaping death in a cauldron of oil.


Earlier, Jesus had made a remarkable prophecy about John. It was after the Lord had been resurrected and had appeared to the disciples. (John 21:15-17,21,22) Jesus asked Peter three times to confess his love for his Master. After this Peter inquired of Jesus about John: “What shall this man do?” Jesus answered, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”

John did ‘tarry’. It was not until John was 96 years old that Jesus went to seek the one he loved to bring him an unfolding of future history. The word revelation is a translation of the Greek word, apokalupsis, which means ‘unveiling’. The Book of Revelation is the last written message the church received, or ever will receive, from their Lord. It is the sum of the Bible’s prophecies reset in vivid symbolic settings. It is a picture portrayal of events about to unfold, important for the church to see.

The message begins, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein.” (Rev. 1:3) This writing is unique in that it begins by promising—directly from the Master—a blessing from reading and keeping the words of the book!


“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”—Rev. 1:1,2

A series of angels were sent to John with messages to record. In the 10th chapter of Revelation an angel invited John to take a book out of his hand, and to eat it. John said, “Give me the little book. And he [the angel] said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.” (vs. 9) This incident signifies that the troubles approaching the earth will be bitter experiences to us.


To explain every symbol mentioned in the Book of Revelation is beyond the scope of this article. There is no language elsewhere in the Bible that is as expressive or frank concerning the exceeding fierceness of God’s vengeance against sin during the Great Day of Wrath. For instance: Revelation 6:16,17; 11:18; 14:10,19; 15:1; 16:1; 19:15. He tells us horses will be up to their bridles in blood.—Rev. 14:20

Many think that God is not going to do much in the way of retribution for the dishonor men have done to his name, but we read in Revelation 16:5,6: “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.” The innocent blood of saints and prophets will be avenged.

This reminds us of the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:35 pronouncing judgment against Jerusalem: “Upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias.” As the blood of Abel cried out, so does the blood of martyrs.—Gen. 4:10,11


The Book of Revelation speaks of seven churches. One would expect that the prominent churches of the Apostle John’s time would be mentioned, such as Corinth, Berea, or Jerusalem. But not so. The seven particular churches mentioned represent seven stages of the church throughout the Gospel Age from Pentecost to the end of the age. Even their names are significant, as we shall note further on.

The “bride” being sought by God for his Son is represented in each stage. But in all stages there were things that the Lord hated. Ephesus had its false prophets, and Laodicea was spewn out of the Lord’s mouth for its lukewarmness. Have there been none but saints in each stage of the history of the church? No, but there have been some saints in each stage. The Lord deals with the individual saints, but he does not deal through organizations, channels, or denominations.

When we reach the last stage of the church—the Laodicean stage—we note that she boasts about herself. However, the Lord spews her out of his mouth, and each individual member is directly responsible personally with the Lord. What a blessing this has been! Can there be anything more beautiful or sweeter than the relationship we have—the fellowship—with our Lord Jesus Christ as he sups with us!—Rev. 3:20

The Apostle John was, no doubt, one of the sweetest persons who ever lived. He was spoken of as the disciple that Jesus loved. (John 13:23) Jesus evidently found fellowship with John that he found in none other, except possibly Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus selected John to care for his mother. “Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:26,27) John cared for her for the rest of her life. Years later, when on the Isle of Patmos, John looked and saw the Lord whom he loved through the visions of Revelation.

John presented the messages to the churches, not by lauding himself, but by saying, “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation.” (Rev. 1:9) This was a humble introduction of the message, which reminds us of our Lord’s own words: “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matt. 23:8) There are no ‘lords’ in the church. If one wants to be great in God’s sight he must learn to be lowly. Jesus said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:29) If one is to become a true follower of Jesus, he must accept this offer.


The Book of Revelation is the most ‘dispensational’ book in the Bible. A proper interpretation of its pages depends upon the identification of the time and place of the events recorded. We endeavor, humbly, now to offer our suggestions along this line:

The first message was to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus means “pleasant,” or “desirable.” The Ephesus phase of the church began at Pentecost—the time of the church in her pristine beauty. Smyrna followed, coming at the close of the days of the apostles. The two periods seem to have some overlapping. We do not have specific dates for one to end, and the other to begin.

Smyrna means “bitter.” Bitter persecution from Rome came upon the church during the second, or Smyrna period. Revelation 2:10 mentions a trial period when the church had tribulation for “ten days.” This is believed to be very severe, climaxing ten years of persecution from 303 A.D. to 313 A.D. Diocletian actually depopulated cities. How meaningful were our Lord’s words to the church of this period: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

The third period was the church in Pergamos. Pergamos means “elevated,” such as a citadel, a tower, or an earthly elevation. Here we see the church being cast down. It was a most peculiar time in church history. The Roman Emperor embraced Christianity, and united pagan and Christian Rome. Christians could now worship freely without fear of reprisals! However, this was not true Christianity; rather, it was Christianity in name only. Constantine seemed to elevate Christianity in Rome—a great deception. The exaltation became a snare; soon a proud, aristocratic church emerged, sponsoring the doctrines of Paganism.

Thyatira—the fourth period of the church—existed during the Dark Ages. The name means “sweet perfume of sacrifice.” This was the time when the virgin church endured almost unendurable hardships “in the wilderness” (Rev. 12:6), while the apostate church sat on the throne of her royal paramour. This was when persecutions by the great papal system took place. The tragedy, the sorrow, and the suffering of the saints during this time is indescribable.

The fifth period was the church at Sardis, which means “that which remains.” This stage followed the terrible persecutions of the Thyatira church after they came to a close, and just before the beginning of the reformation, or the time of Wycliffe. Sardis was alive, but was as one dead. (Rev. 3:1) If anyone had passed through the Thyatira period of the church, he would be dead. But our Lord said to them, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.”—Rev. 3:4

Philadelphia, which means “brotherly love,” was the sixth stage of the church. This is the time when the church came out of the ‘wilderness’—not completely, but through the reformers of her period she withstood the power of the Papacy. Martin Luther began a powerful reformation that encouraged one reformer after another to come forth and do the same. The Bible came out into the open, whereas before it had been hidden in monasteries. The reformation died as the new freedom was squelched with the organization of various church denominations. With the bondage of the church occurring again, the glorious era of brotherly love died, until the Laodicean stage came. Virhat tragedy the church has had to endure. However God has always been her help.

The final stage of the church is the Laodicean period, which means “judgment,” “a tried or judged people,” or even, “justice for the people.” It is the seventh and closing period of trial for God’s people. But it is also the time of victory. Although there are failures, the vacancies are filled by new ones coming in. The message to each one is the familiar quotation, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3:21

The Song of Moses was a song of victory, of God’s holiness, of his triumph over all their enemies. We today are singing the Song of Moses and of the Lamb. This should make us the happiest people in the world!—Rev. 15:3

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |