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Overview of Revelation

An Opera in Three Cycles

After John described his vision of Jesus and delivered his seven letters, he told of the three revealings he was shown.

There are three sets of seven in in Revelation, with an interlude between Cycle II and Cycle III
Seven Seals (5:1-8:5)Seven Trumpets (8:6-11:18)Seven Bowls (15:1-16:21)
1Conqueror on a White HorseHail, fire, and blood burning a third of the earthPainful sores
2Warrior on a Fiery Red HorseMountain of fire turning a third of the sea to bloodAll seas turn to blood
3Famine on a Black HorseBlazing star named Wormwood hurled into fresh water, making a third bitterAll fresh water turns to blood
4Death on a Pale Green HorseA third of all heavenly orbs are dimmedSun scorches the people
5White-Robed MartyrsWoe one: A star from heaven unlocks the abyss of horrorsDarkness covers the earth
6Wrath of the LambWoe two: four angels release three plagues, killing a third of humanityEuphrates dries up, and armies prepare for war
Great multitude of those sealed to God are gathered to the throneSeven thunders, two witnesses, massive earthquake, many dieChristians prepare, remain alert, wait expectantly
7Silence in HeavenWoe three: The Day of Judgment“It Is Done!”
An Opera in Three Cycles

Interlude of the Dragons and Beasts

Chapters 12-14 Describe a pregnant woman’s terrifying escape from a great red dragon. God has prepared a place for her in the wilderness, though, and she remains protected as she gives birth to her son.

But peace does not last long as the Archangel Michael and his angelic armies do battle with the Devil and Satan. Though Satan is cast out of the heavenly realms and plunges to the earth, the war rages on between the dragon’s horde and the woman’s offspring.

Reinforcements for evil soon emerge, first a beast arises from the sea, then another beast from the earth. But the Lamb stands triumphant on Mount Zion, surrounded by the faithful remnant. As the Lamb surges forward to battle evil, three angels cry out praise, prophesy, and blessing. Then the sickle is swung, the harvest reaped, and the clusters of ripe grapes gathered, for the great winepress of God’s wrath is about to flow.

Babylon and the Beast

Chapters 17-18 follow the opera of three seven-fold judgments that end with the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord’s Judgments. In this, a dissolute woman drunken with violence against God’s own unknowingly rides the Beast to her own sure destruction.

Rejoicing in Heaven

Chapter 19 describes the heavens bursting with accolades for their victorious Conqueror on the White Horse.

Chapter 20 introduces what has been famously called The Millennium, Satan thrown into the Lake of Fire, and the Great White Throne Judgment of all believers.

New Heavens and New Earth

Chapters 21-22 portray the glorious culmination of God’s plan from the beginning of time—to rescue humanity and restore all creation, both heaven and earth.

Themes in Revelation[1]

Revelation

Though written in the form of a letter, containing seven more letters within it; and even though throughout the text the writer reminds his readers this is prophesy, the overarching timbre of the book is of an unveiling, a revealing of reality. This is God’s divine perspective. This is what is really happening.

Corruption

The writer’s description of beasts, the dissolute woman, all the bloodshed and anguish, the persecution, violent aggression towards God and others speaks of a deep and abiding corruption within humanity. This is the world we live in, the world we helped create, it is the natural outcome of being human. We cannot help but constantly recreate who and what we are, and what we are is beastly, savage, selfish, and self-centered. We are Abel and Cain, over and over and over again.

The only way out is by powerful, radical divine intervention, and some have looked up for that very rescue, those who have put their faith in Jesus. But many others not only do not look to God, they shake their fist at God, they gnash their teeth in fury against God.

The powerful potentates of earth, world leaders, mighty empires, are described as wild animals, ridden by a woman who sells herself to them all, drunk with the pleasure of blood, drinking martyrs from her goblet, clothed in the fine raiment of blasphemy.

We in the U.S. prize personal autonomy. If we think of sin at all, we think of it as a personal matter. But the writer of Revelation reveals the spiritual reality of evil. It is systemic. It is anti-God. It gratifies itself with social injustice, not just personal immorality.

Evil ravages the earth, its creatures, and its resources.

Evil rapes human cultures and societies.

Evil rampages through lives and life itself.

Evil resists God, righteousness, and justice at every level, from every vantage.

Justice

In the Opera of Three Cycles, judgment after judgment is poured out onto the earth, there is a pause as the people of God are prepared, and then the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord comes.

The purpose of an apocalypse is to reveal reality. This is the reality: as awful as what is happening now seems, nothing can compare to the coming of the Lord. On That Day, God will right all wrongs with a finality that culminates in the necessary absolute destruction of what is, in order to bring about the absolute good of what will be.

Holy, holy, holy, cry the seraphim.

Cycle 1, Cycle 2, Cycle 3.

Future

Revelation not only reveals earth’s reality of complete corruption and systemic evil, but also reality in the spiritual realm.

The Lord alone holds the future.

Confidence and hope are misplaced in any other.

Suffering is temporary, evil will one day be completely destroyed, what is corrupt will be cleansed, what is good will be spread.

For the longest time, I did not understand that good wins. It seemed impossible to me. And, in fact, there is nothing else in the scriptures that could convince me good is more powerful than evil except for this ancient apocalypse. When I first read it, the implications were clear, but I wondered if they could be so.

It took many years for the Revelation of Jesus Given to John to do its work of strengthening and encouragement. But I see it now, just as John’s ancient readers must have seen. What humans do to the earth and its inhabitants is temporary. Even what Satan and the Devil manage to accomplish is temporary.

Because the Highest Potentate, The Mighty and Living, Everlasting God of the Universe alone holds eternity, and therefore the future.

Even suffering and death will not win over those who are in Christ.

Worship

Therefore, God alone is worthy of worship.

Not any other power, not any human, not any other spiritual being, whether ancient or new. None other but YHWH the One True and Living God.

Life may become grim indeed. Therefore, be transported to the heavens and cry “Glory!” for what is now is but a dark and sooty shadow and what is to come is the brilliant purity of God.



[1] I consulted Mark Allen Powell’s Introducing the New Testament: A Historical, Literary, and Theological Survey for the themes in Revelation.


Babylon on the Beast | By William Blake – https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1847-0318-123, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20886511

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