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Studies in the book of Revelation: Getting ready for the final exam

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Topical Scripture: Revelation 15-20

Overview of Revelation 1-14

I. The revelation of Jesus Christ (ch. 1)

II. The letters to the churches (chs. 2-3)

III. The revelation of heaven (ch. 4)

IV. The scroll and the Lamb (ch. 5)

V. Seven seals (6.1-8.1)

VI. Seven trumpets (8.2-11.19)

VII. Seven signs (12.1-14.20)

Seven angels with seven plagues (ch. 15)

Seven angels are revealed with “the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed” (15.1). Those who were victorious over the beast, image, and number worshipped God with harps and song (vs. 2-4).

The seven angels came out of the “tabernacle of the Testimony” (vs. 5-6). The “tabernacle” was the dwelling place of God during the desert wandering of the Israelites. It contained the two tablets of the Testimony brought down from Sinai.

One of the four living creatures gave them “seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God” (v. 7). The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, so much so that no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues were completed (v. 8).

The seven bowls of God’s wrath (ch. 16)

First bowl: ugly and painful sores were on those who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image (v. 2). (CF, the sixth Egyptian plague in Exodus 9).

Second bowl: the sea turned to blood, and all life in it died (v. 3).

Third bowl: rivers and springs of water became blood, while the angel praised God (vs. 4-7).

Fourth bowl: the sun scorched people, but “they refused to repent” (vs. 8-9).

Fifth bowl: poured on the throne of the beast, and the world was plunged into darkness but refused to repent (vs. 10-11). “Throne” is mentioned in Revelation 42 times; once it refers to Satan’s throne (2.13), and here it is the throne of the beast. The other 40 times it refers to the throne of God.

Sixth bowl: Euphrates was dried up “to prepare the way for the kings from the East”; demons gathered the kings of the world “for the battle on the great day of God Almighty” (v. 14), “the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (v. 16). The Hebrew was Har Mageddon, “the mountain of Megiddo.” Many see no specific geographic location here, but a reference to the final overthrow of evil by God.

Seventh bowl: the greatest earthquake in human history; Babylon (Rome) was destroyed as God “gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath” (v. 19). 100-pound hailstones fell upon men, and “they cursed God” (v. 21).

The woman on the beast (ch. 17)

One of the seven angels showed John the punishment “of the great prostitute” (vs. 1-2).

Her description:

Sitting on a scarlet beast.

The beat was covered with blasphemous names and had 7 heads and 10 horns.

She was dressed in fine clothing and jewels, and held a golden cup filled with her abominations.

The title on her forehead: “Mystery / Babylon the Great / the mother of prostitutes / and of the abominations of the earth” (v. 5).

She was “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus” (v. 6).

The beast “once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction” (v. 8). The seven heads are seven hills “on which the woman sits” (v. 9). They are “also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while” (v. 10).

Rome began as a network of seven hill settlements on the left bank of the Tiber river. Her designation as the city on seven hills was common among Roman writers, including Virgil, Martial, and Cicero. The beast “is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction” (v. 11).

The ten horns “are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast” (v. 12). They will “make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them” (v. 14).

The waters where the prostitute sits are “peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” (v. 15). The beast and the ten horns will “hate the prostitute” and “bring her to ruin” (v. 16). This woman is “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (v. 18).

The fall of Babylon and joy in heaven (18.1-19.10)

Another angel shouts, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!” (v. 1). Another voice calls God’s people to “Come out of her” (v. 4). The “merchants of the earth” will “weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more” (v. 11).

Then a mighty angel picks up a boulder the size of a large millstone and throws it into the sea, saying, “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again” (v. 21). A “great multitude in heaven” shouts their hallelujahs and praise to God (19.1-8).

An angel says to John, “Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (v. 9). John tries to worship him, but he refuses and directs his worship to God alone (v. 10).

The rider on the white horse (19.11-21)

The rider is called “Faithful and True” (v. 11). He wears many crowns and a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God (v. 13). The armies of heaven follow him; out of his mouth comes a sharp sword “with which to strike down the nations” (v. 15). His title: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (v. 16).

The beast and the kings of the earth gather their armies to make war against him, but the beast is captured and with him the false prophet (v. 20). The two are thrown into the lake of fire, and the rest are killed with the sword which came out of the mouth of the rider (v. 21).

The millennium, Satan’s doom, and great white throne (ch. 20)

An angel with the key to the Abyss comes down out of heaven (v. 1). He binds Satan with a chain for a thousand years, throws him into the Abyss, and locks and seals it over him (v. 3). After a thousand years “he must be set free for a short time.”

The souls of those beheaded for their testimony for Jesus “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (v. 4). Then Satan is released from his prison; he goes out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, gathers them as a mighty army, and attacks God’s people (v. 7-9).

But fire devoured them; the devil is thrown into the lake of fire, where he will be “tormented day and night for ever and ever” (v. 10).

Then, at the “great white throne,” the dead are judged (v. 11). There is a book of “works” and a book of life (v. 12). They are judged “according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (v. 12).

Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (the “second death”). “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (v. 15).

God’s enemies will be defeated and judged. God will vindicate his own. We will be rewarded eternally for our sacrificial faithfulness to our Father.