The Book of Revelation: A Prophetic Overview
In all of Scripture, the Book of Revelation is one of the most important, but maybe the least understood by the multitudes of Yahuweh’s people. The Title in both Greek and English means “the Unveiling” or “the Revealing,” so we get the idea from the title that something hidden will be revealed in the text.
The first three verses of the opening chapter tell us what the message of Revelation is: It is the message Yahuweh gave to Yahushua Messiah, in order that Yahushua might show to His Servants those things which will shortly come to pass.
The Two-part Message of Revelation
The entire message of Revelation can be seen as a two-part message. The first part consists of detailed warnings given to the Believers, wherein Yahushua reveals various major shortcomings in the doctrines and practices of the New Testament Believers, along with the remedies.
These shortcomings are not minor in nature, but as we can see by the language used, these are serious issues, and appear to have eternal consequences. The warnings addressed to the called-out people in the 7 cities in Revelation, appear to parallel the warnings given in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Both sets of warnings deal with issues of deciding who will be among the Bride, and who will not; and both address what one’s inheritance will consist of.
These warnings are given in a prophetic perspective, and they apply to the last days of preparation of the Bride, immediately prior to any judgments. Thus the warnings serve as an aid to preparation for the Bride, and can serve as a checklist for the Bride’s assessment of her own readiness.
The second part of the message can be seen as a prophetic panorama of things to come, seen as one great panorama of future events, with various time periods depicted as separate scenes within the panorama.
Many today are in disagreement as to whether the events seen in Revelation are to be taken literally, or taken spiritually or metaphorically. This disagreement and time wasting over this issue is not necessary. In the proper time, Yahushua will reveal which of those things are to be taken literally, and which ones are to be taken spiritually or symbolically. Our primary task today is to prepare ourselves, and to pay close attention to the warnings given.
The Prophetic Purpose of Revelation
Notice in the opening passages the following verse:
“Blessed is … he that readeth … they that hear … and keep those things which are written therein…” (Revelation 1:3a)
Here we see that some are singled out by saying they are Blessed — language used by Yahushua to speak of those closest to His heart. These are the ones to whom the message is addressed, that it might become profitable to them.
Thus we understand that the messages to the 7 churches are to be taken in a prophetic way — by applying the ‘now’ meaning to each and every message, without regard to which of the seven churches a message appears to be addressed.
We also see in the opening passages, further prophetic purposes of the Book of Revelation. For example, notice in the verse above, the phrase, “Blessed [are] they that hear.” We recall from our studies, that the word ‘hear’ in the Greek text corresponds most often to the Hebrew word shama, or ‘hearken,’ meaning “to keep, to guard; to hear and obey.”
Thus when we see in many other passages of Revelation, that the Bride is to develop ‘ears to hear,’ we understand that this tells us that we are to develop our sensitivity to hearing and responding, by obedience, to the words of Scripture — as the Holy spirit reveals them to us.
We also see in the above passage, that the Bride is to keep those things that are written therein. This word ‘keep’ in the Greek text corresponds to several different Hebrew words, most prominent of which are shamar, natasar, and shaqad, all of which have the meaning of “watch; keep; pay heed; perform; guard; hear and obey.”
Thus we may conclude even from the opening passages, that the warnings in Revelation are to be heard very carefully, and obeyed or carried out to the last detail — for it is in this way that those of the Bride Company prepare themselves for the Bridegroom.
Now let’s notice one other passage:
“…If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Revelation 3:3b)
In this passage, we see one other part of the prophetic purpose of the messages — to encourage the Bride to ‘watch.’ But what does it mean, to watch?
Again, like the words ‘hear’ and ‘keep’ that we saw above, the word ‘watch’ also corresponds [in most cases] to the same Hebrew words shamar, natasar, and shaqad, all of which have the meaning of “watch; keep; pay heed; perform; guard; hear and obey.” One example of the word ‘natsar’ can be seen in this context, as used in Psalms 25:10:
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep [‘natasar’] his covenant and his testimonies. (Psalms 25:10)
As the above passage tells us, His mercy and truth come to those who keep — who “watch; keep; pay heed; perform; guard; hear and obey” His covenant and his testimonies. Is it any wonder that the early band of Disciples were ‘keepers’ of Messiah’s Covenant and His testimonies, and were thus called natsarim, or ‘keepers’ of the Way?
And so from the Revelation passage above, we now understand that the Bride is not only to ‘watch’ with her eyes for the Bridegroom to return, but most importantly, she must endeavour to ‘watch’ in the Hebrew sense of the word — to ‘keep’ His New Covenant provisions, and His Testimonies — which as we saw in our other studies, are found throughout the TaNaK, also called the ‘old’ testament writings.
The entire Book of Revelation is presented as a prophetic picture of future events, presented in a panoramic view spanning some time period. This panoramic view is given specifically for the Bride, so that she might understand, and be about the business of ‘watching’ [keep, guard, watch, observe], so as to help her to be aware of the proper timing of the Bridegroom’s appearing.
Revelation is further intended to be a part of the vision the Bridegroom is giving to the Bride, with the intent of drawing her ever closer, and for the purpose of giving her hope in the midst of great despair that will occur just prior to the time of the King’s bringing in of the Kingdom.
Thus we see that the Book of Revelation is to be viewed in a prophetic way, whereby everything written, in all the messages, is for all of Yahuweh’s people, regardless of location or ‘age’ in which they lived.
We have mentioned the purpose of the Book of Revelation. Now let’s confirm the intended recipients of these messages.
To Whom Is Revelation Written?
What Men Say
Many Bible Teachers today have created various views of to whom the message of Revelation is addressed, and various camps have sprung up around these views. Some say the Book of Revelation was written to 7 churches in 7 geographical locations. The plain context agrees with this idea, and without doubt this is the primary understanding. We must not, however, limit ourselves because of geography. Scripture contains within itself many levels of fulfillment.
Others have said these 7 churches represent 7 church epochs or ‘ages’ within the last 2,000 years. Consequently these teachers focus on only the last message to the seven churches, while ignoring the previous six messages. In this view, each era or ‘age’ was to be represented by one of the messages, with the result that the testimonies regarding the other six messages was ignored, or considered irrelevant, at any given time. Now let us see what the Book of Revelation actually says.
What Scripture Says
The clear and easy-to-understand language of Scripture can be seen in the verses of Revelation, revealing exactly those to whom the Book of Revelation is written. Let’s begin by noticing that in each of the messages to the seven churches, there is an identical pair of statements, repeated for each message. For example, notice this pair of statements in the message to Ephesus:
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write…” (Revelation 2:1a)
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 2:7a)
Here we see in the first statement above, that the writing is addressed to the angel or messenger of the Ephesus church in Rev 2:1a.
Near the end of the message, in the second statement above, we are told that this same message to Ephesus is the Spirit saying unto the churches — plural! Thus we see the Spirit’s message is not limited to those of Ephesus, but is for the churches, for all of those that are called-out people (all the ‘Born-Again’ Believers) in every place and for all time.
Next, note the message is specifically directed to those that hear [‘hearken; keep; hear and obey] those things which are written therein. As we saw above, this phrase is the equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘Shema’ or hearken, which means to hear and obey. The phrase ‘ears to hear’ is a prophetic hallmark of the Bride, used throughout Scripture, but this implies not all will have ears to ‘hear’ with attendant obedience.
This same pair of statements is repeated, in identical fashion, for the following six churches:
What the Spirit Saith Unto the Churches
- Smyrna: “…what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 2:8a & 2:11a)
- Pergamos: “…what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 2:12a & 2:17a)
- Thyatira: “…what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 2:18a) & 2:29a
- Sardis: “…what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 3:1a & 3:6a)
- Philadelphia: “…what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 3:7a & 3:13a)
- Laodiceans: “…what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 3:14a & 3:22a)
Each of these messages to the one addressed, is also being said by the Spirit to all 7 churches, and in particular to ‘He that hath an ear.’ Thus it is, that these messages all become part of the Bride’s preparation checklist.
Now let us now note a few more passages that detail the intended recipients of these messages.
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: (Revelation 1:1)
Here we see the entire contents of Revelation [hidden things revealed] are to be shown unto His Servants, further identifying the Bride. Now let’s notice another:
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16)
Here, we see these things are to be testified unto you in the churches. Thus we must conclude that all of Yahuweh’s Word is for all of His People. The idea that ALL of Scripture is for ALL of Yah’s people is seen throughout Scripture. Note a few of these passages:
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. (Psalms 119:111)
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Timothy 3:16-17)
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2Corinthians 3:3)
Notice the above passage reveals part of fulfillment of the New Covenant Promises: that Yahuweh promised to write the Torah [Law] on the heart of His people, by the Spirit given to them:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:38-39)
So the promise of ‘all Scripture’ — and of the Holy Spirit, to guide us, and to give us understanding of the Scripture — are ours for a heritage forever. Notice that this Scripture [the Law or Torah] is to be written on our heart, so that we would have the desire to walk in obedience to what is written on our heart!
To whom was Revelation written? It was written to all the Believing ones, and specifically to those who hear … and keep … those things which are written therein… which identifies the Bride!
We have seen that the Book of Revelation is a two-part collection of messages. The first part of Revelation gives detailed warnings of how the Bride is to develop ears to hear, and how she is to prepare herself, by keeping those things written in the messages.
The second part of Revelation is likewise a prophetic picture of future events, but these are presented in a panoramic view spanning some time period, and written for the Bride, that she might be about the business of ‘watching’ at the proper time, so as to know the time of the Bridegroom’s appearing.
Lastly, the Book of Revelation is part of the vision the Bridegroom is giving to the Bride, with the intent of drawing her closer, and of giving her hope in the midst of great despair that will occur just prior to the time of the King’s bringing in of the Kingdom.
and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Rev 3:3)