Category Archives: Revelation

Revelation 17-19 Growth Group Leaders notes:


Having looked at the history of the world repeated through different lenses in chapters 4-17, Revelation 17-18 now looks again at the history of the world through the lens of God’s judgement of evil.


Again we are dealing with a large section of text.  I would focus on 17 and 19.

Read 17:1-6a and determine quickly from verses 5 and 6 that this woman is representative of ‘Babylon’ – or any nation which fails to declare Jesus as King.

Read 17:6b – 14 a bit more slowly.  We are re-introduced to the ‘beast’ aka Satan.  But the ‘Babylon’ woman is merged with this image as it’s rider.  Almost every other additional image gives us the clue that ‘Babylon’ for the time of John, was the ‘Roman Empire’.  More details in exegesis.

Read 17:15-18 a helpful reflective moment.  The devil eats his own.  Nations rise and fall (like Rome does here) – and Satan craves power so much that he eats even those who are aligned with him.  This is part of the judgement of God.

Summarize chapter 18:  The people and nations will mourn the downfall of every ‘Babylon’ – because for many of them, it had fulfilled their desires for growing in wealth and stature.  But verse 4 and 5 remind the Christian to get out of there.  Don’t invest yourself in a kingdom bound for destruction – but rather live for the kingdom that will last.

Read 19:1-4 this should be quick – but see the rejoicing that the evil nation is defeated by God and the vindication of the martyred saints.

Read 19:5-10 This should be quick – but see the joyfulness as the wedding supper of Jesu and his church comes to it’s fulfilment.

Read 19:11-21 We see the end of the Beast and the ‘kings of the earth’ that were introduced in chapter 17.  It is a fight between Jesus (11-16) and the beast and his armies (19-20) and Jesus wins (20-21).

Exegetical points


Babylon was the nation that wiped out Israel in the OT, but the beginnings of Babylon was babel (Gen 11).  Babylon here represents ANY nation who stands in opposition to God – but particularly it represents the superpower of the time.  Nationally, She is rich (vs 4) and she is filth (vs 4-5) and she is guilty of slaying Christians (vs 6) but also of drawing in other nations to her culture (vs 1 many waters = people; vs 2 all the inhabitants of earth intoxicated with her)


The beast here is Satan (vs 8 from the Abyss – will go to its destruction) and is the power and authority behind ‘Babylon / Rome’ (vs 13)

‘The woman’ which was described as the nation ‘Babylon’ in vs 5 sits on 7 hills (vs 9).  This is a very clear picture of Rome (the city who sits on 7 hills).  Some of the other descriptions then help us flesh that out more: The 7 bigger kings (vs 10) refer to the line of the Caesars:

(Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero – 5 fallen;

Vespasian (69-79AD) – 1 who is;

Titus (79-81AD) – One for a little while;

Domitian (81-96AD) – 8th who will be ‘the beast’

The 10 smaller kings with no kingdom (12) refer to the proconsul governors who each rule for a fixed period of time.

And because all of these rulers and kings belong ultimately to the beast – vs 14 – they wage war against Jesus and his kingdom but will ultimately fail because Jesus is the King of Kings.


And in spite of all this power – the Devil stands powerless against the kingdom of Jesus.  And in his thirst for power – he hates those with whom he has to share it.  And so God’s judgement (vs 17) befalls the prostitute/Babylon, in the form of God allowing the Devil to eat his own.  Babylon / Rome / Any superpower who does not acknowledge Jesus, will be ripped down to ruin.

18:1-3 (cursory)

While the Devil’s lust for power, eating his own, is the vehicle, it is God who declares that this super power’s time is over.


There is a warning of God to his people to come out of ‘Babylon’.  Now, this isn’t a proximity thing – it isn’t a call to physically leave; but it is a call to leave behind the ‘project’ as such.  Don’t get caught up in her sins – and so, don’t get caught up in the judgement (plagues) that will follow.

There is an excellent reflection moment here on not getting caught up in the projects of our society and what it might look like to keep having our eyes on the kingdom, while living in this kingdom which is bound towards destruction.


Here we see the response of everyone who has bought into the earthly ‘project’ of ‘Babylon’ mourning at her loss.  Sea captains and traders mourn at the loss of their wealth.  They mourn at the beauty that is no more.  They will mourn “was there ever a city like this!?” (sidebar: compared to the heavenly Jerusalem coming – this is nothing).  People involved in the project, tend to look back and to remember only the good from the projects that they were involved in.

And yet – verse 20 presents another voice – one of rejoicing.  Because for those who stood with God and who were killed, they are vindicated.  God has judged this human project ‘Babylon’ for the sinful affront to his rule that it is and the destruction it wreaked on his people.

 And 21-24 then present the finality of God’s judgment.  The ‘goods’ that the merchants longed for, will destroyed.  But it is the syntactic change of 23b that shifts to the reasons:  Why?  Because of their ‘marriage’ with the nations in which they led them astray (hear echoes of Jezabel in 2 Kings here) and in which they killed the holy people of God.


And so in direct opposition to the wrongful marriage – we see the wedding of Jesus to his church.  There is rejoicing in 1-2 because he has condemned ‘Babylon’ ‘the adulterous prostitute wife’ permanently.

And in 6-9 we instead see the good marriage – of those to the lamb.  Where instead of adulterous acts, there is righteous acts of the saints.  And there is true blessing to all of those who are invited to participate in this feast and this celebration.


But that still leaves the question of the beast and his minion kings.  Sure Babylon is defeated – but what about the one who stands behind it in this run through of history?  Well, the great battle is set – Christ is described in 11-16: Faithful and true; powerful and full of authority (many crowns); he is clean (dipped in blood), he is the word of God.  His army (14) – is not dressed for battle, but for holy service… because they aren’t needed to fight.  Jesus’ word is the sharp sword; Jesus is the executor of God’s righteous judgement; he has sweet thigh tats declaring him to be King of Kings; Lord of Lords.

Vs 17 – the Angel declares the victory before the battle even starts.

19-21 Is the foolish, frivolous, wasted attempt to overthrow Jesus.  Zero description of battle is given… because none is needed.  Instead there is judgement – judgement which will be focused on in the next chapter.

Revelation 8:6-11:19

It’s another case of history repeating

Revelation 4 and 5 give us a picture of the heavenly throne room as it has always been – and then the moment where the Lamb opens the seals.

Revelation 6-8:5 gives us the first picture of human history and God’s judgement of the world through human tyranny.

Our passage begins with the 7 trumpets; the second symbol which repeats the pouring out of judgement on all of history, since the fall.  As we watch the next action replay of human history, the focus shifts to the chaos of God’s world.

One of the important elements to think about in this section is to ask – how does this build on the picture that we have already seen?  And what is different in this section, which ought draw our attention?1. The topical change from Tyranny to Chaos ought to give us a different picture of the judgement of God and his sovereignty over the world.2. The interlude of Revelation 10 and 11 is distinct and different to the picture presented in Revelation 6.  The shift in focus here to the one who speaks the bittersweet words of God ought to be for us, is a shift that is worthy of our attention.


This is an enormous section to digest all at once.  I recommend:1. Read 8:6-13 and 9:20-21.  Get the vibe that this is a repeated moment of looking at the same thing as last week.  Establish that God judges this world through the chaos into which this world is subjected.  Perhaps a quick comparison with the serenity with Eden (Gen 2) and establishing that nature itself will work against the cause of humanity (Gen 3: 17-19) might assist you here. Look then at the response of humanity.  What is God going to do to shift the heart of this ignorant, evil people (us)?2. Move to a more focused analysis of Chapters 10, be more cursory in 11:1-14 and look for detail in 11:15-19.

Exegetical notes:

Revelation 8:6-13, 9:20-21

The first 4 pictures here are of chaos within the natural orders of this world.  We see the earth (1), the seas (2), rivers and springs (3) and the cosmos (4) all subject to the judgement of God.  It is a very similar picture that we see in Romans 8:18-25 – where the whole earth is groaning, waiting for the Revelation of Christ, waiting for its liberation from decay.

Trumpets 5 and 6 (Rev 9) talk about Spiritual chaos, where our world is subject to the Spiritual assaults of the forces of evil as people who have sinned and belonged to the kingdom of Satan.

And yet, amongst all of this – humanity does not respond with repentance, but with vain ignorance.  They go on in their lives, persisting in evil and doing evil.  Revelation 9:20-21 is incredibly significant here.

There is a really important moment of social analysis here:  Without the revelation of God – people are not capable of lifting their eyes to see what they are like, what the world is like and what God is like.  People are stuck – either trying andfailing to reign in a chaotic world or simply shrugging and getting on with life in ignorance.

Revelation 10 – Prophesy!

In verses 1-4 we see a picture of an enormous majestic angel… and he holds open a tiny little scroll… the word of God.  I think that we are supposed to see the contrast here – the extreme power of God is held within something so small – and it was there to be an encouragement to the church, who felt small weak and beat up at that point in time.

And in verse 6 – the Angel speaks “There will be no more delay!  The 7th trumpet will sound… the final judgement day is coming soon.  It echoes much of the New Testament – that Christ will be returning soon on a day and hour that we do not know.  And it is worth seeing in verse 7 that this had ‘already been declared to his servants.’  What we have here is the word of God – the gospel of Jesus who saves.

And in verse 9 – it is a bitter sweet message.  This is the great message of the gospel – that if we trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. To the one who is saved, salvation is as sweet as honey.  But it is a message which turns your stomach.  We digest this message amongst a world which is persisting in evil (9:20-21)and who currently live outside of the Kingdom of God.  The instruction is given that we must prophesy to and about people and nations and kings – reminding and pleading with people to turn and trust Christ.

In this passage it functions as a recommissioning of John to preach the word of God, even from his island in Patmos.  As an application to us, it reminds us that this is the mission which Christ is on about, and which our church is on about. We are called to be people who speak boldly into a world which is exactly like Rev 9:20-21.  Because without the revelation from God, people are stuck in a world that cannot be tamed.

Revelation 11 – Persecution

In Revelation 11, what follows is a story of 2 prophets – which is probably actually about 2 prophets living in the time of John … and again this is adding to the “bitter” picture of being a prophet.  The city is Jerusalem, and the situation is dangerous – the city is about to be given to the gentiles who will destroy the temple, permanently (alluding to 70AD).  But 2 witnesses will stand up and testify.  For 3 and a half years (a significant time, but not forever) they will testify to the work of Jesus.

But after that time, in verse 7, God will allow the chaotic forces controlled by Satan to overpower them and kill them.  This will happen in a very public way.

The allusion in verse 11-13 of resurrection has sparked a bit of debate.  My view is that there is allusion to the reality that our journey mirrors that of Christ.  For these Christians who had died, they are bound up in the resurrected life that is with Christ.  The earthquake in 13 was likely an earthquake that happened – and the response of people within the city was to fearfully give praise to God.  But importantly, the earthquake is significant because the city FINALLY see that God is in charge amongst the chaos.  Where in 9:20 they are ignorant; here in 11:13 they see the sign and give glory to God.

Two key points are worth noting here. 1. Being someone who opens your mouth and speaks about Jesus is a dangerous business.  But we can do it with confidence, because our life is bound with Christ in his death AND in his resurrection which we will participate in on his return.  2. A right response to God is one where we see beyond the chaos to see a God who is powerfully in control.

Revelation 11:15-19

We get the final trumpet sound and we hear the declarations of heaven. Verse 15 proclaims the entrance of God’s kingdom.  But 17-18 fill out the response that we should have as we reflect on God in amongst the chaos.  He is the one with great power who has begun to reign in a new way.  The finality of his judgement is about to happen.  Vindication is coming for those prophets and for those who trusted in Jesus.   And destruction is coming for those who have participated in the kingdom of Satan and who were involved in the destruction of the earth.

And this image is finished off in verse 19 with the flashes of lightning, peals of thunder… just like the end of the last section in Rev 8:5. But it adds to it an earthquake and hailstorm (which we saw in this section) to emphasise the point it has made.  God is sovereign and his judgement of chaos is designed for us to see that he is in fact God and to respond to him with reverence and faith.

Revelation 6:1-8:5

The Seven Seals

Discussion Question

What is the BIGGEST thing you have ever seen? Have you seen the Grand Canyon? Niagara Falls? The night sky? Ayers Rock? What is the biggest thing that you can imagine?

Background (Context)

John is being shown a great vision of what is to come (4:1) and is shown a great heavenly throne room with lights and sounds and angels and elders all looking and surrounding a throne in the centre. In Chapter 4, God is declared worthy to receive honour and power because He is the Creator of all things (4:11). In Chapter 5 there is a scroll with seven seals around it and the question asked: who is worthy to break the seals (5:2). The answer is given: The Lion of Judah is worthy (5:5), but when John looked he saw The Lamb who was slain (5:6-7).

In Revelation 5:9 they sang, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

In Chapters 6-8, the seals are open one by one. These are not a prescription of specific events but a description of the view of all ages from God’s vantage point.

The 7 Seals section of revelation follows a similar pattern to the 7 trumpets (8:6-11:19); the 7 plagues (15:1-8) and the 7 bowls (16:1-21). Reading them all will give the overview of their united theme while reading them individually highlights their nuances. Paul Barnett describes them as non-linear events. The seven items are non-linear and can be thought of as layers of information rather than sequential events. And the four sequences of seven (seals, trumpets, plagues and bowls) are also non-linear. They point to four different themes: tyranny, chaos, persecution and destruction.

Read Revelation 6:1-8:5

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Opening seals 1 to 6
    • The first seal – conquering (6:1-2)
    • The second seal – bloodshed (6:3-4)
    • The third seal – famine (6:5-6)
    • The fourth seal – death (6:7-8)
    • The fifth seal – the cry of the redeemed (6:9-11)
    • The sixth seal – Judgement Day (6:12-17)
  • The 144,000 – The saved are sealed (7:1-8)
  • The uncountable – God’s grace is huge! (7:9-17)
  • The seventh seal – It is finished (8:1-5)

Opening seals 1 to 6

The first seal – conquering (6:1-2)

“I watched as the Lamb opened…” I must remind us that this was the Lamb and His credentials were laid out in Chapter 5.

“…one of the four living creatures…” See 4:6,7. The first creature was like a lion.

“…white horse…its rider…was given a crown, and he rode out…on conquest.” Both a great king or an evil king could be described by these words. Psalm 45 (especially Verse 4) give an OT imagery of the anointed King of Israel who is righteous in God’s eyes who goes out to defend truth and such. But John gives us words like ‘conqueror’ and ‘conquest’ to depict a ruler that takes by force.

The four riders are best compared to the four horses depicted in Zechariah 6:1-8. Both sets are commissioned to cause destruction. The horses in Zechariah were commissioned by God to punish nations who have oppressed the people of God. The four horses in Revelation (often called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) must be seen as unleashed by God but not ridden by Him and, as we’ve already said, do not depict a moment in time, but a description of the suffering in this world which points us to the judgment of God. As we’ll see in the 5th seal, we long for these days to be ended and the final judgement of God to come.

The second seal – bloodshed (6:3-4)

“…the second living creature…” He was like an ox.

“…fiery red…take peace…make people kill each other…” The theme of tyranny is clear here. Notice how the rider does not initiate his quest and that he is given power and given the sword. This is also true of the first rider and we’ll see this as we continue.

The third seal – famine (6:5-6)

“…the third living creature…” This had the face like a man.

“…holding a pair of scales…two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages…” The imagery here is of a famine. See Lev 26:26; 2 Kings 7:1; Ezek 4:10,16 for what is on view. It is perhaps a famine brought on by a siege – the food supply is cut off and the only way to survive is to measure out the food and not let anything be wasted.

The fourth seal – death (6:7-8)

“…the fourth living creature…” was the flying eagle.

“…the rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.” We continue to see these images all portraying life outside the garden where death has come.

“…kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” A broad representative of violent forms of death.

The fifth seal (6:9-11)

“…under the altar…” The golden altar of incense described in Exodus 30 and Leviticus 4:7.

“…How long, Sovereign Lord…” The persecuted people of God cry out for vengeance. God has promised that he will take vengeance for His name’s sake. This cry is a familiar one in the Old Testament but this reference is particularly close to Zechariah 1:12ff which is responded to with four horses going out in Chapter 6 to inflict judgement.

The sixth seal (6:12-17)

I cannot expand on the imagery in Verses 12-14 one by one. Each image is a picture of all things coming to an end. Many of them are repeated again in the book (Rev 16:18, 20; 20:11). The sun, the moon and the stars are a common triplet in the Bible as we are reminded that God is above them and not the other way around (Deut 17:2-3; Psalm 148:3; Isaiah 13:10; Jer 31:35; Luke 21:25). Great celestial objects that seem solid and strong in our sky are shaken like figs on a tree and fall. The Sun goes black! The heavens recede and every mountain is removed. Like everything in Revelation, it is picture language but what is described is the undoing of things that appear immovable. The heavens above and the foundations beneath us are gone. Our God is so big.

“For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” See that it is incomaptible for the mountains to be removed from their place and yet kings and generals are now described as hiding in them. A reminder to take each image as a statement and not to build a comprehensive picture in this book. 

Verses 12-14 were the undoing of creation and Verses 15-17 is the terror facing humanity. No power or authority is excluded from God’s wrath. “…their wrath…” is perhaps the wrath of God and the Lamb. Some manuscripts have his wrath but it is more likely the text should be their. See Rev 22:3.

The 144,000 – The saved are sealed (7:1-8)

“…four…four…four…” Depicting the entire globe in view – the four corners of the globe – Nth, Sth, Est, Wst etc.

“…holding back the four winds…” An image of complete still is depicted. After the scene of the four horsemen, we now have utter still across the globe – not a leaf is disturbed.

“…having the seal of the living God…” We have not opened the seventh seal yet and there is this long interlude and build up toward it. Look out for these interruptions as the book continues.

“…until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” The mercy of God is to hold back his wrath on the entire inhabitants of earth until His people have been marked out. I notice an irony that in the seven seals there is a seal placed on heads – not sure if there is anything to make of that.

“…I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.” The name Israel became synonymous with God’s people in the story of the bible. It was a literal line of descendants from Jacob but the bible teaches us to think about a true Israel who are not Israel by blood but by promise. The number given and the list that follows is giving us the impression of completeness. It is not simply a role call and a maximum seating capacity of heaven. What follows demonstrates that it is one thing to hear the number called, it is quite another to see.

The uncountable – God’s grace is huge! (7:9-17)

“…I looked, and … a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language…” The gospel is for the whole world and every nation. Those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and given mercy from God’s wrath are many – a great, uncountable multitude. I hope that our vision of heaven is big!

“…These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?” They are washed by the blood of the Lamb. Who washes in blood!! But we know this metaphore don’t we? WE are not cleaned by our works or by looking neat and turning up on time! We are redeemed by the death of the One who would take away our sin! He has done that for us! They came through the tribulation because, despite the mocking, the slandering and even the threat or action of death, they stood by the cross for their protection. They feared God more than they feared men. And they have been washed and clothed in white.

“…they are before the throne of God….wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Compare the grandeur of God with his gentle hand that touches the face of redeemed sinners to wipe away their tear. Psalm 23 is surely alluded to here. And we are saved from the disaster that will befall all who have not come to the Lamb to be robed and cleaned.

The seventh seal – It is finished (8:1-5)

“…there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” The seventh seal appears empty. It seems to follow the stillness of the sixth seal and a quiet before the storm. But the silence is to be associated with divine judgment (see 1 Sam 2:9-10; Ps 31:17; 115:17; Isa 47:5; Lam 2:10-11). What follows is the beginning of the seven trumpets and some have suggested that the seventh seal unleashes the seven trumpets. That suggests a kind of linear event but we’ll leave this thought until we look at the content of the seven trumpets.

“…went up before God…” The pleasing aroma of worship and dependant thankfulness is the flavour of God and his people. Those who repel at this idea are likely to repel at anything to do with the true and eternal God.

“…took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth…” The wrath of God is unleashed.

“…thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and earthquake.” This was first depicted in Chapter 4 Verse 5 and seen again in Rev 11:9 and 16:18 and depicts the final judgement. You may see that what is depicted in Chapter 4 is retold again and again to show the glory of God, the mercy of God, the judge not of God and the eternal peace. This emphasises again that the book is not one unfolding story but a statement on judgement and salvation depicted in many images.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The world is not a random and chaotic event but is overseen by the Glory of God. The slain Lamb is worthy to open the seals which unleash conflict and judgement in this world. The Lamb is able to set apart a great multitude who will be protected from Judgement. And the Lamb will bring the suffering of this life to an end and wipe away our tears. We live with this hope and we have two ways to respond: to lose hope in suffering, or to cry out to God for Him to come again soon. Will you be among the multitude in heaven because of the blood of the Lamb?

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Recognise the destruction that is native to this life. The horses remind us of the harshness of this life. Eternity with God will not have any of this! They are a response from God against sin and they ought to bring us to dependence on God in prayer. Wars, bloodshed, famine and death are native to this world only. They are only ‘normal’ in the sense that we have not experienced life without them. Sure, we live in a ‘good’ age where these extremes are out of our sight, but they still exist and we can certainly pray, with the saints, “How long Sovereign Master, holy and true?”

Topic B: Recognise the eternal and highest power that is God’s alone. The calamity depicted in this passage is from the hand of evil men, unleashed by the Sovereign God. I’m reminded of 2 Thessalonians where the evil one is depicted as dangerous only as far as God allows him to be. But all the realities of this world: power, bullying, pain, mountains and stars, are all fleeting. We need to grow our vision and faith in God. He is bigger than all of our fears combined.

Topic C: Praise our God who is both definitive in judgement, mighty to save and gentle in eternity . Judgment day will come and evil will be removed decidedly. Those who have not been clothed by Jesus will not be included in the final count. Now is the time to be sealed by the Lamb for our future. We must not wait to see what happens – Revelation is a great warning to us all. His salvation is as sure as His justice. If you are with Jesus, you will be saved! And our Almighty God is also tender to lead us like sheep and to wipe away our tears. He is as gentle as He is powerful. Our God is worthy of our praise and honour and glory and power and strength forever and ever. Amen!