Category Archives: The Last Days

Revelation 19:19-20:15

Armageddon and the Thousand years

Discussion Question

What is your favourite book? (In this study we will see all the books opened that will be used to judge all of humanity and yet there is the Book of Life – this may become our favourite book!)


Can you think of a story of anti-climax? Like the Y2K bug? All the hype that came to nothing!

Background (Context)

The book of Revelation has been filled with visions from God given to John to write down. We have heard some spectacular things. Chapter One gave us the flavour of the book with its vision of the throne of God. Chapters 2 and 3 contained seven letters to seven churches and we discovered that being faithful to God and holding fast to his promises would return a crown. Chapters 4 and 5 displayed the glorious throne room of our God, declaring that he is worthy and powerful. Chapters 6 to 19 have described the history of the world under the curse of sin while it awaits the return of the King who alone is worthy. Three types of characters appear in the book: those who oppose God (described as beasts and dragons and prostitutes and so forth, they are aligned with Babylon and are tricked by the beast), those who praise God (sometimes called the martyrs or those who survived the tribulation, whose names are written in the book of life) and lastly there is God and his heavenly agents.

Armageddon was mentioned back in Chapter 16 Verse 16  (see VV12-17ff) and as part of our context, we will begin by reading Revelation 19:19-21 to see that it matches the same event as Armageddon.

Read Revelation 19:19-21

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


  • The beast and the armies of the world rise up! (19)
  • But they were all captured and destroyed (20-21)

The beast and the armies of the world rise up! (19)

“…gathered together to wage war…” Compare this phrase in Verse 19 with 16:14 and 20:8. There is one event in mind here and it is a picture of all the worlds strength in attack against God and God dismantling all their efforts in a heartbeat. This is not new to Revelation. Ezekiel 38-39 is alluded to in these verses as is Zechariah 12-14 and Zephaniah 3. A final war of history is described but surely, like the rest of Revelation, they are a picture of how final and effortless the Judgment of God will be on that Day. The emphasis is not on how scary and brutal are the enemies of God but on how swift and final is the Word of God.

Another surprising OT reference is Psalm 2! “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed…The One enthroned in heaven laughs…You will break them with a rod of iron…” Psalms 1 and 2 set the agenda for the whole of the Psalms and give a theme of the entire scriptures. Psalm 2 declares that there is no king besides Jesus (or David in its immediate context) and we need to get right with Jesus before it is too late!

But they were captured and destroyed (20-21)

“But the beast was captured, and with it…” As was mentioned last week, the beast who has lured humanity away from God is defeated – just like that.

“…who had performed the signs on its behalf…mark of the beast…” Rev 13:12 refers to the activity of the beast and the signs that deluded many. The mark of the beast sounds like a branding. We will not get drawn into equating this image with barcodes or something else. This is not how we have been reading Revelation and we won’t start now. The picture language is about being enticed to side with the rebels instead of with God and humanity are tricked in all manner of ways. We are not going to accidentally be marked by the beast by using a certain credit card or something like that. But one can find themselves so distracted by the things of this world that they cannot say they are marked out by Jesus. We ought to take our eyes off avoiding the beast and rather set our eyes on the One who can put our names in the book of life.

“…thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphuric.” We will return to this in Chapter 20.

“…killed with the sword coming out of the mouth…birds gorged…” The judgment comes from the word of God coming from the mouth of Jesus who rides on the horse. The sword is not a metal blade but a word of judgment. The birds remind me of something Jesus said in the gospels, when he was speaking about the end times (Luke 17:37). They are an image of the aftermath of war where the slain are left for the birds to eat – there is no one to bury them.

Read Revelation 20

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


  • I saw the dragon bound (1-3)
  • I saw the saints at the first resurrection (4-6)
  • Armageddon? (7-10)
  • The books are open (11-15)

I saw the dragon bound (1-3)

“…having a key…and holding in his hand a great chain.” The theme of holding someone against their will is introduced.

“…the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan…” Four identities given to Satan and linking us right back to Genesis 3. We did not know that the serpent was Satan in the garden but this is clear now. I love to remind people that the bible is one complete book. Themes introduced in Genesis have grown across the pages to give us a complete image – just as much as the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 could not have been known to be Jesus until the whole of scripture was revealed.

“…bound him for a thousand years.” It will be interesting to hear each group discuss what the thousand years represents. These thousand years have created a debate about which Millennial view the bible holds: a Premillennial view refers to a Thousand years which begins after Jesus’ return; a Post-Millenial view refers to a Thousand years which ends when Jesus returns and then there is the A-Millenial view which maintains that there is no actual Thousand years but are, again, an image supplied by Revelation to teach us who is in power. Notice how Satan is bound by chains and by time. He is not at all in charge of this cosmos.

There is a timeframe in which Satan is held back from deceiving the nations.

I saw the saints at the first resurrection (4-6)

“…they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” We further our investigation of the Millennial views as this thousand years is not in addition to the previous but superimposed. The question remains, is it an actual thousand years or a metaphor. If it is a metaphor then what does it tell us? The sequence of events seems to follow the sequence in Ezekiel 37-48 (resurrection of God’s people; messianic kingdom; final battle against Gog and Magog and final vision of the new temple and new Jerusalem). The thousand year reference can simply point to a time that has far extended any kingdom that has ever been before. David’s reign was limited by death. Adam’s life fell short of a thousand years. This new era is stronger than any other.

“This is the first resurrection.” The first resurrection refers to the resurrection of Christ. Note that the rest of the dead, those who have not put their faith in Christ, do not participate in this first resurrection. With the power of the gospel, Satan is bound for the same period. He cannot steal or take away what has been claimed by the blood of the Lamb.

“The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God…” This is you and I who have come to Christ. We have full assurance against the judgment to come – do you have full assurance? You should and you can! In this “thousand year reign” that commenced with the resurrection of Christ, we are priests who bring people to God. Jesus said to Peter: I give you the keys to the kingdom! The gospel unleashes security to those who know it and live it!

Armageddon? (7-10)

“When the thousand years are over…” So, despite there not being a literal thousand years (the amillennial view which I hold), there is a storyline of what happens after the resurrection of Christ and after the period that we live in now is over.

“… Satan will be released…go out to deceive the nations…Gog and Magog – and to gather them for battle.” Verse 7 and 8, as mentioned earlier, allude to Ezekiel 38-39 where Gog and Magog are both mentioned. They appear here to represent cities who have bought the lie of the beast and sided with him rather than with the Lamb. The phrase, “gather them for battle”, occurs at 16:16 and again in 19:19 and helps us to see that this is the same event retold again and again. The beast gathers the nations by deceiving them that they can do better than God. God takes them down with his breath. The whole thing ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. This is Armageddon. (I’m-a-gettin’ out ‘o here!)

“In number they are like the sand on the seashore.” The enemy ramps up in power like they intend to smash down God with their might! The description of the enemy is big. Get ready for a BIG battle!

“…but fire came down from heaven and devoured them.” If it weren’t talking about the Day of the Lord it would be funny! God received no scars from this battle. He didn’t even leave his throne room. This took no effort. It is ridiculous to think that we can oppose God. 

“They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” The ‘they’ refers to the devil and the beast and the false prophets. The description is of eternal conscious punishment. Revelation contains imagery that we have learned to not take literally (like the beast and the dragon and the four living creatures etc) but the message of Revelation is real. There will be a Judgment to determine the future of all. And here, for the devil and co, there is what we would perhaps call hell. So what about everyone else? Are they, who have not been washed clean by Jesus, ‘devoured’ like in Verse 9? Let’s read on.

The books are open (11-15)

“The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” This is one of my favourite verses in the bible because it is so mysterious and subtle. The heavens is not ‘heaven’ but the space above the earth. Just as easily as the enemies of God were struck down effortlessly, the earth and all that we know of this reality will simply be gone – without a trace. This is well worth our time meditating on regularly.

“…and books were opened.” Revelation 20:11-15 gives a classic and concise account of what every living human needs to look forward to. There is no mistaking the bible to say that we will all give an account of what we have done. Romans 14:12.

“Another book was opened…” The book to take notice of, however, is the one titled: Book of Life. It’s not the “This is your life” book but the “Jesus has saved your life” book. As Revelation says, if your name is in that book, then you don’t need to be concerned about what is in your personal book. I recall Aslan speaking to Lucy after dealing with Edmond’s unfaithfulness. Lucy was told that there is no need to speak of it any more.

“…and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them…” the point is that no person is exempt from Judgment day. The sea, death and Hades are simply three names for the region of the dead.

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” Death no longer has any sting. The very concept of death has an end – it is also subject to God.

“The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Noting firstly that if your name is not in the book of life, the conclusion is that your own life story will not get you saved. We all need saving! The big question is: do Verse 15 and Verse 10 refer to the same punishment? I don’t see how they cannot!

The human race is faced with a decision: turn to Christ and rely on His pure record to avoid the lake of fire or cross your fingers that you have a clean record written in the book of your life. According to Revelation (and therefore the word of God) you cannot pass the test because you have already failed it. There won’t be a party in hell for all who couldn’t care less about Jesus. ‘Tormented day and night for ever and ever” is the description in Verse 10.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

There is no stopping the kingdom of God as it is the most powerful kingdom in all history and beyond. There is no avoiding hell on our own merit. As Psalm 2 says: Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction…blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Premillennialism has no future. The only text in the bible that refers to a thousand year reign is this one in Revelation and it stands against much of what the New Testament has to say about judgment day. That is, that it will be swift and come like a thief in the night (see actually Revelation 16 where this is quoted in the context of Armageddon). If there is a thousand years that happen after Jesus’ second coming, then it will also include death and the curse of sin. To take the thousand years as literal is to begin to take the whole book of Revelation literally too, with swords coming out of mouths and feet blazing with fire. What we have reflected on in these notes is that the Resurrection inaugurated a new reality which constrains Satan who cannot destroy those who are alive in Christ.

Topic B: The reality of hell. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). There is an urgency in the bible to get right with God. Jesus said it would be better to not be born than to betray the Son of Man (referring to Judas). He also said that it is better to enter life a cripple than to have two feet and be thrown into hell (Mark 9:45). There is a view in Christianity that final judgment may result in eternal unconscious punishment, otherwise known as annialation. This is a big area of discussion and no theologian is excited by the doctrine of hell – but we can get excited about the doctrine of salvation by grace alone! How easy is it to avoid!

Topic C: The book of Life. There must be no greater book that this one. I know, it’s a metaphor, but it points to the reality that when you are with Christ, there is no more condemnation! The book of Revelation has talked about the saints being robed in white, given a stone with a secret name on it, being crowned. There is no such language as ‘hoping for the best.’ I pray that all who are involved in Growth Group ministry can fathom the wonder of full assurance. The thing that matters most is not, which millennial view you hold (although it does matter), nor which view of hell you hold (although that also matters) but whether you have run to the Son who saves.

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!

Revelation 2

Letters to the 7 churches- part 1 of 2

Discussion Question

What do you hope God will say to you when you see Him?

Background (Context)

Revelation began with a vision of the powerful Jesus and a messenger telling John to write down what he sees and to send it to the seven churches listed. They will be blessed if they read the words of this book and take it to heart.

Read Revelation 2

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


The structure is of one section for each of the 4 churches in this chapter. The letters have a similar structure of: Announcing the authority of the letter, I know this about you, and yet I have this against you, blessed is the one who…and a reward that follows. A group might draw a table of each letter with the above flow and fill in the squares for a good overview.

  • To Ephesus (1-7)
  • To Smyrna (8-11)
  • To Pergamum (12-17)
  • To Thyatira (18-29)

To Ephesus (1-7)

“To the angel of the church…” Remember that an angel is a messenger. This may be saying that the letter will get to the church via the messenger. The angel/messenger for each church image began in Chapter 1 and it was noted that the churches are not disconnected from the King but his messengers are present. A messenger is someone who brings a message. The churches are receiving this message as they received all revelation from God as they received the gospel.

“…the words of him who holds the seven stars…” The letter begins with the authority of the one speaking. Jesus is giving this message via the messenger. He holds the seven messengers of the seven churches (see 1:20)

“I know…” The second part of the letter is the good news about what Jesus can commend of the church.

“…you cannot tolerate wicked people…[rejected false prophets]…endured hardships…” The image of this church is of a strict “authentic bible only” mentality which is to be praised. The do not allow soft teaching from fools who claim to be of God. They are mighty bounces for the church of Christ. And they are tough enough to persevere because following Jesus and the bible is hard work. They should keep this level of determination going.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” It seems that this church once loved the grace of God but time and effort have steered them away from this love. They still stand for truth and true religion but even their charity work smells like discipline and duty.

“If you do not repent…” A strict church like this has lost the gospel. Their warning is that they will be removed. They are the lampstand (see 1:20).

“…you have this in your favour…” They hate the Nicolaitans which God also hates. This is a good thing which seems to parallel what they were praised for in Verses 2 to 4. God is fine with the side that they are fighting on but they have forgotten what the fight is about. The Nicolaitans were a sect of the first century. They are mentioned again in Verse 15. Their flaw was trying to work out a “compromise with paganism, to enable Christians to take part without embarrassment in some of the social and religious activities of the close-knit society” (The IVP Bible Dictionary). It is possible that ‘Nicolatan’ is a Greek variation of the Hebrew, ‘Balaam’ who is brought out in later letters. Look at 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1, Rev 2:15 in their context.

“Whoever has ears to hear…I will give…” As was promised in 1:3, those who listen to these words and take them to heart will be blessed. The blessings are for access to the tree of life which was forbidden after The Fall.

To Smyrna (8-11)

“…the words of Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” The authority of the letter is of the risen Lord Jesus. His resurrection is no small thing but defines his power in the context of human salvation.

“I know your afflictions and your poverty…I know about the slander…” Isn’t it beautiful to hear the words: I know : when they mean – I see you. And Jesus’ response to this is not to help them out of their affliction and poverty but to remind them that they are actually rich!

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…” The letter to the Smyrnetians (?) contains an exact prophecy that some will be in prison for ten days. God sees the suffering and the affliction even before it happens and he tells them not to be afraid. He also sees those who claim to be one thing but are actually a house of the devil. Appearances are only real when they are from God’s perspective. Everything else is false or temporary.

“The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” The remedy for suffering is hope. Hope makes us persevere. Those who persevere and are victorious, not giving way to fear, are saved from a worse suffering to come. The first death is our mortal death and the second death is the one after judgment. See 21:8.

To Pergamum (12-17)

“…the sharp double-edged sword.” Easily the word of God.

“… not even in the days of Antipas…” Trickles of real history are in this book of Revelation. God really sees a church suffering.

“…where Satan lives…” Such evil was amidst the location of this church that it is aligned with the house of Satan.

“…yet…some among you hold to the teaching of Balaam…” This is referencing Numbers. Surely a teaching as old as that is not still current at the time of Revelation in its immediate sense. But there is a parallel to what they have fallen pray to with the story of Balaam and Barak. What we need to know is here in the paragraph before us. People of the church are enticed to do something that is ungodly. 1 Corinthians and Romans talk about food offered to idols in ways that do not outright condemn it. But when someone eats against their conscience, this is a big problem. They also have those who have succomned to the false teaching of the Nicolaitans. Again, the specifics of this are unclear but their teaching is false and people in the church have befallen pray. See earlier notes regarding Ephesus linking the Nicolaitans and the teaching of Balaam.

“Repent…or I will come with the sword of my mouth.” The word of God is powerful and right to judge and to condemn.

“…I will give some of the hidden manna.” Old Testament allusion to relief and mercy from God.

“…I will also give…a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” Getting a new name means a new start. Simon is called Peter. Levi is Matthew. The idea of a secret name only known to the receiver is an intimate gift from the One who knows us. It is a personal gift. We don’t conclude that we all get knew names but so what if this ends up being factual – I won’t tell you what name I get.

To Thyatira (18-29)

“…the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” See 1:14-15. Jesus is named here as the Son of God. The description of Jesus is full in Revelation but must be pieced together. The letters have increased our knowledge of him and now we see one of his titles.

“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” What a great start! Praise God for their progress and sanctification. Notice the dance between deeds, love and faith. These things are not just ideas but action.

“You tolerate that woman Jezebel…” This is another Old Testament reference in 1 and 2 Kings. She led Israel astray to worship idols and killed off the prophets. To the Thyatirians she was killing them with her sexual immorality and enticing them away. Who are what is referred to exactly may remain unknown but the reference to Jezebel is that her schemes are directly against the people of God.

“…then all the churches will know…” The action of God against Jezebel will be a witness to more churches than just this one. In the end, wicked will be destroyed and all will know that God searches the hearts and minds and repays each according to their deeds.

“… I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.” Is it that God demands more of some than of others according to their opportunity and gifts? If one church is worthy enough to hold onto grace until Christ returns and yet another will be held accountable because they did not use the gifts given to expand the kingdom…? This seems parallel to the parable of the talents.

“… I will give authority over the nations.” Paul spoke to the Corinthians about being judges in heaven. The nations here are not nations as we know them but stands for those outside the kingdom of God. The morning star is very likely a reference to Isaiah 14:12ff where Babylon, who was high like a mountain smashing all the kingdoms has now been laid low. It is called the morning star that has come down to earth below. Babylon is used in Revelation as a metaphore for all the nations who rise up against God.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Church of God is born from the grace of God and the word of God for love and good deeds, for faith and for persevering through suffering, persecution and maintaining truth while keeping love. We live in a battle field wanting to break us and entice us away. Jesus says, if you stand firm and hold fast, then the suffering and the abstaining will be replaced with victory, reigning, riches and a new name. It is not enough to love the bible, we must love God and one another. God sees us and what we go through. He also knows that we are way richer than we think we are.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Love being right or love God. The Pharisees fell trap of turning love into a duty and it seems the church in Ephesus had done the same. Churches who are very, very vigilant against false teaching can lose sight of the beauty of scripture and the joy of knowing the community of believers. It is a wonderful thing to know that you are forgiven and saved and set free. We can learn to genuinely love and to take the words of the scriptures to heart as we read them carefully.

Topic B: Do not fear suffering. This is so easy to write and hard to live out. Hope is the antidote to suffering. As soon as we believe that the removal of suffering is the answer, then we have lost sight of eternity. God will remove the suffering but not until He returns. Let’s remember to be people of eternity. Living for this world will disappoint us or kill us.

Topic C: Avoiding Balaam and watching Jezebel. The Balaam’s and Jezebels of this world will trick us into denying Christ and giving way to quick pleasures. But they will be destroyed and their destruction will testify to the justice of God. Our goal is to stand on the right side of justice at the end. Only the One who can give us a new name, clothe us in white and lift us up to rule the nations is worth giving our lives to. What false teachings and enticing ways do you see amongst us?