Introduction

The book of Revelation is not easy to understand. I believe that some parts of the vision will only become clear when their time of fulfilment is getting closer.

I have been reading and studying the vision for more than forty years, and there is still much that I don't understand. However, over time, some parts of the book have become clearer. These notes record the insights that I have discovered over that time. They don't cover everything in Revelation, but the parts that I have come to understand. They are notes; not a polished, detailed study. I will add to them as I get more insights.

Take them as they are, and you might find them helpful.

1:1-4 Greeting

An angel came to John and gave him a revelation from Jesus. It was a message to the church to help it understand what was happening in the world.

1:5-9 Themes

The prologue of the book of Revelation introduces the seven main themes covered by the vision.

1. Kingdom of God
The central theme of the book of Revelation is the Kingdom of God (Rev 1:6). Jesus has been crowned king and his dominion will last forever. His kingdom has already been established, so it is not something promised for the future.

2. Judgment
In the process of bringing in the Kingdom, God brings allows terrible events to fall on those who oppose him (Rev 1:7). The second coming is not a major theme in the book. It speaks more of Jesus allowing those who have rebelled to experience the consequences of their choices. The events described in Revelation primarily affect kings and governments, and not at people or the earth itself. Human political power and national governments and empires will be swept away, so that the Holy Spirit is free to bring in the Kingdom of God.

3. Calling of the Jews
The Calling of the Jews is also described in Revelation 1:7. It speaks of every eye seeing Jesus. Most of the Jews, wherever they are living, will have the eyes of their hearts opened to see Jesus and accept him as their Saviour and Lord. It will be a spiritual revelation, not an actual seeing. In contrast with many other verses, which speak of people seeing Jesus, this one also specifically includes "those who pierced him".

4. Tribulation
Tribulation is a theme of the vision. John himself was going through a time of trouble when he received this vision (Rev 1:9). One of the purposes of the book is to encourage Christians to persevere and endure patiently through the times of tribulation that will inevitably come their way.

5. Suffering
The Kingdom of God will emerge during a season of suffering (Rev 1:9). The kingdom does not come through Christians gaining political power. Rather, as Christians follow Jesus' example and take up the cross of suffering, the political powers will collapse, allowing the Kingdom to emerge.

6. Jesus is King
Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5). All other kings must surrender to him. The advance of his kingdom of God means the disenfranchisement of kings (and democracies). John's vision describes a time when the governments of man will be replaced by the true government of God (not Jesus returning). The empire of man is nearing its last gasp. When the governments of the world stop functioning, the people of the world will be ready for government by wise judges applying God's law. Then Jesus will truly be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

7. Sovereignty of Jesus
The Sovereignty of Jesus is emphasised from the beginning to the end of John's vision (Rev 1:8). He has existed from the beginning, and he will be in control at the end. Because he is eternal, he knows all things. He is almighty, so he can do all things. He is working out his plan and purpose in the world. His authority and sovereignty are absolute and total.

More at Book of Revelation.

Structure of the Book
The Book of Revelation is dominated by the ascension of Jesus. There is a vision of the ascension at the beginning (Rev 4,5), in the middle (Rev 12) and at the end of the book (Rev 20). Each of these visions is followed by a description of the outworking of the ascension in human history.

Humans have created a decimal word, but God orders things in terms of the number seven. There are seven days of creation; seven days in a week; debts are cancelled after seven years (Deut 15:1); the year of jubilee comes at the end of seven sabbaths of years (Lev 25:8); seventy sevens were decreed for Israel (Dan 9:24): a seven-year cycle for agriculture (Lev 25:4). John saw seven angels and seven churches

This pattern of sevens also shapes the book of Revelation. John saw seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven bowls. To understand the book of Revelation, we must understand these patterns of sevens. Many commentators treat these sets of sevens as sequential, but this leads to confusion. The sets of seven run in parallel, but each seven develops the events described in the previous one.

The sevens describe the Time of Distress at the end of the Times of the Gentiles. Each of the sevens ends with the release of the Kingdom of God.

The first four seals describe the beginning of the Time of Distress (Rev 6:1-8). A seal is a mark of ownership. The seven seals (Rev 6) are a set of events that God will use to purify and refine his people. The seals are opened by Jesus in response to the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8). The seventh seal brings the fulfilment of the Kingdom (Rev 8:1).

The seven trumpets are concentrated in the middle of the Time of Distress when the season is building to a climax. Trumpets are a warning of judgment (Amos 3:6-7; Is 18:3). They are launched by the prayers of the saints (Rev 8:3-5) and they call the church to action. The seventh trumpet releases the fulfilment of the Kingdom.

The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).

The seven thunders were sealed up (Rev 10:3-4). They would have extended the judgment, but God cut the Time of Distress short because he is merciful.

The seven bowls are concentrated at the end of the Time of Distress. They bring the destruction of human governments and deliverance for the people of God, just as the ten plagues destroyed the armies of Pharaoh and freed the children of Israel to enter the promised land. The seventh bowl releases the destruction of human government, which enables the Kingdom of God to emerge on earth.

In each sequence of seven events in Revelation, the seventh event is always a representation of the fulness of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Seeing the Spiritual Dimension
We usually think of heaven and earth as two different places. Heaven is up there, and earth is down here, with a huge gap in between. The boundary is real, but they are not as separate as we assume. We live in a multi-dimensional universe in which the spiritual dimensions exist in parallel to the three-dimensional physical world. Angels can move between the spiritual and physical dimensions, but humans only see the physical side of existence.

Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve could see into the spiritual realms, so they were aware of God walking in the garden. When they sinned, they lost this ability. Human eyes are now so focused on the physical world that we often misunderstand what is happening around us. Paul explained,

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).

If we could see more clearly, we would have a better understanding of Jesus victory. We would see ourselves sitting in the presence of the Father surrounded by millions of angels. This would give us huge confidence during the trials of life.

When we are born again of the Spirit, our ability to see into the spiritual world is partially restored. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would gain more insight into the spiritual realms (Eph 1:18). As we walk in the Spirit and grow in faith, our insight into the spiritual realms should increase, but it will never be complete.

On this side of the final resurrection, we never have a totally clear view of the spiritual realms, so people with prophetic insight have an important role in explaining the link between events in the spiritual realms and those on earth.

When his life was drawing to a close, John was given a unique ability to see into the spiritual realms. The Greek word translated "revelation" is "apokalupsis". It means unveiling or uncovering. Our focus on the physical dimensions of life hides the spiritual dimensions and gives us a false view of reality. The spiritual world was unveiled for John, and he got a glimpse of reality as the angels see it. Jesus gave him this revelation to show that our view of reality is only half the truth.

The world assumes that a visionary person sees something that is half real. The truth is the opposite. The physical world that we see with our human eyes is only half of reality. The spiritual world unveiled to John in his vision is the other half that we usually miss. John struggled to grasp all that his prophetic eyes saw, but he carefully recorded everything for the benefit of those coming after him. The main purpose of the book of Revelation is to increase our awareness of the spiritual realms. To get a true perspective on reality, we must see things in heaven and things on earth together in Jesus (Eph 1:13). Revelation gives us the other side of reality.

Not What They Seem
John explained that things are not what they seem from the human perspective. The church of Sardis appeared to be strong, but in the spiritual realms, it is very weak.

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead (Rev 3:1).

Military empires may appear invincible to human eyes, but they have already been defeated in the spiritual realms.

A church that is being severely persecuted and is being decimated by political powers looks very different in the spiritual dimensions. To Christians involved in the struggle, the suffering feels intolerable, and the gospel seems to be going backwards. In the spiritual realms, these Christians are a mighty army following Jesus to build his Kingdom.

The persecuted church may appear to be weak and helpless, but in the spiritual world, it is preparing to receive the Kingdom (Rev 2:26). When the church is struggling under persecution, and the suffering seems intolerable, those who see into the spiritual dimensions will realise that they are close to victory over the forces of the world (Rev 19:14). John's vision of the spiritual realms casts events on earth in a fresh light that gives Christians new hope.

Evil Plans
Many of the bad events recorded in Revelation are a description of what the spiritual powers of evil want to do. They represent the plans of the Cosmos Dominators, whom humans had allowed to seize power on earth. They will not always be able to achieve their goals because the people of God will rise up to stand against them. The book of Revelation is also the story of the defeat by Jesus and the Holy Spirit working through his people on earth to defeat the spiritual powers of evil and the cosmos dominators that control them.

1:12-20 Jesus Glory

John received a vision of Jesus standing in glory in the heavenly places in the presence of God. He found it difficult to come up with words to describe Jesus' glory.

Jesus had eyes like fire. This reminds us that he sees everything clearly.

A two-edged sword came out of his mouth (Rev 1:16). This is an important signal about how Jesus will work to bring in his Kingdom. He does not hold a physical sword. His true sword is his mouth. This confirms that Jesus' power is his voice. He achieves his purposes by speaking his word.

Seven Lampstands
The seven lampstands represent seven churches. Seven is the number representing perfection/fullness. So, the seven lampstands represent the complete church (Rev 1:20). Later in the vision, when there are only two lampstands, this is an indication that the church is incomplete.

Seven stars

The seven stars are seven angels that Jesus' holds in his right hand. This indicates that Jesus will use them to accomplish his purposes. They are angels that guide and strengthen the church to achieve God's purposes.

John also saw seven spirits. This represents the fulness of the Spirit at work in the church of Jesus (Rev 1:4).

2:1-3:22 Letters to Seven Churches

The Seven Letters were originally for the seven churches in Asia Minor. John probably knew them well and would have been praying for them because they were struggling.

The immediate purpose of John's revelation was to warn these churches that they were in serious danger due to some mistakes they had been making. Their mistakes were serious and life-threatening. Jesus warned that he was coming against them in judgment. The word "coming" (erkomai) is used in the New Testament to describe Jesus coming in judgment against a people or church. Jesus used this expression to warn of the Destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:1-35, in contrast with the word "parousia", which describes Jesus' final appearance.

Jesus warns the seven churches that his visitation and judgment/testing is getting close. The word "coming" is used frequently in the letters. For example,

If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Rev 2:5).
Other examples are Revelation 2:16; 3:3; 3:10; 3:11. For the church at Laodicea, this judgment was right "at the door" (Rev 3:20; this should not be an altar call verse). Jesus was not referring to his second coming in these letters. He was warning of a season of testing during which any church that failed would face serious consequences. Later in Revelation, there are only two lampstands, which suggests that Jesus' warning of disaster for some of the churches was fulfilled.

This testing of the seven churches is the event which Jesus says at the beginning of the vision is getting close. God gave Jesus the vision,

... to show his servants what must soon take place (Rev 1:1).
... the time is near (Rev 1:3).
At the end of the vision, Jesus reminds the initial recipients not to allow the promises of victory in the latter parts of the vision to distract them from the warnings in the first three chapters.
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." (Rev 22:20).
This is not a reference to the second coming. Rather it is a reminder to the seven churches of Asia Minor that they can expect increased testing almost immediately.

The seven letters are also a message to the church throughout the season called the Times of the Gentiles. They describe the church during the entire season prior to the Fulness of the Jews. During this season, the world is controlled by political power, and the church fails to bring in the Kingdom of God. The letters are a challenge to the church during this age of struggle.

4:1 Throne Room

In John's vision, the door to heaven is standing open. This is an important reminder. Some Christians assume they have to deal with a closed heaven, which is only open occasionally. This vision reminds us that the door to heaven is always open, even during a season when the church is struggling.

4:2-6 Twenty-four Elders

John saw the throne of God, but struggled to describe it, so he used the names of various precious jewels.

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones with twenty-four elders sitting on them. Thrones symbolise ruling. The twenty-four elders symbolise the unity of the gentile church and Jewish church. Jesus appointed twelve apostles to expand the church. So, twelve elders describe the leaders of the church. Israel had twelve tribes. So the other twelve elders represent the Israelite church. Twenty-four elders worshipping together represent the Gentile Church and the Israelite (Jewish) Church serving God in unity, as Paul described in Ephesians 2:11-22. They have authority (crowns), but they surrender it to Jesus (Rev 4:10)

4:6-11 Four Living Creatures

I am not fully sure who the four living creatures represent. Their number is four, so they relate to life on earth. I believe that they represent worldly Israel. I believe that they are spiritual beings responsible for the land of Israel. They attempt to carry out God's purposes for national Israel to be restored back to the land.

This part of John's vision connects with the vision of Ezekiel 1 and 10. He saw a platform which the glory of God above a platform that was above four living creatures. Each of his creatures had four faces, one its own, one like a lion, one like a man, and one like a flying eagle. In contrast, it seems that the creatures John saw each had one of the four different faces.

The different faces are all images that are used for Israel. Numbers 2 explains that when the Israelites marched out, they formed into four groups to the north, south, east and west of the Levites who were carrying the covenant box and the tabernacle. Each tribe had a standard that went before them. Some commentators suggest that the four faces are the images representing the four tribes that led these marching groups. That is reasonable. It confirms that the four living creatures symbolise national Israel trying to establish itself in the promised land.

5:1-14 Scroll of History

The one who is sitting on the throne, who is God, held a scroll that was sealed. The scroll represents God's plan for accomplishing his purposes on earth. His plans are stymied because the church is incomplete, while the Jews have not come in. It seemed that no one in the heavenly realms could open the scroll and set in train the events it described. John wept, because it seemed that God's plans could not be carried out, and the Kingdom of God would go sideways.

Then John saw a Lamb that appeared to have been slaughtered standing in the midst of the throne. This is Jesus. Because he died on the cross and rose again and ascended to the right hand of God, he was given authority in heaven and on earth. He was able to set events in train that would accomplish God's purposes on earth. Opening a seal in the heavenly realm initiates an event on earth.

The lamb had the seven spirits of God sent into the world. The number seven implies the fulness of the Holy Spirit in the world.

When the lamb took the scroll, there was worship in heaven.

6:1-8 Four Horsemen

A seal is a mark of ownership. When something is marked with a seal, it is a guarantee that it is backed by the authority of the owner of the seal. The seven seals describe a series of events that will be used by God to refine and purify his people. Those who are half-hearted in their commitment to Christ will fall away. Those who really belong to Christ will be forced into a deeper level of commitment. They will have to trust more in the Holy Spirit and depend more on each other. These testing times will make them more dependent on the Lord. The events that are described in the seven seals will stamp the mark of God's ownership on his people. Those who truly belong to Jesus will be sifted out. The seals also give the people of the world the opportunity to choose their loyalty. It will be a choice between Jesus and the Monster. Those who choose Jesus will be sealed with the seal of God.

As each of the first four seals is opened, John sees a horseman ride forth. The horses should not be taken literally; each horseman represents an actor in human history who causes a particular event. These follow on from each other, but may also overlap each other.

There is a parallel vision in Zechariah 6:1-8. Zechariah actually saw four chariots, but the horses are the same colours as those seen by John.

I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze! The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful.

All events spring from the eternal purposes of God, which are as unchangeable as mountains of brass. These powerful horses represent part of God's purpose and plan. Zechariah does not tell us what each one does, but he does tell us the direction in which they operate. This will help explain the events that were seen by John.

There are four horses in both visions. The four that John saw were:

  1. The White Horse
  2. The Red Horse
  3. The Black Horse
  4. The Pale Horse
Four is the number that represents the earth, so these events will have an impact towards the four corners of the earth.

There is a natural connection between the events symbolised by the four horsemen. A decline in faith leads to increased warfare. The wasting of war tends to produce death and famine. Shortages of food cause sickness and death. The first two horsemen open the way for the third and the fourth horsemen.

6:9-11 Fifth Seal Persecution

John sees the souls who were killed for the word of God. The increase in government powers in response to the first four seals leads to persecution of followers of Jesus. Some will die during this period of persecution. Their white robes represent their righteous actions (Rev 19:8).

6:12-16 Sixth Seal

This seal describes the destruction of human governments in all nations

They are represented by stars in the sky. The shaking is so serious that kings and their power brokers try to hide from the fearful events. All the people who trust in their governments for rescue will be shaken as well.

6:14 Describes Wrath whacking Monster. This is a defeat in the spiritual realms.

7:1-3 Four Angels

The seven trumpets begin with global climate change. Before the opening of the seventh seal, John saw four angels.

After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God." (Rev 7:1-3).

The images in this passage were probably familiar to John's listeners, but they are not part of our modern language. The "corners of the earth" is an expression describing the entire earth. The modern equivalent of the four corners is the word "global".

The four winds are a description of the "weather system". Therefore, the four winds from the corners of the earth represent the "global weather system". John was describing changes in the global weather system. The actions of the four angels will bring about change that harms the land, the sea and the trees. A change in global weather patterns would bring about such a far-reaching effect. John's vision describes global climate change that will harm the earth, the trees and the sea.

The four angels have evil intent, but they are not fully free. They cannot act until they are released by another angel, the one carrying the seal of God. This is important. Four evil angels are no match for one of God's angels. Although these evil angels will eventually accomplish the harm they have been sent to do, they cannot act until God allows them to move. God is still in control, and he will use what they intended for harm to accomplish his purposes. We should not fear these four angels because God will turn their harm into good for his people.

The work of these angels is described further in Revelation 8.

7:1-8 144,000 Sealed

During an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals, John sees the people who are sealed up by the events of the six seals. This is a picture of the calling of the Jews. The number 12 represents the twelve tribes of Israel. 12 squared is the completion of Israel. Likewise, ten cubed symbolises perfect fulfilment. So the number 144,000 is a representation of the fulness of the descendants of Jacob coming to faith in Jesus. This is spelt clearly as 12,000 from each tribe.

The number 144,000 is not literal. It symbolises most of the people coming to faith a the end of the Times of the Gentiles.

This promise is not limited to those who are currently the Jews, ie the descendants of Judah. It includes all of the twelve tribes, and especially those who are descendants from the ten lost tribes who don't even know who they are.

7:9-17 Great Rescue

John sees a crowd of people that is too big to count standing before the throne and the lamb. This is the vast multitude that comes to faith after the collapse of human government and the fullness of the Jews, when the gospel goes across the earth in great power.

The gospel advances powerfully during a time of suffering. Those who die for their faith receive honour and peace when they go to be with Jesus. God will comfort them.

The sequence is.

8:1 Silence in heaven

When the seventh is opened, there is silence in the spiritual realms. The silence implies that the spiritual powers of evil are totally defeated.

In each sequence of seven events in Revelation, the seventh event is always a representation of the fulness of the Kingdom of God on earth. The seven seals climax with the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God.

8:2-11 Seven Trumpets - First Three

For the world, trumpets are a warning of judgment. Amos said that the trumpet would sound when disaster was coming (Amos 3:6). The angels will sound the trumpet when evil has increased upon the earth. This disobedience leads to disasters and troubles. As the trumpets are sounded, judgment is released on the earth. Prophetic warnings turn disasters into judgments.

For God's people, trumpets are a call to action. During the Exodus, Moses used two silver trumpets to call the community together and when the camp marched out. After the Exodus, trumpets were used to call God's people to action (Num 10:8,9). The trumpets of the seven angels are not a signal of trouble for God's people but a call for us to rise up and do his will.

In the Bible, trumpets are often connected with destruction (Jer 6:1) so the Seven Trumpets describe Destroyer's plans for destroying God's earth. A trumpet call was often used to call the people of God together for battle, but a trumpet was also sounded by a leader stirring up a rebellion against God. Examples are:

The seven messengers with the seven trumpets were not sent by God, so they represent a rebellion against his plans (Rev 8:2).

They will attempt to destroy the earth, despite God's instructions that it should be preserved.

John saw four messengers who wanted to destroy God's good creation. A powerful angel holding the seal of God declared that they were not allowed to harm the earth or the sea until the full number of Jews had come to faith in Jesus (Rev 7:1-4).

The images in this passage were probably familiar to John's listeners, but they are not part of our modern language. The "corners of the earth" is an expression describing the entire earth. The modern equivalent of the four corners is the word "global".

The four winds are a description of the "weather system". Therefore, the four winds from the corners of the earth represent the "global weather system". John was describing changes in the global weather system. The four messengers wanted to bring about a change in global weather patterns that would produce dramatic global climate change that would harm the earth, the trees and the sea. The four messengers have evil intent, but another angel carrying the seal of God prevents them from acting to harm the earth.

Their declaration prevents the spiritual powers of evil from wrecking the created world, before the Kingdom of God comes to fulness, and once that happens, they will not have the authority on earth to do it.

When the seven messengers took up their trumpets, a powerful angel took up the prayers of the saints and offered them on the altar before the throne of God. These were the prayers prayed against the four messengers that wanted to destroy the earth and sea. The angel of God threw fire from the altar onto the earth. The outcome of his actions was seen on earth (Rev 8:5). These events represent the release of God's presence and power on earth against the seven messengers wanting to do harm.

The cosmos dominator that controlled the initiation of the seven trumpets was Death (see Death Reigned ). Blood is mentioned at various places in the text describing the trumpets. This blood does not mean much except that it is a sign that Death is deeply involved in what happened. The seven trumpets describe Death's plan for the season when Jesus is bringing in the Kingdom of God. Fortunately for the church and the world, Death's plans fail.

Interpreting the first four trumpets is almost impossible without understanding that disconnection between the actions taken and the outcomes that follow. The key to solving this problem is understanding that the first four trumpets described the things that Death wants to do, but is unable to achieve. They also describe what he will actually do when he fails to achieve his goals.

It seems that Death had plans to send the evil spirits that he controlled to destroy the earth, the trees, the grass, the rivers and the sea, and many of the animals living in them, and to darken the atmosphere in some way, but he was stymied by God and the prayer of the saints.

The angel with the seal had authority to prevent this destruction, and the prayers of the saints had released his authority on earth to stop Death from aching his objectives. When he was prevented from carrying out his plans, Death got angry and went off to destroy some other things that were important to God.

The text announcing the seven trumpets describes both the events planned by Death which were stymied, and the action he will achieve instead.

Seven Trumpets — Death/Destroyers Plan
Evil Planned Evil Achieved
1 Destroy a third of the earth, a third of the trees and all of the grass. A Fizzer compared to the activities of God's angel.
2 Destroy the sea and a third of the life in it and a third of the boats that earn their living on the sea. Undermine the legal system given by God on blazing mountain and undermine confidence in it amongst the people (sea).
3 Destroy a third of the springs and rivers by making them bitter. Destroying the church in an important nation (star) by causing the people to divide into bitterness.
4 Make a third of the sun, the moon and the stars go dark, so the world become dark. Attacks a national leader of Israel (sun, moon and the stars) and exposing the darkness of the nation.
5 Death releases Destroyer and his following spirits from the Abys to increase his power. Destroyer defeats Death and takes his place, but is prevented from touching the created world. He has to focus on torment humans without spiritual protection.
6 Seeks to start a massive war in the Middle East (near the Euphrates) by gathering kings to battle. I believe that this effort failed due to the prayers of the saints. The 200 million cavalry indicates the number of spirits under the Destroyer's authority.
7 The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever (Dan 11:15).

The contrast between the angel of God and the sounding of the first trumpet is huge. The former brought the presence and activity of God to earth (represented by lightning, thunder and earthquakes). The latter could only achieve hail and fire, which symbolise destruction and blood, which symbolise death.

Death failed in his efforts to destroy all the grass and a third of the trees, but the grass and trees were still in existence and growing strong in Rev 9:4 when the fifth trumpet was sounded by a messenger of Death. The sounding of the first trumpet will be a fizzer. Death's plans to harm the earth will fail.

The great mountain burning with fire released by the second trumpet is a reference to Mount Sinai, where God gave his system of law to Moses.

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord descended on it in a fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently (Exodus 19:18).

When God came down to give the law, the mountain smoked with fire. In Revelation, the sea represents the peoples, multitudes, nations and languages (Rev 17:15). A blazing mountain falling into the sea represents the people of the world throwing off God's law. He gave the laws of Moses so people would know how to govern themselves in a just way. The rejection of God's system of law and justice will just create shock waves that will spread out to harm the people and nations of the world. Death will deceive the people of the world into rejecting God's way of government, opening the way for the Monster to rise to power.

The third trumpet caused a great star burning like a torch to fall from heaven. In Revelation, seven stars were the angels of the seven churches (Rev 1:20). This falling star represents the decline of the church in an important part of the world. This church falls away when it comes under the control of the spiritual powers of evil.

The fall of this church turns the waters bitter. Water is the life of the spirit, so this is a description of spiritual life in that part of the world turning bitter. The church that falls will become bitter and be a source of spiritual death. The fall of this star will produce great bitterness for the people who live under its influence.

The falling shines like a torch. This is not God's light, but it makes the fall of the star highly visible. The modern church with the greatest visibility is the United States. Its divisions and bitterness are being played out visibly in the news media for all the world to see. The failure of Christianity in the United States will do great harm in the world and allow terrible evil forces to rise to power.

Political Interpretations
The trumpets can be interpreted politically.

2. The large mountain blazing with fire and being thrown into the sea could be a law system. The Old Testament prophets described the powerful empires that controlled the world as mountains (Isaiah 45:1-2; Micah 1:4). In Daniel's vision, the Kingdom of God is represented by a huge mountain (Dan 2:5). A blazing mountain represents the collapse of a law system. Possibly John saw the collapse of a law system that is influential throughout the earth. In Revelation, the sea represents the people of the earth (Rev 17:15). The decline of this law system will just affect its own people, but shock waves will spread out to harm the people and nations of the world. Only a third of the sea is harmed, so this is only a partial judgment.

3. In the Old Testament, the fall of a great star represents the collapse of an evil organisation (Is 35;5; Amos 5:26; Luke 10:18). Isaiah described the collapse of the Babylonian empire as a star falling from the sky (Is 14:3,12). He described the judgment of Egypt as the darkening of the stars (Ez 32:7). The name of this star is Wormwood means bitter. The fall of this star will produce great bitterness for the people who live under its influence.

In Revelation, seven stars were the angels of the seven churches (Rev 1:20). This falling star could represent the decline of the church in an important part of the world. This church falls away when it comes under the control of the spiritual powers of evil. The fall of the church turned the waters bitter. This is a description of spiritual life in that part of the world turning bitter. This church becomes bitter and a source of spiritual death.

8:12-13 Fourth Trumpet

The fourth trumpet struck the sun, the moon and the stars. In Revelation, the sun, the moon and the stars represent the nation of Israel (Rev 12:1-3). Their darkening could represent the collapse of the government of the state of Israel or the downfall of the powerful ruler of the nation. This will be a time of darkness and fear for those living within this nation.

The current government of Israel is divided, with no party being able to gain a settled majority in the Knesset. Long-time President Benjamin Netanyahu has been deposed from office and faces corruption charges.

By controlling the United States political system, Israel gains such immense power that allows it to impose its will on much of the world. However, that influence is weakening because various international organisations have recently exposed the true nature of the apartheid system that has been established in the nation. If this crisis exposes the true character of the State of Israel, the people who have supported Israel as a force for good will begin to understand that it has been manipulated and controlled by the forces of evil.

The sun only loses a third of its light, so this is only a partial judgment. These events do not destroy Babylon the Great. This trumpet has a different purpose. It exposes the true character of the State of Israel. The people who have supported Israel as a force for good will begin to understand that it has been manipulated and controlled by the forces of evil.

9:1-12 Fifth Trumpet

When the fifth Trumpet is sounded, evil spiritual powers that have been locked up in the abyss since the time of Noah are set free to do evil on earth. They are led by a cosmos dominator called Destroyer (Rev 9:11). He had organised a season of terrible destruction on earth when he was the cosmos dominator that controlled the earth during the Millennium of Darkness between the fall and the flood. He and his followers were locked in the abyss for their troubles, significantly reducing the amount of evil on earth. John saw a star that had already fallen from the sky.

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth (Rev 9:1). This is the consequence of the previous trumpet, so John is referring to an angel of the church that has already fallen. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss (Rev 9:2-3).

The angel that fell is given the key to the Abyss, which is the dwelling place of the demonic powers that had been confined there after Noah's flood. A huge number of evil spiritual powers are released on the earth. They are led by an angel whose name is Destruction (Rev 9:1-11).

It seems that the words and actions of the failing church allowed the door of the abyss so the trapped spirits could escape. I presume this church had stopped caring for God's creation responsibly and had not challenged people and businesses who had seriously harmed the creation. Maybe it had participated in the destruction of the earth through reckless mining, burning forests and wars that wreaked terrible destruction on the earth. God is just.

I suspect that Destroyer and his followers appealed to God's justice by claiming that it is not fair for them to be locked for trying to destroy the earth at the time of Noah when the followers of Jesus are doing the same thing. If the angels confined in the abyss for attempting to wreck the earth said to God that they had not done anything worse than the failed church, he would have to release them to be fair. Anyway, he is released onto the earth again.

This concession would allow the angel to open the abyss and let the entrapped spirits out. However, their release was subject to a serious constraint. They were not allowed to do harm to the grass, the trees or the earth. They had seriously harmed the earth during the time of Noah, so they will be released on the condition that they never try to do that again.

They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 9:4).

They would direct all their energies to attacking humans who did not have the seal of God. This event is a terrible woe for the inhabitants of the earth (Rev 9:12). Evil spirits that have been locked up in the Abyss since the time of Noah will be released back onto the earth again. Their release will bring about a vast increase in evil on earth.

The cosmos dominator that controls this great army of spirits is called Destroyer (Rev 9:11). He will rise up to seize control of Death and his army of spirits and begin to torment people. Death will be constrained and lose control over the situation. He will not be able to kill people who are being tormented (Rev 9:5-6). The seventh trumpet shifts power from Death to Destroyer and allows darkness to spread across the earth (Rev 9:2).

Military Interpretation
For most of history, war was a personal struggle between one king and another, with each being supported by a small retinue of followers. Most kings could not afford a large number of troops, so the armies involved were quite small. Battles could last for several years but were usually quite localised. Ordinary people did not get involved in a war unless they lived close to the battlefield. The greatest threat to their lives came from looting soldiers who had not been paid or supplied with provisions.

The nature of warfare changed dramatically during the nineteenth century with the development of total war. The emergence of nationalism changed war from a contest between two kings into a struggle between nations. Kings fought over territory. Nations tend to fight over causes, and everyone in the nation is drawn into the war effort by reducing their consumption and manufacturing equipment for the army. Civilians became the target for artillery and bombs. In total war, civilian casualties often exceed the number of military casualties.

As the Time of Distress gets underway, wars between nations will morph into personal struggles between political and military leaders (Dan 11). Assassinating evil political and military leaders will be morally acceptable. Personal attacks against undesirable political leaders will be an effective tool for projecting the Monster's power in the world. The fear of a personal strike will cause many hostile leaders to submit to the Terrible Monster.

The weapons of war will change. Concentrating large numbers of infantry in one place will be unnecessary because sophisticated military weapons will make a personal attack against hostile political leaders viable. Unmanned predator drones will be efficient tools for strategic assassinations. They will be used to intimidate all people who oppose the Terrible Monster (Rev 9:3-6). Unmanned predator drones will intimidate the people by reminding them that they are under surveillance and under threat of attack. They will only kill a few people but will torment many.

Remotely-controlled weapons will be used to project military power across great distances. Many military engagements take place been combatants on different continents. Targeted missiles will strike against military targets and strategic assets (Rev 9:7-10). The political powers will claim that they are using military power for good purposes, but they are actually being controlled by the Devil.

9:13-21 Sixth Trumpet

When the sixth trumpet is sounded, Destroyer attempts to gather some nations for battle in the Middle East, near the Euphrates River. This river flows through Syria and Iraq, so it could be a description of the wars that have occurred there recently because several nations were engaged in the struggle. He wanted to kill a third of the humans on earth, but he might not be able to achieve his goal.

The reference to 200 million cavalry soldiers is not the size of the human army, as if is often assumed, but is the number of evil spirits that are controlled by Destroyer when he starts this action (One group is probably controlled by Gog (Ezek 38,39). Of course, God has millions of angels at his disposal to fight against him and constrain his endeavours.

Mobile missile launchers that have not yet been invented could come into play.

9:15-19 Seventh Trumpet

When the seventh trumpet sounded, Death, Destroyer, and their followers are totally defeated, and the Kingdom of God comes to fulness on earth.

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).

This speaks for itself. Brilliant.

10:1-7 Seven Thunders

In another interlude, John saw a strong angel come down from heaven with a small scroll in his hand. When he shouted, seven thunders spoke. However, a voice from heaven told John not to write down the seven thunders. This is important. The thunders represent another set of events that some wanted to bring to pass on earth. The thunders probably represented further plans by the spiritual powers of evil to do evil earth.

God decides that these events will not take place. The angel declared that there would be no more delay. Rather events would move towards the calling of the Jews and the coming of the Kingdom. This cutting short is an expression of God's mercy.

10:8-11 Little Scroll

The voice from heaven told John to take the little scroll from the hand of the angel. When he asked for it, the angel handed over the scroll but warned that it would be bitter in his stomach.

The scroll represents God's word. John was being told that he, representing the prophetic church, would need to prophesy again. John was a Jew. The prophetic words will be directed towards the Jewish people, warning of their suffering during the Time of Distress. This distress and suffering will lead to the Jews coming to faith. The voice of the prophets will play an important role during this season in explaining what God is doing.

This prophetic word was good news and bad news. That is why it tasted good in the mouth, but sour in the stomach. The Jews will face hard times. But it will eventually lead to blessings and fulness of life through faith in Jesus.

11:1-2 Measuring Temple

In a vision of two lampstands, John was given a rod to measure the temple of God and count the worshippers (Rev 11:2). The temple was the dwelling place of God. Those who enter the courts of the temple have access to the presence of God. The Gentiles will dominate access to God for forty-two months. During this season, the Jewish people are shut out from the presence of God (but kept safe by being scattered among the nations).

The forty-two months represents the first half of the New Testament age when the gospel goes out to the Gentiles. Most of the Jewish people will be unable to receive the gospel because their hearts are hardened. They are reluctant to recognise Jesus as their messiah, so the church is filled up with Gentiles. The Gentile nations dominate the world.

11:3-14 Truncated Church

John saw two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands (Rev 11:3-4). The lampstands and the witnesses represent the church. It is Jesus' witness in the world. The olive trees represent the Holy Spirit. The odd thing in this vision is that there are only two lampstands.

Earlier, John had seen seven lamp-stands (Rev 1:20). Seven represents perfection or completion. The perfected, completed church is represented by seven lampstands. A church with only two lampstands is a truncated church that cannot provide a complete witness to Jesus.

The temple will be trampled for 42 months. The prophets John saw prophesied for 1260 days. In the Hebrew calendar, a month is thirty days, so 1,260 days equals forty-two months:

42 x 30 =1260

The 1260 days and the 42 months are the same as three and a half years

12 x 3½ =42

A phrase used several times in Revelation and Daniel to mark out this season is "a time, times and half a time". This phrase is essential for understanding the Times of the Gentiles. The interpretation is quite simple.

a time = one year,

times = two years

half a time = half a year

This means that "a time, times and half a time" equals three and a half years:

3½ years = time, times and a half

Daniel and Revelation use two other expressions in a similar way.

3½ x 12 = 42

3½ x 12 x 30 = 1260

The key to interpreting these expressions is to understand that the New Testament age has two halves. Three and a half is half of seven. Seven signifies fullness or perfection, so seven years represent the entire New Testament age, from the ascension of Jesus to the end of the age. These seven years can be split into two halves. The following expressions for "three and half years" in Revelation and Daniel refer to the Times of the Gentiles, which is the first half of the New Testament age;

The truncated church uses Old Testament methods, because it does not fully understand the calling of the cross.

If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die (Rev 11:5).

This points to Elijah, who called down fire on the soldiers who had tracked him down (2 Kings 1:9-15). Elijah got into a power struggle using spiritual power control political and military power, but his strategy failed, and he had to flee. Power without suffering always fails.

During the Times of the Gentiles, the church tries to use spiritual power to control the political powers, in the same way that Elijah attempted to control King Ahab. It tries to advance the Kingdom of God by imposing Christian laws on the rest of society. This strategy fails, because God intends his church to pursue the cross, not power.

When the Monster rises to power, it will persecute the church and massively weaken it. The situation might be partially the other way around. It is the weakened state of the church that allows the Monster to rise to power because people who have lost their trust in God often look to political power for salvation.

The world will be delighted when it sees the church weakened, because it hates its moral standards. When the church fails, the people of the world will celebrate.

The failure of the church is connected with Jerusalem. It is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt because it is recalcitrant, but Rev 11:8 confirms that the great city is Jerusalem because it is the city where Jesus was crucified. In Revelation 18, the great city is called Babylon the Great.

After a short time (non-literal 3½ days), the Holy Spirit will come back into the failed church and restore it to life. John saw the church going "into heaven on a cloud" is not a literal ascension. It is a representation of the revived church rediscovering the authority that it has in Jesus, as per Ephesians 2:6.

The recovery of the church will release a great shaking on earth. Jerusalem will be seriously affected. Many people will begin to glorify God (Rev 11:13).

11:15-19 Seventh Trumpet

Like the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet represents the victory and fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. The church and Israel worship God in heaven. They worship God because he has begun to reign through Jesus.

The evil spiritual power called Destroyer will be destroyed (Rev 11:18). The ark of the covenant was seen in the temple in heaven. This is a sign that the promises of the old covenant have been fulfilled through Jesus.

12:1-12 Woman and Dragon

Revelation 12 is often misunderstood. The passage actually describes the ascension of Jesus and its consequences. This chapter of Revelation marks the beginning of a new cycle in the book of Revelation. To get later events in perspective, it goes right back to the ascension.

A woman clothed with the sun appeared in heaven with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head (Rev 12:1-5). The woman represents Israel. In Joseph's dream, the sun and the twelve stars represented Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons, so the woman is the nation of Israel (Gen 37:9,10). This is important for understanding the rest of the vision.

In this vision, the dragon represents Satan or the devil (v. 9).

Jesus is the male child who was born of an Israelite woman in the nation of Israel. The stars that fell from the sky are the angels that fell with Satan to become his demonic servants. Satan tried to use Herod to destroy Jesus at the time of his birth, but God kept him safe. The devil also tried to destroy Jesus on the cross, but he was raised to life and "snatched up to God and to his throne." This is a picture of the ascension. Jesus is the one "who will rule the nations with an iron sceptre", as his Kingdom is established on the earth.

When Jesus arrived in heaven, Satan's power was totally destroyed (Rev 12:7,8). The spiritual powers of evil were totally defeated by Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection and ascension (Col 2:14-15).

Satan and his angels were thrown out because they had lost their "place in heaven". This is the war in heaven that John saw. Satan only had authority in heaven as an "accuser" (v. 10). He came to power through the sin of Adam. Those who sin place themselves under Satan's authority because he has the right to accuse them before God in heaven. If he can justly accuse people of sin, he has legitimate power over them. Because all have sinned, he had a great deal of authority and a "place in heaven".

Jesus' death paid the penalty for sin, so Satan can no longer accuse God's people (Rev 12:11). If Christians are accused by Satan, they can testify to the fact that their sins are covered by Jesus' blood. Satan has lost his place in heaven because he no longer has any right to be there.

Satan's power dropped to the earth (Rev 12:10). He now has to work on the earth. He can only maintain his power by deceiving the people of the earth and preventing them from seeing what Jesus has done (v. 12). He has gone to work on the earth in a great fury, but even there, his time is short.

There is great rejoicing in heaven because Jesus has inaugurated his Kingdom. His will is done perfectly in heaven.

Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ... Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them (Rev 12:10,12).

Satan's power and authority have been destroyed. The way has been opened for the people of God to establish his Kingdom on the earth. Because Satan has been defeated, he goes off to try and destroy the nation of Israel. Revelation 12:13-16 describes the fate of Israel after the ministry of Jesus.

12:13-18 Attack on Israel

The spiritual powers of evil try to destroy Israel. This explains the ferocity of the destruction of Israel in AD 70. However, the Jews were not all killed, and many were sent into exile. Being away from Jerusalem was like being in "a desert", but it also proved to be a hiding place for them. The wings of the eagle represent the Roman empire that sent the nation of Israel into exile (the desert).

The Jews were spread throughout the world, so Satan has been unable to destroy them because God intended that they be kept safe. This is important to understand. While the Jews were scattered, they were relatively safe because the spiritual powers of evil could not attack them directly. When they formed big ghettoes or came together in a nation-state, they lost that protection and made themselves vulnerable to attack.

Israel is to be hidden in exile "out of the serpent's reach", for a "time, times and half a time", 3½ years, which is half of the full New Testament season. Time, times, and half a time is the length of the times of he Gentiles when Jerusalem is trampled by them. This season will end with the fullness of the Jews: when they return to their land and are converted. This is now getting close.

When Satan found that he could not destroy Israel, he went off to persecute the church. (Rev 12:17). Persecution of the church began as Satan tried to destroy those who obeyed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus. This persecution has continued right down through the ages.

13:1-10 Monster from the Sea

Most modern translations of the New Testament use the English word "beast" for the Greek word "therion". The problem is that we do not use the word beast much these days. We speak of animals, but we rarely refer to a beast, so it is hard to understand what John is describing. I recently read a translation of the New Testament (by NT Wright) that translates therion as "monster". This immediately rang a bell for me. Every child knows about monsters. They know that they are big powerful and terrifying. In these notes, I refer to a monster rather than a beast. This makes it easier to get a sense of what John saw.

Daniel received a vision of four powerful monsters that attempt to control the earth (Dan 7:1). The importance of this vision is that it shows how a controlling spirit called Monster worked through successive empires to exert his dominance on earth. The four empires were Babylon, Media Persia, Greece and Rome. Other empires arose during this time, but these four were specifically controlled by the Monster. (The Assyrian empire was controlled by a different, very destructive spirit).

Monster eventually reached gained dominance over the world by working through the Roman Empire (Rev 13:1-2). John saw a monster coming out of the sea, where the devil was standing (Rev 12:18). The Monster was like a leopard, with bear's feet, and a lion's mouth. The resemblance to the leopard, the bear and the lion provides a link to the earlier empires described in Daniel's vision (Dan 7:4-6). These empires arose in different places and times, but their essence was the same. The devil established each of these human empires to gain control in opposition to God.

The dragon gave it power, so it was under the devil's control. Many people believed that the Roman Empire was a good outcome because it brought peace to the world. They worshipped the monster (13:4) because they thought it was unstoppable, a nd it was on their side in the struggle. However, John explains that this was not true. The spiritual powers of evil used the Roman Empire as a vehicle to control the world.

The Monster had a head with a fatal wound that had been healed, as if it had been slaughtered and restored back to life again. This was an indication that the Roman Empire would appear to die, but would come back to life again before the Times of the Gentiles were complete.

Rome was amazing. It controlled a huge part of the world for the best part of five centuries. Rome held sway throughout the world and all people acknowledged its power and authority. No nation dared to make war against it. Everyone was amazed by what it achieved. Roman combined all the ferociousness and vastness of the previous three empires, but the real source of its power was the spiritual forces of evil. The Roman Empire held power because the devil gave it the power to rule.

This Monster was given authority to reign for 42 months. This is also a symbol for the length of the Times of the Gentiles. The Terrible Monster that John saw will be around in some form or other for most of this season.

This Monster persecuted the followers of Jesus. The political powers will persecute Christians throughout the Times of the Gentiles. They should have patience and trust in God.

The Roman Empire persecuted the fledgling church. In the previous chapter, John had described the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. Having been unable to destroy Jesus, Satan tried to destroy the people of his nation (Rev 12:13-14). Having used the Roman Empire to successfully destroy Jerusalem, he then tried to use it to destroy the church. Revelation 13:5-10 describes this persecution.

Rome was a centre of idol worship that culminated in the worship of the emperors themselves. All this religious activity was blasphemous and insulting to Jesus, so Christians refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. They could not give the allegiance that the empire demanded, so they faced persecution.

Rome had a number of very cruel emperors. Under their leadership, the early Christians experienced savage persecution. John called the Christians to follow their Lord with perseverance.

13:11-13 False Prophet

The cross should have meant the end of Rome, but most of its citizens did not understand what had happened. They carried on submitting to the monster of Rome to obtain the benefits of empire life. From the perspective of heaven, the Roman Empire was dead, but the people of the empire allowed it to live on. Despite the cross, the Roman Empire managed to grow in power.

Rome had a fatal wound but lived on for a long time. However, despite defying death, the days of Rome were numbered. During the fourth and fifth centuries, it collapsed into moral decay and was destroyed by external invaders.

That collapse of Rome did not mean the end of the Monster. It simply continued on in a different form. After describing the Roman Empire, John saw another monster that operated in a totally different way but carried on the devil's work. This Monster from the earth looked like a lamb but spoke like a dragon. Its appearance was totally misleading (Rev 13:11-13).

This monster had "two horns like a lamb". The two horns signify enormous worldly power, but there is an interesting twist. In Revelation, the lamb is Jesus, but here is a lamb-like animal doing the devil's work. In Revelation, the lamb is Jesus, so it appears to represent Jesus. However, it speaks like a dragon. This shows that it is actually working for the devil. John saw an empire that appeared to be good, but is doing the devil's work. This second monster will carry on in the role of the Roman Empire, but it will seem to represent Jesus. The monster with horns like a lamb represents a Christian organisation that exercises control over much of the world in a similar way to the Roman Empire. John saw the emergence of Christendom as a unifying force in the world.

When the Rome Empire collapsed, the world broke up into numerous principalities, kingdoms and feudal fiefdoms that each did their own thing. However, another worldwide organisation emerged in the place of Rome. While under Roman protection, the church had morphed into a huge and powerful organisation. When the empire fell away, the church quickly stepped into the gap and began using force and coercion to maintain order on earth.

This was a strange role for the church because Jesus had refused to use force and coercion to establish his Kingdom. For the first few hundred years, his people followed his example, and many paid the price with their lives. However, when persecution ended, and the church became part of the power system, it moved quickly from service and suffering to reliance on power and control. The emergence of the church at the centre of power puts a different spin on the statement that the "monster whose fatal wound had been healed". The Roman Empire collapsed and died, but the work of the monster was carried on by the power of Christendom.

This monster represents the emergence of the church at the centre of political power. The spiritual and political authority of the pope was eventually recognised throughout much of the empire, so it is correct to say that his organisation "exercised all of the authority of the first monster". For the next ten centuries, the church was the most powerful and most pervasive organisation in the world.

At the peak of Christendom, the church held enormous powers. The pope could appoint and depose kings and princes. Life in many parts of the world was shaped by church law and church courts. The church could set prices and control economic behaviour.

A great deal of good was accomplished by the church system, but this monster is described as a "false prophet" in Revelation 19:20 because it led God's people in the wrong direction. Christendom replaced the power and freedom of the Holy Spirit with the structure and control of human organisation and bureaucracy. Acceptance of power culminated in the inquisition torturing people to make them accept the truth. Confidence in military power inspired crusaders to invade the Middle East and kill Moslems and Jews in order to advance the Kingdom of God.

13:14-15 Image of the Monster

The emergence of humanism weakened the influence of Christendom, and the Reformation clipped the wings of the Papal system. Yet, the monster did not die. The collapse of Christendom opened the way for the monster to emerge in a new form.

The false prophet sets up an image of a monster. This is not a real monster, but it does look like the monster. The collapse of Christendom leads to the emergence of a new empire, just like the first monster, but is radically different. It will eventually be greater than the Roman Empire, and its power will extend far beyond any previous empire.

The source of this monster's power will be totally different from those that went before. The Roman Empire was a military empire, sustained by the ruthless force of the Roman legions. Anyone who opposed the empire would be forced to submit with ruthless violence. The new empire will get its power in a different way. Instead of being conquered by force, the people of the world will freely surrender to this new empire.

He deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the monster, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the monster who was wounded by the sword and lived (Rev 13:14).

The people of the world will be deceived into serving the image of the monster. They will freely submit to a democratic empire because it offers all of the benefits of previous empires, but it seems to be good.

Prophets speak to kings and warn them about their mistakes. False prophets have faith in political power, so they encourage it, rather than challenging it. This false prophet encourages the people of the world to trust in political power. When the Democratic Empire is taking power, the church will declare that God is blessing this move. Although the new empire relies on human wisdom and power, the church will declare that God is using this good political power to bring in his kingdom (Rev 13:14,15).

This monster works through political spirits that are controlled by a Cosmos Dominator spirit called "Monster".

13:16-18 Mark of the Monster

The Democratic Monster uses economic power to assert control over the nations and peoples of the earth. John saw everyone on earth being forced to take the mark that represents the Monster. This is a situation where individuals do not have any choice. Regardless of their status, they are forced into a place that they might not choose (Rev 13:16-17).

The only way this could happen is if the requirements of the Monster were accepted by the leaders of the nations and imposed on the people. The people of the nations will have no choice. Entire nations are forced to submit to the Democratic Monster. This aligns with Daniel 7, where the monster tramples other monsters (nations).

Spiritual Control
The mark is not a literal mark but is the symbol of being a slave. In biblical times, a slave owner branded his slaves with a name or a symbol. A mark on the forehead or right hand was a confirmation that the person was a slave. It was a record of the slaveowner who owned the slave.

The mark of the monster is not a physical mark, but a reference to spiritual control. The people of the nations submitting to the democratic empire are controlled by political spirits that obey a Cosmos Dominator spirit called "Monster". This spirit wants to control all the nations. The mark the power and control the Monster gains when people freely submit to it.

Spiritual Allegiance
The mark of Monster parallels the seal on the foreheads of the 144,000 chosen from Israel (Rev 7:1-8). This number represents the fulness of Israel (Rom 11:12). It points to a time when all Israel will come to faith in Jesus. John saw a seal being put on their foreheads. The seal was not a physical mark, but a representation of a decision to follow Jesus. The seal on followers of Jesus is the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). The Holy Spirit is the mark of those who follow Jesus. John says that the 144,000 were marked with the seal are "the bondservants of God" (Rev 7:3).

The account of the mark of the monster is followed by a reference to the 144,000 marked by God (Rev 14:1). The people with the father's name written on their forehead are contrasted with those who have the name of the Monster written on their forehead. John is explaining that the former are sealed by the Holy Spirit, whereas the latter are controlled by political spirits and government powers.

Jesus promised John that overcomers would have the name of God written on them (Rev 3:12; 22:4). Those who are loyal to Jesus have his mark on their foreheads. Those who follow the monster have his mark on their forehead as a symbol of their loyalty.

Thinking and Doing

The meaning of the mark is explained in Deuteronomy 11:18. Moses was speaking about the laws that God had given through him. He commanded the people to write symbols of the law on their hands and forehead to remind them of God's law. The forehead represents thinking. The hand represents actions. Symbols on the hand and the forehead indicate that all thought and action is done in terms of God's law. All their thinking and activity should be shaped by God's law.

The thoughts and actions of followers of Jesus are shaped by the Holy Spirit. The followers of the monster have their thought and action shaped by human laws.

Hands and foreheads ▶ acceptance of the human laws of the Monster.

The Mark of the Monster is a symbol. The people in Deuteronomy placed the symbols on their own hands and forehead. Followers of Jesus are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). God did it for them. The followers of the monster have no choice. They are forced to obey human laws, so the symbol of human law is described as being put on them.

Name Mark Number
The number of the monster needs wisdom. (Rev 13:18). The number of the monster is not a literal number, but a symbol representing a human hierarchy of power. The name, mark or number of the monster is a way of expressing the power of a human government.

The number is:

Six hundred
Sixty
Six.
It is the number of a man (Rev 13:18). Six is the number representing humanness. The number of the monster can be expressed as follows.
6 x 100
6 x 10
6 x 1.
If six is the number of "humans", this is a hierarchical governing structure with many people appointing a small number of people who appoint a leader. This is a representation of a republican government that becomes an empire imposing authority from the top down.

This is the opposite of the Government of God. When Moses led the people into the Promised Land, he set up a system of judges applying God's law, among tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands (Ex 18:21; Deut 1:15). The basic unit was the family, represented as a ten. They joined together voluntarily in fifties and hundreds for social support and protection. They submitted voluntarily to a local judge to resolve disputes and deal with crime. Fifties and Hundreds would join together to form a Thousand for defence by submitting voluntarily to a temporary military leader. This was Free Authority submitted from below, not imposed from the top.

The Monster of Revelation operates in the opposite way. One person rules, but is put in place by an elite, who are put in place by the people. This is a democratic empire. Imposed Authority comes down from the top with threats of death for those who do not submit. This is confirmed in Rev 19:18, where kings are accompanied by chiliarchs, who are commanders of Thousands.

Economic Power
The Monster of Revelation manifests in various ways. One manifestation is an Economic Empire, in which the monster controls all buying and selling. The nations are unable to buy or sell without the permission of the monster (Rev 13:17).

Controlling buy and selling ▶ Powerful government controlling the world economy.

The Mark of the Monster symbolises political management of the economy. Traditional empires imposed massive taxes and collected them harshly, but they did not attempt to control other aspects of economic activity. They let businesses do what they liked but made sure they captured a big share of the profits. They did not care if businesses were dishonest, because they could demand a bigger share of any corrupt gains.

In contrast, this monster seeks to control every aspect of economic life. It sets prices and sets rules that businesses must comply with. Over the last century, we have seen a vast increase in interference in the economy by human governments.

Economic and Financial Control
When studying the Mark of the Monster, Christians focus on the technique used (the mark) rather than the outcome. The outcome is clear. People and nations are unable to buy and sell without the permission of the democrat monster (liberal hegemon). John described this outcome clearly. This is the important message of the vision. He saw a great political power waging war and controlling the world using economic weapons.

The technique by which control is accomplished is less important because it is determined by the legal situation at the time when it will be fulfilled. John did not know how societies would change over time, so he did not understand the techniques by which this vision could be achieved in the future. So, he described it in terms of words and images that he understands.

Marking people with an image/stamp was the way that empires and slaveowners controlled people in John's time. So that is the way that John described the techniques used by the empire to impose control.

Focussing on the technique is a mistake because the Monster will use whatever tools that are available at the time when the vision is being fulfilled. A modern empire can use tariffs, import controls, quality standards and documentation requirements to limit trade. The United States can also use the SWIFT system that banks use for international transfers to control trade. These are a practical implementation of the Mark of the Monster.

Name is a Number
The number is an important clue, because it suggests that the vision will be fulfilled in a time when people, businesses and nations are represented by numbers, or more importantly, digits in a computer program. The monster has a number. Every other person has a number. This is the situation in the modern world. When buying and selling in trade, people and businesses are represented by a number issued by their bank or credit card company. John saw a situation where a powerful political power used the numbers issued in replace of names to prevent people and businesses from buying and selling.

The democratic monster takes economic control a step further and determines which nations can buy and sell. The government of the United States is able to do this using the SWIFT system. No previous empire has had that power.

Identity of the Monster
People get obsessed with the number. The number was just a technique by which political power accomplishes the outcome that John visualised. We should be focusing on the outcome and the identity of the political power that imposes it, not on the technique, which would depend on the legal and financial institutions at the time. The structure of the number is a clue to the identity of the Monster. The Monster is a government that restored the republican form of Government that Rome adopted before Julius Caesar overthrew it and turned Rome into an empire. The number of the Monster has three digits. The republican form of Government is confirmed by this number. If it were a democracy, the number would be 600, 6, with the many represented by one. Rather it is a republican government with mediating institutions. The many are represented by a few, who choose the one who rules over them.

Sanctions
The United States is currently the most powerful nation and strongest economy that the world has ever seen. It controls the financial and banking systems that are used by all the nations of the world. In addition to exercising military power in many nations, it uses its place at the centre of the world financial system to control other nations. Presidents have begun preventing people and nations from using the SWIFT system for interbank transactions, which prevents them from trading.

Nations that do not submit to the American Monster are not allowed to trade. Sanctions are imposed on nations that will not submit to the dictates of the United States to prevent them from trading. Nothing like this has been done before. The irony is that the nation that claims to be the champion of free-market economics is blocking people from buying and selling. This suggests that the Mark of the Monster is already in place.

These sanctions are directed at nations, but they are imposed on people and businesses. The list of people and businesses that are banned is thousands of pages long. Some of the bans have been in place for nearly fifty years. Businesses in other nations are also prevented from trading with them too. The United States uses control of the financial system to prevent people and companies from other nations trading with the nations on the list of baddies. This change is spreading the net of sanctions much wider.

The Church provided moral support for this behaviour by declaring that the sanctioned nations are evil. Many churches advocate the full use of economic power to implement American power in the world, but their selection of targets is highly selective. The Monster decides which nations can buy and sell.

Recently, the United States has begun a trade war with some of its allies. It is imposing heavy tariffs on China, Canada and the European Union with the aim of preventing certain types of buying and selling. It is also imposing controls on the transfer of intellectual property.

John said that the people of the world would be deceived. The United States claims to be a leader of the free world and claims to be a staunch advocate of free trade, yet it is acting to limit the free flow of trade. This is probably what John saw in his vision?

I hope the American Christians will wake up and stop their nation from going to a place that they do not want to go.

Immoral Weapon
Economic sanctions are immoral. No person or nation has the right to prevent other people or nations from buying and selling. The person who owns something does not have to sell it if they choose not to, regardless of the price that is offered. But if they choose to sell to someone, they are free to sell. No political power has the authority to prevent them from selling. All economic sanctions are immoral. It is ironic that the nations, which claim to believe in free trade, are the most active in enforcing economic sanctions against others.

Economic sanctions are a nasty and ineffective way to bring political change. They inflict pain on ordinary people, while the political leaders they are directed against usually find ways to get around them. Some even become rich through trading in the black market. The ugliness of sanctions as a political weapon is reflected in the colour of the black horse. They are a form of blackmail.

Christians in the nations that impose them most often like to pretend that economic sanctions are more humane than military weapons, but that is hypocritical. Military weapons theoretically strike military targets, whereas economic sanctions kill innocent people. They deliberately try to starve children. Being malnourished gives children a terrible start in life. I am amazed that Christians support governments that impose economic sanctions to achieve political goals.

Conspiracy
Christians are always looking for a conspiracy, but the emergence of this economic monster is not a conspiracy. This monster does not use force or conspiracy to gain control. It gets control because people want the benefits that economic globalisation brings. We have elected the monster. We vote for the virtual monster every time we spend a dollar. Every dollar spent on a Reebok shirt, Nike shoes, a car from one of the big carmakers is a vote for the economic monster. This is not being forced on us. We are choosing the monster because it gives us what we want.

Christians are often afraid of this monster, but they expect it to come in the future. However, it is already among us, and we have submitted to it. Anyone who wears a hat with Nike on the forehead, or a shirt with Reebok on the arm, or sends an email that says "sent by iPhone", already has the mark of the monster.

The economic monster does not need to seize power; it is given power. The people of the world trust this monster to provide them with what they want. They are glad to submit to it for what it will give them. The authority of the monster will come from below, because people or nations will surrender to it freely. There will be no force. Yet, there will be a tremendous exercising of authority that will eventually cause the nations and peoples to hate the monster and rebel.

14:1-5 144,000 again

When the monster is at the height of its power, John sees a vision that that describes the release and blessing of his people. This is a pattern that occurs again and again throughout the book (Rev 7, 11, 14).

This vision sets out a parallel sequence of events.

The first two are paralleled by the second two, which allow the first two to happen. The fall of Babylon the Great leads to the Fulness of the Jews. The destruction of the Monster allows the gospel to advance into the world.

John saw 144,000 who had his name on their forehead (not the mark of the Monster) singing praise to the lamb. This is a vision of the Fulness of the Jews.

14:6-7 Gospel Advance

The fulness of the Jews releases the church to take the gospel to all the world in the full power of the Spirit.

14:8 Babylon the Great Falls

Babylon the Great is not fully introduced until chapter 17, but before that, an angel announces to John that she will fall dramatically.

14:9-13 Monster Fails

An angel declared that anyone who worships the monster or receives his mark would be tormented. The smoke from their torment goes on forever. Notice, it is the smoke that goes on forever, not the torment.

The Greek word translated as "tormented" is "basanizo". It can mean torture. However, its other meaning is testing by a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced when rubbing it with either metal. I see nothing in God's character to suggest that he is interested in torturing the devil. He would gain no pleasure from it, and no purpose would be accomplished. When a word has two possible interpretations, we should choose the one that is most consistent with God's character. Therefore "basanizo" should be translated as "testing".

The word is used in several places in the book of Revelation. I think testing is the better translation because God never tortures, just for the sake of tormenting. Rather, he allows people to experience the consequence of their choices. This testing should sharpen up their choices so they make better choices in the future. This is the purpose of all the judgments described in Revelation.

This is the one New Testament passage that could be interpreted to mean eternal torment. However, this passage does not refer to events in eternity but to life on earth. The expression "in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb" is misleading. The literal meaning is "in the sight of the Lord". John is saying that Jesus and the angels see this event, it does not occur in their presence. Other aspects of this passage make this clear. The third angel is preceded by two who announce the proclamation of the gospel and the destruction of Babylon the Great. These events happen on earth. The saints are still enduring, but they will not need to endure in eternity. People are still dying (Rev 14:13), so the passage cannot be a description of eternity.

When a fire has gone out, having totally destroyed its fuel, a pall of smoke often hangs around for several days. It is a reminder of what the fire has done. I grew up on a farm. When the wheat harvest was complete, we would burn the stubble and the straw that came out of the back of the combine harvester (great fun for children, but not good for the atmosphere). The wheat paddock would be totally black, leaving no evidence that a wheat crop had even been there. However, smoke would hang round the hills during the weeks after the harvest was complete. It was a reminder of the crops and the harvest that had been.

John warns that the judgments coming on earth at this time are so terrible, it will be like the days of Sodom and Gomorrah (fire and brimstone). Those who worship the monster will have no rest. The smoke rising forever is a declaration that these events will be so bad that they are never forgotten. Smoke is not the fire. Smoke continues a fter the fire has ceased. The memory of this event on earth will continue after it is complete.

14:14-20 Harvest

John saw a white cloud, which symbolises the spiritual realms. He saw someone like a son of man. This is Jesus. He had a crown on his head and a sickle in his hand. The implication is that he establishing his kingdom and harvesting the earth. He had told his disciples that the harvest is ripe, and it is still ripe when the time comes for the Fulness of the Jews.

Jesus put in the sickle. This is a description of him bringing many people to faith through the sharing of the gospel.

14:17-20 Winepress

John saw an angel with a sickle. He went into the earth and harvested large clusters of grapes. The grapes were in big ripe bunches. The angel threw the bunches of grapes into a large wine vat. This wine vat was trodden "outside the city", which is the place that Jesus dies on the cross.

A massive flood of blood came out of the wine vat, as high as a horse's bridle and extending about 200 miles. This is a description of the power of the blood of Jesus. This was at the end of a season of great evil on earth. Millions and millions of people on earth repent of their rebellion against God when they hear the good news of Jesus. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover all their sins and restore them to peace with God.

The wrath of God is a powerful evil spirit who has been using his power to bring terrible distress and destruction to the earth. The blood of Jesus set the people that he had used free from the consequences of the sins that the spirit called wrath had inspired.

15:1-4 Preparing for Last Plagues

John looked into the spiritual realms and saw some messengers with seven calamities (Rev 15:1). These calamities are an attempt to work terrible troubles on earth, but they also bring the power of the spirit called Wrath to an end. They would bring the Time of Distress to an end.

When John first saw the seven messengers of Wrath, he immediately realised that the saints were praying against them and declaring that God would be victorious (Rev 15:2-4). He saw in his vision the followers of Jesus who would be victorious over Monster. They were singing songs of Moses and Jesus (Rev 15:2). They had been working to advance the kingdom of God on the periphery of the empire by serving Jesus and applying Gods law to bring about true justice for the people living around them. These servants of Jesus believed that all the Gentiles would come to faith in Jesus. They declared the wonder of God's victory (Rev 15:3-4).

The followers of Jesus will engage in an intense spiritual battle to limit the power of Wrath on Earth. Their prayers will limit the ability of the messengers of Wrath to harm God's creation.

John saw a multitude of people beside a sea of glass. They were praising God and singing a song of Moses because they had overcome the Monster and rejected the number of his name.

The song praises God's amazing works. Jesus is the king of the nations. All the nations will come and worship Jesus. When the Time of Distress is completed, millions and millions of people will come to faith in Jesus. It will bring a massive transformation to earth.

15:5-8 Temple Opened

John saw the temple of the tabernacle of witness in heaven opened. Earlier, he had seen the temple being trampled by the Gentiles. Seven angels with seven plagues came out of the temple. Their power was the consequence of the Jews being shut from the gospel and the gentiles giving the Monster authority on the earth.

John's vision then switched to God's temple (Rev 15:5). During the Church Age (Times of the Gentiles), the temple was controlled by the Gentiles who opposed God (Rev 11:2). The seven messengers with the bowls came out of the temple that was controlled by the Gentiles (Rev

15:6). This implies that the Gentiles who were opposed to God will give Wrath and his messengers authority to release their calamities on earth.

The seven messengers were given their bowls of Wrath by one of the living creatures, who represent apostate Israel (Rev 15:7). This means that these bowls were empowered by rebellious Jews and Christians living on earth.

In John's vision, the temple was filled with smoke from God's glory, and no one could enter it until the seven calamities are completed. This is a sign that these events will bring the Times of the Gentiles to an end (Rev 15:8). When this season is complete, the fulness of the Jews will come to faith in Jesus, removing a major obstacle to the advance of the gospel and the full emergence of the Kingdom of God. The temple was closed for a time, and no one could enter the temple. This is a sign that the old Season was coming to an end and a new season would begin.

The seven bowls represent a death struggle between powerful cosmos dominators who control large armies of spiritual beings. They engage in a war against each other. Cosmos dominators called Wrath and Destroyer attempt to destroy life on earth. Another powerful cosmos denominator called Monster tries to maintain order on earth using political and military power. It works with another big spiritual power called Babylon the Great to increase its power on earth. These powerful cosmos dominators engage in a life or death struggle against each other to win the battle in the spiritual realms, and in the process, they wreak destruction on earth.

16:1-9 Four Bowls

Wrath has always held a powerful position in the spirit world. He works with another powerful spirit called Destroyer, who is released back onto the earth. His plans for dominating the transitional season are described in Revelation 15 and 16 in a sequence of Seven Bowls of Wrath. He understood that the people of the world had turned away from God and lost faith in Jesus. Wrath believed that this gave him the right to punish the people of the world on behalf of God, even though God had not given him this right. However, his attacks are primarily directed against the people who have given power to the Monster by trusting in political power for their security.

1. The first bowl brought pain to the people who had chosen to support the monster.

2. The second bowl destroyed every living thing in the sea.

3. The third bowl brought death to springs and rivers of the earth.

4. The fourth bowl affected the sun, causing it to burn the people.

They parallel the first four trumpets. However, whereas the trumpets were partial (one third), these were total. They represent the destruction that Wrath and Destroyer wanted to bring about on earth. The prayers of the saints will prevent them from achieving their goals, so things will be bad on earth, but not as bad as these evil spirits had hoped it would be.

An angel sings a song in praise of God. He declares that God is just. The spiritual powers who have gained power on earth through human disobedience deserve the destruction that they inflict on each other.

16:10-13 Fifth Bowl

Wrath and Destroyer attack Monster and try to destroy him. This leads to sufferings for the people who have trusted the political and military control that Monster uses to impose his power on earth.

16:12-16 Sixth Bowl

Destroyer and Wrath gather the nations for war against the nation of Israel and the nation controlled by Monster. Powerful evil spirits gather the nations of the earth for a great war to resolve a nasty, ongoing political problem in Israel. God's people will need to be alert and avoid getting drawn into a battle that God does not support.

God will turn the weapons of these spiritual beings against each other, and they will destroy each other. At the same time, the nations controlled by Monster will fight against the nations controlled by Destroyer and Wrath. God will turn their weapons against each other, and these two massive armies will destroy each other.

See Final Battle.

16:17-21 Seventh Bowl

The seventh element in each sequence always represents the fulness of the Kingdom of God. The angel declared, "It is done". There was a massive shaking, such as has never been seen before.

Wrath destroyed Babylon the Great (16:19), which represents Israeli dependence on political and military power for security. Disaster will come to the nation that was controlled by Monster. His destruction of military and political power opens the way for the calling of the Jews and a massive advance of the Kingdom of God, as his people share the gospel in the power of the Spirit, without the opposition of the spiritual powers of evil.

17:1-8 Woman Controlling the Monster

One of the mysteries in the book of Revelation is the woman riding on the monster.

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet monster that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:3-5).

John was surprised by the vision. He knew all about monsters. His world had been dominated by many great empires, and was currently controlled by the most powerful monster of all: the Roman Empire. What was strange about the vision was the woman sitting on the monster. Sitting symbolizes control, so this terrible monster with seven heads and ten horns was being controlled by a woman.

This monster is described earlier in the book of Revelation. It is a terrible empire that crushes and controls the world. The key to understanding this vision is identifying the woman.

The woman is called Babylon the Great, but that does not help much, as this was not the real city with that name. Babylon is used to symbolize immorality, witchcraft, adultery, power and control.

John was told the identity of the woman at the end of the vision.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. (Rev 17:18).

The woman is the "great city" that controls the kings of the earth. This city had been described in the vision of the two prophets earlier in Rev 11:8.

Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt— where also their Lord was crucified.

This city is called Egypt and Sodom and Babylon to indicate that it is opposed to the purposes of God, but it is actually the city where Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows where Jesus was crucified. The great city is Jerusalem. This means that the woman controlling the monster is the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

This identity of the woman is confirmed in Rev 12:1,5. The woman with a crown of stars is Israel. She gave birth to Jesus, who is the child who will rule the nations. This woman controlling the monster was covered with glittering jewels, so she is Israel.

This is why John was astonished by the woman on the Monster. He had seen this vision of the woman being attacked by the dragon and being scattered amongst the nations (Rev 12:14-16). So he is amazed when he sees this same woman sitting on a terrible monster and controlling it. It was hard to believe that Israel could control an empire built in the image of the Roman Empire.

The vision of the woman on the Monster describes a season when the nation of Israel will control the most powerful empire the world has known. Many other nations will be controlled by her too.

This vision might be being fulfilled in our own time. The United States is the most powerful empire the world has ever known, with the strongest economy and military bases all over the world. Many nations are under its power, and no other nation can challenge its role as a superpower.

The Israel lobby is a dominating political force in the United States. A presidential candidate who rejected the demands of AIPAC will have difficulty being elected. Getting elected to congress is difficult without the support of lobby groups like AIPAC.

Israel has a massive influence on US foreign policy and military planning. Most members of congress and many senior military leaders have been given a free trip to Israel, where they are told what they need to know. The consequence of this influence is that many members of congress are willing to place the security of the United States at risk in order to advance the policies of the Israeli government. This strange power situation is perfectly described by a woman (Israel) sitting on a monster (United States).

The vision of the woman on the Monster describes a season when the nation of Israel will control the most powerful empire the world has known. Very few American Christians understand that.

17:9-18 Monster Identified

The Monster of Revelation will be active throughout the Times of the Gentiles, but it takes different forms. Its first manifestation is the Roman Empire. Later it morphs into Christendom. The final manifestation of the Monster comes through the democratic revival that is now spreading throughout the world.

Democracy promised freedom, but instead, it has given even greater power and authority to the political powers. Traditional kings had absolute power, but the scope of their authority and ability to levy taxes was limited. The modern democratic state has far more power than previous empires. It can conscript any citizen, male or female, to fight in its wars. The democratic state can tax income and wealth at whatever level it wishes. A democratic parliament can pass any law it chooses. Democracy has given unprecedented power to human governments.

Much of the second half of the book of Revelation is a description of this Democratic Monster. The environment in which it gains power is the religious, social and economic turmoil released on earth when the first four of the seven seals are opened (Rev 6). Human governments will be handed enormous political, legal and military powers as they attempt to manage these troubles and restore peace to the earth. One political power will tower above the rest and will eventually dominate all other human governments. This political empire will hold immense economic, political and military power. This democratic empire will reach a climax in one nation.

Seven Heads
An angel carried John into the wilderness to receive a more detailed vision of the Woman riding a Monster with seven heads and ten horns (Rev 17:3). The monster is identified in Revelation 17:10. The seven heads and ten horns are important clues to the identification of the Democratic Monster.

The meaning of the seven heads is explained further on in the vision (Rev 17:8-10). The seven heads r efer to seven different forms of human government that ruled over Rome. Five did not exist during John's lifetime but had held power at an earlier time. The sixth form of government was ruling at the time when John received his vision. It is easy to identify because the Roman Empire dominated the world throughout John's lifetime. It is the sixth head.

The key to identifying the Monster with seven heads is identifying the form of human government that came to a violent end prior to the time when the emperors came to power. The major form of human government that existed prior to the Roman Empire was the Roman Republic. The Republic began in 500 BC and lasted for nearly five centuries. This democratic form of government came to a violent end about thirty years before Jesus was born. Democracy died as the Kingdom of God began.

Julius Caesar and his successor Caesar Augustus turned the Roman armies against Rome and destroyed the Republic. By the time that John received his vision, democracy seemed to be gone forever, having been dealt a fatal blow by the Roman emperors

John warned that Republic would come back to life as an eighth king. "The monster that once was, now is not" is the fifth king come back as an eighth king in a different time and place. It is not one of the seven. This eighth form of government is another democratic republic.

Democracy did not come back to life until ten centuries later, but the leaders of the democratic movement in the United States looked back to the example of the Greek and Roman Republics. The government buildings in Washington used Greek and Roman motifs. The eighth king is a restored democratic republic.

John said that people would be astonished when a democratic republic returns because this form of government seemed to have been obliterated. (Rev 17:8).

When the democratic republic is restored, the people of the world will be impressed too (Rev 17:8). They will be impressed with the "new" form of government because it seems to give them control over the state. The democratic republic will seem like the best form of government ever. (Its true nature will eventually be revealed). People longing for peace and prosperity will support any government power that promises to fulfil their dreams.

The only challenge to this aggregation of political power will come from Christians who understand the signs of the times. When most people are calling on the political powers to do more to turn back the overwhelming crisis, they will expose the real character of the "best government ever". Explaining that this democratic republic is just another manifestation of the Monster will make them unpopular. Opposition to the Monster will lead to the persecution of God's people (Rev 6:9-11).

The church that is allied with the power of the democratic state will persecute those who reject the treachery of political power.

Confederation of States
The Monster of Revelation had "ten horns". This provides a link back to the Monster in Daniel. He explained the meaning of the ten horns, which is the key to identifying the Monster (Dan 7:7-8).

An angel explained the meaning of the vision (Dan 7:23-25). This frightening kingdom devoured the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing everything that stood in its way. Daniel is describing a powerful military empire that would dominate most of the earth. Daniel's Monsters rose to power when the four winds of heaven had churned up the sea (Dan 7:2-3). The sea is a symbol of the multitudes of people living on the earth (Rev 17:15). These events happen at a time when the people of the world are all stirred up.

Daniel saw a confederation of states. Most biblical commentators think that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the European Union transforms into a super-state, like a restored Roman empire. There are real problems with this view. Disagreement between the EU members means that they will be unlikely to hand over full sovereignty to the European parliament. Britain has just left the union, and other members might follow. Europe is economically weak, and its population is declining. European military forces are very limited, and the anti-war sentiments of the population would make a military build-up difficult. Therefore, if this prophecy is being fulfilled in our time, we need to look outside Europe. The United States is the only modern nation with sufficient military and economic power to be the fulfilment of the Monster.

The most obvious interpretation of the monster with the ten horns is that a number of independent nation-states hand over their sovereignty to become part of a single united nation. One-third of these nations refused to hand over their sovereignty and are forced to join under the threat of military force.

America is the only place in recent history where this has happened. The thirteen states that gained independence from Britain were each independently-governed, autonomous nation-states. They united to fight for independence, but they remained politically independent. After the war of independence, these nation-states came together and established the United States. They created a federal system in which they handed over very limited powers (mostly defence) to the federal government. All other powers were retained by the states.

We sometimes get confused by the use of the word state in this context. These states were not provinces of a greater state, but legally independent states that gave some power to a federal government.

Because they joined freely, many states considered that they could also withdraw from the Union. At the beginning of the civil war, the southern states attempted to withdraw from the Union and establish a separate confederacy. Although slavery was the initial trigger, the civil war was primarily fought over the right of these states to secede from the Union. If they had been allowed to freely secede from the Union would have been significantly weakened, and further fragmentation would have been inevitable.

The army of the twenty northern states (two thirds) destroyed the armies of the 11 southern states (one third). The victory of the union forces enabled them to maintain the union, eliminating the right of the states to secede. This opened the way for a gradual shift of power from the states to the federal government. During the following century, the United States became the greatest military and economic power in the entire world, and the states are now just provinces within this greater entity.

Christian commentators looking for a powerful confederacy of nations forget that a powerful union called the "united states" already exists. Daniel saw a group of nations (ten horns) joining together to become one nation (a single horn). At first, the federal government had very limited power (a little horn), but it defeated a group of states that tried to withdraw from the union (three horns) and became very powerful (large monster). The numbers ten and three should not be taken literally. Ten symbolises completeness, indicating that all the states joined freely. The number three indicates that 3/10 of these states would be defeated in their attempt to secede. All this happened for the god of democracy.

Ten minus three is seven. Seven symbolises divinity. This indicates that the conquering states would take attempt to take on sovereignty that belongs only to God.

The Monster attempts to "try to change the set times and the laws". This represents a rejection of God's laws. Since the civil war, the United States government has become increasingly secular and humanistic. The Supreme Court has forced through a separation between church and state that has shut the influence of Christianity out of the corridors of power. Whereas the thirteen original states had laws directly based on the Bible, American law is now dominated by pragmatism and humanism.

Many Christians are looking for the Monster in Europe, but all the while, this terrible Democratic Monster is having its ultimate fulfilment in America.

John's Monster
John also saw the Monster with ten horns.

The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the monster (Rev 17:12).

This is the same Monster that Daniel saw. The horns are ten kings who gain power for a short time when the Monster is emerging to power. They are the independent, autonomous states that were established by the settlers in America (ten symbolised completeness). They hand their authority over to the federal government.

They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the monster for God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the their royal authority, until God's words are fulfilled (Rev 17:13-18). The purpose of the states was to establish a united government that would eventually become a powerful Monster.

The woman was sitting on the Monster with seven heads and ten horns in the midst of many waters. These represent the peoples of many nations and languages that have come to America (Rev 17:15). This is strange, but it confirms that the Monster with seven heads and ten horns is actually a democratic empire.

The leaders of the thirteen states that joined the union were appointed to represent the interests of the people living in their state. However, they sacrificed those interests to the federal government because they were intoxicated with its power.

The reference has a wider fulfilment. The American Empire does not need direct control of every country in its sphere. It can gain enough control to accomplish its purposes by doing deals with kings and dictators. The United States government supplies the dictator with military and economic assistance. The dictator creams a tithe off the top of the economic aid to maintain his family in a presidential lifestyle. He uses this military assistance to suppress opposition and to establish the peace and stability needed for the operation of American business. The American people get their cheap coffee. Everyone that counts is happy.

These dictators and presidents sell out the interests of their people for the privileges of being an American vassal. When they were sworn into office, they made a covenant to serve their people, but then they sacrifice them for the pleasure and privilege of power.

The expansion of the American Empire does not eliminate kings and dictators. They continue in their comfortable lifestyle with undiminished power, provided they submit to American interests. The only risk is people marching in the streets demanding their overthrow, but even then, they can fly to a safe haven in an American satellite and continue their abundant life.

Important Promise
All this could be really scary, but a key promise puts it all in perspective.

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings-and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers (Rev 17:14).

This is an amazing promise. Jesus will triumph over all the political powers and human empires. He has been raised to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is

Lord of Lords King of Kings

John uses the present tense. This is not a promise for the future. Jesus is already Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Every king, dictator and political power must surrender to him, or see their power swept away.

The called, chosen and faithful followers of Jesus will share in his victory.

Christians will be astonished when then they wake up and realise that America has become the Monster of Revelation. America was the only nation ever established with a deliberate intent of being the Kingdom of God earth. John Winthrop, one of the early colonists, wrote these famous words.

The United States was intended to be the city set on the hill that would reveal God's glory to the world. For many years, the United States has been seen widely recognised as the ultimate Christian nation. Most Christians will not be able to believe that it is morphing in the Monster of Revelation. They will not be able to understand why a nation that started so well has fallen so far.

Unholy Quadunity

American hegemony and power operate in various ways:

Political Empire.

Military Empire;

Economic Empire;

Entertainment Empire;

These forces work together. The American entertainment industry has encouraged the export of American culture. American military power extends the reach of the American economy. American political power is enhanced by the globalisation of the American economy. These four forces have worked together to give the United States a dominant position in the world.

Americans do not see this as hegemony but as exporting American values of freedom and democracy to the rest of the world. The United States has become an imperialistic nation, with the goal of saving the world from evil. The underlying motivation might be good, but eventually this enormous power will corrupt those who exercise it. Recent presidents have had good intentions, but they have overseen a vast increase in American power. Power is always dangerous. Messianic power is even more dangerous. American hegemony will be perverted for evil ends.

Time of Distress
The Monster of Revelation emerges in a Time of Distress. The Seven Seals of Revelation describe a series of tumultuous events that release terrible fear on earth. The people of the world will look for to human governments to rescue them from them these tribulations. This allows the emergence of the most powerful human government that has ever existed on earth. Daniel and John refer to this enormous power as The Monster because it is both a government and a nation.

The first of the seven seals have already been opened, and the Time of Distress has begun, so the Monster must already be emerging. The United States is the only government in the world that has the military and economic strength to step into this role. It has no real competitors.

The Monster is already visible, but most Christians have not recognised it because they are looking in the wrong place. They have been taught that the Monster will emerge in Europe, but this is wrong. The Monster develops in a place where a number of states joined to become one. That already happened in America in 1787 and was confirmed in 1865.

Confusion over the future of America has prevented Christians from seeing the rise of the Monster. Many political and economic commentators believe that America is about to collapse. They are wrong. Worldwide disaster and distress will strengthen the hand of the American government. This is already happening, but Christians have not noticed.

Many Christians are surprised that the United States is not mentioned in Revelation and Daniel, but they have missed the fact that the United States is the dominant character in these prophecies. It is well on the way to becoming the Monster described in Daniel and Johns visions.

Fear of Islam

Many Christians fear that Islam will take over the United States. Although the scriptures warn of a struggle between the Islamic nations and the United States, America will not be invaded or forced to convert to Islam. The greatest danger to America comes from within, and most Christians are unaware.

The advance of radical Islam is the first seal in Revelation 6 (the bowmen on a white horse). It sets off a chain of events that leads to the empowerment of the Monster. Therefore it is not surprising that the threat of Islamic terrorism has produced an amazing aggrandisement of power in the United States. As the fear of Islam increases, especially if it is stirred up by some frightening incidents, the government will demand more and more power to expand the American empire. People who are afraid will gladly give power to the politicians who promise to protect them. Americans will wake up one day and realise that Islam is still just a threat, but America has become the Monster.

Grouching towards the Monster

Some economists and prophets claim that the American economy is collapsing. They saw the Global Financial Crisis as a terminal blow. They are wrong. The credit crunch did not destroy American power. The productive base of the United States is too strong. After a few brief hiccups, the underlying power of the American economy will become stronger than ever. It will continue to grow until this Democratic Monster has completed its adventures.

The main consequence of the credit crunch has been an enormous increase of state power in America. Crises always lead to an expansion in the power of government, as the people demanded political action to solve the problems that are disrupting their lives. The only impact of the credit crunch will be a sharp shift from freedom and independence towards state subservience and control. This radical change has happened without even a whimper of protest.

The American government has made some huge interventions in the economy, and most Americans are cheering. People who would not accept telephone number that includes the digits 666 are glad to have the state bailing out the banks and automakers. They will never be a credible resistance against the creeping power of government again.

The home of market capitalism and the bastion of independence has become the breeding ground for state power. Faith in the state has grown rapidly in the United States over the last few decades. The beauty of the Democratic Monster is that it does not seize power by force. It is freely given power by people who prefer peace and plenty to freedom and faith.

A combination of collapsing faith and the widespread crisis has created a perfect breeding ground for the growth of democratic political power. God would have to open the eyes of the American people to prevent this from happening. That would require an enormous move of the Holy Spirit and widespread repentance. There are no signs that this is going to happen. The more likely outcome is more of the same.

America is slowly grouching toward the Monster.

Many Christians are advocates of Messianic Imperialism. They believe that American leadership of the world is the best way to fight evil. However, fighting an evil human government with better human government is dangerous because it just produces greater human government. The greater the evil confronted, the greater the human government becomes. Evil cannot be overcome evil.

See Democratic Monster and Ten Reasons.

18:1-24 Babylon the Great Falls

John vision describes the collapse of the Israeli nations attempt to achieve security by reliance on military and political power and dependence on military and economic alliances. An angel announces that she has fallen.

Her sins were many.

The governments that have aligned with Israel will be embarrassed because they chose the wrong side in this struggle. They will be embarrassed when they realise that they have been supporting evil.

The businesses that have relied on Israeli connections will be disappointed when the source of their wealth disappears.

John saw a millstone being throne into the sea (18:21). His message is that recalcitrant Israel, which depends on military and economic power, will be destroyed forever.

When the Jews come to faith in Jesus, their nation will be totally transformed and operate in a totally different way. They will become part of the bride being prepared for Jesus.

Israel will have persecuted the prophets of God, who actually contribute to her deliverance and salvation (18:24).

Many Christians idolize the nation of Israel. They see it as an ideal that other nations should copy. They should meditate on this chapter, so they will not be disappointed when it occurs.

19:1-10 Bride Prepared

When the ugly side of Israel is destroyed, the truncated church will come to fulness. When the Jewish people hear the gospel, huge numbers will choose to follow Jesus and become part of his church. John saw a great multitude of them honour God and committing to serve him (19:1).

John saw the twenty-four elders worship God (19:4). This is a picture of the Jews and Gentiles together in the church serving Jesus together in unity. This picture has been repeated throughout the Book of Revelation. The twenty-fours celebrate the bride who has prepared her for Jesus. She has been given white linen to wear, which symbolizes the righteous deeds of God's people. This joining together of the Gentiles and the Jews leads to a time of great blessings (19:9).

Many Christians assume that the marriage supper of the lamb is a rapture, when the church is united with Jesus in a great celebration of togetherness in the air. This is not true. The marriage supper is a description of the defeat of human governments and rulers. This is made clear in Revelation 19.

19:11-16 Rider on White Horse

All Christians are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms. We are not just sitting there passively, but doing the stuff that God wants done to bring in the Kingdom. In Revelation 19:11-18, John describes an army of people dressed in white robes riding to victory on white horses (Rev 19:11-16). This was not a description of the second coming. John was describing a spiritual reality that is outside the scope of human seeing. He was explaining to the church how Jesus will achieve victory.

The widespread view that the army on white horses is a description of the second coming comes from an over-literal interpretation of what is clearly a figurative passage. Jesus will not be riding a white horse when he returns. If taken literally, the passage portrays Jesus as revelling in blood as he destroys people with a sword. This grotesque interpretation is contrary to the gospel. Jesus refused the power of the sword and warned that those who did would fall by it.

In biblical times, a white horse was the preferred mode of transport for a victorious king or general. The white horse proves that victory has been achieved. A vision of Jesus on a white horse is a reminder that Jesus has already won the battle. The blood on his robe explains how victory was achieved. This vision reminds us that the cross was a victory over the enemies of God.

Jesus is called "faithful and true" because he is faithful to his promises. His truth will drive all darkness and evil out of the world. The vision describes how this happens.

With justice he judges.

Jesus does not use warfare to establish victory. He achieves victory by replacing human government with a justice system based on his word.

Jesus is followed by a huge army.

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Rev 21:14).

The heavenly army that rides behind Jesus is the church. It is dressed in clean white linen to show that its sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. The followers of Jesus are riding on white horses to show that they understand the implications of his victory on the cross. They are not sitting around worshipping political power while waiting for Jesus to rescue them, but are serving him in the power of the Holy Spirit. These people know that human government is a false hope.

John described the weapon used by this army.

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written (Rev 21:15).

This is not a literal sword, but symbolises the word of God (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). The sword in Jesus' mouth represents the words that he spoke. The followers of Jesus will destroy his enemies by speaking his word in prophetic power. Christian prophets will speak out against the kings and rulers that oppose the kingdom of God.

Jesus has his name written on his thigh.

KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS (Rev 21:16).

This name shows that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him. As the Church proclaims the gospel in the power of the Spirit, the nations of the world will choose to submit to Jesus. Nations, political powers and human governments will be swept away as the Holy Spirit advances the Kingdom of God. This is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

The golden crown and the white horses remind us that Jesus is a king above all other kings. He does not fight with physical weapons, but bring justice through the proclamation of the gospel. His robe is dipped in blood to remind us of his suffering. The armies following are dressed in white robes to indicate their suffering for the sake of righteousness.

A church that is being severely persecuted and is being decimated by political powers looks very different in the spiritual dimension. To Christians involved in the struggle, the suffering feels intolerable, and the gospel seems to be going backwards. In the spiritual realm, these Christians are a mighty army following Jesus to build his Kingdom. Pushing this marvellous passage to the end of the age robs those who suffer for Jesus and his Kingdom of a great promise of hope.

19:17-20 Great Battle

The Revelation of John culminates in a great battle. This is linked to wars between armies on earth, but that is just a sideshow. The real battle takes place in the spiritual realms, and Jesus achieves a great victory. John saw into heaven (Rev 19:11-14). John saw things that took place in the spiritual realms. Jesus was leading the armies of heaven. These are the hosts of angels that love to do his will. They are supported by the prayers of the saints on earth. John was told that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16).

An angel calls the evil ruler spirits to battle (Rev 19:17-18). The kings, generals and mighty men with their armies are not human kings and armies. They are the parallel spiritual powers that control the governments, nations and armies of men. These spiritual kings and generals control large hosts of evil spirits. They stop fighting against each other and come together to fight against Jesus.

The birds of the air represent ordinary garden variety evil spirits. These are spirits attached to particular sins, rather than to rulers and nations. They knew a battle was coming and they hoped to gain a position of power in the spiritual realm when other more powerful spirits fall.

The gathering of the spiritual kings and generals is described in several places in Revelation. When the sixth trumpet was sounded, angels were released to gather armies near the Euphrates area in the Middle East (Rev 9:13-16). This river runs through modern Iraq and Syria. Human armies will gather in this place, but they are not so important. The armies that John saw being gathered were spiritual (Rev 9:17-10). They were destructive spiritual powers.

The same gathering of spiritual powers was described in the sixth bowl of wrath (Rev 16:12-14). Human armies gather near Israel to fight, but the real battle is in the spiritual realms. The human armies will be relatively small, compared with the vast host of evil spirits gather for the battle on the great day of God. The monster and the false prophet are leading spiritual powers of evil.

The supper of God is the defeat of kings, generals and might men and those who rely on their power. This is not a literal supper, but a symbol of their downfall. Human governments and those who support and trust them will fall away before the advance of the Kingdom of God (Rev 19:19-21). As the Holy Spirit advances the gospel, rulers, kings, presidents, parliaments and their bureaucracies will wither away and disappear. (See Monster Defeated.)

John's vision describes what happens after political power is destroyed. Jesus has crowns on his head. This means that all authority on earth will, at last, be fully surrendered to him. Jesus was given authority on earth by those who follow him. They are riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, which is their righteous deeds (Rev 19:8). White symbolises pure and persevering faith. The fine linen represents faith and trust. They have come to the place of victory through their love and suffering for Jesus.

The name on Jesus' thigh is King of Kings and Lord of Lord. This reflects the fullness of the Kingdom of God and the demise of human political power. All authority and power on earth will be surrendered to Jesus, as the political- spirits and government-spirits that have controlled the earth lose their power. Jesus is wearing a blood-stained garment, which is a reminder of his mercy and love. The blood on his robe is a sign that the blood brings deliverance for the spiritual powers of evil too.

Jesus rides out to meet political-spirits and government-spirits and the big spirits controlling them that have used kings, generals and mighty men to dominate the earth. They will be destroyed and surrender their power to him. He establishes his victory in two steps.

Firstly, the collapse of political power on earth eliminates the power of political-spirits and government-spirits in the spiritual realms. Beast and False Prophet are captured. They are big controlling spirits that dominated the earth through a powerful political empire that eclipses all previous empires. Beast establishes a powerful empire by making all political-spirits and government-spirits submit to him.

When faith in political power disappears, the political-spirits and government-spirits lose their power. When political power collapses, political leaders will lose their status. They will become ordinary people again without any power over other people. Their loss of power turns political-spirits and government-spirits into ordinary spirits controlling miserable people. The power they gained by controlling political leaders will be gone.

Monster and False Prophet, the big spirits who controlled them, will be thrown into the lake of fire. It symbolises destruction. It seems that these big spirits refuse to be reconciled with God, so they give themselves over to destruction (Rev 19:17)

Secondly, follower spirits will be exposed to the truth and be reconciled to God. Jesus has a sword coming out of his mouth, which represents the truth. He speaks the truth to the spiritual power of evil. They will be convicted by the truth and return to serving God (Rev 19:21).

See Reconciling with God .

This sword is not physical, but spiritual. It is a word of truth that eliminates the rebellion from the spiritual powers of evil who have been following the wrong voice. John did not see them being thrown into the lake of fire, so they will not be destroyed. Rather they are totally defeated.

The birds eating flesh symbolise total and certain victory. All follower spirits will be convicted by the truth and submit to Jesus when they recognise the authority of his words. The massive army that they have been part of will cease to exist. All that will remain will be the damage that they have done on earth (represented by the discarded flesh).

19:21 Abyss and Lake of Fire

Only a few really big spirits will persist with evil, but they will be so outnumbered that they become powerless and feeble. Incorrigible spirits like Beast, False Prophet, Wrath, Death, Destruction and Satan will refuse to be reconciled with God and will continue to oppose him. They will be captured and thrown into the lake of fire, which represents total destruction. It is the destination of the last few big spirits that hold out against God.

These big controlling spirits will be bound and lose their authority on earth. Follower spirits will recognise that it is gone. They stop listening to them because they are created to only listen to a voice with authority. Once Beast and False Prophet, and the other big spirits are defeated, the rebellion will collapse because the follower spirits have no voice of authority to obey. They will become confused and do nothing because there is no voice of evil to obey.

The blood of Jesus took us from under the authority of the spiritual powers of evil and sets us free to serve God. The victory of the gospel will restore authority on earth back to the people that God gave it to at the beginning. Confused follower spirits will begin listening to the voice of God's people. They will obey followers of Jesus because they recognise their genuine authority on earth.

As the number of people following Jesus increases, bad spirits will get fewer negative commands to act on. More and more will obey followers of Jesus. This switch of allegiance will bring massive transformation on earth. Evil will disappear, and good will reign in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God will advance on earth and become a reality that is unimaginable today.

The scriptures refer to two different places where bad spirits are sent.

The order of their use is as follows.

It seems that the only bad spirits that have to be destroyed because they not reconcilable are Beast, False Prophet, Death, Hades and Satan. I presume that the remainder were reconciled to God and serve him into eternity.

21:1-3 Binding of Dragon

A key issue for Christians is the binding of Satan. The most common belief is that Satan will be bound in the future after the second coming of Jesus. This belief has caused Christians to allow Satan much greater authority on earth than he deserves.

Revelation 20:1-3 describes the defeat of Satan by Jesus. A chain is a symbol of restraining power. It stands for the real, sovereign and restraining power of Jesus. Up until the time of the cross, Satan was able to dominate the nations of the earth, but he was defeated by the death of Jesus. He has no authority in heaven and can only work by deception. He still works, but he is limited in the area of his activity. He is controlled by God and cannot dominate the nations as he did previously. In the Old Testament, all the nations except Israel lived in darkness. Satan will never be able to exercise that kind of power again.

This is not a description of some future event. The Bible teaches very clearly that we do not have to wait for Satan to be bound in the future. He was defeated by Jesus' victory on the cross. Jesus disarmed Satan and all his powers by making a public spectacle of them when he triumphed on the cross (Col 2:15). He has already done everything that needs to be done to secure Satan's downfall.

The impotence of Satan is clearly demonstrated in Job 1,2. Before Satan could touch anything belonging to Job, he had to get permission from the Lord. He has no power over a righteous man, but the unrighteous are in his power. Because Job was one of the few righteous men in the Old Testament world, Satan could exercise considerable power. In this age, all Christians have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus. Satan cannot touch them unless he gets permission from the Lord. He is an instrument that God used to fulfil his purposes. Satan only has power over those who reject the salvation of Jesus. Once the majority of people are converted, Satan's power will be gone. He has been bound by Jesus.

The reason Satan still seems to be so active is that the church has failed to realise the full extent of what Christ has achieved. In binding Satan, Jesus works through the church. He has placed the chain that binds Satan in the hands of his people. They must restrain Satan's power over the nations. Jesus won a judicial victory on the cross. When a decision is made in a court of law, it does not become a fact until the police enforce it. The church has the police power to enforce Jesus judicial victory. Satan will not be fully bound until the church forces him to recognise the sentence that was passed against him at the cross.

The church has the power to bind Satan but is not using the authority that has been given to it. Satan will not be bound in some future event. He will be bound when the church becomes aware of the binding power that it already has, and begins to exercise that authority in Jesus' name. He said,

Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt 18:18).

Jesus repeated this statement to show its importance (Matt 16:9). Satan is already bound. Jesus is waiting for the church to tie him tight. The authority that we inherit through sharing in the ascension will become a reality. Jesus no longer works directly on the earth. He works through the Holy Spirit moving in the lives of his people. It is the church that must bind Satan tight.

Satan is bound through the proclamation of the gospel. When the seventy disciples returned from their successful preaching mission, Jesus said,

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:18,19).

As the church successfully proclaims the gospel of the cross, Satan and his angels lose their power over people's lives. The extension of the gospel's influence limits their sphere of activity. When all the world is won for Jesus, there will be no place for Satan on the earth.

The church also binds Satan through spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-12). When Jesus ascended on high, all authority was given to him. What many Christians do not realise is that they share in that authority. The Bible teaches that God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6).

Not only was Christ raised to a position of authority, but those who are in Christ, have also been raised with him in the Spirit. They share in his authority. The church can use this spiritual power to bind Satan. He can only act when sinners give him authority to do so. If the church really understood the privileged place it has, Satan would be already bound. And this is why the saints are pictured as sitting on thrones.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the monster or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Rev 20:4).

Those who are faithful to Jesus have been given authority to reign on his behalf. They are the ones who bind Satan.

The crucial question is this: when was Satan bound? The Bible teaches that he was bound at the cross. One last example is Matthew 12:29. Here, Jesus taught that Satan is bound. He was able to cast out evil spirits because the strongman had already been bound.

How can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?

The fact that the early church was able to continue this deliverance ministry is proof that Satan was bound at the cross. We must accept the verdict of the Bible. We must accept the verdict of the Bible. Jesus does not have to return to bind Satan. He has already done everything necessary to restrain him. We just have to do our part.

1000 years
The concept of a millennium has caused a great deal of confusion. Most Christians believe that Christ is going to return and set up a throne in Jerusalem from which he will rule for 1000 years. However, they generally do not realise that the concept is based on one fairly obscure verse in the book of Revelation.

They will be priests of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Rev 20:6).

This reference to the "thousand years" during which the saints will reign has caused a great deal of confusion. It is generally assumed to refer to the future. However, if we realise that we have already participated in the first resurrection, then we will understand that we are reigning with him now.

The number 1000 should not be taken literally. Like all the numbers in the book of Revelation, it is symbolic. In the Bible, the number ten signifies completeness. One thousand is the cube of ten, so one thousand years signifies the completion of the age. It also indicates vastness of time (Ps 50:10; Deut 1:10,11). The number, as used in Revelation 20, indicates that God's people are to reign throughout the present age. Their reign will be complete.

The thousand years is the period between the ascension of Jesus and his second coming. The Bible is teaching that the saints are to rule throughout this time. The use of such a large number also indicates that this age will go on for a long time. This is confirmed by the fact that we have now gone nearly two thousand years beyond the ascension.

The expression "the Millennium" comes from this passage (millennium means 1000). Many commentators use this title to describe a thousand-year reign of Christ that they place after the second coming. They believe that Jesus will return to Jerusalem and rule the world through the nation of Israel. The Old Testament prophecies of an age of blessing are seen as being fulfilled in this time. In this pre-millennial scenario, the Jews are not converted until after Jesus returns. However, this approach is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons.

If Jesus is to rule through the nation of Israel, Jerusalem will become a giant bureaucracy. The saints will not really be ruling: they will just be cogs in a giant machine. They will not need to use initiative or exercise their talents, but will just take orders from Jerusalem. This is unnecessary because the Spirit lives in every believer. Jesus can rule through Christians now, if they will submit to his Word and the Spirit. There is no need for an earthly bureaucracy. Humans were created to exercise authority, use initiative, and be creative. They will not be fulfilled, and their ability would be wasted if Jesus ruled through a giant bureaucracy. We live in a bureaucratic age, and this idea may appeal to men who do not wish to take responsibility, but God would prefer that humans be responsible and exercise authority in obedience to the Word and the Spirit.

There is also a problem in explaining how the saints would rule. Revelation 20 describes the saints ruling with Christ. If this is after the second coming, then the saints will have already experienced the resurrection of the body. They will have spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:42-44). It is hard to understand how saints with spiritual bodies would rule in a physical world. (And those who were converted after the millennium began would still have physical bodies, so the church would be a strange mixture.)

The word "millennium" is not used in the Bible, and the expression "one thousand years" is only used in Revelation 20. It is unwise to base a whole doctrine on a figurative expression in a difficult passage of the book of Revelation.

See Millennium.

The devil has used the millennium teaching to rob Christians of their inheritance. Many of the scriptures that promise blessing or victory are assigned to the millennium. This prevents us from claiming them now, robbing us of what God has for us.

20:4-6 First Resurrection

Revelation 20:4 describes the people of God being seated on thrones and being given the power to rule.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.

This coming to life to rule is called the first resurrection, and it is linked with the Binding of Satan. This is the first resurrection. (Rev 20:5,6).

The first resurrection is not a future event. It is the rebirth of the believer that takes place at conversion. Paul taught that those who are baptised into Christ, have not only died with him, but are raised with him (Rom 6:1-10; Col 2:12,13).

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6). This is past tense. A Christian is united by faith with Christ in his death and resurrection. They have died with Christ, and are raised to new life in him. At the moment they believed, they are born again to a new life. In the spiritual dimension, they are raised up to sit at the right hand of the Father to reign with Jesus. They are able to reign because Satan is bound. This is the first resurrection. It takes place at the resurrection of Jesus (or when believers appropriate it by being born again) when new life was established for all who would believe in him in the future.

The first resurrection is only for those who have faith in Jesus.

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended (Rev 20:5).

This is the second resurrection. It is the resurrection of the body that takes place at the second coming of Jesus at the end of the age (Rev 20:12,13).

The first resurrection gives new spiritual life to believers. Those outside Christ are spiritually dead. The second resurrection is the general resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked at the end of the age.

These two resurrections are distinguished in John 5:24,25,28,29.

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

Jesus said that whoever hears his word and believes has eternal life: they have already crossed from death to life. The time has already come when people who are spiritually dead will hear the voice of God and live (John 5:24,25). This is the first resurrection. It is limited to those who believe in Jesus. It has already taken place, as it happens when a person believes in Jesus (or more correctly when Jesus was raised).

Jesus spoke of the second resurrection at the same time (John 5:28,29). He said that all people will hear the voice of God in their graves. The righteous will rise to eternal life, and the wicked will rise to be condemned. This resurrection involves all people. It takes place at the end of the age, just before the last judgment.

Christians have tended to forget the significance of the resurrection for human history. It is not just proof of Jesus' divinity. It did not just win new life for believers. The resurrection brought a dramatic change in the balance of power in the world. Satan's power was destroyed. Jesus was established as Lord of all creation. Those who are raised with him share in that tremendous victory.

At the resurrection, God began to work in the world in a powerful and dramatic way. He will continue to work until his kingdom is complete. This is why the resurrection is so important. Those who were raised with Christ at the first resurrection will rule with him. This ruling is not something that takes place in the future, but is something that Christians should be doing in the present age. They are seated on the throne of God now. They have already experienced the first resurrection. Having been raised with Christ, we should be ruling with him. Because Christians have lost sight of the authority that they have in Jesus, this ruling has not been a reality.

20:7-9 Final Rebellion

When the age of the kingdom is complete, God will set the spiritual powers of evil free for one last opportunity to change their hearts. They will stir up a rebellion on earth. In 2 Thes 2, this rebellion is led by the "Man of Sin". In Revelation, this rebellion is described as Satan deceiving the nations, and gathering for battle against God's people. I am not sure how the spiritual rebellion works out on earth. Most likely, rebellious people will try to overthrow the leaders of Kingdom Communities wherever they are functioning. There might also be an attack on Jerusalem.

The rebellion is nipped in the bud before it can get underway. 2 Thessalonians says that those who rebel will be destroyed by the appearance of Jesus. In Rev 19:9, Jesus appearance is described as fire coming down from heaven, but the effect is the same. See Parousia.

20:10 Lake of Fire

I am not absolutely sure what happens to the devil. The passage that describes his fate at the end of the age is hard to interpret. Revelation 20:10 comes after the last judgment, so it describes his final fate. The lake of burning sulphur symbolises destruction and death (cf Rev 21:14-15). This would imply his death and destruction. The second part of the verse is more difficult.

The Greek word translated as "tormented" is "basanizo". It can mean torture. However, its other meaning is testing by a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced when rubbing it with either metal. I see nothing in God's character to suggest that he is interested in torturing the devil. He would gain no pleasure from it, and no purpose would be accomplished. When a word has two possible interpretations, we should choose the one that is most consistent with God's character. Therefore "basanizo" should be translated as "testing".

The word is used in several places in the book of Revelation. I think testing is the better translation because God never tortures, just for the sake of tormenting. Rather, he allows people to experience the consequence of their choices. This testing should sharpen up their choices so they make better choices in the future. This is the purpose of all the judgments described in Revelation.

Getting back to Rev 20:14, I do not see why God would still be testing the devil after life on earth is complete, and I do not understand why this testing would go on for ages. The verb "bansnizo" is future passive indicative. One possibility is that the conjunction is "but" and the verb "he will have been tested". John might be saying that the devil will be destroyed, because he has been tested day and night for several ages (and found wanting).

This interpretation seems to be confirmed by Hebrew 4:12. This message seems to be very clear. Jesus will destroy the devil. However, the word used for "destroy" here is not quite so strong as the word "apolia" used in other parts of the New Testament. The word used here can also mean "render helpless".

I presume that the devil does know his fate and is trembling in fear.

It seems that the only bad spirits that have to be destroyed because they not reconcilable are Beast, False Prophet, Death, Hades and Satan. I presume that the remainder will be reconciled to God and serve him into eternity.

20:11-15 Large White Throne

John saw Jesus sitting on a large throne following his second coming. Everyone was standing in front of the throne.

The last judgment is the great watershed between history and eternity. The second coming marks the end of history. The final judgment marks the beginning of eternity. Each person will be judged on the basis of all that they have done while living on earth, and will receive their reward in eternity. There is a picture of the last judgment in Revelation 20:11-13.

Every person will stand before the judgment throne of Christ. All that they have ever done will be revealed to them from the records that have been kept. The books are probably not literal, but each person will see their whole life pass before their eyes. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be saved.

All people will rise and face Jesus. Those who have been in Hades will be brought before his throne. Even the sea will give up its dead. This is the general resurrection that was spoken of by Jesus in John 5:28,29. All people will share in this resurrection. But only those whose names are in the book of life will rise to true life. The rest will rise to condemnation (Acts 24:15; John 11:24).

More at Last Judgment.

21:1-22:5 New Heavens and New Earth

Following the last judgment, followers of Jesus get their eternal reward.

The heavenly city comes down to earth. This is not an ephemeral life in heaven. It is real life in the physical world with activity in the spiritual realms being clearly seen.

We must also remember that once we have spiritual bodies, we will be able to see the spiritual dimension of the universe as clearly as we now see the physical dimension. And because the spiritual dimension is vastly more important than the physical, it will appear to be totally different. It will be like God has taken the lid off the universe so we can see everything.

The only way that I can think about this is to imagine an ant living in the middle of my lawn. All he can see is enormous columns of green grass and the brown soil it grows in. He may see some of the microbes in the soil and the structure of the wormholes more clearly than I can, but essentially he lives in a two-dimensional world of green and brown. If the ant could come up to my level and see the world from where I see it, he would see a totally different world. He would see mountains, trees, animals and stars that he had never seen before. Although nothing had changed, he would feel like he was living in a totally new world.

When we see this world in both the physical and spiritual dimensions, our experience will be similar, although the contrast will be greater. The best way to describe such an experience in human words might be to be as a new heaven and a new earth.

Where is explained further in Multi-Dimensional World.

Our future life will not be limited to this earth. The universe that we live in is absolutely enormous. There are probably thousands of other planets similar to earth. Some Christians may be in charge of cities and kingdoms on planets and stars in other parts of the universe as part of their eternal reward. Others may be put in charge of small kingdoms. Some of these cities and kingdoms will be on earth, but there may not be room for them all. Limitations on space travel will be gone. God may use his people to fill the whole universe with life.

See Eternal Destruction.

22:6-21 Final Blessings and Challenges

The angel who spoke to John affirmed the value of the prophetic ministry. God's blessing is on those who listen to the words of the prophets (22:6-7).

John was tempted to worship the angel, but he said that only God should be worshipped. That confirms that Jesus is God. 22:8-9

The angel explains that some of the prophecies in the book will be fulfilled soon. The book prophesied the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, eg Rev 12. This prophecy was fulfilled soon after John received his vision.

Jesus said that he is coming soon (Rev 22:12,17,20). This is often misunderstood as a reference to his parousia, but this is not true. The expression "coming" (erchomai) is a reference to judgement. Jesus used this term to describe his coming in judgement against Israel in Matthew 24. More at Coming on the Clouds.

Jesus said that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. He is the Lord of all History (Rev 22:14).

The only way to enter the future life is by being cleansed by Jesus blood (22:14-15).

God gives a warning that people should not add to this book or take away from it. Much of the end-times teaching adds stuff to the words of this book (22:18-19).

The vision ends with a promise of grace (22:21). It is not a vision of an angry god executing judgment. It is a vision of a gracious God letting people inherit the consequences of their choices but rescuing them before they receive all that they deserve.

Further Reading

I set out my understanding of God's full plan in a article called Gods Plan for History.

An articles called False Teachings is important for understanding some of the problems with common teachings about end times.

The clearest articulation of his overall plan is in my book called Times and Seasons.