John’s description and our Lord’s instruction concerning the “Revelation” (chapter 1); the seven letters to the seven churches representing seven periods of church history (chapters 2 and 3); the scene in heaven following the Rapture and during the Tribulation (chapters 4 and 5).            



We embark today into one of the most incredible Books of the entire Bible, the Book of Revelation. Many through the centuries have thought that this Book was so shrouded with mysteries that it could never fully, and perhaps even remotely be understood. Actually, there is really very little in the Book that is a mystery, and when it is, it is clearly presented as such. The difficulty in understanding the Book of Revelation stems from two basic problems: #1) not believing what we read. In other words, reading it, and asking the wrong question. Asking, “What does it mean?” rather than asking, “What does it say?”, and simply believing it. #2) Not “rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim 2:15). Let’s take a couple of minutes to allow the Lord to reveal to us (I Cor. 2:7-14) His divisions in this intriguing Book.


In the 22 chapters of this Book, something significant happens two times: heaven opens. When heaven opens the first time in 4:1-2, somebody goes up. When heaven opens the second time in 19:11, somebody comes down. In 4:1 when somebody goes up, heaven opens and John, who is a picture of the church, hears a voice, the sound of a trumpet, and in the moment in the twinkling of an eye, finds himself in heaven at the very throne of God. It is clearly identifying the Rapture, for it describes exactly what Paul detailed in I Thessalonians 4:13-17.  In 19:11 when somebody comes down, heaven opens and the Lord Jesus Christ comes out of heaven on a white horse with His armies following behind, also on “white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (19:14). The “armies” are clearly the church (see19:7-8), and the event is unmistakably the Second Coming of Christ. A simple way to distinguish between these two events is that at the Rapture, Jesus comes in the clouds FOR His saints!

 (I Thess. 4:17), and at the Second Coming, Jesus comes to the earth WITH His saints. Whereas the Rapture ends the church age and ushers in the Tribulation, the Second Coming ends the Tribulation period and ushers in the Millennium (“milli” = 1,000, “anum” = years – Rev. 20: 1-6).


So, these two significant events “divide” the Book into three sections:

1)Chapters 1-3

2)Chapters 4-19

3)Chapters 20-22


Interestingly enough, in Chapter 1 and verse 19, God told John that there would be three sections to the Revelation he would receive.

1)“The things which thou HAST SEEN” (past) 2)“The things WHICH ARE” (present) 3)“The things which SHALL BE hereafter” (future)


You are no doubt seeing the connection between the three divisions of the Book created by the two times heaven opens, and the three tenses in which God told John to write in 1:19. However, there is a key that many (most?) miss when making these connections! Notice what John says in chapter 1 and verse 10:   “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Now, most assume that John is talking about the fact that he was just having one whale of a spiritual time one Sunday afternoon and had this “revelation” from God. As we have talked about since the very beginning of our 365 Days of Pursuit, the “Lord’s day” is the theme of the Bible. It is that 1,000 year “day” that He set aside for Himself way back in Genesis 2:3 (c.f. II Peter 3:8). John is saying in Rev. 1:10 that the Spirit of God picked him up and catapulted him forward in time to the Day of the Lord, and it was from the vantage point of someone way out in the 21st century at the time of the Lord’s Second Coming that he was to!

 write in these three tenses described in 1:19.


>From the standpoint of “the Lord’s Day,” the Book of Revelation actually “divides” (II Tim 2:15) like this:


1)Rev. 1-3 – “hast sent” (past) = Church Age to the Rapture 2)Rev. 4-19 – “which are” (present) = Tribulation to the Second Coming 3)Rev. 20-22 – “shall be” (future) = Millennium on into Eternity.


Because this Book is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1a), the Book had to be “divided” into these three tenses because our Lord Jesus Christ is He “which is, and which was, and which is to come” (1:8).  Our Lord is incredibly consistent.


With these basic guide posts, the Book of Revelation is really not very difficult to figure out, if you simply believe what you read.


Once you have that basic breakdown of the Book, the things our Lord reveals are nothing short of astounding. For example, when you place the seven letters written to the seven churches in Rev. 2 and 3 in today’s reading into the context of the Book, they actually represent seven periods of church history that picks up basically where the Book of Acts leaves off, and takes you all the way up to the Rapture, which again, is found in Rev. 4:1, immediately after the letter to the Laodiceans.


Sure, the seven letters were addressed to real churches that really existed in Asia Minor historically and addressed real needs they were facing in approximately 95 A.D. when John received the revelation, but in their context, they also outline the history of the church to an absolute tee. (A 76 part study is available through our lending library).


The following is a brief overview of church history as defined by Rev. 2 and 3:


Church of Ephesus(Rev. 2:1-7); Approx. Dates – 90 AD–200 AD; meaning - “Fully purposed”


Church of Smyrna(Rev. 2:8-11); Approx. Dates – 200 AD–325 AD; meaning – “Bitterness” or “Death”


Church of Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17); Approx. Dates – 325 AD–500 AD; meaning – “Much marriage”


Church of Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29); 5 Approx. Dates – 500 AD–1000 AD; meaning – “Odor of affliction”


Church of Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6); Approx. Dates – 1000 AD–1500 AD; meaning - “Red ones”


Church of Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13); Approx. Dates – 1500 AD–1900 AD; meaning – “Brotherly love”


Church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22); Approx. Dates – 1900 – Rapture of the Church; meaning – “Rights of the people”