POST OVERVIEW. One ofa series of posts giving principles for reading and interpreting Revelation chapters 4-20, which is the most difficult section of the book. This second post of the series will address the question of where a given event fits in terms of what happens before that event and what happens after it.
Previous posts in series: #590 (11/21)
SERIES DESCRIPTION. The book of Revelation is probably the most difficult book of the Bible to interpret correctly, and the main difficulties of the book are in chapters 4-20. Because of these interpretive difficulties of the book and because many Bible teachers have offered conflicting and bewildering ideas about what the various passages of Revelation mean, many earnest believers know just enough about the book of Revelation to be confused and intimidated by it. To clear up some of this confusion, in October 2021, I published my book, The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times.
Now, a year later and before the 2nd edition of that book, I want to offer to readers of this beautiful prophecy a series of posts giving principles and guidelines for how to understand and interpret Revelation so that the book becomes a delight instead of a burden.
In the previous post on reading Revelation 4-20, post #590, we had discussed two main ideas. First, we made the statement that Revelation, like almost all biblical prophecy, is not written in chronological order and it is a mistake to read Revelation 4-20 as if these events were arranged chronologically. Second, we suggested that the reader of Revelation must repeatedly ask the question, “WHEN DOES THIS EVENT TAKE PLACE?” and must use keen observation of the text and thorough knowledge of Scripture to supply answers to that question. An interpretation of Revelation 6 was given as an example of this technique.
WHAT EVENT(S) ARE BEFORE THIS AND WHAT EVENT(S) ARE AFTER?
Another important question to answer when reading Revelation, is, “WHAT IS THE SEQUENCE OF THESE EVENTS?” That is, “WHAT OCCURS BEFORE THIS EVENT AND WHAT OCCURS AFTER?” For example, we know that the general resurrection of all believers, the living and the dead, occurs on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). The logical conclusion from this fact means that all events that do not occur on the last day necessarily occur before the general resurrection of all believers. Thus, “the thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6), all the events of the 42 months (Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), the great tribulation (Daniel 12:1; Matt. 24:21), the rise of the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 13), the trumpet warnings (Rev. 8, 9), the first through fifth seals (Rev. 6), and the binding of Satan in the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3) all occur before the general resurrection.
Notice what was done in this example. First, a significant known fact was presented: Jesus declared that the resurrection will occur on the last day. Then logic was applied: if the resurrection occurs on the last day, then all the events of the end times that do not occur on the last day occur before the resurrection. Then we listed some specific end-times events which occurred before the resurrection.
Another example of this arranging of events is the understanding that Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16) occurs just before the coming of Jesus Christ (παρουσία) in Rev. 19:11-16. This understanding is based on the interpretation that Jesus returns from heaven just in time to rescue his bride, the church, from annihilation due to persecution (Rev. 11:7; 13:7). In the Armageddon passage, we observe that all three members of the unholy trinity, Satan (the dragon), the beast, and the false prophet (Rev. 16:13), are active in gathering the kings of the whole world together for “the war of the great day of God” (Rev. 16:14). Since Satan is active in gathering the kings, it is apparent that he has been released from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7), and since Satan has been released from the abyss, it means that “the thousand years” have ended (again, Rev. 20:3, 7). Also, in this scene of Armageddon, the beast has obviously appeared (see Rev. 13:1-10), as has the false prophet (“another beast” in Rev. 13:11ff). Notice that, according to Rev. 13:5, the beast appears during the forty-two months. Finally, since Satan (the dragon) is active after “the thousand years” are completed (Rev. 20:7) and the beast is active during the 42 months, we can conclude that the period of the 42 months occurs after “the thousand years.” These observations and conclusions constitute a significant collection of facts about the sequencing of the events of the end times which can be applied to other passages of the book.
Notice again what was done in this example. We made observations of the details of the passage (Rev. 16:13-16). From those observations we made logical conclusions. We discovered that, for the battle of Armageddon, Satan has been released from the abyss, the period of “the thousand years” has ended, the 42 months is coming to a close, and the last day is imminent.
One more observation should be made about this four-verse section of Rev. 16. As stated above, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet are gathering the kings of the earth for “the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14) and they are gathering them at the place called Armageddon (16:16). This “great day of God” must certainly be the last day and it is obvious from the text that this day will occur in the very near future. What is the precise sequence? My personal interpretation of these events is that the gathering together of the kings and their armies (Rev. 19:19) takes place at the very end of the 42 months and that Armageddon is the war that occurs on the last day.
Once again, we have seen that careful observation of details coupled with reasoned logic and knowledge of the Scripture allows the student of Revelation not only to discover when these events occur, but also to postulate a sequence of those events.
SDG rmb 11/26/2022 #592