The common view is that the book of Revelation is a
description of the events leading up to the second coming.
This is a serious mistake. The book is primarily about coming
of the Kingdom, explaining how this relates to the judgments
of God, the collapse of human government and the calling of
the Jews. This can be seen from the first chapter of the book,
which summarises the events to be described.
(To understand how the events fit together, see God's
Plan for History and also What
is Going On.)
The first verse of the book sets the theme.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show
his servants what must soon take place (Rev 1:1).
The key expression is “what must take place soon.”
These words parallel the words spoken by Daniel when
interpreting Nebuchadnezzars dream.
God in heaven who reveals secrets…. has made known to
King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days (Daniel
God showed Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the latter
days. John describes the same events, but says that they will
take place soon. Nebuchadnezzars dream described the empires
of the world being destroyed and replaced by the Kingdom of
God that begins as a rock and becomes a mountain that fills
the entire earth. The major theme of the book of Revelation is
the destruction of human political systems.
John’s greeting from Jesus to the churches says Jesus as
ruler of all kings.
Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the
dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5).
This is an important statement. Jesus is the ruler of the
kings of the earth. This means that the kings and political
leaders have to choices. If they oppose Jesus, they will be
swept away by judgement. If they acknowledge Jesus is Lord,
they will have to step down from their role, as a kingdom
cannot have two kings.
The main theme of Revelation is expanded out in Revelation
1:4-9. These seven main subthemes that are dealt with in the
rest of the book: the kingdom of God, judgment, tribulation,
the calling of the Jews, the sovereignty of Christ, and the
collapse of political power.
Kingdom of God
is the central theme in the book of Revelation. In verse 6, John
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his
blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God
The Old Testament speaks in many places about the Kingdom
of God. The New Testament says it is near. It also speaks of
the time when the Jews will be restored to a place of
blessing. And there are many warnings of terrible judgment in
the Bible, which have not yet been fulfilled. The New
Testament says that Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom. The
book of Revelation explains how all these unfulfilled
prophecies relate to each other. It also explains how the
Kingdom relates to God’s purpose for the church.
The Greek word translated dominion is “kratos”, which
is a very strong word. Jesus is the king and his dominion will
last for ever. His dominion has already started. It is not
something promised for the future.
Judgment is another important
theme. In the process of bringing in the Kingdom, God brings
judgment on those who oppose him. This is spoken of in verse
Look he is coming with the
clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced
him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of
him. So shall it be! Amen.
The expression "coming on
the clouds" is not a description of the second coming. It
is an Old Testament expression that refers to any manifestation
in history of God’s omnipotent power. It is especially used to
describe God coming against the world in judgment. The word
"coming" (erkomai) is rarely used of Jesus in the book
of Revelation. And when it is used, it describes Jesus coming to
the church for judgment and not to rescue it (Rev 2:5,16). The
Greek word "parousia", which is used throughout the
New Testament for the second coming of Jesus, is not used in the
book of Revelation. The second coming is not a major theme in
the book. It speaks more of Jesus coming in judgement.
The judgment described in Revelation is primarily directed at
kings and governments, and not at people or the earth itself.
Human political power and national government and empire will be
swept away, so that the Holy Spirit is free to bring in the
Kingdom of God.
The Calling of the Jews
is also described in verse 7. It speaks of
every eye seeing Jesus. Everyone in the world 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 includes
"those who pierced him". As part of a worldwide
revival, the Jews will be converted to faith in Christ. This
is a key theme of the book.
is another theme of the book of Revelation. John himself was
going through a time of trouble when he received this vision.
John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom
and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the
island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony
of Jesus (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.
Suffering brings in the kingdom.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and
kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus (Rev
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.
Human Political Power will disappear. The coming of the kingdom of God means the
disenfranchisement of kings (and democracies).
This is the major theme in the Book of
Revelation. John’s vision describes a time
when the governments of man will be replaced by the true
government of God (not Jesus returning). Instead of
strutting on the world stage, they will hide under the
rocks and in the caves
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and
the commanders and the rich and the strong and every
slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and
among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to
the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and
hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the
throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev
God will do what he has promised, and the time is
getting close. The empire of man is nearing its last
gasp. The governments of men will collapse and
evaporate. Christians must be ready for that time with
an alternative government. 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
The Sovereignty of Jesus is
emphasised from the beginning to the end of the book of
Revelation. He makes this clear when he says to John,
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. 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.
The Book of Revelation describes
a time when the governments of man will be replaced by the
true government of God (not Jesus returning). The first five
seals describe the birth pangs of this new age. The opening of
the sixth seal describes the collapse of human government and
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great
earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat
hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the
sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when
shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll,
rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its
place (Rev 6:13-14).
These events are not literal. The Old Testament prophets
often described the collapse of a great nation in the same
language. One example is found in Ezekiel 32:7,
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken
their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon
will not give its light.
Ezekiel is speaking about the defeat of Egypt by the armies
of Babylon. His words are a graphic description of the
collapse of Egypt at the hand of a greater power. The sun
continued to shine, but the prophecy fulfilled when Egypt
Other prophets used similar language to describe the
collapse of a nation or empire. They described the collapse of
a human government as the sun and moon falling from the sky.
Examples are Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4-5, where references to the sun, moon and starts turning to blood or
falling from the sky describe the collapse of human government
and political power.
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the
commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and
free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of
the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the
rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him
who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev
The fact that many stars are falling confirms that all
kings an rulers will lose their power. Instead of strutting on
the world stage, politicians and kings will hide under the
rocks and caves. Those who have trusted in politicl power will
be filled with fear.
As the empire of man is nearing its last gasp, the
governments of the world will collapse and evaporate. When
human governments stop functioning, the people be ready for
godly justice administered by wise judges applying God’s
law. Then Jesus will truly be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).
The kingdoms of the world will disappear and been replaced
by the Kingdom of God.
Plan for History
Jesus gives John a picture of his
plan for history. And because he is sovereign, it will be
fulfilled. His ascension is a sign of his power and authority. The
church, which he has established has had some victories, but it is
not yet totally victorious. The fullness of the Kingdom will begin
with a time of troubles, which will be a judgment against those
who have rejected Christ by trusing in human political power.
During this time the Jews will be
converted. This will lead to a revival in the church, during which
the kingdom of God will be established throughout the earth.
History will end when Jesus returns for the last judgment. The
book of Revelation covers the whole of the church age, but it
concentrates specifically on the time when the Jews will be
converted, and the kingdom of God established.
In Revelation 6, Jesus begins to open the seven
seals. This sets in train the events which leads up to the
fullness of the Jews and the time when the Kingdom is established.
As each seal is opened, an event takes place on the earth.