Sabbath School Lesson for December 29, 2018-January 4, 2019
General information about the book of Revelation, especially found in the prologue was our study this first lesson. We explored…
- the title of the book–Although the Greek title is The Revelation (or Apocalypse) of John, it is more commonly referred to as The Revelation of Jesus Christ. (Sunday)
- the purpose of the book–to show that God is always in control (Monday)
- the symbolism of the book–Unless the text states that it has a literal meaning, we must assume that it should be interpreted symbolically. (Tuesday)
- the godhead in the book–All three persons of the godhead are mentioned in the prologue. (Wednesday)
- the major theme or keynote of the book–Jesus’ promise of His Second Coming (Thursday)
Written nearly 2,000 years ago, by the apostle John, after he was exiled to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, the Book of Revelation holds many fascinating prophecies for God’s people. Its highly symbolic nature should not deter us from studying its pages. We are encouraged not only to read and hear it, but to keep the words found there (in other words, to obey them).
Seeing the overall structure of the book will help us from becoming lost in understanding the meaning of this apocalyptic literature. These sections are noted:
- Revelation 1-3 John uses the churches in his day to describe God’s church as it progresses down through the ages.
- Revelation 4-11 These chapters repeat the same history of the church, with more symbolic details.
- Revelation 12-14 This central section describes the whole span of events which constitutes the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
- Revelation 15-22 The book concludes by focusing exclusively on the last days and the beginning of God’s Kingdom, with the final eradication of sin.
Memory Text: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 NKJV
Keeping the words written in this book must be particularly important, as John repeats the direction to us in the last chapter, using the words of Jesus Himself. Revelation 22:7…
” ‘Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.’ “ NKJV
This statement by Jesus is understandable when you discover that the prophecies are not meant to cause us confusion, but to comfort and show us that God cares for His people and wants us to know that He is coming soon to end all the suffering sin has brought to our planet.
2 Peter 1:19 calls prophecies as “a light that shines in a dark place.” They are designed to provide practical guidance for our lives by increasing our faith, thus allowing us to live without fear of the future.
Sunday: The Title of the Book
The first eight verses of Revelation are considered the prologue of the book. They contain many identifying marks about its title and origin. John may have written down the words, but the revelation was declared by His (Christ’s) angel. John clearly states in his opening words that it is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”.
The word “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, or apocalypse, and simply means “uncovering” or “unveiling”. Jesus is indeed revealed throughout its pages. He is the main character, the central figure, of the drama that unfolds, as John tells the story of salvation, as given to him in vision.
The word “apocalypse” has taken on a sinister, frightening nature in our modern world, but we might consider John’s book about Jesus as almost an extension of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Just as Luke continued his gospel story by giving us The Book of Acts, John delivers to us a sequel of his Gospel story. It’s just another story about Jesus and His impact on the lives of those living in the last days.
Some of the Old Testament writings, like Daniel and Zechariah, outline some of the same prophecies and enable us to understand the symbolism in this book. The epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament is also a welcome addition to our study. Hebrews opens to us the concept of the heavenly sanctuary, a place that John clearly saw in vision and attempts to describe for us.
Read Revelation 1:1 and 22:6, 16. Who is the book of Revelation clearly about and who delivered it to John? Why do you think John began and ended his book with this information?
Read Revelation 1:2 and John 1:1-3. How did John’s belief in Christ’s deity enable him to receive this powerful revelation of his Lord that he wrote about in this book?
Read John 14:1-3. How do Christ’s words in this passage show us briefly what His ministry is accomplishing in heaven? What’s He doing there and for whom?
Monday: The Purpose of the Book
The purpose for John’s recording of these prophecies may not be seen at first. Many Christians have ignored the contents of this last book of the Bible, deeming its study as either too difficult or so symbolic that it is of little value in our everyday walk with Christ.
What one discovers, however, is that its study is extremely valuable and of utmost importance in surviving the last, dramatic conflict on our planet. Having even a rough idea of how the events will play out will equip us to face the trials with steadfast faith and serve God with honor in those final moments.
The book of Revelation serves to…
- remind us that God is always in control, no matter how chaotic the circumstances may appear.
- encourage us to live in a way that prepares us for the future and glorifies God right up to the end.
Read Revelation 1:1. What purpose is stated here for John’s writing, and who benefits from its reading?
Read Deuteronomy 29:29. Why are some things “secret” and some things “revealed”? In other words, why doesn’t God tell us everything?
Read John 14:29. How do prophecies increase our faith? Why is faith needed so much in the last days, and why is it harder to receive it, making prophecies even more valuable to us today?
Tuesday: The Symbolic Language of Revelation
The study of Revelation is unique in its distinctly symbolic nature. Taken literally, it makes absolutely no sense, and is the reason many have neglected reading and trying to understand it over the years.
Daniel was given the direction to seal the prophetic writings in his book until the time of the end (Daniel 12:4). It has only been in the last 200 years or so, since the preaching of the Second Coming by William Miller that there has been a renewed interest in the study of prophecy.
How appropriate that at just the right time, God’s people are looking more seriously now at Bible prophecy. Just when we need to know future events to understand the frighteningly changing world around us, God has made them available to us. We have a better idea of what to expect, but more importantly, we have increased faith and confidence that God will be with us to the end.
The main thing to remember when studying prophecy is that it is most likely symbolic, rather than literal. Unless specifically stated otherwise, we must delve into the rest of the Bible to determine the meaning of the symbols presented there.
Undoubtedly, one reason for the use of symbols in prophecies may be to deter persecutors and evil doers from misusing the information against God’s people. The symbolism may serve as a mask, providing a wall of protection against the forces of evil that become more and more prevalent in the last days.
Satan will try to confuse and twist the prophecies in God’s word, which is all the more reason for us to attempt to decipher the true meanings found there by devoutly studying them with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Read Revelation 1:1 and Daniel 2:45. What is the meaning of the same word “signified” or “made known” in both these verses? How was the dream of the image given to Nebuchadnezzar symbolic in nature? Does this then indicate that the angel is “making known” things to John with the use of symbols as well?
Read Revelation 13:1, 12:3, and 17:3. How is this “beast” identified, and why are symbols used in its description?
Read Daniel 7:7. Why is it good to include Daniel in the study of Revelation? In what ways and for what purpose do they both explain the forces of evil in the world?
Wednesday: The Godhead
Where is the godhead in the book of Revelation, you might ask? We don’t have to look far to see who is influencing John and revealing these prophecies. It’s right in the prologue (the first 8 verses).
- v. 8 says, ” ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’ “ NKJV (clearly, God, the Father, who declared Himself to Moses as I AM.)
- v. 5 says, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,” NKJV (common descriptions of God, the Son)
- v. 4 says, “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:…and from the seven Spirits, who are before the throne,” NKJV (God’s Holy Spirit evidently participated in the deliverance of messages by angels to seven churches in Asia. See chapters 2 and 3.)
Read Revelation 1:8, 4:8, and Exodus 3:14. What is it about God’s nature that explains the name “I AM”?
Read Revelation 1:5, Isaiah 55:4, and John 8:14. In what way is Jesus a faithful witness?
Read Revelation 1:4 and Isaiah 11:2. How close are Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and why must they remain so?
Thursday: The Keynote of Revelation
Jesus is found everywhere in the book of Revelation. But most pronounced is the theme of His Second Coming. John was obviously longing for that event during his solitary existence on the island of Patmos. Foremost on his mind must have been to be reunited with his Master and Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, the one who was entrusted with the care of Mary, Jesus’ own mother, was certainly given these prophetic visions, not just for the benefit of future generations, but to bolster his own flagging faith during his lonely exile.
One thing that can be taken as literal is found in Revelation 1:7. When Jesus comes in the clouds (just as His disciples saw Him return to heaven), everyone will see it. See also Acts 1:10, 11. Although details preceding the return of Jesus are obscured through the use of symbols, we can be sure of the fact that the Second Coming is going to happen, and the whole world, indeed the universe, will be involved.
The purpose of John’s careful documentation of the contents of his visions is to motivate us to be ready for Jesus to come. Seeing what has already been fulfilled through prophecy should encourage us to believe even more fervently the truth and certainty of His Coming.
As John put it in both the beginning (Rev. 1:7) and the end (22:20) of his book, “Even so [Greek for “yes”], Amen [same word of confirmation in Hebrew], come Lord Jesus!” Amen (for Gentiles) and Amen (for Jews)!
Read Revelation 1:5. What words in this verse point to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and heavenly ministry–the three things He does for us?
Read Revelation 22:7, 12, 20 and 2 Peter 3:8. Why should we not be discouraged that Jesus hasn’t returned “quickly”, as these verses in Revelation indicated? Does this mean that it probably won’t happen in our lifetime?
Read Matthew 24:30, Daniel 7:13, and Zechariah 12:10. What similarities are found in these descriptions of the Second Coming?
Having just completed a study of our “Oneness in Christ”, it seems logical to expand our expectations of restoration and unity with a look at the prophecies in Revelation. The events predicted there give a glorious picture of our life of unity and peace in the heavenly Kingdom of God. These prophecies will boost our faith and encourage us in all our trials on earth, both present and future ones.
Although the symbols in Revelation, and their interpretations, may prove to be frightening to the reader, we can be assured of God’s presence throughout the predicted events. Psalm 91 is particularly helpful in reminding us of the divine presence at the end, in spite of the most extreme hardships we will face then.
You might find it profitable to memorize Psalm 91 this quarter, as you study the prophecies that are sure to impact your life and build your faith in the soon-coming Lord.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1 NKJV
Start your memorizing of this chapter over the next three months, if you haven’t already done so. Just one or two verses at a time will be enough. You might even make it a Sabbath School class project! It would be a great tool to further unify you and your fellow church members, in addition to being a personal reminder that God is in control of the future.
Next Week’s Lesson: Among the Lampstands
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/