REVELATION STUDY - WEEK 2
40 DAYS THROUGH REVELATION - RON RHODES
How can I understand the Book of Revelation?
The key to Bible interpretation, especially for the book of Revelation, is to have a consistent hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation. In other words, it is the way you interpret Scripture. A normal hermeneutic or normal interpretation of Scripture means that unless the verse or passage clearly indicates the author was using figurative language, it should be understood in its normal sense. We are not to look for other meanings if the natural meaning of the sentence makes sense. Also, we are not to spiritualize Scripture by assigning meanings to words or phrases when it is clear the author, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, meant it to be understood as it is written.
One example is Revelation 20. Many will assign various meanings to references to a thousand-year period. Yet, the language does not imply in any way that the references to the thousand years should be taken to mean anything other than a literal period of one thousand years.
A simple outline for the book of Revelation is found in Revelation 1:19. In the first chapter, the risen and exalted Christ is speaking to John. Christ tells John to “write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” The things John had already seen are recorded in chapter 1. The “things which are” (that were present in John’s day) are recorded in chapters 2–3 (the letters to the churches). The “things that will take place” (future things) are recorded in chapters 4–22.
Revelation 1:19 (NLT) -  “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.
Generally speaking, chapters 4–18 of Revelation deal with God’s judgments on the people of the earth. These judgments are not for the church (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 9). Before the judgments begin, the church will have been removed from the earth in an event called the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Chapters 4–18 describe a time of “Jacob’s trouble”—trouble for Israel (Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 9:12, 12:1). It is also a time when God will judge unbelievers for their rebellion against Him.
Chapter 19 describes Christ’s return with the church, the bride of Christ. He defeats the beast and the false prophet and casts them into the lake of fire. In Chapter 20, Christ has Satan bound and cast in the Abyss. Then Christ sets up His kingdom on earth that will last 1,000 years. At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is released and he leads a rebellion against God. He is quickly defeated and also cast into the lake of fire. Then the final judgment occurs, the judgment for all unbelievers, when they too are cast into the lake of fire.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NLT) -  For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT) -  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NLT) -  And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.  So encourage each other with these words.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NLT) -  But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!  It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.
Jeremiah 30:7 (NLT) -  In all history there has never been such a time of terror. It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved!
Daniel 9:12 (NLT) -  You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster as happened in Jerusalem.
Daniel 12:1 (NLT) -  “At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued.
Chapters 21 and 22 describe what is referred to as the eternal state. In these chapters God tells us what eternity with Him will be like. The book of Revelation is understandable. God would not have given it to us if its meaning were entirely a mystery. The key to understanding the book of Revelation is to interpret it as literally as possible—it says what it means and means what it says.
40 Days Through Revelation
Begin by reading Revelation 1:1-8 in your favorite Bible. Read with the anticipation that the Holy Spirit has something important to teach you today (see Psalm 119:105).
In the introduction, we noted the outline of Revelation in 1:19 - “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.” In this chapter, we will begin to examine “the things that you [John] have seen.” With your Bible still accessible, consider the following insights on Revelation 1:1-8, verse by verse.
The revelation of Jesus Christ (1:1) - The word “revelation” carries the idea of “uncovering” or “revealing.” The book of Revelation uncovers and reveals prophetic truth. “Revelation of Jesus Christ” can mean either revelation that comes from Christ or revelation that is about Him. Both senses are probably intended in this verse.
Which God gave him (1:1) - The Father gave this revelation to Jesus Christ.
Things that must soon take place (1:1) - This should not be taken to mean that the events described in Revelation would all take place within a few years of the time John saw them. John recorded Revelation in Greek, and the Greek word translated “soon” can mean “quickly, swiftly, speedily, at a rapid rate” (see Luke 18:8). In Revelation 1:1, the term indicates that when the predicted events first start to occur in the end times, they will then progress rapidly.
He made it known by sending his angel (1:1) - God the Father gave this revelation to Jesus Christ, and Christ then communicated it to John using an angel as an intermediary. The specific angel is not mentioned by name, but some speculate that it might be Gabriel, who delivered notable revelations from God to Daniel, Mary, and Zechariah (Daniel 8:16; 9:21-22; Luke 1:18-19,26-31).
To his servant John (1:1) - The angel was an intermediary between Christ and John. Elsewhere in Revelation John receives communications directly from Christ (Revelation 1:10-16), from an elder (7:13), and from a voice in heaven (10:4). John was commissioned to pass this revelation on to the seven churches of Asia Minor (2–3).
Witness (1:2) - John faithfully testifies to and vouches for all he witnessed in this divine revelation of Jesus Christ.
Blessed (1:3) - The word “blessed” means “spiritually happy.” This is the first of seven pronouncements of blessing in the book of Revelation (see 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7,14).
The one who reads aloud (1:3) - Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a blessing to the person who reads it aloud and the person who listens to it, responding in obedience. John’s contemporaries did not own copies of Scripture. They had to go to church, where they listened to Scripture being read aloud.
Blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it (1:3) - Obedience brings blessing. We should not just be hearers of God’s Word, but doers of it (James 1:22-25).
For the time is near (1:3) - This should not be taken to mean that the events in this book will necessarily happen soon. After all, Scripture elsewhere indicates that there will be enough of a delay in the second coming that some people will begin to wonder if it will ever occur (see Matthew 24:36-39; 2 Peter 3:3-4). “Near” communicates imminence. The next event in God’s prophetic calendar—the rapture of the church—could occur at any time.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia (1:4) - These seven churches were experiencing severe persecution. They were called to shine as lights in the midst of the darkness (see Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 2:15). Revelation 2–3 reveals that five of these seven churches needed to make some internal corrections. One reason the book of Revelation was written was to encourage and motivate these suffering believers.
Grace to you and peace (1:4) - “Grace” refers to God’s unmerited favor to those who believe in Jesus. “Peace” refers to the believer’s standing and experience in relation to God. It is rooted in Christ’s work of salvation on the cross.
From him who is and who was and who is to come (1:4) - This is the eternal Father.
Seven spirits (1:4) - In the Bible, seven is often associated with completion, fulfillment, and perfection (see, for example, Genesis 2:2; Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 14:7; Acts 6:3). The number seven occurs often in the book of Revelation. In addition to the seven spirits, we find seven…
torches before the throne (4:5)
seals on the scroll (5:1)
horns and eyes of the Lamb (5:6)
spirits of God (4:5; 5:6)
angels and trumpets (8:2)
heads of the dragon (12:3)
heads of the beast (13:1)
golden bowls (15:7)
Some scholars suggest that the seven spirits are seven angels that are before the throne of God in heaven. Others suggest the seven spirits are the seven angels mentioned in conjunction with the seven churches of Revelation 2–3.
Still others understand the seven spirits to be a metaphorical reference to the Holy Spirit in His fullness. If this is correct, a possible cross-reference is Isaiah 11:2, which speaks of the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit as related to the divine Messiah - “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
From him who is and who was and who is to come…the seven spirits…Jesus Christ (1:4-5) - If the seven spirits represent the Holy Spirit, we witness each person of the Trinity in verses 4-5.
Jesus Christ the faithful witness (1:5) - Jesus is a faithful and reliable source of the revelation being communicated to John. John could thus trust what he was being told.
The firstborn of the dead (1:5) - This could mean that Christ was the first to be permanently raised from the dead. More likely, however, the term indicates that Christ is the supreme or preeminent One among those who have been or will be raised from the dead (see Psalm 89:27; Colossians 1:15).
The ruler of kings on earth (1:5) - Christ is absolutely sovereign. He rules over all. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Though Christ is the absolute ruler of the kings of the earth, He will not fully exercise this authority until His second coming, when He sets up His millennial kingdom (Revelation 19–20).
Freed us from our sins (1:5) - Jesus saves His people from sin, as His name proclaims. “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”
Made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father (1:6) - All Christians become a part of God’s kingdom and submit to Christ’s rule. As priests, Christians have the privilege of entering God’s presence and serving Him forever.
To him be glory and dominion forever and ever (1:6) - This is the yearning and utterance of praise of Christians of all generations who recognize that our God is an awesome God.
He is coming with the clouds (1:7) - Clouds are often used in association with God’s visible glory (Exodus 16:10; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Matthew 17:5). Just as Christ was received by a cloud in His ascension (Acts 1:9), so He will return again in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27). Just as Jesus left with this visible manifestation of the glory of God, so He will return at the second coming with the same visible manifestation of the glory of God. (Note that the second coming is different from the rapture. I’ll address this when I discuss Revelation 3:10.)
Every eye will see him (1:7) - The second coming of Christ might not be an instantaneous event. It may be visible for a full day or more so that as the earth rotates, every eye on earth can witness the coming of Christ with the armies of heaven. Of course, television broadcasts and the Internet will likely play a role.
Even those who pierced him (1:7) - This is a reference to Christ’s crucifixion (John 19:34) and to the Jews living on the earth at the time of the second coming (see Zechariah 12:10). These Jews will represent those who crucified Christ in the first century (see Acts 2:22-23; 3:14-15).
All tribes of the earth will wail on account of him (1:7) - They will wail and mourn for fear of punishment from the divine Messiah, the Judge of humankind (Revelation 20:4; see also Matthew 24:30).
“I am the Alpha and the Omega” (1:8) - This is a powerful confirmation of Jesus’ divine identity (compare with Revelation 22:13). “Alpha and Omega” is used exclusively of God in the Old Testament (Isaiah 44:6; 48:12-13). The title expresses eternality and omnipotence. Jesus is the all-powerful One of eternity past and eternity future. He is the eternal God who has always existed in the past and who will always exist in the future.
“Who is and who was and who is to come” (1:8) - Christ, as God, is an eternal being.
“The Almighty” (1:8) - This depicts absolute deity. Christ is supreme and sovereign over all things, including the unfolding of events in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7,14; 19:15; 21:22).
God is a revealer. God takes the initiative in revealing Himself and His will (Hebrews 1:1-2). The ultimate revelation came in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:18).
God is a Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is based on three lines of evidence:
There is only one true God (Isaiah 44:6; 46:9; John 5:44; 17:3; Romans 3:29-30; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19).
Three persons are recognized as God—the Father (1 Peter 1:2), Jesus (John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).
There is three-in-oneness within the one God (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14).
Digging Deeper with Cross-References
Angels — 2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 91:11; Matthew 25:31; Luke 15:7-10; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:14; 13:2.
God is Almighty — Genesis 17:1; Psalm 91:1; 2 Corinthians 6:18; see also Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27.
You can trust the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation to you. It is God’s voice to you. It is God speaking to you (see Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Obedience brings blessing. Obedience to God brings blessing (Luke 11:28), long life (1 Kings 3:14), happiness (Psalms 112:1; 119:56), peace (Proverbs 1:33), and a state of well-being (Jeremiah 7:23; see also Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:40; 12:28; 28:1-14; Joshua 1:8; 1 Chronicles 22:13; Isaiah 1:19).
COMMENTARY FROM WARREN WIERSBE
Don’t ever prophesy,” said American humorist Josh Billings, “for if you prophesy wrong, nobody will forget it; and if you prophesy right, nobody will remember it.”
Over the centuries, prophecies have come and gone; yet the book that the Apostle John wrote near the close of the first century is with us still. I can recall reading it as a child and wondering what it was all about. Even today, with many years of concentrated study behind me, I am still fascinated by its message and mysteries.
In Rev 1:1-20, John introduces his book and gives us the data essential for appreciating and understanding this prophecy.
The Title (Rev 1:1)
The word translated “revelation” simply means “unveiling.” It gives us our English word apocalypse which, unfortunately, is today a synonym for chaos and catastrophe. The verb simply means “to uncover, to reveal, to make manifest.” In this book, the Holy Spirit pulls back the curtain and gives us the privilege of seeing the glorified Christ in heaven and the fulfillment of His sovereign purposes in the world.
In other words, Revelation is an open book in which God reveals His plans and purposes to His church. When Daniel finished writing his prophecy, he was instructed to “shut up the words, and seal the book” (Dan 12:4); but John was given opposite instructions: “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Rev 22:10). Why? Since Calvary, the Resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, God has ushered in the “last days” (Heb 1:1-2) and is fulfilling His hidden purposes in this world. “The time is at hand” (Rev 1:3; Rev 22:10).
John’s prophecy is primarily the revelation of Jesus Christ, not the revelation of future events. You must not divorce the Person from the prophecy, for without the Person there could be no fulfillment of the prophecy. “He is not incidental to its action,” wrote Dr. Merrill Tenney. “He is its chief Subject.” In Revelation 1-3, Christ is seen as the exalted Priest-King ministering to the churches. In Revelation 4-5, He is seen in heaven as the glorified Lamb of God, reigning on the throne. In Revelation 6-18, Christ is the Judge of all the earth; and in Rev 19:1-21, He returns to earth as the conquering King of kings. The book closes with the heavenly Bridegroom ushering His bride, the church, into the glorious heavenly city.
Whatever you do as you study this book, get to know your Saviour better.
The Author (Rev 1:1-2, Rev 1:4, Rev 1:9; Rev 22:8)
The Holy Spirit used the Apostle John to give us three kinds of inspired literature: the Gospel of John, the three epistles, and the Book of Revelation. His purposes may be outlined as follows:
John wrote Revelation about a.d. 95, during the reign of the Roman emperor Titus Flavius Domitian. The emperor had demanded that he be worshiped as “Lord and God,” and the refusal of the Christians to obey his edict led to severe persecution. Tradition says that it was Domitian who sent John to the Isle of Patmos, a Roman penal colony off the coast of Asia Minor. This being the location of John’s exile, perhaps it is not surprising that the word sea is found twenty-six times in his book.
During Christ’s earthly ministry, John and his brother James asked Jesus for special places of honor by His throne. The Lord told them that they would have to merit their thrones by sharing in His suffering. James was the first apostle martyred (Act 12:1-2); John was the last of the Apostles to die, but he suffered on Patmos before his death (see Mat 20:20-23).
How did the Lord convey the contents of this book to His servant? According to Rev 1:1-2, the Father gave the revelation to the Son, and the Son shared it with the apostle, using “His angel” as intermediary. Sometimes Christ Himself conveyed information to John (Rev 1:10); sometimes it was an elder (Rev 7:13); and often it was an angel (Rev 17:1; Rev 19:9-10). Sometimes a “voice from heaven” told John what to say and do (Rev 10:4). The book came from God to John, no matter what the various means of communication were; and it was all inspired by the Spirit.
The word signified (Rev 1:1) is important; it means “to show by a sign.” In Revelation, the noun is translated as sign (Rev 15:1), wonder (Rev 12:1, Rev 12:3), and miracle (Rev 19:20). This is the same word used in the Gospel of John for the miracles of Jesus Christ, for His miracles were events that carried a deeper spiritual message than simply the display of power. As you study Revelation, expect to encounter a great deal of symbolism, much of it related to the Old Testament.
Why did John use symbolism? For one thing, this kind of “spiritual code” is understood only by those who know Christ personally. If any Roman officers had tried to use Revelation as evidence against Christians, the book would have been a puzzle and an enigma to them. But an even greater reason is that symbolism is not weakened by time. John was able to draw on the great “images” in God’s revelation and assemble them into an exciting drama that has encouraged persecuted and suffering saints for centuries. However, you must not conclude that John’s use of symbolism indicates that the events described are not real. They are real!
There is a third reason why John used symbolism: symbols not only convey information, but also impart values and arouse emotions. John could have written, “A dictator will rule the world,” but instead he described a beast. The symbol says much more than the mere title of “dictator.” Instead of explaining a world system, John simply introduced “Babylon the Great” and contrasted the “harlot” with the “bride.” The very name “Babylon” would convey deep spiritual truth to readers who knew the Old Testament.
In understanding John’s symbolism, however, we must be careful not to allow our imaginations to run wild. Biblical symbols are consistent with the whole of biblical revelation. Some symbols are explained (Rev 1:20; Rev 4:5; Rev 5:8); others are understood from Old Testament symbolism (Rev 2:7, Rev 2:17; Rev 4:7); and some symbols are not explained at all (the “white stone” in Rev 2:17). Nearly 300 references to the Old Testament are found in Revelation! This means that we must anchor our interpretations to what God has already revealed, lest we misinterpret this important prophetic book.
The Readers (Rev 1:3-4)
While the book was originally sent to seven actual local churches in Asia Minor, John makes it clear that any believer may read and profit from it (Rev 1:3). In fact, God promised a special blessing to the one who would read the book and obey its message. (The verb read means “to read out loud.” Revelation was first read aloud in local church meetings.) The Apostle Paul had sent letters to seven churches — Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica — and now John sent one book to seven different churches. Early in the book, he had a special message from Christ to each church.
John did not send this book of prophecy to the assemblies in order to satisfy their curiosity about the future. God’s people were going through intense persecution and they needed encouragement. As they heard this book, its message would give them strength and hope. But even more, its message would help them examine their own lives (and each local assembly) to determine those areas needing correction. They were not only to hear the Word, but they were also to keep it — that is, guard it as a treasure and practice what it said. The blessing would come, not just by hearing, but even more so by doing (see Jas 1:22-25).
It is worth noting that there are seven “beatitudes” in Revelation: Rev 1:3; Rev 14:13; Rev 16:15; Rev 19:9; Rev 20:6; Rev 22:7, Rev 22:14. The number seven is important in this book because it signifies fullness and completeness. In Revelation, God tells us how He is going to complete His great work and usher in His eternal kingdom. In Revelation, you will find seven seals (Rev 5:1), seven trumpets (Rev 8:6), seven vials (Rev 16:1), seven stars (Rev 1:16), and seven lampstands (Rev 1:12, Rev 1:20). Other “sevens” in this book will be discussed as we study.
The special messages to each of the seven churches are given in Revelation 2-3. Some students see in these seven churches a “panorama of church history,” from apostolic times (Ephesus) to the apostate days of the twentieth century (Laodicea). While these churches may illustrate various stages in the history of the church, that was probably not the main reason why these particular assemblies were selected. Instead, these letters remind us that the exalted Head of the church knows what is going on in each assembly, and that our relationship to Him and His Word determines the life and ministry of the local body.
Keep in mind that the churches in Asia Minor were facing persecution and it was important that they be rightly related to the Lord and to each other. They are pictured as seven separate lampstands, each giving light in a dark world (Php 2:15; Mat 5:14-16). The darker the day, the greater the light must shine; unfortunately situations existed in at least five of these assemblies that required correction if their lights were to shine brightly. As you read Revelation 2-3, note that the Lord always reminded them of who He is, and encouraged them to be “overcomers.”
What’s more, the promise of Jesus Christ’s coming should be to all Christians at all times a motivation for obedience and consecration (Rev 1:3, Rev 1:7; Rev 2:5, Rev 2:25; Rev 3:3, Rev 3:11; Rev 22:7, Rev 22:12, Rev 22:20; see also 1Jn 1:1-3). No believer should study prophecy merely to satisfy his curiosity. When Daniel and John received God’s revelations of the future, both fell down as dead men (Dan 10:7-10; Rev 1:17). They were overwhelmed! We need to approach this book as wonderers and worshipers, not as academic students.
The Dedication (Rev 1:4-6)
“If you don’t stop writing books,” a friend said to me, “you will run out of people to dedicate them to!” I appreciated the compliment, but I did not agree with the sentiment. John had no problem knowing to whom his book should be dedicated! But before he wrote the dedication, he reminded his readers that it was the Triune God who had saved them and would keep them as they faced the fiery trials of suffering.
God the Father is described as the Eternal One (see Rev 1:8; Rev 4:8). All history is part of His eternal plan, including the world’s persecution of the church. Next, the Holy Spirit is seen in His fullness, for there are not seven spirits, but one. The reference here is probably to Isa 11:2.
Finally, Jesus Christ is seen in His threefold office as Prophet (faithful Witness), Priest (First-begotten from the dead), and King (Prince of the kings of the earth). First-begotten does not mean “the first one raised from the dead,” but “the highest of those raised from the dead.” Firstborn is a title of honor (see Rom 8:29; Col 1:15, Col 1:18).
But of the three Persons of the Trinity, it is to Jesus Christ alone that this book is dedicated. The reason? Because of what He has done for His people. To begin with, He loves us (present tense in most manuscripts). This parallels the emphasis in John’s Gospel. He also washed us from our sins, or, as some texts read, freed us from our sins. This parallels the message of John’s epistles (see 1Jn 1:5). As a grand climax, Christ has made us a kingdom of priests, and this is the emphasis of Revelation. Today, Jesus Christ is a Priest-King like Melchizedek (Heb 7:1-28), and we are seated with Him on His throne (Eph 2:1-10).
In His love, God called Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Exo 19:1-6), but the Jews failed God and their kingdom was taken from them (Mat 21:43). Today, God’s people (the church) are His kings and priests (1Pe 2:1-10), exercising spiritual authority and serving God in this world.
The Theme (Rev 1:7-8)
The overriding theme of the Book of Revelation is the return of Jesus Christ to defeat all evil and to establish His reign. It is definitely a book of victory and His people are seen as “overcomers” (see Rev 2:7, Rev 2:11, Rev 2:17, Rev 2:26; Rev 3:5, Rev 3:12, Rev 3:21; Rev 11:7; Rev 12:11; Rev 15:2; Rev 21:7). In his first epistle, John also called God’s people “overcomers” (1Jn 2:13-14; 1Jn 4:4; 1Jn 5:4-5). Through eyes of unbelief, Jesus Christ and His church are defeated in this world; but through eyes of faith, He and His people are the true victors. As Peter Marshall once said, “It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”
The statement in Rev 1:7, “Behold, He cometh with clouds,” describes our Lord’s return to the earth, and is amplified in Rev 19:11. This is not the same as His return in the air to catch away His people (1Th 4:13-18; 1Co 15:51). When He comes to catch away (rapture) His church, He will come “as a thief” (Rev 3:3; Rev 16:15) and only those who are born again will see Him (1Jn 3:1-3). The event described in Rev 1:7 will be witnessed by the whole world, and especially by a repentant nation of Israel (see Dan 7:13; Zec 12:10-12). It will be public, not secret (Mat 24:30-31), and will climax the Tribulation period described in Revelation 6-19.
Godly Bible students have not always agreed as to the order of events leading up to the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom (Rev. 21-22). I personally believe that the next event on God’s calendar is the Rapture, when Christ shall return in the air and take His church to glory. Christ’s promise to the church in Rev 3:10-11 indicates that the church will not go through the Tribulation, and this is further supported by Paul in 1Th 1:10; 1Th 5:9-10. It is significant to me that there is no mention of the word church between Rev 3:22 and Rev 22:16.
After the church is raptured, the events depicted in Revelation 6-19 will occur: the Tribulation, the rise of the “man of sin,” the Great Tribulation (the wrath of God) and the destruction of man-made world government, and then Christ’s return to the earth to set up His kingdom. Daniel indicates that this period of worldwide trouble will last seven years (Dan 9:25-27). Throughout the Book of Revelation, you will find measurements of time that coincide with this seven-year time span (Rev 11:2-3; Rev 12:6, Rev 12:14; Rev 13:5).
The titles given to God in Rev 1:8 make it clear that He is certainly able to work out His divine purposes in human history. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; so, God is at the beginning of all things and also at their end. He is the eternal God (see Rev 1:4), unlimited by time. He is also the Almighty, able to do anything. Almighty is a key name for God in Revelation (Rev 1:8; Rev 4:8; Rev 11:17; Rev 15:3; Rev 16:7, Rev 16:14; Rev 19:6, Rev 19:15; Rev 21:22).
God the Father is called “Alpha and Omega” in Rev 1:8 and Rev 21:6; but the name also is applied to His Son (Rev 1:11; Rev 22:13). This is a strong argument for the deity of Christ. Likewise, the title “the first and the last” goes back to Isaiah (Isa 41:4; Isa 44:6; Isa 48:12-13) and is another proof that Jesus is God.