Revelation is the final book in the Christian canon and the concluding narrative in the story of redemption. No other book in the Bible seems so cryptic as Revelation, no other book so extravagant in its symbolism and wild visions, and no other book so given to misreading and misinterpretation.
Although written nearly 2,000 years ago, Revelation still grips our imagination with its drama, nightmare visions, exotic imagery, stunning colors, full-tilt sound, and over-the-top, blood-soaked violence. Yet, most who read Revelation come away baffled and bewildered, scratching their heads.
What are we to make of this puzzling work?
Hieronymous Bosch. St. John the Evangelist on Patmos
(oil on oak), c. 1489. Gemäldegalerie: Berlin.
This course includes 18 video lectures, with a comprehensive 40-page text introduction and syllabus, artworks, maps, PowerPoint slides, Knowledge Check quizzes, and more.
On top of the interactive online material, you will also be able to contact Dr. Creasy and the Logos Team directly with any questions that arise during your studies.
As you make your way through the lectures, Dr. Creasy will contact you with special opportunities to join him for "Virtual Office Hours" using our Webinar platform.
Lesson #1: Introduction to Revelation, Part 1
Our task at hand is the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Johannine canon, the final book in the Christian canon of Scripture and the concluding narrative in the story of redemption. No other book in the Bible seems so cryptic as Revelation, no other book so extravagant in its symbolism and wild visions, and no other book so given to misreading and misinterpretation. From the 2nd century through the 4th, debate raged as to its inclusion in the canon, finally being accepted at the Council of Hippo in 393 and affirmed at the Council of Carthage in 397. As far back as the 2nd century, Syrian Christians rejected Revelation as heretical; in the 4th century Gregory of Nazianzus viewed it as difficult and dangerous; Martin Luther held it in contempt as being “neither apostolic nor prophetic”; and it is the only New Testament book for which John Calvin did not write a commentary. In modern times Thomas Jefferson omitted Revelation from his Jefferson Bible, considering it “the ravings of a maniac”; Friedrich Engels dismissed it as no more than “a political and anti-Roman” work; and George Bernard Shaw thought it “a peculiar record of the visions of a drug addict.”
Yet, Revelation has always been and still is wildly popular. Although written nearly 2,000 years ago, Revelation still grips our imagination with its drama, nightmare visions, exotic imagery, stunning colors, full-tilt sound, and over-the- top, blood-soaked violence. Yet, most who read Revelation come away baffled and bewildered, scratching their heads. What are we to make of this puzzling work?
In Lesson #1 we introduce Revelation, exploring the historical and cultural context from which it emerged.
Lesson #2: Introduction to Revelation, Part 2
To understand Revelation we must understand its historical and cultural context, for Revelation—like any other literary work—mirrors the time and place from which it emerged.
But we must understand, as well, that Revelation did not suddenly appear at the end of the 1st century A.D. in a literary vacuum; it is one of many works within the genre of apocalyptic literature, works that date all the way back to the 7th century B.C., such as portions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zachariah; Scriptural works from the 3rd century B.C. through A.D. 70, such as Daniel, portions of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse), 2 Peter and Jude. The apocalyptic genre also includes many extra-biblical texts, such as the Sibylline Oracles (books 3, 4 and 5); the Dead Sea “War Scroll”; 1, 2 and 4 Enoch; 4 Ezra; 2 Baruch; and the 2nd-century Apocalypse of Peter and The Shepherd of Hermes.
And, of course, we must also understand the structural and the stylistic devices our author uses to bring his apocalyptic vision to life, blazing with color, tone and texture.
Finally, if we are to engage Revelation as educated readers of Scripture, we must also understand the message our author intends to convey. It is an urgent one. Revelation ends with Jesus’ assurance: “Yes, I am coming soon” and John’s response, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22: 20).
And John expected to see it.
Lesson #3: What Was (1: 1-20)
When the risen and glorified Christ says to John, “Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards” (1: 19), he lays out the basic 3-part structure of Revelation: 1) what was (past); 2) what is (present); and 3) what will be (future). In Lesson #3 we focus on what was; that is, what prompted John to write Revelation to begin with.
Lesson #4: What Is, Part 1 (2: 1-17)
The risen and glorified Christ commands John to write a letter to each of seven churches in Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. If, as tradition holds, our Apostle John is the leader of the church at Ephesus and the author of Revelation, then all six of the other churches are within John’s geographical sphere of influence, and the letters are to serve as “cover letters” for the vision that John will receive and that he will transmit in writing to the other churches.
In Lesson #4 we examine the first three of the seven churches and John’s letters to them: Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamum.
Lesson #5: What Is, Part 2 (2: 18 – 3: 22)
In Lesson #5 we continue examining the letters to the seven churches, focusing on the final four: Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Lesson #6: What Will Be, John’s Vision (4: 1 – 5: 14)
In Lesson #6 John suddenly looks up and he sees on “open door to heaven.” Then he is suddenly snatched up, and instantly he finds himself standing before the throne of God. It is a glorious vision, and he gives us all the details!
Lesson #7: The Seven Seals (6: 1 – 8: 2)
As John stands before the throne of God the figure sitting on the throne morphs into “a Lamb that seemed to have been slain” (5: 6), and the Lamb is holding a scroll, sealed tightly with seven seals. As in a dream, John weeps and weeps, for he understands that no one is worthy to open the scroll. Then, one of the twenty- four elders seated around the throne of God comforts John, telling him that the Lamb—“the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David” (5: 5)—has triumphed, and he will open the scroll.
The twenty-four elders cry then out as one in praise: “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open the seals” (5: 9).
Then the Lamb opens the scroll . . . and we witness the results in graphic detail!
Lesson #8: The Seven Trumpets, Part 1 (8: 3 – 9: 21)
If we thought things were bad when the seven seals were opened and unleashed the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, blowing the seven trumpets escalates the drama exponentially, raising it to a cosmic plain, with the very heavens raining down fire upon the earth!
As we end this lesson only six trumpets have sounded. There is still one more to go!
Lesson #9: The Seven Trumpets, Part 2 (10: 1 – 11: 19)
And then, to the horror of all, they begin to draw breath, they stand on their feet and they ascend into heaven. With that, a great earthquake strikes Jerusalem and a tenth of the city collapses, killing thousands.
John is stunned by his vision of the catastrophic disasters that befall humanity and the earth itself; it sickens him. But the visions continue. Two witnesses appear in (what is left of) Jerusalem, prophesying for 1,260 days, hated by all who hear them. A great beast rises from the abyss, wages war against them and kills them, their torn corpses lying in the street for three and a half days, while the whole world rejoices.
And then the seventh trumpet sounds.
Lesson #10: The Woman and the Dragon (12: 1-18)
Lesson #10 introduces a flashback to a time before Genesis 1: 1, giving us context for the story that we are reading. Chapter 12 opens with a great sign appearing in the sky: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (12: 1). And then a huge red dragon appeared in the sky, seeking to devour the child!
War breaks out in heaven, the dragon leading his minions and the archangel Michael leading God’s army of angels. Michael and his army thunderously defeat the dragon and his minions, casting them down to earth where the dragon vows revenge. He hunts the woman who had fled with her child to devour him and those who follow him.
For John Milton this is epic material, grist for the greatest epic poem in the English language, Paradise Lost.
Lesson #11: The Two Beasts (13: 1-18)
In Lesson #11 we meet the two beasts, one who comes “out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads; on its heads were ten diadems, and on its heads blasphemous names” (13: 1). In contrast to the many “antichrists” we hear John speak of in his correspondence, this is the Antichrist, the arch-deceiver and the minion of Satan. Accompanying him is a second beast, the “false prophet” who “had two horns like a lamb’s but spoke like a dragon. It wielded all the authority of the first beast in its sight and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast” (13: 12); this is the false prophet.
Combined, Satan, the antichrist and the false prophet comprise a grotesque parody of the Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
And they prepare to do battle for the very soul of humanity.
Lesson #12: The Lamb and His Companions (14: 1-20)
In direct contrast to the grotesque parody of the Trinity that we met in Lesson #11, Lesson #12 introduces the Lamb, three angels and 144,000 who have “his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (14: 1).
This is God’s army who will cleanse the earth and engage the final, climactic battle with Satan and his minions on the plains of Meggido: Armageddon (16: 16).
Lesson #13: The Seven Bowls (15: 1 – 16: 21)
Before the final battle we unleash another set of plagues. This time seven angels pour out seven bowls: “the seven bowls of God’s fury upon the earth” (16: 1).
At this point the earth is little more than a smoking cinder, wobbling in space!
Lesson #14: The Whore of Babylon (17: 1 - 18: 24)
In Lesson #14 we meet the great “Whore of Babylon” riding upon a beast with seven heads: Babylon the great, “the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (17: 5), and “the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth” (18: 18): Rome.
And we watch it collapse!
Lesson #15: The Battle of Armageddon (19: 1 – 21)
After a chorus of praise from the twenty-four elders and a vast multitude in heaven, Lesson #15 presents the climactic “Battle of Armageddon” as Christ returns, riding a white horse and leading his army of saints. They quickly crush Satan’s forces, led by the Antichrist and the False Prophet, who are captured and “thrown alive into the fiery pool with burning sulfur” (19: 20).
All the rest of Satan’s minions become carrion, food for the birds of the air, who gorge themselves on their rotting corpses.
Lesson #16: The Millennial Kingdom (20: 1 – 15)
With Christ’s return and his decisive victory over Satan and his minions, Christ and his saints reign for 1,000 years. He imprisons Satan during this time, but then at the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is set free to deceive the earth once more! His third defeat is final, and his punishment is swift and severe: Satan is “thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they [are] tormented day and night forever and ever” (20: 10).
Lesson #16 presents the “millennial kingdom,” Christ’s 1,000 year reign. Of all the topics in Revelation, this is perhaps the most difficult to fit neatly into Revelation’s overall pattern and structure. In this lesson we examine the difficulties, and we propose a solution.
Lesson #17: A New Heaven and a New Earth (22: 1 – 22: 5)
With the final judgment the sad, sorry story of humanity on earth ends. In Lesson #19 we witness a new heaven and a new earth, for “the former heaven and the former earth had passed away” (21: 1). The linear narrative across the Christian canon of Scripture comes full circle as the new Jerusalem descends “out of heaven from God” (21: 2). We are in a new Eden, a place where God dwells with us, where we are his people and he is our God.
Revelation 21 takes us on a tour of our eternal home.
Lesson #18: Epilogue (22: 6-21)
The tour of our new home concludes with a final blessing, and with John exclaiming: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (22: 20).
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