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Studies in the Book of Revelation Bible Studies Series Index

Learn more about CFT’s Reta’s Reflections Bible Study blog.

Reta Halteman Finger began her Bible study blog, Reta’s Reflections, with a study of 1 Corinthians. Since then she has completed studies of the Gospel of John, the Book of Jonah, a series on Hermeneutics, and a brief series on Philemon. Her sixth series focuses on Revelation, a New Testament book that Reta says “may be the most misunderstood book in our entire canon.”

This is an index of posts in that series.

(Posts are in reverse order on this page, with the first of the series at the bottom.)

An Interlude:  Revelation Meets Harvey and Irma

So many disagreements among Christians result from different assumptions about how to interpret the Bible. . . . When we read God’s Word as literal words straight from the mouth of God for all times and places, we get many things wrong. In the ancient Middle East, it was natural for Israelites to connect natural disasters with God’s judgment for sin.

Prophetic Witness before the Seventh Trumpet — Revelation 11:3-19

“As the seventh angel blows his trumpet,. . . voices in heaven announce the divine takeover of the kingdom of this world. John does not mean that this is happening in his first-century time, or in our time today, but it is happening in his vision. It portrays God’s spiritual protection even through death and God’s vindication of faithful witness.”

Revelation 10:1–11:2 — An Interlude before the End

“As we read Revelation, we must remind ourselves that John is seeing a vision, and the objects and events are not physically real. Bruce Metzger puts it this way in Breaking the Code: ‘The descriptions are not descriptions of real occurrences. The intention is to fix the reader’s thought, not upon the symbol, but upon the idea that the symbolic language is designed to convey.’”

Revelation 9:1-21 —The Woes of Trumpets Five and Six

"If an emperor like Augustus Caesar is deified, all people must worship him and his value system. . . . By John’s use of comparable imagery to portray allegiance to God and the slaughtered Lamb, he sets before his churches a choice. Whom do you worship? An emperor who controls by the sword, or the slaughtered Lamb standing before the throne of God?"

Revelation 8:1-13—Silence before the Trumpets

“Think of the pause just before the majestic ending of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ Notice that Revelation 8:1-13 begins with just such a dramatic pause... Imagine yourself standing in silence after this heavenly song was read aloud or chanted at your church in Asia Minor. "

Every Nation, Tribe, People, and Language— Revelation 7:9-17

“In 7:9-17 the scene shifts from earth to heaven. Here, the church that has been militantly, though non-violently, confronting evil on earth is now pictured after the battle is over. John sees a multitude of people so great no one can count them. All Israelite categories are gone; this crowd is actually from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9).”

A New Use for a Seal—Revelation 7:1-8

“The same signet ring seal with which God sealed up the scroll of human history is now stamped on the foreheads of God’s followers. The purpose here is to protect them, in life or death, from “the great ordeal” (7:14) which is to come. Here John draws from Ezekiel 9:4, where those who had lamented the evil around them are sealed to protect them from judgment.”

Horses, Martyrs, and Meteors—Revelation 6:1-17

"Church members in western Asia Minor did not need a university education to understand this cycle of conquest, war, famine, and death. In the ancient world where Rome ruled, it was always happening somewhere. These four broken seals revealed horrors they understood."

Broken Seals: Getting our Bearings in Revelation 6–11

"The actions of both seals and trumpets take place on the earth but with occasional glimpses of heavenly worship. The majestic songs in 11:15-18 sound like the final triumph of God and the Lamb. Except it’s not the end. The apocalypse goes on for another eleven chapters!"

The Scroll, the Lion, and the Lamb—Revelation 5

What follows next is pure worship. Imagine Handel’s “Messiah,” sung first by the four living creatures and the 24 elders, then by thousands upon thousands of angels, then by “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea”! But instead of the Hallelujah Chorus, this is a “new song .."

An Open Door in the Sky: Revelation 4:1–5:4

"It is one thing to have Jesus visit you and walk among your earthly churches in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire. It is quite another to peek through an open door and look into heaven itself!”

Conflict and Crisis in Asia Minor—Revelation 2 and 3

"The churches in Sardis and Laodicea, by yielding to the materialism around them, represent commercial accommodation; while some in the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira practice eating foods sacrificed to idols or tolerate those who do, reflecting their adaptation to Roman civil religion."

How Cities Influence Churches—Revelation 2:1-3:22

“We’ll especially pay attention to the allusions John makes to the distinctive character of each of the cities where the churches were located. More important for John’s purposes, however, is the character of the churches themselves amidst the dangers that surround them from pagan influence, as well as from what John perceives as false teaching from rival religious groups.”

Jesus among the Seven Lampstands—Revelation 2-3

We can make one more observation: each church will hear not only its own message but will learn about the problems and promises of the other six as well. Since no church can thus hide its failings (or strengths), none can lord it over the others. If they take John’s vision seriously, they will instead be in a position to support each other.

John and His Vision of the Risen Jesus—Revelation 1:9-20

At first, Christians had been considered a sect within Judaism, but by late first century it was clear that they were becoming a separate religion, which included many non-Jews as well. Things got worse during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96 CE).

Structure and Symbol in Revelation

If we take symbols literally, we miss the point. Jesus appears awkward with a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth (1:16), but it merely symbolizes his word of judgment. On the other hand, if we interpret these symbols to make sense in our world today, we’ll get it wrong, since the intended audience knew nothing of our culture and time.

Starry Skies in the Ancient Near East

Like shamans in some cultures today, John had the gift of ASC—‘altered states of consciousness.’ While ‘in the spirit,’ he could journey to the sky or perceive spiritual reality in the otherwise invisible air. These ecstatic experiences sometimes produced grammatical errors in his Greek, but they also provided readers with colorful word-pictures and glowing poetry that nevertheless needed to be interpreted within the context of first-century symbols and metaphors.”

Is the New Testament Apocalyptic?

“Even though Revelation is the only apocalypse in the New Testament, every other book presupposes an apocalyptic worldview. Beyond the natural, ordinary world that we live in and perceive with our senses, there exists an unseen reality: the one God has a host of good angels who are doing battle with Satan and his demonic followers.

An Apocalyptic Worldview

“The title, ‘Revelation,” is translated from the Greek word, ‘apocalypse.’ It refers to something previously hidden that is now being revealed. ‘Apocalypse’ is a distinct literary genre which uses symbolic language and imagery and is usually written under an assumed name. But dragons and beasts and other symbols reveal little to modern readers, so [lessons in this series] will provide a social context for interpretation.”

Revelation—Whom Will You Worship?

“This may be the most misunderstood book in our entire canon. Some Christians ignore it entirely because of its bizarre imagery, while others pore over it attempting to unlock a chronological key to the future. [In this series], we will challenge some current end-time predictions and schemes based in part on Revelation, as well as seek to understand its genre, its cultural context, and what it might say to Christians in the 21st century.”

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An Interlude:  Revelation Meets Harvey and Irma

So many disagreements among Christians result from different assumptions about how to interpret the Bible. . . . When we read God’s Word as literal words straight from the mouth of God for all times and places, we get many things wrong. In the ancient Middle East, it was natural for Israelites to connect natural disasters with God’s judgment for sin.

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