Focusing on recapitulation. Repeating the victory of Christ accomplished and inaugurated in his first coming and consummated in his second coming.
A crucial step in interpretation is the connection between the vision and the realities to which the visions point. You must figure out if the order of Revelation is the order of the events. Our imaginations can handle a few flashbacks, but when the events are shuffled like cards one can end up confused and frustrated. In a certain sense, we are permitted to think chronologically because of 1: and 4:1. Many think of chapters 4-22 as future. But if we take the events described in 4-22 as a 1 to 1 correspondence with church history then we’ll run into problems.
12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
So when will this woman give birth in light of 4:1? That’s the wrong kind of question. Some take this as the birth of Christ. Which took place almost a century before this book was written. John MacArthur, on 12:5, says that it does refer to Christ. He’s right. The event described was an even in the past. Just like you’ll see replays during a ball game from different camera angles. It is one event viewed from different angles. What we’re seeing in Revelation is not an odd thing but seen in Revelation. A few examples, Genesis 1 and 2. The typical biblical Hebrew strategy is to look at it from one angle, and then from a focused angle. Genesis 24, Abraham gives directions, then the servant retells Abraham’s direction again where we’d wonder why it is repeated. Psalms 105-106 looks at the story from first God’s standpoint and faithfulness, then Israel’s rebellion. The four gospel accounts and the Samuel-Kings and Chronicle repetition of the stories also show this style of what happened. Acts 10-11, Luke tells us that Peter saw the vision 3 times, and Luke tells it twice. Back to Genesis, chapter 37, Joseph gets two visions, with one point, Joseph’s family will be dependent on him and honor him some day. Pharaoh has two dreams with the one fulfillment and reference. Finally, Daniel sees the statue and then another vision in Daniel 7 with the single reference to the 4 kingdoms and then the kingdom of God.
Dejohnson@wscal.edu and he’ll send you the chart.
Revelation 1-6. Why do all the bad things that happen happen? We see John warn and exhort the churches through the words of Christ. Some churches are idolatrous, unloving, undiscerning, compromising, and other things. In chapter 4 we see that God is on his throne, and the . In 6-11 God is holding back his wrath and restraining what his enemies will do against his people. God is waiting. They sound like trumpet alarms. He’s trying to wake them up and call them to repentance. Revelation 11 brings us to the end, when the last trumpet has sounded. Revelation 11 ends the story of history.
But now, beginning in Revelation 12, God shows us another perspective, the warfare between Christ and Satan. Two visions that show us a similar scenario. Revelation 12:1-6 shows the Lord Jesus Christ’s life. The second vision begins in v. 7 and shows from a heavenly perspective, the dragon trying to do something he cannot do by pursuing the mother of the child, but the mother flees to the wilderness. Two visions describing the same events. We know this because of vv. 13ff.
The dragon was unable to accomplish his objective. Even the dispensationalists admit that you cannot interpret this physically but must do it symbolically. The woman is the people of God and not just Mary. The sun, moon, and stars are an allusion back to Joseph’s dream in Genensis 37 (?). The child will rule as is his destiny (Psalm 2, 110, Genesis 3:15). Jesus is threatened by Satan throughout his life, in the wilderness, by Peter, by the crucifixion, and Jesus bursts from death and 40 days later takes his throne in heaven. The vision shows us what is now the case as a result of the Son winning the battle. Now the following vision, in vv. 7-17, shows the result for God’s people, that the accuser cannot defeat us because of the victory of the Lamb. The accuser is cast down from heaven by the victory of Christ. Typically, when we think of Satan as accuser, we think of the first chapter of Job. Look at Zechariah 3, where the high priest, who is to represent Israel in the post-exilic context, is supposed to represent the nation and Satan is accusing the people of God, and Satan is right. But God rebukes the accuser and commands that Joshua’s clothes be taken off and that he be robed in clean garments as a preview of things to come when God brings his servant the Branch, who will bring these things to pass in a single day. We call this day Good Friday. He tries to deceive the church through false teaching. Water from the mouth of the dragon, trying to drag the people of God down, but cannot.
Revelation 19-20. Keep in mind this is the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The book is about Christ. Also keep in mind that reading Revelation is to bring blessing and not to be a cause for Christians to be at each others’ throats. It’s not easy to interpret. Broadbrush descriptions of each millennial view: The Premillennial view is that the millennium is not perfect, but Christ will reign. The postmillennial view. The inaugurated millennial (amillennial) view.
Four questions to ask:
1. What precipitates the thousand years in this texts? What begins the thousand years? The dragon is seized and bound for a thousand years so that he doesn’t deceive the nations any longer (20:2-3). The dragon is decisively defeated and thwarted in Revelation 12, but not destroyed. He is bound, like Christ described in his first coming. So Satan may not deceive the nations any longer, implying that he had been deceiving the nations up until this point. Matt. 12:28-29:
28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Paul at Lystra says in the past God let the nations go their own way. In Acts 17 God overlooked their ignorance, but now he demands all of them to repent. Paul, in his writings, reminds the Gentiles where they were before (Ephesians 2-3). The Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel, but this was largely hidden until the mystery was revealed. So what precipitates the thousand years, is the life and death and enthronement of Christ in his first coming.
2. What ends the thousand years? The loosening of Satan, vv. 7ff. When the word “war” is used in Revelation, sometimes the definite article is used, sometimes it is not. In 16:19-20 and in 20:7-10 the definite article is used in the “war” and “battle” described. There is one particular battle in view. There is one battle, several different views. If the last battle that ends the thousand years in 20:7-10 is the same as the one in chapter 19, why repeat it twice? Because in the first century, the church was facing the events described in the book because the events of the book was being experienced, because the time was at hand. But there is a complementary truth, in the midst of the trials you face, don’t assume that Jesus is right around the corner, there may be a long battle and time before he returns again. That’s why Peter reminds the church to not lose hope.
3. What characterizes the thousand years? What takes place between the first and second comings? Satan does not deceive the nations. The martyrs rule in heaven (as seen in chapters 4-5, and 7). The Lion has triumphed in the slaughter of the Lamb. The first resurrection is our salvation?
4. What does the thousand years say to us? Stop whining. Yes it’s bad. Well not so much for us, but for our brothers in Sudan and other places in our world right now. God is thwarting Satan’s purpose right now, so stop whining. Secondly, God is holding Satan back and letting the gospel go forth. The gospel is going out in power among the nations. He is gathering that international multitude of the elect. Only looking at it through God’s lens can we see that we are victorious. Only in the perspective of eternity will we see that the Lamb’s victory is so great that it is incalculable.