Bas Krins
Being a Biblically faithful Christian today.

Overview of the Revelation to John

The Revelation to John is experienced by many as a book that is difficult to access. The multitude of images makes it difficult to maintain the big picture. Therefore, this article provides an overview of the content [1]. To understand the big picture, it is important to see that this Bible book has a very carefully chosen structure with parallels to the apocalyptic texts from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah and with a parallel to the speech of Jesus Christ about the future [2]. The purpose of Revelation is to answer the question of the fulfillment of the unfulfilled prophecies.

The Revelation to John has a striking structure. Up to four times there is a series of seven: seven letters, seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls. And the story is interrupted three times by two intermezzos. In summary, the structure looks like this:



·     1 introduction: Jesus Christ shows Himself
·     2-3 the seven letters: the Holy Spirit speaks to the churches
·     4 first heavenly vision: God on His throne in heaven

Disasters and persecutions

·     5 second heavenly vision
·     6:1-8 first four seals, four horses (the first three seals are the beginning of the whoes)·     6:9-17 fifth and sixth seals


  • 7:1-8 the sealed of Israel
  • 7:9-17 the multitude of all nations in heaven

·     8:1-5 the seventh seal (leads to the seven trumpets)


The Great Tribulation·     8:6-13 first four trumpets

·     9:1-12 first woe = fifth trumpet

·     9:13-21 second woe = sixth trumpet


  • 10 the opened book: preaching to all nations
  • 11:1-14 the two witnesses: preaching to the Jews

·     11:15-19 third woe = seventh trumpet


  • 12:1-17 the woman and the dragon: protection of the Jews
  • 12:18-13:18 the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth: sealing of believers from all nations


Christ comes

·     14:1-5 the Lamb and the redeemed: the firstfruits of Israel

·     14:6-20 the judgment announced

·     15-16 the seven bowls: God's wrath against His enemies

·     17:1-19:5 the fall of Babylon

·     19:6-21 the victory of the Lamb:

      ·     19:6-10 the marriage of the Lamb

      ·     19:11-16 the coming of Jesus Christ

      ·     19:17-21 the beast from the earth and the beast from the sea conquered


The earthly kingdom of Christ

·     20:1-6 the Millennium

·     20:7-15 the judgment


The eternal kingdom

·     21:1-8 the new heaven and the new earth: God lives among the people of all nations

·     21:9-22:5 the new Jerusalem with the names of the 12 sons of Israel on the gates



·     22:6-21 Closing



On the basis of this structure, a summary of the contents of the Revelation to John is now given.



·     introduction: Jesus Christ shows Himself

The Bible book begins with a salutation that was customary for a letter: sender, addressee and blessing. Chapter 1 describes an appearance of Jesus Christ [3]. He walks between seven lampstands, which represent the seven churches in Asia Minor to which the letter is addressed. His appearance is impressive: a golden belt, eyes like a flame of fire, feet like brass and a mighty voice.

 ·     the seven letters: the Holy Spirit speaks to the churches

In the seven letters to seven churches in Asia Minor we hear what the Spirit says to the churches (2 and 3). All letters have the same structure:

  •  'And write to the angel of the church ...'
  • 'So says ...' plus an indication of Jesus Christ, with a reference to a text from chapter 1
  • 'I know ...' plus an indication of an element within the municipality to be praised
  • 'But I have against you ...' plus an admonition
  • 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches'.
  • 'Who overcomes ...' plus een promise

n the letter to the congregation of Smyrna and Philadelphia, the admonition is missing. In the letter to the congregation of Sardis and Laodicea, the expression 'I know...' does occur, but without indication of anything to be praised within this congregation, and the sentence 'But I have against you...' is also missing. '. So there are two churches that distinguish themselves in a positive sense and two churches that distinguish themselves in a negative sense. In the other three churches – Ephesus, Pergamum and Thyatira – both positive and negative points are discussed.


·     first heavenly vision: God on His throne in heaven

 In the first heavenly vision (4 [4]) we see God sitting on His throne with a rainbow around it. On 24 thrones around it sit 24 elders wearing white clothes and golden crowns. And furthermore, there are four beast sitting in front of and around the throne of God. These beasts refer to Ezekiel, which shows that these beast are cherubim [5]. In this heavenly vision, John already sees the victors in heaven as a sign of hope, before he sees in visions the disasters that will break out on earth.

Thus the Revelation to John begins with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God.


Disasters and persecutions

·     second heavenly vision

 This part begins with the second heavenly vision (5). John sees in the hand of God who sits on the throne a scroll written inside and out. The scroll is sealed with seven seals. The contents of this scroll become clear from what follows. It includes the history as it is revealed at the opening of the seven seals. The book of Daniel indicates that the things that will happen at the end of history are sealed until the end times [6]. The breaking open of the seals in the Revelation to John indicates that the end time has now arrived. The One Worthy to open the scroll is Jesus Christ, who is described by three indications. First of all, He is the lion of the tribe of Judah. This refers to the prophecy of the Messiah spoken by Jacob at the end of his life [7]. Then He is called the Root of David. This expression appears repeatedly in the Old Testament to refer to the Messiah [8]. Then John sees a Lamb as slain. This expression comes from Isaiah and Jeremiah, and is the third indication in this chapter of the Messiah [9]. The Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes. The latter refers to Zechariah's fifth vision in which Zechariah sees a lampstand with seven lamps and two olive trees [10]. The Lamb [11] is worshiped by the four beasts and the 24 elders, each of whom has a golden bowl with the prayers of the saints: the prayers for the coming of the Messiah, and the settlement with the enemies of Jesus Christ. The meaning of this vision is that Jesus Christ has initiated a new phase in history through His work of salvation.

·     first four seals, four horses

After the heavenly vision come the first four seals with the four horses (6:1-8 [12]). The background of the image of the four horses forms Zechariah's eighth (and final) vision [13]. In a vision Zechariah sees four chariots. In front of the first chariot were red (chestnut) horses, in front of the second black, in front of the third white and in front of the fourth horses whose color is not mentioned [14]. These chariots go out to the four winds, that is, over the entire earth. The meaning is that God will come with His judgment on the North Country (Babylon), as a result of which the time of peace returns for the people in exile, and they can return to Jerusalem [15]. The first three horses announce disasters that parallel Matthew 24: wars and rumors of wars (white horse), nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom (red horse) and famines will come (black horse). These disasters are called the beginning of woes by Jesus Christ [16].

·     fifth and sixth seals

Then follow the fifth and sixth seals (6:9-17). The fifth seal shows what Jesus Christ predicts in Matthew 24: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake” [17]. John sees the souls of the martyrs under the altar of burnt offering [18]. The souls cry for revenge on the enemies. They are told that the number of martyrs must first be filled before God will take revenge on their enemies. The sixth seal is accompanied by images that point to disasters, especially against the enemies of God. We read that the sun becomes black as sackcloth and the moon as blood. This is a reference to, among other things, the prophecy of Joel, which is quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost [19] . This text is about God dealing with His enemies [20].



         ·  the sealed of Israel

         ·  the multitude of all nations in heaven

The story is now interrupted by two visions about the sealed ones from Israel (7:1-8) and the crowd in heaven (7:9-17).
The vision of the sealed (7:1-8) shows how believers receive special protection during the Great Tribulation (parallel to Matthew 24 [21] and Daniel 12 [22]). The sealing has a parallel in Ezekiel. Ezekiel sees in a vision how God orders five (or six) men to kill the inhabitants of Jerusalem, starting at the temple. However, ahead of them goes a man dressed in linen with a writing case at his side who is instructed to make a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations committed in the temple [23]. Those who receive the mark on the forehead are not to be killed [24]. The 144,000 sealed indicate that there will be Jews from all tribes of Israel who will come to faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah. The list of tribes is remarkable. The tribe Dan is missing. Furthermore, the tribe of Manasseh stands next to the tribe of Joseph. One would expect that to bring the number of tribes to twelve, Joseph would be replaced by his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In the Old Testament, the lists either mention Joseph or - if the tribe of Levi is not mentioned because of its special position - both his sons, but never a combination of Joseph and one of his sons. Dan is not missing from any of the Old Testament lists. Perhaps the history from Judges 17 and 18 plays a role here. This passage shows that in the time of the Judges the tribe of Dan did not yet have an inheritance. Furthermore, it appears that this tribe behaved very wickedly. The apocryphal book of the Testament of Dan even states that Satan is the prince of the tribe [25]. And there was an ancient tradition that the Antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan. Ephraim was also known as a very wicked tribe. The name Ephraim is often used to refer to the entire ten-tribe kingdom, especially by the prophets who reproach this kingdom for its sins. Perhaps these backgrounds play a role in the omission of Ephraim in this list in the Revelation to John.In the next vision (7:9-17), John sees in anticipation in heaven the crowd that has come out of the Great Tribulation. They are dressed in white clothes, as a sign of heavenly glory, but also as a sign of holiness. The palm branches are reminiscent of the Feast of Tabernacles. This is a reference to Zechariah 14 where the image of the Feast of Tabernacles is used to describe the end times [26].
Believers from Israel and believers from all nations are thus depicted in two images.


·     the seventh seal

 Finally, the seventh seal follows (Rev. 8:1-5), which makes it clear that the prayer of believers for the coming of Jesus Christ and judgment against God's enemies will be answered. The opening of the seventh seal is accompanied by a silence in heaven of about half an hour. We will read what happens during that half hour in the sequel. John sees seven angels standing before God. The seven angels are given seven trumpets, which will herald a new series of disasters.
To understand what follows we need to know something about the Old Testament incense offerings. They took coals from the altar of burnt offering (in the courtyard), brought the coals and spices to the golden altar of incense that stood in the temple before the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled the incense on the glowing fire. This was the priest's task [27]. The sacrifice was to be offered every morning and evening [28]. On the Day of Atonement the censer was brought into the Most Holy Place [29].
John sees an angel standing at the altar of burnt offering, with a censer. This angel is given incense with the prayers of the saints, to be given on the altar of incense before the throne. The incense is seen here as a symbol for the prayers of the saints, as in Revelation 5 [30]. The incense of the saints' prayers ascends before God. God will listen to these prayers. Then we read that the angel takes the censer and fills it with fire from the altar. The fire is then thrown onto the earth. This is an image for a targeted [31]. The result is thunder, voices, lightning and an earthquake. With these phenomena the silence comes to an end. The prayer of the faithful will ultimately mean judgment over the world. The description after the Great Tribulation, from Revelation 14, deals with this.


The Great Tribulation

Then follows the period of the Great Tribulation (8:6 – 13:18; see also Matthew 24 [32]). We know that these chapters deal with the Great Tribulation because of the references to the 3½ year period, which is also mentioned in the book of Daniel as the period of the Great Tribulation [33]. The transition from the period of disasters and persecutions to the Great Tribulation is not sharp in the Revelation to John. As we saw in the discussion of the seventh seal, the seven trumpets, as it were, arise from the seventh seal. Within the seven trumpets, the last three trumpets play a special role; they are referred to as the three woes, and form the 'culmination'. Thus we see the disasters and persecutions increasing in severity from the opening of the seven seals through the first four trumpets to the last three trumpets. Note also that the opening of the first four seals coincides with the beginning of the birth woes [34], and that the last three trumpets are described in Revelation as the three woes.

·     first four trumpets

 This section begins with the first four trumpets (8:6-13). The plagues described are very reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt [35]. These plagues had three backgrounds:

  • they aim to change Pharaoh's heart; what doesn't happen,
  • they are the prelude to liberation,
  • they show the greatness of God.

t is also striking that the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel resided, was excluded from the worst plagues in Egypt: gadflies (fourth plague), cattle plague (fifth plague), hail (seventh plague), darkness (ninth plague) and the death of the firstborn (tenth plague). The disasters at the seven trumpets have the same characteristics. At the sixth trumpet it becomes clear that the conversion of unbelievers is intended [36]. At the fifth trumpet the believers are exempt from disaster [37]. After the fourth trumpet, a vulture [38] then announces the last three plagues. This verse then forms a reference to Matthew 24: 'Where the carrion is, there the vultures will gather' [39]. In Matthew 24, this image means that just as carrion does not go unnoticed because vultures flock to it, so the return of Jesus Christ will not go unnoticed. The fact that this verse is referred to here in the Revelation to John indicates that the disasters described here are a sign of the approaching Second Coming of Jesus Christ.


·     first woe = fifth trumpet

Then follows the first woe/fifth trumpet (9:1-12). The angel opens the abyss, and locusts come out. The locusts that John sees do not harm the crops, but only the people. And then only to the unbelievers, because the sealed were not to be tormented.

·    second woe = sixth trumpet

The second woe consists of the sixth trumpet (9:13-21), the vision of the opened book (10) and the two witnesses (11:1-14).
At the sixth trumpet (9:13-21) John hears a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar of incense. We have seen in the seventh seal that on this altar the prayers of the saints are offered [40]. The voice that John hears will probably have been the voice of those saints. It is also possible to see the voice of the altar as the answer to the prayers of the saints. The blowing of the sixth trumpet is accompanied by the release of four angels at the Euphrates. The Euphrates was the border river of the Roman Empire, and the Romans always feared an invasion by the Parthians from across the Euphrates. This fact is taken into account here.


         · the opened book: preaching to all nations  

         ·  the two witnesses: preaching to the Jews

The vision of the opened book (10) proclaims God's reckoning with the enemies of His people Israel. John sees an angel with a book in his hand. He has to eat the book. When he eats it, it is sweet as honey in his mouth, and when he eats it, it is bitter in his stomach. This passage is very reminiscent of Ezekiel [41].
Ezekiel is instructed in a vision to eat a scroll. This scroll is written on the front and back with lamentations, sighs and wailing. Then when Ezekiel eats this scroll, it is sweet as honey in his mouth. Afterwards, Ezekiel is instructed to prophesy to the house of Israel. The meaning is clear. The message that Ezekiel has to bring to the exiles is bitter for the people of Israel, but the prophet himself will experience a certain joy in delivering the message.

John also has to deliver a message that is bitter. Yet there is also an important difference. Ezekiel had to deliver the message to the Israelites [42]. However, John is instructed to prophesy about “many nations and peoples and tongues and kings.” It is precisely through the clear reference to Ezekiel that we are made aware of this difference and the message becomes clear: God will fully fulfill the promise that He will again look after His people and deal with the nations that oppressed Israel. Many times the Old Testament prophets proclaimed that although God punished the Israelites through the exile, He will put an end to the exile and deal with the nations that took the people of Israel into exile [43].
The vision of the two witnesses (11:1-14) provides a picture of the testimony among the Jews; some of the Jews will come to faith and some will resist. John is instructed to measure the temple and the altar with a reed. The stretching of the measuring line is a sign of protection, as shown by parallels from Zechariah [44] and Ezekiel [45]. Protected are 'the temple of God and the altar and those who worship therein'. The most likely explanation is that John means special protection for Jews who believe in the Messiah [46]. The court is not measured, but given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city, which is Jerusalem, for 42 months, the period of the Great Tribulation. This comment refers to Luke [47]. There it is prophesied by Jesus Christ that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, which happened in 70 AD. actually happened. The two witnesses are instructed to prophesy for 1260 days, again the period of the Great Tribulation. This witnessing takes place in Jerusalem. This means that their testimony takes place among the Jews. Who are these two witnesses? Those are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks. This comment refers to the fifth face of Zechariah [48].In this vision, Zechariah sees a golden candlestick with seven lamps and two olive trees behind it. The two olive trees provide the oil for the lamps. The vision is a picture of the restoration of Israel. When Zechariah asks what these two olive trees mean, the answer is: “They are the two anointed ones who stand before the Lord of all the earth” [49]. Based on the Hebrew text, it is likely that this refers to a messianic king and high priest in the time of salvation.The two witnesses have great power over their enemies. The description shows that it concerns Elijah and Moses. These two individuals were considered the representatives of the Old Testament period of the Jewish people [50]. The Jews expected the return of Moses and Elijah before the end of the world. The background for this expectation is Malachi's prophecy about the coming of Elijah [51] and the promise of a prophet in Deuteronomy [52]. When they have finished their testimony, the beast from the abyss will kill them. Considering the comment that their testimony lasts 1260 days, which is the Great Tribulation period, this means that the two witnesses will be killed at the end of the Great Tribulation period. The beast that comes out of the abyss is a devilish kingdom [53]. Their corpse lies in Jerusalem, the city spiritually called Sodom and Egypt [54]. After three and a half days the two witnesses rise again. After a voice from heaven calls them, they ascend to heaven. Just like Moses and Elijah, these two witnesses do not die, but are taken up into heaven. Then a tenth of Jerusalem collapses due to an earthquake, and 7,000 people die. The rest of the inhabitants of Jerusalem turn to God; they give glory to the God of heaven. This points to the conversion of some of the Jews.
Now who are the two witnesses? It is clear that we should not think of two specific persons. The prophet promised to Moses has been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ, and Elijah who was to come has been fulfilled in John the Baptist. And the image from Zechariah of the king and the high priest refers to the Messiah who has come and will come again. The temple has been trodden down by the enemies. These events – the births of John and Jesus, the destruction of the temple – will not happen again in the same way that they have already happened [55]. They are images of the testimony of the Prophet and Elijah who has come and the Jewish people, part of which will listen to that message. So this vision tells something about the future of the Jewish people. The court of the temple will be trodden down by the Gentiles in the time of the Great Tribulation. The Jewish people will therefore be oppressed. On the other hand, God protects the temple itself and those who worship in it, an image for the Messianic Jews. In the same period will be witnessed to the Jews. At the end of that period, witnessing will be made impossible by a devilish regime. Given the name Sodom and Egypt for Jerusalem, there are many Jews who do not convert. On the other hand, it appears that there will still be many Jews who give glory to the God of heaven, who therefore come to believe in the Messiah.
Again two images next to each other: a message for the Gentiles and a message for the Jews.


·     third woe = seventh trumpet

The third woe consists of the seventh trumpet (11:15-19), the vision of the woman and the dragon (12:1-17) and the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth (12:18 – 13: 18[56]). The opening of the seventh seal was not accompanied by a disaster, but was an announcement of the seven trumpets that would follow. So now the blowing of the seventh trumpet is not accompanied by a disaster, but it is the announcement of the seven bowls that are yet to be emptied. This is done in three ways, namely by loud voices in heaven, by the 24 elders and by the appearance of the ark of the covenant in the temple. In Revelation 4 and 5, John sees God sitting on a throne in heaven. There is no mention of the temple yet. When opening the fifth seal, John sees the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the temple [57]. When opening the seventh seal, John sees an angel bringing incense from the altar of burnt offering to the golden altar of incense in the temple, before the Holy of Holies [58]. The golden altar is also mentioned at the blowing of the sixth trumpet [59]. Now the temple is opened and the Ark of the Covenant becomes visible. For example, in the Revelation to John we see how we step closer to the Ark from outside the temple. Only on the Day of Atonement was the high priest allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. God lived in the Holy of Holies, and no one was allowed to approach the ark. Now John sees the ark standing. The message is clear: the time is approaching when believers will be with God, because He has definitively accepted the kingship.



         ·  the woman and the dragon: protection of the Jews

         · the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth: sealing of believers from all nations

The vision of the woman and the dragon (12:1-17) shows God's protection of Israel. John sees a pregnant woman and a great dragon. The woman is clothed with a sun, has the moon under her feet and a wreath of 12 stars on her head. This woman is the mother of Jesus Christ. This does not mean Mary herself, but the people of Israel and the Gentiles who have been incorporated into that people. The second sign is a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. This refers to Daniel 7 [60]. In this vision of Daniel, it is this animal that represents the government during the Great Tribulation [61]. Then we read that the dragon wants to devour the Son of the woman, meaning Jesus Christ, as soon as he is born. The Son is suddenly caught up to heaven, while the woman flees to the desert where she is nourished for 1260 days, that is, the period of the Great Tribulation. In other words: God will sustain the church - apparently especially the Messianic Jews - during the Great Tribulation. Then it talks about a war in heaven after the woman gave birth to the Son and before the woman was taken into the wilderness during the Great Tribulation. The dragon is cast to the earth. Satan was cast down by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of the testimony of believers [62]. It is comforting to note how much the testimony of believers contributes to the establishment of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, even though it can mean death for believers. However, although Satan now has no power in heaven, he still has great power on earth. He knows he has little time. Then we read a more extensive version of what was described above. The dragon pursues the woman, who, however, gets two wings from the great eagle and then flies to the desert. In the Old Testament, the eagle's wings form an image of God's care for the people of Israel in the desert [63]. There it is maintained during the Great Tribulation. Then the snake (or dragon) tries to send a stream of water after the woman, but this attempt to kill the woman also fails. Although Satan no longer has power in heaven, he wages a battle against believers on earth.


The next vision shows the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth (12:18-13:18).

Some preliminary comments. There is a Jewish tradition about the two dragons, Leviathan and Behemoth. These two animals are described in the book of Job. At the end of this book, God humbles Job by pointing out creation. This answer from God to Job begins in Job 38 with the description of all kinds of natural phenomena, followed by the animals in Job 39. As a climax, this answer from God concludes with the description of the Behemoth [64] and the Leviathan [65]. The Statenvertaling has left the names of the animals untranslated, the NBG and the NBV translate these two names with respectively. hippopotamus and crocodile [66]. When we read the description, the animals are most reminiscent of prehistoric animals. In Jewish tradition, these two animals have become an image of devilish power. In these traditions the female Leviathan is the beast in the sea and the male Behemoth the beast on the earth [67]. We also find the tradition in Jewish works written at the same time as the Revelation to John [68], which speaks of the destruction of Behemoth and Leviathan by the Messiah. It is unmistakable that John is referring to this Jewish tradition regarding the Behemoth and the Leviathan.

In Matthew 24 it says about the period of the Great Tribulation:

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so that, if possible, they would deceive even the elected [69].

 It is also striking that the dragon, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth form an imitation of the divine trinity.
The beast from the sea has ten horns and seven heads, just like the dragon. The beast from the sea is an image of the false Christ and the beast from the earth is an image of the false prophet.
[70]. However, the beast does not have crowns on his heads, but names of blasphemy. The appearance of this beast is a combination of the four animals from Daniel 7: lion, bear, leopard and the animal with ten horns. In Daniel's vision, these animals represent the Babylonian Empire, the Medean Empire, the Persian Empire, and the Greek Empire. The beast from the sea is the gathering of these hostile empires. The dragon gives the beast his power, his throne and his great power [71]. Here we see how much the relationship between the dragon and the beast from the sea mimics the relationship between God and Jesus Christ. Then read how a deadly wound (literally: 'as slaughtered unto death') of this beast heals. We see here a reference to Jesus Christ's statement that the false Christs and false prophets will perform great signs and wonders. As a result, many worship the beast.
The beast gets a mouth that speaks blasphemies, with a reference to Daniel 7 where this is said of the fourth beast [72]. The beast's blasphemy lasts for 42 months, the period of the Great Tribulation [73]. The beast will make war against the believers and conquer them, as is also said of the fourth beast in Daniel 7 [74]. All unbelievers will worship the beast. Those who do not follow the beast may be captured or killed.
Then John sees a second beast coming up out of the earth. This beast is the false prophet; In the remainder of the Revelation to John, 'the beast and the false prophet' are mentioned several times when referring to the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth [75]. This beast has two horns. This may be a reference to Daniel 8 where the ram with two horns is an image for the kings of the Medes and the Persians [76]. The beast speaks like the dragon and causes the inhabitants of the earth to worship the beast from the sea. The imitation of the Divine Trinity is remarkable. This beast also performs great signs and thereby deceives people. In fact, the beast from the earth causes an image to be made of the image from the sea, and all who do not worship the image are killed. Following the sealing of the believers, the followers of the beast are also provided with a mark. Yet there is a difference. In the case of sealing the believers, we speak of a seal. This word is used in Romans for circumcision [77], and in much ancient Christian literature this word is used for baptism. The word translated mark (of the beast) in Revelation 13 literally means a cut or burned-in mark or stamp. In the Revelation to John, this mark leads to economic exclusion – not being able to buy or sell – for those who do not have the mark of the beast. The mark is the name of the beast or the number of his name, namely 666. The most likely explanation remains that this refers to Emperor Nero in Hebrew letters (QSR NRWN = 100 + 60 + 200 + 50 + 200 + 6 + 50 = 666).
The description of these last three trumpets, the three woes, repeatedly contains a reference to the Great Tribulation of 3½ years. The seven seals and the seven trumpets thus form a series of disasters that increase in intensity from the beginning of the birth pains (the first three horses) to the three birth pains that form the culmination of the Great Tribulation.


Christ comes

Then Christ comes back to earth. With this chapter we have arrived at a new part of the Revelation to John. Christ comes and deals with the enemies of His people.

·     the Lamb and the redeemed: the firstfruits of Israel

We see the Lamb and the 144,000 Jews converted on Mount Zion (14:1-5). The reference to the 144,000 sealed ones that John describes in Revelation 7 [78] is very clear. Zion here is a heavenly Zion. These believers from among the Jews have been purchased as firstfruits for God and the Lamb [79]. A rich fulfillment of the prophecies that indicate that many among the Jews will also come to recognize Jesus Christ.

 ·     the judgment announced

John sees an angel flying in heaven announcing judgment on all nations (14:6-20). A second angel sees in prophetic perspective that Babylon has already fallen. This is described further in the Revelation to John. The third angel proclaims judgment on those who have received the mark of the beast. Then John sees a white cloud with someone like a Son of Man on it [80]. There are three angels. The first angel comes out of the temple and ensures that the Son of Man in the cloud reaps the harvest on the earth. This mowing indicates that the final settlement is coming. The second angel also comes from the temple, with a sharp sickle. The third angel comes out of the altar. This refers to Revelation 8 where an angel fills the censer with fire and incense from the altar [81]. This incense is the prayers of all the saints. This third angel, who has power over fire, requests the second angel to harvest the grapes so that they can be trodden.

 ·     the seven bowls: God's wrath against His enemies

 John then sees seven angels with the seven last plagues (15 and 16). These seven last plagues serve to complete the wrath of God. The Greek word here translated 'wrath' is used in the Revelation to John for the wrath of the devil against the followers of the Lamb[82], and for the wrath of God against the followers of the beast [83]. In Revelation 12 ('Woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has a short time' [84]) and Revelation 14 ('...Babylon, that of the made all nations drink of the passion of his fornication' [85]) is about the wrath of the devil. When speaking of 'the wine of God's wrath' [86] or 'the winepress of the wrath of God' [87], and the seven bowls [88] it concerns the wrath of God against the followers of the beast. These last seven plagues are therefore emphatically directed against the enemies of the people of God. This distinguishes these plagues from the first two series of plagues, which must also have affected the faithful, although they were saved from the worst, as we have seen.
The harvest has been reaped, it has become clear who has persevered and who has not.
Then John sees the 'temple of the tent of testimony' open. We have already seen in Revelation 11 that the temple opened and the ark of the covenant became visible [89]. Now we see seven angels coming out of the temple. The angels each receive a golden bowl from one of the four animals. This refers to offering bowls that are used in the temple for libations. In Revelation 5 we saw that the four living creatures and the 24 elders have golden bowls full of incense - which are the prayers of the saints [90]. Now we see that those same bowls are filled with the wrath of God. The message is that the wrath of God is an answer to the prayers of the saints. Then a voice from the temple orders the seven bowls to be emptied onto the earth.

 There are both similarities and differences with the seven trumpets. Just like the plagues at the blowing of the seven trumpets, we also see disasters in the plagues at the emptying of the seven bowls that remind us of the plagues of Egypt. The difference is that the plagues are now clearly intended as an expression of God's wrath against His enemies. The plagues at the seven trumpets are still limited in scope [91]; the plagues at the seven bowls are universal [92].

The sixth plague needs a little more explanation. At the blowing of the sixth trumpet, as at the sixth bowl, there was mention of the River Euphrates [93]. In the sixth bowl, enemies come across the Euphrates River, an allusion to the Romans' fear of the Parthians. Here the Euphrates River has a completely different meaning. We read that the Euphrates River dries up, paving the way for the kings to come from the east. Here is a reference to Isaiah 11:
Then the Lord will utterly destroy the sea of ​​Egypt, and will shake His hand against the River Euphrates with the glow of His breath, and will break it into seven rivers, and make it seven streams. one can go shod thereby. Then there will be a highway for the remnant of His people who remain in Assyria, as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt” [94].

This speaks of the return of the exiles from the Babylonian captivity and from the Assyrian captivity. Out of the mouth of the dragon[95], of the beast[96], and of the false prophet[97] come three unclean spirits like frogs. These unclean spirits gather the kings of the whole world to war. In other words, some of the kings of the world will come to Jerusalem to worship God and bring back the exiles [98], some will gather together for war. This war will take place on the great day of Almighty God. That is the day when the final reckoning with the enemies of God will take place. It is not clear whether this is the war that leads to the victory of the beast and his prophet [99] or the war against Gog and Magog [100]. Finally, it is indicated that the nations are gathered at Armageddon. This should be read as Mount Megiddo (har = mountain in Hebrew [101]). Megiddo is the site of repeated wars against enemy armies [102].

Just as the opening of the seventh seal and the blowing of the seventh trumpet produced no disaster, so the emptying of the seventh bowl produces no disaster. A voice comes from the temple [103] of the throne, indicating that now the end has come. As with the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet, now there are lightnings, voices and thunders and an earthquake [104]. The earthquake is exceedingly great, and the great city, which is Babylon, collapses, as do the cities of the (enemy) nations. In Revelation 14 it was already said that God will make the followers of the beast drink of the wine of His wrath [105], now the same is said of Babylon. Judgment is pronounced on Babylon (and on the cities of the nations). The following chapters describe in detail how Babylon falls. It is clear that Babylon here symbolizes the enemy power, the followers of the beast. In addition, we must realize that Babylon has been a term of abuse for Rome among Christians [106]. The name Babylon also appears in Jewish literature as a nickname for Rome [107]. During the earthquake at the opening of the sixth seal, the mountains and the islands were already torn from their places [108], now they even disappear completely. And already at the sounding of the seventh trumpet there is heavy hail [109], but now there is a very great plague of hail.


·     the fall of Babylon

 After the emptying of the seventh bowl, a long passage follows in which the fall of Babylon is described and praised (17:1-19:5).

One of the seven angels who brought God's judgments on the earth by pouring out the seven bowls, shows John the judgment on the great whore. This great whore is Babylon. Then in the vision John is transported to the desert, where he sees the woman sitting on an animal. According to the description, this beast is the beast from the sea [110]. Then the angel John explains: 'the beast was, and is not, and will come up out of the bottomless pit'. This explanation refers to the Nero legend.
Nero, emperor from 54 to 68 AD. was the worst of the emperors. After a reign of 14 years, the Senate sentenced him to death. Nero flees Rome in panic on a horse with his face covered and dressed in a shirt and a pair of slippers. He hid in an abandoned country house that was completely overgrown with weeds. When he heard riders approaching he committed suicide. He had begged his slaves to burn him after his death so that his enemies could not behead him. Because few people could testify that Nero had indeed died in this way, a rumor arose among the people that he was not dead but had fled to the Parthians, from where he would return to take revenge on Rome, which had turned against him [ 111]. Several rulers claimed to be the returned Nero.

 All who do not follow the Lamb will be amazed at the beast. Revelation 13 speaks of the healing of a deadly wound through which the beast is worshiped [112], and of great signs through which the people of the earth are deceived [113]. Here people are amazed at the return of the beast. The seven heads of the beast are explained in two ways. The first explanation is that the seven heads are the seven mountains on which the woman sits. This unmistakably refers to the seven mountains on which Rome was built. The second explanation is that of the succession of the seven kings: five have fallen, one is still there and the other has not yet come. The beast itself is one of the seven, and is also the eighth. In this eighth king, who was one of the seven, we again see the reference to Emperor Nero, while the king (or emperor) who is still there must have been Emperor Domitian. We should probably view the number of kings mentioned here as simply a symbolic figure, and not an invitation to count the number of emperors who ruled the Roman Empire.

Then follows the explanation of the ten horns. In Daniel 7 the ten horns of the fourth beast are explained as ten kingdoms that were yet to come [114]. Here too the ten horns are ten kings who are yet to come. They will rule for only a short time, one hour. These kings will follow the beast and make war against the Lamb. However, the Lamb and His followers will overcome.

The destruction of Babylon is described in detail [115]. A voice from heaven warns not to have any part in Babylon, because judgment on her will now be accomplished. Those who do not leave will be affected by the disasters that will befall Babylon.


·    the victory of the Lamb:

  • the marriage of the Lamb
  • the coming of Jesus Christ
  • beast from the earth and beast from the sea overcome


The marriage of the Lamb has come (19:6-10). The new Jerusalem is ready and is about to be united to the Lamb. This bride is dressed in fine linen. These are the righteous acts of the saints. Those who are invited, the followers of the Lamb, are blessed.
John sees a white horse in heaven (19:11-16). On the horse sits One who is called Faithful and True, Jesus Christ. The armies of heaven follow Him on white horses in white robes. This refers to an army of angels.
Then the destruction of the enemies is announced (19:17-21). Then a war follows. This war has already been announced at the sixth bowl as the War of Armageddon [116]. On one side are the beast from the sea (the beast), the beast from the earth (the false prophet) and the kings of the earth, on the other side are Jesus Christ (Him who sat on the horse) and the army of angels. The angels are often depicted in the Bible as a fighting force [117]. The beast and the false prophet are seized. They are thrown alive into a lake of fire. The rest - the kings of the earth and their armies - were slain with the sword.
Here we see how, after Babylon has fallen, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth are also overcome. What remains is the dragon itself.


The earthly kingdom of Christ

·     the Millennium


The Revelation to John ends with a description of the 1,000-year earthly kingdom (20:1-6). An angel with the key to the abyss grabs the dragon (Satan) and locks him in the abyss. He is locked up there tightly, given the chain with the key. The dragon is held captive for a thousand years, after which it is released for a short time. Then John sees thrones. On the thrones sit people who have been martyred and come back to life. With the souls of the beheaded we can think of the souls that John had previously seen under the altar [118]. They reign with Christ for a thousand years. Judgment is given to them, it says. As will be explained later in this book, we must assume that with the martyrs – which is emphasized here – all other believers will also rise.
After the period of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan will be released. He will entice Gog and Magog to war. This text refers to Ezekiel [119]. This part of Ezekiel's prophecy predicts the victory over Gog in the land of Magog, the grand prince of Meshech and Tubal. Gog is not a human figure, but is a superhuman figure in this prophecy. In rabbinic literature, Gog and Magog are seen as names of peoples. It is striking that Ezekiel states that it is God who will bring Gog up against the land of Israel [120]; in fact, God will come for Gog [121]. God's purpose in doing so is the destruction of Gog, which is determined. The entire passage about the battle against Gog and Magog bears a very strong similarity to traditions found in rabbinic literature [122].
Gog and Magog advance and surround the camp of the saints and the beloved city, Jerusalem. War leads to the destruction of all enemies; they are destroyed by fire coming down from heaven. The devil is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. After the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth, Satan himself has now also been defeated. And with this, all enemy powers have come to an end.


·     the judgement

Finally, at the end of this part of the Revelation to John, the final judgment is described (20:7-15).

John sees God sitting on a large white throne. The dead rise and stand before the throne to be judged. Then books are opened [123]. We should think of books in which the works are described, after all it says that the dead were judged on the basis of what was written in the books, according to their works. In addition, there is a book of life. All who are written in that book will escape the lake of fire. It is the book of the Lamb, in which believers have been written since the foundation of the world.
The believers will escape the second death. The second death is eternal condemnation, described here as a lake of fire. The first death is the natural death to which all men are subject.


The eternal kingdom

Finally, the eternal kingdom follows (21:1-22:5). This is described with two images, namely the image of a new heaven and a new earth and the image of the new Jerusalem.


·     the new heaven and the new earth: God lives among the people of all nations

An extremely impressive passage describes the new heaven and the new earth (21:1-8). The holy city that John sees as part of this vision is a new Jerusalem coming as a bride from heaven. God himself will now live among the people. He will wipe away tears, there will be no more sorrow [124], there will be no more trouble [125]. In short: all things become new. The thirsty will get free from the spring of water. He who overcomes will inherit these things. That is a promise for all who persevere.


·     the new Jerusalem with the names of the 12 sons of Israel on the gates

John shows one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls Jerusalem (21:9-22:5). John sees the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven like a bride from a mountain. The radiance of the city was like that of a very precious stone. The city has twelve gates bearing the names of the tribes of Israel [126]. Furthermore, the city has twelve foundations, bearing the names of the twelve apostles. We read that the city is measured with a measuring rod, a sign of God's protection [127]. The city has a cube shape: the length, width and height are equal. This reminds us that the Holy of Holies, the part of the temple that housed the Ark of God, was also cuboid [128]. The walls are made of diamonds, and the city of gold clear as crystal. The twelve foundations appear to be decorated with twelve different types of gemstones. The twelve gates were each made of one pearl. There is no temple in the new Jerusalem. This is probably said in so many words because, based on John's quotes from Ezekiel, one might think that the new Jerusalem will also have a temple like Ezekiel sees in a vision.

The light of the sun and moon is no longer needed, for there will be no more night. The nations bring their glory to Jerusalem. Nothing unclean shall enter.
John sees water gushing out of the Lamb's throne [129]. There are trees on either side of the river [130]. They bear fruit every month. The leaves are for the healing of the nations. The servants of God and of the Lamb will worship Him. They will reign as kings forever and ever.



·     Closing


Then follows the conclusion (22:6-21).
The book ends with an admonition not to add or subtract anything from the book.
The last sentence of the book is the greeting that closed every letter in ancient times.

Bas Krins



[1] See: Bas Krins; Profetieën in vervulling - Uitleg van de Openbaring aan Johannes in het licht van de onvervulde profetieën van het Oude Testament; Barneveld, 2013

[2] See: Bas Krins; Onvervulde profetieën – Uitleg van de onvervulde profetieën van het Oude Testament in het ;licht van de aanhalingen in het Nieuwe Testament; Barneveld, 2015

[3] The structure of Rev. 1:9-20 parallels Dan.10:1-12.

[4] The structure of Openb. 4:1-8 has many parallels with Ez. 1:1-28

[5] Ez. 1:10

[6] Dan. 14:4,9

[7] Gen. 49:9-10

[8] Jer. 23:5; Jes. 11:1,10; Zach. 3:8, 6:12

[9] Jes. 53:7; Jer. 11:19

[10] Zach. 4:10

[11] In this vision, Jesus Christ is referred to as a lion and as a lamb. This has a deeper meaning: the first coming of Jesus Christ was about the lamb that was slain, the second coming will be about the lion who conquers.
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[12] In the translation the colors are mentioned white, reddish/fire red), black and pale/pale yellow. The color of the last horse is green according to the Greek text. The same word is found in Revelation 8:7 when it talks about the green grass. Based on certain extra-biblical Greek texts, one can defend the translation as 'pale', but there is good reason to believe that the fourth horse was really green. In ancient Greece, the colors white, black, red and green were considered the four basic colors, and these are exactly the four colors of the horses of Revelation 6.

[13] Zach. 6:1-8

[14] Different translations mention mottled as a color; this is not stated in the Hebrew text but is stated in the Septuagint. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament commissioned by Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the third and second centuries BCE. is made.

[15] In Zach. 1:7-17 the prophet sees reddish, red and white horses. (Some translations have "fox colored" instead of reddish, probably to indicate that the Hebrew uses two different words for "red"; the Septuagint mentions four kinds of horses, namely red, a color of which (we do not know the translation, spotted and white.) These horses have traversed the earth, 'and behold, the whole earth is at complete rest'. What is meant by this is explained below: God still leaves the enemies of the people of Israel alone. But a time will come when God will return in compassion to the house of Jerusalem.

[16] Mat. 24:6-7

[17] Mat. 24:9

[18] It does not actually say which altar is meant, but there are two reasons to assume that the altar of burnt offering is meant here. First, this altar had a hollow space, so we can imagine that something was inside it. Second, the altar of incense is described by John as the golden altar.

[19] Joel 2:31.

[20] See also Jes. 13:10; 24:23; Ez. 32:7; Amos 8:9

[21] Mat. 24:22

[22] Dan. 12:1

[23] Ez. 9:4.6; some translations reads that the angel with the writing case is one of the six angels with a weapon, other reads that the angel with the writing case is extra.

[24] In Ezekiel, the original text states that the sign is a 'tav', the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In ancient Hebrew this was written as an 'x'. We also encounter the 'tav' as a signature in Job 31:35.

[25] Testament of Dan 5:6

[26] Zach. 14:16

[27] Num. 16:40; 1 Kron. 6:49; 2 Kron. 13:11

[28] Ex. 30:7-8

[29] Lev. 16:12-13

[30] Rev. 5:8, with reference to Ps. 141:2.

[31] Ez. 10:2

[32] Mat. 24:15-22

[33] indicated with 42 months (Rev. 11:2 and 13:5), 1260 days (Rev. 11:3 and 12:6) en ‘time, times and a double time’ (Rev. 12:14)

[34] Mat. 24:8

[35] See also Ex. 15:26; Deut. 28:27; Lev. 27:60

[36] Rev. 9:20

[37] Rev. 9:4

[38] The Greek word used here for vulture can also mean eagle (as translated in the NIV), but probably a vulture is meant here given the reference to Mat. 24:28

[39] Mat. 24:28

[40] Rev. 8:3

[41] Ez. 2:9-3:3

[42] Ez. 2:3 en 3:2

[43] Jes. 51:22-23; Jer. 30:16; Ez. 36:7; Amos 1:2-2:16

[44] Zach. 1:16

[45] Ez. 40:3 e.v.

[46] See also Rev. 21:15. The fact that the same expression is used here in the description of the new Jerusalem confirms the statement that this is a designation of the Messianic Jews.

[47] Luc. 21:24

[48] Zach. 4:1-14

[49] Zach. 4:14

[50] This is also evident from the history of the transfiguration on the mountain, where Moses and Elijah appear (Mat. 17:1-13; Marc. 9:2-13; Luc. 9:28-36)

[51] Mal 4:5; compare Mat. 11:13-14 en Marc. 9:11-13

[52] Deut. 18:18

[53] Compare Dan. 7.

[54] Ez. 16:44-58 (see also Jes. 1:9; Jer. 23:14).

[55] There are interpreters who, based on this vision, argue that there must be a temple during the Great Tribulation, and that this therefore means that the temple will be rebuilt. In my opinion, this explanation is incorrect.

[56] See also Mat. 24:24

[57] Rev. 6:9-11

[58] Rev. 8:3-5

[59] Rev. 9:13

[60] Dan. 7:7,24

[61] Dan. 7:25

[62] Compare. Luc. 10:18!

[63] Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:11-12

[64] Job 40:10-19

[65] Job 40:20-41:25

[66] The same word translated “crocodile” in Job 40 is translated “Leviathan” elsewhere in both the NKJV and NBV: Job 3:8, Psalm 74:14 and 104:26, Isa. 27:1.

[67] 1 Enoch 60:7-9,24

[68] 4 Ezra 6:49-52 and 2 Baruch 29:4

[69] Mat. 24:24, Marc. 13:22

[70] Openb. 12:3

[71] Dan. 7:6

[72] Dan. 7:8,11,20; see also Dan. 8:11; 11:36

[73] Dan. 7:25; 8:14

[74] Dan. 7:21

[75] Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10

[76] Dan. 8:3,20

[77] Rom. 4:11

[78] Rev. 7:1-8

[79] There is a striking similarity with Hebrews 12:12ff: 'But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (...) and to a festive and solemn assembly of the firstborn, who are registered are in heaven (...)' . Here we also speak of both Mount Zion and the firstborn. And in all probability also in the Hebrews the firstborn are referred to the Messianic Jews, to whom the letter to the Hebrews was addressed.

[80] Mat. 24:30; see also Dan. 7:13

[81] Rev. 8:5

[82] Rev. 12:12; 14:8: 18:3

[83] Rev. 14:10,19; 15:1,7: 16:1,19; 19:15

[84] Rev. 12:12

[85] Rev. 14:8; see also Rev. 18:3.

[86] Rev. 14:10; 16:19

[87] Rev. 14:20; 19:15

[88] Rev. 15:1,7; 16:1

[89] Rev. 11:19

[90] Rev. 5:8

[91]In Rev. 8:7-12 contains the term 'third part' twelve times.

[92] See e.g. Rev. 16:3: 'all living creatures'.

[93] Rev. 9:14

[94] Jes. 11:15-16

[95] See Rev. 12

[96] Beast from the sea: Rev. 13:1-10.

[97] Beast from tthe earth: Rev. 13:11-18.

[98] Rev. 16:12, as a result of Jes. 11 and Jes. 60.

[99] Rev. 19:17-21

[100] Rev. 20:8-9

[101] Megiddo is not located on a mountain but in a valley. The mention of a mountain is based on Ezekiel Ez. 38:8,21; 39:2,4

[102] Richt. 5:19; 2 Kon. 9:27; 23:29; 2 Kron. 35:22-25; Zach. 12:11

[103] Jes. 66:6

[104] Rev. 8:5; 11:19

[105] Rev. 14:10

[106] See e.g. 1 Petr. 5:13

[107] 2 Baruch 67:7; Sibillijnse Orakelen 5:143,159

[108] Rev. 6:12-14

[109] Rev. 11:19

[110] Rev. 13:1 ev.

[111] Sibillijnse Orakelen 4:119-122,137-139; 5:28-34

[112] Rev. 13:3

[113] Rev. 13:13

[114] Dan. 7:20,24

[115]The description has strong similarities with Ez. 26 and 27

[116] Rev. 16:16

[117] See for example 2 Kings. 6:17.

[118] Rev. 6:9

[119] Ez. 38:1-39:16

[120] Ez. 38:16,17

[121] Ez. 39:2

[122] See also Sibillijnse Orakelen 3:319,512.

[123 As well as in in Dan. 7:10.

[124] Jes. 35:10, 51:11

[125] Jes. 65:17,19

[126] See Ez. 48:31-35

[127] See Ez. 40:3 and Zach. 1:16. See also Rev. 11:1.

[128] 1 Kon. 6:20

[129] Ez. 47:1

[130] Ez. 47:12