The Time of the End
A Study About the Book of Revelation
Arlen L. Chitwood
The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1)
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things that must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,
who bore witness to the Word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3)
The title of this book, “The Time of the End,” is an expression taken from Daniel 8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9, referring, in this book, specifically to a future time that the Jewish people will pass through at the end of Man’s Day, immediately before and at the time when “the Sun of righteousness” arises “with healing in His wings” (cf. Daniel 12:1-13; Malachi 4:1, 2). This time is shown in the book of Daniel to encompass events during the last seven years of Man’s Day (the final seven years in Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy) and events at the time of Christ’s return that lead into the Messianic Era, the Lord’s Day (cf. Daniel 2:40-45; 7:7-14, 23-28; 8:9-14, 23-25; 9:24-27; 11:21-45).
The book of Revelation, paralleling the book of Daniel in this respect, deals centrally with events during this same future time, ending, as well, in the Messianic Era. The book of Revelation though deals not only with Israel (covering the same time and a number of the same events seen in parts of the book of Daniel [occurring during “the time of the end”]) but this book also includes God’s end-time dealings with the Church as well.
In this respect, matters surrounding the Church are introduced and dealt with first in the book of Revelation (chapters 1-4). And in the chronological sequence through which events in the book move, God deals with the Church first, for a revealed reason:
The bride must be removed from the body (which will occur following decisions and determinations at the judgment seat) prior to events surrounding two things: (1) the redemption of the inheritance, and (2) the bride becoming Christ’s wife (chapters 5-19). And these two events will occur simultaneously through God’s judgment upon the earth-dwellers (Israel and the nations, following the removal of the Church) during and at the conclusion of the final seven years of Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy (chapters 6-19).
(For additional information on the preceding — the redemption of the inheritance and the revealed bride [revealed at the judgment seat] becoming Christ’s wife — refer to the author’s book, Ruth, chapters 8-10.)
Then, at the end of the book of Revelation, matters are projected out into the ages beyond the Messianic Era (chapters 21, 22). Scripture has very little to say about that which occurred prior to Man’s Day, and it has very little to say about that which will occur following the Messianic Era. But Scripture does reveal enough about events that occurred preceding Man’s Day and events that will occur following the Messianic Era to allow man to piece the whole of the matter together.
God has revealed the necessary information that will allow man to know and understand why he was created in God’s image, after His likeness, at a particular time in history. And, by this revelation, man can know and understand why the fall occurred and why God provided redemption following the fall (which, as the reason for man’s creation, centers on regality — having to do with the government of the earth — to be realized during the seventh day, the seventh millennium, the Messianic Era).
And man can also know and understand that God has far-reaching plans for the individual created in His image, after His likeness. Man’s destiny beyond the Messianic Era, clearly revealed at the end of the book of Revelation, is to have a part in the government of the universe itself.
(For information on the government of the earth and the universe, past, present, and future — which includes angels and man — refer to the author’s book, The Most High Ruleth.)
The word “Revelation” (v. 1) is a translation of the Greek word apokalupsis, which means to “disclose,” “reveal,” “uncover.” And this word, along with its verb form (apokalupto), are together used forty-five times in the New Testament in passages such as Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3, 5; 1 Peter 1:7, 13; 4:13.
The book of Revelation, the Apokalupsis, the “Apocalypse,” is about a disclosure, an uncovering, an unveiling of that which the Father had previously given to and would accomplish through His Son (cf. John 3:34, 35; 5:20-22; 7:16; 8:28). And that which the Father had previously given to and would accomplish through His Son is seen in both Old and New Testament Scripture as “all things” (cf. Genesis 24:36; 25:5; John 16:15; Colossians 1:16-18; Hebrews 1:2-13).
Then, more directly, and in the words of the book itself, that which is being made known pertains to a revelation of the Son Himself. This book is an opening up of that which relates all that the Father has given to and would accomplish through the Son, revealed through a revelation of the Son Himself
And the revelation of the Son, according to this opening verse, is going to be accomplished through a specific, revealed means — through revealing “things which must shortly [Greek: tachos, ‘quickly,’ “speedily’] take place.” That is to say, once this revelation of the Son begins through an unfolding of future events, the revelation will occur in a quick or speedy fashion — actually over time covering little more than seven years.
(On the translation of tachos in the opening verse as “quickly” or “speedily,” refer to a cognate word, tachu, used seven times in this book, translated “quickly” each time [2:5, 16; 3:11; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20].)
According to John 1:1, 14, the incarnation was simply the Word (the Old Testament Scriptures) becoming flesh. There is the written Word (which is living [Hebrews 4:12]), and there is the living Word (which is the written Word, inseparably connected with the Father, made flesh).
The book of Revelation is thus an opening up of the Old Testament Scriptures through a Person, through the Word that became flesh. And the thought of an opening up of the Old Testament Scriptures extending to and including an opening up of the New Testament Scriptures as well is unnecessary, for there is nothing in the New that cannot be found, after some fashion, in the Old. If there were, there could not be the necessary corresponding completeness between the written Word and the living Word at a time before the New Testament even began to be penned.
The New Testament, at any point, of necessity, can only have to do with revelation that can be seen as having an Old Testament base. Revelation in the New Testament must bear the same inseparable connection with the Word made flesh as revelation in the Old Testament bears.
Thus, the existence of the Word made flesh preceding the existence of the New Testament clearly relates the truth of the matter concerning the content of the New Testament. The New can only be an opening up and revealing of that previously seen in the Old. To state or think otherwise is to connect the Word made flesh with one Testament and disconnect Him from the other — an impossibility.
In short, the Old Testament is complete in and of itself; the Word made flesh incorporates this same completeness, and the New Testament adds nothing per se to this completeness. Any supposed subsequent addition would be impossible, for this would be adding to that which God had already deemed complete through the incarnation, the Word being made flesh.
The preceding is why Christ, shortly after His resurrection, began at “Moses and all the prophets” (an expression covering the whole of the Old Testament) when He appeared to and began making Himself known to two disciples traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31). The living Word, using the written Word, began putting together different facets of a word picture pertaining to Himself. And He could have gone to any part of the Old Testament to accomplish the matter, for the whole of the Old Testament was about Him.
Through this means, those being addressed would be able to see one (the word picture) alongside the other (the Word made flesh). And, comparing the two, they would be able to come to an understanding of not only the identity of the One in their midst but an understanding of that which had occurred in Jerusalem during the past several days as well.
This is the manner in which God has put matters together in His Word, making Himself, His plans, and His purposes known to man. And this is why the Son — God manifest in the flesh, the Word made flesh — undertook matters after exactly the same fashion when making Himself, His plans, and His purposes known to two disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the day of His resurrection. Then the same thing is seen when He appeared to ten of the eleven remaining disciples (with Thomas absent) in Jerusalem a short time later (Luke 24:36-45; John 20:19-29).
And this is the manner in which the book of Revelation must be studied. Since it is an unveiling of the living Word, it is equally an unveiling of the inseparable Old Testament Scriptures. Thus, there is really only one way a person can come into a proper and correct understanding of the various things opened up and revealed in this book, which, of course, would be equally true of any other portion of Scripture.
(For a more comprehensive study of the preceding, refer to chapter 4, “The Word Made Flesh,” in the author’s book, Signs in John’s Gospel.)
1) Sent and Signified…
The word “signified” is a translation of the Greek word semaino, which is the verb form of the word for “sign” (semeion). The apostle John introduced, opened up, and developed matters in his gospel account through signs. And in the book of Revelation, matters are introduced, opened up, and developed in a similar manner.
God, throughout His revelation to man, shows an affinity for the use of types, numbers, signs, and metaphors to make Himself, His plans, and His purposes known. And this must be recognized; else man will find himself failing to go beyond the simple letter of Scripture (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6-4:6).
Man, for example, will find himself understanding biblical history but failing to understand the God-designed typical significance of that history. Or if numbers, signs, or metaphors are used — which they often are — he will fail to understand the God-designed significance of these as well.
At the very outset, God makes it clear that the book of Revelation has been structured in a particular manner, closely related to the manner in which John was led by the Spirit to structure his gospel.
The gospel of John was built around eight signs that Jesus had previously performed during His earthly ministry, and these signs were recorded and directed to the Jewish people during the time of the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel (which occurred between 33 AD and about 62 AD).
And the book of Revelation — dealing largely with the Jewish people once again (exclusively, along with God’s dealings with the nations through Israel, in chapters 6-19, covering time and events in Daniel’s Seventieth Week) — uses the verb form of the word for “sign” at the very outset in order to reveal the manner in which this book has been structured.
To understand how the word semaino, translated “signified,” is used introducing the book of Revelation, note how John uses this same word three times in his gospel, in John 12:33; 18:32; 21:19. The context leading into each verse provides an illustrative statement that allows that which is stated in the verse to be understood. Note the first of these three usages, within context:
And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.
This He said, signifying [from semaino] by what death He would die. (John 12:32, 33)
Aside from Revelation 1:1 and the three verses in John’s gospel, the only other usages of the word semaino in the New Testament are in Acts 11:28; 25:27. And the same thought is set forth by the use of the word in these two passages, though the illustrative statement is inferred in the first usage.
Thus, “signified,” a translation of semaino, has to do with making something known by a manner that carries the reader from a somewhat indirect means to a direct means, from an illustrative statement as a means of explaining a matter. And this is seen accomplished in the book of Revelation centrally by the use of numerous numbers and metaphors, though other illustrative means are used as well. And all illustrative means of this nature in the book are, they would have to be, in line with the meaning of the word semaino and the manner in which this word is used elsewhere in the New Testament.
2) Through His Angel to His Servant John
God’s use of angels and angelic ministry comprises another major facet of the book of Revelation, forming another key to coming to a proper understanding of the book. God uses angels in all facets of His activities as He governs a universe from a place that Scripture locates by direction and through the use of a superlative — “the uttermost parts of the north” (Isaiah 14:13, ASV).
This place is located at a northern-most point, north of the earth. And this place in relation to the earth would be located more specifically north of Jerusalem; and more specifically yet, this place would be located north of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; and even more specifically yet, this place would be located north of the brazen altar in the courtyard of the Temple located on the Temple Mount.
The brazen altar is where the sacrifices took place — “on the side of the altar northward before the Lord.” And sacrifices occurring at this brazen altar occupied center-stage in Scripture in exactly the same respect that Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary occupies center-stage in Scripture, for the former foreshadows the latter, with God requiring death and shed blood throughout (Leviticus 1:11; cf. Job 26:7; Psalm 75:6, 7; Hebrews 9:22).
(Note in this respect that the place Christ was crucified, outside the city [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12], would have had to be located directly north of the place where the brazen altar once stood — two unknown locations today [though the approximate, but not exact, location of the brazen altar on the Temple Mount could be known].
Regardless of claims, no one can go to Bethlehem or Jerusalem today and be directed to the exact places where Christ was born, died, or was buried and raised from the dead. There are traditional sites, but matters cannot move beyond tradition. And the reason for that would be evident.
First, man doesn’t need to go to these sites. The written Word, which provides all of the God-designed word pictures about the living Word, is complete and sufficient in and of itself; and, second, if man could go to and be assured that he was at one of these three locations, he would undoubtedly do exactly the same thing (and possibly more) that he has already done with the traditional sites, detracting from that which God deems important, that which is complete and sufficient in and of itself.)
All angels in God’s universal kingdom either rule provinces in the kingdom (e.g., the earth is one such province) or have some other type of connection with the rulership of the different provinces. That is to say, all activity of angels within the kingdom of God would have to be activity somehow connected with God’s universal rule within this kingdom.
In this respect, all angels would have some part in this rule, whether directly or indirectly. Some angels would rule as heads of state (ruling over provinces, as Satan presently rules over the earth); other angels would rule under these angels (as angels presently rule under Satan); others would hold positions as watchers and holy ones (as seen in Daniel 4); others would occupy positions surrounding God’s throne (as seen in Revelation 4, 5, 7); and others would comprise the armies of heaven (as seen in the camp of Israel in the Old Testament, or as seen among those who will accompany Christ when He returns to the earth [cf. 2 Kings 6:17; Matthew 24:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Revelation 19:14]).
Though God appeared in Moses’ presence and acted directly, God used angels when giving the Law (Acts 7:53; cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). And something very similar occurred when John “was on the island called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9b). The Son acted directly in the revelation of Himself to John, as the Father had previously acted directly in that which was made known to Moses at Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:3ff; Revelation 1:10ff).
But, though direct intervention occurred by both the Father and the Son at these different times, angelic ministry was also involved. And in both instances a kingdom was in view — the Old Testament theocracy and the theocracy yet to exist.
Blessed Is He . . .
The book of Revelation is the only book in Scripture containing a specific statement at the beginning of the book relative to blessings awaiting the one hearing, reading, and keeping the things stated in the book (v. 3). However, though this is the only book that opens with a statement of this nature, the same thing would have to be true of any portion of Scripture. Such a thought could not be confined to just the book of Revelation but would have to be true concerning Scripture as a whole, for the whole of Scripture presents one complete picture, by and through numerous word pictures, of all facets of the person and work of Jesus Christ. And one part cannot really be placed above another part in this respect. The book of Revelation simply cannot be separated in this manner from the whole of Scripture, for this book is about the whole of Scripture (cf. Psalm 12:6; 138:2; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
The book of Revelation brings all previous revelation together in an apex, with the “mystery of God” being brought to a completed state in this book (Revelation 10:7). And that would possibly account for this statement being found in the book of Revelation alone, though not really restricted in application to this book alone.
(Numerous things in the New Testament are referred to through the use of the word “mystery.” For example, there is the “mystery” of the kingdom [Mark 4:11; ‘mysteries’ in Matthew 13:11; Luke 8:10], the “mystery” of Israel’s blindness [Romans 11:25], the “mystery” of the rapture of the Church [1 Corinthians 15:51], the “mystery” revealed to Paul [Ephesians 3:3], the “mystery” of Christ [Ephesians 3:4], the “mystery” of Christ and the Church [Ephesians 5:32], the “mystery” of God [Colossians 2:2], the “mystery” of iniquity [2 Thessalonians 2:7], the “mystery” of the faith [1 Timothy 3:9], the “mystery” of godliness [1 Timothy 3:16], and the “mystery” of the woman and the beast [Revelation 17:7].
The word “mystery” is a translation [more of an Anglicized form] of the Greek word musterion. The word, as it is used in Scripture, has to do with that which cannot be explained by man, requiring an opening up by divine means. The word has to do with something revealed in the Old Testament, which is later more fully opened up and developed in the New Testament. Apart from divine revelation in the Old Testament, man couldn’t know about the mystery in the first place; then, apart from divine revelation in the New Testament, the mystery would not be opened up and further revealed.
In the preceding respect, a mystery, contrary to common teaching and thought in certain circles, cannot be something completely new, separate from and unknown in the Old Testament. The fallacy behind that type of reasoning has previously been discussed in this chapter. There is nothing in the New that is not in the Old; else, as previously stated, the Word made flesh before the New was penned would have to be separated from the New — an impossibility.)
The “mystery of God” in Revelation 10:7 — the revelation of God, which began with Genesis 1:1 — has, at this point in the book, been opened up and fully revealed through a revelation of the Son (Revelation 1:1ff; cf. Colossians 2:2, ASV, “. . . the mystery of God, even Christ”). And the completion of God’s revelation surrounding this mystery can occur at this mid-point in the book for the same reason that “the kingdom of the world” can become that “of our Lord, and of His Christ” in Revelation 11:15 (ASV), at this mid-point in the book as well.
In both instances (Revelation 10:7; 11:15) the seventh trumpet has sounded, signaling a completion of God’s judgments upon the earth-dwellers. And a completion of these judgments can be seen at this point in the book (depicted by both verses) because, as the seven trumpets form the judgments of the seventh seal of the seven-sealed scroll seen in chapters five, six, eight, and nine, the seven bowls (KJV: vials) of wrath about to be poured out are seen when the seventh trumpet sounds (Revelation 10:1-11; 15:1-16:17). Thus, these seven bowls, as well, form revealed judgments occurring when the seventh and last seal of the scroll is broken. They, as the seven trumpets, form the judgments of the seventh seal.
This is why, in chapter five, a search is made only for One who would be worthy to take the seven-sealed scroll from God’s right hand and open the seven seals, with nothing stated about a sounding of the seven trumpets or a pouring out of the seven bowls. Since the seven trumpets form the judgments of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1, 2), and the seven bowls are seen when the seventh trumpet sounds, the whole of God’s judgments in chapters six through eighteen are encompassed within the breaking of the seven seals of the scroll. Thus, the search in chapter five is only for One who would be worthy to take the scroll that God held in His right hand and to open the seals of this scroll.
(The structure of the book of Revelation in the preceding respect [e.g., how the end can be seen in the middle of the book, in chapters 10, 11b], along with the relationship of the trumpet and bowl judgments to one another, is dealt with at length in subsequent chapters in this book [particularly in Chapters 8-11 and 13-19, which deal with the seven-sealed scroll and the breaking of the seals on the scroll].)
It is within a book where everything is brought to an apex — where Old Testament Scripture concerning God, Israel, and Gentile world power during the Times of the Gentiles is opened up and fully revealed — that the Spirit, through John, began the book by calling attention to the blessings reserved for those reading, hearing, and keeping those things contained in the book.
The thought of reading and hearing would need no clarification, but the thought of keeping would. For example, how is a person to keep parts of the book relating to judgment, etc.? The word translated “keep,” tereo in the Greek text, does normally mean “to keep.” However, as in any language, context will often determine and govern different ways that a word is used and is to be understood. And such would be the case with tereo in Revelation 1:3.
The word, for example, is used in Matthew 23:3; 28:20 more in the sense of “observe,” as translated in the KJV and NASB. And the word, contextually, is used in a similar sense in Revelation 1:3 — “observe” or “give heed” (ref. NASB). In this apex of revelation, where Old Testament Scripture is opened up and revealed, blessings have been promised for those who read, hear, and observe or give heed to the things being made known to and recorded by John.
And the text goes on to provide a reason, stating, “for the time is near” (“at hand” in the KJV).
The expression “at hand” (KJV) is the same expression used in Matthew 3:2; 4:17 when John and Jesus announced the kingdom of the heavens as being “at hand.” The Messianic King was present in Israel’s midst, with an offer of the kingdom, contingent on the nation’s repentance. Thus, the announcement of the kingdom could be made in this manner.
And something very similar is seen in Revelation 1:3. The full revelation of the Son, from the Old Testament Scriptures, is about to occur. God will complete His dealing with both Israel and the Church during Man’s Day, bringing these dealings to a full end; and this will be for purposes having to do with the Messianic Era. Then God’s Son, with Israel and the Church occupying their proper positions in the kingdom, will take the scepter and reign.
Thus, the same expression, “at hand,” as seen when Christ was on earth the first time, with the kingdom in the offing at that time, could only aptly describe the circumstances, conditions, and time seen in this closing book in Scripture.