Three Keys to Unlock the Book of Revelation

Bible Book: Revelation  1
Subject: Prophecy; Jesus; Revelation


We begin today a wonderful journey. We shall undertake over the next few months to go on an expedition through the Book of Revelation. Our goal will be to live, serve, worship and witness better for our Lord by the time we have completed our study than we did before we began. We are not going to act foolishly in our look at this book. We shall not seek to explain the unexplainable or discern the indiscernible. Some people have made fools of themselves by trying to pull God down from heaven and study Him like one would study the innards of a frog in a biology class. God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor God's ways our ways. We are going to read from Revelation that which God has put in it for us, and we will not read into it anything additional. Let me share an example. During the 1940's someone sought to show that Hitler was the infamous 666 of the Book of Revelation. Noting that numerology (Numerology is the study of numbers and their significance in Scripture) was important, this individual devised a method for making Hitler's name fit the number of the horrible beast of Revelation 13:18. The theory went like this. If the letter "a" could be seen as represented by the number 100, and each subsequent letter in the alphabet was represented by the next number in sequence, you would have the following:

The letter "H"       107

The letter "I"         108

The letter "T"        119

The letter "L"        111

The letter "E"        104

The letter "R"        117


                    Total 666

Using this contrived methodology, the pseudo-mathematician and theologian proclaimed proudly that Hitler was without question the anti-Christ! Certainly we know now that this theory was concocted on a corrupt principle.

Stranger methods have been used to show that 666 is the number of Henry Kissinger, Richard  Nixon, Korbechev, and a host of other well-known personalities. Actually, no one knows or will know the name of the beast till it is too late to matter. We shall see today in our message the name of the beast and the anti-Christ is not really the concern of the Book of Revelation!

Some people shy away from Revelation because they say it just cannot be understood. If that is true, God has played a cruel trick on His church. He gave us this book, told us to hear and obey its words - why tell us that if we are not to spend time in it?

God did intend for us to study and apply this book, as we shall see in this very message from the book today.

Look at Revelation 22:10. Here we note that Revelation was not to be sealed but open for all to see. It can well be called an open book! Some people avoid the Book of Revelation because they become confused by the symbolic language. Actually, most of the figurative language of Revelation is very clear. Look at a couple examples with me.

First, look at Revelation 20:1-2a. Here we see the mention of a dragon. You and I know that there are no such things as dragons. Why is such a creature mentioned in the Bible? The dragon is used as a symbol of Satan. God explains that in our text. Just as Jesus is called the Door as a means of giving us an example of the nature of Christ, Satan is called a dragon to show us his nature. Sometimes the text itself will explain the image in Revelation.

Look at Revelation 1:20. You see in that verse how God gives you the meaning of a previously mentioned symbol. Now understand that a symbolic inscription does not preclude a literal interpretation. The illustration is used to make things clearer and not to muddy the water or make it more difficult for us to understand. Sometimes symbols in Revelation are understood by reading the Old Testament.

Look, for example, at Revelation 1:4b. Note the mention of the seven spirits before the throne. What, pray tell, does that mean? The seven spirits refers to the Holy Spirit. How do we know? Turn with me to Isaiah 11:2. In Isaiah 11:2 we see that the Spirit is:

  1. The Spirit of the Lord
  2. The Spirit of Wisdom
  3. The Spirit of Understanding
  4. The Spirit of Counsel
  5. The Spirit of Might
  6. The Spirit of Knowledge
  7. The Spirit of the Fear of the Lord

So God has revealed the meaning of many apparent mysteries in the Book of Revelation within the Old Testament. We will learn more of these in the days to come.

Right now let us turn our attention to three thoughts that should occupy the remainder of our time together this morning. I want you to take in hand three keys to open the door to understanding Revelation. A key is a most handy object. Not long ago I locked my keys in my car. I do not ever remember doing that before that day. It is a helpless feeling to be standing in a parking lot with the doors to your car locked and the keys lying in full view on the front seat seen through the window. A coat hanger came to the rescue and I was soon back in my car, keys in hand. We need to have three keys I am going to share with you in hand to make Revelation more accessible. You might coat-hanger your way through the Book of Revelation, but these keys will make the wisdom and blessing of Revelation much more attainable and effectual.

I. The Period Key

In Revelation 1:19 we read that John is instructed to write three things:

  1. What he has seen
  2. The things that are
  3. The things which shall be after these things.

This verse contains the key to understanding the periods of time or divisions of time found in Revelation.

First, the things John has seen refers to his immediate vision. He has seen a vision of seven golden lampstands, and a vision of God as described in verses 13 through 16. He is to write down this vision.

Second, he is to pen the things which are. John was living in The Church Age. The Book of Revelation was sent to seven churches. The churches were actual, existing churches at the time John inscribed the words in this book. The churches are more than literal churches, for they are also symbolical churches that shall exist during The Church Age (The Church Age refers to the time between the birth of the Church at Pentecost and the Return of Christ for His people). Thus, the "things which are" refer to The Church Age, the age in which you and I still live.

The things which shall occur after The Church Age is the third period. The words to describe the "things which shall occur after this" involve two Greek words: “meta tauta.” Look in chapter 4 and verse one. The chapter begins with words, "After this." There you have the exact words used in 1:19: meta tauta! Without question we come to chapter four in Revelation with The Church Age at an end. In fact, you never read of the Church on the earth again in the Book of Revelation until the end of the book. Where is the church at the time of the third period? In heaven! The church has been raptured by this time and has been taken into heaven. The events of chapters 4 and following occur in the third period. Thus, we have three periods of time:

A. Revelation, Chapter 1

Period One: John's immediate vision on the Lord's Day.

B. Revelation, Chapters 2-3

Period Two: The Church Age, from the birth of the church till the church is removed and taken to heaven by the Lord.

C. Revelation, Chapters 4-22

Period Three: The events that occur after the church is removed from the earth. Knowing the period of time in which you are reading helps you to understand the Book of Revelation. This is a key to understanding the content of this great book. Keep this principle in mind as we read and study.

II. The Promise Key

Secondly, you must understand the promise that is made in this book by the Lord. Look at verses 1-

3. God promises a blessing on all who read and apply the words of this book. Observe two important elements of the promise of blessing in Revelation.

A. To The Servants

Note something very important at this point. The words shared in Revelation are for God's servants. The word "servants" in this verse refers to "bond slaves." Bond slaves were slaves who had worked themselves into freedom, but willingly and happily asked to remain with their masters. They did not serve as slaves because they had to, but because they wanted to. So, there is a promised blessing here to faithful servants of Christ who read and apply the truths of this book.

B. To The Sinner

Look at the end of the Book of Revelation. Turn to chapter 22, verses 13-16. There is a promise of blessing to all who have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. The lost are told to come quickly to the Lord. There is even a promise here to the lost - come to Christ and be saved!

We have learned that Revelation is divided into three time sections. That is a vital key to unlocking the door of understanding in this book. We have learned that God intends to bless those who read and apply this book, and He will save those who will come to Him before the events of chapter four unfold! Every time you open Revelation you ought to ask God to teach you something which you can an will obey - for in the reading and obeying there is a special blessing promised.

III. The Person Key

We come now to the most important key to unlocking the full treasures of Revelation. Without this key, Revelation would be a mere compilation of conundrums, a mass of mystery. This key can be called the person key. The person of whom I speak is none other than our precious Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the theme of Revelation. He is at the nucleus of the book. This book is a Jesus book. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! That is the theme of Revelation.

Pastor Ray Stedman told of a little boy who was asked by his mother how his Sunday school class had gone that morning. The boy said, "Oh, we had a new teacher. Guess who she was."

"Who?" she asked? "

It was Jesus' grandmother," he informed her.

Amused, she asked, "What made you think that?"

The boy answered, "Well, all she did was show us pictures of Jesus and tell us stories about Him."

That youngster probably had loving, photo-toting grandparents. He saw that Jesus was all-important to his Sunday School teacher, so he concluded that she must be His grandmother. His logic may have been faulty, but his response makes a strong point. We talk most about what or who is most important to us.

Just look at Jesus in Revelation, chapter 1. The Revelation itself is said to come from and through Jesus! This is not the Revelation of John, it is the Revelation of Jesus. Note some important points about Jesus in this first chapter.

A. Representation vs. 5

Jesus is the Faithful Witness. What does that mean? Before the Father He witnesses for you. He takes a stand in your behalf. Just think of it, Jesus gives a witness to the Father for a sinner like me! Hallelujah, what a Savior! We must ask ourselves, what kind of witness are we for Him? He will take a stand for us! Don't you think we should take a stand for Him in this world?

B. Resurrection vs. 5

An agnostic professor once said to a little girl who believed in the Lord Jesus, "There have been many who have claimed to be Christ. How can you be sure who told the truth? Which one do you believe?" Without hesitation the youngster replied, "I believe in the One who rose from the dead!"

C. Redemption vs. 5

Next week we shall give this more attention, but suffice it to say that by His blood we have been redeemed! That is a great theme in the Book of Revelation!

D. Return vss. 7-8

The return of Christ can be viewed by believers in at least two ways. A. B. Simpson says, "There is a looking FOR it and a looking AT it. We may regard it with a keen intellectual interest and yet have it mean nothing to us personally. On the other hand, we may know little about the theology involved in the subject and still enjoy a deep longing for the Lord's appearing. Let me illustrate. When a wedding occurs, the public looks AT it, but the bride has been looking FOR it. May the theme of the return of Christ not only be our study but also our personal hope, for unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

An unknown poet has written:

"What would He find, should He come just now; A faded leaf or a fruitless bough;

A servant sleeping, an idle plow; What would He find should He come just now?

"What would He find should He come tonight, Your garment soiled or a spotless white; Your lamps all burning or with no light;

What would He find should He come tonight?"

E. Reign vs. 5

The great English preacher John Henry Jowett liked to tell about the time he attended the coronation of Edward VII. Westminster Abbey was filled with many dukes, duchesses, earls, princes, and princesses. Jowett said, "Much bowing and respect was shown as nobility of high rank entered the cathedral." When the king arrived, however, a hush came over the audience. Every eye was upon him, and no longer did the dignitaries of lower status receive the gaze and interest of the people.

Everyone's attention was fixed upon his or her royal leader.

1. He Rules Over The Earth

  1. He Rules Over The Church
  2. He Rules Over The Grave and Hell

One of Spurgeon's favorite stories was about a dying Welsh lady who was visited by her minister. Seeing her weakened condition, he bent over and whispered, "Sister, are you sinking?" She didn't reply, but looked at him as if she couldn't believe her ears. He repeated his question, "Sister, are you sinking?" With a supreme effort she raised herself a little and then said triumphantly, "Sinking? Oh, no! Did you ever know a sinner to sink through a Rock? If my hope was built on the shifting sands, I'd be greatly distressed; but thank God, Pastor, I'm resting my all upon the Rock of Ages!"

The theme of Revelation is the theme of the entire Bible - Jesus! Let us turn anew to Him today!