Outlines on the Book of Revelation

The Bible Outlines for the coming year have been supplied by Rev. Herman Hoeksema. These outlines were written in 1944, and distributed by Rev. Hoeksema to his congregation in connection with a series of sermons he preached on Revelation.

Theses outlines are more concise than those now appearing in The Standard Bearer and thus leave more room for societal discussion. The series in The Standard Bearer will certainly make excellent reference material if more information on certain passages is sought.

LESSON I (Revelation 1:1-3): The Superscription

  1. These verses inform us: a. About the character and the contents of the book of Revelation; b. About the way in which this revelation was given to us; c. About the blessedness of receiving this revelation and keeping it.
  2. Vs. 1: “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word revelation (apokalupsis) signifies the act of exposing, laying bare, uncovering that which is hid from view. Scriptural revelation exposes the mysteries of the kingdom of God. These are things “which eye hath not seen and ear hath not heard, neither have arisen in the heart of man”. The phrase “revelation of Jesus Christ” may mean: (1) The revelation of which Christ is the author, or (2) The revelation of which Christ is the object, that reveals Christ. The first is the common interpretation. We prefer the second. Grounds: (1) This is the meaning of the phrase in other parts of the Bible; I Cor. 1:7; II Thess. 1:7; I Peter 1:7. For similar phrases see Rom. 2:5 (the revelation of the righteous judgment of God); Rom. 8:19 (the manifestation or revelation of the sons of God). (2) Not Christ, but God is the Author of all revelation; this is even the case here: God gave it to Christ. (3) In the book of Revelation we do, indeed, have a revelation of Christ as He is coming throughout this dispensation; through the things that “must shortly come to pass;” in His final advent in glory.

Note: For a correct interpretation of the book of Revelation it is of the highest importance that we bear constantly in mind that the book means to be a revelation of Jesus Christ. It does not purpose to satisfy our curiosity by making us know beforehand just what will happen in this world; but it would have us view all things in the light of the coming of Christ; in the light of the revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

The article “the” does not occur with “revelation” in the original. This does not make the phrase indefinite, however, so that it should be translated: “a revelation of Jesus Christ”. “The revelation of Jesus Christ” is correct (Robinson’s Grammar, pp. 780, 793).

“Which God gave unto Him”. God is the Author of all revelation. Even Christ as Mediator, in His human nature, receives it from Him. With Him this receiving of God’s revelation is direct and immediate by virtue of the personal union of His human nature with the divine. See also John 5:19, 20; 7:16; 8:28.

“To shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass”. This denotes the purpose for which this revelation was given to Christ. “His servants” are here Christ’s servants, and refers to all the saints in general, I Peter 2:16; Rev. 2:20; 7:3; 19:2; 22:3. “Shortly” means quickly. The things must come to pass, because they are determined by God’s counsel. Their end, therefore, is the glorious kingdom of our Lord. This cannot fail.

“And he sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John”. Angels are often the media of revelation: Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19; Rev. 22:6. The word “signified like “to shew” refers to the form in which this revelation was given, the form of signs, visions. Who John is we are not told. Some believe that is was the apostle; others deny this. Again, some believe that this book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem; others that it was written about 95 A.D. We believe the latter, and that it was the apostle John who wrote it. We do not consider the question important.

Vs. 2: This may refer to the office and work of John as an apostle, in general. Better it is to understand it as referring to the “word of God” and the “testimony of Jesus” in this book. The things “he saw” are the things that were shown him. Of these John bare record by writing what he saw. When he wrote this book cannot be determined.

V. 3: “He that readeth (singular) refers to the public reader in the church; “they that hear” (plural) to the listening congregation. To keep is not merely to keep “in heart”; but also to obey. The blessedness is ultimately that of the kingdom of glory; but it also refers to the blessedness of the comfort of hope in this present time for those that in the midst of the tribulation of this present time hear and keep the words of this prophecy.

LESSON II (Revelation 1:4-8): Dedication and Greeting

  1. In this section we have: I. A salutation or blessing vss. 4, 5a.
  2. A doxology to Christ. Vss. 5b, 6:3. A solemn assurance of Christ’s coming. Vss. 7, 8.

II. Vss. 4, 5a. a. The book is addressed to the “seven churches that are in Asia”. More about these later.

  1. The contents of the blessing: “grace and peace”: a. Grace is the source and implication of all spiritual blessings, also of peace. b. Peace is peace with God in Christ and, therefore, with all things in the midst of this present world of trouble and tribulation.
  2. The Author of the blessing: a. “Him who is and who was and who is to com”. See also vs. 8. (1) Refers to the Triune God. (2) Reference seems to be to the name Jehovah: (a) He Is. This stands on the foreground, meaning: The Uncaused, Self-existent, Eternal, Immutable One. (b) He was and is coming: as God Revealed and, therefore, with relation to the world and its history, He was (in creation, in Christ) and is coming until that revelation shall be complete in the eternal kingdom and covenant. God is coming! Always coming until He shall be with us forever in His tabernacle. He is coming in Christ, the One that Is and Was, and Whose promises shall never fail! B. The seven Spirits that are before His throne: (1) The Holy Spirit (grace and peace come from Him). (2) However, as the Spirit of Christ, sent into the church (before, not on the throne; seven churches, seven candlesticks), and in His sevenfold fullness of covenant-grace. C. Jesus Christ, the anointed Saviour, Who is: (1) The faithful witness. He is such in general according to His prophetic office, bearing testimony to the truth of God; He is this still as He was such when He was on earth; He is such with a view to the contents of this book. Faithful, because nothing can persuade Him to speak less or more than what He receives of the Father. (2) The first begotten of the dead. Not only is He the first who arose from death into life (all other resurrections were from death into death); but He opened the womb of death, preparing the way for all His brethren. (3) Prince of the kings of the earth. The kings of the earth are especially the powers of the world that themselves against Him and His cause. Christ rules over them by His power, so that they can only serve His purpose.

Note. Not three sources or authors of grace and peace are meant, but only one source: God, through Christ, in the Spirit. Note, too, that the terms of this benediction are purposely chosen in harmony with the contents of the book. Nothing can prevent “the revelation of Jesus Christ”!

III. Vss. 5,b, 6. A doxology or ascription of praise by the Church (“us”):

  1. To Christ: (1) Who loved (R. V. “loveth”) us, a love that is supremely manifested in His death on the cross. (2) Who washed (or “loosed”, R. V.) us from our sins in His own blood. His death is atoning. He himself applies this atoning death to us through faith, so that we are delivered from both the guilt and the dominion of sin. (3) Who made us to be kings (or: a kingdom, R. V.) and priests unto God and His Father (better: unto His God and Father, R. V.). Believers are a royal priesthood, or a priestly kingdom, consecrated to God. The priesthood (consecration, service) cannot be separated from the kingship (rule over all things). The Servant of the lord alone must be king under God!
  2. The Church ascribes glory and dominion forever, i.e. confesses that He is glorious, that He has dominion, that this will be forever.

IV . Vss 7, 8. A solemn assurance of His coming:

  1. Solemn: “Behold”; and “even so, Amen” (it shall sure be!).
  2. He will come: a. For judgment (with the clouds, symbol of judgment.) b. Visible to all, friend and foe (every eye, they that pierced Him, first of all the hostile Jews, but also they that “crucified Him afresh”; and all the tribes of the earth). C. And they shall mourn “towards” Him, i.e. all the hostile world, not in repentance, but in terror.
  3. Corroborated by God, vs. 8: a. The Alpha and Omega (first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), out of Whom and unto Whom are all things, b. And Who is the Almighty as well as the Eternal. He never fails!

LESSON III (Revelation 1:9-20): The Vision of the Candlesticks

How entirely proper that the first vision of this “Revelation of Jesus Christ” should be this vision of The Glorified Christ in the midst of the Golden Candlesticks! Note that it contains the following elements:

  1. A description of the circumstances under which the vision was received; vs. 9, 10a. John writes of himself, vs. 9: (1) That he is a brother (in Christ, born lie all the brethren from above) and companion (one that has fellowship of the believers. This fellowship is described as three fold; they share alike the tribulation, the kingdom, and the patience of Jesus Christ (R. V. in Jesus). Not here (a) That the Church is presented as in tribulation. (b) That all three: tribulation, kingdom, patience, are fundamentally Christ’s. All are the believer’s only in Christ. (c) That kingdom is placed between tribulation and patience. For the sake of the kingdom believers suffer tribulation; and in the hope of the kingdom they can be patient. (2) That he was on the isle called Patmos, (a small, rocky island, not far from the coast of Asia Minor) for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, i.e. (a) Not to preach it; (b) Nor to receive this revelation; (c) But because he had been a faithful witness. Banishment, persecution, perhaps, under Domitian. (3) That he was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is here the day of the Lord’s resurrection, the first day of the week. “In the spirit” means in a state of spiritual ecstacy, necessary to receive visions.
  2. A commission to John to write; vss. 10b, 11, 19: The commission comes to John by “a great voice, as of a trumpet”, strong and clear, which John heard behind him, and which introduces the speaker as “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”. For the meaning of this last expression see under vs. 8. Here, however, Christ is thus designated, while in vs. 8 it was God. See also Col. 1:15-20. And the commission is: (1) vs. 11. That he must write in a book what he sees, i.e. not only this vision but also subsequent ones. (2) This is further defined in vs. 19 as “the things which thou hast seen” (this vision); “the things which are” (not merely the letters to the seven churches, but all present things); and “the things which shall be hereafter” (i.e. from John’s time till the end). (3) That he must send the book to the seven churches in Asia. Concerning these churches we note; (a) That they were actually existing churches in Asia Minor. (b) That they are mentioned here according to their geographical order: from Ephesus north to Pergamum, thence south to Laodicea. (c) That there were other churches in Asia, but these are mentioned because seven denotes the fullness of God’s covenant, and the conditions of these churches were such that they could best represent the church of all ages.
  3. A description of Christ in the midst of the candlesticks, vss. 12-16. Vs. 12: “to see the voice” is to see the speaker. The candlesticks are seen first. They are (1) The seven churches of Asia; of all time, the Church in its fullness. See vs. 20. (2) Symbolic representation of the Church s bearing the light of life in Christ. Christ is in the midst of them; without Him they are nothing. (3) Not in one line, but in a circle (church universal, not one nation); and not connected: their union is spiritual in Christ. Then the glorified Christ is seen as follows: (1) “One like unto the Son of man”, i.e. Christ according to His human nature as He is ordained to inherit the Messianic glory. See Dan. 7:13. (2) His long robe, vs. 13, is the priestly robe. The girdle is there, but the robe is not girded up, hangs down to the foot. The priest is ready for service, but not for sacrifice, it is finished. (3) White hair. Like the Ancient of days in Dan. 7:9. Divinity, eternity, vs. 14. (4) Flaming eyes, penetration, judgment, holy wrath, vs. 14. (5) His feet like white, burning, fiery brass: ready to tread down the enemies, vs. 15. (6) His voice like the sound of many waters: power and majesty, vs. 15. (7) Starts in His right hand: the pastors, see vs. 20. (8) Two-edged sword from His mouth, His might Word, judgment. (9) Countenance like the sun, glory and majesty, vs. 16.
  4. A word of comfort, vss. 17, 18: (1) John is terrified by so much glory and majesty. (2) But Christ lays His right hand upon the prostrate form and comforts him and us. There is no reason to fear (a) He is the first and last (vss. 8, 11); (b) The one that lived through death, lives forever. (c) Has power (keys) over hell, Hades, the abode of the dead; and over Death itself. Fear not!

Originally Published in:

Vol. 19 No. 8 December 1959