The Book of Revelation contained a timely message for a dispersed and persecuted people in captivity. It was to Jesus that God revealed His secret, and in a covert language, through an angel, to his servant John Zebedee. John, himself, was in the Spirit when he received the news that the Risen and Glorified Christ was getting ready to return to earth and set things right for the people of God. In what shape and form would the King of the universe reign on earth? Would the spirits of the dead, who are in heaven, assume human bodies like their King did on His first visit to earth? Revelation agrees with the Gospels that Christ, on His return, would be visible to the people on earth (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26-27; 14:62; Revelation 1:7).
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea” (Revelation 1:1-11).
THE RETURN OF CHRIST BECAME THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE PERSECUTED EXILES
The visible reappearance of Christ and a host of angels would be a far greater miracle than the virgin-birth of the Son of God, who became a human being (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1-18). In the Resurrection, Jesus made Himself visible to over five hundred believers (I Corinthians 15:6). While Christ’s body rested in the grave, His Spirit appeared to the spirits in Prison and Sheol or Paradise (I Peter 3:19). At the same time, many of the dead had their spirits assume visible appearances (Matthew 27:52-53). Jesus, Himself, told some skeptics that the “Risen Beings” in heaven would be like angels or spirits (Matthew 22:29-32). At the same time, Jesus cautioned against underestimating the “Power of God,” with whom the impossible is possible (Mark 10:27). The spirit-filled Apostle Paul gave his version, but he could not tell what kind of body God would give man in the Resurrection, except that they would know one another. It was similar to what Jesus said in the parable of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” The rich man from hell recognized Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Jesus claimed that before He came into the world, Abraham saw Him and rejoiced (John 8:52-59).
Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are nor raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If in this life we who are in Christ have only hope, we are of all men most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:12-19).
But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of a body do they come? You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is a like, butter is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown in perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is wosn in a physical body it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”’ the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (I Corinthians 15:35-50).
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:12-18).
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sight with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body (II Corinthians 5:1-10).
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him (Jesus) those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’ s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
THE DISCLOSURE OF JESUS RETURN TO JOHN ZEBEDEE COINCIDED WITH PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES
Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, held that those who believed in Jesus the Christ, were asleep and not dead and that they would awake and come back with Jesus to pick up all who would still be in their bodies. These alive believers would instantly be changed and be frever with the Lord. In essence, it was what Jesus had taught. The dead girl was asleep (Mark 5:39), so was the widow’s son from Nain (Luke 7:11-15). Lazarus’ body was dead; however Lazarus’ spirit was not dead. Therefore, Lazarus’ spirit heard Jesus the Lord clearly when He commanded Lazarus to re-enter his body (John 11:43-44). All the believers, who are asleep and alive, can and will hear Christ’s voice and live with Him in eternity.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that ll may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:19-29).
The Holy Spirit revealed to John Zebedee how things would turn out to the advantage of the followers of Christ. The people who die for Jesus Christ go directly to heaven, and they would return with Christ to reign on earth for one thousand years. And those who die in the Lord, without being persecuted, go to Paradise and rest until Judgement Day, when everyone shall give an account of their deeds while they were alive in their bodies on earth (Revelation 14:13; 20:11-15). Men like the apostle Peter, James Zebedee, Stephen, Paul, and all those who were killed for their faith, their spirits went directly to God and to heaven. The patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were already there waiting for their offspring (Matthew 8:5-12). Outsiders would join the patriarch in the new kingdom, but not the offspring of the patriarchs.
He (Jesus) went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at tale in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:22-30).
When he (Jesus) opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been (Revelation 6:9-11).
At the time Revelation was disclosed to John, one hundred forty-four thousand Jews and a great multitude of Gentiles would still be killed for their belief in Christ, before Christ appeared in the world a second time. And they too would be dressed in white robes and would hold palms in their hands and proclaim victory to God and the Lamb (Revelation 7:1-10).
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothes in white robes, and hence have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple; and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:10-17).
Then I saw thrones. And seated on them were those to whom judgment was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life again, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life again until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6).
Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).