The Book of Revelation

Program # 1 

by: Ronald L. Dart

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass."

Thus begins the mysterious book of Revelation. Although why it should be a mystery is an open question. After all, the book is supposed to be a revelation. It's expressly given to show His disciples things which are soon to happen.

How would you feel if you got a letter from your friend who said, "I am going to reveal some things to you in this letter." Then you get through the letter and you really don't know what he's talking about.

Why is this book of Revelation so mysterious? There are reasons for it. One is that the book is 2000 years old. It's written in another language. It's out of a foreign culture. It is an account of another man's visions and dreams. When you think about all those things, why shouldn't we have some trouble with it, even though it was intended to be clear enough to the people who at first got the book.

Revelation presents interpretation problems because of its imagery. Most prophecy and I don't think many people really realize this, but when you go back and you page through Old Testament prophecy in your Bible, you won't realize unless you perhaps have one of the newer translations that lays it out in line form, that most of that prophecy is not prose, it is poetry, and it follows the rules of poetry in a sense, in that it uses poetic images.

In fact, one of the prophets in the old time, they brought this seer in before the king, and he said "We want to know and you have to prophesy for us." He said, "I can't prophesy because I have no musician." They had to go around the palace and get somebody to play an instrument so that this prophet could actually prophesy (2 Kings 3:15).

These prophecies were often sung, and so what this looked for, often times in prophecy, is the evocation of a feeling, of an emotion, a response in a person, rather than just a simple exposition. Well let's see, "In 1335 days, the city is going to collapse in a great earthquake, and telling people what is going to happen in the future."

What a prophet is doing, and to some extent this is true in Revelation, is trying to reach down into the wellspring of the things that make a person work, that affects the way he thinks, that affects the way he does things, and it interacts with the world around him, and so consequently the prophets will choose images that might be a little strange to us but if we had lived in their own time, we might respond very well to them. For example, when a prophet gets ready to tell us that something is evil, he could say, "Well this is a very evil system that were dealing with here," or he could come along and say, "In my vision, I saw a woman clothed in purple and drunken with the blood of the saints of God." The image that is drawn here is much more vivid and much more striking than just simply saying "Well this is an evil system and you really should stay away from it."

Revelation Presents Images

Revelation presents images. What is a candlestick supposed to mean, if you're reading along in Revelation and it says here's a candlestick or here's a lampstand? And what are these strange beasts and creatures described therein? Theoretically at least, we ought to assume that there is a meaning to them, that it is poetry, that we ought to be able to read it and grasp somehow from the images that we find therein, what exactly it is that this prophet is talking about.

Scriptures Read

Now the chances are that people to whom revelation was first read had far less difficulty with this than you and I might have. I say read because most of the Scriptures in most circumstances going all the way back even to the synagogue and the preachers who came by a synagogue and sat in the synagogue and spoke to people, they would oftentimes have the Scriptures read before they spoke. Many of the people in the audience were illiterate If they had a Bible they couldn't read it. But when you realize that every single Scripture, or a copy of the Scriptures had to be hand written painstakingly, you realize there were very few copies around, so most letters were read, you didn't just hand it to somebody and say "Read this." Somebody stood before the congregation and actually read it to them.

Now the people who sat in the churches and heard Revelation read, probably had a lot less difficulty with the symbolism and the imagery than we have. They spoke the language. They understood the idioms, they even recognize the symbolism.

Let Imagery Speak To You

Now this suggests that you and I, some 2000 years later, with a different language, a different culture, different circumstances are going to have to work harder than those people had to work to understand what the book of Revelation is all about.

We may find it difficult also because we don't understand that prophecy is really heavily into this type of imagery and symbolism. We have to learn to let the imagery speak to us. We have to learn to let it evoke the feelings in us that Jesus intended to convey.

God Didn't Intend Everyone to Understand

Another reason we may find revelation difficult is because God didn't intend for everyone to understand it. Now wait a minute, didn't I just say that the book of Revelation is out there to show us things are going to come to pass. Well 'us' is relative. What He said was, "To show unto His servants, things which must shortly come to pass." He did not say everybody! Now that is a little sobering. Not everyone necessarily was expected to understand the book of Revelation. His servants were expected to understand it.

You know, when you begin to study the Bible, if you really are careful in your reading, you sit down for example, begin reading through the gospel according to Matthew. As you go along through this gospel, sooner or later, it should began to occur to you that Jesus is not necessarily speaking in concrete terms all the time. He actually used abstracts. He used similes and imagery and He spoke in symbols as well. He used metaphors or figures of speech. For example, He made the statement on one occasion, "If your right hand offend you, cut it off" (Matthew 5:30).

Now there have been a few people in history who have taken that literally and have actually done it. But think about it, if you stole something, was it your hand's fault? No! You grabbed it with your right hand and you carried it out the story, you got home and felt guilty so you cut off your right hand. That probably will deter you from stealing again but on the other hand, your left-hand didn't do it, so how is it expected to learn the lesson. There is an absurdity in this, that if you try to take Jesus literally in everything He said, you do fall into absurdity and fairly easily I'm afraid.

Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?

The fact is that Jesus constantly spoke in images, figures of speech, metaphors, similes, comparisons. Now also, in some cases He was deliberately obscure. Now that is not what I expected. I thought Jesus would have made His meaning clear. I thought that He came down here to save people and that He would want to make the message, the gospel that He was given to Him, as clear as He possibly could. He would not want anybody to misunderstand. He would not want anybody to stumble over it.

And so consequently, I thought, Jesus spoke in ways that would make his meaning clear. I remember a Sunday school teacher telling me precisely that. Now she told me that "Jesus spoke in parables to make His meaning clear." What did Jesus say was the reason?

In Matthew 13, there's an interesting passage of Scripture, it's a parable of the 'Sower and the Seed.' You can read it for yourself, but when He had given this parable to the multitudes, His disciples came and said to Him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"

That's an odd question in a way. You would think He would say, "Well I'm trying to just make what I'm saying clear to them, so that they will understand it" and why didn't the disciples see that, if it made the meaning clear. The fact is, the disciples didn't seem to understand this parable either.

"Why do you speak to them in parables?" The disciples ask. Jesus answered and said to them, "Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given!"

Now that's a shocker! Jesus actually spoke to the multitudes in ways, that He did not expect them to fully understand.

"Whosoever has," He said. "to him shall be given and you will have more abundance, but whoever has not, for him, it should be taken away even all that he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because they seeing see not and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand and in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says, "By hearing you shall hear and not understand, and seeing you shall see and not perceive, for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, less at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and they should be converted, and I should heal them" (Isaiah 6:9-10).

My, I would've thought conversion and healing were His objectives and yet He says, "Because of their stubbornness, because they have closed their own eyes, because they have not wanted to hear. I speak to them in parables."

Change Parable to Riddle

Actually, you could change the word 'parable' to the word 'riddle.'

"I speak to them in riddles, because they don't see and they don't understand and they don't, because they don't want to." Finally, verse 16 of Matthew 13, He said, "but blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear."

So we conclude that the condition of the heart and the mind of the hearer is a factor in understanding the book of Revelation. It was not intended that it be clear and easy for everyone to understand. Your heart, your mind, your approach, may have something to do with why you understand it or why you don't!

Which Must Shortly Come to Pass

Now another reason why the book of Revelation is difficult is that we take an approach to prophecy that puts our feet on the wrong path in the first place. Consider the purpose of the book, (Quote) "To show unto his servants, things which must shortly come to pass."

Now think about it for a moment, why did Jesus' disciples or His servants need to know what was going to shortly come to pass? Why tell them? Tell them what's going to come to pass? Wouldn't everybody want to know? Sure inquiring minds want to know. But ‘why’ is another question entirely. Did they need to know to satisfy their curiosity? Was it just so that they would know it was coming and when it came about, they could tell that it happened. I was told before that this is going to happen and now it has happened.

Or maybe it was to give them a warning so they could change their lives? Maybe it was so they could look at life differently? Maybe it was so they could see the hand of God in the events as they began to unfold? You need to understand that God does not give prophecy, either Old Testament or New Testament, or any form of Biblical prophecy just so we will know what's going to happen before it happens.

There's got to be a reason why, we need to know, what might happen and what might not happen. If you approach prophecy, simply to know what is going to happen before it happens, you are almost certain to get it wrong. There is something about us, we want to know. We are not willing to sit here and wait and see what happens, we really want to know.

But it is funny, if we were talking in terms of knowing what the stock market was going to do next week or even next year, then we would want to know because we would anticipate doing something about what we knew! If we knew what horse was going to win in the third race at Santa Anita next week on a certain day, that would be a valuable piece of information, because we could go to the track, we could put our money down and we can walk away a much wealthier person, than when we went in there.

So there is value in knowing the future, but it seems a lot of times, people want to know what's going to happen from the Bible just because they want to know.

Now if you approach prophecy that way, you're probably going to get it wrong because the purpose of a Biblical prophecy is not merely to tell you what is going to happen and when it's going to happen. When is very important, 1335 days from now or 1260 days or 3 1/2 years, not merely with what is going to happen and when, prophecy is concerned with WHY it's going to happen? Why is this calamity coming to pass? Why is our nation going into captivity? Why is there going to be a drought of 3 1/2 years? Why are we going to have earthquakes and why are we going to have plagues beginning to fall in upon us?

Prophecy deals with WHY these things are taking place? You'll find in many cases, the prophet spends a great deal time telling you what is wrong with your life, telling you what there is about your life that keeps it from working. What it is about your life that has brought this chastisement upon you?


If you read prophecy merely to know the future, you will probably be confused. If you read prophecy to understand the future, you will be on the right track.

Prophecy is Rooted in History

Now, if you really want to understand Biblical prophecy, including the book of Revelation, you need to remember that all prophecy is firmly rooted in history. If you tried to understand or interpret prophecy in the Bible, divorced from history, you will be lost. A lot of what I read about people who are explaining the book of Revelation or Daniel or some of the particularly far out apocalyptic type literature, is that their prophecies or their interpretations hang in midair. They're just out there. They're just there and there's no particular reason why you can interpret this beast or that beast or this period of time to be that, there is no particular reason for it, it is just there.

Now back in Isaiah, there is a short statement that underlines one of the most important principles you will ever know about Biblical prophecy. It is in the 41st chapter of Isaiah and I will begin reading for you in verse 21. What is happening here is that God is challenging the false prophets. He is challenging in particular, the false gods.

"Are you really a god or is this thing that you're carrying around just an idol, is it just a piece of wood, is a piece of stone that you carved and made something out of, or is it really a god?"

He challenges these gods by saying this, {21} ""Produce your cause," saith the LORD, "bring forth your strong reasons," saith the King of Jacob. "Let them bring forth and show us what shall happen.""

Now that's what we all want to know, right? What's going to happen next week? What's going to happen next year? How's things going to go? What is the stock market going to do? Is 4the nation going to prosper? Is my business going to grow? Tell us what shall happen?

Then the LORD continues to say, show us what shall happen, {22} "Let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them and know the latter end of them, or declare to us things to come. {23} Show the things that are to come here after that we may know that you are god. Yes do good, or do evil, that we may just be dismayed, and behold it altogether."

Now what is it about? What it's all about is this, If you're going to explain what's going to happen at the latter end, you have to consider the former things. When did Isaiah write? What was going on when he wrote? What was his prophecy about in the approximate nature, that is in the future, the things that were going to take place in the short term? Because only if you really understand the history of these prophecies, will you ever understand the latter end of them, or where they will ultimately go.

Many do not understand Revelation because they are unfamiliar with the Hebrew prophets, especially Daniel. Nor do they understand the history behind those prophets. Nor do they understand that the first century history as it relates to Revelation. And I assure you, it is relevant.

Now there's a consistent pattern that you find in prophecy in the Bible, the prophet lays out a historical context. He may name names and places and people who are alive in his prophecy. And he will lay out what is about to happen in the country in the nation of Israel, particular in the Old Testament, and he will tell them why. He will tell them it's because of their sins, he will tell them because they have oppressed the poor. These things are going to happen because you are a pack of thieves. They are going to happen because violence is broken out in your land to such an extent that the blood from one crime runs into the blood from another crime. Because all these things have happened, then he lays out what's going to happen in terms of the calamity of the future and then importantly, they go beyond that, to tell them how God will redeem them out of the calamity that they have gotten in.

The prophet develops a clear historical model and it's worth your time to go back and study that historical model and understand what the prophet is talking about.

Now I've done a series of CDs that we can make available to you called "History and Prophecy." If you'd like to study the history and prophecy with us write and ask for number one of the 'History and Prophecy' series. Write to: Born to Win - P.O. Box 560, Whitehouse, TX 75791.

Type and Antitype

It is a consistent pattern in prophecy to develop a prophecy for the future, out of this historical model that the prophet has taken pains to create, that is to say, there is a historical fulfillment of a prophecy, that is a model for later fulfillment. The technical terms for it, you will hear them from time to time for biblical students, is 'type' and 'antitype.' The two words come from a Greek word and they just simply mean model and the fulfillment or the reality of the model, that will come along at a later time.

Now this is of vital importance in understanding the book of Revelation. We read Revelation in its historical context, not because that is the objective, but because it forms the model of the end of the age. Now there is an enormous amount of controversy among scholars and students of the Bible as to how we are to take the book of Revelation.

Shortly Come To Pass

There are those for example, who believe that Revelation prophesied things 'that were shortly to come,' and they came, and they were all fulfilled in the first century and Revelation is basically over and done with. There's no need to concern yourself with it, except as a matter of historical interest.

There are others who tell you, "Oh no, no, no, "That shortly come to pass' means "shortly come to pass at the end of the age, and it is those people at the end of the age who, read the book of Revelation, to whom these prophecies are directed and everything in the book of Revelation is directed at the end time.

Why does it have to be one where the other? Why can't we grasp the fact that the prophecies in Revelation are designed for the time in which they were given and at the time in which they were given will serve as a model for, what's to take place at the end of the age.

Take for example Jesus' statement, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show unto to his servants, things which must shortly come to pass."

Well, now wait a minute. The book of Revelation toward the end of it talks about the return of Christ, and the return of Christ could not have been shortly to come to pass in the first century, because He didn't come! I don't think 2000 years is short by anybody's use of the language and I don't think God would've tried to deceive people in that way, with that kind of a little trick, so when He says "things are going to shortly come to pass," He's talking about things that are on the horizon.

Scholars who actually study the book of Revelation have an early theory and late theory for the time in which Revelation was written, but early and later are relative terms. There is only about 28, maybe at the most 30 years apart. That's not very long, maybe 15 to 20 years difference between the early and late periods of Revelation. What were you doing, 15, 20 years ago? And how long ago has it been?

The fact is that if that early theory is true, you're placing the actual writing of the book of Revelation about the time, or shortly after the time that Nero had died. It's early. The temple has not yet been destroyed. Nero I believe is dead and the prophecies of Revelation, very sharply and clearly delineate the Roman Empire and the people of that time who heard it read would've seen it that way, as clear as crystal. There would've been no question in their mind who Revelation is talking about.

The Number 666

Take for example the famous number 666, which is the number of the beast's name. Now that's been studied for generations. But it's all very clear, Nero, Caesar, by following the Greek system of letters and numbers, turns out to number up as 666, so a first century reader would've said " Oh 666, that's Nero, that's who he is talking about, Not only does the number fit, the characterization of the beast and what the beast was to do and what kind of power this beast had fit Nero to a 'T'.

So the historical model was easily enough understood toward the latter part of the first century. So when He says "these things are going to shortly come to pass," He's talking about much of, not necessarily all of, the book of Revelation, because we will find as we study the book of Revelation that there is some of it, which is clearly end time and could not have been going to 'shortly come to pass' in the first century, but the model would!

First Century Has Relevance

To assume Revelation is only about the first century is a fatal error. To assume that the first century has no relevance to the interpretation of Revelation is just as serious a mistake.

Now take a look, with that in mind, at the first chapter of Revelation and verse 1, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass, and He sent and signified it by his angel and to His servant John, {2} Who bore record of the word of God and of the testimony of Jesus Christ and of all the things that he saw."

So here you have a man, his name is John, we will see later that he is on the Isle of Patmos and he's in trouble, actually in prison at the time, and he saw things and heard things and he bears record of the word of God, the testimony of Jesus Christ and of all the things that he saw. Three things are brought up here.

Now what you have is a kind of title page leading into the book of Revelation that identifies what this is? It's the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This is what it's about, and this is who got it. This is the contents of it. So all this is beginning to be laid out for us. Then He says {3} "Blessed is he that reads and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein, for the time is at hand."

Revelation is an Epistle

Now the reference to "he that reads and they that hears" is a reference to how this letter would be delivered. What is not often times, I think, understood about the book of Revelation is that it's an epistle, just as much as Romans is an epistle of Paul, Revelation is an epistle of John. It's an epistle that is directed at seven churches in Asia minor.

And we might want to talk a little later about why those seven churches and what are they and was the significant of them?

But for now we have a title page that tells us, who got it, who it's going to, and He also says that, "You're going to have this read in church and there are people going to sit and listen, so blessed is the reader and blessed are those that sit in here and who keep the things that are written therein."

Prophecy and Apocalypse

Now there is an important difference to understand between prophecy and apocalypse. The word 'apocalypse' means 'revelation' and that's what we've got in the book of Revelation. There is a kind of prophecy that comes along, which in many ways, in Daniel seems to say, or seems to be oriented toward, telling you what's going to happen and when it's going to happen, how long it's going to be from one thing to the other in the things. That's apocalyptic literature.

Prophecy, on the other hand is really a kind of preaching. It has to do with moral content, in other words, there is a great deal of moral content in prophecy, whereas in apocalyptic, it's almost entirely absent. So the prophets tell you what's going to happen and why it's going to happen. The apocalyptic literature tends to just tell you why and you have to go to the prophets to find out what that's all about.

Now notice in Revelation, that Revelation is not pure apocalyptic, it is prophecy, because He not only says "that you hear the words of the prophecy, but that you keep the things that are written in this."

Now remember I asked earlier, "Why do you want to know? Why is He going to tell you? Why do you need to know what is going to shortly come to pass?

Well the answer is simple enough, so you can respond to it, so you can do something about your life, so that you can straighten up where you're not flying right, so that you can actually get things rolling in your life.

So when you sit down to read the book of Revelation, it's a good time for you to think through your own life, to think about the things you need to deal with, because the time is at hand. It applies now as I think it never has in the history of the world. As we see many of the things taking place around the world that look very much like the things that are prophesied in the book of Revelation, but in a way, it doesn't matter, for any of us at any time of our lives and where ever we are, The Time Is At Hand to turn your life around. Now that's the objective of prophecy, it's to sober you up, to make you see God's hand in history, that He's working and that He is going to do these things, whether we human beings like it very much or not.

In the next program, I want to get into the first chapter of Revelation and talk about those curious seven spirits that are before the throne of God. What they do and what they accomplish. But all that will have to wait till next program.

This is Ronald Dart saying, "Straighten up and fly right!".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This article was transcribed with

minor editing from a Born to Win Radio Program by: Ronald L. Dart

Titled: The Book of Revelation -Program #1

Transcribed by: bb 2-3-23


Ronald L. Dart was an evangelist and is heard daily and weekly on his Born to Win radio program. 
The program can be heard on over one hundred radio stations across the nation.

In the Portsmouth, Ohio area you can listen to the Born to Win radio program on 
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