From the And He Shall Reign series ...

Speaker: Greg Holder

Service Date: November 14, 2021

An Apocalyptic Glossary

Why a glossary?

Reading the Bible well is an act of worship, so learning about the biblical world, language, and context in which The Book of Revelation was written is a great gift. We hope this glossary will, in a small way, aid your reading and studying of this extraordinary book. As always, let us explore God’s truth humbly and encourage one another as we go.

2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12, 24, 666, 1,000, 1,260, 144,000 – significant numbers that convey important meaning in apocalyptic literature. 

2 – witness
3 – completeness
4 – natural completeness (i.e. the four corners of the earth, or four winds)
6 – merely human, not divine (as one less than 7, it denotes corruption mimicking God)
7 – perfection, wholeness, divine completeness (i.e. the seven days of Creation)
10 – completeness, fullness, totality (i.e. the 10 Commandments)
12 – completeness in rule, a number that represents the people of God (i.e. the twelve Tribes of Israel, or twelve apostles)
24 – the Church (12 Tribes + 12 apostles)
666 – completely corrupt (three 6’s mimics complete perfection of Trinity)
1,000 – hugeness, completeness of time (10 x 10 x 10)
1,260 – refers to the number of days in 42 months in the Jewish calendar; 360 x 3.5
144,000 – a countless magnitude, or the totality of God’s people (12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10)

666 – number of the beast as referenced in Rev. 13:18. Many scholars believe that 666 refers to the Roman Emperor Nero, who persecuted Christians and reigned from AD 54-68. Importantly, the number six signifies corruption, the opposite of seven, the number of complete perfection. Regardless of how we interpret the number, it designates complete imperfection and corruption.

144,000 – the group of believers who endure the great tribulation in Rev. 7:14.
Some interpret this number symbolically as a vast number (12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x10), as the numbers 12 and 10 signify completeness (such as the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles). Some interpret this number as a literal group of 144,000 Jewish believers who will lead many Jews to Christ during the tribulation (Rev. 7:4-9).

Alpha and Omega – A title Jesus uses to indicate His eternal nature, “the first and the last” (alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet). Rev. 1:8, 21:6, 22:13

Antichrist – As in 1 John 2:18, anyone who denies that Jesus is Lord. A deceiver. There are some interpretations that believe that a single figure will rise as the Antichrist to wage war on God’s people. Still, others associate antichrist with various figures in the Book of Revelation and throughout human history. Regardless of your interpretation, as 1 John 2 states, an antichrist is anyone who denies the Lordship of Jesus

Apocalypse/Revelation – the name of the book comes from the Greek word apokalypto, which means a revealing, an unveiling, or uncovering. In the Bible, what is “apocalypsed,” or revealed is most often God’s nature and identity, and how God sees the world. Apocalyptic literature often involves rich symbols and metaphors to make its points and reveal the truth.

Armageddon – the place where the final battle will take place. Some interpret this to be a physical place here on Earth and others say it is a symbolic place. Either way, this is the place where Jesus defeats the armies of evil.

Babylon – a word that designates human rebellion against God, sometimes manifested in a corrupt empire that exists counter to God’s will. In John’s day, it was most likely Rome but can point to other examples throughout history.

Beasts – symbolic creatures referenced in Rev. 11:7 and 13:1-18
The first beast rises from the sea and has ten horns and seven heads, which seem to represent Rome, the city known for its seven hills. Some interpret this as a literal reference to a Roman emperor, either Nero or Domitian. Others see it as a future figure, the antichrist, who will wage war against the people of God. And still, other interpreters read these passages as symbolic references to the powers in every age that defy God’s rule and persecute God’s people.

The second beast rises from the earth with horns like a lamb and a voice like a dragon – in other words, a satanic parody of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Some interpret this creature as a literal leader who will encourage people to worship the first beast. Others view the second beast as the governmental powers that encouraged the worship of Rome and its emperor in the 1st Century, or the powers of religion in any time period that push people away from the worship of Jesus.

Bride of the Lamb – drawing on Old Testament allusions to God’s people, the bride symbolizes those who are faithful to worshiping Jesus in anticipation of the marriage of heaven and earth at His coming. They therefore look forward to His returning with joy. See Rev. 22:17

Conquer/Be Victorious, Conquerors/Victors – (nikan, ho-niko-n) – John repeatedly uses this term for followers of Christ as well as Roman imperial forces. As with other images throughout Revelation, they mimic one another, but have a key difference: how does Christ achieve victory? In Revelation 5:6, the Lamb standing and slain has conquered and is worthy to open the scroll. Sacrificial love conquers all, and Christ transforms what is meant by power and victory.

Dragon – “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Rev. 12:9). A figurative reference to Satan, who attempts to thwart God’s plan to rescue and redeem humanity in Rev. 12.

Four Horsemen – In Revelation 6:2-8 we see four different horses and riders which allude to Zechariah 1:8-10; 6:1-8. These horsemen indicate judgment through military conquest and power. Some interpretations see these as literal figures that will come at the end of days. Others view them as symbolic representations of regular occurrences in history (e.g., false peace, war, famine, and death.)

Jesus Christ – The Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End, the Living One, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Faithful Witness, among other titles, belong to Jesus, Who offers the revelation to John.

Lake of Fire – a symbol that designates the place of final judgment where all those who rebel against God are consigned for punishment.

Mark of the Beast – in sharp contrast to the call that God’s people show allegiance to God alone (Deut. 6:8, Rev. 14:1) in Rev. 13:16-18 we see mention of a mark that indicates loyalty to the beast and its number (666). In 1st Century Rome this may have indicated economic allegiance, ownership, or even branding of slaves, soldiers, or members of pagan cultic worship. Some readers view this as a literal mark given by the antichrist at the end of days. Still, others see it as a more symbolic indicator of our true loyalties. Regardless, Christians are called to resist all forms of evil and give their ultimate allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Millennium – 1,000 years, interpreted precisely or symbolically as the period of time Satan is bound according to the vision in Revelation 20. Christians have interpreted this period of time differently, but all agree that Christ will return again, and He shall reign forever on earth as He does in heaven. (Revelation 21:3)

Premillennialists consider Revelation 20 to mean that before the Final Judgment, Christ will return to establish His kingdom and physically reign over all the earth for a literal 1,000 years. Within this view, there is additional debate over when Christ will return to rescue His people from tribulation—either before or after His thousand-year reign.

Postmillennialists consider Revelation 20 to mean that before Christ returns in the flesh, the gospel will make such progress that societies around the world will be transformed into bastions of justice and peace. The majority of the world will be obedient to Christ, and at the end of this period, He will return to forever reign over the new heavens and new earth.

Distinct from the first two views, amillennialism holds that the “millennium” has already begun. Also called “inaugurated millennialism” (G.K. Beale), John’s use of “1,000 years” is figurative and refers to the present age in which the Church is fulfilling Christ’s reign and will continue until His return. Amillennialism also holds that some of the events prophesied in Scripture have already been fulfilled in the first century following the death of Christ, while some events will not find their fulfillment until the return of Christ.

The New Heavens and Earth – As in Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1, the promised future when God dwells with humanity and restores and renews all things.

The New Jerusalem – the glorious alternative to Babylon, the Holy City is the heavenly, everlasting temple-city and community that represents God’s people. (see Rev. 21:9-22:5)

Rapture – literally, “to be seized” or “caught up.” While Christians can respectfully debate how to best interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the timing of the rapture, and what that word means in its historical context, all agree that Christ will return and vindicate his people.

Seals – a wax seal indicated the authenticity and importance of an ancient document, here a scroll which the Lamb, alone, is worthy to open (Rev. 5:5). The scroll contains God’s plan for judgment and redemption. This passage emphasizes the authority of Jesus over the cosmos.

The Time – (kairos), in Revelation 22:10, for instance, we are encouraged to pay attention to the words of the book because “the time (kairos) is near.” Unlike the word chronos, which implies sequence and order of events, kairos time indicates opportunity with an emphasis on response and action. It also designates a moment in time where everything changes, and history is never the same again.

Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls – symbols of God’s judgment on idolatry and triumph over it. They serve as heralds of God’s righteous judgment. They often echo previous instances of God’s judgment in Scripture, calling people to repent and turn to God.

Witnesses – two beings described in Rev. 11:1-14 who speak the truth about God before being killed and resurrected. Some believe that these two witnesses are two people who will appear during the tribulation near the end of time. Others view them as two biblical prophets, Moses and Elijah, who have been resurrected for the purpose of proclaiming God’s truth during the tribulation. Others view them as symbolic figures who represent the Law and Prophets, both testifying about Jesus, yet their testimonies were rejected and they were put to death, like Stephen in Acts 7. Within this interpretation, their resurrection points to a time of final vindication for such martyrs.

Woman Clothed with the Sun – represents God’s people in conflict with the dragon (Satan) in Rev. 12. Others have interpreted the woman as a literal reference to Mary, who gives birth to Jesus (Rev. 12:5).

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