The paragraph that follows is a summary of the changes made in this week’s main lesson (by Ranko Stefanovic). What follows is the original text that Stefanovic turned in, before the editing process, for those who would like to know that he originally intended. Please ignore the daily dates, they were put in just to fill space.
I (Ranko Stefanovic) share here the pre-edited original manuscript of the Lesson #1 (Dec. 31 to Jan. 5) of Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for those who want to compare it with the edited version. In this week’s lesson, not too many changes were introduced. Two paragraphs were completely changed: the last paragraph in the Monday’s lesson and the second Discussion Question in the Friday’s lesson. I fully concur with the observations and comments shared by my friend Jon Paulien who authored the Adult Teacher’s Edition of the Sabbath School Quarterly.
Lesson 1 *December 31-January 5
The Gospel from Patmos
Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 1:1-8; 22:16-19; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Amos 3:7; Deut. 29:29.
Memory Verse: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, NKJV).
The prophecies of Revelation were revealed in vision to the apostle John more than nineteen centuries ago during his exile on a small rocky island in the Aegean Sea known as Patmos (Rev. 1:9). Revelation intimates that it was to be read aloud in the church. Revelation 1:3 promises a blessing for the person who reads it aloud and for the ones listening to the reading. The listeners mentioned are the congregation assembled in the church to hear the messages of Revelation. However, they are not blessed because they simply read or listen, but because they heed the words of prophecy (see also 22:7).
The prophecies of Revelation are an expression of God’s care for his people. God wanted to reveal to us the things that would shortly take place in the future to make us realize the fragility and uncertainty of this life. He also wanted to inspire us to take seriously our eternal destiny and to reach people around the world with the gospel message of the kingdom.
Biblical prophecies are like a lamp shining in a dark place (1 Pet. 1:19) showing us where we are now and where we are going. They are intended to provide guidance for our life today and hope for our future. We will need this prophetic guide until the Coming of Christ and the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 6.
Sunday September 30
The Title of the Book
Read Revelation 1:1-2. What is the complete title of the book of Revelation? Who is the ultimate author of the book? What was John’s role as the human author?
Revelation 1:1 states the title of the book as the “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis (“apocalypse”), which means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.” The Apocalypse is thus an unveiling of Jesus Christ; it is both from Jesus and about Him. While it came from God through Jesus Christ (see Rev. 22:16), the book testifies that Jesus is also the focus of its contents. The Apocalypse is thus His self-revelation to His people and an expression of His care for them.
The title of any book states in a nutshell the book’s content. What does the title of Revelation reveal to us about Jesus and His activities on behalf of His people?
Jesus is the central figure of Revelation. The book begins with Him (Rev. 1:5-8) and concludes with Him (Rev. 22:12-16). Also, the Jesus of the Apocalypse is the Jesus of the four gospels. Revelation continues the description of Jesus and His work of salvation on behalf of His people described in the gospels, but focuses on different aspects of his existence and ministry. Essentially, it begins where the gospels end-with his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
Together with the epistle to the Hebrews, Revelation emphasizes Jesus’ heavenly ministry since his ascension. It shows that after his ascension Jesus was inaugurated into His royal and priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Without Revelation our knowledge of Christ’s ministry in heaven on behalf of his people would be very limited and shrouded in mystery. Thus, the last book of the Bible provides a unique portrayal of Christ not found anywhere else in the Bible.
Read Matthew 28:20 and John 14:1-3. What two major promises did Jesus leave with His people before His ascension into heaven? How does Revelation show Jesus fulfilling these promises? How will Jesus fulfill His final promise to come back to take His people to their eternal home?
Consider the following statement: “Let Daniel speak, let the Revelation speak, and tell what is truth. But whatever phase of the subject is presented, uplift Jesus as the center of all hope, ‘the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and morning Star’”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 118.
Monday October 31
The Purpose of the Book
Revelation 1:1 tells us further that the purpose of the book is to show us the things that will happen in the future. Anyone familiar with Revelation will notice that future events—whether those already fulfilled or those yet to take place—occupy most of the book’s content. While the first half of Revelation (chaps. 1–11) focuses on the events that occurred from the first century to the time of the end, its second half (chaps. 12–22) focuses on the events leading up to the Second Coming.
How do you understand that the book titled the “Revelation of Jesus Christ” shows us things that will take place in the future?
The primary purpose of biblical prophecies is to provide us with the assurance that, no matter what the future brings, God is in control. The entire Book of Revelation is structured in such a way as to assure us that Jesus Christ is with His people throughout this world’s history and its alarming final events.
Consequently, Revelation’s prophecies have two practical purposes: to teach us how to live today and to prepare us for the future. Studying them should make us better Christians for God’s glory, motivate us to take seriously our eternal destiny, and inspire us to reach others with the gospel message.
Read Deuteronomy 29:29. Revelation informs us of what will happen at the end-time. In your view, what two things that Revelation does not reveal to us about the end-time events?
Revelation’s end-time prophecies are not revealed to satisfy our obsessive curiosity about the future. The book only reveals those aspects of the future that are essential for our salvation and entry into the kingdom. They are disclosed to impress upon us the seriousness of what will happen so that we will realize our dependence on God. Anything else would go beyond God’s intention.
Much has been written and many predictions have been made regarding when and how end-time prophecies will be fulfilled. However, most of those predictions have been proven misleading, for they are drawn not from the Bible but rather from human imaginings or past or current events. The timing and manner of the unfolding of the final events will be clear to us only at the time of their fulfillment. The prophecies must not be a subject of speculation and sensationalism, but rather for strengthening our faith in the prophetic word. Their fulfillment will be a reminder to God’s people of Christ’s promise to be with them and to sustain them during those difficult times.
Tuesday October 2
The Symbolic Language of Revelation
Revelation 1:1 further states: “And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”
Here we find a very important word in the book. The word “signified” is a translation of the Greek word semainō meaning, “to show by symbolic signs.” This word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) where Daniel explained to King Nebuchadnezzar that with the statue made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron God signified to the king “what will take place in the future” (Dan. 2:45). By employing the same word, John tells us that the scenes and events of Revelation were shown to him in vision in symbolic presentations. Guided by the Holy Spirit, John faithfully recorded these symbolic presentations exactly as he had seen them in the visions (Rev. 1:2).
This shows that the language in which the Revelation’s prophecies were described must not be interpreted literally. As a rule, while the reading of the Bible in general presupposes a literal understanding of the text (unless the text points to intended symbolism), studying Revelation calls for a symbolic understanding of the scenes and events recorded unless the text points to a literal meaning. While the scenes and events predicted per se are real, they were expressed in symbolic language.
Keeping in mind the symbolic character of Revelation will safeguard us against distorting the prophetic message. In trying to determine the meaning of the symbols used in the book, we must be careful not to impose on the text a meaning that comes out of human imagination or current meanings of those symbols. Their meaning must be in agreement with God’s intention as well as with the meaning of those symbols at the time of the writing of Revelation.
In trying to unlock the meaning of those symbols, we must remember that most of them were drawn from the Old Testament. By portraying future in the language of the past, God wanted to impress upon our minds that his acts of salvation in the future will be very much like his acts of salvation in the past. What he did for his people in the past, he will do for them again in the future. In endeavoring to decode the symbols and images of Revelation, we must start by paying attention to the Old Testament.
Why did God give the prophecies of Revelation in symbolic rather than in literal, straightforward language? Also, why did He use images and scenes from His former acts of salvation to reveal future events?
Wednesday October 3
The Trinity of the Godhead
Revelation begins with an epistolary greeting similar to the ones found in Paul’s letters. The book was originally sent as a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor in John’s day (see Rev. 1:11). However, Revelation was not written only for them, but for all generations of Christians throughout history.
Revelation 1:4 offers an epistolary greeting: “Grace and peace to you” (cf. Rom. 1:7). This phrase consists of the Greek greeting charis (grace) and the Hebrew greeting shalom (“peace,” “well-being”). Why are these two words always written as “grace and peace” and never “peace and grace”?
The givers of grace and peace are the three persons of the Godhead. Like the rest of the book, these three persons of the Godhead are identified in symbolic language.
God the Father is identified as the One “who is and who was, and who is to come” (see Rev. 1:8; 4:8). This refers to the divine name Yahweh, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14) referring to God’s eternal existence.
The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of “the seven Spirits” (cf. Rev. 4:5; 5:6). Seven is a number of fullness. “The seven Spirits” correspond to the seven churches in which the Spirit operates. This refers to the universality of the Holy Spirit’s work among God’s people enabling them to fulfill their calling.
Jesus Christ is identified by three titles: “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth (NKJV).” They refer to his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his reign in heaven. Then, John states what he does: He “loves us and released us from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (NASB).
He “loves us” in the original Greek refers to Christ’s ongoing love, which embraces the past, the present, and the future. The One who loves us has released us from our sins by His blood. In the Greek, this refers to a completed act in the past; Jesus died on the cross when he released us from our sins forever. Because of what He did on Calvary, we enjoy the status of being “kings and priest” to God (see Rev. 5:9–10).
Read Ephesians 2:6 and Philippians 3:20, which describe the redeemed as the ones who are raised and made to sit with Jesus in heavenly places. How do you think that though we presently enjoy this glorious status in Christ as “kings and priests,” we are still in this sin-cursed world?
Thursday October 4
The Keynote of Revelation
The conclusion of the prologue of Revelation points to what is the focus the whole book: the return of Jesus in power and glory. Christ’s promise to come again is reiterated three times in the conclusion of the book (22:7, 12, 20).
Read Revelation 1:7-8. The wording of this text is derived from several prophetic texts: Daniel 7:13; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 24:30. What does this tell us of the certainty of the Second Coming?
In Revelation, the second coming of Christ is the point towards which history moves. The Second Coming will mark the conclusion of this world’s history and the beginning of God’s eternal kingdom, as well as freedom from all evil that causes anguish, pain, and death.
Like the rest of the New Testament, Revelation 1:7 points to the literal and personal coming of Christ in majesty and glory. Every human being, including “those who pierced him”, will witness his coming. These words point to a special resurrection of certain people right before the return of Christ, including those who crucified Christ on the cross of Calvary. While Jesus will, with His coming, bring deliverance to those waiting for Him, He will bring judgment to those who have spurned his mercy and love.
In the New Testament, Christ regularly refers to his coming as: “I am coming” never as “I will come.” The futuristic present tense points to the future event as already occurring. If you know that Jesus is indeed coming very soon, how would this affect your life today?
The certainty of Christ’s coming is affirmed with the words, “Yes, Amen.” The word “yes” translates the Greek word nai and amen is a Hebrew affirmative. These two words together express an absolute certainty. This affirmation also concludes the book (see also Rev. 22:20).
“Belief in the near coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven will not cause the true Christian to become neglectful and careless of the ordinary business of life. . . . Their veracity, faithfulness, and integrity are tested and proved in temporal things.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 309.
A well-known fact is that a given promise is only as strong as the integrity of the person giving it and his/her ability to fulfill it. How does the fact that the promise of the Second Coming has been given by God who has in the past kept all his promises, provide you with assurance that Christ will return as He has promised?
Friday October 5
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “The Study of the Books of Daniel and Revelation,” pp. 112-119, in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers.
“This revelation was given for the guidance and comfort of the church throughout the Christian dispensation. . . . . A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book, and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new.
“Let none think, because they cannot explain the meaning of every symbol in the Revelation, that it is useless for them to search this book in an effort to know the meaning of the truth it contains. The One who revealed these mysteries to John will give to the diligent searcher for truth a foretaste of heavenly things. Those whose hearts are open to the reception of truth will be enabled to understand its teachings, and will be granted the blessing promised to those who `hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written therein.’”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 583-584.
If Revelation is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, why does the word “apocalypse” have a negative meaning today? What does this tell us about the popular perception of Revelation among Christians? Why is the word “fear” often associated with Revelation’s prophecies?
Ellen White stated that when the book of Revelation “is better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience” so that “heart and mind will be impressed with the character that all must develop”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 114. Do the people in your church who claim to study Revelation appear blessed to you? How do you feel being around such people? How does their study of the book’s prophecies reflect in their daily life and the way they relate to and treat other people, both inside and outside the church?