THREE KINDS OF SCRIPTURE
The New Testament seems to have three sections:
- The four gospels and the Book of Acts are like storybooks. (Hold up and leaf through a children's Bible storybook.) We can read them and follow the story line, and we can learn wonderful lessons from the stories. If we wanted to (and many people have) we could draw pictures to illustrate them.
- Then we have the epistles. (Hold up and leaf through a reference or textbook--Mormon Doctrine, for example.) Just words, no pictures, all black and white. But they are full of wonderful deep truths for serious students of the gospel.
- And at the end of the New Testament, we have this wonderful book of the Revelation of John, not much like a book at all. Revelation is full of color, sights, action. There are many stories and ideas depicted, but they are not necessarily in a chronological order. You can see them all at once, or examine one scene by itself.
Christmastime is such a wonderful time, full of sights, sounds, smells, memories, symbols, and imagery that mean much more to us than their face value, and that is one reason we love it so much. Revelation at the end of the New Testament is like the joyous Christmas celebration at the end of the year: a multi-sensory, emotion-laden, visual panorama of the Plan of Salvation.
THE REVELATION OF ST JOHN THE DIVINE
(Adding this in 2019: Click here for a great podcast on this section of Revelation. The podcast is called "Step Into Light" and this is episode 16, if you want to find it on another device. I loved it!)
"The Revelation seems to be divided into two parts. The first, chs. 1 to 3, deals with things at the time the Revelation was given, and is addressed to branches of the Church in seven cities of Asia. Note Revelation 1:3: 'the time is at hand.' These three chapters show clearly that the Church in that day was rapidly going into apostacy.
"The second part, chs. 4-22, deals with things yet future for John...It begins with John's time and continues to the end of the world. Note Revelation 4:1: 'I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.' Accordingly, it offers a sort of panoramic view of events through the ages--of apostasy, restoration, judgment, and millenium" (Bible Dictionary, p. 762.)
The Book of Revelation is amazing and volumes could be written about it (in fact, they have), so having to cover the whole thing in two lessons is daunting. If you have extra weeks left over at the end of the year, you may want to divide this lesson up and spread it out.
CHAPTER 4: THE VISION OF GOD THE FATHER
The revelation begins with this wonderful opening statement:
"After this I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven..." (4:1) We talk about the "windows of heaven" being revelation, but here, the door was opened: This was a major revelation.
The first thing that John saw was the greatness and glory of God.
"And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
"And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices; and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
"And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal; and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
"And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
"And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (4:2-11)
So, before we even get to the overview of the entire scheme of earthly existence, we get to see the victor: we know who is going to win, and we know how great and wonderful he is, and we know who is going to be on the winning side with him. Knowing who wins alleviates a lot of the stress of life, and of the scenes to come. Imagine watching a pre-recorded soccer or football game and already knowing your favorite team wins! You wouldn't be too stressed out when the opposing team makes a score or gets ahead for a while, because you already know the outcome. This is what we are given here--the outcome--and it is going to be glorious, and we are going to know which team to be on if we want to be a part of that. We know "the end from the beginning."
"Evil will not win; goodness will achieve the mastery. The earth will not diminish in nuclear winter but rise in millennial splendor. Christ, not Lucifer, will claim the earth, and his claim will stand." (Michael Wilcox, Who Shall be Able to Stand?, Kindle edition, ch. 5)
Let's take a closer look at the beautiful images presented in this image of the Celestial Kingdom.
"Since a rainbow presents light in one of its most beautiful manifestations, a rainbow surrounding the Father is most appropriate. One aspect of eternal truth [light] and the attributes of the Father [God is Light] appear to be displayed here. The rainbow has strong associations with the mercy of the Father. This is seen as early as the flood. In the midst of storm, God's light, truth, and mercy ever bend back to the earth, touching it softly in healing wonder." (Wilcox, chapter 4, paragraph 4.)
Lightnings and thunderings and voices! These are the ways God communicates with us--sometimes with flashes of pure knowledge, sometimes with the thunderings of his wrath, and sometimes with a still, small voice.
"In the vision, the throne of the Father consists of three things, represented by the 24 elders, the sea of glass, and the four beasts. According to D&C 77:5, the 24 elders 'had been faithful in the work of the ministry and were dead; who belonged to the seven churches.' The Joseph Smith Translation makes an important change. These elders are not sitting 'round about the throne' but 'in the midst of the throne'...
"God's throne includes, first and foremost, exalted beings. This is his work and his glory...Hope and encouragement come from understanding that these...are ordinary members of the kingdom, coming from its many scattered branches [in the time of John]. If we were to see a vision of the paradise of God, the celestial kingdom, and within those glorified confines we saw members of our own wards enjoying eternal life with the Father--members we served with, home taught, and sat next to in sacrament meeting--would that not inspire us to believe in our own everlasting possibilities?" (Wilcox, ch. 4, para. 5-6)
The number 24 is associated with priesthood. (See Bible Numerics.) That was already obvious by the symbol of "elders." If we want to get even more tricky and technical with our Bible numerology, 24 is the product of multiplying 2 and 12. The number 2 refers to "unity," and the number 12 refers to "perfection in government." So these 24 are the product of unity in government, and it is a theocracy (government based upon God) because they are priesthood bearers. This is further emphasized by the fact that they "cast their crowns before the throne" and give all praise and glory to God.
Do not assume that because they are "elders," the revelation refers only to the male gender. As temple ordinances clearly teach us, the priesthood is a partnership, and the new and everlasting covenant of marriage is necessary to reach the celestial kingdom; therefore, both men and women are symbolized here, just as both the men and women of the church are symbolized by the woman giving birth in the part of the revelation we studied last week, and by the manchild she bears.
The Sea of Glass
"Crystal and glass are often used to represent God's celestial world, for they are not susceptible to decay or change. If we buried a glass bowl in the earth and dug it up a thousand years later, it would not have deteriorated. Crystal also suggests purity, a clarity born of the heat of refining fires. When the earth is sanctified, all the impurities that once had dominion upon it will be gone, and this extends to every object of creation." (Wilcox, ch. 4, para. 14)
Remember also that crystal reflects or refracts light in a rainbow display of color and light, harking back to the symbol of the rainbow surrounding the throne. If it is polished and flat, it reflects like a mirror. If it is faceted, it refracts light, or breaks it up into its various colors. So this crystal can give a clear vision of oneself, or it can refract the light around us so that we can see the beauty and glory that others may miss.
"As glass is transparent, so too will this earth cease to hide its secrets--secrets that once required long years of research, testing, experimentation, and observation to uncover. A crystal earth, a Urim and Thummim world, is a sphere of light, truth, intelligence, beauty, perfection, purity, and endless, open knowledge." (Wilcox, ch. 4, para. 15)
The Four Beasts
The number 4 in Hebrew refers to the whole of the creative works of God. Often in scripture we find "the four corners of the earth," or "the four winds of the earth." So four beasts may mean all of the animals in creation.
"The lion is called the king of beasts and causes us to think of wild creatures; the calf's innocence turns the mind to the usefulness and friendship of domestic animals; the face of a man suggests thought; and the eagle's dignity and swiftness represents the free world of birds. Strength, gentleness, intelligence, and movement are all incorporated to stand for the world of animals." (Wilcox, ch. 4, para. 20)
Those who love animals, and particularly those who have lost a beloved pet, will particularly appreciate this part of the vision. Animals are important to God, he created them to be eternal, and he redeems them from death. This is even more clearly stated in the Bible Dictionary entry for "Revelation of John" as Point of Doctrine 4: "Animals are resurrected from the dead, and there are animals in heaven, redeemed by the blood of Christ." What a beautiful and comforting truth!
CHAPTER 5: THE VISION OF JESUS CHRIST
"And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon" (5:1-4).
The book symbolizes a wonderful story, and the story is unable to begin. What is it? The plan of salvation. (See D&C 77:6.) Each of the seven seals is a division of the story, or a chapter of the book, and remember: there is writing on the back, too! We have already read the back cover in chapter 4, but to achieve that glorious result, it is absolutely vital that someone open the book, and heartbreaking that no one is found able.
"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having 12 horns and 12 eyes, which are the 12 servants of God, sent forth into all the earth" (5:5-6, with JST footnote).
Of course, the Lion of Juda, the Root of David, is Jesus Christ. Remember that time is a function of earth life, not God's life, and this vision is panoramic, so it should not bother us that at the same time we see the beginning of the story before the book is even opened, in the same sentence with the end of the story, the triumphant throne. Jesus Christ was a Lion, a possible earthly king as the lion is the king of the beasts. He has the power to destroy, but he makes himself become a Lamb, that he might be slain for the sins of the world. But although he is a lamb, he has great powers. Remember that 12 refers to "perfection in government." Having horns, he has great power of both offense and defense. Having eyes, he is able to see light or truth, and therefore direct the body, the Church. These horns and eyes are the 12 Apostles. They foresee the future, they guide our path, they defend the faith, they lead the battle. What a glorious blessing it is to have 12 Apostles upon the earth today!
It is such a great and glorious thing that the Lion of Judah is willing to open the book that a new song is sung by "angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders; and the number of them was 10,000 times 10,000, and 1,000s of 1,000s." (5:9-11) Okay, that is a LOT of people! Besides it being an awful lot of people, the numbers 10 and 1,000 symbolize respectively "testimony and responsibility," and "divine completion and the Father's glory." That fits in actual numbers and in numerology: there are going to be countless hosts of people perfected (perfection = completion). They are perfected and receive eternal life by the greatness of God's plan and the willing Atonement of Jesus Christ, they are the "work and the glory" of God. (Moses 1:39)
THE FOUR HORSEMEN
Now we come to the four horsemen. Each of them corresponds to a "seal" or a chapter in the book.
First, remember that in scripture a conqueror rides a horse. This is why Jesus was able to enter Jerusalem, hailed as "King of the Jews" without bothering the Roman overlords in the slightest: A king riding a horse was a king coming to battle, but a king riding a donkey was a king coming in peace.
1--The White Horse with the Crown
"And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer." (6:2)
The New Testament Institute Manual says this horse is white, pure, made holy. His rider wears a crown, a symbol of government and priesthood. It is the temporal and spiritial conqueror, Enoch. (See the New Testament Institute Manual, chapter 55, for more detail on the four horsemen.)
"If we choose to see the white horse in more general terms, using a less literal fulfillment, grouping it more fully with its three companions, it can symbolize the idea of conquest. I lean to this reading of the first seal. This shifts the emphasis more to one of a desire for power and the unrighteous seeking of it, Enoch being a lonely exception." (Wilcox, ch. 6)
2--The Red Horse with the Sword
"And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." (6:4)
Red symbolizes evil and Satan, and the sword symbolizes bloodshed. This was the time of terrible wickedness in which Noah and his family escaped on the ark.
3--The Black Horse with the Balances
"And I beheld and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts [the whole of the earth, remember] say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and 3 measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." (6:5-6)
This is the black horse of famine in the times of Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. One measure of grain was about one quarter, or a day's ration for one person. One penny was about a day's wage. Therefore one person's ration costing one day's wage describes a serious famine. Barley was three measures for a penny but was greatly inferior nutritionally, and only used as a last resort. The scales symbolize the great care taken to ration grain during the famine. It was also enormously important to keep wine and oil preserved and useable for both nutritional and medicinal purposes.
4--The Pale Horse
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." (6:8)
The ashen look of the dead is the color of this horse. It refers to the time of the great empires, in which death came in many forms: by sword, by wild beasts, and by famine.
As we view the first four seals and their representative horsemen, "We must be careful not to limit the horsemen exclusively to their own seal. There have been famines and plagues in the first as well as the fourth dispensation, just as war and new subjugating empires have come and gone throughout the sad disharmony of history. We are being shown the manner in which Lucifer rules the world when man gives him the ascendancy." (Wilcox, ch. 6)
THE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEALS
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
"And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (6:9-11)
Why were the souls of the righteous under the altar?
"Certain sacrifices of the Jewish religion required that the animal's blood be used in different ways...In some rituals the blood was collected in a bowl and poured out at the foot of the altar of sacrifice. (See Lev. 4.) Pouring out the blood suggests a freely willed, total commitment of life to the Lord. It was often associated with the removing of sin. The souls John saw under the altar had freely given their all. Their offering was directly related to their desire to remove evil from the world. They poured out their lives at the altar of God." (Wilcox, ch. 5)
“Where the Lord’s people are concerned, the events of the fifth seal, that period from our Lord’s birth down to 1000 A.D., which are of unspeakable worth are:
“1. The birth into mortality of God’s only Son; his ministry among men and the atoning sacrifice which he wrought by the shedding of his own blood.
“2. The spread and perfection of the Church which was set up by Him whose Church it is, and the unbelievable fanaticism among unbelievers that made acceptance of martyrdom almost synonymous with acceptance of the gospel.
“3. And then, of course, the complete falling away from true and perfect Christianity, which sad eventuality ushered in the long night of apostate darkness on all the face of the earth." (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:482, quoted in Institute Manual)
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth...And the heavens opened as a scroll is opened when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island, was moved out of its place.
"And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains..." (6:12-15)
"The sixth seal brings us to our own time and dispensation. Since we are living during this seal, it would stand to reason that we recognize our own age in the visionary descriptions of it. John sees a world where all things are in commotion, where stability is overturned. Seven areas come under this general impression as the seal is opened: 1) a quaking earth, 2) a blackened sun, 3) a blood-red moon, 4) falling stars, 5) opening heavens, 6) shifting mountains and islands, and 7) people seeking places to hide...
"I do not wish to discount the literal fulfillment of any ancient prophecy. Nephi told his wondering brothers that the words of Isaiah had both 'temporal and spiritual' fulfillment (1 Ne. 22:3). The turmoil of the sixth seal may have literal as well as poetic fulfillment, but because of the nature of the writing style in Revelation, we would be foolish to examine the literal at the expense of the figurative...
"If the scene presented to John were opened to our view, we would immediately notice that darkness was dominant. There would be little light with a black sun, a red moon, and falling stars...
"It is also a time of great instability...notice that the major aspects of creation are mentioned--earth, sun, moon, stars, heavens...Normally the earth is firm, not shaking; the stars are constant and never depart from their accustomed cycle in the night sky. Mountains are supposed to be immovable, and the moon shines with soft light...
"The reason we fear eathquakes is not so much the shaking of the earth but what that shaking produces. Buildings, bridges, roads, and rocks tumble to the ground...'Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land [indicating all creation]; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.' (Haggai 2:6-7) The 'desire of all nations' is a reference to the Savior...
"'Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably.' (Heb. 12:25-28)
"In the last century, as Haggai indicated, we saw nations fall. Two of the most obvious were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, but smaller, less dramatic examples are almost too numerous to name. When all the shaking is done, one kingdom, one nation, will remain--that of Zion or the kingdom of God.(See also D&C 84:117-19.)
"In the D&C, the Lord urges the Saints to build Zion, that they might have 'a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God'...In [our] chaotic world...God has provided one mountain, one island, that will not move: 'And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another (D&C 45:69). As Saints, we need not be overwhelmed by the darkness of the seal in which we live--we need to build Zion." (Wilcox, ch. 6)
THE SEVENTH SEAL
Chapters 7-20 describe the events of the seventh seal or chapter of the book. In this lesson we skip to chapter 19. We are finally at the end of the story, for which we saw a preview in chapter 3, but one element is added: a marriage.
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." (19:7)
Why a marriage? Because it is the strongest covenant known to most cultures, it involves becoming literally "one" with the marriage partner, it is something that requires much planning and preparation, something to look forward to with great joy and anticipation, the greatest event in people's lives in many cultures, a time of supreme happiness, and a union that of all unions is intended to last forever. The bride in this story is, of course, the Church of God which has become Zion.
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
"And out of his mouth proceedeth the word of God [a sharp sword], and with it he will smite the nations; and he will rule them with the word of his mouth; and he treadeth the wine-press in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." (19:11-16 JST)
The Fate of the Wicked
Then an angel "standing in the sun," completely filled with the glory of God, calls to the vultures to come because the opposing army will soon be corpses. Unfortunately for the leaders of that enemy, the devil and those who knowingly led others astray, however, they will be cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. It would be so much better to be killed.
"Brimstone is a sulphur, a yellow-green, highly combustible element commonly found along the shores of the Dead Sea. The same substance is used to make matches and gunpowder...When ignited...sulphur liquefies and produces a sharp and suffocating burning odor that can desolate and kill." (D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner, New Testament Apostles Testify of Jesus Christ, p. 343)
"A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner...The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:314)
Then an angel will come down from heaven with the key of the bottomless pit. As we discussed in the previous lesson, a key anciently was a symbol of great power. What image does a bottomless pit bring to mind? It is a place where you cannot get a foothold, you cannot even stay in place, but must continually be falling downward. This is the fate of Satan, he who strove to elevate himself by putting others down.
Why was an angel the symbol used for the one who would bind Satan, rather than Jesus Christ himself? Here is a possible answer:
"The only power I know of that will bind Satan, or render him powerless, is righteous living...Satan had no power over [Christ], because Jesus resisted his temptations." (Eldred G. Smith, Conference Report, April 1970) The righteousness of the followers of Christ will cast the devil into the pit. Along with this representative angel, John saw the thrones again, and the souls of the righteous martyrs living and reigning with Christ for 1,000 years. 1,000, again, means "divine completeness and glory." The key to their success is found in verse 4: "They had not worshipped the beast [Satan] or received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands." "It was a common practice in John's day for devotees of the various heathen gods to markt their foreheads with the name or symbol of their god. For example: Zeus = thunderbolt, Poseidon = trident." (Institute Manual, p. 460). Slaves would also receive the brand of their master on their forehead or on their right hand. (Ogden/Skinner, p. 335)
The First Resurrection
The people who rise in the morning of the first resurrection are those who resisted Satan, who have no such condemning mark, but have "clean hands" (Psalm 24:4) and are "unspotted from the world" (James 1:27) and have been "sealed up for the morning of the first resurrection." Does your patriarchal blessing offer you this promise? A seal such as this is proof of ownership, a label placed on goods or tattooed on servants (Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 319). It means Christ has paid for their sins and they belong to and with him.
I hope it isn't too disrespectful to compare this to the movie "Toy Story 2." If you've seen this movie, you will remember that the key character was a little cowboy toy named Woody. Woody belonged to a little boy and had his name "Andy" magic-markered on the sole of his foot. Despite getting separated from Andy and going through a great deal of trial during that time, he is reunited with Andy, and his new friend, the cowgirl doll Jessie, who has never belonged to a child, receives the name of "Andy" on the bottom of her foot as well.
We can be sealed as possessions of Christ's, the Man riding victorious on the white horse with the label KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS if we resist being tainted with the mark of the devil as we are enduring our separation from our Heavenly Father on this earth.
The New Jerusalem
The glorious new dwelling of the righteous, the New Jerusalem, will have light like unto jasper (21:11), walls of jasper (21:18), and the first foundation made of jasper (20:19). Where I live, our foundations are typically made of concrete, and although they are vital, they are the ugliest part of the building. The very bottom foundation of this city is made of jasper, a beautiful precious stone. The city is so glorious that gems and precious stones are all John can find in our world to describe it!
"Jasper is a mixture of quartz and iron oxide...[It] is harder than a knife and scratches glass. It takes a high polish, is used for mantels, pillars and other fancy interior finishings. Fine grades of jasper are polished into gems. Jasper was found on the breastplate of the High Priest in Exodus. Greeks and Romans believed it could heal many illnesses and draw the poison from snake bites." (World Book Encyclopedia)
A distinguishing feature of a city or area that is largely populated by Latter-day Saints on our earth is a temple at its center. Surprisingly, the New Jerusalem will not have a temple!
"And I saw no temple therein; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
"And the nations of them which are saved [again, that's a LOT of people] shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there." (21:22-25)
THE OPTIMISM OF THE REVELATION OF JOHN
Although John was in exile as he received this Revelation, most or all of his fellow apostles had been killed, and the Church was on the eve of the greatest apostasy of all time, he wrote the Revelation with an attitude of great joy and hope. "The prophets of God, and especially the 'seers' who have seen as God sees from the beginning to the end are substantial optimists because their hope is sure...No one can read these concluding chapters of Revelation without sensing the great joy and hope that was felt by John as he wrote." (Institute Manual, p. 470-471)
President Ezra Taft Benson said, "Of all people, we as Latter-day Saints should be the most optimistic and the least pessimistic." (Conference Report, October 1974)
"The Lord wants you, my young friends, to desire with all your heart to keep these standards and live by the gospel truths found in the scriptures. As you do this, you will see beyond the moment, and you will see your bright and wonderful future with great opportunities and responsibilities. You will be willing to work hard and endure long, and you will have an optimistic outlook on life...
"The Lord will help you to make more out of your life than you ever can by yourself. He will help you always to see the end from the beginning!" (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Conference Report, April 2006).
Because the Revelation of John has been called The Apocolypse, and because it has been written in a "divine code" misunderstood by the world since the great Apostasy, the word "apocalypse" has come to mean "the end of the world." The very word conjures up feelings of terror, of doom and devastation. But the original meaning of the word "apocolypse," used by the early Saints who understood the revelation, is "unveiling." It means a showing of something that has been hidden. The Revelation of John is not given to scare us, but to teach us what we need to know to reach the happy ending of the story of the world.
"My hopes in reference to the future life are supremely grand and glorious, and I try to keep these prospects bright, continually; and that is the privilege and the duty of every Latter-day Saint." (President Lorenzo Snow, Conference Report, October 1900)
Let's read in John's own words the reasons we should be so hopeful:
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (21:3-4)
At the very end of his revelation, John writes the words of the Lord, "Surely I come quickly. Amen." (22:19) "Quickly" here does not mean "right away," but "in a sudden manner." To this, John adds these words of his own, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
(You may want to end your lesson by playing one of the musical versions of the Revelation of John from Handel's "Messiah." It has been recorded by the Tabernacle Choir, as well as many other choirs. Rev. 11:15 is the middle of the "Hallelujah Chorus;" 5:12 is "Worthy is the Lamb;" 5:13, 7:12, and 7:10 combined are "Blessing and Honour.")
(FYI: Rev. 22:18-19 are John's copyright on the book of Revelation. He warned against adding to or taking away from his words. This may have been effective as they have been largely untainted over time, or perhaps it is just his "divine code" that prevented tampering. At any rate, it does NOT refer to the Bible as a whole. The Bible had not yet been assembled when this was written, and in fact, John's own gospel and his epistles were written AFTER this Revelation. --KBYU New Testament study television program with Andrew Skinner and other BYU religion professors)