Past, Present, and Future in the Book of Revelation

by Chip Brogden
Revelation is not only telling us what is happening in the future, but it is also tells us what happened in the past – because I have learned that the best way to interpret the future is to interpret the past.

The best indication of a person’s future behavior is to look at their previous behavior. It’s not to say that people can’t change; it only means that people seldom change. They usually don’t change. If you want to get a good indication of what they’re going to be like in the future just look at how they have behaved up until that point. That’s why we need to be new creations.[1] We need the Lord to come in and do a miracle, because apart from the miracle of God in our life, we human beings are not naturally prone to change. We like to keep things just the way they are. Someone who doesn’t know the Lord, or someone who claims to know Him but is not walking with Him, or is in a carnal state of being… They’re probably not going to change unless something dramatic happens.

In the same way we can look at history, and we make the observation that history tends to repeat itself; and the reason it repeats itself is because people seldom change. Things may change, but people seldom change, and therefore history tends to repeat itself. That’s true if it’s your personal history, or if it’s the history of nations, or the history of mankind.

Spiritually speaking, we’ve drawn parallels between Israel and the Ekklesia, between Israel and the “Church” – only I call it the Ekklesia because I want to be very clear that what I mean by Ekklesia is not to indicate the religious system, but to indicate the spiritual house of living stones.[2] The Ekklesia is a called-out people. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation of peculiar people, of kings and priests.[3] The Ekklesia in Scripture, in the New Testament, always refers to people. It’s not referring to buildings or programs or ministries as we have come to know them. In fact, all of those outward things tend to distract us from the Ekklesia. They are a replacement of the Ekklesia. And we’re going to establish that in these Parenthetical chapters. Revelation 12 through 18 help us to better, and more accurately, interpret what we have seen so far and helps us to connect the dots and make sense of what we have seen.

So often, people who have not sat through the whole teaching (or come in the middle of the teaching) wonder how I come to the conclusions that I come to. Well, when I’m speculating, I try to tell you that I’m speculating; but when I’m making an interpretation that is based on Scripture, you have to understand that sometimes it is taken from a passage of Scripture that we haven’t covered yet. If you read ahead in the Book of Revelation, it’s going to give you some commentary and some context that helps us to better understand what has happened before – and that’s a pattern that repeats itself all the time. Joseph has a dream, and it’s later on that the interpretation of that dream becomes clear. Daniel has a dream, or Daniel sees a vision. He doesn’t know what the vision means, and then there comes the interpretation of what that vision and what that dream indicates.

In the Book of Revelation it is the same way. John sees these things, he records these things, and in some cases more explanation is given to help us understand all that has happened before. But it’s hard to bring that all into context when you’re dealing with just one chapter at a time. To give you an example, it’s just like when you watch a movie. When you watch a movie that is two or three hours long, and you have watched it all the way to the end and you know how the story goes and how the story ends, then when you watch that movie again you see it quite differently the second time around. You’re able to make better sense of why people said what they said, and why they did what they did, and why the story seems so convoluted the first time around compared to the second time around. It’s because you have the benefit of seeing the whole story, the whole timeline. So, it’s beneficial to read through the whole Book of Revelation before you start trying to understand each chapter.

But where we are right now is in that great Parenthetical section of Revelation that is going to go back and elaborate upon things that have happened up until this point, and even going back in time before the Book of Revelation, back to a period of time that helps to better understand the nature of spiritual war, the nature of the enemy, and the fact that there is an enemy. We don’t want to overemphasize the work of the devil as many charismatics are prone to do. They tend to overemphasize the devil. They tend to make him more powerful than he actually is. They see a demon underneath every rock. We want to avoid that extreme. But we also want to avoid the extreme that says there is no devil, or evil is just an extension of the will of man, or when man disobeys God that’s the [only] evil, and the devil is just symbolic of something. Scripture does not indicate that the devil is merely a symbol or symbolic of evil. It actually uses symbols in Revelation 12 to indicate the devil. You wouldn’t use a symbol to explain a symbol, but you would use a symbol to explain something that is real. A symbol represents something that is real! There is an actual adversary. There is a spirit of antichrist.[4] There is, Peter says, “Your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walks around seeking whom he may devour.”[5] And when you go through and do a study of everything connected to the devil… and not get blown away by it, because the devil is defeated, and we’re going to see this in Revelation 12. The problem is when you make the devil bigger than he is, and that consumes your thinking, and consumes your spiritual worldview. Or the opposite extreme: You totally disregard the devil, and you fail to be cognizant or aware of the devil’s devices. Paul says we are not ignorant of his devices[6] and so we are to be on guard. We are to resist the devil.[7] It would be hard to resist something that doesn’t exist and something that you deny the reality of! I can guarantee you’re not resisting it if you don’t believe in the existence of it!

Revelation treats the devil as an actual spiritual entity. Particularly here in Revelation 12 we’re going to go back and see some of the history of our adversary the devil, and hidden within Revelation 12 are the clues as to how to defeat this spiritual adversary. I can tell you right now, friend, that it’s not the people out in the world; it’s not those lost sinners who are against God; it’s not the atheists; it’s not the liberals; it’s not all those bad people out in the world. We are not wrestling with flesh and blood.[8] Your problem is not me. Your problem is not the church system. Your problem is not all those people who don’t get it. Your problem is not your husband, your wife, or your spouse, or your kids, or your parents, or your next-door neighbors. We are not wrestling against flesh and blood, Scripture says. In fact, many of us are wrestling with flesh and blood – but the point that Scripture is making there is that our real fight is spiritual. It’s not with the people here on the earth. It’s not getting into arguments and fights and fusses and feuding with people here in this world, or even online. All of the drama and the things that we insert ourselves into: Fighting with flesh and blood, arguing, fussing, and fighting with flesh and blood as if that’s the problem. I know that’s a huge distraction from the actual warfare that you and I are equipped to deal with. But if we are in the wrong battle, if we are fighting for a hill that doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t make any difference how skilled you are at fighting. The victory that you win doesn’t mean anything. We want to be in the correct battlefield first and foremost, so that when we do fight, our fighting is important, it serves a purpose, it makes a difference, and it is fighting that is fighting for something worthwhile.

Spiritually speaking, that battlefield is centered around the Testimony of Jesus.  We’ll see this and we’ll allude to it as we get back into Revelation chapter 12. We’ll see that everything revolves around the Testimony of Jesus and that this is a spiritual warfare that we are engaged in.

[1] 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15.

[2] 1 Pet. 2:5.

[3] 1 Peter. 2:9.

[4] 1 Jn. 2:18, et al.

[5] 1 Pet. 5:8.

[6] 2 Cor. 2:11.

[7] Jas. 4:7.

[8] Eph. 6:12.

About the Author

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor. His writings and teachings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message focusing on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


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