Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 36

Revelation (Part 3)

In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 36
Watching Now
Revelation (Part 3)

II. Revelation: God's Plan for Cosmic History (Part 2)

H. The Tribulation - 2 possible scenarios

1. 7 years ?

a. Powerful testimony of believers

b. Persecution of believers

2. 3 years

a. God's judgment on unbelievers

b. Powerful testimony by believers

c. Persecution by Satan of believers

3. True in both scenarios

a. Believers are exempt from God's wrath

b. Believers are not exempt from Satan's attacks

I. Christian History

1. The Church Age - "3 years"

2. Tribulation of end - "3 years"

[Notice too how similar they are]

J. Hebrew Gematria



200+60+100 50+6+200+50 

K. Revelation 12-16

1. Chapters 12-14

a. The Satanic Trinity (666 < 777)

b. The State as demonic, not divine (cf. Romans 13)

c. Salvation and judgment of nations

2. Chapters 15-16

a. Final plagues - no limit

b. Believers still protected (16:2) - "eternal security?"

c. Gathering for Armageddon (16:16-17)

d. Seventh plague (v. 17) - "It is done!"

L. Revelation 17-19

1. Chapters 17-18

a. Final interlude

b. What went wrong (17)

c. Lament (18)

2. Chapter 19

3. Heavenly triumph

4. Two meals

5. Armageddon ends, before it's begun!

6. Seamless narrative into chapter 20

M. 3 Views of the Millennium

1. Premillennialism

a. Church age ending with 2nd coming

b. Millennium ending with judgment

c. New heaven and new earth

2. Amillennialism

a. Church age = millennium? - ending with 2nd coming and judgment

b. New heaven and new earth

3. Postmillennialism

a. Church age includes millennium

b. Millennium ends with 2nd coming and judgment

c. New heaven and new earth

N. Revelation 20-22

1. Chapter 20 - Two key objections to premillenialism

a. Anticlimactic?

b. Mixture of resurrected and unresurrected?

2. Chapters 21-22 - New Heavens and New Earth

a. Perfect intimacy with God (no temple)

b. Perfect Christian community

c. Key inclusions with beginning of Genesis

d. From garden to city

e. History is going somewhere

f. Ultimately only two kinds of people; which are you?

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Revelation (Part 3)
Lesson Transcript


This is the 36th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


At this point, we need to be reminded of the fluidness of apocalyptic language, even if these are still the seals that enable the scrolls of God’s final judgement to be unrolled. If one thinks of seals as shown on the next PowerPoint slide, not as animals in a zoo, but as a wax insignia poured while still hot in a mold onto an open end of a scroll which is allowed to cool and dry in that mold before it is removed so that it hardens and affixes the seal shut. One can see how even with five seals unrolled, taken off rather, one can begin to appear into the scroll and see what comes ahead. Certainly by the time one takes the sixth seal off, depending on how close to the very edge of the scroll where the seventh seal is located. One could begin to unroll a fair amount of the scroll and see it. So it is not entirely mixing metaphors to imagine John being given a vision in the sixth seal of a flash ahead, just as we speak of flash backs in literature and film, to the threshold of the day the wrath of the lamb has come. But then without continuing in chronological fashion to the actual return of Christ himself at this point, steps back from the brink of the abyss, only to have more judgements in a more consecutive chronological order narrated later on.


We will see the identical phenomenon occur when we come to the six trumpets judgement; trumpets being a middle set of seven judgements, when all the armies of the earth are amassed in that cryptic place called Armageddon, ready to do battle and yet John pauses and doesn’t go on to describe the events associated with that battle, but pulls back once again from the brink of the end. In order to change the diagram, perhaps another way of seeing what’s going on is as if the slide, labelled, ‘approaching the abyss,’ the shield judgements form a consecutive series of footprints, moving toward the end; just as the arrow on the line labeled, the shield shows when one gets to the sixth seal, one has arrived at the edge and can see in horror, and then without retreating, chronologically where one left off prior to the sixth seal, one moves into one of a number of interludes in the Book of John that doesn’t directly deal with the twenty one judgements, visually symbolized in the PowerPoint diagram by walking parallel along the edge of the preverbal clift, only then to turn again on a path moving toward the end, this time, symbolized by the trumpet judgments with the same phenomenon occurring, coming near the end with the sixth recoiling from it, walking along parallel by an interlude and then finally with the bowel judgements, no further interruptions and we move all the way to the end. This kind of diagram also helps us to make sense of the seventh of the judgements in each of these series. 


When we come to the seventh seal, we see only silence in heaven for half an hour and when we come to the seventh trumpet, we see what Eugene Peterson has called Reversed Thunder, earthquakes, hailstorms etc. but they appear to be taking place from earth toward heaven rather than in the other direction and thus, no further suffering on earth. Also apparently being a little more than what we might call cosmic sound effects as we get ready for the third and final series of plagues. Thus it would appear that the seventh seal is nothing more than the introduction to the all-embracing category that encompasses the trumpet judgements just as the seventh trumpet functions as the introduction to the category that encompasses the seven bulls. Only with the seventh bull do we then move forward to one specific subsequent event, namely the end of human history in its current form. 


We return to selective exegetical comments, book by book with chapter 7 and see the first of those before coming to the seventh seal in chapter 8. And intriguingly we have, in discussing the lion who was the lamp, a remarkably parallel phenomenon where God gives John the vision, by means of angels, by means of a voice which he hears and in that voice (7:4) he hears a number of those who were sealed, of those who are protected from the judgement, now understood as that great tribulation, note the language in chapter 7:14. Because God never inflicts his wrath on his people but only on unbelievers, the believers who will live through the tribulation are metaphorically sealed. The four heads of the servants of God to protect those from his coming wrath and they’re described in verses 5 and following as twelve thousand each from the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, in about as Jewish language as is conceivable, using that Jewish number for the twelve tribes, multiplied repeatedly by a thousand and it’s understandable why some people would argue that these are Jews and represent some or all Jews alive at the time of the tribulation who unlike the rest of the church, about to be depicted in the vision of the multitude must live through the tribulation. But wait, just like the lion who is the lamb, John never sees 144,000, he never sees any Jews or Israelites, he never sees any collection of twelve thousand from each of the tribes and by the way, note the comments in our book about the unparalleled nature of this list of twelve tribes. It’s not what anyone would have expected. Rather, just as in chapter 5, as soon as the angel gives John the commands, as soon as the heavenly voice described the vision of which John would have immense curiosity in seeing. Verse 9, he looks to see the group just described but sees a diametrically opposite group of people, a much larger multitude and hence one too big to count. It wasn’t just Jews but people from every nation, tribes, peoples and languages standing before the throne and in front of the lamb. The church, the entire company of true Christians of God’s redeemed of Old and New Covenants alike, of every ethnic group; at least as these groups were understood in Biblical days. These are those who will live through the tribulation, at least those representative who are alive at that time and therefore can said later to have come out of the great tribulation (verse 14), not with the idea of being kept from this time but with the same kind of connotation, preserved during and then brought out of it and given their heavenly reward.    


This brings us to chapter 8 & 9 and the second series of judgements. Now the tribulation and notice again, there is the emphasis that no one is to be harmed except those who do not have a seal of God on their forehead, suggesting the contrast between Christians and non-Christians who live through the tribulation. And this time the first four plagues are described similar to those in Egypt when God hadn’t yet removed his people from the land of Goshen, but did preserve them from his wrath and plagues that punished the Egyptians; post tribulation. Here, we are introduced to a recurring fraction that occurs so often that it must not only be delivered but emphatic that a third of the different portions of nature are affected. Why a third? Note a particular tradition of Biblical Symbolism for this, except perhaps it comes in the middle of a sequence where in the seal judgements, warfare and slaughter took place on a quarter of the earth, now a third of various aspects of the earth are affected whereas when we come to the bull judgements, not such limitation will be stated, suggesting that there is a progressive and climatic order to these plagues and that they are not entirely repetitive covering the same ground in different symbolic fashions at each time. But why pick a third, why not pick something else? Presumably because the point is, a third is still a minority, it’s still less than half, and it’s not two thirds. Two thirds of the world or the majority of the world continues on seemingly oblivious, untouched, even in non-Christian humanity by all of this. While we are not into a period of world history at the moment where Christians are demonstratively exempt from certain kinds of suffering that affect only believers. It is intriguing to notice how in the past half century, the expression has developed, first for under-developed and more impoverished and suffering nations as the third world and then in more recent times to reflect more accurately the percentages affecting the two thirds world. 


We may not be living through the great tribulation exactly but if one wants to be literal for a moment, twice as much of the world is being affected with suffering, akin to those of the seal judgements and others and at least partial parallels at times to the suffering of the trumpet judgements. Twice the world is being afflicted, non-Christian and Christian alike than will be the case during the trumpet judgements. Little wonder that pre-tribulation rings quite hollow to almost all Christians in the two thirds world, but what’s the point of us being exempt and escaping from that which is well into its horrors, it is not as bad as what some Christians have lived through, except where western dispensationalist missionaries are largely responsible for the planting of the church and brought tribulation with them and people have felt that they have had to buy into it in order to be seen as orthodox. 


Know as well in chapter 8 and 9 that the final three trumpet judgements are also describes as woes and the first three woes and here as things do appear to get worse than anything that human history has literally seen previously, including the warfare of the world, a third of its population (9:15). We now have imagery of locus or grasshoppers in a plague reminiscent of some of the countries in the Middle East periodically experience; reminiscent of the prophecies of Joel in which they morphed into human armies. But these are described so grotesquely with such obviously symbolic elements of warfare offensive and defensive and explicitly as coming from the abyss that it is hard to escape the interpretation of these plagues as demonic warfare, spiritual warfare. But believers are still protected (9:4). They were told not to harm the grass of the earth and any plant or tree but only people and only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. But is this a battle that could be filmed as bibliographers were in the right place or is this spiritual warfare and demonic attack and confusion and torment and deceit on the a third of world’s people who are not believers? In which case, it’s not that difficult to argue that has taken place in the past as well and perhaps in the present. Theologically another crucial highlight of these chapters is the closing two verses in 9:20-21 that repeats the theme that despite these awful plagues on unbelievers that people still do not repent. A back handed way of reminding us that even these awful punishments were rehabilitated and remedial in design; designed to draw people to repentance, even in this case they chose otherwise. God never punishes short of judgement day and absolute final judgement, except in the hopes of bringing people back to himself. 


And then comes the second interlude in which much like Ezekiel John is given, in vision form, a small scroll, bitter sweet and told to eat it, just like Ezekiel implying that there are promises of good, salvation for God’s people to come and judgement on his enemies and perhaps of the bitterness also of the fact that God’s people must suffer before they receive their glorious reward. The difference is, now in contrast to not only to Ezekiel but also the fifth seal, there is no more delay, no theological heart or big idea of chapter 10 is found at the end of verse 6. 


Chapter 11 introduces us to the two witnesses who produces a powerful witness on earth, describes in way reminiscent of Moses and Elisha, some have taken them as literally Moses and Elisha having returned from heaven, some have them as just Jewish people who on their own, eschatologically alone, who lives through the tribulation. If the entire church is alive at that time, its presence is equally easy, perhaps even more natural to see this as the composite witness of the church worldwide. But on any interpretation, what is interesting is, even as wickedness and horror and judgement are increasing, so too is the fulfillment of the great commission; God’s Word is going forth with great power and with positive effect so that on our next slide we show that the true signs of the times, that we are in the last days of the last days is not some unrelentingly positive Christianization of the world and unprecedented suggested in evangelism nor equally unrelentingly or monolithically everything going from bad to worse as competing eschatological systems so often like to promote. Post millennialism on the one hand and dispensational pre-millennial on the other respectively, but rather both at the same time as has so often been true throughout church history. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, Tertullian said around AD 200. And we’ve seen that in China, today on a smaller scale but increasingly among Muslim nations in the Middle East and more particularly among Muslim communities in the western world where greater access to the Gospel is possible. Nothing qualitatively is new; during the tribulation perhaps quantitatively in this case, greater. 


Revelation 11 is also that turning point for a number of different eschatological systems because of the death and resurrection of the two witnesses and then being caught up to heaven. It’s here where the mid-tribulation rapture approach if seen, seeing that one set of tribulation judgements, the trumpets have passed in one set, the bowls are left and views the ascension of the two witnesses, is a symbol for the rapture of the church. It is here also where those who on dispensational pre-millennial schemes see seven years for the tribulation and find a turning point half way into it, half of the judgement is done, enough as we are about to see in Revelation 11 & 12, numerous references to a three and a half year period of time, if exactly to and only two of these references are taken as consecutively. It’s possible to see a milder period of tribulation during the first three and a half years and more intense tribulation the second half. And because in Revelation 12 & 13, where the anti-Christ is part of what some have called the Satanic Trinity is more explicitly revealed. One can understand why the view has developed that anti-Christ will only show his true colors as a malignance rather than a benign being during the second half of the seven year tribulation. 


But that is not the only possibility; the next PowerPoint slide shows the possibility that these three and a half year periods of time to be taken concurrently. In which case three and a half is the symbolic number for the great tribulation, obviously half of seven and deliberately so because seven would be the complete number, would be the perfect number, would be a number better suited for a good period of time instead of a horrible period of time. Three and a half is a vivid way of reminding people skilled in Jewish background that this is the imperfect, the incomplete period of time. At this juncture, recognizing that our comments on the Book of Revelation are progressing at delicately longer than we first anticipated for the sake of not creating an even a more cumbersome file than we already have. We will end this lecture; it is exegetically speaking, the turning point in the Book of Revelation as we have just noted. Even though combining our comments that we’ve made to the introduction to the book with our comments on the first eleven chapters, we are well beyond the half way point of our reflections on this book.