One of the challenges of the book of Revelation is that the language is often strange and the images unfamiliar. We have some difficulty in understanding what John is trying to convey to us. There is a solution to this problem, and it is related to the problem of understanding the following.
O SIBILI, SI ERGO:
OHNOBILI, DEMIS TRUX.
For most of those who see this message, the meaning is invisible. And yet, when they continue to look at it and to read it over and over, sometimes even reading aloud to hear and experience the sounds of the language, the passage suddenly opens itself and its complexity becomes clear. Try it yourself. Read it over at least twice out loud, and have someone else nearby read it to you. I think you will soon discover the meaning.
The book of Revelation feels difficult for many readers. The first time through the book, or through a section of the book, they may feel confused and unrewarded. But as you they look again and again, as they begin to isolate phrases and concepts whose meanings are clear, and then to link them together and to adjoining verses, they will discover that the book will open itself to them in a wonderful way.
Here is a suggestion to consider as you study this book. Don’t just read Revelation. See it. As much as possible, let the images stand by themselves. Let them teach you. Do not exhaust yourself trying to force meanings on the symbols. Much of the time, the meaning is clear from the images themselves. Joseph Smith said of this book: “The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.290)
Speaking of this remarkable book of scripture, Elder McConkie said
In my judgement the Gospel of John ranks far ahead of those of Matthew Mark, or Luke; at least John’s record of the life of our Lord is directed to the saints; it deals more fully with those things that interest people who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, who have the hope of eternal life. But even ahead of his gospel account stands this wondrous work. the book of Revelation, or at least so it seems to those who are prepared to build on the foundations of the gospels and epistles and to go forward forever in perfecting their knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, September 1975, p. 85).
John, one of the original Twelve, was confined by Roman officials to the island of Patmos, a small protrusion of rock off the western coast of Turkey. His offence was bearing testimony of Christ to a society more and more given to the cult of emperor worship. Christians, because of their belief that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord, were facing increasing hostility. While on Patmos, John wrote to the seven faithful branches of the church in Asia. Those letters are the book of Revelation.
The theme of the book is that eventually, the good guys will win. Good will conquer evil. Christ will reign triumphantly on the earth and Babylon, the earthly kingdom of the devil, will fall. My sister-in-law has an interesting plaque on the wall of her kitchen in Nauvoo. Seeing it a couple of weeks ago reminded me of the book of Revelation. The message this: “Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be okay.” That is the message of this remarkable book of scripture.
By the way, about 20% of the book of Revelation is changed in the JST. Be sure to check JST footnotes and the JST appendix for clarification.
The vision that begins this book starts with a voice.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea (Revelation 1:10,11).
When John turned to see the source of the voice, he saw seven golden candlesticks. According to 1:20, these sources of light represent the seven churches. Why are the candlesticks gold rather than pewter or brass or baked clay? Why are they represented as candlesticks? What light does the church provide for the world? Who does John see standing in the midst of the churches? (Rev. 1:13). Can you see this image? What is John trying to tell us about the church and its relationship to the Son of Man? Read John’s description of Christ in Rev. 1:13-15. What did the Lord have in his right hand? (Rev. 1:16). According to Rev. 1:20, the stars are the angels of the seven churches. According to JST footnote for 1:20, what are the angels? They are the servants of the seven churches. They are servants in the way that your bishop is a servant. Christ said, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11).
Don’t just read this: see it! Christ stands in the midst of his church holding the leaders of the church in his right hand. There is a beauty to this image that enlarges the soul and increases faith. If we stay close to our leaders, who else will we be close to? If we are active in the church, honoring our covenants and keeping the commandments, who will we be close to? Through what agency will the Savior make himself and his work know to the world?
The Lord now sends messages to the angels–the servants or leaders–of the seven churches. To the members of each of these churches–these wards or branches–John writes some wonderful promises made by the Lord to those who overcome.
As you review these promises from the book of Revelation, reflect on the reality they suggest for the faithful. I think you will be amazed as I was at what the Lord promises to those who “overcome.”
1] (Rev. 2:7) “To him that OVERCOMETH will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Turn to Revelation 22:2. How many kinds of fruit grow on this tree? What are the leaves for?
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2).
Ezekiel 47:12 teaches the following:
And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.
2] (Rev. 2:11) “He that OVERCOMETH shall not be hurt of the second death.@ Turn to Rev. 21:8. The second death is described as a Afire which burneth with fire and brimstone.”
3] (Rev. 2:17) “To him that OVERCOMETH will I give to eat of the hidden manna.” Manna was miracle bread, supplied from heaven. But those who ate it died (see John 6:49). Read John 6:48, 50, 51. Who is the bread of life or the bread of heaven (the hidden manna)? According to verse 50, what happens to those who partake of this “hidden manna”?
4] (Rev. 2:17) ” . . . and will give him a white stone and on the stone a new name written.” Turn to D&C 130:10,11. The white stone mentioned herein will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one. What will be revealed by these stones?
According to D&C 130:11,
And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.
5] (Rev. 2:26) “He that OVERCOMETH, to him I will give power over the nations.” Turn to D&C 78:15. To people who overcome the Lord will say, “. . . come up unto the crown prepared for you, and be made rulers over many kingdoms.” The kingdoms here referred to are eternal kingdoms, patterned after the kingdom of God the Father.
6] (Rev. 2:28) “And I will give him the morning star.” Turn to Rev. 22:16. Who is the “morning star”?
7] (Rev. 3:5) “He that OVERCOMETH . . . shall be clothed in white raiment. . .” The literal meaning of “white raiment” is probably in verse 4 of the same chapter. “Thou hast a few names . . .which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” There is also a symbolic meaning. In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith prayed for the saints (D&C 109:76), that at the time of the Second Coming, “. . . our garments may be pure, that we may be clothed upon with robes of righteousness, with palms in our hands and crowns of glory upon our heads.”
8] (Rev. 3:5) “And I will not blot his name out of the book of life.” In Revelation 21 John describes the “Holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God” (vs. 10). Revelation 21:27 tells us who enters into this city, and who does not. Those who get through the gates are “they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The Book of Life is (according to D&C 88:2) “. . . the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.”
9] (Rev. 3:5) “But I will confess his name before my father and before his angels.” Turn to D&C 45:3-5. Here Christ describes what he will do when he confesses your name before his Father. In verse three he says, AListen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before himBA In verse 5, what does the Savior ask the Father to do for us? “Wherefore, Father, forgive these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”
10] (Rev. 3:12) “Him that OVERCOMETH will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” Elder Bruce R. McConkie says of this phrase, “A pillar in the temple of my God” means “a person of stature and eminence in the Celestial Kingdom of God. Heaven itself, the house and abode of God, is a temple, the chief and supreme temple of eternity.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, p. 459) Turn to Helaman 3:30. Those who enter the Celestial Kingdom “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.” Our Celestial inheritance will be an eternal inheritance and even though we are now away from the presence of the Father, we will never be required to leave again.
11] (Rev. 3:12) “And I will write upon him the name of my God.” God’s name is God. To have the name of God written on you means that you are a God. This could not have been said more plainly. Those who gain eternal life become Gods.
12] (Rev. 3:12) ” . . . And the name of the city of my God, which is the New Jerusalem.” Revelation 21:9-27 describes this city. To have “the name of the city” means to live in the city. For example, we might say, “he is a New Yorker” and mean the same thing.
13] (Rev. 3:12) “And I will write upon him my new name.” Please turn and read Revelation 19:11-16. What is the name written on the Savior in verse 16? King of kings and Lord of lords. What kind of being would be considered a “King of Kings” or a “Lord of Lords.” If we have this name “written” on us, what will we be?
14] (Rev. 3:21) “To him that OVERCOMETH will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame and am sat down with my Father in his throne.” Turn to Romans 8:17. “And if children [of God], then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
What does it mean to sit down on the throne of Christ in the same way that Christ sits down in the throne of his father?
I spent an hour a few years ago with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Christ, Temple Lot. This organization owns the land dedicated for the temple in Independence. Missouri. I was told that the organization accepts Joseph Smith as a prophet until the Nauvoo period when he began to preach non-scriptural doctrines. I asked for an example.
“There is nothing in the scriptures about the possibility of our becoming Gods,” he said, “but Joseph began to teach that in Nauvoo.”
I asked to borrow his Bible and took him through some of the verses above from Revelation about overcoming.
These scriptures from Revelation 2 & 3, with the cross references noted, may give the best description of Godhood and of our eternal destiny available anywhere in the standard works. If you OVERCOME, you are promised:
- The fruit of the tree of life
- Freedom from the second death
- The right to partake of the hidden manna
- A white stone
- A new name
- Power over nations
- The morning star
- The opportunity to be clothed in white raiment
- Your name written in the Lamb’s book of life
- That Jesus himself will confess your name before the Father
- That you will be a pillar in the temple of God
- That you will have the name of God written on you
- That you will have the name of the City of God written on you
- That you will have the new name of Christ
- That you will sit with Christ in the throne of Christ.
D&C 132:20 says,
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore they shall be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all because all things are subject unto them. Then they shall be Gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
D&C 109:77 tells of the kind of being who now sits enthroned in heaven:
O Lord God Almighty, hear us in these our petitions, and answer us from heaven, thy holy habitation, where thou sittest enthroned, with glory, honor, power, majesty, might, dominion, truth, justice, judgment, mercy, and an infinity of fulness, from everlasting to everlasting (D&C 109:77).
This seems to be the destiny of those who endure and overcome.