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Lesson Plan for Revelation chapters 6-14


It is a little bit of a head-scratcher that Joseph Smith once said of this book: "The book of Revelations is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written."(1). In my interactions with fellow Adult Sunday School teachers the past few weeks, it became apparent how uncomfortable many were teaching the material found in The Revelation of St John The Divine. It is filled with scary imagery, can be hard to understand, and, frankly, is so easy to misinterpret. Therefore, it might be worth quickly reviewing a few different items that Biblical Scholarship teaches us about this troubling epistle. This can be extremely helpful as we navigate its apocalyptic nature.

Scholars tell us there are three different ancient genres within John's revelation: 1. Epistle, 2. Prophecy, 3. Apocalyptic. An epistle is pretty easy to understand. It is a letter written to various audiences. We get that in the first few chapters of this book where John addresses seven churches. The second genre, Prophecy, is also pretty straightforward. It is predictive, declarative of repentance, and is the Lord's representative saying, in effect, "Thus saith the Lord". Literally, only a few chapters in this book fit this category. The third genre is apocalyptic and it takes center stage from chapters 4-21. This genre happens when a person is transported to the presence of God, or the temple, or the heavenly temple, and sees events or other things through the lens as God sees them.

To understand, therefore, why so many symbols are used we can just look at all the symbolism used within our temples and within the ordinances we perform in those temples. Admittedly, we might say that The Endowment falls underneath this apocalyptic genre. You don't go to the temple, mostly, to gain prophetic insight, as much as you go to draw meaning from the powerful symbols and signs expressed therein. For example, there are not many symbols we get in the temple where we are given their exact one-to-one meaning (the one exception I can think of is the veil, as it represents Jesus Christ). These symbols are meant to be multi-layered and have virtually inexhaustible gospel meaning. The meaning and interpretation give room for us to receive continual revelation. The Revelation of St John The Divine, particularly chapters 4-21, is the exact same way. While many of the signs and symbols might have prophetic fulfillment, that isn't the main point. Like the temple, we are expected to approach these symbols with an ever-growing understanding of what they mean. Oftentimes, that means its meaning can wholesale change depending on our personal or worldly circumstances. This is where people often go wrong in their interpretation. They will interpret a portion that is apocalyptic in a way that is almost too prophetic. Meaning, that they will try to apply the interpretive rules of prophecy to the genre of apocalyptic. If we remain too committed to one interpretation of a symbol, we can end up in weird places. For example, the idea of this great anti-Christ appearing as a singular individual in the last days is a result of such interpretation (John never uses the term "anti-Christ" in the Book of Revelation, but he does use it in his epistles in a very similar way the Book of Mormon uses it). Another example is how many people throughout history try to pinpoint the exact timing of the second coming, but universally get it wrong. Again, they are trying to put an interpretive square into an interpretive round whole. It just isn't going to work because the Book of Revelation wasn't written to work that way.

Understanding these genres can enable us to enter each chapter of the Book of Revelation with the confidence to read and interpret it responsibly. 

As hinted at previously, there is a strong link between the temple and this book by the Apostle, John. It is a temple book that draws heavily upon Old Testament imagery. In addition, Joseph Smith quotes from it all the time, ESPECIALLY during the time of revealing the temple ordinances in Nauvoo. One Latter-Day Saint scholar, and author of a short insightful article in this month's Liahona, goes as far as to say that the endowment and other temple ceremonies revealed to Joseph are "democratizing the Book of Revelation so that all of us can have that experience." (2)

In addition, it is the second most quoted book of scripture within the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants. The entire vision is referred to explicitly twice in the Book of Mormon as Nephi, Lehi, and the Brother of Jared, apparently, behold similar things and are told to either seal their writings or withhold their writing. This vision was reserved for John to write. It shouldn't be a stretch to say, like the writings of Isaiah, that the Book of Revelation holds a special place in our Latter-day canon of scripture.

Lastly, by way of introduction, there is some disagreement as to when the Book of Revelation was written. Most put it around 95 AD and had it written before John even wrote The Gospel of John. Others have it written much earlier, just before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. Either way, the context of this book is within much Christian persecution from either Nero or Domitian. John was probably given this revelation to comfort the Saints undergoing extreme persecutory heat, hence why many of the apocalyptic symbols are intense. The book gives us a little bit of a timeline of how good will win against evil, but, more importantly, and as previously noted, it gave the Saints anciently a view of the end from their current vantage point. In fact, this is exactly how the book begins.

Revelation of Jesus Christ


"1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."


"1 A revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants events that must soon take place; and he made it known and authenticated it by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ concerning all the things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads, and they who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things which are written in it, for the time is near." (BYU New Testament Rendition)


The title of this revelation is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ". How can this inform how we read the imagery, symbols, and prophecy?

From the outset of the revelation, we are reminded that regardless of the beasts, plagues, or other cataclysmic events that will befall us, the victory has already been claimed by the Savior as "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (see Revelation 13:8). This puts us in a very hopeful position as we read the troubling things John saw in vision.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland put it this way:

"The future of this world has long been declared; the final outcome between good and evil is already known. There is absolutely no question as to who wins because the victory has already been posted on the scoreboard. The only really strange thing in all of this is that we are still down here on the field trying to decide which team’s jersey we want to wear." (found in "When Times Are Tough" by John Bytheway, email correspondence with Elder Holland)

Another thing of note is how these verses also put the entire revelation within a temple setting. The Greek for the word signified (sēmainõ) "means to make known via signs and tokens" (Draper, BYUNTC Revelation, p. 26). Better translations say that the revelation was "authenticated" by the angel, so, in other words, we have true messengers verifying the truthfulness of this revelation. This, obviously, ties directly to things we learn within The Endowment. The ancient Saints and we as Latter-day Saints, therefore, could/can have confidence in the hope that The Revelation of Jesus Christ would bring them.

The Two Witnesses

We are going to jump over the short epistles to the seven churches, the throne room vision in chapters 4-5, Christ opening the first six seals with all their beasts and horses in chapters 6-7, and the opening of the seventh seal with all of its plagues and wars in chapters 8-9. I will just note briefly though that Joseph Smith used a lot of the verbiage found in these chapters in the temple ordinances he revealed in Nauvoo. These chapters speak a lot about becoming kings and priests (queens and priestesses) and becoming sealed. They also mention how our robes will be made white in the blood of Jesus Christ (see Rev 7:14). This all highlights the growing importance of the temple in our current "sixth seal" era and that is supported by the growing importance President Nelson appears to be placing upon it. With the backdrop of the "sixth seal," these recent words from President Nelson take on increased significance:

"Jesus Christ is the reason we build temples. Each is His holy house. Making covenants and receiving essential ordinances in the temple, as well as seeking to draw closer to Him there, will bless your life in ways no other kind of worship can. For this reason, we are doing all within our power to make the blessings of the temple more accessible to our members around the world." (3)

Spending more time in the temple builds faith. Your service and worship in the temple will help you to think celestial. The temple is a place of revelation. There you are shown how to progress toward a celestial life. There you are drawn closer to the Savior and given greater access to His power. There you are guided in solving the problems in your life, even your most perplexing problems." (4)


How does the backdrop of the role temples are to play in the last days increase your understanding of their purpose? How does it inform your relationship and understanding of the Savior?

Let's dive right into the seventh seal in chapter 11 where we are introduced to two witnesses of the Lord. This chapter is referred to by scholars as being the heart of the book. It is the first telling of the Great Battle of Armageddon (it repeats from a different perspective in chapter 16). While these writings can be exciting and/or scary to read, I remind you to approach them responsibly. The chapter begins with John being commanded to do some measuring by an angel.


"1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

 3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven."


 "1 And I was given a reed like a stick and was told, “Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship in it. 2 But omit the outer courtyard of the temple—do not measure it, because it is given over to the gentiles, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.

3 “And I will appoint my two witnesses to prophesy one thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that are standing in front of the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouth and consumes their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in that manner. 6 They have power to seal up the sky so that it will not rain during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with any plague they want. 7 And when they have completed their testifying, the beast that came out of the abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city that is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 And some of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their corpses for three and a half days, and they will not allow their corpses to be buried in a tomb. 10 And the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and celebrate and send gifts to each other, because these two prophets had tormented the inhabitants of the earth.

11 And after three and a half days, the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and a great fear fell on those who were looking at them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up into the sky in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And in that very hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed, and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." (BYU New Testament Rendition)


With the approaching apocalyptic event, why would the angel command John to measure the inside of the temple (hint, see verse 2)? When we put our lens of apocalyptic interpretation on, what is the symbolism here suggesting?

One Latter-Day Saint Scholar, Dr. Jeffrey Bradshaw, elucidates one possible meaning for us:

"John is told not to measure the areas lying outside the temple complex proper — in other words, the outer courtyard. In the context of the rest of the chapter, the meaning of the angel’s instructions is clear: only those who are standing within the scope of John’s measure — in other words, within the temple itself — will receive God’s protection.

Of course, the angel is not speaking to John the Revelator about the measurement of a literal physical structure, but rather of measuring or judging the community of disciples who have been called to form the living temple of God, each individual in his or her differing degree of righteousness. Spiritually speaking, the worshippers standing in the holy place are those who have kept their covenants. These are they who, according to Revelation 14:1, will stand with the Lamb “on… mount Sion.”

By way of contrast, all individuals standing in the outer courtyard, being unmeasured and unprotected, will be, in the words of the book of Revelation, “given unto the Gentiles” to be “tread under foot” with the rest of the wicked in Jerusalem. Mere association with covenant-keepers will not save unfaithful covenant-makers." (5)


What does this teach us about the importance of temples and about our covenants?

President Nelson echoes the principles being discussed:

"Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ. His essential ordinances bind us to Him through sacred priesthood covenants. Then, as we keep our covenants, He endows us with His healing, strengthening power. And oh, how we will need His power in the days ahead.

We have been promised that “if [we] are prepared [we] shall not fear.” This assurance has profound implications today. The Lord has declared that despite today’s unprecedented challenges, those who build their foundations upon Jesus Christ, and have learned how to draw upon His power, need not succumb to the unique anxieties of this era." (6)

What proceeds to happen, as we just read, is drenched in numeric symbols. It does appear there will be a somewhat lengthy ministry by two special witnesses of Christ in Jerusalem. The description of their power borrows a lot of verbiage from descriptions around Moses and Elijah, namely, power over the waters, power to shut the heavens, and power to invoke plagues (see verse 6). Some scholars suggest the parallels of wording to Revelation chapters 8-9 suggest that these two witnesses were responsible for invoking the various plagues associated with the seventh seal (see Draper & Rhodes, BYUNTC, p. 406-407).

Like Abinadi, they will be given time to finish their testimony and then the Great Battle of Armageddon will commence. These witnesses will be slain and lay in the street for a time while the wicked forces rejoice over them. Eventually, these witnesses will rise up (be resurrected, maybe?) and then great destruction will befall the wicked forces.

Admittedly, it might be hard to do the responsible thing and find applicable gospel application for our lives in these verses. I do believe there are some. For example, in verse 4 we get these witnesses testifying of the "God of the Earth". Once the destruction is over, the residue of the people (those who were not wicked and not necessarily sealed up either) gives thanks to the "God of Heaven" in verse 13. Within the text, it appears John is pointing our attention to how the preaching of the two witnesses and the understanding of the saved remnant are not on the same page. One scholar has noted that the "God of Heaven" keeps God at a distance from us (see Draper, BYUNTC, p. 415). The whole intent of witnesses and the Gospel is to lift our eyes upwards so that the rightful King of this world will dwell among us. It might be worth asking ourselves in the deep confines of our minds if we worship a God we like to keep at a distance? What must we do to fully embrace the message of the two witnesses and every apostle since the world began, namely, Christ's kingdom has come?

Another quick principle to be pointed out is that this "great and final conflict will take place near the time of the second coming of the Lord" (7). We learn in the scriptures that this great battle will literally be "the destruction of the wicked" (see JS-M 1:4). The warfare that will destroy the wicked, therefore, is done before the full unveiling of the Lord to the world. Why do you think this is? It appears that as disciples we are expected to be fully engaged to build Zion and combat the forces of darkness just like Enoch and his people did in Moses chapter 7. In addition to that, we learn in JS-H 1:37 that the plural pronoun "they" is used to describe those who will burn the wicked. The idea is simple, the Lord expects us to conquer by abiding in our covenants, Faith in Jesus Christ, and our testimony. The Lord's return is not meant to be viewed as an excuse for us to lax in our discipleship, in other words.

This gives more meaning to something President Nelson recently said:

"In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns “with power and great glory,” He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful." (8)

The Woman and the Kingdom

As we transition into chapter 12, we will skip most of it but point out that this chapter was Joseph Smith's inspiration for the architecture of the Nauvoo Temple. In this vision we have a woman who has the moon at her feet, her face is like the sun, and she has the stars at her head. We also get in this vision a dragon and the woman giving birth to a child. To put it succinctly, the woman, according to Joseph Smith, represents the Church and the child represents the kingdom of God. The dragon is trying to devour the child/kingdom.

If you have seen the Nauvoo temple, the stones outside match the description of the woman here. To quickly articulate the intended meaning, Joseph was showing that the temple is where the Church gives birth to the kingdom of God. This all also suggests a subtle difference between "The Church" and "Kingdom of God". The Guide to the Scriptures gives us the most straightforward difference when it says "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but it is at present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the Millennium, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical." (9)

With these things in mind, Revelation chapter 12 takes on increased meaning and you might see even more why the dragon is hell-bent on destroying the child. It also teaches more about the importance of the temple and why it is so tempting for so many to not fully engage themselves in temple worship. In other words, we see the dragon actively trying to devour that very idea in our personal lives when we choose to keep ourselves aloof from the Lord's House. Within chapter 12 a war takes place in heaven, but it also probably has a double meaning towards the Battle of Armageddon we just read about in chapter 11. We get some verses on how the dragon was beaten and how the battle was won.


"9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."


"9 And the great dragon was driven out, even the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world. He was driven out to earth, and his angels were driven out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the governing authority of his Christ have now been confirmed, because the accuser of our brothers has been driven out, who accused them before our God day and night. 11 They have overcome him through the blood of the Lamb and through the word of their testimony, and they did not love their own life even unto death." (BYU New Testament Rendition)


Remember back in chapter 11 we learned we have to be active disciples to usher in the Second Coming of the Lord. What tools and principles do we learn here that will help us conquer our spiritual warfare? What does it look like to overcome by the blood of the lamb and by our testimony?

This all ties nicely to verse 17 of this same chapter in which the dragon continues to make war with those who have a testimony of Jesus. We also get a full definition of what the testimony of Jesus is in Revelation 19:10 where we are told that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains directly the importance and meaning of this:

"Who may prophesy? Who can receive revelation? To whom are visions and heavenly manifestations vouchsafed? Not to members of the Council of the Twelve only, not to bishops and stake presidents alone, not just to the leaders of the Church. Rather, that God who is no respecter of persons and who loves all his children, speaks to every person who will heed his voice. Prophecy is for all: men, women, and children, every member of the true Church; and those who have the testimony of Jesus have the spirit of prophecy, 'for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' (Rev. 19:10.) 'Would God,' said Moses, 'that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!' (Num. 11:29.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 387.)

Following Jesus Christ is meant to cultivate in us spiritual gifts that will enable us to win the cause of Zion and its Christ. There are deep reasons why we are asked to minister, serve, study, pray, ponder, attend meetings, seek after our dead, worship in the temple, and so forth. These things cultivate and endow us with power from the Savior to endure and win against the dragon in these last days. In the heat of extreme persecution during the first century, this was the message John's apocalyptic images would have invoked for the ancient Saints and it should do the same for us today.


The Book of Revelation sort of repeats itself as it continues onward but from a different vantage point in the last several chapters. We get the discussions around the mark of the Beast, the number 666, and a retelling of the plagues of the seventh seal in these chapters. Again, these need to be read with responsible spiritual eyes. It is my opinion that John is communicating ideas that are meant to be multi-layered with meaning for the Saints in his day and our day.

The Book of Revelation sort of ends where the Bible began in Genesis. God enacted a creation in the beginning and here in Revelation, we have the steady build-up to that same creation being renewed after undergoing seven seals of war, plague, famine, and hardship. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the story of salvation will come full circle as "all things become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). I can't think of better words to close out the biblical story than New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright who wrote:

"The last book of the Bible ends, not with the company of the saved being taken up into heaven, but with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, resulting in God’s new creation, new heavens and new earth, in which everything that has been true, lovely, and of good report will be vindicated, enhanced, set free from all pain and sorrow. God himself, it says, will wipe away all tears from all eyes. One of the great difficulties in preaching the gospel in our days is that everyone assumes that the name of the game is, ultimately, to ‘go to heaven when you die’, as though that were the last act in the drama... But that’s wrong! Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world; God will make new heavens and new earth, and give us new bodies to live and work and take delight in his new creation. And the ‘good news’ of the Christian gospel is that this new world, this new creation, has already begun: it began when Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead on Easter morning, having faced and beaten the double enemy, sin and death, that has corrupted and defaced God’s lovely creation." (10)

The great cause of the renewing has a ring of destiny to it, meaning we are agents to participate in it or let it sail by us. While it might sail by us, that doesn't negate the need for willing hearts and willing minds to get their hands dirty and see the big picture that the Book of Revelation gives us as we seek to build Zion and spread the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. It is with the closing millennial and celestial chapters of the Book of Revelation in mind that the Prophet Joseph Smith said the following:

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done" (History of the Church, 4:540).


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