Revelation

Revelation

Αποκάλυψη

Reading 1,06 - 22 Chapters - 404 verses - 12,000 words

Vital Statistics

Author

Four times the author identifies himself as John (1:1,4,9; 22:8). From as early as Justin Martyr in the second century A.D. it was been held that this John was the apostle, the son of Zebedee (Mt 10:2). The book itself reveals that the author was a Jew, well versed in Scripture, a church leader who was well known to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and a deeply religious person fully convinced that the Christian faith would soon triumph over the demonic forces at work in the world.

In the third century, however, an African bishop named Dionysius compared the language, style and thought of the Apocalypse (Revelation) with that of the other writings of John and decide that the book could not have been written by the apostle John. He suggested that the author was a certain John the Presbyter, whose name appears elsewhere in ancient writings. Although many today follow Dionysius in his view of authorship, the external evidence seems overwhelmingly supportive of the traditional view.

Date

Revelation was written when Christians were entering a time of persecution. The two periods most often mentioned are latter part of Nero's reign (A.D. 54-68) and the latter part of Domitian's reign (81-96). Most interpreters date the book c. 95. (A few suggest a date during the reign of Vespasian: 69-79).

Occasion

Since Roman authorities at this time were beginning to enforce emperor worship, Christians - who held that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord - were facing increasing hostility. The believers at Smyrna are warned against coming opposition (2:10), and the church at Philadelphia is told of an hour of trial coming on the world (3:10). Antipas has already given his life (2:13) along with others (6:9). John has been exiled to the island of Patmos (probably the site of a Roman penal colony) for his activities as a Christian missionary (1:9). Some within the church are advocating a policy of compromise (2:14-15,20), which has to be corrected before its subtle influence can undermine the determination of believers to stand fast in the perilous day that lie ahead.

Purpose

John writes to encourage the faithful to resist staunchly the demands of emperor worship. He informs his readers that the final showdown between God and Satan is imminent. Satan will increase his persecution of believers, but they must stand fast, even to death. They are sealed against any spiritual harm and will soon be vindicated when CHrist returns, when the wicked are forever destroyed, and when God's people enter an eternity of glory and blessedness.

Literary Form

For an adequate understanding of Revelation, the reader must recognize that it is a distinct kind of literature. Revelation is apocalyptic, a kind of writing that is highly symbolic. Although its visions often seem bizarre to the Western reader, fortunately the book provides a number of clues for its own interpretation (e.g., stars are angels, lampstands are churches, 1:20; "the great prostitute," 17:1, is "Babylon" [Rome?}, 17:5,18; and the heavenly Jerusalem is the wife of the Lamb, 21:9-10).

Distinctive Feature

A distinctive feature is the frequent use of the number seven (52 times). The are seven beatitudes (1:3), seven churches (1:4,11), seven spirits (1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars (1:16), seven seals (5:1), seven horns and seven eyes (5:6), seven trumpets (8:2), seven thunders (10:3), seven signs (12:1,3; 13:13-14; 15:1; 16:14; 19:20), seven crowns (12:3), seven plagues (15:6), seven golden bowls (15:7), seven hills (17:9), and seven kings (17:10), as well as other sevens. Symbolically, the number seven stands for completeness.

Interpretation

Interpreters of Revelations normally fall into four groups:

1. Preterists understand the book exclusively in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.

2. Historicists take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos to the end of history.

3. Futurists place the boo primarily in the end times.

4. Idealists view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.

Fortunately, the fundamental truths of Revelation do not depend on adopting a particular point of view. They are available to anyone who will read the book for its overall messages and resist the temptation to become overly enamored with the details.

How to read Revelation

When the story gets so bleak and the bad guys are winning, it’s a relief to sneak a peek at the end of the book—the good guys DO win in the end! Revelation reminds us that in the end justice and mercy triumph over evil, and every sorrow is comforted. Because Jesus has won the victory over sin and death, we are exhorted to live lives consistent with God’s coming kingdom.

This great prophecy is the climactic book of the New Testament. The four gospels describe Jesus’ life on earth. The many letters describe the ministry of the resurrected Christ. Revelation presents Jesus Christ as the glorious coming King who deserves your love, worship, and total allegiance. The assurance of his ultimate victory gives each of us courage to persevere in the midst of life’s challenges. Our confidence lies in the hope that the world will “become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. He will reign forever and ever!” (Rev 11:15).

Revelation Interpretive Challenges

No other NT book poses more serious and difficult interpretive challenges than Revelation. The book’s vivid imagery and striking symbolism have produced four main interpretive approaches:

    1. The preterist approach interprets Revelation as a description of first-century events in the Roman Empire. This view conflicts with the book’s own often repeated claim to be prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19). It is impossible to see all events in Revelation as already fulfilled. The second coming of Christ, for example, obviously did not take place in the first century.

    2. The historicist approach views Revelation as a panoramic view of church history from apostolic times to the present— seeing in the symbolism such events as the barbarian invasions of Rome, the rice of the Roman Catholic Church (as well as various individual popes). the emergence of Islam, and the French Revolution. This interpretive method robs Revelation of any meaning for those to whom it was written. It also ignores the time limitations the book itself place on the unfolding events (cf. 11:2; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Historicism has produced many different— and often conflicting— interpretations of the actual historical events contained in Revelation.

    3. The idealist approach interprets Revelation as a timeless depiction of the cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil. In this views, the book contains neither historical allusions nor predictive prophecy. This view also ignores Revelation’s prophetic character and, if carried to its logical conclusión, serves the book from any connection with actual historical events. Revelation then becomes merely a collection of stories designed to teach spiritual truth.

    4. The futurist approach insists that the events of chaps. 6-22 are yet future, and that those chapters literally and symbolically depict actual people and events yet to appear on the world scene. It describes the events surrounding the second coming of Jesus Christ (chaps. 6-19), the Millennium and final judgment (chap. 20), and the eternal state (chaps. 21, 22). Only this view does justice to Revelation’s claim to be prophecy and interprets the book by the same grammatical-historical method as chaps. 1-3 and the rest of Scripture.

Outline

Revelation Horizontal

God's character in Revelation

  1. God is eternal - 4:8-10; 16:5

  2. God is glorious - 21:11, 23

  3. God is holy - 4:8; 15:4; 21:27

  4. God is just - 19:2

  5. God is powerful - 4:11; 5:13; 11:17

  6. God is righteous - 16:5, 7; 19:2

  7. God is true - 15:3; 16:7

  8. God is wrathful - 6:17; 11:18; 16:6, 7; 19:15

Christ in Revelation

In the last book of the Bible, Jesus triumphantly reveals Himself as the Almighty One (1:8); the Alpha and Omega (1:8; 21:6); the Beginning and the End (1:8; 21:6). Other voices in the Book of Revelation proclaim Jesus Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5); Heir to David's throne (5:5); the Lamb of God (5:6-22:3); the Word of GOd (19:13); King of kings and Lord of lords (19:16)

Notes