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Summary: Introduction in a Bible study of the book of Revelation.


An Introduction


Pastor Brian Matherlee

September 5, 2007

Basic Background

The first thing that strikes me is the chain communicating the Revelation: God to Jesus to the angel to John while he was in the Spirit.

• God does the revealing here. Remember that Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

• Jesus communicates through the angel (although Jesus frequently appears throughout the book)

• The angel appears to John and in Charles Dickens fashion takes him around in the Spirit to observe the fantastic scenes. The angel is the dutiful messenger.

• John is the scribe.

o He is enabled to perceive and record all of this because he was “in the Spirit” (1:10). I cannot imagine the spiritual energy that consumed him during this event.

o He is most widely agreed to be the Apostle John, the only one who died of natural causes.

o Younger brother of James, the Apostle; son of Zebedee, a prominent Jew; perhaps a Levite; nicknamed “Son of Thunder”; fisherman; part of Jesus’ inner circle of three with Peter and James; describes himself as “the apostle whom Jesus loved”.

• Date, anywhere from 86-95 A.D.

• Emperor Domitian is persecuting Christians

• Isle of Patmos off the Greek coast was a prison colony and John was there as punishment for preaching the Gospel. It was a rocky, hilly, volcanic island about 10 miles long and 6 miles across at the widest point.

• Letter was addressed to seven churches of Asia and was meant to be read aloud to their congregations.

• John’s statement that he testifies to everything he saw is important. Eyewitness accounts carry legal weight. He includes the authority of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. He is establishing the trustworthiness of the letter and the authority behind it.

The Purpose

Throughout the letter we see vivid imagery and fantastic scenes but we must keep the main thing in focus: that this letter is given to help the servants of Jesus Christ.

In verse 1 we see two important words:

• Must—there is no uncertainty about whether or not these events will take place.

• Soon—no specific times are given where anyone can predict even vague dates of these occurrences. It therefore becomes clear to me that the overwhelming emphasis is on being ready. This is not the first time Christ or the NT writers haven given illustrations to urge his followers to be ready:

o Matthew 24:36-51

o Matthew 25:1-13 (ten virgins)

o 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

o On several occasions Jesus does give examples to point them to the end of times by telling them certain signs. But these are meant to encourage the faithful-not frighten people into faith.

Five ways you can approach Revelation: It is apocalyptic literature which is a type of Jewish literature using symbolism to communicate hope to those suffering persecution.

1. Future—except chapters 1-3 all events in the book immediately precede and follow the 2nd advent of Christ.

2. Historical—trying to place the events into one’s own time. Many people have done this through the centuries. Geneva Bible Text Notes on Revelation give a timeline before A.D. 34 to A.D. 1305. A lot of attention centers on who is the anti-Christ and much of the time is has been a pope. In the last century everyone from Hitler to Elvis to Bill Clinton was considered the anti-Christ. Many books have been written to proclaim an answer to the mysteries of Revelation. Modern television evangelists spare no expense in creating timelines and charts to woo followers and dollars. Be wary of these!

3. Preterit—it happened during the time of the author alone.

4. Idealist—sees the book as basically poetic and symbolic, only intended for spiritual lessons.

5. Practical—this is my own view. I believe that Revelation describes real events as best John could manage. Since the time covered since John’s day is so vast and the activities hint of many historical events, people and places it is best to look at the overarching spiritual applications of the book. This also takes note of the very first verse that it is given for the benefit of Christ’s followers and in the 3rd verse that we are blessed when we take it to heart.

Chapter 1:4-20—Greeting and Introduction of Christ

• Vs. 4-5, we have the greeting from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (seven spirits, denoting fullness, perfection/seven is used throughout Scripture in reference to God’s holiness and completeness, Zech. 4, etc.)

• Names given to Jesus:

o Alpha and Omega—The eternal nature of Christ/no beginning & no end

o Almighty—omnipotence

o Who was, is and is to come—permanence

o First and last—supremacy & control

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