Summary: Brief introduction to Revelation for sermon use
Introduction - This book, unarguably, is one of the most difficult books in the Bible to interpret and explain. Yet, we have an insatiable desire to understand it and know the future. Only God knows the future. However, He has given the entire Bible to help us understand His ultimate plan for His creation.
Date & Place - Revelation was written during Domitian’s reign in Rome. The date was approximately 95-96 AD. The book was written during John’s exile to the island Patmos.
Author – The majority of scholars believe the Apostle John was the author of the Apocalypse. In the third century, Dionysius of Alexandria challenged John’s authorship based on alleged cases of bad grammar in the Greek language. The very fact that John was writing in Greek, while describing Hebrew concepts, accounts for the expressions used in Revelation. H.B. Swete stated, “that the Apocalypse of John stands alone among Greek literary writings in its disregard of the ordinary rules of syntax without loss of perspicuity or even of literary power.” Perhaps the biggest reason for rejection of Johannine authorship was the chiliastic concept or thousand-year reign of Christ in chapter twenty. One’s perspective of the thousand-year reign determines how one might view or interpret Revelation.
Hermeneutics – How one approaches Revelation will determine his interpretation of it. There are four viewpoints in interpreting Revelation.
The golden rule of hermeneutics - "If the plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense."
1. The allegorical or spiritual approach. Here the whole book becomes symbolic. It becomes a spiritual struggle, a spiritual battle and there is nothing physical involved.
2. The preterist approach. This approach is similar to the allegorical method as it considers revelation as a symbolic history, rather than prophetic. This view holds that all prophecy was fulfilled historically at that time (the past), so it has nothing to say to us about the future. www.preterist.org
3. The historical approach. This approach is a chronicle of the major events of the history of the church. The whole book is built around the history of the church.
4. The futuristic approach. This view treats Revelation as having historical value for the people in John’s day but its emphasis is on future events. Starting with the fourth chapter, most of the events have yet to happen. It gives us a picture of what the future holds for the believer and the unbeliever.
However, most debates in Revelation revolve around chapters 20-22. It is not so much whether one is a futurist or a historicist but whether one is a millennialist. There are three views regarding millennialism: premillenialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. The premillenial view holds that Christ’s parousia and second coming will precede the 1,000 year reign of Christ, with the final judgment and the eternal new heavens and new earth to follow. The postmillennialist teaches that Christ will return after the millennial period. The postmillennial’s golden age occurs as the world is gradually won over by the gospel, and is marked by a period of peace before Christ returns. The amillennialist believes there is no literal millennium as understood by the other views, but rather that the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 corresponds to the entire span of time from the first coming of Christ until His second coming, and most aspects of Revelation are held to be symbolic.