Summary: Introductory material for study of Revelation.
INTRODUCTION TO REVELATION
Theme & Key Verse
The theme of the book of Revelation can be found in 19:10–
"For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
The central issue in the book is that of Jesus Christ. Everything is related to Him in some way. There is an initial description of Him; His relationship to the church is shown; He is the only one who can open the book; it is He who sends the judgments; He comes in all His glory; for a thousand years He reigns; and finally He judges all. Unless you come to grips with Jesus as the focal point of the book, you will have trouble understanding the book.
The key verse of the book of Revelation is found in 1:8 –
"’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’"
Whereas we must do our best to understand the literary form of most Biblical books, the book of Revelation gives a brief outline of itself. God saw fit to reveal through John the form He would use to reveal to John His revelation of future events. It is found in 1:19 –
"’Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.’"
This verse forms a natural outline of the book:
I. "What you have seen" Chapter 1
II. "What is now" Chapter 2-3
III. "What will take place later" Chapter 4-22
Revelation 1:1, 4, 9 & 22:8 tells us that John is the author of this book. Since the second century, John the Apostle has been recognized as its author. John was, of course, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of the apostle James. John tells us that he wrote the book from the small island of Patmos, just off the coast of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea. Patmos was the site of a Roman penal colony, and history tells us that John was banished there during the latter part of Domitian’s reign, somewhere between 81 and 96 AD. It is generally believed to have been written around 90 AD.
Purpose & Recipients
The purpose of this book revolves around what the church was facing at that time. Roman authorities were beginning to enforce emperor worship, and Christians were facing increasing hostilities. John wrote to encourage faithfulness during these times of persecution. He wanted them to staunchly resist the demands of emperor worship, and to know that the final showdown between God and Satan was coming.
The primary recipients of this treatise were the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. However, John no doubt intended the letter to be passed around to all Christians in all areas of the Roman world.
Four Views of Interpretation
Allegorists or nonliteral – view the book as a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between good and evil.
Preterits – view the book as a description of first-century events, showing the church’s triumph over Judaism and paganism.
Historicists – view the book as a preview of the Church Age; the prophecies have been and continue to be fulfilled in the history of the church.
Futurists – view the events of Revelation 4-22 as yet to occur; events will follow the Church Age.