A partial introduction to the book of Revelation.
This book is a combination of epistle, prophecy and apocalyptic. It starts and ends with the usual way of writing letters; then the author (see below) sees himself as in the line of the OT prophets; and the intensification of the prophetic leaves to an unveiling of God himself, and his purposes in the world.
One thing clearly seen in this book is the GLORY OF JESUS CHRIST: the glory of Christ in his Church; the glory of Christ throughout history; the glory of Christ even in judgement; the glory of Christ in his defeat of Satan; the glory of Christ in his destruction of Babylon; the glory of Christ as he brings in the new heavens and the new earth.
A simple way of understanding the structure is to see that chapters 1-11 portray the struggle between the Church and the World; and chapters 12-22 takes us behind the scenes to make us more aware of Christ’s conflict with Satan – in these chapters we see the drama of history.
There are seven sections: 1-3; 4-7; 8-11; 12-14; 15-16; 17-19; 20-22. Reading the book is like going up a spiral staircase – you come across the same thing from different
angles. Or to use another image: think of a TV series like 24 which makes use of a split screen – you see different scenes furthering the action taking place and all connected – bit like an exciting Zoom meeting! Well in the book of Revelation, the central thing is the throne of God, around which everything happens, and from which events are caused to happen. All of us live upon the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the reigning and the coming again of Christ – this book makes that very clear. It seems to me that each of the series – seals, trumpets and bowls – span the time from the first coming of
our Saviour to his Second Coming.
Traditionally the author has been taken to be John the Apostle (the Church Father Irenaeus witnesses to this); and its date being the wretched time of the reign of Domitian (81-96), which was a terribly torrid time to be a Christian. It is thought John was exiled to Patmos in AD95 and there worked the mines and was released just over a year later on the death of Domitian to return to Ephesus, where he died.
There is some hesitancy about ascribing the book to John as his style is different from both the gospel and the epistles. However this can be explained by the proposition that he was thinking in Hebrew and writing in Greek. There is no one else who was as prominent in the early church to be just known as John. Jesus is called the Lamb of God (a favourite description loved by John) 28 times in this book.
Astonishingly of the 404 verses in the book there are 278 references to the Old Testament, with a further 500 allusions to the same. (There are less than 200 references to the OT in the whole of Paul’s writings.) One major reason why the
book of Revelation is misunderstood and is the happy hunting ground for nutters is that very few read it with this OT background. (BTW if you can manage to get a REVISED Version of the Bible with cross references – those in the book of Revelation are exceptionally helpful as they point to many of these Old Testament verses.)
It is a book full of symbols and pictures – how else could it be otherwise? John is shown profound mysteries and more than once he struggles with the limitations of language to describe what he has seen or heard. But the symbols are not hard to understand:
• 4 means worldwide, universal
• 7 means completion, the perfect, or what something is in its real essence. It is God’s number. (Thus 666 is easily explained by a familiar verse “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23] – and is therefore Man’s number – we are even told as much – where you could extrapolate that God’s Trinity number is 777; Babylon is mentioned 6 times to enforce the point.)
• 12 occurs being both the number of the tribes of Israel and the number of apostles.
• 10 and 100 and 1000 are the numbers of completeness (hence 144,000=12x12x1000 is simply a picture of the whole people of God, Jew and Gentile all in Christ, with no one left out – a multitude too big to count.)
• 3 1/2 years = a time, times and half a time = 1260 days: it’s the same thing.
There are seven blessings (read them!):
And there are six promises to God’s people (check them
- 7:17; 21:4
- 14:13; 20:4
It is a glorious book that will lead you to worship and bow the knee to your fantastic Saviour and Lord. Reading it will strengthen your faith in the dark times. Reading the end of the book and seeing that in Christ “we win” is a tonic like no other.
To conclude I draw your attention to this: God the Father gave the vision to his Son Jesus Christ who by an angel revealed it to John who passed it on to faithful servants of God alive at the time – and we are the last in that chain of revelation: it is so important we grasp its contents. NOTE well there is a blessing for those who READ, HEAR and KEEP.