Introduction – Revelation – First “U”
The book of Revelation, like the book of Daniel in the OT, is apocalyptic.
Unfortunately, in modern times, the word “apocalyptic” has taken on a negative
connotation (destructive, dangerous, fearful). In reality, “apocalyptic” means “to
unveil” or “to uncover;” thus, “to reveal” something that has been beforehand
veiled, covered, or hidden. In the NT, this word is used to describe:
⇒ The unveiling of spiritual truths (Romans 16:25)
⇒ The revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19)
⇒ Jesus’ incarnation (Luke 2:32)
⇒ His glorious appearing at His second coming (2 Thessalonians 1:7)
Several characteristics of apocalyptic writing are worthy of mention. Apocalyptic
Is usually written in times of trouble and distress
This is seen in both Daniel and Revelation. In Daniel, the days of the Babylonian
captivity are vividly portrayed. In Revelation, the church is under persecution by
the Roman Empire.
Conveys its message by means of signs, symbols, dreams, and visions
John writes in Revelation 1:1 that his message was “sent and signified” (i.e.,
portrayed by the use of “signs,” or physical figures having spiritual
meanings attached to them).
Gives promise of the eventual triumph of good over evil
This book closes with a serious warning to any who would add to or take away
from the contents of the prophecy (22:18-19). Above all, it must be emphasized
that this book is, according to its own statement, “The Revelation of Jesus
Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants” (1:1). With such character
attached to it by so plain a statement, the contents are worthy of the diligent
study of every believer.
Author - In a book filled with obscure images and vague allusions, one thing
comes through loud and clear: the name of the author. At the very beginning,
Revelation identifies its source: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God
gave Him to … His servant John” (1:1). The statement asserts that Jesus
Christ himself gave this revelation to a man named John. And four times the
author identifies himself as John (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8).
Early tradition unanimously identified him as John the apostle, author of the
fourth Gospel and three epistles. For example, important second-century
witnesses to the Apostle John's authorship include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus,
Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. Many of the book's original readers were
still alive during the lifetimes of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus - both of whom held to
There are differences in style between Revelation and John's other writings, but
they are insignificant and do not preclude one man from writing both. In fact,
there are some striking parallels between Revelation and John's other works.
o Only John's Gospel and Revelation refer to Jesus as “the Word” (19:13;
o Revelation 1:7 and John's Gospel 19:37 translate Zechariah 12:10
differently from the Septuagint, but in agreement with each other.
o Only Revelation and the Gospel of John describe Jesus as “the Lamb”
(5:6, 8; John 1:29)
o Both describe Jesus as a “witness” (1:5; John 5:31-32).
Date and Setting - Revelation was written in the last decade of the first
century (A.D. 94-96), near the end of Emperor Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96).
Although some date it during Nero’s reign (A.D. 54-68), their arguments are
unconvincing and conflict with the view of the early church. Writing in the second
century, Irenaeus declared that Revelation had been written toward the end of
Domitian’s reign. Later writers, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and
Victorinus (who wrote one of the earliest commentaries on Revelation),
Eusebius, and Jerome affirmed the Domitian date.
The spiritual decline of the seven churches in chapters 2-3 also argue for the
later date. These churches were strong and spiritually healthy in the mid-60s,
when Paul last ministered in Asia Minor. The brief time between Paul's ministry
there and the end of Nero’s reign was too short for such decline to have
The longer time gap also explains the rise of the heretical sect known as the
Nicolaitans (2:6, 15), who were not mentioned in Paul's letters, not even to one or
more of the same churches (Ephesians).
Finally, setting revelation during Nero’s reign does not allow time for John's
ministry in Asia Minor to reach the point at which the authorities would have felt
the need to exile him.
We don’t have to guess or research where Revelation was written. The text
clearly names the location as the island of Patmos: “I, John, both your brother
and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus
Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for
the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (1:9). Patmos, with its rugged volcanic hills,
lies about 35 miles off the southwest coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey)
and is only about 7 miles long and four miles wide.
Audience - The churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis,
Philadelphia, and Laodicea and believers everywhere and in all ages. In
Revelation 1:3 contains a beatitude for all who read and obey this book.
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy,
and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”
Although Revelation touches on all of human history, it is specifically addressed
to seven churches located in what today is southwestern Turkey. Reliable
historical sources from the second century A.D. describe the apostle John as
ministering in Ephesus around A.D. 70–100, so he would have been intimately
familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the churches he was addressing.
Purpose - Revelation is first and foremost a revelation about Jesus the
Messiah (1:1), The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
⇒ Subjectively, this is a revelation, an unveiling of the divine Person
⇒ Objectively, this is a revelation, an unveiling by Jesus Christ of Himself
and His purposes.
The book depicts Jesus as:
The risen, glorified Son of God ministering among the churches (1:10ff.),
The faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the
kings of the earth (1:5),
The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning of the End (1:8),
The one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (1:8),
The First and the Last (1:11),
The Son of Man (1:13),
The one who was dead and is now alive for evermore (1:18),
The Son of God (2:18),
The one who is holy and true (3:7),
The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of
The Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5),
The Lamb in heaven, with authority to open the title deed to the earth
The Lamb on the throne (7:17),
The Messiah who will reign forever (11:15),
The Word of God (19:13),
The majestic King of kings and Lord of lords, returning in glorious splendor
to conquer His foes (19:11ff.), and
The Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star (22:16).
Outline - The outline of the book of the Revelation is found in the text itself.
This is the only book of the Bible that deliberately reveals the outline of the book.
Revelation 1:19 states, “Write the things which you have seen, and the
things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”
“The things you have seen” – chapter 1
“The things which are” – chapters 2-3
“The things which will take place after this” – chapters 4-22
Methods of Interpretation - 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:
⇒ The preterist approach interprets Revelation as a description of first
century events in the Roman Empire.
⇒ The historicist approach views Revelation as a panoramic view of
church history from apostolic times to the present.
⇒ The idealist approach interprets Revelation as a timeless depiction of
the cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil.
⇒ The futurists approach insists that the events in chapter 4-22 are yet
future and that those chapters literally and symbolically depict actual
people and events yet to appear on the world scene.
There are two main views regarding the nature and duration of the millennium:
Millennialism sees this as a literal thousand-year period which Jesus
Christ, in fulfillment of numerous OT prophecies and Jesus’ own teaching
will reign on the earth. Using the same general principles of interpretation
for both prophetic and non-prophetic passages leads most naturally to
Millennialism. This view is also strongly supported by the fact that so many
biblical prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, and therefore it
suggests that future prophecies will likewise be fulfilled literally.
Amillennialism understands the thousand years to be merely symbolic of
a long period of time. This view interprets OT prophecies of a Millennium
as being fulfilled spiritually now in the church (either on earth or in heaven)
or as references to the eternal state.
In summary, nothing in the text leads directly to the conclusion that “a thousand
years” is symbolic. Never in Scripture when the term year is used with a number
is its meaning not literal. The weight of biblical evidence points to the millennial