Introduction to Revelation

Revelation

What is it?

Revelation 1:1 announces both the book’s title (it is a “revelation”) and its divine author (“Jesus Christ”). The book is an “unveiling” of unseen spiritual forces operating behind the scenes in history and controlling its events and outcome. The type of writing is called “apocalyptic”. So, if you hear the word “apocalypse” you aren’t necessarily talking about the end, you are just talking about something hidden being revealed.

Series of visions by prophets: Daniel, Ezekiel, & Zechariah. This book is a history book of things that haven’t happened yet.

Who wrote it?

Probably John son of Zebedee. You might hear some arguments that the author isreally “John the elder”, but the earliest traditions favor John, the “beloved disciple” 

When?

Irenaeus reports, on the basis of earlier sources, that “John received the Revelation almost in our own time, toward the end of the reign of Domitian” (Against Heresies 1.30.3). Since Domitian’s reign ended in a.d. 96, most scholars date Revelation in the mid-90s. 

What should I note in this book?

  1. Jesus, thought his death, has conquerred Satan and paid the ransome for his people, so that they might become priests serving God.
  2. Jeaus is present and knows the trials,triumphs, and failures of his church and people
  3. World history  is in the hands of our God. Even the bad stuff.
  4. God is restraining his wrath and withholding the full measure of his judgmentand also hindering Satan’s efforts while God gathers his people.
  5. Present disasters, though limited in scope by God’s restraint, forshadow and warn of the judgments to come
  6. By maintaining faithful testimony to the death, the martyrs victory will be made clear with Christ’s return.
  7. Satan attacks through: persecution, deceptive teaching, affluence, and pleasure1. (Clarification in footnote)
  8. Though things look grim toward the end, Jesus will triumph. He will create a new heaven and a new earth, and we will finally be presented pure before God.2

Outline

  1. Prologue (1:1-8)
    1. Title, transmission, promise of blessing (1:1-3)
    2. Epistolary opening (1:4-6)
    3. Announcement of the coming King (1:7-8)
  2. Body (1:9-22:5)
    1. “Things that are”: Christ’s presence with and knowledge of his churches (1:9-3:22)
      1. The Son of Man among his churches (1:9-20)
      2. Christ’s edict-letters to his seven churches (2:1-3:22)
        1. To Ephesus (2:1-7)
        2. To Smyrna (2:8-11)
        3. To Pergamum (2:12-17)
        4. To Thyatira (2:18-29)
        5. To Sardis (3:1-6)
        6. To Philadelphia (3:7-13)
        7. To Laodicea (3:14-22)
    2. “Things that shall take place after this”: Christ’s defense of his church and destruction of its enemies (4:1-22:5)
      1. The Lamb and the scroll: current and coming woes, precursors of the end (4:1-8:1)
        1. Heaven opened: the Lamb receives the scroll (4:1-5:14)
        2. The Lamb opens the scroll’s seven seals (6:1-8:1) (Interlude: the sealing of God’s international Israel, 7:1-17)
      2. The angels and the trumpets: warnings of coming wrath (8:2-11:18)
        1. Heaven’s incense altar: the saints’ prayers, and fire flung to earth (8:2-5)
        2. Angels sound seven trumpets (8:6-11:18) (Interlude: the safety and suffering of God’s city-sanctuary, his witnessing church, 10:1-11:14)
      3. The woman, her son, the dragon, and the beasts: the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan (11:19-14:20)
        1. Heaven’s temple opened (11:19)
        2. The woman’s son defeats the dragon (12:1-6)
        3. Michael and heaven’s armies defeat the dragon (12:7-17)
        4. The beast from the sea (13:1-10)
        5. The false prophet from the land (13:11-18)
        6. The Lamb and his sealed victors (14:1-5)
        7. Angelic announcements of judgment (14:6-13)
        8. Harvests of earth and vine (14:14-20)
      4. The bowls of God’s final wrath (15:1-16:21)
        1. Heaven’s sanctuary filled with glory (15:1-8)
        2. Angels pour out seven bowls (16:1-21)
      5. Babylon the prostitute (17:1-19:10)
        1. Babylon’s power and luxury (17:1-15)
        2. Babylon’s fall lamented and celebrated (17:16-19:10)
      6. The defeat and destruction of the beasts, the dragon, and death (19:11-20:15)
        1. Christ defeats and destroys the beast, the false prophet, and their gathered armies (19:11-21) (Interlude: the thousand years of the dragon’s binding and the martyrs’ reign, 20:1-6)
        2. God defeats and destroys the dragon and its gathered armies (20:7-10)
        3. The last judgment and the destruction of death, the last enemy (20:11-15)
      7. “All things new” (21:1-22:5)
        1. The new heaven and earth, home of the Lamb’s bride (21:1-8)
        2. The new Jerusalem, the Lamb’s pure bride (21:9-22:5)
  3. Epilogue (22:6-21)
    1. Transmission and trustworthiness of the Revelation, promise that Jesus is coming soon, promise of blessing (22:6-9)
    2. Prohibition of sealing the book, promise that Jesus is coming soon, promise of blessing (22:10-15)
    3. Transmission of the Revelation (22:16-17)
    4. Prohibition of altering the book, promise that Jesus is coming soon, and final pronouncement of blessing (22:18-21)

What to make of Revelation?

The creation of New Heaven and New Earth could have happened instantly. Enemies gone, instantly… or better yet, made friends! Wouldn’t have Revelation have been a much nicer book?

What is the point of such a book?

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” (Revelation 22:10-12 ESV)

And there it is in kind of a nutshell all the way at the end. Let’s unpack this a bit though. In this passage, I see three themes:

  1. That this book is a warning: “Do not seal up the words…”
    • In other words, let everyone hear this, it’s for them.
    • Prophecy is communication from God for the purpose of letting men know God’s will.
  2. That men are free. evildoer, filty, righteous, holy. No one is going to force a conversion on anyone.
    • God loves men enough that He will give them, ultimately what they choose.
      • This is the one and only way God has really limited his power.
    • I also take this to mean that choices, at some point, become irreversible. Not as a matter of coersion, but just as a pratical consideration.
  3. God is clearly in control.
    • Look at everything the earth suffers in Revelation; where does it come from?
    • Now, with all the suffering Jesus brings to the earth, the important thing to keep in mind is that he is “bringing my recompense with me”. The suffering on earth is compensation for deeds AND a herald that Jesus is near.

This final judgement is done over time (rather than instantly) not because God is slow, but because God delays judgement giving people time to come freely to him (2 Peter 3). And, it is also given to us now –before the final day– so that anyone can hear, and believe based on the stories that happen to others (Lk 16:27-31).

The observations above hint that you could look at ending the world slowly as an opporunity for people (of all times) to hear, and freely come to God.

What is our practical response?

To be honest, Revelation is not, with the exception of a few parts near the beginning, a book full of personal application. You’ll recognize the personal application bits by the phrase: “he who has ears”.

Revelation is the unveiling of the end. This book is going to be tough, we are going to read through a lot of judgements. These jugements may very probably be experienced by other people, and I think you will have a tough time finding them “applicable.” In spite of that, Rev does encourages us to do one thing: hold to what is true at all costs.

We will see throughout the book of Revelation, people being refusing God, being deceived by the devil, and being expedient. But that isn’t very different even to today.

What ways are we being pressured now to give up on God’s word?

  • God is a loving God, he really wants you just to be happy (at all costs).
  • Excepting the case of cheating, What about divorce? What about remarriage?
  • Are we feeling any pressure from the LGBT movement?
    • There are pastors out there disclaiming sinfulness of sexual immorality, that after long last, we finally understand the Bible to mean something other than what it says… Thank God we got that cleared up.
  • What about political allegances? How much are we willing to compromise for the sake of electing someone, or electing not someone else? Are we willing to throw in with and defend scoundrels?
  • Finally, what about our testamony? How much pressure do we feel to back-peddle on Jesus being the only way?

How does this book give us help?

I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. (Revelation 22:13-14 ESV)

  • Jesus is powerful
    • Jesus is saying here that he is powerful and has the right to compensate. This is one of the things he means when he declares that he is the first and last.
    • Everything is from him, through him, the buck stops with him. He is empowered by the Father to do his will with the whole universe.
    • Believe in that power, we are betting our lives on it.
  • We’ll find out in later study that He is the only one who has the right to judge the whole earth.
    • But what do we mean by this?
      • He has the right to recompense people for their actions, but that means both damnation AND glory. He is the power to bring us in to paradise with him.
  • This book also gives us an opportunity to commune with God.
    • We can take Joy that the good news is really good news, that it is true and it triumphs.
    • We can see the revelation of God’s long delayed justice, the fruits of all his mercy, and victory of His glory.

  1. As we see in the temptation of Jesus, Satan has the ability to offer Jesus the rule of the world if only Jesus would bow. What is important to note here is that Satan doesn’t really create the good and right kingdom for Jesus to rule in, but corrupts the one God intends. Satan does not create “good” things, but he can use “good” things and ruin them. A concrete example might go something like: You are offered a promotion, which comes with all its new opportunities, the man of God uses the resources to serve the kingdom, or may not take the promotion (because it hinders his service). A promotion corrupted might look more like using the extra pay to increase the standard of living, and “because the job is so important”, reduced availaiblity for family and service commitments. In the end, it comes down to what you make of the events in your life. [return]
  2. ESV Study Bible - Crossway Publishing [return]