The Book of Revelation
In the next couple of months, we are going to be going through and studying the last book in the Bible - the apocalyptic book of Revelation! I invite you to comment and add your knowledge and thoughts to this on-going study.
Revelation was written when Christians were entering a heavy time of persecution, approximately 69-96 A.D. Roman authorities were beginning to enforce the cult of emperor worship onto their citizens and subjects. And since Christians held that Christ and not Caesar, was Lord, their lives were being threatened. Already many Christians had been martyred when they refused to renounce their faith in Christ.
The purpose of the book of Revelation is to reveal the future and show some of what will happen in the terrible last days before Jesus Christ comes again in glory to rule and reign. Also, the book of Revelation was given to encourage the persecuted believers in all generations – believers who lived back then and believers today who face persecution because of their faith.
We believers are encouraged to stand firm in our testimony for Christ, even unto death. Persecuted believers will soon be vindicated when Christ returns, the book of Revelation says. The final showdown between God and Satan is coming soon. The book of Revelation shows believers something of what the second coming of Christ will be like.
Jesus’ beloved disciple, John was the writer of the book of Revelation. Scholars believe it was written in approximately 95 A.D. Many of Jesus’ other disciples had already been martyred for their faith in Christ by this time. And John had been imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos because of his faith in Christ. Patmos is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea about fifty miles from Ephesus, Turkey.
The Lord Jesus sent an angel with His message to John while he was imprisoned on Patmos Island. In many dramatic visions the angel showed John what would be happening spiritually during the last days before Christ comes again in glory. The battle between good and evil will be played out and soon evil will be destroyed. John saw Jesus standing among the seven lampstands (or churches), and Jesus greeted John this way: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One: I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. “(Revelation 1:17-18)
To begin to understand the book of Revelation we must recognize that the writing in this book uses a lot of symbolism. Many of the visions and mysteries in Revelation seem bizarre to the Western mind, but the book provides some clues for a better interpretation. When “stars” are mentioned in Revelation they represent “angels”. “Lampstands” are “churches” (Rev.1:20) Perhaps that is because the church sends out the light of Christ. The “great prostitute” is “Babylon” (Was that ancient Rome?) (Rev. 17:5,18) And the “heavenly Jerusalem” is the “wife of the Lamb”. (Rev. 21:9=10)
We will find throughout the book of Revelations that the number “seven” is used fifty-two times. There are seven beatitudes(Rev.1:3), seven churches (Rev 1:4,11) seven spirits (Rev. 1:4) seven golden lampstands (Rev.1:12) seven trumpets (Rev 10:3) , seven signs, seven crowns, seven plagues, seven golden bowls, as well as other sevens. Symbolically, the number seven stands for completeness.
Christians who try to interpret the book of Revelations usually fall into four groups.
- The first group, the Preterists, understands the book of Revelations mainly in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.
- The Historicists take the book as describing the long chain of events from when the angel gave the revelation to John to the end of history.
- The Futurists place the book of Revelation primarily in the end times.
- And the Idealists see Revelation as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.
The fundamental truths of Revelation do not depend of adopting a particular point of view. I believe that we should read Revelation for it’s overall message and not become overly bothered with details that we cannot understand. And we can pray that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to what these visions and mysteries may mean.
When the angel first spoke to John the beloved apostle on the island of Patmos, He told him to write down what he saw and heard. First of all, John was to write messages to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. These were actually seven churches in Greece and Turkey at that time and John saw Jesus standing in the middle of His churches (lampstands). Jesus gives a short message to each of these churches. The first three chapters of Revelation cover the messages that Jesus gave to each church, and we will cover these messages to the churches next time. The Historicists believe that these messages weren’t just for those little churches back in 95 A.D. but that the seven messages to those seven ancient churches fit seven different problems that the Christian Church has had down through the ages. Who is to know for sure?
Right up front a blessing is promised for those who read the book of Revelation! Here it is in Scripture: “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelations 1:3) Let’s read this book of Revelation and receive the blessing that has been promised.