Revelation - Introduction

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I. Title.

A. In the Greek is "Apokalupsis Ioanou." The apocalypse of John.

B. Apocalypse = an uncovering, a laying bare, making naked.

C. The book uncovers or unveils through symbols, signs, imagery, and visions the impending persecution facing the church.

D. Apocalyptic literature usually came about in times of national crisis or persecution because those in power did not understand the meaning of the writing.

E. Apocalyptic literature differs from prophetic writing slightly.

1. Prophetic writing focuses on moral issues.

2. Apocalyptic writing is more predictive and more far reaching taking into account global forces at work.

3. Apocalyptic writing is characterized by symbols in dreams and visions.

4. 3 Old Testament apocalyptic books are Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.

II. Author.

A. Four times the author calls himself John (Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8).

B. All evidence points to John, the apostle.

1. External evidence.

a. Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165) in Dialogue with Trypho the Jew wrote, "There was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied by a revelation," and then refers to the thousand years, the resurrection and the judgment of Revelation 20.

b. Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), wrote in Against Heresies, "John, also the Lord's disciple...says in the Apocalypse," and then quotes from that book.

c. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 153-217) in his treatise, Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved? (XLII), writes of "the apostle John" who "returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos" after "the tyrant's death."

d. Tertullian (A.D. 145-220), Origen (A.D. 185-254), Hippolytus (A.D. 170-236), and others.

2. Internal Evidence.

a. Some argue that the different style of Revelation from the Gospel account and John's epistles argues for a different author.

(1) If one believes in inspiration, this does not have to be the case.
(2) God could have chosen a different language for a different kind of book for a different purpose.

b. Some words are used in all of John's works which help point to him as the writer of Revelation.

(1) "the Word was God" (John 1:1); "the Word of life (1 John 1:1); "the Word of God" (Rev 19:13).
(2) The word "truth." Occurs eight times in the gospel of John, 4 times in 1 John, and ten times in Revelation.
(3) "Lamb" occurs in John and Revelation.

III. Place of Writing.

A. Writer says he is on the isle of Patmos (Rev 1:9).

B. This is a small island in the Aegean Sea about 70 miles southwest of Ephesus. It is 10 miles long and six miles wide at is widest point.

C. John was most likely exiled to this place by Domition.

IV. Date of Writing.

A. Most will say that it was written either during the reign of Nero (A.D. 64-68) or Domitian (A.D. 91-96) or somewhere in between.

B. Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), Victorinus (A.D. 303), and Eusebius all hold to the Domitian date.

C. In the Gospels and Acts, Rome was often a refuge for Christians. In Revelation, Rome is the Great Persecutor of Christianity. Here are 10 reasons that Rome hated Christians.

1. Christianity was an illegal religion.

2. Christianity aspired universality. Everyone is equal.

3. Christianity was an exclusive religion.

4. Christianity was accused of all manner of evil.

5. They refused to uphold every act of Rome in its wars.

6. Christianity was made up of the poor and outcast.

7. They would not compromise.

8. Their enthusiasm caused them to be viewed as fanatics.

9. Christianity conflicted with temporal interests of many.

10. Christianity refused to worship the emperor.

D. Internal evidence points to the late date as well.

1. The letters to the seven churches. The general conditions of the churches fit the period of Domitian better.

a. Ephesus (2:1-7).

(1) In A.D. 62, Paul wrote to the Ephesians commending "the love which ye show toward all the saints." (Eph 1:15).
(2) In Revelation they called themselves apostles (2:2).
(3) They had left their first love (2:4).
(4) They were influenced by the Nicolaitans (2:6, 15).  History shows that the Nicolaitans did not come about until after Paul's day.

b. To Pergamum (2:12-17).

(1) This city was a center of Emperor worship, "where Satan's throne is... where Satan dwelleth" (v. 13).
(2) This worship was much more intense during the reign of Domitian. Nero did not desire to be worshiped.

c. Sardis (3:1-6).

(1) This church had a name that lived, "and thou art dead" (v.1).
(2) It would most likely take a long period of time to become like this.

2. The Souls under the altar (6:9-11).

a. These souls wanted God to avenge their blood.

b. There is a feeling of impatience like a great deal of time had passed.

V. Imagery.

A. Apocalyptic literature is full of imagery. Some is symbolic and some is not.

B. Some symbols are explained, some are partially explained and some are left veiled. It is left to the reader to use his best judgment in these cases.

C. Must be careful to avoid trying to explain every little aspect of a symbol.

D. Symbols, signs and images are used to express ideas.

E. Numbers (symbolic uses). Throughout the Bible numbers are used to indicate literal quantity and also to represent an idea. 

One: unity or oneness.

Two: suggests strength (Eccl 4:9-11).

Three: symbolic of a complete and ordered whole.

Four: symbolic of the world or creation.

Five: symbolizes a short but definite period of time.

Six: one short of seven, thus imperfect.

Seven: complete and perfect.

Ten: is a power number.

Twelve: a religious number bearing a symbolic religious idea.

3 : symbolic of a period of trial or persecution.

VI. Theme and Purpose of the Book

A. Theme: The theme of Revelation is a war between good and evil with good finally winning out in the end.

B. Purpose: To encourage Christians to be faithful in the face of all opposition regardless of how terrible it may be.

VII. Three Helpful Rules for Interpreting.

A. Have some understanding for the conditions in which the saints lived.

B. Understand the Old Testament, especially Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.

C. All interpretations must be consistent and in harmony with the rest of the Scriptures.


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