Revelation: An Introduction
Revelation 1: 1 - 7 Introduction Background 1. I John…. Justin Martyr (writing c. A.D. 135–150), Melito of Sardis (mid-2nd century), and Irenaeus of Lyons (writing c. 185)—consistently identified him as John the son of Zebedee, the beloved disciple who authored the Fourth Gospel and three NT epistles. The earliest church tradition favor the traditional attribution of Revelation to John, the “beloved disciple,” who with Peter and James belonged to Jesus’ inner circle (John 21:20, 24). 2. Companion in tribulation… 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 5.30.3). Since Domitian’s reign ended in A.D. 96, most scholars date Revelation in the mid-90s. Genre 1. The book of Revelation identifies itself both as “apocalypse” (or “revelation,” Rev. 1:1) and as prophecy (Rev. 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19; see also Rev. 10:11; 22:9). 2. Like biblical prophecy generally, the actual medium is visionary writing; the book unfolds as a pageant of visions. 3. At every turn the author uses the resources of poetry—imagery, metaphor, simile, and allusion. 4. The book begins and ends with the standard features of NT epistles. 5. The book of Revelation is one of the most sustained examples of symbolic reality in existence. Observations 1. The revelation… 2. Of Jesus Christ… 3. God gave unto Him… 4. To show… 5. Must shortly come to pass… 6. Unto His servant John… 7. Blessed is he that read and hear and keep… 8. The time is at hand… 9. Seven churches… 10. From Him… 11. The seven Spirits… 12. Jesus Christ…. 13. The faithful witness… 14. First begotten… 15. Prince of the kings of the earth… 16. Him that loved us… 17. In His own blood… 18. Hath made us…. 19. Glory and dominion… 20. Behold He comes… 21. The Alpha and Omega… 22. The Almighty… Themes and Doctrines I. The Kingdom of God. II. The sovereignty of God. III. Tribulation. IV. The victory of the Lord and His church. V. The omnipresence of the Lord Jesus Christ. VI. The providence of God. “The works of God’s providence are His most holy, wise, powerful, preserving and governing, of all His creatures, and all their actions (WSC).” VII. The defeat of our Lord’s enemy and enemies. Outline 1—3 The epistolary portion of the book. 4 – 21 Things that shall be. 22 Epilogue Primary Uses 1. For our faith. 2. For our confidence. 3. For our courage. 4. For our direction. 5. For our anticipation. Interpretive Views 1. Historicism understands the literary order of the visions, especially in Revelation 4:1–20:6, to symbolize the chronological order of successive historical events that span the entire era from the apostolic church to the return of Christ and the new heaven and earth. 2. Futurism likewise treats the order of the visions as reflecting the order of particular historical events (with some exceptions). Futurists, however, typically view the visions of chapters 4–22 as representing events still future to twenty-first-century readers, thus in a distant future from the standpoint of John and the churches of Asia. For many futurists, these coming events include a discrete seven-year period of intense tribulation (chs. 6–19), followed by a millennium (Rev. 20:1–6) in which Christ will rule on earth before the general resurrection and the inauguration of the new heaven and earth (20:7–22:5). 3. Preterism (from Latin praeteritum, “the thing that is past”) thinks that the fulfillment of most of Revelation’s visions already occurred in the distant past, during the early years of the Christian church. Preterists think these events—either the destruction of Jerusalem or the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, or both—would “soon take place” only from the standpoint of John and the churches of Asia. Some preterists interpret the order of the visions as reflecting the chronological succession of the events they signify, but others recognize the presence of recapitulation (that is, that distinct, successive visions sometimes symbolize the same historical events or forces from complementary perspectives; see Structure and Outline). Full preterism—which insists that every prophecy and promise in the NT was fulfilled by A.D. 70—is not a legitimate evangelical option, for it denies Jesus’ future bodily return, denies the physical resurrection of believers at the end of history, and denies the physical renewal/re-creation of the present heavens and earth (or their replacement by a “new heaven and earth”). However, preterists who (rightly) insist that these events are still future are called “partial preterists.” 4. Idealism agrees with historicism that Rev-elation’s visions symbolize the conflict between Christ and his church on the one hand, and Satan and his evil conspirators on the other, from the apostolic age to Christ’s second coming. Yet idealist interpreters believe that the presence of recapitulation (see Outline) means that the visions’ literary order need not reflect the temporal order of particular historical events. The forces and conflicts symbolized in Revelation’s vision cycles manifest themselves in events that were to occur “soon” from the perspective of the first-century churches (as preterists maintain), but they also find expression in the church’s ongoing struggle of persevering faith in the present and foretell a still-future escalation of persecution and divine wrath leading to the return of Christ and the new heaven and earth. 5. Finally, some interpreters hold a mixed view, combining features of these various positions, such as saying that many events have both present and future fulfillments, or saying that many events have past fulfillments but that there may still be a future personal Antichrist.