Date: c. A.D. 95
The Book of Revelation consists of seven letters written by John the apostle to churches in Asia Minor, along with a complex series of visions that deal with world history, cosmic struggle, and the end of the age. It is the most difficult book in the Bible to understand, and varied interpretations abound. In general, there are four points of view: one sees the book as dealing with John’s day only (preterist); another sees it as dealing with the end of the age only (futurist); a third, as referring to the whole church age (historicist); and a fourth, as depicting the triumph of good over evil (poetic or mythological). There are also subvarieties of these views and combinations of them. Probably a combination is the best way to understand the book.
After the seven letters at the beginning, there follow the visions. John first sees a complex picture of God on his throne, surrounded by elders, angels, creatures, the Lamb, and violent noises. It is an awesome experience that prepares John for a series of three sets of visions consisting of seals of a scroll opened, trumpets blown, and bowls of judgment poured out. The seals represent war, slaughter, famine, death, martyrdom, and the end of the age. The trumpets represent various plagues, judgments, sufferings, war, and death, ending again with the end of the age. The bowls represent disease, plagues, judgments, demonic spirits, destruction, and general mayhem. Scattered through this set of three complex visions are interludes that deal with world government, spiritual struggle, heaven, worship, angels, and false religion. The book ends with a glorious picture of heaven, where all tears are wiped away and God is all in all.
Theological Themes in the Revelation
John wrote down these visions at the command of God. Believers needed encouragement in a time of great persecution. To show them God in heaven and the saints surrounding him was intended to strengthen them to endure so that they too might take their places there. It was also to prepare the church for what was to take place during its history and especially before the end of the age. Written in veiled terms, the way things will go is depicted. Revelation was also written to show the triumph of good over evil and the certainty of Satan’s defeat. We should never forget that evil survives because we choose to let it rule over us. We must resist it on every hand, using the power that God gives us. Finally, the book was written to show how victory is won through the power of the slain Lamb of God who appears as a triumphant Lion devouring his foes.
The principle actor in the book is the figure of the Lamb, who is dead yet living, and also a Lion. It is hard to imagine how all this appeared to John throughout the course of his visions, but that is how he describes it. He has only human words to picture what was an ineffable experience. As slain, the Lamb receives honor, glory, and blessing because his blood cleanses Christians from their sins. He, the light of heaven, prepares a banquet for those who have believed in him and endured sufferings in his name. He sits on the throne of heaven, sharing the glory of God forever. As Lion, the Lamb defends his own with a rod of iron; he has authority to open the scroll holding the wrath of God. He himself pours out wrath on those who have persecuted Christians. He defeats Satan and his forces, establishing righteousness forever. The end of the book is a high note of comfort and encouragement. After darkness comes dawn; after suffering comes peace; after labor comes rest; after tears comes joy forevermore. It is marvelous to realize that life has meaning and is worth it. That realization gives us courage to carry on, no matter what.
Outline for the Revelation
- Seven letters Revelation 1:1-3:22
- The course of world events leading to Christ’s return Revelation 4:1-19:21
- 3.The last judgment REVELATION 20:1-15
- 4.The new heaven and new earth REVELATION 21:1-22:21