Rather than simply addressing the contents of one sermon, the purpose of this follow-up material is to rehash introductory information regarding the book of Revelation, and begin a review of Revelation chapter 1.
When was Revelation written
Although there is debate, with some wanting to date the book earlier than 70 AD, most scholars believe that the book of Revelation was written roughly around 95 AD.
Who wrote Revelation
The book is said to be written by someone named John. This could mean (1) John, the brother of James, who traveled with Jesus; (2) John the Elder, a known leader among the Asian churches; (3) a different John; (4) someone writing under the name of John. I favor the view that it is one of the first two.
Purpose of Revelation
What Revelation is probably NOT:
The book of Revelation is probably NOT a kryptic foreshadowing of the end of the world (though the final couple of chapters certainly depict what seems to allude to Christ’s final victory and judgment).
It is most likely NOT describing a specific yet-to-come antiChrist, pre-tribulation rapture, actual earthly 1000 year reign of Jesus prior to final judgment, a literal battle at a place called “Armageddon,” or symbols that if properly deciphered could recognize what future leader or nation is represented by “the beast,” or when the Lord is about to return.
What Revelation probably IS:
The book of Revelation was written to a first-century, Christian audience. The disciples to whom the message was delivered were suffering, or were on the verge of suffering, great persecution (at least in certain parts of the empire) for their faith. In addition, Roman culture offered comfort, material wealth, and avenues of self-indulgence to those who would compromise and adopt its worldly values and idolatry. As a result, many disciples were drifting away from devotion to Jesus and were embracing more and more of the world.
Revelation, therefore, is predominantly written with the church’s struggles against Rome and its sinful culture in mind. The symbols and images in the letter would have been heard and interpreted by the readers as it related to their contemporary situation and challenges. It would have been viewed as a promise of hope that the kingdom of God will outlast Rome and any other kingdom of the earth, not as a message about the end of the world.
What Revelation DEFINITELY IS:
It is not necessary to properly decipher the exact meaning of every symbol (or even most symbols) in Revelation in order to grasp the true purpose and overall meaning of the book. Revelation is a book meant to peel back the veil between the spiritual and material. It is meant to assure disciples who face struggles in this life that their faith and perseverance is worth it.
Revelation shows that, in the end, sin leads to destruction and righteousness to eternal life and reward beyond comprehension. Thus the words of Revelation serve to encourage the faithful, warn those compromising and retreating in their faith, and reveal the ultimate eternal fate of all people based on their response to the Gospel. You might say, then, that Revelation is a book of PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE.
Past — it is written predominantly to address the contemporary struggles of the disciples to whom it was written in 95 AD.
Present — the struggles and choices which they faced centuries ago are not very different from our own today. The spiritual realities and eternal consequences surrounding their situation and decisions are the same for us. The lessons of Revelation are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.
Future — Given that the patterns of human nature and the sinful world we live in continually repeat themselves, it would certainly seem safe to assume that the same struggles and challenges will continue until Christ returns, making the book relevant to future generations as well.
God gave the revelation to Jesus, who revealed it to John through his angel, that it might be shared with the churches to show them what must “soon take place.” The fact that the events are said to “soon take place” would have communicated to the audience that the things revealed would not be long in coming. Again, the readers/listeners would have heard their struggles against Rome in the words of the book.
Notice the progression. God reveals to Jesus, who reveals to his angel, who reveals to John, who reveals to the churches. For the revelation to be true and reliable, it must originate with God! (John 17:17)
But God’s plan is to reveal himself and his plan through others. This requires humility and obedience on the part of those involved. For instance, Jesus, the Son, must be humble before his Father to receive and relay the message as it was revealed to him (John 5:19, John 12:49-50).
Jesus then reveals the message to John via his angel. John must be humble enough to receive the message and pass it along to the disciples who make up the churches. The churches must then be humble enough to receive the message from John, a mere man (though no doubt a respected one) and apply its lessons obediently. The disciples within the churches, no doubt, had to be humble enough to receive the message from certain leaders to whom John had entrusted it.
The same is true today. God has given us the Bible–praise God! But he also continues to reveal himself through people. He uses teachers, preachers, elders, older and wiser men and women, spiritual peers, etc. We have the scriptures by which to measure their words and examples, but we must never lose sight of the fact that God often uses others to reveal things to us today.
The problem is that we all want to be John. We want to be the one who gets the revelation directly from Jesus. We want to be the one who, if the church would just listen to us, has seen something from God that can set everyone straight.
Well, most of the time, instead of arrogantly insisting on being John, we need to humbly play the role of the churches, letting others speak into our lives, sharing spiritual and biblical truths, and applying the lessons they can teach to grow and serve God even better! This is just one of the many practical lessons we can glean from the book of Revelation.