Copyright 1997MWSC/Jeanie C. Crain All rights reserved.
|AUTHOR. John, the apostle|
|PLACE. Patmos, Asia Minor, where John was banished "because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ."|
|DATE. about A.D. 96.|
|AUTHORITY, revelation of Jesus Christ, 1:1.|
METHODS OF INTERPRETATION.
|(1) The preterist. Believes that the prophecies of Revelation have already been fulfilled.|
|(2) The futurist. Holds that the book contains a forecast of universal history.|
|(3) The historicist. Sees the events of the book as symbolic portrayals of church history, from New Testament times to the end of the age.|
|(4) The eclectic, or idealist. Stresses the spiritual principles of the book and does not attempt to dogmatize on details of the more mysterious visions. This school believes that there are three types of passages in the Apocalypse: those that are very clear in their spiritual teaching; those that are more mysterious, and yet contain an element of truth that is instructive; and those that are so veiled that it is futile from our present knowledge to give positive interpretations.|
It is probable that some of the prophecies contain two elements, the near and the far. The former refer especially to events during John's time or shortly thereafter; the latter deal with events in coming ages. A recommended approach is to read Revelation in the context of its historical setting before attempting to apply it to current or future time.
|(1) The Apocalypse is the only book in the Bible that contains a special promise to obedient readers (1:3) and at the same time pronounces a curse upon those who tamper with its contents, 22:18-19.|
|(2) Seven is the dominant number of the book. Seven lamp stands, churches, seals, angels, trumpets, thunders, bowls, spirits, stars, etc.; and seven "no mores." Numbers are used throughout the Bible symbolically.|
|(3) The closing chapters of Revelation contain a striking contrast to the opening chapters of Genesis. Genesis speaks of the creation of the sun, the entrance of sin into the world, the pronouncement of the curse, Satan's triumph, and the exclusion from the "tree of life." Revelation tells of a place where there will be no need of the sun, where sin is banished, where the curse is gone, Satan is overthrown, and admission is given to the "tree of life." In fact, rightly approached, readers of the Bible will discover every thread in its tapestry tightly integrated into an overall unity or design, marvelous in scope.|
|This book is often thought to be so mysterious that it is beyond the reading comprehension levels of the ordinary person; while there are many viewpoints from which it may be profitably studied without any attempt and while its symbolism is complex, it can be understood within the context of the Bible itself as an anthology of literature. One simply needs to grasp something of the anthology's overarching thematic unity.|
THEME. The moral and spiritual conflict of the ages; it projects human beings into the end of time as they know it, a time when the finite becomes infinite.
CENTRAL SYMBOL. The Lamb, Victor over evil, or what humans have experienced as evil in their world. The Lamb is mentioned about thirty times.
EPOCHAL EVENTS. TWO
|(1) The birth of the man child, regarded by many as the incarnation of Jesus Christ, chap. 12.|
|(2) The sounding of the seventh trumpet (11:15), which heralds his worldwide victory.|
|The book may be divided into a series of visions, some of which are partly or wholly veiled; others are comparatively clear in their teachings. It is not always possible to tell just where one vision ends and another begins, but for convenience they may be studied under various numbers, according to one's viewpoint.|
|(1) Introduction and promise to obedient readers, vv. 1-3.|
|(2) Salutation of John and of the glorified Christ, vv. 4-8.|
|(1) Of the glorified Christ, 9-16.|
|(2) His command to write to the seven churches, v. 19.|
|(3) The message to the churches, chaps. 2-3.|
|(a) To Ephesus, the backslidden church, persistent in service, strong in discipline, but with love growing cold, vv. 1-7.|
|(b) To Smyrna, the poor but truly rich church, facing a period of persecution, vv. 8-11.|
|(c) To Pergamum, the church in an evil environment, steadfast, but infected with heresy, vv. 12-17.|
|(d) To Thyatira, the church of good works, but tolerating a false prophetess, vv. 18-29.|
|(e) To Sardis, the dying church, vv. 1-6.|
|(f) To Philadelphia, the weak, but faithful church, vv. 7-13.|
|(g) To Laodicea, the lukewarm, self-satisfied church, boasting of her wealth while being wretched, poor, and blind, vv. 14-22.|
Recurrent thought, the promises to over comers.
VISION II. Partly Veiled. Chap. 4.
|(1) The vision of God in heaven upon his throne, the Creator of the universe, receiving the worship of the living creatures and the twenty-four elders, vv. 1-11.|
|(2) The opening of the seven-sealed scroll by the Lamb, the singing of the new song, and the universal worship of the Lamb. Suggested interpretation: only Christ can unlock the deepest divine mysteries.|
|(3) The opening of the six seals, (veiled), vv. 1-17. There have been many widely different interpretations; it is not worthwhile to add another. One clear lesson, vv. 9-11, is that believers are tested by divine delays.|
VISION III. Partly Veiled.
Chap. 7. vv. 1-8, Suggested thought, God's protection of his chosen people.
Chap. 7. Comforting assurances.
|(a) The innumerable host of the redeemed, vv. 9-10.|
|(b) The means by which they appear in God's presence, vv. 13-15.|
|(c) Their activities and eternal joy, vv. 15-17.|
VISION V. Partly Veiled.
Chap. 8. Momentous event, the opening of the seventh seal, causing silence in heaven. v. 1.
|Possible explanation. All the music and the voices of the angels were stilled by the fact that, during the period of the seventh seal, Christ was to leave for his earthly mission.|
|This is not purely imaginary. The fullness of time was evidently approaching, 10:6. If this interpretation is correct, in 8:1 we are at the very sources of the divine plan of salvation and we will see the events focusing toward the birth of the man child in the 12th chapter.|
In 8:3-4, the thought appears to be that the prayers of the saints are ascending to God for the coming of the messianic kingdom.
Chap. 9. Then follows a veiled portion of the vision, the sounding of the six trumpets, chaps. 8 and 9, apparently announcing impending judgments.
Chaps. 10 and 11.
|VISION VI. Partly Veiled. Little more can be said than that the events seem to be moving forward toward the great consummation. This is indicated by the announcement of the mighty angel (10:5-7), that there will be no more delay, but that the good news spoken of by the prophets is about to be fulfilled.|
Chaps. 10 and 11
|Among so many different opinions it is risky to suggest an interpretation of the little scroll in chapter 10 and of the two witnesses in chapter 11. Since these immediately precede the vision of the birth of the man child in chapter 12, they may refer to the prophetic period prior to the coming of Christ.|
Perhaps chapters 12-20 contain partly-veiled visions connected with the great messianic conflict.
Chaps. 12 and 13. The great epochal event. The birth of the man child, Christ, and the simultaneous manifestation of the satanic powers arrayed to destroy him.
The justification for this viewpoint
|During Christ's earthly life the powers of darkness were in frenzied activity. Note the attempt of Herod to destroy the child Jesus, the numerous cases of demon possession, and the malignant opposition that resulted in Christ's crucifixion.|
No detailed interpretation of the mysteries is given here, but attention is called to the spiritual weapons by which the victory was to be won, vv. 12:11.
VISION VIII. Partly Veiled.
|Chap. 14. vv. 1-13. Without strained interpretation, it is possible to regard this chapter as a prophetic summary of the coming conflict between the Lamb and his enemies.|
If this view is accepted, in the first five verses the one hundred and forty-four thousand represent the outstanding believers of the old dispensation; verses 6-7 would refer to the opening up of worldwide missionary activity ; verses 8-11 are the preliminary announcement of the final victory; and verses 12-13 refer to the blessedness of the believing dead.
VISION IX. Partly Veiled.
Chap. 14. The harvest and vintage of grapes, vv. 16-20.
VISION X. Partly Veiled.
|(1) The early victors and their song, vv. 1-4. See 2477.|
|(2) The seven angels and the golden bowls, vv. 5-8.|
Chap. 16. The outpouring of the seven bowls of wrath, vv. 1-21.
VISION XI. Veiled.
Chaps. 17, 18. The doom of Babylon, the harlot city, and the enemies of the Lamb which he shall overcome.
|(1) The hallelujah chorus in heaven celebrating the spiritual victory, vv. 1-6.|
|(2) The marriage of the Lamb, vv. 7-9. See 736.|
|(1) Christ, the spiritual conqueror, on the white horse, strikes the nations with the sword of the Spirit, 19:11-16. See 4114.|
|(2) Partly veiled. The beast and the false prophet and their allies overcome by Christ.|
VISION XIV. Partly Veiled.
|(1) The binding of Satan, vv. 1-3.|
|(2) The first resurrection, vv. 4-6.|
|(3) Satan released, and his evil activity, vv. 7-9.|
|(4) The doom of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet, v. 10.|
|(5) The last judgment, vv. 11-15.|
Chaps. 21-22. The new heaven and the new earth. The Holy City, a type of the church, the Lamb's wife.
|Characteristics of: Heavenly origin, 21:2; radiant, v. 11; separated and protected, v. 12; accessible, v. 13; sure foundations, v. 14; immovable, v. 16; beautifully adorned, vv. 18-21; having a spiritual temple, v. 22; divinely illuminated, vv. 23-25; glorified, v. 26; undefiled, v. 27.|
Chap. 22. Paradise restored. Distinguishing marks of: the river of life, v. 1; the tree of life, v. 2; removal of the curse, v. 3; the beatific vision and the divine mark on saints, v. 4; eternal day and saints' dominion, v. 5.
The last teachings,
|trustworthy and true, v. 6; emphasize the imminent return of the Lord, v. 7; God only to be worshiped, vv. 8-9; character tends to final permanence, v. 11; the last promise, v. 14; the last invitation, v. 17; the last warning, vv. 18-19.|