This book is called the Apocalypse, or Revelation, because it reveals or unveils what otherwise would be hidden. The first word in the Greek text means "revelation."
The writer describes himself as John, a servant of Jesus Christ, "your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus" (Rev 1:1,4,9; 22:8). Both internal and external evidences indicate that the apostle John wrote the book.
Two dates for the composition have been given. A few modern critics place it near the close of Nero's reign, about A.D. 65-70. The early church and many modern scholars set the date around A.D. 95-96, toward the close of Domitian's reign, which extended from A.D. 81 to A.D. 96. Eusebius quotes the testimony of Irenaeus (A.D. 170) which favors the latter view: "revelation was seen no long time since, but almost in our generation, towards the end of the reign of Domitian." Irenaeus had known Polycarp, a disciple of John.
The writer states that the vision of Revelation came to him on the isle of Patmos (Rev 1:9). Early historians affirm that John was banished to Patmos by Domitian toward the close of his reign, A.D. 95-96. In that lonely prison house of the Aegean Sea, John saw and recorded the visions of Revelation, though some scholars think that he waited until he had returned to Ephesus before writing them.
Revelation, like Ezekiel and Daniel, belongs to that class of literature known as "Apocalyptic." The Greek word translated signified in verse 1 means "to give a sign, indicate." By means of symbolic images the book reveals great events in the progress of the church. The theme is the gradual triumph of the people of God. In a symbolic way it describes the fortunes of God's people across the centuries. The kingdom of Christ emerges victorious over all its enemies, and we see the Lord with His saints enjoying the wonders of the glory land.
Among Bible students there are four main classes of interpreters.
Because of the formidable problems involved, it is impossible to include in this survey a detailed study of these various systems. In view of the apocalyptic style (1:1), the visions of the book must be treated accordingly. Perhaps it is safe to say that a combination of the historical and the spiritual approaches would be a good, conservative approach to an understanding of the book.