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- THE TITLE
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
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.
- THE DATE
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 PLACE OF WRITING
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.
- CHARACTER OF THE BOOK
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.
- SYSTEMS OF INTERPRETATION
Among Bible students there are four main classes of interpreters.
- The Praeterist claims that the prophecies were fulfilled in Jewish history and in the early ages of the church. This system of interpretation connects many of the events with the history of pagan Rome.
- The Futurist thinks all the events of the book will be fulfilled just before or just after Christ's second coming. This interpretation is the basis for many pre-millennial theories that contradict the scriptures.
- Exponents of the Historical School hold that some prophecies have been fulfilled, some are now being fulfilled, and some will be fulfilled in the future.
- The Spiritualist or Idealist thinks that the other interpreters make too much of the time element. He regards Revelation as the pictorial unfolding of great principles, and stresses the moral and spiritual elements. To him the book is "a representation of ideas rather than events."
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.
- EXERCISES FOR STUDENT ACTIVITY
- Study in detail the letters to the seven churches (2:1-3:21).
- Describe each of the seven mystic figures (Chs. 12-14).
- Note the points of similarity in the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials.
- List all the symbols of perfection found in Revelation, such as words, numbers, instruments, etc.
- Without any attempt to understand the symbolic details, read Revelation for the continuous note of victory which it sounds for the faithful saints of God.
- List all the passages that predict the end of conflict and the ultimate triumph of the Lamb.
Published in The Old Paths Archive