AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION
The word "Revelation" means "to take the cover off," (GSN0602 - apokolupsis), from the preposition (GSN0575 - apo), "from" and (GSN2572 - kalupto), to cover. Therefore, it is an uncovering, especially of the glory of Christ and of what the future holds because of him.
This book is full of symbolism and prophecies. What the Book of Daniel was to the Old Testament, Revelation was to the New Testament. Both books were written in an apocalyptic form. There are similar passages in the Gospels (Matt.24-25; Mk.13; Lk.21).
The author is John (Rev.1v1; Rev.1v9; Rev.22v2; Rev.22v8), the same John who wrote the Gospel and the three Epistles of John (which see).
This book was written at a time when the Ekklesia (GSN1577) was undergoing persecution and great difficulty. The two most important such periods were during the reigns of Nero in A.D. 37-68 and Domitian in A.D. 51-96. A spirited debate continues about whether Revelation was written BEFORE Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D. or was penned later (about 95 A.D.). Some who believe the former allege that "Babylon" was the code word for "Jerusalem." Others who accept the later date, traditionally believe that "Babylon" was "Rome," the capitol of the Empire.
Revelation was addressed to the seven congregations of Asia Minor which are mentioned in Rev.2-3. Almost everyone believes that this section was historical--that these were seven literal congregations in existence at the time that John copied down what he witnessed.
There are essentially four ways of interpreting Revelation. The first, or preterist view, places the events and visions described as belonging to the past, particularly to the Roman Empire of the First Century A.D. The advocates of this position explain the highly-symbolic character of the book as an endeavor by John to hide the real meaning of what he was saying to the general populace but which would become apparent to the insiders who lived at the time. People holding this view believe that the main purpose of Revelation was to encourage the early believers that God would ultimately intervene in the affairs of mankind.
The second view, or the historicist view, says that what we have in Revelation is a panoramic view of history from the First Century until the Second Coming of Christ. This was the view of most of the Protestant Reformers. In our opinion, this is an untenable position because historians have not been able to identify precise events in history which would correspond to the visions symbolized in the Book of Revelation.
The third view is the symbolic view which states that the Book of Revelation portrays the continuing conflict between the forces of good and evil throughout the entire span of human history. According to this view, the Book of Revelation was mainly designed to give encouragement, since at the end good will triumph over evil.
The fourth view is the futuristic view which asserts that Rev.4-22 deals with events of the end time. According to this view, the Book of Revelation was not concerned with events of John's own day as much as with later historical events, and particularly those happenings that WILL take place in connection with the Second Coming of the Lord in the future. This view takes seriously the predictive element in the book (Rev.1v19; Rev.4v1). Very definitely the final chapters of Revelation deal with the last days and a definitive change in the things as they are today. Rev.1 deals with the past; Rev.2-3 tells us about things that were current at that particular time and which were to follow; Rev.4-22 informs us about the things which were to follow their time period.
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