Revelation – Introduction

What Are The Three Main Themes In The Book of Revelation?

Video Data.   John Ankerberg Show. Dr. John Ankerberg (M. Div., D. Min.), Dr. Jimmy DeYoung (M. Div., Ph. D., 1940-2021).
I. Introduction

A. You may have opened a Bible to the opening page of the Book of Revelation, and have seen the words, “THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE.” You may have also seen written comments about “The Book of Revelations.” Both of these examples are incorrect. The words of Revelation 1:1 open with, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” which shows that the Revelation, which is singular, was “of Jesus Christ.” The significance of “the Revelation,” is that the entire book of Revelation is one, and only one, Revelation, that “John received from Jesus” (Rev 1:9-18). In Rev 1:19, Jesus instructed John to write the Revelation (of Jesus) to “the seven churches” which are identified in Rev 1:20-3:22. In Rev 1:3, we are told that “those who read, and those who hear, and those who heed (keep, guard, observe, watch over)” the things that are written in “the Revelation,” will be blessed. John was directed by Jesus to write the Revelation to the following churches, “Ephesus (2:1), Smyrna (2:8), Pergamum (2:12), Thyatira (2:18), Sardis (3:1), Philadelphia (3:7), Laodicea (3:14).”

B. Consider Revelation 1:19. This verse gives the basic outline of the book: (1) “the things which you (John) have seen,” as recorded in chap. 1; (2) “the things which are;” i.e. the present state of the churches (chaps. 2-3); and (3) “the things which will take place after these things.” The third section clearly begins with 4:1, since the same phrase is used here. The seven churches addressed in chaps. 2 and 3 were actual churches of John’s day. But, they also represent types and conditions of churches in all generations. (Dr. Charles C. Ryrie (Th. M., Th. D., Ph. D., 1925-2016). Ryrie Study Bible.)

II. Preview. The following scholars preview the Book of Revelation, in varying depths of comment.

A. Dr. Tim LaHaye (D. Min., D. Litt.; 1926-2016). Revelation Illustrated & Made Plain..

The  book of Revelation is the only book in the New Testament that presents Jesus Christ as He really is today. The gospels introduce Him as the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” during His incarnation. Revelation presents Him in His true glory and majesty after His resurrection and ascension into heaven, never again to be reviled, rebuked, and spat upon. No wonder John entitled it “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

B. Dr. Davod Hocking (B. A. in Bible, Greek and Ancient History; M. Div. in Biblical Studies & Systematic Theology; Ph. D. in Biblical Studies and Languages; D. Min. in Pastoral Studies).

The correct and complete title of this amazing book is THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST! The word “revelation” is a translation of the Greek word “apocalypse,” a word meaning “unveiling” or to “take the cover off.” While there are many fascinating events in the book, its primary purpose is to reveal the glory and majesty of the Messiah!

C. Dr. Kendell H. Easley (M. Div.; Ph. D.) The Book of Revelation, Holman New Testament Commentary.

While the letter is largely prophetic, the original audience for Revelation comprised persecuted Christians living in the seven cities mentioned. Like a modern congregation, they included mature and immature believers, some of whom were faithful, others faithless. Many were true to Christian teachings, while others had drifted into error. The letter records four spectacular visions that Christ instructed the author to record and send to the persecuted churches in Asia. The purpose of the letter was to encourage and challenge Christians. The central theme is: Jesus, the Lord of history, will return without fail to earth to bring history to its proper conclusion (Rev 1:7).

D. Dr. John F. Walvoord (Th. B., Th. M., Th. D., 1910-2002). The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The climax of human history was to involve a period of great suffering which would be worse than any of the trials which afflicted the church previously. The ultimate triumph of the saints and the final victory of our Lord Jesus Christ are plainly written in the book of Revelation for all to comprehend. Saints of all ages can be assured of the certainty of their hope which today shines brighter than ever in view of the approaching end of the age. The book of Revelation, like all other unfulfilled prophecy, provides particular instruction to the generation which will see its fulfillment, and it constitutes general exhortation and encouragement for those who await the coming day.

E. Dr. Charles C. Ryrie (Th. M., Th. D., Ph. D., 1925-2016). Ryrie Study Bible.

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and He is the center of the entire book (1:1), in His risen glory (chap. 1). He directs His churches on the earth (chaps. 2-3). He is the slain and risen Lamb to whom all worship is directed (chaps. 4-5). The judgments of the coming seven-year period of tribulation on this earth are the display of the wrath of the Lamb (chaps. 6-19); see especially 6:16-17), and the return of Christ to this earth is described in 19:11-21. The millennial reign of Christ is described in chap. 20, and the new heavens and new earth in chaps. 21 and 22.

F. Dr. Robert L. Thomas (Th. M., Th. D.; 1928-2017).  Revelation Commentary. 

Through the centuries since its writing, the book of Revelation has captured the fascination of the Christian church. Earliest Christians were unanimous in understanding its prophecies as descriptions of events surrounding the premillennial second advent of Jesus Christ, but alongside their exclusively futuristic and premillennial view, other hermeneutic approaches to the book began to emerge in the third century. These clouded, and added complexity to, the task of explaining the book’s meaning. For most of the Christian era, consequently, many readers have viewed the last of the NT writings as though it were hopelessly embedded in an aura of deep mystery. An avalanche of interpretive literature has evidenced remarkable interest in the book’s contents, but along with the interest has come widespread bewilderment. In post-Reformation times, detailed commentaries on the Greek text of Revelation from a futurist and premillennial perspective have been scarce, and perhaps even nonexistent.

 G. Dr. C.I. Scofield (D. D.; 1843-1921) Scofield Study Bible (1909, 1917, 1937, 1945, 1984, 1998, 2002, 2006, Editor, C.I. Scofield, Editorial Revision 1967 Committee Members: Charles L. Feinberg, Th. B., Th. M., Th. D., Ph. D., John F. Walvoord, Th. B., Th. M., Th. D.), and others.

Revelation WRITER: The Apostle John (1:1) 

DATE: A.D. 96 

THEME: The theme of the Revelation is Jesus Christ ( 1:1), presented in a threefold way: 

1. As to time: “which is, and which was, and which is to come” (1:4); 
2. As to relationships–the churches (1:9-3:22), to the tribulation (4:1-19:21), to the kingdom (20:1-22:21); 3. In His offices–High Priest (8:3-6), Bridegroom (19:7-9), King-Judge (20:1-15). 

But while Christ is thus the central theme of the book, all of the events move toward one consummation, the bringing in of the covenanted kingdom. The key-phrase is the prophetic declaration of the “great voices in heaven” (11:15), “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. .” The book is, therefore, a prophecy (1:3). 

The three major divisions of Revelation must be clearly held if the interpretation is to be sane and coherent. John was commanded to “write” concerning three classes of “things” (1:19): 

1. Things past, “the things thou hast seen,” i.e. the Patmos vision, 1:1-20. 
2. Things present, “the things which are,” i.e. things then existing–obviously the churches. The temple had been destroyed, the Jews dispersed: the testimony of God had been committed to the Churches (1 Timothy 3:15). Accordingly we have seven messages to seven representative churches, 2:1-3:22. It is noteworthy that the church is not mentioned in chapters 5-18. 
3. Things future, “things which shall be hereafter,” lit. “after these,” i.e. after the church period ends, 4:1-22:21. The third major division, as Erdman (W.J.) has pointed out, falls into a series of six sevens, with parenthetical passages, making, with the church division, seven sevens. The six sevens are: 

1. The seals, 4:1-8:1. 
2. The seven trumpets, 8:2-11:19. 
3. The seven personages, 12:1-14,20. 
4. The seven vials (bowls), 15:1-16:21. 
5. The seven dooms, 17:1-20:15. 
6. The seven new things, 21:1-22:21. 

The parenthetical passages are: 

1. The Jewish remnant and the tribulation saints, 7:1-17. 
2. The angel, the little book, the two witnesses, 10:1-11:14. 
3. The Lamb, the Remnant, and the everlasting Gospel, 14:1-13. 
4. The gathering of the kings at Armageddon, 16:13-16. 
5. The four alleluias in heaven, 19:1-6. 

These passages do not advance the prophetic narrative. Looking backward and forward they sum up results accomplished, and speak of results yet to come as if they had already come. In 14:1, for example, the Lamb and Remnant are seen prophetically on Mount Sion, though they are not actually there till 20:4-6. The end of the church period (2-3) is left indeterminate. It will end by the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. Chapters 4-19 are believed to synchronize with Daniel’s Seventieth Week. The great tribulation begins at the middle of the week, and continues three and a half years (11:3-19:21). The tribulation is brought to an end by the appearing of the Lord and the battle of Armageddon (Matthew 24:29,30; Revelation 19:11-21). The kingdom follows (20:4,5); after this the “little season” (20:7-15), and then eternity. 

Interpreters of the Revelation should bear in mind two important passages: 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:20,21. Doubtless much which is designedly obscure to us will be clear to those for whom it was written as the time approaches. 

H. Dr. A. Boyd Luter, (Th. M., Th. D., Ph. D.)  Holman Christian Standard Bible. 

A. As outside persecution against Christians increased, the first-century church also faced internal problems. They struggled with suffering, spiritual warfare, heretical doctrine and practice, and spiritual apathy. Christ had promised to return—but when? And how? And what would He do about the problems facing the church when He did come back?

1. Confronted with these circumstances, the original readers of Revelation needed to be both encouraged and exhorted. On the one hand, Revelation was intended to be a promise of divine protection from God’s judgment on the world. On the other hand, those who read the book were to take it to heart and obey, worshipfully standing for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, as the apostle John had. In recording the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John wanted to reassure his readers that Jesus Christ controls the course and climax of history.

2. God’s overriding purpose in all of history is the establishment of the promised messianic kingdom. Associated with this ultimate divine objective is the opportunity for believers to persevere by faith in a life of obedience. The prospect for these overcomers or victors is the destiny of reigning with Christ as co-heirs in His kingdom.

B. Historical Background. From about a.d. 53 the apostle Paul used the great city of Ephesus as a center for evangelism and church planting throughout the Roman province of Asia (see Acts 19:10). Probably the seven churches of Revelation were founded during this time or shortly thereafter.

1. While imprisoned in Rome (around a.d. 60–62), Paul wrote his letters to the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Philippians, and Philemon. Colossians was to be read “in the church of the Laodiceans,” and “the epistle from Laodicea” was to be heard in the congregation in Colosse (Col 4:16)). Apparently the practice of writing epistles for wider circulation than a single individual or group was an accepted one, as seen in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.

2. Reliable historical sources dating from the second century a.d. place the apostle John in Ephesus and ministering throughout the province of Asia from about a.d. 70 to 100. It is likely that 1, 2, and 3 John were written by the apostle to Christians in that region around a.d. 80–100. During the latter part of this period, the emperor Domitian intensified his persecution of Christians. John was undoubtedly placed on the island of Patmos because of his Christian testimony. He was released after 18 months by Emperor Nerva (a.d. 96–98), after which the apostle returned to Ephesus to resume his leadership role there.

C. Christ In The Scriptures.

One thing the author conveys about Jesus is that He continues to lead and interact with His church. In addition, He alone has received authority to judge the earth. This “letter” to the universal church comes from Him and centers on Him. It begins with a vision of His glory, wisdom, and power (ch. 1) and portrays His authority over the entire church (2-3).. He is the Lamb who was slain and declared worthy to open the book of judgment (ch. 5).. It is this same Jesus who will pour out His righteous wrath on the whole earth (chs. 6-18). It is this same Jesus who will return in power to judge His enemies and to reign as the Lord over all forever (chs. 19-22).

III. Parting Thought.

A. Even though the Revelation was written to each of the seven churches that are mentioned in chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of, the Revelation might be the most neglected book in the Bible. Many Christians often ignore the Revelation. Even pastors often avoid preaching or teaching from Revelation except for the first three chapters. This reality is tragic since this 66th book gives us the end of God’s great story that he began telling us in Genesis. The absence of study in the Revelation is obvious, in that there is a great lack of basic understanding of the Book. III. Parting Thought (Our Ministry Life. Keys For Unlocking The Symbols In Revelation).

B. In the revival of interest in eschatology in the twentieth century there has been a partial remedy of the previous neglect of the book of Revelation including special attention to the messages to the seven churches. Recent studies such as The Postman of Patmos by C. A. Hadjiantoniou have helped to dramatize the living character of these letters in the modern church, and the attention to their contribution has been duly given by competent New Testament scholars. It remains true, however, that many casual worshipers in Christian churches today who are quite familiar with the Sermon on the Mount are not aware of the existence of these seven messages of Christ. Their incisive character and pointed denunciation of departure from biblical morality and theology have tended to keep them out of the mainstream of contemporary theological thought. Many of the evils and shortcomings which exist in the church today are a direct outgrowth of neglect of the solemn instruction given to these seven churches (John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Introduction).

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