General Information

NameThis book is generally known by two names, “The Apocalypse of John” and “The Revelation to John” (shorthanded as Revelation). Both these names convey the same thing, that is, the book is an account of what was revealed to John concerning the last days.
Author and Date

The author is identified in verse one: “John, who bore witness to the Word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The author identifies himself as John in several other places as well (1:4, 9; 22:8). This is almost certainly John the Apostle. John was known to be ministering in Asia Minor and associated with the churches there, some of whom are addressed in the book. External evidence also points to John the Apostle’s authorship. Early church figures like Justin Martyr ascribed Revelation to John. It was only in the mid-third century that another author was proposed, that being John the Elder (an obscure figure in the early church). Dionysius argued that Revelation’s drastically different vocabulary and style from the Gospel of John and his epistles made it unlikely John the Apostle was the author of Revelation. However, even Dionysius was forced to admit that there was little evidence for the very existence of John the Elder (πρεσβύτερος), let alone that he had written a book of the Bible. The difference in style and vocabulary is easily explained if it is kept in mind that Revelation is a completely different kind of work than the Gospel of John or John’s letters. It is not very surprising that John would use different words attempting to explain all the fantastic things being shown to him than what he would use to describe the life and teachings of Jesus or concerns about false teachers coming into the church.

There are two popular dates ascribed to the writing of Revelation, an “early” date of before A.D. 70 (probably in the mid 60’s), and a “late” date of around A.D. 95. The early date view rests largely on internal evidence, and seeing events occurring before and just after 70 as being described in Revelation. Early date proponents argue references to “the temple of God” and “the altar” in Revelation (11:1) meant that Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed. They also point to John’s description of the healing of the beast in Rev. 13, arguing that it agrees with a popular myth that the persecuting emperor Nero would come back from the dead. However, Nero’s persecutions were limited to the city of Rome, as opposed to Diocletian’s, which were empire wide. Moreover, Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John) said that Revelation was written at the end of Diocletian’s reign, in about 95. Also, John’s description of the temple and the altar seem to have been referring to the future, in the context of the two witnesses coming to Jerusalem – which did not happen in the destruction of A.D. 70. With these considerations, A.D. 95 seems to be a more likely date for the writing of Revelation.

AudienceThe book is addressed “to the seven churches which are in Asia” (1:4), although the content of the book is applicable to Christians everywhere.
Message and Occasion

The message of Revelation is of perseverance. John admonishes Christians of all ages to continue on, even in the face of all kinds of evil persecution because eventually evil will be overthrown and those who endure and overcome will be rewarded.

While John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he was visited by the glorified Jesus, who commanded him “what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia” (1:11). From what follows, it is clear Jesus Himself had seen problems in those churches and wanted to address them. However, the problems He saw are present in every church, so in a sense, Revelation is directed at all churches everywhere, at all times.

Key Information

Key Verses

1:1 “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

4:8 “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 

Holy, holy, holy, 
Lord God Almighty, 
Who was and is and is to come!

7:4 “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed”

19:11 “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” 

20:11-15 “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’”

22:18-20 “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Key People

John

John is shown in Revelation as one mediating the revelation given to him, as a servant conveying the message.

Jesus

Revelation is the only place outside of the Gospels (and a few statements in Acts and the epistles) where Jesus speaks. Unlike the Gospels, in Revelation Jesus is a conquering warrior king who brings judgment and punishment.

Satan

Much of what we know about Satan comes from Revelation. Before the creation Satan rebelled against God and “made war” on Him. Satan is defeated and banished from heaven. His pursuance of the People of God is shown in graphic detail in Revelation, as well as his end: destruction.

Key Events

The book of Revelation is the one book in the New Testament with the main focus of prophecy.  Beginning with chapter four, each of the events described are to occur sometime in the future.

Letters to the Churches

John is told to write letters to seven "angels" representing seven first century churches. The letters describe the conditions of the churches and a description of God's opinion of them, a rebuke to those who have some deficiency, together with a call for correction, and finally a promise to those who overcome.

Rapture

While not all scholars agree, some believe that the command in 4:1, "Come up here" represents the rapture of the church.

Judgments

There are various “judgments” which are to be poured out on the earth.  These judgments are introduced as Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, and Seven Bowls.

Millennium

Following the Tribulation, God establishes a rule on earth.  It is described as lasting “a thousand years.”  There is debate among scholars as to the exact meaning of this period referred to as the “Millennium” after the word meaning 1,000.  Some take this to mean a literal 1,000 years while other believe it merely represents a long period of time. 

Tribulation Period

Satan will be cast out of heaven and, together with his ruler referred to as “the beast” and a “false prophet”, will gain rule over the entire earth through initially securing a false peace.  After a seven year period known as the Tribulation period, Satan will be defeated at a place called “Armageddon” (also known as Megiddo) and cast into a bottomless pit, while the beast and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire.

New Heaven and New Earth

The earth is purged with fire, and God establishes a new earth, with a New Jerusalem as the capital city.  This new earth is the eternal destiny of the believers, with Jesus reigning as King.

Final Battle

Satan is released at the end of the “Millennium” and leads one final rebellion against God, sometimes referred to as the battle of Gog and Magog based on a reference in 20:8.  God triumphs and Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire, where the beast and false prophet are, to be tormented day and night forever and ever (20:10).

Two Witnesses

Two special witnesses will be sent from God with special miraculous powers.  The people will ultimately kill them, and they will remain dead for 3 ½ days and will be taken to heaven.

Great White Throne Judgment

A judgment in which all people are judged. Anyone not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

Important Theology in Revelation

EschatologyRevelation is, at heart, a book about the end times. Although some see it as recounting the past, the best interpretation of it is that it describes events surrounding the end of time. Revelation tells the end of the story – that God ultimately triumphs.
Distinction between Persecution and Tribulation

Revelation is, at heart, a book about the end times. Although some see it as recounting the past, the best interpretation of it is that it describes events surrounding the end of time. Revelation tells the end of the story – that God ultimately triumphs.

It is important to separate the persecutions suffered by Christians under the Anti-Christ and the Tribulation period where God is pouring out his wrath on those who reject Him in the book of Revelation. One is an evil, sinful act perpetrated by men on innocent saints. The other is God’s just punishment of those sinners.

Jesus ChristIn Revelation, Jesus Christ is shown as the Glorified Son of Man (1:12-16), the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (19:16) who rules the earth (20:4-6). Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension are also recounted (1:5; 12:5) and given as the means by which sinners are offered redemption and eternal life (22:14, 17).

General Outline

Introduction (1:1-20)

I.    Prologue (1:1-3)

II.   Greeting and Praise (1:4-8)

III.  Introduction of John, the Son of Man, and the Seven Churches (1:9-20)

Letters to the Seven Churches (2:1-3:22)

I.      Letter to Ephesus (2:1-7)

II.    Letter to Smyrna (2:8-11)

III.   Letter to Pergamos (2:12-17)

IV.   Letter to Tyatira (2:18-29)

V.    Letter to Sardis (3:1-6)

VI.   Letter to Philadelphia (3:7-13)

VII.  Letter to Laodicea (3:14-22)

Visions of the End Times: Scrolls and Bowls (4:1-16:21)

I.    The Throne Room (4:1-5:14)

II.   The Seven Scrolls (6:1-8:1)

III.  The Seven Trumpets of Judgment (8:2-9:21)

       A.    Incense as the Prayers of the Saints (8:2-6)

       B.   Trumpets 1-6 (8:7-9:21)

IV.   The Little Book (10:1-11)

V.    The Measuring Rod and The Two Witnesses (11:1-14)

VI.   The Seventh Trumpet Sounds (11:15-19)

VII.  Satan, the Woman and the Child (12:1-17)

VIII. The Beasts (13:1-18)

IX.    The Lamb, 144,000, Preaching Angels and Reapers (14:1-20)

X.     The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath (15:1-16:21)

Visions of the End Times: Rebellions and Kingdoms (17:1-22:5)         

I.    The Woman and the Beast (17:1-19:10)

II.   The Battle Between Christ and the Forces of Satan (19:17-20:3)

III.  The Millennium, Rebellion and Battle (20:4-10)

IV.  The Great White Throne Judgment (20:11-15)

V.   New Heaven, Earth and Jerusalem (21:1-22:5)

Conclusion (22:6-21)

I.    Instructions for Believers (22:6-17)

II.   Warning (22:18-19)

III.  Benediction (22:20-21)

Used by permission ©2016, 2020 H. Wayne House, Charting the New Testament. All Rights Reserved.