The Roman Empire protected its economic and political control in spiritual terms. They called their gospel the Roman Peace. And the emperor became their god. During this time a Jewish-Christian prophet named John was living on the island of Patmos. He had been sent there as a prisoner. While he was there, John received a vision. John was told to write what he saw and experienced in that vision. What he wrote is called the book of Revelation. That book was sent to the seven cities in the Roman province of Asia Minor. The main point of the book is to warn believers not to give up their true faith. It is a warning about evil practices and false teachings of the Romans. And the book is written to encourage them in their difficult struggles.
The book of Revelation is in a style of writing called apocalyptic. That means it has many symbols or word pictures. It was a style of writing that was common when John lived. These symbols or word pictures tell about the secrets of unseen things in heaven. And they tell about what is coming in the future. These symbols or word pictures may seem strange at first. But thinking about the time in which the book was written helps in understanding them. It also helps to think about other word pictures used in the Bible.
John’s vision has four main parts. It begins with words of warning and encouragement for each of the seven churches. Next are visions that center on Jesus. They show how Jesus has saved the world and how he will bring justice. All the people and forces that rebel against God will be destroyed. Then it shows that Jesus is the true Messiah. Jesus will have the final victory over death and all his enemies. The vision ends with the promise that the faithful followers of Jesus will rule over the new creation.
The book of Revelation also functions as the conclusion to the entire story of the Bible. John concludes his writing with word pictures from the Garden of Eden. That was the first story in the Bible. Now John says there will be a new beginning. “He who was sitting on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ ”
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