Introduction
The Greek New Testament gives this book the title, Apokalypsis Ioannou, or The Revelation to John. The KJV uses the title, The Revelation of St. John the Divine. This book which ends the New Testament is the fullest example in the New Testament of apocalyptic writing, a type of literature that was mostly employed in times of distress and persecution. The word “apocalyptic” comes from the Greek word of the title, which means “unveiling” or “revealing” of things previously hidden. Apocalyptic writings thus commonly feature coded messages expressed through visions, symbolism, warnings, revelations, and predictions. Their primary purpose, however, is to bring words of encouragement to people in mortal danger from persecution for their faith. The Revelation to John was written in the last decade of the first century a.d., when a widespread persecution had been initiated by the Roman emperor Domitian. The central message of Revelation is proclaimed in the very center of the book, in the middle of the middle chapter, at the sound of the seventh trumpet: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (11.15). Real world evidence may seem to the contrary and Roman persecution heavy, but believers are being assured here that God's eternal kingdom has already begun with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ and it will endure, unlike the present persecution.
The author identifies himself as Christ's “servant John … who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation” (1.2,9) and says that he was an exile on the Aegean island of Patmos because of his witness when he experienced the series of visions that he then relates to the readers. In 1.4, the audience he addresses is identified as “the seven churches which are in Asia” (the Roman province in western Asia Minor). The number seven is symbolic of completeness and thus of the entire Church. After sharing comments on each of the seven churches (2.1—3.22), John shares his visions dealing with the coming judgment (chapters 4–11), the fall of “Babylon,” a coded reference to Rome (chapters 12–18), and the coming triumph of God's kingdom (19.1—22.5). Throughout the book the sacrificial death of Christ is prominent, especially in the vision of the Lamb who was slain (5.6-14), in whose death is the salvation of God for all people. John assures the struggling faithful that God will have the ultimate victory over the powers of evil, and in his closing (22.20) shares Jesus' words, “Surely, I come quickly,” and the Church's longing response, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Outline
John's Prophesy and Prayer (1.1-8)
Vision for the Seven Churches (1.9—3.22)
Vision of God and the Lamb That Was Slain (4.1—5.14)
Opening of the Seven Seals (6.1—8.5)
The Seven Trumpets (8.6—11.19)
The Opponents of God (12.1—13.18)
Visions of God's Judgment and Protection (14.1—16.21)
Victory over the Enemies of God (17.1—20.15)
God Makes All Things New (21.1—22.5)
Final Promises, Blessings, Warnings, and Prayer (22.6-21)
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