The book of Revelation (Revelation 1)

Bilderesultat for revelation

This book identifies its author as “John” (Revelation 1:1, 4:9, 22:8) – traditionally understood to be the apostle John, the son of Zebedee and author of the Gospel by that name. Today, however, many conservative scholars hold to the view of Dionysius, the third century bishop of Alexandria, that the book was written by another John, a certain “John the Elder”. Other scholars regard the book as pseudonymous (falsely attributed to John) and probably a composite of several texts. Overall, there are valid historical and literary reasons for believing that Revelation was written by the apostle John (see Who wrote Revelation? under Revelation 10).

Although some hold that Revelation was written in A.D. 68-69, shortly after the death of the infamous emperor Nero, most belive it to have originated late in the first century. Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 5.30.3) stated that the apostle John saw his revelation at the close of Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96). This is widely accepted today, and many believe that the persecutions carried out by Domitian were behind the writing of Revelation.

The author stated that he was writing from Pathmos (1:9), a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of modern Turkey that served as a Roman penal settlement. Eusebius (A.D. 265-340) reported that John was ultimately released from Pathmos under the emperor Neva (96-98).

Revelation is addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) – Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Roman persecution of Christians (1:9, 2:10, 13, 3:10) was widespread at the time, and false teachings were prominent in the churches.

The book of Revelation was written at a time when the Roman authorities were beginning to enforce emperor worship (see The imperial cult under Mark 12). Christians, who held that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9), faced increasing persecution, including martyrdom (Revelation 2:13, 6:9). The apostle John had been exiled to the island of Pathmos for his activities as a Christian missionary (1:9), and believers were being warned against coming opposition and oppression (2:10, 3:10). Some Christians were advocating compromise with the Roman government (2:14), and John wrote in part to encourage believers to stand firm in the trying days ahead.

As you read Revelation 2-3, watch for clues about the conditions within the churches addressed. As you move further into the book, try not to get bogged down by the timetable of events, the symbolism or the obscure details. Remember to view this book not only as a history and prophecy but also as a source of encouragement and hope for Christians of all times who may be undergoing persecution.

Did you know that wormwood, a plant with a strong, bitter taste, is used here as a metaphor for calamity and sorrow? Though not poisonous, its bitterness does suggest death (8:11). Did you know that the ancients believed that the Abyss was the subterranean abode of demonic hordes(9:1)? Did you know that belief in statues that could speak is widely attested in ancient literature? Sometimes the image at a shrine would be hollow, enabling a priest to hide within the statue and speak for the god (13:15). Did you know that ancients typically diluted every part of wine with two parts of water, except when their aim was to become drunk (14:8)?


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