The book of Revelation is perhaps the most misunderstood, and misused of all Biblical books. It has been ignored or misapplied by thousands of Christians for thousands of years. It has been interpreted (or perhaps better, misinterpreted) and made to say things that would, no doubt, horrify John the Seer.
The book has suffered such misunderstanding for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is that many interpreters have failed to take seriously the first verse of the book. This verse is the key to the entire text.
The second reason that the book has been misunderstood is that interpreters have failed to take into account the historical situation of the text. One cannot rightly interpret any material if one does not know why and when it was written.
Now it is an understatement to say that Revelation can be interpreted in a variety of ways; some interpret it as a map of the distant future. Others see it as a description of the whole of human history. There are premillenial interpretations, post millenial, and a-millenial. All of these views compete for followers. The problem, in my view, with all these attempts, is that they fail to take seriously the first verse, which, as I have already said, is the key to the whole book. That is, in short; the book is an unveiling of Jesus. The book is about Jesus! Who is he, and what has he done? That is what the book is about. That is what the first verse says!
Now we must discover the historical situation which gave birth to the book.
At the end of the first century the Church (in certain areas) was suffering persecution. The emperor was demanding worship and the Christians were refusing to do so. In consequence the emperor was killing some and seizing the property of others. Here is how it worked: In each village and town, as well as the larger cities, a representative of the emperor made an appearance each year. The citizens of the region were required to bring their taxes and present them as an offering to the emperor. They were also asked to swear an oath to the emperor and vow to pray to him yearly. This the Christians could not do. So, as punishment, they were made to forfeit their property. If they continued to refuse they could be (and some were) killed.
In the midst of this dreadful situation the Church was asking, "where is Jesus. Has he abandoned us? Does he no longer c are for us?" To thives answer. As we make progress in discussing the text of the book the historical situation will be brought to bear in order to enlighten the text.
Thus the book was written at the end of the first century in Asia Minor by an exiled Christian who had lost his property and his citizenship for refusing to worship the emperor.
An outline of the book shows that the central concern is Jesus himself:
1- Prologue (1:1-3)
2- Letters to Churches about Jesus (1:4-3:22)
3- The Revelation of Jesus in the Present (4:1-11:19)
4- The Revelation of Jesus in the Future (12:1-22:5)
5- Concluding Blessing from Jesus (22:6-21)
ASSIGNMENT: Using Brown, the lectures, and any resources you have, write an introduction to any New Testament book you wish. This essay must be 5 pages in length, typed, double spaced. The end of the essay must include a bibliography of works you utilized.
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