What is the Book of Revelation?
BOOK OF REVELATION
JOHN. 1. Contents. - This is the last and the most mysterious book of the Bible. It is the divine seal of the whole. It is for the N.T. what Daniel is for the O. T. It gathers up all the former prophecies and extends them to the remotest future. It represents the Church in conflict with the great secular powers. It unrolls a sublime panorama of Christ's victorious march through the world's history till the appearance of the new heaven and the new earth, when the aim of creation and redemption shall be fully realized. The theme is the divine promise "I come quickly," with the corresponding human prayer, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." It gives us the assurance that the Lord is coming in every great event, and overrules all things tor his glory and the ultimate triumph of his kingdom. 2. Character and Aim. - The beginning and the end of Revelation are as clear and dazzling as the sunlight, but the middle is dark and mysterious as midnight, yet with the stars and the full moon shining from the firmament. The book reminds one of the chiaroscuro of the great painters, and of a mantle of the richest black broidered all over with brilliant jewels. The epistles to the seven churches, chs. 1-3, the description of the heavenly Jerusalem, chs. 20, 21, and the interspersed lyric anthems and doxologies, Rev 4:11; Rev 5:12-14; Num 7:12; Gen 14:13, etc., are as sublime, inspiring, beautiful, and familiar as are any portions of the Scriptures. They are sufficient to prove the divine inspiration of the whole. But the bulk of the book is full of puzzling enigmas which will not be satisfactorily solved before the millennium. In the light of fulfilment we shall understand this prophetic panorama of Church history, but not before. Nevertheless, the Revelation answers an important practical purpose, just as the prophecies of the O.T. (notwithstanding their obscurities, which gave rise to all sorts of conflicting interpretations), did to the Jews, before Christ's first coming, manna in the wilderness and a light shining in darkness. The history of exegesis shows that the situation of the Church materially influenced the interpretation and application of this wonderful book, and that it is in every age of the Church, especially in periods of persecution, a book of hope and comfort to all who are waiting for the coming of our blessed Lord. 1. Authorship.- The ecclesiastical tradition (Papias, Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardes, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen) ascribes the Revelation to John the beloved disciple. This is confirmed by the testimony of the book itself. Rev 1:4, Gal 1:9; John 21:2; Rev 22:8. It is true he does not call himself an apostle, but simply a servant of Christ, but he appears as the superintendent of the churches in Asia Minor, banished, for the testimony of Jesus, to Patmos, and entrusted with the most important visions of the future; all of which is only applicable to John the apostle, and not to some obscure "Presbyter John." It is true there are internal difficulties, especially the discrepancy between the style of the Apocalypse - which is strongly Hebraistic - and the style of the fourth Gospel, which is purer Greek. But we must remember the difference of the subject, the intimate connection of the Apocalypse with the Hebrew prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel, and the fact that John was "in the spirit" when the Revelation was dictated to him. Moreover, there are, on the other hand, some striking resemblances between the style of the Apocalypse and that of the Johannean writings - e.g., the name "Word" (Logos), as applied to Christ. 2. Place and Time of Composition. - The visions were received on the island of Patmos, in the AEgean Sea, about 24 miles west of the coast of Asia Minor. See Patmos. The time of composition was, according to the testimony of Irenaeus (about 170), Eusebius and Jerome, the end of the reign of Domitian, about a.d. 95, who banished several Christians to inhospitable climes. This date answers the character of the book, which treats of the last things as if intended for the conclusion of the N.T., but strong internal evidence has led some modern scholars to the conclusion that it must be assigned to a much earlier date - viz. to the year 68 or 69 a.d., before the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70), but they differ as to the particular emperor under whom it was written, whether it was Nero (the supposed Antichrist) or Galba or Vespasianus, and they regard the book simply as a prophetic description of the approaching downfall of ancient Judaism (Jerusalem) and heathenism (Rome), and the succeeding reign of Christianity on earth as the true millennium. John, no doubt, like all the Jewish prophets, took his starting-point from his age and surroundings, but his vision extended to the most distant future of the new heavens and the new earth.
Bibliography Information Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'Book of Revelation' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". bible-history.com - Schaff's