Introduction to Revelation

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Nowhere in the Bible is a Sunday described as "the day of the Lord," but always as "the first day of the week. The expression "the day of the Lord" clearly has an end-time eschatological meaning. Several of the Old Testament prophets referred to it. The visions which John received on Patmos are clearly also related to the coming day of the Lord. John speaks of the day of the Lord as the time when He will pour out His judgements over the wicked.

Panic-stricken people will call on the mountains and rocks, saying: "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand? In Revelation the battle of Armageddon is described as "the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Isaiah says in chapter that on the day of the Lord everything proud and lofty will be brought down and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day v.

In chapter he says that the day of the Lord will come as destruction from the Almighty. This day will be cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and the Lord will destroy its sinners from it. In chapter he calls the day of the Lord a day of vengeance and a year of recompense. Joel says in chapter that the day of the Lord shall come as destruction from the Almighty. In chapter he says: "For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it? In chapter he says that in that day there will be multitudes in the valley of decision.

In Zechariah 14 the great wars that will be waged in and around Jerusalem during the great tribulation are specifically associated with the day of the Lord. In this chapter the second coming of Jesus is also described, when His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives Zech. He will be followed by a heavenly host and enter into judgement with His enemies.

Malachi says in chapter "Who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?

Introduction to the Book of Revelation – Samuel Whitefield

In 1 Thessalonians Paul refers to the day of the Lord that will come like a thief in the night. The same reference is made by Peter in chapter of his second Epistle. It is clear that the expression "the day of the Lord" always has and end-time meaning, and in most cases refers to the judgements of God that are described in the book of Revelation. To gain greater clarity on the futuristic nature of Revelation, we will have to determine what John taught about his visions when he was released from Patmos and proceeded with his ministry in Asia Minor.

Church Fathers who were his students clarify the matter and indicate that this subject was often discussed. The following are some of the pronouncements of church Fathers on the millennium and related matters:. The teaching of this church Father is very important as he is the link between the millennialist view and the apostles. Papias taught that after the resurrection of the dead there will be a reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years when He will personally sit on the throne. The earth will experience a time of unprecedented fertility, and with great prosperity Christ will rule with His saints.

Early in the second century, Justin wrote: "A certain man among us, whose name is John, one of the apostles of Jesus, prophesied in a revelation that he had that those who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ will be in Jerusalem for a thousand years.

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Another church Father, Polycarp, who was one of the youngest students of the apostle John, was a very devoted Christian who also died as a martyr. On the authority of John he taught that the earth will be very fertile during the millennium. Another view of significance is that of Irenaeus who was a student of Polycarp. He said that the reward of the just would be that they will be resurrected from among the dead when the world is renewed and made fertile. His view was that each of the six days of creation indicates a thousand year period, and that after six thousand years of world history have expired it would be followed by the seventh day, which would also be a thousand years.

This last-mentioned view was entertained by various church Fathers, among them Cyprian, Barnabas and Lactanteous. In this regard, the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia says that the general view of the Fathers was that the Lord will appear at the end of the sixth millennium to establish His kingdom on earth. The old view was that this kingdom, which correlates with the Sabbath of Creation, will continue for a thousand years. The thousand year reign of peace that will, according to Revelation 20, be instituted after the second coming of Christ is, despite the evidence that has been cited, still a subject of great controversy.

In terms of their divergent views, Christians are grouped in different doctrinal schools. Those who interpret the book of Revelation in a literal, dispensational way, are called millennialists. This term is derived from the Latin word for thousand which is mille. It refers to Christians who believe that there will be a literal thousand year reign of peace on earth after the second coming of Jesus Christ.

A synonym for the term millennialist is chiliast, which is derived from the Greek word for a thousand, chilios.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation

People who do not believe in a literal thousand year reign are called amillennialists or antichiliasts. They are also inclined to change the meanings of many other biblical statements and concepts by spiritualising what is clearly literal. Because of these controversies a number of different exegetical principles are applied in the interpretation of the book of Revelation.

Some of them deviate so far from the basic meaning of the text that it seriously compromises the divine inspiration of the book. The following are the three most common ways of interpreting the book:. This is the practice of the extensive spiritualising of biblical statements. It is a form of interpretation that was offered by the Alexandrian school of theology in the third and fourth centuries, which regards the entire Bible as an allegory to be interpreted in a non-literal sense.

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This interpretation of the Bible was later restricted largely to end-time prophecies by Augustine, who interpreted Revelation as a chronicle of the spiritual conflict between God and Satan being fulfilled in the present church age. Theologians who follow this approach do not believe in a literal millennium; consequently they are described as amillennialists. By spiritualising or allegorising a biblical concept, it is deprived of its face value, after which another meaning is read into it.

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Certain other concepts, such as the rapture, are simply argued away without substituting them with anything else. This approach became established during the Middle Ages. In terms of this interpretation most of the prophecies described in Revelation are regarded as having already been fulfilled during the time of the early Christian church and the subsequent Dark Middle Ages.

Revelation, including the promise of the millennial reign of Christ, is regarded as a symbolic picture of the entire church age. Followers of this school of thought are postmillennialists who believe that Christ will come after the present "millennium" of the church age.

A major problem with this approach is that there are seldom two interpreters who interpret a given passage in the same way. Some of them would, for instance, say that Nero was the Antichrist, while others would identify one or more of the popes as having fulfilled this role. Every new generation of postmillennialists produces new interpretations of Revelation. For obvious reasons, the historical approach has much in common with the allegorical or non-literal approach.

This approach is followed by conservative scholars who hold the view that everything described from Revelation 4 to the end of the book are future events that still await fulfilment. After the second coming Satan will be bound and the millennial reign of Christ established on earth.

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Because Christ returns before the millennium, this view of prophecy is termed premillennialism. Premillennialism honours the literal meaning of Scripture, except when the context clearly shows that a particular concept must be interpreted symbolically. This book contains an account of visions in symbolic and allegorical language borrowed extensively from the Old Testament, especially Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel.

Whether or not these visions were real experiences of the author or simply literary conventions employed by him is an open question. This much, however, is certain: symbolic descriptions are not to be taken as literal descriptions, nor is the symbolism meant to be pictured realistically.

One would find it difficult and repulsive to visualize a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes; yet Jesus Christ is described in precisely such words Rev Finally the vindictive language in the book Rev — 10 ; — is also to be understood symbolically and not literally. The cries for vengeance on the lips of Christian martyrs that sound so harsh are in fact literary devices the author employed to evoke in the reader and hearer a feeling of horror for apostasy and rebellion that will be severely punished by God. The lurid descriptions of the punishment of Jezebel Rev and of the destruction of the great harlot, Babylon Rev — , are likewise literary devices.

The metaphor of Babylon as harlot would be wrongly construed if interpreted literally. On the other hand, the stylized figure of the woman clothed with the sun Rev — 6 , depicting the New Israel, may seem to be a negative stereotype. The Book of Revelation cannot be adequately understood except against the historical background that occasioned its writing. Like Daniel and other apocalypses, it was composed as resistance literature to meet a crisis.

The book itself suggests that the crisis was ruthless persecution of the early church by the Roman authorities; the harlot Babylon symbolizes pagan Rome, the city on seven hills Rev The triumph of God in the world of men and women remains a mystery, to be accepted in faith and longed for in hope. Though the perspective is eschatological—ultimate salvation and victory are said to take place at the end of the present age when Christ will come in glory at the parousia—the book presents the decisive struggle of Christ and his followers against Satan and his cohorts as already over.

Even the forces of evil unwittingly carry out the divine plan Rev , for God is the sovereign Lord of history.

Introduction to Revelation (Revelation 1 A)

The Book of Revelation had its origin in a time of crisis, but it remains valid and meaningful for Christians of all time. Those who remain steadfast in their faith and confidence in the risen Lord need have no fear. Suffering, persecution, even death by martyrdom, though remaining impenetrable mysteries of evil, do not comprise an absurd dead end.