Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Apocalypse of John

Writer: The apostle John in exile
Date: EITHER c AD68-70 following the persecutions of Emperor Nero, but before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70; OR c AD90-95 during the persecutions attributed to Emperor Domitian at the end of his reign AD81-96
Where written: The Aegean island of Patmos off the west coast of Asia Minor
Reader: The seven named churches of Asia, and the entire Church of Christ
Why: An apocalyptic book describing the revelation Jesus Christ gave to John. The beginning of the Bible (Genesis 1-11) is a prologue describing the downfall of mankind and his separation from God. Revelation is an epilogue in which God and man are reconciled through Christ 
Apocalyptic - Greek for "uncover", "reveal". The revealing of great or violent events and especially the end of the world, often described in Jewish apocalyptic literature. The word is applied especially to the Book of Revelation which bears comparison with the Old Testament Books of Daniel and parts of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah.According to Some Modern Scholarship: Written towards the end of the 1st century by a close companion of John known as John the Elder, or by another follower. The earlier date of c AD68-70 for the apostle John would help account for the differences in style and language between Revelation and the later Gospel of John

Revelation was written .....
To warn and encourage the churches of Asia as they underwent internal problems and external persecution within the Roman Empire (chapters 1:1-3:22). It then describes how Jesus Christ the Lamb of God is the "instrument" of:
(1) God's judgment on the whole universe (chapters 4:1-19:10);
(2) The final defeat of evil (chapters 19:11-20:15), and:
(3) The coming of a new heaven and a new earth - the new Jerusalem (chapters 21:1-22:5).
It closes with Christ's final appeal to all mankind (chapter 22:6-21).
In the Book, John describes a series of highly symbolic, mainly Old Testament-type visions, many of which incorporate the sacred and perfect number "seven" - seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven angels, seven last plagues. Much of the Book appears to be in sequence but many of the events may overlap. Some of the contents and characters seem straightforward; others are confusing and difficult to understand.The attempts to interpret Revelations are beyond measure but here the aim is simply to clarify how the different stages in the Book develop and to identify the variety of "beings", objects and events the reader encounters.
In making sense of the Book, it can prove helpful to view it at three levels:
(1) John wrote Revelation when the seemingly all-powerful Roman Empire with its cult of emperor-worship was persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. It was also widely expected that the dead emperor Nero would come back to life to take revenge against the Rome he once ruled. The Book is therefore a product of that period in world history 2,000 years ago;
(2) How mankind behaved and ruled in Roman times is no different from any other period in human history in any other part of the world, right through to the end of time - whether the empire or way of life is Ancient Indian, Chinese, Persian, Islamic, Holy Roman, Incan, Napoleonic, British, modern American, European, Pacific, world government, or some other form of future empire. Certainly the parallels between Rome and the present are striking;  
(3) Most importantly, God is sovereign. He will destroy all forms of evil in his own time and everyone will face a final judgement. Only faith in Jesus Christ can give us life to the full on earth, no matter what trials we may go through, followed by eternal life with Him in heaven - the new Jerusalem.  
However in keeping with this arrangement of the New Testament, the reader is recommended to read Revelation not as a book to be analysed and understood, but as a spiritual book to feed upon, and through it, to better understand the power of God and the place of Jesus Christ in his scheme of things. Later, he or she can study the Book knowing they will never plumb its depths nor make much difference to their Christian lives.

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