This is a contribution to a Facebook discussion on how to approach Revelation.
It is the introduction to The Glorious Victory: An Exposition of Revelation.
The complete book can be purchased here at my bookstore, in hard copy or in e-version.
Revelation, with its angels, trumpets, earthquakes, beasts, dragon, plagues, bottomless pit and lake of fire is like no other book in the Bible. Parts of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah come close, and yet Revelation is first among the visionary books. Revelation is a blend of three distinct literary types: apocalypse, prophecy, and epistle.
Revelation as Apocalypse
“Apocalypse,” the opening word in Greek, means “unveiling” or “revelation.” The primary background for Revelation is the apocalyptic literature of the Old Testament, Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah. A secondary background is the non-canonical apocalyptic literature written during the intertestamental period. Apocalyptic writings anticipated the time when God will bring a decisive close to history, a consummation that will mean the triumph of righteousness and the final judgment of evil. Apocalyptic literature was written in the form of visions and dreams using cryptic and symbolic language. For example, in Revelation we read of a beast with seven heads and ten horns, of a woman clothed with the sun, and of locusts with scorpion tails and human heads. Another typical feature of such literature was the symbolic use of numbers. In Revelation, the numbers three, four, seven, ten, twelve, and one thousand occur with frequency.
|(Artwork by Karyn Schutten)|
There is a significant difference between the canonical apocalyptic writings and the non-inspired literature. Whereas other apocalypses claimed to have been written by people long dead, John identified himself as the author and spoke to his contemporaries. Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah, in similar fashion, also identified themselves and addressed the people of their time.
Revelation as prophecy
A common misconception is that prophecy only foretells the future. A biblical understanding of prophecy does not have such a limited view but is aware that to prophesy is to speak forth God’s word, usually in terms of judgment and salvation. Revelation is God’s prophetic word to the church undergoing persecution and oppression from the world, as well as some decay from within. As a book that prophetically declares the word of God, Revelation is itself deeply rooted in the Old Testament. To understand Revelation one needs to keep the Old Testament open at all times.
Revelation as epistle
Revelation is a combination of apocalyptic and prophetic elements cast into the form of an epistle or letter. The opening and closing verses are typical of both canonical letters and the non-canonical letters of the day. Since it is a letter, John addressed himself with “I” and his readers with “you.” The whole book is actually a letter sent to the seven churches of Asia Minor.
At both the beginning and the end of the book, the author identified himself as John. Traditionally, this John has been understood as the Apostle John, the author of the Gospel According to John and the three Epistles of John; however, this has been disputed mostly on account of the different style of writing between the Gospel, the Epistles and Revelation. The significant differences in genre between these three can account for differences in style, and so there is no reason to abandon the traditional view of authorship.
Reading Revelation indicates it was written during a time of persecution, which the church experienced during the time of Emperor Nero, A.D. 54-68, and during the latter part of Emperor Domitian’s reign, A.D. 81-96. Very early tradition gives the date of circa A.D. 95, and this commentary accepts this view largely on the strength of the testimony of the early church.
Revelation was written during a time of persecution. John, himself, was in exile because of his fidelity to Jesus Christ, and the book is replete with references to martyrs, tribulation, suffering and death. During this time, emperor worship was demanded of all citizens, at the threat of death.
Since the church, by this time, had been in existence for one or two generations, there was also, sadly, the evidence of some backsliding and apathy, which called for stern warnings to remain faithful.
John received this vision from the Lord to encourage the church and to prepare it for even more difficult times. It was clear that the church and the state were on a collision course, but whereas it seemed that the victory might belong to the state, God was in control of all things, Christ held the keys of history, and the church would prevail. The church may experience tribulation, but God’s enemies will face God’s wrath.
The first audience was the seven churches of Asia Minor of circa A.D. 95, which were either being persecuted or backsliding. Beyond that immediate audience is the church of all ages. The prophetic message of Revelation is for the church of today no less than it was for the church of the first century. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” is an exhortation that rings down through the ages.
The theme of Revelation is that the Lord Jesus Christ will win a glorious victory over Satan and his demons, a victory in which the church will participate.
A. Chapters 1-3 introduce the three main characters.
1. John (1:1-11), who had been exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith in Christ and there had received and recorded the vision.
2. The Lord Jesus Christ (1:12-20), who appears as the Lord of history and Head of the church, who holds the keys of death and Hades and who rides on to victory as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
3. The church (2-3), to whom Christ communicated letters via seven real churches in history. The letters encouraged, warned, and promised God’s blessing upon those who overcame in the face of persecution from the outside and decay from the inside. Although the letters were written to real churches at a specific time in history, they are messages of Christ to the church of all ages.
B. Chapters 4-22 unfold history from the ascension of Christ to his return.
The history of the church and the world is painted via seven large brush strokes, each stroke on the canvas of history showing a picture of the whole period between the two advents of Christ. This understanding of Revelation is called progressive parallelism or recapitulation. The seven strokes are historically parallel, but there is also a deepening of the revelation from the one to the other.
1. Chapters 4 and 5 is a vision of heaven. The multitudes of heaven praise God and Jesus Christ for the victory won over Satan to redeem the church.
2. Chapters 6 and 7 announce the opening of the seven seals which reveal the persecution of the church, the judgment on the world and the deliverance of the church.
3. Chapters 8-11 sound the seven trumpet blasts which herald judgments on the ungodly world and the great city. The witnessing church is persecuted but it is delivered and vindicated.
4. Chapters 12-14 show Christ and his church attacked by Satan and his followers; however, Christ is victorious.
5. Chapters 15 and 16 picture the seven bowls of God’s wrath being poured out upon a rebellious world.
6. Chapters 17:1-19:10 unveil the destruction of the ungodly prostitute and liberation of the bride of Christ.
7. Chapters 19:11-22 proclaim the final judgment of the world and the perfection of the church.
This book takes a modified idealist and amillennial approach. For further study on this, one is referred to the book by Clouse and to the introduction of the commentary by Beale, both mentioned in the bibliography.
 “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.” – Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), Adversus haereses 5, 30, 3.
 Hendriksen and Beale advance this approach, and this commentary follows it as well.
 The idealist view in its most radical manifestation contends that Revelation, a symbolic portrayal of the conflict between God and Satan, does not depict any consummation in history whereas a modified idealist approach affirms such a consummation in the final destruction of Satan and victory of God. Please see Beale, pages 48 and 49, for a sound explanation of a modified version of the idealist approach.
 Thus neither preterist nor futurist.
 Thus neither pre-millennial nor post-millennial.
Table of Contents
1. His Coming p. 7
2. Lampstands and Angels p. 15
3. Ephesus: The Distracted Church p. 23
4. Smyrna: The Suffering Church p. 33
5. Pergamum: The Compromising Church p. 43
6. Thyatira: The Weak Church p. 53
7. Sardis: The Lifeless Church p. 63
8. Philadelphia: The Faithful Church p. 71
9. Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church p. 79
10. Worship the Creator p. 87
11. The Cosmic Chorus p. 97
12. The Lamb p. 105
13. Salvation Belongs to our God p. 113
14. A Censer Hurled to Earth p. 121
15. The Eagle Has not yet Landed p. 129
16. The Locust Plague p. 137
17. Red, Yellow and Blue p. 145
18. Bitter-Sweet p. 153
19. Two Witnesses (A) p. 161
20. Two Witnesses (B) p. 169
21. The Victory of God p. 177
22. The Woman, the Dragon, and the Child p. 185
23. Counterfeit god p. 195
24. A New Song for Zion p. 205
25. Rest for the Righteous p. 213
26. The Harvest p. 221
27. Danger! Angels Ahead! p. 229
28. It is Done! p. 237
29. The Harlot, the Beast and the Lamb p. 245
30. Come Out! p. 253
31. The Wedding p. 261
32. The Rider on the White Horse p. 267
33. Christ is King, Today and Forever p. 275
34. Satan’s Doom p. 283
35. The Holy City p. 289
36. Amen! Come! p. 297
37. Bibliography p. 303