The Apocalypse of John
Introduction Part 1 of 2
Lowery, Robert A. Revelation’s Rhapsody: Listening to the Lyrics of the Lamb. Joplin, Missouri: College Press Publishing Company, 2006
Ground Rules for the Study: 1. Mutual respect: We may not all agree but we must respect one another. 2. Open mind: Always be open to a new idea, look at the facts, and evaluate its truth from those facts. 3. Wanting to learn: Please read assigned passages prior to class. 4. Ask Questions: There are no stupid questions, and if I do not know the answer, I will do my best to find it for you by next week. Basic Outline of the Course: a. We will begin by looking at the interpretive framework for the book of Revelation and deal with basic conceptual issues. b. Then we will go through the book and attempt to see the message of Revelation through the eyes of the original audience. c. Finally, we will provide a conclusion summary and challenge based on the over all message of Revelation. Guidelines for Interpretation: • When we look at Paul’s letters, we recognize that Paul did not write them to us he wrote them to the churches he worked with. We also recognize that the content of the letter was influenced by problems and situations that the church was dealing with at that time. • When we look at the gospels, we know that they were written with certain audiences and issues in mind. • Yet for some reason, when we approach the book of Revelation, people simply make the assumption that it was written to us about our generation. • I contend that we need to approach the Apocalypse of John like we would any other book in the bible. • Understand the time and concerns surrounding when it was written. • Look at the type of literature it is and determine how that impacts the meaning of what is said.
The Apocalypse of John: Introduction
Αποκαλυψις Ιησου Χπιστου
Therefore, as with the other books of the bible, we will begin by gaining a basic understanding of important details surrounding the writing of the book of revelation in order to better understand the message, and ultimately the challenge of the book of Revelation. Significance of the Name: The name of the book itself (Revelation or Apocalypse) means revealing or unveiling. This title is taken from verse 1 of chapter 1 where John notes that this is the “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Thus the contents of this book of the bible are things formerly hidden which are revealed or uncovered and shown to the church by Christ. • This name becomes significant because it helps the reader to identify the purpose of the book. • It is meant to reveal something, not to be a predictive guide to the end of the world. • The only reason it is called Apocalypse is because of a transliteration (making english sound like greek) and the greek is Apokalupsis. It is not necessarily dealing with many of the crazy scenarios we typically imagine when we think of Armageddon. • We need to keep this helpful note in mind when we are approaching the book of Revelation in this study. Author: As we continue to build a framework for understanding the book of Revelation, it is important to consider the Author of the book. This is important because it establishes the credibility of the book, a basic timeframe for its writing, a cultural understanding of potential themes found within the book, and a way to decode the message of the book with greater accuracy than could be found without this information. • The Apostle John • Traditionally, the book has been credited to the Apostle John. This young disciple lived to be the oldest and last remaining Apostle who had seen Christ and traveled with him while he taught. He would have been one of the only Apostles to have lived during the reign of Domitian, and therefore, if tradition is true, and John wrote this later in life, the events which surrounded Domitian’s reign become significant. • Other Options • Others have suggested that this John could have been an evangelist named John who was not the Apostle. Some have even suggested that this book was taken from the teachings of John the Baptist and recorded by his followers. There is no evidence to support any of these claims outside of pure speculation. • Besides, certain literary qualities of the book lend it to being penned by the same person who wrote the Gospel of John, and the Epistles of John. Thus it seems clear that the writer would be John the Apostle. • Important things to know about the Apostle John: • He is very black and white • When you read John’s gospel, or letters, or revelation we begin to notice this right off the bat. He uses contrasts like: light and dark, life and death, wicked and righteous, disciples and the world, those who love God and those who hate God. There is no middle ground in his mind. If you do not love God, then you hate him. If you are not light then you are darkness. If you are not a disciple, then you are of the world. John’s way of thinking leaves no room for a grey area or middle ground. There are no moderates. You are either an active disciple of Christ, or you are associated with the devil. • He is Jewish • He is very familiar with the OT and with Jewish imagery. Therefore, we’ll notice that many of the images and scenes that John paints are more familiar to a student of the Old Testament than they are to the most avid modern reader. Audience: • This is one of the greatest keys to understanding the book of Revelation. Who was the letter originally written to? Many would suggest that John wrote for the benefit of the “end times” people. I would have to disagree. Revelation is written specifically to the churches which are mentioned in the first three chapters of the letter. Revelation 1:4 and 11. All of these churches are under the control of the Roman Empire, and reside in a circular course in Asia Minor (Present day Turkey). • Notice that this does not mean that the letter does not hold value for us, but it does mean that we are looking in on a conversation that was not directly intended for our consumption. I believe that Revelation’s message is still applicable to us, but not by holding a newspaper in one hand and a bible in another, but by understanding how these people were affected by the message.