16 May 2008

Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation, also called Revelation to John, Apocalypse of John , and Revelation of Jesus Christ is the last canonical book of the New Testament in the Christian Bible. It is the only biblical book that is wholly composed of apocalyptic literature. Other apocalypses popular in the early Christian era did not achieve canonical status, except for 2 Esdras (Apocalypse of Ezra), which is canonical in the Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.


After a short introduction (ch. 1:1–10), the book presents a brief account of the author. The first vision (1:11–3:22), related by "one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle", speaking with "a great voice, as of a trumpet", is a statement addressed to the seven churches of Asia. The second vision, which makes up the rest of the book (chs. 4–22), begins with "a door … opened in the sky" and describes what some might call the end of the world— or more properly, the end of the age, in which Satan's rule through Man is destroyed by the Messiah. These events are foreseen: the Great Tribulation, the Campaign of Armageddon, the Second Coming of the Messiah with the restoration of peace to the world and His 1,000 year reign, the imprisonment of Satan (portrayed as a dragon) until he is 'loosed' for the final rebellion, God's final judgment over Satan, the Great White throne judgment, and the ushering in of the New Heavens and New Earth. Alternatively, according to the Preterist theory, the events of the latter part of the Apocalypse of John are interpreted as being fulfilled by events in the 1st century.

Revelation is considered by some to be one of the most controversial and difficult books of the Bible, with many diverse interpretations of the meanings of the various names and events in the account. Protestant founder Martin Luther at first considered Revelation to be "neither apostolic nor prophetic" and stated that "Christ is neither taught nor known in it", and placed it in his Antilegomena. John Calvin believed the book to be canonical, yet it was the only New Testament book on which he did not write a commentary.


Preterist View

Preterism holds that the contents of Revelation constitute a prophecy of events that were fulfilled in the 1st century. Preterist interpretations generally identify either Jerusalem or Pagan Rome as the persecutor of the Church, "Babylon", the "Mother of Harlots", etc. They see Armageddon as God's judgment on the Jews, carried out by the Roman army, which is identified as "the beast". Some preterists see the second half of Revelation as changing focus to Rome, its persecution of Christians, and the fall of the Roman Empire. It sees the Revelation being fulfilled in 70, thereby bringing the full presence of God to dwell with all humanity. It also holds, especially in the Catholic belief, that the Emperor Nero, who blamed the Rome fire on the Christians in Rome, sparking a wave of persecution, was possibly the Antichrist mentioned in the book as his name equals 666 in Hebrew. If using the Greek spelling of Nero's name(Neron Caesar), but using the Hebrew symbols with their assigned numeric values (an ancient method known as gematria), the total of the numeric values equals 666. However, a few ancient manuscripts of the Revelation say the number is 616, fifty less than the more well known numeral. A possible method to this problem lies in early translation. In the assumption that the Revelation was meant to be distributed among the early Christians, it could very well be assumed that occasionally someone may have used the Latin spelling of Nero's name(Nero Caesar), so the total value of the gematria would be 616. Catholics generally believe chapters 11:19 to 12:18 are the true story of the Journey to Ephesus (and then later to Heaven) of the Virgin Mary (who they believe is the Second ark of the Covenant), and a possible metaphor for the plight of the early church. All that remains for Catholic preterists is Christ's second coming.[more...]

Visions of John of Patmos, as depicted in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Four seraphim surround the throne; the twenty-four elders sit to the left and right. They are dressed in white robes, representing pureness, and have crowns of gold on their heads, denoting royalty and honor (Rev 4:4). The book of Revelation does not specifically identify who the twenty-four elders are, though they are thought to be the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve Disciples of Jesus.

Futurist view

The futurist view assigns all or most of the prophecy to the future, shortly before the second coming. Futurist interpretations generally predict a resurrection of the dead and a Rapture of the living, wherein all true Christians and those who have not reached an age of accountability are gathered to Christ at the time God's kingdom comes on earth. They also believe a Great Tribulation will occur - a seven year period of time when believers will experience worldwide persecution and martyrdom, and be purified and strengthened by it. Futurists differ on when believers will be raptured ("caught up"), but there are three primary views: 1) before the Tribulation; 2) near or at the midpoint of the Tribulation; or 3) at the end of the Tribulation. There is also a fourth view of multiple raptures throughout the Tribulation, but this view does not have a mainstream following.[more...]

Historicist view

The historicist view regards the prophecy as spanning the time from the end of the first century through the second coming of Christ.

Politically, historicist interpretations apply the symbols of Revelation to the gradual division and collapse of the Roman Empire, the emergence of a divided Europe in the West and a Muslim empire in the East, and the collapse of the Eastern Empire while Europe attempts to reunite and recreate the Roman Empire.

Ecclesiastically, historicist interpretations see Revelation as teaching that the Church would expand, despite persecution, until it "conquered" the whole world—but in the process, would gradually evolve into an apostate system within which true Christians would be a persecuted minority. The apostate Church is associated with the symbols of the "Mother of Harlots" and with "Babylon". It is seen as an "Antichrist system" which exists for much of history rather than expecting a single "Antichrist" in the last days, as futurist interpretations do.[more...]

Spiritual view

The Spiritual view (also called Idealist by some writers) does not see the book of Revelation as predicting specific events in history. Rather it sees the visions as expressing eternal spiritual truths that find expression throughout history. Only in the last few chapters are specifically predictive eschatological issues taken up. An example of this view can be found in Revelation: The Road to Overcoming by Charles A. Neal, which in turn is based on the work of Charles Fillmore.

Eastern Orthodox view

Eastern Orthodoxy has an interpretation that does not fit well into any of the above classifications. It treats the text as simultaneously describing contemporaneous events and as prophecy of events to come, for which the contemporaneous events were a form of foreshadow. It rejects attempts to determine, before the fact, if the events of Revelation are occurring by mapping them onto present-day events, taking to heart the Scriptural warning against those who proclaim "He is here!" prematurely. Instead, the book is seen as a warning to be spiritually and morally ready for the end times, whenever they may come ("as a thief in the night"), but they will come at the time of God's choosing, not something that can be precipitated nor trivially deduced by mortals.

The Book of Revelation is the only book of the New Testament that is not read during services by the Eastern Orthodox Church.


Further Reading

Four viewes--Google book
Book of Revelation--the film
Book of Revelation chapter 7 youtube video


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