Week 1 - Essential Features of the Book of Revelation
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall
The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to Apostle John, who was commanded by the Lord to write down the things that he had seen, the things that are, and the things that will be (Revelation 1:1,19).
This book was written during the last part of the last decade of the first century between 94-96 A.D. John was ministering to the church in Ephesus when he was arrested and exiled to the Island of Patmos under the intense persecution instigated against the church during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). At this point, John is the last surviving apostle and is now an old man. Some sixty years plus have passed since the days when he walked with Jesus during our Lord’s earthly ministry.
The purpose of the Book of Revelation is to reveal events which will take place immediately before, during, and following the second coming of Christ. In keeping with this purpose, the book devotes most of its revelation to this subject in chapters 4-18. The Second Coming itself is given the most graphic portrayal found anywhere in the Bible in chapter 19, followed by the millennial reign of Christ described in chapter 20. The eternal state is revealed in chapters 21-22. So, the obvious purpose of the book is to complete the prophetic theme presented earlier in the prophecies of the Old Testament (
The book of Revelation was addressed to the seven churches in ancient Asia Minor that where in existence when John penned these words at the command of our Lord. However, its audience extends to all true believers everywhere.
The central event in the book of Revelation is the Second Coming of Christ, and the establishment of His Millennial rule in accordance with the covenant that the Lord made with King David (2 Samuel 7:1-13; Jeremiah 23:5-6).
Revelation 1:19 provides the best foundation upon which this book can be outlined.
I. The Things which You Have Seen (1:1–20)
A. The Prologue (1:1–8)
B. The Vision of the Glorified Christ (1:9–18)
C. The Apostle’s Commission to Write (1:19, 20)
II. The Things which Are (2:1–3:22)
A. The Letter to the Church at Ephesus (2:1–7)
B. The Letter to the Church at Smyrna (2:8–11)
C. The Letter to the Church at Pergamum (2:12–17)
D. The Letter to the Church at Thyatira (2:18–29)
E. The Letter to the Church at Sardis (3:1–6)
F. The Letter to the Church at Philadelphia (3:7–13)
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
1Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:927
G. The Letter to the Church at Laodicea (3:14–22)
III. The Things which Will Take Place after This (4:1–22:21)
A. Worship in Heaven (4:1–5:14)
B. The Great Tribulation (6:1–18:24)
C. The Return of the King (19:1–21)
D. The Millennium (20:1–10)
E. The Great White Throne Judgment (20:11–15)
F. The Eternal State (21:1–22:21)
There are four different approaches that have been taken in terms of the interpretation of this book. Dr. Walvoord addresses them in his commentary on Revelation.
Because of its unusual character, Revelation has been approached from a number of interpretive principles, some of which raise serious questions concerning its value as divine authoritative revelation.
The allegorical or non-literal approach. This form of interpretation was offered by the Alexandrian school of theology in the third and fourth centuries. It regards the entire Bible as an extensive allegory to be interpreted in a non-literal sense. The allegorical interpretation of the Bible was later restricted largely to prophecy about the Millennium by Augustine (354-430), who interpreted Revelation as a chronicle of the spiritual conflict between God and Satan being fulfilled in the present Church Age. A liberal variation of this in modern times considers Revelation simply as a symbolic presentation of the concept of God’s ultimate victory.
The preterist approach. A more respected approach is known as the preterist view which regards Revelation as a symbolic picture of early church conflicts which have been fulfilled. This view denies the future predictive quality of most of the Book of Revelation. In varying degrees this view combines the allegorical and symbolic interpretation with the concept that Revelation does not deal with specific future events. Still another variation of the preterist view regards Revelation as setting forth principles of divine dealings with man, without presenting specific events.
The historical approach. A popular view stemming from the Middle Ages is the historical approach which views Revelation as a symbolic picture of the total church history of the present age between Christ’s first and second comings. This view was advanced by Luther, Isaac Newton, Elliott, and many expositors of the postmillennial school of interpretation and has attained respectability in recent centuries. Its principal problem is that seldom do two interpreters interpret a given passage as referring to the same event. Each interpreter tends to find its fulfillment in his generation. Many have combined the historical interpretation with aspects of other forms of interpretation in order to bring out a devotional or spiritual teaching from the book. The preceding methods of interpretation tend to deny a literal future Millennium and also literal future events in the Book of Revelation.
The futuristic approach. The futuristic approach has been adopted by conservative scholars, usually premillenarians, who state that chapters 4-22 deal with events that are yet future today. The content of Revelation 4-18 describes the last seven years preceding the second coming of
2MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 1:1
Christ and particularly emphasizes the Great Tribulation, occurring in the last three and one-half years before His coming.
Objections to this view usually stem from theological positions opposed to premillennialism. The charge is often made that the Book of Revelation would not have been a comfort to early Christians or understood by them if it were largely futuristic. Adherents of the futuristic school of interpretation insist, on the contrary, that future events described in Revelation bring comfort and reassurance to Christians who in the nature of their faith regard their ultimate victory as future. The futuristic interpretation, however, is demanding of the expositor as it requires him to reduce to tangible prophetic events the symbolic presentations which characterize the book.
The Book of Revelation contains prophetic declarations about the final days of planet earth as we know it. These words of prophecy come to us from an omniscient God.
Therefore, we can be certain as to its accurate portrayal of the events that will lead up to and after the Second Coming of Christ. There are several features of this book that we can unpack in just the first eight verses of this opening chapter.
I. The Essential Nature of this Book (1:1a)
It is essential to keep in mind that the intent of our Lord in giving the content of this book is to bring clarity, not mystery. It is His divine purpose to reveal, to disclose and to enhance the understanding of the readers the things that John beheld, the things which existed in the seven churches in Asia Minor, and to that which will take place when this world as we know it comes to an end. The conclusion of this revelation describes a new heaven and earth, which will be the eternal home of all genuine believers (Revelation 21-22).
This is why the open verse of this book begins by its opening declaration… “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond servant John.”
“Revelation” is a translation of the Greek noun apokalupsis, which means “an uncovering, an unveiling or a disclosure.” This book does not begin by stating that this is “an enigma of Jesus Christ.” Nor does it begin by declaring that this book contains “an unsolvable mystery and impossible information to understand about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and the end of the world as we know it.”
II. The Central Figure of this Book (1:1b, 5-8)
A. The faithful witness (1:5a)
3Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:926
B. The firstborn of the dead (1:5b)
C. The sovereign king (1:5c)
D. The redeemer (1:5d)
E. The Kingdom priest-maker (1:6a)
F. The focus of all glory (1:6b)
III. The Supernatural Communication of this Book (1:1c-2, 4)
A. From the Father to the Son (1:1a)
B. From the Son by His angel (1:1b)
C. From the angel to John (1:1c)
D. From John to the churches (1:4)
IV. The Promised Blessing of this Book (1:3a)
V. The Purpose of this Book (1:1, 3b, 7)
VI. The Ultimate Priority of this Book (1:6b)
1. The book of Revelation was not given to us to be an enigma that remains a perpetual mystery to us. It was given to disclose to us what God has planned for the final era of redemptive history.
2. The gift of this revelation proves that apart from God’s unveiling of the future, we can never know the future. Our fallen humanness is prohibitive to an accurate comprehension of the the days yet ahead.
3. The Second Coming of our Lord will not be mysterious or only revealed to a select few. All the world will know that Jesus has come again (Revelation 1:7-8; Matthew 24:1-31).