Segment 01 - Introduction to the Book of Revelation
The purpose of this seminar workshop, whatever you want to call it, is really to make more clear in your mind what the Book of Revelation is all about, why it was written, the circumstances under which it was written, and to see what the writer really had in mind. Then, along with this, of course, the plot of it, some helpful metaphysical lessons for ourselves. If we’re just going to make it a history study, then that’s all well and good but it becomes kind of dry and the important thing is that we want to pull out of it some helpful lessons that will aid us in our spiritual growth. In other words, how I relate to the Book of Revelation. How does the Book of Revelation relate to me?
Okay. With those thoughts in mind, then let’s begin. If you have your Bibles, you might as well start right at chapter one because from time to time, I’ll ask you to refer to your Bible and I used the revised standard version. I know that we have different translation. Some of you may be using the Lamsa Bible, some, the King James. Let’s not try to get lost in the difference in translations. It’ll all be basically the same. If some of the words are changed, then I’m just going to kind of ask that you go with me. I don’t want to make this a course in translations of the Bible because we could really get involved there but let’s just sort of go with the whole trust then, okay? Once again, I’ll be reading from the revised standard version.
Segment 02 - Setting and Authorship
To understand the book of Revelation to begin with, you have to understand somewhat the setting in which it was written. This is always important. Any time that you can understand the context in which something was written, then you have a better idea of what the writer or writers had in mind, and the points that they were trying to make. The book of Revelation was written during the time of persecution, during a time of persecution. The Christians were undergoing persecution at the hands of the Romans. A number of books of the Bible were written within this context. They were written because it was a time of persecution and somebody was trying to help people find an answer to their problems during this time of persecution, was trying to help people work through the persecution that they were experiencing. It just so happens that with the book of Revelation, it has to do with a time of Roman persecution. More specifically, it had to do with a time when emperor worship was being enforced by the officials of that day.
The people had to go and worship the Roman emperor, whichever emperor that might have been, and so with this thought in mind, this idea of persecution, along with the idea of emperor worship, keep that in mind, you will see that someone came along who’s identified by the name of John and wrote this very outstanding book that’s called the Revelation to John. When we have a revelation, it means that something is revealed to us, so more appropriately, the book of Revelation is the revelation to John, something that was revealed to him. Exactly who the author was is not for certain. A lot of people want to identify the author of Revelation with the same writer of the gospel of John, and the three little letters of John, but there’s pretty much agreement among scholars that the author of the book of Revelation is not the same fellow, not the same John, the apostle, the disciple, who wrote, might have written, let’s say, the gospel of John, and the three letters. The writer of the gospel of John, if it was the apostle, then he would be the brother of James, and James was killed by Herod around 44 A.D., and that’s recorded in the 12th chapter of the book of Acts. It says this.
There’s enough evidence to point out that possibly his brother John would also have been killed about that time, was martyred at that time. We don’t know for sure. No one does, and no one’s ever going to be able to prove whether that was the case or not, so if John wrote, or if John also was martyred at the time of his brother James around 44 A.D., then it’s pretty clear that he couldn’t have been the author of this book because this book was written much later. We don’t have an exact writing date for the book of Revelation, but take 90 A.D. as a possible date. It was around 90 A.D., at least this is what most scholars conclude, and the author was someone who took the name John. As a matter of fact, in Revelation, that’s the only book that was written by a John in which he says that his name is John. In the gospels and the three letters, the name of John has been attributed and attached to those writings, the letters and the gospel, but in the book of Revelation he says, “I’m John.” Scholars have called him by different names, John the Elder, John the Seer, John the Prophet.
All we’re really saying is no one knows for certain who wrote the book of Revelation, okay? It was written apparently around 90 A.D. during a time of Roman persecution, and it’s talking about persecution under different emperors. Sometimes it’s not clear which Roman emperor is being talked about, but during this time, about 90 A.D., there was one Roman emperor who was holding sway by the name of Domitian, okay? Domitian reigned from 81 to 96 A.D., and it may be that he was the one who was enforcing at this time this emperor worship, and causing all of the problems from the Christians. Basically Jewish Christians. In the early days, at least through the first century A.D., most of the Christians were Jewish. There were some gentiles that were being converted, but Christianity, once again, was a movement within Judaism, and Judaism is the religion of the Jews, so the early Christians were all basically Jews, and then through the work of Paul, then later on, it became more a gentile movement, because they were all waiting for the second coming of Jesus.
He was expected to return very soon, and then sometime around the end of the first century A.D. when Jesus did not return in bodily form, then many of the Jewish Christians either forsook Christianity, went back to Judaism, or just gave up religion altogether, and Christianity became basically a gentile movement because of the work that Paul had done through Asia minor and over into Greece, all right? At this time, most of the Christians were basically Jewish, and Domitian was the emperor who was active at that time. There are references apparently to Nero. Nero, which is a name that ought to be familiar to all of you. What did he do while Rome burned? The old legend says he fiddled, right, fiddled around while Rome burned, and Nero was active somewhere around 63, 64 A.D., okay? We’re going to see some references to Nero later on in the book of Revelation. His name is not mentioned specifically because the whole book is written in symbology, with symbolical terms, and you’ll see that the symbology definitely refers to Nero in several instances, okay?
Segment 03 - Connection to Book of Daniel and Hebrew scripture
That this is a great piece of literature, there’s no question about it, regardless of who wrote it, why it was written, and so forth, you simply have to admire the literary style. It took almost a genius to come up with all of this symbology and put all this together, okay? And have it have meaning for the people who were able to understand it and knew what the writer was trying to say in this very cryptic style.
Now, when we talk about style of writing, I’ve got one word up here. Apocalyptic. I put this up here at the head, on the blackboard. Apocalyptic. A-P-O-C-A-L-Y-P-T-I-C. We have to understand that this style of writing became popular, oh, a few hundred years before this time, okay? And it became a very popular style of writing in Judaism. Some of the books of the Old Testament contain the Apocalyptic style of writing. And Apocalyptic contains several basic ideas. First of all, the word means, basically, to uncover, to reveal. Things have been hidden, and now things are going to be revealed, uncovered.
You know the collection of books called the Apocapher, Apocrypha, okay? Those 13 or 14 books that have been set apart from our Protestant Bible and, in some cases, it’s been said that they are worthy to be read in conjunction with the Bible, but they are not considered as Scripture themselves, okay? They were never canonized. But the word Apocrypha means hidden. In other words, hidden books. And within that same idea, what is hidden is going to be revealed. And this is the Apocalyptic style of writing.
Apocalyptic also carries the idea with it of the end time, that things are coming to a close, a finality, that God is at work throughout all of His creation, and He is bringing this present age to a close. It doesn’t mean that God is going to wipe everything out and that’s the end, but He’s bringing this age to a close for a specific purpose, so that a new age can then be brought forth. This is the thought that began to develop in Judaism.
Some of the earliest indications of the Apocalyptic style of writing, you’ll find in the Book of Ezekiel, which may go back just a little after 600 BC. In the Book of Ezekiel. And then in the Book of Zechariah, which might have been written around 520 BC, something like that, the second half of the Book of Zechariah. B
But the greatest example of Apocalyptic in the Old Testament is the Book of Daniel, especially the second half of the Book of Daniel. And, to my way of thinking, when you talk about Revelation, you also have to talk about the Book of Daniel. Because to me, as kind of a rule of thumb, the Book of Revelation is to the New Testament what Daniel is to the Old Testament. The Book of Revelation is to the New Testament what Daniel is to the Old Testament. Both of them were written as an attempt to answer the problems of persecution. In the time of Daniel, it was persecution under the Greeks, and under one fellow in particular. I don’t want to get too much involved in this, because this will take me back into Old Testament Study, but we have to make the tie-in.
There was this fellow named Antiochus Epiphanes who, around 165 BC, just a little bit before that, tried to wipe out the Jewish religion, tried to wipe out Judaism. And you can read all about Antiochus and his dealings in the Books of the Maccabees. First and Second Maccabees, which are Apocryphal books. You’ll find them in the Apocrypha. They give you a historical count, a count of Antiochus Epiphanes and his attempt to wipe out Judaism.
And then who rose to the fore in those days? Judas Maccabeus. And he led an army, a Jewish army, against Antiochus Epiphanes and his people. And Judas Maccabeus was able to retake the Temple, the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. And it was rededicated around 165 BC, and this has now become a Jewish festival. Anybody know what the name of that festival is? It’s the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah. Right. The Jewish Festival of Hanukkah was when Judas Maccabeus was able to retake the Temple after Antiochus Epiphanes and his people had gone in and desecrated the Temple by ordering people to do what? Of all things, to sacrifice a pig on the alters. And a pig in Judaism is an abomination, right? Okay? And this is what the order was. So this was the type of persecution that the people were undergoing, the Jewish people, at the time of Antiochus.
You will see that a great deal of Revelation refers back to Daniel. Particularly the Seventh Chapter of Daniel. And you have to make the relationship between the two. What the writer of Revelation did was pick up on a lot of the ideas and themes in the Book of Daniel, and in this whole Apocalyptic style of writing, and he suited them to his purposes which happened to be persecution under the Romans. So, kind of link Daniel, the Book of Daniel, and Revelation together in that way.
Daniel was written during a time of persecution for the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes, under the Greeks. They were descendants of the Greeks. And the Book of Revelation was written during a time of persecution under the Romans. As a matter of fact, when I said that the writer draws a great deal from the Book of Daniel, he draws quite heavily. The writer of Revelation draws quite heavily from the whole Old Testament. One person has said that maybe 50% or more of the Book of Revelation consists of Old Testament sayings or references. So you have to make the tie-in between the two.
Segment 04 - Features of the apocalyptic literary style
Let’s get back to this idea of apocalyptic. I said it means to uncover, to reveal. It also carries with it the idea that things are coming to a close. You know that statement that Jesus makes in the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, one that we always love to quote? “I am with you always.” Do you know what the next line is? “To the close of the age.” “I am with you always.” We like that one because it gives us the feeling of the omnipresence of God. No matter what challenge we’re undergoing, experiencing, God is always right there. But right next to that he says, or along with it, “I am with you always to the close of the age.” This is an indication that Jesus too was quite aware of this apocalyptic thought. As a matter of fact, when he came upon the scene when he was born, it was during the time when apocalyptic was quite prevalent, that idea. That’s the setting. That’s the context into which Jesus the Christ was born. He says, “to the close of the age.” He’s referring also to this apocalyptic thrust to believe that everything is coming to a close.
In this apocalyptic thrust you’ve also go through the idea ... When things come to a close, as I mentioned before, it doesn’t mean that God is just going to wipe everything out, but he’s bringing this present age to a close. Then the new age is going to come. But in a sense, and this is sort of in the way of Jewish thought, before things get better, they’ve got to get worse. Ever felt that in your life? It doesn’t have to be that way but sometimes that seems to be our experience. Before we can really experience something great in our life, it seems like we’ve got to get ourselves to a point where things are just really going downhill. We don’t really have to do it that way but that seems to be us because maybe we don’t exercise the faith and understanding that we have.
This is sort of the thought that’s prevalent in apocalyptic. Things have really got to get worse. Then God’s going to come upon the scene. Then there’s going to be this great battle between the powers of darkness and the powers of light. You know who’s going to win. The powers of light are going to win. God is going to win. Through this, all of the temporal powers, the earthly rulers, and all of the present age will be wiped out. Then God’s kingdom will be established on earth. This is the thought.
Segment 05 - Origins of apocalyptic thought
How did this thought develop? Why did it develop? Well, just very briefly, if you go back, some of you were probably with me when we had our study of the Old Testament, and if you know your Old Testament history, when you go back, there’s definitely one pattern that you see in the Old Testament. And that is that the Jewish people, who were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise that he made to Abraham way back there in the 12th chapter of Genesis, right in the beginning.
The Jewish people were always waiting for the fulfillment of that promise. And that was a three-fold promise. God told Abraham that he was going to make him a father of a great nation, he was going to give him a land to possess, and number three, through him, all peoples of the Earth would be blessed. Not just his descendants, but all peoples would be blessed, okay? And so the Jews, who have been waiting for the fulfillment of that promise, and it’s yet to come about.
What do they experience instead? They experienced one oppressor after another. One conqueror after another. If you follow the course of their history, you’ll see that it sort of all begins with the Syrians, and then come the Assyrians, and then come the Babylonians, and then come the Persians, and then come the Greeks, and then come the Romans, and on, and on, and on.
Well, you can see that they lived throughout their whole history with quite a bit of trouble. And so as they became frustrated in their attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth, to experience the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham way back there in the 12th chapter of Genesis as I said, then their thought began to change. And this apocalyptic style of writing began to come into the picture.
Haven’t you ever felt frustrated sometime, when you’re looking for a demonstration in your life, and it doesn’t come? And then you start to rationalize why it isn’t coming? Sometimes we say, “Well, it’s because of him or her out there.” And then as the good [inaudible 00:01:56] students we are, we say, “No. I can’t blame anything outside of me. I’ve got to have the consciousness for it. I’ve got to bring it back within myself.”
But there is a tendency to attempt to rationalize and to explain, you know, why this demonstration hasn’t come about. Well, let me say it is very briefly that I feel that as part of the attempt to explain why God’s promise to Abraham was not fulfilled, this style of thought then began to develop, apocalyptic. With this great battle of a power between the powers of darkness and light. Which also, you’ll find in Zoroastrianism, the Persian religion.
You have to remember that the Persians and the Jews were very good friends, because when they had been taken into captivity in Babylon, and the Persians defeated the Babylonians, when King Cyrus came along, King Cyrus freed all of the captives, and told them to go on back home and rebuild their nation; rebuild their temple that been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. But he also gave them the money to do it. He didn’t say, “Just go on back and rebuild. Here’s the money to do it.”
So the Jews and the Persians, you see, were good friends. Present day Iran, if you will. And that country really began way back around 2500 years ago, with Cyrus, the king. And you’re seeing the whole involvement of that thought today. But ... So the religion of the Persians, Zoroastrianism, was an influence upon the Jews. And in Zoroastrianism, you see this idea of the powers of darkness and the powers of light. And Jewish thought picked that up, and made it a part of apocalyptic.
Well, we’re really going along here, and still haven’t gotten to the Book of Revelation. But the background is important. If you understand the context in which these things were written, then it gives us a much clearer idea when we begin to get into the book itself. Okay?
Segment 06 - Purpose and repetitiveness of the book
The purpose of this book then, in a sense, in one sense, is to help people through their time of persecution, the hands of the Romans, and the particular form of persecution had to do with emperor worship. If they weren’t able to prove that they were worshiping the emperor then there was kind of an economic boycott. They couldn’t buy certain foods and so forth. We’ll see a reference to that in the 13th chapter of Revelation. But beyond that, what the writer really has in mind too is showing that this whole books is pointing, in his day and his time, to the close of The Age.
What he does is pick up this context of persecution under the Romans, okay? He uses that to show that this close of The Age is about ready to come about. That God is about ready to reveal himself, you see? As a matter of fact, they felt that God had already revealed himself in the form of Jesus. But now Jesus was going to come back. The book of Revelation in the beginning and the end has Jesus saying, “I’m coming soon. I’m coming soon.”
In the book of Daniel, it’s got God coming. The Hebrew god Yahweh. In the book of Revelation, God is represented by Jesus and it says Jesus is coming back. Awaiting that second coming. The writer’s real thrust in the book of Revelation is to show that with the return of Jesus, then we’re going to have the millennium, we’re going to have the battle between the powers of darkness and light, and God’s kingdom is going to be set up on earth and we’re going to have peace for ever and ever and ever. This is exactly what he’s pointing to.
He presents this in a beautiful style and works it over in a very wonderful way. The book of Revelation is repetitive. In other words, what he tries to do is make a point. Let’s say with the opening of the seven seals, this is one of the first things that we bump into. He says, “Here’s the point I’m trying to make with the opening of the seven seals. Now in case you don’t understand this, let me explain it to you again.” Then he gets into the seven trumpets. Then he has another series of events occur. The symbology of seven is used quite heavily. Seven has to do with the idea of fulfillment and completion, but he uses the number of seven, presents things in sequences of seven, throughout the whole book.
Sometimes you can see them in three. Sometimes in 12. They were very big on numerology, if you will. Using numbers as being symbolic of something. This is why the book kind of goes over and over all of these things because it’s the style of being repetitive. As a teacher will do that too. When you want to make a point, and you’re talking to someone, what do you do? You say, “Now here’s what I would like to state”, and you make your statement. But then you have to clarify it sometimes, right? Then we’ll say something like, “In other words, let me say this”, or “Let me put it another way.”
This is what you find in a very dramatic way happening in the book of Revelation. He makes his point, that this present age is about to come to a close, God is ready to reveal himself. He’ll bring this out in a certain way with the opening of the seven seals, and then right after that in affect what he says is, “In case you didn’t understand that, let me put it to you in another way and now I’ll take about it in terms of the seven trumpets. Then I’ll talk about it in terms of the three woes. Then I’ll talk about it in terms of the seven plagues.” It’s just the same thing over and over again, trying to stress that one point that he’s trying to make. Okay?
That gives us kind of an idea of the style of writing then, and really what the writer’s thrust is. Remember once again, key this whole thing into the book of Daniel in particular. Revelation is to the New Testament what Daniel is to the Old Testament.
Segment 07 - Warrior Messaiah
When you think of John, go back to the author for just a moment. What spiritual quality do you think of John? Love. You always think of John and love. Well, the book of Revelation is anything but a book of love. It’s got a lot of blood and thunder in it, okay? And you have to understand what the idea was. The Jewish people were looking for basically a warrior messiah. It was a political thing that they were concerned with. Their messiah was placed in a political context. When he came back, he was going to set up a political kingdom; an outer kingdom.
And of course, we say that when Jesus came, he meant the outer kingdom too, but primarily what was he talking about? An inner kingdom. The kingdom of God is within you, you see. And so in this establishment of the outer kingdom, and looking at it in a political sense, the writer pictures this as the ... in the way of a great battle. It’s got to take place by force, and all the rest. So it’s anything, really, but a book of love.
You will see that Jesus in the book of Revelation is presented, in some cases, as the lamb, as a prince of peace, if you will. Kind of the idea of peace and tranquility is associated with Jesus. But he’s also presented in the next breath as a warrior messiah. Because that’s the kind of a messiah the Jewish people were expecting; a warrior messiah. So Jesus is presented in both ways; as a prince of peace and also as a warrior messiah. And then the writer goes on from there.