PROPHECY Larry Cockerham REVELATION: Signs of Armageddon CHAPTER ONE "Introduction"

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 CHAPTER ONE "Introduction"
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I. Authorship

The Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John while in exile on the tiny island of Patmos "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:9). The apostle calls himself simply "John" (1:1,4,9; 22:8); a "servant" (1:1); and "brother, and companion in tribulation" (1:9). He was the son of Zebedee and brother of James, who were called the "sons of thunder"(Mark 3:17). He was of the inner circle of three (Mark 5:37; 9:2;14:33) and was the apostle who had leaned on the bosom of Jesus in the Upper Room (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:20) and the writer of the Fourth Gospel and three epistles. According to tradition he spent his remaining years at Ephesus.

The overall weight of testimony both external, which is unanimous in light of the testimony of the early church as well as internal, favors the Apostle John as the author and witness of the Apocalypse of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

II. Date

Various dates for the Apocalypse have been derived beginning with Claudius (AD 41-54) and also as late as Trajan (AD 98-117).1 Most scholars accept either the date of A.D. 95/96 during the reign of Domitian (AD 81- 96) or the earlier date of A.D. 68/69 after the reign of Nero (AD 54-68).2 The external evidence is quite conclusive for dating the writing in the reign of Domitian A.D. 95/96.

III. Setting

In order to understand the message of Revelation and the meaning that it had for the first century Christian we must have some comprehension of the times in which the Apostle lived. By the end of the first century Rome was at the height of its power with its empire stretching "from Britain to the Euphrates and containing upwards of 100 million people."3 Commerce and industry were stimulated thereby creating economic prosperity (See Rev 18:11-14). At the center of this vast empire lay the city of Rome which boasted of as many as one million inhabitants. At the head of this vast world-state was the emperor, "its defender and symbol of unity as well as an object of veneration." 4 For the Christian and Church of Jesus Christ here was the problem.

Caesar worship did not begin spontaneously. Barclay states that "it began with the deification of Rome. The Spirit of the empire was deified under the name of the goddess Roma."5 Rome had been tolerant of other religions, yet as time passed worship of the emperor became a matter of political loyalty.

As long as Christianity was considered a part of the Jewish religion it was relatively safe. Judaism was legal, yet when the matter became known that Christianity was not another form of Judaism the church met with difficulties. One of the problems of Christianity was that it was evangelistic. Any religion that proselyted was considered illegal. Christianity was a universal religion as well as an exclusive religion. They aspired to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, yet they rigidly separated themselves from the pagan life and customs. Christians were looked down upon because most were poor and outcasts. Because of their refusal to go to war and their resistance to emperor worship persecution and martyrdom became a real threat.

After the advent of Domitian (A.D. 86-91) circumstances began to change drastically for the Christians. Bethwith states that "in Christian tradition he was styled the second great persecutor of the Church, the second Nero, though the persecution of his time was different from that of Nero and lacked its atrocities."6 Nero had sought in the Christians a scapegoat for the burning of Rome which would divert attention from himself. These atrocities were mostly of a local nature, confined mainly to in and around the city of Rome. On the other hand, under Domitian many were put to death in different areas of the empire. Imprisonment, banishment or exile, and confiscation of property became the accepted punishment. The fear of political enemies was the real motive behind Domitian's vengeance to eradicate the Christians. Here then was the setting that prompted the writing of Revelation.

IV. Methods of Interpretation

The interpretation of the Book of Revelation has had a lengthy as well as diverse history. Beginning with the early church fathers to our modern era the Revelation has undergone a plethora of interpretations. Most modern scholars define the different approaches in terms of four models or methods.

(1) Preterist. The word preterist comes from the Latin "praeter" meaning past or beyond. Those that espouse this view believe that those events depicted in the Revelation have been primarily fulfilled in the past. This view seems to be making a resurgence recently.

(2) Historical. This method, which is sometimes called the continuous-historical view, considers the Book of Revelation as a symbolic representation of the course of this age from the time of John's writing till the end of the world.

Those of the continuous-historical view interpret the symbols of Revelation as historical events, such as Barnes,7 who sees in the first trumpet the invasion of the Roman empire by the Vandals, or the first vial judgment representing the beginning of the French Revolution. The only problem with this view is that each writer has his own itinerary with no substantial agreement between the major adherents of this method.

(3) Idealist. The idealist or allegorical method considers the symbolism of Revelation a portrayal of the struggles between the forces of good and the forces of evil. This view denies the fulfillment of any historical event as expressed in its symbolism.

(4) Futurist. The futurist identifies the Book of Revelation and its symbolism as primarily a prophecy (1:3). This is especially true of chapters 4-22.8 The majority of futurists begin with 4:1, which stems largely from their interpretation of the outline of 1:19. They view "the things which thou hast seen" as past, "the things which are" as present, and "the things which shall be hereafter" as future. Chapters 4-19 introduce and outline the events of the seven-year tribulation prior to the second coming described in 19:11-16. Chapter 20 relates the binding of Satan and introduces the reader to the millennial period. Chapters 21-22 describe the new heaven and new earth with the believer's future home, the celestial city, the new Jerusalem.

V. Structure

The structure of the Book of Revelation is as varied as the many symbols that it comprises. Probably the easiest method is to follow the units of seven in the book. These are the seven churches (2:1-3:22), seven seals (6:1-8:1), seven trumpets (8:2- 11:19), and seven vials (15:1-16:21). After the seven vials are poured out Babylon is to be judged (17:1-18:24). Christ returns with the saints (19:11-16), the antichristian nations are destroyed (19:21), and Satan bound (20:1-3). After the millennium and final judgment (20:11-15), the eternal state begins with a new heaven and new earth (21:1-8). John is then invited to view the descent of the holy Jerusalem (21:9-10), whereupon he is given a description of the heavenly city (21:11-22:5). The book concludes with an epilogue (22:6-21).
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