Revelation 1 · September 21, 2011
The last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John, has been a source of fascination and confusion for two thousand years. It is a book full of symbolism which has given rise to all sorts of interpretation including predictions of the end of the world, the identity of the Anti-Christ, etc. The fact that these predictions invariably fail doesn’t discourage people from offering new ones. Yet Revelation is not an inscrutable book nor is it primarily concerned with the future. The ancient church, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, chose it to be the final word in Scripture. The symbolism in Revelation comes either from the Old Testament or the culture in which John was writing. This book is a guide to living the Christian life in an uncertain and often threatening world. Its focus is primarily pastoral, to help strengthen us as Christians in our daily walk with the Lord. Yet it is also a book which requires us to use our imagination. It is not a simple book of instruction.
The style in which Revelation is written is called “apocalyptic” (from the Greek word for “revelation”). There are several Old Testament books written in this style, Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah. They give us clues to our reading of Revelation. Revelation is also part of what scholars call the “Johanine corpus.” This refers to the Gospel and Letters of John as well as Revelation. They are not (as was one time thought) all written by the same author. However they come out of the same early church community, which may have been founded by the apostle John. They also give us clues to our understanding of Revelation. For example, contrary to popular belief, the term “Anti-Christ” no where appears in the book. We get the term from the first and second epistles of John.
In this study I am heavily indebted to what certainly will be the definitive commentary on Revelation in this generation, written by John Stam, a missionary who lives in Costa Rica and has preached and taught throughout all of Latin America. The commentary is in Spanish but hopefully will be translated into English.