book of Revelation is the most controversial book in the Bible. Revelation
has caused major divisions between denominations, churches and families.
What makes this book so controversial? A promise of blessing is made in the
very first chapter of the book to those who read and hear the words of this
prophecy. The book has 404 verses, and according to some scholars, half of
those verses have an Old Testament reference.
The book of Revelation is a letter revealed to man named John, who was
on the Island of
Patmos, off the coast of Asia Minor. He was persecuted because of his
testimony of Jesus Christ. The letter was written to seven churches located
in the mainland cities of; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis,
Philadelphia and Laodicea.
What is the meaning of this letter? Should the words be taken
literally or are they symbolic? Did the letter concern events just in the
day of John or did it include events in the future? Was John, the Apostle
John or another John? Does this letter refer to
Israel or to the church?
These are just a few of the many questions raised by those who have studied
Who wrote the book of Revelation?
From the letter, we know the person who wrote the contents, was named
John. (Rev: 1:1, 4, 9; 21:2:22:8) Prior to the third century, there was no
dispute of apostolic authorship. The bishop of
Alexandria, Dionysius (200-265 A.D.), was the first to raise questions
about the apostle John being the author. He claimed based on the writing
style and the lack of an apostolic claim in the book, John the Elder
(Presbyter) was the author not John the apostle. Dionysius, who studied
under Origen, also denied the teaching of a literal Millennium. The
teaching on the Millennium was based on a literal reading of the book of
Revelation (Revelation 20:1-7). The Alexandrian school taught scriptural
symbolism and allegorical interpretation, rejecting a literal Millennium
interpretation of Revelation. By questioning John the Apostles authorship
of the book, their Amillennial view had greater credibility.
The early church attributed authorship to the apostle John. Justin
Martyr (100-165 A.D.) quotes John the Apostle that Jesus Christ would dwell
in Jerusalem one
Irenaeus (120-200 A.D.) is quoted in every chapter of Revelation. Tertullian
(155-220 A.D.) also quotes from almost every chapter of Revelation and
attributes John the Apostle as author. Hippolytus (170-235 A.D.) also
attributed Revelation to John, he quotes Revelation chapter 17 and 18 a
great deal. Clement of Alexandria ( 150-211 A.D.) and Origen (185-254 A.D.)
also attribute John the Apostle as the author of Revelation. Ignatius
(30-108 A.D.) writes regarding John the Apostle,
And why such facts as the
following: Peter was crucified; Paul and James were slain
with the sword; John was
banished to Patmos; Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews who killed the
Lord? But, [in truth,] none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord
was really crucified by the ungodly.
The evidence against John the Apostle being the author is minimal,
largely based on grammatical and writing style differences with the John’s
When was the book of Revelation written?
The other issue regarding Revelation is the date of the book. External
tradition places the time of Revelation to the reign of Domitian (A.D.
81-96), brother of Titus, son of Vespation. Clement of
reports John returned to Ephesus after the death of Domitian, referred to as
the Apostle John. For when,
on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he
went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here
to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain
such as were marked out by the Spirit.
Eusebius (A.D. 300-340) the father of church history writes in his
Ecclesiastical History about the connection between John the Apostle and
IT is said that in this
persecution the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was
condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony
to the divine word. Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against
Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is
given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him:
a “If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present
time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was
seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign
Since Domitian died in A.D. 96, the date attributed to the book of
Revelation coincides with this date. Some bible commentators
attribute Revelation date prior to A.D. 70. The main proponents of an early
date, interpret Revelation as historical book written symbolically with
events having past (Preterist). The early date view is argued
largely from a quote attributed to Papius that John the Apostle was martyred
before the destruction of
in A.D. 70.
What are the different views of the book of Revelation?
There are four main views in attempting to interpret the book of
Revelation, Symbolic, Preterist, Historical, and Futuristic.
Each view approaches the book from a different perspective. There are two
considerations in these views of Revelation.
First, is the book of Revelation symbolic or literal? Do the words mean
what they say in a literal sense or do they imply another meaning. For
example, does Israel
mean Israel or does Israel mean the church?
Second and related to the first is the theological view of the church.
These two views, Covenant and Dispensational, view the church
as compared to
Israel in two different ways.
Covenant theology views the church as the replacement of
Israel in God’s covenant
relationship. The church therefore becomes the “New Israel” in scripture.
Therefore, Old Testament verses referring to Israel in prophecy, apply to
the Church, the “New Israel”. The premise of Covenant theology is God has
one covenant, the covenant of grace, from Adam’s fall. God promised
salvation through the Messiah. This promise, first administered through
Israel, now is administered by the Church, which includes believing Israel.
Dispensational theology views the church and
Israel as two distinct
groups with separate dispensations. The word dispensation means
administration. Dispensational theology, understands verses applied to
Israel to mean literal Israel as opposed to symbolic Israel, the church. The
church in the current age, has the role of dispensing or administering
salvation to this age by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Prior to the
church, we were under the dispensation of the Law, administered or dispensed
Symbolic or allegorical approach
Symbolic: The history of this view can be traced to the Alexandrian
School of Theology, represented by Origen, which regarded the book of
Revelation as one great allegory going beyond natural symbolism. The
symbolic view was motivated by anti-millennium view which taught a literal
millennium reign of Christ on earth. The Alexandrian school claimed the true
“Spiritual” Interpretation as opposed to the literalism.
This method of interpretation finds principles and powers that work
themselves out in history rather then actual historical events in symbolic
language. The book of Revelation represents the struggle between the
righteous and wicked; the City of
verses the City of Satan.
This method of
interpretation regards the book of Revelation as applying specifically to
the problems and persecutions of the early church existing at the time of
its writing. The symbolic expressions in the book represent devices to
encourage the church through its suffering under the Roman Empire, and to
prevent the book from being understood by those who are not believers. Nero
for example is seen as Antichrist.
The Preterist views
Revelation date of writing prior to A.D. 70, when the Jewish Temple was
destroyed. The abomination of desolation and the destruction of Jerusalem
referred to by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:15 are mostly
fulfilled in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
Preterism views the
Church as the “New Israel” and thereby fulfilling verses applied to Israel
Moderate Preterists need
to be distinguished from Hyper-Preterist. Hyper-Preterists believe The
Second Coming and the Rapture were fulfilled by A.D. 70. This view,
considered heretical even by Preterists, denies the physical return of
views events described in Revelation as symbolic and represent chronological
sequences of historical events from the time of its writing until the coming
of Christ and the establishment of His eternal kingdom. References to
Babylon and the Beast are associated with the Roman Catholic Church and the
Pope. Other symbols are viewed as referring to Islamic and Napoleonic wars.
The historical approach, like the Preterists, substitute the church for
Israel in verses referring to national Israel.
views Revelation as a prophecy regarding the future. The futurist approach
views scripture from a literal perspective. Words mean what they say unless
otherwise defined within the context of scripture.
The book of Revelation
reveals the details
of end time events from chapter 4 until the end of the book. Chapters 2 and
3 deal with the Church age, and chapters 4 to 19 deal with the tribulation
period, followed by a literal one thousand-year period, the Millennium
(Revelation 20:1-7). Since the futurist view looks to a future Millennium,
the view is Pre-millennial.
The futurist view holds to a dispensational understanding of scripture,
allowing for the distinction of
Israel and the church in
God’s end time program.
The following is a view of Revelation from a futurist approach. The Futurist
approach is the most in keeping with a literal understanding of Bible.
God’s promises to the descendents of Jacob, literal Israel, are affirmed in
the futurist approach. With the Preterist and Historic views the Church
must replace Israel and the promises of God are negated.
The Millennium is a
literal one-thousand-year period, when Jesus Christ will reign as
king on Earth. During this period, the saints, Old and New Testament
will reign and rule with Christ over the earth. Creation will be at
peace, and the earth will prosper. (See Revelation 20:1-7, Matthew
19:28-29, Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah 11:6-9)
The belief we are in
a period prior to the Millennium. Those who view the Bible as
literal and Revelation as “Futurist” have this view.
The letter “A”
before a word negates the meaning, hence this view denies a literal
millennium. This view holds the Millennium referred to in Revelation
This view sees the
current age as having past the Millennium. We are therefore living
in a post-millennium age.
Derived from the
Latin word rapio meaning, “Caught up”. The “Rapture” teaches
Christ will descend from Heaven, and call those who know Him into
Heaven. Those who are alive will be transformed into their
resurrected body, at the same time; the dead in Christ will also
receive their resurrection bodies in the twinkling of an eye. (I
Thess 4:15-17, I Cor. 15:52) This is part of the First Resurrection.
A period preceding
the Glorious return of Christ, where suffering on earth will be
unequalled in the history of the world according to Christ. The
period is seven-years, divided into three parts, a first half,
mid-point and a last half. (Matthew 24:15-22, Daniel 12:1, Jeremiah
Before the seven
year tribulation, those who know Christ will be raptured or caught
up to be with Christ and return with him at the Second Coming.
The view that at the
mid-point of the Tribulation period Christ will descend from heaven
and call those who know him into heaven.
The view that
immediately following the tribulation period, Christ will catch up
his church and then return with them in his second coming. Matthew
The act of
desolating the Jewish Temple. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (167 B.C.)
desecrated the Jewish Temple and installed an image of Zeus
resembling himself. According to Christ, in the end times a similar
event will take place in the Third Temple. The Antichrist will
commit the same act of Antiochus IV, declaring his deity, demand
worship.(Yet to be rebuilt) (Daniel 8:12, Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel
11:31, 12:11, Matthew 24:15, Revelation 11)
The final earthly
king who will oppose Christ and attempt to finally destroy the
Jewish people. He will be killed at the Second Coming, along with
the False prophet who proclaimed his glories. He along with the
False Prophet will be the first two occupants of the Lake of Fire.
(Daniel 7:11,23-26, Daniel 9:27, 2 Thes. 2:4, Revelation 13:1-8)
The Antichrist is referred to as the Beast in Revelation 13.
An end times
spiritual leader who along with the Antichrist, the Beast, deceive
those who dwell on earth. He performs miracles, including calling
fire down from heaven and instructing the people on the earth to
worship the Antichrist. He along with the Antichrist are the first
two occupants of the
(Revelation 13:11-17, 19:20)
Literally in Hebrew
“Hills of Megiddo”, a location to the north of Jerusalem where the
final battle on Earth will take place. The nations will be gathered
to battle Christ who will descend from Heaven and destroy the last
earthly powers. (Revelation 16:16, 19:19-21)
The study of “Last
views the church and
Israel as two distinct groups with separate dispensations. The word
dispensation means administration. Dispensational theology,
understands verses applied to Israel to mean literal Israel as
opposed to symbolic Israel, the church. The church in the current
age, has the role of dispensing or administering salvation to this
age by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-2, Romans
The view that God
has one covenant with man, the Covenant of Grace. This covenant
starts at Adam and is fulfilled in Christ who died for the sins of
all humanity. In this view, the Church has replaced Israel, and is
the “New Israel” which incorporates both believing Jews and
Distinct from the
rapture, the Glorious Second Coming is the visible glorious return,
as opposed to the catching up of the saints. Christ returns to the
earth with His glory accompanied by the angels (Matthew 24:30,
The judgments on the
earth, following the opening of the seven seals on the scroll given
to the “Lion of the tribe of
these events occur in the first half of the tribulation period. One
quarter of the earth’s population dies in the first four seals
The Seven Trumpet
judgments take place in the first half of the tribulation,
following the seal judgments. They end at the mid-point of the
tribulation period. One third of the earth’s remaining population
is killed in the 6th trumpet judgment.
The final judgments
in the book of Revelation, leading to the return of Christ, they are
poured out in the second half of the Tribulation period.